Alanna Austin working in her studio

Storytelling Studio Artist Alanna Austin

Alanna Austin working in her studio

Image courtesy of the artist.

You founded the Western Printmaking Alliance, a conference for artists to come together and discuss work and innovative techniques. What inspired you to start this group?

Back in 2019, I had just started graduate school and I had come off of going to a number of conferences that year, exhausted and extremely worse for wear in the financial department because so many conferences, especially in printmaking, were getting more and more expensive. On top of that, many of the events were aimed toward people already in their careers and less so for students and emerging artists.

I had originally intended for this to be an in person conference at the beginning of 2020. As the pandemic swept the country, and so many of us were ripped from our studios and communities, I, like so many, wanted the human connection that was missing. So I rallied all of the artists I could that are powerhouses in our field to come and talk to students and professionals about their process, their story, their careers and how they made art their lives. And I made it free for anyone who wanted to attend so there wasn’t a financial strain like other conferences. Artists recorded and spoke live with demonstrations, talks, panels, and what was amazing is that because it was virtual, it spread internationally with artist speakers reaching as far as Australia.

As I said before, the community in printmaking isn’t like any other field because we thrive in the connections we make with one another. Because of this, the conference had its second run earlier this year in 2022 virtually again and it became a place for me and so many others to have access to our community and the innovation surrounding us without the pressure of accessibility both financially and with travel anxiety. And something I want to continue to strive for as I did this past conference is to have a mix of students and professionals sharing their work and process to celebrate the beauty of art at all points of ones career. To view any of our past talks or more, all have been recorded and stored on the website.

The Studio is all about Storytelling, how does Storytelling relate to your work/demo?

I am so excited to work in this studio because every bit of my work reflects storytelling. In my work, I describe the fraught relationship between me and my parents. Using symbols to represent emotions, people, and moments, I have developed a visual language to discuss the trauma of domestic violence, emotional therapy, and loss. Each character as presented in my work as of late is a manifestation of a memory and thus is represented by a symbol; for example the bear represents my mother, the rabbit for myself, and so on. Much like the stories I was read in my youth, the narrative I depict is a means of coping with emotional stressors. I explore my own narrative and plot points within my life that make it comical, feared, and treasured all at once. I am in search for what is next in my narrative by revisiting and settling myself with a past I don’t pay enough respect to. The idea of mark-making to me is that each mark plays a part in telling a story, and a large part of the imagery I make has a depth of texture involved, and I reflect on the story I am portraying for a large portion of the processes.

Is there anything else you want visitors to know about you or your work?

I want anyone visiting to feel free to ask questions about anything printmaking related or beyond. As a large part of my practice is dealing with community engagement, I also love hearing your stories and would love to hear them while I work! Please feel open and free to share and ask away!