The epic tale of the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse Printmaking Program. The Printmaking program is directed by Joel Elgin and features the odd collection of the many PrintFools who enroll, print and exist from semester to semester in the Shop of Tears.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Featuring: Michael Houston and Martin Mazorra Founders of CannonBall Press

It works like this: The HOTPLATE connects UWL printmakers to the world of printmaking through exhibitions, links, critiques, interviews with students, curators and academic and professional printmakers.

This is pretty damned exciting that Mike and Martin, the Kings of Scruffy, Hillbilly printmaking (click on the title for a link to Cannonball and click here:
Mandy's question about Mike Houston
to link to an earlier Printfever Cannonball blog entry).

have agreed to be the first, the guinea pigs, to dance or fry on the HOTPLATE.

They will do this in Cannonball style by answering some of the questions posted by UWL print students/alumni while swallowing Mike's "Hillbilly Shine" and punching it out to decide who gets to type whatever smartass answer they come up with.

So printmakers, enter your questions as comments, make sure you have a link to your blog (if you have one) so M&M can look at your prints and shop photos. Sometime after Thanksgiving the Cannonballers will post replys (when I have figured out how to make that happen).

Stay tuned for future HOTPLATE happenings. The list of brave printmakers who wish to follow Mike and Martin onto the PLATE OF HEAT grows.


phantompanther said...

I was wondering if, for group shows like bucket-o-chicken, do you all sit around and wait till someone thinks up a crazy idea, or do you all coincidentally have various chicken prints amongst your personal collections? Where do your ideas stem from, besides hillbilly shine and farting matches? And do you sketch or draw "only" when you have an idea, or mostly with every breath you take?

Anonymous said...

I noticed you all use a lot of interesting designs for your text. Do you have any particular approach when it comes to using text in your prints?

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. How do you create the overall images? Does one person do the whole thing or does somebody handle layout and typography, or do you combine images and fashion words afterward? (Naked Guy Totally Kicking Some Guy's Ass Brand Cereal *chuckle*)

kaitlynn said...

Do you all do anythin in intaglio style printin? I checked out your site and saw a lot and by a lot i mean most of your stuff was woodcut, lino cut, and silk screened. Your style is somethin I'm personally pumped to see, learn about, and steal from... Oh, and if Davin Watne does anymore "python" prints...I would like to snag one of those...

Anonymous said...

I've been checking out the pics from the Barnstormers site and they are fucking amazing! That is such a great idea. What goes into getting those projects organized and, on average, how long does it take from start to finish?

~rock on~

Lisa said...

I'm in awe...prints are amazing! What are your brainstorming processes like? Do you collaborate with other artists? Any unique creative processes you would like to share?

Jillian said...

Has humor always been something you enjoyed exploring through artwork?

Michelle said...

I really love your work and the graphic quality as well as the expressiveness of the drawings. I was wondering if any of your work ever causes any contraversy and do you sometimes look to cause a stir with your work?

phantompanther said...

how young are you guys? Do you save any/all of your really old work, or do you believe that hanging on to the past hinders any future work you may do? Is there a good balance of past and present in your current works? Meaning, has your styles changed, the subject matter, the intent, the knowledge of the media (basically everything)-- If you've both been in this for some time, has the work of the past ever helped or schooled you into where you are now? Ok so maybe I'm not being clear, but it sounds right in my head-- basically you guys rock and I'm just curious how you've gotten to this point in your work and lives--

Anonymous said...

I was wondering how you collaborate. Who comes up with the ideas and what part do you each play in the creation process? In general how do you choose what materials to work with? What is your process? Do you have many prints going at one time and go between them, or do you focus more on one at a time?

clawcomet said...

Mike from Cannonball here.
holy smokes we've never got such a grilling.
Lucky for me, I'm home sick today and would rather do this than watch more Discovery Channel.
so here goes...

TELL ME YOU'RE a freaking superhero with a name like that.
the box-o-chicken is the best dish at our local Fried Food Hut. Seemed a natural choice for a collaborative box set theme. So we put the word out to a mess of artists, and got a bunch of chikkin related work in the mail, which we editioned and made into a box set.
We get our ideas from Important Historical Texts, as well as: TV (History Channel and Law and Order, specifically), real-life events and experiences (workin for a livin in the big town, going to the demo derby, etc.), and Sanctioned Cannonball Steering Committee Meetings. Martin draws all the time, I believe. I draw in large binges, and then build a bunch of shit.

clawcomet said...

