How To’s

The Mandala Series: A Peaceful Center in a World Gone Mad

Mandalas have fascinated me for a very long time. It coincided with dreamwork and my study of Jungian symbols (of which mandalas play a primary role) and the vast richness that transpersonal psychology holds. According to Jung in Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man.”

In the late 80’s I made a few colorful mandalas using watercolors but have no idea where they are now–probably hidden away in a drawer of my flat files where they shall forever remain.

Then in 1992 I was fortunate to watch Tibetan monks create a beautiful sand mandala for close to a week at The Frick Pittsburgh. The monks created a Chenrezig Mandala which is a manifestation of compassion and was meant to be viewed as an architectural plan or structure. I brought my sketchbook and made a few quick studies of the designs but (sadly) I don’t think I took photos. It was pre-digital cameras–and cell phones were just phones.

Study of Tibetan sand painting mandala; sketchbook page; 1992

I went almost every day they were there. One day they permitted me to try using their tools and colored sand. As can be expected, it was much harder than I thought to get the sand to fall evenly in the designated area. Have a look at these beautiful photos of a Chenrezig Mandala–this mandala was created in Salisbury, England in 2013 is very similar to the mandala I saw being created.

Jumping to the present day, I wanted to create circular patterns based on my own version of repeating patterns within a circular (mandala) form. I sought to make a mandala based on quadrants but bisecting those 4 quadrants into 8 separate spokes to form a more complicated pattern. Are these mandalas representations of my inner self? I really don’t know, but I do think they are my attempt to create a sense of wholeness and a place where I can feel a peaceful center in a world gone totally mad.

Here are the first 2 mandalas (with detail shots) in this new series. Hopefully the third mandala will be finished today–there are at least a dozen more ideas ready and waiting in the wings.

Mandala 1 (Ribbonesque); Graphite on paper; 22 x 22 inches; 2018

Mandala 1 (Ribbonesque) detail; Graphite on paper; 22 x 22 inches; 2018

Mandala 2 (leaf); Graphite on paper; 22 x 22 inches; 2018

Mandala 2 (leaf) detail; Graphite on paper; 22 x 22 inches; 2018

Now completed–the third one!

Mandala 3 (Nest); Graphite on paper; 22 x 22 inches; 2018

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1967 Swirl

Today I completed a new painting 1967 Swirl that will also be made into a relief print by Brent Bond at Santo Press. The painting is a combination of two patterns that meld The Sixties series with my Swirls series.

The idea was haphazardly generated in my sketchbook when I collaged both patterns on one page. I really liked how it worked and after mulling it over, decided to push it further.

I wanted the pattern to be a very “clean” image (unlike the above collage) knowing that I wanted to make a laser-cut relief print out of it. So, I bit the bullet, and made as precise an ink rendering as I could manage of a one-quarter section of the pattern.

The above ink drawing was then scanned and mirrored in Photoshop.

And then I painted it…


The finished acrylic gouache painting is 15.75 x 20 inches (on paper 18.5 x 22.5 inches).

Look for the print (which will be smaller) to be released in a month or so.

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My Newest Edition from Santo Press!

This one is so new it is not even signed yet! Just printed and published by Brent Bond and his marvelous and incredibly busy Santo Press, this 3-color reduction lino print was both laser-cut and hand-cut. It also has some offset hand inking using sheets of wrinkled wax paper.

While trying to come up with an unusual background texture for this print, (and many failed attempts) I was inspired to create an unusual way to crease the wax paper. It dawned on me that I could try creasing the wax paper the same way silk is creased to form wrinkles in Shibori textile dyeing. This provided an unusual and delicate pattern on the wax paper which I call  Shibori-esque. I rolled a sheet of wax paper on a narrow wooden dowel and then pushed the paper down exactly like the pole-wrapping  technique (minus the string) used in Japan to dye textiles.

Brent masterfully incorporated the wrinkles of the wax paper with it’s lacey creases in an overlay of pale yellow on a darker orange ground. This print is the second of what will be a series of three 3-color reduction linocuts published by Santo Press. You can read about Web Mesh, the first print of the series here.

Web Pathway, Print by Janet Towbin, Web Pathway; 2017, reduction linocut; 10″ x 8″ on 14″ x 11″ paper; variable edition of 30; published by SantoPress.

Shibori technique wax paper sampleA close look at the Shibori-esque wax paper filled with delicate crinkles and patterns.

Brent Bond placing the wax paperPlacing the Shibori-esque wax paper on inked plate for 3rd color off-set.

Brent Bond using a roller to off-set print the 3rd colorBrent using a roller to offset print the 3rd color. The hand pressure exerted by the brayer causes the crinkled wax paper to push into the ink, leaving it’s crazed, lace-like markings in the ink.

brent 3The wax paper is removed, taking away a layer of ink–and leaving the crinkled impression behind. The 2-color print is then run through the press transferring the Shibori-esque, crinkled texture of the wax paper as the third and final color.

 

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Rule of Thirds

This week marked the completion of a suite of 6 new prints at Santo Press. The process was quite involved and complicated. I first made a series of 11 gouache paintings using a rainbow of colors in series of 3 bands of stripes. This led me to consider making a print of the bands of stripes. I carved a piece of linoleum with 30 stripes and printed it by hand in my studio in black ink. The flat color looked very nice, but it didn’t have the texture/tonality I wanted to achieve.

I decided to make a rubbing of the linoleum block (with a black crayon) which gave me the texture I wanted. Several rubbings of the linocut were made and then photographed and stacked vertically in Photoshop. They were then manipulated and cleaned as much as possible. My manipulations looked good to me, but when it came time to actually create high res digital files to use as the cutting matrix for both laser-cut and photpolymer plates they were not usable. Brent took over and did a much better job. No mystery there…he has mad computer skills and I am merely a novice.

There are two suites of Rule of Thirds prints; each set has a 1-color print (black and white) and two multicolor prints. Rule of Thirds I, II and III are printed with a key block (laser-cut MDF) printed on top of 3 different colored bands of flat color. Rule of Thirds IV, V, and VI are 3-color photopolymer relief prints. All 6 are printed in an edition of 10, image size 12″ x 18″ on Somerset paper 22″ x 15″.

Below are some photos to give you a sense of how this suite of prints developed from paintings to finished prints.

Painted Stripes by Janet TowbinOne of a series of 11 gouache Stripe paintings.

stripe linocut hand print The first hand-pulled linocut I printed in my studio. Unique print, 2016, 12″ x 18″ on Kitikata paper.

stripe rubbingOne of the many rubbings made from the linocut. Don’t even ask how many of these I made before I was satisfied!

2 colors printed on key 2 (of the eventual 3 colors per print) to proof at Santo Press. The color bands were printed on top of the key to aid in registration and to get a good sense of what the colors looked like with black.

color mixing printColor mixing at Santo Press for Rule of Thirds III.

color matching More color mixing at Santo Press for Rule of Thirds editions V and VI shown in conjunction with striped gouache paintings.

Rule of Thirds grid of all 6 editions by Janet Towbin

Rule of Thirds I, II, III, IV, V, VI; 2016. Grid of all 6 editions.

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