Saturday, December 17, 2016

Charles Brand Printing Press

As of yesterday I am the very proud owner of a Charles Brand printing press. I bought it from a retired professor in Minnesota, who also sold me hundreds of cans of ink, printing blankets, and a nice 4" x 16" relief roller. The press bed is 32" x 52", which is perfect for me; it doesn't take up too much space, but I'm still able to print on oversized sheets of paper. The press has been in storage for a while and the roller got a bit rusty, so once I want to start using it I'll give the press a little makeover and it'll be good as new. I'm just so thrilled to have the equipment for my own future studio! Once I'm finished grad school, I'll have to start looking for a studio space to house all these treasures. This was one of those moments, where you just know in your gut it's the right thing to do.

We borrowed a big truck and rented a forklift for easy loading and transport. Thanks to all the people we have depended on to make this happen!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Soy Field

The Soy Field
Section of the work in progress.
Etching, digital satellite image. 

As part of the work for my thesis exhibition I've been working on another large print. The Soy Field consists of a grid of prints that as a whole form a large scale field of soy plants. I combine my own grid with satellite imagery of regions in the Paraguayan Chaco were soy plantations are cropping up. I again work with layers of imagery to portray a kind of take-over by the soy plants of the land. The scale of the whole piece, which will fill a 30 foot wall (approximately 10m), also gives a sense of that take-over through its overwhelming size. The form of the piece embodies the fragmentation of the land and resembles the grid of fields as seen from an aerial view. I add different layers of information about the issues of soy plantations in individual tiles, such as satellite imagery of soy fields in Paraguay that show the clearing of forests, patterns of plants that evoke the mechanization and engineering of agriculture, and red droplet patterns that portray the heavy application of toxins in monocultures. (See details below). An overlay of etched soy plant imagery pulls all the different tiles together to form one large field. 

Here a snippet from some of my research. The data I cite here is from a dossier called Con la Soja al Cuello by BASE, a Paraguayan Social Investigation publication, which in turn got their data from government documents and census data:
Aside from cattle ranching, soy is the second largest industry in Paraguay. 62% of agriculture land is used for soy, 6% for mandioc, beans, sweet potatoes and other produce for local consumption (the rest are other export crops). 96% of soybeans grown in PY are destined for export for livestock to maintain meat-security in western countries. The main slogan of agribusinesses is the modernization of agriculture and the eradication of world hunger. However, in my research I read again and again that modernized agriculture is by no means the better agriculture and world hunger is made worst from the displacement of peasant farmers who loose access to their own food production, many of whom end up in the slum belts of the cities. Peasants and small-scale farmers equal 1/3 of the world's population, but they make 2/3 of the world's food producers. 

The Soy Field.
Detail. 30cm x 30cm.
Etching, Digital Satellite Image. 

The Soy Field.
Detail. 30cm x 30cm.

The Soy Field.
Detail. 30cm x 30cm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

New Work Website

My website needs an overhaul, but until I finish my MFA I fear I won't have time for that. In the meanwhile, here's a link to a UofAlberta online gallery where you can see my more recent work.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

2nd Place at 2nd New York International Miniature Print Exhibition

I won the 2nd Place at the Mini Print exhibition! How very exciting. You can read more about the exhibition and the piece in the previous blog post.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

2nd New York International Miniature Print Exhibition at Manhattan Graphics Center

From large to small. Aside from working on the large cattle herd print this summer, I also worked on several other pieces. Among others was a small series of miniature prints measuring 7.5cm x 7.5cm. I'm thrilled to announce that Migration I (see above) was selected by juror David Kiehl, Curator of Prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York for the 2nd New York International Miniature Print Exhibition at the Manhattan Graphics Center. 

Additional Information: 
This year, 222 artists from over 34 countries submitted work to the exhibition, bringing together a diverse representation of the print world today. Over 600 prints were reviewed by the juror. 123 will be exhibited. 

The 2nd New York International Miniature Print Exhibition will take place from November 4-December 18, 2016 at our printmaking studio’s gallery with an opening reception during IFPDA Print Week in New York, November 5, 2016.

There are two more pieces in the series that were not selected, but I want to post them here anyways. 

Migration II. 
Intaglio, Chine-Collé.
7.5cm x 7.5cm. 2016.

Migration III. 
Intaglio, Chine-Collé.
7.5cm x 7.5cm. 2016.

