Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Back in the Saddle Again


Had some business here and there, and decided since I was half the way there, to just go ahead and take a ride up to Ocean Grove and see if things had been worked out with our Studio lease yet.  As of this morning, I still hadn't heard anything from Molly, and I didn't know if the building had yet.  But when I arrived, Kaitlyn said she had tracked her down (saving me the trouble of doing so), and the two had agreed on a one year lease, with options for it to end any time with proper notice.  I also asked for the amount of the new lease, since I didn't think I trusted Molly to give me an accurate answer to the question. It's written up, so it will need to be signed and all that, but it looks like I'm going to have space to work for a little while.  That is a relief.  This does mean I should leave her a check for the February rent (without a lease, no particular reason to), and make up the difference for January in what I paid then and what is agreed to now.  Meanwhile they checked out our windows and sink.  Despite Molly's complaint, the sink is now fine, but it may be a while since she was in there.   The windows are what they are.  I was asked to tell Molly not to break in any more (she really doesn't like the idea of keys), but I can't control what she does, especially when I am not there.

And I was writing this, Molly called.  This is good, as I learned that she paid the old rate for January, and that may stand, though we will see eventually, but for now I don't need to worry about the difference. (if that changes, she'll let me know)  I told her I plan to stay for now, which relieved her.  She did mention to new rent and that it would increase, but I've never had a problem with paying my share.  She would like there to be some improvements for the increased cost (only about 30 bucks for me), but that may depend on her meeting the people there, which she hasn't really done yet. But she says she signed the lease, which prevents us from having to find another place to work.  (Molly would have a lot more to move and store than I would, so this definitely benefits her.)  Told her the next check I leave will reflect the new amount.  Molly hopes this will motivate her to use the place more often, and that's not a bad thing.  She said most of her issues with the sink have to do with the hoses.  Don't use those and Molly does, so maybe she knows what she's talking about there.

The above file photo shows how the place looked several years ago.  The red wall was repainted as gray after the new windows went in and I didn't want to go to the trouble of moving everything to paint it again.  And Molly did clean up quite a bit, so it's easier to get around than it was when I took this photo.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

End of Another Era

 In today's paper I saw a headline that the Langosta Lounge would be closing next month.  The story that went with it explained that Marilyn Schlossbach was selling her whole bunch of restaurants to another restaurant group of investors.   The Langosta Lounge, right on the Asbury boardwalk, was probably the most successful of those and relates to this blog because it has been mentioned a few times.  For one, we once held a studio critique there, as Molly had some tables there that she had done tops for, and there was no other way to see them.  I was there for that.  And I may have had some other work there, though I never saw it to know for sure.


 According to my blog, we held this critique back in 2010.  (June of that year if you are interested in seeing more photos of the event)  I know I was there, as I took the photos and posted them.  The above photo shows Molly, though those are not her tables she is in front of.  I have no records of what work I showed.  Apparently there were a lot of diners in the restaurant that night, so we couldn't actually look at the tables she made. 

Besides our regular critique, there was also a performance by some dancers, who were draped in something Molly had made.   A special show for the restaurant patrons.  And below, after we left the Lounge, we reconvened at a gallery on Cookman Avenue to see a show by critique regular Adam.  He seems to be the person at the far right, behind some other people.

The other thing I was involved in that may have been in Langosta Lounge was the Table Talk project.  Again, according to my blog, 6 of the tables that we made as part of this (2013) were destined for local restaurants, including 3 that were intended for Langosta Lounge.  Below are three such table tops, showing the beginnings of Molly's routing of the surfaces, the start of her artwork.

Because these were destined for restaurants, they would not need legs attached, but the restaurants would put them on central pedestals.  However, because the table tops would be on a center leg, Molly wanted the thickness to be doubled, so this meant a second piece of identical plywood was attached to the carved one, a combination of glue and screws from underneath.  Above we see an example by me of attaching the two pieces of plywood, and a wooden clamp holding them together.  Probably did the glue first, clamped them together, and turned them upside down to put in the screws.   Below, the rest of the restaurant tables, what I referred to as cafe tables at the time.  

I never saw these tables on location, only finished my part and had them ready to go. Expecting pedestals, I never made wooden legs for them either.  But I did attach the double plywood to each other, as shown in my photo of that process.  But as I said, I never saw the finished work.  And I have no idea if the tables are still there.  Molly had made tables for a number of locations in Asbury, and when those places were sold, the tables were often thrown in the trash.  Of the tables Herb sponsored for the JSAC. I only see one now, one of the chalkboard tables Molly had at the reception, now down in the cafeteria in the basement.  (I doubt he was a fan)  She made some tables for the 40's room on the second floor, but that room is now empty (had a class there last year) and I think the tables were removed years ago.  (I wonder about the whole future of the 40's room, devoted to people like Herb who went to school there in the 40's but I imagine almost everyone from that era is dead) I think I saw a table top from Molly up in the 3rd floor cafe a few years ago, used as a wall.  So I don't know if any of our work, or even Molly's work by herself, is still at the Langosta Lounge, or if it is, if it will stay there once the new owners take over.  I do know that I was paid for it directly by the agency who gave her the money for the project, and that's what counts for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Supermarket Panic part 15


Last week I stopped by the JSAC to find out some thing at the office, and was asked if I had talked to Molly recently.  No, not since her last surprise appearance there, picking up stuff for her show/sale.  This was because Molly had so far not renewed her lease on the Studio, and since I sublet from her, this can have an effect on what happens to me.  I was told that they would work on trying to get ahold of her.  So far Molly was making excuses as to why she didn't want to pay the increase.  

