Focus on Ray Ogden Print Maker with his Studio in the EVAN Gallery. Interview by Sarah Hiscoke.
I interviewed Ray Ogden in his studio in the EVAN Gallery where he produces beautiful and fascinating limited-edition prints. He exhibits in the Gallery and a variety of other venues when exhibition opportunities arise.
Ray did his first degree in Liverpool in graphic design then applied to the Royal College and was given a place on their illustration course. After being accepted for the prestigious Royal College he learnt that his local authority would not fund him for this higher degree. Ray wrote to Barbara Castle, his local MP, and was then fortunate to be awarded the grant. After a year in the illustration department, Ray transferred to the design communication course.
On leaving the Royal College he worked for Conran Associates during the fashionable Habitat era. Later he started work in the BBC graphic design department. Despite having no television or film experience, he had to quickly adjust to the challenges of a new medium, working on many different projects. At the BBC Ray worked on dramas, documentaries and children’s series; some of his work included the graphics work promoting different programmes. Ray tells me how he would story-board blue screen dramas, turning a written script into a series of visuals. Ray would analyse and break down the scripts, creating the backgrounds and foregrounds and where the actors would stand. The cameramen, the technicians and the floor manager would look at his story boards to see how to set the shot up – it’s like being a director, but usual visual, rather than verbal instructions.
Ray tells me how one of his most rewarding briefs was to make a children’s 20th Century history series, on topics such as, ‘Stalin’s 5 year-plan' exciting to an 11-year old. Ray also worked on well-known dramas such as Tenko. After 13 years of working hard in London for the BBC in a fast-paced, stressful environment, Ray felt he needed a different phase of his life. He found the lure of the hills calling him, and he moved to Cumbria.
As well as lecturing in Glasgow and at the Art College in Cumbria, he became involved in the creation and validation of the degrees at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, which later became the University. Despite the rewards of working with students, this was a fallow period for Ray, because he found he was too busy to further his own creativity. Eventually he left teaching, and with the aid of an Apple Mac, and illustration software, challenged himself to get back into it. He had always had the ambition to create his own work, free of a client and brief, being able to do whatever he wanted.
In Ray’s studio at the EVAN Gallery you can see books about aboriginal and Inuit art and books referencing Hokusai and his Japanese Prints. Ray, feels that in one sense he is continuing the tradition of producing relatively affordable prints for the public, albeit using the technology of the printer, rather than the craft technicians such as Hokusai employed.
In Ray’s work you can see the influences of the Inuit’s strong black shapes in the animals and birds with decoration. Ray says he has spent a lifetime soaking up influences, but he mentions amongst others David Hockney, visits to Japan and more locally, Potfest in the Park. He remembers the artist Victor Passmore and designer/writer Alan Fletcher as being particularly influential.
One of the paradoxes of Ray’s professional life is that he has been exposed to technology at various stages, particularly at the BBC, working with film and video processes and printing techniques as a graphic designer. However, Ray says ‘I have always found the technology quite challenging’. Yet that does not seem to be the case to the onlooker. The beauty of Ray’s work is proof that he has mastered these technical skills and has transferred his subtlety and wonderful mark-making into computer-originated prints.
After sketching out basic ideas in a notebook, Ray works straight on to the computer, either iPad or desktop using a pen stylus and Procreate or Corel painter, natural media software. He prints on German etching paper with light-fast pigment-based inks. His printer produces A3 plus prints but he has an ambition to work on a much larger scale.
He passes political and social comment, whilst at the same time producing balanced beautiful images. You can see in his work, his desire for communication, putting to effective use skills gained at the BBC and his work as a graphics designer. His desire to communicate and tell a story is also demonstrated in a children’s book he has produced.
You can currently see his work at the EVAN Gallery, Tullie House and in the Upfront Open Exhibition. Ray will also be exhibiting with Cumbria Printmakers later this year.