“Keep true to the dreams of your youth” is the quote by Friedrich Schiller that encapsulates much of Stephen Jeffrey’s recent artistic endeavours, as it is in our childhood we first come across the objects and ideas that fascinate and preoccupy us. Recently it has been a conscious effort on his part to try to recapture the feelings he first experienced in making art before going to art school and before his adult life as an professional illustrator and designer. It may not therefore be entirely a coincidence he has chosen linocut relief printing, a technique we associate with our school days, as his medium to realise those aims.
Born in 1959 in Scotland into an army family, he moved from posting to posting, from the slums of Glasgow, to oriental Singapore and eventually spending half his childhood growing up in what was then West Germany. A precocious talent, it was always to works of imagination rather than nature he turned to for inspiration, to illustrated books, comics and magazines of the 50s & 60s and to the popular culture of the time as experienced through music, radio, film and television.
It was growing up in those overly optimistic times of the Space Race, the white heat of technology, of the Jetsons and Desperate Dan, the Beatles and the 'Battle of Britain' that shaped his future preoccupations and his aesthetic inclinations. Always he had the sense of being a fortunate observer, a lucky traveller somehow privileged to witness new and fascinating people and places.
In these formative years he also absorbed the different artistic and cultural sensibilities of countries he grew up in. It was through the minimalist design and architecture he saw as a child in the newly rebuilt, post-war Germany that his appreciation of the modernist principles of simplicity and craftsmanship first developed, an attitude towards design he carried on throughout his career and has found it particularly appropriate to the art and craft of printing.
In Scotland the experience was altogether far more gritty and serious, in the early 70s he found himself in the highly politically charged situation around the John Brown’s shipyard strikes in Clydebank, the memories of those events and the theme of ship building have been revisited in some of his latest prints.
It was here too he was first introduce to the work of British mid-Century artists such as William Scott, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson and later on when developing his own illustration style he came across the printers and illustrators Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, John Minton and Eric Frazer whose blend of English Romanticism and European Modernism, particularly via Picasso, has had a profound and lasting influence on his work.
Stephen is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art and has been a Product Designer, and Exhibition Designer, Graphic Designer and an established illustrator for over 30 years with a prestigious client list which includes The Economist, New Scientist, Radio Times, The Wall Street Journal and many more. He has Lectured in Art and Design at North Tyneside College, the University of Sunderland and Northumbria University. Ironically his first job was printing flooring in the famous Nairns Linoleum factory in Kirkcaldy.
He also sculpts and paints, mostly in an abstract manner and is currently working on ways to overlap his concerns in painting with his printmaking activities. Stephen was the 2017 winner of the Alnmouth Poster Competition and has recently shown at the Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries London.