Monday, May 29, 2023

Decoration Day Blues


Today we have another Decoration Day, or as it is now known, Memorial Day.  All the places I normally go are closed today for the holiday, so not much to do except write to this blog.  So I listened to Howlin' Wolf sing about Decoration Day, and skipped the local parade (from what I heard, they started late anyway).  In the past I have written about my connection to the holiday through the blues, and through having lived in Carbondale, but I have other connections to the military, though somewhat indirect.  I have never served in any branch of the military, though like all males my age I was heavily recruited.  (used to get a weekly call from Sgt. King of the army, who was always disappointed that I planned to go to college, and I did talk to the Navy guy about nuclear training before deciding not to go that way, and like all males my age, I registered with selective service, but there was no draft in the years I would have been eligible)  I did have two roommates who were ROTC, at least one of whom did a tour in the army during the Gulf War and had enough of army life, and a few more housemates who did ROTC (their big highlight was coming home from maneuvers and eating all the MRE's that they didn't consume in the field) but I was never a part of that either.  

What I did have was some college students who were veterans and reservists, with mixed results.  Some actually wondered if I was former military myself (don't know if this was good or bad, but I guess something about my bearing suggested this) but as written earlier, I wasn't.   Students who were veterans were taking classes I taught on their GI Bill I guess, and as said earlier were mixed results.  Some were great students, and some were terrible students who caused a lot of problems, but thanks to that guaranteed  funding, got more chances that I would have given them.  But that was in grad school.  By the time I had become an adjunct professor, I was mostly dealing with reservists.  These were students who had joined the National Guard or were Army reservists and were taking advantage of the educational benefits that came with that, but had their units called up to active service, and not at times convenient to their college education.   They would have to leave my classroom, and head off to tours of duty, mostly in the Middle East or Afghanistan, and there was not much I could do about it but wish them good luck and give them an Incomplete for the semester, and hope they would come back in time to finish the class.  (there is a time limit on incomplete grades, after which they shift to F automatically) 

The only student I ever had who came back to finish is incomplete after serving a tour in the army (in Jordan I think) was someone in that classroom seen above.  A good student in my 2D class that I had in that print room, and who had done much of the work for that class before he had to go.  I accepted his reason for why he couldn't complete the semester as scheduled (I always did for people who were called up to serve), but he was the only one who ever came back to finish the class.  Being a good student, I was glad he did.  He brought in the missed work and I filled out the form to change his Incomplete to an A.  But he was the only one.  I had an incomplete for a student who was in a vehicular accident who made up his incomplete, but the rest who were called up, either didn't make it home, or didn't care about the class.  

So on Memorial Day, I don't have to think about any family or friends who died in defense of this country, but I do think about my students and hope that those I never saw again decided to go another route, but made it home alive.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

A Change of Environment


Heard some sad news from my mother the other day, the Casino building in Asbury Park has been closed down to foot traffic.  It's a whole complex of buildings, attached to each other, and the Casino itself is long gone.  Once upon a time there was a section with amusements and such built on the beach.  That has been gone since before I had the Studio, which started about 15 years ago.  The big hallway, which covered the boardwalk itself, was still there, and passing through this got you from Ocean Grove's boardwalk to Asbury Park's boardwalk.  The doors that had been at each end were gone, but the wooden framework above, complete with panes of glass, were still there.  However, those have been gradually removed (perhaps a safety issue), and now it's just a roof.  On the other side of this hallway, plywood had been nailed up, and murals sometimes were attached to this, providing some art to the space.  And there were occasional puddles on the floor, so you had to watch where you walked, but it was possible to pass through safely.  Further to the west, was the round carousel house, which in past days contained a carousel.  That is also long gone, but in my days the space was cleaned out and has been used as a roller rink, a home to arts and crafts shows, and hosted a few flea markets.  That space is best known for the metal sunburst shapes that appear at the top of each door of curved front of the building.  I used to know a model who had it tattooed on her upper arm, as can be seen below (click on the photo to enlarge it):

I also used this building as the inspiration for my postcard image that was sent to my assigned partner first, and eventually to a show in Estonia. 

 Actually I don't know if my image ever made it there, as the only photo of the chosen cards I've ever seen in the one here, and all I can see is the other card we worked on.  (front stack, at the top) As these are collaborative prints, I still had work in the show.

Anyway, I walked through this breezeway many times, a common way of getting to the Asbury boardwalk, especially when walking from my Studio, and not from the paid parking in Asbury.  I had considered participating in a walk organized by the agency that I am attached to now (which will start from Convention Hall, much further up the boardwalk), but now I am not sure about the length of the walk.  

What remains to be seen is what happens to the building now.  If memory serves, once upon a time there had been a plan to rebuild the Casino (the area it had been on the beach is still fenced off), but I don't know if that is still in the works.  I don't even know if the covered walkway/hall will stay.  An inspection showed a lot of corrosion in the metal supports that hold up the roof, which is why the passage is closed now, but the developers who control the space now have done nothing over the last decade to fix this or stop this, so I have little faith they will do it now.  For now, pedestrians are being rerouted to the bridges over the lake that separates the two towns, but that's a walk I'm not sure about, and at the time of day those bridges are closed, one would have to walk all the way down to Main, a very long way.  Will this be fixed before the summer season begins, in about three weeks?  There's more to this story I'm sure.

