Collagraphy in Peru

I just finished up a day making Collagraph prints with a group of students, 124 five and six year olds..., at Newton College here in La Molina Peru. Collagraphy printmaking is a great, and very approachable, form of printmaking for younger students and older alike. It is kinetic and gets the students moving. Similar to relief printmaking but rather than taking away material to create an image you are adding material to a hard substrate to build up an image. So what do you need?

1. Two pieces of a hard substrate. We were making flags so I used a roughly 2' by 3' piece of plywood but it can be smaller or bigger.

2. Some cardboard, foam, bubble wrap Really anything with texture. The only caveat is that you want to try and keep your materials roughly the same thickness.

3. Some paint. I used student grade tempera and acrylic paint. 

4. A staple gun or glue. I prefer using staples as you do not need to wait for the glue to dry.

5. Either paper, cloth, old sheets, or even T shirts. For this project we used pillow cases to make flags for each homeroom. 

6. Brushes, the cheaper the better. 

First off I explained what we were going to do and then handed out bits of cardboard and bubble wrap. I had the students draw with markers shapes. It is better to keep the shapes simple as cutting cardboard is an imprecise science. 

After they had cut out their shapes, with some help, we spent some time arranging and placing the materials on the plywood which I had laid down flat. I use a staple gun to affix the material to the plywood but you could use glue if you want. I find that the staple gun speeds things up and gets the kids printing much faster. 

Once the materials are affixed I let the kids go wild with the paint. In groups of four they came up and did their worst. I encouraged the kids to paint over each others work and in general be as spontaneous as they want. Don't worry if they paint all over the wood as only the raised surfaces will print. 

Once the materials are really covered with paint you are ready to print. If printing on paper you might need to take some proofs and then re-ink. With cloth I have found that one inking will do. First place your inked plywood on the ground, a hard surface is better than say a lawn. Lay your paper or cloth on the inked plywood. Gently smooth it out and press down to make sure it is in contact with the raised and inked materials. 

Next place your second piece of plywood on top of the cloth and inked piece of plywood. Sort of making a sandwich where the bread is plywood and the cloth or paper is the cheese or bacon. 

Now the really fun part- Printing! I had the students line up and then one by one they walked and jumped on the plywood sandwich. This prints the ink onto the cloth or paper. They can be as energetic as they want. I found that one time through the line of 24 kids was sufficient but if they are having fun ket them go again. They can really go at it they only thing to be aware of is that the plywood does not shift. 

Remove the top piece of plywood and peel the cloth or paper from the inked material by pulling from one corner. You should have a print of the inked materials. You now can re-ink or remove the materials and start over. Its up to you. 

We had a great time and the kids nice and messy while making their first prints!



Comic Books in the Classroom!


Growing up I can clearly remember having to hide comic books from my teachers. I guess things have changed because tomorrow I start a series of trainings here in Peru that focus on using comic books and sequential art as a framework from which to teach english. I'm being asked to bring comics to school!

Sequential art is a powerful and effective way of story telling. Its ability to conceive of and convey information is due to the interplay between the written word and the image. Comic books and sequential art have been shown to be very effective in teaching English as a second language for the following reasons.  The comic book promotes reading which is an integral skill in learning a new language. Also, the text in a comic book, in general, is comprised of colloquial English. This is an aspect of the English language most likely not covered in textbooks. Comic books can cover a wide range of subject matter and thus can be adapted to accommodate specific cultural and location specific needs. Having students actively making and reading comics promotes critical thinking skills and the imagination. Comic books present stories and information in a juxtaposed manner it is easier to learn, remember, and use language when presented in this way. Finally comic books are a fun and fantastical medium that increases student’s interest in learning. In other words comics are not “boring.”

For all of these reasons comic books and sequential art are an effective framework within which to teach language. These ideas along with suggested lesson plans are contained in the workbook Why English? Comic for the Classroom published in 2014 by the U.S. Embassy in Lima Peru. This is the work book that all the attendees will receive during the training. 

I find it amazing that my love of sequential art and comic books is finally coming full circle. I guess it was not a complete waste of time reading all those comics!



