Sunday, February 15, 2015

Remembering Keith Howard and Saying Goodby

This past week we lost a great printmaking pioneer, a compelling inventive spirit and an all round great guy – Keith Howard. Gone before his time, Keith was an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher; always thinking outside the box and freely sharing his knowledge with others. His impact on less toxic printmaking practices is immeasurable. Keith managed to radically shift long established materials and processes to innovative and ecologically sound techniques; effectively helping to move printmaking into the twenty-first century.
He was an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher; always thinking outside the box and freely sharing his knowledge with others. His impact on printmaking is immeasurable - See more at:
He was an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher; always thinking outside the box and freely sharing his knowledge with others. His impact on printmaking is immeasurable and he will be greatly missed. I will always be grateful that I had an opportunity to learn from him first-hand. - See more at: advocate for non-toxic printmaking, his work with non-toxic materials and processes dramatically changed printmaking and modernized it for the twenty-first century. Keith delivered hundreds of workshops and seminars worldwide, headed Printmaking and Research at Rochester Institute of Technology, and was considered a leading authority in the field. I occasionally bumped into him a various printmaking events and to my surprise, he always remembered me and would take a moment to chat.
Keith Howard (1950-2015)

Keith Howard had a profound influence on my personal printmaking practice and through me, he indirectly influenced thousands of my students; as I passed on the knowledge and experiences that I had acquired first hand through Keith, back to my students in my newly redesigned non-toxic classroom.

My “awakening” began in the summer of 1995. It was the end of the school year and I had stumbled upon an announcement for a “Master Printmakers Summer Workshop" at Fairview College in Peace River, Alberta Canada. I remember being intrigued, but, since I'd never flown alone, I asked myself, 'am I nuts to want to travel this far by myself?' This internal conversation followed up with,  “the school will never approve the funding for this.” So I put the workshop notice on the back burner for a few days but quickly found that I couldn't shake the idea of attending this workshop.
I finally approached my curriculum director about funding and was told that the school would cover the cost of the workshop if I would cover travel expenses. Great! My husband encouraged
me to "go for it" and made my travel arrangements. I was on my way.

Getting to the workshop was an adventure in itself. Flying from Hartford to Denver, onto Edmonton, then on to Alberta; each
plane decreasing in size. A bit disconcerting for someone not fond of flying; especially that really small plane to Peace River! But boy was it was worth it!

The workshop was everything I had hoped and more. The class consisted of a small group of really dedicated printmakers, eager to learn about this new process. Elizabeth Dove, who went on to become Keith’s research assistant and the inventor of the “Dove Aquatint Screen” was also one of the workshop participants; a great group of artists soaking up the unbelievably high energy in Keith’s workshop, as he shared his latest discoveries, with a sense of humor and excitement delivered in his distinctive Aussie accent.

"Fragile Slumber" My first Intaglio-type print.

We would start our days early in the morning and most of us would work late into the night, experimenting with the new materials and the day’s latest process. I for one was always fooled into thinking it wasn’t as late as it seemed to be because - hey - it was still really light outside. That is until I found myself walking back to the hotel and realized it was 11:30 at night!

"Bathtub Virgins" included in "Non-Toxic Intaglio Printmaking"

This was a heady time, early on in the whole non-toxic movement; a time of great discoveries happening every day as printmakers explored these new materials and processes. We would learn the basics from Keith and then see how far we could push the process. The photopolymer film we were using in this workshop, a predecessor to today’s ImagOn, was made by Dupont and called Riston. So many possibilities for printmaking: the range of mark making, the ease and speed with which intaglio plates and images could be made at less cost than that of traditional materials, and best of all, without the need to be exposed to hazardous acids and solvents. This contemporary approach to printmaking really did open up a whole new world of printmaking possibilities. I couldn’t wait to get back to school and begin converting my classroom to a non-toxic studio and sharing this new information with my students.

Around this time, Keith was in the process of writing his second book, Non-Toxic Intaglio Printmaking, in which he would compile all his latest information about his new “intaglio-type” processes. I looked forward to it’s release with anticipation and when my copy finally arrived a year or so later, I was surprised and thrilled to find that Keith had used one of my prints,
from the 1995 workshop, in the book.

As I look back, that workshop of ’95 will always be one of my most memorable experiences. As I boarded that tiny plane from Peace River (with my newly purchased roll of Riston film), for the first leg of my trip back home, I knew that my printmaking practice had been profoundly changed.

I learned so much from Keith, got to work alongside some wonderful printmakers and came away with a whole new outlook about printmaking. 

Thank you Keith Howard. Rest in peace mate.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing some of your memories of Keith. For some reason I didn't realize he was an Aussie. I'm glad to know it now.