• Stashia Smyrichinsky

Interview with Barbara Westman


Barbara Westman

Professor,

Slippery Rock University of PA

www.barbarawestman.com @fiberartprintmaking


1.What was the first thing that informed or inspired you to know that you needed to become an artist?

I was born and raised in Poland, in a family of artists. My grandfather and both my parents were artists: a painter, photographer and ceramist. As a child I was always encouraged to be creative, to draw, paint, work with clay. On many occasions my mum would take me to her work, the art museum, and I would watch her installing exhibitions. Going to art museums and galleries was a frequent activity. In high school I realized I did not see myself being an artist, I wanted to choose a different direction, but somehow I followed my fate and completed first my BA in Visual Communication, then dual Bachelor and Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Fiber Art degrees. And it was the best decision I made. I enjoy working with the students and being involved in their artistic development.


2. What environment is best suitable for you to focus to create art?

I am quite flexible and adapt easily to different environments. What is the most important is my “state of mind”: my motivation, the idea development and having time to devote to the studio time. Some of my artworks were produced in the U.S., others in Europe; often times with minimal means.



3. What kinds of experiences, events, or actions let you know that you’re making progress with your artwork, or that it’s supported in some way? When I begin work on a new project I have an idea of what I want to create. But in the process the idea undergoes many changes and the result is often quite different then the initial vision. I assess and reassess continuously, try other visual arrangements and edits. It is a slow process but eventually I get the feeling of “pieces coming together”. It is a trial and error game.


4. What kinds of materials, tools, colors, and/or textures are the most gratifying to work with? Why? When working on my monotypes I use simple and easily accessible materials. I collect them for the future use. They may be part of packaging, wrappers and discarded materials such as various textiles, papers of different quality, string, materials with textures, and more. I enjoy experimenting with the impressions of textures in my monotypes. With the intaglio prints I am drawn to the values and lines and how they interact together. I also utilize impressions of textures left on the drying stop out. I am open to experimenting and all my prints are a result of the spontaneous development of the artwork.

The vast majority of my prints are in black or sepia. I enjoy the richness of these colors in my works and I do not feel that adding another color or colors would improve the artwork. I want the viewer to focus on the content of the artwork: the concept and composition, rather than the additional layer of the visual information that colors would add. I think this is the impact of my father’s love for the black & white photography.


5. What is your best advice for getting work out into the world?

Exhibitions are the best ways to show your work. Today there are many virtual opportunities such as virtual galleries, FB, Instagram. I don’t consider them being equal to the gallery exhibition but many more people may view the artworks.