Very busy with MoPrint doings, as this is crunch time for planning and publicizing. I will post a full update soon, but here’s a few teasers:
I’m jurying a print show at Core Gallery. Would love to see your work! Insider’s tip: I do have a bias for strong graphic work, I can’t help it. I do try to be balanced and often choose traditional, realistic work in these situations. But a nice tension between negative and positive; or lights and darks- that’s a plus. Register here
I will be in the Colorado Print Educators Show at Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, opening February 26, 4 PM.
I will have a ridiculously cheap edition of linocuts available for purchase at the TRVE Brewing Black Ink fundraiser for Month Of Printmaking, March 4. All proceeds will benefit MoPrint’s parent, The Invisible Museum.org.
I’m chairing a committee to organize the ASLD Print Fair March 4-27. I’m excited about it. It will have an exhibit opening March 4, a Pop up show with free demos March 5th, and a visiting artist, Heinrich Too with workshop and lecture, March 26-7. More details soon.
I do have the utterly fabulous Besties awards for comic book excellence ready to post, and have been just a little too busy to post it. Look for it soon.
I made a video about hand rolling monotypes using water-soluble non toxic ink. You can watch it here, and let me know if you like it. I intend to make more, and I’m planning on a series of follow-ups before Fall. I’m also exploring Zoom-based online classes. The catch is that printing in a studio with a press doesn’t translate easily to home-based learning, so I’m basically designing whole new classes, based somewhat on my experience teaching classes through the Plaza program at Denver Public Library. Just like the video, in other words. What I know on the status of my in-studio workshops has been posted on my ‘Workshops’ page, here.
There are stirrings that may lead to limited studio and class access in June or July. Check back for more info. I really wonder whether we’ll see a Summer Art Market this year, but, the school is working with the city to see what might be possible. There’s an incentive to work on online alternatives, naturally, and the school is exploring that, as am I. As we settle in to the new normal, I hope to develop more online presence, which I’ve always felt to be important.
I also opened up a Zoom account to get familiar with that, as it’s bound to be a growing factor at the school and elsewhere. What follows is a ‘making of’ account, for those who are interested, of the video in the link above.
Making a video is a challenge. You have to organize in your head what you plan to talk about, all while paying attention to details of light, composition, clarity and originality. So essentially, talk about light, composition, etc, in art while being mindful of its light and composition in presentation.
I took about 12 hours to plan, set-up, shoot and edit the 30 minute video, which can’t be that bad of a ratio for the medium ( I had worked in video during my Public Access TV days, so I was under no illusions that it would be a 1-day project), yet, at what I was paid, reduced my hourly to well under minimum. I’m not complaining, it was more of an opportunity to make a demo than any sort of payday. I thought of it as a minimally paid internship. I learned a lot by doing it, in other words, and it’s now a resume piece in case someone offers better money.
I outlined the vid right in iMovie by creating title cards for the various subjects I intended to touch on. This created a structure and allowed me to familiarize myself with the program’s controls, which I hadn’t used since 2010. At that time I created a short video for my soccer group, and later, I began to experiment with art video at Open Press, using a fellow artist as my camera guy. I even started a YouTube channel to collect my videos, and posted one that Joshua Hassel of Channel 12 made for me there as well. It still exists. I was planning on making a series of vids to promote my work and classes, but time gets in the way, and as one can see, it is time consuming.
The virus closures brought the issue to the fore. Even then, I was still working in my ‘essential’ ( a new synonym for poorly paid?) day job, and it was difficult to make time for shooting. Only after being let go at the bookstore, and with the school’s deadline forcing the issue, did I get into my spare bedroom/video studio and complete the thing. Even after 12 hours it is a bit rough around the edges, but the perfect being the enemy of the good, and all, I went ahead and uploaded it.
Lighting was a bugaboo, I remember from my old Public Access days. Getting it to look halfway natural is very time consuming, and I got as close as I could, and moved on. But before setting up, collect your painter’s lights and floods and experiment with a multi directional set-up, which will fill in shadows. Blend in diffused bulbs and natural light if you have those, too.
