Thursday, August 06, 2020

Time to Start Another

Made another trip home, got a shower, still no electricity, so I grabbed a few things and got back down to Manasquan. They were officially predicting completion of electrical repairs next week, but I was hoping for better.  Looking for a way to entertain myself without electricity,  I grabbed puzzle #2, one based on Vesuvio. which I had made the subject of a print earlier this year.  

Different company for this one.  The pieces have a dead white backing, and the surface is glossier.  Also they are cut a little differently, slightly more variety in the shapes of the knobs and holes, which makes it more clear if the pieces are meant to be together or not.  Overall size looks to be about the same as the last one.  

Started with the border.  Like last time, I'll gather like colors together, and start filling it in that way. 

Around 2pm today, the power came back on, well ahead of their prediction.  Seems to still be down at my apartment, so I'm starting this one on the dining room table in Manasquan.  But at least I have electric light to work with.  

Puzzle Success

Yesterday morning I finished the first puzzle, my miniature golf piece.  I had been working on it for about a week, around the various other things I have to do, in the dark today, as the tropical storm took away our power for now.  
I have to admit it was more of a challenge than I expected.  Some parts went very fast, such as that brightly colored clown in the right half.  Figures usually worked out- I had a shape to aim for and could see where things came together. The windmill, and the red and white grid by the giant fish were easy colors to put together. The broad colors if the sky were tougher, with few shapes to work with, but I am very good at matching colors.  Negative space helped with the edge, the white around the black border.  Hardest was the red and white picket fence, so I saved it for last.   Sometimes I thought I would have too many pieces. Sometimes I thought I might not have enough.  Sometimes I was afraid they were the wrong pieces, as the shapes and colors seemed wrong.  Then all of a sudden, it was done and I had exactly the right pieces.  Above is what it looked like, at least with natural sunlight, which is all I had to work with.  But it was done.

I like the results. It was a good print, so it made a good puzzle.  The colors reproduced well, almost like an oil painting.Whether or not it's a good product I have no idea.  It was fun and occupied a lot of time, easy to get lost in the process, so if that's your goal, this is something for you.   If you want something to finish quickly, you wouldn't like this. I'll get some more opinions.

Since the power never came back. and we had no idea if it would, I decided to flee to my parents' house and the electricity they had.  Brought my computer. Took care of some email first,  but before I could get to the blogging, we had a new power failure (fallen line, blown transformer- there were a variety of stories out there), so this had to wait for today. Last night was an early night.





Thursday, July 30, 2020

Puzzle Fun Continues


More batches of puzzles have arrived from Virginia over the past week.  Three more boardwalk puzzles (500 pieces each) came in a few days ago, and today I received what it prob ably the last one for now, a 16" x 20" puzzle of the Vesuvio restaurant.  Our first test was of a 1000 piece puzzle, which is a size I remember from my youth,  but Jenny wanted to experiment with some smaller sizes as well, and I agreed.  I took home two of the boardwalk puzzles to try, and then the one from today to do eventually. I do have a folding table that will hold one of those completed puzzles, and started on the Boardwalk Miniature Golf puzzle.  I still think the completed 500 piece puzzle will fit on that table, but it doesn't leave me a lot of room to work with.  I started with a classic strategy, separate the edge pieces first and build the outer edge first (is that why I start my woodcuts that way?) and have been working to build my edge, when I have time to work on it.  I've been able to put together some of those edges, but now I realize that I only have about half the pieces I need to complete the edge of the rectangle.  Since it came directly sealed from the factory, I think this means I need to go back through the pile of pieces and search for more edge pieces.

My other big task for now is getting ready for fall classes.  Still more than a month to go, but that will go quickly. Still a lot of questions about how things will work if we can't be in a classroom with our students.  This past spring we did everything online, but the school decided that whatever happened in the future, we would have to put everything online and use the system they wanted, which is one that has been rejected by numerous colleges and local school boards, but the administrators like it, so that is what will be.  I have been assigned two sections, and according to the school they are fully enrolled, so I have to get prepared.  I was sent an 80 page document covering the new class last week, and found it had little relationship to what I have taught since they hired me in 2004. And I will still need to learn this online system,  so I signed up for a week long online training session (required) that will happen in August, but first they are recommending a short background session, which I did yesterday. Our computer cameras and microphones were activated for the occasion, if people had them, so I got to see a bunch of the other participants in the training. Most appeared to be older than me and more confused (the "trainer" rapidly showed us a lot of features but didn't teach us anything) so I am no more confident of this working than before.  Maybe the week long training will actually teach us something, otherwise next semester may be a disaster. If it happens.  Today we got email telling us that they are now considering social distancing rules, and have to consider if we want to try cutting the class size in half and teach two half size classes each week, or a full class every other week.  Either way, they have given me more to do for the class, and half the time to cover it.  As I said, a disaster seems to be coming. I'm sure there is more to this story to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Yet More Puzzle Fun

Actually not that much happened today, but I did receive a shipment of puzzles from my friend.

