Stop The Presses

Working in the studio is a nice way to spend time, but it’s still technically WORK, and it requires a break from time to time, especially as it gets darker and colder, and especially after a productive year, and especially as the whole rest of the world celebrates some form of Season of Lights, and most especially, as the whole rest of the world celebrates the greatest sporting event on the planet.

So, it’s time for ‘Holly Twigs and Berries‘, a round up of less than dramatic news from my couch. I’ll point to my 2 month silence as evidence that I’ve been “busy”, a lame excuse for not communicating, I know, and I’m posting one of my latest large monotypes here as circumstantial evidence.

No shows to announce- it really was about enjoying myself in the studio this year, and I did. Shows create a pressure to ‘produce’, and I wanted time, not money, for Xmas this year. A lot of the last month was spent on studies for larger pieces I hope to explore after New Year’s Day, when I really will have to produce, as I’m heading back to #SummerArtMarket in the late Summer.

Similarly, there is a press to frame art for shows, but this year after buying and trading for multiple new prints during MoPrint, and having a pretty good backlog of previous acquisitions, I spent quite a bit of time framing from my personal collection, and rehanging a lot of the walls in my home. This, and other domestic projects I spent time on this year, was a lot of fun! After COVID shutdown for most of two years, and with another frigid winter oncoming, freshening the interior space seemed like a very healthy thing to do.

On the subject of MoPrint 22, when, I can attest, many brilliant artworks were available for easily affordable prices, I need to remind you how shopping local really does constitute a creative act in itself. Your walls will thank you- but let’s not forget our local economy! I can vouch for the fact that money spent on local artisans WILL be returned to the economy very quickly, as their finances can be very fragile in this rapidly gentrifying city.

Illustration for Post
Late Summer, Monotype, 20×26″, 2022. It was begun in 2019, but not completed till this year. It incorporates stencil and chine colle.

I can also tell you that planning for MoPrint 24 has already begun! My role in this will again be localized, in conjunction with the Art Students League of Denver, but the overall committee, of which I used to be a member in the early days, is already combing the state for venues and printmakers. Contact me through this site if you wish to be involved, and need a referral. You can also go to

I’ll post my Winter/Spring Class schedule soon, under “Workshops”, above. I’ve also got two Kids’ Camps scheduled for Summer. I’ve been pretty good about posting links and registration deadlines this year, so return after the New Year for more info. I’ll get it done early, as I can do that from the couch!

As to the greatest sporting event on the planet, a combination of unscheduled mornings and a 2 week illness allowed for a lot of time in front of the TV for games, and it was a glorious way to take one’s coffee and toast. I may post a recap soon for fun.

This time of year is when I like to post a list of my favorite readings of the year, and as every every other major media outlet (you see what I did there- it’s called ‘branding’, people) concentrates on prose fiction and nonfiction, I stick to comics. I’m working on my hotly anticipated Besties as we speak, which to a large degree, constitute a tour of my youth. That’s all I can say right now. Secrecy is imperative with the Besties, to minimize the risk of bribes (Side note: I just put my Xmas tree up, and there is room underneath for gifts. I’ve been assured by my personal banker that there is room in my account for bribes, too).

Strips, Toons, and Bluesies, Dowd and Hignite: This is a book I found on the used shelf at Kilgore Comics and Books on 13th Avenue. It’s kind of a hodgepodge, originally issued in 2004 as a catalog in conjunction with two gallery shows at Washington University in St. Louis, and then re-issued to ride the hype surrounding the Masters of Comics show and catalog later. A coeditor is Todd Hignite, who published the excellent Comic Art Magazine at the time. He was a leader in the flowering of comics criticism at that time, which included Masters of American Comics, and The Comics Journal. This may be sort of a piggyback project.

It’s well worth reading, though it’s a bit over designed, and one of its essays falls short of proving its interesting proposition, that comics and animation are linked in history. Hignite’s contribution, a close reading of Jaime Hernandez’ early “Locas” story arc, feels like a Comic Art article that was left out, nothing wrong with that. There’s an intriguing, but perhaps a bit stretched examination of Tijuana Bibles and Jack T. Chick comics as early manifestations of Underground Comix.

The most ground breaking essay is a survey of African American imagery in comics of the 60’s, as the civil rights movement surged, and the first black superheroes appeared. A very useful timeline of key points in the intersecting histories of comics, graphics and printing closes the book.

While not as hefty or relevant in its content and impact as John Carlin’s Masters, it helps to fill the many gaps in comics scholarship.

