Name - Jennifer Zalewski
(I’m on Facebook too, just search under Jennifer Zalewski).
I guess in brief: I am an art and dog fiend, animal rights- and environmental- activist, recluse, and overall nerd. More than once I have been called a “feminazi” which I take as a compliment. :o) My two ex-racing greyhounds and I live in the Finger Lakes region of Central NY- close to wine country and Lake Ontario.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I took a Stone Lithography course in college (we also did a bit of linocutting) and I despised it. It was my most-hated art course throughout my four years of undergraduate work-the chemicals, the inking, those confounding huge, complicated presses- ick. I was a total grump about it. I do remember buying a block of linoleum while living in NYC after college- I wanted to carve an owl linocut for a Christmas card- but don’t remember what became of it. I think I started carving it and gave up because the linoleum was very hard (battleship) and I had some cheap Speedball tools.
Fast forward to 2005 or so, after settling back in Central NY, where I grew up… I randomly picked up another block of linoleum to experiment with…. and just kind of eased back into Printmaking that way. I did mostly one-color linocutting at first, but took a color woodcut class in November 2007 at The Ink Shop in Ithaca and have been doing reduction woodcuts ever since.
Describe where you work.
I bought my first home in 2004, and two rooms have been converted into art studios… The first room I renovated when I bought my house was the living room- it became my main art studio where I do all my sketching, carving, paper cutting, etc. I have a bureau that holds most of my art supplies, and some furniture/dog beds for Lucy and Clifford, who keep me company while I work.
When I bought my Dick Blick 906 press in January 2008, I converted my upstairs library room into a press room. This is now where I do all my printing and store my paper. It has a clothesline to dry my prints and a little bookshelf for my inks, brayers, vegetable oil (for clean-up), etc.
What's your favorite printmaking process?
Relief printmaking (woodcuts, linocuts). I’ve ordered some Pronto plates and Z*Acryl plates to try Polyester Plate Lithography, though… we’ll see how that goes! I’m excited for them to arrive.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I always sketch first (usually on vellum), then transfer my drawing to a block by turning the sketch on its back and rubbing it with a pencil. I’m really finicky about my sketches though, and they usually take longer to do than the actual carving and printing parts of the process. If a sketch gives me the slightest doubt or bad juju, then I won’t use it.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I love the surprise of pulling a piece of paper off a block and seeing how it came out, especially with reduction prints. That last color reduction, pulled off the block- it is really exciting! Of course, it can be very depressing too, if it doesn’t come out the way I’ve pictured in my head. And I love that I can use color with my woodcuts in a “limited” fashion- I am SO bad with my color palette- I used to get lectured about it in college all the time. With oils, oil pastel, gouche, colored pencil… I would go hog wild and have palettes of like, 20-100 colors. With reduction woodcuts, I can only have a few tubes of ink to use and a few reductions to use them in, so I need to be thoughtful.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Does the “marketing” aspect count? I hate trimming the finished pieces, signing everything, the packaging, scanning it, putting it up on the internet, doing festivals… I wish someone else could do that for me! I also hate cutting paper. How in the world do you cut paper straight, especially if it is a Japanese or Nepali paper with deckled edges? I can’t figure this out for the life of me.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
My dogs. Nature. The environment. These are my major inspirations.
My favorite artist is John James Audubon. I love the way he depicted his birds and animals- they have such life (even though he drew them from carcasses) and are so stylistic, despite being tightly-rendered fauna studies. They just blow my mind!
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
Since starting with printmaking I have definitely “loosened up” a bit. I’m happy about that! I don’t like working tight and photo-realistically, but for some reason I naturally gravitate that way with non-printmaking media.
How do you get past creative slumps?
Good question…. I’m wallowing in one right now! I tend to become emotionally and mentally overwhelmed very easily when I have deadlines (for shows, “self-imposed deadlines,” art-related deadlines, non-art related deadlines, any sort of deadline, any sort of pressure) and go into rapid shut-down mode. I really need to get over this… it’s one of my weak points.
How do you promote your work?
Mostly through my blog and website. I do attend a few greyhound festivals where I sell my greyhound-related art, but it is very uncomfortable for me, even though everyone I’ve met has been so nice and supportive. I’d rather promote my art from behind a computer than “in-person,” out in public.. it’s so nerve-wracking. This is something else I need to get over, LOL.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
My best advice would be to take a class at a local print shop or join an online forum like Baren or the Printmaking section of Wetcanvas.com… you can learn so much from other printmakers! They are such valuable sources, whether you are new to printmaking or not. And buy the best tools, ink and paper you can… I really love Graphic Chemical oil-based inks and Flexcut tools, myself. If you start out with the cheap stuff, you’ll become frustrated fast.
Thank you for the opportunity to interview, Amie & Printsy!