I love visiting the Anza Borrego desert in the spring. In some years the flowers are incredibly dense on the desert floor and in other years, they are sparse and require great attention to detail to spot them.
Desert flowers show up in my work, sometimes focused on individual plants, and sometimes in a landscape celebrating the riot of color splashed across the desert.
In either case, I enjoy “revisiting’ spring color throughout the rest of the year by creating art from photos taken on a springtime hike. This is especially satisfying if I missed my usual spring trek to the desert!
2012 was such a year, so recently I pulled out photos of last year’s visit to Desert Gardens and Coyote Canyon. On the particular day we went. There were abundant lupine blooming, and frequently this summer I have been remembering several views of them.
Here is a soft pastel of “Lupine in Coyote Canyon” which is displayed at the University Club of Phoenix from September 7 – November 11.
From the earliest age, I was interested in portraying the world visually. Writing assignments in grammar school were always elaborately illustrated. As a young college student, I applied for a semester abroad program in France so that I could visit the Louvre. I vividly remember the exhilaration of experiencing so many paintings in the original that I had only seen as book or poster reproductions until then.
Although my early inspiration to be an artist was mostly from oil paintings, I have never really enjoyed painting in oil! At least not oil on canvas!
My favorite subject matter is realistic landscape in a variety of media. Some pieces are worked in direct methods, such as watercolor or pastel, but my original prints are indirect, created first on plates, which are then inked and transferred to paper on an etching press. My creative process involves experiencing a place, hiking and taking photographs and making sketches. Then I return to the studio to create the final work.
When etching plates are inked and wiped, it is a messy business! The tacky oil-based ink gets all over my gloved hands and then ends up all over the back of the printmaking plate. After the etching is printed and the plate is lifted from the press bed, sometimes there is ink left on the surface of the bed. This accidental transfer of ink sometimes suggests an image, in the same way that you might see images in clouds.
The image can be manipulated with rags and brushes, even additions of more ink, and then printed onto paper, creating a one-of-a-kind print known as a monotype.
After playing with this accidental residue of ink to create spontaneous monotypes a few times, I began to explore the possibilities of monotype for it’s own sake, using a blank plexiglass plate and a planned approach. Initially I used oil paint to create these images, but found the transparent colors I desired required too much oil and thinner to be viable for printing on paper. About this time, oil paint appeared in art stores in a water-soluble form. The paper is normally damp when passing through etching press, so the new oils seemed like a perfect solution for monotype.
With a little experimentation, I found this new paint to be a very satisfying and versatile medium for my landscape work.
Because the ink is water soluble, it can be thinned with water for very transparent washes. This seemed ideally matched to my fascination with imagery of water and waterfalls.
There are many ways that artists approach monotype printmaking, sometimes called “painterly printmakng”. Think about Degas’ ballerinas (monotype, sometimes with the addition of pastel) or Henri Matisse’s white lines on a rich black field, or Georges Rouault’s loose, fluid brushwork as in “Clown with Monkey”.
My approach is to use a full palette to develop a realistic landscape. Through the use of additive mediums, I can emphasize the brush stoke or minimize it to create soft passages of color. I may use rollers to apply a solid field of color, or rubber tipped sticks or very fine brushes to remove color. I may also press paper towels or bits of lace into the paint to remove color in a textured patterns.
The resulting images truly live up to the name “painterly print”.
My original prints and paintings have been exhibited in Regional, National and International competitions. I was awarded the 2nd Place Award for my miniature prints in the 8th Biennial International Mini-Print competition at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut in 2011. My work is regularly on exhibit in the greater San Diego area.
I have been invited to present my work in a solo exhibition in Phoenix, Arizona fromSeptember 7 to November 11, 2012 at the University Club of Phoenix. If you are in the area, I hope you can join me!
Artist Reception September 7 from 5:30 – 7:30. Hors D’oeuvres – No Host-Bar Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am often asked why I choose a particular medium when creating new work. It’s an interesting question for an artist who works in many media instead of specializing in only one. There are actually a number of answers to the question, often influenced by what exhibitions I am getting ready for.
One answer is: I may need work in specific media for an upcoming exhibition. Another answer is, the image has been in my mind a while and a way to treat it in a certain medium suggests itself. Or, I may find myself longing to work in a certain medium just because I haven’t used it in a while.
Sometimes, I know immediately when I see something inspiring which medium I prefer for the image. “After the Rain” is an example – I knew as soon as I saw this rain-drenched rose that I wanted to paint it in oil pastel. I wanted to work through the challenge of painting the water droplets on the petals and the stems.
I usually have a number of images that I am mulling over, knowing I want to portray a certain scene or a particular flower but not knowing which technique I want to use. It may come to me, while thinking about what imagery to create for an all-print exhibition, that a specific image will lend itself nicely to treatment in etching. During this process I may consider another image and decide on a different medium for that composition – and postpone that work for a while.
In this way, I often have several images in mind, including possible technical treatments, while I am working on another piece. Some pieces stay in this mulling mode for months or even years before they are finally realized.
Monotype presents itself as an attractive option when I am preparing for an exhibition of original print techniques and I am running short on time to come up with the requisite number of new pieces. Under the deadline pressure, I may cast around in my group of potential images for one or several that would work well in monotype. Monotype is also the medium that demands the most spontaneity, so it becomes an appealing option after completion of several etchings with long, meticulous plate development processes, such as “Timelines” (above) which took three and a half months to complete.
Monotypes are one-of-a-kind prints. I use water-soluble oil-based paint on a blank sheet of plexiglass. Once I begin to paint, I need to print within 4 – 6 hours. This forces me into a totally different working mindset from any other medium that I use. There is always the possibility that the days’ work will be lost – not every monotype is successful on first attempt. Some go on to become mixed media work, by enhancing the print with pastel, color pencil or watercolor. For others, I repeat the experiment until the monotype idea is fully realized.
Some of the joy of creating in different media is that they handle differently, and I feel like I am always learning. Working in one medium, I feel inspired with an idea of how to use a different medium in a new way.