Friday, August 19, 2016

The Way I Do It

The way I do monotypes that is!  Since I have been working with this new medium to me, I have been getting questions about the process and about what a monotype is.  Monotype printing can be traced back to the 1500s to the artist Hercules Seghers, when he experimented with color printing utilizing different types of papers and linen.  In the 1600s Benedetto Castiglione and Rembrandt further advanced the technique, one that was passed down through generations of artists.  Monotype fell out of favor after these two artist, mostly because multiple prints could not be done from one plate.  It wasn't until the 19th century when Impressionist artists such as Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, and Paul Gauguin were drawn to the immediacy of the medium and brought it back to life.  It was Edgar Degas though who took this type of printing to new levels.  Degas created about 500 monotypes after he was introduced to the medium by artist Ludovic Lepic.  Degas's obsession with monotype brought him to approach the medium differently, retouching his prints, mostly his ghost images, with pastels.  He also experimented with oil paint as opposed to printing ink, which added an extra layer of chance to the printing process.  Through the years after Degas other major artists picked up the process; such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb, Richard Diebenkorn, and Robert Motherwell to name a few; each one approaching it differently and adding to the possibilities of the medium.   I was introduced to monotype in collage, under the tutelage of painter and printmaker Fred Wessel.  I was drawn to the painterly aspect of it, which suited my needs then as an abstract painter.  My process was to add color ink to a linoleum block covered in a waxy paper or acetate, and mix my colors on it and create a composition on the spot.  Since that one semester about fourteen years ago I did not work with printmaking at all, but I always kept it in the back of my mind as something I wanted to explore again.  Two years ago, through the Salmagundi Club, I was able to get back into monotype, and this time around I was deeply hooked and it has now become a major part of my artistic output.
My approach to monotype is considered "dark field," which consists of a surface (in my case zinc or copper etching plates) covered with black ink.  The image is then carved out of this black layer of ink by wiping out the areas that will be white in the finished image, a subtractive process as some may call it.  In the image above I'm testing out my ink mixture on scrap paper to match the hue of the color of past prints.  I like to mix black ink with a little sepia to warm it up.
After I mix the ink and test it out on paper I proceed to cover my plate with it using a brayer.  It helps to cover the plate evenly with a flat layer of velvety ink, if too much ink is applied it can be pressed out by the etching press, causing blobs to appear in the final print. Remember to keep it tight and keep it right!  
After my plate is covered I begin to draw lines with a wooden BBQ skewer, the sharp end acting like a pencil.  The bottom of a brush works just as well if you don't have a skewer.  After my drawing is complete I begin to take ink off by using various tools.  In the image above I'm working with a cotton swab, wiping away to create clouds.  You can also use rags, paper towels, or cosmetic sponges as well.
After I've wiped the desired amount of ink (in the sky) I start to blend and fines with a soft white synthetic brush, always wiping away excess ink off the brush after a few strokes.  The texture of the trees can be easily obtained daubing the shapes with a hog bristle brush.  I tend to use a filbert shaped brush, and just like the synthetic brush I like to wipe it clean from time to time to ensure that the bush is picking up ink off the plate.  For grassy areas I use either a round or flat hog bristle brush, and instead of daubing I drag it upward to give me the effect I'm looking for.    
In the image above I'm working with a paper towel I bunched up.  One day, while trying to get an image going in very little time I used a paper towel and it worked like magic.  The uneven texture of the bunched up paper towel gave me the best results for groups of foliage.  To get the details on the tree trunks or leaves that reflect light in the trees I use a round tip clay shaper or color shaper, which takes away a lot of ink and gives me sharp lines.
After I'm happy with my image the plate goes under the press!  You have to be prepared for surprises at this point because sometimes things print darker than expected, or some of the detailed elements that were done with the clay shaper can give you too much contrast.  Either way you have to live with the final print.  There are many other ways to create monotypes, this is just the way I approach it and the way that has worked for me. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

July Monotypes

Esopus Creek, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

I have caught the monotype/printing bug real bad!  Painting has come to almost a complete halt, not something I want to admit but it is the truth.  I look forward to the days when I get to print, most of my energy now goes into planning and sketching for monotype days and nights at either the Salmagundi Clug or at my friend Rob's studio.  The monotypes are being well received by most people, it seems like the dark aspect of the images and their moodiness captures viewers attention far better than my colorful paintings.  There is something more mysterious about them, and that seems to really get people's attention.  It used to bother me a lot since it made me think perhaps I was not such a good painter after all, but I am learning not to fight it, so full steam ahead the printing continues.  
Arbolado II, 2016, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

Things have started to evolve, and I'm now in the process of creating two new series of works that stem from these monotypes.  The first series is called Arbolado, a group of prints where I will be coming up with images of walls of trees that take up most of the page.  These are an exercise in imagination, speed, and my understanding of composition.  How many of these can I make without them becoming repetitive?  I have set a goal of ten, but perhaps will continue further until they develop into something more.   My approach is simple, work fast, come up with the image on the spot and let the inked plate guide me as I start making marks, and try to keep more of an abstract composition.  The image above is No.2 of the group, which I will share more of in an upcoming post.   
Farmlands in Kripplebush, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

