Sunday, June 13, 2010

Printsy Interview - Kirsten Francis


Brief Bio
I spent my childhood in New England, Mexico City and Toronto, as well as many summers in Denmark with my mother’s family. After graduating from college with a non-art related degree, I discovered printmaking at my local community college in San Diego. I was so taken with the process that I returned to school to get a degree in printmaking.

Since then, I have been making and selling my artwork full-time (or trying to, now that I've got kids). That struggle to balance artmaking and one's 'wild side' with keeping house and home together is the driving theme behind my work. That is combined with images from my childhood, the garden outside my door and myths and fairy tales (I read way too many of those as a kid) to create narrative and fabulist artwork that's really just about my everyday life.

How did you get started in printmaking?
The art class I was signed up for had a terrible instructor. In desperation, I crashed a printmaking class held at the same time. I didn't even know what printmaking was.

Describe where you work.
I work in my home studio, which I am constantly rearranging to make it more efficient. I've got an etching press, a workbench, a dry table for paper and mat cutting and a desk where I draw and sketch.

What's your favourite printmaking process?
Reductive woodblock.

What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
I think, I drink coffee, procrastinate, clean the house, think and then sit down to sketch. It never works out how I envisioned it would. There is much erasing and redrawing. When I feel like I've got a decent drawing, I cut a piece of plywood to match the dimensions of the drawing. I redraw using a grid with pencil onto the plywood and then I seal it using a light coat of spray varnish. Then I carve and print, carve and print, carve and print (repeat about 8 times).

What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
That it's so hard, and long and fairly torturous. I feel like I've really earned a good result. Then there is the 'kiss of the press'. Lovely.

What's your least favorite part of the process?
That I have to explain the process over and over again. I appreciate people's curiosity but sometimes I feel that it's only the technique that justifies the artwork in their eyes. Do painters get asked about their technique so often?

What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
Fairy tales, mythology, literature, poems, gardening, quiltmaking, my kids, animals, Aztec imagery, Kollwitz, Kahlo, Hockney, Domino magazine and other ephemera (not necessarily in that order).

How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
Technically I've improved, my color have gotten brighter and I've got more of a sense of humor about my work.

How do you get past creative slumps?
Oh geez, I'll let you know after I get through this one.

How do you promote your work?
I used to do art festivals and send out postcards and do email blasts. Now I am transitioning to the web with Etsy and a blog. I'm trying to get the hang of it.

Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
If you don't have access to a printmaking studio, relief printmaking is the way to go. Start small (i.e. do a card sized piece) and you'll be surprised at how quickly it goes. It can be a lot of fun (obviously, if I'm still doing it myself)!


Stunning said...

Beautiful and disturbing all at the same time - the detailing is just wonderful!

Ejf Alias said...

I have been collecting Kirsten's work for several years. I am an artist myself. I met her at a show in the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum.
What I can say about her work is that, no matter how long the work hangs on my wall I never get tired of it. It is inspiring on an artistic and personal level. This may sound corny but its true: The first work I bought from Kirsten(The Rider) was life changing. Kirsten told me that it was about "crowning yourself" - turns out that was what I needed to do right then to move forward with my life. I still get that reminder every time I look at the artwork. Then, over the years Kirsten produced art that seemed to always come my way with a message just at the right time. Thank you Kirsten.
Her art has substance!