Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Monoprint Retreat

I think possibly the best part of our 3-day monoprint immersion was the collaborative art-energy. Put three professional artists in one space with the goal of understanding new materials, and you get a great wave of power. I'm not saying that any of us mastered the medium, but we lived and breathed the challenge together, attaining our own successes.

It has been over 15 years since my press did any rolling (except on its wheels, looking for places to sleep). When Angela Saxon and Royce Deans arrived, we dug out the blankets and brayers (from mouse infested storage - eek) and moved furniture around my studio to create a functional print shop. Royce brought 7 pieces of thick, narrow glass, which we set up as a palette, along with the water-based printing ink Angela had ordered. Add to that some thick cotton paper that was hiding in my flatfiles and we were off and running!

The process was a bit of a challenge. It took some time to understand that we were not making paintings. For starters, printmaking ink behaves very differently from oil paint. It is sticky and does not perform well with brushes. Also, the print comes out as a reverse image and the last layer of ink applied is not on top. This was more than mind-boggling!

Each of us used an individual approach to image-making on our plates. I rolled on ink with brayers, lifted it off with q-tips and wet wipes, then reapplied ink with squares of matt board or more q-tips. When the plate finally looked finished (and I fell in love with it), the resulting print was often quite different. Argh!

But the beauty of the situation was our ability to concentrate on our own work while progressing cooperatively. We talked through road-bumps. We joked, laughed, collapsed on the couch, ate hot soup, played loud jazz and worked until the wintery landscape through the window turned into a black mirror, reflecting our activity. It was exhausting and energizing at the same time. The sheer force of our determination created a vitality that propelled us on.

Artists most often work alone. For me, it takes isolation to get to the place where ideas flow. While I cannot speak for Angela and Royce, I was amazed at how comfortable it was for me to work side by side with these two. Yes, they are good friends. But, more than that, we shared a tacit understanding that allowed us to be open, earnest and vulnerable while retaining the ability to focus. It doesn't get much better than that! And, I did end up with work that approached my expectations. In fact, the day after they left I ordered more paper and ink. I look at my final prints  - a still life and a landscape - and my mouth waters to try the next.

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