Having studied painting in school, Jannelle is no stranger to the artistic studio. But it had been over a decade since she had done any printmaking, and she barely had time to paint and draw in her everyday life, let alone sample other artistic practices. So when she learned about a VAWAA in Spain learning printmaking from a master artist, she knew this was an opportunity to rediscover a technique she had long since abandoned. It didn’t matter that she had never been to Europe before--Jannelle also wanted to visit Spain and get the chance to dive into a whole new culture.
Recently, Jannelle sat down with us to share more about her artistic mindset, visiting Europe for the first time, and working with Roser in her cozy studio.*
Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself.
I live in upstate New York, and I work at a hotel and restaurant. And I make art as much as I can. I went to school in Boston for painting, but that was about ten years ago, so it’s been a little while. And that was also the last time I did any printmaking. But somebody had told me about VAWAA, so I saw this printmaking one, and I thought it was pretty affordable and that I would love to go to Spain, so I signed up for. Printmaking hasn’t been something that I studied really intently, but I had some previous experience with it and was excited to get an opportunity to kind of dive into it a little bit more.
What are your other artistic practices?
It’s mostly for myself. I’ve done a few commissioned pieces, but mostly pen and paper. I don’t do a lot of oil painting anymore because of time and space. I don’t currently have a studio, so whatever I can do in my apartment is what I can do. I do show in a group show once a year now, and then I show in smaller shows. I don’t do it professionally, but I try to keep it in my life.
Prior to this trip, had you been to Spain before?
No, that was my first time to Europe at all, so that was exciting.
Wow, so how did that go?
It was pretty great. I feel like being in Spain was really exciting, and it was nice to have a focus for most of the days that I was there. I went with my boyfriend so I wasn’t alone, but I would do a VAWAA alone. That was part of why I signed up for it, because I felt safe enough to do it, to have a meeting point and someone else who knew something about the area and could help me. So that made me feel safer instead of just going to a random country with a random idea of where to stay and not having any sort of touchstone. Having somebody else there that I could trust made me feel much safer going somewhere that I’ve never been before.
When you made the decision to go to Spain, what were you hoping to find or achieve with your VAWAA?
I was hoping to get a little bit more hands-on experience with printmaking. And also just having access to those sort of facilities was really exciting because it’s not something that you can just do on the side. Having the press is a big deal. And then I wanted to have a refresher about how to use all those tools and how to do the inking again, and everything I had been out of touch with. So I was hoping to practice a couple of different types of printmaking.
Courtesy of Jannelle Roberts.
Tell us about the moment you arrived in Barcelona and first met Roser.
Roser invited me and my boyfriend out for a coffee first, and it was really nice--we just sat and talked, and after the coffee she took me on a tour of her studio, and we looked at some of her own examples of printmaking. We did collograph printing the first day, so a lot of glue and really basic materials which was kind of fun, and it made it less intimidating, because I didn’t have to start with a fancy piece of metal. I felt like Roser was really intuitive to be able to gauge my nervous feelings. Then the next day I got to print some of the things I made the first day, and then we worked with other materials and did drypoint preparation, drawings, and things like that.
I had been talking about doing etching this whole time. But I was getting really nervous about doing this big project, and I thought that Roser was good at following through what we had discussed so that it could happen. And that’s how it played out--I got to do multiple kinds of printmaking while I was there, and I got to do an etching, and it was the full process.
What was it like working with Roser in the studio?
It was really nice to interact with her. There were a couple of days where she stayed late with me, and she would say, oh let’s go until this time, then she would be like, oh maybe ten more minutes. And she was excited--she would tell me I could do one more print while she cleaned up. It was really nice, I felt like she really cared about the process and she knew that it was taking a little longer, or knew when I was getting excited about something and could see it happening, and would give me the space and support to continue.
And what was Roser’s studio like?
It was so nice. It felt really comfortable, and it wasn’t that it was super high tech and pristine or something--it just felt tidy and well structured. I got my own work-table. There was a courtyard where we could sit and have coffee. It was a really interesting studio, all together. It was nice because she shares that space with other people, and one day she had another woman come in and do work, and it was nice to hear them speak in Catalan. Even though we don’t speak the same language, it was nice to see each other’s work, and because the other woman was there I got to see a more advanced version of one of the printmaking techniques I was using, and even a completely different application of it.
What was your routine like during the day?
Get up and get a coffee, then go to the studio and do work. Then after working I would go and do sightseeing. Either we went walking around that neighborhood, or we went down to the waterfront a couple of times and saw the castle. We talked to Roser a couple of times about where the museums are and how to get there and what days are better and worse. So after class it was pretty much venture out, eat food, have drinks, and see Spain. It was pretty amazing. And it was really good to talk to Roser because she had really good insight.
What was your favorite part about Barcelona?
I felt like everyone was really nice. And even though I don’t speak Catalan, I have a background in Spanish. And it felt like anytime I even tried to speak in Spanish, people would try with me. So that was cool. I haven’t spent much time out of the United States, but it was nice to see other ways of living and a different culture. One day, we bumped into this street fair, kind of a parade. There were really loud drums, and music and people in costume. There were people dancing, and there was salsa and everything. It was pretty spectacular to see that. It’s hard to explain that sort of moment to other people, but it was cool to be there and see it and take it in. Smell it even.
How did this experience impact you, and what elements have you brought back now that you’ve returned home?
I think that it makes me feel like traveling and giving myself time to have those experiences is really important to me in a way that I hadn’t realized. And it makes me want to prioritize it. It makes me want to do either a month abroad and do something with Roser in particular, or to really make it a priority to save money and do another VAWAA. To keep that in my life is really important. I hadn’t realized that I cared about it that much. Now I want to save my money and go wander around the streets somewhere else. I just need it to continue to be in my life. I think it made me recognize that, and I want to continue to foster that in my life going forward.
I would like to be doing more artwork, creating more and continuing to strengthen my art practice. So definitely more traveling and more experiences, and continue to strengthen my own personal art projects.
*Comments have been lightly edited for clarity and length
Vacation with Roser in Barcelona, Spain