Local artist and printmaker Jill Bergman on the inspiration behind her design for this year’s Steamboat Winter Carnival commemorative poster.
Until you’ve seen a young child getting pulled behind a galloping horse on skis down a snow-covered Main Street at what seems like neck-breaking speeds, you haven’t experienced Winter Carnival. Now in its 103rd year, the Steamboat Winter Carnival will celebrate the town’s unique combination of a rich ranching history and its ski town traditions over a weekend-long celebration, February 3-7, 2016.
It was the confluence of those juxtaposing images: the horsemen and women in their leathers and the kids in their bright colored ski clothes that inspired local artist Jill Bergman to create the original artwork for the poster commissioned by Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty to benefit the athletes of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The poster is part of Steamboat Sotheby’s efforts to create opportunities for local artists and to celebrate and support its local athletes. We caught up with the artist to talk about the inspiration for the poster’s original design.
Tell us about your work. I’m a printmaker and my favorite type of prints are linocuts. I carve the linoleum and then roll ink over the raised part. Next I lay paper over the block and rub it to transfer the ink. I make all my prints by hand and usually paint over the design with watercolor.
How did you feel when you learned you were chosen to do the poster? I’m excited to be part of the Winter Carnival because it’s so unique to this community. Also, I love graphic art, posters and lettering so this was the perfect project for me. It was really fun to draw the text and carve it and I think the lettering gives it the look of a letterpress broadside. It wouldn’t have that look if it was an oil painting.
How did you get into this particular medium? I have a bachelor’s degree in Oboe Performance and I didn’t start becoming an artist until my mid-twenties. I’ve taken workshops and had teachers and mentors, but I didn’t go to college for art. I started playing around with paint, acrylic, watercolor and collage after I stopped playing oboe. When I discovered printmaking I just loved it so much. It was like the giant light bulb went off, and I knew it was what I was meant to be doing.
What was your inspiration for the design? I love going to watch the street events at Winter Carnival and watching the children. I like how the horsemen and women in leather contrast with the kids wearing bright ski outfits with helmets and goggles. It’s the combination of styles that make Steamboat special. So when I was drawing I worked with those images: a man on a horse pulling a boy on skis. I wanted to have downtown in the poster so I included a block of buildings people will recognize. And I included Howelsen Hill because it’s such an important part of Winter Carnival.
Walk us through the process step-by-step of how the poster was made. First I did the drawing and transferred it onto the linoleum. You have to work in reverse when carving. Then when you pull the paper off the inked block, the image is facing forward on the paper. There was a lot of detail, so it took a while to carve. I printed it onto brown printmaking paper that gave it a rustic western look. I added snowflake stamps with white ink and painted it with gouache, an opaque type of watercolor. People might wonder why I’d create a linocut if I’m just making one finished piece instead of an edition, but when I make relief prints some of the details don’t come to me until I’m holding the tools in my hand. The medium is an important part of the look of the piece.
How does it feel to be a part of Steamboat history? It was a lot of fun to make the poster. It’s great to see that people really do like it and I think it will be neat to have it out during the carnival. I do hope it does well and raises the funds and scholarship support for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club that Steamboat Sotheby’s was aiming for.