Saturday, May 10, 2014

Five Minutes with Printmaker Joel Moline of the Northern Printmakers Alliance

Wood engraver Joel Moline is one of five artists and master printers who will be featured in a special show called Secrets of Printmaking at the Northern Prints Gallery at 318 14th Avenue East, across the street from the Burrito Union. The opening is on Thursday, May 15 from 5 to 9 pm. For more information visit their website at www.northernprintsgallery.com/current.html. Other featured artists include Joel Cooper, Jon Hinkel, Tom Rauschenfels and Celia Lieder, whose vintage East Hillside home houses the gallery. 

EN: When did you first notice that you like to draw more than the average person?
Joel Moline: I have drawings from when I was 3 or 4. My parents found that at an early age if I were given a crayon or pencil I would be quiet (church), so I was encouraged to draw from a very early age. Perhaps it was a fascination with making marks and the marks became objects and the objects became compositions. It is almost a compulsion and it is the way I think.

EN: What is the main driver behind your compulsion to make art?
JM: If something is a compulsion you don't always know it's source it just is. I have always used art to express myself and explore and respond to my environment. When I am creating art I am totally involved, time passes without my realizing it, and it feels good.

Grand Marais Breakwater
EN: You taught art for years at a school for the deaf. How did this come about and how was it different from your other teaching experiences?
JM: During my senior year at the University of Minnesota I was doing my student teaching and became friends with the special education teacher. Upon graduation he contacted me letting me know that there was a position open at the Minnesota School for the Deaf. Teaching positions were few and far between so I applied for the position and was given the job. For the next two summers I took graduate work in art and deaf eduction. Teaching deaf children was a challenge and a joy. I had to communicate with sign language, vocally, and on the overhead, using as many inputs as possible to reach my students. They were enthusiastic perhaps because visual art was a method of communicating and expressing themselves that was less hindered by their handicap. I taught at the School for the Deaf for four years, until my wife and I joined Peace Corps as volunteers.

EN: What have you learned about yourself through a lifetime of teaching?
JM: I learned that I am a teacher, whether it was because of my education or some innate part of me I do not know. I have always looked for connections and interrelationships and tried to project that inter-relatedness of all knowledge into my teaching. Seeing that moment of understanding and thrill of having created something of their own was my greatest reward. For the last twelve years of my teaching career I taught kindergarten thru third grade and found their boundless energy and enthusiasm and sense of adventure to be what challenged and motivated me in my teaching.

Iris II
EN: How did you become interested in wood engravings?
JM: My interest in wood engraving didn't come directly out of my printmaking background. I enjoyed reading the works of Sigurd Olson and was drawn to the scratchboard illustrations of Francis Lee Jaques. For several years I worked in scratchboard and enjoyed the way the image was created by scratching white line into a black ground. Eventually I noticed the similarity with the way images were created in wood engravings and decided to try that technique. After searching out wood engravers I found William Myers who was making a presentation at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis. I approached Bill for advice and that is how I started about eighteen years ago. The Wood Engravers Network (an international association of wood engravers) has provided stimulation and direction and contact with some of the foremost wood engravers working today. Wood engraving has a long tradition starting in England in the 1770's and was used in book illustration until the photo processes came into use. Now wood engraving has become a fine art technique and I am drawn to the tradition of craftsmanship, the use of tools that have remained unchanged for over 200 years, and the use of the type-high end-grained blocks of boxwood or hard maple. The small scale and the way the image is created continue to intrigue and motivate my work.

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