Eerie and alluring, the block prints of French artist Stéphanie Catherine—a.k.a. Stfacat prints—wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of a medieval manuscript. The first time I saw her signature gothic creations, I was blown away by their resemblance to art I’d seen in European castles and cathedrals. 

Stfacat’s artistic practice is grounded in the communal nature of art. She launched her first collaborative project, BIDULES, in 2002—an art and plastic workshop which would grow to become a social resource and a gateway for amateur artists. She was a founding member of the Waz Handmade event, an art exhibition and sale which highlighted recognized and amateur artists in her home city. In 2012, she launched another collaborative project, PLASMA, with an aim of developing a collective dynamic based on the interactivity linking the public and artists. 

Stfacat’s print creations are made through relief printing using linoleum and similar plastics. To create a linoleum print, artists use specialized tools to cut a design into a piece of linoleum before rolling on ink and printing from the ‘block.’ While the process has grown in popularity in the age of social media, Stfacat’s old world themes set her work apart. As a lino artist myself, I was eager to learn about her inspiration, style, and process in this exclusive interview.

How did you begin your journey as an artist?  

I am a self-taught plastic artist and linoleum engraver. I have tried various techniques throughout my career. I have long practiced painting on raw support (metal and slate) with mediums such as oil, acrylic and others that I made myself from pigments, binders, bits of metal and just about anything I could get hold of! After this abstract period and research of texture, I turned to figuration in painting. I slowly developed my style and my attraction for the dark, the occult.

What is your process for creating a new piece from start to finish? 

When I create a new piece, it breaks down into several stages; first, the search for images and symbols that will inspire and help in the realization of the sketch. I usually start by drawing a few quick sketches to get the idea and composition on paper. This can sometimes involve computer photo montages, mixing sketches, vectors, and other symbols. Once the drawing is defined I have to reproduce it on the lino, but before that I always color my linoleum plates with a mixture of water and India ink. This allows me to contrast engraving and background and to immediately have an idea of the result.

To get an idea of the rendering and to know if I need to dig more into this or that detail, I put a sheet on my engraving and scribble the sheet in pencil; the pattern then appears on the sheet. I also sometimes make ‘test prints’, before the engraving is finished.

Then for printing I prepare my favorite papers by cutting them to the right size and always perform a final test print, then I resume engraving if necessary. Finally comes the magical moment when I discover the final result of a carving, which is very satisfying!

What are some of the most challenging pieces you have created?

The most complex piece I’ve made is Folklore Instinct, a linocut that I engraved in one go but that I separated into 3 blocks using a scalpel, each part printed with different colors. It was a little different from what I had printed so far. I felt daring to cut it this way and to use color on beautiful sand Lokta paper; I really like the result. I also really liked and learned by engraving Demiurge, which represents a lion-headed serpent surrounded by the moon and the sun. It is inspired by the various representations of the demiurge or Yaldabaoth, the creator god and the illustration by Jose Algria Sabogal. The lion’s head represents solar forces, enlightenment and the serpent, the lower impulses, the earth. The rays represent the seven planets. It was my first large format and my first printing on Gold paper, which requires more precision than printing on cotton paper.

“I also really liked and learned by engraving Demiurge, which represents a lion-headed serpent surrounded by the moon and the sun. It is inspired by the various representations of the demiurge or Yaldabaoth, the creator god and the illustration by Jose Algria Sabogal. The lion’s head represents solar forces, enlightenment and the serpent, the lower impulses, the earth.”

Has art helped you to connect with other people? 

In order to make my work known, I obviously rely on social networks, and in particular on Instagram, that I learned to use to make myself known. I have the honor of being a member of the People of Prints printing community, which has helped me interact with quite a few printers and I am always happy to be asked questions. If I am asked for help, I am happy to answer questions. Since then, I have been offering initiation workshops, which allows me to meet tattoo artists, artists, and art students who want to test the technique. I love to teach, and pass on my knowledge; it helps me grow and also makes my practice grow. 

“My signature style is inspired by nature and alchemy with a dark touch that characterizes my work.”

How do you cultivate a creative space to work in?  

I am lucky to have my own studio at home and a space dedicated to creation. Note that it also serves as an office for my associative structure and sometimes as a guest room! And as bizarre as it sounds, I often work in a quiet environment, without music. I like to be alone to create; only my dog is allowed to be in the workshop when I draw, engrave, or print. I like to see my space evolve and turn into a drawing studio, a sculpture and engraving room full of linoleum shavings, or a printing studio with prints that dry everywhere.

How do you cultivate a creative space to work in?  

I am lucky to have my own studio at home and a space dedicated to creation. Note that it also serves as an office for my associative structure and sometimes as a guest room! And as bizarre as it sounds, I often work in a quiet environment, without music. I like to be alone to create; only my dog is allowed to be in the workshop when I draw, engrave, or print. I like to see my space evolve and turn into a drawing studio, a sculpture and engraving room full of linoleum shavings, or a printing studio with prints that dry everywhere.

What inspires the old world feel of your pieces? 

My inspirations come from Medieval Art by evoking all the legends of mythology from the old gods while being influenced by classical artists from old engravings or Flemish paintings. I also have a passion for old paper and for this heritage of ancient techniques inspired by the world of tattooing. My signature style is inspired by nature and alchemy with a dark touch that characterizes my work. I am inspired by everything that is anatomical, scientific study as well. It reveals all the beauty behind the alchemy, all the charm of the occult.

“The important thing is to keep practicing and experimenting without fear.”

What are some projects you’re looking forward to working on in the future?

In the near future, I will be working on a medieval representation of the City where I live, Toulouse, in the South of France. This 50 x 50 cm format linocut is inspired by a woodcut illustrating the work Gesta Tholosanorum by Nicolas Bertrand from 1515. My version will be populated by terrestrial creatures such as a minotaur and medieval aquatic ones.

What advice would you give to artists who are just beginning their careers?

My advice to newbie engravers would be to be patient, enjoy your work, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And feel free to practice all the time, everyday. Engraving can seem a little intimidating at first as it involves many different work steps. A lot can and will go wrong, especially at first, but like anything, practice makes you better. The important thing is to keep practicing and experimenting without fear. Once you start to understand the medium a little better, the practice becomes very meditative, and as a bonus, it teaches you a lot about patience. 

 

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STFACAT
Ren Riley
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