New Normal?

The pre-virus activities were so exciting to me that it’s hard to let them go, though they may in some ways be gone forever. One thing I had planned here was a discussion of my contribution to the In Process show at the Metro State University of Denver Center for Visual Art.

I took some quick snapshots at the opening for social media purposes, intending to come back in a quieter time and spend some time with the display and take better pictures and more notes.

Then the crisis hit, and like everything else, the show shut down, so it is certainly a quieter time. But now I’m glad I grabbed what photos I did. I also have the statement on process that I sent to the gallery, and which is posted with the work, in the now very quiet gallery. The ‘House’ passage in To the Lighthouse comes to mind.

So I’ll reconstruct the show in a mini-virtual form here, with expanded notes. This is as much for my benefit as anyone’s, but if you missed the show and are curious, well, here it is.

From the statement:

“My process, in general, involves working through a progression of prints ( usually , not always, smaller to larger) until I feel I have worked out my uncertainties about a given idea and “refined” it to its essentials.”

Monotype printmaking is a process that does not result in multiple prints. Part of the Mo’Print mission is to educate the public on what fine art printmaking is. At times, e.g. The Northern Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, printmaking has fulfilled the need for commercial reproduction. That is no longer the case, and now, unlike Giclees or other reproduced images, each print is considered an original. This is absolutely true of monotype. Here’s a shot of most of the display.

First things first: The largest piece, in the center in blue and black, has been displayed in the wrong orientation. The show was organized last minute, there was limited time to plan for installation, and somehow the fact that all the prelims are in vertical orientation was not noticed. C’est la vie. They should have asked, and I should have attached a note to make sure. Lesson learned.

“Some of these “studies” or “preliminary works” or whatever you may call them become frame-able pieces themselves, and others disappear into the flat files. But by the end of the process, I’m usually exploring various ways forward from the original idea, with a view toward coming up with a finished piece(s) of a given size, as it’s a one-of-a-kind process, so building a portfolio can be time consuming.”

Picture of preliminary studies to illustrate post
The three similar images in this photo were all executed on the same winter day, from modified ghost images on the same plate. They are examples of exploring variations on the same idea using ghost prints. The upper right image was a study for the idea, the first made, back in fall.

“It’s important to note that “ghost prints” or secondary impressions made from the residue of ink left on the plate after the first impression is printed, are a integral part of my creative process. They can be modified by adding different colors or imagery, and thus, provide a way forward from simple binary judgements of whether a print is successful, or not. Variations on the original subject matter crop up quickly, and sometimes come to dominate my thinking over the first “idea”. It’s a very suggestive, and valuable way of working.”

“The sketchbook provides a place to mull ideas in raw form; most do not ever see a printing press.” The sketchbook, oh yes- the sketchbook, #OMG #LOL. It’s not actually a sketchbook. It’s a little, outdated Star Wars datebook that my part time job was giving away free, and which fit into my pocket. It was the first appearance of this imagery in summer ’19, so I sent it along. It wound up sitting there regally in a vitrine, where it resides still, until quarantine is over. My friends and I had a few snickers about this, back when snickering- and art shows- were still allowed. An artist friend once breathlessly informed me “You have to have to have a Moleskine sketchbook!” but I’ve always scribbled on anything handy. I guess I get it, now. The main question is: will I be allowed to put it back in my pocket after this?

Illustrate post on art show
Please reverence my little 2018 Star Wars datebook.

“The small (typically 8×10”) studies are mostly about getting comfortable about how to execute the imagery in ink. They often lack real compositional tension, and most disappear from the public, but sometimes there is a simple elegance, so I show them.

“Medium sized prints (typically 11×15”) are where I work out relationships of color and compositional elements. It’s a great time to ad new elements to test meanings within compositions. I love visual non sequiturs for their expressive potential, so I might play with these and their ghost images for more than one session. Nothing is set in stone, but some half of these never see the light of day.

“Larger full sheet (22×30”) prints are intended to bring in balance and finish and be ready to frame. I do work yet larger, but this size is often where I stop, and over half of these get framed or sold. Interestingly ( to me anyway), I often take elements back out at this stage, to take advantage of the expansive white space. ” This one is unfinished and thus, unsigned, and so the confusion on orientation. Don’t know when I’ll get it back to finish it, and in what *viral* way the idea may change along the way. It’s displayed under the Plexiglas plate (with guide drawing) that I used to print it.

