Thursday, March 22, 2018

More of the Usual

For the past few months I have had art on display in Spring Lake, the Upper Gallery in the Community House, an large old brick building that holds the town library, a theater, and some meeting rooms.  Lately there is a push on to use the largest such room as a gallery space (thus the Upper Gallery), which has resulted in me being part of 3 shows there.  The first was a juried show put together by BelmarArts, the second was a group show where artists from the first show were invited to apply, and the most recent show was an invitational of sorts.  It's the Artists/Activists show, organized by a regional artist group where I know many of the members.  I later found that the show started in a gallery (Asbury I think) and then this was the second location, but the Spring Lake locations was much bigger, and some of the art from the original show was unavailable, which is how I got a last minute invite to put some pieces in it.  That show opened back in early December, and the postcard said it was to close at the end of this month.  There was a very nice reception, and I have received complements for my pieces from people who have had a chance to see the show.

I was a little confused when we got e-mail informing us of a closing reception on March 21st, but receptions don't have to be on the first or last day of a show, so I didn't let that bother me, just wrote it on my calendar.  More confusing was the statement that we could take our pieces home that night, or had to come back the next day to pick them up, about 10 days before the advertised end of the show.  (still haven't got an explanation for this)  Still, no problem.  For those not from this area, you need to know that we have had an unprecedented series of snow storms this past month, one a week for the past 4 weeks, and we may not be done yet.  Forecasts called for the biggest one yet on the evening of Wednesday, March 21st.   Actually we had two storms yesterday, a small one of sleet, rain, and other precipitation early, coming from the west, and then later a nor'easter coming up the coast with snow, so technically we've had 5 this month.  (and we may get another one this Sunday) Got a lot of errands done during the first one, then parked my car to wait for the second.  Snow started falling around 3:00, but nothing accumulated until after dark.  But it accumulated big time.  As I expected, the reception was called off by late afternoon, and this was a wise idea.

When I got up this morning, the roads and my parking lot were plowed, but on top of and all around my car was about a foot of heavy wet snow.  At least the sun was out and there was no wind.  No word yet on whether the gallery would be open or if they would change the pick up of work, but I figured I should prepare for any possibility.  Put on my heavy work boots and trudged out to the parking lot to deal with my car.  Took a break after about two hours, checked e-mail and found that the gallery had managed to open today.  So a few minutes later I was back outside, finished the excavation of my car, grabbed a large tote bag to hold my art, and drove down the hill to Spring Lake.   Packed my two pieces, back to the car, and on to the next errand of the day.  The organizer mentioned in e-mails about the show returning to another gallery soon, but I don't know if it's the same work, or another show she's organized.  I guess I'll find out down the road.

Monday, March 19, 2018

St Joseph's Day

Here at Studio Arrabbiata we always do something to acknowledge and celebrate St Joseph's Day.  March 19th is the Feast Day of St Joseph, husband of Mary, who raised Jesus as his own son, and I assume served as a significant male role model.  Carpenter by trade, thus the patron saint of everyone who works with wood.  Also the patron of many other professions and people, including the nation of Italy and (somehow) bakers of dessert items. More on that last item later.

Spent the day working on school stuff mostly, but here at the Studio we celebrate things Italian and among our people we do have some traditions.  I know of no specifics for meals, but I always choose a pasta dish, which is my meal choice more days than not.  In today's case it was cheese ravioli (frozen type, as I don't have the time to make them from scratch, or a staff to clean up after me like all the tv chefs do) and a quickie tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, olive oil, spices.  The dessert is specific for this day, a filled pastry.  Most common is to start with a large zeppole, though a sfinge is also acceptable, and stuff it with cannoli cream, or sometimes whipped cream or custard.  Often a cherry or candied fruit is added.  You see one above, just to the right of my plate of ravioli.  The chocolate chips are not required, but I wouldn't turn them down.

Happy St Joseph's Day Everybody!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 Tournament of Art part 2

All of the relevant games for my tournament are complete for this week.  The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament started with 68 teams, and is now down to 16.  There won't be many people out there who accurately predicted those 16, lots of wild finishes and upsets have made a mess of my bracket, and I expect I'm not unique.  But there was some good news, too.

