Selected Drawings of the Week: May 17 - 23 2015

Drawings this week portray some of my favorite locations in Palo Alto.  

A Three Hour Workshop at the Japanese American Museum

In 3 hours, students grasp the full printmaking process.

Successful Workshop!

Successful Workshop!

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of teaching a three hour workshop at the Japanese American Museum in San Jose, CA. The participants in the workshop impressed me with their carving and printing skills! In a short amount of time, students transferred images onto woodblocks, carved the images out with knives and gouges, then printed them using traditional Japanese brushes and inks. 

I usually begin a workshop with a bit of context to inspire the participants. With a 15 minute presentation at the museum, students see examples of traditional Japanese prints, contemporary woodblocks, and how these styles inform the art I am creating. 

Lecturing about how the Japanese woodcut process influences my work.

Lecturing about how the Japanese woodcut process influences my work.

The first stage of the workshop is all about image transfer. Students learn how to transfer an image onto a woodblock. For inspiration, I use photographs of cherry blossom flowers and traditional Japanese kabuki masks. Sure enough, the guys in the class gravitate towards the masks while the women opt for the cherry blossoms.

Carving out the image on the woodblock.

Carving out the image on the woodblock.

Transferring a photograph of a kabuki mask to a woodblock using carbon paper.

Transferring a photograph of a kabuki mask to a woodblock using carbon paper.

After a quick carving demo, students begin to carve away portions of their blocks, placing their own creative spin on the photographs. Even though some students use the same image, they take different approaches when carving their blocks. 

Currently, I'm using the Akua liquid pigments to print, and I'm liking the results. Aku Liquid Pigment is also perfect for a workshop experience because the inks come in a squeeze bottle, which cuts down the need for additional materials (bowls brushes), not to mention wasted ink.

First proof from the woodblock using Akua inks.

First proof from the woodblock using Akua inks.

For printing, I brought along a pad of washi paper. Each student has enough paper to print ten prints, although most of them are content with just printing four or five.  Printing the first or second print is always a bit stressful, but students get the hang of printing around the third one or so. 

 Fresh prints full the workspace

 Fresh prints full the workspace

We can see the progress improves with each print. 

We can see the progress improves with each print. 

One of my favorite qualities of these prints is the roughness of the cutting and the rawness of the printing. Often class participants will have an idea of how the finished image will look in their mind. I remind them throughout the workshop that with each stage of the process, the image is evolving- It'snot going to look like how they think it will.

Social Media Remedies

I am currently developing my ongoing series of Milagro inspired prints into a new direction: Social Media Remedies. 

The Milagro prints is a series of works I started in graduate school when I became intersted in the parallels between communication technologies and spiritualities have on our minds. For example, when we text on our smart phones or pray, we become absent in the immediate physical space aorund us: we are talking to someone somewhere else. However, there is a lot of problems with the Milagro type prints, one inparticular is that they are not Milagros at all. 

The prints depict Milagro type imagery, but are not Milagros themselves (I’m working on making actual Milagros). Many people outside the southwest don’t know what a Milagro is, so an explanation of these tangible prayers is in order before I can begin to talk about the concept behind the series. To confront these two problems, I am pushing the series away from the Milagro rhetoric and into a new direction: Social Media Remedies for the digital age. 

Social Media Remedies is a reference to the traveling medicine men during the 19th century in the United States, who would sell snake oils to cure baldness and such. These traveling salesman typically had elaborate setups with bannes and all sorts of visual stimulation to convince people that their product would really cure the current epidemic at the time.  

Similarily to the salesmen that promise to cure bodily ailments with their elixirs, Social Media Remedies are designed to heal social anxieties that border on disease, such as "Nomophobia", or the feat of losing or being without your cell-phone. 

I'm excited to develop social media remedies because designing cures for modern day digital ailments requires equal doses of audience engagement, humor, and has the power to promote behavior change. I'm not sure what new direction the imagery is going to take place, but I am thinking something in the line of tarot cards. In the meantime, the prints in the gallery below are the first milagro inspired works.