I took, at the invitation of the school, a couple of workshops taught by Henrik Boegh, a Danish Master Printer in non-toxic intaglio. Intaglio is a traditional word for etching- it means, roughly, ‘cutting into’. It’s a different medium than monotype, a very simple process of making an ink picture on a smooth plane and then transferring it to paper. For one thing it’s repeatable, as indicated by larger edition numbers, such as 1,2 or 3/10, etc. (Monotypes, unique one-of-a-kind prints, often are designated 1/1).
There were two 3-day workshops on different aspects of etching. Photo-polymer etching was the first. One uses a light source (including the sun) to expose an image onto a polymer film, then hardens it, and prints it like a traditional etching plate (that is to say: put ink on, wipe off the excess until only the etched lines have ink, and run through a hand press.) I’ve done this often with prepared plates, such as Solar Plates, invented by Dan Welden. Here one actually prepares the plate.
The second was the more traditional, centuries-old process of etching lines and tones into a metal plate. Here a whole range of non-toxic, or perhaps more accurately, relatively less toxic, materials were used instead of the highly toxic acids and oil-based grounds that we learned about in school. These are acrylic grounds of various types, some specialized, others using common materials (such as Johnson Floor Wax!)
The whole idea of the League offering this workshop to me and a couple of other instructors is that we would eventually teach it, expanding the school’s offerings into safer processes. So in October, we three will be meeting to process the large amount of new techniques and get on the same page before new classes and workshops start in Spring. Eventually, though traditional methods will continue to be taught at the school, toxic etching materials will be replaced.
Here is an image I made of one process during the workshop. More rough sketch than finished art, this test proof was made to see how well I’d used various ink drawing, washes and scratchings on a photo plate. But it relates to some themes I’ve been exploring about (mental) brambles and undeveloped wilderness, so I may try to clean it up as a finished piece soon, while working on my technique. I’ll post more as I go along.
I’ve got a brief break for writing and studio work after finishing up two workshops. One was my Monotype Portfolio summer evening class, which went well; I’ll post a nice image from that soon. The other was my Wednesday morning workshop with the women of The Gathering Place, a day shelter for homeless women. It was a wake-up but a joy, for several reasons.
I love a morning class anyway. You get to start off the day with conversations on creativity, it really puts a hopeful spin on things. The perspective of the whole day changes to one of possibility. Also, the women there, despite their many struggles, are talented. All of us need to see reminders of the humanity in everyone, whether fortunate ( Yes, I’m grateful) or not, and art provides that.
And I felt welcomed there- The staff and clients made me feel valued- a contributor for hope. At some point, I really began to buy into that hope. I began to ask myself how I might help advance the hopes of others. TGP is not surprisingly situated at the epicenter of this city’s exploding homeless population. Eat day I went there, I walked or rode through the hordes of much less fortunate people that our current failing politics seeks to ignore.
That brings me to the point of the post, not the art we made in class, which was mostly fairly simple processes which in some cases led to spectacular results. As I said, there were some talented artists here, and I’ll post some of those below.
But the cat above is not from the class. It’s part of a separate Gathering Place project I’d like you to know about: Their card project which allows down on their luck women to make money from their talent for art and making. I got this one, with some nice notes written inside, as a thank you for teaching the workshop, and it’ll be treasured along with some other artworks and notes I’ve received over the years. I wish the picture showed it better- it’s drawn in a sort of sparkly colored ink!
By Purchasing this piece of handcrafted original art, you are making a difference in the life of an individual who is experiencing homelessness or poverty. 75% of the revenue generated for The Gathering Place by the sale of this card will be returned to the individual artist.
-back of the card
Many of the artists were pondering how the simple relief prints we did could be incorporated into The Card Project, which made me feel very happy. Have I contributed in a small way?
As you might imagine, The Gathering Place is not really open to the public. But you can visit, and see all of these hundreds of cards at affordable prices by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 303.996.9068. We’ve all been feeling a bit knocked around since November 2016. Soon, we get to vote, but we can also pay it forward a little.
Again, SAM! The Art Students League Summer Art Market posters are out, and guess who’s the poster child? It’s a reward for winning “Best of Show” in 2017. I’ll be there again this year in booth, number 97, on Grant St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
I’ll have new work, as well as some older stuff from the flat files, at older prices. And I’m giving signed SAM posters, while they last, with every purchase of $150 or more. I have enough for a typical show, though I’ve had shows where they wouldn’t have made it to Sunday afternoon, so get there early, as I’m not sure if I can get more.The League will also have them available for a donation in their booth.
