monoprint

Mars Being Red – Bell

red monoprint of nude woman with poem by Marvin Bell

In a red world, imprint

the valentine and blush of romance for the dark.

Marvin Bell (b. 1937)

I went out into the desert to see the NEOWISE comet at the end of July (figured I wouldn’t be around to see it the next time in 5,000 years) and also saw a spectacular show from Jupiter and Saturn. I fell asleep before Mars rose blood red in the sky, but my friend told me about it in the morning. I’ve been thinking about Marvin Bell’s poem and my red monoprint from a couple of years ago ever since. The original post, including a little about Mr. Bell, is here.


I also did some experimentation with my old polaroid camera when I was out in the desert. This is what happens when you try to take a picture of a cactus with only car headlights for illumination:

For reference (and to alleviate the nightmarish quality of the polaroid above!), here is a nearby cactus in the early morning light:

On a side note: I am really terrible at self-promotion, so I have told exactly one other blogger-friend, but I do have an Instagram account! (@merb02 or click here) I admit when I first started on IG, it was basically a repeat of Illustrated Poetry, but from here on out, it will be new and different pieces from what I post here. So if it’s your jam, it would be great to see you on IG too.

Highway Haiku 2

black and white and silver texture and partial images with black text overlaid

Outside the Butcher

A man wheels
the plastic cow
inside for the night.

True story – the specialty butcher near my house has a life-size plastic cow on wheels that is rolled out when they open and rolled inside at night when they close. The transfer print of the words was, well – let’s just say it was not what I had in mind. But somehow the piece felt complete anyway and so I am releasing it into the wild.

Highway Haiku 1

black and white and silver reverse transfer image with haiku

silver + slick
legless mannequin
a flash on the highway
shoulder

Like most residents of Southern California, I spend a fair bit of my time commuting (although the pandemic lockdowns have cut traffic by at least half). My drive to and from work often takes me by the exit for the local landfill and it is not unusual to see items on the highway shoulder that didn’t quite make it there…

I’ve been working with small pieces of paper and doing repeated layers of transfers, glues, and textures. I’m not going for perfection in the transfer – I find it to be a meditation in accepting whatever comes as I pull the backing off.

Recycled art for Marine Week

black and white image of wandering albatross on plastic trash
black and white image of wandering albatross printed on plastic trash

I’ve always loved recycled art and art that uses household or industrial discards as a medium. I credit one of my high school art teachers – she was passionate about recycling as art and petitioned our school district to allow her to teach it as a stand alone elective. They did not approve her petition, but she was undaunted and incorporated almost all of the projects and curriculum into her “regular” art class.

Fast forward to today and Paul at Wombwell’s Rainbow had a post over the weekend about National Marine Week in the UK, asking for art and poems to celebrate the different themes each day (not too late to join in, I think!). It inspired me to try some monoprint transfers of old sea-themed drawings onto trash and plastic waste to highlight the strange tension of how we revere and utterly trash our oceans simultaneously.

The first transfer was of a 1809 wandering albatross engraving by George Shaw onto plastic pipet inserts. These are for reloading pipet tips into boxes for micropipettes (which are devices used to measure tiny volumes very precisely in labs). They are used once and thrown away. The next one I tried was of 19th century etching of narwhals onto a used plastic food storage bag.

plastic food bag with black and white narwhal etching on front
close up of plastic food bag with black and white narwhal transfered on the front

It turns out all trash is not created equal for this technique! I also tried to transfer onto some tin cans but that didn’t work at all. My last successful print was of a 1921 etching of an oarfish by W.B. Robinson onto a foil cracker bag.

Guide to Loss

In a testament to this time of lockdown, I didn’t realize what day it was and completely missed the deadline for submitting art to the latest Kick-About on Red’s Kingdom Blog! Kick-About #6 is officially up today, please do check it out – it is another stunning set of entries. I shall set an alert on my phone for the next one!

These are my art responses to this round’s prompt – which was the book by Rebecca Solnit titled “A Field Guide to Getting Lost.” I haven’t read the book and wasn’t going to attempt it – so I worked with the title. My initial thoughts really hovered over the “Lost” part. I recently read a Reddit post about the Vietnam draft lotteries and how there appeared to be heavy bias in the initial lottery towards birthdays at the end of the calendar year. No one knows why – presumably the number draws were random – but there are explanations proposed of simple human error. Birthdays at the end of the year were added to the hopper last and then the whole thing was not properly mixed. These men, born at the end of the year in the years 1946-1950, “lost” that lottery.

My father was drafted in a different round, but the outcome was the same. The top picture is a reverse transfer monoprint I made from a photo of him and my mother shortly after he returned from bootcamp – he’s leaning on his beloved car from high school. The lower print was made from the first photo I could find of him after his first deployment to Vietnam. His face is different. He is different. Which is so strange to me, because I was born after he got out of the service and I’ve never known him any other way but after Vietnam. But making these transfer prints, it had never been more clear to me. It was shocking – and full of loss.

But then Kerfe Roig posted her response to the prompt and it was about labyrinths and journeys and paths. I found it very helpful and comforting. So I made one more transfer print for her poem.

