Monday, April 20, 2009

Printsy Interview - Patricia Phare-Camp

'Noras Daffodils II' - ppharecamp on Flickr
Patricia (Patti) Phare-Camp


Brief Bio
A second-generation artist, Patti Phare-Camp holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from California State University, Sacramento, and is an MFA candidate at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Patricia is an accomplished print maker whose work has been featured in 18 exhibitions and is featured in the print collection at the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrenceville Kansas and the Solano Community College Library in Solano California.

How did you get started in printmaking?
It all started with a printmaking survey class at El Camino Community College in Gardenia California. I started out as a painting major and had to take a printmaking survey for my fine arts degree. The etching was fun, the litho was fun but the moment I touched knife to wood I forgot all about painting...although I've recently taken up painting again woodcut printmaking is my greatest love!

Describe where you work.
See this is the beauty of woodcut printmaking...there is nearly no place that you can't work! Before 9/11 I would carve plates where ever I went. The only place now that I can't take my knives is a commercial airplane.

My husband recently enclosed about 85% of our 18x20' back deck, the other 15% has shades that can be drawn to keep weather at bay. He did this so I could work out there. Its awesome, I'm protected by the elements yet it still feels like I'm outdoors. Hubby also hooked up cable tv and the internet so I can listen to cable radio while working or surf the web to find reference material. The only drawback is that in the winter it doesn't get warm enough to work with oil based inks. In that case I work in the kitchen. The counters are just the right height to mix and roll ink. It's also perfect for hand burnishing.

'Abstract 32007' - ppharecamp on Flickr
Lately I like to sit on the deck or on the living room couch to carve my plates while I listen to classic movies on the classic movie channels. I take my printmaking materials into public venues all the time. People love public demonstrations of woodcut printmaking and I love educating people about the arts and how much work is involved in the making of art.

What's your favorite printmaking process?

What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I've worked free-form, carving willy nilly into a chunk of wood, but usually I get a vision, sketch it then transfer the sketch to wood, carve and then print. Lately I've been using the computer to do a lot of design work.

'Priestess 1' - ppharecamp on Flickr
My thesis project for my master's degree is a series of woodcuts. I'm recreating the Major Arcana of a tarot deck (the first 22 cards) in woodcut. I'm using an archetype from my Chicano culture, the skeleton, to represent the archetypes in the classic European decks. The process I'm using for this project starts with research into the meanings of the individual cards. I then study the images in various decks and research the psychological symbolism behind them. The I sit in front of the computer and research images of archetypal symbolism to use for collaging. After I've accumulated a plethora of digital images I cut and paste elements from them into a digital sketch of the card design. I then print out the design, trace and transfer to a piece of all Shina plywood; a Japanese poplar-like plywood manufactured specifically for woodcut printing. I carve the "Keyline" block; the line elements of the block print. I print several keylines to Mylar and transfer from the Mylar to more blocks. I carve those block into color fields, making a block for each color I will use. I then roll the blocks with water soluble relief inks and roll up my prints.

What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
The thing I love most about about fine art prints is that they are the most democratic of the visual arts. Because the artist can produce multiples of the same image; hand produced fine art can be sold at affordable prices to the masses. Unfortunately in this country the masses are culturally ignorant and have no idea of what a print is. They are duped by those who would mistakenly call giclees and offset posters fine art prints.

'Empress Black' - ppharecamp on Flickr
I enjoy the process of woodblock the most. Every step of it from the vision to the carving to the tearing of paper to the mixing of inks to the rolling to the burnishing and then the amazement of pulling that sheet of paper away from the last block to see yet one more successful work of art -- and gasp "did I do that?!?"

What's your least favorite part of the process?

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)? is one the most influential forums for relief printers I have had the privilege of participation in. In this internet forum relief printers of all levels of expertise and from all corners of the earth communicate, guide, encourage and inspire each other in the making of art. It is the one place where beginners can communicate with and get advice from forerunners in traditional techniques and new media!

How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I started out doing black line woodcuts. I progressed into working with multi-color blocks. I've tried my hand at the Japanese hanga technique. But truth is I still love the black and white high contrast print the best. And lately I've been getting back into using the cutmarks as an element in the compositions.

'TroubleBuster' - ppharecamp on Flickr
You know when we first start out in woodcut printing we strive toward cleaner and cleaner line work, forgetting about the drama that the cutmarks impart to the print. Then as we become mature printmakers we return to shear delighting in the accidental cut mark that imparts that one special spark to what would have been a so-so print without it...

How do you get past creative slumps?
I have a series of work I call my Zen series. I splattered India inks onto 18x24" sheets of paper then cut the paper up into 0.5x1" and 1x2" and 1.5x1.5" rectangles. I then put the pieces into jars, one for black and white pieces and one for multicolor pieces. If I'm feeling creatively void I simply draw a few pieces out of a jar, select the one with the strongest composition then do a blown up painting (over 30" in width) or a woodcut or both of that little bit...I call it a zen series because the image is created by the universe. Anyway this usually frees my mind to receive inspiration.

'Big Ass Spyder' - ppharecamp on Flickr
Also I participate at least once a year in a print exchange. Several times a year members of Barenforum will exchange prints within a theme and paper size with each other. Committing to an exchange with others forces me to think of imagery in the theme and complete an edition of prints within a deadline.

How do you promote your work?
Unfortunately very poorly these days...I am so preoccupied lately with my master's thesis project that I have very little time to devote to self promotion. I do blog regarding my thesis project and other artmaking ventures and have found that it's gotten a bit of a following. Despite the blog's following I've seen very few sales from it. Occasionally I will do an ebay challenge but I've only seen a few sales with that and at ridiculously low return so I've given up on ebay.

'A Well Traveled Man II' - ppharecamp on Flickr
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
If you've never done printing sign up for a class at a local community college or community center. Or google or go to to learn about techniques. It's easy and GASP - you don't even really have to know how to draw (though it helps) You can get by with very little monetary investment into the making of fine art prints; you can make monotypes and etchings from the abominable plastic blisterpacks that en wrap nearly every thing we buy... You can make white line relief prints from Styrofoam meat trays or silkscreens from stencils cut into cereal boxes... You can print on beautiful hand made paper or on old newspapers... and you can print with fancy expensive inks or with inexpensive acrylic paints straight from the tube... and you can use expensive fancy rubber brayers roll up your inks and ball baring barens to burnish your prints or you can roll ink with cheap foam edger rollers from home depot and burnish with a wooden spoon from the dollar store...

Printmaking does not have to be fussy and it is soooooo much addictive fun! It has application for so many other projects -- Once you've started printmaking it is virtually impossible to avoid branching out into the inevitable printmaking sidetracks: greeting cards, handmade books, patterning of textiles...

The important thing is to allow yourself to have a good time making.


Elizabeth Seaver said...

Love the exciting lines in Daffodil II and the woodblock print of the cat. Wonderful work!

Sharri said...

What a lovely interview. I almost felt like we were in the same room again...

Ellen Shipley said...

I love the cat. Also I really like your Zen technique for inspiring new prints. And of course your Tarot project is a real kick. 8-]