Visiting artist talks printmaking, finding inspiration in the everyday

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Last night in the Little Theater, the K-State Art Department hosted Visiting Artist lecturer, Shelley Thorstensen, a printmaker from Pennsylvania. Thorstensen began her presentation by describing her process for starting a print.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve picked up bits and pieces of machinery,” Thorstensen said. “I study the color and the way the light reflects off them.”

In addition to these machinery bits, Thorstensen said she also picks up seed pods, leaves or anything that catches her attention. For the past two days, after visiting art classes, Thorstenson would walk around campus picking up things off the ground.

“I feel guilty, ever since reading Walden in high school,” Thorstensen said. “You know, the poem about just leaving footprints, but here I am, taking things and picking them up.”

Once Thorstensen has decided on which objects to take, she places them throughout her home, such as a blue pail she picked up and placed in a hallway at her house. Light hits the bucket at different points in the day, creating a collage of color that Thorstensen then uses as inspiration.

“It’s that little blue bucket that helps me stay grounded, lately in Tuscany,” Thorstensen said, after describing an artwork piece based on the Tuscany landscape.

Another step in her process is to dream about her prints. Afterward, she makes notes and sketches about her dreams before actually working on the print itself. As one can imagine, this process takes a while to complete and several of Thorstensen’s prints are years in the making.

One such example is “On Any Given Day.” On the right side of the print are some yellow-green squares with various blue figures that represent the idealized events that can happen on any given day, hence the title.

“See, on any given day, you don’t know what will happen,” Thorstensen said. “But if things are stable we can guess what might happen.”

The middle section of the piece represents the plausible things that could happen. It was here that Thorstensen confronted figures she was uncomfortable with, either as a subject or artistically. For example, in the middle section is a wolfish figure that stood out to Thorstensen because it was difficult to draw.

“The things I was uncomfortable with, I just worked through,” Thorstensen said. “But the things I was really uncomfortable with I just made pretty.”

The last section of the piece is green and, according to Thorstensen, represents all the possible outcomes that may happen.

Students who attended the lecture said they thoroughly enjoyed getting a glimpse into Thorstensen’s artwork and thought process.

“She was awesome,” Matthew Roeder, junior in graphic design, said. “She came and showed us some of her prints yesterday, and it was some really cool stuff. I like the detail and thought she puts into them. You can tell she’s a very notable artist.”

While Thorstensen toured classrooms to show her work, she also worked with printmaking students and showed them how to do certain printmaking techniques.

“I thought she was very informative,” Lisa Urban, senior in painting, said. “But at the lecture, it was cool to see her talk about her prints rather than show us the techniques. I find her very inspirational, and I love her use of colors.”

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