John Steins in his studio

As a print-maker with a bias towards wood engraving,  I have a strong admiration for this tradition and the many fine engravers it produced since Bewick’s time in the 1700s.

Not long ago I finished seven years at the Yukon School of Visual Arts (Yukonsova.ca) where I supported our students, faculty and staff under the guise of Studio Technician. Once in a while, I got to give a talk on print-making. Or an instructor will bring a class over to my studio for some show & tell.

Lucky me! I had a resident art instructor living in my house while growing up, my father Ilgvars Steins. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1959 winning the Lieutenant General’s Award for excellence in drawing and painting. He enjoyed a very long and productive career. He left our world to take up residency beyond the sun – according to ancient Latvian belief – in November of 2011, on my birthday – ever the joker!

I attended a special 5-year course at a high school in Ottawa that prepared art students for the world of commercial art or college. A very cool program that produced quite a few career artists. I loved lettering class where we learned to draw perfect fonts by hand using French curves, lining tools, quills and India ink.

One instructor had a mantra that stuck with me; “Simplicity, unity and harmony: the elements of good design.”

Unlike my fellow students who went on to various art colleges, I went headlong into the world of commercial art beginning a career with a major ad agency in Toronto at the tender age of 18.



  1. Hi John:

    Just passing this along – I have the proof of your piece entitled “Obsession.” It is of an acoustic guitar player, is signed by you and dated 1977. It was purchased in the Yellowknife area by a good friend of mine who lived and worked in Yellowknife in the mid-to-late 70s. I’m a longtime guitar player and he purchased it as a gift for me.

    I really love the piece and it has occupied a place of honour in all the homes I have lived in during the past 30+ years.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for taking the time to write. And thanks for your remarks about the “Obsession” linocut. I remember when I made that one, it was a bit ambitious for me at the time because of the different colours.

    Good to know it’s still surviving and appreciated.


  3. John

    just starting out with learning engraving and stumbled upon your site purely by accident doing some research and seeing what is being printed these days by others. You have done amazing work.

  4. Thanks Brian, if there’s any way I can help you with your engravings please let me know.


  5. Hi there, I’m a student in secondary/high school and I’m doing some work on you in my art class. I know it sounds silly, but when were you born? & why did you start doing lino prints?
    -I chose you to focus my lino print work on as I love everything you do that I’ve seen. I love the ‘Snow and Trees’ photo that’s on here, Im thinking of getting it printed & put in a frame for my bedroom. Love your work.

  6. John,

    Just wanted to thank you again for the informative talk you gave, and to say how much I enjoyed reading ‘About’ you. You certainly are talented in many areas. Your art is amazing and I’ll visit often to keep up with your latest works.

    All the best!

  7. Thanks Barbara,

    Thanks for coming last night and I’m glad you got something out of it. Hope to see you at the opening.

  8. Dear John

    I am an art student at Agincourt Collegiate Institute and i as arts students we’ve been given an assignment to choose an artist that we’re are interested in, i have chose you and i was wondering if you could answer some basic questions for me such as your Birthday, your education in art, where you worked etc.

  9. John,

    It is always a pleasure to check out your site and see printmaking at its finest. I appreciate your work a lot and have fond memories of friends from Dawson City. I am now retired from teaching and work now on my dreams – making art whenever I can. Best of success to you with the new press. Lynn

  10. Thanks Lynn for those kind words especially from a worthy artist like yourself. As a printmaker with a perverse desire to work in a vacuum where there’s no other printmaker within hundreds of miles it was so uplifting to have you show up in town so many years ago offering me encouragement. As I am working at our own little art school right now I’m trying to carve out some time for my own work. I’ll keep you posted.

  11. Hi John

    It’s been a few years since your cats used me and Philip (Craig) as a climbing device at your apartment in Yorkville.

    I’ve looked for you many times over the years since Ottawa and now … here you are … I think. The last email here is dated 2012, so I don’t know how often you check this site out … or worse, if you’re still with us.

    If you get a moment and are in the mood, please contact me at the email address supplied. I’d love to hear from you.

  12. Hello, I am currently doing an art project on initiation and was captivated by your lino printing technique and some of your artwork. if you wouldn’t mind replying to this message it would be an honor to ask you a few questions and advice concerning your lino work.

So great if you could take a minute and leave your thoughts on this.