Sunday, July 31, 2016

Experimenting with Monotype

On most Saturday mornings, I like to relax by drawing or painting. This past spring, I got the notion that I would take on printing as well so I started experimenting with monotyping. I've always enjoyed sketching and liked the idea of trying to capture nearby views in print form. There is a permanence to the print juxtaposed to the quickness of a drawing that I enjoy about the monotype process. I also enjoy the chance affects that occur in this printing process. You don't always know how the printed image will come out or if it will come out at all so when you reveal the print, good or bad, there are always some surprises.

Monotype is a printing process where you ink a plate and then create a single print from that plate. For those that want to get into the nitty gritty of it, there is also a distinction between monotypes and monoprints. Monotypes are prints made from plates that have no permanent marks on them, they are unique and one of a kind. I began my first prints using a glass plate, some Speedball ink and a small sheet of glass. I applied the ink to the glass and used a reductive process to remove ink from areas that I wanted lighter in the drawing. I then printed it. It was a disaster. The ink didn't adhere to the paper as it seemed to dry too quickly. 

Glass plate with ink drawing on it. It looked so promising. What did I know? 
Disaster: printed drawing was too light and had no definition.
I decided to do some more research to determine what I was doing wrong. After a couple more tries, I've worked out a process that seems to yield good results. I first changed my ink to an intaglio ink by Akua. It stays wet for a long time so have time to work and know that the drawing will still adhere to the paper. I do the initial drawing on either a glass plate or a piece of palette paper. I then transfer the drawing by rubbing, with a bone folding tool, the printing paper over the ink image. 

I use both an additive and subtractive process to draw. I have found that starting with a black ground of ink has worked best for me. I then remove or add ink to create the drawing. I use a palette knife, paintbrush, and charcoal blender to draw with. I also keep toilet paper and wet ones on hand to remove any excess ink from tools or the drawing. I print on Strathmore 80lb drawing paper. The smoother the paper, the easier the printing process but I like the drawing paper best.     

My tools include a roller, palette knife, paintbrush, charcoal blending tool, palette paper, Akua intaglio ink, wet ones, and toilet paper. 
My subject matter is typically a local landmark, street or park view. I choose a view and create a sketch from it as a study. I then go to work on the plate or palette paper.  
Pleasant Home, a National Landmark in Oak Park is one of my subjects.

Composition / sketch study of Pleasant Home
Ink drawing on glass plate.
Final print of Pleasant Home drawing.
Sometimes I am happy very happy with a drawing but things happen in the printing process that create a faulty image. Too much ink can create blotchy areas with no definition. Not enough ink can make the drawing appear washed out. Not applying enough pressure when burnishing the image can cause printing issues as well.

Inked drawing of landscape. I thought this was going to turn out great. Unfortunately there was a little too much ink on the palette paper and it created a bit of a mess. 
Printed landscape image with too much ink shows smeared and blotchy results.
Printed landscape image of a plate that didn't have enough ink so the result was light and had little to no definition.
After a day of printing, I only had one image that I was happy with. You win some, you lose some. 
One of the things that some artists have done is to go back into the monotypes with pastel or watercolor to add additional character to the drawing. Edgar Degas is famous for this and is probably the foremost master of the process. Another favorite of mine who mastered this process was the American artist, Milton Avery. At some point I might start experimenting with color but for now, I am happy learning how to control the graphic quality of the simple printed drawing. I've collected some of my favorite monotypes and pastels on Pinterest if you are interested. Below are a few of my more successful attempts at printing from the past few months:
Monotype view of Oak Park Avenue
Monotype view of alley next to the Scoville Block.
Monotype view in Thatcher Woods.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Updating the Window Art on the Garage

About 8 years ago, my daughter and I took on an art project; painting some windows and mounting them on the back fence. You can read about it HERE.

This year, we did an update on the windows, featuring my daughter's artwork again. She loves to sketch animals from photos she finds around the net or in magazines. We desided to blow up a couple of her favorites and use them as the template for this year's art. 

