Online Member of the Month: Doug Forsythe (Intaglio)

As soon as ArtScuttlebutt.com member Doug Forsythe arrived at art school, he wanted to be a printmaker instantly.

“I walked through the front doors and smelled the etching ink. I followed my nose three floors up and found the etching studio, and knew this was it,” he recalls.

Not content to explore just one medium, the 60-year-old printmaker from Nova Scotia, Canada, is also a painter and mixed media artist. He is adept at watercolor, oil, acrylics, encaustics and digital painting programs. However, Forsythe considers himself to be, first and foremost, a printmaker, and it is a process is that he thoroughly enjoys.

In 1968, he graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he majored in printmaking and painting. Upon leaving school, he was dismayed to find he no longer had access to a printing press. He turned to painting, but longed to take up printmaking again. A new press costs a small fortune, so he built one from scratch.

“I saw how presses were made and it seemed to be pretty straightforward, so I improvised with what I could find at the time. With the first press I made I found most of the parts at a scrapyard. In later years, I refined it more until its present-day version,” he explains.

Colleagues began to ask Forsythe for his help in constructing their own DIY presses. Realizing there was a need that wasn’t being met, Forsythe began selling his press designs 10 years ago. They were in such a demand, he decided to offer them on a Web site, Build Your Own Etching Press (www.buildapress.com). Currently, more than 2,000 presses have been built in over 30 countries from his plans.

“There might be a moment in art history where they notice a spike in printmaking,” he laughs.

Forsythe is happy help out other artists. Five years ago, a German artist contacted him on behalf of the Etching Presses for Laos Project. Forsythe donated his plans to the effort.

“Prior to that there was no printmaking being done (in Laos) at all. Now they’ve got five press studios across the country and a printing program that been very well received,” he says.

Today, Forsythe’s works are in numerous private and corporate collections including IBM, Xerox and Mazda. Although he explores figurative and abstract subjects as well, his primary muse is the Canadian coast. Grown up in Nova Scotia, some of Forsythe’s earliest memories were of the sea.

“I was surrounded by the ocean, so it caught my eye first. Nature, more or less, was my beginning interest. Landscape and seascape has been the main focus.”

Perhaps because of his obvious delight in his country, Forsythe has gained a reputation and a following in his homeland. As of 2008, he has been a successful, professional artist for more than 40 years. To celebrate, he mounted a retrospective of his work, including a monograph and DVD that spanned across five decades. Doug Forsythe Gallery (www.dougforsythegallery.com) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, also marked its 25th anniversary in 2008. It was an auspicious occasion all around, and Forsythe wanted to include his family. The gallery presented a very special Forsythe family group show featuring his art alongside the work of his wife Marsha, a painter and printmaker; his son Jonathan, a photographer; and his daughter Stephanie and her husband, Todd MacAllen, two architects who showcased their innovative, collapsible furniture.

“I thought it would be nice,” says Forsythe. “We’ve had my children’s work in the gallery from time to time, but we never had a show together.”

Forsythe’s family helps keep him young and his ideas fresh.

“I look at my children and the way they think and I borrow things from them.”

After more than 40 years, Forsythe has no desire to slow down, and still spends every day in the studio.

“I’m more inspired than I’ve ever been. I just woke up one day and realized how long I’ve been doing this,” he laughs. AC

ArtScuttlebutt.com is the online community for Art Calendar and ArtCalendar.com. Artists are invited to create a profile and post an online gallery free of charge, participate in the discussion forum and take advantage of the other services at the site.

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