Friday, August 31, 2012

Double Vision

I did a solarplate etching yesterday, and decided to run it through the press on the same piece of paper, first with blue ink and then with white. A slight shift in the registration created a pretty striking 3-d effect (in the squiggly shape on the right):

I added some shapes from a collagraph and lino to cover up the plate mark from the solarplate. It would be interesting to see if I could reproduce that first accident to make an edition of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Collagraph/Monoprint

This one is from four collagraph plates with different textures on them, plus some monoprint:

It's the same size as the previous ones: 12" x 7". There are actually nine layers on this one, as I kept overprinting from the first three large collagraphs with slight variations in the tone of the ink each time. The one with the circles pattern was rolled with a brayer, the large dark shape was inked intaglio style (drag and wipe).

The small whitish circles are pieces of acetate, rolled with ink and then drawn into with sticks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yet More Prints

Using the "coal-circle" imagery as the underpinning of the prints, plus some abstract shapes that I apply for contrast. Media, in order of application: linocut; collagraph; monoprint; and sometimes solar plate intaglio:

Here is a picture of some of the plates and blocks:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 20

Part 20 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (previous interviews: 123456789101112, 13, 1415161718, 19). Today I talk to painter Tim McFarlane, from Philadelphia. Tim's paintings are an absorbing combination of symmetrical pattern overlaid with sensitive gestural mark-making, a procedure that is sometimes interestingly reversed, with a rough background giving way to a geometric shape. Looking at his paintings reminds me of the way that passages of music follow each other in a composition -- indicating that it's no accident that music and visual art use the same term.

Imposition (indeterminate passage), 2012, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 inches

Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

Tim McFarlane: I use acrylic paints in my work, primarily. I began my art studies in high school using oils and really liked them. I still like oils, actually. However, during a five-year hiatus from college, I began experimenting with acrylic paints and discovered that they fit my somewhat impatient personality being a fast drying medium. I can work my way through ideas a lot faster with acrylic paints than oils and while acrylics might not rival oils for their luminosity, I have found ways to make them work very well for me.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Tim McFarlaneI am currently working on several small panels (six at12 x 12 inches each) that are a part of an ongoing series, and a couple of works on paper. I usually work on several pieces at once, so it varies from day to day.

Sequencer (folded), 2012, acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Tim McFarlane: With a lot of my works on panels lately, I have been building up layers of images with stencils using different colors in each layer, covering everything with a solid layer of color and then sanding the piece. I never know how the layers of color will interact once I’ve sanded through them, so there’s always a nice surprise as the layers are revealed-different combinations of patterns emerge that I don’t expect. It’s interesting to watch the new patterns emerge during the sanding process. I liken it to a kind of ‘reverse drawing’.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Tim McFarlane: Photography is another medium that I really enjoy. The images that I take with a camera don’t relate directly to my painting. I see photography as a separate way of being visually active. Music and reading are other ways that I feed my creative process. I don’t make music, but I listen to a wide range of music and am always looking for new things to listen to. I have a special affinity for electronic-based music, like deep house, techno, experimental electronic music, etc. There’s no telling what you’ll hear from one moment to the next when my iPod is set to ‘random’: Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Depeche Mode, the xx, Dead Kennedys, and on and on. Reading fiction or poetry usually gets the visual creative fires going, also. I love comics and read a lot of graphic novels, as well.

Cossia, 2012, acrylic on panel, 12 x 12 inches

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Tim McFarlane: The very first piece of art that I remember making was a cardboard figure of a man made out of a shoebox that my mother had. I was probably seven or so and that was the first thing that I put together by myself, using only my imagination. I remember it being a very spontaneous act: I pulled the box out from a bottom drawer in my mothers bureau, started cutting it up with scissors and wound up with a rough, squared off approximation of a figure. I don’t know what possessed me to do that, but it was the first time that I remember consciously making something.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Tim McFarlane: I’m an artist because I have always been very drawn towards visual expression. That, and art was the only thing that I really wanted to work at when I chose to return to college after taking five years off. As I stated earlier, I began seriously studying art in high school and was counseled by my art teacher to study something else in college and do my art on the side. I followed his advice, tried a couple of other majors and left school for financial reasons. I continued making art in the meantime and thought that if I ever got the chance to return to school, art is what I wanted to pursue. That’s what I did and have been happily making work for almost thirty years. What I really get out of being an artist is the excitement of dealing with mainly two challenges; that of using abstraction to make visual sense out of my internal experiences/reactions to the world and to make meaningful work that will provoke thought.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some New Prints

Here are some new prints that I made this week. They are 12" x 7", and are a mixture of linocut, collagraph, and monoprint:

I made the central columnar shape on the top print by rolling ink on a piece of acetate, then scraping lines into it with q-tips and a Starbucks coffee stirrer. I then took a ghost print off that same piece of acetate onto the bottom print (a ghost print is when you use the remaining traces of ink on a surface to make a faint, 'ghostly' offset onto another piece of paper).

