Anna Johnson – Artist & Printmaker

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Anna Johnson

Artist & Printmaker

Located – Banks Mill Studios, 71 Bridge Street, Derby, DE1 3LB
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Web site –


Anna Johnson, 71, is the founder of the popular Green Door Printmaking Studio at the the charming Banks Mill Studios on Bridge Street. She now runs the open studio with her daughter, Pandora. I first came in contact with Anna’s work when I was on a visit to The Smallprint Company. I remember being very impressed with the work. At the time they were exhibiting her work she happened to pop in. I told her all about Derby Makers Project and we arranged a visit to her studio.

Anna Johnson at Green Door © Derby Makers Project 03A self portrait of Anna aged 22. It is also being held at the Biennial of Douro, Portugal.

 “I’d always been interested in printmaking ever since I studied at Edinburgh College of Art, in the traditional way, using toxic material back in the 1960’s. I got interested again when I was doing the Illustration Degree at the University of Derby, so went back to Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop and soon found out that everything had changed. There’s been a printmaking revolution and I was in at the start of it. It’s been very exciting. I researched all about it and when I finished at university I realised I needed to make a place where I could carry on researching it, I needed an etching studio and Pandora needed a screen printing one. I thought, it’s going to be a printmaking studio that’s environmentally sound, no solvents, no acids, etc. So…Green (environmentally sound), Door (an open door) for everyone to use, (I’m a Socialist). Because it costs too much for most artists to carry on printmaking and there is no other studio in Derbyshire. There’s no other one like it anywhere! It’s open access for everyone who wants to use it and its safe.

Anna Johnson - Derby Makers Project 30At work in the studio.

My favourite printmaking technique is etching which encompasses many different techniques. We call it the Queen of printmaking because it’s quite complicated. The etching that I do and teach is acrylic resist etching and it includes pure etching (drawing and mark making/painting on to the plate), and also 3 different photographic etching techniques as well. I mix and make all my own grounds and mordants from scratch. It’s alchemy and I have been called a witch! My style is…mine. I don’t think my work is like anyone else’s. It just happens. It comes from me, sort of automatically, and I have always worked. Sometimes life events have influenced my work but I know I can’t live without it. I draw a lot and have done since I was 3 years old. Now I’m 70!” Anna Johnson.

Acrylic Resist Etching

Anna Johnson - Derby Makers Project 26A needle is used to draw into the metal resist coating.

“Making the plates is complex and includes a lot of different grounds, etc, but basically etching is done by coating a metal plate with a ground or resist, drawing into the resist backwards so it prints a positive, then biting the plate in a mordant which bites down into the drawing more or less according to how long it’s in the bath for. After that, the ground is washed off and the plate is polished and printed. That’s just one way to do it. It’s like making bread, all the ingredients have to work well together.” Anna Johnson.

Below are some finished pieces of work One image shows the final piece in ink on cotton rag paper, and the image after is the metal plate that has the image etched backwards into the plate.

Making A Print – Acrylic Resist Etching

The Process (In Brief)

Post drawing being etched onto the metal plate the following then happens:

  1. Tear paper to size of the artwork.
  2. Soak cotton rag paper in water.
  3. Oil and ink the metal plate.
  4. 3 process wiping ink from plate. The corroded parts of the plate hold the ink.
  5. Place plate onto acid free tissue paper on the press.
  6. Blot cotton paper and buff with acid free tissue paper.
  7. Cotton rag paper is laid on top on the plate. It is then rolled through the press to create the impression on the paper.
  8. Finally, the print is left to dry for 1 week, sandwiched between 2 wooden boards and weighted down by bricks. This prevents artwork from curling up.

We captured Anna making a print of her drawing of Saint Agatha.

Finished Artwork – A Closer Look

Take a closer look at the detail of Anna’s work.

Photography © Daniel Dytrych/Derby Makers Project


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