Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Technique Example vs. the Portfolio Piece

Watercolor Monotype example
Recently I was faced with a perplexing decision. Do I put my very large and imposing portfolio piece in a group show meant to show teachers' (my) work along with students' work? Or, do I show less strong, smaller pieces intended mostly to show what is possible with the class technique that I have been showing to my students? Which is better to attract new students to a generally unfamiliar printmaking technique?

Watercolor Monotype example
The class I teach is Watercolor Monotype which differs considerably from traditional monotype in both technique and the look and feel of the final print. Though my more accomplished piece does exhibit the qualities of watercolor monotypes, I felt it didn't show a wide enough range of techniques that this versatile medium offers. I also didn't want to overshadow my students' work which was much, much smaller in comparison. So I opted to show a couple of small pieces that for all intents and purposes did not reflect my current work very much but were merely examples of what could be done. That is what is shown here. Any thoughts?

I am not sure if the decision was the right one but it is an interesting dilemma to face as a teaching artist who is trying to attract students to a new medium.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Today is Toulouse-Lautrec's birthday

Jardin de Paris, May Belfort, 1883
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
I probably don't need to write this as it is probably not news to anyone but Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the greatest lithographers of all time. He fully embraced this printmaking medium and maximized its potential for illustration and poster design. He was among the artists who took the relatively new printmaking medium of lithography (in the late 19th century) and became one of the world's most famous lithographers. His masterful use of simplified color fields and expressive, painterly line compositions are as powerful today as they were in the 1800s.

Late 19th Century/Early 20th Century Lithography Timeline
The timeline above (click to embiggen) is a slide I made in grad school for a presentation on the history of lithography. You can see that Toulouse-Lautrec has a prominent spot on this timeline and yet he was accompanied by many other talented poster artists who exploded on the lithography scene in Europe and the U.S. near the close of the 19th century. Jules Cheret, who invented the 3-color lithographic process, paved the way for the other artists listed here including Toulouse-Lautrec.

If you are of the mind to look them up, these other artists include: Pierre Bonnard, Théophile Steinlen, Maxfield Parrish, Leonetto Cappiello, The Beggarstaffs, Lucian Bernhard, Eugène Grasset, Edward Penfield, William H. Bradley, among others. And in the early 20th century, the work of printmaker, designer, illustrator, painter and typographer, Cassandre became well known as his iconic lithographic travel posters of grand ships and advertisements for Dubonnet were produced and subsequently distributed internationally. In fact, designers in the late 20th century to the present, continue to draw inspiration from Cassandre's work. See Paula Scher's Audiophile promotion for CBS Records in 1980. And compare it to Cassandre's seen below. This is just one example, and there are more current ones where designers and illustrators continue to draw inspiration from Cassandre as well as other early lithographers.
L’intransigeant, 1925
A.M. Cassandre
With that all said, Happy Birthday Henri!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I hope you, dear reader, are safe and comfortable where you are now. I just got to my studio for the first time since the hurricane and luckily I have power and internet here in Peekskill, NY. Unfortunately, my house is still without power, hot water, etc., but we did not sustain any damage beyond a blown-off house shingle.

The streets here in Westchester County are full of downed trees and power lines making it difficult to get around. No one knows when life will get back to normal here. I especially feel for those in New York City and New Jersey which are both dealing with flooding and damage that is unprecedented.

I look forward to when some kind of normalcy will return to life and I can post more about my creative journeys without the distraction of the devastation around me. But for now, stay safe everyone.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Expressive Watercolor

Watercolor Sketch by Kiah Kiean
I frequently check out the Urban Sketchers Blog for inspiration since I find the work to be so fresh and unassuming. In doing so, I came across the work of artist, Kiah Kiean, whose work has qualities that are so luscious, they inspire me to sketch more, myself.

In my watercolor monotype class, I encourage my students to experiment with the natural properties of watercolor: the way the pigments in the paint interact, the way the water acts on the work surface (in my class it's plexiglass), and effects that can be achieved only with water-based media.

The work above is not a monotype, rather it's an example of one of the most expressive street sketches that I've seen, full of energy, movement, vibrancy and texture. I find this work to be very inspiring as I'm drawn to the contrasts in color and tone while being engaged by the intensity of energy and willingness to use unexpected color splashes for excitement which adds even more to the scene.

In my class, we are experimenting with powdered natural pigments mixed with gum arabic in addition to watercolor paint applications to the monotypes. Some of the effects seen in the sketch above are achieved with the "pigment washes" that we create. If interest is indicated, I can discuss the pigment experiments more fully in a future post.

