Jay Luttman-Johnson – Wall Art

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An early morning meeting with an old yellowed badger.  Watching a gorse fire blaze across the cliffs like a ravenous beast.  These are the kind of encounters that inspire me to make a print, and it is the atmosphere of these situations that I want to convey.  How they feel rather than how they look.

Ideas come to me, often from chance encounters like the fire and badger, or from dreams and more momentous experiences of birth and death.  Mental illness is a subject that reoccurs due to my experiences of it in people I love.  I am also interested in the collective unconscious, Jung’s concept of a primeval consciousness that all people are born with and share.  Consequently my prints are full of archetypal figures and symbolism, often borrowing from fairy tales and mythology.  I am especially drawn to themes of metamorphosis. From human to beast to tree…… Anything is possible. In my world cabbages can spout poetry while fish perch in trees knitting socks.  There are no boundaries, but inspiration is essential.  My strongest prints are the ones I have become most immersed in. Ideas gestate in my head for awhile before being born in my sketch book and then to the lino, always changing even while being cut.


I usually have a few ideas floating around, but occasionally I dry up and feel horribly un-relaxed and jittery. I have learnt that it’s pointless to try and force ideas to come so I just get on with other things that need doing.   I make my own frames, and 3D buildings with windows to house my prints, made from recycled materials like copper, wood and glass.  And there is always gardening to do, and fire wood to saw, and my crumbling old house to maintain.  Sooner or later ideas come.


I was a sheep farmer for several years and spun and knitted my own sheep wool. I knitted a jersey and realised it was a portrait of how I was feeling. I called it ‘ The inside of my Head’ and began to question whether knitting was a sufficient form of self expression.  Events led to the farm being sold and I did a fine art degree. It seemed the obvious thing to do.

Sometimes I  do illustrations for a magazine.  If I empathise with the article or story I am illustrating it can be vey rewarding,  but it’s always more stressful than doing my own work. The most positive thing about it is that it  challenges me to approach subjects that I may never have considered.

Marketing my work is not my forte.  I just want to make it and have it miraculously sold without my involvement.  I am no good at blowing my own trumpet and I hate approaching galleries!  The world is full of joy and sorrow and I like to include both emotions in my work but  I need to sell my prints and am aware that the more accessible happy ones sell best. My art would be darker and stranger if money were no object.

It is reputed that when Picasso saw the Lascaux caves, he exclaimed       “ We have learned nothing! ”    Perhaps we have learned too much. The more technological the world becomes, the further away  we become from the elemental power and beauty of those cave paintings. The human hand with or without a simple tool can create more beauty than any machine.

I would like to make a book, with text and pictures in linocut, but it would take ages and I never feel I have time. I want a door that I could come and go through,  to a place outside of time where I could go and work  for as long as I wanted, yet no time would pass.

I cut and print  my lino blocks in the house and there’s lots of space, but  I make my frames and buildings in a little shed in the garden.  It is piled up with crates of interesting oddments, off cuts, bits of pianos, water cylinders etc….. and is too small.  I struggle!   I used to think that I needed  solitude in order to work.  This is still true when I am planning a print, but since joining a craft cooperative , I have discovered that I can become immersed in the cutting a print while  taking my turn in the gallery, to the chagrin of frustrated customers who develop polite coughs to no avail.


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