Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Surviving a Monoprint Workshop

Barb Albin explains the process
Here's a tip. When an art instructor tells you "anyone can do it," don't believe it. I fell for this trap when I signed up for a monoprint class at the Visual Arts Center with the wonderful Barbara Albin.

Monoprints are a blend of painting and printmaking. (The painting part of the description should have been my first clue this wouldn't be in my comfort zone.) When I talked with Barb about the process, she explained it involves painting over an image that's under a piece of plexiglass. She analogized it to creating an artwork from an adult coloring book. (This should have been my second clue. My lone adult coloring experience was filled with stress as I tried to figure out which colors would look good where. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. I think it's fair to say I am distinctly left-brained.) 

Nonetheless, I registered for the class and showed up bright and early on Monday morning. After selecting the images we would be recreating, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. Everyone else in the room was a veteran artist. Admittedly, Belinda Duclos is a master metalwork jewelry maker rather than a painter, but she is firmly an artist.  One woman had injured her right (dominant) hand so was giving it a try left-handed. The introductions did not make me feel more comfortable.

Sandeman's "Still Life with Jugs and Berries"
I selected Margot Glasgow Sandeman's "Still Life with Jugs and Berries" for my reproduction. It seemed to be one of the "simpler" works, with some broad shapes. Then we had to choose our paints. Not surprisingly, there isn't just one green or blue or even black. There's a veritable rainbow of colors, even without mixing (the thought of which made me break into a cold sweat). 

I started to paint, outlining the basic forms as we had been instructed to do. So far, so good. Then I got to the point of having to work on some details. It sounds like this should be about 15 minutes into the class, but a good 90+ minutes had elapsed. By this time I had realized I didn't like the color palette of the painting I'd chosen. In fact, I despised its muddiness and resented the thought of having to spend another two hours striving to recreate it.

The big reveal
I mentioned this to Barb, and she agreed that the colors didn't really seem like me. (And I don't think she even saw my over-the-top orange guest bath when she visited my color-filled home.)  We decided it would be okay for me to just do what I wanted.  Frankly, it was the only way I was going to get through the session.

I eschewed the greens and browns in favor of magenta and bright blue. I did a little mixing and realized that when I combined the two, I came up with purple. Now it was getting interesting.

As Barb circled the room, I heard her murmuring "that's nice" or "you're going to really like that" to my fellow students. When she came to me, she said, "It looks like you're having fun."

My one--and only--monotype
Once we had completed our paintings, we laid damp watercolor paper over the image ever so carefully. The transfer process was quite low tech -- two people held the paper in place while the artist moved a wooden spoon in small circles across the page.

Then it came time for the big reveal.  The artist would slowly and carefully lift the paper from her painting.  The results were really quite amazing. 

Even keeping in mind that the image is the reverse of the original, I think it's fair to say my monotype bears no resemblance to Sandeman's painting. And that's okay with me. The Matisse-like colors are much more my style.  And who knows? It might even find a home in my orange bathroom. 

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