Here are some more collagraph plates I'm preparing, using coils of string, sewing thread, and a mixture of carborundum and etching resist:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicago Paintings: Coda

Here are some other more informal thoughts about the shows I saw in Chicago last weekend and reviewed for Hyperallergic.

I liked the meditative, repetitive quality of this ink drawing by Glen Butler at Zg Gallery:

It looks like something generated by 3-d modelling software, and may well be for all I know. I think it was drawn by hand, though. Not much room for error while moving the pen from point to point. Nice improvised feeling about it, despite its appearance of something scientific.

Here are more of the photos on Plexiglass by Glenn Wexler:

They were taken out of moving trains in cities in Asia. Not that you can tell that from the images -- that information came from the sheet provided by the gallery, Zolla Lieberman. The photos succeeded in looking like abstract brush marks. The high gloss of the panels gave them an alluring texture, like glass, or something precious.

I didn't respond so positively to the whimsicality of Amy Grey's etchings, derived from drawings of real houses in Cleveland (where she might be from, I think), but depicted as heaped up on wires, like something from a Dr Seuss book. What I did love about them, though, was that they were aquatint and hardground etchings, executed with a real command of the medium (which happens to be the kind of printmaking that I like doing best, too):

And here's another Marco Casentini painting from Roy Boyd Gallery:

What I notice about it now is not just the contrast of plexiglass square against painted square, but the different textures within the paint. Very smooth and matte in one square, then grainy in another. Also, they may be entirely derived from the classic early twentieth century grid (Mondrian, etc), but these paintings are I think all about light.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to Work

When I went back to my studio last week, for the first time in nearly a month, here's what I did: I went through my storage area and cleared out five large garbage bags of crap that I don't need and will never use/show. And I estimate that that is only about a third of the job done.
Someone I went to art college with told me once about doing a similar thing in his studio in the 1980s, except he cut up a lot of old work and made new work out of it. I will get round to that with the old work that is in fact art, but what I was getting rid of looked like the contents of a crazy person's house -- bags of old rags (that I was going to use for clean-up but never did), dried up tubes of block printing ink, offcuts of bookmaking board too small to recycle.

I did unearth some long, scroll-like collagraphs and monoprints I did a few years ago, though:

They're supposed to be like piles of coal, innit? Dimensions: about 12 inches wide and nearly six feet tall.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 19

Part 19 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12, Part 13, Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17, Part 18)After a summer break, this series picks up again with Luis Roca, a graphic designer and photographer based in New Jersey. He's another in a long line of artists I have discovered on Google Plus. 

"Woman of Faith"

Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

Luis Roca: Currently, my medium of choice is the camera but for far longer, it has been a computer. I've become more and more restless. I need to get out and away from detail work on all the screens in my studio. Taking my camera with me for a long walk helps improve my observational skills. Even if it's in my pocket or bag, I look more, I slow down and observe life with all its small quirks. People and culture are important to me which has made street photography a very satisfying fit.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Luis RocaIt's an ongoing series of street and street culture photographs of cities in New Jersey. A few years back I began exploring the idea by shooting in my city of birth, Paterson, as well as Atlantic City. Since recently moving to Hudson County, I have the luxury of being a part of an urban setting I grew up visiting and so it has become one of my primary subjects.

"Pedestrian Traffic Cone"

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Luis RocaStreet photography is new for me. I studied graphic design and have been doing that for over twelve years. Everything is planned, coordinated with clients and other team members. Now, though I can prepare before and plan for after, when I'm out nothing I do will force a moment to happen. I have to gamble on whether a moment will happen or not and be ready to catch it. It can be frustrating, terrifying and thrilling. On a good day, all three at once.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Luis RocaI always liked to draw from observation. I find the restriction of using a pen for blind contours and gestures in public spaces or diners soothing. The problem is how much detail, movement and expression can you record with your eyes. The mistakes help me measure how well I was able to focus.

Outside of practicing art I travel, read, and like finding new, odd subjects to learn. My wife and I travel a few times a year, varying the locations and finding the locals as soon as possible. I like reading work that is challenging and uncomfortable. The book "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter continues to have a lot of influence on me. I spent two years teaching myself to program in Perl and bought dozens of books on the subject. During the same time I picked up a harmonica as a different way to develop a better understanding of patterns. — I don't recommend being in the same room when I draw on the '2' hole.

