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An abstract print from a tree trunk scar

The two parts of this scar on an Aspen tree trunk reminded me of a painting I had made in 1979:

I changed the colour image to greyscale, then generated several bitmaps at different thresholds to posterize the image:

First I printed a gradient background:

Gradient backgrounds drying.

I wanted to transform the image into something that might echo the legacy of mining in northern BC, so I used metallic inks, as well as intensely pigmented colours. As with the Babarrunak Raku print I had made previously, I built up surface texture with repeated passes of clear ink. Here is the final image:

“Ore”, silkscreen 4″ × 5″


Closeup view

“Ore” has been accepted into the 8th Tokyo International Screen Print Biennial exhibition. Award-winning prints are posted here.

Reflecting on Chinese Cariboo history through printmaking

Claire with a candle for Tiananmen at Chinese Cemetery.

Last spring (& again this year) we visited the Chinese cemeteries in Stanley and in Barkerville to commemorate the Tienanmen Square massacre and to reflect on the courage of those resisting tyranny in Hong Kong. When anti-Asian incidents began to increase in the Lower Mainland after the onset of Covid, I wanted to illuminate some of the Cariboo’s Chinese history through printmaking. “Stanley Doorway” and “Chinatown Wall” are the first of two such prints. I began them last summer and finished them this spring.

The Lightning Inn still stands in Stanley. The doorway caught my attention:

Stanley doorway photo

To make a multicolour posterized screen print, I created a series of bitmaps of the image in black & white at various thresholds:

Thresholds of doorway for posterization process

After printing a warm gradient background, I printed the darkest threshold with a transparent brown ink:

To add transparent gold on some the doors, I reversed out the centre highlights to make a film positive with this pattern:

Reversed positive for centre of door

Here is one of the final prints:

Stanley Doorway – silkscreen 斯坦利

Barkerville’s Chinatown has many restored and recreated buildings:

This particular wall caught my eye:

A wall in Chinatown

Following the same process I used for the Stanley Doorway print, I generated a range of thresholds from a black and white version of the photo above:

Thresholds for posterization process

I began with a transparent gradient background, then hand cut rubylith masking film to make stencils for these colour fills before printing the photographic stencils. Some prints have 2 gold shapes like this one below; others have 4.

Background gradient + 4 underprint colours

Here are the final prints:

Chinatown wall – silkscreen with 2 gold shapes
Chinatown Wall – silkscreen with 4 gold shapes

For first hand history of Stanley and Wells, see “…And So…That’s How It Happened – Recollections of Stanley-Barkerville 1900-1975” by W. M. (Bill) Hong.

In 2008 and 2009, a group of us skied between Barkerville and Stanley (approximately 25 km) along the original Cariboo Waggon Road. We named our trek “The Cariboo Jack” to honour Wong Man Ding (akak Cariboo Jack), who had walked all the way from Yale to Stanley in 1868. I screen printed bibs like these on Tyvek for all the skiers:

When the Chinese government began cracking down on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, I printed paper lanterns for the Autumn Moon Festival with this design from the Hong Kong Artists’ Union:

Paper lantern, screen printed

… and then another of their designs onto shirts and scarves.

Screen printed sweatshirt


Spring arrives in the swamp

Winter view from marsh of Moose Island, Valley Mtn behind; Slide Mtn in distance at left.

There’s always something wondrous to see in “the Bog” on the edge of Wells – more correctly called a fen, I’m told.

Winter view from marsh down Willow River valley.

One of my favourite things to observe is the annual movement of willows that spring back after a winter bent under the weight of several metres of snow. The dark colour of their branches absorbs heat from the sun and accelerates their rate of recoil. Their imprints remain in the snow where they used to lay underneath.

Here and there lie small springs of Bryonia lichen that has blown off trees in the wind. Their dark colour also attracts solar warmth to form small pockets in the snow.

Creekside trail, early spring

Portrait of Dr William Allen Jones

Photo courtesy Barkerville archives.

Dr. William Allen Jones was the first dentist licensed in BC. He was born in 1831 in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA and died in Barkerville in 1897. I have not yet succeeded in finding his grave in the Barkerville cemetery. Many tourists peer into his dental clinic on the main street of Barkerville Historic Town near Wells.

After studying at Oberlin College, Dr. Jones emigrated to Salt Spring Island with his brothers Elias and John in 1859. When the Cariboo gold rush began, William moved north, as did Elias; John taught school on Salt Spring Island for many years.

Digital mockup used to plan the printing sequence.

