PAPER BACK PUBLISHING, a printmaking collaborative operated by Matthew Garcia (b. 1985) and Keegan Rogers (b. 1989) is online at PaperBackPrints.com where you’ll find their online shop and can order most of their original silk-screened prints for $15 or $20. Anyone who wants artwork (yours or theirs) reproduced in beautifully hand-printed silk screen editions, invitations, gig posters, artist books, gifts (they’ll print virtually anything on anything) should contact them at email@example.com or 559-783-3578.
Matt Garcia is an experienced graphic designer. He’s friendly, enthusiastic, and confident. Keegan Rogers is a gifted illustrator, imposingly tall at around six-foot-four, and a bit of an introvert. Their personalities and talents mesh together unusually well – as though they’ve been at it for years – which they have. They are well trained in all the usual printmaking techniques – lithography, etching, engraving, relief printing – but they are particularly drawn to screen printing. Paper Back Publishing is the outgrowth of their friendship, their love of printmaking, their strong connection to Kansas City’s growing community of young artists, and their desire to work together for the benefit of that community.
Screen printing is a sophisticated stencil process in which very fine open-weave fabric (the screen) is stretched across a frame and the pores are selectively blocked using a stencil or photo emulsion mask. The open pores of the screen allow viscous ink to be squeegeed through while the mask prevents the ink from penetrating the screen in areas not intended to print. It’s a process which requires a high degree of know-how and expertise, but one which can be accomplished effectively in a very small space. Paper Back Publishing occupies one end of Matt’s modest third floor apartment in mid-town Kansas City. The inks used by Paper Back Publishing are permanent once they’re dry, but tools and screens can be cleaned up very easily with water – the toxic fumes usually associated with screen printing are entirely absent and the printmakers needn’t sacrifice their health for their art.
BOHEMIAN: When did you decide to become artists or printmakers? How did you meet and decide to work together?
KEEGAN: I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. My grandparents were farmers. My dad sells farm equipment. I’m not very interested in agriculture. Our neighbor was a working sculptor. His son and I have been close friends since we were toddlers, and we used to build art in his garage / studio while his sculptor-dad kept an eye on us. We asked his dad if we could put our work into a show he had up at a local gallery and he immediately said, “Yeah, sure, you totally can,” and we did! So that was my first show. I was very young when I learned from him that art is not a product – it’s a behavior – what I do – how I live. But by the time I finished high school, I really didn’t have any idea WHAT I wanted to do.
I applied to KCAI and, when I was accepted, it felt “right.” Freshmen at KCAI spend their year surveying every discipline offered by the school in a program called “Foundations.” During our year in Foundations, we had to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions was, “What department do you want to go into?” I picked printmaking because I’d mostly been making drawings and I could draw as much as I wanted in that department. If illustration had been available as a major then, I might have chosen that.
Matt and I met during our sophomore year as printmaking majors. We were like minded and with similar tastes. We always partnered up during collaborative assignments. So, Paper Back Publishing naturally grew out of our friendship and mutual interests.
MATT: I grew up in Tulare, California, a small farm town. My dad is an air conditioning electrician, welder, and handy-man. My brother does that same kind of work, and he and my sister have always been good athletes. I think I chose art because I’m not good at sports. I can’t throw a ball, but I can draw a pretty good picture of one. I’ve always carried a sketchbook and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always drawn stuff. It never occurred to me that art would become my career. At various times I thought I’d become a veterinarian, a marine biologist, or maybe a minister.
When I was in my mid-teens, I worked for my dad over the summer. I hated it. One day I was at some farm, up on the roof, working on an air conditioning unit with my father and I wasn’t into it. My dad wanted me to at least ACT interested. And I said, “I’m NOT interested!” He was pretty angry and he told me to get off the roof before he threw me off! That was my last day working for him. On the ride home, he asked me what I wanted to be doing, and I told him I wanted to do something in media or graphic design or art of some sort. One of his clients was the graphic designer, Lesley and Associates. The next week he dropped me off at Lesley’s and told me, “You’re working for her for free. She will teach you what you need to know.” So I was apprenticed to Lesley and Associates for about six years before I decided to go to college. I still occasionally do illustrations and other projects for her. That’s how I realized I could have a career in art. She was doing it, and she was surviving, so I thought I could, too. But Tulare, CA is a very small town and I wanted to get out of there.