Achluophobia part 11

 Once I get a block cut, I like to get it printed and see what I have.  So with that in mind, I headed up to Ocean Grove a little earlier than usual, but that was so I could stop and see my insurance agent first.  (no problems- just paying my bill)  Stopped by the office to say hello, then to my space to work.  I brought my printmaking go bag in from the car, and thanks to our recent warm weather, I didn't have to worry about warming things up first.  I figured I had enough paper and ink to pull a first proof of my new block, so I took care of that first.

Ready to print.   Put on my Wipers disc, a home burned collection of favorite songs from their first phase of existence (1978-1988), originally made for my Texas trip, but good to listen to any time one has a print project to work on. (they are called the Wipers after all)  Music has the power to transport to a time and place like nothing else for me, but this collection does it more than anything.  (written about back on July of 2019 if you want to know more)  I purposely cut this block to be the size of one of my supermarket prints, mostly so I could easily use the same frames and mats.  I put out some Outlaw Black, which is starting to run low, but I knew had enough for today's plan.  Here are the results of the first proof:

Overall, I like it so far.  There are some stray marks, but they kind of fit in with the atmosphere of the basement.  The place looks pretty terrible, but that is what the place looks like.  Many who came to the Open Studio remarked that the Studio was much more warm and inviting than the hallway was, certainly much brighter.  I'll look over the image and see if I spot anything that needs changing, but at this point I don't see cutting any more.  Meanwhile, that one disc was enough.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Achluophobia part 10


I had the mid-day free today, so I decided to go to the Studio and maybe finish cutting my new block.  Left around 11, made no stops, so up there in the morning.  As I approached the key pad for the code, another tenant was going out the front door, struggling to hold a bunch of canvases.  I was happy to hold the door open for her in exchange for not having to try my ID and code.  I had brought with me the block and my good tools, having done a little work on it while I had it at home.  I also brought with me my rock/pop book of discs.  Dropped off stuff in the Studio, then stopped by the office.  However, there seemed to be a meeting going on, so I went back to the Studio to get some work done.  

I started by putting on some music, and what I went with today was a 2 disc set, my home burned copy of the Beatles self titled double album from 1968, generally known as the White Album.  It was the first disc I ever bought, when it was finally made available, and I wrote about it here back in January of 2020.  What I had done at home was work more on the woman seen in the dark doorway in the hall, like the upper half, the lower half taken from a still from a video for an old song.  T|hat still left me with three major areas to cut.  I started with the rest of the bricks in the hall, hollowing them out and making a few adjustments to the outlines.  That took up until the end of the first two sides of the White Album (I still think of it in terms of LP records, how I first owned it) although I filled up the rest of that first disc with outtakes of that same album from the Anthology collection.  I put in the second disc, and did the last two pieces- my flier on the wood panel, and the furnace built into the wall back in the 1800's, just around the corner from my Studio.  The latter item is painted gray, so I made it gray myself, my standard way of doing that, cutting fine vertical lines with a sharp v-gouge.  For now, the cutting is done.  Next step it to ink it and proof it, and see what I have, but that will wait for another day.  Meanwhile, here's what it looks like now:

Stopped by the office again on my way out, and the meeting was broken  up.  I had found an envelope for Molly on the floor of the Studio, with a new photo ID and a four digit code, which I assumed was shoved under the door.  I saw no evidence that she had been in the Studio over the past week, so I'll send her an email later letting her know what is waiting for her. Meanwhile, I let the office know I had found it and put it on one of the tables she uses.  Then I went home to get some lunch. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Achluophobia part 9

It's been a while since I was in the Studio.  The past few days have been taken up with medical appointments, including one today.  However, they are still not satisfied with the CT scan they took today, so it looks like I have to go back tomorrow for another try.  I had planned to go up to the Studio tomorrow to work on the new block, but that's out now, so after lunch I went up there just to make sure I didn't waste the whole week on various scans.  (MRI was on Monday) I had put gas in the car in preparation of tomorrow, so no problem getting there.  The biggest issue was finding my photo ID, which is part of the key to the building, not where I expected it to be.  But eventually I found it.  

Got in the building on the 2nd try of my ID.  Stopped by the office, but hardly anyone there, and no big things going on, so I went to my space.  For music I had brought my home burned disc of Matthew Sweet, written about back in June of 2020, for no particular reason.  On the block I decided to work on all those bricks, and hollowed out all the bricks on the left side of the door and above the door, as well as the wooden board attached to the brick wall.  This is how it looked as I finished up:

Since I don't know when I'll be there next, I decided to bring the block home with me.  That way I can do a little cutting at home if I don't get up there the next few days.   What remains is the rest of the brick wall, the furnace, the Arrabbiata flier on the wall, and the figure looking out of the doorway.  I have plans for each.  

