Fine art printmaking is a genre steeped in tradition that also is open to evolution, experimentation and individual aesthetic.
According to artist Penny Treat, “there’s no end to what you can do” through printmaking, which is not to be confused with producing photographic reproductions of artwork.
“That’s really the misnomer of being a printmaker,” said Treat, a member of the North Coast Printmakers Collective, which is showing original artwork at the Seaside Public Library through Jan. 26.
Rather, members of the collective value preserving and promoting the fine art and tradition of crafting quality original prints, which are made with specific materials in order to last longer than giclée prints. Their repertoire includes monotypes, monoprints, intaglio prints of all varieties and relief prints, including linocuts and woodblocks.
“What we want to keep alive is the knowledge of original art,” especially in the midst of the digital age, said artist Sarah Baumert, of Seaside.
Added Treat, “The difference between a print of a print, is it doesn’t have lasting value.”
“This is permanent long-lasting art,” she said of fine art printmaking.
Formally established in 2010, the North Coast Printmakers Collective is comprised of about 14 artists — the number fluctuates — from across the Pacific Northwest who work frequently in a community-based program with some shared studio space at Clatsop Community College in Astoria. The group was formed to raise public awareness about printmaking as an art genre and find venues for their collective work. Including the exhibit at the Seaside library, they have offered seven public exhibits.
The artists in the group approach their work in various ways. Some are very precise and realistic in their replication of images and objects, such as artist Kirsten Horning; others are more loose, expressive and intuitive, leaving a lot up to the viewer’s imagination.
“They’re pulling from other sources inside them,” said Treat, who associates with the latter group. She described her style as “a painterly way of doing woodblock,” which produces more subtle, soft and atmospheric pieces.
“The reason (printmaking) is so seductive for me is that I don’t know what I’m going to get,” Treat said. “For me, (art) is my drug of choice.”
Elizabeth Bonn-Zimmerman, of Long Beach, Wash., also enjoys experimenting and surprising herself. Her artwork “Water,” which is included in the Seaside exhibit, took about two months to create, she said. She spent part of that time viewing the piece hanging on the wall, deciding she wanted to do more with it, carefully ripping it into strips and rearranging the strips until she accomplished a more nuanced end result. She often is working on more than one piece during a given time period.
One of the wonderful things about the collective, Treat said, is the diversity. To produce their artwork, the printmakers use numerous materials, such as plastics, wood, paper and metal. Some artists choose to master a single material, while the more adventurous stretch the envelope, experimenting with anything they can find. That variety extends to the type of ink used, as well.
A variety of materials is displayed throughout the items in the Seaside exhibit, Baumert said. According to Treat, Baumert has an extraordinary talent for using found objects to make unique pieces.
Baumert told of going to a yard sale, where she purchased a myriad of cheap items. She doesn’t know yet how she will incorporate them into her printmaking, but they represent future possibilities, which excites her.
“You could pick up a fern leaf outside and ink it and print it,” she said.
Many printmakers have a recognizable signature, such as artist Normandie Hand’s silhouette figures that appear midway through movement and the finish she uses on her pieces.
During their monthly meetings, and in other instances, the members will share and demonstrate their ideas, technical knowledge and experimentation results with other artists in the group.
“That’s why we’re together, because we’re all open to sharing,” Baumert said.
“We push each other,” she said. “We move beyond one medium. We move to new methods and materials.”
Participating in the collective, Baumert added, is like getting to try on all the clothes in your friend’s closet, just for fun.
On their own time, the members pursue individual endeavors at their professional studios and various galleries, such as Treat’s nonprofit ArtPort Gallery in Ilwaco, Wash. Baumert does a lot of teaching for children, as she sees art as “the gift I want to give” to the next generation, she said.
The collective hopes to become an official 501(c)3 to move forward its mission of enriching the lives of established and emerging artists and promoting education in fine art printmaking.
In addition to Bonn-Zimmerman, Hand and Horning, the exhibit includes work by collective members Pat Howerton, Gin Laughery, Peter Nevins, Vicki Baker, Ben Rosenberg and Janet Wade. For more information about the collective, visit the group’s Facebook page.
For more information on the exhibit, call 503-738-6742, visit www.seasidelibrary.org or stop by the library at 1131 Broadway.