Studio Visit: Justin Marable
Justin Marable is a printmaker who works out of his studio which is located in a historic and charming neighborhood in Topeka, KS (update: Justin is now a Lawrence, KS resident!). His works are primarily silk screens that explore the element of rural decay occurring in the heartlands of America. However, this isn’t to imply that the works are unattractive in any way. In fact, the colors and compositions of his works are rich and beautiful and most everyone who is from the area connects to the imagery and colors of the Midwest. He has huge body of work and is clearly passionate about what he does.
From his artist’s statement:
The history of a place, as well as its land and inhabitants, are all vitally important in defining a community’s environmental and social conditions. In my prints I romanticize this idea with the use of rural landscape and landmarks. These rural devices serve to emphasize the ever-growing abandonment of small towns and farmland of the Midwest. With the medium of serigraphy, or screen printing, I can express the man-made qualities of rural architecture with a photographic stencil technique.
Justin is also a super nice guy and was recently kind enough to invite me over to take a look at his studio and talk about his work and his process.
Justin has a very comfortable workspace that is perfect for the type of work that he does. Serigraphy (silk screening) is a very labor and time intensive process and a typical piece takes around 3 weeks from start to finish. It can also be messy since there are a lot of chemicals, inks and water involved with the process, but he’s set the space up perfectly so that every step has it’s own area.
I loved seeing the stuff that hangs on Justin’s walls.
How cool is this pinball machine?
There are a few vital pieces of equipment that are needed for serigraphy. Aprons are certainly one of them.
And fuel for those late night work sessions is a must!
This is Justin’s exposure unit which is used for creating a photo stencil on a screen. These units make this process go MUCH easier! This particular unit was rescued from being thrown away and is still in great shape.
A light table is used for tracing and cutting out stencils. Justin’s is an old drawing desk with a glass insert and a lamp underneath and is probably way better than any of the commercial ones you can buy.
Brushes, of course, are useful for applying any number of things to the screen like ink and drawing fluid, or just for painting ink directly onto paper. As a side note, the colorful backgrounds in Justin’s silkscreens are all monoprints. This means that each one is unique and so, although the rural imagery might be the same for a run of 6 prints, the colored sky is unique in each one.
Justin also does a good deal of drawing and some of his newer works look at socially and environmentally responsible means of travel and living. He is a very eco-conscious person and is even considering doing some straw-bale construction behind his house!
Once a layer of ink is pulled through the screen onto paper, they are set to dry in these drying racks. Acrylic ink dries in a matter of minutes, but even then, these racks make it possible to do multiple prints at once.
A little bit about the silk screening process: first a stencil is cut out of paper or is made into a photo stencil using chemicals.
A photo stencil requires a high contrast image like the one above. Justin has his own method of getting these printed onto acetate, so I won’t reveal his secret . . .
The ink is applied to the screen and then pushed through using a squeegee.
Wherever there is a hole in the stencil, the ink will pass through. Here is a layer of white ink being lined up for printing on top of the colored background.
Once all the prints are made with that color, the ink is washed out of the screen with a pressure washer.
And the process is done!
. . . except not quite. Justin also has a woodworking area of his shop where he builds his own custom frames! Admittedly, not his favorite part of the process, the frames do look really nice hanging up in a gallery, so it’s well worth the effort.
These are images from the show at the Signs of Life Gallery. The colors are striking on screen, but really need to be seen in person to get the true effect. They’re incredible!
Justin has work up at the Signs of Life Gallery in downtown Lawrence, KS as well as at the Community Mercantile through most of the Spring of 2008. Go check them out and buy something if you like it! His website, www.justinmarable.com, also lists all of his upcoming shows and has a large online gallery of his work.
A huge thanks goes out to Justin for letting me into his studio to look around and watch him at work.