What do you think of when you see the color blue? To me, it is the color of beginnings — of water and sky. Deep and moody, filled with possibility. My latest monoprint collage is a meditation on blue.
Water figures prominently is creation stories worldwide. At a time when I find myself impatient for progress and peace, both personally and globally, immersing myself in blues has been a calming practice.
Differing hues of blue play well together. We need justice, understanding and harmony everywhere. The summer in my small midwestern town has been punctuated with political turmoil at even our farmer’s market. At my work table, I focused on how my monoprints, cyanotypes and maps all played well together, with a tiny amount of fresh green at the center.
I usually work by myself in my home studio. Collaboration is difficult as my cats simply are not that motivated. During my recent workshop at Penland School of Craft I had several opportunities to collaborate with other artists. I found it to be both delightful and challenging.
The workshop was led by April Flanders, a professor at Appalachian State University, who creates large-scale installations using paper and printmaking. We also had a vastly qualified studio assistant in Lauren Kussro, who is a professor of art at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Both artists encouraged us to find ways to collaborate, seeing how the imagery of one person could compliment that of others.
Lauren and I embarked on a collaboration — each starting with one piece of paper. As we printed layers, we exchanged the papers back and forth. Collaboration One was created with monoprinting, stencils, screen printing and colored pencils. This one came home to live in my studio. I need to work on a better title.
Collaboration Two was created using monoprinting, poster board stencils, screen printing, frosted mylar (printed with both litho ink and screen printing) and paper cutting. Deciding to cut this work was very nerve-wracking, but I was pleased with the results. This one lives with Lauren in Houston. She said she was going to add some pencil work to it, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
April and Lauren also facilitated a broader collaboration with our entire studio. 11 x 11inch papers were posted on the gray fabric-covered display boards, inviting us to print something, or cut, or sew… The possibilities were infinite. The final prints were offered in the silent and live auctions at the end of the session, with the proceeds benefitting the Penland scholarship programs.
I’m not sure when I will have the opportunity to collaborate again, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Stay tuned!
Here are some snapshots of some of the new things I learned during my workshop at Penland School of Craft this summer. The class was filled with ideas of how you could push printmaking beyond the traditional. Rather than creating one finished idea, I spend much of my time trying things that were novel to me, and following ideas down rabbit holes…
I spent a good portion of time learning about screen printing. My last experience with screen printing was during my studies at IU, where we were limited to using drawing fluid and screen filler (think liquid clay here) to create imagery. Now I had access to an exposure unit, so I could create patterns using an opaquing pen, rubylith film or just plain thick paper stencils.
I also printed on everything except my studio mates. I am fascinated with translucent materials, so I worked on frosted mylar, as well as thin mulberry. I’m still working out the kinks of printing litho ink on the mylar, but screen printing works like a champ.
Now the question is how do I use this new-found knowledge? For now, my creations reside in a comfy box in my studio, quietly waiting for the next idea to germinate…
I’m about to depart for another workshop at Penland School of Craft. I went to a monoprinting workshop last summer with Andy Rubin, and it was transformative. This year’s workshop is with April Flanders entitled Singular Prints and Alternative Presentations.
The workshop promises to work with monotypes and screen printing, plus explore unusual ways of presenting the work — installations, sculptural prints and shadow boxes. Plus new techniques (to me) including paper cutting and sewing. With such an open-ended agenda, I’m tempted to bring everything from my studio — just in case. Restraint has prevailed, so here is what I’m taking to the workshop.
I’m also bringing lots of paper: Rives BFK, Stonehenge, Masa and Thai Unryu. Plus my pack of large tracing paper.
Now to pack lots of clothes, a rain coat and a clear mind….
It has finally stopped raining in the Ohio River Valley. Until a week ago, constant rain and heavy storms caused flooding in places that are nowhere near a river. Lake Monroe, built in the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, is doing its job. It is 13 feet about normal levels. Water is relentless.
My latest collage, Riparian Perseverance, had me pondering the differing effects of water on disparate places. East coast cities like Annapolis and Boston are experiencing flooding even on sunny days. Glaciers and snow fields are melting more rapidly up north. Everything around me is green, green, green as plants celebrate the abundance of moisture.
The pictures you take on vacation say a great deal about you. What are you interested in? What do you want to remember? My phone isn’t filled with the traditional sites, but rather with patterns and shapes I want to remember. A recent long weekend trip to Chicago yielded no “Bean” pictures; instead I focused my lens on patterns…
The Lurie Garden — part of Millenium Park — were ALIVE in late June. Plants of all sorts tried to fulfill their biological imperative by attracting insects of all types. Some species of blackbird was very offended by volunteers working nearby.
Buildings are just big mirrors
I did take a few photos of the many skyscrapers in Chicago. But here too, I’m not looking at a skyline, but rather how the buildings reflect the sky.
Images of the strange and obscure
I always have a few pictures that are purely for me to remember something unusual. The above leaf is from a plant in the Lincoln Park Conservatory. I have spent a great deal of time looking at leaf cells and the mathematical explanations for their formations. This is one I have never seem before. It looks less like a leaf, and more like a weaving pattern or WWII code. Sadly I forgot to take an image of its identification tag, so I may never know.
My vacation images tell me that besides being fascinated with all things pattern, I also want to see the commonalities that exist within nature. (It also says that I take abysmal selfies and don’t like to be in crowded places.)
One of the delights of this year’s Open Studios for me was being able to show people just how my monoprint collages go together. I would love to have a stop action video that shows the entire creation process, but the reality is that I am usually in the zone, and forget to start cameras, take images, etc.
