Let’s See That Printed: Eleonore Lee’s Printing Tribute to Freddie Mercury

Sometimes the words on a person’s platemaking order just leap off the page and catch our attention. That was true with Eleonore Lee’s curving and falling text layout. Add in that they were lyrics by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and we just “had to see that printed”.  We hope this strikes a chord with you too.

Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.
Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.

In spring 2017, the Fine Press Book Association sent out a call for entries for their annual fundraising portfolio.  Since I already had a huge project to complete before heading off on a trip, it seemed fitting to add another project to my docket.  

Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.

This project was especially enticing as it would support their fine press journal, Parenthesis, and the portfolio would be shared among other printers. Last year was a year in which I was re-discovering myself after a good decade of hardcore parenting. An exchange portfolio would allow others to discover me too.

Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.

Like a lot of printmakers, I am a sucker for exchange portfolios. Something I particularly appreciate about letterpress and handmade paper exchanges is that they are a lot more lenient about format. The parameters for this portfolio were generous … produce 125 prints. Within these parameters, it was definitely possible to consider a less likely subject matter.

If you do not know, most often Fine Press work has a tendency to publish known and lauded dead poets. Always the contrarian, I felt like shaking it up a little with less-predictable words. My work aims to ask questions or bring attention to something you might not usually notice.  

Because music means so much to me, I have been considering making art about the music that pervades my life. Whilst at work I am known as “that person who wears their headphones and sings out loud”.  One epic late night, two BFA students and I had a lot of paper to make. We loudly sang through 2 CDs of Queen’s Greatest hits. That was my inspiration.

Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.

I was not a huge Queen fan in my youth, finding Freddie overwhelmingly exuberant. However, I grew into Queen. I learned the lyrics intimately in the same way that I spend a lot of time with the poems I work with. Singing along both joyfully and studiously, so that I could be as accurate as possible with the pacing and the sounds. By including the breaths, the uh’s and drawn out syllables, the project was most enjoyable.

I also revelled in the details: The paper is Neenah’s Flash Pearl Starwhite. Not only is it shiny pearlescent like some of Freddie’s leggings, but it also covers Flash, for Flash Gordon’s theme song, by Queen.

The font is Montserrat. Freddie had a dream to perform with and finally collaborated with Montserrat Caballé on the album Barcelona. And of course, I did my research: Freddie loved red and yellow, bold loud colors. The rhythm of the song is included in the yellow and red dots. They are foam dots, with 2” dots representing a full beat, 1” dots a half beat and ½” dots a ¼ beat.

I wanted a mix of more iconic images of Freddie as well as images from his videos. I chose the song because the lyrics combined with the video spoke volumes about Freddie.

He lived flamboyantly and boldly in public, at a time when being gay was a crime in most countries. In ‘I want to Break Free’ the band appears dressed as working class women. We first see Brian May wake up, with curlers in his hair, very rapidly followed by a hairy arm wearing bangles brandishing a vacuum. After a few swipes, all of Freddie scurries out boldly, staring right at the camera and gives us a brief, contented smirk before proceeding with some very sexy vacuuming (to the music). He dances and sings and winks appearing to enjoy himself a lot. It may seem run-of-the-mill today. It was bold back then, especially for a shy, cat-loving man wrestling with his sexuality. All of these words and images worked well on the tri-fold design I had in mind.

Eleonore Lee's "Lover Of Life, Singer of Songs" fine art print tribute to Freddie Mercury of Queen strikes a chord with the heart.

Although the images have enough small details and fine lines, I would never have attempted type with such fine details so I thank Boxcar Press for the plates. They also provided a fine press discount on the plates for this project.  

I hope others in this exchange enjoyed this project as much as I did envisioning and printing it.
You can learn more about Eleonore’s project with Parentheses at  FPBA.com.




Let’s See That Printed: Isle of Dogs by AJ Masthay

As soon as AJ Masthay’s “Isle of Dogs” print passed through our platemaking department, we had to know more. Discover as we catch up with AJ of Masthay Studio, and this sneak peek. Find out what is the inspiration for this ultra-detailed piece… and where can you enjoy this piece.

The piece was created for an upcoming Isle of Dogs group exhibition hosted by SpokeArt NYC at the Parasol Project, 213 Bowery, NYC. From their Facebook event page:

“Spoke Art is pleased to present the Isle of Dogs Art Show. This is an officially licensed art exhibition tribute to Wes Anderson’s most recent film. The dynamic group show features over one hundred artists, painters, sculptors and print makers, debuting one weekend only in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s most recent project, is a stop-motion animated film set in a Japanese dystopian future. The story follows a boy’s journey to find his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of canine flu. Inspired by the adventurous tale that Anderson brought forth, a select group of artists have created character portraits and highly detailed environments and scenes inspired by Isle of Dogs. Featuring a diverse array of painting, sculpture and limited edition prints, each artist offers their own unique perspective and interpretation of the Wes Anderson film. This whimsical and canine filled pop-up exhibition is an absolute must see.

