By Timothy Behuniak EBS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
BOZEMAN – For most, it’s difficult to recite the alphabet backwards. But, have you ever tried thinking backwards? For printmaker Sarah Angst, this is a daily, artistic routine, as printmaking requires that every etch, imprint, design and alphabetical character to be laid out in reverse.
Despite the challenge, Angst’s passion for artistry compels her to continue to hone her craft with each new piece.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved creating and selling things,” Angst said. “I’ve always just loved color, design and composition.”
Angst was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, although she attended the University of Minnesota Duluth in order to be closer to her grandparents. Although she graduated with a BFA in Art Education, Angst initially disliked printmaking when introduced to the craft in college.
“I took one printmaking class and hated it,” laughed Angst. “There were too many different styles of printmaking that were squished into one quarter class. But then I went to an art fair and there was this man – Ken Swanson – and I fell in love with the graphic qualities of his work.”
Finding inspiration in Swanson’s work and in the satisfaction of creating multiple pieces from a single image, Angst dived head-first into printmaking. “I’ve always had a hard time departing from that one, original piece. But as an artist that needs to make money, you have to separate yourself from that idea a bit,” Angst said.
After a period spent teaching and traveling after graduating, Angst returned to Minnesota. “There are quite a few printmakers in Duluth, so it’s nice to be exposed to that,” said Angst.
While living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Angst worked on a project for a small town and its centennial celebration. She didn’t win the contest, but brokered a deal to create artwork for a calendar, her first time selling work after college. However, meshing the business and art worlds was an intense learning experience, said Angst, but a necessary one.
Soon after, Angst and her husband moved to Bozeman to pursue a passion for outdoor recreation. In Bozeman, Angst was able to balance her work with raising a family, all while enjoying her beautiful surroundings. “I love the accessibility to the trails and wilderness,” said Angst. “It’s really exciting to be a part of a community that’s growing and thriving.”
There’s a lot of time and effort dedicated to the period between the conception and sale of a piece. To get to a final product, Angst starts with a sketch from an idea or from inspiration sourced on the Internet. Then, she transfers the drawing onto linoleum – a rubbery material. She’ll then work with knives and gouges to remove negative space. “When there’s text, there’s definitely been times where I’ve had to start over because the letters are reversed,” laughed Angst. Next, she’ll roll black ink onto the remaining raised edges and stamp the linoleum onto a piece of paper. It’s like making a big stamp, Angst described.
“I really like the vibrancy of watercolor,” Angst said. “So I’ll print the black outline, then hand paint each original with watercolor inks.”
This technique differs slightly from a more commonly-practiced printmaking method called reduction, where artists roll over their linoleum plate with a different color with each press and create final pieces this way. Though, because Angst paints in between her lines with watercolors rather than stamping with different colors, her pieces tend to have a graphic quality with extremely bright and vivid hues, which separates her work from the others’.
When looking at the printmaker’s work, it’s obvious she draws inspiration from nature. Although her portfolio contains depictions of snowmen and inanimate objects like stockings and bicycles, it’s mostly comprised of alpenglow-covered mountains or wild animals roaming the land. If there are two traits that unite all of her pieces, though, it’s the simple, yet strong compositions and vibrant colors.
“I love the way a black outline makes colors pop,” said Angst. “I really love having some sort of complimentary color within a piece – it provides a rich quality.”
Most of Angst’s work is a small size, averaging between 3-by-5 and 10-by-12. Painting and carving bigger pieces, anywhere from 12-by-24-inches to 2 feet by 3 feet can be quite difficult and extremely time consuming, “but I want to expand on bigger work with different techniques,” Angst said.
In addition to being a talented artist, the printmaker also thrives in conducting business. Merging the two is often the most difficult part of executing a career in art, but Angst revels in the challenge.
“I have a passion for the business side,” said Angst. “It can even provide new ways of thinking about what to create, how to market your work and how to grow and move forward.”
Growing and moving forward might as well be the mantra of Angst’s creative pursuits. For someone who initially loathed printmaking, she’s done pretty well for herself. Her greeting cards are currently available in 300 stores nationwide, and she regularly produces and sells made-to-order prints through her website.
Angst’s work is slotted for display at Bozeman’s Altitude Gallery beginning in May. Owned and operated by Amy Kirkland, the gallery features fun, contemporary pieces, which can be challenging to do in a region saturated with talented, Western-themed artists.
“Amy and I are really good at collaborating and trying out different ideas,” Angst said. “It’s the ideal place to hang my work.”