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Achluophobia part 8


I haven't been to the Studio since my marathon cutting session on Sunday, and I have no deadline for completing this piece, but I still want to get going on it.  And today I have some time, so it seemed like a good day for a trip to Ocean Grove.  It wasn't until I was on my way there that I realized I didn't have a rent check for Molly, so I'll have to make another trip.  I didn't bring any discs with me today, but that was intentional, a lack of desire to carry them.  I'll have to rely on what I have there.

After dropping off my stuff, I went to the office.  Elyse confirmed that they had about 200 visitors the day of the Open Studio, and they had a lot of signs up, which helped get some people downstairs.  She doesn't know if the music or food lured people in or not, and may not have any way of finding out.  Her reaction was that she thought the food was successful, and she like the opening acoustic music better than the rap DJ (too loud, perhaps inappropriate), so that may change.  She wasn't crazy about the theater stuff, but the people in attendance seemed to like it.  Overall, it was seen as a successful event, so there may be more such things in the future.  We talked about the possibility of bringing in more free-spending collectors next time.  I have no problem with that, but it's not so easy to find such things.  I remember a Cuban print show we tried to organize at the PCNJ years ago, but the representative yanked it away from us for not bringing in a large contingent of collectors to buy everything.  

On to Andrew.  I used my photo ID badge to get in today, but once again it wasn't easy.  Took 3 tries before the code worked, so I got in, but I thought it was worth reporting.  Andrew agreed, so he took note of my situation, and did say a few other people reported problems, so he has some information the next time he talks to whoever sold them the materials.  Meanwhile, he asked me about a motion detecting device in the Studio.  Never saw any such thing in there, but the company says they installed one, and the building may be paying for it, so it's worth investigating.  No need for any such thing in our space.  The only lights we have are on light switches near each door, and I don't recall seeing any such devices. 

On to the Studio.  From the small selection I keep there, I selected Bob Marley's live album Babylon by Bus, which I have written about back in October of 2021.   I decided to continue with that main wall, cutting out the rest of the mortar between the bricks on the right side, and the rest of the tympanum above the door and the brick work arch above the door which I guess supports the weight above it.  Now the majority if the image is done, though I still have to deal with the bricks themselves, the furnace doors, and the board attached to the wall.  I could have done more, but my cell phone chimed with the low battery signal, so I decided to go home.  I stopped back by the office to let Andrew know I found no motion detector, and Kaitlyn let me know she had actually seen Molly recently, and got a photo of her for an ID.  Well, that's something.  What I got done of the block can be seen below:

Next up is either the bricks themselves, the furnace doors, or the wooden board. I'll figure it out when I get there. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Achluophobia part 7 plus Open Studio- updated

Today was the rescheduled Open Studio event at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  I figured if I got there early  I'd find parking in the front (only 18 participants listed on the postcard), but getting there as it was beginning could be a problem if visitors came.  So I left around 10:30 am, and got there around 11:00 am, or about an hour before it was scheduled to begin.  Lots of cars parked by the building, but lots of room in the front lot.  I used two trips to bring everything inside, which gave us problems with the new door lock system,  meaning it didn't work so well.  Took 4 tries before the door opened on my first trip, and 2 tries on the second trip.  But eventually I got in.

The reason I was there so early on a Sunday was the Open Studio event.  We had one of these last year in connection with the tenants show, but this year there is no show.  I did bring a few pieces of art with me in frames, but not much, and that I carried down to the Studio.  I didn't want to start cutting my block yet, so I used the time to organize the space a little, and to sharpen my class tools, using the sharpening stone I brought to do this.  I had brought both my CD cases with me, in case Molly was there and to give her more options.  However, all my listening was from the Jazz/Blues set, so I started with Duke Ellington, and played by discs of T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray, all things that I have written about in the past.  

Around noon I started cutting my new block.  For this I used my good tools, sharpened at home a few days ago.  As is my custom, I started by cutting out the border first, the went on to the inside of the piece, which is a lot more complex.  I don't know how many people came through the first floor, but it was probably a lot.  From my space I could see cars parking and leaving from the back lot all day.  We had new signs put next to our doors (my door at least) to make it easier to find the spaces, and I had both doors open.  I had handed out some postcards and sent some emails, but had no idea how many of those would show up.  Having something to work on would keep me busy no matter how many people came.  

One of my earliest visitors was Sandra Foley, who was checking out all the Studios and taking photos of what she found.  She got this shot of me holding my just started block.  (as you know, I am not a selfie kind of guy, so you know I didn't take this photo) Part of this was to promote herself as a photographer, @fashionhauntsphotos.  Either way, I got this photo from her the next day and it's a nice one.

