John K. Esler

974.01.01 (Virgo Waiting #2)

John K. Esler, 1933-

Born: Pilot Mound, Manitoba, 1933

Nationality: Canadian

John K. Esler spent much of his artistic career in Calgary. He was born at Pilot Mound, Manitoba in 1933, and studied at the School of Art at the University of Manitoba, graduating in 1960. He then studied at that University’s Faculty of Education, and after traveling abroad, took a teaching post at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary in 1964. He continued as an artist-teacher at the University of Calgary, where he taught intaglio printmaking.

Esler’s willingness to experiment is one of the defining characteristics of his artistic practice. A squashed lunch box became the first in a series of calamitous events of found-objects-turned-into-prints that Esler called Relics of the 20th Century. One of those experiments included the flattened chassis of a television set. His desire to discover new ways to press his ideas on paper led him to explore collographs and etching.

Susan Ford, an art educator who curated a 1994 retrospective said that as an art educator he offered an “experimental, hands-on, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach.  “Hopefully” Esler added, “the first thing the student learns is not to be tentative and not to worry about making mistakes, because I think everybody in any situation learns from mistakes.”Through John K. Esler's teaching and artistic efforts, printmaking blossomed in Calgary, which became a major print centre.