The box included several puzzles, four of which were sealed in their boxes. Was sent two of one particular print, so probably a good one to share with potential customers.  My work looks good on the box covers, and the one that I received shots of in progress also looked good. These are all early prototypes, and we had discussed going with a smaller size (thus less expensive) for future examples. If I understand her emails, a few more may already be completed and may come soon. Seeing what is to come and learning prices will be necessary in this process, but these early examples will tell everyone much.   The one seen here, the arcade, is one that Jenny also kept for herself to try out, and then to give to someone else to try out, so I may have some photos of that soon.  Meanwhile, today was another hot and humid day, too much so to go running around, so this story is far from over.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Still More Puzzle Fun


The most recent mail from Jenny included some ideas and suggestions, and also a request for one more image.  One of the more popular prints in the series is the Tattoo print.  The starting point was the group home I worked at, where we had a staff person who insisted that every time she came to the shore, she had to get a new tattoo.  She always found an excuse to leave everyone at the group home while she went off to find a place to get a tattoo. Several years later I met an actual tattoo artist when he started doing some work in my Studio.  Took a print class from Molly and learned some etching from her. His love was tattooing of course, and he had a shop he worked at in Bradley Beach. Some research I had done on my own showed me that woodcuts and tattoos had an overlapping history.  Relief printing had developed everywhere in the world at different times, but on significant place was Japan, and Japanese woodcuts were a huge influence on all woodcuts everywhere.  Techniques and styles were a bit different than the western style, with roots in northern Europe, starting in the middle ages and continuing through German expressionism, probably the last time woodcut had a significant role in the art world. Pretty much it starts around the time paper was developed in Europe, around the year 1400.  Meanwhile, paper was first made in Asia at least 7 or 800 years earlier, so China had a long tradition of printmaking and woodcut going back that far.  As a culture, Japan was under the influence of the much more powerful China, and older woodcuts were in the same style. This changes around 2 or 3 hundred years ago.  Japanese society invented the floating world concept.  The society was fairly conservative, and the major cities followed those rules, but outside the cities there were places called "the floating world", where those rules were often violated. Things that were forbidden in the big cities were allowed in the Floating world.  Artists found their way to these odd areas, and started making art about the world around them.  The technique was different from Chinese woodcut, prints that were quicker and cheaper.  Subjects were often the activities of the Floating World, which included sumo wrestling and kabuki theater, plus the crazy night life.  The prints were inexpensive, about the cost of a bowl of soup- the equivalent of a few bucks. They became a souvenir of a visit to the Floating World- get an image of your favorite actor, or wrestler, or geisha to bring home like a postcard.  These cheap prints were sometimes used to wrap ceramics and things like that, and as trade with the West opened up, European artists were exposed to Japanese art, with its very different approaches to perspective and subjects, so these cheap outsider prints became a huge influence on Modern art, and eventually all western art.

Meanwhile, tattoos existed in all parts of the world, and often served ceremonial or medicinal purposes.  In ancient Japan they were used to permanently mark criminals.  Some criminals didn't want such markings, and in the Floating world, woodcut artists were sometimes employed to create new images on the skin over the old punishment ones.  Instead of the common ceremonial patterns and such, they favored images and pictures.  These image tattoos were seen by many (the navy became a common way to share them), and at one point the British royal family all started wearing tattoos.

So this odd connection from traditional Japanese woodcut, tattoos, and a coworker who saw the shore as a place to get tattoos combined to give me the idea for this print, and was at the root of the  whole boardwalk series. One was planned from the beginning, and ended up being the second in the whole series.  But what made my print possible, was meeting this tattoo artist in my Studio.  I told him my idea and he agreed to let me come observe him work.  I stopped by his shop, and then we picked a day to do something.  I came that day and he had a customer, getting what is commonly called a "tramp stamp", a small image at the base of the back.  She didn't speak English, but her boyfriend translated what I wanted to do and she agreed to let me draw the process.


 I stretched the image of the tattoo process over the two panels of the diptych, then figured out the background.  On the left side, with the tattoo artist, I went with a whole bunch of his own artwork, some tattoo flash, some from his paintings.  On the right side, the dragon is partly derived from a line drawing he gave me of typical Japanese tattoo dragons, though I recontorted it to fit my composition.  In the first coloring it was green, but I didn't like the color balance and repainted it as blue, permissible in Japanese dragon imagery.  The flowers are common images from tattoos, and the customers on the boardwalk are just made up characters. The two main characters unify the two halves, while the backgrounds make for two separate prints.

Wasn't sure if this would be good for a puzzle, because while it is a popular print in the series, and in my opinion successful, I don't know if the artist would want me making use of his personal art for such a purpose.  (he was okay with me using it for this print and saw the prototype).  I figured I would send Jenny some photos and explain what I was thinking.

Another brutally hot day today, predicted to be the worst of the current heat wave. Figured I should get there and do my business early.  The gate was not locked, and my key opened the door no problem.  I put down my print to get the key to go downstairs and there was a banging on the front door- two police officers.  They said they were responding to the alarm going off.  I heard no alarm, and the control panel showed nothing, but there they were.  (I did hear someone else walking around- maybe that person set it off)  I showed them my ID, explained why I was there, they bought it  and departed.  I got to my task. I took a photo of the whole diptych, and also one concentrating just on the right side panel.


And then I got out of there. Too hot to stay around. The police never came back, so I locked the building and left.  Took care of other errands then got home to my air conditioner. Later sent Jenny today's photos, explained my concerns, answered some other questions she had sent me.  Also sent Nichole an email about the whole police incident, but never heard back.

Later in the afternoon my mother called to say that Jenny's shipment of puzzles had arrived, a day before I expected it.  Too hot to go out again, so I'll check them out tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

More Puzzle Fun


Late last night I got an email from my college friend Jenny, my partner in this quest to turn my artwork into jigsaw puzzles.  She and her husband just finished the jigsaw version of A History of Art that they commissioned, and sent me the photo, which gave me a good reason to send them an update regarding my investigations into locations that might sell my work in this form. Part of their response was to ask for address verification because they intended to send me some of the puzzle prototypes they created.  And also to seek a copy of one more boardwalk print, my piece about miniature golf.


My first concern when she wrote she was sending me all the puzzles was that she was looking to end her involvement, but the fact that she was seeking a new photo convinced me otherwise.  I had sent Jenny several large format photos, but not this one yet. Of all the boardwalk prints, this is the one I found the least interesting, which doesn't mean I thought it bad. A Belmar artist who learned I was doing a boardwalk series scanned and sent me an old photo of her kids on Belmar's boardwalk, right in front of this miniature golf course.   The course was destroyed by a nor'easter back in the early 80's, not rebuilt of course, and I wasn't aware of any other photos of it in existence.  The giant bluefish (which my brother and I used to refer to as a whale in our youth), the odd red and white picket fence, and the lights all come from the photo, but everything else came from me, like much of the other prints in the series, fictitious, but plausible.  The giant clown is not based on any real such thing, but is meant to evoke many large creepy fiberglass structures, common sights on these courses.  I like the colors, both in choices and arrangement.  The actual location is long gone, nothing is copyrighted, so maybe this is a perfect one for this project. Just had to get a large format photo to send down.  We are getting into another heat wave right now, so I decided to go to the Studio early as I could, before the heat got too bad.

So this morning I grabbed this prototype of the image and drove up there.  Down in my space I got the photos I needed (such as this one above) and put stuff back in my car.  I noticed Nichole's car in the lot, and hadn't seen her since the last food giveaway, so decided to go back and see if I could track her down, get some answers, and I found her on the 1st floor.  She confirmed that she had gotten my email about the new doorknob and lock, so I got her response today- as I expected it was a repair in progress, and she's waiting for our response before proceeding.  I promised her I would try to contact Molly and see what her opinions were. She seemed interested in the recent video project, so I promised her a link to it later this weekend.  My part is relatively small, but she said she wanted to put it on the building website, and any publicity can be good.

Back home I sent Jenny the new image and got some clarity.  Indeed the puzzle project is continuing, but she's afraid to seek locations on her own boardwalk right now (currently covid is spiking along the Maryland coast where she now owns property), so she is sending me some of the prototypes she has created so I can use them to seek selling locations. And she is going to hold back at least one for herself (that is how this project started). Beyond that, we will see.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 12


While still in bed this morning I heard the sound of heavy rain.  I wasn't planning to mow the lawn today, but this cinched it.  Instead, spent the morning doing a lot of internet correspondence, and made a trip to the Studio in the early afternoon. Cloudy, and with no sun, not too hot out, though the humidity was climbing. Inside the building not too bad yet. Had the Studio to myself.  A recent email link I had gotten from Dave made me think of Marc Ribot, so I started of with a album he did with Los Cubanos Postizos (which he translates as the Prosthetic Cubans) Ribot is a guitarist who has played on more albums than I can count (including some that I owned), but this one is a tribute to a particular song writer and band leader.  Mellow music with a Cuban feel. He also does rock and roll, jazz, experimental music, etc, but I didn't have those with me today. The perfect album to follow this one would have been an experimental album done by members of Los Lobos as a side project (Latin Playboys, one I ran across at a college station), but I don't have a copy in my Studio library, and blank CD's aren't made any more, so I guess I never will. Instead I went with another album I did have that includes guitar from Ribot (I told you), but not with a Cuban feel- the self titled debut from David Poe- all acoustic.


