Derek Sullivan's new print blurs the line between his life as an artist and a bibliophile

All his life, he's been fascinated by books. So when he was challenged to make a print for NSCAD's lithography workshop, he went straight to the bookshelf.

When he was challenged to make a print for NSCAD's lithography workshop, he went straight to the bookshelf

By Derek Sullivan. (Derek Sullivan)

Eight Canadian artists have returned to the famed lithography workshop at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, to work with a master and create some fresh prints. Print's Not Dead follows these artists through the process — how they're making their works and the thinking that informed them.

For Derek Sullivan, books are a living part of his art and of his life. Books are the point of generation for a lot of his projects — they've been a lifelong obsession. "I grew up in a house with lots of books. We always were given books as gifts," Sullivan says. "I think it was when I was around grade two, my mom got a job at the local Scholastic book warehouse. They'd have a little employee store and Mom would bring back books after books after books after books, so from a young age, books are something that we had quantities of. I like learning about things via books."

So when Sullivan became one of the eight artists continuing the legacy of NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University)'s lithography workshop, he immediately looked to books for inspiration. And it was as much about their outsides as their insides. He explains, "Looking at the archive of the NSCAD prints, I noticed that the square proportion's repeated again and again or the use of a square as a structural motif within the composition" — he kept seeing the shape repeated on the covers of books from NSCAD's press.

Watch the video:

Print's Not Dead: Derek Sullivan at NSCAD's lithography workshop

3 years ago
Duration 6:16
Derek Sullivan talks about his lifelong fascination with books and how it's culminated in this print for NSCAD's lithography workshop. Filmmaker: Marcia Connolly

In this video made by filmmaker Marcia Connolly, you'll see how Sullivan began to pull together the series of books that would become the subjects of his print, A Piece of Glass Hanging in the Window. With the collaboration of master printer Jill Graham, Sullivan tried to create a drawn collage that would look as if you just happened upon the perfect set of books in a meeting with each other.

Find out more about the NSCAD Lithography Workshop and explore the works that have come out of it since 1969 here. And you can find out more about Derek Sullivan here. This video is part of a CBC Arts series called Print's Not Dead documenting eight artists working in NSCAD's lithography workshop in the present day — stay tuned for more to come. You can see the exhibition of these artists' works at NSCAD Lithography Workshop: Contemporary Editionson view at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia until April 26, 2020.

Derek Sullivan's A Piece of Glass Hanging in the Window. (Derek Sullivan)
Derek Sullivan. (CBC Arts)
By Derek Sullivan. (Marcia Connolly)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.


Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.