A Lo Hecho, Pecho

Printmaking in general but especially Stone Lithography is a process driven printmaking matrix. You have got to love process if your going to draw on stone. I often get asked how a lithographic print is made so I thought I would do a post that walks through my process using a recently made print. First of all what is Stone Lithography? It is one of an any lithographic printmaking processes, zinc or aluminum, that takes advantage of the fact that oil and water will not mix. I draw with any grease or oil based medium directly on a limestone slab. Using a chemical reaction, called etching, I establish ink receptive areas and water receptive areas. Why limestone well limestone is able to be polished incredibly smooth through a process called graining. Almost all of the limestone slabs that lithographers use have come from the same quarry in Germany because of the fine and uniform quality of limestone found there. Why do I need a smooth uniform surface? Well because lithography is a planographic printmaking process. even though I etch the stone I am not making furrow into the surface of the stone. Rather the image rests on top of the surface of the stone. If we could shrink down super tiny and look at a stone and a zinc plate we could see the differences between a planographic technique and a intaglio technic which I've done in the handy diagram below. Ok so thats a decent very brief intro into stone lithography. 

I find many of the inspiration for my prints while walking around, often on a dog walk. We liven Peru currently and one day while exploring my new surroundings I came upon a bird perched on a sign that read, in spanish, No fishing in the lake. I thought this was hilarious and the bird, a young hooded night heron, was perched in such a defiant manner. I snapped a quick photo and was on my way. Since then I have watched this bird grow into an adult. Its color has changed as well as its size it is a truly cool bird. Of course I see it almost daily fishing in the lake. 

Before I start any print I do tons of drawings. For the amount of time that will be invested in a lithograph I want to make sure I like what I'm going to draw. Although  I can erase once I start drawing on the stone it is only to a certain degree. Above are some of my sketches.

The final print has 5 colors so I had a few options in how I could go about making the image. I could grain four stones and draw each layer separately but registration would be a bit more difficult and for this print it would of amounted to unnecessary work. I could also work in a reductive manner printing one color and then removing part of the drawing for the next layer. The image on the left might help in understanding this. Say I'm making a four color print my first layer is Cyan I print that and then remove on the oval shape from the image on the stone. The next layer I print is magenta but because I removed the oval shape the cyan from the previous layer will still show. I repeat this with each successive layer. I like working in this way because while it is fairly easy to remove an image it is hard to add to a stone once it is etched.  If I wished to add anything I would have to counter etch, otherwise know and good by grey, but that will be covered in another post. I don't want to get to far into the weeds just yet! 

Another reason I like to use a reduction method when printing multiple colors is that registration is relatively easy. Registration means the alignment of a layer to the one prior to it. One can do this in a number of ways I prefer in stone registration. This is done by engraving a 'T' in the stone itself and then drawing a corespondent mark on the paper I will be printing on. This mark will be lined up with the 'T' on the stone so that I am always putting the paper in the same place for each color/layer. I have found this method to be very accurate for printing multiple colors.

So now that I have my registration set up I am ready to start drawing. For this print I ended up using two stones. One stone was used for all the background images. and a final stone was used for the bird and the sign. I drew the bird first but printed it last. I did this because I did not want any other colors behind the bird and wanted the final image to trap all the others. How did I know where the bird would be on the final image if I was going to print it last? I made an outline drawing and then transferred it to the stone that would hold all the background images. The final image in the slide show shows how I block out with gum arabic the area where the bird image will eventually be printed.  

Once I had both my stones set up along with my registration It was just a matter of spending the next few weeks printing and image altering it and then printing the next image. In between colors/layers I needed to wait at least five to six days as it takes that long for the oil based inks to dry. It is funny because the actual printing of each layer is fast, in fact while printing I am moving very quickly, it is the set up and process that takes up all the time. The slide show on the right shows what each layer looked like on the stone. Keep in mind that to draw each layer I am really removing image from the previous layer. The final image in the slide show is the print without the final trapping layer of the bird. You can see the blank area where the bird will go. This was kept blank by blocking the area out with gum arabic initially. 

