Monday, January 30, 2017

Supermarket Battle part 13

Some of the weather reports tell us that snow may be expected tomorrow.  Not a big storm, and probably changing over to rain before the day is out, but maybe enough to make driving around unpleasant.  We will see what tomorrow brings, but meanwhile no snow today so it seemed a good opportunity to go up to the Studio and get some more cutting done.

Today's task was the tile floor.  Cutting a large tile floor as a woodcut is about as interesting as sweeping and mopping a large tile floor and I can say I've done both on a number of occasions.  But it needed to be done, and with woodcut I have leaned to just start cutting and keep going until you are done.  It took almost 2 hours, but it is the largest single part of this image and now it is done.  Took care of the melons on the floor at the same time.   A lot more to go, but now almost half the block is done.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Supermarket Battle part 12

Nothing on the schedule for today, so a good day to go back to the Studio.  This time I brought what I had forgotten last time, my 8X Lupe.  It's a magnifier associated with photography.  You rest it right on top of the object to be examined, the clear plastic base allows light in, and the fixed distance results in a focused view of the object, the equivalent of 8 times the size of the original.  Commonly found in photography businesses, but those aren't so common any more in themselves.  Luckily I got this one a long time ago.  As you can see in the above photo, in the copies the figures are quite small, and without magnification I couldn't see any details, but with the lupe I could now adjust the shapes of faces, feet, and other body parts of the characters borrowed from the tapestry.  So my first task in the Studio today was fixing those kind of details in the two figures in the upper left corner (below) so that they better match the original source.  The two figures in the foreground of the block did not need a source, as they are based on my experiences of working in that location.  I could even dig up those clothes if I had to.  Made a few minor adjustments there, too, and to the lettering on signs and boxes.

With that I felt ready to continue cutting.  Today it was the display area in the bottom left corner- citrullus lanatus, better known around here as watermelons, which are taking the place of decapitated heads in the original tapestry.  Originally I had planned to use pineapples, but I did a little checking and realized that it was a new world fruit and completely unknown to the various parties in the Battle of Hastings and creating the Bayeux Tapestry.  On the other hand, watermelons were not a common fruit in England, but they have their origin in Africa and had been brought to Europe by the Moors in the century before the battle, so they can be a plausible item.  The Latin name on the sign (and on the produce boxes to the right) is a reference to the original tapestry, which included lots of text throughout, all in Latin.  Didn't cut the designs into the watermelons on the floor yet, as I would prefer to cut the floor around them first, so another day for those.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Supermarket Battle part 11

Off from work today, so a good day to go into the Studio and make art.  Took care of a few other things while there.  They had wanted me to update my contact information, and I learned the fate of the Winter Arts Festival.  The past two years the building has held a festival around this time of year, with the walls filled with art from building residents, performances, events, etc.  This year something will now happen in late spring (which makes it less likely that we have a lot of snow, a problem at some past events), and they are working on a different system for dividing up the wall space.  When I know more, I'll share it.

Mostly I was going there to work on the current block, the latest in the supermarket series.  I found my collection of photocopies of the Bayeux Tapestry, a source of images for this block, stuck it in the tote bag that already had the block and my cutting tools, and brought that with me to the Studio.   Probably should have looked at those photocopies first.  Didn't realize how small some of those images are on the page, and I didn't have anything with me to magnify with.  So I had to put off adjustments to the figures and instead worked on the perspective stuff.  Adjusted the perspective on the display cases, the floor tiles, etc.  Added nothing new, just made it look better.  I don't believe in using perspective systems, giving them just the briefest mention in my drawing classes before moving on to teaching the students to draw from observation.  (a number of my students were impressed with my boardwalk prints on display at the college, and the use of perspective was one thing they often mentioned, but I informed them it was all made up)  The first several supermarket interior spaces were drawn from observation, but most since have been made up, using the vocabulary of those early prints.  I'm not concerned with producing perfect renditions of space that exist, just providing plausible settings for the ideas, and good use of perspective makes that easier.

