How to Outfox the Pressures of Art Making

 

Andy Farkas is peeking into another world for inspiration.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

Some of Andy Farkas’ work is inspired by stories he’s written or told to his daughters. But despite their folkloric quality, his prints are less happily-ever-after than sweetly open ended. “If an image wants to change, then I have the flexibility to let it,” he says. “I love it when a print grows into something I never would have thought of.”

The East Carolina University grad is a self-employed graphic designer (as is his father), but has also worked as a children’s-museum educator, trophy engraver, handling prepress at a printshop, and as a coffee barista, among other jobs, all while pursuing printmaking. “In some ways, not relying on my art to pay all of my bills frees me from the trap of thinking, ‘Will I be able to sell this?’ — which has the habit of stifling the creative process,” he acknowledges.

Strength of No Force

He says he loved to explore the wild spaces near his home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Washington, DC. “I suppose that [childhood] connection to the land and nature had a profound effect on me, more than I surely realized in the moments I was living them — but here they are revealing themselves to me, and they keep cropping up.” 

Having learned traditional printmaking using oil-based relief/intaglio/lithographic methods, Farkas says, “I was used to knowing what results to expect, and generally what you carve is what you get.” Then he attended a workshop given by a master printer from Japan who taught him about mokuhanga, a classic woodblock printmaking process that uses water-based pigments.

Because mokuhanga’s endless variables always affect the outcome, “the biggest takeaway,” says Farkas, “was giving up control.”

Top Left: They Would Survive, Top Right: Where I Go, Bottom: Great Purple Fish

Even watching him work is a meditative experience. After drawing an image directly on the wood — cherry or the nearly grain-free shina — he guides his carving tools across the surface, slowly and deliberately. He says he so often incorporates animals in his work because “they don’t carry the visual baggage that a depiction of a human figure does. When we look at an image of a person, we are so tuned into whether or not the image feels or looks right, and who the person is … all sorts of judgments enter before [we] even have a chance to register what the image may or may not be about.”

Farkas talks about the pain and struggle inherent in life, but he doesn’t believe in letting sorrow stay around. “I try to let these things move through me, to not hold them.” But they end up in his work, where, he muses, “the enlightenment that comes from overcoming an obstacle or understanding the value of a challenge … [becomes] so vital.”

Andy Farkas, West Asheville. Home studios by appointment: fablewood.bookarts@gmail.com. The printmaker is represented by Momentum Gallery in both its locations in downtown Asheville (24 N. Lexington Ave. and 52 Broadway). On New Year’s Day — Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 2pm — Momentum on Broadway will host “What Will Your Story Be for 2019?,” an all-ages storytelling event featuring Andy Farkas, in conjunction with a special presentation of his prints and original watercolors. Free. Refreshments served. For more information, see momentumgallery.com or fablewood.com.

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