Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interview with Stephanie Martin of Stephanie Martin Fine Art


I live along the beautiful central California coast, in Santa Cruz, where I am lucky to have access to the fine UCSC Print Studio.  I get to make prints there surrounded by lively young artists and a dedicated staff.
I got into making art fairly recently, when my daughters were grown. I studied natural history in college, and always had a desire to study art.

Why do you like to print?

Printmaking challenges me in different ways than my plein air landscape painting does.  I love the intricate drawing detail that intaglio invites, its technical, circuitous paths, and I enjoy surrendering to the vagaries of the acid tank: living with the happy and unhappy accidents.  Printmaking is so amenable to experimentation; it’s mesmerizing to see how an etched plate can yield different results when you vary the paper, ink color, or add chine colle.  I also am convinced that doing so much inside-out backwards thinking (the left-right reversal, the aquatint stopping out where what you cover with dark ground will remain white, etc.) in printmaking must be very good for our brains! 

What is your favorite print medium and why?

Intaglio has won me over, although occasionally I make reduction woodcuts when a certain subject calls for that technique.  Woodcut is scary, it’s do or die, and reduction woodblock really gets the brain cells sweating.  But I do love the forgiveness of intaglio, that you are usually able to rescue a plate, and that you can combine it with monoprint so easily. 

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

I’ve been printmaking for six years. Like all beginners, I started with black and white prints; I think the possibilities of printmaking really expanded for me when I made my first piece combining elements of etching and monotype. After inking the plate in the traditional manner, I roll colored ink on the surface and remove it in select places, sometimes running the plate through the press multiple times.  These monoprints are exciting to develop, but a chore to edition since the printing is so tricky. 

Lately I’ve been employing more a la poupee inking.  It really changes how you must think; for example if I were printing daffodils in black ink, my tonal value for the petals would be very light.  If instead I plan to ink those flowers with yellow, I have to do an extremely long dark aquatint etch to get the yellow to register rich enough.
I have also become very fond of using white (or “soap”) ground to stop out aquatints in my bird and flowers series, which makes for a more natural soft edge between tones.

What inspires you?

I am fascinated by the intricate complexity of the natural world--birds and plants in particular-- and the intersection of myth and science.  My daughters’ adventures living abroad have fueled many pieces as well. And I envy the gorgeous etchings of Bridget Farmer, Cliona Doyle, and Jean Bardon.

How do you promote your work?

I participate each fall in our local “Open Studios” event, where people can visit my studio, learn about printmaking, and take home my artwork.  Creating a website two years ago opened up opportunities for more shows in local public spaces, galleries and restaurants.  Etsy has introduced me to some wonderful printmakers’ work, and my shop gives me the pleasure of sending my art around the world--that’s pretty amazing! 

Are you working on any particular projects now?  

My drawings are done from life, so my themes progress with the seasons.  I’ve been busy sketching many spring flowers for future plates, as well as continuing my bird and nest series.  Right now we have a pair of bushtits and a pair of bewick’s wrens building nests in our yard, so watch out for future prints featuring them. (Provided I can fend off all the neighborhood cats.)

Tell us one random fact about yourself 

I grew up in Los Angeles and didn’t learn to drive a car until age 30.  (Go, bicyclists!) I am likewise coming late and reluctantly to the world of computers.

Stephanie's Website and Etsy Site

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