Drive By Press at CCA

Plein air printing, anyone? The Printmaking Program at California College of the Arts hosted the folks from Drive By Press on Thursday, February 26, 2015 on the Oakland campus from 9am to 4pm. Kate Dedlow and Taylor McClure gave a slide lecture and showed relief and screen prints from printmakers from across the country. Their specialty is woodcut printing (a form of relief printing) and after a pizza lunch, they set up their etching press outside and printed on a t-shirt with the block of your choice using the oil-based textile ink they developed with Gamblin: Drive By Black.

Kate began the lively lecture by telling of her own influences in Los Angeles and New York, mentioning the Mexican woodcut artist Posada who had his works printed in newspapers, and the street artist Swoon, who printed onto paper and wheat-pasted her works to the walls, sometimes hand coloring them. She spoke about how woodcut street art can communicate to a larger community and "the power of the multiple" that can make art accessible. She also talked about the "impermanence of printmaking" as newspapers get thrown out, walls get painted and papered over. Another way to make printmaking accessible is the printing of t-shirts, which is what Drive By Press does. She listed a whirlwind of names that I could hardly scribble down correctly: Wolf Bat Studio; a print called"Apache Ice Cream Massacre"; Martin Mazorra and Cannonball Press; John Hancock; Evil Prints; Non Grata—a print and performance group. It was exciting to hear about these printmakers and their communities, their collaborations, their desire to communicate.

Taylor took over about halfway through; he's from Dallas, and met Kate about a week ago, which was surprising to learn, although they had corresponded for longer. Drive By Press was founded by Joseph Velasquez and Greg Nanney when they were in grad school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison about ten years ago as their thesis project. It has become a collective of artists, based in Texas/West Coast and New York, with a storefront just opened in Brooklyn in September called The Shop - Drive By Press - Fine Art Printing. Different printmakers operate under the Drive By Press name across the country, but basically all branches from the DBP Family Tree stem from connections to Joseph and Greg.

Taylor, who is from Dallas, was first captivated by Japanese Ukiyo-e prints (there's an exhibition of these at the Asian Art Museum in SF right now), which he colorfully described in his lecture as "Painting with knives almost—that's kind of badass." He went to Frogman's, a printmaking camp in South Dakota where he "sowed the seeds of community." Shortly thereafter, Drive By Press came to his college, and he met Joseph. Taylor had already begun participating in "teamwork to make the dream work" and realizing that printmaking was "greater than the sum of its parts." Joseph's visit added fuel to the creative fire. Another eye-opener for Taylor was Cannonball Press, who made a huge print that was "kind of like seeing pyramids for the first time," which inspired him to "Go Big or Go Home." 

Ultimately, he and friends were able to clear out a space that was part of a bar they frequented and create Meme Gallery (now closed), where undergrads could show art. After two years, he finished college, then contacted Joseph, telling him he was ready to go on the road, and he became a part of DBP, learning "how to make art on the fly…where it's not comfortable." He learned to adapt so he could make art anywhere, even in an excruciatingly hot summer driving in a car with no air conditioning.

He loves traveling and sharing his love of print, "like bees do with pollen" and coming in, doing the Drive By thing, and moving on like "a gorilla in the mist."

After Joseph and Greg graduated, they continued to tour, primarily to academic settings, and were eventually contacted by Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, and various bands, including Spoon. Kate was part of the touring at one point, now she has a shop in Oakland on San Pablo Ave near The Compound Gallery, and she will be teaching a workshop at the San Francisco Center for the Book in May. All that travel, said Kate meant, "lots of motels and lots of Burger King." She concluded the talk with a slide "Sleep Is the Cousin of Death," and said she stays up late carving. She encouraged the students to work hard because it takes "dedication to get there."

Drive By Press parked on our campus between the photo building and Macky Hall, our admin building. They have a Facebook page where they've posted one of their own pictures of our shop from this day. The page says they are promoting "growth and democratization of art through printmaking." Yes! (Addendum: CCA Printmaking now has a Facebook page, too!)

So hard to choose!

There is a thick felt pad on the bed of the press. The t-shirt is placed faced up, the block, inked by Kate with that large black roller (in the picture between them in the background), is placed face down. Presssure is applied as the shirt rolls through. This was a leisurely day for them; they often do events such as rock concerts, where they have two presses going and they print as fast as they can. $20 for a t-shirt they provide / $10 for a t-shirt you provide.

CCA Printmaking Co-Chairs: Michelle Murillo and Thomas Wojak
in front of a huge print on canvas brought by Drive By Press.

(detail from top, left)

Taylor rolled the t-shirt up with newsprint where, we were told it could stay for about two days or "put it on the dashboard of your car in the sun." The little direction card says it needs to be hung up to dry for 48 hours. You can see more designs on their website. 
I unwrapped the shirt the next morning.

The sun began coming out as I unwrapped it…

Zoe always thinks everything is for her.