Mobile printmaking fair rolls through Sebastopol

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Rik Olson has once again found an unlikely way to make printmaking a spectator sport.

The Sebastopol artist and his crew of volunteers spent Sunday rolling black ink across hand-carved linoleum blocks, draping paper over them, and then rolling over them with a 3-ton pavement roller.

“It’s just fun to watch,” said Olson, one of the organizers of the fourth annual Sebastopol Arts and Street Printing Festival. “It brings the printmaking out of the studio and allows the public to participate.”

The fundraiser for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts returned this year after a one-year hiatus, delighting the crowd every time volunteers peeled the paper back to reveal newly minted prints.

“It’s really spectacular. The artistry is just really amazing,” Santa Rosa resident Graham Metcalfe said of the barnyard scene by Olson that caught his fancy.

The print he paid $175 for depicts a mother hen taking her chicks out for a stroll in an egg carton stroller.

“I like the baby chick in the front waving that flag,” Metcalfe said.

Olson said he has learned over a long career as an artist and printmaker what sells at weekend Sonoma County art fairs.

“It’s nauseatingly cute,” Olson said of his print, which was one of the hits of the event, triggering multiple reprint requests.

Metcalfe and his wife, Paula Shuhert, were charmed by the print because they’re in the process of raising chicks to integrate into their backyard flock, they said.

The pair also picked up a smaller work of a crow and a barn owl titled “Prudence and Wisdom.” The work by Sebastopol artist Alonso Soriano reminded Shuhert “of the acoustic cycle of our backyard.” The print also was one of the more popular of the approximately 28 entries.

Olson teaches relief printmaking using wood engraving and linocut at the San Francisco Center for the Book, which is dedicated to all forms of book arts.

The center hosts an annual event involving a 7-ton antique coal-fired pavement roller. When Catherine DeVriese, visual arts director for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, saw it for the first time, she convinced Olson to help her put on a similar event here.

Artists pay $25 for a linoleum block, take it home and carve it. The prints made from the blocks then are sold at the festival for $75 or $175, depending on the size.

All proceeds support the center, which also has four other exhibits on display for another month. Two are dedicated to book arts and two display the work of visually impaired artists.

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