Mountain Views and Sunset Rolls

by Megan Stein


ô/ noun
1. a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.


A common reaction to watching a print being made is that of awe—wonderment of the medium and technique, respect for the ability of the printer and fascination with the final realization of ink on paper. As I steadily complete a yearlong printmaking practicum at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, I still experience those early feelings of awe that drew me to print in the first place.

What is it like printmaking in Banff, more specifically at the Banff Centre, and what makes it so special? Is it the reality of being located between multiple wildlife corridors? Or being secluded from the chimes and pulls of the city? Is it the shelter the mountains provide for the valley system below? In my opinion, I believe it is all of this, combined with the inexplicable awe that Banff National Park inspires.

For those who do not know, the Banff Centre is nestled on the side of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain, located in Treaty 7 Territory, overlooking the town of Banff, Alberta. The town is situated along the Bow River in the Bow Valley, framed by beautiful mountains such as Mount Rundle, Cascade, Mount Norquay and Sleeping Buffalo. I have always loved the mountains: the way they break or hide the horizon; the possibility to be lost in their beauty and danger; the ecosystems and diversity they host; how they effortlessly inspire reverence. Though, what fascinates me most as a printmaker about the mountains is the texture and forms found up close or from afar, ever changing throughout the seasons.

When I hike up a mountainside, my love of ecology and printmaking coalesce. I am careful to give attention to quiet details— where different lichens are growing or the way spruce and pines creak in the wind the higher I get. I investigate how the growing patterns of trees or the surface of the limestone respond to our human interaction with the landscape over time. Similarly, through working in various mediums of print, I appreciate the subtleties of the printed surfaces and forms. (Like others in my field, I can be found at galleries viewing prints from centimetres away, examining the layers of inks, embossments and paper quality.)

The Banff Centre is the perfect place for me to explore these two loves: it is rural and self-contained, energetic and inspiring, and the starting point of endless places to explore the surrounding area. During a practicum, there are countless ways to experience the inspiration the park has to share, whether it be through guided geology walks or forest bathing. The facilities offer a full wall of windows with a captivating view and space to work with screen print, intaglio, relief, stone and plate lithography, letterpress, polymer plate and digital imaging. Away from daily distractions and responsibilities of the city, we are free to create and focus on our craft. On top of it all, the interactions with other artists, facilitators and practicum participants (from a variety of disciplines) help push concepts further, resulting in new work and a powerful sense of community.

In my particular experience, I’ve been working directly with a mentor (Wendy Tokaryk, Print and Paper Facilitator, Visual Arts) at a pivotal moment in my development as an emerging artist and wannabe printmaking technician. I’ve benefitted not only from this mentorship, but also from the space to think and make. Conversations, studio visits and hard work have challenged me to ask difficult questions in my work that have no clear answers.

There is awe in coming to a new place initially alone meeting people in the same situation—sharing stories, learning from one another—only to eventually part ways to continue the lives outside of the place that once connected us. To celebrate a great friend sending in her acceptance for her dream graduate program last week, we hiked to the top of Sleeping Buffalo at sunset, reminiscent of gradient rolls on glass palettes, and watched the sky fade from blue to pink to orange and finally darken. I felt in this moment everything I love come together.


* “Awe — Definition Of Awe In EnglishOxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries English. N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

Image Credit: Megan Stein, no window, linocut, 20′ x 20′, 2017.