Friday, December 11, 2015


Study I. 60cm x 90cm. 

Here are a two of my more successful studies (one detail) that happened while printing my giant plate in various combinations. There will likely be more prints to come, but for now just these two to share what my 'playing process' looks like.

Study II, detail.


I have challenged myself once again with scale and I worked on a 3 x 3 foot sized copper plate for the past few months (90cm x 90cm). It was fun to work really loosely with the soap ground and spit bite on that scale. Erroneously I thought I would work rather fast with that method, and while parts of it did go fast, the handling, degreasing, etching, and inking of such a large plate and the challenges of printing it that come along, let alone dealing with oversized paper made me realize it wasn't just a quick sketch after all. Also I'm not entirely satisfied with the piece at this stage and that's why I still only have a proof and not a finished piece yet.
I think the piece is quite self-explanatory on many levels, but I do want to put it into context and share a few thoughts with you. I had just finished reading a book on Food Sovereignty (Food Sovereignty: Connecting Food, Nature & Community, edited by Annette Demarais, Nettie Wiebe, and Hannah Wittman...I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in food production) in connection with my research topic about the deforestation in Paraguay to make space for agricultural expansion. Food Sovereignty is a concept that wants peasants and their countries to take back the right to rely on and grow local food (see movements like La Vía Campesina). In some parts of Paraguay, for example, there are green deserts of soy plantations that continue to displace peasants and rural populations through land grabs. Rather than helping world hunger as the agribusinesses like to claim they do, international corporations grow soy for biofuels and fodder for meat production in the first world, but the product does not serve the population of Paraguay as a food source. It is solely used for export. Instead, the large scale agribusiness displaces many peasants from their land and they most often end up in the capital's slums without any access to growing food, increasing the world's hunger problem.
This is a greatly simplified version of a very complex issue. With my work I try to portray visually the crushing presence of the corporation and the displacement of the people. With a deeply etched copper plate of a screen printed mechanical soy plant pattern, I force the soy pattern onto the damp paper with a blind embossment (see detail below). I'm not sure yet if this is the final version of the piece, but this is more or less how I envisioned it. I still struggle between planning and experimenting more freely. Now that the plan is in place, it is time to experiment more.

3rd International Printmaking Symposium - Kloster Bentlage

In mid November I had the opportunity to go to the 3rd International Printmaking Symposium at the Kloster Bentlage in Germany. Bentlage is a former monastery that is now cultural centre, art gallery and printmaking studio. I spent four highly interesting and pleasant days there, meeting many wonderful printmakers from around the world, showing my new work during an open portfolio, attending lectures, touring museums, art schools, and exhibitions. It was an amazing getaway in the middle of the semester, but my work production has suffered a bit, especially since I added two weeks of personal travel time to see family in Germany. But it was totally worth it!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Studies - Finished

About two weeks ago I finished the studies I had experimented with all summer. At some point I thought they might just stay in the 'sketch' stage, but after all the work I put into the experiments, I was hoping to get a few finished pieces out of all the plates I etched and I'm happy I did. I got six different successful compositions with the image elements I used. The layering of imagery is still quite challenging for me, but I also got some unpredictable results with the interaction of figures and forest, for example, that create an interesting relationship between the two. I played with imagery of the disappearing forests in Paraguay, the idea of enclosure and private property through the building of fences, people's displacement through large land grabs, cut off pathways and separations. My general topic is still the changing landscapes in the Paraguayan Chaco due to growth, expansion and destruction in the area.
I haven't titled any of the prints yet, so at this point I call them studies. The top three are 45.5cm 45.5cm each and the bottom three are 30cm x 30cm. (They work better horizontally, hanging side by side because they create a kind of continuity rather than being displayed in this vertical format. Click on one image to enlarge and view as slideshow).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tandem: Going Places Together

Please join us for the Opening of our exhibition "Tandem: Going Places Together" on September 11, 2015 at 7:30pm at the Mennonite Heritage Center Gallery in Winnipeg. If you can't make it to the opening, the show will be up till October 27th.

