Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Etsy Printmaker Interview: Amie Roman

Name: Amie Roman (ploverwing on Etsy)
Location: West Coast of Canada
Interviewed by mizudesigns

Squidoo lenses on printmaking: All About Printmaking, Printmaking Artists on the Web

My parents kept me entertained from an early age by providing newsprint and crayons to encourage my expression and imagination. As both of my parents were in the biological sciences, I was immersed in nature from the start. While I'm very artistic, my degree is in conservation biology. I've taken lots of courses to develop my artistic skills, and I currently hold AFCA "signature" status with the Federation of Canadian Artists.

I have been greatly influenced by my grandmother, Caro Woloshyn, also an AFCA. I was surrounded by her art - growing up, our house was always full of her original watercolours of glassware, old farm equipment, and still life subjects. I share much of my taste in subject matter with Caro. Other influences and inspirations include J.F. Lansdowne (especially his study sketches), Chris Czajkowski, Suzanne Northcott and Robert Genn.

I was introduced to printmaking, like most people, in high school art, but never really developed it until adulthood. Three years ago, I took an introductory relief printmaking class through the continuing education department of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and I was hooked. To me, process is really key. I love the challenge of interpreting an image or an idea into a print, building the process in my mind, working within the constraints of the media, exploring ways to expand beyond them, and realizing the final outcome on paper. Printmaking requires development of precise technical skill and craftsmanship, yet provides an expressive medium for creative artistic dialogue.

My fascination with the natural world is evident in my artwork. Nature and the artifacts of civilization are my subjects. The interaction and inter-relationship of our technological heritage with nature, the irony of the competition between nature and progress, and the sheer beauty and diversity of the natural world form the content of my current work. My imagery is realistic, but my focus is often abstracted through magnification or cropping to an almost unrecognizable result. I tend to work on a small scale, because the delicacy of my work mirrors the beautiful minutiae we are surrounded by. The inherent physical restrictions challenge my skills as an artist and as a printmaker.

Primarily, I work with relief printmaking, especially reduction cut relief. I have recently discovered a material called “black linoleum”, which is really a vinyl composite of some kind. It is very smooth and easy to cut, and has similar thickness to linoleum. I carve my blocks using professional quality wood-carving tools, my absolute favourite is my 45ยบ V-gouge. I use Faust AquaLine and Daniel Smith water-soluble inks on many different papers, although my most common include Strathmore Bristol and Rising Stonehenge for “western” papers, and kitakata and masa for “eastern”. Until very recently, all of my work was hand-burnished, but I have become the proud owner of a new mini-press, which makes life a lot easier!

The other two printmaking methods which I favour are stone lithography and acrylic monotype. I love lithography because of it's flexibility and the autographic quality of the drawn image that I'm able to achieve through that medium. Monotypes give me an opportunity to be more painterly in my printmaking approach; as I print them while the paints are still wet, there is also a lot more spontaneity involved than in the rigorous planning of reduction relief prints or lithographs. Both monotype printing and lithography provide me with opportunities to print on a larger scale.

Currently, I work almost exclusively from photographs. With my relief prints, I transfer the image directly onto the block, and then start carving. When I first started printmaking, I drafted how I thought I should print out the layers of colour in sketches; now, I just formulate that almost entirely in my mind, and usually as I'm carving the first layer, although I do work out the values before I start when I'm creating the transfer image. I'd like to incorporate more spontaneity into my relief printing, and move more into abstraction and away from the literal interpretation of my subject matter, but I find that hugely challenging.

I think the hardest thing that I face about printmaking, and what I dislike most about being an artist, is getting discouraged about lack of progress. I am a part-time artist who would love to be full-time, but I don't see the way through to that goal. I also find it hard to promote my work. While I am a member of a local printmaking gallery, Malaspina Printmakers, I don't find that there are many commercial venues for printmakers in my immediate area. Appreciation and support of art, and printmaking specifically, seems to be not as strong on the West Coast of Canada as in other parts of North America, or other countries, so it's certainly a challenge.

One of the best parts of being a printmaker is that it's almost like belonging to a secret society. If you meet another printmaker, talk immediately turns to techniques and materials. I'm just as fascinated by etching, silk screen, letterpress as I am by my own printmaking methods, and I love seeing other printmakers working and their finished product! There seems to be an almost instantaneous collegiality among printmakers that I'm not sure is there among other artists, or at least it's not the same. Every printmaker that I've met, either in person or online, has been super enthusiastic about what they do, and generally very generous with their knowledge and insights. I think we're all pretty much caught up in the process, at least to some extent, of our given printmaking media, and recognize that spark of craftsmanship in other printmakers, too.

I'm a newby (and not very active!) to Etsy; I just joined November 2007, and listed my first pieces in January 2008, and sold my first piece in March. It's great to have a venue like Etsy available, as there is an international community geared specifically towards artists and craftspeople to showcase their work and make it available to the world at large.


Annie B said...

Nice interview, Amy & Mizudesigns! Amy, I loved hearing you talk about that "instant collegiality" among printmakers. I've found that as well, and agree that printmakers as a group are extremely generous with their time and knowledge. I also related to your words about the challenge of bringing more spontaneity and abstraction into your printmaking. I struggle with the same thing. Enjoyed getting to know you better!

Ellen Shipley said...

I really love your moth prints. And I agree about the "instant collegiality" too. 8-]

Ele said...

Nice interview Amie and Mizu. It's quite interesting to me that you are a biologist by training and Fustian works with birds in a Biology department. I'm a physicist by training myself.

The "instant collegiality" comment struck me too. I'm enjoying getting to know this group of printmakers.

Amie Roman said...

I am struck by the number of artists, but specifically printmakers, who are or were scientists in another incarnation!

Thanks everyone for reading & commenting. This is a really fun group, and these interviews are a fascinating look at so many talented and diverse printmakers.