This whole process from initial photo until final print took about two months more or less. I think the final print turned out quite well. One of the goals, maybe the most important goal, in printmaking is that each all of the prints are the same. These prints are the ones that will make up the edition. I started this print trying to get 16 keepers. I ended up with an edition of 6. In other words I lost 10 prints in the process. This is for many reasons it could have been that the impression was not good, the registration was off, or the paper was damaged or smudged by dirty fingers. I go into any print knowing that the attrition rate can be high that is why I started with 16. I think that I might be particularly anal about my prints being the same but to quote the Tamarind Book of Lithography (this is the lithographers bible!)  "Any lithograph worth printing is worth printing well, in the finest way, on the finest paper, in accordance with the highest standards of the art." p. 14. An edition is how many prints of the image exist or were kept as good enough to sell. Traditionally any proofs or prints that did not make the edition are destroyed to keep the integrity of the final edition. You an tell a fine art print by what looks like a fraction often found in the bottom left corner. For example 1/6 would bean that the print is number one in an edition of six. Is does not matter which number one gets from an edition as by their nature they should all be the same. 1 of 6 was not necessarily printed before 6 of 6.

A Lo Hecho, Pecho basically means   be responsible for your actions. For me this relates to humans as stewards of the land. Are there no fishing in the lake because we have killed or made the fish inedible from our own actions? It also relates to the Bird, the other side of the coin, it is perched with a mischievous gleam in its eye knowing it is about to break the rules. Responsibility...

You can check out more of my work in my portfolio. Many of my prints are available for purchase in my Etsy store. A lo Hecho, Pecho is available for purchase.   





Printing AFUERA

Dreamscape 2, Thomas Wojak

Dreamscape 2, Thomas Wojak

Recently I have been involved with a project here called 'AFUERA'. You can read about it in some of my previous posts. Basically  'AFUEA' took a group of artists down to a small costal town named Pisco in order to draw attention to the devastating effects of a recent earthquake and the lackluster response from the government to help rebuild. I asked them if there were any opportunities to get involved and turned out they needed some editions printed.

As a printmaker I most often am printing my own work. But printmaking has a long history in which it was not considered an art form as much as a trade and means of communication.  For a long time the printmaker was a tradesman a person that painters, writers, and other artists would come to in order to have their work translated into a print. This is called making an edition of a work for an artist. Why would an artist want her work made into an edition? It gives the artist the ability to sell more than one piece of a given work, you can mass distribute a text, and there is something gained in the translation. Printmaking is not photocopying-the matrix, printing technique used, changes the original art. Many printmakers, including myself, print editions for other artists. Master printmaker Thomas Wojak, who I studied under, is one such artist. Not only does he make his own fantastic prints but he can translate into print- paintings, photos, hell you name it when I was studying with him we were printing giant iphones for Apple. Make sure to check out his work through the links above. My point is printing an edition for an artist is a) a great way to find work and b) a great way to show the power and versatile nature of printmaking c) can be a very interesting collaborative effort between artists. During the translation from say a painting into a print the image takes on printmaking qualities by necessity. Separating the print from a giclee print. A giclee print will automatically come out as good as the scan it originates from whereas the hand made edition has been effected and changed by the printmaking medium and the printmaker. This is the joy of printmaking.

The "AFUERA" team sent me two jpegs from which to work with. Not ideal as I would have rather had the originals. But one of the originals was a tiny pencil drawing and the other was a mural piece. The artists who's work I would be printing were Jade and Decertor. The first thing I needed to do was make films for each color in each of the prints. The Jade print was only two colors and the Decertor print was five colors so two films for Jade and five for Decertor. I make my color separations and films by hand by putting a clear film over the image and tracing each individual color in opaque black ink. These will then be used to develop the screens which I will print the images with. I have all the tools necessary in my studio to screen print except for an exposure unit. Elliot Tupac to the rescue! Elliot is a Peruvian artist based here inLima. He offered to let me use his exposure unit. I headed into the congested city center of Lima to visit his studio and made the screens I needed. After that it was just a matter of setting up my registration and printing the editions. It all went very smoothly. 

This culminated in a show in a part of Lima called Barranco. Barranco is the official arts center of Lima. It is a great section of town on the coast filled with galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants. This was a great experience for me as it has gotten my foot in the door of the Lima art scene and it got me working. I've included some images of the print process and the final products. I'm really hoping to find more work printing editions, for that matter if anyone reading this is interested in my work please drop me a note on the comment page or my contact page.