Today's cutting included the black and white floor tile pattern, the seated security guard in the deep background, and more of the shelves. It's getting closer. But the humidity kept building, and I decided it was time to move on. I think the balance is holding up so far.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Yea, It's done


Got word tonight from south of the Mason Dixon line that the puzzle version of A History of Art is now finished, less than a week after my friends mentioned struggling with it. I had no doubts- a whole lot of small recognizable items, seemed a natural to put together.  Here's the proof:


I think it's a very nice piece of art, but I'll admit I am a bit biased in this.  They claimed it was difficult to put together, but the pieces seen in close up look normal enough by jigsaw standards.  If it was a challenge, well shouldn't it be? This wasn't supposed to be a kid's puzzle, something to be put together quickly then put away to make room for the next activity.  I'll have to find out from them how many pieces were part of this. As I wrote before, we had already decided that for legal reasons this would be a poor choice to manufacture and sell in large quantities, but it looks good. What happens from here we will find out later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

99 Bottles Premier




At 8 pm tonight I went to the link that was to take me directly to the premier of the new video, but it didn't work. (this is why I prefer to just cut wood- never lets you down)  So I went with the back up plan, which I has also listed on my last positing about the video- just go to the YouTube site, search the singer by name, then the song. And there it was. (above you see a piece of Dave's art as part of the video)  I think it looked quite good.  Lots of images, timing seemed right, there was motion.  When my piece showed up (about 2:45), it looked fine, so I guess my photography worked. I went back to the inbox and found another mail from Amy, saying that the previous link provided was no good, and here was the real one.  Good thing I wasn't relying on that.

Next step was to try to join the online chat.   She had sent a Zoom link, along with a specific meeting group, so I tried that.  First I had to download and save the program. Then I had to run it and join the group, but it actually worked.  Saw about half a dozen people present, including Dave.  But the images and sound was a little choppy. Amy said that they seemed to be having some internet problems where they were, but she had stayed on to make sure she saw and welcomed everyone who had come, including me, which I very much appreciated.  With that, I signed off and went to update my posted links.  I tried to come back a few minutes later, but the meeting was gone.

I think the video was a big success. The music and the images all seemed to fit together.  I am properly credited with my name spelled correctly.  I don't know if this will lead to anything else for her or for me, but if so, you'll read about it here.

Life in the JSAC


Dropped by the building in the afternoon on an errand.  Not picking up a free meal.  Nichole told us at the last one that it would be the last food distribution.  It was the town's deal, not a building program.  Maybe the town ran out of money.  Maybe it was getting too hot.  It's certainly not that there still isn't a need- the pandemic and the economy are still getting worse.  They were good meals, so I appreciated them, but that's over.  My purpose today was to pick up the block from my recent piece for the video.  I don't know if I will succeed in joining the video link at the "opening", but in case I do, I figure it would be good to have the block to show, as I assume most participants don't know what a woodcut is.

Got the block without a problem, but there was one new odd thing. Before leaving I always check to make sure both doors are locked.  Our space has two doors- one off the main hallway (with the yellow brick road), and one off the hallway leading to the rest of the building.  The same key unlocks both doors, until today.  The door in the main hallway was the same as usual, but the door in the other hallway had a brand new knob. No key I have fits it.  I went back in the first door to look at the knob from the inside.  There was no inside lock, so while I could open it from the inside, there was no way to unlock the door without a key.  Maybe this is a work in progress, and we will eventually a new knob on the other door and keys to work them.  In any case, I need to contact Nichole and try to learn what is going on.

We did get an email today with a program update- their major fundraiser, a big race, is not going to happen now, covid problem. People will be urged to do things on their own and donate money to the building.  Leftover shirts from last year will be available for free, and while new shirts for this year will be available for purchase, maybe not by the planned date. None of this affects me. No plans yet for opening up the building, and for now nothing changes for us residents.  At least we got that.

