Saturday, December 15, 2012

First Woodcut

I've made my first woodcut! For the past two months I've been taking a relief class at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking. While I'm familiar with the basics of blockprinting, I've always worked on linoleum in the past and really wanted to learn to work with wood as a carving block. It was nice being able to try various kinds of good quality carving tools before purchasing the ones that work best for me. Good sharp tools cut through wood like butter and honing them all them time hopefully keeps them that way. I also learned to make a really clever registration system for either reduction or multiple plate printing. Before starting on my larger plate, I decided to make this year's Christmas card a two plate woodcut. Somehow I felt more comfortable working on a smaller scale, with less precious wood (found birch plywood) which allowed me to work more freely. So, here is this year's Christmas angel. Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Polymer Photogravure

Winnipeg Neighbourhood.
Polymer Photogravure.
11.25cm x 20cm. 2012.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop about Polymer Photogravure at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking. I wanted to learn a new printmaking medium and it was super fun. I was glad I had some background knowledge in photography, screenprinting and intaglio printing, since the polymer photogravure process seems to be a blend of all those processes. After printing a digital file onto a special film, the film, as well as an aquatint screen, are exposed onto the polymer plate in a light unit with UV light. The polymer plate then gets gently washed out with water and aside from drying the plate is ready to be printed (see polymer plate below). Once we figured out the printer settings and exposure times, it seemed to be quite easy. I'm not sure yet how I'll include this technique in my future work since most of my work is not exactly photographic, but I hope to do something with it sometime. 
For the Winnipeg Neighbourhood piece (above) I reverted to an old idea that I have reworked several times already and I keep coming back to. Once again I pulled out some of the photos I have of Winnipeg houses and arranged them in the contact sheet style to create the impression of multiple street scenes of one of my old neighbourhoods. Even though this was initially a photo project about colour, I really like how wonderfully wintery this little print looks in black and white. The contrast worked out well and I still have a nice range of medium grey tones in the buildings. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

McDermot Avenue III

McDermot Avenue III.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Relief Roll through Stencil.
45.5cm x 45.5cm. 2012.

This last piece in the McDermot Avenue series is the street block between King Street and Princess Street. There are multiple galleries and artists' studios in this block, such as Outworks Gallery, Ace Art, Urban Shaman, RAW, etc. There used to be others, but several have been vacated due to increased rental prices. Each one of the three prints in the McDermot Avenue series shows the interior of a part of the art community of the Exchange District: a frameshop, a studio, and a gallery. In the upper part of this print there is an exhibition opening in full swing with people looking at art, talking, nibbling on some crackers with cheese, and drinking some wine and beer. The gallery space in my print was inspired by Outworks Gallery, an artist run gallery and studio. It is one of my favourite gallery spaces in town and I had my graduation exhibition there in 2007. The lighswitch on the bottom right is part of a  poster board and also the logo (designed by artist Michael Carroll ) of 'IT'S ON - FIRST FRIDAYS WINNIPEG', an art event that happens every first Friday of the month where artists and galleries open their studios and doors to the public. The ceiling in this piece is imaginary since there is no such pretty ceiling in this old warehouse space. I used the pattern of an old ceiling tile that a friend of mine had in her studio. Below is a close-up of the embossing again. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

McDermot Avenue II

McDermot Avenue II.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Relief Roll through Stencil, Blind Embossing.
45.5cm x 45.5cm. 2012.

The second print in the McDermot Avenue Triptych portrays the corner of Arthur Street. I had my studio on the sixth floor of the Silpit building for three years (see window marked with a red x and the interior in the upper part of this print). I believe the building used to be a clothing factory and there are still thousands of pins in the cracks between the floor boards. If you enlarge the image and look closely you might be able to see them in the print. I loved working in that studio, sharing the space with wonderful studio mates, looking out the huge windows and enjoying the beautiful tin ceiling (there is a  close up of the embossment below). My reason for leaving the studio was our move to Minneapolis, but unfortunately developers are creeping into this wonderful art district and doubling rent prices in many places. Many aritsts and businesses have moved out already and for lease signs are up everywhere. Soon my old studio will be too expensive to afford for my fellow artists, too. Gentrification is happening in so many places, and considering that the old warehouses have lost their original function already, I don't know if I can complain about the recent developments. It is still sad for me to see the art district slowly loosing some of its art spirit. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

McDermot Avenue I

McDermot Avenue I.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Relief Roll through Stencil, Blind Embossing.
45.5cm x 45.5cm. 2012.

