Digital Dazzle: Meet Photographer & Printmaker Kate Lowman

Written by Artie The Panda

Oh, to be trapped in Paris. While Kate Lowman was traveling in France with her husband, inclement weather forced her indoors. The museums she visited inspired her to create, so off she went with her husband’s camera. That was the start of her photography and printmaking career. 

Printmaker First

Fifteen years later, Kate considers herself a printmaker who happens to use photography to craft her art. The end product may be a single shot, as in “Spring on Broadway” featured above, or a constructed print using multiple photographs and pieces of photos, like we see in “Portraits of a Chair” and “The Cotswold” triptych below.

“Spring on Broadway” is a single photo taken in New York City, but Kate heavily applied her Photoshop skills. She says the print size — 43.5”x33” — is important for two reasons: “It contributes to the feeling of having a tree above you, and because the detail of the image design can only be seen when it is large,” Kate explains. She does her own printing on a Canon PRO-4000 wide-format printer.

Chasing Sheep

“The Cotswolds” may look like a straight photo, but it’s actually constructed from about 30 photos and some 150 pieces. “Those poppies and many of the other flowers are carved out of other photographs that were shot in the Cotswolds [in England],” says Kate, who now lives in Springfield, Virginia. “We tromped through many a sheep pasture!” The three photos are framed in Frame Destination’s Nielsen #15 in Frosted Silver with no mat; the white we see is extra paper around the print.

“Portrait of a Chair” (left) and “The Cotswolds” triptych, as seen in Kate’s recent exhibit at Washington Printmakers Gallery.

See More of Kate’s Work

On her website, you can explore multiple galleries, from landscapes to geometric abstracts. Kate’s Instagram highlights recent work, including archival and constructed pigment prints. To discover how an early encounter influences Kate today, as well as her favorite tool(s), read my Q&A below. 

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Kate Lowman…

1. What is your background; how did you get started?

I always enjoyed making things, but I became truly serious with photography/printmaking. Some 15 years ago, my husband and I spent a month in Paris. The spring weather was so cold and rainy that we whiled away almost every day in a museum. I finally found myself desperate to make something, so I stole my husband's camera with the intention of using photographs for a collage. Hundreds of tabac and pharmacy signs later, I was faced with the question of what to print, and at what size? I decided that organizing them in a page layout program would at least let me use our 13"x19" printer efficiently. Several hours later, I knew I could do the designing digitally on the computer, and I have been learning how to do it better ever since.

2. How important is it for a photographer to "connect" with their subject?

This is really a question about whether you are driven by an internal or external vision. People are different and both answers are valid. For me, art can be a buffer against a world that is often ugly and frightening. We are surrounded by industrial objects and buildings, and beautifully made objects remind us of the best in humanity. For me, printmaking is an internal vision. I capture material with a camera, looking for things I like. With rare exceptions, I do not know what I will actually use or how I will use it — the design process is an internal exploration, but my goal is always to make a beautiful and well-crafted object. 

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?

Early on, I met a photographer who encouraged me to get a large-format printer. She looked at my work, which at the time was printed on 13"x19" paper. She observed that my work appeared delicate but really was not; it needed to be bigger. And she recounted her own experiences learning to print. I followed her advice and now, years later, I work with a 44" Canon Pro-4000 printer. The investment in both dollars and learning curve has been high, but it was absolutely the right thing to do.

4. In what ways does your work reflect your personality?

I am a focused, detail-driven person. I can spend endless hours on a project. And I love color.

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?

Yes, of course. One good recourse is to go out and take photographs. Acquiring new material gives me new ideas. During covid, with reduced ability to travel, I found that looking through the vast collection of photographs I hadn’t yet used was very helpful. Also, studying artists I like and visiting museums makes me think — it all starts with thinking.

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)

Indispensable tool #1: my computer. Although my final product is indisputably an object, a print on paper, it is a digital birth until the command is sent to the printer. Also, cheating here with a second choice, my metal wall and magnets. No matter how accurate one's monitor screen, the print on paper is always different. The printing phase can be a fairly long process, and much of it involves simply looking at and living with the actual printed image. With time, I can see the piece with fresh eyes. Also, the metal wall allows me to test local variations in color or design. I would never give it up.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?

I recently joined a co-op gallery, the Washington Printmakers Gallery. In terms of my existing pieces, this has caused me to think seriously about framing and also to consider size anew. The opportunity to do my own show will let me go big, while sharing the walls requires smaller sizes. Reviewing my existing body of work in terms of this new space has been most interesting. Regarding new creative projects, I have been trying to apply some of the design elements found in Japanese prints to botanical photographs. It has pushed me to learn new techniques and promises more for the future.

8. What "fad" gadget do you most regret purchasing?

A paper "deroller" intended to remove curl from paper. While not very obvious, it damaged the paper.

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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Lat Updated January 9, 2023