UPDATE: If you're interested in splatter illustration art, you should check out the work of Ralph Steadman who is a pioneer of this technique.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween's coming

I love some of the innovative things people do with paper.
The artist is Peter Callesen.

from Juxtapose Magazine

Friday, September 28, 2012

Art of Democracy Show coming up

Detail from "Sweet Land of Liberty"
Monotype, © 2012 Elana Goren
In November, Sacred Galley NYC will exhibit "Art of Democracy," a show curated by Marshall Arisman, a very well-known illustrator and printmaker who heads the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts in NY. Marshall was one of the first contemporary illustrators to blur the line between illustration and fine art, succeeding in bringing a fine art aesthetic to alot of his illustration work. He is an artist that I have looked up to since my early college years and have been inspired by since. I am honored to have my work included in an exhibition that he is curating.

The work pictured above is a detail of the monotype that will be included in the show. Please stop by the Sacred Gallery for the opening on November 3, 8pm - 11pm. "Art of Democracy" runs from November 3 until November 30.

For show info, visit the Sacred Gallery website.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New e-book

I have converted my printed book, Speciesism, to an e-book which is now available on the website store. You can see it at

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Silkscreen-Like Technique With Lumi's Inkodye

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chine Collé

I have been asked to describe chine collé and so I thought I'd share my explanation here. Basically, chine collé is a collage technique used by printmakers. Very thin Asian papers or tissue papers are often used to create color fields and textural effects within a print in such a way that the glued paper is seamlessly integrated with the inked image impression from the plate. It doesn't matter whether it is an etching, woodcut/linocut, lithograph or monotype plate, chine collé techniques can be used for each printmaking process.

It is a matter of preference which type of glue and technique is used for chine collé. I prefer methyl cellulose which I have seen used at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop (RBPMW) in NYC and that's where I learned the technique that I will describe here. 

There are many recipes for mixing methyl cellulose powder with water to create the paste, but it's tough to say which is best because it all depends on the needs of each project. You can find recipes online by searching for "Methyl Cellulose" and "Printmaking," but I've used a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of methyl cellulose powder to 1 cup of warm water. This is mixed and left to stand for a while while the mixture cures a bit.

The methyl cellulose mixture is applied with a foam brush (keeping all strokes going in the same direction) to a sheet of clean plexiglass and left to dry (about an hour). A second application of methyl cellulose is then applied to the plexiglass with perpendicular strokes to the first application. While this second application is wet, carefully lay the piece of paper intended for incorporation into your print onto the wet glue surface. Start with one end of the paper and carefully lay the paper in stages from one end to the other, smoothing air bubbles as the paper comes in contact with the glue. Let this dry overnight so that your paper will be ready for chine collé application when you are ready to print.

Once your plate has been inked and is ready to print, you can apply the glue-coated paper to it as long as the paper and it's glued surface are dry. Carefully peel the paper off of the plexiglass and lay it down, glue-side up, onto the plate in the place where you would like the paper effect to be in you final print. Keep in mind that the final printed image will be a flipped version of your plate and so when the chine collé paper is glue side up on the plate, this will also be a flipped version of the final print. Also keep in mind that the paper you are printing on needs to be moist in order to reactivate the glue for this type of chine collé technique to work as it is run through the press. 

I would like to note that there are alot of differing ways to apply paste to the paper and there are nicely documented alternate versions seen here and here. The first linked site shows wet glue applied to Japanese Gampi paper after it has been laid onto the plate. The second link has more step-by-step photos which include paste-making.

I hope to have some photos of an upcoming project to add to this post, but I thought at least I would offer an explanation now for those who are curious about what chine collé is and would like to try it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Explorations in Etching

Detail: Through Humans' Scope
Aquatint Etching, ©2012, Elana Goren

Through Humans' Scope
Chin Colle Aquatint Etching, ©2012, Elana Goren

I had been experimenting with different ways to create explosive, violent images using aquatint etching techniques and this piece is a result of those explorations.

My goal was to use 12 to 16 plates (all 9" x 6") to print in a brick pattern on large (44" x 30") paper in order to create a kind of wall of explosive imagery that one could see from a distance. As the viewer came closer to the piece, images would emerge from the dark, splattered areas and the experience would be more complete.

Technically, the difficulty lay in inking and wiping that many plates at once and printing them with the hopes that there was enough consistency in the color tone and richness through all the images. I also needed to see that their arrangement would be visually balanced throughout the entire piece.                         

I started by printing them on Unryu paper which is very thin and has fibers in it that I hoped would add to the chaos of the imagery. I layed these prints out on top of the big sheet of Rives BFK to figure out my composition and get a sense of how the prints were all working together. During this process I realized that chin colle was the way to go as I saw the piece come together.

