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Mostly about Monotypes

One of my favorite definitions of poetry says that poetry multiplies the meanings. 


I feel that way about making monotypes. The word printmaking implies multiples; with monotypes or painterly prints each piece is one of a kind. Making monotypes has been a wonderful way to work with my tribe of characters and landscapes. 


To make a monotype, I begin by making a quick line drawing on a transparent plexiglass plate. After preparing the inks (which feels a bit like cooking), I start working on the plate with brayers, brushes, often using bits of crumpled up wax paper, scraps of grids, leaves, threads to hint at textures.


I spend a while adding and subtracting lines, shapes, and colors. The image keeps changing. A pilgrim’s arm stretches out, the wind rustles through the trees. It is often a gloriously spontaneous way to work. I am drawing from imagination and memory, looking back at art I have been making recently and glimpsing and growing into new work. Although I occasionally work with a plan, most often I am improvising and responding to what is happening on the plate.


At a certain point, I decide to stop. (Seems there are many places along the way when an image could be considered done.)  I carry the inked plate over to the press and print the impression on a sheet of lovely printmaking paper. That’s often all there is to it.  In some way the art becomes evidence, almost like a photo of a dancer, a pause in an ongoing exploration. I have not created a permanent plate that I re-ink to make an edition. 

Ocean 1

I can usually print a second impression, a lighter more subtle version called a ghost. And then reviewing what has happened, I may re-ink the plate and create another image making small changes. I may print a ghost over a ghost. The images multiply. At times I make nine or ten prints exploring the same territory, some work much better than others.

Ocean 2

For me printmaking is not about duplication but variation and experimentation, changing the size of the plate and the paper, working with certain themes and drawings over many years— the verticality of a single tree trunk, the conversation among a group of trees, the horizontal parade of ancient figures, the bowl and the ladder.  


My art is inspired by the organic geometry of circles, squares and triangles; the lines that form into tree branches and letters of the alphabets and the routes of rivers. Also the curves of the human face, the arches in our bones, the shapes of leaves, the light at the edges and center of so many things, the art and writings of children and old souls, the ocean and the night sky.

The physical acts of printing require care and meticulousness, providing a grounding balance to the spontaneous and energetic process of creating the image.  I tend to make my prints fairly quickly and paint slowly. It is a pleasure to deepen the exploration by making a series of monotypes and also by working the same themes in  different media—painting, collograph, monotype, drawing, and lyrical non-fiction.

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