“Don’t worry about it too much. Just do it.”
— John David Wissler, artist
On Saturday, I got to participate in an all-day monotype workshop at Art at Kings Oaks in Newtown, PA. Leading the workshop was the amazing artist, JD Wissler. (You can hear an interview with him on the Savvy Painter podcast.) JD is one of the kindest people I have ever met; he inspired me with his genuine joy and goodwill.
I had never made a monotype before; it turns out there are different ways to do it, and JD was showing us his favorite way. The nice thing about his method is that it doesn’t require a press, which is expensive. Monotypes are prints made by painting or drawing on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. We used plexiglass.
Step 1. Paint on plexiglass with oil based, black speedball block printing ink.
Step 2. Draw on the plexiglass, either with a brush, or wiping away with a rag (subtractive painting), bits of cardboard, sticks, grass, sandpaper…. whatever! experiment and have fun.
Step 3. Place the paper on top of the plexiglass and rub it down vigorously and thoroughly with a bone folder.
Step 4. Ta-Da! Lift up the paper and see what you made! It’s such a fun surprise!
Step 5 (optional) You can paint over it later, or work into with pastels, or use it for ideas for future paintings!
Not only did I learn this delightful, new art-making method, but I also got to spend time with my dear friend, the artist Kristen Peyton. I met Kristen in Italy during the summer of 2017, where we were roommates at the JSS in Civita painting residency. (Read my Interview with Kristen Peyton, Reflections on Resonance, and Story of My Trip to Italy.) Kristen was in town, visiting from Virginia, because she had several paintings in a group show at Art at Kings Oaks, where the workshop took place. (The show was fantastic!!)
Anyway, here we are together on Saturday, taking a selfie during the monotype workshop:
Making monotypes involves a serious letting go of control. It felt like just the perfect thing for me, as lately I have been struggling so hard to “paint well.” Monotypes balance chaos and control in a lovely way. No matter how hard you try, there is always an element of surprise. Wonderful things might happen by mistake with the ink and the paper, that you didn’t plan, but are actually better than what you planned. The important thing is to just do the work, and allow the process to happen. (This seems like a pretty accurate metaphor for Life, too.)
“Don’t worry about it too much. Just do it. See what happens.
Doing is the way to understand it.”
— JD Wissler
I had so much fun making monoprints! I just kept making them, one after the other. I got such a “high” from lifting the paper up to see what had happened, usually nothing like what I thought it would be, but just a delightful surprise. I felt like I wanted to make a hundred, or three hundred of these, or more!
I asked JD if there was a way to translate this joy into oil painting.
“Keep that spontaneity,” he said. “It will inform your painting.”
JD continued to emphasize the importance of the process. He explained how his last painting always inspires the next one.
“I’m never satisfied with my work,” he said. “My last painting always answers some questions, but asks more questions. That drives my work.”
We made monotypes all day. I had a blast!
I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate in this workshop. I feel so lucky to be able to learn something new and I’m bubbling over with all the possibilities! And I’m even more grateful for the chance to spend time with other artists and talk about art for hours in a supportive environment. What a gift!
“There’s something good about finding something you love to look at,
and returning to it over and over again.”
“Monotypes Made by Children”: when I taught kids how to do this technique several months later!