Check out our interview with master woodcarver, beloved SFCB instructor, and Roadworks veteran artist Rik Olson!
Allie Washkin: How did you get into letterpress/printmaking?
Rik Olson: In 1982 I took a five-day wood engraving class from Barry Moser. I was quickly hooked and realized that in order to make an image of my wood engravings I needed to learn to print. Within a week I found a Vandercook SP-15 for sale and bought it. I took another class in Typesetting at CCA(C) from Betsy Davids and I was on my way as a printer.
AW: What do you hope to achieve through your art?
RO: I have never considered art as a way to achieve a grand purpose. I cannot NOT do art – it is just a part of my being and my way of expressing myself. Thankfully I am also able to make a living at it.
AW: In your opinion, what is art’s greatest capability?
RO: Art is the path for the creative person to express ideas, feelings and a look at the world through the filter of our eyes. The images can be either a world as a thing of beauty at peace with itself or pessimistic as in an expression of the world as a place of discord and hatred. It all strikes a chord in your emotions and it is all art.
AW: What inspires you?
RO: Everything inspires me. There is nothing that cannot be turned into art from emotions, to beautiful scenery, to cityscapes, to everyday and unique objects, to images of the past, present and perceived future. The most important thing is to translate that inspiration into something that evokes an emotion in the viewer.
AW: What is your favorite thing about San Francisco?
RO: I no longer live in San Francisco but enjoy visiting and reliving the energy of the city. Now I prefer the peacefulness and slower pace of the countryside. I like to watch the grass grow and appreciate nature in a way I never could in the city.
AW: Most importantly, what are your ideas for your giant linocut for Roadworks?
RO: This is the eighth year I have cut a 3X3 piece of linoleum for the Roadworks event. Originally I was inspired by my grandfather who drove a steamroller in Oakland in the 1920’s. For the first image I put my grandfather into the driver’s seat of the steamroller and had him drive over a roadway of books that formed a bridge from one place to another. I have continued with the steamroller image in various situations. It has flown, been under the sea to visit Atlantis, gone to Buck Roger’s 1930’s rocket outer space, gone to hell by accident, shattered heaven’s gate to deliver the undeserving, and last year finally broke the time barrier with H.G. Wells. This year will be a trip backward to the time of Albrecht Durer in a lighthearted look at his time and environment mixed with a bit of ours. Nothing is off limits in my linoleum cuts and so I mix whimsy, truth, time and people in a great blender to create my work.
Thanks, Rik! See more of his work on his website.