Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 7

In recent weeks I had fallen into a pattern of working in the Studio on weekends and Mondays, and mowing the lawn on Tuesdays.  However, I wasn't able to get to the Studio for the past few days, and we've had a light but persistent rain hanging around all day.  So no mowing, but a trip to the Studio today.

The focus today was on the mermaid's tail.  I had sketched on some scale shapes a while ago and had time to think about the plan.  In the prototype I had been shown, the scales were depicted with incised lines, but I decided to take a more three dimensional approach.  So I outlined around the ends of the scales, removing the layer, with plans to eventually smooth the transition from scales to the empty spaces around them.

Since the tail stuff didn't take that long, I decided to keep working a little while and start on the mermaid's head.  My plan for this was to (for now) keep the hair and items on her head at the highest level, while removing some of he layer around those to create some range of depth.  Will need to be a lot more work on this part, but this photo should give an idea of where I'm going.  Below, a view of the progress on the whole thing as of today.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 6

Mondays are usually a good day to work on art.  My current schedule has no other job conflicts that day, plus it was a rainy day today, so not much shore traffic.  So in the afternoon I grabbed the mermaid block, and my cutting tools, and headed up to the Studio.

I also made sure to bring my sharpening stone with me today, as I found some of these tools to be in need of sharpening last time.  My stone is a water stone, needing to be soaked in water before it's used, and I wondered if I'd have to go to another part of the building to get some water, since the sink in our space has been out of order since May.  As I approached our sink I noticed a small puddle on the floor nearby, which made me think the sink had been used recently.   Turned the faucet and it worked, so filled my container and dropped my stone in there to let it get soaked.  Took care of some other building business while it was getting ready.

Two main reasons for doing this.  First, noticed last week that these tools could use some sharpening, and best to get that done before starting the carving of this image.  Second, may need to do more teaching in the near future.  College starts up in about a month, and right now I am scheduled to have a 2D class at one of my schools, and I always do a woodcut project as part of my 2D class.  Nothing is less guaranteed than an adjunct teaching schedule, but I should be prepared.  And this past weekend I had stopped by the Boatworks seeking information and ran into the next intake, a dog themed show (I'm not submitting.)  I was asked about the possibility of another woodcut class session, or even a woodcut themed show.  Regarding the former I said what I always do-  if there is a demand, I'm happy to run it.  As for the latter- I doubt there are enough artists in the area doing woodcut to fill even one gallery, much less the whole building, and our business model requires entry fees to run shows.  I am working hard to build interest in woodcut throughout the state, but it's a battle.

Anyway, my mermaid piece. After sharpening those tools that seemed to need it, I began the process of sculpting, and I started in the most complex part of the planned object- the hands.  The design (as requested by the person who asked for this) involves the mermaid swimming with arms extended out in front, holding a starfish between them.  So I have at least three layers of objects in the composition- two hands (and attached arms) and the star itself.  Plywood is a layered substance, which can be good, as removing a wood layer creates depth, and bad, as in you can lose whole chunks if you're not careful.

About 90 minutes of work got me as far as what's shown in the above photo.  It's not completely flat, and there is some implied depth to the objects, though more work is needed.  In this light, shadows emphasize some of the layers of objects, but in fuller light it's not so obvious, so maybe color will be needed to clarify the subject, but that's a decision for another day.   Meanwhile, knife, gouges, chisel, and sandpaper got me this far, so I assume they will see me through this whole project.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 5

A day off from other work, so a good day to get back to the Studio.  Not as hot and sticky as some recent days.

I had finished cutting out the silhouette shape of the mermaid last time, so I started today by cleaning things up a bit.  No saw this time- just sandpaper.  Plenty more sanding will be needed before this thing is done, but overall it's now less rough and the curves are smoother.  This also seemed a good opportunity to redraw the details planned for the surface.  No major changes to what had been there from my original sketch, but a few refinements and a lot more clarity.

In the mood to continue working on it for a while, I took out my woodcut tools and started cutting the tail.  What I had with my was my woodcut class tools, last used in Belmar.  Not quite as good as my personal tools, but still useful, though showing some of the wear of those weeks in Belmar.  They could use a good sharpening, but the part I was playing with this afternoon did not require a delicate details, so not a problem.