“It is the curse of the monotype artist that sometimes the newsprint slip sheets used to cover the layered-up print elements and protect the press blankets are more attractive-seeming than the actual fine art prints. They get used for multiple layers, and thus may accrue a very unique composition of their own. Many of us cut them up and collage them onto different prints. The process goes on…”

Illustrate ancillary materials to process
A number of ancillary materials; Mylar stencils, Lino block, Mylar working sheet and newsprint slip sheet, along with a preliminary study.

Well that’s my virtual tour, and I thank the Metro CVA and Emily Moyer for this great idea, and the chance to be involved in it. Normally IRL, this is the time when I invite you to walk across the street to the Aztlan Bar for some cheap beer and good live blues. Don’t know if it’s possible to create virtual dive bar experiences, but I’m missing it already.

It Kinda Ties the Room Together

Still haven’t found a job, though I’ve been pretty picky, avoiding the sorts of corporate blowhards who advertise their minimum-wage-no-benefits-McJobs as “careers”. I’m holding out hope for something that is compatible with a private, creative life. Time’s running out, as the money crunch typically hits around Thanksgiving. I may have to widen the search and compromise on something temporary.

In the meantime, the weather is wonderful and I’m spending time on a lot of pet art, writing and reading projects, so it is not the worst time to be unscheduled and broke.

Here’s an end-of-day ghost image/ “palette cleaner” from last Fall that I’ve been experimenting on all year. I take leftover “ghost” imagery ( such as inked mylar shapes) from another large piece, arrange it a plate, and print on a new piece of paper.

First, it’s a quick way to clean up. And second, it often provides a nice intriguing first layer for a future print. In this case, it was so fragmented and unfocussed that many new layers of color were required to “tie” it all together, like The Dude’s rug! It is still somewhat fragmented, but the experiments were fun and productive, and I enjoy it more now.

"Untitled" Monotype, 30x22" 2014
“Untitled” Monotype, 30×22″ 2014 

 

Ghosts and Daydreams

Monotype, 15x21", including ghost images and Mylar "applique" elements
Forrester’s Daydream, Monotype, 15×21″, including ghost images and Mylar “applique” elements

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.

 

 

 

Doesn’t Follow



I have to say, I crack myself up a little when I do this stuff, and am not totally convinced that anyone else really gets the joke. This is a ghost of a fairly experimental picture that I called “Incomplete Still Life”, which contained the distressed table and distorted perspective of a floor, or maybe even a DiChirico-like plain. Weird enough.


Then, on a second drop I added a black squall in the upper left, possibly as a result of too much LSD in the younger day. I think it’s pretty clear this pic has no real coherence, unless you count the synaptic mysteries of a visual non sequitur. Which I do, so of course this is one of my favorite pieces.

It’s pretty rare that one of my favorites actually sells; this one did last year about this time. So I guess someone got the joke. Actually it was a couple that very often get my jokes, they have a large collection of my work.

I have a show scheduled in August, so I’ll need to get to work on some larger stuff after the holidays. I’ll be looking for something visually arbitrary and disconnected, yet vivid and very present tense. That’s the best I can explain a print like this.

More Ghost Tales


I got very busy with a summer workshop proposal and a residency application, and almost forgot I promised to post a ghost of the last monotype. Here it is. I think you can see that the dark gray retains its graphic power more than the light gray.

I still have options, though. I can print another layer ( something in the foreground?), or I can hand tint the little ponds/ puddles to bring them out. Or I can just leave it alone. What do you think? I’ll probably work on it Monday.

Ghost Tales

That Tuesday posting ( below ) was actually the ghost of this print ( above ). If there is enough ink left on the plate after the first run through, you can put a fresh sheet of paper down, and run it again, and that is called a ghost. These are just quick snapshots, so the color is off in the ghost- it came out much bluer where the gray should be- but you can see that there was plenty of black ink left for a second impression. Sometimes, as the hard edges become softer, the ghost is actually the superior print. If you have a preference, then post a comment!
There are more photos here. I’ll be back next week with another batch of images. If you want to keep track of new prints and upcoming shows, then click “fan” on the Facebook page.