Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 10

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

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

Monday, July 06, 2020

More life with puzzles

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

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

Saturday, July 04, 2020

It is the Fourth of July

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

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

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

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 9

Late last night we got an update on the status of the 99 Bottles video.  In a mass mailing to all the participants, Amy told us that she had received artworks from most of the people who had signed up for the project, with a few who begged for extra time expected to get them in later this week.  Her plan was to start editing together the video tomorrow, so she can meet the deadline given to her for its completion.  (the whole project is backed by a local arts organization ) So not much I can do there right now.  And the puzzle project is also on hold, with my friend Jenny unavailable right now.  She and her husband had gone to their rental property last week to do some work, which left her feeling somewhat unwell, and her solution was to self isolate while she waits for the results of the covid 19 test she just took.  (results expected next week) So I decided to get back to a project that I can do without anyone else right now- my new supermarket print.

Today I went back to the Studio with my new supermarket block and some cutting tools.  Found a tag up on our hook, the lights on, and the radio tuned to NPR (a show about the hiring of lifeguards at a NYC pool), but no sign of Molly being present.  Hadn't really expected to see her there, as she had said she wanted to be done with all her work by Tuesday and not have to leave her house the rest of the week as all the tourists start entering the area.  For the moment I had the place to myself, and since I had no interest in the lifeguard story, I turned off the radio and switched to CD, and put on what I felt like listening to- The Beatles White Album.  Didn't bring it with me from home, but I do keep a copy on disc there at all times.  If you don't know about it, I'll let you look it up for yourself.  As one of the most famous and best selling albums of the rock era, there's plenty out there about it.

Eventually Molly did show up, but by then I was working on my project, and she got into hers, blow drying piles of screen printed cloths, and stacking up screen printed paper.  I just kept working,

 I had done just a little more drawing- a background at the end of the aisle, and a few items on the shelves. but mostly I was in the mood to do some cutting.  Had my big bag of tools with me today, both the class tools and my personal tools, giving me opportunities.  I did the outline around the border, and the one large white area in the image, a section of the floor.  But I decided that was enough for today, and I'll save the more complex cutting for another time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

99 Bottles part 7.1

Over the weekend I worked out my color choices for this piece, using the practice copy to test them out. On Sunday evening I taped the good copy of the print down onto my drawing board, but chose not to color it at that time.

Monday morning I was ready to go.  The biggest area was the negative space- all the sand.  Hadn't tested that, but I knew from extensive experience with beaches that the color I would want was Buff Titanium (seems to be a darker version of Titanium White), and put a wash of that down in a lot of broad areas.  Put a thicker version down in some areas to represent texture and shadows. For the paper with the words, I had experimented with New Gamboge, but as with the Vesuvio print, I found the full strength color to be too intense, and went with a mix of white and Naples yellow, and the same for the bottle label.  Normally glass would be clear, but I wanted it to separate a little from the warm tone of the sand, so added a hint of blue.  For the shells- black and white with a little brown for the clam shell, black and white with a little indigo for the mussel shell. And it was done.

Still taped to my drawing board, I brought it to the Studio to photograph.  Took a nice 1MB image to submit for the video, and the smaller format version seen above.  Molly was in working on some big production run, but I got out of there.  Very steamy in the basement, and in that kind of weather, paper sticks to skin, kind of hard to get anything done.

In the evening I submitted my large photo to the website for that purpose (a google drive thing- I've worked with it before for class, where my students had to submit everything online this semester), and sent a short note to Amy, along with the small photo as a preview, just to let her know it was in.  In my brief time on the drive I saw thumbnails of some of the other work.  In mail she had mentioned that she was expecting a lot of gel pen and refrigerator magnet art, but what I saw was bit more sophisticated than that.  Before the night was over, I got a response- thanking me for my piece and praising it, and answering some questions and comments I had regarding music.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Life in Other Media

