By: KATE LUCE
Printmaking is an art form where almost any idea seems valid due to the political and social history the art has made throughout the centuries. Bill Tourtillotte, the professor behind printmaking at IU South Bend, has continued to nurture the many ideas students have while in the shop.
Tourtillotte first came into contact with printmaking while young. His parents both were interested in it and would make screen prints for Christmas cards and relief prints.
“I saw a lot of printed things, and knew of the machines and the smell of printed ink. That probably made me aware of it. I went to art school. I had to do foundations much like you [students] do. Then at the sophomore year, you had to choose what area you wanted to move into to get your BFA. Printmaking, made a lot of sense to me,” Tourtillotte said.
Printmaking is a “double header” for Tourtillotte. When he couldn’t think of ideas to make work, he could always prep for the next time he would make a print. Ideas would come, and work would be replenished.
This history of print also fascinated him. It has changed the context of society and how we received information on a large-scale impact. There is always a printmaker to fall back on when he or she might be stuck.
“It is a craft. You have to learn how to make and manipulate materials and ink to make prints. The medium of printmaking has its own language. It has a look and its own way of telling stories. That then follows, the freedom to explore the content or ideas as I wish. I can work on two or three levels of developing ideas and content, working on what was important of me to make work about. Then, developing the technical skill, understand the tools and how to work with them,” Tourtillotte said.
Tourtillotte did not take the normal route of your average high schooler. As a junior, he left high school and went into the Cleveland Institute of Art with one stipulation: he must pass his foundation courses in order to receive his high school diploma.
He did, and he quickly moved further into printmaking, where he eventually received his MFA in it. Tourtillotte knew he wanted to teach at the college level which is one reason why he went on to get his MFA, but teaching seemed as natural as art making.
In middle school, Tourtillotte helped second graders with reading. From that point, he knew that teaching was something he needed to tie in with being an artist.
“Possessing the knowledge of art and the skills is great, and you can make things, but it’s even better if you can share it and enable other people to depict their ideas and their vision. Teaching seemed quite natural,” Tourtillotte said.
“Teaching is rewarding too. It’s not a one way street. The students teach me more than I probably teach them,” he said.
With the print shop’s environment, students depending on one another is quite common. It is a community where some are just beginning to print while others know the medium well enough to help when needed. Printmaking not only connects ideas to one another, but it also connect students to one another. Teaching is a vital role in the shop, which is why Tourtillotte enjoys teaching his craft at IU South Bend.
Although Tourtillotte is a professor, he does not consider it separate from his life as an artist. His schedule may be busy with classes, but he still finds time to create work.
“Currently, I have been making book forms which have their own narrative. Also, living in Northern Indiana, the landscape kind of entered my work. I have been here for three decades. That strong horizon line, whether you are in the city it’s away present. When you are in the country, it’s even more present. Largely, the narrative has been about living and how you exist in space, the things around you, the relationship between those things,” Tourtillotte said.
His work also revolves around themes of plant forms, current news and popular culture.
Tourtillotte and his print shop might be out of sight, but for some, the shop is much more than a place to make work. It is home.