I grew up on the gulf coast of Florida amongst the manatees, entirely intent on becoming an astronaut. In reality, I preferred spending my time drawing, reading, writing stories, and going to most available sports practices. Before I went to college, I realized that what I really wanted was to make artwork and write books while living on my own spaceship. This is totally feasible. I suppose I could at least get a pilot’s license.
So I went to Washington University in St. Louis, abandoned the Physics/Mechanical Engineering, and majored in Printmaking, English, and Track & Field (I’m counting that; do not challenge me). Of course, now I’m making these print/object/machine installations and reeeeally wishing I had that engineering degree. Instead, I am getting my MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and counting on being able to purchase a trip into space with my life savings or grant money. I also would be willing to devote my life to movies and avocados.
How did you get started in printmaking?
In elementary school I participated in the standard clever re-purposing of Styrofoam and root vegetables into relief matrices, but I also went to summer camps at the nearby art school (Ringling), where we did some monoprints, not that I was really aware of what I was doing. I did manage to make a pressure print of demented potato clown, which I maintain is the greatest piece of artwork I have ever created. I did a few pathetic lino cuts in high school, but I didn’t learn printmaking for reals until taking a class at Wash U in 2001. Wash U proceeded to spoil me tremendously with a 5’ x 8’ press.
Describe where you work.
As a grad student I am fortunate enough to have my own studio and full access to all manner of printmaking studios and processes. I spend most of my time in the etching room, but I also do a fair amount of litho and letterpress. I often end up using several different processes, so it really comes down to the individual print. I’ll often make additions to the prints with various media in my studio and build associated 3D elements, occasionally blowing out electrical sockets.
What's your favourite printmaking process?
I’d say I mostly think in intaglio. Also, I love a good plate mark.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
It really depends. I usually sketch out some thumbnails to work out ideas, but how much planning or drawing I do depends on what I’m working on. Given the nature of Printmaking, sometimes the image itself can be done quite spontaneously, but I’ll have to spend time getting the printing logistics in order. Recently I’ve been printing from the surfaces of found materials, reinterpreting their tactility and investigating their relationship with other elements and with the negative space of the paper. I’ve been doing this on a large scale (up to 3’ x 5’), so there are a lot of technical printing considerations involved in just figuring out how to print the crap I find in other people’s basements.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I really enjoy how each process creates a certain kind of line and texture and especially how those different qualities play off one another when combined in a print. I also like the mechanical and technical nature of it that lends itself to secret clubs devoted to shop talk and drinking.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
You know how I just said I liked the technicality of Printmaking? Well, sometimes I hate it. I don’t care for cleaning, either.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
All kinds of things: absurdist literature, physics, movies, running, jumping, diagrams, flying things, poster design, acrobats, machines, books, science museums, language, automata, road trips, and finding cool free stuff. It’s also great to be in a grad program surrounded by hardworking, awesome people.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I have become much more focused on an overall installation and try to think about prints as the objects they are.
How do you get past creative slumps?
I go to the movies, read, exercise, or get trapped in the abyss of the internet. Sometimes I’ll stumble on an idea or solution, or I just end up leaving the back of my brain alone for long enough to begin sorting things out. Disclaimer: this isn’t really working right now.
How do you promote your work?
I apply for some shows and do some print exchanges, I have my etsy store and website out there for people to trip over, and I go to the Southern Graphics Conference, but I could really be less of a pitiful wimp about everything.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Find out if your local community college has printmaking classes. If you’re an in-state resident, you can often get several months of access to instruction and a lot of expensive equipment for a reasonable amount of money. Then again, you can always print blocks with the back of a wooden spoon or by running over them with your car.