The curving grooves I cut in today give a general sense of my plans.  Eventually I will have sharper tools with me (and a non-skid mat will help) and I'll bring this tail into a finished shape and texture.  For now I have confirmation that this project will work

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 4

Last weekend my brother and his wife held a party in honor of their new daughter, who will eventually be receiving this mermaid sculpture.  I used the occasion to show them the progress to that point and ask a few questions.  One thing that was settled was the use of color- it was decided that we'd just leave the wood natural, relying on shapes and textures to describe everything.

The last week has been mostly occupied with a new job, but I'm off for the weekend and decided to get back into the Studio, this time bringing more tools than last time.  That included stopping at a store to by a new saw.  since I couldn't find my old keyhole saw and I needed something with a long narrow blade to cut out some of the awkward tight spaces in the design.  As demonstrated last time, I could have done the task gradually with a utility knife, but this seemed like it would be a lot faster.

And it was.  In less than an hour I had removed the chunk of wood above the arms and to the left of the starfish, completing my mermaid silhouette.  The rest of this process will be done with sandpaper and my woodcut gouges.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 3

Had a little time this afternoon, so I decided to go up to the Studio and continue on my mermaid piece.  One problem- lack of tools.  Should have brought a lot more with me than I had.  I thought I had at least one of my C clamps with me, but it turned out I didn't.  Hadn't brought any of my woodcut tools with me, thinking I wouldn't need them yet, but they would have come in handy.  My drill would have let me make more progress, but that was also back home.  My coping saw does a fine job of cutting, but the design of the figure wouldn't let me use it for everything- the saw frame got in the way of some cuts I wanted to make.

Then there was the weather.  Our week of hot humid weather continued.  I could handle the temperature, but I guess we've reached the time of year where the dampness in the basement can be oppressive.  My shirt was getting soaked with sweat, so I decided it was time to give up and go home.  I had used the saw all the places I could reach, and had improved some of the areas around the hands and starfish.

Later I was back home and had access to my woodcut tools, and was able to remove that piece in the upper left quadrant of the star.  After all, this is the same kind of wood I use in my blocks these days, and for my recent class, so this is within my capabilities.  Results can be seen below.

A lot of work remains, but I'm making progress and I have the skills and tools to do it, as long as I remember to bring them with me.  The news says that the weather may cool down in a few days.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mermaid Piece part 2

Another day when my training session ended relatively early and I was home with a few hours left in the afternoon.  Also another day with high 90's temperatures and extreme humidity.  So why not another day going to the Studio to do some work on the mermaid?

Besides picking up the piece of wood, while I was home I grabbed my drill and a bunch more wood shaping tools.  Only worked for about a half hour today, but in that time I cut out the area below her chin, better defined the shape of the face, and gave the tail a more definite shape.  It was enough for me to confirm that I had the tools and ability to finish this piece, though today I stopped after 30 minutes because of the heat and exhaustion following four days of training.

Predictions are for more of the same weather tomorrow, and if so I'll skip the Studio visit.  I have some more questions to ask anyway.  But I'm confident this will get done.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mermaid Piece

About a week ago we had the last meeting of my summer woodcut class in Belmar.  That was after we had skipped a week for Independence Day, and one of my students asked me if I had done any new prints since our previous meeting.  No, as all my spare time was taken up by class preparations and seeking a new summer job.  I have spent the past two weeks attending trainings for that job.  But those end this week, the class is over, so it's time to get thinking about the next project.

I don't have another print in the works quite yet, but I do have a project going.  Back in the spring my brother and his wife requested something beyond just the usual saint print, which I completed a few weeks ago.  What they want is a relief sculpture of a mermaid, which will eventually hang in the bedroom of their new daughter.  Well, relief is my specialty.

Karen gave me a sample image, which I redrew onto a piece of birch plywood, and set aside.  Have some time now, so I may as well get going on it.  Today was the next step, using a sabre saw to start cutting out the rough shape of the figure.  Results are below.