I need to produce a new curriculum vitae soon, so I devoted time today to digging up information from the past several years.  The last one I did was about 5 years ago.  I haven't put it all down in one place lately, but at least I have the information here and there.  For example, this blog has more than an decade's worth of my artistic history.  It would take a long time to read all of it, so I have been relying on memory and using the blog to verify things I remember.  Today I was looking up something way back, ran across one of my old Tournament of Art pieces, and it mentioned that I had a link to the main University of Texas, not just the branch in Arlington that I know well.  Just a few days ago I wrote that I had never had art there, but could I have forgotten?  Thinking about it more, I vaguely remembered a group show, something organized by someone else.  I looked at my comprehensive exhibition list, and found it- University of Texas at Austin, 2001, a showing of the Culture Rot group folio.  Predates this blog by several years.  I guess that's how it slipped my mind.  What that means is I actually had 3 teams in this year's Tournament of Art.  So that was some good news.

As for my original two teams, so far so good.  The #1 seeded Villanova players easily won their first two rounds, and joined the sweet 16.  And Syracuse has won three games, a play in game to get the #11 seed, and then upsetting a #6 and a #3, and now is also in the sweet 16.  Meanwhile, Texas lost their first round game before I realized they were part of my tournament.  So schools that have shown my art won 5 of their first 6 games last week.  If there was some kind of evidence that showing my art can lead to sports success I would share it with many schools, maybe get some more shows as a result.  Meanwhile I have to get ready for three days with no basketball games, which can be a weird feeling after the excitement of the past four days.  And on the down side, one whole side of my bracket is done, completely wiped out, no more games left I can win there.  The other side, including my predicted champion, is still intact, so I have things to root for.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Catching Up

This week I have been on Spring Break from the one school that actually gave me classes this semester, so I've been mostly taking time to relax, but there's always things that have to get done.  Even at the school on break.  Answered e-mails from students, which I never mind doing.  Always happy to help a student who takes the time to ask for help related to classes.  But now also have to deal with administration requests, much less welcome.  One that was due today was related to a program for college students who really aren't qualified to be college students, but they have tuition checks, so they are accepted and it's left to professors to get them up to speed.  Again, I don't mind helping students, but the first graded project isn't due until next week, so I was requesting extending that deadline until I had something to actually tell them about.  They agreed.  More annoying was another demand that came in yesterday, one that college administrators pull every few years.  Someone new wants to know all kinds of stuff about the faculty, and needs us to submit copies of the evaluation forms, our syllabi, a CV, due in about a month or we will not get classes again.  I consider this to just be laziness, since all this stuff is in office files already and they can pull it out any time, instead of making us use our own unpaid time to dig the stuff up and submit it again.  I found the necessary information this week.

Have also devoted time to thinking about the next print project.  Have three projects that I plan to pursue, just a matter of deciding which one will be first.  Meanwhile, things may be changing at the Studio.  Molly informed me early this week that Jackie, our third artist in the space (for the last few years) is going to be moving out soon.  This leaves us two options- find a new third person to split the rent, or go back to the two artist system we had for many years- more rent, but more space.  More will be decided about this in the future.

Not much has been done lately about the planned printmaking show in Belmar, mostly because the new person in charge of exhibitions hasn't responded to questions we have, and we need those answers before we start recruiting artists of the show.  Luckily it's not until the fall, so we have a little more time, but we also need to give time to the artists to make prints.  The one thing that I have done toward this is to schedule a woodcut series at the location.  Good for them, as most people involved in BelmarArts don't know what a print is or how to make one, so if we want people in the show, we will have to teach them.  Plus the organizations takes a percentage of tuition for all classes, so they will make money that way, too.  And as the teacher of that class, I'll make some money.  Got all the paperwork submitted over a week ago, but they have yet to put it on the website or start advertising it.    I need to remind them that they have something to gain from this as well.  Got most of the supplies I will need to get started, and this week I received the newest catalog from my woodcut supply company.  Won't order anything until I find out if I have students, but I am curious about some new inks they are carrying.

This week we also got the results of the upcoming big juried show.  This is the 14th annual, and I joined in time to be part of the 2nd annual show, back before we had our own building.  I've been in it every year since then, winning many awards along the way, but this year I was rejected.  I don't take the results of juried shows too seriously- as I tell students, if I get into a juried show or win an award, it means one person liked what I did, and if I am rejected, it means one person didn't like what I did.  However, there seems to be some weird things going on here.  Out of 49 people in the show,  I only know 13 of them, and I've been around long enough to know most of the active members.  And 49 is the smallest number of artists to be selected I've ever seen.  In the 10 years prior to this one, the shows averaged 81 artists each.  All the founders are gone- I don't know if they all left or were pushed out by the people running things now.  Many of them are part of a group that has been showing in other places in the area, such as the show I am in right now in Spring Lake.  That show has a closing reception this coming week, so perhaps I will see them and find out some answers.

