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November 2017

William Kentridge Prints

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I prefer a perfect sheet of Rives BFK, baptized in a bath of holy water and dabbed by angels wings, printed with hesitant optimism and an aneurysm when an imperfection emerges, but William Kentridge, he throws it down. That man can work the paper. Torn pieces, inked, and carefully arranged. Look how thoughtful he is with his whimsy. Have you ever heard an artwork mutter? Listen.

Above: William Kentridge, The Full Stop Swallows The Sentence (2012) Hand-printed lithograph (listed also as linocut). Image courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery – http://www.gregkucera.com/past.htm

Below: William Kentridge, Undo, Unsay and Universal Archive

More of Kentridge’s Linocuts from 2012 (photo courtesy David Krut)


William Kentridge, Nine Trees, 2012 (Linocut printed on pages from Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)

Monotype, positive/negative

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Yesterday I talked about trace monotypes:

“Trace monotypes are made by laying paper down on an inked piece of plexiglass, then drawing a design on the back of the paper.  The drawing tool presses the paper against the ink, making a dark line on the front of the paper.”

– Ruthie V, circa yesterday

Today I found an artist who used both the trace, and the print from the press to make a positive/negative figure study.

Madeline Roseske, monoprint (positive & negative)


A positive from the figure drawing teacher: The contour lines are a beautiful balance with the textured tones. Take another look at that shading. To make it, the artist ran their finger (or another soft tool?) across the surface of paper, not seeing the result until the page was lifted. Soft pressure makes these marks, but the artist couldn’t see what they were doing until it was done. Drawing blind! Just one move made the spine, and it worked. Elegant.

A negative from the figure drawing teacher: Just because you can draw the whole detailed foot, doesn’t mean you should. I realize the bravery involved in drawing hands and feet, typically people skip them out of fear, but in this case the wiggly little beans distract from the graceful simplified form, and this print would have been quite lovely without it.

Those ghosted square shaped marks – Nikki Barber, do you think these are brayer marks from uneven inking? Or something else?

Hedda Sterne, Trace Monotypes

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A trace monotype is made by laying paper down on an inked piece of plexiglass, then drawing a design on the back of the paper.  The drawing tool presses the paper against the ink, making a dark line on the front of the paper.  There’s often a smudgy look made by fingerprints, and a shadowy look around the line as the pressure, and therefore the amount of ink, fades away from the line.

Trace monotypes can easily be combined with other forms of painting, drawing, and printmaking for a variety of marks and expressions.


Untitled (Radar)

Hedda Sterne
American, 1910 – 2011
Untitled (Radar), from the series Machines, ca. 1949
Trace monotype on paper
Sheet: 45.7 x 30.4 cm (18 x 11 15/16 inches)


Left vs Right: sense of time in composition

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Not all sections of a surface are equal. Movement, space, and placement can be used to suggest time. Within the composition we can infer a sequence, a past, and a future. In part, this is due to how we read. Generally, we read top to bottom, and left to right. Within a scene in a painting we often interpret things happening at the top or left side as beginning, and as they move towards the lower and the right side, they are perceived as ending. Things happening in the lower right side tend to be perceived as happening later in time. Spacing and placement can also can suggest how much future or past there is outside of the immediate scene of the painting. This isn’t true for all paintings, but it does happen in some, and you can use it in yours.


For example, the painting Christina’s World by Wyeth suggests a moment of time in the subject’s future. We connect the figure (left) to the house (right), and the tension is in the suggested attempted movement from the figure through the blank space, as the figure pulls towards the house.

In the painting below by Harry Franklin Waltman, the action has mostly already happened (represented by the figure on the left), and the figure on the right is at his end. Both Christina and the fencer are in peril, but Christina, the figure on the left side, will extend into prolonged suffering, while the fencer, the figure on the right edge of the canvas, suggests the story is at its end.



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Today I’ll eat butter. Lots and lots of butter. And I’ll be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Butter, Lard, and Sidemeat, 2013 oil on linen, Royce Weatherly

From the poetry foundation:

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

Minas Avetisian, Women Churning Butter (Khnotsi). 1964. Oil on canvas. 120 x 150 cm. Art Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan

Frank Hobbs Figurative Monotypes

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Mediums have an enormous influence on the products of art. Not necessarily because of how they look when the making is finished (though of course that is true) but more interestingly because of what they will do. The medium dictates not just the final look, but the process of how it’s made.

Tip: Categorize art inspirations not by how they look, but by the process used to make them. If the process matches how you like to work, you’ll be happier, and have more success.

Below is a series of inky monotypes – one of a kind prints made in most cases by covering a sheet of plexi glass with a layer of thick oil based ink, then wiping the ink away to remove the light areas of the image. The composition can be checked by lifting the glass and viewing the reverse, and adjustments can be made, but the process has a time limit due to the drying of the ink, likely 30 minutes maximum, so monotypes tend to look like painterly sketches. There isn’t time for detailed realism. The prints also tend to be well balanced for lights and darks, in part because the surface starts covered with medium, and none of the fear of wasted paint (often seen in painting classes) secretly limits the quantity of material applied. The ink has already been placed with an amply inky deliciousness, there is no holding back. With the removal process and absence of clean white page, artists shift from precise line to rough quick sketches of form and value, naturally considering the composition of light and dark shapes. As a result, the figure (object) and the background (negative space) tend to be treated equally, so instead of a study of an object, it becomes a study of lights and darks – describing mysterious unfinished forms for us to peer into, and complete in our own minds.

The plate, whether perfect or not, gets run through the press, and whatever emerges on the paper when the felts are lifted is what the image is. It’s done. Rarely are monotypes overworked.

Frank Hobbs: “Everything starts with sensation, doesn’t it? Our physical contact with the world is the most private and intimate experiences we have, but we overlook it, or depreciate it because it’s so familiar. In working from observation there is this struggle to reclaim some of the lost wonder and innocence of perception that allows you to really see and experience things, as they say in Zen, in their ‘suchness.'”