Visually Speaking: Printmaker Diana Baldwin

By Anna Horsnell

Every artist chooses how to interpret their vision, how to give it shape. What inspires one artist may differ greatly from the approach of another. Those personal choices keep art alive. The idea may become a piece of sculpture, a painting, a photo, or, in the case of artist Diana Baldwin, an original print.

First, some clarification best explained by Baldwin on her website: “A print is often confused with a photocopy or reproduction. A photocopy or reproduction of a work of art is not the original work of art by that artist. (In contrast) each print is an original and is printed individually from a plate, stone, screen, block, or other matrix created for that purpose.” Historically, that ability to create multiple impressions of the same image provided the advantage of reproducing and circulating art quickly and inexpensively. Printmaking also allows for unique visual qualities open to experimentation through various processes. No matter the method, prints are both distinct and somehow immediate in their very quality.

Baldwin loved to draw when she was young and later began painting in watercolour and pastels. Still, she was drawn to explore different mediums. “Etching had always been something I was interested in so when I learned of a weekend workshop given by the Mahone Bay Printmakers in 2010, I signed up and immediately became hooked. I’ve always been a very process-oriented person so the methodical work necessary to complete an etching appeals to me. I also enjoy pure drawing and line, which can effectively be translated to the etching process.” She is extremely grateful to Ed Porter who heads the Mahone Bay Printmakers and is a retired NSCAD professor and master printmaker.

Printmaking requires attention to detail and patience, she points out. “I work from photos and sketches. Drawing proficiency is very important. One thing I’ve also learned is that it is important to choose which printmaking process will work best for an idea I might have. One of my favourite processes is soft ground etching, where plant material and other textures are pressed into, then etched into the plate. I will use these textures as a background or as a starting point for a composition. If all goes well it might take a week to achieve an image that pleases me. Often, I will put an unfinished piece away for a while. Sometimes it takes a year to resolve how to best finish the piece. Once I am happy with the final proof, I begin to print the edition which is the set number of prints that will be produced.”

The landscape of the Annapolis Valley is Baldwin’s greatest inspiration: “Simple things like apples hanging from a bare branch in winter, round bales, or the shape of trees will spark ideas in me. I particularly like winter landscapes because the essential shapes within the landscape become more evident. One has to really look to find colours which are beautifully subtle. The white of the paper is also very effective in winter landscapes. I look forward to working in my studio every day.”

Baldwin’s October open house in Port Williams was postponed due to the pandemic, but will return in 2021. In the meantime, her work is available through dianabaldwinstudio.com and at Visual Voice Fine Art in Truro, or contact the artist at dianabaldwinstudio@gmail.com. Baldwin is also co-coordinator of Jack’s Gallery in the JustUs! Cafe in Wolfville.