Wednesday, June 4, 2014

new challenges

I am in Helper with my friend Phyllis on our annual "art week" of painting together. We decided to spend our days this year creating monotypes, painting onto acrylic plates and transferring the images onto paper using an etching press. This is something I have done before here in Helper, during a couple of Dave Dornan's workshops, and also with Paul Davis at his studio in Teasdale.

The monotype process is both demanding and relaxed, a combination of specific steps that have to be taken in a certain order, and a looseness and unpredictability that comes from the mediated nature of transferring an image from one surface to another. The acrylic plate is unabsorbent and slippery, and the paper is the opposite. There are multiple variables that require management to produce a successful print. Similarly, there are many mediums and methods that can be used to create the plate, and many different papers that can be used to receive the image. It is complex, and yet it has a carefree and very experimental nature.

Partly because of my fascination with all these attributes, partly because it was a break from the oil-and-cold-wax process that I've been pursuing for the past few years, and partly because I had no emotional investment in what happened (and paper is easy just to throw away), doing monotypes this week is invigorating and just plain fun. We are using Golden's OPEN acrylics, which have a longer wet life than traditional acrylics and have extenders that will keep the paint open even longer. After some initial experimentation, they became easy to use. Rather than attempt painting, I've been collecting and pressing leaves and grasses from the Price River banks in back of the studio, and using them as masks between the painted plate and the paper. Sometimes the result is pleasing, sometimes not. The investment in each piece is relatively small; it's kind of like being at art camp.

Phyllis researched a process called chine collĂ© in which pieces of paper are adhered to the paper support as a kind of collage. She brought powdered wheat paste, which combines with the moisture in dampened paper to glue the two surfaces together. The texture in the lower part of the image at the right is rusted paper that I incorporated into a panted monotype plate. The possibilities of the technique are alluring, and I would love to pursue them further. In fact, I would love to pursue the whole monotype process further; it feels light and fun. I haven't considered how monotypes would "fit" into my concept of portraying the Colorado Plateau and its layers and geological complexities, but if I were to pursue this medium, that would be an interesting challenge.

After the heavy self-observation of last fall, this is a delightful and absorbing jump into spring.

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