I’ve tried to explore composition in my workshops. I’ve talked about the importance of color in prints, but it can actually be ignored, at least at first, as black and white prints are not unusual, and to some quite distinctive and attractive. But basic composition skills are hard to do without. I’m reading a book by Molly Bang called Picture This. It’s been around awhile, though this is the first I’ve encountered it. The 25th Anniversary edition’s cover blurb calls it “The Strunk and White of visual literacy.”
Never mind that Strunk and White has been often challenged as too rigid for some writers. I’m enjoying Picture This, which in some ways mirrors things I’ve emphasized in classes, and which in others mirrors only its author’s favored methods. I’m sure I’ll add parts of it to my own discussions. Her simple cut-paper illustrations seem tailor made for graphics, where much is accomplished with little in the way of detail. Her emphasis is on the emotional content of a composition, which I think beginners are often unaware of.
I’ve finalized all the fall workshops and it’s a busy autumn. I start with Monotype Portfolio, my newly renamed intermediate class, on September 11, and go to Schlessman Family Library for my first DPL drop-in workshop two days later. The session continues through mid-December.
All are built around conversation and creative growth. All have spaces left, but some are filling fast. You can go online to register here.
Art Students League Workshops:
Monotype Portfolio: Intended for those who’ve had a previous printmaking class, or perhaps some art school experience, and who need to work out a series or new idea, or just a print room refresher. Next one starts Sept 11 and is filling rather quickly.
Monotype Starter: Intended as a step-by-step tutorial on the basics of printing and print room protocol. You will be certified to use the room independently upon completion. Two sessions, a Tuesday morning, 9-12:30, beginning October 9; and a Thursday evening, 6-9:30 that runs for 4 weeks bookended around Thanksgiving and is filling quite quickly), beginning November 9. It ends in time for the busy holidays.
My Monotype Blast workshop, November 11, 9-4 PM, comes just in time for Denver Arts Week, as well as holiday giving: it’s possible for some to get 6-8 small prints done for use as creative stocking stuffers.
I also have a very affordable three-hour Moxie U sampler on November 2 that’ll help you decide if the whole squishin’-ink-onto-paper-with-a-press-thing is right for you; it’s light on technical procedures as I do most of that ahead, so you can just make monotypes. Register by Election Day.
Denver Public Library Workshops
Library workshops are drop-in style, kept very simple because I get a lot of kids-I encourage family participation, as the kids really do well when Mom or Dad is there. Again, this is a good sampler event, especially if you are curious about water-based inks, which we use. They are free and open to the public, so c’mon down and say hello.
A full schedule of the Fall dates is here, on my workshop page. They’ll continue in Winter/Spring 2018. I’ll post more info on these and other events, such as demos and talks, as soon as they get scheduled. Feel free to email, or comment here, if you have questions about any of them.
I’ve spent the last few weeks either working long hours at my temp job at DU, or on the couch reading under a blanket in the frigid, dark days. I got a lot of reading done, so I’m posting more mini-reviews today. Now it’s getting noticeably brighter, the job is done, and I’m getting back into a creative routine.
Free Workshops at Denver Public Library
I’m catching up on the blog and posting my next few free DPL workshops, including the first, this week at Ross-Barnum Branch, 3570 W. 1st Ave from 6-7:30 PM. These are open to the public, with children above 8 yo to adult probably getting the most benefit. They are drop-in style, so don’t worry if you are not there at the start, though that’s when I demo the process. The schedule confirmed so far is posted here.
8-Week full Workshop at the Art Students League
Still haven’t found a part time job, but will push on with the workshops and making larger work. My regular Spring 8-week workshop begins February 24, so don’t miss out. This is a far more comprehensive class, intended to walk you through not only basic technical processes, but the creative process as well. You can avoid dead ends and find fresh ideas through the use of multiple variations of “ghost” prints, second impressions of the remaining ink on a monotype plate- it’s like getting a free print and another shot at your original idea. You can get a small preview and ask me questions at one of the free DPL sessions. Or register here.
On to the books:
You’ll notice quite a few comics in here. First, the DPL has really upped its game on carrying interesting, literary comics, so one can catch up on intriguing titles without busting one’s budget. Browse when you come to the monotype workshop! There’s been a lot of publishing activity in this category, and it’s hard to find cash for anything but my absolute must-haves. When I do buy, I find Kilgore’s Books on 13th Avenue to be my go-to stop (at the risk of ruining my ‘favorit fishin’ hole’, but they really do deserve credit for knowing and buying the best publishers and authors!) Some of my thoughts on comics history in general are here, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of Richard McGuire’s Here, which looks to be another breakthrough for comics into the publishing mainstream. I’ll review it next month along with some other items which didn’t fit here.