In addition, I’ll have a few copies of the beautiful catalog for the now dearly departed Open Press’ 2014 25th Anniversary show. 9×12”, 64 pgs, with over 50 of the best printmakers from Denver and beyond, including moi ( Really, Nick Cave is in there, along with Dale Chisman and Joellyn Duesbury). These are signed and free with any purchase of $400 or more.
SAM is a classic, and a real social scene, featuring 180 artists and the first blast of summer. I hope you’ll come down!
Classes: I’ll have three this summer, and the first, Monotype Starter, June 19- July 10 is already full. You can call the League to get on a waiting list in case of last minute drop outs, which are common.
The other two, Monotype Portfolio, July 24-August 21, for experienced printmakers, and Monotype Blast, an all day Saturday sampler on August 4, are filling, but if you have questions, you should be able to stop down at SAM and ask me, then register at the ASLD booth. Fair warning: Blast is half full already, so it will eventually fill.
I’m hoping to debut a new workshop in Fall. It’s called Monoprint Mad Science, for intermediate and advanced artists. Monoprints are monotypes with repeating elements, such as drypoint, Chine Colle’, and polymer etching, etc. It’s starting as a 4-week workshop, which will keep it affordable. I’ll get confirmation sometime soon.
It’s been a very fun year, and people taking my classes and buying work make that possible. Thank you so much for your continued interest.
I’m Preparing art for a number of different shows and events this Spring. Most are related to the MoPrint (Month of Printmaking) festival of events and I’m organizing one event myself. It makes for a busy schedule.
“Master Printer and Print Educators of Colorado”, McNichols Building 3rd Floor, January 13-April 8 : This one has already opened, though viewing hours are limited, and the venue is often closed for private parties. The best way to see it may be the MoPrint Kick Off event on February 23 at 6-9 PM. I will be there. I have 3 pieces in the show ( I fall into the second category in the title), but I did not have any large work ready for the show.
“Hand Pulled: Mark Lunning’s Open Press”, PACE Center, Parker, Co, March 2-April 30: This is a show honoring the Open Press artists. The printmaking facility on Bayaud Ave run by Master Printer Mark Lunning is soon to close and move to Sterling, Colorado owing to the rapidly dwindling affordable space for arts orgs during the recent development boom. I haven’t worked there in a couple of years, since I now do most of my work at the Arts Students League, so this show will feature 3-5 large pieces from my past work there. It will be a mini retrospective of sorts. Opens March 2, 5:30-8 PM
Open Portfolio, Redline Gallery, March 17, 2-5 PM: This will probably be the most affordable show I’ve done in a long time. It was a fun show during the last MoPrint (2016) so I’ve decided to join it this year. Every artist has more art than they can sell, and this will be for printmakers, a chance to clean out the flat files at bargain prices, and that’s just what I’m doing. You’ll also see a lot of young artists trying to launch a name for themselves, I’m sure. Starting a print collection, and on a budget?
Art and Soul, Art Students League, February 10: This is the major fundraiser for the League, a big party with food and art auctions to benefit the school, and I always donate a piece. Tickets here.
artma, February 8: A fairly glitzy event that benefits The Morgan Adams Foundation.org. This year it will be in the Evans School at 11th and Acoma, an opportunity in itself to see this historic building.
I’ll mention here that many of us artists are approached by charity auctions on a regular basis. Any auction is risky to begin with, as it can be damaging to your ‘market value’, especially if poorly organized and callous about their donating artists’ career needs, as many appallingly are.
This is not one of those, however. artma is the creme de la creme of charity auctions, with artists on the board of the event, professional treatment for donating artists, and an overall spirit of gratitude for artists’ generosity. I’ve been donating for several years because of this.
Meininger Art Supply, Broadway, March 3, 11-1 PM: I’ll be doing a monotype demo here. It’s a fun place to do one, and well equipped for the large groups they usually get. It’s about an hour, but you get a coupon at the end. Come early for a good seat, though they have mirrors and PA, so it works in the cheap seats, too.
Monotype-aThon, Art Students League, March 3, 9-5 PM: Same day! I’ll rush over there to join eight other artists doing 2-3 hour shifts, with the public invited to watch and kibbitz. There will be prints donated for sale to benefit the League and MoPrint, light snacks and lots of different approaches to monotype making.
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’m finalizing what seems like a very busy schedule for fall workshops, and I’ll post complete details with links on my “Workshops” page soon. They’re all available for registration now, with “Monotype Portfolio”, my newly re-named workshop for advanced beginners and beyond, up first.