I kept track of the number of visitors I had over the 5 hour event, and it turned out to be about 50, which is a pretty good day.  Some were there specifically to see Molly, but she never showed.  Too bad, as she has a job offer waiting for her, a student from one of her early etching classes there in the Studio.  (she wants to print an old plate for an upcoming show)  It's Molly's press, so it's up to her.  This etching student remembered me, as back then I had told her about a split complement thing she had going on, which went over her head at the time, but with more education she realized it was a wise comment. Others realized she wasn't there and didn't even come in, so I don't count them among the 50.  We did have a few people who had been part of our critique group, people who live there in town. One, Harriet, I had invited.  Another, Michelle, I hadn't sent anything to, but I am always happy to see her.  Her mother was there also, who had organized a large art thing around town several years ago, which included me teaching a workshop with linocut, right there in our space back when I had tables available for that.  (her mother said that both my class and the whole event were popular and she had requests to do it again, but found it too much work) 

I had invited some former students as a last minute thing (I didn't know if they were on the mailing list for the JSAC or not), but the one who showed up was Nellie, who I had shared the information with a few days ago.  She enjoyed a recent silkscreen class, but still wants to do some more woodcut, and lately has been doing a lot of head and figure drawing, which I consider a valuable preparation for all art that follows. 

There was one former high school student from the old building, and many who came through were amazed at how much light we had and how inviting the room was, especially compared with our dark and bleak hallways.  A few got lost wandering around those as well.  That's why we painted yellow lines on the floor- to help us find our space. 

A lot of people who came through didn't know much about printmaking, especially relief, so I showed them one of the recent proofs of the Love in Vain print and the block that was used to create it.  Lots of astonishment at my ability to work backwards (I'm used to it, and cutting takes the same amount of time, forwards or backwards)  Also a lot of comments about the level of detail in my work.  I like the details, fun to cut and see in the final print, so for me this is what I want it to be.  Also some comments on woodcut verses linocut.  I admitted I have tried both and prefer woodcut- it's harder to do, but the effect wood has on my tools and drawing style makes the extra effort worth it.

As for the new block, after cutting out the outside, I did the inside, especially on the left side of the block.  This was the two figures, the wooden door, the shadowed hallway, and the mortar around the bricks.  I had a lot of people come through asking questions, and figured they were more important to deal with today.  How it looked at the end of the day can be seen below:

So it was a very busy and productive day.  Could this lead to more classes, sales, and exhibitions?  Maybe, and maybe not.  Hard to predict these things.  But I got a lot done, if you look at the pile of sawdust and wood splinters that resulted:

Later tonight I will send Molly an email, letting her know about the good crowd we got, people she knows, and that etching commission that she may have. (a note was left for her)  And maybe she'll let me know what she is up to these days.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Achluophobia part 6

 Over the weekend we got the official email telling us about the new ID locking system for the building in Ocean Grove.   System seems logical enough, but I had some questions about it.  For example, we typically unlock the front door so that students in classes can come in.  Can we still do that?  And do they have a plan for what to do about openings and receptions?  We have an event coming up in less than two weeks.  And my code number- is that a 9 or a 4 at the end?  Looks more like a 4, but I don't know.  

So when I got there today, I had a lot of questions.  First up was Elyse, a question or two about the updating of the website.  I had decided to change the number of years in my biography, to account for the additional years since I first wrote it. I also noticed a spelling error on the website page about me, and in the copy in the bio.  Arrabbiata was spelled ARRI, which makes no sense in any language.  I thought I made the changes, but I didn't know.  I was sent a Word document and changed it as requested, but the new title I gave it was not reflected in the attached file, yet it said on my laptop that is had been modified.  So I sent an email saying what I wanted to change, and no idea if I had.  Elyse understood what I was requesting, and said it was already done.  I'll leave it at that.  

As for my door questions- that would be Andrew, who was also in.  He wasn't sure about the number of my ID either, so looked it up and it was a 4.  Made sense, since that was how I had gotten into the building.  As for opening the door for classes and events, they had ideas for both.  Once again I was satisfied.  On my way in I had stopped to drop off things in my space and saw evidence that Molly had been in.  But I doubt she has an ID yet (Kaitlyn confirmed she still didn't have a photo for her), so we hope she has a way to get in.  In any case, she signed the lease, so we are okay there.  

Questions answered, I got to work.  Brought the rock/pop book today and for no particular reason, I selected my Gun Club disc,  with the whole Fire of Love album, and as many from a live disc as I could fit on the rest of it, which you can read about on the blog back in November 2019.  Not much actual work to do, but there were some changes to make.  For example, although the new perspective generally held up, I counted and found 16 rows of bricks on the left side of the ajar door, and 17 rows on the right side.  It may be that no one would notice, but I had noticed, and so I decided to make the changes now before I started cutting.  I wanted to redraw the bricks anyway, and now it was better.  Updated the woman in the doorway and the hallways a little.  Added a flyer on the board in the front hallway, with a tiny version of my logo.  Results are below:

I think that's all I need to do at this point. If I want to change it further I suppose I can, but I think it's ready to go.  It looks like a dark and scary place.  I'm not afraid to be down there, but some people seem to be.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Memories of the Past

