I’m convinced that I should present all of the ghost prints together. I like the idea of losing yourself in the water, so that the figures are actually disintegrating. The sequence of an image fading with every ghost print could be a way to emphasize this concept. I’d like to try continuous printing from one plate until I’ve used up all of the ink on the plate and end up with a white sheet of paper. Looking back at the print I did yesterday, I don’t think I carried it far enough in terms of the process.
I’ve started placing the figures much lower in the composition. I was hoping to take more advantage of the negative space by doing this, and to give the figures more of a forward motion and weight at the same time. Working with such a tall rectangle has certainly changed my thought process in terms of composition; all of the usual guidelines and ideas that I’m accustomed to in the more conventional rectangle don’t apply at all.
I think I’m yielding better results with this technique. I’ve been layering on the printing ink even thicker, and the result is that I’m able to get more ghost prints than usual. This plate was the thickest one yet in terms of ink, and I ended up pulling three ghost prints in the end. I had a feeling as I was printing the third ghost that it wasn’t going to end up that great, but I think it was important for me to go a step too far so that I would know that I wasn’t missing out on anything. Already I’m thinking that the ghosts are proving to be more interesting than the first print. The role of the greys tends to stand out more in the ghost prints and the way the ink prints is always unpredictable in a positive way.
With all of these ghost prints, the question becomes about which print(s) to present. One idea that has presented itself with these monotypes is the concept of the figures both wading and dissolving themselves in the images. The more I look at the images I’m producing right now, the more I think that the images are becoming less about the water and more about the deconstruction of the figures.
I printed the second monotype tonight. Before printing, I decided that I had added too much to the lower portion, so I removed several of the bolder strokes in favor of preserving the negative space. When I was working on the large scale paintings in the Waiting Series I became significantly more conscious of negative space and how I could manipulate it to serve the composition better.
I’m using Speedball water soluable printing ink which has this rather gooey quality to it that is neither stiff nor runny. At first the consistency of this printing ink really irritated me, as it lacked the stiffness of oil based printing ink that I really like. This time around I used the ink consistency to my advantage; I’m loading up my brush with an obscene amount of ink and I’m allowing it to almost drip and push across the plexiglass surface which is helping me loosen up and be more gestural.
Additionally, layering on the printing ink really thick guarantees that those areas will print black, and it also gives me the opportunity to print a “ghost” print because there is still plenty of ink left over after the first print is done. A “ghost” in printmaking refers to a second print taken from a monotype. A monotype is generally intended only to be printed once because the image is simply sitting on the surface of the plate as opposed to being permanently etched into a plate. Being the second print of a monotype plate, a “ghost” print is inevitably considerably lighter because the majority of the ink has been removed in the first print. In the past, I’ve only bothered to print ghost prints when I look at the plate and it seems like I could get something interesting, but most of the time there’s practically nothing left on the plate to print. With these monotypes, I’m layering on the printing ink so thick that there is actually plenty left to be printed.
I worked on another monotype last night, this time turning the plexiglass so that the composition was more vertical. Rather than working with a group composition like last time, I focused this monotype on a single figure and its reflection in the water. On the first monotype, I have to admit that I played it a little too safe with the ink washes and I didn’t get the full range of textures that’s possible with this technique. So with this monotype I made a distinct effort to take advantage of the strange ways the ink wash moves and settles on the plexiglass.
There are still so many possibilities with this technique to be experimented with, and I think for the next few monotypes I want to keep exploring those possibilities rather than focusing on a specific look or style. I’m going to resist concentrating the images until I’ve exhausted the technique. Part of it is that I’m still figuring out exactly how to produce the results I’m looking for, so a lot of the process is still my getting used to the medium. In many ways this is the part of the process that makes me crazy because everything is so uncertain, yet at the same time it’s also liberating in terms of the experimentation and lack of pressure to produce.
I’ve been reading through Bill Flynn’s book “Armed Chair” that he recently self-published. Bill is one of my colleagues at SMFA, and I was lucky enough to receive my own copy from him last week. The book documents a project where over the course of three years he drew a single chair every week, several times a week. There are about 250 drawings in the book, and I’m certain many more from where those came from. I have to say that I always admire people who are able to keep such a solid train of thought over a long period of time. Although I love the idea of being that intimate with a single object, my own impatience is usually what prevents me from staying with a single subject for such a sustained amount of time.
In addition to the drawings themselves, I’ve been particularly attracted to the opening essays where he discusses his own process of drawing, the subject matter, and his materials. I’ve read many other essays about drawing and the process of a visual artist, and this is the first I’ve read in a long time that was refreshing and inspiring in its simplicity. So many other essays I’ve read are overloaded with complex theories which have no practical application, or are simply confusing. I’ve enjoyed reading Bill’s writing because the style of the essays are similar to as if you were having your own oral conversation with him about his thoughts on drawing. It’s the type of writing that I would like to read over and over again, because I would know each time that I would gain something new. One of the best lines in his writing is “Just start”. It’s the most basic idea behind being an artist, and it should seem so obvious. Yet I know from my experience in the classroom and in my own work that it’s one of the toughest parts of the drawing process for many people. I know in my own process that once I’ve started, I get so engaged that it’s tough for me to stop. However, getting myself to actually start is always the most challenging part. It’s amazing to me that something so obvious could still remain so elusive.
It looks like my patience with a longer dry time was definitely worth it. The trickiest part of the printing process this time around was the fact that the plexiglass sheet I was using is nearly the same size as my press bed since I’m printing at home on my tiny press. So unfortunately, to run the entire print through I have to start at the very edge of the press bed and roll it all the way out to capture the entire image. It’s a little bit of a hassle, because it means I have to assemble the plate, paper, newsprint, and blankets on the press bed in advance, and reset the press pressure every time I print.
I was surprised at how much control I was able to get over the ink in the image. I had tried this monotype technique two other times when I was working on the Waiting Series, and the major issue I had was that I never really felt that I could control enough of the ink to get the results I was looking for. This time around it was completely different; I was able to take advantage of some of the more unpredictable parts of the technique while also managing to achieve areas where I was in complete control of the results. Allowing the plate 3 days to dry also prevented any thick areas of ink to blot and bleed in areas I didn’t want it to, so from here on I’ll keep that dry time as part of the process.
Already I can see the advantages to this technique: it’s able to replicate many visual effects that are usually seen in ink wash drawings, and yet at the same time there’s a quality to the way the ink hits and dries on the surface of the plexiglass that is completely unique.
I’m also excited about the long rectangle shape of the plexiglass. I had hesitations about it because I was concerned that it would be too limiting in terms of how I could manipulate and present space in the drawings. However, I like that the long rectangle references the length of scrolls in Chinese painting, as well as the idea of a landscape. I already have a thought to do some prints using a very tall rectangle, depicting a single figure with an extremely long reflection. It could be a good way to exaggerate the length of the reflection in the water.