Monotype Portfolio, which is intended for those who’ve had a basic printmaking course, or perhaps some college experience back in the day, begins Monday, Sept 11, and continues for four weeks after that, making it very affordable and a nice fit for those glorious early fall evenings. Quick refreshers on color and using the press are given to start, then we jump into Chine Colle’, layered prints and advanced registration techniques, and framing, if the class is interested. It is intended for those who might like to execute a series, or perhaps enter a show.
After that, there are both daytime and evening sessions of Monotype Starter, my re-named beginner’s basics workshop, and then back to Portfolio after the Holidays.There is a Saturday Monotype Blast, and a Moxie U sampler as well.
Denver Public Library workshops are back, too, with free 1 1/2 hour drop-in workshops for the family beginning in September and running at various branches all fall, ending just before the Holidays. Other events may be added.
I’ve updated my workshop page (click at the top) with Summer workshop information and links. The registration for these opened up this week and most have already had enrollees, so don’t wait too long. The first, Monotypes for Advanced Beginners is intended for those who have been printing in recent years, and want to explore a more intermediate level- finished, frame-able work for a show or portfolio perhaps; larger, multi-layered work, or those who need only a minimal refresher in print room technique who want to execute a project or series. There are still openings for this one, which begins June 20, 6-9:30 PM. It runs 5 weeks, excluding July 4.
I’m adding more workshops, and alternating more between morning and evening sessions, so if you don’t see a time slot that works for you, check back for Fall, and it’ll probably be offered.
I’m preparing a long post on the intersection of comics and fine art, but it’s been busy, so I’m not sure when I’ll have it ready. I’m finishing new work in the studio, and I’ll have some new photos to post in mid-May. Summer Art Market is coming June 10-11!
Most printmakers use a somewhat limited color palette. Editions of hand-pulled prints often require a separate plate for each color- which can lead to a fair amount of time and expense. This has lead to a tradition of very strategic and inventive color use in printing, and its growth as an advertising medium since the Industrial Revolution has reinforced this. Advertising’s need for bold, simple visual form and messaging dovetails with this, too, and it’s no accident that printmaking is very often- not always- on the leading edge of modernist visual style.
Monotype prints- not technically printmaking, we are reminded by an educational poster in the Art Students League Denver print room, since there is no repeatable matrix from which to make identical prints- is not technically bound by the problem of multiple plates, but there are other reasons why the impetus towards simple color schemes pertains. The tradition of bold, clean-edged design is only one of them.
Artists encounter special challenges in using color inks, which are formulated to withstand the roller of a press, bond with different kinds of paper, and create vibrant results when dry whether applied with brayer or brush. Different ink formulations are used with screen printing, wiping etching plates or rolling onto litho plates and wood blocks (though most of these are fine for monotypes). And while oils, for example, are fairly consistent in texture (subject to modification) and are usually intended to be applied with brush or knife to canvas, inks tend to vary a lot in stiffness and viscosity, transparency and covering power. This makes predicting how they will interact with the more and less delicate types of paper used a learning process.
In monotype, ink can be mixed right on the plate, but delicate final effects can be hard predict after a ride through the 5K psi pressure a typical press generates. Textures, brush strokes and glazing are wiped out, so planning often becomes essential, even when trying for expressionistic or “spontaneous” effects. But these strategies work well with graphic, hard-edged modernist imagery too.
Layering is a good strategy for putting down a spontaneous effect in one color that will retain its integrity when another color is laid down next. Transparency in inks or modifying mediums allow different textures and hues to shine through while creating new tonalities and blends. A good understating of positive and negative space and how the (often) white paper will interact with these allows for light to shine from within, like glazing in oil, or watercolor. And printmakers will often pick a limited selection of colors and make a given color perform multiple roles, as in “process” color (CMYK).
The example I’ve included here, which I’ve often used in classes, uses not a “somewhat” limited palette, but an extremely limited one. Its visual elements also are simple and separate themselves very straightforwardly into five elements; two in the foreground, two in the middle ground and a background. It’s in the colors assigned to these elements that we get a sense of creative transgression, and a feel for why the image is so arresting to the eye.
The first foreground element is the press, done in near silhouette, which provides a deep black field to highlight the second element, the printer’s address. Clever way to deliver crucial advertising info, yes, but for this discussion the important fact is that we are used to seeing black as a background, as in the prints of Rembrandt, or Castiglione (monotype’s inventor), who use it to convey transcendent mystery, or to highlight bright foregrounds. Here it’s used as a visual tease of sorts, with the darkened foreground obstacle challenging us to peek at what’s going on behind.