The current block drawing does not look much different than it had before, just a little better in subtle ways.  I try to eliminate the potential distraction of confusing space, so that the narrative is what people see most.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bridge is Out

Lately the start of a new college semester always seems to bring a season of storms.  This I have noticed ever since I started regularly teaching 3D design, where I always include a natural materials project.  (a lot of stone age art seems to have been done to take advantage of the natural shapes of the materials used to produce it- a tusk, a shoulder blade, etc)  I start the project by having students choose from a pile of shells collected at one of the nearby beaches, and then see what is suggested by the shapes and textures of those shells.  And in recent years there have been a lot of coastal storms at the point where I need to go out and get some more shells.  Tonight was the first meeting of my 3D class this semester, and sure enough we had a major nor'easter parked overhead for a few days this week.  Every day the news showed video of towns digging up their beaches, seeking sand to rebuild dunes, an activity that can make it difficult to find shells, if they even let people wander on them.  Today was a relatively nice day, and I took advantage it to dig through my car and look for shells left over from last semester's class.  (Found a small bag, probably enough for my small class, even if I don't have time to secure more before that project)

Also took a few minutes to wander into Belmar. Had heard a rumor that there may have been a bit of flooding over by the Belmar Art Council headquarters, which has happened in the past.  It turned out the building was mostly fine with one exception- those sustained winds of he past few days tore the drawbridge right off its hinges.  Not the actual railroad drawbridge, but our representation of it as part of our mural on the side of the building.  Most of the mural is painted, and that railroad bridge is a piece I painted pretty much myself about 10 years ago.  However, before we declared it done, Bob Mataranglo (our leader in the process) added a wooden piece on top of the painted raised bridge, giving it a little 3D element.  This morning that wooden bridge was found on the other side of our building.  Don't know what that plan is to "repair" that bridge, but I won't be the one doing it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Themeless Salon in Belmar

Tonight was the Themeless show opening in Belmar, a Salon event.  That means that all the exhibiting artists are invited to spend a few minutes speaking about their piece in the show.  I'm showing an old piece in this show, an etching that I did in my undergrad years, chosen for a few reasons.  First, it qualified as something I haven't shown before in this space.  Second, it was already in a frame, saving me the trouble of doing that.  But mostly I was thinking of the salon thing, that I would have some information to share.

As I wrote last week, I have no specific memories of how the concept of this piece came together.  I believe she took a random pose and I drew it.  The complex narrative content that is typical of my later portrait and figure pieces is missing, no big stories going on here.  Most of the story tonight would be technical, the process of creating and printing an etching, one of those things that most of the audience has no experience with, and probably little knowledge.  I was able to find the plate used to create the print and brought it with me tonight to show people, and as expected few people there had ever seen one.  It's not a crowd with a lot of formal art training, and places where art is taught are working to eliminate printmaking from curriculums.  We have a lot of older photographers in the organization who learned in the days of film and dark rooms, but those have become lost arts as well. Of the two schools I work at, one completely eliminated photography and printmaking several years ago (classes off the schedule, equipment given away) and at the other they barely hang on by a thread.  In a post-Salon discussion tonight I was asked by one long time member why I didn't do more etchings, as he liked the piece I was showing and said he long admired the medium.  Simple answer is that I don't have ready access to the equipment or materials.  My former college classmate Linn stopped etching as soon as she graduated- had no where she could go to get access to a press, acids, etc.  As I often tell people, all you need for woodcut are a few hand held tools, wood, and a sturdy table.  All are available and relatively affordable.  Thus, I cover it with classes at my colleges and there at Belmar.  I could probably remember enough basics of etching to teach an introduction to the process, but there's no place to teach it, and people who've never done it aren't likely to invest many thousands in a studio of their own.  I walked away from etching decades ago, while still in school with ready access to etching equipment, so in my case it was an artistic decision.  Seems to have worked out.

The huge crowd tonight included Janine, exhibiting as a Belmar artist, and the fourth member of our pizza eating party back in December, and the only one not from William and Mary.  At her request, gave her an update on how the rest of that evening went.  Also let her know that the print show the others had come up to see was still on display at OCC, should she have an interest.  And speaking of that, I learned this week of more possible exposure for that work.  As part of the pre-semester activities they hit us with, there was some kind of poster contest with results being displayed in that hallway.  So perhaps there were a bunch of faculty wandering around near my art.  One of my other jobs meant I couldn't go to that so I don't know what happened, but if I learn of something I'll mention it here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Supermarket Battle part 10

One of my last days off before school starts up again, so it seemed a good day to go the the Studio and get some work done.  I do have a few more cards I could color, but everyone who sent me one this year has been sent one, so I can take my time with the rest.   As I mentioned recently, I will eventually want a new piece to submit for a spring juried show, so I thought it a good time to pick up where I left off on the most recent supermarket print.  I last worked on this block back in the summer, more or less finishing the block drawing, but then I set it aside when some other things came up- such as teaching a summer college class and building a sink for a print studio.  Then the fall semester, and the Christmas card, and we're back here.