And we've had a lot of college basketball on the tv this past week, so I have watched a bit of it.  I'll have the results of my Tournament of Art at the end of the weekend, and assuming my schools survive those rounds, more next week.

Anyway just because I'm off work, doesn't mean I have nothing to do or that nothing happens. Life as  an artist keeps you busy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2018 Tournament of Art

It has long been my custom this time of year to track all the colleges who have in common a team in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and being a place I have an artistic connection to.  That can be a place I took classes, a place I worked at, a place that I have exhibited at, or a place that has collected some of my artwork.  There are also schools that I have a rooting interest in, but I don't count those for the tournament. For a while it looked like I might have a bunch this year, but the field was announced this past weekend, and there are only two teams.

I have attended two Division I colleges and both were in possible position this season.  SIU had a decent team this year, a good seeding for their conference tournament, but lost in the semi-final.  The College of William and Mary also ended up with a very good record, a good seeding in the CAA tournament. Watched the game on tv and the announcers talked about how W&M led the nation in 3 point shooting percentage, and were top 5 in many categories, however, in the game that followed they missed almost every shot and were eliminated.  And while both schools had very respectable records, it was decided that certain power conferences had to have 8 or 9 teams in the tournament, so without the automatic bid, they had no luck.

Some things were close- Harvard and Florida Gulf Coast University lost their conference title games and will sit things out.  I have multiple connections to the University of Texas at Arlington, but it's the main campus in Austin that has the team that made it.

So in the end I have two teams.  Syracuse (exhibition 2005) just barely made it, we are told the last team in as an at-large pick.  With an #11 seed in their region, they aren't expected to go very far. In fact, they have a play-in round tonight just to continue, which is why I had to get this up now.   My other school is Villanova (exhibition 1997), which is a #1 seed in the East region, and had been a #1 team in the country for much of the season.  Seen a few games on tv this year, and when they play at their best they can beat any team in the country.  Winning the whole tournament means winning your next 6 games, but they are all against top teams in the nation, so not an easy task.  I'll provide updates on my schools each weekend.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Preparing for JAS 14

Despite today's snowstorm (our first since a few days ago), the calendar says we are approaching spring, and this is the time of year for the annual Juried show at the Belmar Arts Council.  I joined the  BAC when I entered the 2nd Annual Exhibition, which was the only show they had back then.  This year's will be the 14th Annual Exhibition, and I've been in all of them since that first one I was in.  Having a large supply of finished work in frames (or the proper size to fit frames I have) makes that easier.  On the other hand, I prefer showing newer things.  The entry deadline was today, luckily all done over the internet these days, as going out in today's weather would have been tricky.  I submitted two pieces, both connected to my youngest niece.  One was the mermaid collage piece I completed in the Studio yesterday

and the other is a print I made last year, but was not accepted into the Bird themed show, a print about St Georgia

which is in a frame right now, from when I brought it to a critique group last summer.  It is also the piece I brought to last month's critique at Mary's house, where those present seemed to like it.

No predicting what will happen with a juried show.  I've had pieces rejected one year, and with a different juror the following year, win a prize.  And while the juror and I are both adjunct members of the same college faculty, I don't think we've ever met (life as an adjunct) and I've never shown anything like these pieces at that school, so she has no way of knowing who submitted them is she did know me.  But I got them submitted ahead of the deadline, so I'll have to wait and see what happens.  I'll post the results here when I know them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mermaid Comes Around

A print project that I started last year finally reached its end today.  Part of the length it took is probably because it wasn't necessarily intended to be a print project, but these things happen as they do.

At one point last year my brother's wife asked me to create a sculpture based on something she had seen on the internet, a wooden mermaid.  I had her print out a copy for me.  Basically a profile along the length of the body, from tail to outstretched arms, hands holding a starfish.  I hadn't carved wood with the plan of making a sculpture to be seen probably since high school, but I do have a few degrees in wood carving, and a large supply of woodcut tools, so I took the challenge.  Went with 1/2" birch, what I'm using for woodblock prints these days, gridded out the mermaid shape, sketched it in pencil, then used a saw to cut it out.  Over a period of time I carved the figure with a fair amount to detail, in low relief.  The original plan was to keep the wood in a more natural state, but eventually I decided that color would make the relationships of figure and objects clearer, and having been reunited with my supply of water soluble color relief inks, had a plan.