The next series involves the ghost prints I have been collecting and did not know what to do with.  Last month I almost tossed them out but decided to keep them for one reason or another.  I did not want to touch them up with pastels or watercolor in fear that I would create a mess.  Also, I did not want to copy Degas who is known for reworking his ghost prints.  But the old light bulb went off in my head the other day and I had an idea on how to use said ghost prints in a way that I could incorporate painting.  Still trying to figure out the technical side of it but soon as I get it down I will post the process and outcomes.  As always, thank you for checking in, more work to come!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Opening Night at Bowery Gallery

At the Edge of the Charles, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Last Thursday night was the opening of Bowery Gallery's 25th Annual Juried Exhibition, a group show in which my painting At the Edge of the Charles was included.  Juror Martica Sawin had the daunting task of going through 386 applicants work and choosing the final 39 pieces which are on display until August 20.  Here are a few images of some of my favorite pieces and of the night.
Standing next to my painting, At the Edge of the Charles, which hung right above the front desk.  Photo credit: Diane Drescher

Blake Morgan, Wichita Mountains 2, 2016, oil on paper, 22 x 30 inches 

Blake Morgan, USAO Wildlife Habitat, 2016, oil on paper, 22 x 30 inches 

Kathy A. Moore, Mirrored Still Life on Striped Cloth, 2013, oil on canvas, 22 x 28 inches

Bowery Gallery
530 West 25th St 4th Floor
New York, NY 
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 11am-6pm
For information call: 646.230.6655

Ivy Hickman, River Walk (Dominican Republic), 2014, monotype, 18 x 14 inches 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Feature in Niji Magazine

I have been featured in the art section of Niji Magazine.  Thank you to Lisa Salerno for writing a nice piece.  Click on the hyper link for the full article.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Plein Air Paitings

Prospect Park Lake, Three Islands, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 16 inches 

These two paintings are from June, and I'm finally getting around to posting them.  Lots of going on during the first half of this year which has prevented me from doing much painting, but things are slowing down and I'm getting back into the groove.  This painting (above) is another one from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, a place I'm enjoying to explore.  This part of the park was ideal, it reminded me of something Monet would have painted.  Not that I'm comparing myself to such a genius, but if you come across something Monet would have enjoyed painting then why the hell not give it a shot?  It turns out I'm very happy with this piece, and I may go back to the same area and make a few more paintings.  There are some grander views of the lake if you were to move back from this spot and look towards the right.

On a Cloudy Summer Day, Olivebridge, 2016, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches 

As always, this view in Olivebridge never gets old!  There are so many colors in this area and they keep changing as the day progresses.  Just like in this painting the clouds above float in such a majestic way, sometimes they seem to come down and engulf the mountain to the point that it becomes invisible.  The different qualities of light according to the seasons changes the color of the mountains.  Sometimes they are an intense blue, other times earthy orange with lavender, then deep grey on rainy days, and on a day like this one the mountains were a crisp blue green.  It's hard not to keep painting this scene when it is constantly providing so much inspiration.  I'll be back there in two weeks, can't wait to see what other surprises this mountain has for me.  More to come.

Friday, July 01, 2016

June Monotypes, Part 2

When Evening Falls, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

These are my latest prints, all accomplished during the all night Draw-A-Thon at Salmagundi Club last friday.  It was such a fun night, even better to see such a great turn out of artists who worked through the night on figure drawings, portrait painting and monotypes.  As with any monotype party at Salmagundi, I went into this all night event with a goal in mind.  Get as many prints done as possible.  A few days prior I was able to make a print per hour, so I figured I could do the same on this night, which would put it at a total of nine prints.  But early in the night I could tell that it would be close to impossible, so I lowered the goal number to six.  Mission accomplished!
Olivebridge Nocturne, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Not only did I go in with a number of prints I wanted to finish, but I also wanted to print with a warm black ink, something similar to what I had done on a previous print.  After asking for advice I was told that the black ink I was looking for was a mixture of black and Van Dyck Brown.  Not sure why I hadn't thought about it before but I was suggested that I should play around with different ink mixtures…again, why has it taken me two years to figure this out.   
Colorado Hike, 2016, monotype, image 9 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches, Private Collection

I mixed Charbonnel Soft Black and Sepia and the two created this rich, deep, beautiful brown black which yielded these very moody prints.  This was not the original color I intended to work with but I'm glad I arrived at it.  I have been working continuosly with straight Sepia in the last six months that it was time for a change.
Tuscan Hills, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Changes are all around, I used to consider myself a painter but recently I added printmaker to my artist description on my Instagram account.  It felt strange because this is still new but I know that making monotypes will remain a big part of work.  The thing is that I'm also having a hard time with this because the monotypes are being well received by people, sometimes better than my paintings.  I feel like I'm cheating on my painting and the new mistress is offering that something that was missing in the relationship.  I'm not painting as much as I used to, to be honest it's sad to see the last few brushes I used either on the easel shelf or studio floor, abandoned and unclean.
Country Landscape, 2016, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

