Tyler Hackett is a talented artist from Salt Lake City, Utah who recently switched his focus to woodcut prints. By looking at his incredible work, you'd think he's been making prints his entire life. Tyler's love of fishing, appreciation of the water and passion for art is all reflective in the name of his company - Wandering Blue Lines.
I recently caught up with Tyler to discuss his work/life balance and of course his impressive artwork. Read on to learn more.
Where are you waving from?
My backyard studio in Salt Lake City, UT.
What’s the best thing about your studio?
The best thing about my studio is that I built it myself, and that it was designed to be used as a studio before it was built. This allowed me make a space that was adequate for what I wanted to do, rather than make do with an existing space. I am very grateful that I have the studio space that I have.
As an artist, what drew you to woodcarving over other techniques and mediums?
I have always been interested in printmaking techniques, but printmaking was never the main focus of my artistic practice until recently. I was drawn to making woodcut prints because of the simplicity of the process. The simplicity forces you think about the defining characteristics of you subject, and it is also good for me as a stay-at-home dad/artist because it allows me to more easily make art with my boys around than oil painting did. To me, hand-making prints is very similar to fly-fishing. You have to be focused, patient, excited about learning from failures, and genuinely passionate about what you are doing, in order to have a successful outcome. Watching a printed image being pulled off a carved plate is addictive in the same way that watching a fish eat a fly is. It is a payoff that never gets old.
I love your ready to hang fish woodcuts. What inspired you to cut and mount your prints?
A number of years ago I had seen a few different printmaking shows that focused on artists who were using prints in unconventional ways. The prints had broken out of the traditional “print on paper” format and become objects. At that point in time I wasn’t making fish related art at all - I was making process driven, post-modern, oil paintings. As a artist and fly fisherman, I began to think mounted and cutout fish prints could be pretty cool. I see the cutout ready to hang pieces as a throwback the old fish mounts you would see on tackle shop or lodge walls.
What’s the longest you’ve ever spent working on a piece?
If we are talking specifically about the woodcut prints then the longest I have spent carving a piece would be the two and a half weeks it took to carve a six foot long Tarpon. Though I am currently working on a large Striped Bass piece that will probably take longer than the Tarpon. I have had oil paintings that I have worked on for more than a year, and have some pieces that I still would not say are “finished.”
Are there any pieces you in particular have made, that you would never sell?
As a printmaker I am interested in making multiples expressly for the purpose of sharing them with others, so I can't really think of any print I have made at this point that I would never sell. For some strange reason though, I have been pretty unwilling to sell the carvings that I have used to make prints. I have made carvings for customers that have existed only as carvings, but I have turned down a few requests to purchase carvings that I have already printed from. Also, I don't think I would ever part with any of my sketchbooks, or any individual pages from those books. A lot of work goes into those sketchbook pages, as well as being the place where I would draw something that may have sentimental value, such as drawings of a family member or drawings from memorable trip somewhere. I don't know, maybe I don't view a sketchbook as a piece of art, but more of a journal or record of my thoughts which is probably why I couldn't see myself parting with one.
You clearly have water running through your veins. What fueled your passion for all things aquatic?
From what I can remember I grew up attracted to water. Rivers and streams have always held my attention, as a little kid I was always dreaming of ways to be near one of the local streams. On family outings I would carry an old film canister that I kept a couple coils of monofilament, some fishing hooks, and a few sinkers in; and if the opportunity ever arose I would try and put the contents of that canister to use. Fast-forward a few years to my first fly rod, and ironically, I was the one that became “hooked.” To me there is just so much to experience and learn when you are outdoors and on the water, and a lot of the characteristics that draw me to fly-fishing and the water are also the ones that have drawn me to printmaking mediums.
How often do you get out on the water to “fish” for inspiration?
I am usually able to get out of the studio once a week, and it usually involves fly-fishing. It is not often that inspiration directly hits when I am out on the water; I am usually too relaxed, trying to enjoy the surroundings or the friends and family on the water with me. Inspiration is usually a result of the day out of the studio, which provides me with a renewed focus and a mind full of fresh images and memories.
Have you ever thought about teaching a class on woodcarving fish? I for one would love to attend!
I have thought about teaching a class on making woodcut prints, it is definitely something I would like to make happen in the near future! I like to think of my studio as an “open studio,” I have been helping a number of local artists print their own projects in my space. I enjoy watching others work to create images or learn something new about a variety of printmaking processes. I am open to suggestions or hearing from others interested in making a class happen!
What’s next for Wandering Blue Lines?
I am not sure what is next. I am grateful that so many folks have taken an interest in what I am doing and have supported my work. I currently have a great balance of personal projects combined with work for some companies/groups that I am excited to work with, which makes it hard to say I want to push for more. I would like to make more artist/maker collaborations happen, fish related or not, that are mainly for the fun of making some awesome artwork happen (and if we could find a way for that artwork to benefit a deserving organization that would make it even better)!
Tyler's passion for his artwork encouraged me to sign up for a local woodcut printing workshop. I'm really excited to learn the tricks of the trade and hopefully create some cool artwork - albeit probably not as cool as the ones featured here!
All of the artwork featured in this interview is available to buy on the Wandering Blue Lines store. You can also follow Tyler's recent projects on his Instagram feed. All images are copyright © Wandering Blue Lines.
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