Can you tell me a little bit about when and how Skyline Printworks started? What inspired you to open your own printmaking studio?
Skyline Printworks started as just an Instagram account in November of 2016 during my senior year at Whitman College in Walla Walla. I was feeling the existential dread of graduating and not knowing what to do next; I was unsure if I wanted to seek out a job in my field of study, geology, and I was only certain that I wanted to move back to Bellingham and make art in some capacity. I had been taking printmaking classes at Whitman for all four years and had built up a decent portfolio of work, so I figured that starting to share it on social media would help me find an audience if I ever wanted to sell it in the future! I graduated in 2017, moved back to Bellingham, and started piecing together a little studio in my bedroom. I created my website and started selling work online in November of 2017 and haven’t looked back since!
How long have you been interested in printmaking and design? How does your background influence your work?
I have been artistically inclined for my whole life, but I only focused on drawing and painting until I went to college. I took an art class my first semester at Whitman in the fall of 2013 that included a couple block printing projects, and I was immediately hooked. Despite majoring in geology, I took as many printmaking classes as I could. I definitely spent many more hours (and all-nighters) in the printmaking studios than in the science building or the library. Even though printmaking proved to be my true passion, I still loved my geology classes and my studies there definitely still influence my art. My work is so centered around landscape and our natural world, and becoming a geologist completely changed the way I look at and interpret that landscape. Other aspects of my background that are prominent influences in my work are spending lots of time outdoors mountain biking, skiing, and hiking, as well as growing up out in the county on an organic vegetable farm.
You and Gretchen Leggit teamed up for the new mural at the Bellingham Farmers Market. Can you tell me about your experience with that project?
The Farmers Market folks reached out to Gretchen about creating a mural down there, and they wanted it to be a collaborative project, so then Gretchen asked me if I wanted to work with her on it. I’ve known Gretchen for a few years now through the Bellingham arts community and I have loved watching her hit her stride as a prolific muralist in Bellingham and elsewhere, so I was so honored and excited that she wanted to work with me! I had never created a mural before and hadn’t even done much painting since high school, so I was quite nervous, but I knew I was in good hands with Gretchen. The process was truly collaborative from start to finish — we had a fun brainstorming session where we just bounced ideas off each other and honed in on the general concept, then I came up with an initial digital sketch and sent it to Gretchen, and she added some pieces and elements of her own characteristic style! After a year hiatus due to Covid, we transferred our sketch to the wall and started painting. Gretchen took the lead on spray painting and gave me a quick crash course in mural painting, and I got the hang of it pretty quick. The whole experience, and especially seeing the completed mural at the Saturday market for the first time, was such a meaningful experience for me. My dad, Mike Finger of Cedarville Farm, was one of the founding members of the Farmers Market back in 1992, and the market community was such a big part of my childhood. I often helped my dad out at his stand, and I actually sold art for the first time there when I was probably 10 or 11, back when the market held a “Kids’ Day” every month. Putting my mark on a place that my father helped create and giving back to a community that watched me grow up is a pretty special and powerful feeling.
At Bellingham Alive, we’re all about supporting local. What’s your favorite part about Whatcom and how has the community influenced your work?
It’s difficult to boil down my love for this area to one favorite part, but I think that the common denominator of all my favorite things here is the strong sense of community. I love how it often feels like everyone knows everyone, but also that if your own bubbles start to feel too tight there are always new people to meet and fresh energy that nourishes the vibrancy of this town. I am constantly inspired by the people who are working to make Bellingham a better place in so many different ways, whether that’s by turning the barren industrial waterfront into a bustling community hub of recreation and business, by creating mutual aid networks to eliminate food deserts and help the most vulnerable in our town get through the pandemic, or by the folks working hard to bridge the racial and socioeconomic gaps in accessing our beautiful public land and outdoor recreation. The list obviously goes on, because there is no shortage of passion for making Bellingham a great place to live for everyone. This same passion is what helped artists and small businesses get through the pandemic; I never thought that I would feel the most supported during a time when everyone was so physically distant, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I have received from the Bellingham/Whatcom community.
How long (on average) does it take to create your prints? What is that process like? How would you describe your style?
The length definitely varies widely based on the size and complexity of the project, but I would say that an average print takes two weeks from initial sketch to final print. I start with a general idea, and I develop that idea by sketching on my iPad. This step used to involve a sketchbook, a light table, and lots of tracing paper, but discovering the wonders of digital drawing has really streamlined my process. Once I am happy with my sketch, I transfer it to my block. At this point the process varies slightly depending on what particular method I’m using. The basic process is that I carve my design into the block using very sharp V-shaped and U-shaped metal gouges. Once carving is complete, I use a rubber roller called a brayer to roll oil-based printmaking ink onto the surface of the block. I place the inked-up block onto the bed of my etching press, place paper onto the block, and then it gets rolled through the press! Things get more complicated if I’m making a multi-color or multi-layer print, but that gets confusing to describe!
I would describe my style as bold, graphic, detailed, and colorful. My style is always growing and changing as different methods pique my interest! What I’m making now looks a lot different than what I was making a year ago, and I’m sure what I’m making one year from now will have a different feel to it. The constant themes are clean, decisive lines, carefully chosen color palettes, and landscape inspired design.
What have been some of your favorite creations? What are some bestsellers?
Picking favorites is always hard for me! Right now I am over the moon with how my mural turned out at Kulshan Brewery’s new Trackside Beer Garden next to the waterfront pumptrack. I created a long and skinny linocut print inspired by the Chuckanut coastline with railroad tracks, steep treed hillsides down to the water, and little rocky islands. The print got blown up and printed onto heavy duty vinyl panels, which were then installed onto one of the shipping containers that Kulshan is operating out of. It has a similar vibe to the prints I created for Kulshan’s core lineup of canned beers, but it’s gigantic! I thought it was cool to drink a beer out of a can with my art on it, but turns out it’s even cooler to drink a beer while gazing at a larger-than-life version of one of my prints!
As far as bestsellers go, my recent foray into jigsaw prints has been really well received. The Skyline classics that I continue to print more of because they’ve been popular for years now are “Winchester,” a linocut of the Winchester Mountain fire lookout, “American Border Peak,” a large woodcut of the peak of the same name, and “Roots & Ladders,, which is my whimsical interpretation of the trails on Galbraith Mountain.