Selected Monoprints and Monotypes
Steven E. Walker was born in Brooklyn in 1955, the only year the Dodgers won the World Series. He was raised in West Islip, Long Island, from 1958. His childhood was marked by black and white TV, Sunday School, baseball (Yankee fan), state parks, the beach, and driving trips in the tristate region. He ate all brands of cereal extant in the sixties, including Cap’n Crunch, Honeycomb, Alpha-Bits, Wheaties, Rice Krispies, Cocoa Krispies, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Corn Flakes, Banana Wackies, Crispy Critters, Frosted Flakes, and all varieties of Chex. He enjoyed Oat Flakes, which they don’t make any more. His favorite food was hamburgers. In those days when you went to McDonald’s, you ate in the car in the parking lot. The JFK assassination was the most striking event of his childhood. He was in the living room when Oswald was shot on TV, but didn’t actually see it. He watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and talked about it with the kids at school. He also watched parts of the Churchill and Eisenhower funerals. He experienced the blackout of 1965, first heard Bob Dylan in 1967, and watched the astronauts on the moon in 1969.
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He was a member of the school baseball teams, 1970-73, but was mainly a benchwarmer. In twelfth grade, he was on the school chess team. He became interested in art after visiting several New York museums at age 18 and took several studio art classes at Wagner College. Working sporadically through his twenties, he began studying more seriously at The Art Students League of New York in 1983. Here he studied figure drawing for several years, then painting, before taking up etching in 1994. Since then he has also worked in lithography, relief, and monotype.
Walker’s early jobs included work in institutional kitchens and factories. He washed pots, manned a dish crew, grilled steaks, and cooked 25 fried eggs at a time. He operated a forklift and unloaded half-ton boxes from rigs arriving from Texas at 3 a.m. After college he worked as an offset printing trainee and van driver for a direct mail company in downtown Manhattan. After being laid off in June 1979, he bought his first ten-speed bicycle and has been an avid cyclist ever since. He subsequently worked as a proofreader, freelance reporter for local news in Staten Island, and graphic artist making charts and graphs for business presentations. He worked for ten years as mat cutter at The Old Print Shop in Manhattan, which carries his prints; and now works as a designer in publishing. Since 1991 he has exhibited his work in numerous exhibitions as well as outdoor art festivals.
I started making etchings in 1994, studying with Michael Pellettieri at The Art Students League of New York. Since that time I have also done lithographs, reliefs, monotypes and monoprints. The subject matter in my prints is often imagery from my paintings, though at times I make drawings specifically intended for printmaking. The main body of my work is urban realism, influenced by Hopper, as well as Whistler, Rembrandt, and the imagery of numerous 20th-century American printmakers whose work I was privileged to handle while working as mat-cutter at The Old Print Shop in New York.
My first forays into monotype were in 1996, when I experimented with abstractions done with Luma and watercolor on plexiglass. In 2006-07 I spent a year making oil-based monotypes drawing upon imagery from my long-time interest in film noir. While watching VHS tapes of films such as Double Indemnity, The Third Man, The Big Sleep, and Algiers, as well as Hitchcock and others, I would look for interesting abstract compositions within the passing scenes. I’d pause the remote control and zero in on exactly my favorite visual moments within a scene. I’d then photograph the image and use it as the basis for a monotype, in which I’d “colorize” the still image with my own choice of color harmonies.
The technique involved working on acetate with a palette of etching inks mixed with linseed oil and oil of clove to obtain the right consistency. I would place the acetate over a reversed image of the movie still, and apply color in this way using the image as a guide. My studio mates laughed and called my technique “monocopy.” Undaunted, I forged on.
It normally required up to 6 or 8 separate runs through the etching press to reach the final image, as not all the color would transfer cleanly in a single pass.
A few years later, while going through certain midlife crisis issues, I felt a need to engage in a kind of artistic self-destruction by trashing my own earlier work. I took my realistic etching plates and woodcuts and used them as pieces within a bigger abstract work. I’d sometimes print them in unusual colors, add woodblock type, or imagery from found or collographed objects in creating this series.
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