Jake Saunders is an artist working and living in Chicago. He received his Masters in Fine Art at the University of Connecticut. He also received a Masters in Art, as well as his Bachelors in Fine Art at Ball State. Jake’s 2016 Exhibitions include work being shown at Jennifer Ford Art Gallery in association with the Wunderkammer Company in Fort Wayne, IN. He has previously shown work at Blue House Gallery (Columbus OH), the Auxiliary Art Center (Chicago, IL), along with many other notable spaces.
Spudnik Press Cooperative (SPC): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do when you’re not working on art?
I’m a printmaker: mostly etching, woodcuts, and linocuts. I screen-print for a living. For free-lance, I do graphic design for screen-printing, web design, coding, and stuff like that. I watch a lot of movies and hang out with my girlfriend and the cat.
(SPC): So I see that you work in different mediums- how did you come to printmaking as a medium?
Printmaking is just like an extension of drawing for me. While drawing is all fine and good–I love drawing, and I love seeing drawing–I think a lot of people who are drawers tend to want to have a way to refine their drawings. I think a lot of people gravitate towards painting for that reason–at least in my experience. Printmaking suited me because of what I was interested in as a kid. I got into printmaking when I was 17 or 18. It appealed to me because it looked like Frank Miller and some other comic book illustrators.
(SPC): What kind of things are influencing your work right now?
Right now I’ve gotten really into Romantic period art work, like Goya. I’m a big fan of Caravaggio, Dürer, and German Expressionists like Käthe Kollwitz. I’m also big on living people like William Kentridge and Kara Walker. I just saw the Carrie James Marshall show–that was pretty amazing. Contemporary writers like Paul Auster and Salmon Rushdie are big ones for me right now. I think more than anybody, Salmon Rushdie has been really on my mind a lot lately.
(SPC): If you could own a piece of art from one living artist, what would it be or who’s would it be?
I don’t know of anything specific that I would absolutely need but I’d love to have one of those cut paper pieces of Kara Walker’s. I love those things; I would love to have one of her pieces.
(SPC): Are you a pre-meditated maker or do you just dive right into your work?
I believe that you could be a really terrible painter, drawer, printmaker, or whatever–but if you can compose then it’s going to be good. So I spend a lot of time doing that. Preparation is huge for me–I take a lot of photographs, and do a lot of studies. What I usually do is take a lot of photographs and collage it all in Photoshop. I do a lot of Photoshop collage work before I even put a pencil on anything. It’s a big process for me but it’s very regimented.
(SPC): For your personal art practice, when and how do you decide to take the next step to print and how do you decide which method you are going to use?
I think that the narrative dictates the media, for me. For the last few years when I’ve been doing these pictures based in religious narratives with religious symbolism. I just automatically went for Dürer, and renaissance and medieval prints. So if I am going to approach a new subject like I am thinking about [doing] now, that narrative has to inform the look and therefore the media used. That might be whenever the narrative took place or it could be like art historical references, or just the general flavor of the story that could inform those things. Also there are just the practical things. I didn’t have access to a press for a long time so if I was going to do printmaking I had to be able to do it on a table at home. So it was like- spoons!
(SPC): Has your imagery always been rooted in graphic narratives or has it evolved to this?
I think the short answer is yeah–I think it’s been rooted in narrative and always, for the most part, been figurative. It’s always been heavy on the craftsmanship and graphic stuff. I was a comic book nerd as a kid so it’s what I’ve always gravitated towards.
(SPC): When did you start using religious references in your work and how do you merge these themes with modern day imagery?
When I was young and growing up in Indiana I was inundated with religious stuff all of the time. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with it but I love the narratives and I love the imagery. I know it inside and out so it was always something that was a good reference point for me. So I started doing it right off the bat and it’s like a ready made visual vocabulary that I can use. It’s more or less [something] you can use it for almost anything. There’s an analogy in these stories that you can use for anything that happens in your life–love, heartbreak, and death, birth. Anything–it’s all there. I use narratives as a foil. So I use those images of two-three thousand year old narratives to talk about things that happened to me yesterday.
(SPC): What are some recent, current, or upcoming projects that you’re working on?
I’ve been working on a series for a few years of Judeo Christian narratives. That’s kind of wrapping up right now. I’m starting to use more contemporary narratives and there’s one in particular that I’m toying around with right now about a woman named Eva Rausing–a British story from a couple of years back.
(SPC): How has living in Chicago as opposed to other cities affected your art practice?
It’s made it more difficult in some ways and easier in others. There’s a lack of space or a yard to use power tools where it was more accessible when I lived in more rural areas. There’s a lot more opportunities but it’s also a little bit overwhelming sometimes. I think being exposed to a lot of stuff here and the opportunity to have a bit more community is a big plus.
(SPC): Are there any processes or methods that you’re looking into or excited about using/learning at Spudnik Press?
It’s been a long time since I’ve done etching or intaglio at all. It’s been intermittent since I got out of my MFA so I’m just really pumped to be jumping right back into that and getting really good at again. It was something I did all of the time when I was in school. I’m really excited to put that back into my repertoire. I’ve also been playing around with cyan-red 3D stuff. I’m not sure where that’s going to go yet.