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March 1, 2024

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Roach paper art a labor of layers

Vancouver artist uses makes mosaics from end of joints

9 Photos
A piece of Cliff Maynard's mosaic art, which is made from the paper left over after a marijuana joint is smoked.
A piece of Cliff Maynard's mosaic art, which is made from the paper left over after a marijuana joint is smoked. It takes him about 15 or 20 hours to complete one piece of art. Photo Gallery

Check out Cliff Maynard’s Website at www.roachpaperart.com

For more on Tom Lauerman, visit on.fb.me/1qmbYTq

Cliff Maynard discovered his unusual artistic medium one stoned night in art school, as he clipped his way through copies of Fangoria and High Times magazines.

His assignment, about 15 years ago at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, was to create a mosaic out of color swatches clipped from various publications. And, being a poor art school student, he also found himself building a marijuana cigarette out of roaches — the stubby leftover ends of joints that some people throw away.

“I had no money for anything, so I broke open my roaches — because in that situation you save your roaches until you have no pot and then you smoke them,” Maynard said. “And on one side of me are these magazine clippings, and on the other side are bits and pieces of joints. It was like a Reese’s (Peanut Butter Cup) moment, where I looked and was like ‘Hey, chocolate! Hey, peanut butter! Yum!’ “

That eureka moment launched him on the path to becoming a roach paper mosaic artist, he said.

But he started with a roadblock in his path: He didn’t have enough roach papers for a full mosaic.

“So I start asking all my friends, save all your papers for me, I’m going to do a portrait of Jesus with them,” Maynard said. “I wanted to do something respectful of Jesus, but I also wanted that interesting contrast with the medium.”

Along with his friends, he also asked his father — the man who taught him to roll his first joint — if he could save papers for the project as well.

“So I got a few from my friends, but a lot of them forgot,” Maynard said. “And then a few months later I went to visit my dad and he had saved every roach paper since that conversation. He gave me a huge thing packed full of them.”

The papers his dad gave him were perfect, giving him a wide array of shades to work with, he said.

“They were really good colors,” Maynard said. “The cheaper the paper, the better the colors, actually. So when I got back I’m like a kid in a candy store — and I start cutting them up and applying them, and that’s when I discovered you could also blend them.”

He tore the pieces up into small color swaths, using his hands or scissors, and found you could get darker colors by stacking dark pieces on top of one another.

It took him more than 100 hours to complete his first creation, a portrait of Jesus; but it was well worth it, because people started to notice him, he said.

“When people saw the Jesus portrait they started saving their papers for me,” Maynard said. “They’d bring me huge bags of them. They still do.”

He followed up with portraits of Jerry Garcia and Jim Morrison and then decided to do an homage to Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.”

And as he continued to work he also found a way to speed up the process to something more like 15 or 20 hours of work per piece.

“At one point, I was doing the glasses on a portrait of John Lennon, and you can’t tear something like that, so I tried an X-Acto knife and I realized just how much more I could do with that,” Maynard said.

Restless creativity

After several creations, though, Maynard felt a bit burned out on the medium. He grew fascinated with tatoos and decided to hone that craft. Not long after he left art school — he had a few classes left and never graduated — and opened his own tattoo studio in Pittsburgh, which he ran for almost a decade.

But the mosaic art kept calling to him.

“After a while, all tattoo artists get to a point where they want to do other art again,” Maynard said. “It keeps your skills honed and gives you ideas.”

During his time away, nobody else had discovered the roach paper art medium, he said, and on returning to it, he decided he wanted to get something published so he could put his stamp on it.

“The first thing I wanted to do was seal the deal as the original person to use that medium, so I went to New York to talk with High Times Magazine,” Maynard said.

A friend at the magazine suggested he go to a NORML convention in Berkley, Calif., to make some connections and possibly work on some art for the group. At the rally, he met a host of West Coast marijuana advocates, including one who offered him a job working on a medical marijuana farm in the state.

“It was an interesting opportunity, and I decided to move west to do that,” Maynard said. “But it was very hot, very hard work.”

At the event, he also met well-known activist Jack Herer, who died in 2010, and Vivian McPeak, executive director of the Seattle Hempfest.

And, after a brief return to Pittsburgh after his year on the marijuana farm, then decided to come back west, but this time to Washington, where it was cooler and greener.

“I knew some people in Washington from Hempfest, and I had zipped up here a few times to sell art,” Maynard said. “And then they asked me if I’d be into doing the artwork for one of the Hempfest posters.”

He ended up creating the 2009 official collector’s poster for Hempfest, an image of Seattle with an American flag in the background and a pair of hands holding a small cannabis plant in the foreground.

Payment for the work came in the form of booth space at the festival. And while selling his art he also found more steady work as a tattoo artist in Port Orchard.

Finding Vancouver

A few years ago he met Vancouver’s Tom Lauerman, a medical marijuana farmer and well-known advocate, who has written a few books about marijuana, including “Cannabis Consumer’s Guide” and the upcoming “Cannabis Connoisseurs Basics.”

The two often ended up sitting next to each other at state medical marijuana farmers markets, they said.

“He had art and I had a book — so we were the only ones that could really go up front,” Lauerman said of the markets, where medical marijuana is sold. “So we used to watch each others stuff.”

Check out Cliff Maynard's Website at <a href="http://www.roachpaperart.com">www.roachpaperart.com</a>

For more on Tom Lauerman, visit <a href="http://on.fb.me/1qmbYTq">on.fb.me/1qmbYTq</a>

About a year ago, Maynard tried to set up his own tattoo shop in Seattle, but the deal fell through at the last minute. So Lauerman asked him to come to Vancouver to help him work on the farm and do some art and logo work for Lauerman’s “Farmer Tom” medical brand, he said.

“My label and my logo, that’s all Cliff’s work,” Lauerman said. “Everybody’s totally impressed. Cliff’s a legend in the Pacific Northwest.”

At the farm, Maynard built a workshop and living space he calls the “Dabbin’ Cabin,” where he creates mosaics and also has a small tatoo shop.

But he has bigger plans now, and said he’s fallen in love with Vancouver.

“My dream is to put together a cannabis friendly tattoo shop, where people don’t have to be afraid of stigma if they want to smoke before getting a tattoo,” Maynard said. “I don’t want people to feel like they have to hide.”

He’s already started looking at spaces, and wants to call the shop Chronic Inc., he said.

He also wants to work with a local gallery to hopefully show his artwork in a more formal venue.

“It’s been my experience that in the marijuana sector, it’s really hard to make money as an artist,” Maynard said. “People at festivals, they’ll say ‘Oh, that’s really cool’ — but then they spend their money on pipes and things. I want this to be considered as serious art.”

Gallery bound?

Reid Trevarthen, a Vancouver artist and member of North Bank Artists Gallery, said that while the medium is a bit controversial, there’s no reason why it couldn’t show at a professional art gallery.

“I was impressed by the quality of his craftmanship,” Trevarthen said, after looking through some of Maynard’s work online. “He’s clearly very talented. As far as breaking into the mainstream, I think his medium is novel and relevant to enough people to get a strong foothold.”

Maynard could apply to North Bank, but Trevarthen said Portland may be a better market for a show, considering the medium.

“He would have to find the right gallery to display his work,” Trevarthen said. “For better or worse, I think Portland is a better option for a gallery show (for Maynard).”

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Over the years, Maynard’s images have become a lot more intricate, often with overlapping religious and political imagery coupled with images important to the cannabis community.

He’s also getting noticed more for his design work, Lauerman said, adding he’d love to see Maynard’s art in a gallery.

“The work he does is really amazing,” Lauerman said. “I’d just love to see it take off.”