Sunday, March 7, 2010

Printsy Interview - Thomas J. Norulak


Brief Bio
Born in Newark, New Jersey 1949; attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, BFA 1971; Currently teach printmaking one night a week at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and run Norulak Screen Printing in Pittsburgh.

How did you get started in printmaking?
Studied printmaking in college as a minor, I was a painting major.

Describe where you work.
I do my etching work at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts where besides teaching, I monitor the Wednesday night access studio. I do my screenprinting work at my shop, usually when the commercial work slows down a bit.

What's your favourite printmaking process?
Currently I'd have to say etching.

What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I use a photo-transfer process for my etchings. Starting with a photo which I've taken, I scan it, and print it out on my laser printer, then using a solvent, transfer the toner from the paper to a zinc plate. The toner acts as a resist when the plate is etched in nitric acid. After the initial etch, traditional etching techniques such as aquatint, scraping and burnishing, etc. are used to complete the image.

What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I enjoy the mystery and surprises that come about from the indirectness of the process. Acid does what it will do, and sometimes can't be controlled. However you can change it after it's done its thing and mold it that way you want.

What's your least favorite part of the process?
An image or a plate that refuses to work its way to completion. Happens sometimes.

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
I'm a landscape artist and I'm inspired by my visions of nature, and how we humans have interacted with it, and the effects of time and weather on natural and man-made objects. I've been inspired by the prints of Whistler. He was known as kind of a rebel in his time. He was also the first printmaker to start signing his prints in pencil.

How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I like to think it's gotten better. But I think I've evolved from a straight landscape artist to one that's making more of a statement about the natural environment as well.

How do you get past creative slumps?
I get a bunch of plates and start beveling them. I usually try to have my next 5 to 10 images planned out in advance, so I usually don't have slumps.

How do you promote your work?
I sell in galleries as well as online. I must admit the social networking phenomena has been helpful in getting the word out. I think teaching helps, also I do a lot of demos and lectures for museums, and art groups as well. Getting into juried shows also helps. Anything to get your work and name visible certainly can't hurt.

Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Try starting with monotypes, which is kind of a hybrid of painting and printmaking, then venture into one of the other processes. Take a class or two to get your feet wet. Some day your prints will come!

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