Printsy Interview - Stephanie Mercado
I am an artist born and raised in Boyle Heights, east of Downtown Los Angeles. I am a creator of things, whether it be painting, printing or sewing. I come from a family of tradesmen, musicians, and creative types. Although I did not have access to art in my youth, I was encouraged by my mother to draw, by my grandfather to sew, and by my grandmother to knit.
I stumbled upon painting when I saw an instructional video on PBS at the age of 15, and decided to pursue art ever since. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree through California University Long Beach ten years later, and I am currently making art full-time.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I started printmaking by accident. While I was at school pursuing my bachelor's degree one of my classes was canceled and the only class available was a printmaking survey class. Since I needed a certain number of units, I decided to stay enrolled in the class and instantly fell in love with the medium, the diversity and the range of work one can create with printmaking.
After having exhibited a series of prints I created at school, a patron became interested in my art and donated a press she was no longer using to me. I am very fortunate to have made such a good and generous friend.
Describe where you work.
When I received the Press I did not have a studio and I worked from home. I recently got a studio in Downtown Los Angeles, but due to it's weight my press is still in my bedroom and I think I prefer to keep it there. The area where I print takes up a quarter of my living space, but it does not bother me because it reminds me that I have to keep busy, and that I have to keep making things. I became accustomed to working with portability and ingenuity in small spaces, and having a place to work away from home in addition to a place to work while I am home, allows me to make art all of the time.
Therefor, the studio in downtown is primarily my painting and sewing studio, and my bedroom at home is my printmaking studio. One day I would like to have a large space where I can live, work and exhibit all at once.
What's your favorite printmaking process?
At the moment, my favorite printmaking process is Dry-point because of its portability of process and unpredictable printing quality. I really enjoy the immediate mark making and the variation in line and tone one can obtain through those marks, in addition to the level of detail one can achieve. Dry-point prints also have a line quality that is similar to ink drawings and may at times be appear a little deceiving and ambiguous at first glance.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
My creative process primarily revolves around reading and research. When I am working on a body of work, I am constantly thinking about elements and ways to convey particular ideas. When I have an idea, I usually sketch what I am thinking, and the sketch determines whether or not I will make a painting or a print. Sometimes, I make a painting from a print, and sometimes I make a print from a painting. Although the themes are similar, or one idea is used in two different mediums, the image is never the same.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
The most enjoyable aspects of printmaking for me are the process and the range one can achieve using various mediums within printmaking. I like carving blocks, scratching Plexi-glass, cutting paper, inking plates, and watching a series of prints hanging to dry. I also like seeing the diversity within each print, and contributing to the variation by watercoloring, drawing, or silkscreening over some of the prints. I like to make ideas come into fruition, to see prints formed and to see them change.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
Aside from cleanup, I'd have to say that framing is my least favorite part of completing the printing process. Seeing the work framed is rewarding, but taking the time to frame the work always seems more daunting than making the work itself.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
My inspiration is society. I see everything around me, and I question everything.. I wonder why things are the way they are, and whether or not they will ever change. From those thoughts and emotions I turn to art, music, film and literature. Artist, musicians, films and writers are secondary sources of inspiration that help my thoughts and creativity to grow. For example I am currently making art focused on socio-economic issues and the housing market, and researching Bruegel's work, the history of Wallpaper, and Doll Houses.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I have become more care-free with my work since I started. I used to waste a lot of time wondering whether or not an idea was worth pursuing. Now I just make the work and I have fun with it.
How do you get past creative slumps?
I usually get past creative slumps by flipping through old sketch books, going to the museum or by going to the library. Sometimes I take a couple of days off and do nothing for a couple of days. Not working for a couple of days usually does the trick and I am eager to get back to work the following day. My hands need to be constantly working on something, for my mind to be at peace.
How do you promote your work?
I try any means necessary to get the work out there. I am on a few social networking sites in addition to my own website. I also have promotional postcards that I leave everywhere I go. I enjoy going out and meeting people, and any time they ask for a business card, I always have one handy.
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Appreciate them for what they are and don't worry about making them too perfect. Imperfections give them depth and personality. Oh, and... good luck!