written by Claire Bachofner
First thing’s first
“Color drives everything I do,” explains Tina Garrick Albro when describing her passion for printmaking. Upon arriving at her shared studio in Seattle, Washington, she takes her time, methodically lining out her materials. “It’s a nice doorway into the work. I’d say I spend about an hour or so dinking around.” Most artists can relate. It’s much less daunting to conquer the practical, dipping one toe at a time into the pool of creativity then it is diving in head first.
Albro chuckles as she explains that one of the 30 artists she shares the (Pratt Fine Arts Center) studio with is an avid rollerblader and, therefore, also an avid disco fan. With, say, Saturday Night Fever pumping in the background, Albro begins her day by carefully selecting a pair of rubber gloves and laying them down in a particular spot. She chooses exactly 4 cotton rags; folding and stacking them neatly. She measures out her non-toxic cleaners, vegetable oil and simple green, and sets them within reach.
Onto her favorite part- ink mixing. Albro rarely uses colors straight from the bottle. She slows down and takes her sweet time concocting and blending until the colors before her match the colors of her imagination exactly. Depending on how many colors are involved in a piece this step alone may take her 30 minutes to an hour. Finally, Albro soaks her cotton rag paper which softens it and allows for maximum absorbency. When all of this is complete, she rewards herself with a little break, stepping back to survey the scene, think of where she left off the day before and take stock of her current body of work. Then, it’s go time.
Endless possibilites, one strong voice
Tina’s prints vary in size, subject, medium, and technique. Among them: vividly colored collographs of overlapping pine boughs and other foliage, bright prints of glowing owls, quirky but classic city busses and vintage airplanes, vibrant and lively abstract pliage monoprints and a handful of encaustics. Albro is a master with color, often combining bright, almost neon, hues with softer, more vintage pastels. The contrast in every piece is stunning and mimics dramatic movements, like the shattering of a glass or the quiet stillness of a perched owl. Texture comes into play, especially in her abstracts, adding an edginess that just really works.
Prior to her career as a printmaker, Albro worked in hybridized concrete and glass mosaic. “Concrete is so hard and heavy and glass is so sharp!” When she discovered collage and printmaking, she was hooked. “Print was all I wanted to do. It is so varied and the possibilities seem endless.”
Interestingly, traces of her mosaic past still seem to come through in her recent work, especially the abstracts. Colors are fragmented and divided, resembling broken glass. They seem to expand and explode outward like sparks of a fire or rays of light. Also, Albro makes powerful use of white space in her pieces. The white spaces are often the unsung heroes, much like the cement or concrete between bits of glass in a mosaic. They help tell the whole story and add drama and richness to the brighter colors.
Albro recalls that, even as a child, she’d spend hours arranging picked flowers and pieces of nature, “I’ve always been very inspired by my environment and continue to draw a lot from that…I think I’ve been looking for the creative possibilities in everything, my whole life,” she explains.
City hustle, country ease
Dividing her studio time between city (Seattle) and country (Walla Walla) has definite benefits. When working in her space at the Pratt Fine Arts Center printmaking studio (photo above), Albro really has to focus, clean up after herself and “try not to hog the press”. There’s also a lot of “cross-pollination” that goes on and her fellow artists offer feedback and help spark new ideas. On the other hand, time is more limited and she has to be ever mindful of cleaning up her space and tools, careful to be respectful of others’ space. In her solo studio in Walla Walla (below), on the other hand, she is free to work and rework a piece until it is complete. “It’s a real luxury to be able to just spread out and take my time with an idea and fully see it through.”
Nature plays a huge role in Albro’s artwork. Her studio in Walla Walla is situated among the golden graininess of their wheat farm and many of her pieces take on the tone of this expansive place. Yellow hay bail hues coupled with vibrant blue skies, barn owls and feathered friends.
In contrast, her city-inspired pieces are more definitely more urban, but still remain lighthearted and playful. Cityscapes and colorful buses. Old fashioned airplanes. Abstract, vibrantly textured collages.
A rich inheritance
Because she has become the family photograph repository, Albro cleverly weaves in pieces of her family’s past and brings them to life in her prints. Her grandfather was a photographer and she has been fortunate to inherit his large collection of negatives from the early 1900’s. Not only have his photographs become some of the main subjects of Albro’s work, they’ve also influenced the lens through which she views the world; she is more able to recognize beauty and glory in life’s simplicities.
Beyond the studio
Outside of printmaking, Albro is an avid volunteer, a mother of three, a bookworm, a gardener (and farmer), and a very enthusiastic art collector. She is a person who lives intentionally- investing her time into things that make the world a better and more whole place. You’ll find her cooking at the homeless shelter, pitching in at the food bank, creating a beautifully hearty garden in a bustling city, taking time to cultivate wheat and connect with the land in Walla Walla. She values the impact and significance of art work (her home is filled with pieces that speak to her every time she looks at them,) and devotes herself to relationships that are nourishing and supportive.
After interacting with Tina, whether it be by phone, in person, or through viewing her artwork, you’ll feel her joy, playfulness, curiosity and sense of adventure coming through. You’ll be reminded that meeting someone who has chosen to do what they truly love is always inspiring. You’ll likely feel a sense of uplift and hope that something as simple as a resting bird or a towering haystack could contain within them so much beauty and personality. Who knows, if you hold your ear up to the piece, you might even hear the steady beat of your favorite disco tune.
We are delighted to represent Tina Garrick Albro in Montana at 1+1=1 Gallery. Every time we visit Seattle, we make sure to stop by the Columbia City Gallery, where Tina shows her work, and last year, Maureen was able to see the printmaking studio at Pratt, where Tina is lucky enough to work.
View some of TINA’S Work