I’m Canadian, from Newfoundland, and I’ve been living in Upstate New York for 8 years. I’m a full-time architect, and a weekend printmaker. I think I became a printmaker by accident, or maybe it was meant to be. I was living in Vancouver about 15 years ago, and happened to walk by the Dundarave Print Workshop on Granville Island one day, on my way to the farmers’ market. There was a sign in the window about an Intaglio class, and I decided on a whim to sign up. It wasn’t a particularly smart decision given that I was unemployed and pretty much broke at the time, but there was something that drew me in there. I fell in love with printmaking. I took 3 classes at Dundarave that year in relief and intaglio. When I moved back to the east coast (Nova Scotia), I took a few more classes and open studios at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. It’s been years since I’ve studied printmaking, but I think that once you learn the techniques, you just have to keep working on it to improve. There’s only so much that can be taught.
I’ve tried watercolours and I desperately wanted to be good at it, but I just didn’t have a good feel for it. Printmaking felt like a natural extension of my studies and work in architecture, for some reason. I can’t really explain how or why I made that leap in my mind! I feel an intuitive connection to printmaking. I think it satisfies a need to do something creative with my hands, since I spend my days working at a computer. I hardly ever draw anymore in my architectural practice. Everything is digital. What I love most about printing is that there are so many different ways to create an image, and the same idea can be expressed in with completely different results simply by using a different technique. It’s something that you never stop learning about.
What is your favorite printmaking medium and why?
Relief, specifically linocuts, and I absolutely love embossing – it’s my favourite technique. I’ve tried reduction prints but haven’t done a successful one yet. I really admire printmakers who are good at that. Embossing has a three-dimensional quality, almost sculptural, so maybe it appeals to the architect side of me. It’s also a lot easier to clean up afterwards!
How long have you been printing and how has your work evolved?
I started taking lessons about 15 years ago, but I remember doing my first ever linocut in ninth grade art class. Maybe it was a latent thing; it just took 20 years for it to surface again! I think my work has improved since my first classes in Vancouver – at least, I hope it has! But I’ve also gotten more impatient. The more I try to rush something, the more likely I will mess it up. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the process again, not just the ‘aha!’ moment when you pull back the press blankets and see how it turned out. I think that buying my own press last year has been the most important step in improving my work. Embossing is nearly impossible to do without one, and that’s what I really want to develop right now.
What or who influences your work?
I’ve been looking for other printers who do embossing, and I’ve found a few including John Ruszel who has done some amazing stuff with typewriter parts. My training as an architect definitely influences my artwork. Not being professionally trained in art or art history, I can’t point to a specific artist or a period that influences me. But as an architect, I love the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods the most, and the more I learn about that, the more I see a correlation with what I’m drawn to in my artwork. Art Deco design in particular is very much about relief – I like to explore that in my embossed prints.
How do you promote your work?
I’ve had a shop on Etsy for over a year, and that’s done pretty well. I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account but I really haven’t figured out how to use social media as a business tool yet. I also do a few shows in the Western New York area each year. I joined the Buffalo Indie Market last year and that has helped me to promote my work locally. And I’ve taken a deep breath and brought my work to a few local shops. That’s tougher than presenting an architectural design to a client. Printmaking feels so much more personal to me.
Any printing tips or stories to share?
Well, like most printmakers, I’ve forgotten that the final image will be the mirror of what I carve into a plate! I did that with one of my first intaglio plates. Only I know because I have the original photo, so I guess it’s an inside joke!
Embossing is a really simple thing to do; you just experiment with different types of blades and making different types of mark, playing around with depth of the cut. I have a box full of unsuccessful blocks where the blade has slipped or I carved out the wrong piece. With embossing, you have to think in the opposite way as you would for an inked print: think of the final image in 3-D, and carve out the parts that you want to stand out. That’s why inking a block that was intended for embossing rarely works out well, although I think my rose print is successful with both techniques. You really have to change the way that you imagine the piece if you want to create an embossing.
I remember someone commenting to me about 12 years ago in a class that it was just like an architect to do a print of a building. I ignored it and kept doing buildings! After all, that’s what I know. In fact, I’m working on a series of Buffalo architectural landmarks, and I’m thinking of doing them as hand-tinted linocuts. I do a lot of flowers and plants because they are great subjects for embossing, and because I love to garden. I think it’s important to find subjects or themes that you really connect with, and to keep working on your own style and technique. Roxanne's Website Here Roxanne's Etsy Site