My Norman

I was due to have surgery on my knee on Friday 24th, but then I got the opportunity to attend a course given by a hero of mine. I took about one second to make up my mind, phoned the hospital and cancelled the op!
And then came the dilemma… should you ever meet your hero? I have loved Norman Ackroyd’s work for 30 years. But the man and the work are two completely different things. There is a wonderful film about him called “What do artists do all day?”, it follows him for a day in his studio, and I hoped that this was the Norman that we were going to meet.

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Well I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment he entered the top floor of the Graphic Studio at 10am until finishing up after 5pm, (an hour later than planned), he had us under his spell. I was transported back to the winter of 1978, when I walked into NCAD’s print room in Kildare Street and encountered John Kelly for the first time. Like John, he gave freely of his skills, ideas, ink recipes, and tips. He spoke about the materials he used and their different qualities. He made and printed two plates from start to finish, made up a sugar lift mixture, as well as an aquatint box. All this was interspersed with lots of stories about various printmakers and studios he had visited over his career, like the one in Paris where Picasso worked and he met the woman who helped him print his editions. And just like John, he has the ability to get just about anyone hooked on etching.

He never sat down as he worked methodically throughout the day, it was inspirational to watch him, and he made it look so easy.

It was only when we were saying goodbye I remembered that Norman is almost 80! What also struck me about him was his humility, he is not one bit showy or boastful of his talent or his place in the world of art.
At the end of the day my head was spinning with ideas, I was exhausted, excited and looking forward to getting down to my own work. As for my knee, I felt no pain all day, but it was like a balloon last night! What the hell, it was worth it!