Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year That Was 2016

As with many recent years, not a lot of new art was made this year.  The need to earn money was a factor, and more than some recent years that was related to art.  And art did keep me busy.  Just didn't get a chance to make many new blocks this year.

Prints- Other than this year's Christmas card, not a single new print was created start to finish in 2016.  I drew a new image for the next supermarket print, but have not decided if it's ready to cut, much less started cutting it.  (If I start that tomorrow, it could be done in a week.)  I did rework some old prints into new pieces, such as two from the Fourth of July getting color and collage to create new pieces for exhibitions, and some fragments from another block becoming part of a collaboration with a critique friend.

Shows- Had a lot of art up on walls this year, even if little of it was completely new.  About 20 pieces overall, in 9 different shows.  Some were pieces with histories that go back decades, and one was an ink wash drawing done for a classroom demonstration, never intended for exhibition but well received anyway.  Several were in places I had never exhibited before, potentially bringing my work to a new audience.

Publicity- Some things popped up related to the Art & Religion show that I had participated in almost 20 years ago.  A plan to publish some kind of book in time for the 20th anniversary didn't happen, but was revised into a website with stories about the show, images of the work, and poems written by the organizer about the artists and works.  And someone who keeps a blog devoted to unusual saints somehow discovered my Everyman series and he featured one on his site.

Firsts- I was forced to update the operating system in my aging computer, which eliminated the photo software I've been using with my digital camera since I got it.  With a lot of assistance I learned some new procedures to help me do what I need to for art, teaching, etc.  At my community college, I had two brand new courses that I had to develop and plan, each with about a week's notice.  That I had taught similar courses at other schools made it possible.

Studio- One of my college friends made two trips up to NJ this year, once early in 2016 to buy some prints and then late in the year to see one of my shows and order some more prints (and to eat pizza). She brought another one of our old friends on the 2nd trip and they were very impressed with the whole building.  My studio furniture building skills got put to use with a commission to build a sink for a private studio nearby.

Christmas in Production

Long ago my friends learned not to expect Christmas cards from me by Christmas, a product of actually making my cards from scratch and having a job that employs me with many hours right up to Christmas.  This year was no exception.  I got a prototype done in time for the day itself, then printed up the first batch a few days ago.  Approaching New Year's Day, I wanted to get those colored and begin the distributing soon.

I already had some watercolors at home, but in preparation for the cards I brought home my full watercolor case.  I can do the coloring in the Studio, but it is also something I can do at home, and with everything else going on around the holidays, it seemed more efficient to just finish the cards at home.  Started the process last night, then finished the first batch of 7 this afternoon as I watched the traditional Twilight Zone marathon and listened to holiday related music.  Then folded and cut the cards.  More will have to be made, perhaps next week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Time Continues

Christmas Day has come and gone, but the Christmas season goes on, especially in Studio Arrabbiata, where it is usually running a bit behind.  I got a prototype card completed in time to post here a few days ago, but more work will be needed before the cards start going out.  

I had acquired the paper a few days ago.  The block needed a little more work.  This year's image is based on a fragment of Lorenzetti's 14th century fresco mural "The Effects of Good Government in the City and in the Country."  I've known of the piece for a long time, and showed it in classes in the past, but I was reminded of it this year when I covered that period in my summer art history class.  My adaptation was to have Santa's sleigh flying over a piece of medieval Siena.  The original is over 45 feet long, and my card about 6 inches, so a lot had to be left out.  Besides general cropping, there was a bit of simplification, especially all the crenellation in the scene. And I was rushing through the cutting before the first proof.  With a little more time today, I used my smallest gouge to redo some of the details, and clarify a few things.  Also since the initial proofing, I located my supply of Outlaw Black ink, which my former student Tom Huck had developed to print his obsessively detailed blocks.  Have a whole unopened can, but I'm saving that for something else and found a little bit left in a can I started last year.  And with this ink, you only need a little bit to pick up the most detailed cutting.  My Christmas cards are sized to fit in small check mailer envelopes, so it doesn't take long to ink and print them.  Got the 7 cards seen above done in a little over an hour.  Will need a few days to dry before I start the coloring process.

While I was cleaning up the ink and tools, I had a visit from more of Herb's young relatives, I guess in town for the holidays.  They were delivering some paperwork for Molly, which I assume relates to the impending lease renewal for the new year.  I left it in a place where I typically leave mail for her.