I love woodcut and expect it to be my main medium for some time to come.  However, sometimes people pull me into other areas.  For example, this week one of my main activities has been my contribution to a music video.  I'm not actually making the video, which is probably for the best. My part is making a piece of artwork (surprise- it's a woodcut) that will be used as part of the video.  I finished cutting and printing the block a few days ago.  That first day I brought the practice proof home in the back of my car, and left the final one in my Studio rack to dry.  Yesterday I dropped by the Studio just long enough to pick up the good proof and put that in the back of my car.  Meanwhile, I brought the practice proof that had been in my car into my apartment.  (the ink seemed pretty dry)  The practice one is only half printed (the point at which it shifted on the block and was done), but it will work for allowing me to test potential colors. Spent part of today researching possible colors to use.  Have all my watercolor stuff at home right now, so I may as well do it there. Looked at a lot of photos on the internet, seeing what various objects look like- bottles, shells, sand, etc.  I don't expect that I will use full strength intense colors for this piece, but will keep it subtle, so the words are the focus.

Then late last night I got an email from my friend Jenny which related to another one of my side projects.  She was very interested in the potential to turn some of my woodcuts into jigsaw puzzles, which have grown in popularity during the enforced isolation of this pandemic.  I had sent her some additional large format photos and asked her to get back to me when she learned more.  Hadn't heard from her in more than a week, which was fine because I was busy with the video project. Turns out that during that time, she and her husband were busy working on their vacation rental home.   (maybe such things have just opened up again, or maybe they are just getting ready for the 4th) Where we left off was she was planning to have something made, and that got done. The mail included a photo of the box of the first puzzle, my History of Art woodcut.  The box looked good, and although they brought it with them to Maryland, they hadn't tried doing it yet.  May be for the best- if they lost a piece while moving around, I don't know if they could replace it.  But I assume they will start it soon, and then let me know how it worked as a puzzle. And what these things would cost to make.  Once we know that, we can look into the possibility of producing and selling them. One problem she is having right now is opening the photo files, which she says may be the fault of her laptop. Out of curiosity, I took those same photo files (still on my computer), and emailed them to one of my other mailboxes.  It all worked fine.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

99 Bottles part 6

Had to take care of some lawn mowing in the morning, so I didn't get up to the Studio until the afternoon.  No Molly today, so I could have music.  I decided to continue with the Los Angeles theme I had going earlier in the week, and brought with me a two disc set, the Best of the Doors.  This was a band that was as linked to Los Angeles as any band is to its hometown.  Very well known, too, so no need to write about them.  Kind of overcast today, so less hot, but inside the Studio it was quite humid, more so than the past 3 days that I had been there.

I had finished all the cutting yesterday, so I just went directly to printing today. I prepared two pieces of print paper (Rives Lightweight) of the correct size, and had some black ink out. Didn't have enough ink on the block with the first attempt (a common problem), so it didn't work too well. The paper wanted to stick to my skin more than the inked wood (could be because of the humidity), and the proof shifted before I could finish printing it.  For the second proof I put down more ink, and the paper stuck to the block better.

This is what that 2nd proof looked like when printed. It looks pretty much like I expected.  A little crude in spots, and if this was a straight black and white print I would need a better proof, but in this case I'll be adding color, so the minor flaws don't matter. Good thing, as I was sweating too much to pull another proof down there today. I blotted the excess ink from the block and left it and this proof in my rack to dry for a few days.  The first incomplete proof I stuck in the back of my car, where it can dry safely and I can experiment with adding color when it is safe enough to do so. Nothing more I can do until then.  I like what I have so far, and color will add clarity and balance, so I think this one is working just fine so far.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

99 Bottles part 5

Got up to the Studio a little past 12, and was surprised to see a tag on our hook by the door.  Other than our dealing with the police, I don't think I had seen Molly in there since before Christmas. But when I got downstairs, she was there, so I wasn't going to be playing any music today.  I had brought a bag of cutting tools, and a sheet of printing paper, just in case I got far enough to use it.

Today was very warm.  The news had predicted 6 days with heavy rains, and today would have been day #6.  So far, not a drop of rain all week, just sunny and hot.  A couple of days ago, they started walking back that prediction, saying that when they predicted rain every day, it really meant a 20% chance of rain each day, which also meant an 80% chance of sun, so really they were accurate in their predictions. Funny how they forgot to mention that 20% until two days ago.  Being that our space in down in the basement, and the dampness and humidity hadn't built down there yet, it was actually quite comfortable down there, better than my apartment.

