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

September 9, 2010, 3:24 PM
Filed under: art, Paintings -Inspiration, Paintings-stories | Tags: , ,

Self-portrait in black and white on canvas.

Self-portrait in black and white.

She is a large painting done while I was in graduate school. It is black and white gesso on stretched canvas. It was a product of frustration, a self-portrait done at a time when I was stalled on ideas for my thesis paintings. It and another self-portrait in red and black served to sidetrack my mind for a short while. It worked.

Also, it is a product of and testament to my own unhappiness during my first year in grad school. Having left friends behind in Chico, I had moved to San Jose, fought difficult and stressful traffic and parking situations on a daily basis, and to make my life less stressed, I simplified a few decisions – I wore black for an entire year! This black skirt was worn so frequently, its hem became ragged with rough edges and strings hanging. Those sandals became spotted with gesso, leather straps curled up, “souls” became worn. When fellow students saw this portrait, they knew who was wearing those sandals!

A few months before I was to have my pre-thesis show a young man had advertised his pre-thesis show by putting up photos of himself on the bulletin boards with a caption that said “He is Coming!” When my time came around for a show, I made a flyer of the above self-portrait with the caption “She is Coming!” and plastered it all over the walls. I thought it was the perfect response to his notice; one arrogant, pompous and over-confident response to another. I had arrived!!! Or so I thought… Apparently I had tacked my flyer up in forbidden places and was promptly informed I had to take them all down. Oh, the evil of women…

Working with black and white gesso on canvas (and paper) led to the work I did for my final MFA thesis show – a body of work I like to refer to more as constructions rather than paintings. One idea led to another and developed into a cohesive body of work.

And after grad school, I began to paint on paper with black and white gesso as well as color gesso that I purchased at Utrecht Art Supplies. It was cheap paint at the time that came in 16 oz plastic jars. I combined and mixed it with watercolor colors. Now I combine the mixed media of gesso, watercolor and acrylic for most of my paintings.

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