John Steins Shares the Art and Science of Printmaking

John Steins Shares the Art and Science of Printmaking

Flute Player - Linocut

Usually the pulse of a small community can be intrinsically linked to how people make a living. In the case of Dawson City, Yukon this pulse mainly comes from mining and tourism, both being seasonal industries. Dawson City is the northernmost community in the Yukon accessible by road. What one might surmise is that the geographical location presents some economic limitations to its 1300 permanent residents. However, necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case inspiration. Back in 1998 two visionary people, John Steins and Greg Hakonson, decided to start the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. There was, after all, an abundance of creative people living in Dawson City so it seemed like the logical thing to do. This impetus eventually initiated the opening of the Yukon School of Visual Arts, Canada’s northernmost accredited art college which attracts students from all over the world. Now, Dawson City can add thriving art community to its pulse.

John Steins operating his Chandler & Price Letterpress

John Steins operating his Chandler & Price Letterpress

Eaglet - Wood Engraving

Eaglet – Wood Engraving

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We had the pleasure of catching up with printmaker John Steins for our third and final interview in Dawson City. He is a former Mayor of the Yukon community and the only person in town who owns a Jaguar. I mention the car because part of the tourism appeal for Dawson City is the preservation of its Goldrush heritage which includes wooden boardwalks and clay roads and is an unlikely place to find an exotic automobile. As well as those two fun facts about John, he also has a diversified artistic background, everything from sculpture and music to his 35 year love affair with printmaking. I enjoyed chatting with John as he gave me a new perspective on the art. I wondered why a person would go to all the trouble of carving or engraving a piece of lino or wood, roll ink onto its surface and then transfer it onto paper. Why not just cut out the middleman and go straight to the paper with your ink or paint? Sure, the print is what you and I get to enjoy as it hangs on our walls but to the printmaker the art is actually the block that is carved. In his time spent with printmaking, John has engraved countless images, everything from animals, landscapes, portraits and even political figures which satisfies his activism side. He chuckled as he pointed out that there is no lack of subject matter when it comes to politics.

Barack Obama - Linocut

Barack Obama – Linocut

Please click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.

Part of John’s love for printmaking is the craft that is involved and the problem solving that goes along with it. He explained that artists are great problem solvers as the very act of creating lends itself to figuring out how something is going to be done in order to get to the desired result. Not long before we arrived, John was one of several printmakers in the region who participated in the Extreme Steamroller Printmaking event held in Whitehorse, Yukon. The woodcuts and the final prints were 48″ X 40″. Having to create a woodcut of this stature requires rigorous thought especially taking into consideration the weight of the pressing machine, in this case the steamroller. John’s problem solving didn’t end there as he set out to recreate the smallest wood engraving he has ever done (2.5 inches square) and make it into his biggest woodcut creation. Whether it be size or the subject matter he wants to represent in print form the challenges always present themselves and the fun of rising to overcome them makes it a great day for the printmaker.

John's Mona Lisa Smile - Photo taken by Guin

John’s Mona Lisa Smile – Photo taken by Guin

Mona Lisa Smile woodcut in progress

Mona Lisa Smile woodcut in progress

You can see more of John’s work by clicking here.

Please join us as we introduce you to John Steins and his world of printmaking. Also, we really enjoy comments and appreciate you taking the time to share them as well as spreading the news about John on social media.

One Response to John Steins Shares the Art and Science of Printmaking

  1. Doris Stanton says:

    I have never seen art that is so fascinating and so painstakingly put together. I just love it.
    I also love the interviewers Corinne and Gary, they do a wonderful job of presenting the art.
    Impressed, Doris

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