Not wanting to waste the effort of carving the wood, I decided to try something I hadn't done since the 1990's, making prints as a rubbing, I draped my mermaid block with some thin Japanese paper, and rolled brayers with various colored ink over that paper, building an image on the top surface of that paper.  Different colored inks for different parts of the figure.  Set those "prints" aside to dry, and by last October they had done so.  Had no plans for what to do with these prints, other than to show them to a current college student working with woodcut, but realized if I was ever going to do this, it had to be before I finished the sculpture.  This process left some residual ink on the wood itself, having penetrated the thin paper, but not a problem because I expected to use the same colors to paint the sculpture.  When used in super thin layers, this water soluble ink dries very fast, but used as a paint, it was taking much longer, and in my design, some parts required multiple layers of color.

Was given no deadline for getting the sculpture made, so no problem.  Completed the piece this past January, seen above.  Just need to attach a wire and it's ready to go.  The piece is intended for the bedroom wall of my young niece, and I hope she will enjoy it, though it may be a few years before she can actually tell me what she thinks of it.

Meanwhile, over at the Belmar Art Council, we are coming to the time of the year to submit works to the annual juried exhibition and I didn't have much to show.  Have been in plenty of exhibitions, taking advantage of having a deep catalog of finished work, and spent a lot of time working paying jobs.  I'm sure I could dig up some old things never before seen in Belmar,  but I prefer to show newer stuff when possible.  I got the idea to make use of one of those paper rubbing prints I had made last year, so on a day last week when it wasn't raining or snowing (sunny days are rare in recent months) I went to one of the last area art supply stores and bought some paper.  Colored decorative paper, which seemed the logical way to make this thing happen.  I have several sheets of colored/textured paper that make available to students in my woodcut class, but I wanted something that could serve as a blue (water) background, and found some deep blue unryu with gold fibers and picked up a few sheets.  The past few days have been devoted to dealing with an apartment fire inspection, but that was finally resolved this morning, so I had art plans for the afternoon.

Today I brought my two mermaid prints and all my decorative papers to the Studio, still not sure what I'd be doing.  A few days ago I had located two long horizontal frames in my storage of old works, things that would be suitable for the piece, and measured them so I'd know how to format the thing.  Left the frames behind for now, but had those numbers with me today.  Up at the Studio, decided which mermaid print to go with and used scissors to cut out the figure, placing it on some plain white paper while I figured out the rest.

What I had decided on while still at home was the idea of collaging together things from all the colored paper, along with my new blue background and the cut out mermaid.  Below is the result.

I tore the blue sheet down to a size that would fit the window mat of one of my frames and then started arranging things on it.  There's the deep blue with gold fibers as my main background, and I tore thin strips of another blue and some brown that had a ripply pattern on it, plus a greenish color that I though would be suitable for undersea plants, so I made some of those.  All held in place with some PVA.  There is a variety of shape and value.  Warm colors and cool colors.  Horizontal and vertical movements.  Still, not like anything I've done before.  For my print projects I generally start with an idea or a concept, or at least a vision, and I work to make that thing happen.  However, there is relatively little of me in this piece.  I did not select the subject or what she looks like.  Mostly I just picked the colors of everything.  But it does give me an option for submitting to the show.   Deadline is tomorrow, so I'll have to figure out what I'm doing soon.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

East Meets West part 2

Figure it's time for an update regarding the print show I have a role in organizing.  Mary continues to work hard on all fronts on behalf of the show, and one of my tasks is to keep her from getting too excited and making the show too big.  She's been seeking sponsors, as we had been told months ago that our NJ gallery would expect some money in exchange for the show, which could come from the participants or an outside source.  Rather than make it all from the artists, Mary has been looking for outside money and opportunities.  Got one good sized grant last year, and she's also trying to arrange things with suppliers.  One offer from a western print supplier may be almost too big, so a bunch of us have pushed her to rein that one in a bit.  Today she mentioned another one, a possible demo involving two big time art suppliers and right here in our local space- sounds promising.

