Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

Kobe Jane at work on her studio table

Clothesline of “Snail 2,” by Kobe Jane

“Short Happy Life,” by Kobe Jane

“I’m Not Lost,” by Kobe Jane

Signpost featured artist

Kobe Jane: the building blocks of art

—Oli Robbins

Certain creative individuals are more hesitant than others to define themselves as “artists.” Some embrace the term and profess to having always been one. Kobe Jane is of another mindset, preferring to consider herself “a person who does art, who really likes doing art, and who finds fulfillment in it.” Kobe, like many other art-makers, has been drawn to art for as long as she can remember. But it was only recently that she discovered a medium that consistently inspires her. Kobe began making clear, bold and reductive linoleum block prints in the last year or so, after having been gifted a bevy of supplies from her brother. Prior to that, she most often exercised her creative spirit by drawing. But drawing always felt unfinished, like it was meant to be part of something larger. Now, it is. “Drawing,” says Kobe, “has become one of the building blocks of making a print.” And those building blocks are important to Kobe, who values process as paramount to the final product.

Although Kobe has spent a lot of time in New Mexico over the past decade, she only moved here in a more permanent capacity last year. She hails from Michigan, where she attended a small liberal arts school—assuming that after taking all of her prerequisites she would discover a major that spoke to her. But after her sophomore year she realized that formal education failed to endow her with significant determination and purpose. Having traveled to NM in high school for a youth trip, Kobe always wanted to return. So, during what would become a lasting hiatus from college, she spent a summer in Gallup, working for a family with a special needs child. This began both her adult relationship with the state and her engagement with high-needs education. For the next several years, Kobe continued to work for the Gallup family seasonally, while also working in programs—in New Mexico, Michigan, and Oregon—for adults with disabilities.

Kobe is primarily a self-taught “artist,” the extent of her formal training taking place in high school in the form of elective art classes. Even then, printing generated her interest, but she regarded it as a medium that was best done outside of the home. “So,” says Kobe, “I just enjoyed it while it lasted.” It wasn’t until last year that she rediscovered the craft. She was home in Michigan for several months, spending time with her brother before he left to work as a fisherman in Alaska, when the duo came upon his stockpile of printmaking goods. “I was feeling sad that he had left, so I decided to try out the materials.”

Because Kobe has been drawing for so many years—sometimes to fill time or simply relax, other times for commissioned advertisements—printmaking proved to be an easy transition. “My drawing style is a lot like my printing style—very bold, clean lines. Carving is really fun for me, to take the drawing and make it into something elevated. Now I draw things with a vision of printing them, or sometimes convert drawings into prints. It’s not hard to transfer the styles since I already draw in a very black-and-white kind of way.”

She works at home without a press, sometimes using household objects—like hairspray bottles—as makeshift presses. She admits that working without a press means more errors and less usable prints, but she enjoys the accidents as well as the process of discovering balance in inking. “I tend to do a lot of animals because I’m attracted to the details in them—the feathers, fur, or shells. It’s nice to visualize, taking a complex thing, like a real chicken in your yard and transferring that to paper... I like to do lots of simple detail.” She enjoys the open future of creative possibilities offered by block printmaking. For example, last Spring Kobe commenced work on a snail print (shown above), which she transformed into a four-color, three-block print last month. Unlike drawing or painting, which usually demands that you complete the piece just once, printmaking means duplication or even the re-imagining of a design.

The past year has broadened Kobe’s relationship with art in a variety of different ways. In addition to ushering in a passion for printmaking, it has found Kobe in a new role as an art educator. Kobe became the Art Specialist at Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions camp in the foothills of the Zuni Mountains—her first job directly related to art. “In all my caregiving and work in group homes, I’ve personally taken a lot of art into the job, but it’s never been a required part of it.” She cursorily considered studying art therapy and education, but shied away from pursuing traditional paths that would lead to art teaching.

At the Gulch, Kobe found a niche, where she was encouraged to introduce children to the boundless possibilities for, and conceptions of, art. Since Cottonwood Gulch is centered around nature, it followed that Kobe experimented with the ways in which art and nature can relate. Each day she led two three-hour-long art sessions, which focused on a broad selection of mediums and techniques like bookbinding, pottery (coil and wheel), metal-smithing, leather working, weaving and, of course, printmaking. “I did many vague and imaginative projects that are really fun to do with kids—that help them appreciate art and teach them that it doesn’t have to be something that you’re traditionally good at. A lot of kids came in saying they’re not good at art, that they’re not artists. They thought that they had to be able to see something and draw a picture of it. But that’s not true. Art can be whatever you want—like being outside and drawing pictures of a tree as a monster.”

One of Kobe’s favorite projects involved a handful of clay, which each student worked with for just twenty seconds before passing it to the person seated to the right. Every participant presented a story about their creation and, says Kobe, “surprisingly, I saw a lot of the same ideas come up from different groups of kids. In the end, you have a flower and a dinosaur, like six different things that everyone touched and interpreted differently.” This fostered the idea that art can be loose, and does not have to be indelibly connected to something finished or unchanging. To contact Kobe, email:kobejane8@gmail.com or visit her website at: kobejane8.wix.com/printmaking.

 
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