The SGCI conference in New Orleans was a right bonanza.

Imagine over 1500 printmakers all partying in a town famous for its hedonism, fried food and jazz. Seriously, there are naked lap-dancers in the bars in the middle of the day!

It was amazing. The town is set on the banks of the Mississippi, a steamy grey thing.

Buildings are graceful and crumbling, and palm trees and huge spreading live oaks line the avenues, which still retain their French names.

Highlights for me were numerous. Willie Cole opened the conference with a keynote speech about his artistic practice which involves a method of mark making with a hot iron which he calls scorching, which in effect is a type of printed mark. His work was beautiful and playful, taking photographs of irons and making them into mask like faces, or using the ironed marks to make huge figure composites.

There was a great exhibition of prints by David Dreisbach, who was awarded the printmaker emeritus prize by the Southern Graphics council this year, in the Contemporary Arts Center.

I marveled at his narrative and compositional strength, all while tucking into perhaps the most delicious spread of food ever seen at a private view before. Appreciating art must be hungry work, seeing how much they’d laid out.

There were inspiring, ambitious and fantastic demonstrations especially the rubber stamp one by Sukha Worob who showed us how he cuts into foam board with a router set to 1/4″ depth and then fills the mould with a solution of silicone rubber composite called “Mold Max”

and some great silkscreen prints printed by Ernest Milsted with wallpaper paste and water soluble dyes in place of the traditional acrylics and medium, producing lovely prints all at a fraction of the cost.

There were some very impressive satellite events. I particularly liked Dirk Hagen’s broadside text speak haikus which he’d printed on letterpress and cardboard.

A lovely show of prints about New Orleans and the floods in the hippily named Healing Centre.

A nice set of prints in various portfolios were displayed in the hotel conference venue on grey pinboards and rotated daily; some of these were delicate and beautiful.

Also Midwest Pressed had a great show of silkscreen monoprints which were installed as a huge panel of floating heads of famous figures, skulls or Chewbacca.

This is my friend Brian Lane, from Seattle, who looks  a bit like Chewie.

Most notable for me was the Carnival of Ink set in an old ironworks factory to the east of the main town. This was a riot of printmaking activity.

Drive-by-press  printed T-shirts with skateboards (just inked up and jammed through the press with a foam blanket).

The main event was run by Wolfbat Press, and involved hundreds of artists who spent the week of the conference decorating box cars with collaged prints which were paraded them through the town on St Patrick’s day before setting them on fire.

Several studios ran various fun fair style games such as “Wrassle a printmaker and win a print for a dollar” which had me in fits of laughter.

I presented a paper on movement in print in the International panel which got some good feedback, if you would like to read the article then please go this page here,

then showed the animations Shift and Lucid Mask, along with a selection of prints at the open portfolio session,

which was a great time to meet other printmakers whose work I admire

Like Ben Moreau’s gorgeous etchings

Some print genius Marcus Benavides

Michael Barnes

Mark Bovey

And oh so many more…!

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