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!

You can’t fake it.