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On the cover: First there is a mountain then there is no mountain by Fiona Watson

What inspired First there is a mountain then there is no mountain?

I’ve always been fascinated by bird murmurations – shape shifters moving as one organism and occupying the space between heaven and earth. Their collective shape changes constantly as the birds swoop and swirl, drawing on the sky. The mountains in this etching are loosely based on the Cuillins near Loch Coruisk on Skye which I visit frequently.

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain, 2020

When and how was it created? 

This etching was made just before the first lockdown in March 2020. The marks were made on a copper plate using wax resists, acids, direct drawing or scratching and some photo etching. The inked copper plate was then passed through the etching press manually and the image transferred to the paper. This basic process is similar to what Rembrandt used in the 17th century. The loch watercolour was painted on when the paper was dry.

It’s a great title. How important a role do titles play in your pieces? 

Titles are very much part of the finished print. They seem to come out of thin air ­– conversations overheard, lines from songs, mathematical or scientific concepts, random newspaper headlines, things misread or misheard. First there is a mountain is from a Donovan song.

Lullaby of birdland

How do you set about creating your work?

I work at the Glasgow Print Studio which is an open access workshop and gallery providing equipment, space and classes for etching, screen printing and digital work. I roughly plan an etching idea in Photoshop but by the time the copper plate is made, the image is often completely different. There is an unpredictable element to making an etching plate which is infuriating but also part of the creative process.

Fiona Watson at work in Glasgow Print Studio

Where do you find inspiration?

At the moment, after so many lockdowns, just simply working in the presence of other artists in our studio is inspiring, reassuring and energising. The studio is a great mix of well-known artists and people just learning how to print.

You studied biological sciences. Does your scientific background influence your art? 

Definitely. I initially studied biology as it seemed a very visual science and allowed me to explore shapes, patterns, rhythms and so on in more depth. It was an invaluable system of observation and interpretation which gave me a solid basis for understanding printmaking as well as thinking creatively. The mysterious creative spark is a similar process in science or art.

Dark sun murmuration

Do you think the internet has been a creative or destructive force for the arts?

I don’t think it’s either – this is the digital age and the genie is out of the bottle. Paradoxically this digital information is ephemeral and vulnerable – future generations may have no idea what we did. The internet has certainly changed how art is viewed, made and sold. There are so many visual sources competing for our attention. I’m much more aware now of how many amazing artists there are worldwide rather than the same old, same old.

Which news story between October and December particularly grabbed your attention and why?

It was surreal living in Glasgow while Cop26 was being held. We were under siege with a huge police presence and extensive no-go areas while world leaders and their entourages arrived in cavalcades of limousines. But I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and photographing international visitors and protest groups wandering around Glasgow. There was a good-humoured buzz to the city. Time will tell if Cop26 was worthwhile or just for show.

Natural curiosity

Fiona Watson’s work will be shown with the Glasgow Print Studio at the London Art Fair in April, at the London Original Print Fair at Somerset House in May and as part of Glasgow Print Studio’s 50th anniversary exhibition in November.

Prints of her work are available at

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