The middle ground also has two elements- The printer, done in a simplified chiaroscuro to impart the drama of what he’s doing, ala Rembrandt; and the print he’s inspecting. This is the most important info in the poster, the printer’s solitary quest for perfection, his attention to detail; and it is substantively done all in white, or to be precise, no color at all, since it is the white of the paper that is generally used by printmakers to get the brightest highlights. There is black, of course, to outline the intensity of the expression on his face, and to set his business-like suit off from the background. We are given to understand, both literally and figuratively, that this print shop owner stands out.
The background is the background, naturally. They often suggest distance, a void, an infinity; restful to the wandering eye, open to contemplation on what has been seen in the fore- and middle ground, but not often a hot, in-your-face foreground-type color like red. It is so insistent that it pushes the middle ground out toward us, adding to the intensity of the message.
Almost every color decision is the opposite of how our instincts tell us color should behave in a realistic image. The foreground is an obstacle to entry into the picture. The most important information is done in no color at all. White is the color most often used to denote negative space, but here used to denote the most positive elements in the composition, printer, press and print.The background is a hot, insistent, almost bludgeoning primary. But these visual transgressions grab us and lock us in instantly to a simple, powerful message (presumably, about printmaking’s power to deliver simple, powerful messages).
Again, bold, graphic, advertising is not necessarily fine art printmaking, which often needs to convey complex messages. But the two have developed hand in hand since the dawn of the printing press, and there is much to learn from it. Thoughtful, unique color use can really make your monotypes stand out.
My next workshop is Monotypes for Advanced Beginners, a studio class for people with some past printmaking experience who want a dialogue about developing their ideas in unique ways. Register by February 21 here:https://asld.modvantage.com/Instructor/Bio/1053/joe-higgins
Source of the picture is The Poster in History, Max Gallo, NAL, 1975. I’ve left the photo credit on the scan, at the top. I could find no further info on the artist, Ming.
I hope all of you had a wonderful autumn, and a great Holiday/Solstice season! I’ve got a lot going on this winter/spring, and I’ll be getting off to an earlier start in 2017. I hope to see you for one of these events.
Workshops: The next session of Monotypes For Beginners begins January 17 and runs until February 7. There are still spots open, if you’d like to or get a start on some creative “me” time in 2017. The full workshop runs on Tuesday mornings and gives you every basic step needed to certify you to work independently in the Print Room. I also have one Moxie U Monotypes sampler, on February 21. This is a three-hour, hands-on intro type class. I do most of the technical stuff, and you just make monotypes. And it’s less than $30! There are still spots open for that, too. Online registration is here.
Monotypes For Advanced Beginners comes right after that, Feb. 21- March 7. This is a follow-up class to my Monotypes For Beginners workshop and is intended for people with at least some printmaking experience. It covers some more advanced techniques, such as larger work and Chine Colle, and is a bit more portfolio-, or studio-oriented. Take it as a part II continuation of Monotypes For Beginners, or take it independently if you’ve already had that course, or other printmaking experience, and can demonstrate knowledge of the press.
I’ve added an evening session of my Monotypes For Beginners workshop
The biggest news is the spring schedule running a bit later, as I’ve added an evening session of my Monotypes For Beginners workshop. I’ll have a Session B of Monotypes For Beginners, beginning April 4 on Tuesday evenings and it will run for 5 weeks, making it very affordable. It filled up very quickly the last two times I’ve given it, and I’ve also had quite a bit of feedback that more evening sessions would be welcome. This affects younger people who have to work, and teachers looking for development credit, which is available at the League. In all, there are more of my workshops of various sizes and times available this spring. I’ll post a complete list at JoeHigginsMonotypes.com, or you can search and register online at ASLD.org.
There is also a holiday show wrapping up in Colorado Springs at G44 Gallery. I’ve recently refreshed there with about 10 new pieces, so go say hi to Gundi! You can buy selected works online through their website, and on JoeHigginsMonotypes.com.
Appointments to see work are always available. Email or call 720.855.7340. This is a productive time of year for me, so if you just can’t wait till Summer Art Market to see new work, contact me.
I will have a brand-new debut piece in the Art and Soul Gala marking the 30th Anniversary year of the Art Students League. Sale of this piece will partially benefit the League, which I believe in, and enjoy teaching at. If you have a question about any workshop or show, feel free to contact me.
