This week on 'The Inkplate' we talk to Susana McDonnell, the emblematic printmaker with the stunning geometrical designs and patterns. You probably know her from those Speedball fabric samples hanging at the printmaking aisle of the art store, or as the co-host #printersolstice the one and only @linocaveprints
Daniel: What medium do you work in?
Susana: I am a relief printmaker.
Daniel: How long have you been printmaking itself?
Susana: Ah that I mean. So about four or five years for this particular type of block printing, but I did study in college a little bit of lithography, screen printing, mono printing and colllographs. That was in the early 2000s then I switched and did other things, then ended up retuning to block printing practice in my home studio.
Daniel: That is so cool, thank you for sharing that! The next question is regarding your practice, your work with a lot of color and you have great harmonies when you print on fabric. How do you choose which colors to use or is it a more organic approach?
Susana: A lot of the times with fabrics I just sit and stare at the fabric and try to have a vision and be inspired by the actual material. Other times I think well its spring lets so something a little more fun that could be a really rainbow mood and I pick colors that will pop and make the eye buzz. Colors that will excite the viewer so I try to work with a lot of complementary colors, and things that are very dynamic and vibrant.
Daniel: Awesome! You are one of the most well known printmakers in the online printmaking community. On a personal note when I first started in printmaking you were one of the first profiles the algorithm showed me. You are very well known overall, when I asked online who would would readers like to see your names was one that popped up often.
Susana: Oh well that is nice, I did not know that!
Daniel: It really was, I have been going down the list of names that people mentioned they were interested in learning from. With that popularity, are there difficulties that arise due to being so well know? Do you create for your audience or do you let your artistic vision guide you? How do you tackle that?
Susana: Ummm, Instagram is a tough hot mess of BS. I try to strike a balance of not being a slave to feeding the beast. If you notice on my account I don’t think that I have posted in months. I actually just got a full time job at a pharmaceutical company.
Daniel: We all have to pay the bills so I get you! Haha
Susana: Exactly! Um yes I’ll take your bio medical money thanks! Our family situation changed and I had to go back to the workforce. So I haven’t posted anything in a while, maybe not months, more like a month and change.
I think I try to produce nice content, nice videos but you never known what is going to work or not. Sometimes when you work on something and you think this is the best thing I have ever made and it only gets 123 likes. So I guess not. But then there is another one get like ten thousand views! There is always some that you know they are going to be good and other times you don’t know. It’s such a crapshoot, I will say that just have to take it for what it is.
One of my pet peeves is people complaining about Instagram, I am like its free you know! Your engagement it's completely out of your control, so you just have to do what you are going to do, hope that it works and hope that people see it! You have to keep up with trends, and with what people find interesting. But I try not to let it completely overwhelm what I am doing.
I don’t do post every day, just for the sake of posting because if you don’t you will be punished the algorithm, that is something I have never participated in.
That just feels disingenuous. Everything that I do post is because I am enjoying making, and I felt like sharing it and video taping it and that’s all!
Daniel: I am with you on that point about people complaining about Instagram. Like it’s nice that you are venting out, but at the end of it we are all using a free service. Unless you are paying for an ad then yes go ahead get mad about it!
Susana: Well if you pay for an ad they work! I do pay for ads for classes. I would never pay for an ad for a hand made item, unless it was a high end one. I am not sure how much that would sell, but when it comes to online classes where it doesn’t matter how many people enroll. I don’t care I can teach 100 people, or when it’s a self paced class it doesn’t matter I will pay for an ad because it will work. Like I have already done the work and it just have to sell itself, I will throw a hundred dollars at it. Plus you can write it off on your taxes!
Daniel: I know! That is something I discovered this year! All the things I could write off!
Next question is one everyone gets asked, do you have a favorite tool? If so what is it?
Susana: Um look behind ( laughs and points to a tool cabinet) its all full! That is and auto mechanic cabinet, and that is where I keep all my carving tools.
But yes my too favorite tools are Flexcut. The small micro u and v carving tools! I love my Speedball Fabric Block Printing Inks and the Speedball Speedy Carve. You asked for one, there is no way! There’s no way, its all like tool porn! I want more, more more!
Sometimes I go, Well I really ought to buy this to test it out because if I am going to recommend it to students, and I could also write it off on my taxes! Then there are all the tools they send you, so yeah I like all the printmaking tools! I haver so many rules, I must have like 50 rulers, like compasses. Yeah, which tool? ALL OF THEM!
Daniel: That’s awesome! Next question is geared towards beginners, what advice would you give someone just getting started in printmaking?
Susana: Um, first of all just do it like a thousand times. You will learn a lot by doing.
One of the really nice things about Instagram and the printmaking community on Instagram is that people are generous with their knowledge.
They are not overprotective, I mean there are people who will want to answer and other don’t. There is plenty of classes online, I got some! Julie Bowlser got’s them, Allie Becker does them too. Go learn, you don’t even need to leave your house, you don’t have to go anywhere. You just can’t sit home with your comfy clothes, learn, READ! Tons of people have books, everyone is writing new books. Which is great, didn’t just Laura (Boswell) write a book?
Daniel: She did! And of course I had to asked if I could interview her before the book launch and she said yes!
Susana: Yeah! Mary Luise Howard has a books, Susans Yates also teaches classes in the UK and she has a numbered of self published books that she has available. There are so many places where you can learn! You can also take a class at your local collage, treat your self to some continuing ed, go smell some ink at a studio. Have fun!
Daniel: That’s great advice Susana. This brought us to the end of the interview, thank you so much for your time and knowledge. Lastly where can people get in contact with you?
Susana: Instagram: @linocaveprints
Check out Susana’s Classes: https://linocave.com/pages/events