Steven Foutch found his career in the art of printmaking. But it’s his blue collar background, formed in the culture of a little town of about 200 people where he grew up, that adds to the meaning and richness to the work he creates today.
Foutch is an assistant professor of printmaking and drawing at the University of Dallas, and his work has been shown in both national and international exhibitions.
Foutch was recently asked by the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) to create didactic materials, such as plates of copper etching and example stones of a stone lithograph for a display case.
Through a contact from that assignment, he led a gallery lecture workshop at the DMA this summer.
But Foutch did not always have the weight of prestigious assignments from top-rated museums, nor could he even imagine himself as a creator of fine art.
“The only art I knew as a kid came from comic books and album covers,” Foutch said. “The first time I walked into a museum, I was 27 years old.”
Foutch came from a hardworking family of modest means. The thought of fine arts frightened him.
“The realm of fine art seemed scary and lofty, like something unattainable,” Foutch said.
“I didn’t even know what fine art was, nor did anyone else I knew, but my grandmother saw talent in me and encouraged me to keep pursuing art, even in just looking at things like the Encyclopedia Britannica,” Foutch said.
Printmaking, for Foutch, was a perfect fit.
“It’s where my blue collar upbringing and contemporary art met,” Foutch said. “For the first time in my life, things just came together.”
The physical labor required to create the prints and the beautiful art that comes from that labor is what brought Foutch to his niche, so to speak, in the area of printmaking.
Foutch’s background lends a sense of down-to-earth reality to the way that he views printmaking and the history of prints as an art form.
His recent workshop was open to the public and was titled “Visions of America.” It explored the rise of printmaking from the time of Paul Revere up to the present.
A theme of the workshop focused on printmaking as a democratic art form and as an art that has a particular applicability to the rugged individualism of the average American.
Given the democratic side of printmaking, Foutch’s working-class background undoubtedly gives him a bit of an edge in his field, which would account for the prestigious assignments that he has recently been working on.
The starkly real, accessible and tangible nature of the history of American printmaking is a perfect fit for Foutch, and he encourages this love for prints in the students that he works with each day.
“Foutch is very interested in helping you to grow as an artist,” sophomore printmaking major Francis Villanueva said. “He encourages us to be particular, but also to have fun and be goofy. He balances the fun and interesting part of the process with being serious and actually getting work done.”
Maddie Pelletier, a UD graduate from the class of 2016, studied under Foutch and is still actively involved in the world of printmaking today.
“He’s very hands-on and he really likes the process of the art,” Pelletier said. “He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty or step out of the realm of ‘pretty’ prints. I learned a lot from him.”
Pelletier and Villanueva both mentioned that Foutch’s background heavily influences who he is as an artist today and how he approaches the process of printmaking.
“Foutch taught me to see mistakes as part of the process of making art,” Pelletier said. “He helped me to see it not as a failure, but to add to the meaning of the work behind it.”
“He helps us not to be too serious with the work, to be willing to go with the flow and to turn mistakes into benefits in the art that we create,” Villanueva said.
Printmaking, for Foutch, has become a successful career due to the commissions that he has received. But more than that, he views it as an intimate part of who he is and where he came from.
“When I took printmaking the first semester of junior year, I took it as an elective and just fell in love with it,” Foutch said.
Foutch’s love for his work has continued to grow and it reaches out to those he teaches every day.
“He’s a big part of the reason why I declared a printmaking major,” Villanueva said.