WPG is pleased to welcome our newest member–Joan Krash, who joined just in time to be part of our New Faces, New Prints exhibition. Read on to learn about Joan’s art and stop by the gallery to see it in person!
WPG: You cite Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, as a source of inspiration for your prints. Your artist statement was the first I had heard that term. Can you tell us a little more about Ikebana and how you found out about it?
KRASH: Although I was aware of Ikebana a very long time ago, the first opportunity I had to try my hand at it was in 2002. My daughter wanted Ikebana arrangements at her wedding and discovered the gifted Ikebana artist and teacher, Sheila Advani, who lives in this area. When I saw what Sheila had created, I asked to study with her and have attended her classes and other workshops ever since. Essentially, Ikebana is sculpture that is made from living materials, including flowers, branches, leaves, grasses, etc. It is a traditional Japanese art with roots in Buddhism. It was brought from China to Japan, where it has been nurtured for five to six hundred years. Today, there are hundreds of different schools in Japan, each with its own set of esthetic principles. The formal elements of line, space, mass and color and their relationships to one another govern the arrangements. Underlying the formal aspects is a response to the natural world – its elements, its seasons and the transient nature of all living things.
Sogetsu, the style I study, is a young, modern, school. Established in 1927, it is one of a handful of schools known internationally. In Sogetsu, one begins by learning and practicing its set of rules and their variants. Having internalized the esthetics, one is then allowed much freedom to develop a direction of one’s own. In my work as a painter and printmaker, the Ikebana influence is more unconscious than deliberate in determining how I compose any given work. The esthetic principles have become intrinsic to my way of seeing.
WPG: Your background is mainly in painting, particularly oils and acrylics. What made you try printmaking? How is the process similar or different to painting for you?
KRASH: When I’m in Cape Cod in the summer, I take various workshops at the excellent art schools in Provincetown and Truro. It’s an opportunity to try new things. I started printmaking with an etching class and then went on to collography and monotype. As I became more intrigued with printmaking, I also tried some classes in silk screen at the Corcoran and Montgomery College and participated in woodblock and monotype workshops at Pyramid Atlantic. More recently, I found an artist and teacher in Baltimore whose work I very much admire and who teaches, among other things, the solarplate technique. Her name is Soledad Salame. I have gravitated toward solarplate because it is a relatively nontoxic process and something that I can handle in my home studio.
As to the similarities with painting, of course the issues of composition are essentially the same. How I get from the initial inspiration to the final piece, however, is a whole different story. In my painting, I usually start with an idea or a set of gestures. Then I have a continuing dialogue with what’s on the canvas. The work develops in a lot of layers, sometimes ending with quite a different composition from the one I started. I like the feeling of depth and the notion that there are significant layers beneath what is first seen on the surface. I try to make prints with a similar painterly quality, which works out most easily in monotypes and a little less easily in monoprints.
Printmaking, however, requires a totally different process. Playing with photographs or sketching is a way I can develop images in my usual mode, but after that the process differs completely. Having a home studio, I had been used to coming, going, working on several paintings at the same time and taking breaks at will. With printmaking, as you know, you have to be much more organized and to plan every step of the way, to say nothing of the need to develop habits of cleanliness. I like to do new things, so the challenge is welcome, even though I struggle against my own tendencies toward casual work habits. But the rewards can be great and there’s no match in painting for the thrill of lifting a print off a plate and discovering the results of all that precision, care and preparation.
WPG: Many artists are trying to move away from oil-based inks because using them often involves harmful solvents. You mention using soy-based ink when printing. How does it compare to the oil-based inks? Would you recommend it to specific printmakers over others?
KRASH: So far, in my experience, oil-based inks seem to produce richer blacks and perhaps other colors. But since this summer, in a workshop with Dan Welden (who developed solarplate), I’ve begun using Akua Intaglio inks with exciting results. The inks are soy-based but soluble in soap and water. The interesting thing is that they don’t dissolve in water alone, so you can use dampened paper and you can re-dampen it for further layers. It takes soap or liquid detergent to dissolve the inks. For monotypes, I already had been using the regular Akua colors, which are thinner and not suitable for intaglio. Now that I’ve found these nice, thick soy-based inks, I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with them. I haven’t tried them with other kinds of plates yet, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t work with anything you can wash. I’m still experimenting and looking forward to discovering the limits of these and other safe media.