99 Bottles part 8


The video is set to premier tonight at 8 pm (eastern time) I have received multiple verifications from the creator. She also sent this link which can be used to go there directly, though if you try it before 8 pm you just get a message telling you how long until the premier:

https://youtu.be/9aDw6ajcCQ4

If this link doesn't work, you can always just go to YouTube, search for Amy Kucharik, and then for 99 Bottles. That should work.

Ok, so the above link didn't work.  Minutes before the premier she sent one that worked, but even before then I had just followed the procedure listed just above.
Don't know if the link will continue to work or not, so I suggest you just search the site for her.  That always seems to work.

I don't know exactly what time in the video my art will appear, just that it will accompany the line "I would drink all the water in the sea".  Perhaps I'll update this post later with that information.

Yesterday she asked us to proofread the list of contributors and make sure our names were properly spelled.  The problem was she never said where this list was. After a lot of fooling around, I finally found it.  I found my name was properly spelled (not something I can take for granted), but got a better surprise- the list of participating artists also included David Lasky, my former classmate and frequent collaborator.  Probably shouldn't be a surprise, as I knew he had gotten to know her (she is a big comics fan and I pointed her toward his early work), plus he is the one who tipped me that she had music videos up on the web.  In the promotional stuff on her site, she mentioned a plan to have at least 20 contributors, but in this new place she mentioned 50 participants, and from the length of the list, she might be right.

I figured if I had seen Dave's name, he might run across mine, and when I checked the mail box he sends things to, I found email from him. Just a short note acknowledging that I had also contributed.  I sent him a similar reply, and will send a more detailed note later, after I see this new video.

Update: My art shows up at about 2:45 into the video. Following the watching, I joined the official zoom meeting for a few moments.  It was kind of choppy, which they think was an internet problem on their end.  Was on long enough to say hello to everyone, including Dave.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Ocean Grove Show Ends


A few days ago I got a call from Jackie, who worked in the Studio for a few years and operates a small gallery up Main Street in Ocean Grove, one that occasionally carries some of Molly's products. Back in the spring she contacted me and invited me to show there, short notice, but a wall to fill with my prints and we were approaching the season where there's a lot of foot traffic on Main.  Seemed like a good situation for me- the work she wanted (supermarket prints) was available and not committed anywhere else, the show wouldn't cost me anything, and the location is just a short walk from my Studio. So on the chosen day, I walked there with an assortment of prints, we selected what would be part of the show and the price, and I left it in her hands. No official opening scheduled, so we would count on the standard foot traffic.  A few days later I stopped by to see how it was installed, and it looked fine to me.

Then a few days later, the governor ordered the shut down of all galleries (non essential business) and so I don't know how many people actually saw the show.  I was too busy to worry much about it, what with concerns over how to conduct my classes online, making new art (although programming in our building was shut down, we tenants were given permission to continue in our spaces and so I did), etc.  We didn't set firm dates, but figured the show would go through the end of April, which came and went without any communication. I just hoped the gallery owners were still alive.

Then a couple of days ago I got a call from Jackie telling me they were open again, and she was ready to take down my show and put up something else. She said she'd be ready to give me the work on Sunday and I said fine.  Her preference was for between 10 and 11 am, and I agreed to that as well.

Back when this jigsaw puzzle experiment began, I had hoped we could just license the images to a puzzle company and let them handle it, but Jenny's investigation showed more likely we would have to produce the puzzles and seek locations to sell them. In that case I thought of Jackie's gallery, which is convenient to where I am, located in a shore town where there might be demand for the product, and even has a "store at the shore" sign in front, but I had not discussed it with her, since everything had been closed down in March. In advance of today's visit, I sent an email this morning with the basic story of the project, and a photo of a puzzle in progress.

As usual, the weather today was hot and sunny,  very brutal, though at least I wouldn't have to worry about the work getting wet.  I got there in time, and decided to park in the Studio lot. Summer parking on Main in Ocean Grove on a weekend, especially in the downtown area, can be impossible.  Sure enough, as I got close I could see no available parking and was glad I took the spot I had and walked up the street.  Of the people on the street, about half were wearing masks, no one with gloves.

When I got there, Jackie had everything ready to go.  We talked briefly.  She apologized for not selling anything, but I told her I didn't blame her for that (and I don't) knowing that laws kept the place shut down much of that time. She said she was aware of one interested person, but she didn't want to pay the price.  (it's the standard price I get for these things, so no problem there)  Even with the rules changed, she said a lot of people seemed afraid to come in.  As for the puzzle thing, she hadn't seen the email yet, and while the store did carry some puzzles, that was all part of her partner's responsibility, and he wasn't in today.  I asked her to mention the idea to him, and they share one email account, so he will see what I sent today. When I learn more, I will contact him directly. Until then, there is no point.

