Behind the blues art


BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Berkeley Springs printmaker Jan Heath designed the colorful three-monoprint series - "Piano," "Sax" and "Guitar" - that graces posters for the eighth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest.

Eli Pollard, director of the Washington County Arts Council Gallery in Hagers-town, said Heath's "eye-catching" sense of color and "iconographical but whimsical" artistic style prompted him to commission the talented printmaker to design the poster for the eighth annual festival.

"There's just a nice sense of celebration and innocence to it," Pollard said. "It has a naturalness to it. It's simple, but it works well."


Heath's craft also lends itself well to reproduction, he said, and the artist's female perspective brings diversity to the cache of festival posters designed exclusively by male artists until this year.

Blues Fest organizers are thrilled with Heath's design - and hope the public will share their enthusiasm for her work, Pollard said.

Heath will be on hand to sign the posters from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the 41 S. Potomac St. gallery, where her work will also be showcased through June 24.

A lifelong art lover, Heath honed her skills at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Md., and at the University of Maryland. She moved from the Washington, D.C., area to Berkeley Springs in 1979 with her husband, painter Jonathan Heath, and their son, Damian, she said. Rural Morgan County's natural landscapes and wildlife continue to inspire Jan Heath's artwork, she said.

The Heaths in 1992 opened a sunny studio and gallery at 37 A Depot St. Jonathan Heath's whimsical - and often humorous - paintings hang opposite the prints his wife creates with such tools of her trade as wood and linoleum cuts, carving knives, rubber rollers, oil-based printing oils, paint, mylar and etching presses.

Heath said she enjoys experimenting with new printmaking techniques and developing her own. She often varies the placement of figures she cuts from mylar - a thin but tough plastic - and "plays with colors" to create unique new prints using the same mylar stencils. Heath recently reinvented her linoleum print of cattle against a wintry West Virginia landscape by rolling the colors of spring onto her master linoleum cut.

"It's fun to play with the design and colors," she said.

Heath for years has wanted to compile her prints in a book - and she's now realizing that dream. One dozen of her favorite chicken woodcut prints have been custom bound in 12 small books that Heath will sign Friday, June 6, at Bath Bookworks in downtown Berkeley Springs.

Heath shows her work up and down the East Coast and sells her prints locally at Tari's Caf and Wild Women Fine Arts, The Ice House and Lot 12 Public House restaurant in Berkeley Springs, and at Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Heath Studio Gallery is open weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

If you go ...

Jan Heath will sign Blues Fest posters

Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 31

Washington County Arts Council Gallery


41 S. Potomac St.

The Herald-Mail Articles