Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jiggs Digs: Jon Rose

This month Jiggs Digs features an artist you have probably never heard of. That’s not surprising considering he has only completed a handful of prints. Why the need for a feature? Take a look at his work and I think you will agree that this is an artist worth watching.

Jon works in reduction printing. In reduction, the previous print layers are carved away to make a new layer of color. From Wikipedia:

"Reduction printing is a name used to describe the process of using one block to print several layers of color on one print. This usually involves cutting a small amount of the block away, and then printing the block many times over on different sheets before washing the block, cutting more away and printing the next color on top. This allows the previous color to show through. This process can be repeated many times over. The advantages of this process is that only one block is needed, and that different components of an intricate design will line up perfectly. The disadvantage is that once the artist moves on to the next layer, no more prints can be made."

1. Have you been creating art your whole life?
I realized early on that delving into the act of creation was an opportunity to put your feelings into something tangible. It was a way to let go of everything for a little bit, and maybe come away with a token of the moment. This translates well to making concert posters. The buyer is going to walk away with a memento of the nights experience in the form of the poster. I work very hard at making these prints and I feel good and honest about my work when I sell one. At the same time it’s a very humbling moment for me when someone likes it enough to give me money for it.



Everyone Wins!
2. What was your first print?
That would be “Everyone Wins!”, Which was coincidentally the only print I made using multiple blocks. It was a great learning experience; I worked out the mechanics of printing on that one.

The first print I actually sold at a show was the Berkeley Triptych. I did research on ancient greek artwork and the gods I wanted to use. Stuff like that is all a part of the process for me, and part of the enjoyment as well. I had them all packaged up flat, inside cardboard with the numbers on the outside. They sold fairly well and I have maybe three sets left, as well as some artist proofs. I also made about 30 handbill sized prints that I put in manila envelopes and gave them out to random people. That was just pure fun, sneaking up on people and giving them art and scurrying away before they opened it. The prints I gave away were the most fun to make for me. I had extra paper and some water based ink and so on a whim I made them and sent them off. Over a year later I’m selling the Trey print outside of the Music Box theater in L.A. and a guy stops me and thanks me for giving him “a cool print up in Berkeley”.  It brought me back to the moment and I could picture it crystal clear in my mind. That was pretty rad.

2nd in the Berkeley Triptych series
I was a last minute addition to an art show put on by Ryan Kerrigan up there, and that gave me the opportunity to meet many of the fan artists I knew about who are in the scene. I had opportunities to talk shop with some pretty amazing artists and got some tips taboot. It was super nice of Ryan to invite me to participate, it was encouraging to be included like that.

3. Why did you choose the reduction lino style?
I found by working in many different mediums that when you limit yourself to a certain set of tools and techniques, it fosters imagination and innovation that you might not have found when working with something you’re more familiar with. I always felt that sculpture was really satisfying. I also liked to use MSpaint a lot, because I am a terrible drawer.

My creative process for linoleum block printing is sort of a combination of the two. Typically I’ll create the raw image in MSpaint, refine it many times over, and then transfer the reversed image to the block and ‘sculpt’ the printing surface using the carving tools. Working with reduction style offers up a whole new set of limitations. When planning an image, you have to keep in mind that you’ll be printing directly over the previous layer of color. So you can’t get away with printing a bright yellow, say, over a deep red. You have to work from light to dark. So once everything is planned that’s where I can improvise a little bit, because how can you color outside the lines if you don’t know where they are?

I also like the fact that once you begin to carve the next color, you lose the ability to reproduce that previous image. So again, you have to really plan it out ahead of time. Once you’re finished there will never be another one made. Again, the ‘letting go’ aspect of it shows up.


Layers of ink
The real reason why I stuck with reduction style was the quality the ink takes on after it dries. Since I’m printing over successive layers of oil based inks, once you get to the second layer of ink and are printing over a dries layer of ink, the paper can’t soak up the extra oil and the ink cures with a glossy finish. By the time you get to a final color, say black, it outright sparkles in the light. The hand pressing process also results in a highly textured surface, to the point where I have been asked if I made the print with skateboard grip tape. That texture also helps it to be more reflective.

4. How long does it take you from concept to finished print?

I’d say on average about three weeks for 40 prints. One week for coming up with the image (depending on how long I hem and haw). Two weeks to print them. I can press at max 20 prints a night for each color before my hand falls off, and then you have to let them dry for at least 2 days since I use oil based inks. When you have 4 colors to lay down for each print, that works out to 160 impressions for a 40 print run. I use a glass baren to rub the back of the paper onto the inked block, so each print takes a while to do. No presses here!

Carving out the Woosta Wobot
5. Who inspires you (in the art world or otherwise)?
Definitely people who have to “craft” their art. I mean physically do the grunt work of cutting paper, mixing paint, setting type, burning screens, carving blocks, or kneading clay.  Also, I am amazed at people who are prolific in their ideas. Cranking out new and unique products that are truly good really impresses me.

I could rattle off the names of a hundred artists that are incredible at what they do, but the people who inspire me the most are people I know. An old friend of mine that I used to make ‘zines’ with back in high school, Chris Fritton, is the printshop manager of the Western New York Book Arts Center in Buffalo, Ny. I see the stuff he does and it’s just magic to me..Using the metal type and spacers with complete innovation. Some of the “Building Series” Prints are simply astounding, and to know how they were done just makes it that much more impressive. He also works in creative ways with antique wood type which they acquire. They’ve done some pretty killer stuff over there as far as concert posters go as well as art prints. Seeing an entity like the WNYBAC blossom like that flat out makes me want to create. When I last went to visit him he wasn’t there but Richard Kegler (another amazing artist) was. The place was closed and he was about to give a private tour to some friends who were just passing through town. He was quick to invite us along. That level of trust, friendliness and general good will is a common thing among artists, so I guess that’s another thing that inspires me.

In the Phish art world though I’d have to say Masthay and Welker are tied for #1 in my mind as far as inspiration goes. They just have amazing artistic ability. Which is why I am utterly stoked about the collaborative art print they have in the works.

6. Can you talk about some of the challenges you have overcome for those who may want to print?
For me, starting out it was the time commitment. It takes time. You can’t just download and press “print”. Everything else is just a learning process. So if you can’t forgive yourself, you’re in trouble. You’ll find that people are very willing to give some advice and pass on their knowledge, listen to them.


7. If you could change anything about the community, what would it be?
I just wish people in general would be more aware of their actions. To realize how they unconsciously can have a really dramatic impact on those who surround them, in good and bad ways. People should smile more.


In New York City
8. Do you prefer selling in person or online, and why?
I prefer to sell in person by far, no question. You get to see the reaction to the print. You get to meet other artists, chat with people, and generally just have a good time. I have a couple of ‘subscribers’ whom I sell prints to online though for every run. They have their numbers and so I just set them aside. I like that. I also have some “tronz friends” who I see at shows and they just have me ship it to them (eventually) after the shows. I am terrible at mailing things in a timely manner. Which is why I am reluctant to try to sell more over the web.

9. Can you tell us about anything you have coming up?
I only make prints for shows that I attend, so there’s that. I do however want to make a couple more art prints in the next year, and try to get involved in the local arts scene a bit.

10. What keeps you going?

Family, and friends. 

To get in touch with Jon, visit his blog here: http://zeropress.blogspot.com/
or email him here: jon.rose@yahoo.com  

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Do you know someone who should be featured in Jiggs Digs?
Email jiggslikesphish@gmail.com and let me know. 

2 comments:

  1. Nice all around .

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  2. The ink on that NYE print POPPED so HARD, it got me excited!!!
    ::just went from 6 to midnight in here::

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