Carl Keck is a New England based artist who approached us out of the blue.  He is that one of a kind special customer who trusts our choices, accepts what paper we provide him before he even looks at it, never mind touches it, and transforms it into something that is entirely his own, without any fanfare.  A lot goes unspoken, but understood.  One day we may meet Carl in person, but in the meantime, we enjoy his generous amounts of prints he sends us, not just emails of images, but actual prints he mails, as well as some poetic emails we receive.  We actually featured Carl’s work a few blogs ago, and although it showcased his wonderful and prodigious talents, we did not have the opportunity to ask Carl personally his take on the paper he uses, his work, and that parallel world where Rembrandt meets Paperwoman.  Here is our conversation.  Enjoy!

PCI:  How would you describe your work?

CK: Our world is what we perceive it to be.  Our experiences influence what we can and cannot see.  My art is about putting down as quickly and clearly as possible, those things I experience.  What I see around me sets off a cascade of thoughts and usually coalesces into an idea.  I try with all my heart to express that idea.  Since all thoughts are abstract when you try to think about them, my art, when it’s good, lies on that border where the things I see meet the thoughts that those things emote in me.  Paper, any paper, allows me to translate my inspirations quickly.  With woodblocks, it allows me to rapidly experiment with additions, color and textures.  I don’t want to lose the essence of what insight I may have to share.

Carl's woodblock on gampi, made the week of May 20th, 2013.

Carl’s woodblock on gampi, made the week of May 20th, 2013.

New print, May 23, 2013 .

New print, May 23, 2013 .

PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?  What do you like best about working with paper?
CK: Good paper, which for me is Japanese washi-especially vintage washi-somehow instructs my work.  It’s always closer to how I first imagined the work, when I use the best materials I can find.  At the same time, different papers want you to treat them individually.  It’s a pleasant challenge!  I make something everyday.  Art is a kind of continuous diary of what we’ve felt about what we’ve seen.  I do just about everything possible with paper: woodblocks, monotypes, watercolors, ink and wash paintings, and so on.  Often I mix processes together-whatever it takes to get the idea that’s in me out.
PCI: What inspires or influences you, Carl?
CK: There have been so many influences besides Nature herself.  I frequent museums a lot, especially the MET in Manhattan.  I go there to see the level of dedication great art shows.  I noticed that I was always attracted to paintings and sculptures that seem as if they were done in a few hurried moments.  I saw so much more when the artist had no time to smooth things over.  And this is most apparent in drawing and other works on paper.  Van Gogh’s reed ink drawings are so immediate.  Klee’s watercolors have something mysterious about them.  Degas’ pastels worked over monotypes, Redon and his flowers, Rembrandt’s etching-oh how he wiped his plates!  And Picasso-how he experiments still before our eyes.  I can go on and on.
PCI: How did you come to know Paper Connection? Were you familiar with Japanese papers in the past?
CK: I have been using Japanese washi for a good number of years.  Sources are few.  A good friend in Kyoto finds me vintage washi from the auctions she goes to.  Also I sometimes purchase directly from merchants in Japan.  However it’s expensive.  I searched the web for some of the paper makers I’ve used, and found Paper Connection.  So by mainly looking for well known paper makers and vintage washi.Work on Gampi made on the morning of May 16th, 2013.

PCI: How did we help you navigate through our extensive collection and your previous knowledge of washi?

CK:  A few years ago I contacted Paper Connection and was sent some papers: many decorative papers I rarely use, and some others which I gladly exhausted.  At that point I had to have more.

PCI: We are happy to hear that you liked our Fine Art paper samples.  What are some of the differences between our papers and others you  have worked with?
CK:  About paper, I can get used to any kind.  The better the quality, the easier it is to love and work with.  Once I get familiar with a paper, I instinctively call for it when a work requires it’s qualities.  Japanese washi is strong, thin, and honest.  It takes whatever manipulation I need from it, and the way it takes ink and pigment are predictable.  Though with vintage papers there is a quality of imperfect absorption which thrills me.
PCI:  What papers do you use of ours and for what process? What do you like about these papers that helps your creative and technical process?
CK: Just recently I received backed gampi from Paper Connection.  It has the sheen of gampi, which is usually thin tissue, yet has the backing to make it hardy for repeated printing.  A great innovation.  For delicate subjects it glows.  You experience the delicacy all over again just because of the paper type.  In tissue form its great to use when there is enough ink left on your block to take a second impression. Colors are soft and subtle, yet they are all there.

PCI: Our bonus question: if you could have a conversation with any artist, past or present, who would it be? And would you talk about paper?
CK:  I’d love to have a conversation with Rembrandt or Durer.  I’ve done literally a thousand self portraits and another thousand of my son.  Rembrandt did many.  We learned from him how to look deeply and frequently at our mortal predicament.  What a great gift are his paintings and works on paper.  And he used washi!  I’d thank him and ask about what it meant to grow old, how he kept his art flame so bright.  I’d ask him about the women he loved.  And if he’s ever heard of the Paper Women up in Rhode Island…

PCI: Wow, we’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one!  Carl, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insight, your support of washi, and of course, your work that you so generously share with us.

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