Sunday, October 11, 2009

Printsy Interview - Gordon Talley

Moon Rise on the Gospels - Gordon Talley

I was born and grew up in southern California. My first encounter with art was with illustrated books, which my sister and I would do terrible things to with crayons. I was four years old when I saw my first artist; a painter who lived across the street. It was memorable! (like the first time you see a snake...or a blimp). It was amazing to realize that somebody could do that; make art. It seemed like magic. I had excellent teachers in high school, and later, in college. By the time I graduated from high school I was already working as free-lance illustrator, as well a driving a tractor in the orchards. I don't do either anymore, but do miss the tractor sometimes. I had decided to become an artist by the time I was fourteen. I recall the work aptitude counselor actually trying to find "artist" on his list of jobs. He recommended that I become a machinist instead. "OK," I lied.

Art is the only career that I've ever known. Of course, I've had a couple hundred other jobs but have been lucky to be able to work at my art on most days over the last forty years, and plan to keep doing so.

Evening Two - Gordon Talley
How did you get started in printmaking?
I was fortunate to have exposure to printmaking in junior high school and high school. First it was linocuts, and then silk screening. I enjoyed both but really took to the screen process at the time, and later incorporated it into my commercial work as well as the fine art pieces that I was doing.

In the early 1970's I found a nineteenth century portfolio of etchings in a junk shop. That pretty much did it! I got every book that I could on the subject from the library, learning all that I could about etching and intaglio processes. After awhile I realized that I had to try this! I did what I always did. I went to Ventura College and audited the classes that I needed. They had a marvelous art department and number of presses. I spent every available moment that I had in the printing room. I've had ink in my blood ever since! I was also very lucky in locating an old star wheel press, which I still use.

Bessie Smith - Gordon Talley
Describe where you work.
When I'm actually pulling prints I'm generally in my garage/studio; a wood frame building put up in 1946. It's not finished off on the inside and there are lots of spiders and an occasional squirrel and the neighborhood cats. It's fairly small but houses two etching presses and a full picture framing shop. For letter press work there's a press in my kitchen. Typesetting is done nearby at what was briefly the "dining room table" but is now just "that crazy place".
Designing work could happen anywhere; sometimes at the kitchen table...sometimes in my living room. I used to work on ideas in coffee shops a lot, sometimes on napkins, but I don't go out as much now. Anywhere I can take a sketch pad is good.

Hiroshima Dawn - Gordon Talley
What's your favorite printmaking process?
I want to say etching because it's all about process, but I've really become addicted to monotypes. They have a definite "fun" element for me. It's like skipping the entire process of etching , up to the wipe. I love wiping plates and trying to come up with just the right way for each plate. I still get plenty of duds with monotypes, but I've never spent an additional week on one trying to fix it...before deciding that it was terrible. Did I answer that question?

What's your creative process for any given print?
With the exception of monotypes and some intaglios, I generally plan the print. I'll do a complete sketch for etchings and any type of relief print (linocut, woodcut, etc.). With monotypes it might just be the idea of a direction; a word (bird, dark, moon, etc.). Or, I might just jump in and see if a direction develops. Often at the beginning it does require some staring...maybe some more coffee. Whatever it takes! And then the plunge in.

Night Flight - Gordon Talley
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
So many things! I really love surprises; that moment when you pull the print and see what happened. Sometimes it's just what I thought it would be...very often it's not! I really like the process of the whole thing. Getting ready gets me very excited. Sometimes that's all I do, and it feels so good that I just stop there. Another thing that I like about printmaking and art in general is the never ended learning. There seems to be no end to what can be done...not that I can do it, but I love the possibilities. Oh, and the smell!

The smell of ink is intoxicating. Well, actually, I guess it literally is, but I meant that poetically.

Total Eclipse - Gordon Talley
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Cleaning up.

What are your inspirations?
Naturally I've been inspired by many other artists, and just about anything that has ever evoked a feeling. Kind of a big question isn't it? Sometimes an event will do it. The total eclipse in January of 1979 is a good example. I've enjoyed making commemorative prints for as long as I've been doing it; family members, musicians,'s an ever expanding list. My grandfather once told me about taking his airplane (which he built in his back yard) up above the clouds, and ended up flying with a California Condor for quite awhile. That was the inspiration for the etching of him. More recently I was inspired by the idea of ravens (again) for a series of monotypes. Dawn and twilight are big on the list. Oh, and emotional wacko-ness!

The Thought of Soaring - Gordon Talley
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I work faster now. I'm not as interested in getting everything perfect in a print. Doing the monotypes has been good for me in that way. It's such an immediately expressive form. I'll still spend crazy time on an etching, but I'm less likely to put that extra week or two of tinkering time. Is that an answer?

How do you get past creative slumps?
I've found that the best thing for me to do is simply "go to work". This is my job, and I can't expect to always feel inspired before I start. Of course it's great when I happens, but sometimes I'll be a few days into a project before I get excited. I think working on commercial deadlines helped with my ability get up and start even if I don't want to, though I haven't given any thought to designing a match book cover or cocktail napkin for a very long time!

Raven - Gordon Talley
How do you promote your work?
Up until recently I've always relied on galleries and shows, along with press releases. Etsy is my first foray into Internet commerce. I've had some very nice feedback and met some wonderful people in the process. I'll still do it "the old way" as well, but I am glad to be here!

Any other comments or advice for others who might want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Do it!


minouette said...

When I tried the link to his etsy shop I got the "Uh oh!" missing seller error message. But I found his shop here:

Must be a typo in the URL or something?

Such gorgeous prints, people should be able to find his shop.

Amie Roman said...

Thanks Ele - sorry about that, I'll fix it now.