Douglas E. Taylor
A little more history: An Artist's Education
When I look back on the journey that my pursuit of art has taken me, this path thus traveled makes great sense to me. As a child I was aware that I had the ability to draw and paint in representational styles and was labeled as an "artist" by others. Later in life when teaching drawing and painting, I realized that I was not an artist because I could draw and paint well, but that I was an artist because I could find numerous ways of expressing myself visually. I enjoyed using creative tools and my imagination. I also realized that productivity was important to me. It was a part of me and the more I did it, the more individual my imagery became. This is what happens when one involves themselves in the process and is productive.
Oregon College of Art was a very small private commercial art school in Ashland, Oregon. It had a loose affiliation with Southern Oregon State College. O.C.A is now defunct; S.O.S.C is now Southern Oregon State University. I learned and established a tremendous foundation for striving to be a professional artist at O.C.A. The instructors there were all professional accomplished artists in their individual fields. With all good education experiences, there is a residual education element that soaks-in as time goes by and you practice what you didn't know you knew. An education is what a student makes of it. It was an opportunity to open myself up and let all of that stimulation permeate me. My education at O.C.A. involved a lot of real-life, and real-life work experience. I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity and experience where/when I did. What I learned at O.C.A. about what it takes to become a successful professional artist, is with me everyday. I feel that there is a need for improvement and inspiration for many artist’s that seek professional education, which is the reason I started presenting the Successful Artist Workshops Series. It is my intention to help others by empowering them with thoughtful effective ideas and knowledge that I know can help.
While teaching drawing on the University level, I discovered that I really enjoyed teaching and discovered that if I wanted to do it full-time, I would need a Master of Fine Arts degree. In preparation for graduate school, I enrolled in some graduate level studio programs in the Summer of 1986, on the east coast at Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, Maryland. This cultural exposure was an incredible opportunity for me. It was liberating and invigorating, producing challenging art with no commercial value intended. That region is very close to many of our countries best and largest art museums. It was a very rich educational experience and helped to create a mature portfolio that would be more attractive to graduate schools.
I applied to graduate schools. Somehow, I again was fortunate to be accepted in what I really needed, arguably the most progressive printmaking program in the United States. Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri was another step in my progression that was extremely valuable to me. This Midwest exposure and Ivy League setting was an important educational experience. I was exposed to the personality of the Midwest and the artistic sensibilities unique to the region. My art education was refined by the academic standards, the atmosphere the university and fostered and the fellowship of very talented graduate students and faculty.
Graduate art school is an opportunity to focus and refine an artistic direction, a thesis. The intensity of such a program allows for great productivity, especially in printmaking. Printmaking, utilizing the format of monoprints (one-of-a-kind), permits the artist to create an image with many variations and versions, exploring the image in a more rapid way than traditional drawing, painting or sculpture.
My art process matured and grew with the creation of "restrictions". I experimented with creating restrictions and rules to my visual art making. I discovered that the more I restricted myself, the more creative options I actually had. It forced me to look at solutions differently and in unexpected ways. I decided that if I was to learn more about printmaking and the various processes that I might benefit from restricting all of my solutions to the printmaking process. this may appear counter intuitive but limitations can expand creativity. In order to learn more and to open myself to the most potential of the process, I conformed to my own rules: no hand-coloring or painting over printed imagery, no collage used. I would explore integrating any mark making with a printmaking process, even if it was a different printmaking process. I immediately met success with innovations developed through the various processes. Naturally, I started to combine processes and techniques. This led to inventions of process and technique I had never seen or heard of before. The images were becoming wholly integrated because of the overlapping print process. No hand-painting marks were sitting at the top of the art's printed surface. I was learning technical finesse and confronting compositional challenges with every monoprint. I was able to produce a large quantity of very involved hand-printed artwork.
I termed the phrase, “mixed-process” printmaking to describe this new deliberate approach of combining several printmaking processes in one print.
Following the process and pushing the process helps the artist develop very individual imagery and technique. Process oriented artwork develops a distinct identity because no one else will go down that exact creative or technical path. The process becomes a very personal expression of how the artist works and the results of those efforts.
A technical story for fellow printmakers:
Building My Own Intaglio Press
In 1991, I completed the construction of my own motorizedintaglio printing press. It was modeled after the large presses I used in graduate school, constructed by Professor Peter Marcus, head of the Printmaking Department at that time. Designing and building my own press elevated my understanding of the printing process and empowered me with all of the thought, skills and resolution that go into such a project. Upon completion and use, I felt accomplished and genuine as a printmaker. The finished press was twelve feet long and about three feet wide. That is a tremendous commitment of space, time and resources. I used the gears and bushings suggested by Peter Marcus.
I made what I feel are some small subtle improvements to the basic Peter Marcus press constructions. Marcus generously gave me two twenty-five inch rollers, which are surplus gravure rolling press rollers. This size roller could cover most of a large full sheet of printmaking paper (29 to 30 inches) with a few inches on each side bare. Twenty-five inches would be the largest plate width size I could use. The plates could be as big as 25 inches by over six feet, depending on the felted press blankets used to cushion the compression of the roller pushing the printmaking paper and the inked printing plate together. I made the Masonite (Later replaced with a stainless steal sheet) press bed and press blankets thirty inches wide to accommodate the full-sheet paper or rolls of paper. The press bed edges could ride in a slot of wood or metal to help run the bed straight through the press. The length of the plate is only restricted by my blanket and bed length, currently six feet, two inches. If I used a blanket-loop I would only be restricted by the bed and plate length. Rag printmaking paper is available in long rolls.
I use a large sheet of acrylic Plexiglas over the press bed surface to make clean up easier. Also paper templates that indicate plate and paper placement could be placed under the acrylic sheet for registration of plates and paper.
Having been originally taught on small presses with small rollers, I felt that the larger diameter roller would provide better service as the top roller, allowing the more gradual radius of the roller surface to roll up on thick plate edges easier. This is especially beneficial with thick collagraph, linoleum, and wood engraved plates that I often use.
As with Marcus' printing presses, I made my press power driven by an electric motor with a gear reduced belt and chain system. This saves valuable space by eliminating a large crank handle or wheel attached to the side of such a huge piece of equipment.
As an artist and an instructor, I appreciate using Non-Toxic Printmaking Materials and sharing that information. Printmaking was once very toxic because of the use of hazardous chemicals and materials, thankfully those days are over.
Another problem that I solved as a printmaking instructor for institutions that did not have the facility and/or equipment traditionally used, was the development of a curriculum, Printmaking Without a Press. Often art students did not engage and pursue printmaking because they felt they needed a printmaking press to be productive and to continue the pursuit of making prints. Because of the “restriction” of such a program, I was able to pursue creative alternatives that provided students with virtually unlimited productivity and stimulation. I was constantly amazed at the beautiful imagery and rich layers of printmaking that confirmed my beliefs in such processes.
I will share more about these two issues, Non-Toxic Printmaking Materials and Printmaking Without a Press in future workshops and articles.
Let me know if you want to be notified when updates are made.
My process, like my imagery is developed in involved layers. My printmaking utilizes the distinct quality of printmaking, which is the ability to develop layers of involvement, color, line, texture, and imagery. My mixed-media art involves many layers of collage, made of fragments of printmaking, Oriental rice papers and acrylic painting. My images are visual games that create a sense of animation, of living spirit and a sense of natural wonder.