Metropolis, Ben Wilson: If I did do a Besties for prose, this would be it, I think; a cultural history of the city from the first, Uruk, through many others, both well known and less so. Paris, London NYC are all here, but each is examined in a specifically significant time of their flowering, in order to examine important issues in the growth of cities as a cultural force.

Other, less written about cities are here too, Lisbon ( colonialism ) Lubeck ( commercialism ) and L.A. ( car city ) are examined for significant developments, as is Warsaw, emblematic of the ‘innovation’ of using annihilation, terror and genocide as techniques in warfare.

Each chapter focusses on one city and examines related developments in other cities as well. This leaves Wilson plenty of space to dwell on not just facts and logistics, but the underlying question of what a city is. And he knocks it out of the park- the writing is pacy and conversational, but the subtext, a philosophical examination of why cities exist, and keep growing, and their essential alliance and agency with civilization itself, builds to a nice climax as we enter Lagos, the last chapter, under the heading “Megacities”.

Lagos, congested and sprawling, does not usually get good press. But Wilson makes the persuasive argument that Lagos, for all its dangers and ecological stressors, is actually doing what cities have always done- innovating, democratizing and adapting. It’s an eye opener, and the book as a whole will make you want to travel, if only in your own city, but yes, even to Lagos.

The book itself, which came out in 2020, is perfect for armchair travelers. Not a travelogue, not an academic study, somewhere in between, like a leisurely but well informed conversation with wine on a snowy day. You may want to save it for when you have time and bandwidth to savor its rich speculations, which encompass not just streets and skyscrapers, but music, beer and wildlife. Which is pretty much how I enjoyed it, though I started it on a trip to another city, in its own adaptive historical transition.

It’s all too easy to diss cities, especially in this puritan country, where density has often been a cue to grasp for more open ( and insular ) spaces. Metropolis is a call to action, to think progressively about why and how we live together.

Art Students League Summer Art Market Uncategorized Workshops

Twigs and Berries: Shady Doings

Parasol to benefit Art Students League of Denver
This parasol, among many others by League affiliated artists, will be for sale at the Summer Art Market 2022, August 27-28.

I’m not doing a booth at the Summer Art Market this year. After about 25 years or more of doing it, I wanted to take a break.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be there. I plan on being there, volunteering and posting on social media. And my artwork will be there too, at least one of them: I offered to paint a parasol/sunshade that will be on sale there to benefit the school programs.

The photo I made in a Square app for shooting things for sale on one of their web store pages. I wish I could make it work for flat art as wall as this 3D object, but I’m working on it, and may have more to share in time for the show.

Other News:

Registration for my first Fall class, Monotype Starter, a beginners class that runs Tuesday evenings in September, opens August 9 here: Search under “Instructors ” for Joe Higgins.

I’m working on larger works with my free time not preparing for the show. It goes slowly, but you can always see it by private appointment. Click on “Contact” in the menu bar above.

#sam2022 #asldprintmakers #artclasses

Books, Comics, Music Ideas Reading List

Matters of Style: Small ‘p’ Pop

I don’t often write about art books, which often for me, take the form of technical research, and is thus not as much of an ‘escape’ from the day-to-day grind of what is, after all, a business. The ways in which technique translates to expression are naturally of a major concern, make no mistake, but they’re hard to process, and then write about as general interest topics. I much prefer writing about other people’s graphic solutions, whether as art or comics.

Here’s a nice middle ground: Pressing Matters magazine. It’s a beautifully produced celebration of creative solutions in the graphic arts. Interesting design in magazines is part of what attracted me to alternative comics- Raw magazine sought to highlight the expressive potential of comics by placing them in an attractively formatted magazine, and Pressing Matters does the same for printmakers, by putting them in a coffee table showpiece type of publication. It’s expensive, with shipping placing it in the higher end that international design magazines inhabit, but it understands the appeal of printmaking to artists, designers and collectors.

The magazine is published in England, which has a strong contemporary printmaking scene, but it features artists from around the world as well. It’s diverse and progressive- as in many out of the way areas of the creative economy, women seem to have more access to positions of leadership in printmaking, for example- and it downplays purely technical reportage in favor of a lively and very visual presentation of the final result, the textures, bold color schemes, and spirit of innovative graphic simplicity that forward looking prints communicate. In printmaking, the proof is in the pudding; rarely do pundits and experts extoll it for conceptual leaps, rarely do its practitioners seek to wholly reject the past. It inhabits the gray area between mass communication and stripped down visual syntax. It requires no manifesto, the medium truly is the message.