I may want to reconsider and rework a few details in the scene, but for now I could work on the place I start all my blocks, cutting out around the border.  So I did that today, with the results seen above.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What's Old is New Again

Today was the intake day for the next show at the Boatworks, the headquarters of the Belmar Arts Council.  In recent years the tradition has been what they call a Salon style show.  Open show for all members, but part of the deal is that artists spend a few minutes of the reception presenting their piece to the assembled crowd.  That event will be next Saturday, January 21st, from 5 to 7 pm, with the Salon event beginning promptly at 5:30.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

However, it's entirely possible that not everyone reading this blog can easily get to Belmar, so here's a preview of my contribution and the story behind it.

Sometimes these shows will have a theme, but not this year.  In fact, it's titled "Themeless".  The only rule was that the piece couldn't be something we've shown before.  That can be a challenge, as I've shown literally hundreds of pieces in their space and there isn't much I haven't shown before.  I will finish a new woodcut to submit to the annual Juried show in the spring, but for now I just decided to go with something from my past.

Long before my first woodcut, my print experiences were mostly intaglio, commonly referred to as etching.  Acid is used to create changes in the surface of a smooth metal plate (we used zinc, but copper is still an option in some places), a textured surface.  A thick oil based ink (not exactly the same as relief ink, but not too different) is applied to the surface of the plate and worked into all etched portions of the plate.  Then the artist wipes as much ink as possible from the surface.  Some ink will remain in the scratches, grooves, and pits created by the acid.  Put a damp piece of paper on top, run through the high pressure of a roller press, and the paper will pull that ink from the plate and put it on the paper, creating an image, like with woodcut a mirror of the original source.  It was the only form of printmaking taught at my school back then (though our visiting print professor my first semester showed us monotype as well and required one, a process I still do with my drawing students), so for a long time etching was printmaking to me.  I enjoyed it, but painting allowed me to work at a larger scale, and after a year where I did both, I decided to concentrate on painting.  Never gave up etching completely, doing some later at Montclair and Southern Illinois, including assisting some visiting artists, but then printmaking had become woodcut and that had become my artistic focus.  Still is.

But that was still years away in 1988 when I created this piece.  My art muse in those days was a fellow student named Pam, who I could convince to make time once per semester to pose for something- such as a sculpture, a painting, or a drawing to be turned into an etching. For artistic purposes, I called her Mecedes, borrowing the name from a comic book character she had some things in common with.  I had done my first Mercedes print the semester before, a black and white print mixing line etch and aquatint, posed in a dorm room, but set in the hallway of an academic building.  Tried something different this time.  Almost 30 years later I don't remember how we came up with the pose, but she had a black scarf, stretched from hand to hand of her outstretched arms, wrapping around her back, as she sat on the floor of her dorm room.  There was some line etching used in the process, but most of the mark making in this came from aquatint.  Barely visible along the bottom edge are rough block printed letters reading MERCEDES WITH BLACK SCARF.  More unusual is that it is double printed- the plate first wiped with red ink and printed, then wiped again with black ink and printed on the same piece of paper.  I don't recall the narrative having any specific relation to the model, just a friend helping me knock out another piece for a class.

In my Montclair years I participated a few times in a municipal art show.  The first time I went in as  a painter, one of hundreds.  The following year I went in as a printmaker, framing up some of my old etchings (including this one) and recent experiments with woodcut, and won the prize in my category.  An important lesson to be learned there.

Back here in 2017, I need some art to show and the framed version of this piece was in good shape.  Also had an unframed copy that I could photograph easily for the show entry (and this post).  So far people in the 21st century seem to like it.  Got a very good response from those at the crit this week, and again today when I dropped it off at the intake.  I'll try to take note of any interesting and specific comments when I report on the Salon next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cold Critique

We managed to miss having a critique last month, which is rare.  Going two months without one, well that has never happened since we started this thing, so after bypassing the proximity to New Year's Day, we went ahead and scheduled a January Crit.  Molly and I put out word through our usual channels, but we had gotten no responses from anyone.  So at 7 pm, I still didn't know if anyone would be coming to participate.  However, I had brought in a loaf a good bread, so I was there, and a few people did drift in.  So we moved over to the cafeteria and got things started.

Molly wanted to go first and put out the latest version of her turtle images, started because she believed a friend and a strong interest in turtles.  Turned out not to be the case, but they are still interesting images.  Wider range of value now compared to the ink drawings on glass we had seen before.  And then she ran off.

I ended up being the next artist to show.  Above, my piece on the right, an etching from my junior year in college.  I will be showing this in a show in Belmar next week, a salon style show where I'll have the opportunity to talk about it.  This piece isn't really relevant to anything I'm doing right now, but I have it, haven't yet shown it in Belmar, and I can talk about the process, so it will be my entry.  I'll save the story until that show starts.  The other piece above is from our regular Tim.  He told us that the painting was inspired by an NPR broadcast, talking about religious conflicts.