Today the paper included a story about a recently discovered painted advertisement in Long Branch on the side of a building, which advertised Coca-Cola.  Large painted ads like that were once common, and some remnants are still out there, such as a Thom McAnn shoe ad on top of the side of a building in Asbury Park- they had owned the building back then, and put their name on the building in those days, and though they are long gone (new tenants have come and gone over the years), the painted name remains as historic, and I think it's still known as the Thom McAnn building because of that famous sign.  The Belmar Arts Council has been involved in a number of wall based paintings, art more than commerce, and I either participated in them or documented them for the blog, or both.  Some of these are gone now.  For example, one celebrating Belmar was on the back of the Friedman's Bakery building, which was torn down years ago.  I participated and documented another mural, Reflections of Belmar (a beach seen partly reflected in sunglasses worn on a giant portrait that filled the wall), which was on the side of a building that has housed a series of food places and overlooked a gas station, which was overpainted with white a few years ago.  If you want to see it, you can see the mural in progress at the BelmarArts blogsite, starting in July of 2011.  Once in Italy I photographed a faded wall sign painted in the days of Mussolini, and left up as a reminder not to ever let anyone rule the country like that again.  I believe that photo is in storage, like most things I have owned. 

The reason that this Coke ad was recently discovered is that it had been hidden by the building of a very adjacent factory building, just torn down recently.  That old factory building I have been inside, as it also once housed SICA, the shore art gallery and studio space that was founded to bring NYC style art to the shore area.  The board decided to sell that location and move to Asbury, a short walk from my Studio, back in 2011.  I know, because I helped paint the new space on Cookman Ave, in exchange for some pizza, which always gets my attention.  Unfortunately, that location closed in 2013, ending the gallery.  My first thought upon reading of the end of that old factory building in Long Branch was whether or not SICA founder Doug Ferrari knew about it, but then I realized he had actually died back in 2017 (see November of that year on this blog for the full story of our interactions over the years), and thus no longer cared.  (In between he had resurfaced at the Arts Guild in Rahway, and had curated Molly and I into a show there once, his last act in Asbury.)  The tearing down of the old factory (which had housed a lot of different businesses over the decades) is to make room for something else, and has now revealed a vintage sign.  Will it be saved?  I guess it depends on what needs to be done.  Would there be an effort to repaint the sign. or leave the painting as it is?  Will the sign even be seen once the new project is built, or is it to be covered up again, and its rediscovery renders moot?  I have no idea, but it's a story I have links to, so maybe an update will appear here someday.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Achluophobia part 5


When I arrived at the building, I decided to try my new photo ID and code to open the door, but still no luck.  And my key didn't want to turn in the lock either.  So I went with the third option, go through the basement door directly into the office.  Andrew was there at this desk, so I told him that my ID badge still wasn't working.  Turns out that it wasn't a problem with the way I was doing it, but that the system hasn't been turned on yet.  Probably next week.  He did review the process for me, and I was doing it correctly at least.  I was told that the key still should have worked.  Not a concern of mine right then, as I was already in the basement, and I just went to my Studio.

For music I had brought with me my rock/pop book of discs, and for no particular reason, chose my Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings disc, which has the entire 100 Days, 100 Nights album, plus as much as I could fit of a bonus disc that came with it, The Binky Griptite Ghetto-Funk Power Hour, or over an hour's worth of music.  I last wrote about this on this blog June of 2019.  That was all I would need.

I wasn't satisfied with my walking figure in the dark hallway around the corner from by brick wall, so I spent the past few days at home going through another source of figure photos I have, the Belmar Arts blog, with 10 years of photos I took myself.  Surprisingly, there were few for me to use.  I needed a walking, facing forward character, and most of my photo figures are standing and backwards.  Found two I could use, and sketched them in my sketchbook, good enough for source material. One of these was chosen.  

I looked at the block and decided to start by making the new hallway figure the same size as the old one, so head up by the pipe and feet more or less where the other ones had been.  Also pencilled in where bricks would be for wall behind the figure, at least the part that would be lit up by the light in the hallway in the foreground.   But when I looked at the whole thing, I did not like the perspective of the scene- not the slightly open door seen in the front hallway, and not the female figure in that ajar doorway.  This would have to change.  As a start, I changed the angle at the top of that ajar door, and redrew that female figure, bringing it up some higher in the space.  (as the first time, drawn from a sketch I made from a stilled scene in a 60's era music video)  It was definitely better.  As for the walking figure, made him a little smaller.  I don't know if this is the final version, but this can be fixed.  All pencil right now anyway.  I also darkened the border as it will appear in the final version, to get an idea of black and white balance as it will be.   Below is what it looks like now:

I would say that this version is better than what I had before, though as I have written, I may want to make some changes in perspective before I start cutting it.  I have a few weeks before then, so plenty of time to look at it and figure it out.

On my way out, I decided to exit through the first floor and the main door to try my keys.  My regular exterior key went into the lock, but still didn't turn.  However my interior key (used inside to unlock the door for classes) did turn and open the door.  Tried it again, and it didn't.   But put the key back in, jiggled it a bit, tried it at different depths, and got it to work.   Seemed a bit like what was going on last spring when the keys didn't turn unless you played with them a lot.  Good thing this electronic thing will be happening soon.  

Monday, April 03, 2023

Achluophobia part 4

 This week is Holy Week in Catholic circles, but outside of this, I don't know what is known.  In my experience, very little.  So I decided today was a good day to go up to the Studio and find out if there are any plans to close the building for any holidays this week.  And to get some work done.