I got right to work on my block. I had already decided that the drawing was good enough, so my goal was to complete the cutting today.  It's a relatively small block, about 6"x10", and I figured I could get it done. Did the two bottles first, then the empty sand.  The most complex thing to work on was the note- a lot of letters, and I'm used to cutting letters with the grain running vertical, but I didn't have a piece of wood like that, so I had drawn the piece in a way that had the letters on horizontal grain.  It can be done, just had to think a little more.  Meanwhile, looking through the window I could see them setting up for food distribution in the back parking lot.  The bags were disappearing quickly,  but I was more determined to work than to go in search of a free sandwich.  Then I heard a knock on the window- it was Nichole holding up a black and white cookie, in what I assumed was an offer.  I'm not one to turn down one of those, so I looked for my mask to put on and to go out, but then she was already in, with bags for Molly and myself.  Inside the handled bag were two packaged black and white cookies, a roll of toilet paper (always useful) and a closed paper bag marked Ham and Swiss.   Unfortunately she said this was the last time they would be doing this.  I don't know if the organizers had run out of money, or if the "opening" of the state meant that it wasn't thought needed anymore, but this was the last free lunch.  I decided to check it out later and finish the block.

The cutting seems complete, so I decided to call it a day.  (it had been three hours work to get to this point)   The printing can wait for tomorrow.  Get that done, I can still color it by the weekend and get it in on time.  When I got home, I checked out that lunch bag- a ham and cheese sandwich, a bottle of water, a bag of chips, plus the other mentioned items.  A good meal for a hot day like this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

99 Bottles part 4

Brought my new block back to the Studio today.  After looking at it since yesterday, I decided that I liked my general design, so just concentrated on fixing the drawing that I have.  I spent a little time redrawing the two bottles that I had, mostly fixing some perspective issues.  My original plan for the upper right corner was two mussel shells, but I changed that to one shell.  Changed the shape of my piece of "lyric" paper a little, made it look a little more curly.  But mostly it's like I originally planned. I had brought with me today some black drawing ink, so went over all my pencil drawings with brush and ink.

The one thing I wasn't sure about was what to do at the edges.  What I almost always do with woodcuts is to include a simple border line to mark the rectangular edge of the print, but I didn't do that this time, mostly because I don't know what will be needed.  Eventually the image will be converted from my print to use in a video. I tried to do it in the ratio she requested, and I think I got it right, but we'll find out later.  She may have to refocus the images, and I thought that a heavy black line might be a problem if it popped up where not needed.  What I do have is an implied line edge, some in wash in the corners to continue the line made by where the drawings end.  I did use some wash also in shadows, and to mark some values in the drawing. When I start cutting the block, I'll have to chose what kind of marks will be used for these gray areas.

Every piece I do is first composed as a black and white image, and this was no exception.  It may be why right now it looks fairly similar to the recent black and white t-shirt designs. One big difference here is that the final piece is intended to include color, and some of these value shapes will be depicted with color in the actual image.  As the artist I know where they will be, and I'll deal with that  as I cut the block.  By the time it is cut, printed, and colored (probably a few days from now), you'll know it as well.

For no other reason than a song I heard on the car radio on my way to the Studio, today I ended up having a Los Angeles theme for music, items in my Studio library.  First was Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  This album, from around 1999, ended up being their best seller (I bought it myself after much radio play), but they had been around since the 80's, and were well known on the alternative circuit back in my college days.  What may have held them back a little was a love of illegal drugs and all of them had some addiction problems.  The album I have addresses those issues quite a bit.  A lot of musicians have made records about the problems of drugs, some after giving them up, some while still struggling.  Don't know where these guys are at now, but they are still alive, and the album is good.  When that disc ended, I put on a copy of the first two albums by X, released as a single CD, Los Angeles and Wild Gift.  X goes back to the early 80's, but never became huge.  Part of the alternative rock world,  considered an early American punk band, although like many bands from that part of the country, more than a little country-western influence. I first learned of them back in high school, as they had one of first videos on MTV, in an era where there were so few videos being done, having any video could get you onto MTV.  Most active in the 80's, but once in a while they get together and put out something new.  Both bands are known for their connections to the Southern Californian music world, so they have that in common.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Something New/ 99 Bottles Part 3

My contribution to this 99 Bottle video (thus why I am renaming these entries) is supposed to be in by July 1, so I figured I'd better get going on it.  I went back to the link I had been sent and listened to the song again and read the full lyrics.  I verified that the narrator is stranded on an island (having jumped ship and having no way to get back to it), and while she is consuming the content of the bottles, what she wants most is the empty bottles, to use to carry messages back to civilization. (where this supply is coming from I have no idea) My idea was a piece of empty beach, some empty bottles, and a piece of paper onto which she has written her words.