In the late afternoon I gave Molly a call to let her know about the paperwork, and I heard back from her a little while after that.  Haven't seen her in more than a month, so we had other stuff to catch up on.  Recently she was covering a lot of art history for a faculty on maternity leave, and told me today that two of her students wrote about my work in the Scene at the Shore show there at school.  She tells me that they were very impressed with my Kathleen Dillon portrait, which was a last minute addition to the show when we suddenly had an extra wall to fill.  Molly says they remarked about the way I handled the gradual shifts in value, the fine lines that create the gray tones.  It is the kind of print that might inspire a student to try something like that themselves, except that college officially banished all printmaking from the facility and curriculum several years ago.  (I still do it in my studio classes- I don't need a press for the processes I cover) The extension of the show into the spring means that more students will get exposed to woodcut despite the school's attempt to pretend it doesn't exist.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Busy Weekend Part 2

A few days ago I got word that the Scene at the Shore exhibition at Ocean County College was extended into late February.  Because of huge demand from the viewing public?  No, mostly because they didn't have anyone else who wanted to fill that hallway at this time.  So we were invited to extend the run, and since I had no need for any of those pieces right away, I agreed.  Plus it saved me from having to go there the week before Christmas and pick it up.  I was in the gallery on the day after the original pick up day and saw that only one artist had picked up their stuff, so I guess everyone else felt the same way.  I don't expect another reception, but if there ends up being another one, I'll post word about it.

Meanwhile the show in Spring Lake is scheduled to be up into March, and the next show that I expect to be part of will be in Belmar in January.  I'll save the details until we get closer.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata

Been making my own cards at Christmas since the 1980's, and for the past few decades that has been woodcuts, based on historical works of art.  This year was no exception.  The one problem was finding the time, as classes were scheduled through the 23rd and I had 8 hours of class on that last day, followed with the typical busy holiday stuff.  Still behind on some of that holiday stuff, but at least I got far enough on the annual holiday card to be able to post an image on the day itself.  I plan to get back to the Studio in the next few days, make some minor adjustments to the block, and print an edition that I can color and start distributing to the good boys and girls on my list.  Meanwhile, here's an image for everyone to enjoy.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Getting Too Close

Just a few days until Christmas and much work to do, without even getting into all the college stuff still to come.  (two more classes tomorrow, plus all the calculating of final grades, but that part can wait until next week)  I had free time yesterday, so I went up to the Studio and began drawing the block.  I had it narrowed down to two possibilities, and after some paper sketches I chose one in particular- as planned one I covered in Art History class this past summer.  Then I returned today to finish the drawing, the cutting, and then pulling a few quick proofs.  Generally like what I see, but I expect to make some minor adjustments to the block before doing the edition for the cards I'll be mailing.  I'll use today's output to test colors and to have one to display here on the holiday itself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Getting Close

December is about half over- time to get going on this year's Christmas card.  Not that I hadn't given it some thought.  Often they are inspired by some big museum show I had seen that year.  No such luck this year, but maybe something I talked about in the art history class I taught this past summer.  And this past weekend up in Belmar I had a conversation with one of my former woodcut students and we discussed strategies for producing woodcut Christmas cards.  Forecasts are saying we may get our first snow of the season tomorrow.

Well, if I might get trapped at home all day tomorrow, I should probably have something to work on. So I stopped by the Studio briefly this afternoon and sawed off a hunk of wood.  (didn't have my camera with me, so this file photo of Christmas card blocks will have to do- the one I made today is in thicker birch)  Still have to pick a subject, but that's a problem for tomorrow.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Busy Weekend

It has been a very busy past several days, all relating to the show that opened earlier today, featuring my boardwalk series.  My last post documented the main installation, which was done this past Thursday.  I was back in on Friday briefly- stopping by between classes to adjust the level of the framed pieces and use some wall putty to keep them in place.

Saturday I was expecting visitors, and that morning I was texted to say that they were up, had eaten breakfast, and were planning to be in Ocean Grove by 10:00.  I didn't quite make that, but that was fine as they would just explore the main drag until I got there.  Checked in by phone and walked toward the commercial district until I ran into them.  Jenny and Susan are college friends, and I've known them since we were all teenagers.  For years we all lived in the same house and I have seen them from time to time.  Jenny came up almost a year ago, bringing her family, and discovering that my bragging about New Jersey pizza was backed up by the item itself.

