Regular sea swimming reinvigorated Megan Hall’s artistic inspiration and now every dip at the Devon seaside feeds into her range of linocuts
Words ANNA TURNS
‘Outdoor swimming gave me a new lease of life,’ says artist Megan Hall. ‘When I’m immersed, I feel euphoric – it’s intense and magical.’ Her sea swims bring her closer to nature and she has enjoyed encounters with wrasse, blennies, jellyfish and seals, and feels lucky to have observed a cormorant diving to catch a fish right beside her. Some of her most memorable swims have been along the River Dart and near her home in Plymouth Sound, on the beach near Tinside Lido and also beneath the Tamar Bridge.
After studying design and illustration at the University of Plymouth, Megan returned home to Gloucestershire, but she found she missed the sea and lost her creative spark. When she moved back to Plymouth again, she bravely started swimming in the sea mid-winter with a local group called Devon Wild Swimming. For that first time, she was kitted out with a wetsuit but has been swimming in ‘skins’ (without a wetsuit) ever since.
‘When I’m swimming, it’s sublime not to have any other thoughts in my head, especially when it’s cold. I just focus on the here and now, and I have so much creative energy when I’m swimming two or three times a week,’ Megan says. This year she plans to swim at a different coastal location for every letter of the alphabet. If the temperature allows, she’ll happily spend more than two hours splashing about.
Last spring, Megan began creating her own sea swimming-inspired linocuts. ‘I try to capture the joy, the feeling of serenity or calmness of a movement, or a moment I experience while swimming – I might notice the way swimmers bob up and down while chatting, and then doodle a sketch once I get out of the water,’ explains Megan. She hand-carves each design into a block of linoleum, uses a roller to ink it up and then a metal spoon to ‘burnish’ it. ‘When I’m burnishing, I lay the paper down on top of my printed lino and make small circles with my metal spoon to rub through so the ink becomes ingrained onto the paper and picks up the different patterns and textures. It’s a cathartic process and I can easily lose track of time.’
• Prices for original prints by Megan Hall start from £18; with mugs, cards, journal notebooks and cork coasters featuring her designs are available at flotsamprints.com. Some designs are also on display at Homeframe Gallery, Union Street, Plymouth, Devon PL1 3HN.
• Megan uses eco-friendly Caligo Safe Wash inks and has introduced plastic-free packaging for 2020. To discuss bespoke commissions, email [email protected]. Follow Megan on Facebook and Instagram @FlotsamPrints.