Nurtured by PAFA's Community, a Printmaker Hopes to Do the Same for Others

Nat Bombeke (BFA ’22) grew up in a community of artists.

His parents studied at the Barn Studio of Art when they were children and knew it was the right place for their own child.

“Being at the Barn teaches you how to interact with the world around you in a creative way,” he said. “I think that was really formative for my parents so it was natural for me to go and to become part of the family at the Barn.”

At the Barn Studio of Art, Bombeke was introduced to Pat Witt. Witt founded the Millville, New Jersey art haven in 1962 after studying at several art schools in Philadelphia, including PAFA. Witt has helped Bombeke with his painting, while other Barn studio artists introduced him to different media.

“I had a year where I was taking three classes at the Barn and spending a lot of time one-on-one with Pat, talking with her,” he said. “I also met Kandice Fields, she went to the Barn and was mentored by Pat, and then came to the PAFA as a printmaking major.”

With a robust support system and a college decision looming, Bombeke knew he didn’t want to go too far away from the artists who have always helped him.

“My family and friends and my inspiration and my community of artists is here in Philly and South Jersey so this is my little support system and artists universe right here.”

And since he knew so many PAFA graduates, it only seemed fitting to follow in their footsteps.

At PAFA, printmaking—not painting—captured Bombeke’s interest. He says the process-oriented medium has been a perfect match for his artistic expression.

“I came here and it was just love at first sight. I am a very tactile learner and worker, so printmaking is great because I can get all of those fine details that I would get when I’m drawing, but also have a tactile and process-oriented way to create.”

He’s learning the art of printmaking from an old friend and classmate of his Barn Studio mentor.

Dan Miller has taught printmaking at PAFA for more than 50 years. The 90-year-old teacher attended PAFA as a student with Pat Witt in the 1950s.

“I consider it a privilege working with Dan because he’s had so many years to learn not only the industry but the in’s and out’s of printmaking,” Bombeke said. “When I work with Dan everything he says is so useful because I know he’s had the time to experience these things for himself, and I know everything he tells me is just to help.”

Even though he’s still in the first year at PAFA, he already has his sights on a career in art. After seeing the joy printmaking has brought him, he wants to make sure more people have access to the medium.

“Printmaking is a form of art that is easily jeopardized by the internet,” he said. “I feel like there are a lot of pros and cons of the age we live in for printmakers, but I fear that this is something that could be forgotten if it’s not shared as much as we can.”

He hopes to one day become a master printmaker and maybe even open his own print shop, and build his own community of artists and printmakers.

“I’ve realized that there are certain parts of the country that have absolutely, from what I understand, absolutely no access to a print shop,” Bombeke said. “And I think about how my life has been changed instantly by Dan Miller and by Tony Rosati and now I can’t even imagine a life without printmaking.”

Nat Bombeke '22.
Nat Bombeke '22.
Nat Bombeke '22 at work in the Print Shop.
Nat Bombeke '22 at work in the Print Shop.
Nat Bombeke '22 at work in the Print Shop.
Nat Bombeke '22 at work in the Print Shop.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.