Pay It Forward with Art

Dick Solomon, President of Pace Prints, wanted his New York-based business to make a difference, in a memorable way, when his gallery exhibited at this year’s Dallas Art Fair.

He did so when he offered Greenhill School art students a chance to work side-by-side with the well-known, Texas-born artist, John Alexander, and Justin Israels, one of Pace’s master print makers (see image below).

Pace Prints | Live demonstration of making a monoprint | 2012 Dallas Art Fair (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

To start, a faint pencil sketch of a monkey guided John Alexander (above right) and Justin Israels (above left) as they began painting on a thin aluminum plate, which has a rough-toothed surface to better absorb the printer’s ink being applied by John with a brush (see image below).

Print titled "Sitting on the Throne" begins

The painted metal plate and a wet paper were pulled using a press, lent by UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design, to print the painting. Here’s an incredible tidbit – the pressure was 600 tons per square inch (see image below).

The method of making monoprints means that no two prints are alike. It’s the most painterly of all the printmaking techniques; it is essentially a printed painting.

With each technical step, John and Justin bantered with the wide-eyed Greenhill students. Here are some of the comments I found interesting:

“Being an artist is a lonely job.” John came to print making a decade after he was established as a painter. He welcomed the printing process because he liked working with another human being. Justin and he sometimes break into a dance with a James Brown song blaring in the studio. Legend has it, according to John, that deKooning played a TV in his studio as a substitute companion to ease the silence.

“Draw from life.” He recommended that the budding Greenhill artists go the Museum of Nature and Science and sketch the stuffed animals. He still visits zoos and museums to carefully observe the anatomies of flora and fauna and replenish his mental data bank of visuals.

“Give the monkey (any animal) a personality.” John imbues his animals with spunk. Some of his friends have commented that the creatures bear a resemblance to John, specifically his eyes.

“Sitting on the Throne” | Artist: John Alexander (2012) |monoprint: printers ink on paper (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

“Sitting on the Throne,” the final piece of art, is to be sold with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Greenhill School to further fund the kids’ education.

Pay it forward…with this Art Fair twist, everyone wins

…until Sunday, April 22th.

(PS: You can have a John Alexander creation in your freezer. With business partner, Dan Aykryod (of Saturday Night and House of Blues fame), John designed the skull bottle for Crystal Head Vodka. The legend of the 13 skulls, referenced by Indiana Jones in the movie franchise, was the inspiration for this concept.)