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Q&A with Award Winner Pamela Day

The piece below, I Woke Up Crying, started as a charcoal drawing before being committed to an etching plate, and finally finding new life with stitched-on elements — an evolutionary process that artist Pamela Day says is part of what she enjoys about etching. The sad, yet whimsical collage won the Anne Banks Collage Award as part of “(CON)text,” our June exhibit.

Pamela, who will also be teaching etching on Tuesday evenings this summer, told us about the bad day that inspired this piece and why she’s a printmaker. Read about it in our Q&A, below.

I Woke Up Crying
I Woke Up Crying

Since the show this month is about work with a message, what does this piece mean to you?
This piece is very cathartic to me. It is not based on a dream at all, but an actual really bad day. Sometimes you just wake up feeling sad, you know? My mom had died a couple of months before this day, and I guess I was missing her. That day it seemed like all efforts to cheer me ended in something else making me even sadder. I even left out the part about the car crash on my street that blocked it off when we were coming home with the ice cream! Sometimes a bad day can make for good inspiration.

I originally did this as a large charcoal drawing, just to get it down on paper. But, being a printmaker, I knew it would end up as an etching. Softground looks like pencil drawing so I was able to keep the fresh look of a drawing.

How did you arrive at the childlike style and the narrative format?
This was such a departure from my normal work—it just happened. When I am not working directly from my own photos or life, I tend to revert to Pictionary! (My drawing is more like a cartoon you would draw in Pictionary rather than rendered or sketched.)

What is your creative process like, from an idea to a finished piece? When you started this etching, did you know you would be adding stitching to it?
I actually created the etching to enter the “Drawn Line” show, but didn’t make it. So I reassessed the piece and realized it needed some enhancement. While I could have printed it again adding color to create a monoprint, I decided to stitch on it to add to the child-like quality. I have stitched and glued elements of collage to etchings before.

My ‘normal’ creative process is go through my photos and look for ones that will make good etching demonstration projects that will allow me to use a variety of techniques. I also hold on to photos for years until I find just the right way to express them. When I travel I take tons of photos and usually try to create a landscape or two from those images. What I find so engaging about etching is that the print can actually evolve as you go through the process from line etch to aquatint to adding softground textures or other elements, to drypoint, to printing on different papers, to elements of collage, to selective inking or monoprinting. So the creative process is integral to the evolution of the piece.

Detail from I Woke Up Crying
Detail from I Woke Up Crying

What draws you to printmaking?
I love the process—the smell of hard ground on the hotplate! I like that when you have an idea and do all the work to create a piece, you can print lots of them—one for you and one for everybody else who might like one! I like the variety of techniques you can use and how different a print can look depending on how you ink it and that you can create monoprints from a plate as well as an edition of etchings. I also love the people who work in the Discover Graphics studio. This is one of the most nurturing environments in which to create and collaborate. It is a very special place and I have made my best friends working there.

Why did you do an etching for this piece? What role do you think the materials play in the message?
I almost always do etchings—it is the medium I am most comfortable with. I have been etching since 1984, almost 30 years! I have been teaching for 10 years now. For I Woke Up Crying, I think the materials make it more engaging. The added embroidery makes you stop and look a bit closer. Etchings are normally fairly subtle. I wanted this one to cry out and pull the audience in.

What other media do you work in?
I like really monoprints and monotypes. I have done a couple of lithographs recently. I take a lot of photos. I use them mostly for inspiration, but every once in a while a good one appears. I have taken classes in practically every medium the Art League offers, including drawing, pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, graphite, stained glass, glass blowing, photography, but I keep coming back to printmaking. In college I was a painting major and dabbled in ceramics and jewelry, but when I started etching I felt like I was home.

What are you working on now?
I am working on a 2-plate etching of a tree and am trying different color combinations to create different seasons. I am also finishing up a portrait of one of my cats. I like to start a new etching as a demonstration at the start of my Beginning Etching class (Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm) and add a variety of techniques throughout the class.  I have been working on a long-term project of softground drawing portraits of family members—my way of creating a family album.


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