Terry will show functional ceramics on wooden structures which invite the user to consider the conscious action of drinking and using a vessel. I will exhibit a selection of thematically diverse suites of prints from the past two years that reflect on life and the engagement with our surroundings.

Canadian Mennonite Cover and Preview

The Canadian Mennonite magazine printed a nice preview of my upcoming two-person exhibition (with my husband Terry Hildebrand) "Tandem: Going Places Together" at the Mennonite Heritage Center Gallery in Winnipeg. What a pleasant surprise to find myself on the cover! Click here to view the Canadian Mennonite. The preview article by Aaron Epp is on pages 28 & 29.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Assiniboine River Trail II

Assiniboine River Trail II.
75cm x 105cm. 2015. 

Aside from experimenting and challenging myself with multiple etching plates this summer to expand my visual vocabulary and to loosen up my sense of composition (see post below), I wanted to do something more relaxing and I decided to return to my comfort zone of mapping Winnipeg. I returned to one of my favourite images of the Assiniboine River Trail. I had a good time translating parts of an earlier etching from 2009 into a somewhat larger block print (plate size 60cm x 90cm). Instead of using tonal gradations like I did in the etching, I worked a lot with patterning. I'm using a flooring linoleum (in a silly orange colour) by Tarkett. I was fortunate to find a large end roll at a thrift store a few years back, but I believe this material is still available at various flooring stores in different colours also. I did a lot of the carving at home on our little kitchen table evenings and weekends, since, as I said, it was kind of a side project.

When I ink the plate, I use a soft brayer with very little ink to lay down a thin coat of ink on the carved down part of the plate in the upper half of the print. That ink gets picked up only lightly during printing, giving me a soft grey in the background. This effect livens up the space quite nicely. To ink the surface of the plate I use a harder brayer. Well, it's time to print now.

Etching Studies

Here is a selection of the more successful experiments I've been working on during this summer. I have etched about ten different plates (not all of them turned out very well) with image elements about my thesis topic: Changing Landscapes - Explorations of Growth, Expansion and Destruction. In these pieces I work with ideas about the disappearance of the dry forest in the Chaco region in Paraguay, expansion of pastures, the displacement of indigenous people, fences as barriers and separations, etc. These are some of my attempts to layer the different image elements, but I find it's quite the challenge. Nonetheless I'm also enjoying the freedom to try out new things and letting myself be surprised by some of the results. These pieces aren't finished yet and I see them as sketches in their current form that will hopefully lead to larger pieces in the future.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Polishing Plates

Polished and degreased plates.

I've been back at the studio and the best way to get into a routine again is by starting to prepare the plates, bevelling the edges, polishing the surface, degreasing the plates and putting on an acid resistant backing. My plan is to work on a series of square plates (7-10) and then combine them randomly in various formations; some will have more controlled drawing, others will have more washes and painterly shapes. I'm supposed to loosened up more, plan less (!!!), open up my spaces (which I've been trying already last term). None of these things come easy to me, so it's a bit of a challenge, but I think that might be a useful exercise in working with the unforeseen. 

Polishing plate with electric sander. 

I bought an electric sander to polish all those plates. It works quite well and saves me a lot of time. I start with 1500 grit sandpaper (dry), then use 0000 steel wool by hand with 3 in 1 oil, then the sander again with a piece of old felt (printing blanket) + jeweller's rouge and oil. I think Putz Pomade works also quite well for the final step. This polishing process gets rid of most of the scratches and doesn't leave a sanding pattern. I don't quite get a mirror finish, but a nice even polish with a little buff (see top image). 