Using the electric saw could only get a rough cut at this point.  For the detail areas around the face and hands I'll need to cut with my coping saw and other more delicate tools.  And when the shape is finished, I can use my gouges to give form and depth to the body.  I don't know if they have a plan for the surface or not- natural wood, hand coloring, etc.  But I need to get the cutting and carving done before I worry about any of that.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One More Night of Workshop

A very busy week so far.  Just had an intense trip to NYC, and had a bunch of stuff to do with watching my parents' house while they were away, and my new job finally began this week with a daily series of trainings, plus tonight was my last scheduled meeting of my summer woodcut class in Belmar.  Could I pull it all off?  The trainings are all in Hamilton, NJ, which (for those who are not from this area) is literally on the other side of the state from everything else mentioned above.  Luckily today is the shortest training day by schedule, so I was home around 4:30- plenty of time to get to the next stop.  I had started loading stuff last night, so I only had few things to take to the car this afternoon.

The building was kind of crowded today, with a big meeting going on when I arrived, and later a writer's group meeting as well.  And all 6 of my students were there, and all ready to work.  

Marisa, the one student who wasn't ready to print last time was anxious to check out how her turtle block had come out.  In previous meetings I had talked about the possibilities of colored papers and inks, and she jumped at that opportunity.  First she tried straight green ink on a deep blue paper (above), then lightened the ink a little with some yellow and printed it on a white Japanese paper.  (below, where the ink can be seen through the thin paper)  The class enjoyed her complex design, and she seemed satisfied with the results, especially when I pointed out colors could be seen through the Japanese paper.

Everyone else was on their second blocks from the start.  Dave's image of a fluke was executed quickly, but worked.  (Below, inking)

Dave and Megan both chose to go with black oil ink, but tried a variety of papers.  Below are some examples of his fluke print, and her whale prints, including one chin colle color piece.

There were other things I didn't get a chance to take photos of.  In some ways the evening reminded me of the last night of the Print Blitz I went to down in Texas- with all the high school students working deep into the night to take advantage of their last night in the studio.  My students were all older, but no less interested in prints.  Jill reclaimed the piece she left behind last week and cleaned it up before printing it in multiple colors.  Donna completed and printed a second cat print, on multiple types of paper.  And Patrick cranked out a small print.  

Some have expressed an interest in continuing with woodcuts.  Don't know exactly what the future holds, but it won't be next week.  Glad this was a success.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

On the Road

Yesterday I took a trip up to NYC to hang out with an old friend and to see some art.  Was so tired when I got home that I just collapsed, so I'm writing this today.

My friend was Doug, who I first met when he was part of the group I used to sit with in Calculus class, my first semester in college, so he and I go back to even before the Italian House girls I saw recently.  We also had a class together my last semester at W&M, an anthropology class, but in between he had connections to other friends of mine, so I'd see him now and then.  He was much better at math than I was, eventually earning his Master's and Phd, and currently a full time math professor down in South Carolina.  Shortly after that first class we had together I declared an art major and took a different path.   If we ever have occasion to be in the same part of the world we get together and share stories of our fellow Tribe students and the highs and lows of being college professors.  He was staying at a hotel in the city, a little vacation, and invited me to join him for a museum visit.

One of the options he gave me was a Frank Lloyd Wright show at the Modern.  I'm no architect, but I have long been a Wright fan (see my last post on July 4th) and chose that one.  Usually I take the train up from the shore, and there was the complication.  There have been a slew of NJ Transit train derailments this year, including my very train in Penn Station, just a few days ago.  But they said it was running, so I took a chance.  There were some slowdowns as we approached the Hudson, but the train stayed on the tracks- so a success.  Walked the mile and a half to the museum, met him out front, and we had a delightful day of looking at art.  This show was mostly a collection of drawings from Wright's studio.  In my opinion he's best appreciated standing within one of his buildings, but they weren't going to move a whole house to the museum.  The drawings did demonstrate his design skills- if he never built a building I think he could have made it as a 2D artist.  But fun was over, and Doug kept me company on the walk back to Penn, and then I spent a half hour in the rabbit warren that is Penn Station before catching my train south, which once again stayed on the tracks.  (next week begins what the news is calling the "summer of hell" which will involve all kinds of train closings and rerouting while they hope to repair all the problems they've been having, so this may my last train trip into the city for a while).

