Printmaking as performance art

This past weekend I spent two afternoons creating hand-printed linocut postcards in an art museum in front of a crowd. I don’t usually have people watching over my shoulder as I create, but it’s an oddly satisfying activity.

LINDA COTE-Whyte Demo2I was one artist of many participating this summer in the “Artist Demonstration Weekends” at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta.

Each Sunday afternoon, a different artist sets up in the Swiss Guides Room of this Banff art museum to showcase their artwork and processes. For those who are available (like me) we are also there on Saturday afternoons.

I love having the opportunity to demonstrate my printmaking. It’s an art form that is not all that common, and many people I spoke with over the weekend had no idea how handmade limited edition art prints are made.

LINDA COTE-Whyte print postcardWhen I show the hand carving into the block, let them compare the block art with the final print, and touch the thick layer of ink on one of my proof prints, a light goes on. Then, I take my roller, spread a thin layer of ink on my glass, apply it to my carved block, add the paper, and like magic … a print is born. (I never get tired of this process!)

LINDA COTE-Whyte Demo-print

LINDA COTE-Mount Rundle postcard

For this weekend, I created a new postcard-sized print of Mount Rundle, the iconic mountain in Banff National Park, and printed it on cardstock. I gave away a postcard to each person who stopped by and discussed printmaking with me. It was fun to share the joy of creation and answer all the questions.

LINDA COTE-Whyte Demo rack

Many folks were in the gallery viewing the “Trains & Mountains” show on the walls of the Swiss Guides Room where the demonstration took place. We had people visiting from parts of Europe, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Florida, Texas, England, Ontario, BC and Calgary. Probably lots of other places, too, as people circled by the exhibit but were too shy to talk.

LINDA COTE-Whyte Demo

It’s an interesting thing to watch people interact with a live art demonstration. Some people come into the gallery space, and march right over and say: “What are you doing?” Others circle around the gallery and shyly peek over at my work table until I break the ice and start to explain what I am carving or printing. A handful come into the gallery, peek inside the door, and turn right around and leave! I never take that personally because I know I can be shy talking to someone in a museum, too.

LINDA COTE-Whyte DemoSet up

It’s always enjoyable, though, to be in an inspired place sharing my art. I come away with lots of new stories, several new artist recommendations to look up online, and always a feeling of wonder that it’s my “job” to share the art of printmaking with others.

LINDA COTE-at the Whyte DemoThanks to the Whyte Museum staff for organizing these social events. For those of you who haven’t been to this wonderful mountain gallery, it’s definitely worth a trip, or a look online. The founders, Peter and Catharine Whyte, were artists themselves, and have a fascinating story and contributed greatly to the arts community in Banff. It’s a legacy that continues today, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

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6 responses to “Printmaking as performance art

  1. Great blog post. You are very brave creating prints “live”. I like the print of Rundle, it is definitely an inspiring mountain that begs to be transformed into art.

    • Thanks, Deb. It’s funny, I used to worry about “live” printmaking, but I find doing these smaller postcards works really well. Simple to pull and small enough to hang a bunch at a time!

    • Hey Susan, thanks for reading this! The “live” aspect is really fun and I love seeing people’s reactions. They often say “Oh!! Cool!” as I pull the print off the block. That kind of feedback makes it all worth while!

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