A trip to Pisco

Well here in Lima I have been trying to scare up some work and meet/ingrain myself into the art scene. A few posts ago I wrote about an art project here called 'AFUERA' that was to take place in Pisco a costal town about 2 hours south of Lima. I got in touch with the organizers and offered my services if they needed any help. Turned out they needed some editions printed, more on this in my next posting, made of a few of the participating artists namely Jade and Decertor. These guys are two well know muralists and street artists here in Lima. I thought this would be a cool project so I jumped aboard. 

Myself and a few friend headed down to Pisco for the 'AFUERA' event.  We arrived in Pisco and were expecting to be able to find the 'art' very quickly but as it turned out a bit of sleuthing was needed. Even though I had been told by the organizers that Saturday was the day to come down we had showed up a one day too early. No problem some of the work was up and we took an impromptu tour of Pisco. Pisco sits right on the ocean and in 2007 suffered the brunt of a massive earthquake. The damage from this quake is still very visible and this is part of the reason for the project. In our wanderings through Pisco a few places stood out. First off the hotel where Jose San Martin, liberator of Peru from the Spanish, planned the revolution! It was in a bad state basically the building was a pile of rubble a small outside bar was acting as a placeholder along with a bronze of Jose San Martin until the hotel was rebuilt. The owner assured us this would be finished in the next year, I doubt it. We next ventured to the Malecon or boardwalk of Pisco. This boardwalk, which at one point sported pools and fountains, was now littered with blocks of concrete and trash the ghosts of a once flourishing Malecon. Adjacent to the Malecon stretched a long pier extending well out in to the choppy surf. The pier was awesome. The old iron train rails were still on the pier from when it had been used as a commercial port. We walked out on it as far as we could the vibrations from the ocean could be felt rocking the pier back and forth creating a slightly uneasy feeling similar to that of an earthquake.

Though we were a day early we were able to see some of the work that had been completed. There was a small photo exhibit showing old Pisco versus post quake Pisco. This was pretty interesting just to see what Pisco, at one point a contender to be the capital of Peru, had looked like. But it seemed hastily put up and image quality was low. Easily the most prolific art was a stencil piece that featured a mirror in its center and the word 'Presente' or present in english. This piece popped up all over the place and I think we all thought it was good and what we expected of the show as a whole, a bit more quantity more 'Presente'. That said we were a day early. Finally there was a cool little painting on a wall that was otherwise covered with posters and propaganda bits. I think this was the most effective of all that we saw. It was small and inconspicuous depicting the Malecon in its glory days. The fact that it was on a wall which stood on the current dilapidated Malecon added greatly to its impact. 

To top off the day we headed to a small cevicheria that was conveniently located directly across from the fish market. We were heartily greeted by the proprietress who seated us with gusto. Music blared out of the restaurant as the late afternoon sun streamed in. Tall cold beers arrived and popped open as if by providence. The cook, a cross between a body builder and a peruvian Richard Simmons, skipped the traditional use of a menu and brought out the fresh caught fish he had on hand! This was followed closely by a steaming mug of soup that tasted like a fish had been wrung out and then 1/2 kilo of salt stirred in. He called it Leche de Tigre otherwise known as peruvian viagra. It was hard to drink no pun intended... The cevichi arrived and more beers were cracked, what a day. The only thing missing was more pisco which was strangely absent given the towns name. Well we had one pisco sour during a break from all the art earlier on. 

If Pisco was the canvas for the AFUERA project it was one that trumped the art work itself. Which I imagine was one of the goals of AFURA, to bring Pisco to the forefront. We would not of gone down to Pisco and roamed its streets if it were not for this project and I know a lot more about Peru because of it. Would I have liked to see more art sure but hey we were a day early. I'm learning here in Peru that things never ever get started on time let alone early. Next up Printing the AFUERA prints, the AFUERA art show in Lima, and more Leche de Tigre action!