So that is what I did in the afternoon.  Drove up to the building after lunch.  Saw Andrew in the parking lot, who let me in the door and confirmed that there were new photo ID badges that could open the doors instead of the keys I have.  So after dropping off my stuff in my space, I went to the office.  First I found out that not only aren't we closed for any days this week, there was no one in that office that realized any kind of holidays this week.  They are even open on Easter Sunday, unlike the supermarkets in St Louis, as I found out long ago.   Then Andrew came in and gave me my new ID, along with the code that will operate it, and explained how to use it.  Okay.  I let Katy know that all the photos I found of Molly are all action shots, no portraits, so she'll have to get together with her to take the right kind of photo.  And with that, I got to work on my latest block.

Was in a mood some mellow soul today, so I put on the copy of U Ready, Man? by Hobex that I had kept in the Studio, but was now in my pop/jazz book.  I wrote about this album here on this blog back in November of 2021 if you want to know more.  What I realized today is that the title comes from a barely heard question during the unlisted instrumental finale on the album.

I started by looking for figures in a photo reference book I keep there, a directory of commercial photographers I believe.  I put on one in the hallway for now, but I may look elsewhere for something better.  The problem is that most of the images in the book look very posed, which I guess makes sense for what they are, but I'd rather have something more casual.  So I may look for a more suitable reference elsewhere.  I also finished the figure inside the door, mostly just an art job, drawing what I know from years of figure training and general observation.  Also marked in some value in the rest of it.  Here's what it looks like now:

Again, nothing is firmly decided, but I gives an idea what I have in mind, and will hold the places until I make them better.  I still have 3 weeks before I start cutting it, so plenty of time to fix the drawing and get it ready for public cutting.

Tried out my new ID door opener before leaving, but I couldn't get it to work.  Either I was given the wrong information, or I remembered it wrong.  Good thing my key still works. I'll try it again next time I go, and if it still doesn't work, ask at the office.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Achluophobia part 3

 I decided to take a trip to the Studio today.  Had no other place I had to be, and felt like getting some more work done on my current block.  So after breakfast and bringing in the empty garbage can, I did.  Was in a mood to listen to some Zombies, so I brought my jazz/pop book of discs with me.  I only have one album of theirs with me right now, a collection of A and B sides of all singles from 1964 to 1969, which functions as a greatest hits album, and perhaps an unmade middle album, between their hit single debut, and their label swan song LP.  I've written about the band more extensively back in January of 2020 if you want to know more.

I knew that part of today's drawing would be working on the furnace built into the wall, there in the basement, which has a date on it as "modified 1897", one of the fun artifacts of life in the basement. I decided it had to be part of my print.  The elements of my piece are from all different parts of the passages down there, grouped together in my new composition.  As I stood there, with my cane getting ready to sketch those cast iron furnace hatches, a part of the maintenance staff asked if I needed help.  No, I told him, just sketching the furnace as part of my new piece.  Told him about my plan and he agreed instantly, saying he's heard the same thing from others in the building, afraid to go downstairs.  He even said something about comparisons to "Silence of the Lambs" and I told him I understood.  "It's all the bricks down here." I told him.   He left me to my task, and before long I had a more detailed version of the item in my sketchbook.

On to the Studio, where I worked some more on my block drawing.  Of course I redrew the whole furnace area, adjusting the perspective to better match the brick wall.  I also used the time to fix some of the bricks at the top of the facing wall, and drew in some things near the top of the tympanum above the door opposite one of the doors to our Studio.  I also changed the pipes a bit near the upper left corner- less detailed than what I had there, but perhaps more accurate.  Also went ahead and made some darker marks in the areas I knew would be solid black- won't affect my cutting plans, just to help me see the design a little better.  Results are below:

The new details on the furnace aren't necessarily finished, but are much closer to what actually exists.  I still have to come up with a figure in the shadows of the dark hallway, but I didn't need that today.  But it does seem to be coming together.   That's a good thing, and I have a few weeks left before I need to have it done.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Achluophobia part 2


Been a very busy week for medical appointments, but I had a few hours to kill today and took a ride up to the Studio.  I had planned to talk to Elyse regarding some emails she sent out this week, but she wasn't in. It can wait until next week. 

The open studio event is about a month away, so I do need to finish drawing the new block if I plan to cut it as part of my studio demonstration, which is the plan as of now.  I saw that Molly had been in over the past week, so that's a good sign. But I was there for me.  An appearance by someone on a morning show had put me in the mood for a jazz singer, so I started with something from my jazz/blues set of discs, New Moon Daughter from Cassandra Wilson.  A mix of unusual covers and originals, and a very mellow bit of music to listen to while working.  Previously written about back on January of 2022 if you want to know more. When that ended, I went with more jazz, mostly instrumental, the sound track from Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch's follow-up to his Twin Peaks television series.  Wrote about that back in August of 2022.

