Pandemic Sketchbook: Zinnias, collage

Collage of zinnias
Zinnias, multimedia

Zinnias on my deck, collage and oil pastels.
Underneath the layers of glue and hand painted paper is the television schedule from the newspaper. That little bit of a Pandemic Past-time reference got covered up. Whoops. Can you find the paper towels I use to blot my watercolor brushes? Or the glossy advertisements for patio and landscaping companies? ‘Safer at home in the suburbs’ – maybe that should be the title. Try collage as a ‘way in’ to your artistic subconscious.

Pandemic sketchbook: collage

Collages of potted plants
Aloes on the deck, collage
Geraniums, collage

Trying new techniques while sketching only what I can see while staying at home is a good way to see my surroundings with a different point of view. Collage is a technique that for some reason takes a little less concentration than a realistic sketch. It is less bound to reality, I suppose. I included crossword puzzles from the newspaper to remind me of new activities people are doing to pass the time. You can also spot a wrapper in Chinese from a bar of soap and a photograph of Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease specialist in the U.S. So hints of the pandemic lurk in the collage inevitably.

Elephant monotype

Elephant running

Elephant photograph and monotype

I inked the glass plate with black acrylic and then wiped off the ink to create the elephant shape.

Elephant print

Elephant, monotype ‘ghost’

The second print was faint enough to to take pastels layered on top after the print dried.

Elephant print

Working on the monotype with pastel pencils

Elephant, monotype, mixed media

Mastering Monotypes

Monotype of an elephant

Elephant, monotype, Conte crayon and acrylic

I am playing with monotypes these days in art class. What is a monotype, my loyal followers may ask? Basically it’s a method of printing which results in just one unique print per inked plate, as opposed to multiple prints being pulled off one plate. I paint directly on a glass plate or completely ink the plate with a brayer. Then I place paper on top of the plate and draw a picture on the paper. The pressure from drawing with a pencil pushes through to the inked plate. After using a printer’s baren to further push the ink onto the paper, the paper can be peeled off the plate to reveal the print. That’s it. The drawing is then gone from the plate, so no other copy/print/edition can be made. Except the ghost.

The Ghost: You can put another piece of paper on the inked plate, press down with the baren, and pull up a lighter version of the image which is called a ‘ghost.’ There are lots of variations to this technique, but I’ll stop here to show you a few of my first monotypes. Some are unadulterated originals, some are ghosts, some are altered with Conte crayon after they dried. The snail is a ghost print enhanced with Conte crayon. On the black sheet below, you can see that the first print was so dark, you can barely see the snail drawing. In this case, the second print was much more clear, but some details were lost. His antenna needed to be touched up because they had faded like pale eyebrows. I think a snail needs bold antenna.

Monotype of a snail

Snail, monotypes, original, and second print with Conte crayon

Now that you are completely clear about monotype printing, you know which print below is the original and which is the ghost, right?

Abstract monotypes

Abstract, monotypes

Monotype of branches

Branches, monotype

Monotypes result in lots of happy accidents. It’s a method of printing that seems to me to more spontaneous than etching, engraving, lithography and others. The textures created by the ink are beautiful and I tried to leave them alone. If you want to try printing, but you don’t have a press and lots of equipment, try monotypes.

Below, I am trying to turn an abstract into a fantasy bird. The chest design was created with inked bubble wrap on the printing plate. The white shapes were created with random card stock shapes placed on the plate. The resulting print was abstract, but I could see a Phoenix trying to take flight… he emerged from the acrylic ooze.

Monotype of a fantasy bird

Phoenix, monotype, Conte crayon and acrylic

Studio Views

I spend too much time bemoaning the mess that is my studio space. A cluttered studio is a convenient excuse for procrastinating. Cleaning out the studio definitely means you find art supplies, projects, and old work you forgot about. Putting the stuff back in new places guarantees you will never find them again. Having a Pinterest board of aspirational studio spaces is a time sink that rarely leads to actual studio upgrades. But the worst thing is having no studio space at all. So my little corner of one room with my pre-historic drafting table, jars of brushes and pens on a lazy Susan my son made in shop in middle school, and natural light from a south-facing window is better than using one end of the dining room table, for example. Even the smallest space allows you to leave your work out without putting it away when its time to eat. It’s nice to dream about a beautiful, spacious studio that would magically call to me, maybe with a magic force field that would pick the right music, have the right pen fly into my hand, and empty my monkey mind of everything other than a happy focus on the next work of art. But the real magic is mostly just sitting in that pink chair, put a piece of paper on the table, pick up a pencil, and just start.

Drafting table with still life

Cleaning out my studio space

Daylilies and chaos cleanup