Monday, December 27, 2010

Making the Old, New Again

Working with historical processes can be tricky, especially when using them to create work in another century. But there is a method to my madness....

Many still adhere to the myth  that oil or some other binder is required to grind or mull the material into paint.  Only water and alcohol are needed when "grinding" the material into a pigment. The paint is made from the pigment and binder, thus being "rubbed up" simply with a palette knife. The historical etchings of the studio boy in the background "grinding pigments into paint," is in fact, not what he is doing and is an improper use of the term grinding. He is "grinding" the materials into pigment, when it is soon thereafter bottled, shelved, and taken down later by the artist to be used in any variety of binders - tempera, glue, or oil, to make paint. Thanks to James C. Groves, a brilliant painter and creator of historical mediums and heat-bodied oils, who uncovered this major point.

Historical pigments have innate beauty. They pose a challenge in understanding how to use them and create them.  Pigments such as azurite, verdigris and madder lake,  reveal unique problems with light fastness and other pigment compatibility. In this regard, their modern day chemical replacements are superior yet lacking in the innate beauty of mineral and organic colors.  Methods of preserving problem colors were known or we would not have surviving examples. 

Historical texts are useful only in so much as the practicing artist is able to understand them, by means of his own methodology. Then history is no longer a hindrance in uncovering some of these mysteries. They have brought a whole new freedom in my art, which is important to me. I have control over color and varnishes like no other contemporary artist. Another dimension arises - that of the materials themselves - alchemical if you will, yet controlled entirely by the artist and akin to him and therefore appreciated in a metaphysical way.

Love of materials led me to fabricating giclees of the highest quality.  Rooftop is my first giclee in a limited edition of 50 from an original oil painting. Pictured below,  it is printed on acid-free photo rag paper with special pigment inks. Both ensure a longevity of approximately 120 years. This is extended by another 100 years by using a special UV varnish on the works. The photo shows layers of pigment ink in the rag paper, almost like oil paint lays on the original painting.The challenge here was creating luminance that is unmatched by mineral pigments, in a digital platform.

The image took about a year to perfect using my own  Epson Stylus Pro printer. Check back soon for the next giclee project; a landscape titled Jackself.