When I read about some of the incidents of racist violence in Canada and the US in recent years, I wanted to respond as a visual artist. Printing a portrait of Dr. Jones offered one way to illuminate and pay tribute to this significant figure from BC’s Black history.

Using a photo kindly supplied by the Barkerville archives, I designed a silk screen print in 8 colours (above). I chose a 100 pound paper stock that could handle a large area of water based ink (TW 5000 series from Willox Graphics) without significant buckling.

These variations in the background blend show the process of achieving a variety of results – one of the things I enjoy most about printing:

A short clip of printing the background and another clip as seen from above.

Next step: printing the shirt:

Printing a gradient base for the jacket, showing some variations in the backgrounds:

Next: the underprint for the head and face, showing variations in the backgrounds:

The first posterization of the photo:

Second posterization printed:

Third posterization printed:

Fourth posterization printed:

A printed gold frame (clear ink mixed with “gold” powder) “traps” the perimeter of the print and any minor misregistrations:

I had a minor problem printing some of the text: a brand new container of black ink was unusually runny and bled a tiny bit on three prints. To solve this, I made a new photostencil with “stroked” text (enlarged) so I could overprint the flaws with white ink. Then I printed the text again with some older, thicker black ink that did not bleed. Problem solved!

In the end, I used a total of 11 colours. Here are three samples of the final prints with variations among them:

An animated sequence of the main printed colours:

This is a fundraiser for the Wells Historical Society, Friends of Barkerville – Cariboo Goldfields Historical Society, and the BC Black History Awareness Society.
An order form for this special edition is here

If we can sell out the edition, each non-profit stands to receive over $2000.00 😉

Silvia Mangue, President of The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, with a print.
Friends of BarkervilleCariboo Goldfields Historical Society Treasurer, Tony McDonald, with a print.
Wells Historical Society Vice President (& Barkerville Curator) Mandy Kilsby & her son Emmett with a print.

The Hon Sonia Fursteneau, BC Green Party leader, with the print she purchased.

The Hon Coralee Oakes, MLA for Cariboo North, with the print she purchased.

The Hon Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, & Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, with the print he purchased.

Thanks to Mandy Kilsby, Caroline Zinz, Silvia Mangue, Claire Kujundzic, Andy MacDougall, Sophia Isajiw, Annerose Georgeson and Richard Tetrault for their assistance and support.

Article about the Dr. Jones print in the Quesnel Cariboo Observer.

The portrait of Dr. Jones was on display at Saanich Municipal Hall during Black History Month, 2021, and at the Emily Carr Branch of the Victoria Public Library during Black History Month, 2022.

Posterizing a license plate (a fundraiser for Nicaragua Family Support Fund)

One day during our year working in Nicaragua, Claire found an old license plate in a ditch in Managua. It was from 1979, the year the Nicaraguan people overthrew the dictator Somoza, so she set it aside. Fabricated in the blue and white of the country’s flag, it had rusted over the course of six or seven years – a visual metaphor of the betrayal of the revolution by the corrupt, brutal Ortega-Murillo regime.

1979 License plate.

I thought this might make an interesting silkscreen print that would be suitable for a fundraising campaign. Initially I sent funds to the group <Dale una mano a tu Hermano> (“Give a hand to your brother/sister”) which was assisting Nicas in exile in vulnerable situations in Costa Rica. 60% of sales will now go to the Nicaragua Family Support Fund which provides financial support for Nicaraguan political prisoners and their families. Their web page is here.

The order form for these prints is here for anyone who would like one. (FYI there are only 44 in the edition!)

[Please note that my primary market for this print is for people in Canada, the US and Europe, because I want funds to go from outside Nicaragua & Costa Rica, not from inside.]

My process began with “posterizing” a black and white version of the photo to make 6 film positives and photostencils:

Creating thresholds in Photoshop.

Setting up an Illustrator file with six layers allowed me to test out various colour combinations and plan my sequence of inks:

Digital print plan

Then I started mixing various blues:

Mixing blues with transparent medium.

The first colour: a very transparent blue gradient.

Second colour: silver.

Third colour: a powder blue.

Fourth colour: copper mixed with gloss medium.

Fifth colour: blue.

Sixth colour: dark blue.

The final print:

“…Nicaragüita” © Bill Horne 2020

The title, “…Nicaragüita” is named after the song by the brothers Carlos Mejía Godoy and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” – a love song to a country freed from tyranny.

