I was surprised and pleased to receive notice that I've been included in a show at Art Center College of Design about my teacher Tony Zepeda's printmaking class legacy. If any of you are in Pasadena in the next few months, I hope you'll take the chance to go see the show.
I loved the time I spent learning from Tony and listening to his stories about his time working as a master printer maker at Gemini G.E.L. I have a lot of fond memories of his class even though the printmaking process was often stressful and I cried in class once (not because of his brusqueness though---but rather because I was having a hard time keeping up. Printmaking class was 7 hours long and had a second studio session of another 2-3 hours every week and I had a 7 class schedule the term that I took it. After I finished crying in his office, he was so kind that he gave me a little copper plate and let me borrow his diamond-tipped stylus and gifted me with one of his beautiful seashells from his collection at home, which I still have, and told me to go make a drypoint; I would feel much better. And so I did). He was so kind to me and Gia, and often told the class that Gia the guide-dog-in-training was his favorite student out of the lot of us. I hope that someday I will have access to a press again and get to put the intaglio skills he taught me to good use again. Until then, there's always homemade monoprints. . .
Rembrandt van Rijn Jan Asselyn, Painter 1647 etching, drypoint, and engraving
A strange series of events including a laboratory fire (which thankfully did not affect my husband’s work, as it was not in his building but instead the one adjacent to it) led Ryan to need to go back to Stanford last Saturday afternoon when we had planned to go out on some errands together. He invited me to go with him on the train so I could visit the Cantor museum while he worked and we could do our errands on the way home. I so rarely get to go to museums anymore that I was happy for the chance, and felt extra lucky that one of the current exhibits at the Cantor museum is of Dutch golden age intaglio prints. The show is loosely grouped around the theme of daily life and the selection was large and impressive, including some very beautiful Rembrandts, mostly portraits and self-portraits and one landscape. The prints are all very small, very intricate, and very intimate, since you have to stand very close to them to study them well, so that they feel very dear.
While all of the artists were accomplished, the Rembrandts stood out for their exquisite range of tone. No other artist mastered the velvet blacks that Rembrandt used so well to make even the tiniest figures feel real, dimensional, physically and emotionally genuine.
The other part of the show that was most intriguing to me was a set of twelve prints representing the twelve seasons of the year. They were all distant views of Dutch landscapes with very tiny figures going about their seasonal business and pleasure: ice-skating, buying and selling food, plowing fields, harvesting, talking, playing music. The way the landscapes were laid out for the eye to roam and travel reminded me of Van Gogh’s large fields. The trees felt more important than the people, larger and more detailed and slower. The whole series had a feeling of slowness—the very gradual shifts of bare branches to small leaves to large leaves--- the people ice-skating in January and ice-skating again at the end of the series in December. It made me reflect on time and how over three hundred years have passed between then and now with each gradual shift in the seasons subtly shading one month into another and another and another and the tiny people living and dying and the artist living and dying until here they are on another wall in another part of the world and I am one of the people living and looking at these tiny people who lived so long ago and someday I will die and someone else will be looking at them, and maybe at artwork of my own, if I am lucky.
Spring Grass monoprint 2015
Nasturtiums monoprint 2015
The weather has been so beautiful that I have been outside making experiments in the backyard. These are two of my most recent attempts at making monoprints in color, using oil paints instead of ink. I have always been impressed by Van Gogh's paintings of grass. To look at something so humble and mundane and give it attention in such a way that it is reinvigorated, as interesting as it was when seen as a child, is a very pure accomplishment. He in turn was inspired by paintings of grass from Japan, some of which are so detailed that even the different types of seeds are included, and some of which are as pared down as a few blades of grass merely. And when discussing paintings of grass, one should never forget to mention Albrecht Durer's 'Great Piece of Turf,' a very beautiful specimen.
One monoprint of the garden in three stages. November 2014.
Monoprints (or monotypes) are one of my favorite kind of prints because they are easily made at home with no larger tools needed than a kitchen sink or a garden hose. The print is made by painting either oil-based or water-based block printing ink on a sheet of glass or plexiglass with a brush, then placing it against cotton printmaking paper that has been dampened under the hose or in the sink or bathtub. Using a rubber brayer or a spoon, the paper is then rubbed against the glass. When the paper is carefully peeled away from the glass, the ink has adhered and made a print. Sometimes I can get several prints from the same image on the glass. I've never managed to get more than three successfully, though, and the last tends to be pale and ghostly, although I like that quite a bit. To me, it looks as though it is disappearing or appearing out of the paper much more than the previous, more high-contrast pulls.