I’ve lived most of my life in the wonderful Pacific Northwest. After college, my creative life petered out for a while as I earned a living. I still have a day job, but in the last 10 years or so have found a way to bring back front and center something that is (and always has been ) necessary for me – art.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I’ve always stuck to painting until about six years ago. It’s interesting that for years I always was drawn to printmaking. To me there was something mysterious and magical about the process. Etching especially seemed so specialized that for a long time I assumed it wasn’t something that one could really just pick up on one’s own. Then I finally decided to change that thinking, and took the plunge. I scoured bookstores and sales for printmaking books and started to grow a collection, learning terms and processes. I started out with linocuts, because those were the easiest to do at home with minimal equipment. Soon after, I found a community studio that had an etching press and ferric bath. Now I was actually doing etching, which to me was amazing!
Describe where you work.
I print both at home and I also have been a member of a print co-op in town. Most of my printmaking time is spent in a converted bedroom in the house. In a very limited space I have an inking table, shelves, a sink, flat files, a ferric bath, and of course a press. Purchasing a press took a lot of saving, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my art. I still go to the co-op to use the aquatint box or when I need more room to spread out.
What's your favourite printmaking process?
I spend most of my time between etching and monotypes. Etching appeals to the geek in me because it is somewhat technical and has that industrial feel of working on copper, running it through the press etc. Monotype is a different animal, and really is the bridge between painting and printmaking. Monotypes can allow a much more spontaneous approach to image making. I also enjoy relief printing, but lately I haven’t done as many woodcuts or linocuts as I did in the past.
What's your creative process for any given print?
I generally start out with a mood that I seek to create. I will reference old photographs for images with people. I use the photographs not for directly taking that picture and re-creating it, but rather as a starting place. I may create something that is quite different, but again, the photos really just help get the ball rolling. For linocuts or woodcuts I’ll have the design worked out before I start. With monotypes or etching, once I start the piece, it can change direction as I go. I feel my way along as I work.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
Just about everything about it – the process of each kind of printmaking, the fact that printmaking makes you think differently about how an image is created, the smell of the inks, the paper, working the plate, working the press, the weird terms used, and the camaraderie of a print shop, and between printmakers.
Another benefit of printmaking is that it has these built-in spaces in between creating (measuring and cutting down paper, creating damp packs, etc.) that gives me time to think in a non-direct way about what I’m doing. Some printmakers have referred to this a meditative part of the process. It can be, or it can be like how things occur to when driving or some repetitive task. It’s that time in between active art making that sometime allows you the space to think a bit differently about your work.
The last thing I love about printmaking (a long list, I know!) is the fact that printmaking allows people to own art at affordable prices. Years before I made my first print I had half my house filled with framed prints from a local print co-op where some fantastic artists worked.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Clean up (of course). Also, needing to sometimes admit that a project isn’t meant to be, and move on.
What are your inspirations?
I am drawn to industrial architecture, the natural world, old photographs, 19th and early 20th century science books. I love the mystery in life, and when I find it I try to bring it in to what I do.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I'd like to change the question a bit and say that the process of learning printmaking has changed how I create art in general. The fact that printmaking makes you think a few steps ahead, including how the image is constructed, has allowed me to slow down a bit. I don’t hurry my way into a piece. It may be that I’m able to think of, and create an image fairly quickly – I often still do. But printmaking has given me a bit of discipline to think through various paths the image could take, and to be patient. That has helped all aspects of creating art.
How do you get past creative slumps?
I try to do other parts of the work when I’m not able to create. I’ll tear down paper, prepare plates for future use, or read about something that interests me – other artists, printmaking, history, science, etc. I try not to see it as down time, but rather part of the process – those things I read about most likely will become part of the creative compost can produce a future print or painting.
How do you promote your work?
This is an area where I need to put more time. I admit I do not promote my work like I should. Besides Etsy, I maintain a presence on Flickr, and have a website. That’s about it…I need to watch and learn about promotion from others who are doing a much better job of it than I!
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Yes - don’t wait as long as I did to start! Do a bit of research to learn how, or take a class. While it can have you banging your head against a wall at times, it is also very addictive and rewarding. There is a lot of free information on the web these days - read up, learn, grab a brayer and go forth!