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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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The Suite Sixties: Side by Side

I wanted to post these paintings in a horizontal banner to show how they relate to one another–how the designs are related and yet completely different. The Suite Sixties–side by side.

1965, 1966, 1967; acrylic gouache on paper; image size 32 x 32 inches.

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Back to the Sixties

It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks for me. I’ve a new series of works in the “pipeline” inspired by designs and colors found in psychedelic art from the sixties (and seventies). I’ve always loved the swirling lines, trippy designs with day-glo dazzling, vibrating colors that make your eyes go wonky.

The images I am working upon came from one small drawing that I’ve manipulated ad nauseum like I always manage to do. I have decided upon a total of three patterns (1966, 1967 and 1968) that will comprise a suite of large paintings. A variety of other designs will be used for assorted drawings and prints.

I began this series with a 2-color laser-cut relief print (1966) to see if I liked the concept well enough to go for it. Turns out, I liked it just fine. 1966 will also be done in a variety of relief print iterations. One I am excited about is a tie-dye version.  It’s on the schedule for next week at Santo Press and I can’t wait to see the edition. We’ve only done a couple of proofs and are still tweaking it, but it will look very much as the image below shows.

The first in the series of what I hope will be 3 large paintings, 1967 provided me a very steep learning curve and a good reminder of the wisdom behind the saying use it or loose it. Quite frankly, I haven’t painted in a very long time–and it took me a while to get my painting hand back in shape. After spending over 40 hours painting, I think I’m just about back to my desired skill level.

The next problem I had to sort out was which painting medium to use. I wanted to get the flat, matte paint surface of gouache (I love gouache), but didn’t want to deal with the various problems associated with using that medium on a large scale painting. After a bit of research I discovered a product made by Turner (a Japanese company) called Acryl Gouache. It is a water soluble, acrylic-based paint that handles like gouache and looks exactly like gouache when dry, but allows you to overpaint areas without disturbing the bottom layer of paint–which is a huge benefit over gouache. Plus, once it dries it is impervious to water–yet another benefit. It took me a few trial runs, but I got the hang of it and think it has given me exactly the look and finish I wanted.

Here are a few images of the newest work in my studio.

Travel back to the sixties with me!

1966, 2-color multi-block laser-cut relief print, edition of 50, 8″ x 7″ on paper 11″ x 9.5″, 2017

1967, acrylic gouache on paper, 32″ x 32″, 2017

1967 (detail), acrylic gouache on paper, 32″ x 32″, 2017

1966, archival digital print with laser-cut linoleum block, edition of 10, 8″ x 7″ on paper 13″ x 11″ 2017

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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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