You can see the simple format I used. Intro-title card- set up, title card, etc. You can save time and file size by using dissolves or even jump cuts. I get distracted on camera, as mentioned, and there were goofs and awkward moments as I tried to stick to a mental script without sounding wooden or nervous. Segmenting the creative process helped me to focus, and reduced the amount of re-shooting if I screwed up ( I screwed up).
Camera angles were also time consuming. Reserve a day for set-up and test footage if you can. And one for fixing errors. Other glitches are inevitable- the phone ran out of power in the middle of a crucial long segment for example. I re-enacted what was a live to tape action in a minimal way, and edited it in. But recall that monotypes are a one of a kind print. If you lose a shot just as you are printing, the final piece will be different. Finally I added a couple of informational or personal touches to give it character. Such as a studio shot or web site info with illustration. I’m looking forward to doing a follow up soon. I’ll see about sharing both here going forward.
I’ll be making more, that’s the whole idea- to use the extensive set-up time and the experience of it to make future productions smoother and faster- and will be seeking to get more money for them, but certainly to get the promotional value too. First up will be a movie trailer-style promo of about 2-3 minutes that I can post on my media platforms to drive traffic to them, as well as the full video. I can have real fun with that, and will probably explore all the toys in the tool box.
The basic light and camera set-up I’ll leave available for further deadline work, and the lessons learned will be more productive if I go right back in and use them. So a rough, once-a-month shooting schedule would seem to be a good goal.
The next workshop I’ll teach this fall is Monotype Portfolio. It’s intended to go beyond the basic techniques of one of a kind prints and explore harnessing of acquired skills in service to an artist’s creative vision. Less about how to make a competent print, and more about making one that tells your story. So here’s some speculation about stories in art: all art tells a story, whether the artist intends an overt narrative or not.
I reviewed Women of Abstract Expression at DAM in 2016 in terms of its inherent drama- Ab Ex is always about drama, with its reliance on gesture and scale- and in the context of its backstory, of women against a repressive art scene in a sexist society.
Lee Krasner made obvious use of pinks and browns in this show to declare artistic independence and feminine creative power. “No one was surprised more than I when the breasts appeared,” she says of a pink-dominated piece in the catalog. Pink and brown ( as seen in a couple of pieces in that show), not pink and blue, are the colors of feminine sex. In asserting the dominant colors of the flesh of the vulva and the earth with power, gesture and scale, Krasner must have known she was using color in a transgressive way, to break assumptions and conventions. Pink had already been associated strongly at this time with a demeaning view of femininity, whether in the pink triangles for gays in the Nazi camps, or its prevalence in stereotyped domesticity. She returned later to this combination in “Gaea”. Her generative colors wind up being the story of her will to create art .
Krasner finds a rich, assertive pink and her browns are straightforward and do not recede. There is tension here, and much to ponder no matter what your superficial reactions to the terms ‘brown’ and ‘pink’. Here, they cannot be separated from her suppressed rage, her earthborn desire to create, her need to assert animal power. Her story, in other words, though through its raw aggressive assertion it becomes ours, too, as recognized by the curator of the show. Colors thus can tell a story in the tension between complements, hues, transparent/opaque, light/dark, warm/cool. Colors are a component of light, of course.
And light has its own story to tell.
As it travels across a pictorial plane, light creates an inherent story. It reveals, hides, blasts and suggests. It’s movement, which creates interest, and even in an abstract picture, one is well served to be aware of the source of the light, as viewers will almost certainly do that, and follow its path, whether unconsciously or not. In pictorial arts, eye movement can certainly be analogous to emotional involvement or interest. It’s an obvious source of drama, Let there be light. The light at the end of the tunnel. Every picture is a lighted stage-something is about to happen. It is the white space that makes the advertisement more powerful on a page, separating out noise to let the signal through. Chances are, if you are surrounded by black, you are dead, or asleep and dreaming. Surrounded by white, you are in heaven ( blessed , transcendent), or in a blizzard (lost and near death). Black and white are never neutral.
Composition also tells a story even when not attached to a specific literary narrative. Diagonals are important because they imply movement. Molly Bangs in her innovative Picture This speaks of a diagonal as a tree about to fall, and that’s a form of movement, even an implied danger. But even ‘static’ or stable diagonals in perspective imply movement into space. A repeating series of simple vertical shapes, especially strokes, imply rhythm or music, and in this, as in physics, distance= rate x time. Every one of these concepts is somewhat synesthetic; they blend sensory information, which does for the interest level in a picture, what eye movement does.
