If writers often write about what they know, does the same hold true for printmakers? Perhaps for Nuong Tran it does. Nuong Van-Dinh Tran was a founding member of Washington Printmakers Gallery. She remained a member of the gallery until her death in 2013. In this retrospective of Nuong’s work, we’re invited to enjoy a peacefulness that scenes of domestic familiarity bring. Here we see a view of the backyard from what is most likely a bedroom window. In another print, we’re in the yard looking up to the sky, through the leafless oak tree towering beside the house. In another, we get a close-up of deep-red peonies that line the yard’s fence. We also get a snapshot of Ling-Ling, Nuong’s black cat as he prowls the yard on an autumn afternoon. All these scenes are ever so familiar. Perhaps that’s why the prints make such an impact, the simplicity of Nuong’s images allow us an intimacy we might otherwise overlook in the familiar. Even her abstracts convey a simplicity in form and boldness of color that is both intimate and familiar. Who was Nuong? Her prints tell us much about what inspired her – nature – specifically water lilies, trees and butterflies. In this memorial retrospective we’re also invited to be inspired by the simple beauty of the familiar. What a wonderful celebration of life!
Category Archives: monoprint
A few calls for entries to share with all you printmakers!
Small Wonders at the Maryland Federation of Art – This small works show is open to printmakers as well as artists working in any other media. The work must be under 11 inches in any dimension, and, unlike our NSW show, this INCLUDES frames. Two entries for $35, and up to four additional entries are allowed for $5 each. There is $1000 in prizes up for grabs, juried by Laura Amussen, Director of Exhibitions and Art Collection Coordinator, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD. The deadline for entries is September 12. Notifications are sent by October 12, and the show is up November 30 – December 28. You can see the full details at their website.
3rd Annual National Monoprint and Monotype Exhibition – The Monotype Guild of New England is seeking monoprints and monotypes for its March exhibition, juried by Mark Pascale, Curator of Drawings and Prints, Art Institute of Chicago. The entry deadline is Monday, October 22 – $35 for up to 3 images. There is a $1000 first prize, $500 second prize, and $300 third prize. Details are on their website.
3rd Annual 17th Street Festival – This festival is held at the end of September, in our old neighborhood of Dupont Circle. Artists interested in a booth (no fee to apply, but the 10×10 space and tent is $100, plus an addt’l $15 for a table and chairs) can apply here.
Are you interested in how Marian Osher created the lovely and vibrant prints in this month’s exhibition? Below is a description of the two types of prints in the exhibition as well as a word on how she has protected the works. Images provided courtesy of the Artist.
Mixed-media monotypes on canvas
After creating a monotype on a mylar plate with water-soluble media, Osher transferred the image to dampened paper with her etching press. The monotype dried between blotters under weights for at least one night. After deciding which parts of the print would be raised and which lowered, she taped the monotype to a piece of acid free foam board and cut through the print and the foam board with a mat knife. Edges of the foam board shapes were lightly sanded and sealed with Golden GAC 100. The edges of the foam board and stretched canvas were painted with acrylic paint, choosing colors related to the monotype. The shell canvases were coated with beach sand
after painting. Using Golden Soft Gel Medium, pieces of the print were mounted on the foam board or stretched canvas. The foam board pieces were also mounted on the canvas. Drying the assembled work under weights prevented warping.
Relief monotypes on sculpted canvas
Monotype prints were mounted onto heavy floor canvas with Golden Soft Gel Medium and allowed to
dry over night under weights. Flower shapes were cut out, bent and molded to make the relief shapes. A layer of GAC 400 was applied to the back of the canvas as a stiffening medium to hold the relief shape. This was dried over night with tin foil supports under the raised areas and then “cured or set” with a hair dryer.
Preservation of the Artwork
Because Osher’s work is presented without conventional framing and glass, she consulted with Golden Artist Colors technical experts to learn about a six step
archival process to protect and preserve her artwork. Two of the steps occur after the monotype is printed, flattened and dried. The final four steps of the process are applied after assembly of the artwork on canvas is completed.
If you missed the Opening Reception for ART*SPARKS you’re in luck, as we have some photos of the event courtesy of Steve Raphael as well as a written version of Marian’s talk, which she has entitled “Creativity Unblocked.” We’ve shared it, below:
First I want to say that creative challenges and blocks do not only apply to artists, writers, and musicians. Everyone has creative aspects about their lives and personhood.