Alice Neel Home Lithography

The prompt for the Kick-About #5 on Red’s Kingdom blog was the early Alice Neel painting, Symbols (see below). I decided to do some monoprints and had several tries where the prints just weren’t matching the vision in my head for this challenge. Finally, in frustration, I mixed some fabric ink I had with the printing ink on a small metal rolling plate and had that moment of excitement when I pulled the paper off the plate. The two inks weren’t really compatible (even says so on the bottles!) and the effect was much closer to what I was looking for – much closer to Alice’s experience, I think. Alice Neel’s biography is fascinating and she lived a difficult life as a woman artist, receiving popular recognition only later in life. She painted unvarnished, unflinching portraits of her subjects and from what I read, never compromised on that.

Symbols by Alice Neel, 1932

Thank you, Kerfe for the Kick-About inspiration! (And you are right – I had seen some of Alice Neel’s portraits – although it was the one of a heavily pregnant woman in bed. It was in a larger show about less-often-portrayed nude figures). The entire collection of responses to the Kick-About #5 goes up next week on Phil’s blog – so stay tuned!

Double Original Friday – Dada Resume

Monoprint of layered patterns and the silhouette of a woman, black ink on newsprint

Lab lights
overhead

in sciences
in vivo, present
University into University

writing for-  of-  and-
and have I meant it too

I is day,
am of am
issues the other
kind of variety

shareholders, all

effort, curriculum, height
of the present

Developing quantitative
sciences of my Artwork

in
California.

 


I put my CV and a few job ads into the Dada Poetry Generator (check it out
here if you need some Dada poetry in your life!). With only a little bit of clean up, this was the result. I find it encapsulates my experience of being a scientist on the job market very well. The monoprint is also the result of a little random chance too. I was using this sheet of newsprint, an initially rejected print, to protect the table while I worked with the printing ink. It became a layered work of art in its own right. It seemed to me to be a pair. Poem and monoprint (ink on newsprint) by me. Have a good weekend! (Sneaked this one in under the Friday line, at least on the west coast!)

Excerpt Tuesday – Mars Being Red – Bell

IMG_4836 (1).jpg…In a red world, imprint
the valentine and blush of romance for the dark…
Marvin Bell (b. 1937)

It’s been a little while since I posted a new illustrated excerpt and it seems good timing to post this one – from Marvin Bell’s amazing short poem Mars Being Red (Mr. Bell is helping me continue a space theme after last week’s announcement of the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets, you see). Marvin Bell is a widely decorated poet, including being the first state Poet Laureate of Iowa, and is very active in the poetry community with more than 20 books of poems in print. You can read all of Mars Being Red here. Monoprint on newsprint by me (it was so so good to be working in this medium again after a long break from it!).

Furthering our theme of exploration and discovery, Little Monster Girl invited me to participate in her Weekly Chat this week – and the theme of the questions is “World Traveler” and is part of Cee’s Share Your World Q&A. Head on over to LMG’s blog, compare our answers (there are some interesting convergences) and sample some of her comics while you are at it! (although, warning: they are not always safe for work)

Ever run out of gas?
No – although I was the passenger once in a car that did run out of gas. The gas gauge was broken and my friend’s system for knowing when to get gas mostly involved her “gut feelings”. We were on the freeway when the engine began to sputter and lurch, and she veered off the next exit. The engine died as we coasted to the top of the off-ramp. There was a gas station right there though and luckily for us, it was downhill.

Which are better: black or green olives?
I love olives, so both. You can’t pick one over the other – a ridiculous notion!

If you were a great explorer, where would you go?
I try to be an explorer in as many ways as I can be today – traveling, meeting people from all over the world who have lived such different and fascinating lives, and expanding our understanding of the natural world as a scientist. Like LMG, I too will be traveling to Southeast Asia in a couple of weeks (perhaps our paths will cross, LMG?), and so the adventure continues!

Favorite 3 Quotes
(it is very hard to choose 3, I’d like to say)

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it.” – Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955)

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – Charles Bukowski (1920 – 1994)
I even did an illustration for this one a little ways back!
OROD4154
Bonus Question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week I was so grateful to be able to go out with some dear friends to hike in the desert and take 100’s of pictures of wildflowers. We went to Anza Borrego State Park, which is a simply fantastic place and a hidden California gem (no entry fee, no fee to camp in 95% of the park). The visitor center was staffed almost entirely by volunteers, who took the time with each one of us in waiting in line to send us to the best flower viewing locations. It made me grateful for our national and state park systems, which are always sadly underfunded, and the army of volunteers which keeps them going!

Next week I will be teaching a science workshop for high school students and I am looking forward to their infectious enthusiasm! It never gets dull to get excited about science!

Thanks again, LMG for inviting me to participate!

Illustrated Thursday – OIW

IMG_3497.jpgWhen I learn a new art technique, especially one that opens up lots of creative possibilities, I have a strong tendency to go a *bit* overboard.

Me: “Transfer printing is amazing! LET US TRANSFER PRINT EVERYTHING!”

Usually, this level of enthusiasm translates into a fabulous new post, but this week, it was the new post’s downfall. My attempt to use printer transparencies with transfer printing for an illustration utterly failed (turns out that laser printer ≠ inkjet printer! Not even a little. Confusing the two for this technique does equal big mess though!). I have definitely not given up on the original post: while I trudge back to the office supply store to rectify the situation, let me bring you a monoprint that went right. “OIW” was my favorite print from a series where I was experimenting with combining random letters and numbers with various facial expressions to see how the characters would shift the mood of the print. Monoprint (ink on newsprint) by me. Enjoy!