Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday's Featured Favorite: Artist Kathleen Piercefield

Each Friday, I thought it would be fun to feature a different artist whose work inspires me.  Yeah, I know it's Saturday, but I only missed it by a day, right?  Maybe I should just change the name of my blog to "Slower Than Molasses in January", but that's another subject entirely.

I'm so excited that Kathleen Piercefield has agreed to be my first featured artist, because I can't think of anyone whose work is more inspiring than hers.  Not only is she a master of many media, she is a genuinely kind, generous, and intelligent person.  Though we met only recently, I already consider her a close friend; we share many interests besides the obvious.  Enough from me; I'll let you hear from Kathleen in her own words.

Ask the forest  collagraph & monotype     15" x 22

Why do you make art?  How did it all begin?  
It all started with that first box of wonderful smelling Crayola crayons in 64 luscious colors!   Really, I make art because I absolutely love getting my hands on art materials -- seeing them, smelling them, feeling them, and then getting caught up in that timeless state of being completely absorbed in a process.  Some of my earliest memories are connected with drawing.  I was an only child, and reading and drawing were the ways I would entertain myself.  I could sit in my room or outside in the yard and be happy for hours, absorbed in that world I created with my books and my drawing.  My father was a paper salesman for Mead Paper Company in Chicago, and he would bring home lots of paper samples -- different colors, different textures -- so I always had a fascination for paper, and for the different kinds of marks I could make on it.  I think like most children I started out wanting to imitate what I saw; then later drawing and painting became more of an emotional response and a way of thinking about the world around me.

Look and look again
collagraph & monotype     15" x 22"

Who or what inspires you?  
First and foremost, nature -- I'm fascinated by everything that walks, crawls, swims, flies & grows; the process of learning about these things is deeply enhanced by drawing their forms, and then the drawing in turn generates other visual echoes to explore.  Reading frequently inspires me; I pay attention to the images popping into my mind as I read; sometimes they lead to very fruitful ideas.  Also, as mentioned above, the materials and processes are their own inspiration.  Specifically with printmaking, I'm in love with the smell of the inks and the feel of the paper, and with seeing the gorgeous marks that result when ink meets paper under the pressure of the press.  The pleasure of these things is not only aesthetic but sensual and extremely addictive.  

Looking at the work of other artists, of course, is a tremendous inspiration -- impossible to name them all but a few that come immediately to mind are  Paul Klee, Andrew Wyeth, Rembrandt, Ben Shahn, Odilon Redon, Munakata Shiko, Mary Frank, John Tuska, David Blackwood, Lynd Ward, Hayao Miyazaki, Emily Carr ...I could go on and on.  Reading about how other artists approach their work and think about their processes -- Ann Truitt's books Daybook, Turn, and Prospect for example -- can also be a tremendous motivator and makes me itch to get into the studio and start working. 

From the Headwaters of the Eternities
etching and aquatint 12.5" x 17"

Do you have a work space or studio? How would you describe it?  
I do!  It's far from ideal, being several areas of basement space with small windows and low ceilings, but it's my space, where I can leave work-in-progress out on the table.  I would like it to be clean and beautiful and light and airy, but in truth it is cramped, cluttered, always in a state of chaos -- but work is happening in it so that's what counts!   My husband has, over the years, constructed storage shelves and work surfaces for me that have made the studio more efficient, and has patiently put up with the fact that, as children moved out and rooms were vacated, more and more of our house has become an extension of my art-making space.  Of course the pride and joy of my studio is my Takach etching press -- I feel extremely fortunate to have access to a press whenever I want.

