Meet Rita Loehr. She is the featured artist who painted the fishing scenes on our new Fish ‘N Fry bags. She created three different designs to correspond with three new flavours. All images are inspired by CEO Colleen Haussecker’s family when they visited Saskatchewan’s local lakes. Rita now lives in Comox, BC however, she grew up on Saskatchewan prairies.
A Small Town Prairie Girl
Rita grew up mostly in Muenster, Sask. in a family of 13 on the farm but then they moved to Watson, Sask in her teen years. She was born in the 50’s and started her art career at a very young age. Rita laughs as she remembers how she and her siblings would sit around the TV in the evenings fighting to decide which of the two channels they should watch. Yes, that’s not a typo; TV’s only had two channels back then. She said that their old black and white TV blew up and her parents didn’t replace it, although she doubts it was because they couldn’t afford it. Suddenly, with all this free time, the children had to busy themselves with make-believe, art, and music. Today, it would be deplorable for parents to not replace a broken TV for their children! Or maybe kids these days don’t even need a TV when they are walking around with one in their pocket?
An Artist in the Making
Growing up in a small rural town in large family, Rita was very attuned to knowing what she was good at. Her mother had a big influence on her as a child. She always encouraged her to pursue the things that she was good at by telling her “Think about what makes you happy, it's not just about the money”. This is typically not the advice given to young people these days as they are encouraged to follow the money to fit an expensive lifestyle.
Rita said she always enjoyed art and remembers her mother showing her how to draw hands at a young age. Hands were drawn like a mitten then individual fingers were drawn inside so that the hand didn’t become oddly shaped looking like a cartoon instead of a hand. Even in school, Rita remembers her teachers encouraging her to develop her artistic ability. June Sproule, a teacher in Watson, made such an impression on her that decades later Rita still credits her as one of her early supporters. When Rita entered grade 11, she decided to move to Regina to attend a high school as there were no art classes offered after grade 9 in the small town of Watson. After graduation she attended Alberta’s College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta. This is where she fell in love with the art of printmaking.
The Art of Printmaking
Printmaking is a bit of a lost art. It is made up of the original printing techniques used long before letter presses and digital reproductions. Printmaking is literally what it sounds like: making prints. It is all done by hand. The process is complex and involves creating a giant 'stamp' of the image on a large sheet of zinc that is then rolled through a press.
Etching the Image
First, zinc sheets referred to as plates are prepared and the image is drawn by hand onto the plates using various tools such etching needles or water resistant mediums such as grease pencils. Then the plate is dipped into an acid and water bath. The acid eats away at any part of the plate that is exposed. The areas covered by grease will remain white because no groove is created to hold ink. The whole image is done in the negative. A new plate is made for each colour in the print, so an image with 4 colours (ie: red, yellow, brown, and green) will have four different plates.
Inking the Plates
After the work on the plates are finished, ink is spread over the surface and pushed into the grooves and then wiped off. This removes any ink on the flat shiny surface. Ink in the grooves remains. Then each successive plate (based on the colour needed) is run through a press. The image is created by aligning each colour plate perfectly and then rolling them one by one through the roller press with the image then transferred onto the paper. This way, several prints can be made for the same image. The process of printmaking is complex and is probably better understood by checking out Rita’s videos on her Instagram account @rita_loehr_art.
Art as an Asset
Rita also works in watercolour and acrylic. She worked as a graphic designer for many years before getting back at her fine art full time in 2016. In all of her jobs she used art as her main skill from drawing layouts by hand before computers were on the scene, to creating them digitally once they were. Everything from creating ads, designing logos, brochures, posters, signs, books, etc. to managing the production department at the local newspaper.
The Future of Art with Youth
When asked about the future of young artists in these times, Rita is optimistic. She believes there are many young talented artists still entering the art scene and making a living. Her daughter Kirsten is one of those young artists who is carving out a living with her art. She has the artist’s gene. Her style is full of colour, imagination and is quite whimsical.
Making Time For Art
Rita is concerned about our relationship with time. Everyone is so busy. Time is always lacking with screen time taking up a lot of our lives. There are so many distractions that simply did not exist even 15 years ago. She stated that everyone is expected to immediately respond to texts and emails and it is hard to have the time to internalize or even think without distractions. This really is leading to a lack of concentration. Rita summed up life today: phones always buzzing and wanting our attention. We are so connected as a society and yet so disconnected at the same time. Rita makes her art a priority and spends her time connected to creation instead of her screen as much as possible and results have really paid off. To see some of Rita’s beautiful pieces of art and videos of the art of printmaking at Instagram at @rita_loehr_art. You can find more of her art at www.ritaloehrart.com
It is exciting and an honor to feature her art work on our new product, Fish ‘N Fry Coating Mixes.