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

It's Always the Fourth of July

I don't think it's possible for me to not notice the Fourth of July.  It's a national holiday, which gives countless businesses an excuse to close for a vacation.  The area I live in quickly becomes overwhelmed with tourists, all choosing the worst time of year to come for a visit.  This past week I saw a lot of people hiking up the hill into Ocean Grove, wearing backpacks and/or clutching suitcases, likely arriving from the nearby Asbury Park train station.  Driving or parking in the shore towns becomes a major challenge.  Many nights I can hear fireworks, since almost every town holds their own display in the week around Independence Day.  (if some conflict keeps you away from your local show, there's always a bunch more to pick from).  There's usually a Twilight Zone marathon on tv.  (lately the cable stations bring me at least one episode every day, so it's not my one chance to watch it, but the marathons always concentrate on the favorites, so there will be some worth watching)  An excuse for television stations to show movies with colonial themes- I'll catch at least part of 1776 tonight.

And then there's the matter of my Fourth Of July woodcut series.  Completed in 1994, but probably my signature art piece.  A simple concept- a woodcut for each day for a year, each based on the day of the year it is about.  The 366 print set covers July 4, 1993 to July 4, 1994.  Those who have never seen the original prints can see the whole set online (including the story behind each) on my Fourth of July blog.  The complete year has been shown 4 times (the blog includes a photo of the most recent  such display) and individual prints continue to appear in juried shows.  For instance, almost any theme one can imagine is covered in at least one of those 366 prints.  (the one problem is that half the blocks were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, so those days are not reprintable and out of circulation) It has become a teaching tool whenever I am teaching woodcut- I bring in my bound photocopy version to show the wide variety of mark making and design strategies that I employed in making 366 woodcut prints in a year.  I'll be using it in Belmar this month.

Because it is essentially a diary, I can use it as personal research into my own life.    For example, later this week I have plans to meet with an old college buddy from the 80's and see a museum show, and one option he gave me was a Frank Lloyd Wright show at the Modern.  That caused me to think about the one Wright building I have seen in person (architecture is best experienced in three dimensions in person- not in a book), going back to my grad school days.  But which one was it again?

Went to the blog and found the answer- the Dana Thomas house in Springfield.  Impressive enough to be the subject of my print that November day.  Had no photos to look at, and the internet was just getting started, so I just went with my memories and impressions.  Maybe I'll learn more in NYC.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Woodcut Workshop Goes On

Tonight was week 3 of the latest woodcut workshop in Belmar.  All six students were there and jumped right into working.  One of my students is a teacher and found some unwanted wood carving tools at her school, which allowed her to finish working the whole block.  Thus she was ready to print early on, which got the other students excited about printing.  By the end of the night, five students were ready to proof their blocks.  (the only one who wasn't was the woman who joined the second week, and was also doing the largest piece in the class) Below are a few photos showing the results of that first set of prints.  None of these pieces are officially done, but all were impressed by what they had accomplished so far.  One thing I've seen many times over the past few decades is how excited students get when they start inking their first block- as the brayer starts depositing ink on the surface it gives instant power to the positive and negative shapes.  Days and weeks of work are suddenly paid off.  When the designs are good (and my group tonight had some good designs) that first inked block can be powerful.  That is quickly followed up by pulling the proof, which moves it to paper and lets them see the mirrored image for the first time- a bit of a shock for those not used to it.

I had a bunch of partial pieces of Okawara, which were plenty big enough for the small blocks most had gone with for their first block.  The thin Japanese paper is easy to print, and almost instantly they could see the ink in the paper as they started hand printing.  I believe that most of them plan to make a few changes before pulling the final version of their intended print, but all have seen enough to be excited.  Most had me cut them a second block and a few started on them before the night was over.  One student raised the question of whether they could make copies to trade with each other- but they had seen a bunch of group folios the first week so they know this can be done.  (I'd prefer they learn the basics and create a finished print in our limited time class, but as artists I can't stop them)  

We'll be off next week for the holiday, then have one more scheduled meeting.  There was some talk tonight about continuing beyond next week, and I'm open to running another session later this summer, but that's up to a lot of other people.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Disaster Averted

