I had the opportunity to spend the weekend on beautiful Bainbridge Island near Seattle with my friend, the talented artist, Wendy Orville. We have been planning this visit forever but our busy lives kept conspiring against us. Finally, though, the clouds parted and we made the time. Funny that I mention clouds. Wendy has been making quiet, powerful images with trees and clouds as primary subjects for some time now and I really loved the chance to see her current work up close and learn some of the techniques she uses to make her elegant and spare monotypes and discover more about her passions and her process.
I love taking photographs of clouds. I do it almost unconsciously as I whip my iPhone out and record a fleeting moment in the sky, making a monotype of sorts, recording an image never to be repeated in quite the same way. That Wendy and I have been obsessed by clouds at the same time is no accident. Ever since we met around 15 years ago in Taos, New Mexico while selling our wares at a craft fair on the central Plaza we have been kindred spirits, seeing art in the sky and speaking the same language of the heart. Our mutual move to the Pacific Northwest has allowed us to keep our friendship alive, even while separated by a long stretch of highway and the demands of family and work.
Our planned weekend of making monoprints in her spacious and well-equipped studio was only enhanced by the presence of her easygoing kids who knowingly steered clear of the artists at work. Wendy was so generous with her time, especially considering her life is about to get much busier with new gallery representation at Prographica in Seattle and being deeply involved with the soon to open Bainbridge Art Museum. We managed to steal 5 hours in the studio and I am pleased with the results.
Using a photograph I took (while attending the Crested Butte Film Fest last month) as reference, Wendy showed me how to lay down stripes of rich Prussian Blue ink, one stripe being pure ink, one stripe having transparency gel mixed in and one stripe just transparent gel. This technique allowed us to make a ground of gradated color, a way of expressing the sky, the horizon, and the land. After using the brayer roller to pick up the ink and rolling it onto a plexiglass sheet, Wendy taught me how to scratch in my design of clouds, wiping off ink to leave a band of bright white and bringing in darkness and depth to the belly of the clouds with an inky rag and my fingertips. Wow--I was having serious fun! After making the plate of clouds and printing it on her large Takatch etching press I inked a piece of mylar shaped like a mountain with deep dark Prussian Blue ink and printed that onto my piece of paper onto which I had earlier printed my clouds.
Can you see the image is reversed from my photograph? Can you tell that I am hooked on monotype printmaking? It is so meditative and direct. There are definitely many techniques to learn and Wendy is a master! Check out her work on her website and watch her at work in this video chronicling the making of the Bainbridge Museum of Art. As for me, I'll continue learning to see, draw and make prints along with making my jewelry. I guess you could call me a Jo of all trades. Maybe one day I'll be a Master of One!