In the song she mentions both whiskey and beer, but for bottles I am going with the former because I happen to have some to draw from. I do have a few cans of beer in my refrigerator, but that won't work for the song.  I don't drink a lot of whiskey, but occasionally I get it as gifts.  

I know that one I have came from my college friend Doug on one of his visits north, kind of housewarming present.  It was a flask style bottle of Jim Beam, which is produced in Kentucky, the state he was living and working in at the time. I did a bunch of sketches of it from different angles while I was still home in the morning. I also have a full size bottle of Jack Daniel's, another bourbon style whiskey, produced in Tennessee, Doug's home state, but I don't think this came from him.  I know he knows it well, and has called it "the Tennessee country cure", as a shot of it is a common medicine down there.  Did drawings of that bottle as well, as I figured bringing open bottles of whiskey to the Studio and having them in my car could be considered a problem. Whiskey bottles are shaped in very specific ways, and the shape will let people know what they are without labels needed.

I decided to borrow a little bit from last year's BAC/shell t-shirt design, which was never used, as the people in charge couldn't make up their mind what they wanted.   Since I have to put the words somewhere, I thought to put them on a scrap of paper, since the singer is sending notes in bottles.Worked out some ideas on paper first, then got my block and started a pencil sketch there.

Didn't get as far as I had planned on the block drawing today, as I was called away for a family emergency, so the shells are not fully realized yet.  And the lettering will be done better in the final version, plus the one I turn in should have some simple colors- sand, shells, glass, paper, maybe a little left in each bottle.  I think the idea is fine, and if I feel the same way tomorrow, I'll fix up the pencil drawing, and go from there.  The bottle labels will be kept generic, as brands are not significant to the song.

The music that seemed appropriate for today was blues, and I forgot to grab anything from home, so I went with one of the discs I keep in the Studio- a home burned one with the two heaviest albums I have from Buddy Guy- Stone Crazy and Sweet Tea, which I believe I have written about already.  One thing I thought about while listening to the song again was that besides the heavy use of harp (harmonica), the music seemed to mostly be slide guitar.  And in blues, slide guitar was traditionally played with a bottle neck.  Could be one cut off and worn on a finger, or could be achieved by holding a whole bottle and running the neck along the frets. Is this a coincidence or part of the plan for the song?  Is there such a thing as slide ukulele?  These are questions I can ask later.

Got another email from Amy late in the day, a general one that went to all participants. All the important question I had were already answered or just figured out.  One new thing was that she was retaining the right to alter images slightly to make them work in the video format, but I was expecting that already.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Something New part 2

Was getting tired last night so I cut off the story of the video early.  Can finish it today.

Yesterday I got my reply to my offer to help with the project.  It verified that the image was to be horizontal (makes sense for a video to be shown on the internet), and received my phrase to illustrate.

My assignment is to create some art to illustrate, "And I would drink all the water in the sea."  The general theme of the song is that the protagonist seems to be stranded on an island somewhere, isolated from the one she loves.  As a result she is drinking down every bottle she can find- whiskey and beer are mentioned.  Maybe partly for the effects of the alcohol, but mostly to get empty bottles so she can put messages into them and throw them into the sea, to get in touch with her lost love.  Perhaps this willingness to consume a sea is meant to demonstrate how far she will go to get more empty bottles.  Perhaps it's to empty the sea so she can walk back home.  (I should read it again to make sure, but for now I'm assuming it is the former) There is a lot of narrative here, and that is the starting point for all my art.

