My next interview was with Jonde Northcutt, a master printmaker. Our conversation was rich with stories about her life as a skilled artist and teacher. As I tried to quickly write down details of our interview, I learned about the creativity and playfulness that goes into creating her wonderful works of art.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist, was there an eye opening moment where it was like whoa I love this?
“My mother was a great art mentor for me. Her name was Tookie and she was a wonderful ceramic artist. I watched her work in her studio and create fanciful objects; so a light bulb was already starting to glow. I was pursuing a B.A. in Sociology at Chapman University and during that time I added studio art classes. During my sophomore year, I decided to ‘double major’. I added one more year of art studies (studio classes and art history) to my curriculum. Upon graduation, I knew sociology was not my passion and I veered toward art. I wasn’t sure what art niche I was interested in, so I enrolled for my M.A. in Illustration and Graphic Design at Cal State Fullerton. During this time, I met my husband, Nick Capaci, and we teamed to create Bluestone Editions, a fine art printmaking atelier.”
How do you determine success?
“Success, for me, is being content with creating something unique that taps into a different reality. It is not monetary, even though a monetary cushion allows a safety net from which to work.”
You practice some very old mediums. What made you interested in encaustic, intaglio, and monotype? How were you introduced to these mediums?
“I’m going to credit my husband, Nick Capaci. I was already introduced to intaglio and lithography from classes at Chapman. Nick was a ‘master printmaker’. He had graduated from California College of the Arts and further pursued printmaking at Cal State Fullerton. He was well versed in all the fine art print mediums. We printed limited editions for artists worldwide (intaglio, photogravure, lithography, serigraphy, monotype) in addition to offering hand-tinting services to hand-painted editions. Nick and I taught printing and book arts workshops both at our studio and Idyllwild Arts (summer adult programs). We further were contract artists for UCLA’s ArtsReach program (teaching in many of the men’s and women’s prisons throughout California).”
I know you have started to create digital art, what made you move from acrylics and mixed media type artworks, encaustic, intaglio, and monotype to digital art?
“I actually have not moved away from any of the mediums you mentioned, but I added the digital tool into my art satchel. My digital images are Mixed Media Photographs that use elements from my paintings, monotypes and photographs.Years ago, I took a wonderful series of workshops by Walter Nottingham. He was an American Craft Council Fellowship recipient and professor emeritus at University of Wisconsin (River Falls). His week-long workshops were entitled “Mystical Symbols”. In this Mystical Symbols class we were instructed to bring whatever supplies we wanted to use. I thought … the class does not have a printing press available, which I had been accustomed to using to create my monotypes … so I thought I would focus on collage. I thought about Joseph Cornell’s work and the work of another one of my favorites, Nathan Olivera. I brought scissors, glue stick, cutting board, x-acto knives and volumes of printed material (vintage paper, photographs, magazine pages, stamps, prints). I was laboriously cutting and pasting my collages.
Someone came up to me during this workshop and asked why I was doing this “all by hand and not using Photoshop?” I had taken a class on how to use Photoshop, the software was on my computer; but, I was an extreme novice at using this software.
This person was right … I was enamored with the work of Joseph Cornell. I had seen his collage work in books and finally viewed a few in person. When I saw the work up close, his gluing and cutting techniques diminished my appreciation of the work as a whole. Fast forward > I started using digital mediums in the creation of my collages. The true beauty of using digital mediums is that objects can be seamlessly merged so that the process does not interfere with the artist’s vision. I can think and create much faster; however, the gamut of available tools and options can be both distracting and alluring. One of my recent mixed media photographs is centered around an iron rabbit that I still have from my childhood.”
In your “About the Artist” on your website, it seems that traveling and collecting items (which you mentioned you learned from your mother)might represent a facet of yourself or your life, in which your art can stem from is often how you gain inspiration. Due to this, how connected are you with your art, do you have a hard time letting it go, and do you take inspiration from anything else?
“My inspiration can come from almost anything … My dog’s ball that is sitting in the sun could be a springboard. I’m sitting with my two labradoodles and the geometric shapes of their ball are casting an interesting shadow. Almost anything can be a stepping stone… ordinary and mundane objects taking on mystical qualities. When you allow your vision to see other realities, the playfulness can give you inspiration. You asked if I have a “hard time letting it go”? No, since I hold back a few pieces for my own collection; and I have the documentation of my work to look back at and remember.”
You create abstract works of art that often represent metaphors. Is there a particular metaphor that you have gone back to from time to time that resonates in your work?
“A house shape… Because even though it can be as simple as a foundation of twigs, it is a safe arena to tell and assemble a visual story. Also I love Orbs … circles, vintage balls, marbles, planets. Nick and I play golf and there are these wiffle golf balls that you can practice your swing with so you don’t break your neighbors window. I took a picture of the light perforated wiffle balls and changed their color. Nick and I bounce ideas off of each other in our art and I showed him the photo. He remarked that there was nothing mysterious about them, ‘just’ a wiffle ball. I re-thought the image and used photographs I had taken of Nick’s fused glass. I manipulated the photographs into glass spheres, spectrums, and crystal balls.”
How do you know when an artwork is done, do you ever have to force yourself to stop?
“I know when it’s NOT done. Sometimes an artwork will take minutes or days or years to revisit and to complete. I can’t describe the “when” moment, but I know once I reach that finish line.”
What advice would you give to young female artists?
“I think for any artist, it is important to search out a variety of mentors, some being outside of one’s own art niche. Be inspired by their creations and submerge yourself into their techniques and imagery. Once you understand their techniques, reinsert your own magic and tell your own stories.”
One of our longest exhibiting artist’s, Jonde Northcutt has shown her work at Chemers Gallery for more than 30 years. The stories she weaves through her art explore both her personal & work life experiences. To see more of Jonde’s work click this link to our website.