You Are Here:An Interview With Stephen Sasser About His Work With Lyn Nance-Sasser

When it comes to playing matchmaker with maps and illustrations, Stephen and Lyn Sasser know exactly what they’re doing. Their unique take on modern art brings together landmarks, maps, and illustration in an unforgettable way. Read on to find out more about their craft and how they bring a fresh take to vintage maps.




Surround Yourself: You are a husband and wife team that creates art. How did you discover that you’d work well together in that capacity? How do you choose which cities/places to illustrate?

Stephen Sasser: We actually met in art school.

Lyn was an architecture student and I was majoring in drawing and painting. Lyn tells the story that she first saw my paintings in a student exhibit and decided that she wanted to meet me.

Our training is as painters as well as designers. Our hearts are in printmaking, as our chosen means of expression. We began making silk-screen prints and now we have embraced the digital world. Our prints are made with archival pigment inks on 100% cotton, acid free printmaking paper.

We were founding members, (I was president) of the NW Print Council, representing printmaking artists from five states and three Canadian provinces.

Sometimes we pick a location because someone requests it. Most of the images are inspired by our own photographs that we have taken on our travels.




SY: Has this given you more opportunity to travel and see the world?

SS: We really began this series as an homage to our home town, Portland. After winning a grant, to produce the original ten prints, we then launched a Kickstarter campaign called “You Are Here, Coast-to-Coast” which allowed us to expand our horizons. We now have prints from cities across North America and some in Europe and Japan. We plan to continue with this effort as far as it can take us.




SY: Which came first–your love for design or your love of traveling? Did one stem from the other?

SS: Design and printmaking is our first love. There’s no end to the potential imagery we can utilize in our work.




SY: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

SS: We love cities that are loaded with history. London is a favorite because of all the layers of history and the museums on every corner. There is even a Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising as well as one on the history of surgery, The Old Operating Theatre.




SY: Tell us about your creative process and how you create each piece.

SS: We have collaborative discussions regarding the current imagery of choice. Remember, we are together all day, so the meetings can take place in a coffee shop (Portland is known as an epicenter for great coffee) and continue while commuting on a streetcar or fixing a meal in our kitchen. After hashing out the concept, we go about capturing images. That can involve taking new photos with an iPhone or browsing through our personal photo collection.

We consider the photos our sketches. Lyn will take them into her studio and create drawings from them. When we are both happy with the results, I take them to my studio space and scan them into my iMac computer and manipulate them with Photoshop. I then layer them with a map that is scanned into the file.

A side note: We have a large collection of retro service station maps. Service station maps were given out to customers as a courtesy. Most of the ones we use are from the 1940s-50s.

Then we both sit down at the computer and continue to manipulate the image until they are both satisfied before taking them to their printing space and making the final print. We both examine each finished print before considering it completed.




SY: What makes each piece you create meaningful to you?

SS: We consider the subject matter of each piece very carefully before we begin. Then we put a lot of time and energy into the execution of the print. Each image has a personal meaning for us. Most of them reflect a memory of a given time and place in our lives.




SY: Does art and design run in the family?

SS: We are each the first artists in our families, but both of our children use their skills in design in their chosen fields.




SY: When you’re not creating your masterpieces, what do you enjoy doing?

SS: Portland’s geographic situation is ideal. We live 79 miles west of the Pacific Ocean and several beach resort cities.

To the east we are 56 miles from Mount Hood, a snow-capped peak in the Cascade Range of mountains. Portland is a center of gourmet dining, craft beer, coffee roasters, live theatre and indie-music and the maker movement.




SY: Your art has a vintage feel to it. Does your style at home mimic your style of art at all?

SS: We live and work in our home/studio, a 100+ year-old craftsman style house in the inner-city of Portland, about two miles from the Willamette River, which flows north into the Columbia River and then to the Pacific Ocean. The Willamette is crossed by 12 bridges within the Portland city limits.




SY: What do you surround yourself with?

SS: Our home is filled with our collections: books, Chalk Art (plaster dolls and premiums given as prizes at fairs and carnivals for knocking over bottles with a baseball or popping balloons with a dart), retro toys, vinyl jazz records, vintage metal signage and outsider art, and our cat Jimmy.

At Halloween and Christmas we decorate our home with vintage decorations from the 1940s and 1950s. We have a private back garden and deck with ample hydrangeas that bloom all summer and into the fall.




Find Stephen and Lyn Sasser’s collection on Great BIG Canvas!