The Smoke Cloud (Section)

This piece was inspired by a satellite image from google earth that shows plumes of smoke rising from a cut down forest in the Paraguayan Chaco. To print the smoke cloud I etched three different smoke circles using first soap ground and then spit bite to get the different layers of delicately toned washes. I then cut the plates into wavy circles using tin snips and printed one or two a day slowly building up the layers and having to let them dry in the between. Working on this piece in conjunction with the cattle herd took me from April to September and eventually the two prints merged into one big piece (see previous post).

Cut copper plates that form the cloud when printed in layers. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Cattle Herd

I've kept my head down for the past few months and I have worked away on the cattle herd. The print has grown quite a bit more and it is almost finished now. I started working on a second piece with a smoke cloud from a deforestation site about the same size as the cattle herd and eventually the two pieces merged. Now I have a piece that measures about 6.5m in length. It doesn't show super well in a photograph, but I'm thrilled with the outcome of the print itself.
I've built the whole piece up by printing the same plates over and over again on a thin but sturdy Asian paper (Honen). The translucency of the paper allowed me to see the exact placement of each plate. I had two cattle plates that I printed about one hundred times. There are approximately 2400 cows in this pieces; that is about the amount of cattle that gets slaughtered every three days at the beef processing plant in my home town in Paraguay, mainly intended for export. Since business is going great, the demand to clear more forest for ever more pasture land keeps growing.

The overall piece consists of fourteen sheets of paper forming seven vertical panels that are hinged horizontally through the centre. Below is one panel that measures 125cm x 92cm.

To hinge two sheets of the Asian paper, I wet each sheet and placed them face down onto a large sheet of acetate. I was able to slide the wet sheets around on the acetate until they lined up perfectly along the seam. I then carefully blotted the paper, which made it adhere to the acetate and stay in place. Using rice glue, I pasted a one inch strip of the same paper along the centre seam, hinging the two sheets together.

I let the hinged panels dry between drying boards over night, but after having some trouble with wrinkles in the paper due to different shrinkage rates, I decided to re-dampen the panels and tape them down to properly stretch them. This worked beautifully and by removing the tape very carefully, there was virtually no damage to the edges.

It's funny how working in a new studio can influence the way I work. When I first came to the UofA, I didn't like the Honen paper much and I hated taping down prints to flatten them. Now I love the Honen and can't imagine life without it anymore. I still hate the taping, but it's incredibly effective to get perfectly flat prints.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Growing Cattle Herd

Cattle Herd. 
Etching, Chine-Collé.
60cm x 90cm. 2016.

A few months ago a made two plates with cattle to print on one of my pieces about deforestation, since the flourishing beef production in the Paraguayan Chaco is a major driver in the cutting of the forests. I tried to figure out a way how to create an impression of the white Brahman herds that are so common out there. I decided to do a shallow open bite, which bites away a whole open area of the plate leaving a deeper edge around the outlines where the ink catches. I loved the way the plates printed and overlapped creating the impression of movement. I made one print with just a herd. When I finished it and put it on the wall, I liked what a saw, but the piece was way too small.

As a summer project (among other things) I decided to print this piece on a larger scale, initially starting with four paper panels. Six weeks later, the piece has grown to eight panels by now and might merge with another six panel piece. At some point my goal was to reach 800 cows to represent the 800 animals that are being slaughtered at the beef processing plant every day in my home community, largely for export. I didn't like the form of the herd at that stage and it wasn't working visually, so I scrapped that idea and kept printing. Six weeks later, I'm at over 1200 cows, having printed the plates more than fifty times already. I usually print one to three plates a day and then let the ink dry over night while working on other pieces. I'm not quite sure yet how I'll display this piece, but it'll probably be some kind of scroll or panel. I think I'm going to print some parts of this print a lot denser and then I'll let it rest to see where other projects take me.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

5th Biennial Footprint International Exhibition 2016 Update

Here is a brief update about the 5th Footprint International Exhibition 2016 in Norwalk, Connecticut. The show is opening this Sunday and the gallery sent me a photo with my work on display along with the other winning artist Juha Tammenpää from Finland. I think the display looks great!
And here is a link to the exhibition catalogue. It's a really nice one and my two winning pieces are on page six.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


19 Plate Intaglio.
60cm 90cm. 

How do I write about a piece on my blog when I don't know exactly what it represents? My advisors keep telling me to not overthink things, to work more intuitively and to trust that meaning will emerge in the finished piece. I'm not sure if the title for the piece is final. All I know is that there is something dark and ominous looming over an intact world (the dark cloud was initially intended to symbolize corporate power in an earlier piece). I'm not sure if the figures are still part of that world, or if they've disappeared already. Anyways, that's all I'm going to say about the content at this point and let you think about it for yourself.
I finally finished this print this week. I had a proof done for months already, but it took me forever to print a good print in a small edition (I only finished one so far). I re-worked some plates, which I kept putting off and for some reason it was so incredibly difficult to print the spit bites smoothly. It also took forever to print, since there are nineteen plates (a lot of them 30cm x 30cm), and with most layers I waited at least 24 hours before printing the next. So, my daily routine for the past few months has been to print a few plates on various prints, hope that I won't mess up half way through and continue the next day. More to come soon.