For the moment I have a studio, so this may be the time to take advantage of it and do some printing. I'm on hold for now with the Robert Johnson project, but I do have one other unprinted cut block in my possession, my last supermarket print.  This one has been referred to Supermarket Panic so far, as it is about that period of time in which supermarkets were open, but shelves were not always well stocked.  Paper products couldn't be found anywhere, a lot of soaps were missing, self serve bins were empty, and canned and boxed goods were missing randomly, as consumers decided to suddenly buy some of anything and items were not being restocked.  Masks were required, plexiglass shields were surrounding all the cashiers, sometimes aisles were being designated as one way, so shoppers could only go one way up or down the aisle.  Employees were stationed at the entrances to make sure that all shoppers had masks, and sometimes to enforce maximum numbers of shoppers.  Such was life back in 2020 when the pandemic was raging, colleges were closing to faculty and students, galleries were closing in general, and people were not sure where their next meal was coming from.  As printers, Molly and I were declared essential workers by our building, and so as long as I had keys, I could get into the building and use my space.  Because I had produced a series of black and white woodcuts about weird things I had seen in supermarkets, and even had a show up in Ocean Grove at the time exhibiting works from that series, it made sense to produce a new print about the strange things I was seeing at that point in time.  News programs showed fights over canned foods in some places.  Saw nothing like that myself, but there was a lot of odd behavior going on, both with customers and employees. 

So I came up with a story, drew the design, and cut the block.  Mostly used student tools, but they do work. I finished the block in September of 2020, in the same month that my university officially took away my scheduled classes, saying that I had not scored high enough on the computer tests to teach one of their new online classes, all from a new learning management system, which wouldn't have allowed me to do most of the projects I had always done in that class.  (this learning management system has already been replaced, as I predicted, by another one that I experienced at another school, and I know that one doesn't work either, but that's not my problem these days) A look back at this blog shows I was also involved in an effort to make puzzles at that time, and looking for other teaching jobs, so perhaps it's no surprise that I put off printing the block.  Nowhere to show the print at that point anyway- all the galleries I had known over the past few decades were closed by fear of disease.  Not long after that I had an MRI, the brain tumor was discovered, and then I had other things to worry about.  Still recovering from that, and even today I was dealing with repercussions from that diagnosis and treatment.  

Meanwhile, the cut block sat in my bedroom here, untouched.  I decided that today I had nothing better to do, and it was about time that I took a proof of it and see what I had.  Plus an excuse to get out of the house and up to the Studio, and see what was going on.  I had paper and ink ready to go.

Left early, got up there in the morning, and dropped off the printing go bag and my block in my space.  Managed to grab a few paper towels from the ladies room there in the basement (only one in the men's room), glad that I looked when I did.  Then to the office.  Only Kaitlyn there today, but she is part of this lease thing now (a job bequeathed on her we learned in a recent email) so I asked her.  Had not yet heard anything from Molly, who had said she wanted to talk to me about the increase, but I haven't heard from her yet either.   Kaitlyn wants to get something settled by the end of the month, so maybe this will be resolved soon.  Meanwhile, while I still had a place to print, I decided to go ahead and print my block.  I told Kaitlyn about the paper towel issue (she wasn't even aware there were bathrooms in the basement), then got on with my planned work.

Ink and materials were cold from being in my car, but not frozen, so I was able to remove some ink from the can and loosen it up.   I had pieces of Lightweight, torn off the paper I used for the Robert Johnson prints, too small for another one of those, but big enough for a supermarket print, especially a first proof like this.  As with all first proofs, not a great proof of this image, but good enough for my purposes today.  Here is the result:

The image looks a little barren, but that kind of fits the era.  Many store shelves were barren, especially in the paper goods, where we just didn't have any.  Never did figure out why there was such a demand for paper towels and toilet paper, and why the factories that make these things from American products couldn't get them to stores for months.  This piece was partly inspired by an old Police song, but I never had that on disc, so I certainly don't now.  However, there was one disc in my pop/rock book not written about here, so I started with that one today.  This started when I emailed by friend Doug to ask him about a song, one that he had sent me on tape years ago.  Couldn't remember the name of the band or the song, except that it was something about a "Fisherman" and had a couplet something like, "Got a radio that plays blues, soul, and funk.  It only gets one station, but it's the one I want." which actually sums up a lot of what was going on in the world referred to by today's print, and was a line I used now and then, even if I couldn't remember what song I had heard it in.  At first Doug couldn't place it either, but then one night as he lay in bed, it came to him, making him very excited that he could still dig up these things when he needed to, which meant he had a lot of music stored in his brain, as long as something could remind him of it.  The next day he sent me the band name- Marah- and the song, which was called,  "Catfisherman" which meant that I could find it on YouTube.  And since he had the original album, he later burned me a copy of that and sent it to me, another album for me to enjoy in my new collection at home.   I had that album, Kids in Philly with me today, so I could listen to it as I worked.  In general it reminds me of the Bottle Rockets, or early Bruce Springsteen, good bar band music.  Lyrics about local pleasures, in the case of the fishing song- using chicken livers as bait, and the smell of old earthworms in his tackle box, and music he likes.  When that ended, I went with something that I heard on the radio on the way there- a song by Matthew Sweet, and I had a compilation of my favorite songs from that artist, burned long ago from albums I had on my shelf.  You can read about that disc on this blog back in June of 2020.  Heard songs from two other artists I had with me today, but this was what I chose to listen to as I cleaned up.

Back in the office, Kaitlyn and I had agreed to keep each other informed if we heard anything from Molly, but lastI checked, Molly hadn't contacted me yet.  If I don't hear from her soon, I may have to try calling her, if for no other reason, than to know how much the next check should be for.   I don't mind paying a share of a rent increase, but I have to know what it is.  The office said they don't think they can even accept rent from Molly without a lease, so this needs to be resolved soon.  February is less than two weeks away.

Friday, January 06, 2023

What am I?

 The other day my mother asked me a question- what am I?  She then clarified that as what did I call myself?  Still not sure what she was getting at.  She clarified things further- did I consider myself an artist or a printmaker?  That was easier- I know the answer to that question.  This all came about because her book group had read a book that used famous 19th century artists as characters, and there was some kind of discussion among the people in the club. 