The last thing we looked at came from Mary G, images on a background created from used tea bags, something she's been doing for a while.  She was not sure where to take it from here, while everyone else thinks it's pretty much done.  My opinion is that she could add narrative content if she wants, but it's already working as a purely formalist composition, so unless she has something specific to say, call it done.  So our discussion ended up being more about options for hanging it in a show.

We had another visitor who none of us recognized and seemed confused.  We did invite her to stay for the crit, but she was looking for a meeting of some kind.  After further questioning we found she was looking for an AA meeting at Q Spot, so we gave she instructions as to how to reach it, which requires finding a different building entrance.  There for the critique (but with no art to show) was my former student Mary.  The new sink is still not quite hooked up, but she hopes soon and invited us to use her new studio space for a future meeting.  And then Molly returned, so we spent a few minutes showing her the things she missed while she was away.  And after that we called it a night.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Holiday Catching Up

This time of year is always busy for everybody, but it has gotten worse for me in recent years.  Holidays add a lot of tasks to our lives, but the good parts of Christmas make up for them.  Not so good are all the arbitrary deadlines that pop up at the beginning of the year.  As a professor a huge pile of stuff comes my way as one year ends and the next one begins.  Over the past week I have completed the calculating of grades for all my classes and submitted them to the schools, and revised and submitted syllabi for the 4 classes I am currently scheduled to teach starting in January.  This afternoon I spent a little time up at the Studio printing the second batch of this year's Christmas card.  I haven't written out most of the ones I had already completed, but I know I will need more than what I have left, and today was the day to print them.  (got no photos, but if you want to get a sense of what it looked like, see this photo from the last print session, but this time it was 8 cards printed)

Last month on the occasion of his birthday I exchanged a few e-mails with my old friend Dave Lasky (holiday card and fun-pak will be coming soon) and one thing he mentioned was deaths from the previous year.  One of those was Barbara Goodstein, who he had tried to look up only to find she was recently no longer of this world, writing "she had such an impact on my life as an artist."  The more I thought about it, the more I realized it might apply to my life as well, and with no immediate deadlines to deal with for the rest of the night, I have a few minutes to write about it.

My first encounter with Dave was in Coach Coleman's Two Dimensional Foundations class, and while I admired his skill with a paintbrush, I didn't really know him then as he sat on the other side of the room, which led me not to trust him (a story I told in my contribution to one of his comic books).  The following semester we were also both in Barbara's Three Dimensional Foundations class and I learned he was a pretty good guy and we became good friends, so I owe that to her I guess.  The art department at our school was kind of small, about half a dozen full time professors, a few adjuncts, and no grad students to teach class.  Barbara was a temporary hire, perhaps a sabbatical replacement, covering our 3D class.  She was based out of New York City, literally flying down every week to Virginia, then flying back home for the weekend.  Don't know what the class was like before or after her, but she had us working with materials and subjects that were of interest to her as an artist.  Because that was really the only "sculpture" class I ever took, it was one of my sources when I was assigned to be a 3D instructor myself several year ago, my most regular class these past 4 years.  My first experience with found object sculpture came from that class, and that worked into a few projects I do with my 3D class each semester.  Her great love was figure, weeks spent modeling (from live models) in clay, and the figure was my subject for my Final Project, which involved a large plaster carving.

Unfortunately, at the university where I started teaching 3D, I was forbidden to use both clay and plaster (they feared it would dirty up the wood shop where I taught the class), so I had to come up with a lot of different projects for the class I would eventually teach.  However, this past fall I started teaching the class at my community college and was now required to use both clay and plaster during the semester.  So of course I brought my early experiences to the fore and we did a project that had a lot in common with my original 3D class.

But as I said, she loved the figure, so not only did she have us making dozens of clay figure sculptures in class, she required us to do figure drawing for homework, and the easiest way to get that done was to attend the open figure drawing sessions that she was in charge of.  Each week for two hours we had a nude model or two posing and anyone could just show up and draw them.  Much more interesting than the regular drawing classes.  Generally new and temporary hires were talked into (or maybe tricked into) running it for a semester.  I never took a drawing class as an undergrad, but I sat in on those open sessions almost every week for years, even being put in charge of running it myself during my senior year,  (one of my housemates once referred to it as my "Wednesday night nudity party") likely being picked to do it because I knew more models than anyone else.  Learning to draw people was always one of my goals from a young age (comic book influence perhaps), and those open sessions did a lot to teach me figure drawing, which I taught for a few years at my community college. so I guess I owe her for that as well.  So it is fair to say she had a significant impact on my life as both an artist and art teacher, and my life might have turned out quite different if  she hadn't been around.