About the Piece

I personally love the quirky works of Wes Anderson and am a huge dog lover. I have two very spoiled Labrador Retrievers Dexter & Halley. When asked to participate in this exhibition I immediately said YES!

My piece features the main characters from the film, both human and canine. As well as, the scene in which they debate whether to attack. Spoiler alert – they realize he has come searching for his own dog “Spots” and decide to help him in his quest. 

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The print is a reproduction of a detailed graphite drawing utilizing a Boxcar Press’ photopolymer plate with a 133 LPI halftone screen applied. We’ve found that once dialed in on our Vandercook Universal III, these halftone plates reproduce tonal drawings beautifully. They come very close to the detail typically found in lithographs.

To mimic the graphite work we do the following steps. First, we mix a fairly stiff, dark gray ink with a touch of brown to warm it up a bit. Next, we use a paper that is soft and supple, such as Arches 88. Finally, we finish the piece with a hint of hand-applied color in the pilot’s eyes. As a result, this slight variation adds a personal touch of individuality. The hand coloring piece complements the printing perfectly.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The Final Edition size is 100 signed, numbered and titled, 15”x20” on Arches 88. Prints are available to purchase at the event. Remaining prints will be made available online following the event, through SpokeArt.

The Isle of Dogs Art Show group art exhibit is running from November 9th, 2018 – November 11th, 2018. For more details, check out their Facebook page here.

Let’s See That Printed: Mindy Belloff of Intima Press’s ‘Minotaur’

We keep tabs on the many wonderful and intriguing designs that come through doors here for our custom-made photopolymer platemaking services. One that we’ve been following for quite some time is Mindy Belloff (of Intima Press)’s highly detailed illustration and creative typesetting designs in her latest fine edition book project.

As a book artist, letterpress printer, and educator, I have been a loyal fan of Boxcar Press, having ordered plates since the beginning of Harold’s enterprises. The staff have always been helpful, especially when polymer platemaking and digital spec instructions were still in their infancy.

During this time, I have sent to Boxcar a wide variety of digital designs of artwork, student work, and job work. A few years ago, as a new livre d’artiste was in the works, they took notice of the beginning of the work. As I firmed up designs and sent a flurry of large plate orders, I was asked about the scope of this project as it had piqued their interest. I was happy to share the text, but could not stop production and take time to send images of the various pages, as I was working so intensely, designing by night and printing all day. I had close to 2,000 sheets in my studio in various stages of printing for over a year and a half.

Recently, I was asked by Boxcar to reveal more about the fine edition book I have just released, after two intense years of work, which follows.

The book is titled, “A Golden Thread.” It is 92-pages, in a format of folios, featuring the text of “The Minotaur,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1853). It is composed of 100 original drawings, some with hand painting, and 200 press runs, in an edition of 40, printed on cotton rag papers with a sheet size of approximately 15 x 21 inches. It is a contemporary twist on the medieval illumination, letterpress printed on a Vandercook Uni III automatic press.

The story begins in blue and gold ink, with our hero Theseus, as a young boy. As the story unfolds, Theseus grows to be a young man and journeys to Athens to find his father, King Aegus.

Theseus has an unpleasant encounter with the wicked Medea before he finds and is embraced by his father. He soon learns of the fate of seven young men and seven maidens, to be chosen as a sacrifice to the Minotaur, a beast housed in the labyrinth of Crete.  Theseus volunteers to sail to Crete with the youths. (By now, you may recall the details of this tragic myth.)

When the ship arrives in Crete, the evil King Minos throws them in the dungeon, to await their fate. Enter the heroine, Ariadne, who secretly releases Theseus and leads him to the entrance of a maze.

The middle section of the book, as Theseus makes his way through the labyrinth to find the Minotaur, is designed with typography that blankets the page. The plates for this section were, of course, quite large, and many pages were printed on one side of the sheet, and then turned (plates and paper), to accommodate the sheet size. Most pages have 5 to 6 press runs each.

In the third and final section of the book, Theseus emerges victorious, having slain the bull-headed Minotaur monster. Our heroine awaits, still holding the golden thread at the entrance to the maze. Theseus and the other 13 youths sail back to Athens, where they encounter more obstacles and tragedy, as expected in a classic Greek myth.

On the final page of the story, our hero becomes King. Below is an image of the page showing two of the four-color press runs, which includes ornamented initials, and border drawings.

The book is hand sewn and beautifully bound with a blue leather spine and gold gilding.

Mindy received a fine press book discount for her entire project for the plates Boxcar Press created.  We appreciate her giving us a sense of her book “A Golden Thread” with words and photos.  Mindy Belloff produces fine letterpress printed book and broadside editions at her Union Square studio under the imprint Intima Press. Her artist’s books have been included in many publications and she received an award for Excellence in Book Design.

