Don’t call Alan Sheldon Vannoy a Renaissance Man. He’s only the entrepreneur behind Alpine food truck Cow Dog, designer of the iconic Saddle Club sign, a handy-man, a classically trained book artist, and a talented print maker. Instead, Vannoy prefers to be known as a “seeker” of happiness. According to his philosophy, we’re all here to enjoy the quest for happiness and that is exactly what drives his life, work, and artistic pursuits.
Vannoy’s studio reflects his philosophy. It’s a self converted three car garage, containing an organized mix of traditional repair tools, playful ephemera, and print-making supplies. A few large working tables line the walls with shelves and drawers above and below storing papers, brightly colored inks, and rollers. In a set of worn garage utility drawers I find nuts and bolts among drawers of googgly eyes. One wall (and and then some) is devoted to what Vannoy jokes is the “detritus” that inspires him: a cover of David Bowie ripped from “Rolling Stone” magazine, a large collection of energy drinks, black velvet nudes, Japanese stickers, posters of his previous exhibits, a “BEWARD OF GOD” sign, and dollar store toys arranged in an antique printing press type specimen case.
He asks if we want to see a printmaking demo as if I’d decline. The press is the first thing you see when you walk in to studio and it had been all I could do not to demand a demo before all the proper cordiality. He grabs a small tin of ink and starts smearing persimmon onto a plate with a raised pattern of M’s and Q’s. He wipes the top of the plate clean, leaving ink only in the sunken negative space between letters. Then, he soaks a photocopied image of a carnival prize doll with some magical formula and then rolls black ink over it. By some kind of voo-doo the ink doesn’t saturate the entire image- it only sticks to the black lines of the photocopy. He swears this works best with copies from very old books, and shows us his stack of crumbling specimen books on the shelf above. Finally, he places the inky doll on the plate of letters, and tops it with a wet piece of paper before putting the whole stack under the press. The resulting print is vibrant and truly one-of-a-kind as Vannoy spurns the printer’s tradition of making numbered editions of his prints. He attaches the damp print onto a piece of plywood with a copious border of staples. He smiles admitting that this isn’t the “proper way” to let prints dry. But the results are better.