Scratched plate before polishing. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Workshop and Research in Paraguay 2015

I just returned from a five week trip to Paraguay. I taught a one week woodcut workshop to a group of indigenous artists while I was there. I posted more detailed reports and images on my second blog if you want to check it out:
I also spent some time researching and gathering information about the changing landscapes of the Chaco region in terms of growth, expansion and destruction/deforestation. Hopefully some of this information will inform my work in the future, but I'm still not entirely sure where my work is going from here, so we'll just have to wait and see what comes of it.

Aerial view. Fields and ranch land, Menno colony. May 2015. 

Friday, May 8, 2015


Transposition IV.
Double-Plate Colour Etching, Digital Print, Chine-Collé.
60cm x 90cm. 2015.

As a final piece this past semester I wanted to work on a larger plate. My advisor has encouraged me repeatedly to open up the spaces in my images more rather than making my images quite so dense. Working on a larger scale again (24" x 36") allowed me to do just that, although it was quite difficult for me to know where to stop adding things. I also wanted to see if it works for my imagery to be combined with some digitally printed satellite images, which I collage into the piece. I printed the plate(s) in various stages, using some of the visual vocabulary I had tried out on the smaller plate before (see below).
In Transposition I, I etched a whole section of forest into the plate with the intention of scraping it away again. Before scraping it, I used the cow cut-outs again to remove part of the forest imagery (Transposition II and III) and in the final piece (see Transposition IV above) I added a second red plate to illustrate the expansion of ranch land and the beef production, with the intact forest being fenced in, protected in a a few limited nature reserves.

Transposition I.
Etching, Digital Print, Chine-Collé.
60cm x 90cm. 2015.

Transposition II.
Etching, Digital Print, Chine-Collé.
60cm x 90cm. 2015.

Transposition III.
Etching, Digital Print, Chine-Collé.
60cm x 90cm. 2015.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chaco - Soy Field

Chaco - Soy Field. 
Double-Plate Etching, Chine-Collé.
15cm x 15cm. 2015.

I had signed up to make a small portfolio exchange print and since most of my work this semester revolved around cattle ranching, I decided to explore the direction of soy plantations a bit since, which is growing rapidly in the Chaco. I turned the forest upside down and juxtaposed the finely drawn, individual trees and cacti with the uniform and repetitive soy plants. Unlike much of the cattle ranching which (at least partially) benefits local ranchers, it appears most of the soy plantations are in the possession of foreign investors, which use the land and funnel the profits out. However, I need to do more research on this issue before I can make broad claims.

Chaco Ranch I & II

Chaco Ranch I.
Etching, Chine-Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015.

Before I scraped and re-etched my forest plate, I did some more playing with cut-out cows. I cut the cow shapes out of Honen paper (a thin, but strong Asian paper). After inking my plate, I placed the dampened cow shapes onto the plate. After running the plate through the press, I was able to carefully peel the cows off  the print where they left the white shapes behind. On a second plate I used the chine-collé method to glue the printed-on cow shapes down again. The image is supposed to illustrate the cows taking away/replacing the forest.

Chaco Ranch II.
Etching, Chine-Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


One of the first exercises I gave myself during my second semester was to make a small copper plate that I could alter through various editing processes. Since one of my key topics is the disappearance of the dry forest, I started with a drawing, or rather etching, of a typical Chaco forest (Chaco I).

Chaco I.
Etching, Aquatint, Chine-Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015.

For the second stage I rigorously scraped the plate to re-create the changes in the landscape on my plate with the forest slowly disappearing. Despite my rigorous scraping, the image still looked rather neat (see center left part of Chaco II). I've always wanted to try an open bite on a plate and here was my chance, hoping the open bit would attack the plate more rigorously than my scraping did. I stopped out the middle part of the plate so it wouldn't be affected by the acid. For the open bite, I simply put the plate in the acid without any aquatint on it, so the acid just etched away the surface. I left the plate in for about an hour. The result was quite different from what I expected. a) it was much cleaner than I had anticipated, and b) I hadn't cleaned my lines very well it seems, so the ink or grease residue worked as a resist in the acid while it bit all around the lines. The lines were quite raised in the end, almost like a high relief collagraph and I ended up scraping them down a bit. Another interesting thing happened: the plate showed a vertical linear dripping pattern on the surface of the plate. I etched the plate in a vertical tank and apparently the trickling down of tiny copper particles during the etching process somehow worked as a resist and resulted in an uneven surface etch.

