Introduction: I am taking part in a printmaking adventure with at least eleven other artists.  The “One of a Kind” monotype group I showed with in September of 2010 joined with some members of the Circling the Square Press community.  We all agreed to be paired in random fashion with another printmaker and we drew names out of a hat.  Our plan was to create a print to give to our partner who would then create a visual response.

Our print format is 15″ x15″ but the approach to imagery and technique is wide open.  We held our first meeting in October to exchange a print with our partner.  In the first image, you can see Diana McFarland’s yellow and maroon etching of a small mechanical gizmo to the left of my blue green beach-inspired collagraph print.

Initial Response: The delicately drawn gears and slightly anthropomorphic nature of Diana’s intaglio print brought the clock works to mind along with the work of Swiss artist Paul Klee.  In particular, I thought of his piece entitled The Twittering Machine. Her image, with it’s soft yellow and maroon delicately drawn gears and mechanical parts, brought to mind mechanical things we no longer use in this digital and highly technological age.

Along these lines, I live with a 1910 Seth Thomas mantle clock.  It was a gift from my father when I first left home in the 1970’s.  I always loved his collection of old clocks.   The sound of the pendulum ticking the time and various melodic chimes sounding the hour were a part of my childhood.  The rich red-brown wooden case of my mantle clock reminded me of the color Diana had used to ink the gears and mechanical parts of her print.  Even though I’d looked at the clock works before, the gears and other mechanical elements were fascinating to study. They included a spiral spring, a mallet to strike the bell, and the all-important pendulum.  The brassy gold metal of the clock works also reminded me of Diana’s color palette.

Printing Process: I began by sketching the clock works with the back door ajar.  I brought my 9″x12″ sketch to the print studio at Circling the Square Press in Gardiner.  Using acetate film, a sharpie, and an Exacto knife, I traced and cut various elements of the clock to use as printmaking plates.  Since Diana had used three separate intaglio plates to complete her print, it made sense for my interpretation to include multiple plates.  The process I used involved inking the plates separately, applying color with a brayer.  I made several small trace monotypes on rice paper, one of which I pasted into the print.  I also used elements of painted paper which I glued into the print.  Adding these details and collage elements served to integrate the diverse parts of the image into a more cohesive whole.  I repeated key elements such as the pendulum to create a dynamic and playful composition that might be seen as Klee-like in it’s whimsy and slightly surreal nature.

What comes next: This print exchange has pushed me into new visual territory.  I have taken this opportunity to dig deeper into the works of a 20th century master whose work continues to offer inspiration and visual surprise.  The delight of Klee’s playful yet serious approach to imagery and technique has long fascinated me.  The two groups will continue to meet together through the winter and spring with the possibility of a show in Summer 2012.

Robin Brooks, December 23, 2011