McDermot Avenue I is part of a triptych about three blocks on McDermot Avenue in Winnipeg's exchange district. I'm just about to finish this series in time for my upcoming exhibition at Fleet Galleries in Winnipeg in November. McDermot Avenue is part of a beautiful historic warehouse district that has become a wonderful cultural center with art galleries, artists' studios, frame shops, and other stores. I cherish the memories of walking down McDermot Avenue past the bronze horse by Joe Fafard and the gossiping women (also in bronze), doing business with Jeff at Fleet Galleries around the corner, which you can see in the upper part of this print, and heading to my studio I had in the Silpit building for three years. 
I have ventured slightly out of my usual square format by rounding off the corners of the ceiling to break up all the rigid horizontal and vertical lines. I simply cut off the corners with tin snippers and smoothed the edges with a file. I had a lot of fun playing with the beautiful tin ceiling patterns that are still part of many of those old buildings. If you look closely, you can see I added a blind embossing above the rounded part of the print to resemble the embossed tin ceiling tiles. Below is a close-up. I drew the design, then worked with it in digital format and finally I got it cut into a linoleum plate with a laser cutter. This allowed me to get a very even and intricate pattern that I could never have carved by hand. I'm very excited how well this worked and perhaps I'll find a way to utilize the laser cutter in other ways, although I don't think I'll ever give up the good old traditional techniques. 

Close-up of the laser cut linoleum plate.

Close-up of the paper embossing at the top of the print.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Winnipeg III

My Winnipeg III. 
Double-Plate Colour Etching, à la poupée wiping. 
45.5cm x 45.5cm. 2012. 

(I might still change the title and I'll probably post a better picture of the print, but I'm so excited to share this new piece that I'm posting it anyways). 
Downtown Winnipeg is a part of the city I've been wanting to work with for such a long time and now that I've moved away a year ago it finally happened. I used to have a studio in the Exchange District for three years (just below the image's border in front of the central red building with the white trim) with a huge window and a great view of part of what you see in the print. I've also worked at Martha Street Studio (the red building in the top right corner) from 2007-2011. I always loved the 5 minute walk from the print studio to my studio, past the Manitoba Museum, the Concert Hall, City Hall, the Union Bank and Confederation buildings and the shortcut through the old market square. Unfortunately, nowadays the old market square is just a small triangle of green space tucked away behind buildings instead of being the center of the city where everyone gathers. I put the old market square into the center of my map and grouped the buildings around it, in a way referencing how historic cities were built around a central market square. I still don't love the award winning architectural cube that is the relatively new stage at old market square, but since it's there, it became part of this print. The metallic cube seems so stiff and sterile in an otherwise wonderfully dynamic area. I tried to portray parts of Winnipeg's beauties, but also it's not so beautiful sides, like the much debated rail tracks that divide the city, or Winnipeg's city hall (the building in the square with the flags) which appears so austere and uninspiring (I'm not a big fan of 60s architecture). Maybe some day I'll do a piece about Winnipeg's old city hall, a beautiful victorian building which was unfortunately demolished in the 60s to give way to the current city hall.
One question I get from every viewer is 'What is that thing in the bottom right corner?'. It's a new sculpture in Winnipeg at Portage & Main called 'North Watch' by Ivan Eyre. To be honest, I'm not sure what the artist's intention was with this piece, but to me it is some sort of winter god. For years I've been trying to find some Canadian mythological figure that represents winter, frost, the cold or something along those lines to incorporate in my work. The very solid, somewhat intimidating cyclop with his dog, sitting at one of the coldest and windiest intersections in all of Canada seems like a guardian against whatever cold stuff the winter will bring from the North. 
Regarding technique in this piece, I once again I tried something new. I wiped the plates à la poupée, meaning that I use small cloth 'dolls' to wipe a plate in multiple colours (generally I wipe each plate with only one colour). I have one plate I wipe in green and red, and one that wipe half in black and half in a dark purplish blue. 

Wiping the plate à la poupée. You can see the little tarlatan dolls I used for each colour in small sections of the plate.

I'm about to print the second plate (black and blue) after the
first one. Since the black and the blue are quite similar in tone, I can wipe them side by side and let them bleed slightly into each other. On the red and green plate I need spaces between all the shapes to prevent the colours from mixing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Northern Lake

Northern Lake.
Linocut, reduction print.
30cm x 45.5cm. 2012.

