Published February 16, 2021

As we’ve just updated the project guidance (12/13/21) Its not to late to join in.

Our hope is that these modifications will encourage participants to think more expansively about Saints Alive! and inspire more individual creative expression, a hallmark of our member collaborations.

Saints Alive, a collection of storied art to express gratitude for whoever/whatever helped you cope during the pandemic.
If you prefer, your work may reflect on a time of difficulty unrelated to the pandemic – we’ve lifted the Covid constraint. 

Project Milestones

Sunday, April 03, 1:00-4:00: Demo Day (Note Change of Date)
Member artists will demonstrate a variety of multicolor relief printing methods suitable for this project, for example: reduction prints (layered prints using a single print block), printing with foam cutouts, digital color separation for making polymer plates (for letterpress), hand-coloring your printed line art

April-May:
Complete sketches, schedule press time, request assistance

Friday, June 17:
Deliver prints, signed and numbered, to the Book Arts studio

Saturday & Sunday, July 02 & 03, 1:00-4:00:
Retablo Workshops
Participants attend a workshop to construct the retablo enclosure for their own set of project prints. Templates, materials, and instructions will be provided.

Regarding Style

  • Artists may create work that hearkens to the folk art that inspired the project or work in their own style. 
  • You may choose a palette with as little or as much color as you please. 
  • Help will be available for those who want to learn to register color in relief printing.

Project Guidelines

Our project has two components, both inspired by folk art traditions in Central and South America:

  • Ex votos: Mexican paintings captioned with personal narratives that thank patron saints for their intercession in overcoming some personal misfortune are called ex voto (“from a vow”). They have evolved from scenes depicting salvation from a life-threatening illness or event to more quotidian escapes, like surviving a snake bite or being bopped on the head by a piñata stick.
    • As for choosing a “patron saint,” you may freely interpret patronage and saintliness in naming and paying homage to yours.
    • Individual artists will each produce and edition one “ex voto” print, including narrative and art, to venerate “patron saints” who have interceded on their behalf during the pandemic or in some other recent difficult situation.
    • The edition will be the number of participants (currently 22) plus 10 for the VCB.
    • A template for these prints are posted here.
  • Retablos: The enclosure for the full collection of “ex voto” prints will be a portfolio designed to look and function like a Peruvian retablo. These small box-altars originally held 3-D tableaux of Christian events, such as the Nativity, but have evolved to depict scenes of the daily lives of the Andean people – shops, home industry, festivals, performances, and the like.
    • Proposed prototypes for this structure are posted here and will be workshopped with project participants in late fall.
    • Artists will craft their own retablo enclosures (one each).
    • Binders will craft a “deluxe” version for the VCB copies.

The Saints Alive! Project Committee has set the following guidelines to help unify the collection:

  • The title of each print will be “Patron Saint of ___.” The title does not have to appear on the print but will be listed in the colophon.
  • The saints themselves may appear in the image. In Mexican ex votos, they often appear as iconographic figures floating above the scene.
  • The trim size for the prints will be 7″ x 10” with a vertical orientation (portrait style). Bleed, trim, and text dimensions are here.
  • While folk art in the Americas is vibrant, project participants may use hues and values of their choosing. Hand-coloring and use of thin collage materials is permitted.
  • Prints may incorporate some digital elements so long as they are primarily work made by hand.

Demos and workshops will be offered for members who want to learn multicolor relief printing methods such as reduction prints, or for those who want to do digital color separation for polymer plates (for letterpress).

Members of all skill levels can participate. As always with these collaborations, we help each other along the way.

If you plan to participate or want to be kept informed of the project’s progress, please send a message to Garrett <gsqueen@virginia.edu>. Please also send all other queries, ideas, and comments to Garrett to post on the project webpage or pass on to members of the project committee.

Thanks for your interest and participation!

Saints Alive! Project Committee
Bonnie Bernstein, Lyall Harris, Nancy Kober, Yolanda Merrill and Michael Swanberg

Saint’s Alive Card Template

PDF template for Saints Alive!
Bleed, trim, and text dimensions are here

Project Organization Notes

2021 Collaborative Project Pitch Guidelines

Participant Project Ideas:

More Links of Interest:

Alan Birch’s Covid Saints Series

Retablos on Pinterest

Infinitas Gracias – Mexican Retablos And Ex-Voto Paintings

Understanding Ex Votos

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