Early last year I was involved in creating a series of paintings for a solo show scheduled for 2013 in New York. I realized with a shock that I only had 10 months to prepare for the 2012 show at the Printmakers Gallery. I had been thinking about an idea for the show, but no images had come into my mind. The more I thought about what I was going to do, the more my mind was a blank. I began to feel very anxious and even had thoughts that I didn’t want to have this show. The anxiety blossomed into my first major episode of creative block. This would be my 18th solo show.
I turned to the internet and found a number of resources (some of the links are on the handout sheet). I found suggestions, cartoons. Everybody had different solutions that worked for them. The most important thing I learned is that creative people experience creative block and they get past it. I also have an extensive art library, which includes many self-help books for artists, some of which I have found to be helpful, which I have also listed on the handout. People get their help in different ways.
For me the answer came from yoga. My yoga teacher Mary Jean Eig, to whom I have dedicated this show, taught me the importance of focusing on the breath. You have to breathe slowly and deeply, first in, a short pause and breath out. Then pause again and repeat. It is an important part of the relaxation and oxidizing of the body and one of the benefits of yoga. I realized that creating is like breathing. It’s natural but it can’t be forced or rushed. When I overload my creativity, it’s like hyperventilating. There isn’t enough coming in to allow the creative energy to flow out. This “aha” realization removed the pressure and anxiety. I relaxed and allowed the process to work naturally. And it did.
In the past, I have found other ways of overcoming creative challenges. Usually after a long period of intense creative involvement, I take a break and give my artist a rest. I spent a few months organizing 16,000 photos into albums and duplicate files including archiving the negatives. During another break, I organized all of my digital photos beginning in 2000 on my hard drive. You can only imagine how many there are. Another time, I started outdoor sketching. Those sketches led me to a 2nd sketchbook and became an unplanned catalyst for my eyetinerary solo show in 2009.
Sometimes I face creative challenges because I have too many ideas or images in my head. I don’t know where to start and that can also be a stumbling block. When I started working on my environmental show Earth Matters, I was overwhelmed by the issues and the choices that I had to make. Frank Wright, my mentor from GW gave me some very good advice: “Just Pick One.” Those three words from an artist and teacher whom I respect, were really helpful. I picked one issue to start with and the other choices fell into place. Then I had my flow.
Sometimes creativity gets a jumpstart because something interests me. Like the inspiration that came to me when I saw Cozy Baker’s book about kaleidoscopes. The catalyst for Vibes, my show about images inspired by kaleidoscopes and music.
I would like to share some insights about creativity that have worked for me and helped me. I’ve learned to be open to what interests me. Being in touch with what I feel and what moves or troubles me. Being present with who I am and where I am. This awareness helps to open creative my flow.
Every month, I go to museums and galleries and I try to see something new that opens my mind to new directions. Not because I want to copy someone’s work, but what I see can be a launch pad for a new way for me to start thinking about my art, moving forwards in new directions or rethinking the media that I choose to work with.
Reading artist’s biographies and learning more about the struggles and triumphs of their artistic journeys can provide support, inspiration and empowerment.
Most important, as my most recent experience has taught me, is recognizing that there is an ebb and flow of creativity like the waves of the ocean. When we are in an ebb stage, that’s not a bad thing, its part of the regeneration of our creativity. Maybe it’s a time to take a break and focus on our friendships, relationships and other activities, going to galleries, traveling, exploring, and putting new fuel into the creative furnace.
Sometimes creativity can be blocked when we have ideas and creative vision just because of the anticipation of the intensity of the creative experience and the energy that it takes to complete a creative endeavor. There is the conscious or unconscious fore knowledge that the involvement will eclipse other aspects of our lives. Like when the novelist is deep in his writing or the composer is completely taken over by his music. Creating is a huge high, but it takes over and takes a lot of energy to follow thru–so before starting the marathon there is anticipation that one might not have the energy to follow thru to take it to the finish.
By recognizing these feelings, and the trial and error of creating, there can be an overall belief in the process–that we might take breaks from it, but that doesn’t mean we have lost it–just that creativity is regenerating in its own time, and that is OK.
