Richard Kenton Webb is a very prolific artist, sculptor, printmaker and Senior Lecturer on the Drawing and Applied Arts degree at The University of the West of England, in Bristol. He has a studio at the back of The Coach House in Siddington, Gloucestershire where he lives with his wife, Tessa Webb and his two teenage sons.
I recently went to interview Tessa to talk about her work in the Siddington allotments (see my other article in “The Kitchen Garden” and “Cooks” sections of The Foodie Bugle).
Walking into Richard’s studio is a wonderful experience: in a space not much bigger than most people’s garage, Richard has created a linocut printing press workshop. The drawings are used to decorate all manner of media: from textiles, to paper, kitchenware and even jam jar labels.
When you look up to the ceiling you can see the various linocut drawings dangling above you, the paper clipped on both sides and clamped on a drying rafters, like washing pegged out in the air.
The linocuts are made of linoleum, cut from drawings made by Richard, and then attached to a wooden board. They are then printed on paper using an old fashioned press.
His art illustrates the simple but enriched life that he and Tessa lead: plates of vegetables, rows of fruit bushes, the back of their house, the front of the allotment and the side of their gate. The style is somewhat naïve and beguiling: a great deal of work, experience and concentration are needed to create this work.
The juxtaposition of black and white gives the work quite an ascetic, functional and utilitarian feel. You could picture Richard’s work on seed packets, menus, tea towels, aprons, gardening manuals and journals. You feel drawn into the pictures: the garden path leads your vision into the landscape beyond, and you want to stand on tip toes and see over the garden wall, tall trees swaying in the distance. His body of work in this room has a reassuring, domestic appeal. You feel serene and peaceful in this haven.
Yet Mother Nature is represented as a real force, her outline confident and strong, her curves sinewy and her harvest bountiful. The drawings have a very direct and powerful immediacy. I think the National Trust in Gloucestershire should use them on signs, brochures and gifts, their vernacular idiosyncrasies denoting a narrative that is very local, ancient and classically English.
If you want to buy this work in a very affordable way, it is good to note that Richard and Tessa create cards which are printed with really useful recipes at the back. The recipes are taken from Tessa’s cookbook “Colour in the Cotswolds Cook Book”.
The couple organise courses at their home in Siddington, where professional people are able to come and learn from Richard the art of drawing, painting, printmaking and experimenting with all kinds of media. Tessa cooks all the meals, and the ingredients are sourced a few metres away, from the beautiful allotment gardens that adjoin their home.
Richard has a very impressive and accomplished C.V. After studying at The Chelsea School of Art, The Royal College of Art and The Slade School of Fine Art, he taught in a wide range of the world’s top art schools, including The Cheltenham School of Art, The Byam Shaw School of Art, The Prince of Wales Drawing School and The University of the West of England. He has taken part in a huge number of solo and group exhibitions, and his work hangs in the private collections of blue chip companies and the lucky art lovers who commission him.
Richard and Tessa have organised “Cotswold Open Studios” which runs from 25th – 26th June 2011, and you can go and see his workshop, as well as 18 others all around the area. Sculptors, artists, ceramicists, wood workers, glass blowers and printers are all taking part, in a unique opportunity to meet the artist and see his or her work, right in the place where it was inspired and created.
To find out more about Richard and Tessa Webb’s work, the following websites will be of interest to you.
You can follow Tessa Webb on Twitter: @Tessa_Webb