Spotlight: Coral Black, Painter and Block Printer
Painting and block printing are hands-on media, perfect for this hands-on artist. Inspired by the natural wonders that await around every bend in the Pacific Northwest, Coral Black captures the images one block print and one painting at a time.
How long have you been block printing? What made you decide to start?
Block printing is actually a new medium for me. I studied painting, oil painting, in college but when I graduated I felt rather discouraged by the saturation of the painting market. It’s very hard to make it as an artist.
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I knew I needed a medium that I could reproduce repeatedly, and something that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to get started. So in December of 2018 I taught myself how to block print. I studied the inks, practiced the carving techniques, and worked out my own personal printing method. I then launched my business in January of 2019. Now I am totally in love with the medium.
How did Coral Sue Studios come about?
It’s funny actually because my mama and I spent 4 hours brainstorming names for my business and at the end of all that I settled on my own name!
How old were you when you traveled the US with your mother and sister? How long were you on the road, and what were some of the highlights and greatest lessons?
We were traveling from the time I was 10 until I was 15. My sisters and I were all homeschooled so it gave us great flexibility. I think the greatest lesson I learned through it all was that family connection is the greatest bond achievable. Absolutely nothing compares to it. It is honestly the biggest drive for me to be going into business for myself in the first place.
I could easily find creative work somewhere and lessen the stress by doing art as a hobby. However, I am simply my happiest self when I am with my family and when creating art. It was only logical to make a career out of my work because it lets me spend more time with family at home, and I have a reason to create all the time.
We see a lot of digital prints in the art world. Why do you take the extra step of printing your own images one by one? What is it about the manual process satisfies you more than digital printing would?
I love the character. When I print things individually they each come out somehow looking different than the last. It’s remarkable considering the block doesn’t change between prints! The heaviness of the ink can be different, there might be extra lines you didn’t plan, it might’ve picked up texture from the ink pan and so on. Some things I have digitally printed because the block is simply too big, the stickers for example. And while I love them for the crisp matte finish, I don’t get the same satisfaction as I do creating a print.
Are you a planner or an improviser? Do the results of your work ever surprise you?
That depends on my medium. As a painter I’m an improviser; I engage in a dance with my paint until the image says it’s done. But as a block printer I am a planner with the slightest hint of improvisation. Block printing is more like a conversation, myself and the block each taking a turn having our voice heard. But it’s an important conversation, so like we all do I try to figure out just what I want to say so that it’s understood.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
Nature. What our stunning world has to offer inspires me endlessly. I am at peace in nature. I am at awe in nature. It reverberates in my heart whenever I am outside, and that’s what I try to capture in my art.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?
Usually I do a lot of rough sketches that are almost code to myself to help me visualize my ideas. They just look like scribbles to everybody else! That’s also often accompanied by visual research of colors, textures, poses, expressions, places, etc.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
Corn cob holder! My family was slightly perturbed to know I stole one from our kitchen but it works great for certain textures.
How does using a sketchbook or journal help your work develop?
I use my sketchbook for everything. It’s never just sketches, it’s basically a snapshot of what is going on in my life at that time. It’ll have everything from recipe notes to half formed sentences along side my sketches. I think it works as an external hard drive for my brain. But art isn’t created in a bubble, it’s informed by our experiences and circumstances, so having it all together often helps kickstart my creative juices.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? What kind?
I’m a big fan of jazz, classical music, or gypsy swing when I’m working. Every so often I like to play Motown, though, and get a little funky.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I believe that every single person is creative. Without a doubt. Every individual’s form of creativity manifests differently though. For some of us it’s visual art, others it’s music, or marketing, or architecture. The key is to acknowledge that it’s creativity and to feed it so it can develop.
Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
All my work can be found on my website, CoralSue.com. Right now, I only have my block printed work up there but I do plan on adding some of my painted work as I work on them. I’m also constantly working on new ideas and share them on social media: facebook.com/coralsuestudios and instagram.com/coral_sue. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my website for special sales or discounts!
Interview posted November, 2019.
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