Thursday, March 31, 2011

Printmaking as Painting / Matrix for Abstraction

Understanding the difference between a monotype and a monoprint gives tremendous insight to what my work is often about. The short definitions are that a monotype is a one-of-a-kind image/print using a given matrix only once, and a monoprint is a one-of-a-kind image/print using the same matrix as other images/prints. The distinctions are subtle, and leave a lot of room for interpretation. Wondering about that interpretation, and being curious about the dividing line between monotype and monoprint leads me to explore the difference between original and reproduction.

This exploration can be related to work that is exploring difference, original work, and reproduction through the continuing dialogue of appropriation and copyrights. The relationship is only cursory, as I prefer to look at the boundaries with my own work and ideas as the origin instead of getting into the discussion about stealing other people's work. I must admit that I cannot be entirely insulated. The work of other artists will surely influence my own work. I want to be careful to give credit when the influence exists.

That was a bit of an extreme divergence, so back on topic...

Using the series of screenprints from last spring as an example might be useful for clarification.
which can be seen here
I started with a single drawing, and enlarged it to be burned onto a screen.
here is the drawing
I then printed the image in three different colors, each color on a different color paper. This started three series of prints from the same matrix. Five additional screens were used to complete the series. But, I used a few of the screens to apply different layers of color in different locations. At some point in the middle of the printing process, I modified screens and split each of the three series of images into two, creating six series with subtle differences. A practical question: are all of these prints labeled as a single edition, or are there 6 editions?

I did a series of monoprints that had fewer variables earlier.
It was simply the same image, same screen, using the same order of colors, on four pieces of paper, each with a different color (creating a different color ground for the image).
This series, though simpler in execution, brings up equally complicated concepts. From a printmakers perspective, I wonder if these are monoprints or just some oddly defined edition. They might look good hanging together as one piece. Hung in a square; 2 x 2, would evoke some Warholian pop art idea, and I want to stay away from that aesthetic that is now a frequent tactic of interior decorators. I am far more interested in the moment in which the combination of screen, ink, and squeegee stop being a means of reproduction and start being mark-making devices that are used for drawing something new.

Look at digital "drawing" or "painting" applications. A popular application is "Brushes" for the iPhone. The "brushes" that are offered are really draggable stamps that make the same repeated shape. Some simple variable exists, but the artists using this application is making hundreds of repeated stamps to create something new that is seen as a line, a field, a composition. At what point does the stamp cease to be a repeated image and become a real mark-making device which is used to create a new drawing?

Of course, I'm prone to driving myself to obsession about his topic, and it continues to adjusting color reproduction.
see this blog post

This all gets very abstract, so I want to share what grounds this for me; my favorite subject: water. This might seem like a divergence from the topic to some, but this is where I start. And, no matter how far out I get, this is the point to which I return.

Water is an excuse to work on formal issues. I need an object from which to abstract; a recognizable shape, and set of patterns to work with so at least some non-artists will accept the odd shapes and repeated patterns that I want to manipulate. But, even before I am thinking of any audience, I choose to work with something that is close to my heart; something for which I have a deep fondness; something in which I have seen both infinite variety and constant repetition: turbulent water.

Water is the matrix. Every wave is different, but the idea of "wave" evokes a broad and universal shape. Each ripple of turbulent water is different, but the idea of moving water is universal enough that a visual language exists which is both specific enough to define water, and full of enough variables to create combinations that outnumber the days in one human's existence.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sketchbook Tour comes to Atlanta, GA

The Granite Room

at This link brings you to a nice page to view the Grand Canyon Trip sketchbook
search for the book using the ISBN: 978-0615444055

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sketchbook Tour comes to Portland, ME

March 30 - April 2
at SPACE Gallery

This link brings you to a nice page to view the Grand Canyon Trip sketchbook
search for the book using the ISBN: 978-0615444055

Thursday, March 17, 2011

obsession and research

Comments from two different friends have been playing in my mind for the past week.
One comment was a sweeping statement about a "common" trait which artists possess; specifically the trait of obsession and it's positive aspect that fosters focus and determination.
The other comment was that I do not know how to promote myself and tend to discount all of the studying, learning, and research I do on my own.
These comments have me reflecting on the new things I have learned this past year, both as an example of useful obsession and, perhaps, some things that I must consider when promoting my constant research.

Wanting to stitch the panoramic photos from January 2010, I had to learn a couple more Photoshop tools, and was forced to reconcile with the fact that I am far better off shooting entirely in RAW from now on. I obsessed over image quality and adjustments throughout the summer, working closely with Mark Gibson from Maine. We shared knowledge and pushed each others photographic abilities for two months, spending many hours after work in front of computer screens critiquing our images.

As I began to print giclees on watercolor paper last spring, I started to obsess about color quality and accuracy. This opened my eyes to steps in the workflow that I did not know existed. Many late night print experiments, research on the internet, and reading technical manuals that were often written for someone with a better knowledge base than I had at the time, led to a satisfactory work flow (which THIS spring I am revisiting and hoping to fine tune).

This past spring was also when I finally was able to start experimenting with photo polymergravure. 20 plates and who-knows-how-many prints later I had to leave the press for a summer of work. This fall I returned to the process and have advanced to the point where I am considered a fellow printmaker (not a beginner) by other people using this process.

This past December, I used the sketchbook project from Art House Coop as an excuse to actually make a focused sketchbook about the Grand Canyon, then used that sketchbook to learn Adobe InDesign to lay out a book and find a way to get it published.
I used the Grand Canyon trip as an excuse to learn about HDR photography.
The micro contrast adjustments that can be made have given me some ideas about fine tuning the compensation curves for polymer photogravure (a process which I was determined to learn last spring).
AND, the impressions of the Grand Canyon have me obsessed about color accuracy again. I want to preserve the color impression that I had on that trip, not just relying on the shifted colors that a computer screen wants me to see.