As part of a trade, I was asked several weeks ago to do a smaller, black and white landscape, preferrably of a Northern Canadian lake. A agreed to this somewhat reluctantly, because I felt this work was diverging a bit from what I am currently interested in, but then I saw this as an opportunity to try something new and free myself from my current routines. I decided to make this piece as a linocut, since I haven't worked with linoleum for a while and I always enjoy the carving when I get to it. Secondly, linoleum lends itself so wonderfully for carving water patterns. After a first proof, I decided to make this piece into a reduction print (i.e. printing the plate at one stage, then carving away more surface and printing a second layer over the first). The reflections where too stark in black and white, so I printed the first layer in grey. I'm quite happy how that turned out. The lake was inspired by one near Minaki in Ontario where I went canoing one summer with my family. While brainstorming for this piece, I came across the work of an Australian printmaker (Anita Laurence), who's work I find is in many ways surprisingly similar to mine in terms of structure and imagery. It amazes me how two people from different sides of the world, with completely different backgrounds end up making images that somehow resemble each other. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mercado Cuatro

Mercado Cuatro.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Relief Roll through Stencil.
40cm x 60cm. 2012.

Yikes, this piece got really busy and colourful! But it's a market, so I think it works. Considering it's the Mercado Cuatro in Asunción, I could even call this piece very organized. This is the last image that I will translate from a painting into a print. I sold the painting a couple of years ago (to a wonderful new owner), but I missed it a little and I decided to make it into a print once again. I also wanted to add it to my body of work about Paraguay. I'm still working towards having an exhibition in my home country one day. A trip to the Mercado Cuatro is a must for me every time I am in Asunción. (Well, it's been three years since I visited home last time, so it's been a while.) It is such a wonderful adventure every time. First the trip in a rickety old bus at break-neck speed in crazy traffic along cobble stone streets that rattle your bones and seem to shake every screw loose that still holds the bus together. Then walking, wandering and meandering through the busy and chaotic paths and sidewalks packed from the floor to the sky with everything imaginable: fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes, shoes, bras, underwear, canteens, fabrics, herbs, etc, etc, etc. I tried to take some photographs, but some of the older women waved me off and grumbled quite a bit, so I wanted to respect that and I didn't have the courage to shoot them anyways. One was an older woman balancing a giant bag of garlic on her head. The other one was the old, wrinkly herb seller drinking Tereré and rolling her cigars. But, I saved them in my memory and here they are in my print.
The print was pulled from two copper plates; one inked with reddish ink, the other black. For each plate I cut out a stencil from acetate through which I rolled the yellow and the blue onto the surface of the wiped plate. I describe this process in more detail in an earlier post about Entre Itacurubí y San José if you want to read up on it again.

Friday, May 11, 2012

CCP 3rd Biennial Footprint International

I've also been selected to participate in the "Center for Contemporary Printmaking’s 3rd Biennial Footprint International. The juror reviewed 329 prints submitted by 187 artists from 14 countries and 24 states. My prints, Dreaming of a Garden and Last Embrace were selected by Donald Sultan, one of America’s most prominent contemporary artists, who selected 88 prints to be included in the exhibition." It's been a good month for me! The Center for Contemporary Printmaking is in Norwalk, Connecticut. The exhibition is on view from June 10 - September 2, 2012. Click here for more info. 
Two years ago I submitted my first 'footprint' (Holding On) to the 2nd Biennial Footprint International and it was accepted. Since then I've made another nine 'footprints' of which I submitted two of my most recent prints. I really enjoy working with the square foot format and it gave me a starting point for this whole series. All ten pieces are currently on display at the Threshold Gallery at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis. See invitation posted on April 22. 

IPCNY New Prints 2012/Summer

One of my prints, Entre Itacurubí y San José, was selected for the New Prints 2012/Summer exhibition at the International Print Center New York. The juror was Shahzia Sikander. In the acceptance letter it says "IPCNY received over 2,500 submissions from artists and presses worldwide. Out of this varied collection of work, Shahzia Sikander chose seventy-eight works by seventy-two artists." I am honoured to have been chosen to be part of this exhibition. The show will be on view from May 24 - July 27, 2012. If you find yourself in New York this summer, you might want to check it out. Click here for more info about the exhibition.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Manitoba Book Awards 2012

I'm the Winner for the Best Illustrated Book of the Year at the Manitoba Book Awards for David's Trip to Paraguay, the Land of Amazing Colours! Whohoo!

I've shown the book cover so many times, so here is in one of my favourite pages inside the book. More information about the book is in a post from December 2011.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Waving Goodbye

Waving Goodbye.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Chine-Colle, Hand Coloured.
30cm x 30cm. 2012.