One way I plan to help is to set up some woodcut classes there at Belmar, something I have done several times over the years.  Since most of our members (and most artists for that matter) have no printmaking experience, it was always assumed I'd offer a few sections of my woodcut class, so those who might want to participate can learn the medium enough to actually make something.  And this is needed, as there aren't a lot of places around where you can actually learn about printmaking or how to do it.  So today I stopped by Belmar and tentatively scheduled a 4 week class for the spring.  I may also try to set up one for the summer.  As always, these are dependent on people signing up for the classes, but I've been talking up the possibility for months, and once I have it all set, I'll put the details up here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Best Kind of Business

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from my college friend Jenny, thinking about taking a ride up this way for he occasion of President's Day weekend, a three day weekend for most working people.  In my case, I don't currently have a regular job on Mondays, so it's an ordinary weekend for me.  Which meant I was available.  I guess for her 3 day weekends are rare and need to be taken advantage of.  She had two main reasons for taking the trip up from Virginia.  Officially she was doing it to claim and pay for the two boardwalk prints she had ordered from me following her visit over a year ago, to see my show at Ocean County College.  Unofficially, a major lure to this area for a lot of my college friends is the chance to eat pizza far above what is available where they live.  There was a threat of snow, but she decided her and her party were feeling "adventurous" and decided to take the trip.  Last night overnight in Hershey, PA, then this morning drive to Ocean Grove.

The show I had last year (which ended up running for 3 months) was several of my prints, including a bunch of my boardwalk prints. She had purchased one the year before that on a previous visit, and seeing the set again, wanted two more.  So this past spring when my schedule was not too full, I pulled copies of the ones she wanted- the tattoo studio and the boardwalk food.  I colored them over a period of time, wrapped them to keep them safe, and took them home.

Besides my art and local pizza, Jenny and her family have a fascination for some of the local towns, particularly Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.  On her first visit a few years ago, she and the family took a wrong turn approaching and ended up in Asbury, up near the old Casino and Carousel House.  They were very impressed with the derelict but still interesting buildings.  When she came for last year's visit, the day before the opening we spent time walking the Asbury boardwalk, from those buildings to Convention Hall and back.  In e-mails of the past few days, she mentioned a desire to walk from the Studio up to the beach and boardwalk, and to see Ocean Grove's Tent City, just empty platforms this time of year.  When I heard from her last night, she said they had made it to Hershey, and would call in the morning as they got closer.

And that's what happened.  I got up to my Studio early in the noon hour, just ahead of them (husband and mother also on the trip).  First I unrolled, signed and stamped the two boardwalk prints.  She gave me a check.  But then I threw in a bonus.  Looking for something else last year, I found I still had two copies of my international For Love Not Money postcard.  This was a big collaborative project from several years ago- printmakers used prints to create a postcard of a specific size for international mail, send it by mail to a randomly chosen collaborator, who also mails the first artist a card they started.  Both artists then add more printed elements to the received cards, which were then sent to the regional coordinator, who got them to the overall organizer who sent them to Tallinn, in Estonia, to be part of their print Triennial.  Since I was in the midst of my boardwalk series, I decided to make that the subject, and ended up making an image based on the Asbury carousel house.  My print simplifies the building, takes out the casino, and adds a very boardwalk style pier and ferris wheel.  She was very happy to get one now.

With that business done, I gave everyone a tour of the Studio building, in better condition than the carousel house, but also a very old, unique bit of architecture.  This past year we've had a record setting winter (cold) affecting both our states, but it had been milder this week, and should be next week.  But for one day today, back close to freezing.  Still, the snow would hold off for a while, and so we took our walk.  Walked up Main, took a lateral side trip to the Great Auditorium and the Tent City, and up toward the beach.   The town of Ocean Grove is still pretty much owned by the Methodist church (you can own your house, but you still pay rent on the land) and the tent city is a result of the camp meeting movement.  Each comes with a raised platform and an attached shed, which includes a bathroom and kitchen, and in winter the tents are stored there.  As we get close to summer, the tents will go up on the platforms.  For the privilege of living in one of these for the summer, you pay several thousand, have a lot of restriction, and there's a 10 year waiting list.  Jenny found the story fascinating, and wanted to see them again, so we did.  All in all, a substantial walk.

So now it was a little past two, and time for pizza.  On her last trip, with two days available, she tried two different pizzas.  She liked one place a little better than the other, but chose the lesser place this time.  Both have eggplant as an optional topping, but she preferred the eggplant at Vic's so that's where we went.  Our timing was perfect- a big party was just departing, so there was sufficient parking and plenty of empty tables.  Nice rolls on the table, we all got beers, shared a nice salad, split a couple of large pizzas (the one with pepperoni also had eggplant), a nice relaxing meal.  Since the rest were going back to their hotel tonight, I was bequeathed the few leftover slices.

