Graphic Chemical & Ink Company is a world leader in the fine art field of printmaking. We manufacture our own time-tested inks for etching, litho and relief printing, as well as sell screen print inks, papers, tools, chemistry, plates and supplies for all of a printmaker's needs

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Location: Villa Park, Illinois, United States

I have worked for Graphic Chemical & Ink Company since 1968 - with a brief hiatus(almost 4 years) to travel the World courtesy of my uncle. Sadly it turns out it was my Uncle Sam, and I wasn't too thrilled about the places that he chose to send me. My wife and I have run Graphic Chemical for many years, and have enjoyed the travel that comes with the position. We get to meet our customers (and the occasional vendor) from all over the World

Sunday, October 21, 2012


It's been a while since I've had enough to say to make it worthwhile for a blog entry. I think this might qualify, but only if no one tells my wife Susan about it!

We'd been planning a trip to Poland for almost eight months. We have friends there, several major Art Academies, and hopefully a fair potential for business. Our long awaited trip began on October 2nd with a trip Vienna by way of Frankfurt. A couple of days later we were off to Vilnius, Lithuania for a weekend with relatives. All, except perhaps the weather, went well. On Monday we made two calls at the Art Academy and a retail store. As always, there was great interest in our materials, so we prepared to leave Vilnius with a very positive feeling.

Unfortunately, all of that changed at about 4:30 am on Tuesday. We were leaving for the airport to fly to Poland and begin our adventure. Susan and our host were ahead of me on the long walk down to the parking lot, when she missed a step, and sprawled into the parking lot. Now my charming bride is pretty resilient and rarely shows any reaction to pain, so I was a little worried when she was clearly in distress. A quick call for an ambulance, a long wait, a reasonably short drive to the major hospital in Lithuania, and a brief x-ray later, it was determined that she had broken her hip.

If you've never been in the situation, your life changes in just a few minutes. We were concerned about the fact that they wanted to do surgery almost immediately, concerned about the doctor's credentials, in fact I can't think of anything that we weren't concerned about. We were able to reach our kids at a semi-reasonable hour in Chicago to begin the process of problem solving. Graphic had just changed health insurance carriers a few days before, so there was no medical card available. We knew fairly soon that immediate surgery really was the best option, and we were going to have to pay cash for it.

Amazingly, she was released on Thursday afternoon - just a little over two days later. The doctor assured us that she was o.k. to fly, and our daughter worked with some very nice people at Lufthansa to get us booked out on Friday morning very early. Fortunately, we were using miles for our tickets, so we were able to get Business class seats, which meant that for the longest leg (Dusseldorf to Chicago), she was able to lie flat except for take off and landing. The entire trip took almost 20 hours, using numerous wheelchairs and one glorified fork lift, but she made it home like a champ. Everyone along the way was so incredibly helpful.

When she got home we made an appointment with an Orthopedic guy at our local hospital. We were able to see the two screws that were put in in Vilnius. They were huge! Importantly, however, our doctor said they did a great job in Lithuania, and the prospects for a full recovery were pretty good!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Artists, particularly printmakers, are a fairly outgoing lot as a general rule. We are blessed with not only great friendships, but life long friendships with many of our customers.

Francisco Mendoza was one of the most interesting personalities that I have ever come across, in or out of the art field. For 25 years, Francisco taught at what is now the Orozco Community Academy in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. I met Francisco many years ago when he came into Graphic as a customer. His humor was fantastic, and he did uncanny imitations of notable personalities.

I had the honor of going to visit the Orozco Academy back in 2004 or so, as part of my other life - education. The State Board of Education in Illinois had scheduled a meeting at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum (now the National Museum of Mexican Art) in Chicago, and as part of the two day meeting, we visited some local schools , including Orozco. I was totally blown away with the incredible mosaics on display at the school. About 2 months after my visit, I was speaking with Francisco and mentioned that visit. That's when I learned that Orozco was where he taught. I began waxing poetic (well poetic for me anyway) about the mosaics, and Francisco said that he had done them. My immediate reaction was cynical given his sense of humor.

It turns out that not only had he done them, but that he was sought out to do them by one of Chicago's top art patrons - Maggie Daley, the wife of the former mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley.

Francisco passed away on March 12 from complications from multiple myeloma. His murals are well known in a city that treasures art like few others. In addition to the mosaics at Orozco, Francisco had installations at the South Chicago YMCA, the Chicago Transit Authority's 18th Street L station, and numerous other places.