I walked back to my car in the heat and went home.  I had grass to cut later.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

An Important Date



I noticed that today was July 11th, which I remembered as St Olga's feast day, which I knew from this print, which was the first postcard I ever made, having done it for my MFA show in 1995.  A lot has changed since then.  

I still like the piece, a strong but simple image with bold colors.  I think it tells part of the story well, though I have some knowledge of what it is about.  The Butler's Lives of the Saints books are in chronological order by feast days, but I started with volume 3, July to September, so for the first postcard, I went with one of the first ones I had completed. And it fits with the whole series.  St Olga had been the first lady of her kingdom, and when her husband was assassinated, she had those responsible scalded to death with steam. If this seems somewhat un-saint like, you're right, she converted to Christianity later and helped Christianize Russia.  Part of the Everyman series (and I have done maybe 75 or 80 of these over the years) is the concept that saints came from a lot of different backgrounds and had done a lot of different things along the way, sometimes not so good.  The idea is that if such people can become saints, perhaps everyone can. 


Did she deserve sainthood?   Not for me or you to say.  I know that she reformed and did some good works.  And today is the anniversary of her death, because that is how feast days work. So think about St Olga and what she did in life.  Are you better or worse than her?  That is for you to say.

As for postcards, they seem to have gone the way of St Olga- no one seems be making them anymore.  I blame this on today's youth, who don't like anything that can't be downloaded to their smart phones.  They might look at this blog post, but they wouldn't take a card if you put it in their hand, and even though they cost less than a quarter each, a lot of artists just won't bother any more.
Once upon a time, every gallery had a table full of postcards, free for the taking, souvenirs of what you just saw and a way of spreading the word. These days, not so much.


This Puzzle Is Difficult




Got an email this afternoon from my friend Jenny's husband John, with an update on the puzzle situation.  They had managed to turn one of my woodcut prints into a jigsaw puzzle, an item that gained new popularity while everyone was forced to stay home during the pandemic.  Jenny thought that my prints might make good jigsaw puzzles, so I sent her some photos to play around with.  The first one she converted was my piece A History of Art.  Considering it later, Jenny felt this might not work, due to the large number of trademarked items in my tower.  I agreed, what might work in fine art might be a problem in a commercially produced product, so this first jigsaw puzzle might be the last one of this image, but since it is already made, they might as well see how it turned out, and we'd learn something about the process along the way.  A few days later I got the report that it was difficult, but I figured with the original image to copy from, it could be worked out.

The subject/title of today's email was just the words "This puzzle is difficult", and it included a few photos of the puzzle in progress, such as the one above.  To me it looks like they made some good progress.   The image seems to have reproduced well in puzzle format, making the idea of future projects seem promising, though I don't have any knowledge yet of how much such a thing would cost.  Looking at the individual pieces, I can recognize what part of the image they came from, but I probably have more knowledge of the image than most people on earth.  To me, it looks like a fun puzzle, an interesting challenge.  When it is done, I think it will look very impressive.  And I do think that eventually they will finish it.  I'm curious to see how it ends up.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Almost Here


Just got official word tonight about the world premier of the 99 Bottles video.  (actually I knew this already as I had found the Somerville Arts Council website and saw it mentioned there, but tonight I got my official word from the artist, so I'll share that with you)  This is a lyric video for Amy's song "99 Bottles", from an album from last year.  What that means is as the video plays, the lyrics to what part is playing are seen on the screen.  (if you want to sing along I guess) I heard about it through her newsletter, but I know she also posted a YouTube video promoting it, and it seems she got word out on other social media as well.  She invited people to create artwork for this, either something with lyrics shown that would appear in that part of the song, or just any art and she would find a way to use it.  Amy's college training is in fine art (I was her teacher and her classmate at different times), and she has since earned a living as a musician and song writer, but has used down time caused by the pandemic to learn digital video editing, creating a standard video for a song from her last album.  I assume that's what got her to here. This local arts organization (Boston area where she now lives) had a particular theme they are emphasizing this year, she found a recent song that seemed would fit, and put the word out.  I like a good challenge, so knowing less than you do now, I invited her to send me a line of lyrics to illustrate, the result of which can be seen above.  I sent it in on time a few weeks ago, and she wrote back to say how pleased she was with it, impressed with the fact I had done a woodcut for the occasion, as she expected that much of the work would be drawings in gel pens and arrangements of refrigerator magnets.   Having seen much of the work as thumbnail images on the site we submitted them to, I know she got a lot better than that sent in.  Very creative and very diverse- how it will all fit together I have no idea. (my initial thought was an interesting free form combination of music and visual art that made me think of the early days of Sesame Street) I think that my contribution is good, but so are many other ones I've seen, and I look forward to seeing the results.

