It’s the sense of experimentation involved in the medium of printmaking that appeals to so many artists. Whether a print is being created from a relief, an engraving, a stencil or a lithograph, the artist never knows exactly how the piece will turn out until it has been run through the press. We asked a few of our favorite local printmakers about the medium.
If there’s one characteristic all great artists have in common, it’s bravery.
The best artists aren’t afraid. They aren’t afraid to take chances on their art, on themselves, on working hard, on believing.
“God hates cowards,” Theodore Waddell said with a grin, as we toured his studio/barn just north of Hailey.
By any standard, Theodore Waddell is a great artist. But he’s still just “Ted” to his friends. “Well, that and a few other things you can’t print,” he joked, as we wandered around examples of his work in various states of progress: large paintings hanging on one wall, small sculptures and children’s books piled on shelves, metal drying racks sprinkled with prints, wooden plates being carved for the massive printing press that sits like the chassis of an old Chevy in one bay. Just about all the work features animals, especially horses and Swiss mountain dogs.
While the studio occupies the backside of the barn, the front half serves as the stable for three horses: a red roan named Bailey, a dark bay named Woody, and Sunshine, a palomino that looks awfully familiar to fans of Waddell’s work. “That horse has paid his dues,” Ted joked about one of his biggest inspirations.
“I can’t paint anything I haven’t seen,” Ted said, explaining how his art has been greatly influenced by his Western upbringing in Montana and, for the last two decades, here in Idaho.
After graduating from Wayne State University in Detroit, Ted taught art at the University of Montana for eight years before quitting to run a cattle ranch—something he’d never done before. His quarter of a century long run as a rancher was a success, but not as successful as his artistic career.
Waddell’s work can be found in museums and collections across the West. And while he is best known for his paintings, Ted is also a gifted printmaker, an art form he’s been “experimenting with” since the `60s.
“You can learn more about color by making prints than by anything else. It’s a great learning experience,” Ted said of a process that can take as many as 25 print runs before he’s ready to call the work finished. The experimental aspect of printmaking is one of its biggest appeals for Ted.
“You never quite know how it’s going to turn out,” he said of the process, though he could have been talking about his philosophy on life. For Ted is certainly not afraid to take some chances, to have some faith.
“I suppose my philosophy is like Thoreau’s, Transcendentalism. God and nature, that’s pretty much me,” Ted said with a big smile and bespectacled eyes that damn near twinkled. “I’m having a good time.”
“Right now, what interests me is space,” Abby Grosvener said, her hazel eyes sparkling with an energy much younger than her grandmotherly status portrays. “I’m totally a two-dimension person as an artist, but if you look at the work there’s space and that’s what interests me.”
Abby was born in New York and as soon as she could hold a crayon it was clear she had a talent and passion for art, a calling that was supported by her parents. “It was a no-brainer what I was,” Abby said of her future as an artist. “All I wanted to do was have children and make things.”
Abby’s family relocated to San Diego when she was 10. When her college years rolled around, the burgeoning artist enrolled at UCLA.
It only took the brief introduction to John Paul Jones’ printmaking class to hook her on the medium. As she fondly recalled, “He said, ‘Let’s get to work.’ And he taught us how to make prints. It was all dirty and smelly and I loved it!”
Abby has been painting and printmaking professionally for 50 years now, the last baker’s dozen at Jen and Nate Galpin’s Vita Brevis Press in Hailey. Abby enthusiastically describes Jen as, “by God, a master printmaker!”
After graduating from college and living—among other places—in Berlin, Germany, while the wall was still up, Abby moved to the Wood River Valley to raise her family. She found commercial success painting landscapes, but when she wasn’t painting or raising kids, the working mom was at her “day job” as a cook (she refuses to be called a “chef”)—most notably as the owner of Piccolo’s in Ketchum—and as an art teacher at the Community School.
“For me, it’s all about the process,” Abby said, recalling her path to becoming a professional artist. “I was trained to think of myself as a worker. When I was learning, I was learning a trade.”
That’s why the detail and labor-intensive ways of printmaking, which is basically an art form that involves transferring an image from one surface to another and usually includes creating several printing plates, have always appealed to her.
“The thing about printmaking that’s different from painting is that there are so many rules to follow. I like being challenged to work in the framework,” Abby said, adding with a rather mischievous smile, “But sometimes it’s fun to thumb your nose at tradition and break the rules … that’s me all over.”
Abby’s latest work focuses more on space. “I love to work big, because I’m big,” she said, spreading her arms wide before her. “Color, light and space. I’ll start with a brush stroke, a movement, and it goes from there.”
Abby said she finds inspiration in abundance here in the heart of Idaho: from her fellow artists (she is very well respected within the local art community); from her family and friends; from the abundant natural beauty of the area.
“The color here is so incredibly interesting,” she said about her artistic inspirations. “More and more it just bubbles up.”
To see Abby’s work, visit hallspassov.com/spassov-artists/abby-grosvenor/.
GAYE BAWA ODMARK
Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Gaye Bawa Odmark first came to Idaho in the mid-`70s. And even though she left to call Paris, London and San Francisco home, she didn’t leave her heart in the Bay Area. She left it in the Wood River Valley.
Gaye was reunited with the Valley in the late-`80s and has been calling this spectacular swath of Idaho home ever since. She loves the “abundance of nature” here, the great sense of “freedom and time and stimulation” the area has to offer.
“I need to know why I am here and have been given this special time to create,” Gaye said about practicing her art locally. “I find that I am happier and more rational about life and have a sense of abundance when I am producing art. Time spent in the process of creating is the ‘pause’ I need to heal myself and therefore give back in a conscious way.”
Gaye first showed an artistic calling when she was still a toddler, but didn’t pursue an artistic career until she was in her thirties. Her mediums are photography, mixed media and printmaking, which she practices at her studio in Ketchum and at Vita Brevis Press. Afternoons are her favorite time to work.
“I believe that one is ‘ordained’ at birth, but one can work hard to create and learn to be an artist over time,” she said when asked about how one becomes an artist. “The only requirement is to be one’s authentic self … and to evolve creatively.”
To see Gaye’s work, visit the Lotus Gallery on East Ave in Ketchum or lotussunvalley.com.