Saturday, 27 June 2015
Once again I was asked to write an article for a local paper. I am pleased about the local interest in this workshop and I'm happy to be able to give the artists a wider exposure through this publication. Sorry to those of you who don't read German, but you have all the previous blog posts to peruse. (Click on article to enlarge).
Friday, 29 May 2015
I want to share a radio interview Flavio Regier did with me during the workshop week for the local radio station. WARNING: it's in German! I'm grateful we got this publicity which aired on Friday at noon despite the national holiday, so as a result we got some visitors that afternoon and on Saturday morning. Click on the link below to listen to the MP3 file.
Saturday, 16 May 2015
From left to right: José Argüello, Romero Cáceres, Sixto Velazquez, Jorge Carema, Estaben Klassen, Miriam Rudolph, Clemente Julios, Zunilda Julios, Eurides Gómez, Marcos Ortiz, Osvaldo Pitoé.
What a wonderful experience this past week has been for me (and I believe for the artists as well as far as I can tell from their comments and their dedicated participation). It was a great pleasure for me to work with the kindest and humblest people who are always so polite, friendly and patient. It was refreshing to see how they live in the moment: they work when they work, they eat when they eat, and they laugh and share stories during break times. It was a bit strange and uneasy for me initially to eat in complete silence, but once it was explained to me that the whole focus lies on eating when eating, it kind of made sense and I ended up being completely comfortable with that.
I'm content with the work that was made during this workshop and even though the artistic levels varied, each artist made at least one piece he really liked. Most of the artists (unless they are unemployed) make their artwork after hours and on weekends. Not all of the participants work with drawings but with wood carvings - mostly small animals. I think it was mostly the carvers who made the woodcuts with the central animal figure, while the drawers had more elaborate compositions being more familiar with two-dimensional work. Being used to their incredibly detailed and delicate drawings, the rustic quality of the woodcuts takes some getting used to, but the more I look at the prints, the more I love and appreciate them and the more successful I think they are. The paper we used this time took the ink better than last time, but I think the woodblocks weren't as good this year. The images show a lot more deep woodgrain and while this works for some images, it's a bit distracting in others (I had to return half of the first order of wood, because the boards were just too bad in quality even though I had requested extra smooth plates). We used a eucalyptus plywood, which is one of the more affordable softwoods here. Knowing how bad Eucalyptus is for the environment, perhaps I'll have to buy a different kind of wood next time after all regardless of the price. Since several of the artists had requested colour ink, I had decided to introduce the reduction print technique. I had bought a can of red ink (the colour ink selection was quite limited unfortunately) and I showed them how to make a two colour reduction print. In the end this method didn't catch on and most chose to continue to work in black and white.
Several visitors stopped by this morning to see what we were doing and they ended up buying some of the work. Along with Verena's and my purchases, fortunately some work was sold from everyone, so all were happy to leave with some money in their pockets. They were all relieved to have earned some money by the end of the week, since they had taken time off work (despite two national holidays) to be able to participate in the workshop. We had one final meal together at noon and one final big clean up. After that we divided up all the supplies that were left over. Everyone was able to take home a set of carving tools, a brayer and a jar of ink as well as plenty of paper. I hope the artists might be able to continue some of the work, although I understand that their pen drawings require less space and are less time consuming and therefore more suitable to their circumstances.
I'm grateful I had the opportunity again to work alongside a group of wonderful people. I hope I'll meet them all again some day.
Today was our final day working together. All the artists tried to get some final done. Esteban printed his first bigger print today. He was almost done one plate the other day which I was immensely looking forward to seeing with two jaguars. Next time I look, he has carved away everything on half the plate, because he cut through one of the legs by accident and he didn't think it was going to look good anymore. I'm so very glad he was able to finish the piece above. He is a very introverted but highly creative artist and his compositions are quite sophisticated. Jorge Carema also printed his first bigger plate today which also turned out quite wonderfully. Both these artists have understood how the positive/negative space works in blockprinting, while some of the others still make their images mostly in the negative (white outlines and shapes on black ground).
One of the artists who made participated for the first time this time made huge progress within this week as you can see between the two pieces at the bottom, one from Monday the other from Friday. The newer piece is much more refined and less clumsy than the first, both in composition and in execution. I wonder what would happen if we would continue to meet regularly.
Wild Boars drinking. (Friday)
Wild Boars. (Monday, first woodcut)
Friday, 15 May 2015
Today we spent mostly printing and editioning prints. It was a very relaxed (tranquilo!) day and the pace of everything had slowed down a bit. The weather was warm and muggy after yesterday's rain, so maybe that contributed to the general mood. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable and productive day. As you can see in the pictures, the walls are filling up with prints. After a radio interview about the workshop aired today at noon through the local German radio station (ZP-30) several people came by to check out what we were doing and we also had a few sales (much welcomed by the artists). Hopefully we'll get a few more people in tomorrow morning before we close up.
Here are a few more pictures of some of the pieces that were added today. I find the black and white spaces are becoming more successful since the first few test plates. The artists have gained a lot of confidence with the technique and I hardly need to supervise their printing anymore. Common to most images is still a central animal figure.
Thursday, 14 May 2015
Here comes the good company part (which I forgot in my previous entry). Aside from making art we sit together a lot during the mid morning and mid afternoon Tereré (Yerba Mate) breaks and a shared meal for lunch of course. During the breaks we usually eat a lot of grapefruit (the best in the world grow in Paraguay!), but today we got a treat of fried cheese tortillas prepared by José, a guest participant who works for the NGO my dad was part of. With the cooler weather they were really yummy. Lunch consists of the traditional Guiso (stew), one day with noodles, the next day with rice, etc. Here are some impressions in pictures.
Another Tereré break.
Zunilda cooking Guiso. (The guys are taking turns cooking this time around also).
Guiso in its early stages.
Another long day with lots of new art and dedication. The weather changed today and it was cloudy all day, so the light indoors was quite terrible for fine work. Every artist has his workstation pulled right up against the window to get as much light as possible. Along with poor eyesight for most of artists it's a bit of a challenge. It also started raining later in the day (fall weather in Paraguay) and the roads have become super mucky. I have a three km bike ride home and it felt like I was slipping and sliding through 3 inches of soap for most of the way. I'm proud to say I managed without putting my boot down into the mud, but I fear had anyone seen me it would have been quite entertaining to watch. Well, back to printmaking.
The prints keep coming and many are turning out quite nicely. Favourite motifs for the artists are local animals and most of the local wildlife is represented already along the walls: anteaters, capybaras, ñandus, tapir, peccaries, armadillos, etc. I'll only post two of the pieces today since a lot of my pictures didn't turn out so well in the not so great light conditions indoors. More images of work later.