'The Australian Art Curator Blog' - In Conversation with Maggie Stein

One of the foundation artists to show their work through Art Pharmacy, Maggie Stein has been printmaking for more than 30 years. In this week’s AP Blog, she shares some insight into her work and life as an artist in Sydney’s inner west.

I was really drawn to printmaking, I started cooking when I was about 7 or 8 and I think it’s the method and the repetition of it is soothing – it’s often hard to stop once you get started! I’m very passionate about explaining the process to people, there can be a bit of a lack of understanding about printmaking in the age of digital reproductions.

I would often get asked at the markets “what other sizes does this piece come in” which has come about because of that digital capability.

That’s not an avenue I think I will go down though, even though it is potentially very financially rewarding! Giclee prints are very impressive, in that the quality is so high and it’s often very difficult to discern the difference.

I don’t really look at the “market” to work out what I should be making, a lot of the natural images I have made recently were based on a trip I took around Australia with my family in 2010, or from camping trips I’ve been on since then.

I think artists need to be careful though, it can be a trap to try and recreate an image that was popular – or be based on what sells. It means you’re not breaking new ground and you stay in your comfort zone.

I had a stall at the Eveleigh Artist’s Markets for about three and half years, and while I was doing that I was making prints that I thought would sell well, but since then I’ve gone on quite a tangent, making larger works – for example the Summer Hill Silos that you can see on Art Pharmacy – that are more indicative of my practice, and are works I get the most out of because they’re driven by the image and I get really lost in the work while I’m making it.

With my smaller works, it’s quite a different feeling – they’re quite quick and fun and I get the instant gratification of a complete work in a relatively short amount of time compared to my larger works.

I don’t have a plan when I start works, but there are exceptions, this image was from a set of calendar images I made where I set out to make all of the prints the same size, and all of the perfectly symmetrical. The idea behind that was that I thought that in everyone’s busy lives there is a calming or soothing element to looking at images that are ordered and symmetrical. I was quite proud of myself after that, normally I start playing around and work my way into an idea for a piece.

My method will vary depending on what type of piece I’m doing. With my big, architectural pieces I’m not able to transfer those directly to the lino – I have to do everything in reverse to ensure that the text comes out the right way – so there’s a process of photographing and editing the image before I draw it.

With the natural images you are more able to work in situ – one of my works, Xanthorea – was drawn on the Drought Buster trail in the Flinders Ranges. I was sitting drawing with my son, who was 10 at the time, who ended up making a print of his own to show to his class at school.

You can see more of Maggie's works here.