"Seeing More in a Tree"

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Luis RocaA painted macaroni piece of my left hand on green construction paper in kindergarten.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Luis RocaI need to figure out the universe within and beyond me. The process of making art is the only effective way I can ever scratch the surface.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Realism or Abstraction?

Or in my case, the constant, only-ever-provisionally answered question is: narrative or image? Suggestiveness or explication? Film or painting (or two-dimensions v. everything else)?

Untitled photo, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

What a Performance

There’s a series of performances coming up soon in Wicker Park, Chicago. I will try to see some of them, partly in order to review them for Hyperallergic or Time-Out, and also because I want to challenge myself to find out more about the genre.
As part of the opening night of my latest exhibition on Friday August 10th, I included a performance of sorts: people reading short narrative pieces about their father, ending with me pinning my father’s campaign medal to my chest before picking up my guitar and singing part of a John Lennon song. It was a pretty conventional performance setup, though: people arranged in chairs, listening to things read aloud or sung. I’m interested in finding out a couple of things: how much of performance art is based in that model of performer-spectator; and what exactly is the intellectual and aesthetic effect of the performance. My assumption is that performance art starts from a desire to disrupt the public space, and to confound the eventual spectator. But it can’t just be that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Linocuts are Good

I didn’t like the medium of linocut printing the first time I tried it, because I forgot the cardinal rule of working with sharp tools: always keep the non-cutting hand behind the cutting hand. Result? I impaled my left thumb with a V-shaped gouge, meaning that the first layer of colour on the block was a natural red.

Untitled linocut, 2009
Since then, and while proceeding with the appropriate caution, I’ve come to like linocut because it’s direct, relatively quick, fairly inexpensive, and you can make prints by hand without needing a heavy printing press. It’s also very expressive, particularly if like me you don’t mind things looking rough and ready, with lots of cut marks left on the block around the main blocks of shapes.
Just a few weeks ago, the middle-aged people in a one-day workshop that I taught said that they had done some linocuts before, but not since high school. I think that is a common memory, that linocuts are something easy and forgettable that high school art teachers make you do. But you can do fairly complex things, too, like reduction linocuts. I have taught both one block printing and reduction linocuts, and in each case the medium always surprises people by what they can do with it.
There are more sophisticated types of printmaking, with a richer and more varied kind of mark-making. But for brightly coloured, boldly graphic prints, nothing beats linocuts.

Latest on "The Temple of Air"

There is lots of interesting news about my wife Patty's book. Her short story collection, "The Temple of Air," was published nearly a year ago, and since then it has been a finalist in one big literary award (The Society of Midland Authors' fiction award) and the winner of another (University of Illinois' Devil's Kitchen Readers' Award). It's about to go into it's third printing, and the latest edition has a blurb on the front by no less a personage than Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife":

Yesterday, Patty posted an interview on her blog with Caroline Leavitt, the author of  "Pictures of You," which was a huge NYT best-seller recently.

But then Ms. Leavitt also published an interview with Patty on her blog, too. That's quite a coup. It's also a really good, in-depth interview, and is worth taking the time to read and find out a lot about the background to the book, Patty's working routine, and more. As Ms. Leavitt herself says in her introduction:
And I'm stealing her own author bio because anyone who has breaded mushrooms for a living is immediately interesting, right?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Well of Creativity

I'm feeling kind of empty, creatively, at the moment, like drawing the bucket up from the wheel only to find that there’s no water in it. I know why: my latest show opened last Friday, after a few months of planning and a final few weeks of frantic organizing, leading to a rush of energy on the night. So now is the aftermath of the wave crashing on the shoreline -- another water metaphor. It’s that feeling of wondering what to do next, where to pick up the next time I return to my studio, which avenue should be walked, how to start answering the new questions.

Head, unfired clay & acrylic, 2008
It’s a commonplace idea, this image of the well of creativity, but it’s still useful. Creativity in this picture is like an underground stream: you can’t see it, you don’t know where it comes from. You only hope that you can still draw from it. In the past I might have been worried by this feeling of emptiness, but not any more. One of the things about getting older, doing this for a long time, is knowing that it usually comes back, that the water seeps back in to the underground stream eventually, and that some time the bucket will come up with some fresh water. Maybe it will take a few days, or longer.
But it might be the next time I sit down with some paper, brushes, paint, or plastic soldiers and video camera. You never know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Journal and Sketchbook: A Surprise Find

I was clearing up piles of sketchbooks and papers over the weekend, when to my surprise I opened one of them and saw this bold drawing that I didn't recognize:

It's drawn in black sharpie marker. After a few seconds, I remembered: it was left behind in the classroom by a Film and Video student when I taught a 4-hour journal and sketchbook workshop at Columbia College in April. The student didn't sign any of the pictures, so I don't know his or her name. But even if he/she didn't think them worthy of taking away, I thought they were pretty good, and held onto the sketchbook in case I ever get the chance to reunite it with its maker.