This is no screed against the loftier aims of painting. Pop art is still, even now, misunderstood because people, even Pop art lovers, almost willfully downplay its conceptual brilliance. Warhol made a complete break from the idea of craft in both printmaking and painting with his deliberate mis-registrations and advertorial iconography. Campbell’s soup cans are camp, not kitsch, and as such, are powerful commentaries on the construction of taste. This must be a huge contributor to the rise of printmaking since abstract expressionist days, and the liberation of printmaking from subsidiary roles as advertising and bourgeois decoration. The prints in Pressing Matters hew most often toward the Mid-Century Modern in style and spirit. Like comics, film posters and Warhol himself, they are a distillation of High Modernism for popular (populist?) tastes, but merely a step from expressionism, or even a Neo-Fauvism, as in zines, mini-comics and punk posters.

The art in Pressing Matters is of a working class, rather than academic, discipline. Pictures of ink-stained wretches are common. There is no Ingres in printmaking. Toulouse-Latrec advertised cabarets; his acolytes, booze and bicycles. Russian Constructivism is a high water mark, and Bauhaus its holy center. Red and black are the colors of revolution, and still hold an honored place in printmaking. The magazine celebrates those colors often, along with the generative void of white space.

There is a transparency of process, rather than transcendent technique, in most images here. It is in modern printmaking’s almost necessary disassembling of illusion and gesture, its ever so slight displacement from craft and perfection, that allows it to seduce the eye, and simultaneously to vaguely disturb assumptions about art, not to mention the means of its production. Pressing Matters zeroes in on this disjunct. Pictures of brayers, talismanic and dripping with candy colors, and presses, the machinery of free expression, often cooperatively owned or shared, symbolize printmakers’ close relationship to the nuts and bolts of creativity and to work. At the same time, making multiples, while it began as a way to make art more accessible, is, as Warhol so succinctly demonstrated, a basic commoditization of it.

Printmakers, art collectors, and fans of popular arts- not to mention magazine design- will see in Pressing Matters a loving and lavish home for one of the humblest of art forms, and the complex histories and aspirations it encompasses.

Illustration of Subject Matter
You can subscribe or order bundles of back issues at

#pressingmatters #printmaking

Ideas Month of Printmaking

End Game

What is the end game in the studio? Sometimes a deadline will bring focus, leading to a well resolved work, sometimes it inhibits experimentation, bringing repetitive ideas. I guess both- experimentation and production, are important.

At this time, I’m trying to produce new work for the upcoming MoPrint ’22, which will bring show opportunities, if COVID doesn’t cancel it again. But I’ve also had more time to work, read and think, which has brought a lot of experimentation.

Trestle With Stars, Monotype, 2021, 15×21″. Ideas of narrative, creative progression, crossings come to mind. It uses relief elements and viscosity effects to create a sort of dreamscape or subconscious landscape.

Most of these experiments haven’t turned into finished, showable work yet. Here’s one that seems acceptable. Not quite sure where the idea of a trestle came from, but from a creative stand point, it seems to allude to being carried from somewhere to somewhere else. The journey is not resolved, but a tenuous structure appears to offer support and transit over the chasm.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. I’m reading a lot of Gary Panter ( Jimbo in Paradise, DalTokyo, Cola Madnes ) He tends to really push an idea graphically, while still trying to at least allude to basic narrative. His characters invest a lot of energy and desire into quests, though what is quested (cheeseburgers, vintage muscle cars) sometimes seems quotidian or even preterite. This seems like a good model for what my studio work is trying to accomplish.

#ASLDprintmakers #MoPrint2022

Art Shows Art Students League Summer Art Market

SAM Wrap

Illustrate post on Summer Art Market 2021
‘Wishful Thinking’, Monotype, 26×20, 2021. A similar print found a new home as part of a UCHealth program at the Summer Art Market.

The Summer Art Market returned, about 14 months late, after the COVID shutdown. People were clearly glad to see it come back. Attendance was crowded on Saturday morning, and steady for the rest of the weekend, with only the afternoon heat really slowing things down. The sales were strong for most artists I spoke to.

It was no different for me, as the show was an all-time high. That makes all the work of framing and wrapping, packing and hydrating worthwhile, but it’s been over 25 years of doing it, and I’m going to take a year off next year, in all probability. It’ll be nice to recharge the batteries, and the steady time in the studio has been very rewarding, so a year of simply doing new work without regard to what might sell could be a tonic. I’ll undoubtedly volunteer to enjoy the vibe, and for the first time, see the whole show.

