Barry Carlsen, Printmaking Guest Speaker

Wisconsin artist discusses his journey with students


Morgan Fuerstenberg photo

On Feb.16, guest speaker Barry Roal Carlsen visited UW-Platteville in Ullrich Hall. Carlsen is a printmaker and painter based out of Madison, WI.

Carlsen gave a presentation on his art career focused on what Carlsen’s expectations for his career were versus how it panned out and educating students on how they could similarly make a living with their art.

“If it means enough to you, you’ll always find a way,” Carlsen told the audience in regards to selling art and maintaining a lifestyle through their art.

Carlsen received his Master of Fine Arts in 1983, where he was employed as a graphic designer and morphed himself to suit the needs of his employers and the art field at the time. Carlsen works at UW-Madison as a Graphic Designer and a professor for design classes. Over the years, Carlsen has designed many recognizable magazine layouts, logos and other illustration work for the UW-Madison campus.

During his employment at UW-Madison, Carlsen began painting and printing out of his garage. He eventually picked up enough momentum that he was able to cut his employment down at the university to three days a week. This gave him the opportunity to work out of his studio for two full days a week instead of late into the night.

In 2006, Carlsen decided that it was time to upgrade from a garage to a home studio. He paid for his garage to be knocked down in order to build a new studio that was roughly the size of a two-car garage with a second floor.

By the fall of 2006, Carlsen’s home studio was ready with separate areas for printing, painting and woodworking and had office space upstairs. Carlsen paints with oils and uses his woodworking area to make his own frames to sell the paintings in. He began to make the frames part of the paintings themselves and noted that the more he painted and experimented with the frames, the more references he saw from his printing work.

Carlsen said that his work took on a sense of “nostalgia and foreboding” and had a distinct lack of people. Any people featured are extremely small and there is only evidence of what they leave behind.

Carlsen began to do collaborative printmaking work with his colleagues and students at UW-Madison and has done shows across the country in Brooklyn, NY, as well as Chicago, IL. Carlsen works largely with lithograph printing and is constantly experimenting with new ideas. He might make different layers or cut up prints to make collages. He also uses a wide variety of mediums in printmaking to find new ways to depict his subjects, which are usually based on his family and life experiences.

Carlsen told the audience they were free to ask questions throughout the presentation and gave additional time out the end to answer questions. Students asked if he had tips on how they could stay motivated to make art after graduating college.

Carlsen told the audience, “Find a way to incentivize yourself,” and encouraged them to affiliate with other artists and apply for shows. Art can be “someplace between a hobby and a job,” said Carlsen.

UW-Platteville professor Derek Hibbs invited Carlsen and coordinated his visit to UW-Platteville. Hibbs has been teaching printmaking and design classes at UW-Platteville for two years and said, “This is where I want to be.”

Hibbs received his Master’s from UW-Madison, where Carlsen acted as his teacher and mentor. Hibbs wanted to show UWP student diversity and what options await them after school. Hibbs brought in a positive influence and experience for students and said, for him, “Teaching is exciting for community sense and inspiration.” Hibbs saw students engaged with the presentation and asking questions to remain inspired.

Once most questions had been answered, Carlsen spread out his portfolio for students to look through and ask further questions about specific pieces and processes. Carlsen successfully gave students an idea of what they can expect from a career path after graduating college.