There are eleven drawings in total. They start very spare, maybe because they were produced during the 10-second drawing phase. But they quickly become very strong, detailed, and Keith Haring-esque, and I think they read in a narrative sequence (click on any image to embiggen it):

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pictures from Shake Rag Alley Classes

After a busy week preparing for the opening of my show DIA DEL PADRE in Chicago (see previous posts for me), I finally have the time to blog about the classes that Patty and I taught at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts last weekend.

The slideshow of photos above starts with the linocut class, a one-day workshop in which I led three talented and enthusiastic people through the basics of transferring/drawing an image on the block, cutting, inking, and printing. By the end of the morning, everyone had made at least two prints, and by the end of the afternoon the drying table was covered with many more.

The next day, we taught another one-day workshop -- the Journal and Sketchbook class, with ten people. We did four combined drawing/writing activities: quick-fire drawing; writing a scene; "take a place", which is a Story Workshop activity; blind contour drawing; and blind writing, where we ask students to write and cover up each preceding line with a piece of paper that they pull down the page as they progress. Again, some people can be a little puzzled by the way we approach the writing, but I think that everyone there made noticeable strides in their writing by the end of the day.

It's such a great place to teach, too, as I've said numerous times before. And this time, we were staying in the beautiful stone house of Cathy (with a C), a fellow tennis enthusiast who was just the perfect hostess:

There were people in our class who came from as far away as central Illinois, so I would strongly recommend that if you live anywhere within a 200 mile radius of Mineral Point, you seriously consider having a combined weekend away/one-day workshop at this unique place.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tonight: Opening of my show DIA DEL PADRE

Tonight is the opening night of my window installation and performance, DIA DEL PADRE.

Reception: 6pm, Friday August 10th, Performance: 7pm.

The venue: Art on Armitage, 4125 West Armitage, Chicago. 

Philip Hartigan is a multimedia artist working with personal narrative. Día del Padre (Father’s Day) brings together work related to the death of his father in 1967: four short stop-motion animations with narrative (previously shown in galleries and festivals in the USA & the UK); and a new photographic piece. The Spanish phrase for Father’s Day was chosen in homage to the neighborhood in which the gallery is located, and to reflect the international character of the collaborations (see below).

At 7pm on Friday August 10th, 2012, there will be a live reading of short pieces by artists and writers relating a single memory of each person’s father. The microphone will be installed in the window gallery, with a live broadcast to the street. A film of the readings will then become part of the exhibition for the duration of the show. Contributors include UK writer Vanessa Gebbie (winner of many awards for her short stories); UK-based poet Carrie Etter (whose verse has appeared in Poetry Review, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic); artist/writers Dianne Bowen, William Evertson, Tullio DeSantis, and Susan Shulman; and students and alumni of the Fiction Writing program at Columbia College Chicago (Wyl Villacres, Ben Kramer, Cyn Vargas, Gibson Culbreth, Gail Bozzano, Greg Baldino).

Here are some photos of the installation:

The previous blog post, below this one, also has a link to the YouTube page of the videos that are part of the show.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dia del Padre: Window Installation

Here is the first full set of pictures of my new exhibition at Art on Armitage, 4125 W Armitage Avenue, Chicago. It's called Dia del Padre, and it consists of material that I've made relating to my father, who died on active duty in the British Army in 1967.

One thing I didn't anticipate is that putting the work in a window gallery, during an unusually strong heatwave, makes the pieces difficult to see because of the glaring side light -- particularly the video (I'm working on a solution to that). The exhibit is a work in progress, that I will add to during the course of the show, but so far this is what is displayed:

The 3 ft by 5 ft banner looks like this:

The photo is of my dad, taken when he was very young, some time in the late 1950s. The medal is his posthumous award for dying in the service of Her Majesty the Queen. The middle image is from the citation accompanying the medal. What I am always struck by is that the text is clearly something left over from well before my dad's demise in 1967, as shown by the use of terminology like Secretary of War, which has been partially (but not wholly) erased with a row of XXXXXXs. You have to ask: why on earth could they not have created new pieces of paper, more than twenty years after the end of WWII?

There is also another aspect to this assemblage which I'll let you figure out.

The video screen is showing these films, with Spanish subtitles for the benefit of the largely Latino population of this Chicago neighbourhood:

And then I've done a reprise of something I used in previous shows --  scattered plastic toy soldiers on the floor:

Well look at that: part of the gallery name is like "ARMY."

The reading and performance will be done from a small area at the left hand side of the window gallery.

I can probably take better pictures of this at night, which I will upload next Monday.

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