Along implied diagonal axes in a picture, other dichotomies come into play as dramatic elements. For example, hard edges versus soft edges: soft =mystery, distance. Hard = surety, obstacle. The eye gives us definition up close, and indistinction far away, so it is a natural thing to see hard edged shapes as closer or more important. In realism, these cues get used pretty straightforwardly. In abstract or expressionistic art, they get jumbled, and become part of a picture’s mystery. This too can be manipulated. Too close, and objects become mysteriously indistinct or vaguely threatening.
The final story a picture tells is not at all under an artist’s control. Not so much in a gallery setting, but in a street fair show, where artists are spending long hours absorbing the diverse reactions from a large sample of viewers, one is struck by how much a viewer’s interpretation can differ from the one intended by the artist. I actually encourage that with schematic, open ended imagery, but you don’t ultimately control what another tells themselves about a scene. I maintain that this is part of the natural narrative process in art.
When several people interpreted my large monotype, “Man With Torch”, as an environmental statement, I couldn’t really disagree. An indistinct figure wielding elemental power strides across a denuded plain (top).
However, I intended it clearly in my mind when composing it, as a metaphor for memory. One razes the past in memory, even as one marches confidently toward new experience, oblivious of past failure.
Both interpretations seem valid now. I don’t argue that some interpretations of an image may seem more valid than others; this sort of visual relativism can go too far. But narrative IS organic, and the oldest story is transformation.
Thus, no matter how specific the imagery, ambiguity results, and working to make the image more specific often leads to overworking it, which tells its own story, of obsession or neurosis. Visually, this can be a form of stasis, not necessarily a bad thing if balanced against movement or transformation.
Movement of light across a plane and suggested movement of diagonals comes under the general heading of transformation: all art is transformation of a sort, and anything that shows an artist’s hand, such as transitions from black into white, or blended colors, bring that idea to the fore. Transformation is already in your process, but preconception can sometimes render it awkward or graceless. Transformation IS the story, and it should be built into your process, your composition, and your colors. A recognition of the transformation that inevitably informs a successful piece as it’s being made makes it easier to deal with the fact that the story of a given work of art often doesn’t end when it goes into a frame and onto a gallery wall.
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 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!
I’ve got a lot going on this fall, after a quiet summer. I hope to see you for one of these events.
Workshops: I’ve still got a couple coming up this fall. The next session of Monotypes For Advanced Beginners begins October 25 and runs until just before Thanksgiving. 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 studio-oriented. There are still spots open, if you’d like to squeeze in some creative “me” time, or get a start on some hand-made holiday gifts. I also have one more Moxie U Monotypes sampler, on October 13. There are still spots open for that, too. Online registration is here.
I’ve added an evening session of my Monotypes for Beginners workshop
The biggest news is in the upcoming spring schedule, where I’ll be getting off to an earlier start, and 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
One of my favorite places for a demo
I have a free Demo and Dialogue at Meininger Artist Materials on November 5 at 2 -4 PM. This is a Denver Arts Week event, and a great way to preview what you might expect in a workshop, or get a peek into my process. Their set-up is viewer friendly, and the crowd is usually quite lively and full of questions and comments, so it’s one of my favorite places for a demo. You also get a 20% Off coupon for supplies!
I have two upcoming holiday shows: at Open Press, a Denver Arts Week event, opening Friday, November 11, 6-9 PM, with a First Friday event on December 2, 6-9 PM. Mark Lunning’s Open Press is a center for Denver printmaking for 30 years, so the show will feature some of the area’s best print work. I should be there both at the opening and First Friday, if you want to chat and say hello. It runs through December, with gallery hours 12-5 every Saturday, or by appointment at 303.778.1115.
There is also a holiday show at G44 Gallery, in Colorado Springs, beginning November 18. You can buy selected works online through their website, and here on JoeHigginsMonotypes.com. Appointments to see work are available. Email or call 720.855.7340.
I hope all of you have a wonderful autumn, and a great Holiday/Solstice season!
