Where to begin? A shape, a notion of color? The great thing about making art is that when you reexperience something you have the chance to resolve it, to make changes based on what has gone before. Working the way I do, I build upon initial moves to influence the final outcome. In fact, what has been there and not seen is a necessary move toward resolution of a particular image. It’s part of the process of constructing a picture. What we see in a work that is “finished” results from all the decisions the process required. There may have been addition or subtraction of elements, or a combination of the two, as the image comes into a focus that seems just right. At times it’s the absence of an element that’s been covered over that points the direction to a new recognition, which allows the picture to be “found” in the process of its making. I have these source-driven moves, shapes, colors, and compositional devices. And then when I’m working I might think: “You know what would be great? A triangle in the middle of a shape.” Then, I think: “Can I fit that into the narrative?” Why do I want to see that shape, that color in this particular structure? So, I’ll try it, and see if I can fit that into the story and see if it makes sense.
The works shown here are monotypes, which is a kind of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a nonabsorbent surface. The image is transferred to paper by manually rubbing or using a press. Monotypes can have a painterly look with unique textural qualities. Generally, there’s one good impression from each surface or matrix. However, after a monotype is pulled a faint layer of ink or paint remains. Pulling the matrix through the press a second time results in what is called a “ghost print.” While lighter in value from the first version, what results is surprising and can differ greatly from the first impression. Most of these monotypes began with a ghost print as the starting point. I like the idea of beginning from something that was left behind, just a part of the original plan. Over time, I’ve developed a process using stencils and tape that I use to make an image that develops from successive pulls through the press. Each move creates a new monotype printed over its previous version and a new ghost print. A fragment from a former impression leads to a new image, one that wouldn’t be possible without the previous step. So, in a way, I’m beginning from a place where practically anything is possible to a point where only one thing is right. At times, some of the pentimenti from former versions of the print remain.
I don’t consider myself a printmaker; that’s a tradition I highly respect, and one that I’m not well acquainted with. I’m using a press to generate images that at first sight surprise me, and that wouldn’t look the same way without the monotype process. Now I have a place to begin, an area to work in, and I can put forth some propositions: what is the color of this and what is the shape of that? I’m limiting myself to a pared-down visual vocabulary, but one that is subject to permutations, pretty much squares, lines, and rectangles. I don’t think of myself as a geometric artist, but more of an improviser with these forms.
The central fact of an artist’s life is the thousands upon thousands of hours we spend alone, looking at the things we’re making and thinking about them. We sit there, and these things just go on and on. Everything in the world ties into them, everything that’s crossed your mind while you’ve been working on them. And if somebody looking at it could just get a sense of that fullness in a work of art, it’s working, and you’re on the right track.
Image at top: Garry Mitchell, Wander, alkyd on paper, 12 x 9 in.