For Children

Theo Naylor


2007 5th-6th Grade Prose Honorable Mention

Iandry Randriamandroso is a student at the Art Student's League of New York, an institution on West 57th Sreet. Iandry is a twenty-something, Madagascarian printmaker with wonderful thoughts on art and life. He had invited me to Chinatown, in order to complete a debatably obscure type of print. Iandry loves and wants to pursue street art.

My mom waved us goodbye, and Iandry and I walked out the doors of the Art Student's League. I gave him information on a couple of urban art projects he was interested in. He asked me questions about school and art. I returned hopefully helpful answers, and he complimented me on the three Sumi ink works he had seen in the hall. We stampeded into the subway, in search of...

  1. A fish! in order to roll printer's ink on, and press against paper...and...
  2. An insightful look into the market of Chinatown.

On the way to Chinatown, Iandry told me about the "fish-print," a tradition among many Japanese fishermen. Every time a fisherman received a large catch, he would roll ink along its surface and press it up against rice paper, in order to have credibility among his peers and gain honor, a trophy of sorts. Doing this would render the fish inedible and the fisherman respectable. He told me of the importance of capturing an event, and showing textures and beauty without drawing.

We stepped out of the subway car. Gaudy Chinese characters waved in the wind on red banners outside tea houses. The smell of fish filled the air as we stepped over the wet pavement into a fish shop. The sound of babbling orders and squelching, slapping knives hurtling through white meat filled the air. Iandry smiled confidently and tapped the shoulder of a small man who was racing frenetically with a small knife and several cod in hand.

"Excuse me sir, we would like a fish—" "Yah, that's good—" The man snatched the fish Iandry was fingering and proceeded to weigh it. Iandry halfheartedly tried to explain that we were artists and needed the fish to make a print—"WhateverYahYah. Yougivethemoneytohim,awright?Okay." Iandry grinned and relaxed. The cashier, who at the time was weighing the fish, glared moodily through his foggy-lensed glasses and gave us our change.

Iandry and I stepped through into the subway. We discussed the surreal feeling of being in a city like New York, where there were Little Italys, Spanish Harlems, East Villages, and Chinatowns. I suggested the idea that there should be little U.N. booths in every district of New York. Iandry's eyes crinkled and he laughed for a while.

When we got off, and walked back into the Art Student's League. Iandry retreated to his locker to get some printer ink and other supplies. He handed me his digital camera, and gave me a lesson on capturing an event. "Close up—and landscape." I nodded, and understood. Iandry took the fish out of its plastic bag and slapped it down on some newspaper. I snapped photo after photo after photo as Iandry rolled water based ink along the fish's scaled surface, and delicately rubbed it against the rice paper. I followed the process well. He talked to me as he printed the fish. A Japanese woman artist working on a woodcut nearby told me about the history of the fish-print and Iandry translated her accent for me at times. The concept of the fish print seemed less comical to me and more ritual. Iandry took shots of me as I placed the fish against the paper and made my own fish print. The two skeletal prints were beautiful and Iandry revealed to me our second project. A can, that had been run over by a car in October, seems an unlikely thing to be printed, yes? Iandri said to me, "It was lying there in the middle of the road. So I am thinking...Who would pick it up? A garbage man, yes? huh? Like—no-one..." "And you." I pointed out jokingly. Iandry smiled.

He brought a thicker, oil based ink that had to have several layers of rubbery black residue yanked off it before we could access the ink. He again rolled the ink onto the folds and mountains in the Arizona iced tea can, as I took ever more pictures. He then let me roll the ink onto the opposite side of the can. We then took the can into the print room, and Iandry turned the pressure knobs on the press. We slid the can on top of the paper, and put a piece of cardboard on top. He rolled the press on painfully slowly and lifted up the cardboard. The can was—well, it would be silly to say breathtakingly beautiful—so I'll just say it looked cool. Really, really cool. Like an Andy Warhol icon sitting right in the middle of....white. It was Campbell's Tomato Soup chewed up, spat out, pushed in the blender with a bunch of Graffiti stencils, and atom-bombed. After I did the other side (with a couple of mishaps and skirmishes, may I add) the can print was even more beautiful. Two heads are better than one, and I guess two cans are just as good.

Iandry is a wonderful teacher with a lot of good ideas and a resourceful artist with a wide knowledge of printmaking. The experience was a door into new, previously not-considered ideas on art. The project went perfectly well...Iandry is an intelligent judge of all things art. I loved Chinatown and all the aspects of my journey. I was glad Iandry could give up his time for me.