Sunday, February 27, 2011

Interview with Brian Holden of Borealart

Visit Brian's Etsy Shop and Website

I am a visual artist and also an arts educator who has resided in the city of Thunder Bay since 1980. The region is known for its beautiful, rugged boreal forest wilderness and is found on the northwest shores of Lake Superior in the province of Ontario, Canada.  It is also my place of birth.    
My work is highly influenced by these surroundings and is reflected in studies of the landscape and flora/fauna of this region. During my youth, I had the opportunity to not only live here in this region for a while in a variety of small communities that bordered on wilderness but also in a few less populated rural agricultural regions of southern Ontario. A lot of time was spent during my childhood and teen years exploring the woods and fields which forged a deep respect for and love of nature that to this day continues to be the source of inspiration for my images. I often still make journeys into the back country by canoe or by vehicle and on foot to get my reference material.  

I studied the basics of visual art at Sheridan College in Brampton Ontario. After a brief time there I undertook an independent direction with my creativity and through self teaching expanded my understanding and levels of skill in a range of various mediums. It was also at this time that I returned back to this region and committed myself to becoming a full time artist. This has included involvement with the local arts community and has culminated by serving in a leadership capacity as president for a local artist collective for a couple of years. I have established a presence here through exhibition of my art in local galleries, both in group and solo exhibitions. Not only do I spend a great deal of time working in the studio, but also I have made time to give instruction to others (mainly in printmaking). I am active in the role as an arts educator in regional schools and also in private workshops for older youth and adults.

Why printing?  

I was introduced to printmaking during my senior high school years and also in an elective course in community college.  Although painting at that time was the medium I was engrossed with, it became apparent that the more printmaking experience I had, the stronger an appeal it produced. Painting then took a backseat. Printmaking presented challenges that provided the stimuli to develop an image through various stages. The varieties of techniques I am able to explore as a printmaker have allowed for an expansion of creativity more so than any other medium I have tried to date. I also like the idea of producing more than one copy of a single image, and printmaking allows an artist this possibility.

What is your favorite print medium and why?

Silk screen would have to be my favorite medium. I was introduced to serigraphy in art class while I was studying in secondary school. I quickly became proficient enough with the medium that the school I attended in the mid 70’s occasionally employed my skills to design and screen print posters for school related events. Later I adapted the medium to print on fabric and create wearable art. However it was the fine art serigraph print on paper that has been the driving motivation that I have been trying to perfect for well over three decades. I also like the variety of techniques one can employ with serigraphy including the cut film stencil, drawing fluid/screen filler and photo sensitive emulsion coated screen. I can focus on one technique or also choose to combine different techniques to achieve the final product.

How long have you been printing and how has your work evolved?

For over thirty years I have employed a variety of printmaking disciplines in my studio practices. This includes relief block printing from linoleum, wood, cardboard and styrofoam surfaces, serigraphy (silkscreen) on both paper and fabric, intaglio processes such as acid bite hard ground etching on metal plate, drypoint and, in the past couple of years, non-toxic etching via solar plate. I have also explored collagraph and monoprints.  Recently I have undertaken the study and application of relief engraving using both wood and plastic surfaces. My background in painting sometimes is incorporated into a few print images.   

I believe that my work is evolving as I become more adept with each technique and expand on what I know, but also from what is learned each time I create a print.  Ultimately when I realize that a successful image on paper has been achieved this stokes the fire to keep me motivated and to see where I can take things next.

What or Whom influences your work? 

During my early years I was quite in awe of screen prints produced by some of the well known pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein and David Hockney. Their screen printed images were truly inspirational to someone who was learning screen printing.  However throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s I had the opportunity to view paintings and hand printed images by a few established artists from both my own country and also the galleries of northern Europe.  Two Canadian artists of note especially influential were A.J. Casson (who had translated some of his work to serigraph) and painter Tom Thomson. Casson was a member of Canada’s famous Group of Seven and Thomson is acknowledged by the group for his influence in depictions of the Ontario landscape on canvas.  The way that both of these artists have explored landscape and nature in their work moved me to approach my imagery from a whole new perspective in terms of simplicity and composition. It also forced me to figure out how I could use printmaking as the vehicle to achieve something interesting and personal.

How do your promote your work?

I have had a website since 2003. Last year a new website was launched to coincide with my solo exhibitions that have a whole new layout and look, but also there is a common theme in my recent work that focuses on continuity. The older site is still kept as an archive and is linked from the new site. In addition I have maintained a blog for a couple years.

I am fortunate to have a local few retail outlets that display and promote my work.

Any good printing tips or funny printing stories (or both??)

The key to successful printmaking (for me at least) is organization.  Always, always, always, keep those brayers spotlessly clean!  My last bit of advice is “do not be afraid to try new things or shake things up, try experimenting by combining things into new and exciting hybrids ”.

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