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Faculty Spotlight: Patrick Masterson

Faculty Spotlight on School of Art Professor Patrick Masterson.

Q. Please share your educational history.
A. I received my BFA at Texas State University with a specialty in Printmaking and I received my MFA at the Rhode Island School of Art (RISD) in Painting/Printmaking.
Q. What are some fond memories from your journey in the arts?
A. Looking back I can honestly say that I owe my career to the University of Houston. My twin
brother, Mark was part of the University of Houston’s art program back in the late 80’s. I
remember visiting him and the printmaking department then, and I was simply blown away. I
remember seeing the prints that were created by the students at that time. They looked like
paintings and drawings, but when my brother tried to explain the processes, I just couldn’t
believe what I was hearing. I had no idea how they were made, but being a genuine self
proclaimed “nerd”, I had a great desire to know. This stayed with me. I had a detour into
the Army, where my job was an illustrator, and was honorably discharged in ‘91. Then,
looking seriously at schools, I realized I wanted to find out how those prints were made. I
enrolled at Texas State University mostly because of the fact that they had a printmaking
department. After graduation, I still felt a desire to learn more printmaking techniques and
worked for an artist for two years learning traditional Japanese woodblock printing. After
that, I found work at Flatbed Press in Austin TX. There I discovered my love of collaborative
printmaking among the patient and talented printmakers- Katherine Brimberry and Gerald
Manson. In that creative environment, not only was I learning technical skills, but working
on projects with artists on their prints. After about 4 years at Flatbed, I was again ready to
explore the next level of my own work and went to RISD for my masters. Anytime I had any
free time between semesters I would reach out to existing, well known print shops to intern
and learn more tricks to the trade. In those early days to learn from all of these amazing
master printers, and to work on projects with great artists like Ed Ruscha and William
Wegman and others, was simply a dream come true. To this day what I love about printing
almost 30 years later is that I am constantly learning, it really never stops and now as an
instructor I get to show others this knowledge and passion.
Q. Describe one thing that has surprise you during your career in higher education.
A. What has always surprised me is the exciting uses of new technology in printmaking. There is
always something else to try, maybe a piece of new equipment or a new technique. Currently,
at the University of Houston, we have students using a Riso Graph machine. This is a great way to start students thinking of printmaking. It is a lot like offset lithography, but with the speed of a copy machine. Students using a Riso create images similar to screen printing in terms of color separation, as it uses a stencil process and ink transfer, but with the rough-and-ready results of an office photocopier. Using this and combining old and new technologies to produce amazing print work. In yet another example, we can now use a laser cutter to engrave copper, allowing students to etch clean digital work to copper etching plates. For relief students the use of CNC routers to carve both wood and linoleum blocks creates a whole new way of working. It’s really exciting to take advantage of both these old and new processes to create a new way of working with printed works.
Q. What accomplishments in your career do you feel most proud of?
A. I have been educating students at the University of Houston for almost 10 years now and I
still get excited with every class of new students. Often students have never taken a printmaking
class before and this is all new. My proudest moments are when the semester is over and I feel
that I have shown them a whole new world, and that they want more. Along with great technical notes and demonstrations that we go over as a class, I have great pride in knowing that these students will leave my class able to go “toe-to-toe” with any print major in the country. When students develop and discover that love for printmaking like the love that I found when visiting the University of Houston print department in the 80’s, my spirit soars.
Q. What specific skill or ideas, which you have cultivated in your area of expertise, do you find
valuable in your career now?
A. Through working in collaborative print shops over the past 25 years, with different artists, with different specialties and disciplines (sculpture, painters, etc.), I have really learned how to listen to each artist and try to find the right balance to promote their visual ideas. Collaborative printing is all about bringing artists and printers together to solve pictorial and technical problems to create meaningful works of art. I have found this tremendously helpful in the way I work with students to help them find their own visions. It gives me great joy to show students a process that might help them express their graphic intentions with prints and printmaking.
Q. What do you think are the most important attributes of a good instructor?
A. I think that a passion for teaching is one important attribute of a good instructor as well as
a love of their subject. Explaining the beautiful mystery of printmaking to others is my passion. I want students to have that same experience in printmaking that I had all those years ago.
Q. What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?
A. I am very proud of founding the print shop,” Burning Bones Press”, with graphic artist Carlos
Hernandez. We have been in business for 10 years now and are located in Houston’s historic
Heights. We continue to serve the community with our print workshops and print shows. I have also been blessed to be able to have worked with incredible artists over the past 25 years on great printed projects. Some of the many artists that I have been blessed to work with to produce original etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, screen prints, monoprints and more have been Trenton Doyle Hancock, Linda Ridgeway, Joe Havel, Mathew Ritchie, Julie Speed, James Surls, John Alexander, Francesca Fuchs, Dan Rizzie, Albert Paley, Luis Jimenez and more. I am also proud that many of these beautiful prints have been collected by
museums around the country including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the MOMA, the Whitney, the Cleveland Museum of Art and more.
Q. What is coming up for you in the future that we should watch for?
A. I am currently working with many artists on new print projects. Recently, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has obtained an amazing large woodcut by artist Tom Huck. It’s probably the largest chiaroscuro woodcut presently in the world. This large multi panel print, “Electric Baloneyland”, stands 105.75 inches by 118 inches and took over a year to print. There is currently talk to show it when the museum opens its new wing soon, so that would be very exciting and special.
Q. What advice would you have for incoming students, who are focusing on a career in the
A. I encourage those incoming students to find their own passions, and their own voices in
art as that will lead them down a rewarding path. In relation to printmaking, artists will come in
with a set idea, but when more people and procedures are thrown into this creative mix, there
are greater odds of unanticipated outcomes. Sometimes these outcomes show us all something quite special and unique. I would like those incoming artists to allow themselves to be open for such experiences in art.