CONTEMPLATIVE ART

Local Artist, Brian Jones, develops his own monolith printing technique

Secluded in the middle of a dense forest in eastern Harrison County, the home and studio of printmaker and painter Brian Jones seems like the perfect refuge for an artist who describes his recent work as “rooted in the colors, textures, smells and sounds of the forest.”   

For the past 10 years, Jones and his wife, Cynthia Torp (also an artist and CEO of Solid Light, the company that designed the exhibits for Corydon’s Discovery Center and the Falls of the Ohio), have put in long hours keeping their woodlands in a healthy condition.

Under the supervision of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, they manage their 100 acres of registered forest, mostly clearing out invasive species. As artists, they have also transformed the area around their home into a work of art, doing their own landscaping, designing and tending to their large vegetable and flower gardens, koi pond and lake.

As artists, they have also transformed the area around their home into a work of art, doing their own landscaping, designing and tending to their large vegetable and flower gardens, koi pond and lake.

The integration of this area into the surrounding forest makes it an ideal spot to contemplate nature and create art that reflects it. Jones described his life’s work – his oeuvre – as “contemplative and autobiographical.” His most recent works, a series of abstract landscapes, express his current experience of living in a forest.

“Nature is now my principal teacher; I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.”

– Brian Jones

“Nature is now my principal teacher; I try to open my whole being to what it has to say,” Jones said.

“These recent landscapes reflect my intense connection to the forest – moving in it, hearing and seeing it from shifting angles, not just from a distance.”

  His works “Tree Line,” “Floaters III” and “Forest # 8 – Ice Storm” do evoke a sense of being there – in the thick of it. In his work “Flow,” the viewer looks through the water into the lake’s drain.

These recent abstract landscapes were created using printmaking tools and processes. The word “print” might suggest mechanically mass-produced commercial products such as newspapers, but “print” can also refer to the original creation of an artist who has chosen printmaking tools for expression. Warhol and Picasso both used printmaking processes extensively. When printmaking tools are used to create only one unique impression, the work is called a “monotype,” a painterly print.

Jones has developed his own monotype printing technique and is best known in the art world for these prints.

His prints are represented in the permanent collections of the Bibllioteque de France, Paris, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Utah Museum of Art, and more than 50 other national and local museums, universities and collections.

His prints are represented in the permanent collections of the Bibllioteque de France, Paris, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Utah Museum of Art, and more than 50 other national and local museums, universities and collections.

Jones described his process of creating these monotypes in some detail.

“I begin by placing a piece of mylar (very thin plexiglass) on top of my drawing, then trace that drawing onto the mylar with a Sharpie. The mylar is then flipped over so that I see the drawing in reverse. Next, I roll a transparent yellow ink over the whole thing with a brayer – a rubber roller – until the mylar becomes a transparent yellow film. I create by erasing the yellow from the areas where I want no yellow, for example, a blue sky. If I want green, I leave the yellow. I place the mylar, ink side down, on paper or canvas on a printing press, and run it through the press to transfer the ink to paper. I repeat this process with blue, red and black. I can also repeat colors until I achieve the coloring I want,” Jones said.

This meticulous process is only one of many of Jones’s creative tools. Over the course of his career, spanning over 45 years, he has created works in several media: oil paint, charcoal and other printing techniques. His subject matter has also varied depending on his life circumstances. For example, a back surgery was the impetus for a series of oil paintings depicting the bones of the spine.

Prior to moving to his home in the forest, Jones lived in the city (Louisville). As an art professor at Indiana University Southeast, he spent his time juggling administrative duties with teaching, advising, running a gallery, attending conferences, and creating and exhibiting art. This all added up to stress and cigarette smoking.

When Jones decided to quit smoking, he did a series of artworks on that experience. His work, “Blinded,” is his self-portrait of that period of his life. This self-portrait is a mezzotint, a print made from an engraved copper plate on which the surface has been partially roughened, for shading, and partially scraped smooth, giving light areas. Jones first encountered mezzotint as an undergraduate art student.

“The process suited me.  It is a contemplative process based on reducing dark to light; it is also dramatic, with more dark than light.”     

– Brian Jones

The process suited me,” he said. “It is a contemplative process based on reducing dark to light; it is also dramatic, with more dark than light.”

He recalled one of his earliest memories of making art as being somewhat similar to creating a mezzotint.

“I grew up in Clarksville, Indiana. When I was very young, I would scratch out drawings on slate rock. I can remember skipping the rocks across Silver Creek with the belief that the drawings would be found and prized as buried treasure.”

“I grew up in Clarksville, Indiana. When I was very young, I would scratch out drawings on slate rock. I can remember skipping the rocks across Silver Creek with the belief that the drawings would be found and prized as buried treasure.”    

In 2020, Jones was recruited by Harrison County Arts Inc. to serve as the president of its Board of Directors. Retired Board President Linda Shoults explained the significance of having Jones’ leadership at this time.

“This organization operates the Artisan Center in downtown Corydon, which is in the process of moving into the much larger space across the street, the beautiful old historic building that was once the Griffin Family Dry Goods Store. When I first heard Brian speak at the Cheers for Chairs benefit, I knew he had the vision to lead the gallery into an expanding future, if he would accept the position. He did finally accept, and the arts community is tremendously grateful. Brian is quiet, even contemplative, but he knows how to connect with people, and has already brought some changes that will benefit the entire community,” Shoults said.

   

Story by Julie Cato

Photos submitted by Lorraine Hughes

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