Friday Interview: Alec Thibodeau February 04, 2011 09:56

Happy Friday, everyone! This week we're going to introduce you to local printmaker, Alec Thibodeau. Alec is not only an artist whose work we sell, he's also a part of the team here, and master of keeping our print wall up to date. Enjoy this interview with the artist behind the famous lunar calendar! 

When did you start your handmade business?

There was never a clear point when I started getting paid for my art. I suppose it roughly coincided with Ink Ape's website launch in 2006 and my accompanying focus on limited edition prints. Before then I had printed show posters for friends' bands and completed conceptual projects like Noney (a currency edition) and From the Curb (a cross country trip and subsequent exhibition with my brother, Joel).

Describe your studio for us.
My honey and I share a rented apartment in a house near the Cranston Street Armory. The building is a former funeral home, with remnants of this business still intact: like the garage work space where corpses were delivered. My printing studio is in the basement's embalming room, which still connects to the garage by an underground tunnel. Before this space, I worked in an eerie downtown building, rumored to be haunted. My studio policy has always been to put any unexpected ghosts to work -- stacking prints, cutting paper, mixing ink, etc. Unfortunately, none have ever visited. They're lazy, I guess.

People far and wide come to Craftland desperate for your annual lunar calendar. Describe for us your process of designing and drawing a new one each year.
Tiny Showcase, the online print forum, originally asked me to design a lunar calendar print for 2008, which would subsequently be printed in a limited edition by DWRI Letterpress in Providence. Response was so enthusiastic we followed it up with three more in subsequent years. Pictorially, the four editions represented the same location evolving over time. My materials for each calendar were India ink and illustration board, with pencil as a foundation. The process involved pencilling and inking the borders illustrations at actual size over many weeks. For the calendar's interior I inked an array of moon shapes to cover any possible lunar phase cycle, then scanned them for digital rearrangement each year -- a maneuver similar to manually setting type.

What is it about print making that led you to focus your art there?
I've always been attracted to the multiple in art. A print is a curious, seemingly paradoxical, object. When done well it gives an impression of unique richness, belying its place in an ostensibly uniform series. My drawing style naturally gravitates toward line art, so releasing my work as prints seems the right fit and allows me to reach a wider audience. I also enjoy screen printing's process, which begins with the mental gymnastics required to draw film separations in black ink while imaging how they'll fit together as a multicolor print. Not everyone has the patience for this. I certainly didn't when I started.

How does living in Providence affect your art and your business?
The percentage of interested and interesting people in Providence is rather high when considering the population as a whole. As opposed to a bigger urban area, an artist can live here affordably yet still enjoy the company and feedback of many like minded souls. This is a rare situation. Furthermore, the spirit here is more collaborative than competitive, even as individuals hone recognizable styles. Some of my favorite artists in the world happen to live here and happen to be my friends. They've pushed me to be a better artist myself, either through direct encouragement or through the inspiration I've found in their work. 

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to take their art from hobby to business?
My advice would be to go vegan. I draw animals for a living, so I don't feel right exploiting them for food. Ethics aside, a strict vegetarian diet is biologically sound (there's not a single nutrient required for human health that's exclusive to animal sources) and very cheap to maintain… which means more money for the fulfillment of dreams. Also, vegan food packs a lot of energy: I've completed physically demanding, 12-hour long screen printing sessions after filling up on nothing more than a heaping bowl of beans and rice. Plus, getting in the habit of checking for animal ingredients can help develop more general patterns of organization and discipline.

When did you first become involved in Craftland, and how has it changed over time?
My earliest involvement with Craftland was as a participant in the 2003 show. I consigned "A Book of Birds," a limited edition book with a three-color screen printed cover, depicting illustrations of birds from the Middle East. That early experience introduced my drawings to a lot of people. Since then I've been heartened to watch Craftland thrive. The most dramatic change is how thoroughly Craftland has been able to serve its community -- artists and customers -- by remaining in one location for the past few years. After being known as an annually anticipated holiday store, Craftland is enjoying new life as a reliable destination, where people drop by to see what's new.

Guilty Pleasure?
Watching MST3K while on C2H5OH.