Of A Pioneer
A revolution in fine art printmaking is taking place with much attention towards working with media and materials that will not kill the artist in the process,and a pioneer in this field of Non-Toxic Printmaking has just passed: my friend Keith Howard. He has inspired many to give up their acid baths and much more and replace it with materials that have much less impact on the artist and the environment. Keith was a pioneer and I was happy to be able to call him my friend, and colleague at The Rochester Institute of Technology. He was always full of humor and wit, but this gifted artist was taken suddenly on Sunday, February 8th, 2015. A question lingers about Keith’s early exposure as an artist to toxic printmaking materials and did they ultimately contribute to his death now -many years later?
Keith wrote the book on Non-Toxic Printmaking and built programs in Canada and here in the U.S. – based on his research and ingenuity. Keith was as much of an inventor as he was a fine artist, and in recent years he branched out into painting and he was also an avid photographer. But it was his skill at getting printmakers to change their old and bad habits, and strike out for new greener territory that made his contribution important.
I first met Keith Howard as a result of one of his workshops he would conduct in the summers up in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. I went up there on a vacation to check him out after receiving a few flyers he would send out to printmaking programs around the country. In 1997 we met, and I began to work with techniques he was bringing to the practice of intaglio type printmaking.
I could tell right away that Keith was a man with a mission, and he had good reason. There were too many examples of printmaking artists who were exposed to different and dangerous chemicals in one place ( their studios! ) – much more than any other profession. Acids, kerosene, cancer causing rosins, and toluene were frequently found in old fashioned printmaking facilities ( I know this from the headaches they caused and much more ) – Keith wanted to clean this up.
On my recommendation Keith was hired to revamp the Printmaking Program at Rochester Institute of Technology and he proceeded to renovate the studios to suit the needs of his new direction in graphic art. I participated in helping Keith relocate, and get him acclimated to our working at R.I.T. Keith was our guest during his first year in Rochester, so I got to know him ( and his family ).
Keith was already deep into the research for his second major book experimenting with materials that would make the process of intaglio much safer for the students in our School of Art to practice with.
Keith was a funny unpretentious sort and his class was fun, and you learned so much partly because of his enthusiasm for creative work.
He was a world traveller and gave workshops on almost every continent. Keith has had legions of students who like myself, have changed their ways and been inspired because of his pioneering spirit, and the work he had accomplished. THANK YOU, KEITH!