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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Neil Woodall

The highlight of OFP’s trip behind the scenes at Yorkshire Artspace was stepping into Neil Woodall’s colourful, inky studio. As YA's director Kate Dore says, it has to be breathed to be believed.

Neil has been printmaking for over 25 years, and all that cutting, scratching and rubbing has certainly paid off. Neil’s prints are truly beautiful; his atmospheric landscape etchings of the Peak District, with sunlight peeking through trees or bouncing off the River Derwent, create a fantastic sense of place.

Aquatint, the printing technique Neil uses (etched copper plates, dusted with resin and burnt off with acid), is becoming increasingly rare. It’s no longer taught in Sheffield’s art colleges, so making a trip to Neil’s Persistence Works studio to see the process in action is even more special – make sure it's on your Open Studios list. Aquatint creates such a wonderful softness, we initially thought Neil’s prints were watercolour paintings – until he donned his rubber gloves, fired up the press and gave us a demo. It’s not to be missed.

Neil holds the occasional traditional etching workshops at his studio, suitable for beginners and more advanced printmakers, where you’ll be given all the materials you need plus decades worth of advice from this incredibly talented and inky chap.

How would you describe your work?
I make black and white prints from etched copper plates. I use a technique called aquatint which gives beautiful soft tones to work with. My work is figurative, I concentrate on capturing how light falls. With my etchings of the River Derwent at Hathersage, my aim was to capture the sparkle of sunlight on water and light through foliage on the riverbank.

What inspires you?
Light. Recently, I painted some oil studies of clouds and noticed how parts of clouds reflect light while others absorb it or let it pass through.

What’s your workspace like?
It varies from being a total tip when I’m in the middle of a project to being very ordered with everything in its right place when I’ve finished and want a clear space to think.

What do you love about Sheffield?
The people, the closeness of the countryside, the fact that it is the beer capital of the world, and Val’s music sessions at the Kelham Island Tavern.

What would you do to improve the city?
More car-free cycleways.

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