Studio Visit: Printmaker Tom Huck

By Amy De La Hunt
In Culture

As he prepares for an open house at his studio and print shop, Evil Prints, on Sept. 20, Tom Huck talks about his inspiration, his process and what creativity means to him.

Tom Huck Evil Prints

Photo by Matt Kile

Where he finds inspiration:
“I have the next 20 years planned. I have themes I’ve chosen, and sometimes I’ll have a title before I’ll have a piece. I work new things in from what’s going on around me. … But in general, I can tell you five to six years out what I’m going to be doing, just because before I get into doing one of my big triptychs, there’s five years of planning. Because it takes five years to do one. So while I’m working on one, I’m already planning another. By the time it comes for me to start a new project, it’s really well thought out.

“Within the five-year projects, I have $10 small prints all the way up to $5,000 big ones. One of [the small ones] from the ‘Hillbilly Kama Sutra’ took me three weeks. The large-scale ones take about seven to eight weeks. They’re totally separate ideas. They’re always one-offs.

“It comes from my influences—looking at art history, looking at my favorite artists on a daily basis, like Albrecht Dürer, José Guadalupe Posada, Honoré Daumier and William Hogarth. All of those guys, I love their work so much. It’s like chasing ghosts—every single day that I come into the studio, I’m trying to make prints that are as good as my heroes’.”

Tom Huck Tommy Huck Skeleton

Photo provided by Tom Huck

“I was born to make prints. … I can’t do anything else, and I know how good I am at this. … I knew I wanted to be an artist from the time I was in kindergarten. I liked the attention the teacher gave me. It was obvious I could draw really well for my age. She used to stick up my drawings—I had a special section of the bulletin board in the classroom. [I used to draw] skulls and devils and monsters and shit! The same stuff I draw now. … This stuff started real early. I always liked the darker humor.

“Contrary to popular belief, I had a really nice childhood!”

His process:
“It’s almost like a movie director. I’ve got lots of sketches, lots of preliminary drawings, a lot of thinking about it before I do it.

“It’s a jumble of sources. I have a resolved working drawing in my sketchbook that is done from all these sources, but when it comes to like drawing the close-up of a face, I like to have a larger version of it beside me. So I always have all the references going on around me all the time.

“I’m never totally married to the way it’s going to look in a preliminary sketch. I’m always changing it up until the last minute. Whenever you draw something in a sketch book, it’s a small size, and then you have to redraw it on a large scale, and it doesn’t look the same. It reveals composition weaknesses—and that’s really an exciting part of it. It’s sort of a last-minute window to change it up a little bit.

“[Sketchbooks] are important because they’re my record … I write tons of notes to myself to jog my memory. I can’t write everything down, but I’m batting near 1,000. I’m very careful. My entire living is built around making sure my ideas make it onto that wood. I don’t care about anything else. I’m a professional studio artist. I can’t afford not to be working on this stuff. It’s all day, all night, very consuming all the time.

“I use Japanese wood gouges and knives to carve out my drawings on the blocks. There’s a U gouge, a V gouge, a chisel and a knife. It’s Middle Ages technology. That’s what I use. I draw with pen and ink, like Sharpies, on the wood blocks.”

Tom Huck tools

Photo by Matt Kile

On creativity:
“You’ve got to go into the studio every day and work at it. It’s a daily endeavor, and sometimes the creative stuff comes out just by doing. By getting into my sketchbook and drawing and drawing, things come out. You can’t just sit around and wait for the lightning bolt to hit you. That’s an over-glamorized, romantic, art school notion of what it means to be an artist. You have to go in every single day and work your ass off to find your ideas.”

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