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 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Recent Monotypes, Part 2

Arbolado XIII, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches 

As promised on my last blog post, here are the last prints of my Arbolado series plus a couple more.  I have not done any printing in a month, and to be honest I think I'm starting to go through withdrawals.  Good thing is that I've been keeping myself busy painting, while the gears are turning in my ever running mind about the next few projects I want to start.  It never ends but that's the beauty of it all, I have plenty of reasons to keep waking up every morning, and the great thing is that even though the world is turing to shit I still have my talent, something that no one can ever take away.  So as people collide, nations crumble, and the world decays, I feel good knowing that I wake up every day to add something positive to this planet.  That's my purpose in life.      
Arbolado IX2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Arbolado X2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Arbolado XI2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

 Arbolado XII2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Young Tree, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Prospect Park, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 10 inches, paper 9 x 11 inches

Friday, November 11, 2016

Recent Monotypes

Arbolado III, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

I present to you some of my recent monotypes, this group forms part of a series of prints I talked about in a previous post.  The Arbolado series is a group of prints representing walls or groupings of trees which are very close to the foreground.  These clusters of trees take up most of the space, creating a darker, more mysterious space than other imagery I've worked with.   
Arbolado IV, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

The biggest challenge of this group was to keep them spontaneous, not relying on any other image previously made, like a photo or sketch.  These are all made up on the spot, letting the ink on the plate dictate some of the shapes.  Sometimes when rolling ink on the copper or zinc plate I would see certain compositions arise and I would leave those areas alone, not covering them completely so that I could be able to go back to them and carve out the image.  
Arbolado V, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

The original goal was to make a series with a minimum of ten prints, but the final count was open, and perhaps it still is.  So far I've created twelve of these prints, I think this is a good stopping point because I don't want them to start becoming repetitive. 
Arbolado VI, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

I have been thinking about why I decided to work on this series.  The way I arrived at it was out of chance when in a monotype marathon party I was pressed (no pun intended) for time to get the last image done for the night.  In a matter of fifteen minutes I came up with the first Arbolado and at that moment something clicked.   
Arbolado VI, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

The approach was simple yet challenging, and yes very fun.  The spontaneity of it was what attracted me most, but what about the images?  I was drawn to them and as I kept thinking about it some more I remembered that while at the Hartford Art School,  Eric Holzman exhibited a group of large landscape paintings in the school's gallery.  I was mesmerized by them, not only by their size but because they were dark, mysterious, and beautiful.  His paintings of large singular dark trees with moody skies behind them, had an effect on me, I still think about them constantly and I think that this series was a way of externalizing my feelings towards his work.  
Arbolado VII, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

The world can be a small funny place, and these days, through work, I have constant direct contact with Eric.  Even though I was intrigued by his work years ago, I failed to take note of his name but I never forgot those paintings.  I always kept on a look out for them, I wanted to find out who he was.  Over ten years later while at work, one of my colleagues had an artist's website up on the computer, and I was elated to find out it was the same man who had show his work at the Hartford Art School.  The man was a client of ours, someone I had talked to many times but never knew he was the artist who's paintings never left my mind.  Weeks later when Eric visited our shop I spoke to him and confirmed that yes those were his paintings I saw years ago.  I guess these are an ode to him, and to Eric I want to say thank you for the inspiration.   
Arbolado VII, 2016, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 1/2 x 8 inches 

More of this series to come in a future post, come back soon and check them out. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

Two Paintings from Summer

I'm back!  Actually I never did leave, I just stopped paying attention to the blog because Instagram has taken over my social media.  But once in a while I do need to post in this blog to be able to explain more about the process and progress of recent projects.  Such is the case about a color I recently added to my palette and I don't know how I lived without it before.  This summer while painting in Prospect Park, my friend Charles shared some of his Chrome Yellow Primrose paint.  I've known that this is a historical color highly used in the nineteenth century, and slowly it's use declined due to the introduction of Cadmium paints.  Due to it's precious status I was never inclined to use it, but Charles placed a big dollop on my palette and my life was changed!     
It was perfect timing since during those weeks we were painting around Prospect Park Lake, which was covered in one section with a bright green-yellow plant call Floating Water Primrose...coincidence or fate?  With Chrome Yellow I was able to achieve a bright green yellow mixture, but one that was not as acidic as a Cadmium mixture.  Cadmiums most of the time can be hard to work with because they can be too intense, and trying to tone down that intensity without effecting the clarity of the color can be very tricky.  With Chrome Yellow I was able to get the desired brightness but without the unnatural acidic effect of a Cadmium Yellow.   
Floating Water Primrose, Prospect Park Lake, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches 