Francisco Mendoza is survived by his sister, Juanita, a brother Vicente, and a nephew James Larralde. His passing leaves a void in the Chicago artists' community and he will be missed by all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's been too long since my last post, but surprisingly it's because I have almost nothing to say. Nothing, that is, until I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday that causes me to post a warning on this blog. Most of you don't need the warning, but hey, it gives me something to do.

The e-mail is bogus, and I've deleted my friend's name, because I suspect that even he doesn't know that I received this, and while e-mails are somewhat interchangeable around here, I'm pretty sure that this particular friend likely doesn't have my personal e-mail address (the one that this "emergency" missive came to).

I am really sorry to bother you with this email but i just want you to know what i am going through right now. I am sorry i didn't inform you about my traveling to Spain for a Seminar,i am presently in Spain but unfortunately for me i lost my wallet and other valuables in a taxi. I can easily access the internet for now but i do not have access to phone and i also cannot afford the pay phone simply because i do not have a dime on me at the moment. I want you to please assist me urgently with a loan of €1,800 to sort out my hotel bills and to get myself back home. I have tried the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively,i want you to know that i will pay you back as soon as i return,so kindly let me know if you can be of help so that i can send you the details you will use to send the money to me and i think the best way i can receive the money is via WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER since i still have my passport with me.

There are a lot of this type of e-mail floating around these days. Most of them are from people we don't know, but every now and again they stumble across a real printmaker to use in the scam. So Bill (or Tom or Frank), if you are really in Spain and really lost your wallet, and are waiting at the American Express office for my wire transfer, I'll quote my sainted mother as a response - you are so screwed!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


There are a lot of people in the printmaking world. A few years ago, there was a movie called Six Degrees of Separation. The premise of the movie was supposedly (since I didn't see it, I can only suppose about the premise) that you can move from yourself to any other figure on the planet - perhaps the Pope, with only six degrees of separation. Of course, if your target is Kevin Bacon it's more like four degrees.

In printmaking, I would argue that the number is more like two degrees! I've rarely met a printmaker that didn't share a common acquaintance with me. I would like, however to introduce you to someone that you don't know probably...Florence. Like Cher or Madonna, she needs only one name. Her given last name is probably "the Milk Float".

Shown above, Florence is a refugee from the Dairy industry. In this picture she is toting two heavy hitters in the printmaking world. Well, they're both heavy at least! In the command seat - yours truly, and closest to the camera is Martin Lawrence - the chief cook and bottle washer at T.N. Lawrence & Sons of Hove, England. In a fit of insanity, I allowed myself to be intimidated into driving Florence down the street from her home to the Lawrence warehouse and back. It was a nerve racking distance of almost 50 yards round trip....all on the wrong side of the street. Fortunately it was Sunday morning and all of the intelligent nearby residents were still asleep, or cowering behind their drawn curtains!

While our plans had some last minute changes which necessitated canceling a couple of stops on our grand tour - most notably an art fair in Oxford, England, and one of our distributors, it was still a successful, albeit damp trip. Successful, if you can forget about being run over by an Amsterdam taxi that I was in at the time, and a decidedly unpleasant gate crew for Continental Airlines who tried to put our 8 year old granddaughter on a different flight than Susan and I. But that's a story for another day. Hopefully by then I'll have forgotten about it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The following was received from the Inkteraction Group today. I thought that it was a good thing to pass along to any printmaker that might be interested. The picture to the right has almost no bearing on the text, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to show off our new labels.

Dear Friends,

Hope you are doing well, I am sending you a call: La Calaca Press International Print Exchange that I am organizing in conjunction with Expressions Graphics in Oak Park, IL for the Day of the Dead celebration in Nov. I would love to count with your participation on this project, please feel free to spread the word!!!

Thanks, have a great day!

Carlos Barberena

La Calaca Press and Expressions Graphics invite you to participate in the first LA CALACA PRESS International Print Exchange and Exhibition. This exchange is open to printmakers from the USA and abroad. The purpose of this exchange is to promote printmaking and create connection with artists around the world.


• Deadline date: Prints must be received by September 15, 2011

• Please RSVP by e-mail to: Carlos Barberena at

• Theme: “CALACAS” Day of the Dead / Open to your own interpretation.