Covered a lot of ground on Saturday.  Started there in Ocean Grove (including studio building tour), then into Asbury for some sightseeing.  (On her last visit, Jenny and her family were fascinated by the bits of Asbury's boardwalk they saw.)  On foot, covered the ground from the Casino to Convention Hall, and back, then wandered down Cookman for more shopping.  there we met up with a friend of Susan's who wanted to show us a show she had some works in, down in Spring Lake.  Turned out to be the one I'm currently in at the Spring Lake Library/Theater.  (When they wouldn't let us in the main entrance, my knowledge of the building helped us find an alternate route to the gallery)  For pizza, I had planned to go back to Pete and Elda's, but this friend wanted to take them to Vic's.  Not exactly the same, but also a very good place, so we went there.  Got dropped off back at Jenny's car near the Carousel House, but it was still relatively early, so we decided to go get some drinks, and then to get some dessert.  When all was said and done, we had spent time on the ground in Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, Spring Lake, Avon, Bradley Beach, and Red Bank.

Today was less hectic.  My friends went out for pizza again for lunch (the place we didn't go yesterday), but I can get pizza any time I want.  We all met up again at the gallery.  The reception began at 1 pm, and several friends and family were in attendance.  I would estimate about 50 to 60 people there at the busiest time.  Lots of appreciation for my boardwalk prints, both for the style and the technical aspects.  I look forward to getting the response of students and faculty there, who probably aren't aware there are art shows in the building.

I'll be taking a few days off from being at the show, but it will remain on display at Ocean County College for a few more weeks.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Show Time

At last, the big installation day has arrived.  The work is all framed.  That still left me with the tasks of wiring a few pieces and creating title cards, all done this morning.

Another necessary task was retrieving my hand truck, stored in my father's outdoor shed.  Had a small solo show in South Orange in 2001, and not knowing what the parking situation would be, I figured being able to move all my boxes of framed art in one trip would be a good strategy.  It was, and having one of these has proved to be very good investment.  One of the other artists at that gallery was so impressed that before the opening she had gone out and got one for herself.

Went back home, packed my wrapped pieces around the hand truck, had lunch, and then went down to Ocean County.  Went in first to make sure everything was as expected, before starting to empty my car of all the art.  Adding to the chaos was another function setting up in the hallway, a one-night charity related event.  Found my contact, and she showed me the wall that had been set aside for my work.  One of the better places, across from the top of the grand stairway up from the theater lobby.

There are 10 artists scheduled to be part of this show, and most had already started setting up before I arrived.  I know the space well- I have worked in this building for more than a decade.  Cinder block walls, and a rod hanging system, a common and practical way of dealing with framed works coming and going.  Clear plastic rods that hang from a mounted rail, with adjustable hooks on each.

While I'm in the building tomorrow I'll go back and try to straighten/even out the frames, but at least they're all up and ready to be seen.  As suggested, the labels are just attached to the wall with loops of painters' tape.  If they don't hold, I have another sheet of the labels and some mat board and can make something better before the opening.  The other artists I spoke to seemed impressed with my prints.  Some really like the subjects and details, and some are reacting to the bold colors.

Just a few days ago we got word of a change to the show and a need for additional work.  There is a large lobby type area and a curved wall that forms the back of the balcony level of the theater.  A decision was made to have each artist put one piece on that wall, the prime spot on that whole floor.  I had calculated using my five framed boardwalk prints for the show and didn't want to take one from that grouping for this other purpose, and while I do have a sixth boardwalk print available, I don't have a spare frame that it would fit.  However, I thought of another option.  I had one more beach themed piece in a frame, ready to go, a portrait of my college friend Kathy.  Not satisfied with an earlier piece she had posed for, I had come up with a new approach, setting it on the beach.  My large head and figure pieces tend to have biographical components, and this one is no exception.  She has an intense love of the beach, the hotel in the background had childhood memories for her, and there are other references to things current in her life at the time.  We scouted the location, then went back to my house and did the actual pose in the comfort of my living room.  Background stuff added later, but when cut and printed, it all comes together.  This life size piece will look good at that big wall.

This Scene at the Shore show opens on Sunday, December 4th, with a reception from 1 to 4 pm.