Sunday, November 14, 2010


These recent pieces were made using a copper plate etched in a complex process called “sugar lift.” The leaves that make up the “forest” here are mostly dried ginkgo leaves.

In my work with using the press to make monotypes I’ve used dried plant material directly on the press. Here the process was somewhat more complicated. It involved getting a sticky sugar solution on the leaves and then impressing them on the plate. An acid resist ground was then applied to the entire plate. At that point, the plate was soaked in hot water and the image made with the sugar solution “lifts” from the plate exposing that area to the acid.

While this is a technique used by many printmakers, using dried plant material was, shall we say, quite challenging! I went through a bundle of plant material before I could find things that would hold up and not just disintegrate. Luckily for me I was helped all along the way by a wonderful printmaker and teacher at Manhattan Graphics Center where I worked this past spring and summer. Vijay Kumar was endlessly patient and encouraging in my darkest hours of frustration using my disintegrating leaves!

What you see here, in these two variations, is the finished etching printed in relief, with ink rolled on the surface of the plate rather than rubbed into the lines in the more usual way of printing etchings. I then worked with each image using many materials, including pastel and gouache. I became absorbed in painting the gouache in intricate patterns within the impression of the leaves. Here I was definitely seeing the “trees” rather than the “forest” as a whole!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fable of the Five Birds

This was the first piece of the seven images in the Fables series that I completed in 2009. It will be included in an exhibit of collage and mixed media work curated by Peter Marcelle, owner of Hampton Road Gallery in Southampton. The exhibit will be at the East End Arts Council in Riverhead ( from July 23rd through August 27th. Gallery hours are 10AM – 4PM Thursday – Saturday. The Arts Council is at 133 East Main Street in Riverhead, 631-727-0900.

Fable of the Five Birds contains elements of collage in addition to oil monotype, colored pencil and pastel. The small elements lined up on the bottom of the image are my way of adding “predella” images to the piece. In medieval and renaissance altarpieces small images relating to the main subject are often painted down below the main image and sometimes on the sides as well. Their function is to further amplify the subject of the altarpiece. For example, an image of Saint Frances will have predella images that relate stories of the life of the saint. Sometimes these small images are taken out of a large altarpiece over the centuries and are displayed on their own. In my Fable of the Five Birds I wanted to use this device to add depth and mystery. In all of these fable images in this series I wanted to create a strong sense of a possible story, narrative or fable. The fable itself remains a mystery, even to me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In the Jungle

Yellow Jungle 2010
8-1/4" x 11"
monotype, collage, colored pencil

This piece is the final one of a group of three new pieces that follow closely the work I was doing in the Fables series in 2009 (the entire Fables series can be seen on my website, Sometimes an artist mines a certain "field" for a while and keeps getting called back to it even when it seems to have run its course. After doing the Fables series, I took a break from studio work for a while, traveled to Sicily and spent time relaxing over the holidays. When I sluggishly got back to the studio in later January, these images of jungles mysteriously appeared. Perhaps it was the winter and a yearning for some heat, twittering and sun baked hills.

Now that I look at this piece on one of the hottest days of the year, I somehow find it oddly comforting. This jungle is warm but not oppressive, I think. I hope you'll find it full of song and life.

Friday, February 26, 2010


These two pieces from my Fables series have been selected for LICArmoryFest, Long Island City centered art events dovetailing with Armory Arts Week, March 3 – 7, 2010. My work can be viewed at Space Realty, 29–09 39th Avenue, Long Island City. There is a reception for this exhibit on Thursday, March 4th from 6 to 8 p.m. Space Realty is a short walk from the 39th Avenue stop on the N or W train (the second stop in Queens from Lexington Avenue and 59th Street). This show will be up until May 25th and can be seen Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.

This location is quite near my studio so if you want to stop over for wine or tea, let me know and you can see my other recent work.

These monotypes were made on my etching press using bits of weeds growing outside my Long Island City studio. As I added additional color and bits of collage, the images came alive and began to tell a kind of story or fable, each one with its own mood and mystery.

Fable of the Five Birds

2009 monotype with collage

framed size 16 x 20 inches

Fable of the Snare

2009 monotype with collage

framed size 16 x 20 inches

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Fable

Looking at this piece now, on this frigid morning here in the northeast, lets me relive the process of making it. It began, along with the 6 other pieces in this series, with a simple monotype using some weeds baking in the sun outside of my studio. When I added the blue “pool” with watercolor I was not thinking of winter at all but rather something cool in the summer heat. The piece developed by gradually intensifying the color and adding as collage elements slivers of paper that read as “birds.” These bits of line and color began to create a world of their own and seemed to generate a narrative or an action. The choice of naming this piece a “fable” came from this sense of a hidden story or drama. The fascinating thing about making an image like this is that I’m able to let it grow as it will. The image begins to tell its own story and creates its own world. You can see the other six pieces in this series on my web site, Dianne Martin Art.