Can I make art with bottles?  Of course- here are some samples-

Can I make art with water or beaches?  Here are some recent examples-

Of course none of this are exactly what I want to do here, but elements that will go into the design have been in my vocabulary in the past, so it's just a matter of coming up with a design.  Another thing I looked at yesterday were images from Frans Masereel, who was a master of narrative art, plus in his years of doing woodcut novels, he drew just about everything. I always bring those with me when a teach a woodcut class, because if you need to see an example of how something can be rendered as a woodcut, it's probably in there. Not because I want students to copy him, but because I want them to see that things can be done.

My next step is to work out some designs on paper, and once I have a plan, start to sketch it out on the wood in pencil.  Then some brush and ink to loosen the drawing a little, make it more gestural. (this style of music seems to call for it)  Then cut it and print it.  Once the ink dries, add a little color, photograph it, upload it, and then wait for her to do her thing.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Something New

Late last night I got an email, the latest newsletter from Amy Kucharik.   No problem, as I signed up to get these.   Amy was a student of mine back in Carbondale, in what I think was her first semester.  Had her for 2D Foundations.  An excellent student, and I kept up with her.  The following semester the took 3D, which included making giant boats out of cardboard and waterproofing, but nothing else,  and she made this giant Viking style dragon boat- seated 6.  (as part of this project, students had to race their boats around the large lake in the middle of campus, for multiple heats if the boats could take it, with people in motor boats to rescue those whose boats had disintegrated) She loved comic books and sci-fi, and wrote me that one year for Halloween she and a boyfriend and gone out as two characters from one of Dave Lasky's mini-comics, Bettie Page versus Nosferatu.  (in the comic Nosferatu realizes he's no match for her and gives up)  Another year her costume was a perfect rendition of the Bride of Frankenstein.  (she sent a photo) She was an art major as an undergrad, and I think she studied literature in grad school, but while still in Carbondale she got a guitar and learned to play.  These days she works as a professional musician specializing in ukulele, which is why she has the newsletter.  As such, she plays festivals, puts out albums, had made videos, and was doing lessons until covid 19 ended in person lessons and public performances.  (These days she lives in the Boston area.)  Isolation is no fun for musicians either, and lately she's been using her time to explore digital video making, some of them for songs that she recorded a few years ago.

This newsletter included her recruiting people to help her with a new video of an old song. Images of musicians performing together are hard to do these days, so what she's looking to try is a lyric video. The words of the part of the song that is playing is shown as the song plays.  She figures to get art from interested outsiders, something that matches the specific lyrics, but she'll find a way to use anything.  Of course the more technical parts of the process are hers to handle, but she wants people to do what they can, so she lists resolution goals and other format things. I've never done this before, but it could be interesting. A lot of the things I'll need to do are related to things I needed to do for the jigsaw request.  So late last night I sent word I was interested.  This morning I was sent a phase to adapt, and a few more instructions.  I think I'll be able to handle it, but you'll see the results as they happen.

Supermarket Panic part 8

The weather reports had predicted heavy rains today, and for the next 5 or 6 days, so I made sure to get the lawn mowed yesterday.  Of course, they were wrong, or maybe lying.  It was warm and sunny all day, which makes for a hot evening in my apartment.  But it also meant I had the day free for other  things, including art.

In the afternoon I headed up to Ocean Grove to continue work on my latest supermarket print.  In advance of that, I had done a little online research last night.  One idea I had a while back was to dress my shopping cart pusher in a sorority sweatshirt, like someone I had observed in a local supermarket several weeks ago. Didn't note which sorority she had been part of, not that I wanted to use a real one for this purpose.  There are hundreds of Greek letter organizations around the country, the first one (Phi Beta Kappa) starting at my college centuries ago.  Often the initials are based on a slogan.  Sometimes this is a secret.  My college had a number of secret societies, with long existences, including one just known as the FHC, but the meaning of the letters was unknown, at least to the general public- I guess the members know.  Eventually it was decided that the FHC stood for the "Flat Hat Club".  I don't know, I was never a member, but it was decided to adapt that name for the student newspaper, and so the weekly newspaper was named The Flat Hat.  I offered to do illustrations for them when I was a freshman, but the graphics editor didn't approve my style. As a senior, my good friend Dave Lasky was the graphics editor, so I was invited to come join the bullpen every Thursday night.  (The paper came out on Fridays. so Thursday night was when the whole paper was laid out, and graphics people got the job of doing illustrations and otherwise filling up the empty spaces in the paper before it went to press.)  Didn't pay great, only about $2 an hour, but when you are a college student every little bit helps, plus I do have a page that includes one of my signed illustrations and one of Patton Oswalt's comic strips. We were both on the Flat Hat graphics staff for a  year, but I don't recall ever meeting the guy.  These days it's probably all done on computers, but back then everything was stuck together with wax, and all shading was done with Zip-A-Tone.  Actually back in those days, Dave and I started a secret art society, named for something we knew and we abbreviated it to the three initials.  What was it?  I told you, it was a secret.

