If your response to Douglas Piper’s soulful, colorful prints is to exclaim, “I could never do that!”—Piper would cheerfully contradict you. For some artists, the process is intensely personal and mysterious, the muse often capricious. But Piper believes that “art is for everyone, and anyone can make art.” So, if you really wanted to know how to make prints, he’d probably start teaching you with a smile.
What Piper’s humble, inclusive spirit leaves out, of course, is his talent. You and I might be able to pick up some carving tools, but it’s unlikely we could produce the intricate, illustrative scenes he first carves into linoleum blocks and then hand-presses into bright prints. His contemporary folk style is inspired by the natural world and driven by a desire for human connection. That reverence for authentic human touch is an integral part of his process: rather than using a press to transfer his designs onto paper, he relies on a well-worn wooden spoon, hand-carved by his grandfather years ago, to apply the ink. The result is less uniform than a mechanical press, but to Piper, the resulting inconsistencies in the final prints tell a more interesting story.
The stories—which often incorporate found objects like bits of his grandfather’s topographical maps or vintage paper from the 1920s—all find their root in his grandfather’s carpentry workshop, where Piper first learned to carve and whittle. When he discovered how much he enjoyed art in high school, he took classes all four years, focusing on sculptures and wood relief carvings. It wasn’t until he fell in love with a studio artist after graduating college that his interest in art was rekindled, however. “I don’t think I gave my art the attention it deserved until I met my wife, Meredith,” he explains.
Piper, who works as a marketing and graphics consultant for small businesses, picked up his carving tools again just for fun. His first linoleum block print, a Christmas card, turned out to launch a new passion for art. Today, Piper shares a studio with his wife along the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. His work captures the joy of his adventures outdoors—a cabin perched in the shadow of tall mountains, steam rising from a cup of coffee, Greenville’s iconic Falls Park bridge. Piper’s vibrant, saturated color palette is as bright and optimistic as his philosophy of life. “I want my art to take people to a place of joy and happiness,” he says. “I want to create art that lifts.”
For more information on Douglas Piper and his work, visit douglaspiper.com, or stop by his studio in downtown Greenville at 300 River St, Ste 104, that he shares with his wife, artist Meredith Piper.