You can’t fake it.

Last night in the studio, Andrew and I undertook one of our “challenges”. We like to mix things up by setting a time limit or subject matter to simultaneously create a quick piece of work. This time we both chose an image and created pieces from both of them. I find these exercises make me move outside of my standard process and sometimes uncover new directions to explore further (they also get us up off the comfy couch in the evening). The results are often not finished pieces and in this case it was simply a further step in learning how to manipulate the ink on the plate.

I’ve been thinking about doing monotype portraits and through this little exercise, I found my direction. The studio shot below shows from left to right; the piece created from Andrew’s subject matter choice; the piece created from my subject matter choice; and a piece which I did afterwards. The last one on the right is my favourite and the progression of style and command of the ink is just what I was looking for. I feel I can now start a series of portraits with a knowledge of how much ink to put on the plate and which tools and methods remove ink to the extent and mark-making that I am looking for.

3 monotype practice pieces. Moving towards a portrait series.

Most importantly, when I was creating that last piece, I felt it. I felt that feeling of actually creating art with a capital A. It is an elusive and trickster feeling – sometimes I think I am feeling it but it is just pretend or slips away too quickly. It sneaks up on me – I can’t force it – rather while just doing the work, it sneaks in and stays.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ve likely heard me I say I don’t want to just be making pretty pictures. And yet I often am. I’m always in search of a line, form, value, shape or feeling that is elegant and well done and yet a bit on the ugly side. Raw. Emotional. Something which can be so ugly that it is beautiful. This is hard for me to explain but I know it when I feel it. Some of the lines and marks in that last piece above and in the one below are what I am talking about.

I Found Death in the Woods. Monotype, 9″x12″

So, enough practicing. It’s time to find that elusive feeling and get the series going!

Making Art

When I was in my twenties I traveled a lot more than I do now. Without financial and family ties, I was able to roam and explore both myself and the place, at will. One time, I spent a month in Venice, Italy by myself. I pushed and pulled upon the limits of my fears, desires and overall personality at my own pace, in that beautiful place. Sometimes I would scope out a situation a few times before approaching. At other times I’d jump right in. I went to a concert one evening in a church after seeing the flyer for it stuck to an ancient wall at the fish market that morning. There were 3 instruments; a cello, a piano and a violin. The sound in that space was incredible, coming from all directions deep, low, soft, sweet, round and light. I was in tears pretty much the entire concert because of how beautiful the place was, the sounds were and by the fact that I was there, by myself, experiencing it all. That moment was art.

Then there was the time I went to visit my sister in Switzerland (my Swisster). She picked me up at the airport in Zurich and we traveled by train to Basel. Knowing that I would soon either have to immediately sleep or to stay awake the whole day to make up the time difference, she had planned for us to attend a concert in a church. This was one of the most painful experiences of trying to stay awake. I liken the scenario to myself, the young art student sitting on a comfy couch in the back of the dark lecture hall, trying not to succumb to the lulling voice of the old British professor meandering through art history. Zzzzzzzz….. Zzzzzzzz….. And then hearing my sister giggling because I was falling over in my seat. That moment was not art.

Memories are so very important and without those experiences, I would be a different person. In a way, I believe the art process is the same. I have to go through the process of making art in order to find that one piece which is the actual art. Not every piece, experience or memory is art but eventually, some of them will be.

Over the winter holidays, Andrew and I pulled together a place in the center of the studio and made monotypes for several days. I had more time off than he so I had the chance to do more and we both ended up with a few really nice pieces. And yet those were just a fraction of all the pieces we created. Not every piece is going to be a “keeper” and not every experience will be memorable. And yet without going through that process, that experience, we wouldn’t end up with our selves or our art.

The 3 “keepers”
The process