Artist Spotlight: Alyssa Endo

Updated: Aug 14, 2018

Name: Alyssa M. Endo City: Pacific Grove, CA 

Website: Medium: Reduction Woodcut   


Where are you originally from, and how did you find your way to the Monterey area?

"I am originally from San Carlos, went to HS in Redwood City and college at UC Santa Cruz. It just so happened that I was able to get accommodations in PG and moved on down here. The pieces really started to fall into place when my mother and I stumbled upon Open Ground Studios in Seaside just as it opened its doors to the public. After leaving the print shop at UCSC, I was worried that I would have to give up art since I thought I had no means to continue. It would’ve been quite a shame considering it is what I got my degree in..."

How would you describe your process?

"I’d describe my process as controlled chaos. Reduction woodcut is a very interesting process in the respect that it seems pretty straight forward until you have to do it. I’ve been doing this process now for almost four years and I still have my “oops” moments. But in a way, those are some of my favorite parts. Be it the color or the slipping of the carving too, each “mistake” proves that it was a hand made process. And like what a lot of artists claim, “you will be your worst critic.” I find all those mistakes and can nit-pick every detail, but in the end, if I don’t point them out, no one will ever notice. I’ve gotten angry at my art before, but after doing it for a while and seeing how each piece comes out, perhaps not how originally intended, I learn to love them. What’s the point getting angry at your work? You are meant to make a piece, no matter how terrible it comes out, because you learn from it. You learn the things that don’t work, but also what could work. I love finding that balance."

Tell us something about yourself that most people might not know.

"Something that most people don’t know about me...that’s a pretty difficult question to answer considering I think I’m pretty open book-like. But perhaps...that I love coffee? Um, I’m a crazy Sharks Hockey fan?! Nah, just kidding, as an artist I am a horrible drawer. I don’t really like sketching or drawing a lot of the time and every time I have to create a new woodcut I dread it a little. Not a super hardcore kind of dread but more a “gosh dang it, not again,” kind of dread. I can’t draw hands or faces or proportioned bodies, but that’s “my style” I suppose."

Use of color is very present in your work, was that something you were always drawn to, or is it something you found along the way?

"Mmm….it’s a mix of both I think. Colors are always making me smile and even though I may not wear colorful things normally, I love to look at them. In my woodcuts I started off my first few with colors I knew would lay on top of each other opaquely. Both the first and second Geishas were taken from images that I was drawn to. I changed them up in design and changed the colors. I went with bright yellows, whitey oranges, whitey pinks, reds, blues...the more a color burned my eyes after I printed it, the better. As I kept trying new shades, I came to realize two things: 1) Whatever color I made and rolled out for that layer was the color that I was meant to use. A very Zen kind of mentality, but hey, it kept me from going crazy over everything. And 2) With each traditional aspect to the print that I added, the more I felt like I was bringing in my heritage. With each bright color I brought into the print, the more of myself I brought to it. I am Japanese-American but know very little of my background. This, in a small way, is how I could feel with that background."

Your work is very intricate and you have mentioned that you tend to enjoy the smaller details, is this something that you’ve translated into your everyday life?

"In a way it started before I even got to printmaking. I did photography in college and loved to take images in Black and White more so than in color. Composition is much more critical in a B/W image because there is no color to distract from the subject. With a B/W photo you start to see the grey areas too; all those details start to pop out at you. In life sometimes you get distracted by all the colors of everyday life, work, drama...If you don’t take the time to step back and take notice of those little things that keep you happy, you’ll drive yourself insane. And not in a good way. Taking time to have a quiet cup of coffee, running into a good friend you haven’t seen in a while, getting time to look out at the ocean...Life is better with those little things and the little always leads to a bigger, better, more interesting picture."

Who are some artists, local or otherwise, that you hold in high esteem?

"Truthfully I hold every single artist I meet in high esteem. Being an artist is not easy. To be an artist, it means you have to be dedicated, meticulous, curious, and confident in your own ways No matter what an artist says, each one creates art with a passion and fire. If they are bold enough to pursue that passion, they are high up there in my book. If you look at the back story of some famous artists, many of them didn’t get any recognition and got very little help from the outside. But they were strong enough to follow their dreams and became well known."

Where do you find yourself drawing the most inspiration from?

"I find the most inspiration from looking at old kimono patterns and photos of Japan. Each design is unique and many are super colorful. There are some repetitive imagery, but as I research I find out what each design means. That helps me draw new images for each print."

What advice would you give to other emerging artists, especially those who would like to use their art as a means for income? "Do what you love to do. Get yourself out there doing shows, booths at events or fairs, or just talking with people. When the time is right, you will know. I’ve had what I call my “second job” now ever since I started doing this series. There is nothing wrong with that and truthfully I love my jobs! I’d probably keep both jobs even if my art takes off, if I can. But no matter what, keep creating and doing you."