My name is Margaret Rankin and I live in downtown Toronto, Canada in a neighborhood called the Annex.
I spent my working life as a landscape architect and I started to make prints over thirty years ago. I didn’t think I was very serious about it – you know – just sort of a hobby, but as I have been doing it for so long, I have to admit I am serious about my prints.
Why do you like to print?
In a nutshell - total creative freedom! Making prints fulfills an unspoken creative need in me. There are almost always ideas floating around in my head and making prints of them really, really satisfies me.
What is your favorite print medium and why?
I work exclusively in relief (woodcut/linocut/relief collagraph), partly because I do not have a press (I use a small bamboo ladle to transfer ink from my blocks to the paper) and also because relief is a medium that has so many visual possibilities. Maybe I just like underdogs. I think relief is a slightly neglected process now – too low tech!
I make my blocks from linoleum, cardboard and textured wallpapers (you can print anything that has a raised surface). These materials, simple as they are, work perfectly for me.
How long have you been printing and how has your work evolved?
I vaguely remember making prints in high school and then forgot all about them until 1987 when I was living in Vancouver. One late summer day I bumped into my former boss on the corner of Davie and Burrard and we had a very short conversation that changed my life. The next thing I knew, I found myself at Emily Carr College (now University) of Art and Design signing up for a Relief Printmaking course. That course taught me basic techniques and I have been printing ever since.
My work is restless. I don’t stick to one idea for very long, but I am slowly training myself to work along more cohesive thematic lines (I hope).
I started out printing the human figure, until someone asked me why all my figures were missing a part of their anatomy – head, leg, arms. I didn’t know why then, I still don’t and I have rarely printed figures since. Although I have made prints of a few of my friends, who tickle my visual cortex!
My main concentration has been landscape. First I made prints of the beaches and hills near Mabou, Cape Breton where my father came from. I also made a lot of prints in and around the farmhouse he was born in. Then I started to make prints based on combinations of rocks and water with crazy Van Gogh skies. After that, it was windblown or heavily pruned pine trees in black and white. I still make prints of trees.
Then I went down a bit of a mid-century modern rabbit hole and emerged with a collection of prints based on West German vases. Their forms, colours, patterns and glazes are stunning and I wanted to capture that.
I have been having an on and off flirtation with architecture for about twenty years. Architectural facades are made of solids or voids and they create patterns and I like to print those patterns. I have worked from photographs by Graham Iddon and Horst Kiechle, but recently I have started to use my own photos – learning to hone my photo skills.
I also love pattern and have made prints based on my grandmother’s striped quilts, bamboo forests and prints inspired by the colourful mayhem of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s work.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by beautiful clean design and the landscape, especially if the landscape has been manipulated by man (must be the landscape architect in me). I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Japan in 2008 and some of the landscapes I saw there brought me to tears. I remember walking through a bamboo forest in Kyoto and never wanting to leave.
I love Naoko Matsubara’s woodblock prints. They have a strength and freedom that I aspire to, but have not achieved.
What is one random fact about yourself
When I visited my sister in Paris, she promptly lost me in the Metro system a few hours after I arrived. This was before cell phones. I hadn’t memorized her address or phone number and my French is pretty poor, so I was stuck. But I managed to find my way back to her apartment and got there just as she was about to get her boyfriend (a policeman) to launch a search for me!