The Kreeger Museum’s exhibition “In Unison, 20 Washington, DC Artists” features monoprints by, you guessed it, 20 Washington, DC artists. This exhibition is the result of efforts by Sam Gilliam, a DC artist who has been associated with the Washington Color School since the 1960’s. Gilliam invited these 20 artists from diverse artistic backgrounds to make five monoprints each. Gilliam and a small board then selected one print from each artist to make the final exhibition. We haven’t been to see this show yet, but it promises to be a good one! The Kreeger Museum is open on Saturday, 10-4 pm, $10 admission, no reservations needed. Reservations are needed Tuesday-Friday. Click on the link above for more information about this show and directions. Exhibition runs through February 26th.
This weekend WPG member artist Marian Osher will host a reception and artist talk for her exhibition “Art Matters” at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville (100 Welsh Park Drive, Rockville, MD 20850). This exhibition features paintings and prints “created over a 10 year period to combat fear, promote connection and mindfulness, and raise awareness of the importance of living in harmony with the environment.” Read Topher Forhecz review in the Gazette, then attend her reception this Sunday, January 23, 11:30-1:00, exhibition runs through February 6.
WPG artist Jenny Freestone also has a solo exhibition up in the Monroe Gallery of the Arts Club of Washington (2017 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006). This gallery is closed Sunday and Monday, so try and make it over during their Saturday hours, 10-2 pm. Exhibition runs through January 29.
Finally, if you haven’t seen WPG’s current exhibition, “Bewick’s Legacy: Six Contemporary British Wood Engravers,” you should! The exhibition was favorably reviewed this week by Claudia Rousseau for the Gazette. It has also been well received by the public, with 12 of the prints selling already, several of those multiple times over (oh, the joy of editions–if your favorite print has sold, we may be able to get another for you!). This exhibition closes next weekend (Sunday, January 30) so get in here before it’s too late!
The following is an excerpt from and article by Pam Schipper on Marian Osher‘s current show of eco-spiritual paintings and prints at Unitarian Universalist Church (details below). The full article, including Marian’s deeply personal experience with flying on 9/11 and the story of how she came to be an artist, can be found in the current issues of Montgomery Life magazine, available in area newsstands now.
Osher learns something new through each body of work she creates, and she strives to pass this on to the viewer. When her son became a coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign, a nonprofit working to protect the free roaming buffalo in Yellowstone National Park, Osher merged her spiritual path with an environmental one. “I would go out there and volunteer. I volunteered 11 times, and I would go on all the patrols,” she says. “Then I did other activism. I lobbied with congress, too.” The 2008 “Dream Quest” show at New York City’s Ceres Gallery suspended dream catchers with moving icons over wall hangings of painted buffalo, a craft Osher learned while volunteering at Yellowstone. Images have been reproduced in the Buffalo Field Campaign calendar and other fundraising materials, including note cards, with all proceeds going toward helping the buffalo.
Her environmental shows, including the 2007 “Earth Matters” at the Washington Printmakers Gallery, explored issues ranging from the plight of the Yellowstone buffalo to logging, the effects of global warming, light pollution and the distress of numerous species, including harp seals, polar bears, penguins, walruses, sea turtles, frogs, toads and dolphins. “When I have my environmental shows, I have literature for people to pick up to take something with them if they want to become more active or learn more,” Osher says. “So there are so many ways that artists can raise awareness, and then there’s giving talks about your work and discussing the issues.”
Her 2009 show “eyetinerary” at the Washington Printmakers Gallery was “about being present in the moment, and that was inspired by a sketchbook—a series of sketchbooks. It’s really looking and seeing what’s right there in familiar pathways and appreciating it,” Osher explains. “So if one person’s awareness or thinking can be inspired by that, then as far as I’m concerned my work has succeeded whether I sell or not. And that means I’ve been able to give that gift away, and I can feel good about my use of my art.”
“You see, if it’s about ego, then it’s about how much you sell or what award you get. You’re always judging yourself, and I don’t want to be there,” she continues. “That’s one of the letting go things that happened in the spiritual journey, and it
makes my art a lot more fun for me, less pressured.” She pauses and smiles. “It doesn’t mean that I do any less work.”
“Art Matters” is on display Jan. 9 through Feb. 6, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 100 Welsh Park Dr., Rockville. Among the 60 pieces are new multimedia works inspired by the seashore. An artist’s reception and talk will be held Jan. 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon on Sunday. For more information, call 301-762-7666.
