Sunday, January 2, 2011

Interview with Ken Januski: BerkeleySU - Prints and Art from Nature


Currently, I am located in Philadelphia, PA. I have graduate art degrees in studio art from UC Berkeley and Cornell, with an emphasis on painting. Until 10-15 years ago my work was primarily abstract, but I slowly moved toward naturalistic work, first with insects, then with birds. I've always loved nature and wanted to portray some of my appreciation for it. I've always had an interest in both drawing and painting but have done printmaking sporadically over 30 years. My recent return to printmaking, I think, is because prints, especially woodcuts or linocuts, seemed like they might allow me to blend realism and abstraction most effectively.

Why printing? 

I guess I sort of answered this question above. But I’d also add that I like the idea of being able to make multiple prints, and being able to make more affordable art. What I’d forgotten when I took up the linocuts was how much I also enjoyed the process and reacting to it. Every time I pull a print I know I’ll be in for a surprise. I like that.

What is your favorite print medium and why?

Right now linoleum block printing is my favorite medium. Eventually I may try woodblock. I haven’t done etching, lithography or screen printing in years. All in all I like most media that I’ve tried. But at least for the moment I have a hankering for a more graphic style. Underneath it I think that my love of drawing, of making a line, outweighs everything else. So that may be why I’ve taken to linocuts.

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

My total experience printing, over the last 30 years, is probably one year, maybe two. The odd thing is that it’s always been a side thing for me, never my primary field of interest. Since I took it up again a few months ago I’ve really enjoyed it. So who knows, maybe I’ll start spending a whole lot more time with it. One thing I’ve found, when I try to recall working in it, is that I can’t even remember where I learned screen printing, or what press I had access to when I did some of my later prints at Berkeley. What I’m getting at is that I think I’ve just picked it up again whenever the interest and opportunity was there. Fortunately for me it seems like the opportunity was there whenever I needed it.

What or Who influences your work?

Specific contemporary printmakers include Adrienne Rich from California and Kim Atkinson from England, both bird artists and woodcut artists. Much bird art and wildlife art is just too reminiscent of photos for my taste. I like the way these two combine abstraction and realism. When I was much younger I had a very large reproduction of one of Durer's wood engravings. I think even then I was struck by the raw power of black and white. I'd guess this was the first time I was influenced by a printmaker. I've also always loved the graphic work of Rembrandt. I like his use of light as well as his very abbreviated sketching where you just get the hint of something, not every little detail. And at one time I really like the ukiyo-e printmakers. I'm sure that they still have an effect on my composition.

           How do your promote your work?

Mainly online. Through my web site, my blog, my online store, recently Etsy, as well as participation in certain forums like the Wildlife Art section of Birdforum. But I don’t really spend much time actively promoting it. I just keep the various web sites and blogs active and hope someone finds them.

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

Well I’m too new to printing to offer any tips so we can count that out! One thing I did learn on my last print though was not to trust that any mounted linoleum blocks you buy will necessarily be cut with right angles. I couldn’t figure out why I had registration problems until I realized the block wasn’t cut straight. I will save my funny story for the last question.

How do you get past creative slumps?

I had to think of this question as I was starting a new novel last night, Bridge of Sorrows by Richard Russo. Early on there is a notable section about an artist whose dealer discusses how he gets beyond artistic slumps: “Every time you get into a rut, whether it was a marriage rut or a work rut, you’d find somebody to p*** you off, promptly break the fellow’s nose, pack your things and move someplace else. And your very next painting would be great, your rut a thing of the past.”

Well I’ve found no need to break anyone’s nose in order to get past my slumps. I do have to say I find far fewer slumps now that I’m working with representation, rather than abstractly. Still there are slumps with that as well. For me the best thing seems to be to switch to another medium, watercolor rather than charcoal, linocut rather than watercolor, etc. Or maybe just go for a walk, or go out and do some birding or field sketching.

Check out Ken's Etsy site and Website

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