Monday, May 23, 2016


15-plate Intaglio.
60cm x 90cm. 

The prints I started in January are finally coming together and one by one I'm finishing them now. I wanted to be done months ago, but the printing process I'm working with now is slower than ever and sometimes I feel a bit like a hamster in a wheel: I work and work at the studio but it feels like I'm not really getting anywhere. Well, I hope the next few posts will prove this feeling wrong.
I've started utilizing my printing plates almost as drawing tools, where I print smaller plates (most of my plates are 30cm x 30cm) relatively loosely on a large sheet of Asian paper. Some of plate marks remain visible in the final pieces, but I don't really mind that part of the process is visible.
Migration is a 15-plate print, which means I often print one plate which I then need to let dry for a day before I continue (sometimes I print a few when I don't mind loosing some wet ink through offset). I continued playing with some of the cloud imagery I started with earlier. In this piece, the ominous swopping cloud was inspired by the toxic clouds of crop dusters. I've been researching the soy industry and soy plantations in Paraguay and there are so many accounts where soy fields surround small villages and peasant farms. Often the crop dusters will spray villages, in a few instances even children on their way home from school, or the crops of subsistence farmers which then wilt and die from the herbicides. Inequality is a really big issue in Paraguay, mostly tied to land ownership, and more and more peasants are displaced by large agribusiness enterprises. While these big companies claim that their way of farming is necessary to combat world hunger, in reality it contributes to world hunger since almost the entire crops are exported to other first world countries as feed for meat production, while local subsistence farmers are being displaced and migrate to the slums of the bigger cities where they can't grow their own food. Well, these are some of the issues I tried to portray in this piece, by printing some of the traditional subsistence crops on the back side of the Asian paper to shine faintly through and to create a physical separation between the plants and the figures, and with a torrent of soy beans falling from a harvest-combine spout onto the gardens and people, displacing them (see detail below).

Migration Study

Etching, Chine-Collé.
15cm x 30cm. 

Since I started graduate school, my posts have become so sporadic. Some day when life will normalize again, I hope to pick up blogging more regularly again. Until then, please bear with me.
This study is a small print I made a for an exchange portfolio with fellow printmaking students and faculty here at the University of Alberta. It was a plate I etched a while back. It didn't quite work for what I had intended it and at some point that plate had slipped into the acid bath without being fully stopped out, creating that strange band of open bite across the figures. There was something interesting about it, so months later I reworked the plate, scraping some parts, and re-etching others. I played quite a bit with spit-bite to get the washy effects and later I added the second plate with the red line drawings. In the end I had a nice little piece that I was quite happy with.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

'Best in Show' Award at CCP

A print of mine (Are You There?) has co-won the 'Best in Show' award again at the 5th International FootPrint Exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, Connecticut. (Juror: Andrew Raftery).

Monday, April 11, 2016

Winnipeg art lives on!

I got such a beautiful letter and picture this week from a grade 1/2 class from Montrose school in Winnipeg. They did a project about the city inspired by my artwork and look what those fabulous artists created! (A special thanks to the teacher Liberty Au and the students from Montrose school).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Art in Embassies Program - Tbilisi, Georgia

One of my prints is now on display at the US embassy in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, through the U.S. Department of State - Art in Embassies program. I was invited by curator Claire D'Alba to display my piece on loan for a two to three year period. The works are installed in the representational spaces of the residence, where many of the ambassador's official functions are held. How exciting! 

For more information check out the Art in Embassies website.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Details of new prints

Recently I've been feeling like a hamster in a wheel. I work and work and work at the studio, but everything seems to progress really slowly. I guess that's what it feels like being in a transition phase. Overall I think my work is growing, even if it's not happening at the rate I'd like to see, but I'm happy with the small steps that I have moved forward. I'm just waiting for the day when things will fall into place and be a little less laborious. In the meanwhile, here are some details of my new work. I've been re-working the studies from my previous post with layers upon layers, printing both on the back and the front of a translucent asian paper. I etched a whole series of plates with figures and one whole series of plates with forest sections, which I now overlap over and over again to create more rich and complex imagery. I still need to resolve the final pieces, but as soon as I do, I'll post them (I'm almost there). For now, here are some of the details.