Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling of how awful 2009 was for us–which is probably not all that healthy, but it was bad at an epic level. However, in my continuing effort to be more positive, I thought I’d take the chance to write about my favorite project of the last year. Amazingly, it wasn’t sewing or screenprinting, it was one of my first letterpress projects. I realized I’d never really shared this project with “the World,” though all my Portland buddies have seen the results in person.

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I was never able to print this type, but it was for the back of the Brandon Roy card--the header read, "The Reason." Because, when it comes down to it, B-Roy is the reason that many, many people came back to the Trail Blazers, after the team had some very dark days.

What I really loved about this project, is that I got to experiment with photopolymer and the results of using different ink and paper combinations. My original goal was to print an entire team set of basketball cards, complete with back descriptions. However, between limited access to printing facilities and my workload increasing, I didn’t make my goal. However, I was very happy with the prints I did make. The red were printed in open editions, but I limited the silver to a small run of 12 each. The cards are around 3×4, printed on acid free paper, with round corners. The silver ink is actually made with silver–so the metallic quality has a lot of depth, and I suspect that it may be oil-based–given how long it took to dry and how difficult the clean-up was. The variations in the red are due to mixing the red at different times (I have to hand-blend the rubber ink), I also learned that if consistency is important, you need to mix all your ink at once. I ended up only writing a few descriptions, again, because I ran out of time with the letterpress studio and hand-setting all that type is extremely cumbersome.

So, with all that said, here are the results (please keep in mind that these are based off of the 2008-09 team, not the current team)

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4303940389 337cbd5587 Best of 09: Blazers Letterpress ProjectThis is Rudy Fernandez–if he were traded, the collective heart of Portlanders would break, he is incredibly popular, and the showman on the team (he can fire up a crowd like I’ve never seen). I had a really difficult time creating the artwork for this one without Rudy looking like a zombie; he has smallish eyes and fine features, so I had to improvise a lot to get him to look “right.” Rudy’s probably the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever see play any sport, and he clearly loves his job, so I tried to replicate this in this letterpress portrait. This card is dedicated to one of my favorite people, my friend Michelle (who I met at a Blazers game last year).

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4303940945 5414286b49 Best of 09: Blazers Letterpress ProjectOh, Greg Oden. This was one of my favorites to design and print, because I really wanted to capture the funny, charming #1 pick that Blazers fans fell in love with before his ill-fated rookie season–and I think I did that fairly well. My mom and I were at the game earlier this season in which he broke his kneecap, and we were both choking back tears. All I can say is, in our house, we still believe in #52.

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LaMarcus Aldridge’s portrait is the least portrait-y of them all, intentionally because I tend to think of him as only existing on the basketball court. I am actually grateful that I never got around to having to come up with content for the back of this card, I don’t think I would have had much material. It seems like there have only been a couple of in-depth interviews with the Blazers power forward, and we don’t know a ton about him. We do, however, know that LaMarcus Aldridge does not seek your popular applause.

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Travis Outlaw and I have a strange history–he drove me nuts all of the 2006-07 season. And, I wanted the team to sign Ime Udoka instead of extending Travis’ contract (this has more to do with Ime being from Portland than anything–I’m very loyal to fellow Oregonians, it seems like there’s so few of us sometimes). However, over the summer, I started to feel guilty about it, and then I figured out that Travis was really, really funny. So, I actually spent the next season making amends with Travis, and cheered extra loudly for him whenever he took the court or really did anything–and he was pretty awesome during the team’s crazy 13-game winning streak in 2007-08. So, now I’m really fond of Trav, but, unfortunately, he too is injured. I love how he turned out in letterpress. He may look a bit like an alien, but it really looks like Travis. In a sense, this one is the most true-to-life card, right down to the look he has on his face. He always has that look on his face. I would have had a great time composing the back of his card–there is a lot of wonderful material out there featuring his “Travisms.”

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Nicolas Batum’s letterpress card was the first one I made, and I was pretty thrilled with it. You can really tell how young he is, and to me the look of it illustrates how promising he is as a player. I can’t explain why, but it’s the way he’s looking upward that really does it for me. This was one of the few that I had time to do the typesetting for the back, and I’m sure glad. (By the way, the “Frenchie” nickname seems to have stuck, since Adidas now provides Nico with custom sneakers with it stitched on them.)