Some of the text we use harkens to old Western, Old Style or Art Deco fonts. We're big fans of the vast world of letterpress playbills and broadsides. Ever seen Ricky Jay's Collection of Broadsides? That's where my heart lies when it comes to combining text and imagery.

clawcomet said...

Well, it depends on the image. That Naked Dude was a piece made by me alone. Martin also has tons of solo work on the site. All the other artists are people who we've solicited, and they've produced whatever imagery they wanted to for us, that we've then published.
The big collaborative work is different, though. The two of us --or sometimes 3, as our friend Dennis McNett ( on some of the big stuff with us--decide on a theme,e.g. demolition derby or working people, then each cut about a dozen 30 x 40 woodblocks on MDF, print them on canvas, cut them up, and collage them together into a finished piece kind of like a big quilt. We've gotten into making some 3d woodcut sculpture of late as well. I'll post one on this blog inna minnit.

clawcomet said...


I did a ton of etching in school under your most esteemed professor Joel, but my heart lies with the relief print.
Or, probably more true...I'm too stupid to be doing etching. I dig the really lo-fi techniques.
I'll have our lawyers keep an eye on you.
Davin's prints sell out really fast--apparently there is a multitude of folks out there just waiting to buy a picture of a car crash with no color for 20 bucks. We've sold out of 18 of the 20 editions he's done for us.

clawcomet said...


The Barnstormers was started by our friend David Ellis. We've both put a lot of time and effort into that project, but focus our energies on Cannonball now.

Suffice it to say there's an absurd amount of organization and shitwork that goes into making projects like that happen. But the result can be pretty magical.

clawcomet said...


Our brainstorming sessions involve coffee. Too much of it. Until we're kind of wigged out.
Our entire site is about collaborating with other artists, in our capacity as publishers.
Our unique creative processes (and I'm dead serious here) boil down to one thing: coffee. Too much of it. Until we're kind of wigged out.

clawcomet said...


Thanks. YES. Absolutely. I tried making work that is totally serious and I suck at it. And nobody much cared for it either. So I tried to make some stuff that was ridiculous, and that I enjoyed, and lo and behold it turned out more true, enjoyable and better received.
Will I ever be a great artist? Probably not.
Will I have a rich life in the arts?
Absolutely--it's been a great and fulfilling time already!

clawcomet said...


Thanks for the kind words.
Trust me--for NYC our shit is TAME.
Mostly you find you just want to say what you want to say.
And it's not for everybody. Nothing is. But for the people for whom the work hits a nerve, if you don't pull any punches, it really works.
But provoking a stir just for the sake of it is not one of my motivations.

clawcomet said...

Good gawd. We're both 34.

Personally I don't have a ton of my old stuff lying around.
If it's bad stuff I'll get rid of it. As in destroy it. The good stuff I'll sell or give away to friends or auctions, and the occasional really decent piece (a rare entity) I'll actually keep.

I've always been interested in the graphic quality of underground comics, punk flyers and graphics, graphic novels and the like. That's been true since high school. In college I got sucked into the school of abstract painting, which I enjoyed, but ultimately decided wasn't really my cup of tea. I was too hooked on narrative art, and slowly came back to it. About that time (maybe 5 years after college) I re-encountered Martin, and we discovered we had some similar interests in that regard, and decided to join forces and make somethin' happen.
I've learned a lot from him and a ton of other artists in New York (working in this town is the best, and most practical, art school) and have tried to swallow other influences (like the huge lineage of populist printmaking) as well as just SST album covers.
There's a lot to explore between where collaboration and woodcut meet, and for now it's keeping us entranced.

clawcomet said...


Most of the ideas come from shared experiences, phrases or interests, and are then put through a sort of informal digestive mill until we find an angle on them we can both live with.
As far as materials--
I introduced lightweight MDF as a material to carve on as an inexpensive alternative to lino or plywood.
For the oversized collaborative work, we chose unprimed canvas cause it looks great, ships well (just fold it up, throw it in a garbage bag, pack it in a box, and ship it to the next show. I mean hell yes)
Martin introduced the great CS700 litho ink that we print all our relief stuff with. You heard me right--litho ink.
Mostly cause it's got a good consistency and is black as sin.
As for paper, we use a bright white commercial paper, because it looks about seven times as tough as that goofy arches. And because we're makin populist art.

Anonymous said...

clawcomet and phantompanter should have a a roleplaying kneehigh moccasins smack down for the best screen name.

phantompanther said...

It depends on if clawcomet plays dirty or not-- cuz I pretty much only fight dirty- I bite- so if he wants to be all high browed and shit the moccasin kickoff is not gonna happen---