She still did most of the painting but I helped to guide things so that we could have a complete project. It took the better part of the day but it was well worth it.  

After we finished the artwork, we hung it on the garage. I asked her if she had fun doing it. She kind of shrugged and said, "well, if you weren't going to let me watch me TV and I was just going to sit and do nothing, this was more fun than that". Not the highest praise but I think she enjoyed it much mroe than she wants to let on.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Time for a Change - The Main Bathroom Renovation

After almost ten years of living with the PO's "renovation", I think we've finally had it with our hundred year old bathroom and are ready for a change. I am not really sure why we waited so long to address this problem: layers and layers of wallpaper and paint that seem to be cracking and crumbling before our eyes, the unhealthy lack of proper ventilation, and the random mixture of fixtures and fittings. It all has to go or be changed.

The overhead bathroom light has always reminded me of a saloon. It appears to be a historic-looking shade but it seems more like a lamp shade, cobbled together to look like it was always there. 

The ceiling is riddled with alligatoring and staining because of the years of paint build-up, dirt and mold.

It looks like the tub had been refurbished at one time but the paint job is messy, uneven and cracking. The original hexogonal tile (I know it was there because I have found random pieces around the house and yard) was removed in favor of crappy grey tile that looks like it was found on the side of the road.

The wallpaper that makes the entire room look like a circus tent has never looked good and the pealing and cracking only adds to its bad appearance. The vanity lighting is updated but it too looks dated to circa 1990 and needs to go. The built-in medicine cabinet is in good enough shape but could use some new hardware and serious sprucing up.

The original faux plaster tile is still there but it has been over-painted, drilled through, cracked and damaged to the point that it doesn't look appealing at all. We are in a debate as to whether to put the energy into restoring it or surfacing over it altogether.

The toilet doesn't function properly and its cover is cracked and has never fit. Paint and plaster seem to be chipping everywhere. 

Over the next week, I will be sorting through the scope of work in the bathroom but right now, it looks like we will be touching everything in here. Unlike other work, we will probably be calling in professionals to help out. This is more than I want to take on by myself. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Help Save Syracuse's Barnes-Hiscock Mansion

If you are a follower or occasional reader of this blog, then you know that I love old homes and there is a high probability that you do too. There is an old home in my hometown, Syracuse, NY, that I have a special affinity for. James Street, in that city, was once lined with remarkable homes like the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion. Over the years, they have been demolished or neglected to the point where only a small handful still survive.
Exterior view of the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion on James Street in Syracuse, NY. Photo by Eric Payne. 
In my other blog, I’ve written a little about the home because of its amazing interiors, some of which were designed by nationally renowned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee. It doesn’t take a PhD in Art History to realize that the architectural history of the home is very rich.
Photo of the Barnes Dining Room fireplace.
Photo of the Barnes Dining Room built-in sideboard.
Equally rich is the home’s social history. It is uniquely intertwined with the history of the city of Syracuse. Because of its owners and their political and historical associations, the home has connections to Abolition and the Underground Railroad.  The home was host to many meetings of local and national politicians and activists. While in Syracuse, President Taft once stayed in the home. To see a bit of the home and its history, click the video below:

The Barnes-Hiscock Mansion is currently overseen by the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation and the Foundation needs your help. Presently, there is a fundraising effort going on to replace and reconstruct the roof and its historic details. At this point, there is no donor that has stepped forward to single-handedly pay for this much needed restoration. Instead, the Foundation must rely on small donations from many individuals in order to fund the work and receive additional grants.
View of deteriorating portico balustrade and roof. Photo courtesy of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation. 
Arial view of the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion showing a makeshift patchwork of blue tarps to help protect the room. Photo from Google maps.  
Help save and restore the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion. The easiest way to give is by clicking on THIS LINK to the online fundraising campaign. No donation is too big or too small so please give what you can. It would be terrible to see this remarkable piece of our history lost forever. 
Also, please take the time to give and to follow their Facebook page to learn more about the Foundation, its activities and this amazing structure.