Self Revelations Through Fantastical Imagery

A conversation with

Studio Resident Artist,

Talia Ryan

Our current Main Gallery and Studio Gallery exhibitions use their talents as storytelling devices. Talia Ryan, our Studio Resident artist, allows us into her whimsical mind through her exhibition, “Incantations.” 

Talia Ryan

How did you get involved with Book Arts?

I actually first heard of the Book Arts Center through my mom, who works at CHC Learning Center. She arranged a field trip once for the students, all of whom have special needs; and she said that they had such a good experience and that it was an incredible place! After hearing a bit about what you offer here, as a printmaker, I was very intrigued and started attending some of the community events and workshops offered by Book Arts. I could not be more impressed with all that you do here, and when I saw the call for submissions for the Summer Residency this year, I knew I had to apply.

Where do you get your inspiration from for your fantastical pieces?

In my artwork, the underlying concepts tend to come directly from my very real life personal experiences, while the imagery tends to take fantasy forms. I think this is my own method of escapism. I am compelled to create images directly referencing some of my innermost feelings, and when I do so through beautiful fantastical visuals it feels more approachable and gratifying to me. I was always kind of a fairy child who spent a lot of time in my own imaginary world when I was young, and the more I develop as an artist, the more comfortable and inclined I become to let that come through in my work.

What is your favorite type of printmaking?

When I first discovered printmaking, I was introduced to the Cardograph technique by the brilliant Ron Netsky. This is an intaglio technique that is incredibly accessible (compared to etching or aquatinting) and I fell in love with it right from the start. Once I left school however, getting access to a press wasn’t as easy, and so I let myself fall in love with relief printing and linoleum carving. They are so different and I really do enjoy them equally at this point. I think I have much more come into my own as a relief printmaker in recent years.

Can you explain your process for creating a print?

In very technical terms, with a cardograph you work with a piece of coated chipboard, made up of many layers of paper. I use an Xacto knife to carve out my image, and once the board is sealed, I can press ink into those carved grooves much like an etching plate, running it through a press to reveal the image. With linoleum blocks, I work in reverse, carving away whatever I want to stay the color of the paper, and leaving a surface to be inked and pressed onto paper to reveal the final image. With my Residency project, I’ve been working with the letter press to incorporate text into my images. This has encouraged me to explore some collage with my prints, combining multiple prints off the same plate along with type into one final image.

What do you want audiences to gain from your exhibition?

I hope that people who see my exhibition will find something whimsical and loving. I titled the show “Incantations” because the works have a bit of otherworldliness in them, with words forming not only sentences but moments of poetry and of repetition which I hope has a bit of a spellcasting effect. I hope the viewer feels as though the images give them permission to feel the magic of their own selves and beauty.

What was your biggest takeaway from your residency with Book Arts?

I have really just been overwhelmed and humbled by learning the art of the letterpress. After two months of work I feel like I am really only scratching the surface of what can be done with typography, and it has been fascinating to learn how the type drawers are organized and the origins of the letterpress itself. It has allowed me to really sit with each word for far longer than I otherwise would have, and has given me a deeper appreciation for printing thoughts onto paper. I feel such gratitude to the Book Arts Center for existing and for keeping this beautiful practice alive and well in Buffalo.


I hope the viewer feels as though the images give them permission to feel the magic of their own selves and beauty.

This blog post was written by Book Arts Intern, Nina Grenga. Nina is currently getting her Master’s at the University at Buffalo in Critical Museum Studies with a concentration in Arts Management. Nina has been an avid lover of the arts and books, so this internship was the perfect fit! 

Talia hard at work!