Artist masters dimensional printmaking

At the age of 16, Sibyl Teague decided she wanted to be an artist.

“It was not a popular decision with my mom. … She said I’d always be broke, which is true. But you get used to it, I guess.”

Teague said her mother encouraged her to do art but hoped she would become an art teacher. Her mother had dreamed of going to art school herself, but then the Great Depression hit.

Growing up in Detroit, Teague said there weren’t many opportunities for art, but she took all the art classes offered.

When she was younger, she was into impressionist paintings. She enjoyed painting people and animals but not landscapes.

She got an art scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She pursued painting, mostly, for three years and then, Teague said, “I was silly. I got married and we moved to Canada.”

Teague explained that her husband was Canadian and they moved there to avoid the draft.

After the war, Teague moved back to Michigan to finish college.

Teague graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting. In 1976 Teague moved to Denver.

Teague said she did not put her degree to immediate use. “I was just trying to survive,” she laughed.

She worked at a picture framing company and did some T-shirt design work.

In 1997 she moved to Salida to work at the Real American T-Shirt Company. That job only lasted a year before the company went out of business.

For 13 years Teague freelanced. She designed T-shirts, glassware and had “clients all over the country.” But once the bottom fell out of that industry, Teague worked at The Mountain Mail designing ads and doing other computer work.

“I spent a lot of years in front of a computer.”

After 12 years at the newspaper, Teague retired and went back to school. She got her master’s degree in printmaking from Adams State College.

“Going back to school was great. I love being a student. I think learning should be a lifelong endeavor.”

Teague admitted she was a more serious and focused student that time around.

Teague tried taking a printmaking class in college, but said the fees were too high. After college she got her teaching certificate at the University of Northern Colorado – which made her mom happy. While studying at UNC she took a printmaking class and loved it. It replaced her love for painting rather quickly.

Teague said she enjoys the process of printmaking and learning by trial and error.

Adams intrigued her because they offer a type of printmaking Teague had never done, stone lithography.

“The process is an intensive way to do prints. There are lots of steps and chemistry involved.”

You also have to move massive stones that weigh about 50 pounds.

After Teague graduated, she taught part time at Adams “mostly so I could use that press.”

Stone lithography presses are hard to find as they are quite expensive. Teague said a small table-sized version could cost about $6,000. The one at Adams carries a price tag closer to $16,000.

Teague said the drive to Alamosa got to be too much, plus the labor involved with stone lithography became too physically demanding.

So, she found a new hobby. Thanks to a few lessons from her woodworking husband, Mark, Teague has been learning the skill saw. She began to attach her prints to plywood, and cut the plywood into shapes.

“I’m obsessed. I started small, then I started getting bigger and more complex.”

Of the 26 or 27 art pieces in her most recent show, “Creation of Horses” features more than 100 separate pieces.

Her show, Legends, focuses on the myths and stories of the Americas. All the pieces are inspired by myths and creation stories from different cultures in the Americas.

“I’ve always been interested in creation stories.”

Teague did her master’s thesis on creation myths from around the world, and all the prints were made using stone lithography.

Getting her master’s taught Teague many things, including how to look at her art in a bigger picture – applying themes or making an installation.

“So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do with this show. I’m trying to create a flow between the pieces. I’ve been working on this show for a year. Almost every day for a whole year. I’ve never worked that long on one project.”

Teague said it was hard to avoid burn out. But it helped that while making a large piece, she would work on a smaller one simultaneously. She explained there is a lot of waiting with this art process, like waiting for glue and print ink to dry.

Teague said her large pieces take about two months to complete. Her smaller ones, probably two weeks.

All the pieces for this show are done on plywood.

“I call it dimensional printmaking – I don’t know if that’s right, I made up the name. It’s fun working more sculpturally.”

While the process is involved, Teague likes the challenge. She said the steps to make each piece for this show started with research, followed by sketching each piece to scale in Adobe Illustrator. Next, she printed big sheets of color with textures, glued the pieces onto wood and cut the shapes on a skill saw. Some sanding is involved; details are drawn, and then the pieces are assembled. She sprays each piece with a clear coat before and after they are assembled.

Assembling the pieces is the most time consuming, Teague said.

Another important aspect of earning her master’s degree was learning how to promote and talk about her art, she said.

Since Teague had to defend her artwork to a committee of professors, she learned how to answer questions about composition and technical questions.

“It really changed my focus on how to do my art and how to approach it.”

Teague encourages any fellow artists to get their master’s degree. She said she knows a lot of people who have said “I wish I could.”

To that Teague says, “There is no time limit. You can always go back to school.”

There will be an artist reception for Teague’s show 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, in the SteamPlant annex. The show will be on display through October.