Name: Justin Miller
I am an artist and teacher living in southern Colorado with my wife and three children. I grew up not too far from here in KS and am the most comfortable when I can see for miles and miles in every direction. I love to travel in the mountains, and throw rocks into lakes and rivers with my kids. We try to hug and wrestle and play at every opportunity.
How did you get started in printmaking?
When I was young, my dad ran a printshop for which I had little interest. But in college, when I smelled the print studio, I new I was home. I loved the ink and solvents, the process of lithography and etching, and the way my drawings had a new life in ink.
Describe where you work.
My day job as an art teacher provides a studio space that is to die for. I usually carve blocks at my desk, and print either in my print studio office, or on my letterpress which has not yet found a home in my office.
What's your favourite printmaking process?
It is a tie. I love the smooth textures of stone lithography. In the absence of a litho press, I find that linoleum relief prints are my favorite medium to work in. I find that the graphic nature of relief work lends itself to my ideas.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I develop what I call an artist's vocabulary. I have a certain number of images that I use regularly in different combinations. While I do sketch out these ideas over and over, I am always in search of a new way to arrange them, or a new image to add to my vocabulary. I hardly ever transfer a complete idea from my sketchbook to a block, instead I use my sketchbook to build idea momentum, then begin a new sketch on a block. When I have what I want, I re-draw the image in sharpie marker. I often let the image mellow on the block before I cut it.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I love ink. Printing with ink. Ink in my fingernails. Ink smell, Ink cleanup.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
The last few cuts before I ink up.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
Nothing gets me going like a good road trip across open countryside. I like discovering little visual gems in small towns or by the highway.
Artists that have influenced me: Goya, Jacques-Louis David, Birger Sandzen, Herschel Logan, Mic Jilg, Frank Nichols, Natalia Moroz, and many others.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I used to work almost exclusively with the human figure. In the last few years, I have begun working with birds as a metaphor for the human body, or spirit. I have really enjoyed the change, but still like to play with the figure from time to time.
How do you get past creative slumps?
My most successful method is to sketch every day at the same time. Sometimes drawing the same thing over and over, other times copying drawings to sharpen my skills.
How do you promote your work?
I use flickr, a blog, and a lot of word of mouth. I have found that participating in online groups and commenting on other's blogs can funnel a great number of people to my work. I display work at a local coffee shop, and in a nearby insurance office. My newest push is to participate in some national shows to expose my work to a wider audience.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Find an opportunity to pull a print in a class or at a local studio. You'll be hooked. Rich inky blacks are like a drug. Try it once, and you'll sell your possessions to get your own press.
Thanks for the great interview, Justin!