New School by Dash Shaw
Few artists in any visual medium are pushing boundaries like Shaw. His raw brush work is often superimposed on acidic, free-range color fields, untethered to any specific imagery; or even photos of clouds, flowers, etc. This has the effect of creating unexpected emotional vistas in a story that hovers surreally between sci-fi thriller and teen sexual awakening drama. If this one just looks too odd for your taste, try the earlier BodyWorld.
by Andreas Campomar
This book, like “The Ball is Round”, seeks to explicate a cultural history of a people ( in this case, South Americans) through the story of their football. To a lover of both football and cultural histories, this story is meat and potatoes, and well told here. To casual footy fans, there may be a bit too much of the various tournament summaries, though the tale of tiny Uruguay’s supremacy in early World Cups and before that, in Olympics, which then served as football’s world championship, is essential.
Nor can these stylish triumphs be separated, Campomar argues convincingly, from Uruguay’s prosperous democracy of the time. Similarly, the advent of brutal military dictatorships in Latin America often went hand in hand with the continent’s dark turn toward cynical, negative “anti-football”.
Read it before the Centenario tournament ( celebrating the 100th year of South American championship), to be held in the US in 2016. At some point, the two Americas may merge, in a football sense; and this is yet another book to explain why football is really the only game that matters in the world.
V for Vendetta
by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Hacker collective Anonymous’ appropriation of the Guy Fawkes imagery, plus Alan Moore’s complex legacy as comics’ greatest auteur, made this early 80’s graphic novel essential reading for me. I had waited far too long to pick it up, and wondered how coherently it dovetailed with Anonymous’ libertarian/anarchist representation, and how well it fit in with Moore’s own very original, often metafictional ouevre. It does not disappoint, in the same way that “Watchmen”, “From Hell” and “Promethea” do not disappoint: they are all brilliant, though eccentric, examinations of the relationship of man/woman to the State.
The difference in this early effort is in the pacing. It was mostly completed in Britain before Moore arrived on these shores to begin his ground breaking Swamp Thing run at DC, and prior to “Watchmen”, where a fascination with metafictional storytelling (i.e, “Superheroes as government-regulated vigilantes”, “Super heroine as goddess of storytelling”, etc) set in. This sometimes has lead to overwrought, didactic story lines, and over-designed illustration. Here, though, the story is direct and driving, with David Lloyd’s stark, stripped down panels, awash in blacks and crepuscular violets giving the whole thing a noir-ish Golden Age Batman sort of air. Moore’s crank-ish comic book libertarianism is here too, but tidily contained in a near-future fascist England, though an Orwellian computer system has jumped the pages and can definitely be seen as an inspiration for real world Anonymous.
Convoluted politics aside, it’s a great read.
Why Read Moby-Dick?
by Nathaniel Philbrick
A nice little book of short ruminations on various aspects of Moby-Dick. There are nuggets about Melville’s career, including a running discussion of his friendship with Hawthorne. Themes of the book are raised, and though not an exhaustive examination in the manner of a critical essay, they are thought provoking enough, and free of the academic/critical jargon that sometimes clots discussion of literary landmarks such as this. It’s hard to resist a book like this.
White Cube by Brecht Vandenbroucke
I had completely missed this early 2014 release and was glad I spied it on the coldest night of the year when no one (wisely) attended a workshop I was hosting at Ross-Barnum Library. These faux-primitive 1- and 2-page cartoons concern two guys coming to terms with, or sometimes cleverly modifying, even hilariously destroying, the modern art they encounter at the White Cube, a typical modernist gallery. Very witty, even conceptual gags about the art, but also about social media. The pair are seen running from the security guard after painting a Facebook-style thumb’s up ‘Like’ sign on a critically-approved White Cube acquisition.
The General and the Jaguar: Pershing’s Hunt for Pancho Villa: A True Story of Revolution & Revenge
by Eileen Welsome
A book that gets to the heart of the long-running enmity between Mexico and the USA. It is all here- the violence and savagery that seems to plague the Mexican people, and the prejudice and high-handedness of Americans and their government. The story is grippingly told. Pancho Villa’s campaign against Mexico’s military government found favor in US circles until pre WWI exigencies compelled Woodrow Wilson to recognize Carranza, the dictator. Betrayed, Villa vowed to take his forces against US citizens. The result was a brutal attack on Columbus, NM, and a punitive expedition into Mexico led by John Pershing, later to lead US forces in WWI Europe.