You can visit Mindy’s website for more on the Minotaur edition at Intimapress.com.

Let’s See That Printed: Bryan Baker’s Hypnotic Print

A myriad of eye-catching and pop-culture surreal characters snagged our attention when printer Bryan Baker and artist Jasper Wong’s fun order passed through our custom-made photopolymer platemaking service department. So much that we couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and get the scoop on such a brilliant and wild project!

The ever-wonderful Bryan helped illuminate how such an bright, hypnotic printing project came to be.

This project was printed at Striped Light in Knoxville Tennessee, by Bryan Baker. The artist who did the design is Jasper Wong. It is the second time that Striped Light made an edition of his work through an ongoing collaboration with a Detroit publishing company called 1xRun.  

This particular piece was printed to coincide with a rather large street art event call “Pow Pow” in Hawaii. The print was run in four color ways: Trans on Pink, Trans on Teal, Black on Black, and Green and Black on Teal.  All finished with hand torn edges.

Striped Light is often commissioned by 1xRun to do limited edition letterpress prints for the artists that they represent. It it a pretty exciting relationship, because they work with artists from all over the world, and are now in their fourth year of working together. It first began while Bryan was up in Detroit running a shop called Stukenborg Press, and has continued with his new community letterpress shop that he opened with his partners Sarah Shebaro, and Jason Boardman.

Let’s See That Printed: Dana Kadison’s Exotic Flamingo Letterpress Prints

When the intricately-detailed illustrated flamingo graphic passed through our platemaking service, we were eager to learn more about what was to become of this plate and the resulting final pulled print. The printer behind the design, Dana Kadison, let us in on how the illustration project came to be and how she turned a long-mused-over concept into reality.

An illustration by Dana Kadison being made into a letterpress plate by Boxcar Press
An illustration by Dana Kadison being made into a letterpress plate by Boxcar Press

Dana filled us in on beautiful (and long-term) project details: “As a photographer and collector, I have built a library of images and ephemera that is the foundation for an ongoing series based on the Mexican bingo game Loteria. Currently there are eight Loteria images. Each one exists in more than one “state”: my CMYK proofs, which will eventually have reverses and be printed as cards in a boxed set; monoprints, which I produce whenever I want to work out an idea or a reverse (like the Yeats Mariachis); soon, the editioned prints which include letterpress layers; and finally, Ofrendas, of which the Flamingo is the first. The Ofrendas, or offerings, are simpler statements of the ideas in the Loteria card series.”

Dana Kadison on press with a Vandercook printing press.

“The Flamingo Ofrenda is casual and references Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work. About two years ago, inspired by a set of Players cigarette cards, I was thinking about, and scratching, all kinds of birds, particularly finches, but also hornbills, crossbeaks, frogmouths, macaws, etc., and finally settled on a flamingo for card #2. The flamingo, for Americans at least, is undeniably iconic and the males and females look alike.”

“Now there is a suite of 8 images ready for editioning on 18×24 sheets of paper. Each one synthesized from a myriad of “stuff”: you know, the words, texts, images, objects, conversations that make up a life. And the first thing I wanted to add to each image is the text that will be on the reverse each of card when they become actual cards. For the viewer the text would be a clue to what I was thinking. Of course I wanted it in my own handwriting. And this is where letterpress comes into play. It all started with the idea of plates of text in my own handwriting.”

“So I took a class at Robert Blackburn on a Vandy 4. The flamingo, my first plate from Boxcar, was for that class. Using that Vandercook 4, I printed the flamingo two ways, straight and then over monotypes. All the prints have the same degree of impression. I like the straight prints, but am still deciding about paper. The monotype backgrounds please me the most, perhaps because I did not try to register them with the plate. Knowing that, once set, the Vandy would take care of itself, part of this exercise was to let go of the urge to register. While all of this is happening, I did press my first image with Pilar Nadal at Pickwick Independent Press in Portland ME.”

Dana Kaddison prints beautiful letterpress flamingo monoprints with Pilar Nadil.

“Letterpress is an aesthetically and physically freeing experience. We all know that paper is not really 2D, that it has depth. Letterpress layers add visible texture that can be seen with or without ink. And a letterpress registers. It is a little unsettling to use a press, completely unlike pulling the screens myself. Atmospheric conditions in the NYC studio are so variable and water-based inks misbehave in such interesting and frustrating ways that achieving consistency in CMYK prints takes great physical and mental stamina.

With letterpress I can imagine more and physically achieve more. For the editions of the first 8 images, I chose to set the 6.5×10.25 card faces on 18×24 sheets of paper and handwrite the text from each reverse below the screenprint of its card face. The handwritten texts are becoming letterpress plates. And there was more beautiful white space available. So parts of the reverse images are now finding their places as letterpress in that white space. For example, #2 will be embedded in the enlarged body of my scratchwork flamingo.”

A large heaping round of thanks out to Dana for letting us get a sneak peek at the brilliant flamingo designs!