The artwork of Paula Schuette Kraemer is fun and whimsical, relatable and nostalgic. She is largely known for her drypoint monoprints and monotypes, but after sitting down with the artist and looking at the many series she has completely, it is clear that Paula’s medium is as diverse as her inspirations, using anything from steel etching needles on copper plates, to fingernail scratches in the paint, to Japanese paper layered within the printing process, and more.
As Paula explains the differences of an etched line versus drypoint line, to understand an etched line she suggests to “draw a straight line and make a little U and continue the straight line; it etches a dip and the ink creates a sharper line. When the line has a V—as it does with drypoint—it is raising a burr of metal—that burr holds ink, and the dry point line becomes fuzzy and velvety.” Paula typically starts by making the dry point copper plate, and then she “rolls the ink all over the plate, and then there’s a lot of smearing and use of my hands, drawing with my fingernails.. That’s why a number of my prints aren’t exactly alike.”
After her first husband died when she was just 38 years old, Schuette Kraemer had to step back into the world, and her artwork played a transformative role in the process. Her printing press, aptly named “The Open Gate” was a symbol of her journey, representing the “open gate” she needed to step through to see what was on the other side.
Paula is constantly looking at symbols and symbolism, both what they mean to her, and how others might relate. “A good symbol has multi layers of meaning and speaks to more than just me. I use symbols over and over again—words I use a lot—talking to animals, nature, the narrative inside my head,” she shares. Her whimsical butterflies are actually a metaphor for anxiety, scenes around a campfire her reflections of the interaction of man and nature in the woods, playful puppy images are memories of their puppies in training, and her series on marshmallows a reflection of “safety lessons” with the kids.
Paula Schuette Kraemer, “Under the Stars 14/20,” Mixed Media Print, 18 x 24 inches
Many of her pieces, when you look at the details, include words etched in copper or scratched in ink that are all written backwards in the creation process, and reflect the narrative of the scene or meaning behind the symbolism. Her butterfly series, for example, was inspired by a friend who told her “everyone has a cup of anxieties, and when one flies away, another flies in.” Where the Butterflies Come From depicts butterflies being caught in a net and has words like “obligation,” “want,” “should,” and “anticipation” written amongst the blue butterflies. It’s counterpart, entitled Release shows butterflies being released, with words that relieve anxiety, like “start,” “art,” “walk,” and “book.” Reflecting on the symbols in her work, Paula reflects, “when life moves on, so will I. I might go back and look at a symbol. They evolve—a minor roll in one print will evolve to be a main player in the next one.”
As with any printmaker, Paula’s works are limited edition, but her style and method ensure that each one is unique. Her “heavy handed” way of drawing led her to drypoint, and her style shows the movement of the scene, as well as the nature of her storytelling, going as far as including literal words etched in copper or scratched in ink. Before she starts, she chooses the number of prints that will be in the edition—always a small number of twenty or fewer because “so much creativity and time is involved in the actual process,” she explains. Each work is then made one by one, from start to finish, perhaps getting through one or two prints in a day, choosing her favorites to include in the series.
Many of Paula’s works reflect her time with family in Colorado. From camping and roasting marshmallows, to relaxing in a hammock on the edge of the woods, to animal sightings that has become part of the family lore, the symbols and stories are reflected in Paula’s prints.
The series of “family portraits” depicts animals in stories that have become part of the family. A goat, bear, and moose have found themselves the subject of a family portrait and framed within her printing style. “I decided to make them diplomats or family portraits on the wall, as they become part of our family narrative and story. I often tell my grandchildren things I’ve done or things that have happened, including these animal sightings. It’s become a part of the tradition of experience. They are commemorated with these frames and are brought into our world with the colors. A lot of my animals face forward and are either greeting, or confronting, or in a relationship. When I have an animal sighting in Colorado, I always mark it in my calendar. It’s a reminder about having a good day when so many bad things are going on.”
Paula Schuette Kraemer has once again been invited to participate in Denver’s Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale in early January of 2018. At the show, viewers can expect to find huge (47.5 x 35 inch) prints of deer that capture that special interaction of surprise, an image of hummingbirds around a feeder entitled “Therapy,” deer and footprints walking a snowy path, and more.
When it comes to the next series, Paula already has it in the works, but this time she is “moving onto hands—relationships and caregiving,” she shares. “My husband has Parkinsons so there’s a lot of caregiving.” The series will feature an outstretched hand, each holding a different object, symbolizing the act of giving a gift to someone else, and something you can do to help someone.
To see more works by Paula Schuette Kraemer, visit Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt.