The tenuous balance between variety and unity continues to challenge me. In my monoprint collages, I begin with a monoprinted matrix — the beginnings of unity. But as I add different elements — vintage maps, monoprints, monoprinted maps — too much variety can be, well, too much.Continue reading “Searching for Unity”
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.
Clouds move. They may appear static, but they are really being driven by wind — a force which we cannot see. In my latest linocut, I play with repetition in the form of a diptych to think about cloud movement as an illustration of that that illusive wind.
Repetition and two images are the key
As I noted in a previous blog, a diptych is a pair of images that are created to be displayed together. Here I chose to stagger the same long cloud formation, where part of it is somewhat repeated in each image. I was not concerned with making this repetition apparent, so you can only see the actual repetition in a few places. What I wanted you to see is your eye perceiving separate frames, like Eadweard Muybridge’s famous running horse demonstration.
If one is good, two must be better. My latest linocut, Iridescent Argosy, is comprised of two 24 x 13in blocks that are intended to be framed separately, but be hung close together to create one display. This is my version of a contemporary diptych.
The origins of the diptych begin in antiquity, when lesson books were two wax-coated plates linked with a hinge. Later, low relief artwork that was related in topic was used. In the Middle Ages, clergy began using this format, allowing for the safe transport of icons. Several famous altar pieces are actually three joined panels, or a triptych. In these examples, one side was related to the other, but each side could also stand alone.
A modern version of the diptych
My interest in the diptych was inspired by printmaker and painter Yvonne Jacquette. (Follow this link to see a 2016 interview with the artist.) In her woodcut Hudson River Diptych, Jacquette uses two blocks slightly separated to show the expanse of a harbor scene. For me, this artistic choice emphasizes the vastness of the subject, and also gives the feeling of gazing through a window into a different world.
Using two blocks is also logistically helpful in some ways. Smaller blocks are easier on my hands and elbows, and smaller paper and framing materials are less expensive. But I’m mostly drawn to the notion that this image was just too expansive to be contained within one frame.
And now I can spell diptych…
Ideas for new linocuts are all around me — in the sky, in my phone, in my sketchbook. I go through quite a process to determine if something is worthy of a new linoleum block. Many ideas don’t make it very far. Luckily I was treated to an incredible sight a few weeks ago that was perfect for my next linocut. Here is a quick recap of how I began:
Inspiration after perspiration
One Thursday morning I was walking out of my rowing class and was treated to this site. They are called altocumulus undulatus. I filled my phone with imagery from all angles. At home, I printed out some of these images on 11 x 17 inch photo paper so I could get a better sense of how the pattern would look if it was larger. Some patterns expand well, and others lose their appeal.
Prismacolor helps my planning.
From here I laid out all of the photographs and did some sketches, including some with colored pencils. Although I am not using the pencils in the exact layering technique that I will with my inks, the pencils do help me think about what colors are possible. I love Prismacolor pencils for this task because they have rich pigments and blend together on the page.
Almost ready for the first marks
After I created a final drawing, I used a large sheet of tracing paper and an 8B pencil to create my own carbon copy. Here I’ve transferred the darkest part of the clouds, but I still have to judge which part will be the white area. If I carved away all of the areas that are without graphite, the linocut would have too much white and would appear only two-dimensional.
New color and an old friend
Pygmalion’s Art Supply in downtown Bloomington, IN has a new custom color created each year by their staff, and the proceeds from the pigment sales go to a local organization. I have just a bit left of last year’s Saffron, and use it with a touch of Red Rhino Red to create the glowing orange for the first layer.
I admit that printing light orange over the entire block is a bit daring in a linocut that will also feature blue. But that is all part of the adventure of printing…
I leave you with my very first video filmed with my new Iphone tripod. As February turns to March, my thoughts turn to the Good Humor truck and an icy Dreamsicle. (Don’t drool on your keyboard or phone…)
Sometimes it feels good to break the rules. Printmaking has many of them — perfect alignment, clean edges, no brayer marks. I had tried breaking some rules by working with the dyed silk, and even though this experiment did not work, I couldn’t let my key block image go. So I’ve decided to break some more rules in the search for blended, variegated colors.
I enjoy getting lost in cities — at least on foot. I delight in the unexpected finds that are off the typical tourist trail. But sometimes life demands a predetermined order, and my life has felt like that of late. I have been wanting to do another linocut featuring the undulating forms of rice paddies, and my current project demands structure in the form of a key block.
For printmaker who use multiple blocks, a key block is a familiar element. In Japanese printmaking — especially Ukiyo-e — the key block carries all of the final graphic information and is usually printed last in a dark color. Printmakers will also use this block to transfer information to other blocks so they will know where to carve away for each color block. April Vollmer has written a terrific book on Japanese printmaking called Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop if you want to read more about this technique.
No key blocks for reduction printmaking
I never use key blocks with reduction printmaking. First, remember that I am only using one block. Sometimes the final stage of a block will look as though it is a key block, as I usually print the darkest color last. But I didn’t start with this last stage in mind; rather, the block evolved throughout the process.
My latest linocut has a key block though. I will be using hand dyed silk to create the floating world imagery that my imagination has been clinging to. With these dyes and the silk, colors can flow easily into one another in way that is impossible to create using my typical techniques. The large blocks of dark ink are where I am considering having some rice that remains to be harvested, while the other areas are reflected water.
Carving as therapy
Carving a key block during this particular week has been a tonic. It is my equivalent of cleaning my house — a repetitive activity that has a tangible result at its end, but requires reduced thinking during the process. Like a working meditation, my mind can wander, my breath can slow.
Now I wait for longer paper to be delivered and prepare to allow the silk dyes to flow unimpeded through the fabric. A peaceful process for a peaceful image.
Perspective is everything. I’m not just talking about two or three point perspective here, but also the question of “Why do you do what you do?” What is your motivation? This is a question ask of every linocut I undertake.
Using my imaginary view finder
In all of my linocuts, I take a subject matter that is familiar and try to look at it through a different view finder. Take your thumbs and pointer fingers into L-shapes and make a square. When you crop the scene, how does it change your experience of the subject matter? I am most struck by how I experience topography, especially when viewed through the window of an airplane.