Every morning, even on the coldest days, I take our dog Toby for a walk. It is a ritual for the two of us. Because of where we go, Toby is able to run, unfettered by a leash, to his heart’s content. But I walk. And lately I’ve been noticing our footprints in the snow.
This particular morning, I decided to change it up and make some winter art. Toby watched curiously as I walked in curves and spirals, breaking our long tradition of habitually straight lines. I secretly hoped someone else would visit this spot later in the day to discover the patterns we had made.
This brings me to Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist who produces site-specific sculptures in natural settings. With gloveless hands, Goldsworthy fuses together icicle chunks with warm water, holding them in place while they freeze. He packs and molds snow for hours on end. Goldsworthy uses only his bare hands, teeth, and found tools to prepare and arrange the materials he finds in nature. Photography is the only means for making these works permanent. Because snow melts, ice breaks, and seasons change.
Enjoy these images, and the next time you go out for a walk with your dog, your children, or a friend, leave behind a mischievous pattern in the snow.
This is my art studio which we renovated a few years ago, turning an old lead paint-covered front porch into a light-filled space for housing art books, making drawings, and evaluating my college students’ artwork. It has been a place for my cat to find safety from the dog, a place to make art with my children, and most recently a place to illustrate a book. Sometimes when we have guests over, it becomes a storage room to hide things that we didn’t have time to clean up. The view is so beautiful that I often drift away from the task at hand.
I feel blessed to have carved out this space for myself. But this space can happen anywhere. In a field with a notebook, in a kitchen with fresh ingredients, on a mountainside with snowshoes. Spaces are plentiful but time is often not. Take a moment to carve out a space for yourself today.
I LOVE making monotypes.
I begin with a sheet of plexiglas onto which I draw a sketch of my image in permanent marker. The image must be drawn in reverse.
Then I ink up a roller using my favorite Graphic Chemical Bone Black Etching ink, and roll out an even layer of ink onto the plexiglas.
Using a light table so that I can see the sketch on the back of the plexiglas, I begin to pull off the ink in the places I do not want it.
I use rags, Q-tips, and cool little tools I make from cheesecloth and masking tape to remove the ink and create texture.
I also use brushes and setswell compound (often used in lithography) to modify the inks and change their consistency. This enables me to work the ink as if it is an oil paint, and approach the image in a painterly way.
Once I have cleaned up the edges of the image, I can finally prepare to print. I soak a piece of Rives BFK printmaking paper for at least an hour in a water bath. The plexiglas plate is then set onto the bed of the etching press, over which the dampened printmaking paper is gently layed. I lower the three press blankets, which cushion the plate when printing, run the whole darn thing through the press, and… voila! The finished monotype.
The crazy thing is that once you have made this one-of-a-kind print, you simply wipe the ink off the plate using vegetable oil, remove the marker on the back of the plate, and make something new.
This year I am honored to receive the Northern Berkshire Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant for the year 2013. This funding has helped to support my current artist residency at Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence, MA. Zea Mays is a printmaking facility that honors the rich tradition of printmaking by exploring alternatives that are safe for artists and the environment. It is housed in a historic mill building that once made cutlery. You feel history when making art in this building.
As for the name? “Zea Mays (Sweet Corn) is a plant known for its ability to extract heavy metal toxins from the soil through its leaves and roots. Just as this plant is being used as a natural way of restoring contaminated earth back to health, our mission is to restore the art of printmaking to a healthy art form.” Zea Mays is non- toxic in its approach to printmaking.
During this residency I have created a new body of work, but in the process, engaged with a wonderful community of artists, like Liz Chalfin (director), Joyce Silverstone, Nancy Diessner, Kate Jenkins and Lynn Peterfreund. You should check out their work.
I work in a private studio called the Annex, where I mix ink, cut stencils, adjust pressure on the press, cross my fingers, pull prints, and occasionally play Words with Friends on my iPod (everyone needs a break). I even had helpers one afternoon.
Check back in a few days for my post: How to Make a Monotype
One of the early forms of decorated paper, paste papers were used for both covers and end-papers in books from the late sixteenth century through the eighteenth century in Germany, Italy and France. These papers are gorgeous, and can be made by anyone. Sure, you can buy decorative papers in an art store, but nothing beats a handmade paper with your own color choices and mark-making in it. I teach my students how to make these papers in my Book Arts classes. What are you waiting for? Get out and make some papers.
Paste can be made from methyl cellulose, wheat paste, flour, wallpaper mix or cornstarch. Once you have made your paste, add a water-based paint to the paste mixture and stir. Apply the paint-paste to your paper with sponge brushes. Multiple colors can go down simultaneously. Any tool that can make a pattern in the paste may be used. Professional graining tools may be purchased at a craft or paint store. Experiment with crinkled paper, plastic wrap, sea sponges, cut-up credit cards, bubble wrap; anything that creates texture will make a beautiful design.
PASTE PAPER RECIPES
Methyl cellulose: 1 oz. powder mixed into 10 oz. cold water; stir for five minutes; wait 30 minutes and dilute to desired consistency. Stir throughout the day; ready to use after a few hours or overnight.
Wheat paste: Add six parts cold water to one part wheat starch; bring to a boil, stirring continuously, until paste becomes clear; strain when clear
Cornstarch: Mix one cup cornstarch with one cup cold water; add mixture gradually to five cups boiling water; stir until cooked through; while slightly warm, add ½ cup liquid ivory soap to give smooth finish.
Coloring agents: Acrylic, watercolor, gouache, inks
We all travel on a daily basis. To the coffee shop, to work, to a friend’s house. But the places within us can offer another type of journey, at times farther and deeper than our physical bodies could ever take us. This new work stems from a desire to reproduce those significant moments in our lives; to meditate on the chief scenes that make us who we are. Each moment, each station, has much to teach us. Each requires us to pause, to halt, to reflect. We are on a pilgrimage of sorts; finding our way to be good, to be kind, to survive, to endure, to believe, to become who we are meant to be.
En plein air (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃ plɛn‿ɛʁ]) is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif (“painting on the ground”) in French.
I took my painting students to the Park McCullough House in North Bennington, Vermont for an evening of painting outdoors. We painted the retreating light as it bounced off flower gardens, carriage barns, and fields of white horses.
It was good to unplug ourselves from the business of daily life, and soak in the surroundings of this beautiful property. This was a day to be treasured.