An image of the linoleum block shavings in a pile.

Origin of Emily's Printmaking Journey

Hi everyone. Emily here, trying out a blog post for the very first time. Now that it is March I see many artists and makers online on social media following a prompt list called 'March Meet the Maker' in which they introduce themselves and give followers a sense of the human behind the account. This idea is intriguing and I think it is important for folks to connect with the person making the art. So, without further ado, I will share a bit of myself with you.

A photo of Emily. She is white, with brown hair and dark framed glasses. She is wearing a knitted blue hat and a grey winter coat standing under a tent outdoors. Behind her is a table of her artwork with a banner that reads "Emily Cooper Creations". On the table there are prints, a brayer, handprinted bookmarks, pinecones, and a framed print. There is a banner hanging above the table with handprinted fabric squares with prints including a bird's nest, an ivy leaf, and a pawpaw flower.

Image Caption: To better put a face to the name, here is a recent selfie I took at my first outdoor art market. 

I have always been an artist for as long as I can remember, and I credit a lot of my passion for art to my dad who taught me at a young age some basic tenets of drawing. I remember sitting at the kitchen counter beside him while he made me question what I saw when I looked at a face and if there were really hard lines like I had just marked on the sketchbook paper. He taught me to mold the face with the use of value by way of shading, and ignited my love for drawing (and later, painting) portraits. 

A grainy photo circa 1993 of Emily around the age of 5 in a purple and orange leotard and tutu, white tights, and ballet shoes. She is holding a tennis racquet and playfully tapping it on her dad's backside. Her dad has brown hair and a mustache and is making a playful, surprised expression. He is holding the case of the tennis racquet. They are standing on a stage with a curtain drawn behind them.

Image Caption: A photo of Emily and her dad circa 1993. This is around the time the art lessons at the kitchen counter began, sans tutus and tennis racquets.

In the early 2010s I was passionately painting portraits while taking art classes from a local artist in the Cincinnati area. This time was very exploratory for me as I tried acrylic and oil painting, oil pastels, and continued my love for pencil drawing. While working at a craft store, almost all my free time was spent painting and I eventually organized my own solo art show at a local church where I was able to connect with people, sell some of my original paintings, and donate a portion of the proceeds to a local non-profit I believe in.

This photo shows a framed oil painting on an ivory wall. The frame contains 64 small canvases mounted to a black board. The canvases are individually painted to make up the face of Albert Einstein. The paint colors include white, grey, and navy blue.

Image Caption: An oil painting completed in 2012 of Albert Einstein made up of 64 small canvases adhered to masonite.

In 2015 I had a "creative death" as I like to call it when I went back to school to study American Sign Language and go through a training program to become an interpreter. I was working full time at a craft store while taking part time college classes. The only pieces of art I made in the period of 2015-2019 while in school can be counted on one hand. However, I have to credit my interpreter education path for helping me find printmaking. More on that below...

After graduating and beginning work in the field, I had more free time to devote to the art that I sorely missed creating. Things happen in life that open a doorway to new avenues and the way I found printmaking was kismet. One day I was at a high school interpreting for a deaf student who was taking an art class. On the day that I happened to be there, the art teacher was leading an introduction to printmaking lesson for the students. While I stood at the front of the class interpreting the lesson I started to remember my own high school art class and the linoleum block print I made all those years ago. Watching the students in the classroom get out the boxes of carving tools and gauges and learn the techniques of carving created a yearning in me to do the same. 

After work, I drove to the nearest art store and bought the basic tools needed to carve and print. I was very awkward with the tools and the block at first. I made so many mistakes, carved out the wrong areas, and cut my hands with the tools in moments when I was not being careful or patient enough. With all those mistakes came a lot of learning, as is usually the case. I started to learn how to hold the tools properly, my brain adjusted to the idea of carving out the negative space and flipping the image before carving, and I learned by trial and error how to make the right marks that would translate into different textures. (I am still learning with each block to this day).

Image shows a the corner of a wall that has twine and clothespins hanging up prints that are drying. The three prints on the left are of an anatomical human heart with a black background. The three prints on the right are of a watering can with a simple vine design in the background.

Image caption: Two of my first linoleum block prints I made after purchasing the tools and learning the process of carving and printing.

Once 2020 came around and the world went into lockdown, I had more time and energy to devote to this art form. I met other printmakers online on Instagram and joined The Printmaker's Collective. My creative muscles, once atrophied, began to flex and grow.

Now, three years into this practice I can see improvements in my work, but know that I still have a lot to learn. I'm a big believer in lifelong learning and printmaking allows just that. I'm excited to continue this journey and also use other artistic mediums to inform my practice as a printmaker.

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