Val working in her studio in Australia
Val McCann is a printmaker working from her home studio based in Victoria, Australia. She works as a teacher, conducting courses for both children and adults.
What was your first experience of printmaking?
During my art teacher training in the late 60s I undertook a short unit on drypoint etching. While I really loved it I had to put it on the backburner there were so many art disciplines I had to explore. in my teaching career I taught linocut, basic silk screen and foam printing. I taught many creative techniques in my career from photography to pottery but printmaking was never fully explored. When I left teaching I purchased a wonderful printing press and my great supportive husband made me a beautiful studio... the rest is history. I am hooked.
What inspires you as an artist?
Other artist printmakers inspire me as well as the environment and its wonderful creatures which includes the human body. The printmaking process itself and the explorations of the seemingly endless possibilities it presents. I use the internet as a constant resource. There are so many artist/printmakers willing to share their images, processes and knowledge. My printmaking colleagues inspire me. We have an open folio going to Impact 8 in Scotland this year and New Zealand next year. We meet to discuss our next event.
Goldfields Printmakers, my studio inspires me. The smell of the ink, the music I play, the prints I have on my wall. The things I collect and others collect for me. I step into my own world when I enter the space and can be lost for hours. It is just lovely.
What are you working on at present?
Currently I am preparing a drypoint and mono print combination, two day workshop to present to participants at "The Grampians Brushes" workshop festival in September in Victoria, Australia. The theme will be wildlife as the drypoint element and the environment as the monoprint element. I will cover various techniques of colour inking, plant stencils and some chine colle. I am working on Perspex sheets and I am using environmentally friendly and easy wash up Akua water based inks. The thrill of teaching has not left me. I love to witness the sense of creative accomplishment participants feel and convey to me.
'Ravens', Individual collograph blocks
What is special about printmaking?
I love the endless possibilities of the printing process. I am not a purest, so I do not specialise in just one printmaking discipline, although it would most certainly improve my skills in that one area. I love to experiment and combine techniques.
I love the idea of multiple copies as it makes creative image making accessible to more appreciative people. You can share and swap. You can build up a lovely art collection which is not governed by the exclusive art world prices.
What is your favourite printmaking process, and why?
I have to say that all processes offer me a chance to express myself and create images in a myriad of different ways.
If I want a crisp black and white image or crisp multi colour effect I choose Linocut. If I want to draw and build up strong tonal qualities I favour drypoint and if I want to explore printed texture Collagraph is my chosen technique. Collagraph is by far the most difficult for me as in the words of my dear printmaker friend Rosemary Eagle..."be careful not to be too seduced by texture"...the image created, needs the balance of quiet resting areas I have found. The printed textures are wonderful and my blocks are often valued above the prints I take from them. Then there is the deceptively simple mono printing technique... what a challenge.
'Hens Night', Linocut
What prompted you to take part in the International Print Exchange?
I guess it is the sharing element of the print exchange that is exciting. The international nature of it too. I want to know how my work stands up against other like minded printmakers. It is an international group exhibition and a great opportunity to link with others. There is an exciting anticipation as to what you will receive in return and to be able to examine at first hand print details and the techniques & imagery of others.
What is your favourite colour?
My favourite colour is Pthalo Blue and the variations in depth I can achieve with it by just adding carbon black.
Sepia and red ochre combine well as separate colours in a print. Maybe they are the colours of Australia. The Blue of our beautiful ocean and the deep red earth where the Kimberly meets the sea in Western Australia. Have I convinced world travellers to come here by my descriptive colour scheme???
What is your favourite paper and ink?
I use a very versatile Italian paper called Fabriano Rosaspina 220gsm as I work in both wet and dry techniques. It is also very reasonably priced and my Melbourne supplier MES has half yearly sales of 30% off which prompts me to order up big for my little studio.
I have avoided oil based inks although I love their depth, finish and colour. I work with an American range of water based intaglio inks called "Akua" which clean up well and can be used for intaglio, relief and mono printing.
'Booby', 2 plates intaglio
What kind of music do you listen to whilst printmaking?
I have a very eclectic taste in music and when I feel I need to hear a live human voice and stay in tune with what is happening in the world I listen to ABC radio without screaming adverts. I love blues, rock, soul, country, instrumental and my play list coincides with my mood & level of concentration. Amy Winehouse, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Lucinda Williams and Robert Plant to name a few. My daughter's band "Beaches" "She Beats" and my son's band "the Restless". My music is as varied as my printmaking!
Who is your favourite printmaker?
Brenda Hartill would have to be up there. She has a wonderful generous spirit. I very briefly met her and saw her plates and prints first hand recently in Australia. She is the "Guru" of Collagraph printmaking. She knows how to rest the eye with this technique! I have a wonderful small AP Brenda Hartill Collagraph on my studio wall. I also have a very moving Rosemary Eagle etching and several fantastic Vida Pearson hand coloured etchings in tribute to Barcelona's Gaudi structures that I swapped for a one off Collagraph print.
I have recently discovered the collaborative work of Damon Kowarsky & Kyoko Imazu. I was fortunate to watch them printing a series of etchings called "Along the River" at their recent residency and collaboration with The Art Vault gallery in Mildura on the Murray River on the Victorian NSW border.