Historical Item

Peter Kuper Mentions Stencils

Excerpted from "Peter Kuper: Conversations," edited by Kent Worcester, from a 2009 interview with Kuper by Christopher Irving (pp. 76-77).

Your stencil style: How do you go about doing that?

Kuper: I photocopy my pencil drawings, and then cut a stencil out of the photocopy paper. I spray them with enamel spray paint, not an airbrush, so I can pick up one can, put it down, and then spray another fast.

How did you first arrive at using stencils for comic book art?

Kuper: My lifelong pal, Seth Tobocman turned me on to them. I was looking at an illustration he did this way and it rang my bell. It was apparently a very loud bell, because that was in 1988 and here, to this day, I'm still doing stencils. At this point, I feel like I want to move away from spray paint because of its toxic nature. The irony of doing pieces on our degraded environment using aerosol sprays is too much.

Spy vs. Spy is done in stencils, right?

Kuper: I did it in stencils when they asked me to try out for the job figuring they wouldn't go for it. I didn't want to try to mimic the style of [Antonio] Prohias', I thought that "If I'm going to do this, I'll do something that's different. I thought they'd thank me for my kooky approach, bid me adieu and I'd go on my merry way." When they said, "You got the job," I thought I'd probably just do it for a year. I'm in my thirteenth year of Spy vs. Spy.

Do you do these stenciled comics a panel at a time, or the whole page?

Kuper: I do it a page at a time. I usually spray a base in red and black. I spray the red paint first and then spray the black on top of it, which gives a glow of the red under the black. Occasionally I do more than one stencil per piece, but not that often. I'm experimenting now with rolling or brushing on acrylic paint with a stencil.

Later in the book, Seth Tobocman briefly mentions stencils in the 2014 interview with Steven Heller (p. 100)

Tobocman: I learned about stencils and street art from Anton Van Dalen and Michael Roman....

40,000-year-old cave art in Indonesia

40,000-year-old cave art may be world's oldest animal drawing
The Southeast Asian island of Borneo joins a growing number of sites boasting early cave art innovation.
BY MAYA WEI-HAAS
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 7, 2018 (LINK)

COUNTLESS CAVES PERCH atop the steep-sided mountains of East Kalimantan in Indonesia, on the island of Borneo. Draped in stone sheets and spindles, these natural limestone cathedrals showcase geology at its best. But tucked within the outcrops is something even more spectacular: a vast and ancient gallery of cave art.

Hundreds of hands wave in outline from the ceilings, fingers outstretched inside bursts of red-orange paint. Now, updated analysis of the cave walls suggests that these images stand among the earliest traces of human creativity, dating back between 52,000 and 40,000 years ago. That makes the cave art tens of thousands of years older than previously thought.

But that's not the only secret in the vast labyrinthine system.

In a cave named Lubang Jeriji Saléh, a trio of rotund cow-like creatures is sketched on the wall, with the largest standing more than seven feet across. The new dating analysis suggests that these images are at least 40,000 years old, earning them the title of the earliest figurative cave paintings yet found. The work edges out the previous title-holder—a portly babirusa, or “pig deer,” in Sulawesi, Indonesia—by just a few thousand years.

“In the entrance, there's a little chamber to the right, and it's there—bam,” says archaeologist Maxime Aubert of Griffith University. It's not the earliest cave art ever found. But unlike earlier scribbles and tracings, these paintings are unequivocal depictions of ancient animals, his team reports today in the journal Nature.

The bovines and handprints join a growing array of artwork of similar age that adorns the walls of caves around the world. These paintings mark a shift in how early humans thought about and engaged with their environment—from focusing on survival and daily mundane necessities to cultivating what could be the earliest threads of human culture, explains Paleolithic archeologist April Nowell of the University of Victoria.

“I think for a lot of us, that's a true expression of human-ness in the broadest sense of that word,” she says.

Neanderthals Made Hand Stencils in Europe

By Deborah Netburn
Feb. 22, 2018
LA Times
<< Photo: A color-enhanced hand stencil from Spain’s Maltravieso cave, likely made by a Neanderthal. Photo courtesy of the University of Southampton.

A red hand stencil. A series of lines that look like a ladder. A collection of red dots.

These images, painted in ocher on the walls of three separate caves in Spain, are the oldest-known examples of cave art ever found. And new research suggests that all three were created not by humans, but by our ancient cousins the Neanderthals.

In a paper published Thursday in Science, an international team of archaeologists shows that each of the three paintings was executed at least 64,000 years ago — more than 20,000 years before the first modern humans arrived in Europe.

“This work confirms that Neanderthals were indeed using cave walls for depicting drawings that had meaning for them,” said Marie Soressi, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who was not involved in the study. “It also means that our own group, the one we call anatomically modern humans, is maybe not so special.”

For most of the last century, researchers have argued that our Neanderthal cousins were intellectually inferior to their modern human contemporaries — incapable of symbolic thought and possibly devoid of language. This, in turn, was used to explain why the Neanderthals disappeared from Eurasia about 40,000 years ago, not long after modern humans arrived there.

However, archaeological evidence revealed over the last two decades tells a different story. We now know that Neanderthals were sophisticated hunters who knew how to control fire, and that they adorned themselves with jewelry and took care to bury their dead.