The answer is I consider myself an artist.  I tried to explain this as printmaking is my medium, the process I use to make my work, but the ideas come from me, and that is where the art is.  Sometimes there are things that inspire me to make the work, but in the end, I decide all the visuals, draw things from life or from memory, and my knowledge of woodcut should result in some kind of success.  And this is what I have done for a lot of years.  My Fourth of July series is the last thing I made that was mostly based on things and experiences in my life, and therefore most of the images came directly from things I saw and experienced, and I tried to match those things as best as I could.  Once in a while I had to show an idea that was inspired by things I had seen or experienced, but mostly that series is pretty literal.  

However, after that almost every woodcut has been my interpretation of something else.  Everyman, my saint series that followed that, took stories from Butler's Lives of the Saints, and spun them in ways that made sense to me.  The book is just text, and I had no desire to copy from already existing artworks, so my prints are a drawing of what was written about, as I saw it.  Some are very literal (as drawn by a man from the 20th century), and some adapt an idea to a more modern reference.  For example, 

St Bonaventure, according to the book, was ordered to Rome to be named a bishop or cardinal, while a group from the Vatican was heading toward him, and would meet him on the way and give him his proper clothing and his title. Along the way he spent time at a convent, where he paid his way doing chores, such as washing dishes.  While washing dishes, he spotted the delegation heading toward him, and yelled for them to hang the robes on a tree branch, as his hands were dirty from the dish washing and he wasn't done yet.  In this case it is fairly literal, as we see a window and the tree branch outside, and in the foreground a sink and dishes.  Time wise, it doesn't quite match anything.  The dishes are terra cotta, a simple clay, still around, but not used for eating dishes these days.  The sink is 20th century, as we see from the design and faucet and handles, though one from before my time.  Probably none of this is from St Bonaventure's time, but it still tells the story.

The St Frances of Rome print comes from a quote in the book, where she says something like sometimes a woman should leave God at the altar, and find him in her housework.  That attitude probably started to disappear as feminism rose, but I was able to interpret it through something I had access to and related to an early part of my life, back when most women were still spending more time on housework than office work or careers.  We actually had this old cast iron upright vacuum at my apartment house, so I just went to the work room where it was stored and drew it on the block. However, this kind of vacuum cleaner was still common in my youth (you couldn't kill these things), so it related to the time when women spent much of their time doing housework.  The colors of the wall and floor are based on the house I grew up in.

My interpretation of St Pamphilus came from a mention that he would get up very early to say the earliest Mass he could, then cook meals for the poor in the area, and serve the food to them.   What this made me think of was what was going on as I made it, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people who were dispossessed by the storm and its damage, often went to get free food offered at churches, often served out of steam trays on tables.  I had a neighbor who would to to three separate parishes every day to get a free breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I did not attend any of these, so I just drew and cut my interpretation of what such a chow line might be like, based on my own experiences.  I had no reason to believe that St Pamphilus served eggs, pancakes, and sausages out of steam trays, but it seemed to tell the story, and I could relate to it.

Another major series was Ecclesiastes, which took lines directly from the biblical book (probably written in the third century BC), and showed them as they might be illustrated in the 21st century AD, with the idea that the wisdom it contained could relate to modern times just as much as when it was first written.  The quote I chose here was something like "man cannot straighten what God has made crooked."  My 21st century version shows someone taking modern pharmaceuticals, all tranquilizers and mood elevators (images and colors coming from a pill book), in a quest to solve their mental/emotional problems.  In some ways this fit with the original book, which is often about the uselessness of seeking happiness in the world, whether it be the old one or our current one.  So not at all literal, but still accurate to the original intent of the author, as I interpreted it.  

This image from The Floating World, (my boardwalk series) is based on a combination of memories and observation, plus what my ideas of a boardwalk might be like at night.  I've shown this one a bunch of times, an often have people tell me they have been to this place.  However, the stores, the food places, the games, the rides, all is completely made up.  It only exists in my brain.  That's art in action.

A few years ago I accepted an invitation to contribute an artwork to a lyric video being constructed by a former student.  She sent me a line from a song she had written and recorded a few years earlier, and left everything else up to me, except that I had to include the words in my image.  I found the song itself online, learned it was about a woman (song in the first person) who fell off a boat, was now marooned on an island, with only bottles of whiskey and beer, which she was drinking so she could send out notes in the bottles, seeking rescue.  So my hand colored woodcut was empty bourbon bottles on a beach (sand and shells), and a scrap of paper with the desired words.  All I had was a line from a song, and from there I came up with an idea, executed it in my preferred medium, and sent her the digital photo, all in about two weeks.  It made the video, so I guess it was fine.

It did give me the confidence to do this current Robert Johnson project, which once again asked me to interpret someone else's lyrics, as a black and white woodcut.  I wasn't given any specific line, but just told to find something I wanted to interpret, and make a black and white woodcut based on the lyrics.  I made three, sent jpegs to my contact, who said he liked what he saw, but is saving the rest until he knows more.  In the above example, the lyrics were, "she break in on a dollar, 'most anywhere she goes."  No one is even sure what it means, but the most common meaning I saw on the internet was that such a woman quickly makes friends with all the men in whatever room she is in.  Okay.  So I created an interior, have a well built woman striding through, who is being watched carefully by all the men, and making the women all very unhappy.  Not a real place, and all the figures are made up out of my head, but I think it does the job.

Working in woodcut, most printmakers lack respect for my medium.  It is the oldest form of printmaking out there, and nothing in it has changed much in 500 years.   The process is that simple.  So what it comes down to, is what you do with it.  That is where the drawing skills, handling of cutting tools, and ideas come in.  The art part of the process.  Printmakers tend to be very concerned with rules, and making perfect margins, more than the image itself.  When I have to make an edition for a group folio, I follow all those rules, but these are things wanted by galleries and publishers. Artist don't really care about that stuff.  And people who do, don't get invited to the cool parties.  

