In 1992, I was fortunate to be in a printmaking class where my teacher, Marion Epting, Professor of Art at California State University, Chico, encouraged me to experiment with black and white print images. With his encouragement to do as I pleased with the Intaglio (etching) plate, I discovered an appreciation for the spontaneity of monotypes and collographs and the inherent simplicity and unity of a black and white image. After I graduated, I continued with the black and white image making I had enjoyed while making prints, but instead, painted with black and white Gesso directly on printmaking paper.
The complexity of value changes in the interaction of black ink on white paper left so much to the imagination of the viewer, yet at the same time, because of its association with newspaper photographic images, black and white could carry the weight: the importance and truth of reality. It connotes a documentation of real life. Somebody once told me that photographs always tell the truth, but the truth is they don’t. From the beginning the photographer’s eye and mental process influences his/her process and product, just like painting a painting. The “manipulation” used to happen in a dark photo lab developing process with chemical solutions and expensive photo equipment, but today it happens in the camera with the artist’s ideas and touch, and on one’s home computer.
In the sense of black and white photos, my black and white Gesso landscapes of the Fort Bragg and Monterey Bay area document a local landscape as seen through my eyes and influenced by my moods and skills. I manipulated my images. They are not truth. They are illusions. They give a glimpse of a truth within me. I like the confluence of truth and illusion signified by the black and white in these paintings.
Guided by my penchant for simplicity and aversion to detail, I honed a landscape out of black and white Gesso and tried to express the image that first caught my eye, focusing on light and dark shapes, patterns, and large simple flat shapes juxtaposed against a sense of distance and atmosphere. I enjoyed the inherent contradiction of push/pull created by the flat shapes against deep space.
Black and white Gesso satisfied my need for simplicity: it was easy to manipulate and was transparent or opaque depending on how I applied it. It still entices me away from color. I use it on paper or canvas.
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