Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Painting

Spent the long weekend in Connecticut, where I grew up.  Went to Goodwin Park and took my new palette out for a spin!  I love this New Wave Art palette, it's the most comfortable hand held palette I've worked with.  One more for my collection…time to let the paint build up!
Saturday turned out to be an excellent day for painting, was not hot, and after a cloudy start to the day the sky cleared up and I had beautiful crisp light through the afternoon.  
Not a bad view don't you think?  Sometimes I feel very lucky that I get to enjoy life this way, out in the sun at peace with the sound of the wind and birds.
Late afternoon and the light begins to change.  I prefer this light, things begin to glow and it almost seems like there's magic in the air.
Second day of painting was a bit colder than expected, but you have to deal with it, once I'm in the zone I tend to forget about the heat or the cold.  A few hours later though I'm reminded of how cold it is wen my hands start to numb and tingle for the chill in the air.  That's usually a good time to stop.  
Again, I'm left alone among the trees and if feels like the world stands still.  These are the moments when I feel the most alive and at peace.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Michelangelo Coming to New York!

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Archers Shooting at a Herm, ca. 1530, red chalk on paper, 21.9 cm x 32.3 cm, Royal Collection, UK

Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announce that it would present a historic exhibition on the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, a titan of the Renaissance and of all of Western Art.  Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer is scheduled to open on November 13, 2017 and run through February 12, 2018.  This unprecedented blockbuster exhibition will no doubt bring art pilgrims from across state lines, if not international as well.  About 150 drawings, three marble sculptures, The Torment of Saint Anthony (Michelangelo's first known painting dating to the time when he was twelve or thirteen), and one of his wood architectural models for a chapel vault; will all give viewers an insight into the creative process of this Renaissance genius.
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Young Archer, ca. 1490, marble, H. 37, W. 13 1/4, D. 14 inches, lent by the French State, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 

Michelangelo's work holds a power and grandiosity that has captured the attention of people through the ages.  Many artists have used his imagery as inspiration and as a starting point for their own work.  Now in the twenty first century New York and it's visitors will understand why his contemporaries called him Il Divino (The Divine One).
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto), 1510-11, red and white chalk on paper, 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches

For this exhibition work has been pulled from fifty four public and private collections from the US and Europe.  One of the drawings that I anticipate will be on display is this study sheet of the Libyan Sibyl, an image that captured my admiration for Michelangelo, one that I obsessed over since the age of sixteen when I first came across it in an art book in my high school library.  This was the moment I realized that man can achieve greatness beyond the rational, that talent and vision will always live beyond time, and that artists are touched with a gift that can elevate art to the realm of the divine.      

Monday, May 22, 2017

April at the Grand Army

Our monthly printing get togethers at the Grand Army keep going strong, as a matter of fact we met twice in April…not bad at all!
I keep exploring the larger format, still some kinks to work out but there is some progress.  Above a 12x18 copper plate is placed neatly on the bed of the press and it's ready to roll under the drum.  
A second plate is ready for the press, sometimes I wish I could keep the ink on the plate and let it dry and treat it like a painting on copper.  I love the way light reflects on the red cold tone of the copper.  It adds some drama that gets lost on the paper.
Fresh off the press…I'm happy with the result, but still it lacks the luminosity of the copper.  
Giving a big plate another go on the second day.  I lucked out with this one and was able to attain a glow on the final print, one that I have not seen on my previous prints.  I guess it was one of those things that only happens once and you have to be happen that it did than for it to have happened at all.  
Another moon nocturne image, I think a new series is happening here…this would be the third moon themed landscape this year.  Let's see how far I can go with this.  
Two prints done and drying.  I have been enjoying the process of most of my recent prints, the images come about organically without the use of reference photos or sketches.  It can be challenging trying not come up with different compositions and trying not to repeat myself.  So far things have worked out nicely though.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Back to Prospect Park

The sun is shinning and summer is quickly approaching, and this can only mean one thing...plein air season is here.  Recently my friend Charles and I met up at Prospect Park to pick up right where we left off last summer, painting views of the lake. 
I love this area, given the right day and time, this little piece of land and water can make you feel like you are no longer in New York City.  Sometimes it feels like we are painting somewhere in France, standing in the same places that Daubigny had.  If only I had his talent can dream.  
It was a beautiful sunny day, a little windy at times but no big deal.  We knew that there was a chance of rain in the afternoon, but couldn't believe because it was too damn beautiful.  And about ten minutes before 3pm the clouds started moving in, and moving fast!
One smile for the camera before it was time to pack up and try to beat the rain.  It rained twice that afternoon.  We barely made it out of round one.  Luckily a few yards away from where we set up there's a burger place where we usually end our painting days and catch up on life and painting.  
Then round two came pouring down fast as we walked out of the park.  We thought we were done with the rain but I guess mother nature had something else planned for us.  Good thing I paint in oil and not watercolor, I can't imagine a day's work being washed away by the rain, can you?!  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Landscape Drawings

Untitled, 2017, charcoal, graphite, pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

There are times when painting comes to a stop.  It's become a pattern that after a successful year or two of painting I tend to hit a roadblock that causes me to stop painting for weeks.  I have not been able to figure out why this happens, I know I have written about it in past blog posts.  Not painting can affect my mood, I'm not the happiest person to be around during these periods which only I can pull myself out of when I have cleared my head enough to sit in front of the easel.
Untitled, 2017, graphite, pastel, sanguine oil pencil on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

Luckily this most recent painting drought has not been too bad and that's thanks to new interests in my studio practice.  Monotypes have become a major focus of my recent output, but what has been a welcome change is drawing, and I'm not talking about my little sketches in my sketchbook.  These are proper drawings which are closely related to my monotypes.  My interest in drawing was sparked by a drawing material's workshop I will be teaching in the near future.  In preparing myself for it I began dusting off my chalks and pencils, and began reading about the history of paper which has been very interesting.
Untitled, 2017, graphite and sanguine oil pencil on paper, 6 x 14 1/2 inches  

You can't teach about something if you don't feel comfortable about the subject, so I went to work and decided to have some fun and see what would come of it.  I know how precious I can get with my projects, and in painting sometimes it can hinder the final work.  Spontaneity is of importance to me when looking at art created by other artists and it is quality that I try to bring to my work.  This is why I picked a Stonehenge pad measuring 6 x 15 inches, a long format which would force me to think about composition differently than the standard rectangle I usually work with.  By the way, these beautiful pads of cream color Stonehenge spiral bound pads were discontinued this year,  so I had to grab as much as I could for future use.
Untitled, 2017, sanguine oil pencil, pastel, pen and ink on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

The second part of the challenge has been to use different dry media within each drawing to achieve different effects and colors.  I saw a beautiful Michelangelo drawing recently online made with charcoal, white and red chalk and ink, and the effects he achieved were incredible.  This specific drawing has been on my mind for a couple of months and I know this was the reason why I have been approaching these drawings the same way.  To clarify I am not saying I am as talented as Michelangelo, to insinuate that I would have to be delusional.  I am only inspired by his genius and I am only paying my respects.  Lastly, my approach on these has been very similar to my monotypes.  Instead of covering the plate and pulling out shapes according to patterns left by the brayer, I tend to cover the paper with the powder remains of either the sanguine, pastel, or charcoal pencils after I shape/sharpen them on a sandpaper block.  I rub on the powder and begin building on the random shapes created by my hand or stomp after spreading it.
Untitled, 2017, graphite and pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I am looking forward to see where these drawings take me, so far they exist on their own without any plans of using them for anything specific,  and for the record, these are not supposed to be "finished" pieces.  These are more exploratory than anything else.  More to come soon.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

March at The Grand Army

Sunday printing at The Grand Army NYC happens about once a month and it is the best time between friends and artists who respect and admire each other.  Not to mention that the intimate setting, Rob's home and studio, can some times lead to shenanigans that will not be revealed in this blog.  We feed into each other's insanity, all while creating a body of work that will hopefully have a dialogue across the different styles of each individual.  So what is The Grand Army?  Initially it was born out of a need to run some monotype prints in a more relaxed and private setting.  Two friends, Rob and I, who found a mutual obsession and we wanted to start a tight group that would also enjoy the monotype process.  I would hate to use the word society but that is the idea.   
Access to a bigger press with no time restraints has been a God sent.  I have been able to work on larger plates, 12x18 inches copper plates to be exact, and this has brought in a new kind of freedom to my monotypes.  Above is an image of a larger plate ready to go under the press. 
Two in a Row, 2017, momotype, image 18 x 12 inches, sheet 23 x 17 inches, Private Collection 

This is the printed image, a bit greyer than I expected.  I have been running into a small problem that my black ink has been setting faster than it should and it is not transferring to the paper.  It is not a press issue that I am sure.  Although I add burnt plate oil to the ink mixture it still seems to dry on the plate, especially the dark areas which I leave untouched.  I'm not sure how to correct this problem, but if any of you print makers with more experience have any suggestions please be kind to let me know as to what I'm doing wrong.  I still have a good amount of ink left in the tube but I can feel that it is getting stiffer each week, and I think this is why it is not transferring over to the paper.  
My friend Ashley, a sculptor who lately has been working on large scale drawings, gave monotype a go and has fallen in love with the process.  Come back soon you hear Asheley!
A Tuscan Villa, 2017, monotype, image 10 x 8 inches, sheet 13 x 11 inches 

A Tuscan Villa, monotype (ghost print), image 10 x 8 inches, sheet 13 x 11 inches 

Here's another plate almost ready for printing.  Recently I have been working with 8x10 and 12x18 plates which are bigger than what I'm used to, but the biggest change is that I have not been using any reference sketches for these.  I come up with the images on the spot, which can be an exciting, challenging, and scary all at the same time. 
A Walk Through the Park, 2017, monotype, image 10 x 8 inches, sheet 13 x 11 inches

This print came out well, all the dark areas printed how I wanted them...success!
While Ashley and I were working on our plates, Rob was on the other side of his studio drawing and painting into his monotypes.  His process becomes more involved and painterly after he runs his prints. 
In the video above Rob is running Ashley's first print...a moment that can't really be described, you just have to look at her face and it says it all!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

February Monotypes

Tranquilidad Campestre, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

 These are some of the most recent monotypes I've done.  This group was actually created in one long night at Salmagundi Club's 2017 Draw-A-Thon, which ran from Friday Feb. 24, 9pm - Saturday Feb. 25, 6am.
Water's Edge, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

There are always a number of challenges when making any sort of art, and in this case you add the factor of sleep deprivation, which can affect your judgement.  To my luck my lack of sleep didn't affect my prints and I did not end up with kooky images.  Although I'm sure some may have enjoyed a little bit of strangeness in my landscapes.  
Paisaje Bucolico, Irlanda, 2017, monotype, image 12 x 18 inches, sheet 17 x 23 inches

This was also the night when I decided to go big!  This 12 x 18  print was definitely fun to make, something about the size allowed me to flow better.  I can say that I'm hooked on working this big.  
Arboles y Pradera, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

On these all night drawing/printing parties the goal is to make six prints, if not more.  To my relieve I have been able to cut my time down on most of these, almost one hour per plate.  On the larger prints a little bit of more time is required, but that is expected. 
Untitled, 2017, monotype, image 8 x 10 inches, sheet 11 x 13 inches 

There are times when prints are successful, and times when they are not.  Sometimes things are not as obvious on the plate, and you are made aware of necessary changes after it has been printed, which is too late by then.  Such is the case with this print.  There are some things I could have done better but there's nothing I can do about it now.  Although I beat myself down for this, it seems like this was a favorite of some people on Facebook.  Go figure!
Gathering on a Hill, 2017, monotype, image 10 x 8 inches, sheet 13 x 11 inches 

I usually work from drawings in my sketchbook; imaginary landscapes done with pen as I commute in the subway.  Then there are cases when I don't have an image in mind and just start whipping ink away and let the marks lead the way.  This print is one of those done on the spot and in one hour.  I've come to like these better, there's something more organic about them,  there is more movement, and I think that in any artwork is great.  More prints to come!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January Monotypes

Arbolado XIII, 2017, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

These three prints are the most recent of my monotypes, all created at Salamagundi's Monotype Party of January 5.  As with all of my prints, I'm always proud and happy with the outcome, but this group of three perhaps more so.  I'm starting to see growth in the execution, and I'm beginning to see my admiration for the Tonalists come through.  Perhaps this is why people have been responding positively to this body of work, they always reference the moody and mysterious qualities of these landscapes.    
Menacing Sky, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

At first I was uneasy to hear the praise of these prints over my paintings.  It was upsetting to hear that the work that I was doing prior to the monotypes was not as good, and as a painter, it hurt to hear people say "I like your monotypes better."  I may as well just put away my brushes and not touch a canvas again.  It doesn't bother me as much anymore, I've learned to accept it and in the end I can see what everyone's been seeing. 
Moonrise, 2017, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

I'm not giving up on painting though, I just have to approach it differently with what I've learned with printing.  It's strange having this dual personality though, because when I paint I love to see color, things are brighter; but the monotypes are what they are, black ink that can only be seen as dark silhouettes on a dark day. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Scaling Up the Monotypes

Along North San Carlos Trail Head, 2016, monotype, image 10 x 8 inches, paper 15 x 11 inches 

Recently I have been thinking of making bigger prints, but perhaps the biggest push is coming from my friend, and fellow painter/printmaker Rob.  What will happen if I'm put in front of a big plate and go at it?  I have yet to work with a big plate but slowly I'm moving in that direction.  These two prints are 8x10 images, so far that's the biggest I've gotten with these.  I think this format works well for me, the prints are a little bigger but they still retain a level of intimacy which has been the main focus of most of my work through the years. 
Cold Spring Woods, 2016, monotype, image 10 x 8 inches, paper 13 x 10 inches

I work small because I think it works best for me and because I'm a firm believer that art doesn't have to be big to be taken seriously.  Some of the most beautiful works of art in the history of mankind have been on the smaller scale.  There's too much crap out there that gets attention because it's big and flashy, this doesn't mean that it's any good, or that the attention it's receiving is a good thing.  In the end the work has to have an element of surprise every time you look at it, which is not to be confused with shock value.  Once people get the gimmick, or formula, it doesn't matter how large the work is, in the end it still fails to be transcendent.    

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Monotype Madness

Tuscan Landscape II, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

On December 10 I attended Salmagundi's All Day Monotype Madness, a mini monotype marathon that happens every so often on top of the monthly monotype parties.  As usual I go in with certain goals, I always have to take advantage of my time and the press while attending these parties.  A printmaker without a press, that's a funny idea, but that is my current position and I have to make the best of it.  This is why when I'm working I tend to sit in a corner, not getting involved in too many conversations, I have blinders on and I work on multiple plates at the same time so that I don't waste time standing in line at the press.  I may seem antisocial at these parties, detached perhaps, but it doesn't mean that I'm not paying attention to what is being said or who's around.
Tuscan Landscape II, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Since Feb. 11, 2014, I have been attending the monthly monotype parties at Salmagundi, and through the years I have met some nice people, talented artists who serve as inspiration.  It's easy to forget sometimes about the historical importance these parties, but from time to time you are reminded and it feels good to be a part of it.
Dead Tree, monotype, image 9 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

From 1888 to 1929 members of the club would meet on a regular basis  to have dinner, and once the plates were cleared from the tables different kind of plates were brought out.  Zinc and copper plates were handed out to those present and they would all get to work by inking the plates and creating images, some of which now form part of a monotype collection which hangs all around the walls of the club's bar.
Dead Tree, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 9 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

Not much has changed since those days, the sound of chatter and dinner plates fill the downstairs rooms where the parties take place.  After searching the club's archives, Robert Pillsbury, now the 50th president of the Salmagundi club, brought back the monotype parties about six years ago.  Now once a month members of all ages meet in the downstairs bar and pool tables area and let the press crank all night.  
Three Trees, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

If you are interested in reading a little more about Salmagundi's monotype parties and the folks who attend them, check out this article by the Epoch Times.
Three Trees, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Storm Clouds Over a Field, 2016, monotype, image 4 x 6 inches, paper 6 x 8 inches 

Storm Clouds Over a Field, 2016, monotype (ghost print) 

Breaking Clouds, 2016, monotype, image 5 x 7 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches