Trust the Brush

Yesterday I completed the edition of Loteria Card #220/284: Playing in the Dark . In addition to the 4-color screen print of the card and the letterpress of my handwriting, two layers of screened background texture bleed off the edges of the 18×24 inch sheet. For the final layer I spattered sumi ink on each print with a fat-bellied animal hair brush. Although each print differs from the others, it is still an edition. We could toss around descriptive terms, like “variable edition”, but I think that is unnecessary.

Notice the phrase “Monk logic” in the word-cloud at the bottom right. Think Thelonious Monk. The words in the background texture belong to Professor Howard Rambsy who generously allowed me to use his report of a conversation he had with Amiri Baraka in 2002. Rambsy was speaking enthusiastically about the music of Baraka’s friend the saxophonist Albert Ayler. Baraka interjects that Rambsy has only heard ruins and rumors of Ayler because he has only heard recordings.

Monk logic, jazz logic, ruins, rumors, echoes of children’s games, doll play–everything we hear and see and everything we miss or choose to ignore, everything we learn and then forget makes up the palimpsest that is a life. We turn the page to start afresh, but we are writing over what was previously written. We cannot escape that. The story we tell will change every time we tell it. Perhaps we remember or forget a detail or tailor the story to captivate a new audience or suit a new situation, but we will be writing or telling the “new” story on top of the original story.

Of the several people who informed this image the most helpful were Professors Susan Kumin Harris and William J. Harris, old friends who bring a high level of discourse and humor to any discussion, of which there were many.

I mean this post to honor that fat-bellied animal hair brush which, once I learned how to use it, became my friend. You may already know about artists brushes, but I did not. Really good ones can hold a lot of ink and not drop it. They can do other wonderful things like swoosh and make beautiful accelerating curves. Big fat ones can make luscious thick strokes and then turn and describe a delicate, almost hairline, ligature. All I wanted this one to do was drop big fat multi-pointed star-blobs and then drop a few smaller ones and maybe trail some tiny spatters. I was prepared with various smaller brushes for the “fiddly bits”, but didn’t need them. The spatter sometimes resembles the star chart from Card #38:The E-ticket Ride and on other prints feels more like star dust or a swathe of the Milky Way. The pressure and acceleration of the drops makes them sprout beguiling little finger-like appendages. Whipping the brush causes the trails of stars.

One brush to rule them all, Frodo.


November 28, 2016