Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm back from the two-week printmaking residency at Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts--an absolutely wonderful experience. I worked with Tamarind Master Printer and artist Frank Janzen, who patiently guided and assisted me through the process of creating monotypes and lithographs. It was a pure gift to be able to do this, and I'm grateful to Frank and the staff of Crow's Shadow for making it happen. Click images to enlarge.




Here's Frank preparing a plate to go through the press. The monotype process involves painting with lithographic inks on a plexiglas surface. Next, a sheet of paper is layed over the painted plate. When the plate is run through the press, a one of a kind print is created. Another sheet can then be placed on the plate and passed through the press again with higher pressure, picking up residual ink from the plexiglas and creating what is called the "ghost," a softer version of the original print that is often quite beautiful in its own right. In this type of printmaking, all the prints are original, no two are exactly alike.




Frank and I were assisted by another artist and trained printmaker, Debby Sundbaum-Sommers, who generously drove seven hours from her home in western Oregon to volunteer for the two weeks--thanks, Debby! The two of them totally spoiled me--cleaning up all my messes, trimming paper to size, hand-cranking the beautiful Takach printing press, cheering me on and giving valuable technical and aesthetic advice. On top of that, they were just fun to be around!





Speaking of being spoiled--every morning Debby would set out a fresh palette of inks on the glass tabletop for me.




The final prints combine two themes that I have been working with lately: stones and shadows. The stones evolved out of a group of boulders that were placed around the edge of a gravel parking lot. Maybe it was the fact that these rocks were not rare gems, but ordinary basalt boulders put to such an ordinary use that got me to thinking how extraordinary they really were. It occurred to me that I was witnessing a moment in the infinitely long life of these stones, as representatives of the living earth, just as they mutely witnessed my own brief passage. So I started a series of paintings of them in my studio (see my April 21 post.)

While working on the stone paintings, I started noticing how the late afternoon sun came through the west windows of the studio and cast my shadow on the painting wall. I started doing charcoal drawings of the shadows. Somehow I felt the two things--the rocks and the shadows--were related.

The prints that have evolved at Crow's Shadow take the form of vertical pairings, or diptychs, the stones at the bottom coupled with portions of shadowy figures above. I tried to give the stones weight and solidity symbolic of the earth itself, while the figures are ephemeral records of our fleeting lives. I borrowed singer/poet Leonard Cohen's phrase: "We are so lightly here," as the title for the diptych series. The larger single stone series is titled "The Life of Stones."

There are 45 paired prints, one vertical triptych, and 11 larger prints of single stones. Email fjanzen@crowsshadow.org for images of the complete series.




We are so lightly here, #1
Monotype/monoprint diptych
Each image 7 7/8" x 8 7/8", each sheet 11 1/8" x 11 1/2"
$500, unframed, plus shipping.
Email don@dailyartwest.com for purchase




We are so lightly here #3
Monotype/monoprint diptych
Each image 7 7/8" x 8 7/8", each sheet 11 1/8" x 11 1/2"
$500 unframed, plus shipping
Email don@dailyartwest.com for purchase




We are so lightly here #6
Monotype/monoprint diptych
Each image 7 7/8" x 8 7/8", each sheet 11 1/8" x 11 1/2"
$500 unframed, plus shipping
Email don@dailyartwest.com for purchase





The Life of Stones #1
Monotype
Image size 15" x 17 1/2," sheet size 22 1/2" x 23 1/2"
$500 unframed, plus shipping
Email don@dailyartwest.com for purchase

16 comments:

Katherine said...

These are exquisite Don. I find the combinations of shadow and rocks very exciting and poignant. It must have been a heavenly 2 weeks at Crow's Shadow. Now you have to go back to squeezing the paint out of the tube all by your self. It might be traumatic. :>}

Stephen Magsig said...

Don, Congratulations on the printmaking residency. The work is very wonderful, thanks for sharing, I would like to see more. Great stuff, I really like the stone paintings.

Dawn said...

Absolutely beautiful! What a treat! I love the ghostly images...looks like hands reaching out.
Leonard Coen is a favorite artist of mine. Love his lyrics. Nice prints..

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Having experienced Frank's personal genius print work as a viewer and as a "baby" first time student in a printmaking workshop, I am just amazed by the wonderful experience you describe. Congratulations on the work!

(I did decide as a student that the only way I would ever take up printmaking would be based upon that "personal assistant" thing where someone else cleans up the mess all of the time:) I had ink from head to toe on me and often on my prints in the wrong places!)

m collier said...

Hey Don – wonderful prints. Sounds like it was a great experience. Use to do a lot of printmaking myself – serigraphy and lithography. It is just a whole other thing. It’s wonderful.

Sheila Vaughan said...

Don, what an exciting venture! The idea of serial images makes me realise things need to be constantly understood. It is not a "once and for all" experience. The stones and the shadows stretch back in time and forward into the future, indeed as you say, when we shall no longer be here. I think the printing process brings a special significance to the work. I just love the colours but I also love the slight "impression" or "indentation" the plate makes on the printed paper. It's kind of sculptural and so suited to your theme.

Don Gray said...

Hi Katherine--thanks so much. Yes, the residency was great, but you're right--it's soo haard having to squeeze my own paint tubes now! :^}

Don Gray said...

Steve--thanks for the encouraging words--it means a great deal to me coming from you.

Don Gray said...

Hi Dawn--thanks for the visit and supportive comments. I really enjoy your work and writing--a very interesting blog.

Don Gray said...

Hi Dianna. Frank is a real people person and great teacher, isn't he? A very good artist, as well.

Yes, the personal assistant thing is great--there's a lot of work to printmaking! I loved it, though--such a delicious feeling waiting for the paper to lift off the plate to see what you've done.

Don Gray said...

Good to hear from you, M--thanks. Printmaking is a whole other thing, alright. I see how it can get addictive. I'd love to see some of your prints.

Don Gray said...

So true, Sheila, and exactly the sort of thing I was trying to convey. I'm very pleased that came across to you. Also glad you noticed the embossed plate edge--I love that too.

Naquaiya said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful adventure.

Martha Miller said...

Don! These are MAGICAL! What a grand experience!!! I love the juicy quality of the monoprints - I hope that you have the opportunity to continue making prints!!! These are just fantastic! What I love about the print process is that it causes "interference" with the artist's vision and control, and is an active collaborating force! Congrats!! Beautiful new work!

Don Gray said...

Thank you, Naquaiya for visiting and leaving a kind word. I love your illustrations and watercolors!

Don Gray said...

Wow, Martha, thank you SO much for that wonderful encouragement--it means a lot!

What you said about "interference" is exactly right--it never quite lets you control it, which is really what you want--to be surprised...to involve yourself in a process of discovery. It's such a great moment of anticipation when you peel the print up from the plate and peek at the results--I love it. I do plan to do more monotypes--using hand pressure, since I don't have a press.