Monotypes Part 2, The “Jazz Combo” Series
By Thom Wright 2020
Continuing from my earlier post on “The Jazz Series”, started in 2018, I continued making a series of 50 monotypes that year. Most of them I kept and framed, and in this post, I describe my second of three groups of prints, those made using an 18” x 24” format. The first series used a 16” x 20” format, where I explored and became comfortable with the rapid printmaking process that allows only about 30 – 40 minutes of working time on a single plate before it is run through the press.
My larger format of monotypes builds and expands on what I had learned earlier, and tries several new directions in color and design. I wanted to make works of different moods – corresponding to different kinds of jazz music that I listened to on KJZZ FM radio (88.1) almost every day while making my art.
In my first image shown above, I kept with the three-figure jazz combo playing on-stage. The figures and their instruments are more complex and colorful. On a gradated background of orange to yellow to a pale yellow, the figures stand out with reds, browns and saved paper whites. A darker burnt umber is used for the lower ground and has its own play of three organic shapes made using a perforated thin plastic bread-loaf wrappers that are cut and hand-torn to create their dancing shapes, almost like reflections of the figures. The three instruments played by the three musicians are in a strikingly bright blue, as well as a potted plant of nasturtiums set on the lower ground. Nasturtium leaves are liberally used as the heads of figures, growing plants, and in the upper region as emblems of music making. Of course the instruments are innovative in their playful shapes and movements. The composition becomes a rhythm of the suggested music, with the sizes, colors, shapes and lines all active and interlocking with each other.
In my second monotype shown above, the combo grows to five figures. The three iconic bands of ground colors make the major divisions vertically, with yellow at the top, a large brown-black section in the middle, and a cooler yellow ochre at the bottom. The male and female figures stand out in a range of reds and blues, with drawn outlines dancing around them. Their instruments dance with varied diagonals and idiosyncratic shapes, accompanied with some floating hands of the players. Their feet are also drawn into the lower ground color and stand upon two bands of colored ground shapes, again suggesting rhythmic movement to the music.
In the yellow area above the figures is a natural setting of a potted nasturtium growing from a blue pot, and they have their rhythm too. A variety of organic line is made with both the stems of nasturtiums and some hand drawing. Just to be sure, I tossed in a few musical notations to make it hum.
The ground region has two color bands, with the thinner upper band made using a torn strip of newspaper that is then lightly inked with color, and the lower band made with the bread-loaf plastic wrapper, with roughly torn edges and playfully inked colors. Just to be sure, I drew a red wobbly line around the paper shape using a red oil-based crayon. Altogether, there is lots of pieces and parts and marks, but the strong value and color changes of the three bands of ground color manage to hold it together. The music takes you away, where ever you begin.
In my third monotype image shown above, the two ground colors of yellow above and black below hold the composition together. But it gets really moving and complex in an almost explosive pattern of parts. Figures are free patterns of a collection of shapes and colors. Multiple instruments are played by each figure. Hands come to the instruments from where ever they belong. Three of the four figures sprout from pots on the floor. Their heads appear in several places and in several sizes. The nasturtium leaves are intermixed with the torn plastic organic shapes intermittently. Some of them are even green. Maybe this is the hot, new, experimental jazz being played, but whatever I was hearing made it happen – 2 # # !,,)( **@ + %!. Does it hold together, well, if it appeals to you, better turn on the jazz and listen and watch what happens.
I will be adding another ten of these monotypes to my “Jazz Combo” page on my website this week. Till then, Thom