Linocut printmaker Sherrie York is a Colorado printmaker, painter and draughtswoman based in Maine with an international reputation for lyrical and expressive works on paper. A biologist in her 20s, York’s field sketches and drawings later translated to linocut printmaking. True to her meticulous representations of her observations in the natural world, York’s printmaker’s eye is drawn to intricate flora, the interaction of birds with water, and the patterns across land and seascapes. Enjoy this interview with Sherrie York, a featured artist in Carved, Etched, Painted.
When I was in college I took a course in which I learned etching and serigraph processes. I loved etching in particular– when I think about the first time I pulled a plate through a press I can still feel how deeply it resonated with me.
But I learned to create etchings “the old way,” with nitric acid, asphaltum, and other hard-to-manage-in-an-apartment chemicals, and of course when I finished school I no longer had access to a press.
Some of my favorite moments are when a viewer responds to a piece by saying, “Oh, this reminds me of when…” and they share a story from their own experience. But I also hope that their eye is caught by thoughtful design and my delight in expressing pattern and texture. I enjoy finding ways to create nuance and subtlety in a medium that is inherently very graphic.
I turned my focus to drawing and painting, particularly in watercolor. The desire to make prints was always there, but it took me almost a decade to begin experimenting with low-tech, non-toxic linocuts. I began with black-and-white prints in tiny editions of 4-6, then experimented with adding watercolor, and eventually worked my way into the complex reduction prints that I make now.
When I begin a new linocut, my hope is usually to avoid an irreparable mess! I often describe my process as creating a series of problems and continuing to work until I somehow solve enough of them to have a satisfactory image.
But the ultimate goal for any image depends on what sparked the idea in the first place. I feature a lot of birds in my work, and watching them interact with their environment and each other can inspire me to explore shape, pattern, color, and light in so many combinations!
My interest in birds as subject matter was another seed planted back in college that took a long time to develop. My first experience of drawing animals from life took place in a neighborhood backyard amongst very busy chickens.
It was this adventure that led me to seek other opportunities to draw animals from life. My sketchbook and I spent a lot of time in the Bird World section of the Denver Zoo, and in the zoology collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. In addition to honing my drawing skills, the hours spent in exploring resources like these nurtured my interest in natural history and environmental conservation. I continue to spend time working in scientific research and education, which deepens my understanding and appreciation of the species I depict.
But on a basic level, what’s not to love about birds? They are ubiquitous, providing an opportunity for people to observe and interact with nature whether we live in an urban or rural setting. And their often-graphic plumage patterns really evolved with printmakers in mind, I think.
“I was originally drawn to the idea of the female merganser’s reddish head against the green reflection of trees, but the impact of those bright blue ripples in her wake just had to be explored first,” shares Sherrie York. “The phrase ‘out of the blue’ usually conjures an image of something falling from the sky, but in this case I love that she’s dragging the sky behind her as she moves across the water.
“A few years ago I moved from Colorado, where I had spent most of my life, to the coast of Maine. In doing so I ‘lost’ a few familiar bird species and gained a few new ones, since the habitats of the mountain west and the Atlantic coast are quite different. But of course there are also some old friends to be found in a new place, including the mergansers! Granted, I now see the red-breasted species more often than the common merganser depicted here, but I love them all.”
Sherrie York’s work is on view in Ann Korologos Gallery’s “Carved, Etched, Painted,” a group exhibition showcasing the various printmaking and painting techniques by Leon Loughridge, Sherrie York, Joel Ostlind, and Linda Lillegraven. The exhibition is on view May 7 through 31, 2022 at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, Colorado.