I came up with a phrase that I felt described the situation with this sorority girl. a three word phrase (in English- I don't speak Greek), and translated the three initials into their Greek counterparts. Last night I had looked up the Greek alphabet and determined which Greek letters were the equivalent of the English letters I was using, thus naming my imaginary sorority.  Verified that no actual Greek letter fraternity or sorority with those initials ever existed.  Today I added those Greek letters to her sweatshirt, at least what was visible in the image.  What is the phrase?  I told you, I can keep a secret.

Whether Greek or Latin alphabet, in woodcut all letters have to be drawn and cut backwards in order to print forwards.  For now I decided to keep the letters white, and make the sweatshirt gray.  Played around a bit more with the perspective on the shelves, and some items on them.  It's coming together. No Molly again today, so I brought music, the first solo album from Mike Watt. Played bass with a number of important bands (mostly punk), and pretty much knew everybody, so when he decided to do this solo album in the mid 90's he as able to call on over 50 other musicians and singers to be part of it.  Ball Hog or Tug Boat also included Ray Pettibone illustrations (did a lot of Sonic Youth as well) and 17 songs.   I actually saw Mike Watt perform live several years later. The Stooges had reformed and were playing at various festivals, including original lead singer Iggy Stooge (aka Iggy Pop), but the original bass player had died, so Watt filled in for him on that tour.  My friend Doug had come up to NYC for the occasion. Several years earlier I had seen two other performers who ended up on the album performing live- Evan Dando and Dave Pirner, singing leads with their respective bands at a show in Nashville that I saw with my friend Doug.  We've seen a lot of good music together over the years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

One More Time

Recently my brother came up with a plan to start storing things in the shed in my parents' back yard, for when he brought his family to town, and to that beach.  The problem is that the shed is quite full. Some of the stuff belonged to my grandfather, who left it behind when he sold them the house.  This includes an interesting selection of insecticides, considered very effective in their day, now completely illegal.  We don't use them, but disposing of them is complicated enough that we haven't dealt with it yet.  Taking up more space are a lot of lawn and garden supplies and tools, some of which are used quite often, usually by me, as my parents are no longer of the age or physical temperament to spend much time in the yard.  I also have used the shed to store some art related materials, since I have no other place to put them.  Mostly still life objects, nothing that couldn't handle being in a sheltered outdoor setting.  No problem the past few months when no one else was going out there.   But now there is more demand.

My brother has been there a few times in the past week, helping to reorganize the space, disposing of things he left behind when he lived there, etc.  One thing I have had there for the past few years is my portable spray booth. Don't know where the idea of having white painted objects came from- it seems like a basic part of any drawing class.  Still life involves learning to render three dimensional objects in their setting, and white painted objects work well for this. Take out the local color (colors on the surfaces of objects), and just deal with the light and shadows over the surface, which reveal the form. Where I got the idea to start using plastic beverage containers I am not sure, but I have made use of them for in teaching drawing for years. Turns out that the plastic bottles that milk and orange juice come in are more complex than people realize- I don't know whether it's an accident or the designers are demented geniuses.  All kinds of planes, curves, and angles are left behind when they are just painted white.  Used them at my colleges, and in my recent drawing classes in Ocean Grove.  When the paint peels or wears away, I just paint some new ones.  I also make use of cereal boxes, as well as my supply of glass bottles, vases, old tools, and other interesting objects.

The problem is whether I will need any of these things in the future. Some students love learning these basic concepts. I've had non-artists observers in my class room on a day when we were drawing shoes (very basic contour line exercise) and I gave them a pencil and some paper so they could keep busy, and then have received emails later telling me they went home and drew more shoes, excited to learn that they could.  I have had a student tell me they took my basic drawing class a second time because after trying all the other teachers at that school, I was the only one teaching "real drawing".  I have had students get excited to realize how they could use contours and negative space to draw a complex still life. I've been told a few times by students that it was worth it to travel a far distance to work with a real live artist, and not just a computer.   On the other hand, I've also been told by some students that drawing shoes, and learning negative space are just too hard.  (these are not art majors) In recent years, colleges have worked to eliminate anyone with any kind of academic training from any part of the decision making process, favoring having "business" types in charge who have no knowledge of any of the subjects being taught, or any teaching experience whatsoever.  They would much prefer to buy education from a corporate source, rather than have people who actually know what they don't, teaching it.  The whole covid pandemic thing hasn't helped, forcing the closing of many places where art was still being taught, and scaring many seniors (a big audience for this kind of stuff) into staying home and hiding.

I've been an adjunct professor for 15 years, so I'm used to a certain amount of uncertainty- sometimes we don't know our schedules until school starts, and the school could change its mind then- that's why they prefer adjuncts. But right now the school doesn't know what it want to do. One email tells us that no classes will be pushed to be online.  Another tells us that all classes will be online.  One tells us we have to take a training to be hired, another tells us they will not require the training.  There may be a deadline for next week, but they won't tell us what needs to be done. (my opinion is that if the pandemic continues to rage, and the economy continues to struggle, there may not be a college or students to go to it, but who knows what happens between now and the beginning of fall classes?)

Knowing not much, I decided to use my portable cardboard box spray paint booth one more time to paint white objects.  Use up the can of paint I had going, paint a collection of containers I had stored in the shed, recycle the box, and set them all aside in case I need them again, whenever that is.

So down in Manasquan today, I did just that. I was also there to mow the lawn, and do some laundry, but I got in one more spray painting session, just in case I need more of these things in the near future.  Left them in the shed to dry overnight (and be free of the spray painting fumes), and tomorrow I'll pick them up, combine them with the painted ones I already had, dispose of the beat up old cardboard box, and move on to the next task.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 7

As usual, there were things pulling me in multiple directions all day, which limited me to a short visit to the Studio today.  But there is always work to do there. Brought my current block, which is getting closer to the finish. Still at home this morning, listening to a disc I burned myself, which included various live songs recorded at a radio station that has since closed down and changed formats more times than I can keep track of, but on their way out they decided to play a lot of their archive of recorded live shows, artist appearances, etc, and I taped a lot of these rare bits of music, and later converted them to disc format, so the station has been gone for a few decades, but I can still enjoy what they once were.

What this led me to today was to choose a home burned disc of Matthew Sweet. He's classic 90's power pop, songs with some complex arrangements.  Sweet emerged from the musically fertile Athens, GA scene, and finally had a breakthrough with the Girlfriend album, the title cut becoming a huge hit on radio and tv.  At the time it came out, the media claimed it was a complete solo effort, him playing all the instruments and doing all the vocals.  Not unbelievable, as such things had been done before- Paul McCartney was the only performer on his first solo album back in 1970. In this case, it turned out not to be true- many musicians and vocalists played a part.  Either way, it was quintessential 90's pop.  In the end I came to own two of his albums- a mid 90's album called 100% Fun, and a compilation from 2000 called Time Capsule, a best of for the previous decade.  (plus those live songs on one of my radio discs) I combined songs from the two albums in the era when I could burn discs to make this one I keep in the Studio. Only a little over an hour,  but that was about all the time I had today.

I had spent some time studying the block since my last time working on it.  What I felt needed the most work was the floor, where the black and white tiles function both to balance the values of the whole composition, and to unify the location with the rest of the prints in the series.  (Items on the shelves will also help with the balance, but I have to settle a few other things first.)  I don't know if I have it solved yet, but this is better.  Perspective is improved, and the black and white do create some contrasts that emphasize other shapes.  And then it was time to get to my next location.