The fine print

Candace Nicol, an artist whose work is usually too controversial for Artown, created this year’s festival poster


It’s hard to put a label on artist Candace Nicol. Her work is a hybrid of many different techniques. Principally a printmaker, Nicol combines painting, digital and traditional print techniques and assemblage to create multilayered pieces.

Nicol is this year’s Artown poster designer. She normally works with what some might consider to be controversial subject matter and so wasn’t considering applying for the poster competition. “I would never apply for this whole competition with the Artown thing because of my work with the male nudes,” she thought.

However, she had just completed a series of prints called Firewalls in July 2008 that veered from her normal subject matter. Using collagraphs and screenprints on plexi glass, Firewalls explores psychological restraints and viewpoints specifically arising from interactions among people of different races. “It was the last day to apply for the poster,” says Nicol. A colleague saw her Firewalls work and encouraged her to apply for the competition. “And, so I did,” says Nicol.

The poster Nicol created shows off her unique style. However, the artist’s multistep process is invisible in the final product. Nicol worked with collagraphs to create prints, then she cut the prints and collaged them together to make layered constructions. The original pieces have lots of depth and texture to them and seem more sculptural than print-like.

In the process of building the poster, Nicol made various plates and prints—she had to make nine prototypes for the committee to choose from. The leftovers from the process were compelling, and the committee proposed that Nicol make finished pieces from them. She will be displaying a body of work that relates to the artwork for the poster at West Street Market during July. This will be an opportunity for people to see the process behind the poster and to gain insight into her techniques. The pieces contain imagery and symbols used in the poster design. They are small, affordable and contain vibrant colors and textures. The art will be for sale, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Artown for future Discover the Arts projects. “This is my way of giving back to the community and to help Artown continue with what I believe is an important event for everyone in the region,” says Nicol.

As part of Artown’s Discover the Arts, Nicol will be teaching a printmaking workshop for kids ages 8-12. It will be held on July 1 as one of the festival’s opening events. “The artwork that I created for the Artown poster was constructed primarily out of prints, so we thought that sharing the printmaking process would be a wonderful addition to Artown’s Discover the Arts Program,” she says.

Also in July, Nicol will be teaching a workshop through the Nevada Museum of Art that teaches participants how to make collagraphs. Over the course of two Saturdays, students will get to understand the actual printmaking process. And, every July, Nicol does a workshop at Saint Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City. This year, it’s all about learning the hybrid process in which Nicol works.

Nicol’s current body of work is a series of hybrid prints and large-scale paintings titled Ornamen. The prints combine digital, photobased intaglio and traditional print techniques and serve as prototypes for the larger paintings or become part of various print exchanges. The paintings use parts of her collagraph plates as raised textures—with designs like wallpaper—that obscure digital images of male nudes.

“I always experiment,” says Nicol. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it does.” This seems to be her modus operandi when approaching art and allows her to continue exploring and stretching the boundaries of printmaking.