Several years ago I read a review written by a printmaker of a panel discussion, where she complained that one of the speakers, a print curator from a major museum, was all in favor of prints as art, things that held the wall, as he said, and had no interest in the preciousness of perfect margins and the things she cared about.  She had no interest in being judged like a painter would be, but only for things like perfect margins. A few months later I attended a local panel discussion and this same print curator was part of that panel.   After it was over, I spoke to him, told him about the article.  "Oh those people" he responded, which was his way of saying he had no desire to hang out with crazy printmakers.  

Me, I welcome completion.  I have no problem being in shows along with painters, photographers, sculptors, etc, because I know I can at least match them in the art part of the piece, and can probably beat them.  I have the awards to prove that at least some jurors agreed.  I have ideas and make art about them.  I'm an artist.  

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Love In Vain part 11


I had some time today, and the weather was unseasonably mild, so a good day to go to the Studio and take care of a few things.  I wanted to get a better proof of my short (accurate) version of Love In Vain done, in case I need it for this project soon, plus I had a few questions about the possible woodcut class that was discussed up there, plus a few other stops to make on the way up that had nothing to do with art.  Over the weekend I had received the official email about classes being offered up at JSAC, starting next week.  That was a little soon for me, so I decided not to put in for one, and wait for the spring. Last I heard, Jeanne wants me to send her something, and I figured the easiest for me was my class proposal from the last time I taught this at that location.  However, that was a four meeting class.  This one I got recently mentioned classes beginning next week and going through early April. That seemed like more than six weeks, the length of all those scheduled, so I wrote it all out, and it turned out to be more like 13 weeks.  Perhaps this includes a second session. And maybe there's a week off between sessions, or they are closed for a holiday.  And back when I taught this previously, we had a separate materials fee, paid directly to me, which allowed me to buy what the class needed.  I looked up some prices online last night, and this would save everyone who takes the class 30 or 40 bucks.  Unfortunately, Jeanne wasn't in today (heard she has a daughter getting married soon). so this will have to wait.  Not a problem as I'm not part of the first session, so nothing is going to happen before late February the earliest.  

All that settled, I got to work.  I noticed the sink was now drained, so I could wash my hands and tools there, which made my life easier.  No sign of Molly, or that she had been there the past week.  Not a problem either way.  My ink had been in the car, but in this warm weather, it was fine.

My goal was to print a better shortened copy of my Love In Vain print. My experiment more or less worked last time, in that I knew my idea for solving the problem would work, but I had issues with the proof.  Didn't like the adjustment to the woman's face, and there was a big smudge of ink in the left side margin of the paper.  The paper itself was a little small, big enough for the proof, and to take an early photo to send Tom, but not acceptable for the final version, at least as far as I was concerned.  Unfortunately, on my way up there, I realized I should have taken my cutting tools with me.  I didn't have them, which meant I'd have to find an alternative to cutting the face some more.

One of the things I did last week was go through my pop/rock book and check it against the blog to see what music I had played there at the Studio since everything had been put into storage.  Turned out I had 3 discs in that book, two in my jazz/blues book, and a few in the car that I used to listen to on my long commutes to the university, but I hadn't been going anywhere that far in a long time.  Based on that, today I started with One For the Road, a live double album from the Kinks. A mix of old classics, and a bunch of newer work that seems to point to this show promoting the Low Budget album.  The band was at its hard rocking best, so it's a good album.  Some of the older songs sounded much like they always had, some had different arrangements than the original record. For example, the new live version of Till the End of the Day played up the ska rhythms much more than the original version.  I don't know what the original intention was. I know that in that early 60's time, the Beatles also had some songs with west Indian rhythms, but they were definitely subdued.  Was this new version of the Kinks song what they always wanted, or was this a new take on an old song?  I don't know enough about the song to say.

This was now the third printing of the Love in Vain block, so inking did not take long.  It still had the pieces of tape that protected the paper from the inch and a half of unwanted block, so I set those aside before inking (replaced with inky tape), then rolled it up with the same Outlaw Black I have been using.   As for the woman's face, after inking, I covered a bit of it with more painter's tape.  Not my original plan, but it seemed to do the trick.  Results can be seen below:

In general I am satisfied with how it turned out, so I am going to declare this one done.  I don't know how these will be signed yet, but I'm sure I will hear that from Tom eventually.  The Kinks disc ended as I finished printing, so as I cleaned up, I was listening to another from my list of unplayed discs- Beat This, a best of collection from the English Beat.  (my understanding is that there was band in America called "The Beat", so the English band had to change their name) This is a more obvious ska, and arranges as such, but still very enjoyable. My conclusion was that I should have listened to both these albums a lot more than I had.

On my way out, I stopped by the office again, to show Elyse the 2nd proof of the print, so she could see what I spent the time replacing.  Plus a preview of what I planned to exhibit as part of the next tenant show, assuming I find the right frames for them and some mats.  She liked the print, thinking it had both aspects of a period piece, and also not.  That's fine, as the piece is meant to be somewhat universal, related to today as much as Johnson's time in the 1930's.  Plus it left Elyse with a desire to know more about Robert Johnson and the song.  Could't ask for more than that.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Art Continues in 2023


Why should this year be different from all the others?  Well, in some ways I hope it is- I'd like to go a year without spending time in a hospital.  All my insurance seems to be renewed, but I'll find out soon when I start trying to use it.  My health concerns so far haven't stopped me from making art, having drawn, cut and printed woodcuts the past two years.  The big factor is coming up with ideas.  At the moment, I don't have anything in the works, but that tends to change quickly.  

I think I have enough cards printed, so when the ink is dry, I'll color them, write them out, and get them in the mail.  Tom has sent me some kind of approval of what I have done for his Robert Johnson project, so at this point it doesn't look like I need to do any more in the immediate future.  Unfortunately I don't know yet where we go from here, and I have no control over the project itself, so all I can do is wait for further instruction.  I don't even know when the whole thing goes down.  But I have done my part on time, so at this point it's out of my hands.