Chrome Yellow aside, there was another change happening starting with these two paintings, and that is the full use of hog bristle brushes.  It's been years since I've used bristle, but I think using sable brushes have caused me to become too detailed, and that's not good when painting in plein air because it takes too long to finish a painting.  Most of the time I don't finish the paintings in that first session.  Using bristle on these two paintings allowed me to be more free with paint and it also brought some much needed texture to my work.
Floating Water Primrose, Prospect Park Lake No. 2, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 15 inches

Here they are, the last two paintings of summer, at least the ones painted in NYC.  Six plein air paintings from Bali coming to this blog very soon, stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Recent Monotypes

Clouds Over a Field, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Although I have been missing in action when it comes to updating this blog, I still have been busy working on paintings and monotypes.  A number of things have been keeping me busy and the blog was put on the back burner for a little while, but here I am today sharing a number of recent prints I have worked on the last couple of months.  
A Lake in Rhinebeck, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

The monotype frenzy, the two year obsession which is now taking over a few artists I know, continues.  Perhaps the biggest reason for the excitement towards this medium is the immediacy of the creation of each print.  Things have to come together quickly, which means that I constantly have to keep coming up with ideas and sketches to feed this printing beast.  I work from sketches, compositions created from imagination or taken from reference photos of places I have been, this keeps me drawing constantly, which is an excellent way of exercising the brain.        
After Corot, Ville d'Avray, Thicket at the Edge of a Pond with a Kneeling Peasant, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

In the case with this print after Corot, things happened more impulsively.  For a number of years I have been wanting to do a copy after one of his paintings, but doing so can be intimidating.  His catalogue is too large and good, and his talent is unmatched that I would be making a fool out of myself trying to copy something of his.  I did feel more comfortable turning one of his paintings into a monotype because he did not make any prints, at least none that I have seen over the years, and the process would allow me to make it more my own while still working with his composition.     
Prospect Park Lake, 2016, monotype, image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

I am also starting to make prints out of plein air paintings.  This is the second monotype I've made based from a canvas I completed recently.  That painting has not been posted on this blog yet but it's coming soon.  I thought it a neat idea that one day some of my plein air paintings could be shown side by side with prints based on them.  They each are so different but they will still maintain a special dialogue with each other..  
Prospect Park Lake, 2016, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 9 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

If you are interested in keeping up to date with works in progress, news,  and other projects I'm involved with,  follow me on instagram, handle @luiscolanart.  I update there regularly.   

Monday, September 19, 2016

Historic Landscape Through Modern Eyes

Field at Sagamore Hill, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 11 inches
Cold Spring Harbor, Sagamore Hill, 2011, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches

I'm very happy to announce that I will be included in an invitational exhibition titled Historic Landscape Through Modern Eyes: Re-envisioning Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill at the Old Orchard Museum at Sagamore Hill. Old Orchard Museum was previously the home of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of President Roosevelt, and it was built between 1937-38 in the apple orchard of Sagamore Hill,the "Summer White House" and 83 acre estate of President Roosevelt. These two paintings, "Filed at Sagamore Hill" and "Cold Spring Harbor, Sagamore Hill" will be on view from Sept. 23, 2016 - January 15, 2017. Details of the exhibition:
Exhibition dates: September 23, 2016 - January 15, 2017
Location: Old Orchard Museum, Sagamore Hill, 20 Sagamore Hill Rd., Oyster Bay, New York 11771

Hope to see everyone there!

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