The steamroller printmaking event, Rockin’ Rollin’ Prints 2017, was this past Sunday. It was held at Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston, and is an annual event put on by Print Matters Houston. This was the first time I have participated in an event like this. I am completely hooked. Read on to hear about my experience as a volunteer, about my print, and for pictures.
Participating artists are required to complete a 2-hour volunteer shift during the event. It takes a lot of people to pull this off. I volunteered during the morning shift and then printed my block in the afternoon. My job was “board transportation”. Our group would take the carved woodblocks from the queue to the inking station, from ink to the steamroller, and then take it away after printing. My partner was an art student who drove from Louisiana.
Let’s figure out how many people it required to keep the printing process going. Board transportation: 4. Inkers: 4. Steamroller operator: 1. Press Captain: 1. Press operation: 2. Paper handling: 6. Print transportation: 6. Print hanging: 2. Using my expert math skills I can tell that is 26 people! Normally the paper groups can get by with 4 each but it was quite windy and the paper sheets are 50″ x 72″. Yeah, basically a sail in the wind.
Being a part of that team art-making effort felt super good.
Every year there is a different theme and this year it was 2017: A Print Odyssey, a spin on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Artists are not in any way required to work within the theme but I did.
I had not seen the film for many years so I watched it again and knew immediately what I wanted to work with. I had to have the hominids at the beginning of the film and the monolith. I thought about the ubiquity of cell phone towers in contemporary society and wanted some in the background. And a hominid dude with a cell phone taking a kissy-face selfie in front of the monolith. Because that’s funny. In the film the appearance of the monolith triggers the next evolutionary stage. I thought what if a monolith appears here in 2017 but we are too busy with our phones to see the significance? We’d miss the evolutionary bus!
Watching the inkers roll up my block was thrilling. Much of the surface was left the raw MDF color and some areas are colored with green ink. This was to make it easier for the inkers to see which areas still need ink. It also means you can’t see the design well until the ink is rolled on. One of the coordinators was watching them ink and pointing out areas that needed more coverage. She looked up at the crowd and said, “Hey! Who made this?” I raised my hand. She said, “Good job sticking with the theme, buddy!”. It turns out she is the artist who did the piece on all the press materials, our shirts, the poster and the pint glasses. Yes, pint glasses. We were at a brewery, remember?!
Video of the block being printed:
Like I said at the beginning, I am hooked. I can’t wait for next year’s event. What will the theme be?!
A big THANK YOU to my family for supporting me and this crazy project and tolerating all those carving hours. And thanks to all the friends and fam that came out to see it printed.