'Crónicas' ICPNA Printing 1966 - 2010 Lima Peru


In my hunt for printmaking in LIma I am being rewarded big time. Last week I had the chance to head over to the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano and take a look at a show titled Cronicas. This is a fantastic show highlighting the ICPNA's print collection from 1966 to 2010. The gallery itself is quite large with one section of a wall open to a water feature. I first I thought the sound of the water would be distracting but in the end the waterfall adds a calming soundtrack to the gallery. The show is laid out in chronographic order as the title of the show would suggest. Starting with award winners from 1966. There is also a great timeline explaining the history of printmaking at the ICPNA. The show has a bit of everything as far as print matrixes go; lithos, woodcuts, etchings, and screen prints. I was particularly drawn to the works of Toño Nuñez, Álex Ángeles, Jesús Rojas, Martin Moratíllo, Marco Alburqueque, Erik Antunez De Mayolo, and Carlos Del Rosario of the many many printmakers whose work was on display(examples below). Certainly look forward to seeing more shows in this space. 


Street Art Lima - Elliot Tupac, Decerto, and R2D2

I've been living in Lima for only a few weeks but in that time I've been walking all over the place. Eventually we will have our car and I'll be able to get around a bit more but that will be at the cost of seeing things at a slower pace. When cruising by ensconced in a vehicle I am apt to miss much that passes by my windows. I've found that a great way to get to know a new city is to walk or jog through it. I live out in the suburbs far from the hip sections of Lima and admittedly have seen only a tiny part of even the suburbs. Lima is a vast city made up of 30 districts it is a big place chock full of grinding traffic, which once my car is here I can happily partake in, during winter a grey hazy fog blankets the city. On the few days that it has been sunny and the fog lifts it reveals the barren lunar sierras that are slowly pushing the city into the sea. These seemingly lifeless mountains are covered with a cacophony of boulders silently mimicking the traffic below.

In this grey-scape the first art I have seen is that which has been sprayed on walls. That and a sweet R2 D2 trash can! These range from the simple no nonsense penis to homages to Rene Magritte. I wont claim to know a great deal about street art as my artistic world has been wielded to paper and press for a long while now. The small amount of street art I see while walking my kids to school got me interested and I have been doing a bit of research online. I've stumbled upon artists like Decertor and Elliot Tupac two artists from Peru who currently have a show "Prueba y Error" along with a project called AFUERA 2013. The AFUERA project interested me right away. It gathers a group of artists and has them work in a specific area of Peru to promote street art in areas where one would normally not see it. It also has an artist/activist component. The next AFURA will take place in the costal town Pisco. Pisco will become a canvas to illustrate the impact of a recent earthquake and the rebuilding process in contrast to a nearby town which is experiencing a building boom. You should check out the groups Indiegogo page for a short video about the project.

Last Sunday we piled the kids into a taxi and headed over to the art show 'Prueba y error' in MIraflores  at the Centro Cultural Ricardo Palma. Getting from La Molina to Miraflores can at times be a real pain but Sunday morning traffic was light and we were soon down at the show. The first thing that stood out was not even in the show. High up on the opposite building was a mural I recognized as the work of Decerto. His images are painterly, cartoonish, along with being political. It sort of reminded of the murals of Diego Rivera. Along with this show there was another interesting show downstairs titled 'Todo O Nada' featuring work by Samuel Gutierrez Davilla who clearly has one foot in graphic design and another in pop art. 


In 'Prueba y error' two artists use different tactics to express a single idea. I do not have a huge amount of context from which to interpret and judge this work, but I will anyhow. From what I have seen of Decertors work he tends to use the human figure in surealistic settings employing arrows and signs to guide the viewer while Elliot Tupac relies on bold neon text to convey information. Tupac's lettering style is reminiscent of the hand painted signs one sees on shops all through Lima and latin America you can see some examples here. He makes commentary on society through the use of a common form of advertising I guess not not much different from Andy Warhol's soup cans. In working together it is no surprise that each brings to the table their respective skills. The pieces are simple in the sense that they are not cluttered. The show focuses on the cycle of life but also speak to a cycle back to tradition. Tupac's lettering stands out on Decertors's sureal imagery with statements like; After All - Return/Begin, One Day Less, and Birth/Death.  While this clearly speaks to the cycle of life I wonder if they are also commenting on a return to tradition. For example one piece shows the progression from baby faced youth to hollow skulled death juxtaposed to the next which depicts a man rising from the dead, a resurrection. As there is no obvious religious iconography I wonder if this is instead referring to the resurrection of tradition, the common man, and the dawning of a new day. These slogans are broadcasted in fonts reminiscent of the colorful advertisements which direct us through our daily life.  Peppered among the images are small symbols; keys, leafless trees, hourglasses, and bricks hinting at a greater lexicon for the viewer to decipher. All in all I found the show interesting but left me wishing for more. I was expecting a visual over load but found that the small nature of the work left it constrained. Whereas across the street Decertor's 50' long figure stared down dominantly. The show did increase in the AFUERA 2013 project that I mentioned above and hope to write more on that soon. 