As for now, I’m going right back in the studio, as I was really pleased with the way things were going, and was a bit reluctant to stop for the show. I’ll be monitoring the print room most Fridays and Sundays this Fall, which is when I work on my own things.

Other than that, I’m planning a relaxing autumn. Restaurants and shopping now seem safer, at least in this area, and like many who attended the show, working on freshening up my house will be a nice distraction. I’m postponing travel till Spring, hoping things will stabilize.

Reading is always a go-to activity in my house, and while I’ve been too busy to attempt any major works, I’ve been reading enough lighter things to post some blurbs. That will be next.

Art Students League Ghost

Work In Process

Regular studio work is necessary for any artist. The power of a disciplined schedule has been noted by writers, such as Hemingway; and some artists such as Picasso, seem to never leave the studio. For most of us it’s hard, especially as real wages have nose dived under corporate/conservative economics. One just works harder and longer to pay the basic expenses that the studio time can’t provide for, at least immediately.

So for me, one or two days a week is pretty normal, with two edging into luxury. I work in the print studio at the school where I teach, so for 6 months during the shut down, it was no days. Since the studio has reopened, I’ve been engaged as a monitor, to ensure covid protocols are being met, and in the 6 months since then there’ve been no cases recorded ( which would have necessitated re-closure), so I’ve been making up for lost time with a regular schedule.

Having to commit to a regular schedule actually helps with my own work. I can cover all the bases with a day to test concepts in smaller work, and then a day to expand my idea onto a larger sheet. Also, breaking news- the Summer Art Market will be back this year, but has been pushed back to late August. So I’ve been able to settle into a regular rhythm of working that isn’t as rushed by spring deadlines. I think it’s had a good effect. The ability to build up incrementally, in layers, or even set a monotype aside for a week to mull it over isn’t great for getting a lot of work finished, photographed, and framed in 3 months, but over the course of 6, it can lead to a lot of work in the flat file. That makes for a better show ultimately, as I can afford to pick and choose items for that show. It’s one small benefit of the quarantine.

I’ll pick one piece to illustrate the idea. In picking up the lost thread after shutdown, I had a fairly big stack of unfinished prints from last Spring and before to start with. This one is a ghost from my Fall ’20 return to the studio to complete work Left unfinished for all the various MoPrint 2020 shows I’d been invited to. So the original idea ( ladders, dreamy skyscapes) dates to 2019, although this one came in 2020. When on a deadline I use ghosts as insurance- if a print fails, I can use the other to pursue the idea. When not on a deadline, I use them to push the idea in different directions. By the time I was ready to finish it in January 2021, it had been a year since I worked on the concept, and my train of thought had changed a little.

Here is one of the 2019 works that inspired it. Also a ghost, it was displayed during MoPrint 2020 in the Colorado Print Educators show at Arvada Center before shutdown.

Here is the first impression of Wishful Thinking, inspired by a song on a past Wilco album, about the power of fantasy in love and life. I had been exploring ladders and nightscapes in previous images. The sky is a stenciled field of circles, the ladder is assembled of inked mylar scraps.

Another impression simply developed the ladder and skyscape.

The final state looks like this. I confess to forgetting whether there was an intervening addition to the sky and ladder before I added the organic leafy elements, and the box/nest in lower right. But it’s starting to get busy, and now I’m done. In my opinion, one can put too fine a point on a narrative or verbal concept, and lose some of the mystery. I like the contrast of the box/ nest figure to ground the ascending ladder and counterpoise the teeming sky. It gives a sense of place, which I like to think helps the viewer enter, but leaves the ultimate narrative open.

See it at the Summer Art Market, August 28-29, in the West Washington Park neighborhood , in front of the school!

Monotypes MoPrint 2016

Studio Update

"Dreaming Place" working title for this monotype in progress.
“Dreaming Place” working title for this monotype in progress.


I’ve been on the Organizing Committee for Month of Printmaking Colorado, a two months long festival of exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and lectures about printmaking. It’s a Front Range-wide event that extends from Pueblo, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming. So needless to say, as it kicked off this week, it’s been eating my life.

I’ve really enjoyed it, though, and it’s great to see all my colleagues both long-time and unfamiliar, and to see the amazing amount of great printmaking being done in the Rocky Mountain High Plains. For more about it, and to watch a video interview about my own work from 2014’s MoPrint event, go to the web site. 

Amazingly, despite my MoPrint duties, I’ve been getting regular studio time this year so far. It’s never enough, naturally, and progress is somewhat slow, but I am trying new ideas, and some are almost ready to go to the photographer and framer. In the meantime, here is a snapshot from the studio to give you a taste of what I’m working on. I’ll have more soon.