Late yesterday I got a phone call from Molly, one of the artists in our Studio.  Other than a brief chat at Herb's Memorial Service last week, haven't seen or heard from her since the spring semester ended.  The call was regarding a potential problem in our space.  Said she had been working (producing product for Jackie, who is also the third artist in our space) when she heard what sounded like a heavy dripping.  Looking up, she noticed something, including part of the ceiling bulging.  We've had some unusual weather lately, including occasionally heavy rainstorms, and she was concerned that perhaps a massive amount to water had found a path into our ancient building and was about to enter our Studio space.  Would not be the first time we'd have a flood, though the last time was because of underground town pipes.  She reported it to to people running the building, and then let me know about it.  One bit of good news was that it was on the other side of the room, away from my table and prints.

Since I had some errands to do today anyway, seemed a good idea to work my way up to Ocean Grove and see the situation for myself.  The building was fairly empty- not many tags up on the hooks.  From the top of the stairs I turned on the basement light, and saw no flooding yet.  Always good.  Descended and turned on more lights, still no standing water.  No water coming from under our door into the hallway- another good sign.  Unlocked the door and went inside.  No standing water anywhere.  The only unusual sight was a large canvas drop cloth/tarp draped from the press to the cabinet by the wall, in the area where Molly had noticed issues.  Again, no standing water or continuing drips, but a bunch of peeled paint and plaster dust on the floor around the press.

Above the press no bulging ceiling, but something had been cut, probably the source of the debris on the floor.  No tags for the Kelly Boys were up, but I had seen one for Little Bobby Duncan, and heard music coming from his space, so went to go see if he knew anything.  He had not been present when this was happening yesterday, but got the story from Mike, another person who does some work for the building.  It seemed that there was a problem with the air conditioner in the classroom above ours, and instead of draining properly, the water generated was leaking down into the basement.  I showed him the current state of my space.  His guess was that the air conditioner had been moved (or its drain  fixed), which seemed to have relieved the worst of the problem.

So no immediate crisis to deal with.  I'm assuming the ladder and tarp were left in place for now and will be cleaned up when the ceiling is patched- I guess next week.  If I had something to work on it seemed the area around my table was fine, but I had no project to work on today, so I locked up, stopped in Belmar to pick up the money coming to me for my additional student, and headed home.  Later I gave Molly a call and an update on what I had learned today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Woodcut Workshop 2017 continues

Time for week 2 of the 2017 BAC woodcut workshop, and a few things have happened since last week.  First, I ordered some more supplies- ink, tools.  Bought more hand soap, inventoried my refound water based ink, but I still need to order some more paper.  The other change is that the class grew from five to six students.  Was contacted my e-mail a few days ago and asked if it was possible to join.  She was willing to pay the full tuition so I said yes, and tonight she had checks for the class and materials.

After that it was business as usual.  Everyone had sketches, which I reviewed and advised.  Cut off blocks of wood for those who didn't have them yet, and they got started.  Just showed a few prints tonight, giving them more time to work.  Talked tools one more time and gave a quick demo of the proper way to use the various gouges.

On a regular basis I worked around the table, giving cutting and tool advice.  One of the concerns raised last week was how to avoid cutting oneself, so for the demo I brought out one of the bench hooks.  Went over well, because I ended up passing out all I had.  And one bandaid, despite the demo and bench hooks,  but just a minor injury.  A few felt some soreness in their joints, but first time cutting after a long time without and I can feel the same way for a little while.  You get over it.  No one finished a block tonight, but all made good progress and had to be reminded that the class had ended and it was time to go.  Next week cutting continues, and printing if anyone is ready, but I doubt anyone has their own tools, so we'll see if that happens.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Woodcut Workshop 2017

Tonight was the first meeting of my latest round of woodcut classes in Belmar.  It's been a few years since I was able to hold it, the problem being lack of students.  We put it back on the schedule in the spring, but only one student signed up.  We decided to try again for an early summer class, so that spring student returned, and we got four more, for a total of 5.  Very respectable number.

Took about 3 trips to load my car with all the necessary materials, and that's with some stuff already stored at the Boatworks.  I got there a little past 6, with the first student arriving as I was still unloading my car.  All five paid up students were there.  As has happened before, I was too busy teaching about woodcuts to think about taking photos- maybe in future weeks when they're all working and have something to show.