Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter

It’s All Black and White

The Senator's Stairs, Collograph print

 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.

New Monterey Pines, CA - Painting

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.

Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, CA painting
Collograph print, Lighted Doorway

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The Monterey pine photo details–foreground, three dark pines. middle ground–bay, ocean, lake (water in any case); background–a reddish ridge or mountain. Pink clouds, blue sky. Take the New Monterey pine painting above, take the section with the woman’s figure, abstract that part of it it and you have the beginnings of the painting I have. Does any of that clarify it? Jack

Comment by jackremick

all I see in my painting now is the upside-down figure of a woman’s hips, legs looking like she is holding up the pine boughs above her.
You are more able to slip into that right-brain visuals than I am, Jack.
To abstract an area like that would create a more Franz Kline-like black and white painting…whose work I like very much.
I’m glad you like the Pines.

Comment by Susan Canavarro

I will continue this, it could get interesting. Susan you see the woman lying on her back with hips in the air and I thought I’d take another look. I remarked that the female vision I saw is standing up right dancing. As I remarked last night to you, I can see her head then her back, hips, and she is balancing the pine boughs as you mention, kind of like someone balancing large balls and twirling them. Anyway you see it, there is a female figure and musical movement.

Comment by jacquie r. wagenschutz

LOL Isn’t it wonderful so much can be seen in one painting! There is also a vague shape of a woman’s torso in the white negative shapes. Hard to pull away from the positive dark shapes, but if you focus on the white negative shapes, there may also be hidden forms there. Sometimes the eye can jump back and forth between the two – dark and light.

Comment by Susan Canavarro

Susan – I too love your trees. There is so much movement in them, they are almost like a group of dancers swinging and swaying with the rythmic sounds of the waves and the wind as it goes thru their branches…which personally is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world…wind whispering thru pine trees as if someone is speaking to you…well I guess you could say they are.

Comment by jrwagenschutz

Thanks jacquie. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it don’t!

Comment by Susan Canavarro

This painting is one I did a few weeks before my mother died. From above where I lived in a tiny garage apartment I saw these trees. I looked at them everyday. High on a hill I looked down at the rooftops, thru the branches and trunks of the trees and saw the Monterey Bay glimmering in the distance.
Many of the trees in the Monterey area are sculpted by trimming off lower branches, so you see the splendid dance of tree trunks and the directional movement of the upper branches. Carmel is full of such organic sculpted trees – one of my favorite things about Carmel.

Comment by Susan Canavarro

I like the simplicity and complexity of it. Makes me want to try it. Very appealing!

Comment by Jan W.

Yes, no necessity for thinking about all those colors, just values. Try it. If you don’t like it you can always paint over it with oils. No? Or even pastels? Might give some interesting texture to the surface.

Comment by Susan Canavarro

Susan–The painting of the Monterey pines strikes me. Leave it there. I have a color print of the pines, but what I didn’t see in that color print is the movement. I really like the black and white painting. Your bridge work also fascinates me– root canals too. The catherdal bridges especially.

Comment by jackremick

Hi Jack, thank you. What color print? One of your own?
My root canal is waiting for a bridge or crown and today my car had to go in for a new alternator. Old one died this morning.
Life goes on down here.

Comment by Susan Canavarro

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: