The smell of screen-printing ink is one of my favorite smells.
It is the smell I associate with my father. My dad was a commercial artist and owned a sign company most of my life. As a child, when he had a big job, we would help pull the squeegee, move the work from the screen table to the drying racks, and position the next plate. I loved helping and have known the basics of pulling a print my entire life!
But I grew up thinking that I couldn’t be an artist. My handwriting was horrible. My dad’s is fantastic, and I thought that since I couldn’t write like him, I couldn’t be an artist. But that was okay because I knew that creativity takes many forms. My mom isn’t a traditional artist, but she can sew without a pattern, bake without a recipe, and play the piano without music.
So, I became a musician and actress choosing to express my artistic passions through the performing arts.
I went to college as a theatre major and FELL IN LOVE with the artistry of Theatrical Design! I had the privilege of learning scenic painting, costume design and lighting design from a professor that taught students to be stage artists, but with practical applications. We could design and craft as elaborately as we wanted, but we had to be able to translate our art to the stage.
This philosophy made a lasting impact on me.
I graduated from college, went to graduate school, and became a public-school teacher. While teaching more than a dozen different subjects, I found that I was a really good teacher and could learn and adapt to teach different content. Then my world shifted on its axis when I was offered the opportunity to teach visual arts.
Given that I had decided before the age of 10 that I couldn’t be an artist, it was shocking that others considered me an artist! I had always been creating… painting, sewing, scrapbooking, crafting. But I didn’t identify myself as an artist.
Teaching art gave me a voice for all my passions. More than that, because of my experience and education in other areas, I found that I was a BETTER art teacher! I learned the elements and principles of art, not from a textbook, but from using them in stage design! I learned about sculpture and three-dimensional art, not from a classroom, but from how they would play to an audience as a prop or a costume. I learned about graphic design, not from a class assignment, but from working in public relations as a graphic designer.
Real world, practical applications of art gave me wings to teach art students successfully!
I spent a dozen years teaching high school art before moving to work at the university teaching students in the visual and performing arts and working with faculty.
I learned to identify as an artist. I love all forms of art and pride myself on continuing to learn new art techniques regularly. Over the last few years my art has become more focused on watercolor paintings, but I love to through in some mixed media too. I’ve also matured as an art teacher and understand that part of my job in teaching others to be artists is to acknowledge and own my own creativity.
The smell of screen-printing ink is an indelible part of my soul. Happily, I have been able to teach hundreds, maybe even a thousand students (as well as my own children) to screen print.
… the smell of the ink, the scrape of the squeegee, the clack of the drying rack… have been passed down to another generation of artists!