J. Thomas Hinton is originally from New Brunswick. Born in Campbellton, he has also lived in Edmundston, Newcastle, Fredericton, Lunenburg, Bobcaygeon, Oshawa, Toronto, Kitchener, Banff, Edgewater, and Victoria. Hinton studied under an incredible water colorist by the name of Claude Picard, also from Edmundston. After high school he studied graphic design at both Durham College in Oshawa and Conestoga College in Kitchener. In 1988, Hinton dedicated himself to art full-time and the years following produced 55 editions of hand printed serigraphs (silkscreen prints), most of which are sold out. These serigraphs and originals have attracted an enormous amount of attention and a dedicated following that goes beyond the borders of Canada.
Hinton uses gouache. They are made of high quality, lightfast, concentrated pigment dissolved in a water base, much like a thick watercolour. However, they differ from watercolour in that gouache is not generally used in the form of a thin 'wash' but rather used 'full strength', drying with very chalky, rich, vibrant colours.
J. Thomas Hinton states he has a never ending passion for the great Canadian outdoors. He has camped in every season in places as diverse as the wide open prairies, the pacific sea coast, the rocky Canadian Shield and the barren High Country, better known as Grizzly Territory. “I've tried to explore every old path and logging road I've ever seen and met the most interesting and incredible characters in the middle of nowhere from boneheads to book authors. However, most importantly, I've had the chance to see a lot of this great country from every angle.”
What is Serigraphy?
How can a series of images that all seem to look the same be called originals? It would seem to be a contradiction but the power behind the art of the silk-screen, or serigraph, lies in this apparent oxymoron of multiple originals.
If you look closely at each print in an edition or serigraphs, you might notice subtle differences from one piece to the next. The reason is that each piece is individually made, or pulled, by the artist’s own hand. The mechanical printing press is nowhere in sight, but is a wooden frame on hinges, a pile or screens and a number of pots of opaque ink.
From its humble beginnings in graphic art, serigraphy has risen over the years to become a true and respected art form. Silk-screen artists, especially in the last 35 years, have made it so by giving to the form levels of skill and knowledge previously associated only with more traditional art forms of oil and watercolour. It has even reached a point where the majority of silk-screen artists are actually creating originals using screen as their main tool, not a brush or palette knife.
What of these screens and pots of ink? There is no original per se, so starting with nothing more than a concept and a working drawing, the artist will cut screens from a porous material (traditionally silk) for each colour he/she expects to use. The screens are fitted over the paper in a wooden frame, which holds them snugly while ink is applied. Special silk-screen inks are arranged over the screen and pressed through it by pulling a rubber edged squeegee the length of the frame. This process is repeated with each colour in the image and with each sheet of paper comprising the edition. If you’re looking at an image that is one of and edition of 75, and if the picture is made with about 30 colours, you get the idea of the work an artist must do to create and edition.
What is fascinating is that many serigraphers will create the image right there in the frame. Laying one colour, then another, seeing where the third should go, then fourth and fifth... literally painting with screen and inks.
Group of Seven artist A. J. Casson was doing this in the late twenties, literally pioneering the process of serigraphy in Canada. Perhaps he saw the future. His last collection or serigraphs allows a person to purchase a Casson image at a price more reachable and reasonable than an original oil without compromising any artistic credibility.
Which brings us to an important point about serigraphy: affordability. Small editions of hand pulled prints, because they are not mechanically produced and each is an original, are recognized as valuable, worthy pieces of art. Since there is more than one original, say 50 in an edition, they become infinitely more affordable. There is also no risk of more images suddenly appearing on the scene as screens are destroyed after an edition is created.
Canadian artists like Thomas Hinton and Louise Dandurand continue to develop and refine this technique, demonstrating the possibilities for individual style and tone. Artists such as these are building the North American market for the multiple original by continuing to create works of great beauty and appeal. No longer relegated to the status of the poor cousin of original oil and watercolour, the serigraph only continues to strengthen its rightful place in the world of fine art.