We also checked out 'Todo O Nada' by Samuel Gutierrez Davilla who signs his work 'Gutierrez'. Where the first show was constrained 'Todo O Nada' lives up to its name, there is a shit load of work in the show! Chairs dangle from the ceiling, digital prints fill the walls, and small ceramic pieces mimic their 2D counter parts. If 'Prueba y error' dealt with cycles 'Todo O Nada' speaks to clashes. Maneki-Neko cats, bobble head chihuahua's, Parrots, and cartoon characters are tattooed with text and traditional Peruvian designs. Here text again plays a critical role in conveying information. From the stand point of fun this show keeps you smiling, the images are big and bold. Gutierraz has one bouncing between social commentary to Luchadors. Which I found  to be the most interesting of the bunch. 'Dead Luchadors' is written in looped text above a series of Luchador portraits. My only real bone with this show was that it was almost too much, in contrast to the overly restrained show upstairs.

Both shows are certainly worth a look at and are up until July 31st. After checking out the shows we walked down and had a look at the ocean and then found a small cafe named Zimmermans, I think. Great place for breakfast with the kids. The owner told us he would soon be serving bloody mary's along with the chicharones breakfast!




¡Living the Vida Lima!

Landing in Lima has been the culmination of a plan set into motion while we were still living in Ethiopia. My wife and I knew that we wanted to live outside of the United States but it was also important that both of us could find meaningful work. There's the rub how does a trailing spouse find work overseas? When people hear that we live overseas they almost always ask what I do. I reply that I am an artist and I almost always get the same response "Oh that is great because you can do that anywhere!" While this is true, sort of, it does present its problems. For one I have been starting over in a new city every two years. Not only does this cause a down time between myself and when my supplies will arrive but also I need start over as far as meeting people in each new city something that I am not particularly good at. Networking is needed in any field and the art scene can be difficult to crack as an outsider let alone as a foreigner. In general I am not terrible good at networking. In a print studio sure but going to galleries and talking 'art' no. This is partially an excuse to hide in my studio, which I love to do, and also a fact. Don't mistake my worries for windging I am very excited to have the opportunities that are presented to me. So starting out new in Lima I'm attempting to change my old habits. The last thing I want to do is look back on the years and see that I have wasted time. One motivation tool that I have found to work well in the past is telling as many people as possible about my plans thus creating expectations for myself. With that said here is my Lima to do list.

1. Finish another graphic novel, at this point the tentative title is Drift. This will be an offshoot from my thesis work in graduate school Lunafication. The book will follow a marooned astronaut's journey through the cosmos. I want this book to be a strange mix of pen and ink, lithographs, and found images-I also think I will publish Drift as a digital comic-so be prepared. 

2. Begin the foundations of Peruskivi press. I own a press that I've never printed with but none the less its in the mail. I want to organize a printmaking residency that will take place wherever I am living. This residency will focus on bringing artists from the states to work with local artists on a project. My hope is that these projects will be culturally and socially relevant and of course use the medium of printmaking.  

3. Write more. So I plan to post at least once a week on Lima, what I'm up to, and any other such nonsense. I'd like also to use this blog to link with other artists who are either living overseas or want to work overseas. 

4. Get out and meet people in the art world here in Lima, extend myself, and promote myself.  

5. I need to send submissions to publishers. I have a few children's books written. I need to get samples together and start knocking on doors. 

6. Finally. I have a bad habit of orphaning my work the minute I am finished with it. I truly stop caring about the work once finished. I need to get my work out in the world though the web and into galleries.  

Well thats a lot I guess I'll be busy. Now my challenge is to put action behind my words.