My description of Through Humans' Scope for an upcoming show is as follows:
Animals are simple caricatures in most humans’ minds, not existing in our reality unless they are being utilized for some selfish purpose or another. This concept was the driving force behind my etching piece, Through Humans’ Scope, where animals are depicted in outline form, almost not there, until their image crosses into the dark realm of violence and exploitation where they turn into actual flesh. The explosive, dark fields, almost reminiscent of gunshots, bring each of the twelve subjects into a more modeled and fleshed out version of themselves. Only through violence do they become real to humans.

Through Humans' Scope, can be seen at the Theo Ganz Gallery in Beacon, NY from July 14 until September 2, 2012.

UPDATE: This piece was mentioned in a NY Times article.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Installation View of Thesis Show

Monotype, ©2012, Elana Goren

My wonderful sister took shots of my work installed for the thesis show. The monotype, "LD50," is the one in the middle of the 3 prints in a row over the book pedestal in the top photo. The opening was great, I got alot of support from fellow artists, other friends and family. I am finally finished with grad school and looking forward to having my time back and moving ahead.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thesis Show

Speciesism by Elana Goren

The "New Book" badge on the upper right column of this blog, links to a digital interpretation of "Speciesism," a compilation of silkcreen and etching prints that were sewn together to create an artist’s book for my thesis show (seen on pedestal above). All of the artwork pages in the printed book are digital renditions that simulate the method of layering color used to produce silkscreened images seen in the original book. 

The hand-made artist's book is 36 pages and can be seen at my MFA thesis show, "Extreme Prejudice," Dorsky Museum, SUNY New Paltz, from May 18 - May 22. The digitally printed version is 40 pages and is available for purchase at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Watercolor Monotype Experiment

For the Rodeo
Watercolor Monotype, ©2012, Elana Goren

This is the plate for a monotype where I had experimented with not putting gum arabic on the plate in the area above the horse's head. Every thing else went onto a gum arabic layer on the plate. When I printed this, only the thickest paint printed on the top (uncoated) part but most of the paint didn't transfer much at all. This is how I learned that precoating the plexiglass with gum arabic is a crucial step in this process (see last post for more info). I don't have a picture of the print at the moment but I will post it when I do.

UPDATE: Here is the 1st print from this plate. As you can see, the color above the horse's head is mostly lost.
For the Rodeo
Watercolor Monotype, ©2012, Elana Goren

And this is the ghost print (2nd print from same plate) in which I added more color to the plate before printing it again, as well as a charcoal drawing to the print.

Watercolor Monotype and Charcoal, ©2012, Elana Goren

Friday, February 24, 2012

Watercolor Montoypes

"Anticipating Death"
watercolor monotype, ©2012 Elana Goren

"Shooting Victim"
ink and pastel on paper, ©2012, Elana Goren

I have been experimenting using different types of water-based media with the new-to-me process of creating watercolor monotypes. There's been a lot of trial and error and really just seeing what effects I can get with this way of working. It is very different from using oil-based inks to produce monotypes and I'm pretty thrilled with the unique effects and vibrancy that I can get with this process.

As I was taught by a fellow artist at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop this past winter, I start by coating the plexiglass plate with gum arabic and then I buff it in with a dry cheesecloth. I believe that this helps the media release from the plate onto the paper when it goes through the press (but that's just conjecture on my part). I let the gum arabic dry and then begin applying the media (watercolor paint, non-waterproof ink, water-soluble dyes, pigment, etc) to the plate in various ways. Once the media is dry, I run the plate through the press with dampened printmaking or watercolor paper. The damp paper reconstitutes the dried media and allows it to transfer.

The first print above was created using watercolor paints and Dr. Martin's Hydrus liquid watercolor which has some pretty intense colors. The second print was created with Higgins non-waterproof ink (which may be fugitive--I'm not sure) and pastel pigments applied both directly and with a wet brush.

I hope to post more of these as I become a little more comfortable with the process.

UPDATE: Gum arabic definitely needs to be buffed into the plexiglass plate before you apply watercolor. An accident experiment proved how watercolor will not release well when printing if gum arabic is not applied.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carrier Pigeon show

Lab AnimalMonotype, ©2010, Elana Goren

Carrier Pigeon Magazine is releasing it's fifth issue and is having an exhibition celebrating the release at Grit N' Glory on Orchard Street in NYC from February 23 until March 1. The above print will be included in the show. You can see more of my work in Carrier Pigeon Issue 4, available here.

Coming soon:
I plan to share some of my latest experiments with watercolor monotypes.