I don't have a slick way of ending this blog post. (I'm glad it's only a blog post) Perhaps I have concluded that I'll continue to obsessively research, and that the obsession to do so is a positive trait.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

warm day turpentine

First day that was well above 50 degrees was a perfect excuse to spend a little time outside and start a painting that has had an under-drawing on it for about two years. The complementary painting to this one was finished in June of 2009 and has been waiting for it's twin for too long. (both are on 3/4" wood panel that measures 23 7/8" x 47 7/8")

I debate whether to call these paintings or drawings. I don't care about the category except when someone (for some odd reason) feels the need to make me define them one way or another.

The green stain (which I made from oil paint) will have to dry for a few days. When it is dry enough to be permanent, I'll start woking into the piece with lumber crayon, oil bar, and china marker. At some point, it needs a little bit more paint, but most of the work is done with drawing materials.
here is an update with the painting/drawing almost finished, and sitting next to it's twin

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Color Accuracy and Workflow

(being a better photographer while documenting 2 dimensional art work)

This is the beginning of a focused experiment which aims to improve my own photographic skill set for documenting my work more accurately. ***

I have the artist's proofs of 23 different screenprints.
They have been documented in the past with a Canon EOS 20D, and edited on whichever computer I had at the time. Both lighting conditions while shooting, and the calibration of the monitors while editing were not the same. I will control that in this project with the following experiment...

Phase 1:
Shoot the 23 screenprints in 3 different lighting environments with a Canon EOS 50D.
Lighting environment #1 is outside on a an overcast day.
Lighting environment #2 is inside with a bank of fluorescent lights with bulbs rated 5000K.
Lighting environment #3 is inside with 2 halogen lights on either side of the art work.

Phase 2:
Adjust the while balance from the RAW images on 3 different computer monitors and save each version as a TIFF.
Monitor #1 is a laptop: MacBook Pro 13"
Monitor #2 is a Dell 2009W 20" that I think is a bit on the green side (no matter how much I try to calibrate it)
Monitor #3 is a Dell 30" that is used by many people at a university (so the calibration is questionable)
Compare the three versions, side by side, on each of the 3 different monitors.
This should give me a good baseline to start the next phase of the experiment.

Phase 3:
Using an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer, print all 3 versions of an image with standard Adobe sRGB.
See which version is most similar to the original screenprint. That should reveal the best workflow for the photography phase.

Phase 4:
Using the best version from phase 2 & 3,
experiment with different ICC profiles so that the computer, printer, and paper are coordinated for best color output.

*** I've had a good grasp of basic photographic elements since middle school. Exposure, aperture and shutter speed, ISO, composition, lighting, etc.; enough to allow me to take some photos that do a bit more than satisfy just myself. Throughout my career as an artists, I have documented my work with a camera. My first efforts involved waiting for an overcast day the would provide an even light source outside. I set up the tripod, made sure everything was centered, parallel, perpendicular to reduce lens distortion, and shot brackets like crazy to make sure I could have a at least a few good slides for the portfolio. That was an expensive process. It would have been more expensive if I had to pay someone else to do it. Sometimes, when discouraged or frustrated by my own work, I looked to other artists' portfolio slides. Most of the time, the people who they paid as "pro" photographers did not do any better than me. It both encouraged me to keep taking my own pictures, and frustrated me with the thought that I was going to have to invest a lot of money in studio equipment, and time in research. I went the digital route as soon as I could, but feel that DSLR imaging technology has only recently become sophisticated enough to reproduce the subtle color shifts that I want. (note: the technology was probably there a bit earlier, but I could never afford the cutting-edge cameras, and have had to wait until the pro level equipment technology trickled down to the prosumer level equipment).

Results of Phase #2 (click on image to see it larger) note: paper is Canson Edition Cream

These were shot outside on an overcast day.
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

These were shot inside with a bank of fluorescent lights (bulbs claim to be 5000K)
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

These were shot inside under two halogen lights (not floods or spots)
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Grand Canyon Sketchbook featured on

on their front page, click on "artists", "galleries", or "images" links to see the artists featured this month.

Here is part of the email that let me know...

"Less than 5% of all artists on myartspace get featured. The speed of that may have seemed nearly like a computer response to posting your work. I can assure you all our featured images are hand selected, mostly as the images come in daily but sometimes art can be featured from past galleries. Or there can be days or weeks of time since the initial display of work. We sometimes miss great work but we try our best to feature the most current, remarkable art across all genres.

All incoming work, (including featured work), can be seen under the filter option by selecting the most recent pull down menu when selecting artists, galleries or images.

We have a variety of ways in which we feature art and artists:

1. Featured artist - our default display when selecting ARTISTS on the home page menu bar, being a featured artist automatically features your galleries.

2. Media window - our media window on the front page displays recently featured art. This list of art rotates weekly and starts in a new place in the list every time you reenter or refresh the site

3. Our weekly featured an opt in weekly newsletter that gets distributed to 45,000+ recipients, gives an in depth look into a select group of artist and their work."

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Sketchbook Tour comes to Austin, TX

just in time for SXSW
at Austin Museum of Art on March 12th

and at 29th St. Ballroom at Spider House on March 13th

this coincides with SXSW

This link brings you to a nice page to view the Grand Canyon Trip sketchbook


search for the book using the ISBN: 978-0615444055