By Kenna Warsinske
For the last two seasons, Corvallis High School art teacher Julia Lont has been a poster artist for the Corvallis Farmers’ Market. Last year, she worked on the poster with the short-lived Merry Inksters print-makers guild. This year, she’s working solo as Blue Camas Press.
Her workspace is in a backroom at Crooked Furrow Farm. In 2012, Julia arranged a work-trade: she pulls weeds and helps them at the market, they let her keep her massive antique letterpress workshop in the back. It’s a uniquely small-town exchange.
When it comes to supplies, Julia mostly prints with hand-carved linoleum blocks, though sometimes she sends away for fancy polymer plates. She stays away from “lead lettering,” the heavy pre-made letters that are usually associated with a printing press. If she needs lettering, she either carves it or designs the lettering on the computer and sends away for the polymer plates. “I don’t have enough space for collecting all of those little letters,” she says, laughing.
The most striking thing about her art is the accuracy of the drawings. They are reminiscent of classical botanical folio art. The tomatoes are instantly recognizable as sun gold tomatoes, even though she only uses two colors to express the shape and colors of the plant. One of her most interesting tricks is she uses fine lines of white space, instead of unnatural black outlines, to help describe the plant. She also uses ink-layering tricks to put a natural softness and texture back into her fruits and veggies.
She admits that her representational art is a bit of an anomaly in Corvallis, but the natural world inspires her. “I call attention to little things that we don’t pay attention to, like kale or beet greens. I want to show the beauty of the natural world just the way that it is.”
On every design, each color is hand-cut, hand-rolled, and hand-pressed. The ink takes 12 hours for each layer to dry, so each four-color print of her Farmers’ Market Pear represents at least a weekend of work. Julia’s prints are all “open edition” (not numbered) but each print is still slightly different, especially her Farmers’ Market Pear, which has a special stippling effect that is as unique as a thumb print.
Thankfully, most of the posters up in Corvallis are digital color copies, not hand-pressed. Unique hand-pressed prints are available at the Drawing Board in downtown Corvallis where she rents space for her classes. “I consider myself an illustrator and a teacher,” she stresses. She’s been moving away from teaching art at the high school to supporting herself by teaching smaller, more individualized classes in the community. “I’m very excited.”