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Q&A with John Heywood, printmaking artist and EP member

John has been a valued member of our printmaking studio for 35 years and was one of the first ones to return to Edinburgh Printmakers after our re-opening at Castle Mills.
He shares his thoughts on his passion for etching, drawing inspiration from his adopted hometown of Edinburgh, and returning to a print 10 years later with fresh eyes. 

John Heywood in our printmaking studio 

What kind of printmaking do you do? Tell us about your work as an artist. 
I do work in other forms of printmaking but I always return to Etching which is my first love. I tend to start with a drawing and use this as the inspiration for the etching, usually a landscape or cityscape. Once I create the plate from the drawing I add aquatint which can give a wash effect to the final print. It lends atmosphere and mood and gives the drawing more punch and texture. I like to play with light and a particular time of day so that the subject may be a familiar Edinburgh scene but there is a special mood added which is unique to etching. My recent etching of the Royal Mile early morning illustrates that very well. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
I have recently created a view of Newhaven Harbour which I am pleased with. I started it about ten years ago but wasn’t happy with the first proof and thought I would put it to one side and work on something else. Sometimes this is good practice as you have to let go of your original idea and go with what you have on the etched plate. I didn’t think it would take ten years but I returned with fresh eyes and thought the basic idea was a good one and was pleased with the final etching.

John, working on etching in the studio 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 
I get my inspiration from living and working in Edinburgh. I especially enjoy the light which I think is magical set against the ancient skyline. Often as you look towards the light source it makes the scene appear in a monotone as the light captures our perception and pushes out the colour. This makes for a perfect etching for me as a whole composition can be achieved in one etching. Snow scenes also achieve this and I get very excited when we get a good snowfall as there is inspiration everywhere.

What’s your favourite piece of printmaking? 
At the moment my recent view of the Royal Mile is my favourite work. One always tends to think we are getting better and it is very recent. It has the light and atmosphere I like but the composition also required invention making the reality more interesting but still credible.

View of the Royal Mile by John Heywood 

Where are you from? 
I have lived in Edinburgh for 40 years and I am very proud to now call it home. I am originally from an industrial town on the edge of the lake district in the north of England. The area is very beautiful and in ancient times was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde and therefore Scotland!

Are you a full-time artist? 
I am now a full artist although for many years I did social work part-time as well. I needed a salary as I had children to feed but to be honest, I enjoyed the contrast between the two careers. I found my time in the studio would melt away the stress of the office. For printmaking especially in inking and wiping an etching plate, you need to be in the moment. It is a very mindful thing to do and I always find that very therapeutic. 

How long have you been a member for? 
Only about 35 years. It is a long time but there are several members who have been here longer. It is that kind of work, once you are lucky enough to find it works for you, there is no need to go anywhere else.

What’s your favourite memory at Edinburgh Printmakers? 
I really enjoyed the party when we left Union St. There was so much love in the room. A fondness for what we were leaving and an optimism for what lay ahead. An emotional night for me and many others

What do you think of the new studio at Castle Mills? 
It is a wonderful facility and we are so lucky to have it. I remember when we had been open a couple of weeks and we had a day when, as it happened, a lot of familiar faces came into work. It was then that it felt like home again. I realised that the facility is first class but really it’s the people that make it what it is, truly a world-class printmaking institution. 

Is there anything else you would like to share? 
I think I have said all I need to really, I love this place and feel very very fortunate to have it as a part of my life.  

To see more of John’s art, visit 
Follow John on Twitter @EdinburghEtcher and on Instagram edinburghetcher. 

Read more about our members: 
Laura Gressani talks all things monoprinting
Catherine Mynott, creating joyful prints inspired by nature