Supreme Sunbather | October 2022
Sanaa Scherezade Khan grew up in the South Bay Area. Her favorite mediums are painting, drawing and printmaking. Sanaa helps run Max’s Garage Press, a community print shop in Berkeley that offers affordable access to a wide range of equipment for traditional fine art printmaking, risograph printing, and zine-making. She is also 1/3rd of Tiny Splendor, an independent press that collaborates with artists around the world (and us!) to share a love for putting ink on paper.
Sanaa is an incredibly talented artist whose fantastical, often humorous drawings of animals, humans, combinations of the two, and so much more come to life in expertly rendered detail.
Q & A With Sanaa Khan
Plunge: Did you start your art practice with printmaking?
Sanaa: Actually, I love drawing and painting. Before I went to college, in high school, I was really into that. Then in college, I took printmaking classes, and I just fell in love with it. That’s where we started wanting to create a studio in a space that people use, outside of school. Then it just grew over the years.
Do you feel like your art practice is inspired by helping other artists?
Yes, totally because I feel like what drew me to the print department was everyone is working collaboratively and seeing what everyone else is working on and you just get a sense of you’re not doing this in a vacuum as much. I feel like painting and drawing is very vague on its own. It’s very meditative and I wish I had more time for that, but print, you have to use all of the same stuff you have to consult people, so I like that.
Yes. I’m a big introvert, so I like being forced to mingle with people.
How often would you say you’re working on your own art?
It really varies, but I try to always have at least one project that I’m working on and I feel like I’m in a place right now where I would like to be working on it more, but I’m prioritizing working on it like one day a week.
Do you show it often?
I do a lot of group shows when I can. I want to do shows if I feel like it's worth the effort of what I can realistically pull off to my own standard, but not kill myself over. I also like working with people who are doing things I'm really into. It's always nice to work with people who I know in real life or friends of friends instead of trying really hard to apply to a bunch of galleries that I don't know. I also tended to work smaller and smaller over the years, and I don't even know if I could fill a big gallery if I had a solo show or something.
Do you ever work large scale?
I used to, but honestly I feel like with the level of detail that I like to get lost in, I probably would have to give up everything else I'm going to work big.
So do you use this as a studio for your own work?
Yes, for print time especially yes, but also for random odds and ends. I do a lot of drawing and painting at home though, but that's when I need a break from the studio. It’s a mix. I feel like I'm trying to get better at work-life balance because sometimes I'm here for 9 or 10 hours and don't have a day off during the week and that's just because I'm bad at time management. It's not like anyone's making me be here other than myself.
What part of your process excites you the most?
I think I just feel like making stuff is always this really cool magic trick where you get to create something that wasn’t there before and it gets to be exactly how you want it to be. I wish I had better words to describe that process, but that’s the part of it I like the most, it’s just very… very self-determining
Absolutely! And how does making art make you feel? You said it in other words.
It’s very grounding and it very much reminds you of what to be grateful for because you have constant access to making things in the way that you want to. It’s a very good reminder to yourself if you’re depressed or anxious or the surrounding world is overwhelming. It’s just very nice to be able to work on something.
Yes. It’s always there for you. It seems like you’re trying new things constantly in your print practice. What about in your private art practice?
I am constantly trying to just make it a little bit harder for myself with level of detail, or sometimes even though art can be like this very relaxing, grounding, healing thing for me, I do sometimes actually come at it with this self-punishing mindset. I try to be better about it as time goes on, but sometimes you need to get something done faster than you did before and more detailed… Up the ante, which is somewhat a negative thing, but I think I really enjoy setting a higher expectation for myself every time.
Is there ever a time when you’re not able to produce work?
Definitely. There’s definitely been big chunks of time. I would say a lot of COVID [I was ] not opening my sketchbook other than for projects I’d agreed to. I was not drawing in my sketchbook at all. I still feel I’m in that blocked place of not drawing for fun.
How do you work through those moments?
I just tell myself to not worry about it and just not even try to make myself do it because otherwise it’s going to be even less fun, so just giving myself permission to do the stuff that is more of an assignment, and less freeform.
When have you felt the most successful?
I feel like every year we've been really surprised by how well our print sale has gone in December, especially the first years, it just kept exponentially growing and we were shocked because our space is word of mouth and we didn't really put out too much about it. I like seeing how many people come out for that and how many people are really excited about print and how people get in a frenzy about it. It feels really like a success that we’ve been able to cultivate and pass on this appreciation for what print can do, combined with artists that we really like and appreciate, and make that happen. I feel like the print sale always feels like the biggest condensed version of that kind of success.