Bob Phinney looks up from his work to ask what time it is.
“About 2:30,” I tell him.
“And I’ve got how long to finish?” he asks.
“I think you’ve got til 7:30,” I reply.
Given that Phinney has already arrayed some 32 monotype prints on tables around him, it might seem strange that he’s feeling concerned about time. But to his way of thinking, he’s hardly done.
“You know with this process that you’ll get stuff that doesn’t work,” he says as he cranks a pile of felt, paper, and other materials through his small etching press. “But you just keep going until it begins to make sense and resolve.”
Most local art patrons know Phinney by his large, somewhat abstract landscape paintings, which are often visible in the window of the Gibson & Schweyen Gallery at the corner of Higgins and Broadway. But for Phinney, these small monoprints take him way back.
“I studied printmaking in college actually,” he says. “Then I got into painting and didn’t do any prints for 30 years, until last year a friend of mine in Seattle invited me out and I worked with him on his press. I loved it, so I’m kind of focusing on doing more of this stuff again now.”
Phinney utilizes a process that he says he made up himself. He takes a slick sheet of cardboard, etches lines into the surface with an inkless ballpoint pen, spreads paint on it, and then transfers to resulting negative image to paper using his etching press.
“I love this process; it fits my temperament,” he says. “I love being in the process and not knowing where I’m going. Being outside and painting, it feels more like work. This is more about delighting in the process, knowing that some of it won’t work but trusting that the surprises will come along.”
(This post is part of today’s ongoing live coverage of the Missoula Art Museum’s “Artini: Auction – In Your Face” event, in which eleven local artists create original works over the course of the day. The resulting artwork will be auctioned off at an event tonight at the MAM. Click here for an index of all of today’s updates about the artists’ progress.)