On the way home from there, it was decided to stop at a bakery (one of the place we stopped at on last year's trip), not that any of us were capable of more eating at that point.  And I guided them on a driving tour of Asbury's boardwalk while we still had some daylight left.  But it seemed a good idea to end things and get to shelter before the expected storm, so they dropped me off back at the Studio building, where I picked up something from my space, got my car, and drove home, all while it was still dry.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It's Party Time

There are a few holidays always celebrated at Studio Arrabbiata.  One of those in Mardi Gras,  because they appreciate the spicy food there.  And it has been my custom in recent years to make a nice batch of jambalaya for the occasion, and feast while we can.

There used to be a good jambalaya at a Cajun restaurant in the town I lived in, but it closed years ago.  Actually my favorite dish there was the crawfish etoufee, but I haven't figured out a good recipe for that yet, or found a ready source of crawfish.  Meanwhile, every supermarket in the area has all the necessary ingredients for jambalaya, and there was a recipe for a Caribbean style chicken and pork dish that I had learned that wasn't that far away.  Researching various recipes, I found that there were so many options, there was no definitive recipe- a rice dish that has some pork (jambe from the French) so I could create my own.  And I find it tasty.

Since two of the three days after Mardi Gras are meatless Lenten days, I usually make it early and eat it through Fat Tuesday, so tonight's dish (shown above) was technically a leftover, but often leftovers are tastier than the first time around.  With all the vegetables, meats, spices, etc, that sounds about right.

East Meets West

Back in the fall I had a number of higher ups in BelmarArts ask me about the possibility of a printmaking themed show.  Perhaps because I was coming off having 6 paid students in my summer woodcut class there, some of whom seemed very determined to take it.  However, I saw one potential problem- there just aren't a lot of printmakers out there in the region, and we might not get the numbers we need to have a decent show.

But then Mary Lane, one of my former Belmar students and now ardent practitioner of woodcut, approached me with an idea. Woodcut had not only given her a new way to practice her art skills, but it had allowed her to reconnect with friends from her art school days, now regular printmakers.  One of those friends is based in Portland, OR where she does large woodcuts, and she invited Mary to come visit, meet some other professionals, and help her to hand print some 12 foot long woodcut prints, with hand printing being a skill she did as part of my Belmar class.  She indicated she had a good time.

So my former student Mary and her friend from Portland (also named Mary so we have taken to referring to her as "west coast Mary" came up with an idea- join forces and use the numbers there and here to put together a decent sized show of traditional printmaking.  I'm sure woodcut will be well represented, but traditional forms of intaglio, lithography, and silkscreen will also be allowed.  I sounded out Rebecca, then director of BelmarArts, and she loved the idea, and assigned us an exhibition slot for September of 2018.

Then things got complicated.  West coast Mary told us that she would love to participate in a show, but had no time to organize things in her part of the country, or to seek a venue for it out there.  Rebecca decided to take a full time job, and left in January.  The Board turned over and they are in no hurry to tell us who is running things now.  A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from someone acting on behalf of an 'exhibition committee' with a lot of questions about the show.  (all of these questions had been settled the year before in our meetings with Rebecca, so I knew it wouldn't be that hard to answer them)  Stuff like that.

So even though the show was many months away, we got to work.  Our Mary has been a dynamo, already securing one significant donation toward our efforts, seeking more cash and/or materials and services from print related businesses, putting together a list of potential artists, both here, Portland, and other regions where she has friends.  (for organizational purposes, this will essentially be like a juried show and people who live anywhere can enter) She also produced a written response to all those questions, so this committee can know what we already knew.  If that's not enough for them, they'll have to tell us what they really want.  Woodcutters don't get pushed around.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Not The Usual Critique

Our critique group hasn't met for almost a year.  Some of our regulars have moved away, people get other responsibilities, etc.  Last time I officially scheduled one I was the only one who showed up, so I did some stuff there in my Studio and then went home.  But occasionally I get word that people miss it and want to have it start up again.  Many students fear critiques, many students and artists can't handle any criticism at all, even if it is surrounded by praise, and so they stay away as much as possible.  I have long held the view that if you can't handle people expressing their views about your artwork, you probably need to get out of the business, and a good critique is a useful tool for artists of all levels.  Which kept a lot of our regulars coming for years, often traveling long distances to get there.

The last person besides myself to come to one was Mary, my most frequent woodcut student in Belmar, and she offered to host one at her home a short distance from the Studio.  Had some food, too, so we could have dinner then talk art. I got word out to many of our regulars, and asked Molly to send word out the regulars on her list.  The only responses I got were negative (though one asked to be kept on the list in case he could make it next time) so I guess I wasn't too surprised that was just Mary and I showing work tonight.  Mary had a few woodcuts in progress, and I brought last summer's St Georgia print, since it has never been exhibited and few people have seen it. I didn't get around to taking any photos of the evening, but it was a pleasant time, making us all hope we can get the critique group back off the ground someday.