The only other exhibition I know of is a likely show at the building where my Studio is.  I expect that what I would be showing is my newest work, those Robert Johnson prints, which look to me like good prints, plus, none have been shown there before, one of my rules.  All I have to do is frame them, which probably means buying some fresh mat board, but last I heard there was still one place that sells it within my driving range.  I do have to decide if I want to exhibit them with the lyrics or not, which has an impact on what frames I use.   And knowing what's going on with the Nashville show would make things easier.

Working for the colleges seems unlikely, but as of now I may be teaching woodcut again at the JSAC.  I did teach it twice there before the pandemic, and a number of people have asked about it or expressed and interest in taking such a class.  All well and good, but in my experience, when the class is actually put on the schedule, all those people are never heard from again.  I found my proposal from the past, but that includes me showing my collection of print portfolios, and print books, which are all in storage.  May go there this coming week and see what I can find.  I do have some examples of my own work there in the Studio, but in my proposal I mention the other stuff, and so I'd like to see if I have it before I send anything to the JSAC.

As I wrote earlier, things tend to pop up as I go along, opportunities, so check this space to see what I am up to in 2023.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Year that Was 2022


The year 2022 was kind of a strange year.  Not as bad as last year, but I've had better ones, too.  This one included another hospital stay, this time for a fever and some delusional behavior.  They never figured out what caused it, but they hit me with some general antibiotics, and that knocked it out and allowed me to escape.  I also had my first encounter with Covid, despite many injections and wearing masks often.  This was a few positive tests, but the disease itself never developed, just a bad winter cold, and that eventually passed.  The world is still recovering from Covid, so there aren't many places to teach or exhibit, so in these areas I just do what I can.

Prints- Better than last year.  I sold two older prints out of a show I had at my Studio building, a tenants show they organized.  This required me to print and color two new copies, as I didn't want to sell the one I had shown, and the purchaser wanted unframed prints anyway.  More exciting, I made 4 new prints.  Three were for the Robert Johnson project, organized by a former student and fellow printmaker, Tom Huck, and last I heard, would be exhibited at the Country Music Hall of Fame, would involve Hatch Show Print, a Nashville based letterpress shop and gallery, and some big names were attached to the project.  I don't know how things will end up, but I found three Robert Johnson lyrics that I felt I could develop into a visual form, so I created the woodcuts, sent photos to Tom, who seemed to like what I sent.  Perhaps I'll know more by next December.  I also did another holiday card, printed and now colored with watercolors I used to color those prints I sold.  

Shows- As I said, a lot is still closed down, but we did have a tenants show in the building that houses my Studio.  I had three framed prints in that show, two older ones, and one new one completed in the previous year, and being exhibited for the first time.

Firsts- That Robert Johnson project could be a first, if it happens this year.  It would be my first time exhibiting in Tennessee, and since Tom's work tends to get exhibited and collected, my piece could end up in some other places as well.

Teaching- This past year I ended up teaching four classes in my Studio building, all forms of drawing.  I've taught it before many times, in colleges, and there in the building, so not new for me.  The big issue I had to deal with is that most of my props are still in storage, so I had to find things in the basement, but I know how to find suitable props.  One new thing was a color class, making use of color pencils.  I have done color before, but always with paints.  

Studio- Still a place I enjoy being.  The table I have there is much better for cutting than anything I have where I live, and probably much better for printing, though I haven't tried that at home.   Molly tends to work odd hours, so I probably only saw her a few times the whole year.  

Friday, December 30, 2022

Robert Johnson project continues


Yesterday I spent a bit of time working from home, which is fine because I had been up to the Studio for two days already this week and gotten done all the work I was planning.  I had gotten an email from Elyse, saying that the sink in my room was dealt with, and all the wax cleared out of it.  She sent this to Molly as well.  Wax? I don't know about that.  I have never used the stuff, and it's not part of silkscreen, so I don't know why Molly would be using it.  I've never seen her using wax for anything.  But I am glad to have the sink working again, that is to say the drains.  I'll send Molly an email myself later, updating her on this and the card I left her.  I also sent a separate email about some upcoming plans-as the building was talking about another open studio and another tenants show.  I don't know about an open studio.  I have no problem with that, except I have nothing in particular I am working on right now, and the Studio is not that interesting if nothing is going on in there.  At least it's a little cleaner now, Molly organizing a few things before her daughter came in.  As for the tenant show, I can do one of those (I have some recent prints) as long as I have frames suitable for the new prints and can pick up and cut window mats the right size.  Buying mat board is not as easy as it once was, as most of the places I used to get it from have gone out of business.  I did recommend going with the later date (her mass email had said either May or September) if for no other reason that some of the tenants want a lot of time to do anything. 

I also sent Tom the images of the first three items I had produced for his Robert Johnson project, all the 11" x 14" versions.  Unfortunately, the email was sent at that point, so I sent the longer version of Love in Vain in a separate email.  Got a response of sorts this morning.  He said the project is still on, and he plans to be working on it soon.  He loves what I did, and is glad to have me on board.  However, he responded to the second email I sent, so I don't know if that means what he likes is the slightly longer version of Love in Vain.  And he brought up again sending a jpeg at 300 dpi (it was 600 dpi in his phone conversation early this year), which is a problem as the instruction book that goes with my camera says nothing about DPI settings, just sizes of photos and files.  He promises more information soon, and I have questions for him.  If nothing else, I can take photos of whatever it is he wants at every size and send them to him, or the print studio, and let someone there decide what they want.  Once it's decided exactly which image they want.  Either way, I don't have to do any more new prints right now, which helps.  I may pull a better proof of the short version on Love in Vain, just to have it ready, and I'll think about others in the series, but until I have a firm idea or a model lined up, no reason to do anything more yet.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Love in Vain part 10


As I have said previously, some measuring found that my print of Love in Vain was too long by about an inch and a half for what was requested.  I had an idea how to shorten it without cutting any more, so I tried that on this second proof.  It involved a lot of tape and some careful rolling.  This new version in now the right length, and I don't think I lost anything important.  Results of today's experiment can be seen below:

I can see the changes I made to the faces, and while this seems to have worked for the male holding the suitcases, I am still not satisfied with the woman's face.  I may redo that for another print if it is wanted.  Some of the solid black sections look a little better, which is expected.  I also eliminated a few of the undesirable blotches, mostly in gray areas.  Unfortunately, I ended up with a smudge of light black on the left margin, some carelessness while adding in the border on this new side.   I know how it happened, and next time I'll make sure it doesn't.  Meanwhile, I'll send both versions to Tom, and see if he wants to include any of the prints I did for this series.  

