Shannon Buck is a printer and artist. Her great grandfather was a professional illustrator and designed puppet sets in Europe, and her Grandmother was a skilled Draftsperson. She says she “was raised by bookworms. I learned letterpress printing from old-school Printers.
“I can recall in elementary school just wanting to color all day, and I loved observing other kids drawings and taking note of their styles and what worked and what didn’t. As a teenager I felt unsatisfied with my role in art-making and instead devoured books and discovered poetry and short stories, and that is what has formed my work to this day: unresolved narratives. While growing up in the South, I worked with the city to find venues for small art shows in vacant buildings.”
I asked about her process: “I am always drawing and observing. I trace over my drawings with a soft pencil and then transfer them onto linoleum, which creates a reverse of the image. This is necessary for printing. I often draw things upside down in my sketchbook; it keeps me from getting lost in the details. (I set letterpress type, which is done upside down, so my brain is already wired this way.) I print my smaller works on a tabletop letterpress. If I end up using a hand-pulled print digitally for a surface pattern or print, I source my colors from vintage textiles and photographs.”
She is currently working on a series of linocuts entitled ‘Intersections’. “I am depicting Portland street intersections carved into linoleum that are printed on rice paper. Using relief printing as a medium means I’m always conscious of lights and darks, negative space and contrast, and I have to improvise to create grey areas. This balancing act formed my basis for the work as I witness the changes within the Portland urban landscape and how the intersections between race, social status, and the old and the new converge.”
Another series of linocuts that I am currently working on focuses on women who have inspired and challenged me. I started this series during the 2016 election. I donate 15% of each sale of the prints to Portland’s YWCA Domestic Violence Services.
Art is a language. We all start out speaking the language as children and then are subjected to various influencers that steer us in a direction that causes us to judge the process of art-making; what was originally inherent in our freedom to play. This is perhaps why our culture specifically seems to have a complex about art as a profession. Part of the role of being an artist is to continue the conversation of what it is to be human; peeling back those layers we conditioned ourselves to ignore.
Wait till you see what she has in store for visitors! “I am excited to offer Portland Open Studios visitors an opportunity to pull their very own letterpress souvenir of the event. I will have one of my tabletop presses inked up and ready for printing, and I will give short tutorials on how the letterpress operates. Visitors can also peruse my collection of letterpress type and cuts, as well as my personal work of hand carved linoleum cuts.”
photo credit Jeff Rutherford