Sunday, October 12, 2014

Roadworks 2014

A belated post on the San Francisco Center for the Book's Roadworks Event! For those who may be unfamiliar, this is their annual event in which they invite a few select artists to make 3'x 3' linoleum block prints. These prints are then printed by steamroller at their public event, using the street itself as a press bed, and later sold to support the center.

I met my husband at a similar event, so it's was a pretty nostalgic day for me. This year, the center used a vintage steamroller that actually ran off of coal.

I'm always impressed by how organized the event is - teams of orange-shirt clad volunteers are divided into "clean hands" and "inky hands," so one team lays down and collects the block, while a another lays down the paper and pulls the print.

The event is also a street fair, with artists and organizations peddling their wares, and opportunities for people to try their hand at art activities, such as block carving, or papermaking! Papermaking was offered by the Mobile Mill, and it was my first time seeing it in action.

I was particularly impressed with the organization of the mill - storage for molds and deckles and pellon built right into the beater table. Although part of me questions the carbon footprint of a traveling workshop in this day and age, I think it's still pretty exciting, and anything that spreads the papermaking gospel has merit.

If you want to support the San Francisco Center for the Book by purchasing one of the prints, please visit here. You can also explore their website of which offers all sorts of classes, exhibitions and events.

Friday, October 3, 2014


For the next nine months, I'm teaching drawing. Drawing with a little color theory and basic painting thrown in. Back to basics, which, considering I began art school in 1995 (almost twenty years ago!) is waaaay back for me.

It's wonderful. I have a group of students who all want to be there. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy convincing teaching students who don't like art, don't think they are good at it, don't want to be there, turning them onto art as something enjoyable, expressive, necessary. But it is nice change to have students who want to dive in fully. Yesterday, a student pulled out a drawing she did on the first day, and the drawing she had done that morning - and was astounded by home much she had grown in just four full days of work.

I'm getting to draw too. Actually, considering how so much of my drawing in the past few years has been purpose-driven - for a print, for a project - I was a little nervous at first. It's been a while since I've had time to just draw for no intention but drawing. And at first, I kept remembering some of my teachers who liked to show off, to show how "good" they were, how "perfectly" they could draw, how much cred they had.

And then I remembered teachers who taught the technical skills, but also made sure to teach the gestalt, the passion, the magic of drawing. One distinct memory is of being in a life drawing class with the professor linked above, and being shown sketches by Pontormo in which he had erased and redrew figures, adjusting them till everything felt complete. And I thought about this in comparison to the teachers who showed off.

The teachers who showed me the mistakes taught me to see drawing as a journey, an adventure, an experience that enabled growth and insight.

I'm also familiar with the story that many art school survivors tell - that the study of art can drain the passion for it. This happens for many reasons - sometimes for teachers who are closeminded or threatened by the questions and new ideas that students present, that feel that Art fits a certain definition that a student doesn't fill. Sometimes its because a student encounters the rigor, demands and sacrifices of what the academic study of art requires and chooses a different path. So a midst teaching a technical grounding, I'm simultaneously trying to build gestalt, passion and awareness of their own growth.

For instance, I remember in Basic Drawing with Frida Fehrenbacher, spending two extremely focused hours drawing cross contours of objects. When we had about forty minutes left of our three hour class, she told us to put these drawings away and to take out a new piece of paper. And then she engaged us in scribbling, erasing, and loosening up. I remember how energizing the experience was, gifting us with a balance and also insight into drawing as a place. The memory of this moment has stayed with me; and it is something I incorporate into my teaching now.

Next week, I'm taking my students to the Cantor. By taking them there, of course I want them to be inspired and to develop understanding of some great works of art. But I also want them to understand that by choosing to study art, these works are their inheritance. Not just theirs, of course, really all humanity (which is why they belong in museums, particularly museums with free admission like the Cantor). More than that, I want them to consider that by choosing to be an artist, a person says that yes, sometimes the world sucks, but they believe that that is not the default model of humanity. That by learning to draw, they are embarking on a path to making the world better.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Upcoming Pulp Painting Workshop

Pulp Painting at Bryant Street Studios

Taught by Michelle Wilson
Class Held at 1890 Bryant Street, San Francisco CA 94110

Finely beaten paper pulp can act just like paint to make brilliant imagery in handmade paper. When dried, the painting is an actual part of the paper, which can stand alone or be transformed further through drawing, printing, traditional painting, or whatever you can think of for a mixed media creation. This class will cover various pulp painting techniques including direct painting, stencils, collage inclusions, and other means of pulp-based mark-making. Sheets will be air dried and some left to dry under pressure for several days and mailed to students.

Materials are included, and there is a short tool list which will be emailed for the class once you are enrolled.

CLASS DATE: September 20th. 2014
CLASS TIME: 10am - 4pm

For more information, or to register for this class, please visit here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Printmakers' Picnic!!

For this printmaker, it seemed appropriate that Oakland's 2014 Printmakers' Picnic took place on my birthday. It happened in Mosswood Park, and I had to restrain myself from running up to complete strangers all excited like, because these were my people, ya know?

The event was fairly straightforward; any printmaker was welcome to come, set up a blanket and vend their prints. Since it was a sunny afternoon with everyone catching whatever shade they could, these phone pictures aren't that great. Click on any of them for a larger image.

Overall, it had that DIY/DIT atmosphere that I love, yet always makes me a little wistful for Philly.

The artist that first really stood out for me was Bernadette Martinez of Artery Press. While eavesdropping (rather obviously, I think), she was discussing carving the repetitive detail that's present in many of her pieces. She said that often, she must carve all the detail in the same go, even if she wants to rest, because the consistency of mark will change if she stops and starts.

A pair of printmakers, Sanaa Khan and Deena Hashem were vending together. I was first drawn to their blanket by Deena's large, intricately patterned woodcuts.

Sanaa's work seemed related in content, but more searching and youthful. I wondered if they shared a studio or went to school together; the similarities in their work had the feel of the intimacy and influence of overlapping space and time.

Another printmaker who caught my eye was Kate Klingbeil. What drew me over to her blanket were her lithographs, full of delicate, marvelous tusche washes. (I miss litho).

She also had a clever series of prints that were adhered to magnets - I think she said these were monoprints? (Kate, if you ever read this - please confirm!)

Zines and artist books abounded at this event. Two that stood out to me were by Alyssa Townsend. The first was Grave Transportation.

The second was A Vivacious Vixen's Divine Doodads and Nifty Necessities for a Rock n' Roll.

There was much more printed matter than this blog post can contain. The whole event had a slight tendency towards controlled chaos, with wind trying to blow papers away and the occasional dog running across someone's work. At the same time, it gave me chills.

I was happy to see a real mix of techniques and methods - for edgy, anarchy events like this, often screen print dominates. It was also great to learn that day about some independent print shops in Oakland of which I was unfamiliar - places like Team Print Shop, Tiny Splendor, Rise Above Graphics, and Max's Garage Press (ok, that last one's in Berkeley).

Which has made me consider - in the wake of SGCI, and events like this, I'm considering putting together a list of artist print shops in the Bay Area. In Philly, we had Philagrafika which served as an umbrella organization to bring everyone together. Seriously, printmakers in Philly are like a family. I don't have the money or time to start a nonprofit, but I can do a webpage list, and periodically update it. It's a start.