Posted by: nastypen | November 19, 2007

Return to “Innocence”

My hands are very dirty right now. I just finished an art work…well, a series of art works. I am ecstatic because I haven’t done this art form in 14 years. Last time I did this was when I was in third year high school in Canada. It was an art class project and it was the first time I carved something and, still, ehem ehem, I got the highest marks.

Carving?!?! What art form is this exactly?

It’s linocut printmaking.

Yes, I scribbled with crayons, I made charcoal portraits, I did some watercolor pencil art, I used to be comfortable with watercolors….but I consider woodcut printing to be my very first “serious” art form. I still have not touched oil painting by then. I consider this serious because there was a thought process involved that did not really latch on copying X-Men characters. I did an entire art work without any visual reference before, but this is the first time I truly exerted more than the usual effort.

I still remember my art teacher Ms. Gallagher giving me a slab of linoblock and some carving implements and asked her students to make an art work in which we roll on some black ink and put a paper on it and have a roller press on the paper to absorb the ink.

I was staring at the table beause I couldn’t think of what to “carve.” Some of my classmates did teddy bears or a portrait of the Tazmanian Devil. I just took the implements and started to carve my very first social realism artwork. I remember carving a scene from the bus stop in which most of the people were not looking at me. One tall blonde woman is waving at the bus, a Chinese woman is lumbering on and there are other people of varied races and social backgrounds converging on the bus stop. I told the teacher and the class that the bus stop is a metaphor of Canada wherein different races are found.

I know. I know. So naive. So innocent an intention. So pristine. But I got the highest marks and the art work was displayed prominently in the school glass case of achievements. My art work stood side by side by the trophy of the school’s top (and hot) Greco-Roman wrestlers, the plaque from the debate team, etc. I was so proud of that art work.

I gave the block and print to my sister. She can’t find them now. Ah well.

So, when I went to UP College of Fine Arts, I was hoping to get printing as an elective. I would have loved etching, intaglio, etc. However, there was a conflict in schedules so I had to give that up. Over the years, I would ask other artists where I can find a studio for printing, or even a workshop for printing; all I got are answers in the form of mazes.

Until last week….

I decided to drop by SM Manila and check out some books there. I remember my students say that there is a Deovir art supply shop there. I know Deovir. I used to go to it’s main branch in Recto for paintbrushes. They sell materials at a relatively affordable price and the quality is better than what you can get in big bookstores with art materials. They have a branch in SM Manila? So, I decided to take a look.

I saw a batch of carving tools and my heart starting to beat faster. I fumbled a question to the saleslady about linoblock. She said “Huh?” which I got a lot from different art stores until her boss painted at the bottom shelf. She picked a linoblock and the heavens opened and the cherubs were singing. I was actually shaking from sheer anticipation. It’s like seeing a long lost friend.

That may have sounded melodramatic but that’s how I exactly felt. Despite my almost vacant wallet, I spent a whole lot to return to this art work. I would sleep at 3am hacking away some parts of the linoblock.

today, I finally took the finished linoblock and slapped on a thick coat of printing ink and had a painting roller run across the slab to distribute the ink. I put on a piece of paper and with the back of the spoon started to rub the surface for the ink to absorbed by the paper. And I whipped out my cellphone and took a picture on one of the finished products:

nandyan na ang uwak

I call this “Nandiyan na ang Uwak” (Here Comes to Crow)…the shot is just a portion of the artwork. I have always loved the bird with a gun for a head image. I’ve used that before in editorial cartoons. What I added are two pairs of monstrous hands at the crow’s back making it look like a menacing seraphim. The crow stands on corrugated iron roofs of a squatter colony and the barrel of the gun is smoking.

It’s quite a bleak social commentary. Galaxies away from my views on a placid society as a 15-year-old.

How fantastic a coincidence that I recently bought a book entitled Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels. I have been looking for these works for years and I saw a copy of the book and yelped. And now, I’m waiting for the ink to dry on my first prints this millennium.

I know I have a lot to relearn and made some mistakes along the way. Still, I made an art work…an ANALOG ART WORK AT THAT. Sometimes, working with the computer gets boring. so, I return to the manual side of life and it’s a great feeling.

The moment I get my salary, a portion of it goes to my trip to Deovir and buying a huge stock of these linoblocks. It’s good to have this back and I will never let go.





  1. ooh! cool! congrats on rekindling a love affair with printmaking

  2. Are you selling this 1st piece of work? 🙂

  3. hey, Dylan….not really sure of selling this one….it was a try-out, so to speak.

  4. Okay, but if and when you do decide to sell it, do know that it will be in the hands of someone who appreciates it. 🙂

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