Printmaking is generally believed to have started out in Germany as a technical method for reproducing text, but in Asia, the method originated as an artform in and of itself. Eventually, the techniques blending mechanical and wood block printing melded with a variety of innovations resulting today in a genre that incorporates original unique works as well as those that can be reproduced.
In Taos, printmaking developed right alongside painting as artists established the well-known colony here. In 2011, the Couse Foundation here had an exhibition of 23 color lithographs made by Taos Society of Artists founder E.I. Couse for the Santa Fe Railroad. As this area made its mark as a center for art, the creativity of these newcomers also embraced printmaking in all its various forms.
Printmaking, though, is still oddly misunderstood. While there are plenty of artists painting, drawing, sculpting and shooting photographs, printmaking remains stereotyped. That’s why we decided to pick on a couple of Taos printmakers for this week’s column, Jennifer Lynch and Jan Dorris. Here’s what’s on their minds ...
1. What originally interested you in making prints?
Jennifer Lynch: I took my first print class as an elective at Syracuse (N.Y.) when I was an Experimental Studios Major. The process bowled me over, I changed my focus and I have been printing ever since.
Jan Dorris: My friend, Marcia Oliver, introduced me to printmaking. She had a press at her studio and showed me a little bit about it. I thought “ This is great and it doesn’t take up a lot of room because it is on paper.” Little did I know that one day I would make lots of prints and need lots of storage space!
2. What are some of the things people don’t understand about printmaking?
Lynch: The time involved. There are so many possibilities such as etching, lithography, and woodcut, not to mention the new safe and non-toxic processes along with digital technologies. It takes years to hone the craft.
Dorris: Many people think that printmaking is just some sort of reproduction of another artist’s work or a reproduction of something done in another medium. They don’t realize that it is actually a medium itself. Within that medium there are many ways to make a print. Some prints, etchings for example, are made in editions. Some prints, monoprints for example, are one of a kind.
3. What are the first things you do when planning a new print?
Lynch: When working with a client I spend time with them discussing what they would like to see as an end result. We talk through various possibilities of achieving that end and evaluate what printmaking process or combination of processes will best suit the image. When working on my own imagery the structure of the plates seems to come rather quickly, the color is a larger investigation. Interestingly, when working on my own prints I am on the right or creative side of the brain. In that instance, the studio becomes a disaster area. When working with a client, utilizing my left-brain, the studio remains orderly.
Dorris: First I have to decide what type of print to make. It will always be one of a kind, whether it is a monoprint using a plastic plate or a mixture of techniques incorporating a solar plate, chin-colle, or a collagraph. I rarely have much of a plan. I start out with a vague idea and usually the print tells me what to do.
4. Who or what have been your most valuable inspirations?
Lynch: I have been blessed to work with some very innovative and historically important figures throughout my lifetime. I have learned a great deal from their generosity and skill. These opportunities compounded, have made me the artist I am today.
Dorris: My main influence has been from my experience with ceramic sculpture. In my opinion, printing and sculpture are very related. In printmaking you just pretend to stack something three dimensional on itself and then flatten it. The nice thing is that the result is a bit transparent.
5. How has your work evolved from when you first started out?
Lynch: At first the work was most importantly about structure. Now the structure has become the armature for color. The color is becoming the primary focus.
Dorris: I have tried almost every print technique. My work has evolved into a larger scale and often incorporates other materials. Currently I am mounting prints on various shapes of MDF (medium density fiberboard) resulting in a three dimensional piece that escapes the rectangle.
6. What ideas or themes are more prevalent in your work?
Lynch: The themes of my work are derived from nature and natural patterns.
Dorris: My prints are almost always non-representational. I do try to create a mood (even a scary dark side). I sometimes venture into a political viewpoint. I am interested in that aspect of art.
7. When teaching, what do you hope to instill in your students?
Lynch: Most importantly, I try to teach my students how to trust themselves. When they ask, “Do you think I can do this?” I always say, “If you can think it, you can do it — you just have to figure out how.” So research and development, creative problem solving, the application of ingenuity, tuning in to inspiration and intuition — these are all crucial elements in their learning. It is important to learn to trust oneself.
Dorris: I don’t teach, but if I did, I would encourage my students to pay close attention to composition, but still take risks. Try something different. It’s only paper!
8. How valuable is it to develop a professional work ethic?
Lynch: I wouldn’t finish much without the work ethic I have developed for myself. If you want to make things you have to get in the studio and do it!
Dorris: A serious work is vital because artists are self-motivated. I set time limits and goals. I work at art every day. Each morning I spend a lot of time thinking. That is a very important part of art making.
9. How much does spontaneity figure into your process?
Lynch: Probably a lot more than one may think. I try to allow the work to direct me rather than the other way around.
Dorris: I rely on spontaneity and intuition almost completely. That works for me as long as I can predict what the materials are going to do. Even then, with printmaking there is always a surprise at the end.
10. If you weren’t an artist-printmaker, what would you be?
Lynch: I have often asked myself this question, sometimes hoping to find an answer ... Never have.
Dorris: Aah! My favorite question. I would love to be in a rock band! Maybe in another life, when I am young again.
Taos Artist Organization member Jan Dorris says she moved to Taos as a teenager with her parents in the late 1950s. “I have lived here off and on since then. Most of my art life was spent making sculpture, especially ceramics. I was fortunate to have studied with some wonderful teachers, including Ted Egri. I have taken printmaking courses at the University of New Mexico-Taos for the past 10 years. All of my instructors there were very good. Since I enjoy both printmaking and sculpture, I hope to combine the two.”
Master printmaker Jennifer Lynch has also been painting since 2010. These works along with many of her prints are now on view at David Anthony Fine Art on Kit Carson Road. She has been a workshop instructor, master printer and owner of the business Lynch Pin Press Inc. in Taos since 1999. She has also taught printmaking at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of New Mexico-Taos, along with other schools. In addition to the DAFA show, her work is also in shows in Arvada and Denver, Colo., and New York City, N.Y. this year. Her work can also be seen at www.lynchpinpressinc.com.
Both artists are included in the “Pressing On” exhibit at The Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, on view through Feb. 12.