One of the artists that is showing at SideStreet Arts along with Auntie Bridgett is Gail Owen. Gail had her home studio open Saturday as part of Portland Open Studio Tour, and we went by to visit. I always love to see how artists make their magic, and print making, with its steps which must happen in reverse, has always fascinated me.
Gail came to print making after a career in aerospace, working for the Boeing Corporation. We talked about the different aircraft plants in California. My dad worked for Douglas Aircraft for many years and she had almost worked at ‘his’ Long Beach plant. Finding commonality with new people is always a treat. Her experience with parts and engineering gave her a leg-up on printmaking, she said. It made sense to her.
A self-taught printer, Gail began with small format prints with just a few colors, and worked her way up to much larger pieces, some of which are two by three feet. These larger pieces are made up of sections, each one designed and printed on its own and then sewn together, matted, and framed. The accuracy needed at every stage is amazing and intimidating.
Gail walked us through her process, which starts with taking black and white photos of flowers in her neighborhood. Then she chooses her color palette, working with up to eight colors on one print. She cuts into linoleum sheets to make her pattern, cutting away each section as she gets it the way she likes it. Once she is finished, that piece of linoleum is a mess, with sections gouged away, and can never be used again.
When Gail only wants to use a few colors, or make many more prints, she uses a process where she has different stamps for each color. Each stamp has only the part of the picture that will be in that color. This process makes more sense to me, but is still incredibly precise.
Gail also uses her printing to decorate wooden toys worked with strings, such as her Flying Hearts and Climbing Bears. There is a simplicity and whimsy in all her work which is very endearing.
I am grateful that Gail took the time to show us her art and her process, and happy that I get to see her work at SideStreet Arts!