Artists utilize steamroller in large-scale printmaking

If you go

What: Art Tougeau parade

When: Saturday, May 31, at noon

Where: The route begins at Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Artists gathered at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., to watch a 8,500-pound roller pass over blocks of wood the artists carved to create prints Friday.

Richard Gwin/Journal World Photo.From left, Dana Rudolph, St. Joe Mo. helps Sally Piller, remove her print as artist's gathered at the Lawrence Arts Center at 940 New Hampshire to watch a city 8,500 lb. roller driven by Andy Breedlove of the Public Works Department pass over blocks of wood artists carved various ides into, creating block prints on Friday May 30, 2014.

Richard Gwin/Journal World Photo.Detail of carved blocks to be printed.

John McCaughey carefully rests the 3-by-4-foot plank of wood on the asphalt, covering it with two layers of muslin and a sheet of thermoplastic polycarbonate. A one-inch foam board provides the final layer before an 8,500-pound steamroller, driven by Andy Breedlove of the Lawrence Public Works department, slowly inches across the mound.

A few moments later, McCaughey and an assistant triumphantly lift up the finished product– a previously spotless piece of white fabric, now adorned with a design in striking black ink. The crowd of about 50 people erupts in cheers, congratulating the artists on a job well done.

The Lawrence Arts Center hosted the printmaking project Friday night outside its location at 940 New Hampshire St. as part of the kickoff festivities for Saturday’s Art Tougeau parade. John McCaughey, an artist-in-residence at the center, along with visiting artist Jesus De La Rosa of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, led a group of about 20 artists from across Kansas in the endeavor.

Using a steamroller to create large-scale prints has become something of a trend in the art world. Similar events are sprouting up “all over the country,” McCaughey explained.

“You spend 40 to 80 hours carving these blocks, and have a steamroller come in,” he said. “It’s really fun to watch.”

Several of the participating artists at Friday’s production were students in McCaughey’s printmaking class at the arts center. Dana Rudolph, a graduate student at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, took the class as part of her independent study program.

The St. Joseph, Mo., native helped McCaughey set up the prints along New Hampshire Street on Friday evening. Her own design featured a children’s wading pool with a large “chopped-up snake” hovering above it, forsythia blooms crawling up the sides of the fabric.

Much of Rudolph’s work emphasizes the darkness of childhood memories, she said. The inspiration for Friday’s print came from an encounter she had with a snake when she was little.

Initially, the steamroller proved challenging, Rudolph said. On her first try, the print was “a little under-inked,” she said. The second one, however, “came out great.”

Rudolph said she’ll take the print back to her professors for critique. The other artists might take them back home, or perhaps try their hand at selling the work.

“Some people have even been inquiring, ‘Are you selling?'” McCaughey said. “So, we’re going to through artists individually. Hopefully they’ll do well.”