“Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an artist in some capacity,” Doug LaRocca told me. His path as an artist took him through college where he studied art, focusing on illustration, through a break from creating altogether, and then into becoming a full-time artist.
Doug creates pop-culture referencing screen printed wall art. Since I grew up under a proverbial rock when it comes to pop-culture, this is usually not my preferred art genre. But something caught my fancy at Doug’s booth a few weeks ago at the Moonlight Market.
The colors Doug uses aren’t quite what I expect paired with his style of art — an effect which I enjoy.
I asked about his inspiration, and Doug said, “It’s a lot of pop culture, a lot of childhood memories, a lot of 80s and 90s movies.”
He said with almost every piece he’s created, he thinks, “this is so good, it’s my favorite,” during the process. Then he starts on the next and thinks the same thing.
Hearing about his process was particularly interesting for me. First, he draws thumbnails of his inspiration, then he moves on to creating rough sketches. Next, he draws it on his iPad or computer.
Then he transfers the design to a screen using light sensitive emulsion and a light box — the emulsion hardens in the light. Through this part of the process, he essentially creates stencils for each color of his design.
I had a little trouble wrapping my head around the details of this step, but it reminded me of the time I used to spend in a dark room working with light sensitive materials printing black and white photos.
But I digress. Once Doug has stencils, he pushes acrylic screen-printing ink through them, one color per stencil and layer. He continues until he has completed his image. Once a design is in the works, Dough said he usually makes 40-50 prints.
If pulling the colors (through the screen to apply them to the paper) is going well, Doug said it’s his favorite step in the process — he said he’ll often put on some dancing music and just have fun with it.
Doug uses the colors right out of the bottle — he’s worked with them enough to know which layer well together — and others he mixes to create custom colors.
From start to finish he said it takes one to two weeks from the first sketches to the finished product. He said he likes screen printing because it lets him combine illustration with the tactile feel of paint on paper.
“It’s been about a 10-year process of learning,” he said. He didn’t take any screen-printing classes in college, but got advice from a friend and used online resources.
Doug took the step to creating art full time when he and his wife moved to Morgantown from Philadelphia in 2020 a week before the shutdown. Cancellation of events slowed his plans for getting his art out in person. Now he is back to working toward a goal of selling his work at a show every weekend.
His next shows are this weekend — the Arts Walk on Friday evening and the Mo’Town Studio Tour on Saturday and Sunday. I was happy to hear that you, dear reader, will have an opportunity to see his work in person — not always the case when I write about artisans.
“It’s not for everyone, but this is stuff I’d want to put on my wall.” Doug said. “If it brings you joy as well, I appreciate that.”
ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.