Total print edition: 44 + 4 Artist’s Proofs. Dimensions: 6″ × 12″ (15.5 cm × 31 cm)

Again the order form is here.
(First come, first served 😉

I had a lot of fun printing these and want to thank Claire Kujundzic, Liliana Cisneros, Jacques Lemieux and Sophia Isajiw for their assistance and encouragement!

For those interested in the screen printing process, here’s a rough video recap.

#SOSNicaragua   #2añosinjusticia   #prohibidolvidar


Foil Transfer Test

gold and metallic blue foils

This winter I obtained a sample of a water based screen printing foil adhesive and some short lengths of gold and metallic blue foil from our friends at Willox Graphics in Burnaby. I’d read about foil transfers before, but never had a chance to try them out until recently.

Gen IV foil adhesive

For my test, I made a simple stencil of snowflake patterns that I had previously printed on necktubes for the Cold Snap Festival during the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. I chose a screen with LX-135 mesh that could print decent detail on dark fabric. It’s a cool new kind of mesh that can print a heavy deposit of ink while retaining detail.

Snowflake stencil

The foil transfer process is simple: print the adhesive on some fabric and let it air dry overnight. The next day, I put the sample prints in our heat press under pressure @300F for 12 seconds with foil sitting on top and a silicon release sheet on top to protect everything from the hot platen. After allowing them to cool, I peeled the foil material which left shiny gold and metallic blue where the adhesive retained them.

Next time I will make an extra-thick stencil by recoating a previously coated, dried screen. This will make it easier to print a heavier deposit of the adhesive and – theoretically – obtain more consistent adhesion. And I might use a design with less finicky detail! But this was an enjoyable experiment.

Evolution of an abstract silkscreen print

The approaching deadline for a biennial Japanese screen print competition motivated me to try something different this summer. This photo of the texture left in a glass bowl by cooked black beans gave me the idea of trying to simulate ceramic raku effects:

My sisters-in-law in Victoria had grown and harvested the beans, which “grounded” them and connected me to my subject matter! (They are very delicious, by the way 😉

I began by printing a background gradient with a circular gradient on top.

Then I created several bitmaps at different thresholds from the greyscale photo of the black bean texture to use as film positives that I could print:

I started printing these textures using copper ink, then gold, then red, violet and clear. I printed the lightest texture with repeated layers of clear to create a tactile relief surface texture.

I wasn’t satisfied with the pale blue to mauve background – it was too sweet, and some small flaws bothered me. So I overprinted it with three versions: mostly black, with a few indigo and carmine red. Finally, a metallic frame (some gold, some copper) to trap the background colours.

Here are some photos and closeups of what I ended up calling, Babarrunak Raku (Babarrunak is Euskera/Basque for black beans!).

Thanks to Sophia, Annerose, Ian and Claire for their feedback during the printmaking process, to Peter Braune at New Leaf Editions for his advice on flattening paper, and to our stalwart supplier, Willox Graphics.

(Here’s one black bean recipe from Tolosa and here is the Tolosa website about black beans.)

Babarrunak Raku won the Prize of Excellence (4th prize) in the 7th NBC MESHTECH Tokyo International Screen Print Biennial. It was exhibited at Yurakucho Asahi Gallery between November 22 and 27, 2019. The award ceremony was held at Ginza Lion in Tokyo on November 25, 2019.


The mind of ice

Ice spider, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC.

Fresh water ice takes many forms and undergoes many changes during winter and spring. Here are some “spider holes” on Jack O Clubs Lake on the edge of Wells. They look like dendrons.

A cool wind blows off the lake when it’s still covered with ice like this. But break-up can’t be many days away.

zooming in.

Four days later, on a sunny morning, spider holes appear close to shore, and sky trees grow from the remaining edges of the ice:

Spider Ice, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Spider Ice, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Sky trees, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Sky trees, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Sky trees, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Sky tree, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

A few days later:

photo, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

In the evening light:

photo, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

photo, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

photo, Jack O Clubs Lake, Wells BC

Echoes and rhymes in art, espresso and nature

This silkscreen print emerged after I had made several prints based on pine beetle galleries. I started with a colour photograph of a blaze cut into tree bark on the trail to Mount Murray, just outside Wells.


Photo of blaze scar on tree, Mount Murray trail near Wells.

After changing it to greyscale, I “posterized” the image with five tonal thresholds.

The next step was to generate film positives and make photostencils.

