Master Printer Bud Shark wouldn’t describe himself as the artist behind the prints at his studio, but more as a facilitator of the works others come there to create.
“I had good skills and I could make things that were interesting, but they weren’t as strong as the work that the other artists that I work with made,” he says.
For the past 40 years, Shark’s work has become an integral part of the printmaking scene in Boulder County. He opened his studio back in the ’70s, later calling it Shark’s Ink, and has since worked with local, national and international artists. The studio prints are included in private and public collections across the U.S., including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Shark is inspired by the artists that come to collaborate, to help them uncover their own vision and to bring it out onto the paper.
“Some people have a skill or an approach that makes their art interesting,” he says. “That and they like working with the materials; it’s a form of expression. You sort of find what you want to say and then the best way to say it.”
This fall, as part of a community-wide celebration of Boulder County’s dynamic artscape, A History of the Visual Arts in Boulder (HOVAB) @ Macky, curated by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA), is paying homage to a collection of original prints pressed by Shark’s Ink and designed by local artists.
In the late ’50s, Shark started studying the art of printmaking, specifically lithography, the process of printing from a surface treated to repel ink except on the desired designed. He received his bachelor’s degree at University of Wisconsin, Madison and his master’s degree at University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. He then went to Los Angeles to work at one of the only printmaking studios that specialized in lithographic art in the United States at the time. He also spent four years in London printing for studios Editions Alecto and Petersburg Press, where he worked with British artists, such as Henry Moore and David Hockney.
When he returned to Colorado, he was burnt out and even considered giving up printmaking. He took a job as a sign painter and worked in construction for a while. As printmaking saw a resurgence in the early ’70s, Shark noticed interest in the community brewing and an opportunity for him to lend his skills and expertise. He bought a press and opened up Shark’s Lithography Ltd. in 1976, with his wife Barbara, a writer and artist in her own right.
Several years later, the contract shop became Shark’s Ink and has since developed a reputation for bringing art to Boulder County. When artists come to work with Shark in his studio, they’re coming for the experience of working with an expert of his craft.
“I’m not really interested in just reproducing an image that an artist has created,” he says. “In a complicated print, there may have been a painting or a drawing that we’re basing it on with the composition and some of the colors, but the idea is to make it [original].”
In 1998, Shark’s Ink moved from Boulder to Lyons. The Sharks also moved right next to the studio, and started letting artists stay with them, sharing meals together and giving more personal help with their lithographic prints. Their home studio sits among the rolling hills that Boulder County is famed for, providing plenty of inspiration. When artists come to stay, Shark says, it’s like family members coming home.
Shark is known for the bonds he creates with artists, like Lyons artist Theresa Booth Brown. Her piece “Jacket, Bag, Dress, Watch, Ring” is one of the prints on display with Shark’s exhibit at BMoCA. She calls Bud a “magic translator.”
“He almost knew what I needed to do or what I was about to do or what the next step was with my work,” she says. “That’s a very personal thing that an artist navigates on their own, finishing their own work. But he’s worked with so many artists and knows so many ways of working, I think he’s very intuitive about everybody’s different process and what needs to be done next.”
Booth Brown says that Shark visited her studio several times when they first began contemplating project ideas and really learned how she works when making her own paintings and drawings.
“He translates the technology of printmaking and marries that with [the artist’s] process,” she says. “He brings to the world projects that never would be without his knowledge and his expertise.”
Throughout the decades of collaboration, Shark’s Ink has published over 2,700 prints in lithography, monotype and woodcut. Today, printmaking is experiencing a comeback, and Shark says it’s a reaction against digital technology.
“People are responding to the materials. It’s a much more involved and direct kind of use of materials. I think if you get too absorbed in it, you find that you’re actually limited,” he says of graphic design.
Currently, the University of Colorado Boulder is sinking its teeth into “The Sharkive,” which includes 600 prints and a couple thousand related materials such as stencils, notes from artists and Shark, as well as color proofs from prints in that collection. These materials will be donated to the CU Boulder Museum’s study room so that students, scholars and community members have access to the process that the Sharks have used for the last 40 years. With this catalogue, Shark’s work will continue to impact and influence the art landscape of Boulder County.
On the Bill: HOVAB @ Macky: Shark’s Ink. BMoCA at Macky, 285 University Ave., Boulder, 303-492-8423. Through Nov. 18.
Talk with Bud Shark. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15.