I began a monoprint collage just before people arrived at my studio… Here is the work when finished. Follow along below to see some process photos and see if all makes sense to you.
The final work is an exploration of blues, punctuated by several warmer colors. I was delighted with the glow of the orange and chartreuse polygons.
A quick demo is needed
I was running late and quickly chose a map and two monoprints to use in my process explanation. I could show people the tracing paper I use to cut out the pieces, and how a few look when glued to the monoprint matrix paper.
After the Open Studios, I challenged myself to complete this monoprint collage. I expanded my palette to include a great street map of Boston, European driving maps and several atmospheric blue monoprints. I stepped back and felt like the work did not feel finished. There seemed to be an imbalance…
Cyanotypes to the rescue (again)
I had some practice cyanotypes, made from images that I took. When used on this work, the cyanotypes (which are usually thought of as greenish blue, look almost purply. I collaged them into the polygons that I had kept blank, and the work came together.
Scroll back up and see if you can find the cyanotypes.
Opening my studio is one of the best parts of making art. As a member of the Bloomington Open Studios Tour collaborative, I open my studio to guests once a year. In case you missed it, here are some highlights. A very special THANK YOU to painter Dawn Adams, who took these images.
My studio is in my home, a vintage 1976 four-level home. We transform our living room to a gallery space. This year I was joined by printmaker and book artist Mary Uthuppuru. The inclusion of 3D work and her infectious enthusiasm was a valuable addition to the weekend.
In the studio downstairs, Mary and I displayed blocks in process. Here I have a block carved into linoleum (mounted on MDF.) Mary is creating a two-block image using MDF as the block itself.
Seeing how the monoprint collage is made
I was able to show visitors the components that go into my monoprint collages. I had both blank polycarbonate plates and one with a 1/16in chart tape matrix. People could see the tracing paper guides that I use for the irregular pieces, and touch the maps and monoprints that make up the material of the collages. Seeing things in process helped many people understand how I do what I do.
Collaborative collage takes over the studio
On the glass ink table, visitors had the opportunity to participate in a group collage. Monoprints, maps and handmade papers were available, along with tracing paper, scissors and glue sticks. A matrix was created with a square of Rives BFK and a Sharpie. People were encourages to collage some pieces onto the Rives. Mary is turning this collage into a creation that will be “auctioned” off on social media.
Whew! Another studio tours is complete. I talk more in this weekend than I do in a month at home in my studio. Sharing my work and talking with new visitors and familiar friends is such a gift to someone who creates mostly in isolation.
Time to put things away and get on to the new project!
Please note: This blog post has nothing to do with the U.S. 2016 presidential election nor the 2018 Saints – Rams NFL division championship. It has to do with interference of light waves, and how this is seen in art and nature. Have I lost you yet? Do read on…
Reflectivity is a 2D artist’s attempt at dimension
In many of my monoprints, I include some tiny bits of gold leaf. In Aqua Pura, I didn’t feel like it needed gold’s warm tones, but it did need something reflective. Why did I think this? I was not an overly feminine child and own very little bling as an adult. My only thought is that some reflectivity of light on a 2D work makes it feel less flat. Perhaps there is a 3D artist hiding inside. I’m hoping to let her out later this summer at another Penland workshop… (more about that later.)
Interference pigment is magical
I’ve had some interference pigment for a few years. I had intended to make my own encaustic printmaking sticks, and that hasn’t happened — yet. Usually this pigment is added to a binder or to another paint. I used mine straight out of the container, binding it to the paper with gold leaf sizing. I just let the sizing dry for an hour as usual, and then gently painted on the pigment over the sizing areas.
Artists Network explains: “These pigments are not particles but flakes of mica, usually coated with a microscopically thin layer of titanium dioxide pigment.” It is incredibly fine, so I am careful to put it on gently, and brush it off the work out of doors. I painted mine over white paper (with white sizing) so the result is that at one angle it looks like a soft white, and at another angle it is a brilliant cobalt blue.
You can always tell an artist. We are the people who have our noses inches from a work of art with the security guard rushing in to restrain us. We just like to know the “how” of creating. Often we cannot discern the artist’s secrets… In this blog, I’ve revealed one of the ways I keep track of my patterns — tracing paper.
I have been a huge fan of tracing paper for my entire artistic life. Since you can’t scrape away the paint from works on paper, tracing paper lets you estimate what things would look like if you took the next step. In my linocuts, tracing paper helped me determine my next layer of cutting, or forecast what a certain color would look like when printed mid-linocut.
Tracing paper is the ultimate guide
For my monoprint collages, tracing paper has an even more important job. After my monoprint matrix is dry, I get to plan what areas I will collage to create my patterns. I create a sort of template, where I trace around each shape that I want to collage with a monoprint or a map. I then use this template and a very sharp Exacto knife to cut the individual pieces.
Several of my latest monoprints make for confusing cutting. In Celestial Orb (above) I have linear segments that spiral out from the center in one direction. The segments in this collage are unbroken dark blue.
All of the collaged segments spiral in the opposite direction. I do this intentionally, because I want the piece to have a feeling of movement and energy. The trouble is that if I’m not careful, I will cut the sections going parallel to the dark blue segments. Not the same intense feelings.
Enter the humble tracing paper. Arrows now point in the direction of the collage run. Small “x’s” remind me that nothing goes here. The result is better fitting collage pieces, and few artist tears.
What do you use tracing paper for in your artistic practice? Or in your daily life? You never know how useful it may be.