But we'll all have to wait until then.  The premier is scheduled for 8 pm on Wednesday, when the link to the video will be posted online.  As we get closer, I'll probably post my own links as well.

Supermarket Panic part 11


Decided to get up to the Studio early again today. Not because of the heat, which lessened some today (though not the humidity), but because of rain.  The news mentioned that tropical storm Fay was on the way, would hit New Jersey before long and stick around all day and night.  This was not to be as bad as some we get, and wouldn't really hit until the early afternoon, so I figured I could get some early cutting in before it got too bad.  


Just a light rain this morning, nothing I couldn't handle.  I regularly drive through much worse on my way to campus on a school day.  Whether I will have more of those in the future remains to be seen.  Politicians have an opinion, and in recent weeks I have gotten a flurry of conflicting emails from administrators and full time faculty.  A lot can happen before the fall.

Felt in a blues mood today, and selected my disc with the pair of heavy Buddy Guy albums.  Picked up where I left off last time, more around the shopping cart.  Everything was already drawn, so it was just cutting today. I started with my shopper, cutting out her face and hair, the filter mask, her sorority sweatshirt, the gloves, etc.  Kept the flat of cans under the cart as generic, let the viewer decide what they are. In The Road Warrior, the only canned food was dog food, which went to people first, then the dog got to lick the can for scraps. Didn't see anything that bad, but all kinds of canned food have been in short supply at times the past several months- beans, soups, vegetables- so I'll let viewers decide what they are in this case. I remember once Roger Ebert talking about how in old black and white movies, the lack of specific information caused viewers to fill in the blanks, which maybe gave them an additional connection to the film. For example, a character pours a drink, but without knowing specifically what kind of alcohol was in the bottle, the viewer decides what it is based on their own experiences or expectations, and they add their own layer of meaning.  In the piece I made recently for the music video, I included two whiskey bottles, which anyone who knows alcohol would recognize as whiskey type bottles.  No problem, as the song specifies that she's drinking whiskey to get the bottles for her mission.  (labels are left blank, because brand names are not important there) 

The other thing I did today was cut out some of the background shelves. The shelves are fairly empty, all too common in the recent past, and still sometimes an issue these days.  Helps to balance against the big piece of white tiles on the floor.  As I cut more in each part of the block, I will maintain this balance. 

In front of me I could see through the windows and hear the rain, which alternated between heavy and light, as bands of weather were passing overhead.  The roof protected me from the rain just fine, but the humidity continued to build.  When Buddy Guy ended I was still working on shelves, and I continued as I wanted to get them done today.  I had brought lunch, but decided to just bring it home and eat it there. Had to wait up by the front gate for a few minutes for the rain to ease, but I knew we were getting waves of weather from the storm, so eventually it eased and I could get to my car.  On the way home I found route 35 near Belmar was closed- any heavy rain takes out that part of Belmar, there's just no drainage. Detoured us through the area on route 71, where I had to slow down for some deep water at times, but nothing my car couldn't handle.  Not much storm damage early on- just a few branches down.  Sun even came out for a while and I got quite hot.  But then the rain eventually came back. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 10


Another hot one today.  News said that we have above normal temperatures and humidity.  So I decided to get to the Studio a little earlier than usual, before the heat of the day got too bad.  The dog days of August have nothing on what we got here. At least I had less to carry in today- just the block and my bag of tools.  No one was there yet, so I put on some music from my library, my home burned disc of early albums from the Jayhawks. Got to work on the latest supermarket block when all of a sudden Molly arrived.  The good news is that my Jayhawks disc is one of her favorites that I have, even listens to it sometimes when I am not there.  (today she even mentioned that her daughters have become Jayhawks fans, but they weren't around today) For Molly it was a short stay, and she left before the disc ran out.  At that point there was still more I wanted to finish, so I put on a short disc, one on the same page in my disc holder.  It was 1977 from Ash, the debut album from this Northern Irish punk/pop band. I only knew two songs on the album, one that had a video that played often on MTV's 120 Minutes in that era (mid 90's), and one that played over the closing credits of the first big American Jackie Chan movie (the song repeatedly rhymes "Jackie Chan" and "Taiwan"- maybe it's an Irish thing), but I listened to the whole album at the record store and decided it was worth owning.  The album did well in both sales and reviews in Britain, but nothing here.