Finally, people already active in the print room have an opportunity to help the League! I’ll let Libby Garon, our Marketing and Development Coordinator, and a printmaker herself, explain:
“After a very creative conversation with Mr. Joe Higgins & Shari Ross, we all came up with the idea of having programs at ART&SOUL [Benefit] with original artwork from the printmaking department on the front.
Prints that have not passed your quality inspection can be torn down to 4”x6” to create unique pieces and placed in photo corners of each program, creating a unique framable piece for each guest (or each pair) to take home that night as a party favor.
If each printmaker was able to donate 12-15 4”x6” pieces we would need about 20 printers, approximately.
The goal is to have a total of 250 and we will have volunteers place each piece in the photo corners.
I am suggesting that we all get together Thursday, January 5 from 4:30-9:00. There will be snacks and wine as well.
Please note: you don’t have to attend the tear down party to participate. You can tear them on your own time, but please do let me know how many you can submit, and drop them off by January 20.”
To me, this sounds like a fun way to not only support the League, but to meet other artists, compare notes, and creatively re-assess work you’ve already done. As I often say in my workshops, a good print is sometimes not a function of what you put in, but what you take out. I’ll be there, so I hope to see you!
A very happy and peaceful New Year to all. We’ve had a rough 2016, but I still believe in the power of art and will be looking forward to meeting new friends in ’17!
“Say, it’s only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea”
-A Paper Moon, Billy Rose/ E.Y.Harburg/Harold Arlen
Color is an integral component of all art. We regularly talk of “color” when describing sounds in music, for example.
But in talking color in art, we often forget the two colors that are not considered colors at all: black and white. Managing black and white in ink on paper composition is at the very core of composing good prints.
For one thing, there is the subtractive nature of light in printmaking. As with any sort of color involving pigment, the addition of the pigment subtracts various wavelengths of light from those being reflected back to the eye. Unlike additive color such as projected light, where addition of more color eventually results in bright white, in subtractive color, you tend toward black. And in the thin applications of ink under pressure inherent in printmaking, it’s not possible to completely cover most inks. The most white space, and thus light, you will ever see in a print is in the blank piece of paper you tear before printing anything. Everything thing you do from then on only reduces the amount of light in your composition.
It’s also true to a certain extent, of watercolor, though many water colorists can cover with Chinese white ink, or gouache in their paintings to bring back the white areas. There is a very nice show of Charles Burchfield pictures at the Denver Art Museum now where you can find wonderful examples of that. Print makers can certainly add opaque water media such as acrylic paint or even pastel to a print, making it a hand colored print, but in its essence as something run through a press and thus presented as something graphic and in some way repeatable (monotypes are not strictly repeatable, though a ghost can be made, which has very unique advantages in itself, explained here). So white is a valuable visual resource in the print room. And in managing the sorts of positive/negative relationships that bold graphics and dynamic compositions often depend on, it is indispensable.
Its material opposite and spiritual twin is black. While both can evoke a void or an infinity, and each bring definition to shape, as in chiaroscuro, only black can be physically applied in a pure state in printing. And it cannot be taken away. White is just the opposite, and thus becomes almost sculptural. It is fun to work with white inks, but even “opaque” white does not cover nearly as well as black. The best example of this is in scratchboard-style composing such as seen in the monotypes of Castiglione, their inventor, who recently had a show at the DAM.
It thus becomes very important in monotype printmaking to be “present”. One must have a good sense of where the light in a given composition is “coming from” and where it is going. Transitions from white to black and from positive to negative space create compositional movement and intrigue. This is true in any medium, of course, but in print media it cannot be corrected, and must be planned for. A monotype can be layered with great subtlety, tones shifting almost miraculously into hues as complex as many oil paintings, but the white slips away with each run as relentlessly as melting snow. It’s true whether the composition is abstract or realistic, hard-edged or gestural, baroque or minimal.
So having a sense of balance and proportion is vital, even if balance is accomplished with one shining burst of light in the darkness. In the most poetic sense, the two need each other, as the Bible, and artists from Rembrandt to Escher to Motherwell remind us. Because that bit of light may be where your viewer’s eyes enter your picture. And the finest pin prick may be where they move after that, and how they are led through your composition, searching and constellating as with stars on a dark night. Eyes bring light to the synapses, and their movement is analogous to interest and engagement in the viewer. Grays and blacks can be compelling and dynamic, and a dark composition can create real mystery but there is a danger of busy-ness or a visual claustrophobia when there is too much of a grayness in a print, and if there is real depth or motion in your monotype, a bright graphic electricity, the chances are that the white is shining through somewhere like a big paper moon.