Chaco II.
Etching, Aquatint, Open Bite, Chine Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015. 

For the third stage I drew a grid over the whole image. I did a stage-bite aquatint to recreate the land surveillance process and to imitate the aerial views/satellite images of the area after the forest has been cut for ranching. I don't think the third plate is quite resolved yet. It's a bit too blocky I find. Maybe I'll tackle it again in the future to fine-tune it a bit more, or I may just leave it as an exercise. I do like the interplay between the layers of the plate, between what was before and what is now.

Chaco III.
Etching, Aquatint, Chine-Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015. 

Changing Landscapes: Visual Explorations of Growth, Expansion and Destruction

Well, it is time I introduce my new work from this past semester. It is a tricky and very complex topic I'm trying to tackle while at the same time exploring new ways to make and compose my imagery. The topic I have chosen for my possible thesis topic is about the changing landscapes in the Paraguayan Chaco, my former home as most of you probably know. The region with its dry forests is changing rapidly due to an economic boom in beef production and also an expansion of soy plantations. Over the past few years I've repeatedly come across articles in reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and The Guardian which focus on the rampant deforestation happening in and around my home community. It's a topic that I've been wanting to address in some way or other for a while, and I believe grad school might be right place to try out some more political work away from the pressures of gallery markets (as much as I love those settings as a working artist and which I hope to return to again eventually). I am greatly concerned with the environmental impact the economic boom in the Chaco has on the region, but at the same time I also see the improved life styles of many of the people in the Mennonite community where I grew up. I'm not entirely sure yet where all of my investigations will take me and my work, but I'm hoping to create some dialogue about issues of deforestation and economic growth, sustainable farming, and possibly land rights for the indigenous communities who are also affected by the economic boom. I am currently in Paraguay to conduct some research and I'll try to write an entry towards the end of the month with some reflections. (I apologize for the long break in posting and now the sudden deluge, but my second semester of my MFA was so stressful I didn't manage to keep up with my blog. I hope that'll be different again in the future now that I'm finished with all my coursework. The remainder of my time at the University of Alberta I will mainly dedicate to making art).

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ink Oxidation

Detail of print - Searching.

Edmonton is known for being extremely dry in winter. (Before we finally invested in a humidifier, the humidity in our apartment was down to 10%). Along with the dryness came an unforeseen problem with one of my prints (Searching). A few days after printing part of the edition, I noticed that my ink looked more brown than black; also, most of the lines lost their crisp form and looked like they were bleeding a bit (see short vertical lines). Instead of putting the prints between flattening boards right away, I let them air-dry to keep the thick and raised lines intact without squishing them down. Now I know that black ink, when it's quite thick on the paper and dries too fast, can oxidize and turn a dark rusty brown colour with a kind of iridescence. My initial response was dismay: a whole day's work lost! However, there are solutions to the problem. To take care of the oxidation, simply spray a thin layer of a drawing fixative spray, more like a mist, across the surface of the print and the oxidation disappears instantly and permanently. To prevent it from happening in the first place, I've seen people put a sheet of glassine over the freshly printed prints in the drying rack, which prevents the ink from drying too fast. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Double-Plate Etching, Chine-Collé. 
60cm x 30cm. 2015. 

I just finished the fifth and last piece in my grieving series (for now). That does not mean I'm done grieving, but I want to move in a different direction with my work at the university. In fact, I already have changed gears and I've been working on this piece a little bit on the side, but I've refrained from posting any of my other work so far to retain some kind of continuity in this blog.