• Media: Any traditional Printmaking process: Relief, Linocuts, Woodcuts, Intaglio, Lithography, Serigraphy, Collograph, etc. - NO DIGITAL PRINTS OR PHOTOCOPIES -

• Paper Size: 7 inches by 9 inches. Print/image size is open. *Please use any Archival Paper or Hand made Paper. (No Exception)

• Edition: 15 identical hand-pulled, original prints, include glassine sheets or tissue paper between each print, cut to match paper size.

•Each Print must be Signed and Numbered on the front.

• Fee: $15 US or $20 International paid via PayPal or a Check made out to: Carlos Barberena (Checks from US Banks only) This Fee covers the costs of postage and promotion of the project and Exhibits. *Fee is non-refundable.

• Exhibitions: The selected prints will be exhibited at Expressions Graphics in Oak Park, IL in Nov. 2011. * A Second exhibit will be at La Casa de los Tres Mundos in Nicaragua on Nov. 2nd, 2011.

• A Portfolio of 12 randomly selected prints will be mailed to each participant early November 2011. We will keep 3 Prints from each edition submitted to the exchange: 1 print will remain at Expressions Graphics and 2 at La Calaca Press for traveling exhibitions and promotional purposes.

• All prints submitted will be put in a web gallery and may be reproduced to promote this project. Please visit for more info.

IMPORTANT: All prints must conform to the guidelines. Any prints that do not fit the guidelines will be returned to the artist. *Fee is not refundable.

• Please RSVP by e-mail to Carlos at and mail submission to:

Carlos Barberena

324 Washington Blvd.

Apt 3G Oak Park, IL, 60302


La Calaca Press International Print Exchange Submission Form

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I really hate missing a month for blog postings, but I missed the month of May. There were a lot of reasons, but few, if any, of them were good reasons. There's been a little bit of travel, but that's not it. A few health problems, but that's not it either. We've been busy redeveloping the Water Soluble line of Relief inks, but that's not it either. No, it's just a hot muggy time of year, and I didn't feel like it.

The redevelopment thing, however, has been on the front burner for quite a long time. In all of the years that I've been at Graphic I've never had an issue that was so universally concerning to our customers. We've been very proud of the Water Soluble Relief Inks. We believe that they are the best on the market, but it doesn't matter what we think, it's what you think that matters. A number of years ago, there was a bulletin board post from someone who mentioned another manufacturer had come out with the first professional quality water soluble relief ink. It implied that ours, not mentioned by name were less than professional in quality. We were concerned that people would believe that claim, so we offered members of the bbs a free sample of our ink to try. No strings attached....and we crossed our fingers that those who sampled ours would have a positive comment or two for the board.

Almost every artist that received a sample wrote in to say it was the best that they'd ever tried. O.K. I'm editorializing a little bit, but the comments were very positive. You can imagine how upset we were (not to mention how upset many of you were) when without notice, the specialized vehicle that we used just disappeared! We'd even been buying 20 drums of the old vehicle at a time to insure that they'd make it for us, but with the economy the way it was, the manufacturer chose to discontinue the product. (20 drums, by the way, is one heck of a lot of water soluble vehicle - about 1100 gallons worth!)

The process that led to our new product was long, convoluted and arduous. We began by begging for one more kettle of the vehicle, and were told no - we could use their new product instead. If you'd seen the MSDS you'd understand why we couldn't do that. Next, we tracked down former employees of the vendor. Several of them had left to start their own businesses or to work elsewhere. That didn't pan out the way we'd hoped. We even went to a distributor that I swore I'd never do business with again. Ironically, our last effort that resulted in the new vehicle actually turned out to have a connection to a former employee of the old supplier, but we didn't know about it until we'd found the new product and learned that the salesperson that we'd would work with was our former salesperson with the old company.

The ink field is very much like printmaking in some ways. Everybody knows everybody else, within reason. The people are very close and generally are happy to help. And sometimes you just get lucky. I'll always take lucky over good...always!

What's next? Look for new colors...some Earth colors, a few bolder colors, and perhaps a couple of new modifiers. Keep looking here, we'll try to make it interesting.

Monday, April 04, 2011


I've received a few comments on the Tyler School of Art job posting. Apparently the link doesn't work. All I can tell you is that the information was copied directly from the form that was sent to us. Contact the school directly if the link doesn't work. Unfortunately, we have no control over that at all.

Best of luck to all interested in the position - and don't forget Graphic Chemical when your back-to-school orders are being sent next Fall.