Vermont Arts Council

The People’s Choice Award: Matthew Marro

50: Matthew Marro

Create five large-format Vermont Teacher of the Year portraits

Colorblind Vermont Artist just trying to find the balance in all things. Constantly searching for the kind of beauty that would make revenge unnecessary.

Project description

Growing up in Vermont in the 80’s and 90’s I had only old books around the house to be inspired by example, artistically speaking. Most of them, were either the large collection of encyclopedias filled with etchings or nature guide books littered with flora and fauna of the North Woods. I gravitated heavily towards these images of botanical and natural etchings as well as, the occasional portrait of a historical figure. Not really knowing at the time what they were, who created them, or how they were produced, they reminded me strongly of the portraits of the faces on our countries currency. I remember thinking, “this must be the highest form of art if it’s in every book in the house but also on all of our money too.”

The portraits in particular came across with gravitas, importance, and a sense of historic immortality. To be drawn like that had to be the greatest honor one could have bestowed upon them. Therefore, these people must be the most important people to ever have existed.

The artwork itself was obviously highly intriguing too me as well. Mostly, I suppose, due to the mysterious nature of its creation. This was a time before computers meaning an artist took a tremendous amount of time and care to create these pieces made up of only lines and dots. I loved the precise nature of the crosshatching and the meticulous care to contour, shape, and value. So much detail and so many different tones all from one single color.

Being born colorblind I was glad to see these regal images of “everything important” done in fine line black and white and as such, gravitated naturally to pen and ink. I spent countless hours trying to recreate these images from the books whether it be plant, animal, or portrait. They all seemed so very important to me. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned about the techniques that went into making these prints possible. And I’ve been honing my skills with pen and ink ever since.

But it wasn’t until the last 5 or so years that I rediscovered clayboard, or scratchboard as it is sometimes called. It allows an ink artist to literally carve back into their black lines to create the multitude of values one only achieves in an acid etching.

That being said, I want my project to include the most important, regal, historic, and awe inspiring portraits of Vermonters to ever live…teachers. Not only any teachers, but Vermont’s Teacher(s) Of The Year(s). I believe that this medium of ink on clayboard will bring these modern heroes to life in a way that few other art forms can. They will look historic, inspire awe, and bring with them the sense of gravitas that they deserve. The should be immortalized in ink etchings. They should look as though they came straight from the pages of a history book. They should be remembered as the heroes they in fact are. And after completion, the works should be offered up to the schools in which those teachers reside.

Media Sample 1

Chief Red Cloud. “This is an example of an ink portrait in the style I plan to use for the project.”

Media Sample 2

Spencer Sugar House. “This is a great example of the amount of detail, contrast, and tones that you are able to achieve with the process of etching ink on clayboard.”

Media Sample 3

Hibiscus. “This is a good example of the process of Ink on Clayboard etching.”

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Acadia Klepeis August 23, 2023