What if you have artwork with the brightness of stained-glass on an interior wall? And what if it could be made with lightweight paper instead of heavy glass? My monoprint collage Cosmos has the look of a modern stained-glass window, with blues and oranges that make me think of Marc Chagall.
To create Cosmos, I modified a huge 36 x 24 inch monoprint plate I had used for other collages. I took away half of the lines, allowing large pieces of my collage elements to be viewed. I limited myself to three tones of blue, plus some white and a hint of orange. The pattern is a global projection that is usually viewed horizontally, but I decided to place it vertically, as with most stained-glass windows.
When you begin to learn about printmaking at a university, there are many rules. Some are for safety — avoid catching your hand under the press roller, don’t splash the acid, etc. You also learn how to create an edition where each print should be virtually identical. Use wheat paste for chine collé (collage) work. More rules…
If I am honest, I have been enjoying printmaking so much more, now that I’m breaking the rules.
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.
“Oh, I just love the maps,” say many people upon seeing my latest collages. I confess that I too am a map lover — or more properly a cartophile. I saved a box of old road maps for nearly 15 years before I found their perfect use.
New (to me) maps came my way recently thanks to a friend and the IU Surplus Store. The maps were decommissioned from the Indiana University branch of the U.S. Geological Survey, and feature geological features from around the United States. As I sorted amongst these dusty gems for several hours, I began to wonder, why DO we love maps so much?
All of my monoprint collages have a theme or purpose. Sometimes I begin with the purpose in mind, and other times it evolves with the piece. Then I have to create a title that fully encapsulates the purpose of the work. Easy right? In fact, titles can be troublesome.
One thing I love about creating monoprint collages is how open-ended the process can be. I print the polycarbonate matrix in particular colors and wait for inspiration to come. A large plate (24 x 36in) was covered in tiny tape (1/16 inch chart tape) and printed with bright citrine green and teal blues. All I could think of was rhythm and energy. After several weeks, Inception emerged. (Be sure to click on the image and scroll down for a close-up. This collage is large!)
I have been appreciating colorful collage papers for decades, thanks in part to Eric Carle. While many famous artists create collages using found images from the greater media world, Eric Carle created his work with papers that he painted. Take a look at your copy (or your child’s copy) of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to see Carle’s genius in the use of pattern and color.
Monoprints on monoprints on monoprints
With the exception of some old road and geological maps, everything I have been using in my monoprint collages comes from a monoprint itself. The image below shows a detail of a 24 x 36 inch monoprint collage I have been working on. With my exacto knife in one hand, and my paintbrush with matte medium in the other, small squares of other monoprints become part of a larger work.
This week tiny tape makes it debut in my creation of monoprint collages. I used black 1/16 inch chart tape from Dick Blick and was pleasantly surprised at how well the tape behaved. To make sure the tape sticks well, I always clean the plate with denatured alcohol to remove any grease before taping. I also run the taped uninked plate through the press with several layers of newsprint to make sure everything stays stuck down. Continue reading “Tiny tape makes it debut”
For creative people, trying something new can be absolutely necessary. And tremendously difficult. Perhaps you are one who can keep creating similar works with similar themes, but I am not. Following my “what if” questions down rabbit holes is what keeps me creating artwork instead of more regular and lucrative endeavors.
When to ignore that voice
I have had several conversations with artists lately who mention a new direction, but then quickly follow this with “but it is not what I DO.” This is one of the comments that I try to reject when it comes up in my subconscious, and this summer it has been a frequent visitor…
If you had met me up until July of this year, I would have told you that I was a printmaker who made large-scale linocut reductions. Period. I have occasionally printed on stained silk, all the while wondering if this was “allowed.” Part of this thinking comes from the rules and regulations of shows and festivals. I understand the need for boundaries, but mostly I think these constraints lead to limited art.
Following the idea no matter what…
I remember my first day at a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts where I told a fellow classmate that I just didn’t understand collage. It wasn’t what I do… A few days later, I felt compelled to collage elements onto a monoprint I had created that didn’t feel finished. Silencing my “rules” voice, I began and haven’t looked back. Now I can’t wait to get back to my latest monoprint collage. My drawing table in the main room of our home is continually surrounded by bits of cut paper. Thankfully my family is tolerant, and the cats love sitting on the papers.
What is something that you are dying to try? Do you have a voice that says, for example — “no I’m a painter, I don’t work three dimensionally?”
I visited the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing (Washington, DC) recently and was delighted to find that the tower with Henri Matisse’s paper cut-outs was open. (The tower has limited hours in the middle of the day to protect the paper, but is well worth planning to see.) I have visited Matisse’s works since the museum opened in 1973. I even had a reproduction of Large Decoration with Masks (Henri Matisse, 1953) on my childhood bedroom wall.
Matisse was a painter and sculptor throughout the majority of his life. He did use paper cut-outs as templates for larger scenery commissions, but it was after a cancer surgery in 1941 that he fully embraced paper cut-outs as a complete art form. Imagine how he must have felt to be confined to bed or a chair, unable to physically do the work that had defined his life. Under his direction, assistants created brightly-hued gouache-covered papers that he then cut into the shapes that are now so obviously his. Little did I know that forty-five years after seeing his cut-outs, I would give myself permission to create with paper myself.
Thankfully, Matisse ignored whatever critical voices he might have had (from himself or others.)
Is there something that has been calling you?
Why not just do it? Share it with us as a comment!
It may make all the difference.
I first experienced Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at the Church of St. Stephan in Mainz, Germany. (Read more about these windows here.) I love the energetic quality of Chagall’s work that seems to draw you — almost physically — into his world.
I created a spiraling monoprint matrix with 1/8 inch painter’s tape, and set out to see where my monoprinting would take me. The following suite of monoprint collages were created with Chagall’s energy and love of color in mind.