I lived in Seattle for a year. Seattle was amazing, but the Art Institutes International school there wasn’t. I moved back to Tulare and went to College of the Sequoias. The instructors there were more concerned about process than about personal artwork or ideas, so I learned to love process. We only had access to studios there while we were actually in class which was limiting. One of my teachers, Matthew Hopson- Walker (KCAI Printmaking, 1998), encouraged me to apply to the Art Institute which accepted me as a sophomore printmaking student and offered me a pretty good scholarship, so I moved to Kansas City in 2009. I really liked KCAI. It was the opposite of School of Sequoias. At KCAI, the faculty was much more concerned about concepts and ideas and what’s on the page than they were about process and technique. Best of all, I had my own studio space and could work in it whenever I pleased. So I was in studio and focused on art all the time. It was awesome. And I met Keegan and we discovered that we had a lot in common.
KEEGAN: We both immediately nerded out on, like, comics. I’d learned about art and narrative through
Marvel Comics. It’s how I learned to read.
MATT: Yeah! Comics! I’ve been reading comics since I was in, like, third or fourth grade.
KEEGAN: Our mutual love of comics led us into the other nerdy things we have in common, like we could enjoy ridiculous shop talk about printmaking or talk about printmaking papers for, like, thirty minutes at a time and…
MATT: I felt like we were the two main people in the department who really nerded out about printmaking. And we never took any offense. We could be completely honest in evaluating each other’s work. When Keegan tells me that something I’m working on doesn’t ‘read’ well, I have confidence in his eye. I’m sure he feels the same way.
KEEGAN: There’s a familiarity with one another that’s grown out of having spent so much time working together.
BOHEMIAN: You guys are competent in lots of printmaking techniques – what drew you to silkscreen printing in particular?
MATT: We think silkscreen is the most graphic of the printmaking arts. Everybody’s seen silkscreened t-shirts or gig posters.
KEEGAN: With silkscreen we have more control than with other printmaking techniques. We can take any source image and reproduce it exactly. That’s what I like most.
MATT: It’s also the quickest and most direct. It’s easiest for us to get through the process and arrive at a final image. That’s why graphic designers used to use silkscreen all the time, because it’s so quick.
KEEGAN: Yeah, and people are already so familiar with screen printed images. It’s so widely used commercially – everyone has screen-printed t-shirts or noticed screen printed posters. The DIY (doit yourself) style is so popular now. Everybody loves stuff that’s made by hand, and all our stuff is definitely hand made!
MATT: I love printmaking. I love, love, LOVE printmaking. It’s meditative and fun, and I find peace and lose myself in the process – it all feels very Zen.
BOHEMIAN: Tell us more about Paper Back Publishing.
MATT: When we decided to start our press, coming up with a name for it took forever. We rejected so many names. Comics were once called Paperback Trades and we both love comics, so that name seemed natural and we both liked it right away. You can find us online at PaperBackPrints.com.
KEEGAN: Paper Back Publishing is the name we chose for our print collaborative which publishes everything from fine art editions to comic books to commercial editions, invitations, posters, book covers – we’re working with writers, visual artists, musicians, business people – anyone who wants our unique hand-printed work.
MATT: We’ve printed most of The Bohemian covers this year. And right now, Paper Back Publishing’s most ambitious project is under way. It’s a fully hand-printed artist book. We’ve invited twenty artists, all connected to KCAI, local artists, friends of ours to collaborate. Each screen print will have two printed layers, so there’s the possibility of more than two colors once they’re overlaid. The book will be eight and a half by eleven inches, hand-printed on both sides of each page, and bound on one side – like a comic, sorta. Keegan and I are working together to design the cover art and index page. Each inside page is being designed by one of our artist-collaborators.
KEEGAN: We’re trying to keep it simple, but it’s a big project for us. A great and worthy project! Want a copy? Contact us!