Leave a comment if you like.

Books, Comics, Music Monotypes

Falling Into Old Habits

Montage of monotype studies done, September 2015. I'm trying some new techniques, and exploring how they fit in with older techniques.
Montage of monotype studies done, September 2015. I’m trying some new techniques, and exploring how they fit in with older techniques.

I’m slowly ( once a week right now) getting going in the studio again as other commitments drop away. Hello, fall! I’m re-taking up watercolor, too, which has a similar subtractive composition to printmaking. In simpler terms, the whites- and thus the full range of values- disappears the more paint or ink you add. So planning, restraint and mindfulness are important.

This is a montage of some of the sketches and studies I’ve printed in the last three weeks. I didn’t put a lot of effort into clean, professional finish and composition, so it’s likely the last time these will see the light of day. But I’ll start putting some of ideas into finished works soon. I’m really excited to be making pictures again!

Reading list:

Ten Years in the Tub, Nick Hornby. Sub titled: “A Decade Spent Soaking in Great Books”. I made mention of The Polysllyabic Spree, a slim volume of Hornby’s somewhat irreverent Believer Magazine columns on reading. I didn’t know they’d later published a large volume encompassing 10 years, until I ran across it browsing in the library, so I snapped it up. Don’t know that I’ll write anything more about it, or when I’ll finish it now that I’ve stopped riding the train everyday with the end of my temp job at the bookstore. But- reading about reading, what’s not to like?

McSweeney’s #29: I’m nearly finished with #48, one of my favorite issues so far. So I grabbed this one for $6 at my favorite used bookstore. How I can tell it’s my favorite bookstore: they buy up old issues of McSweeney’s and sell them for $6. In my home, good short stories are now considered a staple, like sugar, coffee and bacon. Wine! Did I forget wine? Wine.


Chine Colle Etchings and Small Work Interiors Monotypes Uncategorized

Everything’s a Work in Progress

What I have worked on this winter is a small series of work intended to develop organically from sketchbook ideas on up through experiments in different sized paper and eventually to a large, significant, and fully realized work. Especially as I transition to new methods of working such as stencilling, etc, I’ve tended to have smaller works that experiment in formal ways, but don’t have a refined narrative. Here is a small sketch for a project I’d intended to call Bed Dream with Poppies. Most of these are not very good photos, but most are studies or unfinished experiments.

"Bed Dream with Poppies", 7 1/2" x 10", a small monotype intended as a sketch for a larger project.
“Bed Dream with Poppies”, 7 1/2″ x 10″, a small monotype intended as a sketch for a larger project.

The best way to produce a relatively large set of meaningful work, Ive found is to explore variants of one idea of a few related ideas, and cherry pick the best ones as finished, exhibited work. I’m inviting you  to view the sketches and trial runs, the not neccessarily ready for prime-time pieces that would sometimes be offered to the public, sometimes not. Yes, I  do have large amounts of work that never see the light of day. Here is a larger variation on the theme, with poppies dispensed with and replaced by a sort of pod-like chine colle’ element and a somewhat organic dark field in the background. A somewhat distressed blackness creeps up behind the bed:

Untitled Monotype w/ Chine Colle'. 13x20".
Untitled Monotype w/ Chine Colle’. 13×20″.

I’m already seeing more content, symbolic narrative, and meaning in the work. I intended to leave landscape (a narrative of earth and time) and try more interiors ( as it implies, a narrative of internal life, or the soul). Jumping to a new subject can often jog the creative machinery, and I hope to see fresh approaches. Here’s another experiment that adds in more pod-like or thought-balloon-like shapes above the bed.

Untitled Monotype w/ Chine Colle', 13x20 "
Untitled Monotype w/ Chine Colle’, 13×20 “

Sometimes you have to execute a finished piece, and in this case, I had a deadline to meet for a show. So I tried a larger piece, with more color. I left the poppies out to further explore the pods, and instead placed some layered fauna where the darkness had been behind the headboard. I wanted something more abstract on the left, but added an Icarus-like figure to focus it. It still seems more like a study than a finished piece, and I’ll return to the studio this week after working a temp job to pay some bills. I’ll go back to the poppies, I’m sure, but I’ve also seen the Miro show at the DAM in the interim, I’m sure that will have its effect, too.

"Bed Dream 29", Monotype, 20x26".
“Bed Dream 29″, Monotype, 20×26”.

Art Students League Ghost Landscape Monotypes

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