While I was there I was working on the new block. What I decided to do today was work on the brick wall that faces the viewer.  A lot of information that most will probably not notice, but it's important to me that it be fairly accurate.  Mostly I was working from my sketches, but when I needed to I took a step into the hallway to check on how things were constructed.  Over my years of studying art history, I have learned a thing or two about architecture, which gives me some understanding about how this basement was built.  (Not quite like the crypt level of a Gothic cathedral. but not too far off either.)  I have also seen a few videos of old building being restored and have learned a little bit about basic engineering as part of that.  Below is what the block drawing looks like now:

This was probably the most complex area of the drawing to complete. so it's good that I have gotten it out of the way for now.  These bricks are just penciled in, but this is probably how they will end up.  I didn't touch the furnace yet, or the second figure in the shadows around the corner, nor have I finished the figure inside the door, but I have time to get all this done.

2023 Tournament of Art part 3

I'm a little late in posting this, as I kind of forgot about it.  So better late than never.

My good luck ran out over this past weekend.  I only had 3 teams alive in my brackets in the round of 8.  Of course I am not the only one.  As it was pointed out in the telecast, this was the first year since they began the current brackets that no #1 seeds made it to the Elite 8.  The selection committee did a terrible job of assigning the seeds this year, as most of the expected high ranked teams were gone in the third round.  I only had one team in my brackets left to be part of the fourth round- University of Connecticut, a #4 seed.  The good news is that they won their game, quite handily, and moved on to the Final 4.  The bad news is that I had them losing in the semi-final, so I am now done with my picks.  I can't get any more points in the last 3 games.  

It goes without saying, that all my art schools are gone now, too.  I am close with some, but not actually in.  For example, I have shown art in Miami, but not at the University of Miami.  I have shown art and spent a week as the guest of the University of Texas, but at the branch in Arlington, which has its own team, and is not the one in the basketball tournament.  I have shown art, been discussed, and my show written up in Princeton papers, but none of this occurred at the University, but at an unrelated Theological Seminary.  One of those teams is still alive, but it is not one of my art schools, so it doesn't count.  So I am done with this year's tournament.  I still plan to watch it, but I no longer have a link to any of the schools.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Achluophobia part 1

 Time to start a new block I think.  Not much I can do with the Robert Johnson prints right now, and the open studio thing happens in about a month. It would be better if I had something to work on that day, which means I have to get a block started. 

So I set out for Ocean Grove this morning, with plans to draw.  I had gotten an email yesterday from the open studio organizer, requesting that we let the office know if we were planning to participate in the event.  So after dropping off my stuff in my space, I went to the office and let Elyse know I would be there. (I figured she already knew, as I am on the postcard for the event, but as long as I was there...) Another thing I had realized was that the postcard for the event could not be mailed as a postcard, but she knew that already.  I also asked about whether she had contacted Lisa Bagwell regarding an Earth Day event.  She had been in touch, and there will be an exhibition now, as Lisa is not available in the appropriate month.  Well, as long as things work out for everyone.  She also gave me the news that Molly may be part of this open studio thing (her studio, too, so she is certainly welcome to be there) and she finally signed the lease.  Good to know I am not being thrown out of there right now.

All that settled, I could get to some work.  I had brought my jazz/blues set with me today, and from that I ended up listening to some John Coltrane while drawing.  Two of his sixties albums, when he became most famous.  I started with A Love Supreme, probably the work he is most known for, and definitely something that shows his individuality more, and a sound that only he had.  When that ended, an earlier album, My Favorite Things, which includes a cover of the title song and 3 other songs, which I think were all standards, though my original copy is in storage like most of my stuff.  All good performances, and he and his combo arranged the songs the way they wanted, but not quite as ground breaking or unique as the other album.  I found I have not written about either album before, so here's something new to everyone here.

This new block has roots in occurrences over the past few years, some written about here, no doubt.  For example, as I took the elevator ride to the third floor for a Christmas volunteer luncheon in the cafe place,  I was questioned by three older women, going to the same place, who weren't sure if I belonged in the building, through I know I had been renting space for more than a decade.  Why?  They had never been to the basement and had no plans to go there.  At the last open studio, I shared the elevator again with people who took the ride with me to the basement, but didn't get out there, going back up.  As I left the elevator, they talked about how creepy the basement was.  and I heard more after the doors closed.  Even in the office a few days ago we talked about how people who are from the upper floors never go down there.  The basement was not as fixed up as the rest of the building (I have said that it has kind of a 'Silence of the Lambs' vibe), but I've been working down there for 15 years, and I'm not bothered by it.  But obviously some people are.