The first screen was a split gradient for a solid, printed background. Then I printed the darker positives with lighter inks and vice versa until I ended up with this:


“Blaze” – silkscreen, 12.875″ × 16.75″ (32.5 cm × 42.5 cm)

Months later, while making an espresso in the gallery, I looked down at the drip bowl that sits under the machine and saw this:

Coffee grounds in Billy Bowl 0611

Espresso grounds in drip bowl.

Ok, not quite the same pattern and colours as the silkscreen print, but a visual cousin 😉

Back to the pine beetle bark.
This section intrigued me; something seemed familiar.

Banff bark0106

Following my same work flow, I changed the photo to black and white, posterized it, then created the film positives to make photostencils.

Here’s the resulting print:

Banff Beetles

“Banff Beetles” – silkscreen print 4″ × 6″ (13.3 × 7.9 cm)

Which reminds me of this view of Cascade Mountain as seen from downtown Banff, Alberta:



Again, not quite the same, but reminiscent enough for me 😉

Peace River Screen Printing Workshop trip

After much anticipation and preparation (see “Peace River Screen Printing Project” post below), Claire and I packed up the car and drove to Fort St John on May 11 – about an eight hour trip. This is a fine time of year to drive north, not just because there’s so much daylight at our latitudes, but also because the remaining patches of snow in the northern Rockies delineate the contours of the mountains that tower over the Pine Pass in their undulating folds.

We don’t drive as fast as Google.

Verena Hofmann welcomed us to the Treaty 8 Tribal Association building in FSJ upon our arrival and helped us unpack. The T8TA building has wonderful spaces for meetings and we set up in the back where we could access water, as well as the back parking lot for sunlight photostencil exposures. We were honoured to be able to hold the workshop there and very appreciative of T8TA’s support, as well as Verena’s organizing assistance.

In addition, we were given permission to stay at the Tse’K’wa house above the cave at Charlie Lake. It was an enormous privilege to stay in this very special, significant place. To see the cave is a powerful experience and we’re grateful to have had that opportunity.

We had a small, but enthusiastic and extremely productive group in the workshop, with various friends dropping in over the course of the weekend. On the Saturday, we explored hand-cut and torn wax paper stencils, simple registration systems, printing gradients, and then coated screens with photoemulsion so they could dry in a dark closet overnight.

On Sunday morning, the weather was still perfect for exposing these in sunlight outside the back door. The first exposures took about 12 minutes, but we shortened that gradually to 8 minutes as the day progressed. At one point we were able to test three kinds of film positives: a retouched photocopy on acetate, hand-cut rubylith film & hand-painted Fotostrip masking fluid. The weekend went by very quickly and the participants gave some really helpful feedback and ideas for ways to improve on it if we have the chance to do another. Thanks again to Verena and T8TA for hosting and helping to organize the weekend, to Matt, Donna and Claire for their participation, and to Nathalie and Reg for dropping in!

Sunlight exposure with 3 kinds of film positives.

Screens post-exposure hardening in the sun.

Once we finished packing up, we drove 15 minutes south to Arlene and Ken Boon’s farm at Bear Flat on the Peace River where they generously treated us to a lovely supper, breakfast, overnight cabin stay, and tour of their land and buildings. We hadn’t realized they had worked in the log building business, so having a chance to see some of their handiwork – especially their creative renovations and reconstructions – was inspiring. Their museum houses many precious items, including a photograph of a horse-drawn plane for planing logs into timbers. We didn’t take any photos inside; you have to go there to see it!

Arlene and Ken were planting corn when we left – a crop not possible to grow in many places north of Quesnel! From Bear Flat we drove back through FSJ and east of Pouce Coupe to Demmit, just inside Alberta to visit Teresa and Peter von Tiesenhausen. Just as we arrived, they plugged in a brand new 10 KW array of solar panels on a new timber frame structure. Very exciting to watch their electrical meter start to go backwards!

Teresa kindly took us on a tour of the Demmit Community Hall. She and Peter were instrumental in the planning, fundraising and construction of this beautiful timber frame & straw bale building. An inspiring, successful project on every level.

From Demmit we made our way back to Gundy for an overnight visit with Verna Savor and Rick Broswick who moved there several years ago from Wells. It was a pleasure to catch up with them as well as enjoy their usual big-hearted hospitality.

After a short pit stop in Dawson Creek, a visit to the art gallery and a short chat with the Curator, Kit Fast, we were back on the road in time to return to Wells at sundown. In our last hour on Highway 26, we saw five black bears and one porcupine – a beautiful ending to a wonderful trip.

Special thanks to our many friends and Chuffed donors without whose support we could not have held the workshop or made the trip!