Falling is based on one of my first ink sketches from last semester that I thought had some potential to be worked into a print. It is based on a dream (more like a nightmare) about falling into a dark hole I've had and it deals with the feeling of loosing ground after the loss of my father. It deviates from my usual square format in this series; I doubled the square to give more of a sense of falling. Again I worked with photo-etching for the figure, for which I screen printed a halftone image with straight acrylic paint onto the copper plate as a resist template. The ink washes I replicated with soap ground and the grey patterning is line work with a little bit of aquatint on a second plate that I print on top of the black.
That's it for now. I'll post some of my experimental pieces soon that might thematically lead to my thesis work in the future.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Renewed Canada House in London Opens

Manitoba Room
Canada House, London

Yesterday was the royal opening of the revitalized Canada House on Trafalgar Square in London. After reading an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about a beautiful handmade oak table by J. Neufeld in the Manitoba Room and seeing a list of artists (I among them!) that are part of the Manitoba Room (see last paragraph in the article), I searched for images to see if my prints might be in any of the photographs from the opening. I was lucky and found one photo with My Winnipeg IV in it on the official Canada House website. There is an article about the art and design in the building as well as additional photos of other artworks if you want to take a look. 
Many thanks again to L.A. Pai Gallery in Ottawa for submitting my work!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Are You There?

Are You There?
Double Plate Etching, Chine-Collé.
30cm x 30cm. 2015. 

What happens after death? That eternal question will probably never get answered, and yet, I keep asking it. As part of the series in which I grieve the sudden loss of my father, I made another piece. (I'm also working on other pieces at the moment, but I'm not quite finished with this series yet).
This piece is a combination of two earlier prints from last semester. In a fluke experiment in which I combined two unfinished pieces a few months ago, I got an interesting proof, which I discarded as 'not what I wanted' at the time. After I had considerably altered both plates, I looked back at the proof and thought it was one of the most interesting pieces, so I decided to recreate a similar image to that lost proof. And here it is. This is a two plate print, printed on a warm toned Asian paper (Honen). One plate is black with the figures and the washes in the background. The second plate is a fine line pattern that I printed on top of the black in a lighter grey. (The lines are sitting raised on top of the black, which unfortunately isn't really visible in the photograph). The subtle lines and patterns are a kind of trace or presence that permeates everything, the body and the spirit. I find it hard to put into words what I am trying to portray in this piece, because I've worked more intuitively than I usually do. I'm experimenting with two different kinds of visual language (the washes or larger solid areas with photographic work, and the hand-drawn patterns and line work) and overlap both of them. This is my first tentative approach of layering imagery, which I find quite difficult to do, but which I've also wanted to try for a long time already, because layering images is so inherently part of printmaking. I like it and I hope it'll lend itself to my future work.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Project Space - Julio Valdez Studio

Two of my prints, Waving Goodbye and Return, that won the 'Best in Show' award last year at the 4th Biennial FootPrint International at the Center for Contemporary Prints in Connecticut are currently part of a selection of this exhibition at The JVS Project Space in New York. The show runs from Jan. 18th until February 3rd.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cover Images

Since Monday I'm back at the university and my second semester of my MFA has started. I'm in the early struggle stages of developing some new ideas. I've been gathering some books and reading materials and I have jotted down possible image ideas in writing, but I always have such a hard time picking up the pencil and starting to put my ideas into images on paper. Hopefully I'll have some new work to show soon.

In the meanwhile, two of my artworks, one earlier painting and a more recent print, have been featured on two publication covers recently: Winnipeg (2006) is on the cover of On Manitoba, the University of Manitoba Alumni Magazine, Fall 2014, and My Winnipeg III (2012) on the cover of the University of Manitoba Press Catalogue, Spring 2015.

WHERE Magazine - Artist Profile

WHERE Edmonton (Magazine) printed an artist profile about me. Fabian Flintoff, a board member at the Harcourt House Arts Center, met with me for an interview and to look at my prints a few months ago. He wrote the following piece which you can access online here or see image below (click image to enlarge).