ALL ABOUT THE PRINTS
Words by Tamma Hicks
Finding an artist each month is not as easy as you might think. We look at all types of art and then study the ones that reach out and grab us. Sometimes it’s the name of the artist because we know of him/her, sometimes one specific piece grabs ahold of us and we just have to have it, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to find both! That’s what we did this month! Carlos Hernandez is a well-known screenprinter out of the Houston area that we’ve been following for the last few years (no we don’t stalk). We recently saw his 2012 print, La Selena, on his website and it grabbed us. We are privileged to feature this print on our cover in honor of the anniversary of Selena’s passing.
STEAM The first thing I want to ask is how you got into printmaking and screenprinting, because like many people when I think of an artist, painter and sculptor come to mind first. Your genre is little different.
CH Originally, I took some printmaking classes in college before I graduated with a graphic design degree and I fell in love with it and I vowed that I would take up printmaking again. Later I saw other people doing it, and I really enjoyed the spirit of printmaking and saw that I could use a lot of the graphic design elements and knowledge that I have.
STEAM You are really well known for your gig posters and The Day of the Dead Rock Star series. What was your 1st Gig poster?
CH When I was living in Lubbock I used to do all of my band’s posters and I fell in love with the graphic design element and the printing processes. Granted, I did a lot of cut-and-paste and Xerox projects. Xeroxing at the time was, and still is, very accessible and you could go out and do your own project. I have been the drummer in many bands and those were my first gig posters.
STEAM What was your 1st paid gig poster?
CH Well, I really don’t know, it’s been so long. It probably would’ve been some of the people around town that saw my work and asked me to do a poster for them. When it comes to being paid? I probably got little to nothing. I had a little graphic design agency where I did posters and whatnot and occasionally I would do gig posters, but it was only about 10 years ago that I went full time into printmaking.
STEAM Who are some former gig poster artists you looked at?
CH While there are a number of artists that I really like, but… That’s a tough question, I’ve never really thought about that. A lot of illustration work that was on album covers, retro album covers from the 60s and 70s. There were all of these artists hired by record companies to design these covers, so the first one I remember is the KISS Destroyer album and I remember saying, “Wow! This is a band?” I think it was my mom that said, “You know somebody got paid to illustrate that; to draw that.” That’s when I knew I wanted to be an illustrator; that I wanted to do this type of thing. So I think it’s those classic album covers with those amazing illustrations that set the music, set the mood, that makes you want to buy the album. I don’t think a lot of people nowadays understand that you would buy an album simply because of the cover. That it would move you that much. And that’s what I try to do with my posters. Maybe if it has a certain look, it’ll make someone want to go in.
STEAM I feel that bands are starting to become more savvy about their cover art and people are going back to vinyl for the interesting, exciting covers with bigger format.
STEAM Hand-drawn type plays a major role in your work. Why is it important to you?
CH It’s the freedom of drawing type. I can mold and shape the font to be part of the image. I know you can do it with regular typesetting, but it’s not the same result and drawing it makes the font a part of the art; you can even set the mood of the imagery by the font.
STEAM While I was studying your works I found Dead Amigos, the Heckle and Jeckle crows, and that is on the top of my favorites! It took me back to childhood; cartoons and a color book! Then I read that you use test prints for the background of that series. Can you tell me how you came up with that idea?
CH Well, I have a lot of test prints, you know the ones I should disregard, and I started keeping them all. I began using the test prints as good backgrounds and then I put one central image in the middle. Sometimes it may not be the test prints; I may make up my own by layering different images to get the color and appearance that I’m looking for.
STEAM That brings me to the images that you use: I think there’s one with a 40s or 50s announcer, another has a picture of a 50s girl in Western boots, Heckle and Jeckle, and other images. Where do you find these images and do you pull them from the original or do you recreate them?
CH I do a lot of vintage shopping, and I look for old, retro magazines. I also like to use clipart occasionally. Printmaking is all about mixing and reusing. Those images are great, because their mechanical. Heckle and Jeckle were on an old matchbook that I had found. I think someone probably had lifted it from the cartoon and put it on a matchbook in the 30s. I found that matchbook and I enlarged and manipulated a little bit.
STEAM I understand that you are now an instructor at Rice University. How do you like teaching there?
CH I am the very first screenprinting teacher that they’ve ever had, which means that printmaking has really gained in popularity, so am very lucky to be there as the first screenprinting teacher in the art department.
STEAM Wow, that’s a pretty impressive honor. Congratulations!
CH Thank you. I need to give a lot of credit to Karin Broker. Karin is a tremendous printmaker at Rice and she really pushed for me to be there. She enjoys my work and has followed me, so thanks to her I was able to get on. Rice University is one of those giant smart, liberal schools. So it’s very good to be here!
STEAM So, being that this program is so young is it growing quickly or is it going to take a little while to develop?
CH It’s growing fast. My first class had maybe five people. Now there are 12 and this being the third semester. We’ve had to buy new equipment and additional tables and screening supplies. We also had our first, Rice’s first, screenprinting show by students at the end of my first semester. We’ve led quite a few firsts with this program. It’s just really taken off!
STEAM Congratulations, that is very cool!It’s been my experience through the TAMU-CC printmakers and the First Friday Artwalk here, that it’s a really close-knit community. Have you found that to be true?
CH Yeah, printmakers are in their own club. There’s a bunch of us around, but you know it’s like being into music. People in a specific genre will listen to just that and dress a certain way, look a certain way. Well, that’s kind of the way it is with printmakers. There’s this club of knowledge and camaraderie that printmakers have that I don’t think painters or sculptors have.
STEAM What gave you the idea of opening Burning Bones Press?
CH About 10 years ago I had my own little garage studio for screenprinting, but I was still closed in and like all printmakers you want that camaraderie. At that time everyone had their own studios in Houston and there was no one place where printmakers could work in a community type setting. Co-owner Patrick Masterson and I came up with the idea to build a studio where members could come in and participate and have that camaraderie that we thrive on. We opened Burning Bones Press in June 2011 with maybe one or two members and now we're up to 17. We began with my screenprinting equipment and Pat had some lithography equipment and presses. We started very, very small. About a year later we took out one bathroom and turned that space into the etching area actually and just this month, we were finally able to get some letter presses, so now we have everything in the studio and we have another press coming at the end of the week. Printmaking is alive and it’s really fun!
STEAM Finally, what's the idea behind an affordable art fair like Ink Slinger's?
CH It’s that printmaking world. I started in it and I’m attached to it. There are lots of printmakers that do really pretty, conceptual prints and are seen in beautiful galleries. Then there are those printmakers who do this crazy stuff and are not going to be in those galleries typically. Sometimes we just want to make prints and give them out and to make them affordable. So it’s these print gatherings are sort of in the punk rock spirit of, “this is all about the prints, so let’s do prints. Let’s get the work done, let’s get the message out.
3RD ANNUAL IT CAME FROM THE BAYOU! Houston TX April 26 (poster coming soon!)