Masters of the Pochoir

Masters of the Pochoir
A tour d'horizon, by Paul Zwartkruis (Netherlands)
For The Writer's Drawer
<<< Hand movements with the pompom at the Jacomet atelier

Pochoir: “the most versatile and luxurious reproduction process in modern time"
John Bidwell, curator of the Graphic Arts Collection at Firestone Library

Picasso, Braque, Van Dongen, Miro, Matisse, Dufy, Léger, Modigliani, Rouault and many other artists worked in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. They asked other people to make hand-crafted illustrations of their work – pochoirs. The artists had rediscovered this technique, which is of Japanese origin. They thus added an unparalleled quality to contemporary colour illustrations.

Pochoirs are highly realistic, manual reproductions of works of art. But it was not the artist himself who made the pochoirs. The technique was far too complicated. In about 50 specialized workshops in Paris female colourists produced these gems, which are characterized by a marvellous vibrancy of colour. Various templates, brushes and paint (water-gouache, silver or gold paint) were used in order to achieve this effect. For a simple pochoir, some figures or texts were cut from thin metal foil or plastic. These stencils were then placed on paper or some other surface. Nowadays, street artists such as Banksy and Vhils frequently use this reproduction technique when creating their art.

Michael Roman (1956-2016)

Generous, Prolific, “Loco” – Stencil Artist Michael Roman Dies at 60
By Laura Waxmann (Mission Local) Posted December 29, 2016
Here is Michael's Stencil Archive.
KQED also has an article about the life of Michael Roman.
<< Photo by Linda Wilson


In art and in life, Michael Roman was a man of many layers, colorful visions and haunting complexities.

The stencil artist and silkscreen printmaker, best known for layered prints depicting cultural and political icons, died on Monday, succumbing to severe health complications. He was 60 years old.

Three months ago, Roman was out to see a movie with his partner of six years, Kate Rosenberger, when he suddenly began heaving and panting heavily.

The movie date ended with a three-week hospital stay for Roman, said Rosenberger. It was then that doctors discovered lesions on his brain, that two of his heart valves had stopped functioning, and that a “massive tumor” had taken hold of his right kidney, she said.

1994 Scott Williams Interview (SF)

The folks at FoundSF/Shaping SF have been scanning neighborhood newspapers here in San Francisco and putting them online at Archive.org. Lisaruth from Shaping SF was nice enough to pass along this 1994 issue of the New Mission News, which included a great article about Scott Williams and his public/exhibited stencil art. Go here for the full article.

An excerpt: Williams's work has a "distinctiveness to it not found in any other work of its kind. It lies in a wildly imaginative juxtaposition of disparate images and traditions that you'd never expect to see in the same space."

Ancient Stencils Reproduced for Cave Temples of Dunhuang Exhibit

Reproduction allows for the widespread sharing of treasures without endangering them.
By LEE LAWRENCE for the WSJ
July 5, 2016 5:18 p.m. ET
7 COMMENTS
Los Angeles

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road
The Getty
Through Sept. 4

On a sunny afternoon, the glare in the Getty Center’s Arrival Plaza is blinding—and stepping into Cave 285 feels like teleporting to heaven. Here, in one of the main features of “Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road,” winged creatures flutter on the vaulted ceiling while, on the walls, Buddhas preach, myths unfold, mortals repent, donors pay homage. Amid scrolling florals and colored flames, a large Buddha sits, his face a featureless mass of clay. This is a full-size copy, created by hand on the basis of detailed scans and myriad photographs of a grotto carved into cliffs that edge the Gobi desert in northwestern China. It is as faithful to the colors, designs and brushstrokes artists used in A.D. 538-39 as it is to the deterioration and damage that nature and man have since wrought.

The fragility of some sites has made copies an increasingly viable way to share treasures more widely without endangering them. The Getty’s exhibition uses them in tandem with more traditional displays to bring out the richness, complexity and conservation challenges of one of the world’s great art treasures. Its curatorial team includes experts from the Getty’s institutes for research and conservation, the Dunhuang Academy and the New York-based Dunhuang Foundation, and while theirs is not the first U.S. show to tackle the subject, it is the most ambitious.

100 Year-Old Hobo Graffiti Under LA Bridge

Anthropologist Follows Los Angeles Trail of Century-Old Hobo Graffiti
By John Rogers
AP LINK

Anthropologist Susan Phillips walks along the Los Angeles River while searching for graffiti by hobos in Los Angeles, May 16, 2016. Phillips had spent a career examining the graffiti that covers urban walls, bridges and freeway overpasses. But when she came across a heretofore unrecognizable collection made not of spray paint but substances like grease pencil and apparently left there for a century, she was stunned.

Anthropologist Susan Phillips had spent a career examining the graffiti that covers urban walls, bridges and freeway overpasses.

But when she came across an unrecognizable collection made not of spray paint but substances like grease pencil and apparently left there for a century, she was stunned.

Phillips had uncovered a peculiar, almost extinct form of American hieroglyphics known as hobo graffiti, the treasure trove discovered under a nondescript, 103-year-old bridge spanning the Los Angeles River. At the time, she was researching her book, "Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in LA."

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