For now this is the last piece in the Farewell series. In my family it is tradition to wave until we disppear from each other's view. I wanted to portray this waving goodbye and growing smaller and smaller as the distance grows. For this particular piece I remembered my parents standing on the airport platform waving as my airplane took off last time I was in Paraguay. But, since airport platforms and airplanes with little windows are kind of boring, I wanted to do depict more the spirit of leaving my country and my parents behind. I'm trying to figure out why this piece turned out so whimsical and almost happy, since I was (unsuccessfully) aiming at a more somber piece. Perhaps it is because my memories of Paraguay in general are happy memories, so every time I portray Paraguay, it is in a cheery and beautiful way. Perhaps it is because I feel fine with my current life in North America and I see myself as being off to new beginnings in the print, which outweighs the growing distance I intended to portray. Sometimes I have the feeling my art has a life of its own and I, the artist, have fairly little control over it.

The bird in the print is a Jabiru, a stork-like bird in Paraguay that is strikingly beautiful (despite its bare head) with its red band around the neck. I believe there is also a small airplane called Jabiru, so I thought I'm not that far off when I exchange one for the other.

Last Embrace

Last Embrace.

Double-Plate Colour Etching

(photoetch, softground, sugar lift, spit bite), Chine-Colle.

30cm x30 cm. 2012.

Last Embrace is part of my Farewell series of prints. I tried to capture that last moment, the last merging of two worlds before a separation, the last touch between two people. It is such a precious moment and despite all the repeated farewells in my life, the parting never gets easier. The second figure in the piece is no one in particular (although I must admit it resembles Terry quite a bit...which has no particular meaning). I wanted it to be a generic figure to stand in for all the farewells in my life. I looked at various paintings and prints by Gustav Klimt and Edvard Munch prior to working on this piece. Both artists work with the visual representation of emotion a lot. I think Klimt rubbed off on me when I drew the robe with the tears. It undeniably resembles the patterned robes in Klimt's paintings. I added the rain cloud as a counter weight to the figures and as a parallel to the robe of tears. I've had surprisingly many goodbyes on rainy days which always adds to the sad, gloomy mood and the whole universe appears to grieve with me when I have to let go of someone. This piece has more empty space than most of my work, which I think reflects that emptyness I feel after a farewell. The trees obviously represent the different worlds we live in and the brief joining of worlds during the embrace.

I had to do a lot of playing around and testprinting before I got the rain the way I wanted it to look. I was aiming for a hazy (after having looked at a lot of spit bite prints by Norman Ackroyd) yet substantial rain shower and after multiple sugar lift etches that gave me the droplet patterns and many many spit bites I got some of the misty rain effect.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Book Launch

Tomorrow evening, March 14th, is my book launch of David's Trip to Paraguay, the Land of Amazing Colours at McNally Robinson at 7pm in the Atrium.

On Thursday evening at 7pm I'm doing a book signing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery shop.

CBC radio Winnipeg did an interview with me posted a review on my blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leaving Behind

Leaving Behind.
Etching, Chine-Collé.

Do you know the feeling you get after travelling by airplane through multiple time zones, when you've been on one side of the world in the morning and you arrive on the other side in the evening? It always feels to me as if part of myself, or part of my soul has stayed behind and needs a little longer than the physical body to come along. In my most recent work I'm exploring different experiences about farewell, of holding on and letting go, of separations and longing, but also of new beginnings. In Leaving Behind I tried to portray the sense of leaving parts of myself behind in all the places where I've lived (Paraguay, Germany, Canada). To me that seems similar to the feeling I described earlier. Sometimes it appears that part of me is still there, in a place where I have spent part of my life, where I've shared experiences with others, and where I connected with a place, its vegetation, its animals, its climate. Part of myself remains in a place, but fades into the past as I go on. In a way I always reach out for that part of me that lives elsewhere and my mind is always in multiple places throughout the day, but I also know that the past remains in the past. I think the gesture of the figure of the present me in the piece is a little ambiguous; it could be either a plea to the other me to stay or a release of her into the past.
I have a few new pieces coming up in this series. The previous piece - Dreaming of a Garden - also connects with the theme of farewell in that it is a dream of new beginnings.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dreaming of a Garden

Dreaming of a Garden.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Chine-Collé, Hand Coloured.

What better thing to do in mid February than to dream of a garden? This image has been growing in my head for two years now and finally I've given it life on paper. As long as I can think I've wanted a garden and being a gardener would have been my second choice profession after becoming an artist. As a kid I used to plant and grow things all over the place, but since my nomadic student years in rented places, planting and growing things has mostly been a dream. Here in our apartment in Minneapolis there is no dirt around at all, only concrete. I think dreaming of a garden is more than simply wishing to be able to plant, grow and harvest. It is a very deep sitting desire to settle down and to put down roots. Well, for the next few years I'll have to content myself with being a nomad, but perhaps one day I'll put down roots somewhere and be able to grow my garden.