Conceived as a face-saving gesture by Wilson, but as a prelude to US expansion into Northern Mexico by Pershing and the Manifest Destiny adherents, the invasion into Chihuahua quickly turned into a misadventure. Porfirio Diaz, whom the revolution supplanted as Mexico’s leader, once said “Poor Mexico- so far from God, so close to the USA.” Pancho Villa seemed to embody this tragic irony, though it was not Pershing or the US that finally defeated him.
This isn’t a particularly good photo- and that’s kind of why I posted it. Because it’s also not a particularly good print. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited by some of the things going on here, but the whole spirit of my studio work this Fall is to try different experiments, so I never really considered this a ‘finished” idea.
On the plus side, it’s got some new imagery and taps into some fairly successful metaphorical landscape work I’ve done in the past, along with some jazzy color. On the downside, a lot of the new imagery is just sort of strewn haphazardly about without any room to breathe and develop, and the color and composition don’t break any new ground for me. The values in the floating chair image are pretty clunky, too.
I also- and this happens more than I care to admit- walked into the studio with the intention of trying some interiors for a change, but fell back into landscape mode, with the exception of the floor-boardy black lines and the chair. I expect elements of this print to reappear, but it’s more of a distracted Autumn daydream at this point. Not all experiments turn out brilliantly; that’s why they are experiments.
I’m posting this pic of a collaboration I did with ceramic artist Donna Schnitzer for a show at Republic Plaza called Interplay. It was designed to hightlight the professional artist/ mentor-to- student relationships the Art Students League of Denver wants to encourage.
In this case, Donna is a long time, very experienced professional ceramic artist herself who just happened to want to branch out into printmaking and so my role originally was to suggest techniques that might facilitate her natural creative vision. Then when we went to collaborate, we adopted a call/response sort of procedure where one would start a print, then pass it off to the other after chatting about ways to approach it, and so on. There were several false starts, but ultimately we came up with 6-7 pieces we both liked, and 2 were chosen by curator Andra Archer for the show, one of which sold immediately. Some of the ideas we tried will be seen in future works of mine.
The show is up and open to the public in the Republic Plaza lobby through Nov. 20. Let me know if you’d like me to meet you there. Apologies for the picture quality, but we were on a very tight schedule and never had a chance to get it shot nicely. It’s printed in 4-5 layers on tan 22×30″ Rives paper. I’ve forgotten the title, and will update the post when I get it. Many thanks to my delightfully feisty collaborative partner Donna for a very productive and thought provoking summer project!
Large work has been a priority for me last Fall, and didn’t happen quite as much as I’d like, so I extended “printing season” into December. I went down to Open Press ( a somewhat legendary print studio in Denver ) and started on 2 30×42” monotypes, one of which was completed, and will be in a 25th Anniversary Open Press Show. It’s easier to work on 2 pieces at once, with the second being a ghost of the 1st run-through (“drop”) of the first. This gives me more options or ways forward if one goes wrong, or needs extra attention, especially if I’m on a deadline. And it worked- I got a nice monotype on the 2nd variation, applying a new layer over the top, then leaving the 1st variation, which was meant to have 1 drop, but needed two, for a head start on January’s return to studio.
The need to keep a good inventory of small work ( for cash flow purposes) and attend to other, business-side issues (such as this website) really make it hard to carve out the “large” blocks of time needed for work over 22×30″. So I’ve decided I will keep going in at least once a month and working on large work, so I can have an inventory by November. This is how most things work for me. I even made a “schedule” of time blocks for such things as Social Media, Web and Framing. I don’t always stick to it, especially when picking up temp jobs for extra cash, but it does tend to keep vital tasks from getting lost in the shuffle.
I’m also working on Month of Printmaking (#MoPrint 2014). MoPrint is intended to showcase, on a biennial basis, the large, diverse and exciting range of printmaking being produced in the Denver Metro region, and in Colorado at large. It will be a great event to be a part of, so it’s good I was able to squeeze in the extra working time. I’m helping with a Studio Tour on March 29, as well as contributing to Social Media.
