Edgar Neil Hartley
Mainly, I work in printmaking, but before printmaking I carved gourds, dyed wool and did a lot of collage. For me collage is like sketching. I cut out images that I identify with or capture me with their story and them piece them together. These become individual pieces of artwork. I don’t keep a notebook of hand-drawn sketches because I’ve never learned to make hand marks that satisfy me. All my sketchbooks are filled with technical notes that refer to one printmaking process or another, but very little drawing.
My prints are mostly informed by my experience as a gay man and my Dzogchen Buddhist practice. Of course, both of those perspectives open up the entire universe for exploration and I guess everything’s game. The beauty of the human form, the attachment to that form and the resultant complications and the nature of thinking…this is the experience of every living being. These subjects often find their way into my artistic inquiry.
I have been called a polymathic printmaker—meaning I work in a variety of printmaking techniques. It’s not an untrue statement, though it is a mouthful. Since coming to MGC in 2010 (11?) I’ve had the great privilege of studying with many excellent and highly qualified teachers, who have taught me lithography, silkscreen, etching, photogravure, collography, paper lithography, photo lithography, monoprints and chemigram and so much more. As a matter of course I tend to begin prints in one technique and continue working on them using various other methods across the various printmaking disciplines.
For example, I may start a print in etching. If it’s not working or if I think I want to go another direction with it, I might drop an image over it using a solvent image transfer. Then, if I want to bring elements forward, I might use a monoprint process and stencils or resists to drop color and push everything outside the stencil back. Then I can decide if more imagery is required, in which case I might use photolithography, paper lithography or silkscreen.
Silkscreen is a very flexible medium, and I find that I use it frequently, either directly in the creation of silkscreened prints or as an integral part of another printmaking process, such as silkscreen sugar lift in etching, medium transfers on to collograph plates or silk aquatint plates, or image transfers onto photo paper for the chemigram process. Silkscreened images can also be printed on to etchings, monoprints and collographs—even lithographs—to great effect.
I normally work from photographs, illustrations, fashion imagery and online sources. Much of my imagery is scanned into Photoshop or Illustrator and then individually manipulated or composed collage-style for output to transparencies or photocopied and altered. These images are then either shot on to photopolymer plates, on to photo etch plates or on to silkscreens.