I went to google and looked up fear of basements, and found that there is no official psychological disorder for it, though it is the most commonly feared room in an given building.  (is there no Greek word for basement?)  However, it gave four related fears that are recognized and may relate to a fear of basements.  There was xenophobia, or fear of the unknown.  Well, there may be some of that, but the term is often used for fear of foreigners, so I'll skip that one.  Another was kenophobia, fear of empty spaces.  That doesn't apply, as the basement of our building is full of furniture, tools, boxes, garbage cans, etc- definitely not empty.  Next was cleithrophobia, or fear of being trapped.  This one is maybe a little closer, as the basement can be a bit confusing.  Our new director has been there in a basement office for months (there is an outside entrance to it) and is only now learning her way around all the hallways down there. Molly painted a yellow path down the hallway from the front lot staircase to our space as it could be hard to find.  However, I don't feel trapped down there.  Our studio has two doors to the hallways, both accessible, and windows on the ground level outside-just climb a chair, open the window, and you would be in the back parking lot. Our space is also just steps from a central staircase to the first floor, and from a back staircase that leads to the back stage and a back parking lot, steps from the loading ramp that also leads to the back parking lot, down the hall from the front staircase, down another hall from the office (with it's door to the outside), not to mention the elevator, but in a fire I wouldn't take that to escape.  No, I never feel trapped in my space, so that one is out.  The last option was achluophobia, or fear of darkness (not to be confused with fear of night, a very different thing), which could apply.  Individual rooms are lit inside, but the hallways used to be dark.  Now there are motion sensitive lights in the hallway that come on when approached, but otherwise it's pretty dim down there.  So that's the one I'm going with.

Another factor may be the recent Robert Johnson prints.  All involve some darkness and shadows, either at night or interior spaces, and I liked those black and white prints with a lot of black in them.  It works for me as art, so maybe that's why I'm doing another black and white print set in a dark space.

I started preparations a few weeks ago, drawing aspects of the basement in my sketchbook. A partly open door to a boiler room. An unfinished (or partly broken) brick wall.  Dark hallways. Lots of overhead pipes, which may be part of the original plumbing, or something worked out later by Herb and his co-conspirators.  Wall mounted furnaces that date from the 19th century.  Electric lines leading to switches and unknown devices.  Later I worked out a basic composition, combining many of these elements, and others (figures will have to be in this, lurking in the shadows) again in the sketchbook.  I also cut a block to the right size, same as my supermarket prints.  I have frames and mats that size, so I might as well use them. 

With nothing else to work on, today I began the block drawing for this piece.  Results are below:

I didn't get too far today, just some basic composition.  There will be a lot more detail in this one eventually.  Next week is a busy one for medical appointments, but I expect to get in there at least once, and can continue filling in parts of this drawing, or change things around completely if I'm not satisfied with it.  My self imposed goal is to get it done in a month, so I'll have something to cut at the open studio.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Love In Vain part 12

 I was not satisfied with my last proofing of the full block, including the cut text, of my Love In Vain block.  The repairs I made were probably good enough for a photograph to send out for the Nashville show, but inspection of the proof showed that it wasn't good enough to be exhibited, so I decided to take another crack at it today.  The block and paper were there in my Studio, and everything else was in my car.  Warm enough (today is the first full day of spring), that I didn't have to worry about fluids freezing, and they wouldn't take long to warm up. 

Left my backpack by the driveway until I was back from filling my gas tank, and forgot to bring discs with me completely, so I had to rely on what was there.  Luckily there are always some there for emergencies like this.  Stopped by the office to give them the update about the lease and provide more information about stairs and dormers and the third floor, then on to my space and getting dirty.  

What I did first, after getting out the block in question, was do some more carving.  I knew I had picked up a little ink here and there in the last proof, including some around the cut lettering, and the best way to not get that again is to eliminate the wood that picked it up last time. Using the block and the last proof (still there in the Studio), I took care of that.  Tore a sheet of Rives Lightweight to the right size, then got out some ink. I was a little more careful with the inking and printing this time, and the result was a better proof. Not perfect, but better for photographing, and probably suitable for showing.  I will let it dry first before I try to fix anything, but I think I'm done with this one for now.  Didn't take an official photo of it yet, but this shot of my table should give you an idea of where I am at.

By the way, the music for today started with one of the discs I left behind, for Molly and for emergencies- The Righteous Ones by Toshi Reagon, which I have written about back in August 2021 if you are interested.  When that ended I played one of Molly's recent pile, Doolittle from the Pixies.  Actually it is one of the discs I used to keep there as well, and it is that disc that I wrote about back in October 2019.  Those two albums were enough for the time this took, a relative quick process since I had just printed this one a week or so ago, and this one is maybe the fifth proof I have taken of this block.

Probably at my next visit, I start a new block drawing.  

2023 Tournament of Art part 2


We are now though the first week of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and thought the first two rounds.  In general, not doing too bad with my picks- I chose #15 Princeton for two rounds, not because they are a local team, but because I have seen big schools struggle to deal with their idiosyncratic Ivy League style of play, and it paid off as they reached the sweet 16.  In fact, I did well everywhere but the East region, where I am now wiped out for the rest of the tournament.  However, everyone I have in the other three regions is still in it, with the only teams I got wrong in early rounds already eliminated by other teams.  So, 23/32 in the first round, 11/16 in the second round.  No more games until Thursday, and I'll post and update after next Sunday's games.

My art schools haven't done so well.  Both Illinois and Northwestern lost to higher seeds, so not unexpected.  Of course, with a #15 and a #16, both from New Jersey, winning on the first day and one on the second day, there will be some thought to how teams get seeded.  But probably not, as the selection committee is dominated by the large schools of the midwest, so we get lots of those teams, even if they rarely get past the first two rounds.