It will run from Feb 28, 2014, through March and even into April, and the Open Press 25th Anniversary show at McNichols building in the 3rd floor gallery will be the kick off party , though the show is available for viewing on Saturdays, 10-2 PM from January 11th on. Thanks to a generous donor there will be a nice catalog, too.
It will feature a multitude of gallery shows, studio demos and special events intended to allow those interested in this rich yet often ignored medium to learn first hand and up close what Denver printmakers and print studios have to offer. Here’s a link: http://moprint.org/ You can upload your own event there.
I’ll post an image of the larger works when I receive a file from the photographer. In the mean time, above is a smaller one as a preview of sorts.
I’ve been layering Mylar stencils for transparencies, spatial density and complex colors. I hope for rich interactions of negative and positive space, with new visual textures. But a real danger can be overworked, cramped images. Planning becomes an issue.
Good, rich color often involves planning, with transparency and color designs interacting in fresh ways when planning works but becoming muddy or overbearing when it doesn’t. Spontaneity for me, is in the soul of a monotype. Hit it just right, and you get a richness combined with graphic power that people understand as its own unique medium. Overwork it in trying to correct for texture, registration or tonality, and you only make them wonder why you didn’t use paints or colored pencils, anything more controllable.
This image highlights that delicate ballancing act. The first image above, “Superheroine with Burning Boat “ had real potential after one drop, but was fragmentary and lacked real depth. That, along with a tighter, more integrated (meaning less random) blue/orange tonality.
The second, below, I tried to add a unifying, transparent dark blue over the oranges in the waves but succeeded only in confusing the issue with a heavy blue /black. The trees of the ship are better but still lack any real depth or unity. It still has potential, but needs another layer, though it is dangerously close to being overworked. I’ll keep you posted on this one.
However, this is a time for experimentation for me and the overall idea seems good. Perhaps a more open, less claustrophobic composition, and a lighter touch on the colors might be a good thing. Thoughts?
I have another series of “stage” progressions I’ll post later in the week or next week. It’s one that seems to be coming together more successfully.
Some shots of my Zip 37 show with fellow Monotype artist Randy Hughes. It was a fun opening with quite a few visitors since then.
I’ve been writing a post about color, as it has seemed to pop up in my work lately, but as always, it has bogged down a bit it the first draft state. Soon!
I posted a brand new Monotype that features brush work, something I haven’t done in a while. I’ve also been experimenting with mylar inserts and stencils. I cut simple shapes out of mylar, ink them, and lay them into the image, which in these examples is often made with a brayer (ink roller). This creates a hard edged, graphic, somewhat cartoon or designerly look.
I try to contrast that with the brayer effects which tend to be more painterly and soft edged, though I also use the edges of the mylar as a stencil for other harder-edged lines. In some cases, soft, almost watercolor-like ghost images from the earlier prints are layered with the darker, harder edged inks in a second “drop”, or run through the press.
These are mostly small (12×16″) studies that I hope to refine and use in larger prints. Let me know what you think. I try to answer each comment, though it sometimes takes a little while.
Welcome to JoeHigginsMonotypes.com. It’s taken a while longer to get up and running than I anticipated. This is partly due to a wicked busy schedule, and partly due to just not being savvy enough to navigate WordPress’ rather clunky, but undeniably cost-effective software.
As you see, the site is a rather skeletal affair right now. But I’ll add more each week, including a “Contact me” form, some downloadable publicity materials, many more pictures, and eventually, a way to actually buy them.
The main obstacle to going live has been importing my Blogger blog “Squishtoid” into this site. It actually turned out to be easier than say, changing font sizes, a frustrating fact that has to do with the fact that WordPress software is free and open source. “Free” means no money for the fancy, drag and drop, WYSIWYG software that one can buy from Adobe, etc. “Open Source” means anyone can create related software. The software widget for importing another blog turned out to be easy to use. The software for easily changing the look and feel of one’s site, not so much.
But eventually, even the most tech-challenged artist can learn the basics, and the pickiest of design geeks can learn… to accept the glitches and things that one cannot change. I will go more into detail on the process for those who may want to venture into it when I’m closer to a finished product, with a bit more perspective. Suffice it to say, if I can do it, anyone can. And in less than 4 months, probably.
May is a very busy month for me, so how many more wings I’ll be adding on to my humble home (page) right now I can’t say. But I will definitely try to keep you up to date on shows, workshops and studio doings here. And the blog is searchable, so many images and rambling thoughts are available there. In June and July, I’ll get back to site construction.