collagraph, intaglio & polyester plate lithography 15" x 11

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore in your artwork?  I try to access --and hopefully communicate -- the roots of my love for the natural world.  One of my deepest concerns is how we humans relate to our environment -- or increasing don't relate -- and a lot of my work revolves around an impulse to say -- wake up!  look! see what's around you with awareness and appreciation...and consequently, value it and take care of it.  With that in mind, recording what I observe in nature is part of the work, but there's always an interplay between observing and evoking a personal response.  I try to keep in mind Paul Klee's words: "Art does not reproduce the visible; rather,  it makes visible."  Sometimes natural elements occur in my work as metaphors for human relationships -- what we share and what we keep secret from one another are recurrent themes; so are dreams and the imagination.  I'm fascinated by the idea that the world we create inside our head is as varied and complex as the physical world around us, and in some ways just as real.  Things I read give me ideas to explore -- the visual and metaphorical elements in Moby-Dick have been a recent topic -- and finally, sometimes I'm just discovering where I can go with a particular process; in that case, the work is all about the visual interaction of the materials.

A Bosom Friend collagraph and monotype with hand coloring

What is your typical process for creating a piece?  
If I already have an idea of where I'm going, it usually begins with a lot of doodles.  Sketchbook pages (I always have multiple sketchbooks going), scraps of paper, book margins, envelopes, & junk mail on the table get filled with little sketches and doodles that relate to an idea that's percolating in my head.  Eventually I collect all the doodles together and start making larger sketches until I have a rough drawing of the desired size, and can transfer the basic shapes from that to a plate (or a sheet of watercolor paper, if I'm doing a painting.)  I sometimes make "idea boards", on which I pin color swatches, pieces of different papers, magazine clippings and photos that relate to something I'm trying to bring together.  And sometimes if nothing else is generating ideas, I'll go down to my studio and do some purely physical task, like coating a piece of board with gesso for a future collagraph, or filing the edges of a plate; doing that physical work will often clear my mind so ideas can start to flow. 

 Prairie Music 1  collage    6" x 4.5"

A lot of my recent work has been a combination of collagraph and monotype.  Typically, I start with a collagraph plate, created by gluing shapes and textural elements to a board coated with gesso and acrylic medium.  Once that is sealed and completely dry (which can take several days) I mix up some ink and apply it to the plate, then burnish it off with newsprint and tissue paper.  I then lay a dampened sheet of printmaking paper on the collagraph and run it through the press.  Depending on what I see, I may further develop the plate with more glued elements, or go on to enhance the print with layers of monotype -- created by rolling out a thin layer of transparent ink on a sheet of mylar and then wiping off selected areas before laying it on the print and again running it through the press.  A typical print goes through the press at least five or six times, and maybe more.   

In any case, once a work is begun I try to let the medium have its own voice, so what happens as the piece is coming together is partly what I planned and partly what happens of its own accord.  I really like the fact that many of the processes I use -- collagraph, monotype, watercolor -- are unpredictable.  I value the surprises that occur and find that many of those unforeseen results can lead me in good new directions.

The wise fool's tale  collagraph 9.75" x 6.75

What goals do you have for the future?  
To keep exploring; to never run out of new ideas; to grow; to become more proficient in the processes I use, and more productive in the amount of work I create. Art-making has not made me materially rich, but has greatly enriched my life; I'd like to continue sharing that richness with others. 

To see more of Kathleen's art, go to


  1. interesting inspiring post.....just heading over to Kathleen's website..thanks for posting ....x

  2. This is a terrific post! Thanks for introducing us to this wonderful artist.

  3. Wonderful idea to feature a different artist each week. You have introduced me to someone whose work I would never otherwise have seen. Thank you.

  4. des monotypes.. plein de sensibilité..avec mon amour pour les arbres,c'est parfait!

  5. That first big box of crayolas .... I can remember the exact day I got mine. Great interview Sharmon. Off to explore more of Kathleen's beautiful work.

  6. makes me itch to print!!Thanks for a glimpse into what inspires you.

  7. Ah, Deb, I'm starting to get the printing itch pretty badly, myself. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Dear Sharmon,

    As with me, I am usually several days late, almost one week, so I must really be thicker than molasses.

    Joking aside, this is one of the best interviews I have come across. In particular I like the in-depth answers Kathleen gave your questions, allowing us to see below the surface.

    Thank you to you both for an excellent job.

    Warmest regards,


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.