Another Day for Printing


Today was a lot like yesterday, except maybe a little warmer.  Not going to complain about that.  I had more work to do on my various prints, not cutting wood but printing it.  But first I had a few other things to take care of.  I stopped by the bank to investigate my last check from Ocean Grove.  Jeanne had said she mailed it out weeks ago, but I have received no mail from the building.  Whats more, she said the check had been cashed or deposited.  So I stopped by the bank on my way.  I had the check number and date with me.  Spoke to a teller, who told me that if it was just cashed, they had no record of that, but if it was deposited it would turn up.  No deposit for the amount given, so she checked my other deposits, and indeed found it as part of a large deposit. I know I didn't get it in the mail, but perhaps she just handed it to  me and I forgot about it.  Next stop was filling my gas tank, then up to the Studio.  Got there about quarter after 11.

After dropping off my stuff in the room and turning up the heat, I stopped by the office.  I let Jeanne know I had found the check, so she could stop looking for it.  Let Kaitlyn know that I had put my new padlock key on my JSAC chain, and she asked if I knew Molly's plans for the coming year.  No idea, except that Molly doesn't like committing to things, but I do know she likes having a studio.  She will have to be contacted.  Left Molly her card, then got to work.

The first proof of the third print, Love in Vain, was a good print, but in measuring it I found that it was an inch and a half too long. Is this a problem?  I don't know, but I want to send Tom all the possibilities.  So today I took a second proof, but I shortened it.  I didn't want to cut it (wouldn't match up with the lyrics I cut into the block), so I came up with a temporary measure involving tape.  For inking, I measured the correct length from one end (I decided that the left end of the train could be eliminated best), and put down some blue tape over that section on the right side.  Inked everything that was showing.  Next I pulled off all the tape, and put some fresh tape over the un-inked section and a piece of scrap paper, large enough for the print.  Printed the diminished block, re-inking as necessary, then I lifted the paper,  Finally, I put in a new border on the left side, first with a brayer to mark its location, then heavier ink with a piece of mat board. 

Unfortunately, a little carelessness on my part resulted in a little line of light ink in the margin.  Otherwise it's a better proof of the image, though I may have to cut a little more to fix it before proofing again.  Next time I'll use the proper size piece of paper.  The posting regarding this print show it better, if you want to see it.  I'll send both versions to Tom, let him decide what he wants to do. 

I also printed several more copies of my holiday card.  This went fairly fast.  I left the new version of the Robert Johnson print in my rack to dry, and took the cards home to color and fill out when they dry enough.

For music today, I went with Joe Jackson.  Not related to any of the prints, just felt like listening to it.  First I played the oldest album I had, Big World, which I wrote about back in October of 2019.  I burned my copy from vinyl (as it was released back then), a 3 sided record album that seemed designed for disc. (just about one hour)  I think of it as a cold war album, but probably at least half the songs are the relationship type stuff that make up most of his music.  When that ended I put in later album, Volume 4, which was done with his old band, that had appeared on the early records.  (I have one of those as well, but it's in storage now)  Sounds a lot like his older work. Came with a short second disc with live versions of songs from the first two albums, I think practice for the later record, but I never taped that one.  My description of this later album can be found at March of 2020.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

32-20 Blues part 10

 The other block that I printed today was my take on Robert Johnson's 32-20 Blues.   Only one character this time, the woman that Johnson seems to be addressing throughout the song.  Most of the lyrics are about committing various violence toward her, but I chose one in which Johnson claims the problem is that she spent the night with another man.  In my version the woman wakes in a small bed, alcohol is nearby, and she looks a bit confused and disheveled.  Race is purposely left vague, which is fine as this person could be anybody- race is not relevant.  

Probably the most changes made to any of my blocks.  I lightened the floor, to help visually separate it from the dresser that rests on it, and I widened a lot of the lines of white in the blanket, to add some light to the piece overall.  I made the back wall a little lighter, to make it a little different from the shade.  I reduced some of the shading on her face, again to make her seem a little different from all the other gray tones throughout the piece.  Results can be seen below:

The new proof looks largely the same, as it should.  It's a better print, the blacks a little more solid.  But not much different.  As it should be.  It tells the story as I understand it, and I don't think my changes make any difference there.  I think this piece is done, so I'll set it aside for now and move on to the next one.  Text will wait for another time to make that decision.

Walkin' Blues part 13

 Last week I went up to the Studio and made a few minor changes to my first block in this Robert Johnson series.  Not a lot of changes, as I was fairly satisfied with how it turned out, but I did a few changes, a little more being cut.  Now it was time to print the thing, and get it off to Tom to decide what he wants to do.  

First proofings are always the most difficult.  I figure it's because the wood absorbs a certain amount of ink, while after that the block is somewhat sealed by the ink already on it.  In any case, today the printing went much faster than the last time.  The first rolling of ink looked better, and the whole thing was done in less than an hour.  Here are the results:

Changes are minor in this one, but I can see them.  Mostly in the faces, since that's where I made changes.  Just as important, the black areas are a little more dark, more saturated, nice and solid.  One unwanted black blotch is gone.  Borders are a bit better.   So for now I call this one done.  I haven't printed one with the text yet.  My thinking is that it will be done by Hatch Show, since Tom had said they would be involved and that text could be in any typeface I wanted.  At some point I have to decide how I will frame them, and if I do want to print that text that I cut.

