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Stephanie Russ: Exposing print making’s potential

Part-time instructor explains her connection to an evolving art form
September 29, 2014
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By Tom Peacock

Stephanie Russ, part-time instructor in Print Media: “Students bring so much.” Stephanie Russ, part-time instructor in Print Media: "Students bring so much." | Photo by Concordia University


Stephanie Russ, a part-time instructor in the Faculty of Fine Arts’ Print Media program, began her formal art education studying ceramics. But everything changed when a student brought in a lithograph to show one of Russ’s CEGEP professors. “I just thought it was gorgeous and said, ‘I want to do that,’” she says.

In 1991, after completing her undergraduate degree at Concordia in print media, Russ enrolled in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at the University of Alberta. A year or so into her degree, she got a call from Concordia.

“Eventually, I got lured back, not for teaching but as a full-time technician. I did that before moving into part-time teaching.” Russ taught her first class in the Faculty of Fine Arts in the spring of 1995 and has been working as a part-time instructor at Concordia ever since. She currently teaches classes in screen-printing and digital print, as well as lithography.

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The one thing print making and ceramics have in common is that they’re both very process-oriented, Russ explains. “I think people who love to work with their hands end up in those kinds of mediums. The process becomes a very important part of the art making.”

Getting the hang of print making is challenging. Russ says her mission is to get students comfortable working with various techniques so they can begin to get a sense of the endless possibilities.

“Once you've got that base, that's when you can really be creative with the medium and allow it to do a lot of different things,” she says.

A favourite part of the job is watching her students’ creations take shape. “Students bring so much,” she says. “They have a fresh way of looking at things. They come with fresh eyes and fresh ideas and a fresh view of the world.”

When she’s not teaching, Russ can often be found in Concordia’s studios, working on her own prints, inspired by hidden aspects of the natural world. “I like to focus on things we don’t pay attention to, things we don’t see,” she says, displaying a collection of lithographs she created of ripples and reflections in puddles.

The university’s print-making facilities are some of the best she’s ever seen, Russ says. But there’s another reason she likes to use them for her own practice. “I think it helps students to see me working. They get to see something happening before they learn it, and it hopefully inspires them or sparks their interest in wanting to try something new.”

Print Media is a popular program choice among Fine Arts students at Concordia right now, which doesn’t surprise Russ. With the explosion of new processes available, it’s easy to see why it’s so attractive to young artists.

“We have the old, traditional techniques, like working off limestone, but then we have very new ones — working with digital inkjet images and combining them with older processes.

“The whole definition of print has become much more inclusive of other media. For example, incorporating video or performance with printed images. It's a lot more vibrant right now. It's really a great area to be in.”


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