April 7, 2015
Catching Up with Doug Guildford
Written by Laine Groeneweg
When I first started printing at Open Studio I arrived and literally didn’t know a single person there. I had the good fortune of arriving on a day when the studio was buzzing with activity and a number of folks were there to get acquainted with right away. One of those people was Doug Guildford – a long standing member and printer at Open Studio, whose work is included in the Embellish exhibition opening April 10 at Open Studio. I caught up with Doug to pitch a couple of questions at him and share a little bit about his work, printmaking process, and his connection to OS. Here’s what he had to say…
Can you tell me a little bit about the kind of printmaking you do, techniques you use?
Although I have explored most of the traditional printmaking techniques, I am a screenprinter; but I do also love to draw with a needle through the waxy layer of hardgound on zinc plates.
What is it about print and printmaking that connects with you?
I like the procedural nature of printmaking, the many steps of preparation leading up to the pulling or screening of a print. I like the tasking. I like the work of it.
I also take pleasure in the repeat unit and pattern, and the endless possibilities in the 2D picture plane.
How long have you been a printmaker, and how did you first get interested in it?
My introduction to printmaking was the gift of a dime store rubber stamp kit from Santa when I was seven. But my friend Herb (aka Roger Dayglow) introduced me to seat-of-the-pants screenprinting in his basement in hippie Kitsilano in 1972. He was creating psychedelic posters to announce Be-ins and celebrations in the parks of Vancouver. I loved the immediacy of the printing, the strong bright colours and the ability to disseminate multiples to announce happenings.
You’ve been working out of Open Studio for quite some time. You also split your time between Toronto and the East Coast. What is it about this studio space that keeps you coming back year after year?
I was actually in my 40s when I started working at Open Studio in the first of the King Street locations. Previous to that I had been working old-school, toxic screen processes in my live/work studio on an alley at Christie and Dupont (the first Doug’s Garage). Karen Hibbard was my (renter)mentor for my first month at Open Studio. She generously helped me make the switch to the much more benign water-based screen processes that we all work with now.
My bargain with Toronto, which has been my home-base for almost 40 years, is that I escape to the ocean when Toronto gets hot and stinky. I grew up on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and return there each year for the summer months. I now share a house on the shore with my partner Don. In recent years, summers there have become six months long, counter-balanced by six-month winters in our separate digs in Toronto. It’s a little scrambled and geographically schizophrenic to keep my two lives aloft, but it continues to suit me, at least for the time being. Eventually I will live full time in Nova Scotia. But it is in Toronto at Open Studio where I become a printmaker again each year. I really value the collegiality of Open Studio, old friends and new blood, artists who share my passion for print making.
Do you work exclusively in printmaking?
No. I think of my practice as being rooted in drawing, accommodating the sculptural manipulation of various materials, as well as allowing for print projects. For the past 15 years I have been crocheting my Nets. The Nets are ongoing obsessive projects that speak to both the value and the futility of work. The printwork and the sculptural projects cross pollinate. They are just different mediums to continue the same investigations and contemplations.
Does the medium of print itself help to inspire the kinds of images you make?
Much of my work is about the mark or the notation. Images flow intuitively. I guess there is some dialogue between the process and the kind of mark that appears. Certainly the pleasure that I take in the way an etching needle skates through Charbonel hardground, on a zinc plate, becomes an end unto itself.
What’s your favourite type of support to work on?
I have a special love for good washi, strong handmade Japanese papers. I am grateful to Nancy Jacobi and Sigrid Blohm and the JPP (Japanese Paper Place) for introducing me to these beautiful products, and for continuing to make them available.
Do you have a favourite spot in the studio that you like to work in?
We are so lucky to have this big bright efficiently laid-out and well-maintained studio to work in.
But my very favourite screen table location has disappeared. I spent many happy hours on the small vacuum table that used to be located in the NW corner of the screen studio. I never felt that I was in anybody’s way there. I also love to have the whole of the big freestanding glass-topped table in the etching studio to myself, to ink and wipe plates. And I do love the power washer and that big sheet metal sink.
Printmaking can sometimes be unpredictable. Do you embrace or reject unpredictable moments in your print work?
For some time now, I trust my intuitive take in responding to materials, ideas and processes. I make an action and respond moment to moment as the outcomes reveal themselves. I add and subtract, shuffle and re-arrange. I try to not to predict with any strict outcome in mind. When I do, it usually disappoints.
In the face of technology, where do you see printmaking?
Printmaking is technology!
But if you mean the digital realm, I guess it offers some new tools for people to prepare images for traditional printmaking techniques. While the prints that I make may contain images, the value of the prints, to me, is that they are objects. They are concrete and have physical weight, depth, proportion and substance. The prints are sculptural objects. I make them with my body. They are actual, not virtual. There is no corporal, concrete physical material in the digital realm so I don’t see its value to me as a printmaker. It is discouraging to me that people are led to believe that they are experiencing the prints that we make by viewing electronic pictures of them. That said, I generally Photoshop the shit out of pictures of my prints for digital viewing like any other online solicitor. The prints themselves just don’t translate.