Testing, Part One

Even in a climate as mild as Roswell, I occasionally get the winter doldrums. Between the bitter wind occasionally gnawing at your face, the noted absence of color in the landscape, and the icy roads that can make driving just plain dangerous, there's good reason to liken the winter season to a bitter old man; it can feel downright curmudgeonly sometimes.

Of course, winter doesn't stop me from enjoying myself. I still get outside to enjoy the scenery. Winter is also a perfect time to indulge in warm drinks and good food, and I always appreciate the color that my plants bring me, though admittedly I've relocated most of them to my office at the Museum because Gustave kept trying to eat them.

Another way I inject color into my life at this time of year is through my prints. During the summer I don't make a lot of prints because I'm outside sketching, but by winter it's usually too cold for me to sketch outdoors, so it's a an ideal time to take my drawings and ideas and turn them into new works.

I've got a few projects lined up, but one of them will concentrate on one of my favorite places, Bottomless Lakes. All last summer I spent every weekend there hiking, swimming, and sketching, and I have very positive associations with the place. To me, it counteracts every claim that Roswell has no beauty, and my memories of its colorful landscapes and tranquil waters will sustain me through the coming months.

But what method is the best way of capturing my recollections? I haven't done a series of prints in earnest since my prints on Shelburne Farms.

Shelburne+Farms+Earth.jpg (679×960)
One of the Shelburne Farms prints.

That series turned out well, but I don't want to repeat that formula exactly again. I also don't think my approach to my last attempt at a Roswell series worked out very well, so I didn't want to go that route either.

Before beginning the prints in earnest then, I decided I needed to do a test group in order to try out some different ideas. After playing around in my sketchbook, I made three different test images. This week we'll be looking at the first one.

For this piece, I followed my previous approach of printing monotypes on top of a naturalistic scene. I started by taking a sketch of a primrose I did and drew it in micropen on a sheet of paper, resulting in an image that's similar in line quality to the drypoints I do.

Once I was at the press, I printed four monotypes over the image. The monotypes were derived from one of my color blocks, though I wasn't entirely accurate with the colors because this is a stand-alone test image. Once I've decided how these prints should look, I'll concentrate more on getting the correct sense of color.

Here's the first monotype, which I painted on with a large brush. The vertical bands you see are the result of the fluorescent lighting at the Museum, so ignore them as best as you can:

I then printed a second monotype. As with the first one, I used a large brush:

For the third monotype, I brushed on the ink, but then used a sponge at the top of the image to evoke the texture of rocks. I also added broader strokes of paint at the bottom to suggest water:

At the end of the process, the print looked like this:

In my Shelburne Farms series, I printed additional woodblocks on top of the monotypes, followed by additional line drawings. I was originally going to do the same thing here, but I decided to stop. With this print, the emphasis is really on the color and texture of the monotype, with only a hint of the detailed flower peering through. To me the work has a more subtle, painterly quality, and relies less on representation imagery than a lot of my previous prints.

But is it the route I want to take for this project? Stay tuned next week for the second print.