WPG is pleased to welcome our newest member–Joan Krash, who joined just in time to be part of our New Faces, New Prints exhibition. Read on to learn about Joan’s art and stop by the gallery to see it in person!
WPG: You cite Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, as a source of inspiration for your prints. Your artist statement was the first I had heard that term. Can you tell us a little more about Ikebana and how you found out about it?
KRASH: Although I was aware of Ikebana a very long time ago, the first opportunity I had to try my hand at it was in 2002. My daughter wanted Ikebana arrangements at her wedding and discovered the gifted Ikebana artist and teacher, Sheila Advani, who lives in this area. When I saw what Sheila had created, I asked to study with her and have attended her classes and other workshops ever since. Essentially, Ikebana is sculpture that is made from living materials, including flowers, branches, leaves, grasses, etc. It is a traditional Japanese art with roots in Buddhism. It was brought from China to Japan, where it has been nurtured for five to six hundred years. Today, there are hundreds of different schools in Japan, each with its own set of esthetic principles. The formal elements of line, space, mass and color and their relationships to one another govern the arrangements. Underlying the formal aspects is a response to the natural world – its elements, its seasons and the transient nature of all living things.
Sogetsu, the style I study, is a young, modern, school. Established in 1927, it is one of a handful of schools known internationally. In Sogetsu, one begins by learning and practicing its set of rules and their variants. Having internalized the esthetics, one is then allowed much freedom to develop a direction of one’s own. In my work as a painter and printmaker, the Ikebana influence is more unconscious than deliberate in determining how I compose any given work. The esthetic principles have become intrinsic to my way of seeing.
WPG: Your background is mainly in painting, particularly oils and acrylics. What made you try printmaking? How is the process similar or different to painting for you?
KRASH: When I’m in Cape Cod in the summer, I take various workshops at the excellent art schools in Provincetown and Truro. It’s an opportunity to try new things. I started printmaking with an etching class and then went on to collography and monotype. As I became more intrigued with printmaking, I also tried some classes in silk screen at the Corcoran and Montgomery College and participated in woodblock and monotype workshops at Pyramid Atlantic. More recently, I found an artist and teacher in Baltimore whose work I very much admire and who teaches, among other things, the solarplate technique. Her name is Soledad Salame. I have gravitated toward solarplate because it is a relatively nontoxic process and something that I can handle in my home studio.
As to the similarities with painting, of course the issues of composition are essentially the same. How I get from the initial inspiration to the final piece, however, is a whole different story. In my painting, I usually start with an idea or a set of gestures. Then I have a continuing dialogue with what’s on the canvas. The work develops in a lot of layers, sometimes ending with quite a different composition from the one I started. I like the feeling of depth and the notion that there are significant layers beneath what is first seen on the surface. I try to make prints with a similar painterly quality, which works out most easily in monotypes and a little less easily in monoprints.
Printmaking, however, requires a totally different process. Playing with photographs or sketching is a way I can develop images in my usual mode, but after that the process differs completely. Having a home studio, I had been used to coming, going, working on several paintings at the same time and taking breaks at will. With printmaking, as you know, you have to be much more organized and to plan every step of the way, to say nothing of the need to develop habits of cleanliness. I like to do new things, so the challenge is welcome, even though I struggle against my own tendencies toward casual work habits. But the rewards can be great and there’s no match in painting for the thrill of lifting a print off a plate and discovering the results of all that precision, care and preparation.
WPG: Many artists are trying to move away from oil-based inks because using them often involves harmful solvents. You mention using soy-based ink when printing. How does it compare to the oil-based inks? Would you recommend it to specific printmakers over others?
KRASH: So far, in my experience, oil-based inks seem to produce richer blacks and perhaps other colors. But since this summer, in a workshop with Dan Welden (who developed solarplate), I’ve begun using Akua Intaglio inks with exciting results. The inks are soy-based but soluble in soap and water. The interesting thing is that they don’t dissolve in water alone, so you can use dampened paper and you can re-dampen it for further layers. It takes soap or liquid detergent to dissolve the inks. For monotypes, I already had been using the regular Akua colors, which are thinner and not suitable for intaglio. Now that I’ve found these nice, thick soy-based inks, I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with them. I haven’t tried them with other kinds of plates yet, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t work with anything you can wash. I’m still experimenting and looking forward to discovering the limits of these and other safe media.