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This was my only letterpress card that is of someone who is no longer on the team, Channing Frye. This card is based off of a photo taken by the extremely talented Brian Kroll. (Go check out his awesome photography!) I love that this image is very clearly a non-basketball portrait, since the reasons that I’m such a Channing fan have far more to do with the was he embraced Portland as his home and little to do with the sport (though, I don’t think you could ask for anyone to have a better attitude while facing adversity on a basketball team). While he’s having lots of success in Phoenix now (and playing with two of my favorites: Grant Hill and Steve Nash), I sure do miss his blog posts about living in Portland… Incidentally, my quasi-famous “Channing for Mayor” shirt still gets the occasional comment. In terms of the actual printing, I was really challenged with this one, since I wanted to have fine details that were true to Brian’s photo–which is hard to do in letterpress. After a lot of trial and error, I think I was able to capture that, and it feels the most “real” of all of the portraits. (Pats self on back.)

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I really developed a soft spot for Martell Webster last year, when he was injured the entire season (oddly, it’s the exact same foot injury as Travis Outlaw has right now). That sounds weird, I know, but I went to a lot of games really early last year (to get good parking), and before most games I watched from my seat in the 300 level as Martell went from kid to kid (and a lot of adults, too) who clamored for a professional basketball player to say “hello” to them. You could tell that it meant a lot to those fans, but what really struck me was how he never rushed away, always looked thrilled to talk to everyone and was just the epitome of gracious to everyone to whom he talked. It was some kind of impressive. I know nothing about the circumstances of why he was so good to all those folks, and never saw an interview about it, but I certainly won’t forget it. Furthermore, Martell famously–while in his walking boot–pushed two people’s cars out of the snow during a storm. I just have a feeling that he’s a really good dude. Actually, this fall I saw Martell while he was driving, stopped at an intersection, and I was walking the dog. When I did a triple-take (I’m sure it was pretty funny) and realized it was him and smiled like a total dork, he very nicely smiled back, so there’s that too. I do fear that since I’m a big Marty fan, it will result in his being traded, since I have that awful Blazers karma. Anyway… Printing-wise, I am actually kind of disappointed in this one. Martell is a very good-looking guy, with very distinctive features, but I had a hard time translating that into the letterpress medium. I like the look of this print, but I’m just not thrilled with it actually being a portrait.

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This is my favorite, Brandon Roy. I think I got really attached to this one, because I spent so much flipping time working on it. Brandon has very distinctive features, but they’re kind of fine, so translating that into the letterpress medium was a tremendous challenge. I actually really struggle with creating the artwork (I create it digitally, in Adobe Illustrator) for letterpress projects, because I’m not very confident in my ability in visual arts. So, I invested days and days and days of work into creating my first Brandon print, which was terrible! He looked, well, scary. Which was definitely not the look I was going for. Finally, when I was almost ready to give up, I hit on this design, and I love it. The eyes were the toughest part, like with the Rudy print, and I like how the eyes translated in ink and paper in this one–especially in the silver. I am really proud of this one, and it’s really the first thing that I’ve made that actually feels like it’s “Art.”

~Sarah

P.S. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I have to remind folks to please not use my images without my permission. I have had a lot of trouble with that lately, particularly with sports bloggers stealing my images off of my All Rights Reserved Flickr stream and posting them on their blogs–without credit or permission. All of the thieves has had ads on their sites (one was an ESPN-affiliate blog), so they are literally making money off of my work without compensating me.  I’m sure many of you have been dismayed to find your work on other people’s sites, and I encourage you to combat content theft–it helps protect all of our intellectual and creative property.

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6 thoughts on “Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

  1. Love seeing these all together like this – so gorgeous! Makes me wish I was back in Portland printing with you right this minute! :)
    XOXO

  2. Sarah, this is a really impressive collection! I think they all look great, and if it makes any difference, I think Martell Webster looks very fetching in his print. It is so personal to read your own experiences with and observations of each player. Very nice post!

  3. Pingback: Inspiration Friday – Letterpress Printing « Summer of Making

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