One thing I had to consider when doing all these prints was the idea of race.  Robert Johnson was a black man living in Mississippi, and his records would have been aimed at a black public.  He probably never was involved with a white woman, as it was likely illegal back then, and probably would have got him lynched on the spot.  In a color piece, I would have had to make decisions about skin colors, and probably would have integrated the location.   Being a black and white piece, I didn't have to deal with that.  Of the three prints I did for this project, this is the one where it may have been a factor.  The song does not specify the race of the people in the song, so I decided not to specify either.  In my mind, there is no obvious race in any of these figures.  Viewers can decide what they see, but I don't think it's relevant to the image.  We are told that the central character is an attractive woman, but we aren't told what her skin color is, just that all the men notice her walking in, and in my experience, race is not a factor in such situations.  For Johnson it probably was, and this is his song, but the universal nature of it is what makes this project possible.  So I made a black and white print, all the figures defined by contour lines and often with shadows, and as I said, I'll leave it up to the viewers to interpret.  I prefer to do that- let the viewers make decisions, and feel more involved in the process.

A Day for Printing


Temperatures are supposed to go up this week, gradually getting near 50 degrees by the weekend.  Don't know yet about precipitation, but at least it won't be as cold.  And the office will be open for a few days, which means the building should be open.  And I have things to print, a bunch of them, so I better go.

Waited for the garbage truck a while, then left around 11 am.  My ink and soap had fully defrosted from its stay in my car, so I loaded that just before I left.  Took two trips to bring everything inside, and that's with the paper already in the Studio, but at least I had Bobby working the door to help me.  (he was waiting for a ride)  

I assumed today would go a little faster, as second proofs always take less ink than first proofs.  Did stop by the office first, where I was told that I had been paid everything I was supposed to.  Going to check with the bank tomorrow about that.  Got a new key for the padlock.  And reported the clogged sink we had.  It looks like Molly hasn't been around the last week, as it looked like the same water that filled the sink last week, which wasn't there the last time I used the sink, and is likely from Molly spraying her screens.  Elyse wanted to see it for herself, so I showed her the clogged sink.  With all that settled, time to get to work.

For music I decided to go with a few Nick Cave albums that I had, first the earlier Henry's Dream, which I wrote about on this blog back in September of 2022.  When that ended, I switched to the later Dig, Lazarus, Dig which I also had on disc, and I wrote about that in August of 2019.   Good art music, and not unsuitable for the prints I was doing.  My goal was to print the two vertical pieces, both with some additional cutting done.  As I expected, today went faster than the first proofing, getting both printed, and darker than the first proofs where I wanted them to be.  And lighter where I had cut a little more away.  I decided to clean my printing tools at my inking table, since the sink was still not functional.  (I'm told that it may be dealt with tomorrow) Not much touch-up needed.  Took proper photographs of the works so I'll be able to send those to Tom soon, put the new ones in my drying rack, and took the old ones home with me to look at.  

I also took a few minutes to cut some heavier paper down to size for cards, as I promised several to other people, and that can't happen if I don't make them.  Printing will have to wait for another time- maybe tomorrow if I can get up there on time.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Judith Story

As promised, I have a story related to the artwork that inspired this year's holiday card.  Goes back to Carbondale, in the early 90's.  I was teaching 2D foundations, a class that covers the basics of 2D- a little drawing, some color theory, etc.  Took it myself back in the 80's, and the way I taught was influenced by my undergraduate education.  So I would occasionally show some slides of relevant work, as I learned long ago that sometimes it is easier to show examples than to explain ideas.  Seems to have worked out over the years.  

Anyway, I was showing a slide of Gustav Klimt's Judith and Holofernes, perhaps as an example of rhythm in two dimensional art, and mentioned that it was based on the biblical story.  From the other side of the room I heard a voice say, "that's not in my bible."   The speaker was one of my students, a woman older than me, one of my C&T students.  (clothing and textiles, a major that purported to teach about clothing design, though I doubted that anyone who went to college in Carbondale ever was hired to design clothing)  Here she was telling me that the Judith story was not biblical.  I believed it was.  The story was very popular in visual art, and had inspired many artists over the centuries.  If you are not familiar with it, the Jewish people were under siege from Assyrians, and a Jewish woman named Judith (a name that implies a Jewish woman, a female form of Judah), went out and attracted the attention of Holofernes, a general in this siege.  She was invited to come to his tent one night, assisted with getting him drunk, and when he passed out, along with her loyal maid, cut his head off.  She quickly got back home, the headless general was discovered the next day, and the army decided to leave.  Victory for the Jewish people.  The story was the inspiration for many artworks over the years, such as the above oil from Artemesia Gentileschi, but also an even more bloody painting from Caravaggio, and also works from Titian, Raphael, Ribera, Reni, etc.  Especially popular during the Baroque, when action scenes and high drama were praised.  Plus, artists had the opportunity to paint attractive women and violent night time scenes, also popular during the Baroque.  Klimt's version is from the early 20th century, and is less bloody, though it does show a very scary looking Judith holding onto the severed head of Holofernes.  I was familiar with all these artworks.  So how did this student not know the story?

Time for some research.  Now this was back in the days before the internet, so I had to do this from actual books.  But I found the answer.  Toward the end of the 1st century AD, the Jewish authorities decided to bring their massive number of scriptures to some kind of order, and the Book of Judith was removed from their canon.  (there are some historical issues that have resulted in the questioning of its authenticity)  A few centuries later, St Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin (known as the Vulgate), and knowing this was one of books removed from their canon by Jewish authorities, placed it in a separate section of his new bible, a section known as the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonicals.  This continued to be part of all Catholic bibles, usually found between the Old and New Testaments.  But it was still part of the Catholic bible, so in those countries that remained Catholic (such as Italy and Spain)  the story was well known to both artists and patrons. However, in the Protestant countries (mostly northern Europe), these books either declared as separate non-canonical stories, or were completely removed.  Those who are students of art history may know more about the Protestant reformation than I do.  This student of mine did not know the story, because it probably never appeared in the bible she knew.  So during our next class meeting I told her what I had learned. I feared that she might be offended, by my stating this was a religious story, but she was actually very happy- she learned that there was more bible she could read.   A lot of my college students had never read a book or been to the library, so I was happy, too.