What I had decided to tackle today was the most complex part of the image, the main part of the shopping cart.  Between the grids created by the sides of the cart, the plexiglass walls, and the full load of much sought items in our pandemic era, that's as far as I got in the two hours I was there.  Didn't even get to the cart pusher or the rack below.  At least what remains in this image will be easier to cut.  Molly looked at the block and decided it was very appropriate to our times and raised the meaning of the whole series.  I appreciate her positive opinion, but for me it's just another weird thing I was exposed to and decided to turn into a print.  I think it's working so far.

Monday, July 06, 2020

More life with puzzles


A few weeks back one of my college friends got the idea that some of my more complex woodcuts would make good jigsaw puzzles, an item that became more popular in the age of self isolation, and requested some digital photos as part of the investigation.  I agreed that my art would probably make good puzzles, and if there was a demand, I'd be part of it.  Her first attempt was based on my History of Art print

which is big, bold, colorful, and detailed.  Probably a lot of stuff to work with.  I don't have any high resolution photos of my work (I shoot digitally for this blog, and for things online, low resolution is better), so I just took the largest photo I could and sent it.  The puzzle came back a few weeks ago, and she and her husband attempted it over the weekend, and found it very hard to do.  (I created my image from a blank piece of wood and a weird idea, and they have the image to look at, so I don't see what the problem is.) As far as turning this into a commercial venture, she brought up the potential problem that there are quite a few copyrighted/trademarked images in there. Not a problem in fine art,  but a potential problem for something begin sold commercially, so for her next attempt she'd like to try a boardwalk image.  I had sent some a few weeks ago, but she had a hard time opening the files, which I don't understand because they open in a lot of places, including for the video last week.  But to speed up the process,  I brought a few candidates to the Studio today to shoot again, and sent the new photos to her tonight, along with stories.  Weather was brutal today, and even Bobby in the basement was complaining about the warmth down there, but it wasn't nearly as bad as up in the sun. If something comes from this, you'll find out here.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

It is the Fourth of July


Today is July 4, which is a major day in the Studio Arrabbiata calendar,  maybe even more important than Mardi Gras or St Joseph's Day.  It marks both the start and the end of my biggest ever project, and in some places, the one I am best know for.


At the time I made it, a lot of people thought I was crazy. When my print professor learned of it that fall (he had the summer off) he told me I shouldn't tell anyone about it.  Why? Because then people would expect me to finish it.  Of course I would finish it- I said I would do a print a day from July 4th to July 4th, and if I say I'm going to do something, I do it.  (after I reorganized the print closet in the Allyn building, I had earned the reputation as "that guy who gets things done." )  As that year continued, we got the invitation to do an exchange exhibition with the University of Illinois, and word had gotten to Champaign that I was doing this huge project.  The professor covering print in those days wanted me to show the blocks, but not the prints, as the department we were exchanging with had painting and not printmaking, and it was thought that the blocks were more like painting.  I disagreed, thinking he blocks were more like sculpture, and the piece was about the prints.  At that point Joel spoke up and pointed out that if my piece was going to be shown, then they had to show work from Linn Nelson, the other full time print student that year, and I agreed with that.  Perhaps deciding that my piece was too important to lose, we got our way on that.  As the year was near its end, Joel changed his tune and suggested I do a whole 2nd year as well. I may be crazy, but not that crazy- the 366 prints were enough. I ended up printing two complete sets- the original proofs were used in my U of I show, and cleaner proofs in my MFA show in Carbondale.  I used those better proofs in the two other shows that exhibited the whole set- once at my current employer, and above, in Belmar.  Those two sets are the only ones that will be printed, as about half the blocks were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. However, it you want to see all the prints, years ago I posted the whole project to the internet. 

Things are a little weird this year.  Normally this is one of biggest days here at the shore, and having the day fall on the weekend is even bigger, but there are still may rules, regulations, and restrictions in place due to the pandemic, so it will not be the usual economic boon that is expected.  Which doesn't mean that visitors aren't still showing up in huge numbers.  I've seen the lines of cars emerging from the parkway road, many with out of state plates.  It was the main reason I didn't go to the Studio yesterday- I had the time, a project to work on, and the conditions in the basement weren't too bad the day before, but I just didn't want to deal with the crowds on the roads.  Getting from home to there means passing through several beach towns, always a challenge on summer weekends and during summer holidays.  I have no deadline on the current piece, so it can wait a few extra days.  There are no fireworks to see- most towns cancelled theirs, for fear of crowds or lack of sponsors I don't know. Restaurants and bars are mostly closed down.  Me, I will sit in front of my air conditioner and fan, and try to keep cool.  Maybe enjoy a beer from the fridge.