St Dwynwen part 2

Wasn't expecting to be back here in this idea so soon, but events continue to evolve.  For this story, we need to go back a few days, or even a few decades.

There was a time when it was common for people who could afford to do so to get a new car every year or two.  I am have never been one of those people.  I've been a car owner for close to 30 years, always having one, never having two at the same time, and currently on my third, so I've averaged one every 10 years.   My current vehicle is a 2008, so later this year it will be 10 years old, but I hope to keep it going well beyond that.  One thing that people who tend to keep cars longer have to deal with that short time owners don't, is that eventually headlights, like any other bulb in the world, can burn out.  My first two cars both lost at least one headlight, which I only realized when a police car would pull me over to inform me.  Just warnings luckily.  I've lived in places with lots of street lights and missing one headlight was not as noticeable.  For that reason I didn't mind getting pulled over, even appreciated the information so I could deal with it.  Getting around with one headlight is not hard, but when your down to one, if something happens to that one, then you got worry.

Anyway, a few days ago I was at my parents' house, arriving in the afternoon, but left at night.  Parked right behind my mother's car, and when I turned on my headlights before pulling out, the light shining on her car didn't seem right.  When I got to the next location, I left the car running while I ran out to check, and sure enough, my driver side headlight was dark.  There was enough street light to see my way home, and enough other lights on the car that I felt there was no danger of not being seen, but this had to be dealt with soon.

When I lost headlights in my other vehicles, I replaced the bulbs myself, but it isn't always easy. Car designers often have many demands to meet, and convenience of drivers may be low on that list.  Lost both headlight bulbs on my first car, and getting to them required extreme contortion of one's hand, reaching down into the engine compartment, twisting, extracting the bulb, disconnecting it from the wiring, plugging in the replacement, carefully inserting it back into the slot without breaking it (or even touching the glass), and locking it into place.  Only had to replace one on my second vehicle, all done from the outside, just a matter of taking out a lot of retaining screws, and making sure I didn't lose them before I put the replacement piece in.  The owner's manual for my new car gave the instructions for replacing a bulb- 8 steps, including removing something from the engine compartment first, and since his happened on a Saturday night, I couldn't get the part if I knew what it was, and I thought it a bad idea to do it in the rain, which ended up falling for 2 days straight.  Decided the best plan was to wait until Monday and just see if I could get it done at the dealer.  From what I remembered, many of the customers in the service department struck me as less likely to be able to handle such a task as I was (and I had successfully done it 3 times before in different vehicles so I guessed the mechanics were used to handling it.  Stopped by in the morning without an appointment, but they said they could fit it in soon and in about 40 minutes it was done.  The $10 labor cost was worth it to not have the hassle.

So what does all this have to do with art?  In my hurry to get out of the house this morning (had other errands too) I hadn't brought anything to read, nothing to keep me occupied while I was in the waiting  room.  Did have a sketchbook in the car, so I ended up working on ideas for this St Dwynwen print.  As I said last time, I had decided that this would not be part of my Everyman series, so the format that has served me well for several dozen saint prints would not be available this time.  Good thing I'm an artist and designer and can do more than just one format.  Put some ideas and notes on paper.  Nothing I'm going to show here right now, but I hope to start working on a block next week, possibly my contribution to the East Meets West exhibition, a print oriented show that I am helping to guide toward existence in Belmar.  More on that soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

St Dwynwen

I generally don't go looking for saints to do prints of, but sometimes they find me.  This morning I was watching television, eating some breakfast, when suddenly I was exposed to a saint I wasn't familiar with, but one who had a story I could easily turn into a print in my Everyman series.  It sounded like the name was St Gwendolyn, but I could find no saint with that name in my Butler's set. It was also mentioned that the feast day was January 25th, which gave me another clue to investigate.  Meanwhile, the story mentioned that this saint was the Welsh patron saint of love, and the custom in that country was not to give your valentine chocolates, or flowers, but rather a hand carved wooden spoon.  They showed an artist using hand tools (mallet style, which I've never worked with, but my suppliers do sell them) to carve in the round spoons from natural wood.  He described different symbolic objects depicted in his sculptures (these were full three dimensional things, built around wooden spoons).  There was a lot I could work with.  And I've even depicted a wooden spoon in a print before, as in this example from over 20 years ago:

If I could just get some official information, this could be my next print.  But that's where it got complicated.

