Next to be featured as part of our Prints & Inks artist profiles is Elyse Moir, a printmaker, arts facilitator and recent graduate from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD). Her decision to pursue a creative career came several years out of high school, inspired by her love of visual culture as a teenager frequenting the local Halifax music scene. Integral to Elyse’s practice is community, collaboration and curation, including organizing and participating in local group shows and events such as NSCAD’s printmaking student showcase Hot Prints, A BETTER PLACE print and sculpture show, Nocturne Halifax and Artist for the Day. Along with Merle Harley (also a Prints & Inks featured artist), she was nominated for a NSCAD student award for Cancon: A Practical Guide to Canada, Volume I, their collaborative printed work that reflects on Canadian nationalism, cultural icons and contemporary politics.
Here’s what she had to say about her work:
1. You’re a recent NSCAD graduate. Tell us more about your path to attending art school. Did you know early on you wanted to pursue a creative career?
As an only child growing up in the suburbs, I had a lot of free time alone, I mean A LOT. Left to my own devices I obsessed over comics and daydreamed about finding a wormhole to another dimension. Science fiction and cartoons were really what inspired me growing up. I think I’m pretty lucky I didn’t go blind staring at the sun trying to soak up its powers. I spent a lot of time reading, writing and drawing. I created my own worlds, populating them with strange creatures. The public library gave me an award for being the town’s nerdiest kid in the summer of ’97. So yeah I think that I always knew I wanted to pursue some kind of creative future.
I actually took a tour of NSCAD as a teen and for whatever reason at the time decided it wasn’t for me. After high school I worked a crappy retail job for a few years until it bummed me out enough to get my ass in gear to go back to school. Making art on the side was what really kept me going through those years.
2. What got you interested in print? Do you have a preferred printing process?
I started going to shows in the city when I was 13. Halifax has a great music scene for such a small town, although finding and keeping venues open, especially those that are for all ages seems like a constant battle. The visual culture surrounding the music scene here was a huge inspiration to me. I was really into collecting screen printed show posters, t-shirts and zines made by local artists. I think that this is probably what sparked my interest in print to begin with.
When I went to NSCAD and had my first experience working in a print shop I fell hard. The community aspect and culture of sharing that you feel in a print shop feels like home to me. I’m really into the culture of printmaking, the diversity of the medium and the artists who choose it. Printmaking is a super technical, physical and often political medium, but at the same time printmakers and the culture around the medium are fun, goofy and community-minded. How could I not be into that?
I love that screen printing gives me the ability to make large editions cheaply and work in layers. I also enjoy being able to work on giant wood or linoleum blocks. I’m really into relief printing without a press. I’ve done some steam roller printing, bicycle printing and body printing at different events here and collaborating with other artists on huuuuuuge prints is so fun.
3. What are some of your influences? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Overheard conversations. Skymall magazine. Graphic novel makers like Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine and Allison Bechdel. Patrick Stewart. People trying to see themselves in other peoples sunglasses. Cool Dogs.
4. Describe your creative process when you are working on a project. What techniques/tools/materials do you use to translate your ideas into your work?
I’m a collector of visual culture, both physical and digital. I see images or texts that I find interesting, I cut them out and archive them for future use. Sometimes I do this aimlessly for fun, but when I’m getting serious about it I can blow through an entire day this way.
I would describe my drawing style as cartoonish. I often combine basic drawing with altered texts or photographs. I really hate this word but juxtaposition is key for me. A lot of my work relies on irony or satire of some kind so contrasting images and texts is important. I like to draw with a brush pen on paper or film ink on acetate, I work in layers so I use a lot of transparencies.
Typically my prints pop up in Adobe Photoshop at least once before making it out into the world, but it’s rare that I work an image digitally from start to finish.
We could call this project a happy detour. Merle was was assigned a collaborative project last fall while taking a class with (NSCAD professor) Mark Bovey. When her project partner dropped out of the class, Mark suggested that we work together. Merle and I have been close friends since we started university and share a lot of similar interests visually and conceptually, so I jumped at the chance to work with her.
I think that some of our interest in concepts of Canadian settler identity and nationalism as well as “post”-colonial writing relate directly to critical and historical studies classes we have both taken, especially those with (NSCAD professor) Dr. Carla Taunton. Carla’s ability to motivate students to be critical and informed while still enjoying the work they do is extremely valuable.
The work done by Art & Activism at NSCAD has also been helpful to us in developing this work. Run by professors Max Haiven, Carla Taunton and Ericka Walker, the collective has worked with artists and authors to provide talks, exhibitions, workshops and community roundtable opportunities. Workshops with The Beehive Collective and Just Seeds as well as the community roundtable Art Evicted? Property, Policy, Politics and Potential are just a few of these incredible events we’ve been able to attend.
6. As a recent art school graduate, what gets you excited about your future career? What worries you?
Okay, let’s get the worries out of the way: Crippling debt, living off of Kraft Dinner, watching cable TV and working in a mall for the rest of my life.
Okay phew glad that’s over.
I’m super excited to become more involved in the arts community here in Halifax. Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to participate in community events like Hot Prints (an open house, show and sale by NSCAD’s printmaking department last spring), Nocturne Halifax and Artist for the Day.
Putting on and participating in fun events that involve printmaking is really important to me. I think that I am an arts facilitator and organizer first, and studio artist second, I like getting people pumped about making art.
7. How do you see your work evolving in the next five years?
In the next five years I would really like to continue working collaboratively and explore working with different organizations. Looking into residency options and visiting some other Canadian cities is something I also want to do in the next few years. I live in a teeny tiny bachelor apartment right now, so I don’t have much of a studio set up, but in the future I hope to have the room to set up for screen printing at home.
8. Currently you’re based in Halifax. How’s it like living there for artists or those in creative fields? Pluses and minuses?
Pros: If you fall in the harbour you might come out with extra limbs or mutant powers.
Halifax is small, there is a very strong and supportive visual arts community here and it’s easy to make connections. Jobs in creative fields can be very competitive because of the size of the city, but in my experience artists here genuinely want to help each other out by sharing show opportunities and projects. The visual arts, music and theatre communities are strongly connected and that’s really cool. Also, there are donairs to eat and tons of lakes to swim in.
Cons: If you fall in the harbour you might come out with extra limbs or mutant powers.
The downside to working as an artist in Halifax is that it can be difficult to find studio or show spaces and paying job opportunities, that being said Halifax could be a great place for people who are willing to be flexible. Faced with the closure of artist run spaces, people here seem to keep finding great alternatives. Shows are being hosted at homes, local stores and recently, when left without a space, Eye Level Gallery took their printed matter show Labour & Leisure on tour to artist-run centres around the maritimes.
9. What creative projects are up next for you?
This past July Merle Harley and I wrapped up a “Cancon”-themed print exchange portfolio. We organized the folio between current and past NSCAD students and professors and are putting together a show at the Anna Leonowens Gallery this fall.
I’ll be spending the summer working at art camps for kids at NSCAD, so for the next few months most of my creative energy will go into having fun and making art with five-year olds.
10. Top 3 artists/illustrators/printmakers/designers you’re into right now?
11. Bonus question: Your favourite music artist/band/album?
I can’t decide so here’s a random selection of songs from my current studio playlist: