Thursday, September 24, 2020

Louisville

 


The city of Louisville was in the news a lot yesterday, and I'll get to why a little later in this post.  Meanwhile, some related stories.

There has been much racial strife in the world the past few decades, sometimes near the places I was, but little I have had to deal with directly.   For example, there was a major race riot in Newark, just miles from where I was born and grew up, but that occurred in the summer of 1967.  Much of the city burned, but I wasn't due to be born for a few months, so I didn't have to experience that.  There was a lot of violence and unrest in the late 60's- societal changes, riots, wars.  I know of these things through reading and documentaries.

I chose to go to a high school in an urban location, the student body was fairly evenly divided between races and ethnicities. And there were no problems. Maybe it was because we were too young to care, or maybe it was because the Christian Brothers who ran the school kept things from getting out of control, but there was no racial tension while I was there.  All conflicts that I can remember were with fellow white students, nothing I couldn't handle.

The first major race riot I was aware of was Los Angeles in the early 90's.  This was a big one, mostly sparked by the Rodney King incident.  He was a black man who was severely beaten by a mostly white police force, probably a regular thing, but this time was captured on video.   And the world got to see it.  Before it was all over, a lot of death, destruction, violence, blocks burning.  The closest I came to it was in Hackensack, NJ, a whole continent away.  How?  The place I worked was across the street from the county police station, with their large fenced parking lot next door.  Another King related trial had just happened, and word was that some people would be unhappy with the results, so there were preparing. Buses of armed officers in full riot gear were in formation, armored emergency vehicle were being brought out.  Luckily that is where it ended.  Maybe we just have more sense in this area these days.  There is nothing to be gained by destroying or burning your own city.   When professional sports teams in Chicago, Detroit, or other large midwestern cities win national championships, there often wide occurrences of riots, arson, and other antisocial behavior, but in New York, I've seen celebrations for Yankees, Mets, and Giants championships, which were just big parades, then clean up and go home.  

The next thing I had to deal with was Carbondale, Illinois, where I went to grad school for 3 years in the early to mid 90's.  A tradition had developed of a big riot on the weekend closest to Halloween, and it had gotten so bad, the school thought it best just to declare a fall break and close the dorms.  (I had an apartment and was unaffected by that policy) State troopers were stationed on the main roads leading into town, north, south, east and west, to keep non residents away.  Nothing racial, just people who enjoy a chance for violence.  This kind of thing happens.  Had a student years ago who was ejected from a local amusement park because she had a habit of attacking the workers at the Halloween spook house.   Happened twice. When I asked her why, she said they scared her.  I pointed out that was their job, but there was no getting through to her.  Each week I reminded her to be careful with her hot glue gun, but she would eventually burn herself.  Later I learned that girls were forbidden to work that scary attraction because so many people showed up just for the chance to hit women. My first year in Carbondale, I decided to use the break to visit my college friend Doug a few states away, but the next year I stuck it out.  In the days leading up to the weekend, city workers were busy coating street light and traffic light poles with vaseline, I assumed to make them difficult to climb, and that weekend a few store windows were smashed and I think one car burned. But that could happen any weekend. There was a fairly common occurrence called "taking the strip", where large numbers of students would be forced out of bars by the standard 2:00 am closing and just occupy and block the main road through town (aka "the strip"), until the police showed up an started spraying everyone with mace.  Typical weekend in Carbondale, a town with more bar fights than any other place I have been.

About a decade ago I moved into studio in Ocean Grove. just a block from Asbury Park. That city once had one of the premiere boardwalks in the state, but a major race riot in 1970 helped put an end to that, along with the opening of the Parkway, which made it a lot easier to get to the rest of the beaches along the coast.  As always happens, when the rest of society runs away, artists move in, making Asbury more an art town than it had been.  Despite a lot of local corruption and poorly planned construction, the town is gradually getting more popular.  Hard to ignore all that beachfront accessible by train and car.  Earlier this year Asbury was host to a few Black Lives Matter marches, and our building decided in advance to close for the occasion.  As it turned out, the marches were blocks away from our location, and like most such matches were peaceful demonstrations, so no harm occurred.

And that brings us to today.  Our current president has a long history of racist behavior, and tends to encourage it, as long as it isn't against white people. A while back a group of police busted into the apartment of a woman named Breonna Taylor at 2:00 am and shot the place up. And that's really all we know.  Different witnesses have different accounts.  Maybe the police knocked, maybe not.  Maybe they fired first, maybe not.  The woman was innocent- they were after her boyfriend.  He fired back at the police.  The police fired over 20 bullets between them, but none hit the guy with the gun.  A few went into the neighboring apartment, and 6 ended up in the woman, who was killed.  The city of Louisville, where this happened, realized something very bad had happened, and gave the family a huge cash settlement and started changing procedures.  No body cameras were on. Yesterday was the conclusion of the trial for the police.  And it was concluded that no one should be blamed for what happened.  What followed reminded me of Hackensack 30 years ago.  Someone in the city feared the worst, and the heavy trucks were brought out, and dozens of police armed and in riot gear, and as is often the case these days, joined by large armed militias (white people with guns- Kentucky is an open carry state).  A curfew was announced. and the protestors obeyed it- no riots last night.  What will happen the next few days remains to be seen.

One thing that makes Louisville stand out for me is that used to pass through it a few times a year as part of my cross country journeys from Carbondale to New Jersey and back.  Don't think I ever set foot on the ground there, just passing through on the interstate.  It seemed yesterday's event was in the downtown area, so not where I had been, but I was glad I wasn't making  the trip yesterday.  

Which leads to the question- is there art to be made here?  This is not the kind of thing I usually do.  Mostly because I really don't know much of what actually happened.  I don't like to speculate or make things up.  The trial seemed to say that they didn't know what happened either, so everyone should just forget it and go home.  Without some additional information, or a good idea to add to the discussion, I have nothing to say right now. 



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Newer Phase part 2

Last week I found a listing for 3 art classes at a local county college, then the listing disappeared.  It had given the option of sending things directly to the email of someone working there, and I wrote the address down.  Then it all disappeared.  Then on Friday part of it came back, a job in printmaking.  I acted quickly to send some information to the contact address. 

Today I heard back.   This assistant dean wrote that she would forward my letter to the person in charge of music classes.  Seemed weird, but colleges sometimes have strange ways.  I thanked her for the assistance, strange as it seemed.  

A few minutes later she wrote back, saying it was a typo and she meant to write that she was sending it to the person in charge of art classes.  Made a little more sense, and I thanked her again.  No classes being done right now, but it's a foot in the door, and if enough people see my work, anything is possible.  


Saturday, September 12, 2020

And So It Begins

 

Got an email today telling us that my former university has reported its first case of Covid-19 in a campus resident.  A freshman who had lived in a dorm. He is now quarantining at home, and his roommate is being quarantined on campus. With their contact tracing system they think that is all, and for the sake of the other students I hope they are right, but the disease is getting out of control on so many other campuses across the country, so who knows?  I'm sure there will be more to this story in the  future.


Friday, September 11, 2020

A Newer Phase

 This morning I went to the commercial site that had listed the three community college classes that I had been preparing to apply for, then disappeared.  Except that today the print job was back.  Colleges can be weird.  Whatever else this may mean, I decided it was a reason to send mail to that contact I had seen before, a quick letter introducing myself, and the link to my online portfolio. If nothing else, it was an opportunity to put my work and qualifications in front of a new set of eyes that may be connected to a teaching job. So that's what I did.

As of late this evening I hadn't gotten anything back.  Does this mean anything?  I don't know.  I can say that the email address was valid, because it didn't bounce back.  But that's all I know for sure right now. No reply yet, which may be expected from a teaching related inquiry on a Friday. I'll keep you updated as things happen.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

A New Phase part 6

 Actually did an update to my CV last night, but didn't get around to writing about it. The air conditioner tends to put me to sleep. But I got up a decent time this morning and planned to finally send all this information to the name we were told we could send it to. Went to the website that told us this, but I couldn't find the information there. The site that had listed 3 positions at this particular school now listed no jobs.  The school site was still there, but the contact was just listed in her other jobs, including assistant to the dean, but no other details. The home page still said that all in person classes were cancelled through December.  I did remember the contact's name, and verified her email address, and was looking for more information when I found a new item- the school had chosen a new dean to that division.  It's someone I know all too well. He was an assistant dean at my community college for a while.  He didn't much like me, but he really didn't like art.  On more than one occasion, he said to me, "I don't know anything about art.  I don't want to know anything about art. So stop talking to me about art."  Unfortunately, it was the art department and teaching art was my job.  It's like working for GM and having a boss who hates cars and talking about them.  Then in the middle of a semester, he was suddenly gone.  No one said if he had quit or was fired, but no one seemed to miss him. Now he turns up this other school I was thinking about working at. 

Looking around the school website, I see they still don't have anyone teaching printmaking.  Perhaps it hasn't been a priority to hire one with no class being taught.  I don't know, but I'm guessing if this guy is in charge now, I won't be offered a position there.  I may still send something in to the contact name I had found before (it doesn't cost anything, and the worst that can happen is they say no); maybe this contact will just forward things to whoever is helping out with that these days.  But this was the only lead I had to a current art teaching job, so I may have to find a new field.  It's unfortunate, as it is the field that I have the most background in, and the most experience in.  Plus, I like it, and I'm good at it. But as  I wrote recently, schools are afraid to offer classes, and students are afraid to take them.  I'll start dealing with that tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

A New Phase part 5

 The name of the person we should send the teaching applications to at this community college turned out to be an assistant dean, so I decided not to send it in today, being that today was also the first day of class, and I figured she probably had a lot of other things to do.  Wouldn't want to get lost in the shuffle. Which meant that I had an extra day to refine my materials.

For example, my online portfolio.  I remembered that when I had looked up information online that they had (at least in the past) included a few multiple color prints as a requirement in their print class. I don't normally do those with multiple blocks, but I can, so perhaps I should get some examples that are not just my usual hand coloring, just to show that I can.  So I added a few color examples to the Printmaking section of my portfolio (personal and student work).  After all, I do have the examples.  Also added a particularly intense black and white woodcut from one of my Ocean Grove students last year, not done in the class itself, but a few months later on her own. She had emailed it to me to get my opinion.  Since in the mail she credits the piece to what she had just learned in my class just before that, I feel it was acceptable to use it. The print, a portrait piece, is good and I figure it makes me look good as a teacher.  

The other thing I did was add a few captions to the 2D section, to better explain what the projects were.  Normally you can't do that with a page of slides, but since this is a blog site, might as well take advantage of it. All the student artworks are good, showing examples of all the important formal issues, and that may be enough.  But it doesn't hurt to have the additional words.  

Monday, September 07, 2020

A New Phase part 4

 

Today is Labor Day, and nothing happens on Labor Day. These days not much happens at colleges on any day, but for today, not at all.  So it was a good day to take care of things I have to do before I attempt to get a job at one.  

Earlier this year I was asked to send an updated CV to the dean at my university, and I did so. This is mostly because the dean has never set foot in the department, or met any of the faculty, or probably has a clue what we do there, but he needs to learn some of that stuff.  Today I made a new duplicate of the file (on my computer), and updated the new file with address information not related to that school. Easy task.

Taking more time was creating an online portfolio.  I did this with a blog- free, huge amounts of memory available, and can be read by anyone with a computer. In the old days, when you applied for anything you sent 35 mm slides, a page containing 20 of them, plus a SASE so you could get them back.  Slide film isn't even made anymore, so I've been shooting digital examples of all work for years. I still have slides and use them with my classes, where the students are fascinated with the projector, which is essentially a powerful light bulb and a lens.  Very low-tech, but still the best way to show an image to a whole class at once.  But as I wrote, slide film isn't available these days, so I use digital for posting things to my school blog, etc. I have hundreds of images on my computer, so I simply started a new blog, and went through all my folders, selecting images for this portfolio.  With no more specific instructions given, I put together the equivalent of a page of personal work, and a page each for Printmaking, Drawing, and 2D Design, the three classes I see advertised. 

Since I can't apply through the official place, all I can do is contact the department person, and the job listing does provide an email address.  No point in doing that today, but when I am ready to, a simple email, introducing myself, expressing my interest and qualifications for those 3 classes (if they are actually looking for someone), contact information, and an offer to send images, the CV, transcripts, etc, which I can get out in about a minute.  Then I wait and see.  But it's all ready to go right now.


Sunday, September 06, 2020

A New Phase part 3

 

I had one goal to get done today- to get better transcript images, especially now that I had found all three from my eduction.  Rather than go up to the Studio and use the tack board, I thought I would just tape them to a drawing board and rely on sunlight, since we always seem to have a lot of sun. But first I had to get tape, which I knew I had in print bag out in my car.  I always have a roll of blue painter's tape, which works well as a masking agent on my woodcut blocks.  Switched my camera to the largest photo setting it has, taped the transcripts up one at a time, and took the photos. Downloaded them to the computer and edited them. Definitely look better than the last ones I did.  Good enough?  I guess I'll find out later. Probably at least as good as scanning the documents on a printer, but either way they would be unofficial.   

I also set up a new blog, which can act as my online portfolio.  Haven't actually filled it in yet, but one thing I have in large supply is images of works- my own, my students.  Had some of my recent college students tell me that they found being able to see completed student works to be very helpful in doing the projects.  I would never ask them to copy what another has done, but I guess seeing where they should end up was very useful to the process.

I tracked down the job listings on the college website, and they are still there.  Still no deadlines, and I don't know if any classes are meeting in person right now. One good thing- no request for references. Not sure how many I could dig up these days.  Would have started the application process except it wasn't going to let me. To apply for a job through the website requires a user ID, and it seems the only way to get one is to have one already. Colleges all want to make things more complicated than they need to be- I'm just a guy who likes to teach art and is good at it. I'll have to find a way around that, but it can wait until tomorrow.  Nothing is going to happen on a campus until after Labor Day has passed. 


Saturday, September 05, 2020

A New Phase part 2

 

Covid 19 has been a huge problem for everyone, for many different reasons.  I think it was first recognized back in January, but it was assumed by many it wouldn't be so bad here.  By March it was realized by most it was growing into a huge problem, except for our President who still claims it will just go away and was never really a problem anyway, even as we are approaching hundreds of thousands of deaths.  At the moment there is no cure, no vaccine to prevent it, no real treatment if you get it.   On the plus side, fatality is only around 2 or 3 percent, but if you are one of the people who dies, that probably still seems too large.  Those most likely to get it and die from it are the elderly, but anyone can get it.  Right now the best preventative is wearing a face mask in all public places, and washing one's hands frequently, but a lot of people just don't want to behave that way.  

Not surprisingly, a lot of colleges panicked. Large numbers of students, close quarters- a recipe for trouble. Over spring break (March) we were informed by email that we needed to go to remote online learning for a few weeks, but send us lesson plans for four.  And a week later they told us don't come back at all.  Students got it worse than the professors- thrown out of dorms immediately, given a scheduled day to come in an get their stuff, and on that day told forget it, just go home.  As a result, many students couldn't get to the art materials they had purchased, leaving us to tell them, just do the best you can with whatever you got.  That fits in with artistic traditions, which include using all kinds of materials, in all kinds of places.  With museums closed, we had to come up with an alternate written assignment (done), and most other arts were closed. My studio building in Ocean Grove had to cancel all classes, groups, and theater use, but we artists were classified as "essential workers" and allowed to keep using our space for personal use. Supermarkets were also seen as essential and stayed open, often with odd rules (see my last print). But laws closed many restaurants and bars, and other stores.  With restrictions, many local restaurants were able to have some outdoor dining and take out.  In late summer, following a series of inexplicable power failures, I got to eat out for the first time in many months, when my parents took me out to the outdoor dining (under a huge tarp, tables well spaced) at a local place. It was all very good, and my leftover made a good meal a few days later.



I believe there was a plan to let restaurants open again (with restrictions) for July 4th, but that got called off.  I heard there might be something like that this weekend (Labor Day is the last summer holiday), but I don't know if it happened.   Lucky for me, I am a decent cook

Now it's September and things are just as bad.  The pandemic is still raging, and the economy is the worst it's been since the Great Depression, though at least toilet paper is easier to find. (for months it was in very short supply for no reason) As I wrote last time, colleges have long wanted to get rid of faculty and go with computer based education, and this helped accelerate that process. I was scheduled to teach a hybrid class- 3 weeks online, then several in the classroom, then a month back online.  Meanwhile, schools all over the country have had to cancel classes and send students home due to corona virus outbreaks, so I wonder if the meetings will ever happen. I was taken off the class, so I'll never have to deal with that.

So I need to find a new source of income. The thing I know best is teaching art and I could start right away, if there is a place teaching. Unfortunately, all colleges have stopped- schools are afraid to hold classes, and students are afraid to take them.  Just a few weeks ago, when I still had my hybrid classes, I received emails (against the rules in the new online system) from two students, asking if they could just do it as online.  After I checked, I had to tell them no.  One dropped immediately.  If the pandemic continues to rage, they may get their wish anyway.

My mother did some looking online and found job listings for adjunct teaching jobs in my areas of experience, at a local community college.  I'd have no problem with that, except that I doubt the jobs actually exist.  I went to the school's home page, where there was a big notice that all in person classes were cancelled through December,  and these kind of art processes are best taught in person, but if they offered me the class, I'd take the position and the salary, and figure out the methods later. Tracked down a listing through another website (always a bad sign), and found the listings for 3 adjunct art jobs. Identical to three jobs I had applied for at another NJ school 3 years ago, but never heard back from them.  Not looking any better.  As last time, no contact information, just a request for a cover letter, a CV, and transcripts.  No actual deadline. More and more this looks like a fishing expedition and not a job search. On the other hand, it does allow me to send information about myself to a school, and sometimes that is how it works. The job I just had happened when my information was plucked from a file when they needed people in a hurry- had my job interview 3 weeks after the classes started.

I can probably adapt the letter I used when I applied for similar jobs a few years ago, just changing things for the current job, and I always have a CV ready to go.  Transcripts are trickier.  In the old days I used to mail these in with the application, but this is all online.  Normally these come directly from the colleges I attended, and whether it's electronic or paper, the colleges charge for this, and the cost would be about $20.  Perhaps a tolerable price if I know a job will result, but I don't know if this is a real job.  What I am thinking is maybe I can send some high resolution photos of transcripts now, and tell them if they are considering me for a real job, I can arrange the others.  Similar to what I did with the video submission and my puzzle images- take the largest size digital image I can.  Just had to find the original transcripts.  Normally I keep all my teaching stuff in a particular box (slides, transcripts, etc), but when I searched that box a few days ago- nothing.  After a while I realized where they were- with my diplomas. (several years ago I was informed that my college job would end if I didn't show them all my transcripts, diplomas, recommendation letters, etc, which seemed strange for a job I had been working for 7 years at that point, but this is how it is when you work for the state- someone decides something and their go to method to get it is to threaten you with job loss or jail if you don't provide it immediately; I got copies of the letters from the office I had submitted them to when I started, and brought the rest of the stuff in to have copies made)  I found them about 2:00 am, and the next day one of my tasks in the Studio was taking my large file photos of them.


Just pinned them up to my tack wall and took close up large photos of them. The problem was that I could only find them from two schools, but it was a start. Back home I downloaded and edited the photos, and while they looked about the same as the original documents, the printed text is still very small.  Today I found the 3rd transcript, so maybe tomorrow I will try to shoot them again, see if I can get a better one.  There is no given deadline for this, and no one will be around through the holiday weekend, so a few extra days won't hurt.


Friday, September 04, 2020

A New Phase

 

Back in March, the corona virus swept through the world, and his this county particularly hard.  I was in spring break at my university when we were given word that all classes would be conducted online when we returned, and we had 2 days to figure out how and tell them. So I did.  They told us it would just be for two weeks, but they wanted to see 4 weeks of lesson plans anyway.   Didn't like the sound of that, but I was just following my 15 week syllabus anyway, so no problem.  Of course, after a week they told us not to come back this semester. A little more difficult for me, and a lot more for all the students.  I taught through the class blog (which I have had since 2007) and email, and it worked.  Got a lot of positive feedback from the students.

The future remained unknown.  What concerned me was that for years colleges have been pushing to have more online classes, and often adopted learning management systems, where outside corporations are given control of the classes and faculty are just the people on the ground running things.  I was at a community college for 10 years, and in one 8 year period they had 3 such systems. These systems don't work, so failure is inevitable, and they just bring in another one.  Both students and faculty dislike them, but administrators love them, thinking it will make them more money.  They don't, and will cost them students.  At that other school, the president even bragged about how they would be able to hire faculty from other (cheaper) parts of the country, and thanks to the internet, they would never have to set foot in expensive New Jersey.  What occurred to me, was that if they could offshore our jobs to Kansas, they could offshore them to India or China, both known for cheap labor, and places where my schools have set up exchange programs.  As it turns out, art does not adapt well to online teaching.  Art students hate it, and some will travel many miles each week to work in person with a good professor. Yet I feared this health crisis would accelerate plans to do so anyway.

As the spring semester ended, we all got mail thanking us for so quickly adapting our classes to distance learning, and also telling us what we had done could never be done again.  A learning management system had been chosen, and all classes would have to be conducted through it.  With the art class I taught, they would select the art projects, the order we do them in, due dates, materials, a grading system, etc. We could train to use the system, and I tried to.  As part of that training we were instructed to research best practices in online teaching and I read many articles, written by educators experienced in this field. There were many recommendations as to what approaches and assignments work best. Of course in this system, we couldn't do any of the recommended things.  Even before the official trainings, they suggested an online background lesson, where an instructor would show us stuff.  What we got was a tiny window on the monitor, where things were too small to see, a moderator who went through everything without explaining it, and they had activated the cameras of all those in the session, so I could see a lot of faces older than mine and probably more confused than mine. I assume that was the plan all along.  

The system they had chosen was bad even by the standards of the industry.  They had been fired for incompetence and other failures by schools across the country.  A full time faculty committee at my school asked if we could explore other systems before committing to this one.  Then the faculty senate put out a proclamation saying this should not be allowed.  I've been involved in some online chats on other platforms.  Usually just a few keystrokes to get you there, and the video and audio are taken care of.  This one required 22 pages of instructions, and 78 different steps, and that doesn't include the grading. I did the training twice, tripling my score between them.  But a few days ago I was informed that what I had done was not good enough, and I would not be teaching my assigned classes, and my 15 year career at that college was now over.  Not because my teaching of art was a problem, or any personal behavior issues, but because I did not do well on their corrupt and inferior system.  In some ways this could be for the best- the new version of the class goes against much of my art training.  Many colleges in the south and midwest started weeks ago, and most of them have had to cancel classes or send students home because of covid 19 outbreaks, so I wonder if my classes (which start meeting in person in a few weeks) will even happen.  In any case I do need an income, so part of today was spent in the process of seeking a new job. I'll save that story for the next time.


Supermarket Panic part 14

I had gotten word from Nichole that she was planning to replace the last doorknob of the two doors to our Studio today, which would mean a new key to that door, and that alone was a reason to go there today.  However, I usually have many things to do at the Studio.  One thing was to finish the current block.  I had located my supply of personal tools, and wanted to get this done so I'll be ready to move on the next print, once I decide what that is.

In the early afternoon I got up to the building.  Saw cars in the lot (not Nichole's) and the gates open, so went in. Went straight to the basement and saw that the door had a new knob, one my key would not fit.  Luckily, there was a plan in place.  Up to the office, where Bobby was on duty.  I asked about the key and he pulled out an envelope and dug out a set of keys, one silver, one gold.  Said he had sets for me and for Molly.  Why two?  He didn't know. So I went downstairs via the elevator, and came first to the green door, the side hallway I don't usually use to enter.  The gold key didn't work there.  The silver key didn't seem to fit either, but after jiggling it around a bit it finally fit and the key turned, and I was in.  I'd figure out the rest later.


 Got in there and set up.  For music today I brought something from home, a disc that collected some early albums from the DC band Shudder to Think, one of those groups I learned about at Montclair State.  Hard to classify, even for music experts, but often labeled as "post-hardcore".  They were signed to Dischord Records, a label that specialized in hard core punk bands from the Washington DC area, and they fit in with that crowd.  The music is fast, dense, aggressive guitars, but recorded at low volume, which gave them a mellow pop sound.  Vocals were more pop. This disc had their first two albums for Dischord, Funeral at the Movies and Ten Spot from the early 90's. One of those things that would be hard to listen to in winter with the heat coming on every few minutes, but summers are quiet around there.  The two albums totaled about an hour, which seemed just enough time.

I was pretty close last time, but saved a few parts until I had better tools to work with, which I did today.  I finished some items of the background shelves, trying to use ellipses on the cans on the shelves to help show relative height, put a bold design on a box on the upper shelf, and finished the wall with a ONE WAY sign, and the wall itself. (some area supermarkets actually tried to enforce one way aisles, and these are still in place) What I'm not sure of yet is if I want to show lines between the black tiles in floor groupings.  I may look at what I did in other prints in the series.  And I should take a rubbing of it, see how it all turned out.  But otherwise this one is done.  Did other things in the Studio today, but I'll save those for another post.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Superarket Panic part 13

 Had a lot of other things to deal with of late, and realized it had been well over a month since I wrote about anything new (art) I was doing.  Also had some email exchanges with Nichole in Ocean Grove, who I hadn't seen in a while, due to storms, power outages, jigsaw puzzles, heat waves, and work related trainings. Not much has been going on up at the Studio lately, so there wasn't much to report. I stopped by the other day to leave a rent check, found that the windows had been replaced, and the new door knob may be coming soon.  The building is still closed to the public, which keeps things quiet.

But it seemed a good day to work on some art.  I do have a block in progress, my latest supermarket piece, so I had something to work on. Grabbed the block, a bag of tools, and hit the road. Weather today was not as hot as some days we have had, but the humidity has come back.  Several cars in the lot, so I figured the alarm was off and it was safe to go inside.  I had heard Nichole's voice coming from the 1st floor. so went that way first.  She was there, with another person, who I assumed was a potential tenant.  She said they were heading for the basement (via the central stairway), so I told her I'd see her down there and took my usual route. When I saw her and this other person down there, Nichole was showing her the open studio where the tintype place had been.  I had met the artist a few times back in the spring as she was working hard to set the place up, building things, etc.  Then she wasn't around, like so much else this summer. Reminded me of one of the 1st floor tenants from years ago, a quilt studio that had been created in classroom #1.   A row of new sewing machines, shelves with bolts of fabric, work tables, etc.  I was in the building on the day of the grand opening, so stopped by to see the place. Unfortunately, I never saw it open again.  Later Herb said she got sick and never came back, and later he took possession of her inventory and was trying to sell it and get some money back.  What with covid 19 shutting down all visitors to the building, I don't know if the tintype place even had a grand opening. (she had a main location in Asbury, so I guess if anything was happening, it was there) Nichole was showing the empty room to the visitor, so I guess the tintype person had moved on.  The visitor had remarked about the dampness in the basement, an ongoing problem down there in the summer.  Nicole mentioned a plan to get more dehumidifiers going soon, but with no activities going on this summer, I guess it hadn't been a priority.

In my own space, I settled down to work. Molly had left both fans running at full blast, and had for days, so I shut down her box fan and turned my pedestal fan in my direction.  For music I brought something I had heard on the radio the other day, an album from Chuck Prophet from several years ago. No Other Love was one of his bigger hits, which means I am probably one of the few people with a copy.  No regrets on my part, I like the 2002 album. Hard to classify (the internet calls it alt-country, which is as close as anyone would come), but a lot of good songs. A lot of it is acoustic/low-fi, which works better in the summer, as the constantly running heat in the winter would drown it out.  When that ended I switched to Repercussion from the dB's, but I wrote about that earlier this year.  


According to the blog I hadn't worked on this since mid July, so it's about time I got it done.  Today I cut more of the floor, the deep background, parts of the shelves, and much of the "one way" wall at the far left.  Unfortunately, the bag of tools I grabbed today just had my class tools in it, not my better personal tools, so I decided to leave some of the detailed areas until I have better tools to carve it with.   But most of the cutting is done.  Time to start thinking about the next piece.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Puzzle Success Again

 It's been weeks since I posted anything to this blog.  Mostly because I had nothing to write about.  We have had a lot of hot weather, high humidity, etc.  Covid has pretty much shut down the art world.  My main concern right now is getting ready for the fall semester, assuming that happens- these days one never knows.  There have been a lot of trainings, and more to come.

However one thing I can do and have done is continue work on the puzzles.  Not making new ones for the moment, but trying out the prototypes and seeing if they work and what we need to do next. Part of my research will involve my brother and his family.  The first puzzle I assembled was of my imagined view (partly from actual photos, partly made up) of one of our favorite miniature golf courses from our youth. The actual miniature golf course was wiped out by a nor'easter decades ago, but I was given a vintage photo of it (70's) several years ago and used that as a starting point for one of my boardwalk prints. The place was on the Belmar boardwalk, although my version could have been anywhere, with many holes based on common miniature golf holes, and I have played in enough places to know how they are designed.  I knew the puzzle was complete but I am gathering opinions from people who are less subjectively involved in the process.  They were away for a while on vacation, but are back now.  So when I was invited over the other day for some pizza, I brought the puzzle in its box and invited them to try it out. Any information they can provide may be helpful, such as opinions on the design, size, number of pieces, etc.  These are all things that Jenny and I need to figure out before we try to produce and market it.

Another design we tried in this first batch is more recent, from my Vesuvio print earlier this year.  Like the miniature golf pieces, bright and colorful with interest to local people.  This one came from a different company, so that is one thing we have to evaluate.  I had no deadlines to meet last night, so I decided to try and finish the thing, which I had been working on off and on since finishing the first one.

A much smaller box than the other boardwalk puzzles, but the puzzle itself is about the same size. This is one of the things we have to consider.  I liked the image when I cut the block, so that hasn't changed. As with the boardwalk prints, the image has reproduced well.  Objects with bold colors and patterns work well in this format, which I believe is how Jenny got the idea. and why I photographed this non-boardwalk image and sent it to her for consideration.  I started assembling this one just after I finished the first one, but power issues and trainings created delays.  

My art skills helped here.  I'm good at matching colors.  In areas with solid colors and patterns, I could use shapes of individual pieces to match the pieces of the same color, as in the ceiling and back wall.  The preponderance of turquoise, so much a part of the decor of the place, became a minor challenge- the problem of finding where in the design a particular piece would go.  And the small box image didn't help with some of those details, but I have the original print to look at.  As I expected, the further I got, the faster it got, as I had fewer options as to where pieces might go. 

So this is done now, and it worked- the right number of pieces and complete.  When my brother finishes the first one, I'll have him try this one (he knows the restaurant well, and his wife was a big fan).  In our brief conversation the other night he and his wife did not favor the idea of very large pieces (as in children's puzzles) but we'll see how they feel after they start to assemble them.  As with the miniature golf course, the place is long gone, now just a memory, and a jigsaw puzzle. 


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Time to Start Another

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

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

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

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

Puzzle Success

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

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

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





Thursday, July 30, 2020

Puzzle Fun Continues


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

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