Like I said, no St Gwendolyn in the book's index, and nothing like the story when I read through all the January 25th saints.  Next step, use the internet searches.  Before I could even finish typing in all my keywords, it gave an option of "welsh patron saint of love" so I went with that, which led me to stories about St Dwynwen.  Those stories included 4 or 5 variations on the saint's name, and an alternate feast day.  (looked up all of those in my book- no luck)  Learned some history of the saint, including that a church that had been dedicated to her (at the site of one of her miracles) had been abandoned centuries ago and left to decay.  And the kicker, one of those stories mentioned that neither the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church officially considered this 5th century woman to be a saint.  No wonder she's not in the book.

Based on my policy regarding the saint series, there is just not enough proof to justify making her part of Everyman.  However, I might consider using the saint and story for a print outside the official saint series.  Put some notes in a sketchbook.  Don't be surprised if this turns into something eventually.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mermaid Piece part 19

All deadlines related to the holidays and school are taken care of.  Pieces for winter shows are all framed and installed.  So it should be time for business as usual.  Have ideas for a few new prints, but before I get to those, I still have one old bit of business to deal with- the mermaid.

Due to all the other deadlines I have had to deal with in the past few months, with no immediate deadline for completing this, I haven't touched it since early December.  Which means all those colored inks are now dried, something I've been checking on during Studio visits.   Here's where I left off-

At this point I felt it was mostly done, but a few more things were needed.  The color I had mixed for the starfishes was reasonable for such creatures but I thought the piece could use more contrast between those and the hair, so I had planned to make it darker.  And while I had colored the 1/2" wood edge in some places, I hadn't got to it in others.  So that lets you know what I attacked today.

In terms of colors, I went from lighter to darker, so first was the white edge along the giant scallop shell bikini top, and then I gradually mixed various browns to repaint the starfishes.  The most common starfish color around here is probably somewhere between what I had and what I've turned it into, but there are thousands of species all over the world and they can come in any color you might think of.  I ended up making it more brown than they were, mostly to create more contrast between the starfish and the mermaid's hair.  The last step today was to finish putting some color on the wood edge all the way around her tail.  I had done some before, a mix of pthalo blue and white, but had stopped because much of the other color was still wet and I had no safe way to hold it while I painted the edges.  All dry now, so I mixed and applied more of that color.  Had some extra so I applied it to spots on the tops surface that showed bare wood.  Figured it fit in with multiple color layers common in fish bodies.  Below you can see the whole thing.

Left it in my drying rack for now.  Based on past experience, this could take a few weeks.  It would be much better before it's fully dry before I take it anywhere or try to hang it on wall.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Blue Show

Expected snow didn't quite show up today- just a few flurries.  So no digging, and more important, I could easily go out.  One of my errands today was to go to the Belmar Arts Council to check out the debut of the new member salon show, with the theme of "Blue".  It seems to be almost an exact copy of a youth art show they put on last year, just with adults making the art this time.  Too good of a theme to pass up.

What is blue?  In this case any connotation you can think of works.  So the art could be something predominantly blue in color, or could reference an emotional state, and the proposal even mentioned the association with blues music.  I could probably dig up past work that hit any of those concepts, but the musical one interested me most.  I did weekly radio shows for 8 years in college, playing nothing but blues music, ranging from primitive acoustic stuff from the 1930's to contemporary releases that came into the radio stations.  And my music collection still includes several dozen blues albums on vinyl and disc, which get listened to at home and in the Studio regularly.  As a dj, I produced posters for my show, things designed to be photocopied on standard sheets of paper.  I still have some of those originals, so I could have provided an etching or monotype blues poster.  Instead I went with a chiaroscuro relief print done as a demo piece for a linocut workshop I was planning to teach out of my space there in Ocean Grove.  For that occasion I reworked an image I had first done in Montclair, based on a photo I took of a live musical performance in Philadelphia, but cut the subject from a duo to just one guitarist, mostly because the piece of linoleum was so small.  Two printed colors (indigo and orange) plus the natural paper color.  Framed for the first time for he occasion of this show.  My contribution can be seen below.

The exhibition officially opened to the public today, but the important day is this coming Saturday, January 20th, when the Salon event occurs- participating artists can introduce, explain, or even take questions about their piece.  Sounds like a good occasion to mention the planned future printmaking show, and my intention to hold a woodcut class or two to help interested people create a piece of art for the show.  I'll probably leave the record at home.