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Posterizing a license plate (a fundraiser for Nicas in exile)

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. Some Nicaraguan friends suggested the group <Dale una mano a tu Hermano> (“Give a hand to your brother/sister”) which assists Nicas in exile in vulnerable situations in Costa Rica. 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.)

Update:
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.

Blaze

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

“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:

cascade-mtn-in-banff-banff

Cascade.

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!

Into the fire and ash

Once in a while a shuffling music playlist will randomly select just the right song for that  particular time and place. While driving north yesterday from Williams Lake on the Old Soda Creek Road towards the Rudy Johnson Bridge across the Fraser River, I entered one of the intense burn zones from the summer’s extensive fires just as Sarah McLachlan started singing, “Into the Fire“. (without the video!)

Burnt trees &amp; roots

Burnt trees and roots near Soda Creek, BC.

Burnt tree roots

Burned out tree roots near Soda Creek, BC.

I encountered many stark, poignant and haunting views. Some charred, vaporized tree roots looked like dinosaur footprints left as they fled a shield volcano millions of years ago. If I was Harold Rhenisch, I might write a poem!

When I reached Mackin Creek Farm on the west side of the Fraser, north of the bridge, Cathie Allen was hard at work gathering the last of their cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers before a heavy frost was to arrive that night. After many years of enjoying the wonderful vegetables she and Rob Borsato produce, I was glad to finally visit this beautiful place. And buy some food for the winter!

Mackin 1070690

Cathie Allen works another row before frost sets in at Mackin Creek Farm.

For those who live outside the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of BC, here are some maps:

Here are some of the burnt needles that fell on our metal roofing in the summer. I wonder if some came from the Soda Creek area?

Burnt needles

Burnt needles

For some very powerful images from the summer’s fires, see some of the recent newsletters by photographer Chris Harris and the Facebook photo albums of Jesaja Class.

Under the Field

After bringing the field of yellow mini-stakes back from the Far Afield exhibition at Omineca Arts Centre (see the previous two posts), and after having it on display with “Reservoir” at Amazing Space Gallery here in Wells through the summer, it was time to dismantle it. The dried, unfired terracotta clay can be reused one day. I can cover the canvas board framed in reclaimed fir with fresh clay if the opportunity arises again to replant the stakes and add more to the many voices resisting the Site C dam on the Peace River. It can have another life.

Pulling up the stakes revealed a lovely pattern left by the donors and other contributors when they pressed their stakes into the wet clay, as well as the cracks formed by the clay as it dried.

Stake in the Peace dried field

Dried terracotta field beneath “Stakes in the Peace”.

Removing the chunks of dried clay from the supporting canvas board revealed yet another pattern, this time similar to a watershed.

Stake in the Peace - under the dried field

Under the dried field; terracotta on canvas.

Scraping and rinsing the remaining clay exposed a subterranean drainage pattern.

Stake in the Peace - under the dried field

Under the dried field; terracotta on canvas with fir frame; 48″ x 16″.

Stake in the Peace - under the dried field

Under the dried field (detail).

Stake in the Peace - under the dried field

Under the dried field (detail).

To keep up to date on efforts to stop the Site C dam, see this Facebook page (one of  several), Sierra Club’s site, or follow The Narwhal‘s investigative reporting on this and other issues. And the stakeinthepeace campaign.
To learn about the BC Utilities Commission hearings on Site C, to attend a hearing or to make a submission, see their site here.

Reservoir

176A0855_BHorne

“Reservoir” as seen from above. Cast resin, silkscreened mylar; painted canvas courtesy of Claire Kujundzic. Base approximately 22” x 18”. Photo courtesy of Denis Gutiérrez-Ogrinc.

Like the “Stakes in the Peace” terracotta field with screen printed stakes in the group exhibition Disturbances in the Field  (at the Omineca Arts Centre), “Reservoir” deals with the Site C. Since BC Hydro’s proposed dam lies within Treaty 8 territory – a treaty signed in 1899 – I visualized the reservoir submerging the treaty. So I screen printed a two page layout of the text of Treaty 8 on mylar, then cast it in resin in a clay mold shaped like BC Hydro’s renderings, with a small corner of the treaty remaining above the surface of the reservoir to represent my hope that we can still stop this project.

On the sides of the acrylic stand are Cree and Dane-zaa words for the Peace River, in tribute to the strength of these cultures and the power of their languages. And as a reminder that we are all treaty people, as our friends in the valley have patiently explained. Claire gave me a piece of painted canvas to place under the resin to catch light and colour – another element of hope to balance the daunting challenge we face.