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bits

A bit of news, a bit of inspiration, a bit of new work... a bit random, a bit blogish. “bits” is where it all hangs out.

October 2011

mad about monoprinting

 

Lately I've been taking more time away from the keyboard and stylus, diving instead into some old-school art-making techniques. I'm in my second semester of monoprinting at San Francisco City College, taking a six-week screenprinting class at ARC Studios, and I just tacked on another round of painting lessons via Get Your Paint On. Maybe too many classes to really get the most out of any one of them, but I am loving having ink and paint under my fingernails and just swimming in the whole, glorious explosion of possibility.

fish school, monoprint (subtractive + stencil)

Monoprinting is a traditional print-making technique that, by default, results in unique prints rather than editions. The image is created by applying ink to a smooth plexiglass plate. The plate is then run through the press to transfer the image to paper. The image isn't part of the plate itself (via etching or some other means), so once the ink is transferred to the paper, you can't go back and print the exact same image again. There's a whole lot of chance involved... you can never be entirely sure what's going to come out on the other side of the roller and you can't simply adjust your inking or your pressure on the next round in order to get the image looking more like you want it to.

fish scales, monoprint (subtractive + transparent color + stencil)

After spending so much time creating images at the computer—where I can tweak and obsess and control to my heart's content—I find monoprinting both frustrating and liberating. It can take hours to build up an image on the plate... and a few seconds to run it through the press and find something completely unexpected on the other side. Sometimes the surprises are wonderful. Sometimes they're truly disappointing. But all in all, I'm loving the experience of getting lost in the creative moment... letting go of my expectations for how it's all "supposed to" turn out.

These images show a few of the different methods I've learned so far for creating monoprints. One of the most common techniques is "subtractive"—the plate is first entirely covered with ink, then the image is wiped away from that ink. The image can be refined with color and detail through subsequent plates and other techniques like stencils or chine-collé (where bits of colored paper or other elements are fused to the printing paper along with your ink).

fish puzzle, monoprint (subtractive + chine-collé)
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creative profession

 

In the wayback, my grandma gave our family Treasury of American Design by Clarence P. Hornung (1950, Harry N. Abrams). It's a hard-bound, two-volume set that features beautifully detailed illustrations of functional and decorative objects (dating from approximately 1890 and earlier) created by American artisans.

When I was a kid, I loved poring over the pictures in these books, absorbing the incredible array of forms, patterns and decorative motifs. I recently rediscovered Treasury in my parents' bookshelf and was fascinated to read that the illustrations in it were originally created between 1935 and 1942 as part of the Index of American Design, which was a project of the Works Progress Administation's Federal Art Project. The Index was one of many FAP projects developed with the goal of employing artists during the Depression.

I have a lot to say about why I think these books are cool, and I hope you'll look at some of the links above to learn more about the Index and the FAP if you don't already know about them. But the main reason I'm thinking about all this today is because I recently learned that the Obama re-election campaign is holding a design contest to solicit original poster art promoting Obama's job creation plan. It's basically a crowd-sourcing effort by the Obama campaign to get valuable art and design without paying for it. The very special irony, of course, is that the purpose of the art will be to promote employment opportunities. The Graphic Artists Guild has done a great job of summarizing everything that gets me riled about this. I would only add:

  • If you're a creative professional, never forget that what you do can have real and lasting value. Take yourself seriously. Show your clients why you're worth it. Be an advocate for yourself and your profession.
  • If you're someone who relies on the creativity of designers or artists for your business, take a moment to think about the value of that creative effort. Where would your business be without it? Isn't it, in many cases, at least as valuable as the other services you pay for without hesitation? Dig deep for your favorite creative professional and you'll be rewarded many times over!
[Note: the images above are from Uncommon Eye, a wonderful Etsy shop where the pictured copy of Treasury of American Design is for sale. It looks to be in beautiful condition... grab it!]
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happy birthday, fairy godmother

 

Today's my godmother Judy's birthday. She passed away over two years ago, but she influences me to this day. She was a swinging single girl in the '60s, working in publishing in Mad Men era New York City. Her sophistication, her travels, her independence, her intelligence, her hip fashion sense, her clever way with words and her endless, multi-faceted creativity are embedded in me as inspiration. In this photo, she's visiting our family shortly after we moved to Ukiah, in about 1970 (that's my little brother, Jason, on the left). I keep this photo on my desk and everytime I look at it, I remember how great it was to have her arms around me... how strong and full of potential it made me feel (and she smelled sooooo good!). At her memorial, her husband Tom gave me some of her jewelry and I was so delighted to discover that one of the pieces was the silver chain that she's wearing around her neck in this photo. I have it on right now. I miss her all the time and am so grateful for her presence in my life.

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