The great thing about being an artist is that you are constantly evolving, growing, and one thing in your current work takes you to another idea or discipline, and eventually they all start communicating with each other.  I know that these monotypes will eventually bring another layer to my painting, but for the moment they are not seeing eye to eye.  Only time will tell if they will meet half way or will they keep on their separate ways.
Arbolado, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

Friday, June 24, 2016

June Monotypes, Part 1

River Scene, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

June is shaping up to be a very productive in the printing department.  These are three prints and ghost prints I made three nights ago.  To be honest I'm not sure how I feel about them, I think there is too much contrast and I'm having a difficult time liking them.  I am enjoying the ghost prints better though, I guess not all is lost.
River Scene, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Tonight I will be doing some printing and will play around with the ink a bit more to see if I get the desired effects.  I think I also found the right type of black ink that will give a warmer and softer tone to the prints.  Let's hope it works out for me tonight.  More monotypes coming in the next couple of days.
Bend on the Road, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Bend on the Road, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Grassy Field Near the Beach, 2016, monotype, image 5 x 7 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Grassy Field Near the Beach, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 5 x 7 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Bowery Gallery National Competition

At the Edge of the Charles, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Great news! At the Edge of the Charles has been selected to be included in the 2016 Bowery Gallery National Competition exhibition.  Thank you to juror Martica Sawin and to Bowery Gallery for this honor.  Exhibition details below: 

Exhibition dates: August 2 - 20, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, August 4, 5 - 8 PM. 
Bowery Gallery
530 West 25th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Tel 646.230.6655

Hope to see you all in August!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

New Plein Air Paintings

An Afternoon at Nellie's Lawn, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches

Summer is here and plein air season is off to a good start.  As I had mentioned in a previous blog post, Prospect Park has become my painting playground and it has been an enjoyable place to work in.  Unlike Central Park, this place is not overflowing with tourists, which can make the park unbearable, especially when you become NYC entertainment for said tourists and they start to get in front of your view to take pictures, or worst yet, they stick their heads in between you and the painting without asking.  Once a I had a guy breathe on the back of my head, I had no clue he was there and when I turned around because I sensed something funny behind me I almost kissed him.  I was so startled that not only did I jump but I also let out a little scream.  With no apologies he walked away and continued with his friends to enjoy their tour of Central Park.  Perhaps the worst was when a group of little kids wanted to play and run all around me, and little by little they became more comfortable with me being there, realizing I was no harm to them one decided to attack my easel and shake it as I painted.  Their mother?  She was a few feet away watching the whole thing not caring for her offspring.  She was more worried about her picnic and engorging herself.     
Walking Path, Vale of Cashmere, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches 

After an hour train ride south to Brooklyn, that's if MTA is cooperative, the experiences have been good so far.  I have been meeting my new friend and painting buddy Charles Basman at Prospect Park in the Vale of Cashmere, a place he is very familiar with.  This secluded European inspired garden is a great spot for anyone who needs a quite moment away from the craziness of New York City.  Whether if you are a painter, a bird watcher, a thinker, or someone who loves to stroll this area of the park can be ideal.  Not only is it tucked away from the main areas of the park where all the locals hang out, but it also can provide shade and coolness when the sun is strong.       

Vale of Cashmere, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches 

According to the Prospect Park Alliance, "the story of the Vale of Cashmere, which occupies the northeast corner of the Park, actually started about 17,000 years ago when a buried chunk of the Wisconsin glacier began to melt, collapsing the soil and leaving a divot surrounded by steep walls of earth."  The original designers of Prospect Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert B. Vaux, created an area in this location where it was more kid friendly, with a pool where they could sail miniature boats.  In the 1890's the space was redesigned to what we see now, but over the years the Vale of Cashmere has fallen into disrepair.  The granite balustrade is not longer in place, the only hints of its existence are the end columns that stand alone as witnesses to a grander past.  The fountains have been turned off and nature has taken over by replacing water with overgrowth.  Regardless,  this little corner of the park retains a charm that is difficult to find in an ever changing city such as New York.  

Friday, June 03, 2016

New Monotypes

Marsh Off Kripplebush Rd., 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 x 11 inches 

These are the latest additions to my monotype works.  A big thank you to my very good friend Robert Szot for not only buying a press but also for letting me come over and print.  An artist's studio can be somewhat of sacred, private space, to let others in, especially to work, can be a bit hard for some, reason why Rob allowing me to come and use his press means a lot. Thank you buddy!
Barcos en la Orilla de un Rio, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Hopefully we'll get to print more often, it was a fun experience to work and chat.  The studio can be a lonely place sometimes, having a like minded person was a nice change.  More to come!
Barcos en la Orilla de un Rio, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches