J-Pop Printmaking With Mesa Arts Center's David Manje

Printmaking has come a long way since Hokusai's "Great Wave." At Mesa Arts Center (MAC) in Arizona, I rolled acid paint onto stencils and cranked out anime-pop prints.

"I wanted to be an artist since I was a child," says my workshop instructor, David Manje. He lived out his dream and became a well-respected printmaker, with multiple arts and education degrees from Arizona State University. Now retired, he teaches part-time at MAC.

David introduced me to pochoir: a fast-paced, "randomly sequential" printmaking technique. Watch this video to see our art-making in action.

Traditionally, pochoir involves inking or painting stencils for hard-edged prints. David's unique, freestyle method creates neon layers that flow from pop art to abstract.

My jaw dropped when I saw the stencils David made for me. He had cut out over 70 shapes representing my spooky-cute world, including my Scottish Fold cat, eyelashes, lips, hearts -- and even a bagelhead.

This is how we rolled:

1. David set up three stations. Each had an inked Plexiglas plate, several paints, and a selection of stencils. Using a roller, he showed me how to color the stencils until they reached an orange-peel-like texture.

2. We randomly layered the colored stencils onto the plates, with plenty of overlap.

3. David covered each plate with dry paper, and I cranked it through an etching press. "A manual press lets the printer feel the variations in pressure exerted on the paper and plate," he explains. The first run, called a "generation-one print," was starkly graphic with bright colors and hard edges.

4. We removed the stencils, switched them between the plates, and did a second run -- this time, with wet paper and greater pressure. "The color and shape magic begins to happen as the stencils continue to be interchanged," says David. "Random patterns begin to occur on the tops and bottoms of each stencil that breakup recognizable imagery."

In total, we made four generations of three plates, or 12 works. With each run, the clean cut-outs devolved further into soft-hued amalgams.

I had a lively afternoon with David -- one of the warmest teachers I've ever met -- and got an arm workout to boot. The spacious, modern Mesa Arts Center also offers painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, and other classes.

Have you tried your hand at printmaking? Did you find the instructional art video helpful?

For more Arizona art adventures, visit La Carmina Blog.

The Pochoir Printmaking Process