Sincere thanks, as always, to the folks who came by during the Art Students League Summer Art Market a couple of weekends ago. It’s always a fun show, and this was another successful one. It’s also a lot of work and often comes during the year’s first full-on heat wave, as did this year’s, so I rewarded myself with a week’s vacation on the back porch with a stack of new reading material. So I haven’t posted, but expect a book post soon; it’s already being written.
I also hied myself down to the DAM for a first peek at the “Women in Abstract Expressionism” show that is attracting a significant amount of national attention. I wanted to get in while the conversation is still just beginning, and I’m joining it soon with a post of first impressions which may be posted here as quickly as a day or two, as I’m in the final edits with that.
My Summer workshops have started again. Most are sold out, but one, “Monotypes for Advanced Beginners“, starting in July, still has space left at last check. It’s intended for people with recent printmaking experience, so contact me if you are in doubt. If you missed out on one of the others, the Fall schedule for those will be confirmed, and posted here in not too long.
I’ve tentatively added a free Meininger’s Demo and Dialogue to the schedule for November’s Denver Arts Week. I’ll post on the Workshops page when I confirm date and time. I don’t have a lot of free stuff going on this year, but the Meininger demos are real fun, with a great space and usually a good crowd, so I thought you should know.
I hope you are having a great beginning of Summer!
Free Demo and Dialogue! If you are curious about the sorts of techniques and ideas I cover in my workshops, why not come see for yourself, Saturday, November 7, 11 Am-12:30 PM in the spacious ASLD print room. It’s non-hands on; I’ll be making a couple of different prints and answering questions, and you get a 20% Off coupon at Meininger! More info here.
September! It’s the best month for a vacation, don’t you think? When I had a regular job, I always reserved a couple of weeks in September for traveling, or just for hanging around the house or in museums. But one casualty of the creative life is often free time. Make no mistake- I’m free to schedule my time, and I enjoy that. But the necessity of creating cash flow to pay off previous health, framing or other business costs when sales don’t cover them often leads to a lack of unscheduled time, especially during prime months.
Today is a beautiful day and an unexpected day off. My temp job at the bookstore will not need me to cover vacations till next week. I am trying to catch up a few tasks today, and then I’m giving myself a vacation, too. I’ll need it! I have another job coming behind this one that will be interesting- fabricating art for installations here and in other cities. But it will again make downtime scarce.
Artists also need to schedule studio time, and it’s easy to put on the back burner, especially when paying debts off. But again, the ability to give myself regular studio time doesn’t feel like obligation- it feels like freedom. It’s necessary, and art work suffers when I don’t print regularly, but creative hours don’t constrain the mind; they actually stretch it.
I’m lucky- and grateful- that some of my various part-time jobs actually help me to engage my creative life. I checked my 4-week monotype workshop and it just barely filled. So vacation postponed for Tuesday, and part of Wednesday too, as I have a DPL workshop at Schlessman Library that evening. However, the workshops will be a return to art in an unusually important sense for me. I recently alluded to the notion of writing about books in my posts to process what they mean to me. The same is true of teaching printmaking. My monotype workshops are intended to address the frustrations of trying to incorporate our creative lives into our daily lives. With that in mind, I try to engender a spirit of camraderie, exploration and spontaneity into the proceedings all while trying to instill disciplined habits and a professional manner in the print room. When there are 7 fellow artists in one studio, one must be mindful. But that mindfulness is a precious gift, to me.
I’m usually rusty after a break from studio anyway ( it’s been over 3 months) so the simple physical act of making demo prints and re-establishing good print room habits is valuable in the sense that body memory is a useful physical discipline. But the conversation will also help me get my mind back to my real work as well. In helping others solve creative problems, I’ll loosen up my own creative muscles. I often stay after my class and work on my own things – I have the ink and tools out anyway. I’m hoping to hit the ground running this fall and produce some large work. I’ll try to post more about my various projects this fall, though I really love the book blurbs too, so I’ll be posting those, as well.
But Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week I’m putting down to reading, museums, soccer and puttering about the house. The weather should be good, and my last big paycheck will arrive Friday. It’s been a long, productive summer (except art making) so I’m going to reap my reward: time. Studio time is as valuable as a glass of wine and a good book in warm golden September sun, and I’m going to try to get a little of both before the first frost hits.