Look up Gustav Klimt on the internet and you will see his version of this painting, probably the most popular work he has on the web.  My version, which substitutes Santa Claus for Judith, and simplifies the image some, can be found on this blog on Christmas day.  Because of my student, I'll never forget Klimt's version, even though the Baroque versions had more influence on my art to follow. In any case, I chose it for this year's card. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata


Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata.  This year's card comes courtesy of me and this year's studio assistant is Gustav Klimt.  He did his part in the early 20th century, and I did my part over the last few weeks, as documented on this blog.  As I said earlier, I do have a story to tell about this piece and one of my classes, but I'll save that for another day.  It is kind of educational.  Meanwhile, enjoy the holiday, because we all go back to work next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas is Coming part 5


Today was a sunny cold day, but I didn't feel like going to the Studio again.  Partly because I didn't need to.  What was needed I could do at home.  My plan for printing is to do that next week, during the days that the office will be open.  But Christmas is coming this weekend, and that means I've got to get some cards ready.  Rain is expected the next few days, so today was a good day to color and photograph what I have done.  I can't take the photo for the blog until it is colored, and I hadn't done that yet, so after my parents went out (I unveil it on my blog on Christmas day), I got out the card proofs, and my watercolors.  On one computer I put on some music, in this case Jimmy Smith's Christmas Cookin' album.  It's one of the discs I had, burned from a tape I had acquired years before.  The tape includes several songs of him with a big band, and several songs of him with his trio. (He played B3 organ, and the trio included a guitar and drums.)  On the tape the two types of backing were mixed up, but on my disc I grouped the band and trio stuff together.  Meanwhile, on the other computer I brought up a copy of the image I was working from, so I could see the original colors.  

I started with the least of my proofs, one I would never send out as a card, just to practice the colors and make a few decisions.  Not too bad.  Made a few changes and started #2.  A better proof, and some better color choices based on what I saw with the first one, and I found that one satisfactory.  So while I still had light, I colored the second one, mounted it to a piece of foam core, and took it outside.  Not much light in the house, not even with the electric lights, so I wanted to shoot it in daylight.  (Normally I do this in my Studio, where the large bank of fluorescents provides enough light to take photographs.)

As for the above photo, I took that indoors, earlier while we had a bit more sunlight coming in, showing all the palettes and pans of watercolors that went into this one.  I have a lot more, but didn't need them today.  Got my photos, will post this one today, and the one of the completed card you will be able to see on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Fixing some problems


One thing that I expected from seeing the images, is that I could see the flaws in the prints.  Every artist is the first to see the problems in their own work.  Some were known to even go into museums with brushes to fix some issues they had seen in their own paintings hanging there.  Some were caught.  Since I haven't turned these in yet, now is the time for me to fix a few things, before the next printing.  

I had all the blocks in my Studio, so I didn't have to carry them in.  As I expected, they were almost dry, but I still did a little blotting first.  Not much ink came off.  Next was measuring.  I found my original instructions, and it called for 11" x 14", but the other day I wrote that I had done 10" x 14".  Which was right?  And what had I actually done?  I used a wooden yardstick in my car (much lighter than my metal one), and accurate enough.  The two vertical pieces were as I was supposed to make, but the horizontal piece (the train) was a bit long.  Don't know how that happened.  I don't think I can change that in the next printing, so it may end up that way in the photo I send.  I will let Tom know and if he wants that one in particular, either he'll have to take an extra large one, or I'll have to redo that one quickly.  Used my tools, and looked both at the wood blocks and the resulting prints (which had been in the drying rack) to judge what needed to be done, based on what I had seen in my photos of the first proofs.  

Actually started with that one, Love in Vain.  There were a few blobs on ink that resulted in dark spots on the first proof, okay for this test image, but I don't want those in the final version.  Lines that had been cut, were handled either by the same v-gouge used to cut them, or in some cases made thicker with a u-gouge. Used the latter especially to lighten my two figures, both the faces and occasionally some of the clothing and other things they had near them.  Didn't spend much time on that one, as it may not even be used directly.  

Took a break to go wash my hands and see the people in the office.  Most of that was to talk about class related stuff.  Like, where was my missing check, and would I have any classes coming up?  Since the old check never turned up, a new one will be issued.  As for classes, nothing right away (fine, as I am still a little sick, and I could use the break), but maybe in the early spring.  Kaitlyn was all in favor of woodcut being a class, and some of last year's students requested it, but as I warned Jeanne, a lot of people talk about taking woodcut, but many are never heard from again.  And there is the issue of sharing tools in this age of Covid.  So that remains to be seen.  

Back to my work.  Next I dealt with Walkin' Blues.  Just a few changes to faces, a little to clothing, but that was all that was needed.  More time to work on the block that needed the most, 32-20 Blues.  Three things I had picked out to work on were the wall behind the subject (above the bed), the floor next to the bed, and the blanket on top of the bed.  All of this was done with the small u-gouge, widening the smaller grooves that were already there, making these areas all lighter in tone.  The idea is to create more separation, and to improve the balance of value in the image.  Also did some to there figure's face, and a few isolated spots.  

The blocks all look better, so the next thing will be to print them. That will wait until next week, as I expect to be busy this week with some other projects.  As to what I did today, not much on the blocks can be seen easily, so here's a photo of some of what I took off the blocks:

Note the black ink found on this little pieces of wood.   That's what you get from cutting inked blocks.  

Took care of some holiday related errands, then I headed home.  Lot of traffic today, but I got there in time to eat lunch at a reasonable hour.