Updated: May 7

One mission of CAFNW is to advance the creative potential of artists through grants to practicing artists in Kitsap County. Measuring the success of CAFNW grants can be seen in the story of grant recipient and their art journey. Following is an interview wth well known, local artist and printmaker, Leigh Knowles Metteer. Leigh received funds toward the purchase and restoration of two large, quite beautiful presses. In an interview with CAFNW board member, Helen Owens, Leigh shares her background and thoughts on how the grant and acquisition of the press have enhanced and grown her art.


Leigh Knowles Metteer interview

How old were you when you discover your love and talent for art?

Too young to tell. I did not identify as an artist. The word talent never came up – but my parents fostered a sense of wonder in me.


Who encouraged your passion for art?

Initially, by my parents who are both teachers. My father, now 93, was a professor of architecture at USC and my mother is a writer and poet. Observing, thinking, asking, and making was a constant part of life and my parents supported and encouraged that with words, events, materials, and time.


K-8 education provided one teacher who had some sense of the value of art, or even the value of a kid who was not so good at the 3-Rs and wanted to go beyond pre-designed, follow the instructions, art projects. High school was an improvement, but it was not until undergraduate studies at USC that I met a few teachers who hit the mark and set me on a course for the future.


Where do you find your inspiration?

Nature and narrative. History, physics, color, light, geometry in a landscape, extravagant architecture of plants, anatomical designs, explorations of physical and metaphysical universes, gratitude, and reverence. Asking how we know who we are and who we are becoming?


How do you continue to grow and develop as an artist?

Pursuing and expressing. Ideas, materials, effects.


How and when were you introduced to printmaking?

I was introduced to lithography by Ruth Weisberg, professor of art at USC. Her approach and work inspired me. I focused on large, figurative, and narrative works via lithography, which was hot in LA in the 70s. I was also introduced to intaglio (etching) and a solid education in figurative work. When I was a freshman, I talked my way into a senior level anatomy class which was foundational in my studies.


Did you try other media before focusing on print making?

Yes, painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, art history and so forth, a typical BFA education I suppose. My first printmaking class was in sophomore year and, though I still enjoy all the media, I never looked back. I focused on drawing and printmaking for my BFA and MFA.


What is it about printmaking that drives your focus on it?

Dialog, process, product. Unlike painting or other media where a mark is created directly onto paper or canvas, printmaking is indirect, especially when creating layers of color. Marks are made onto or into a substrate like stone, linoleum, metal then treated, inked, and printed. Each media has its own process and character. When designing an image, you have to think backwards as the image will print the opposite direction. When designing for color layers, it’s like a chess game because the inks are often translucent and previous layers affect subsequent ones. Some of my prints have as many as 10 layers. What I set out to do stays loose because each new layer can produce an effect I hadn’t quite reckoned on . . . and then the dialog begins. All in all, it’s a great adventure and really quite addictive.



You have purchased 2 presses with the help of a CAFNW grant.

Why did you want to add these specific presses to your printmaking tools?

I am pursuing imagery that is between 6 and 9 sq ft. and since image size is limited by the size of the press, it was necessary to go on a hunt for a used press large enough to do the job. Both presses are larger than my existing press.


How have the grants and thus the new presses changed or enhanced your art?

Genesis has always been a favorite and captivating theme for me. In 2020, I was invited to participate in Wayzgoose (https://www.wayzgoosekitsap.com/) with the theme “Invisible” which, for me, was a perfect opening for exploring Biblical Genesis. Working through language, ideas and imagery was a great challenge, not to mention carving at that scale. This process really got me thinking about creating a series of large linocuts, 9 sq ft. each, to portray or at least allude to each of the 7 days presented in the Torah.


How are they different from other presses you have?

The presses are far larger than my other presses. What I did not mention is that the Glen Alps Press has ambiance, a local history. My plan is to find as many folks still living that can tell a part of the story of the press.


Is there a connection between your process and your artworks message?

Process is the operative word. The physical act of creating is intentional, sacrificial, wonderful. Since I am obviously not omniscient, my (prayerful) process is one of discovery with all the satisfying, fussy, exciting, haphazard, and quirky things that appear as stages of image development unfold.


The understand the Glen Alps press press has undergone a total renovation by you and your husband. Has that brought a closer, maybe even spiritual, connection with the press?

We are still working on restoration and alignment of all the press parts so there is some frustration and anxiety to have it running smoothly. Currently, the connection to the press is mostly historic and communal.