Some time ago, a friend called and asked if she could bring a group from her synagogue to visit the Washington Printmakers Gallery. I told her that not only was that a great idea but that I would do a demonstration for them. As the time neared, I ended up gallery sitting on that day and asked the person having her one-person exhibit, Yolanda Frederiske, if she would like to come down and give a talk about her prints.
I was so pleased that I did that because not only did the guests enjoy her talk but I learned about watercolor painting on metal and then printing that to make a monotype.
While she was talking, Yolanda passed around some of her old, used, and no longer printable plates so that all the guests could see what the plate looked like after she printed them. There was still paint on the plate and they were able to better understand the process. She talked about cutting small plates from a large one and how she could easily carry them along with her paints when she traveled. She was able to work on the spot if she came upon a vista she wanted to paint. Everyone wanted to know specifics about each print hanging in the exhibit. And Yolanda enjoyed explaining the hows and whys of each. It was a delightful afternoon. The exhibit is no longer up but most of her work is still in the gallery. Just ask to see it.
Is drawing necessary for printmakers? Printmaking has always been considered one of the Graphic Arts, and drawing was long its primary act. But contemporary printmaking is wonderfully diverse, and today prints do not necessarily begin with drawing.
Consider Pauline Jakobsberg’s poignant Pen Pals, in which she superimposes an old family photo over the last letter from an uncle who died in battle. (The print is from her Legacy Series, commemorating the struggles of family members on both sides of the Atlantic during WWII.)
Or Martha Oatway’s monoprint, Palisades, which incorporates the imprint of an actual spray of leaves alongside images of tree branches printed from manipulated photographs using paper lithography.
And Andis Applewhite derives the imagery for her elegant silkscreen abstractions – such as Duo A – from her explorations of the “relational, emotional and psychic aspects of ourselves.”
But prints drawn directly from life remain a powerful and important segment of printmaking. Paul Steinhardt, in his 2004 book on figure drawing, The Undressed Art, asserts that “we draw to see.” This doesn’t mean that we can’t see if we don’t draw. The act of making a visual record by hand is only one way to see more intensely. But it is a powerful way. And the resulting image – drawing or print – offers the viewer the privilege of seeing and understanding through the artist’s vision and skill.
Certainly this true of the work of both Lee Newman and Max-Karl Winkler.
Looking at Newman’s Sleeping Patient, we sense the elderly figure’s bulk beneath her shapeless clothes. We feel the way she is slumped into the wheelchair. And we can almost see her head nodding: the artist has left untouched the vestiges of his initial sketch of her head, when it was thrown back at a different angle. It is as though we stand at the artist’s shoulder; we watch as the crayon pushes and lifts, probing for structure and meaning.
In his drypoint, Homeless Man, Tenleytown, Newman has drawn directly into the metal plate which he will use to print, working with etching needle and roulette instead of crayon. The jagged marks and intense darks record the figure’s bulk and his unsettling stare as he emerges out of the dark that surrounds him. Newman has said that to draw – or even to look at – the elderly and homeless people whom he depicts so often, takes an act of courage. In spite, or perhaps because of this, he presents them to us with an objective compassion, and his images grant them dignity even in their unloveliness.
Max-Karl Winkler’s portraits of his friends and family are entirely different, rooted as they are in his affectionate engagement with his sitters. The artist’s recent solo show at Washington Printmakers Gallery featured portraits in drawing and woodcut. (See Winkler’s https://dcimprint.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/lessons-learned-from-a-solo-show/ .)
Winkler made the drawing of his son, Dagan, directly from life, which may account for the energy and immediacy of the image.
It is instructive to compare this drawing with the woodcut of Dagan. While clearly based on the drawing, the woodcut is in no sense a mere copy. Rather Winkler has taken the same material and transformed it into an independent work of art, powerful on its own terms. The artist has expanded the visual field to include his son’s torso and sensitive hands. By manipulating the relative weights of the lines in the hair, the turtleneck, and the heavy jacket, Winkler conveys – using only black and white – a sense of both color and texture. And although the intimacy of the drawing is gone, it is replaced by a greater solidity of presence. There is a majesty to this image, which depicts the ease and strength, as well as the vulnerability, of young manhood.
So while drawing is no longer a prerequisite for printmaking, it is clearly not obsolete. When the drawn line is as responsive and revealing as it is in the work of Newman and Winkler, the resulting image will always be worthwhile pondering.
Margaret Adams Parker