Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 10

 Having decided that there was not much to do on the latest block until  I took a proof and saw what I had, today was the day to pull that proof.  I had my new roll of masking tape, plus the ink and paper I had acquired recently.  No snow, no federal holiday.  The paper was already in the Studio, the ink in my go-bag, and the tape at home.  I made a couple of stops, then got up to the Studio a little past 11:00.

For music I had brought my book of Jazz/Blues discs, and from that I had selected Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which is sort of a greatest hits collection from his first two albums.  Previously written about on this blog back on September of 2021.  My reason was simple- earlier in the day when my mother had morning talk shows on, a guest also had the name Scott, and it reminded me of the one I had.  Also had some office business, but I decided to do that on the way out.

First step was to prepare some paper, which I wanted to do while my hands were still nice and clean.  Then I used my new tape, covering over the margins on the block before I started inking it.  Used some of my recently purchased ink for the inking.  Despite the very cold weather today, the ink rolled out quickly, and the block inked as expected.  I removed the large pieces of tape I used to cover my margins, and had to put more tape to cover things that took ink and weren't supposed to, such as the arm, and some incidental stuff on the bottle label.  Took one of my pieces of clean paper and started the process of hand printing.  

I must have inked it well the first time, as I need to only do a second roll on a few spots.  Results of that first proof can be seen below:

I don't know how I feel about this one yet.  I'm not sure if there is much else I can cut with this one, but I'll think about it over the next several days.  I left the block there, and decided to leave the proof as well, since it was still wet.  I took a photo to bring home to look at, and maybe I'll bring home the proof in a few days.  

The first disc ended, but I still had to clean up my ink and tools, so I put on a short one from the ones I left in the Studio in case Molly wanted to hear them.   What I listened to today was something I hadn't heard in a long time, an untitled disc from Tim Aanensen, given out at a display and open house he held at his parents house a few blocks away in Ocean Grove.  He searched high and low for suitable Scandinavian treats to serve at the event.  I knew Tim from our old critique group, where he was one of the original members.  We once collaborated on piece, which was exhibited.  Another thing he offered that day were discs he had burned on his computer of his own music, accompanying himself of acoustic guitar, sometimes the vocals double tracked.  No title, just his name and a little bird drawing (a common element in his artworks). Because he said the disc was for me and Molly, I left it at the Studio when I took most of my music collection home.  As far as this 20 minute disc goes, my favorite song, both then and now, is one called "Suchness", which has the most interesting lyrics and music of the set.  Take me at my word.  A bird is not just a bird.  A lot to unpack there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Ash Wednesday

 A lot of people considered today to be Valentine's Day, and this being February 14th, I guess it is.  Of course, that's because it is St. Valentine's Day, or his feast day if you want to be more specific.  What that means is the day he is believed to have died, which means the day he would arrive in Heaven.  I have made art about saints in the past, maybe some 70 or 80 over the years, but I never did St Valentine because so many people already have heard of him and have ideas about what he is.  From what I remember, all the customs that go along with this day came after he died, and have little to do with him.  

Today is also Ash Wednesday, which can vary in date, but is always 40 days before Easter, marking the beginning of Lent, which traditionally is a season of sacrifice.  Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) is the end of the celebration of feasting that some do before Lent.  I have done a print about Ash Wednesday, back in 1994, part of my Fourth of July series.  I have created a blog that shows and tells the story about each day and print in that year long series, but you can see the image below:

I do have other stories about this Lenten season and what I gave up for the occasion, but it's too much to write here.

Studio Business

 The rain and snow from yesterday has ended, and the sun came out, but with it some bitter cold winds.  Not a day for taking long walks outside.  Luckily, I didn't have to do that today.  However, I did have things to do.

Overnight I had a strange dream that I was asked to take down the work I have on display in my building and replace it with newer work, if I had any.  My response was that I had one new block ready to print, but whether or not I would show it right now depended on what I thought of the result.  Maybe I'd have it ready to frame by the end of the week, and maybe not.  When I woke up I realized it was just a dream, and that I would not be asked to change my art on display, especially with another show coming in next month.  However, I decided that it would be a good idea to get it done (the Robert Johnson print) and so I could frame it eventually for the future.  And since I don't want to print it until I have more blue tape to mask out what I want, my first step might be to get some more tape.  The logical place to look was a hardware store I knew of in Belmar, which is on my way up to the Studio.

So that's what I did.  Stop and get a couple of rolls of tape- a roll of blue tape (which is essentially masking tape) for printing, and a roll of clear sealing tape, for a package I want to send soon.  Then on to the Studio.

Not much going on there.  I didn't want to print today, but I did want to make a few changes to my drying rack.  I had acquired a couple of paper holding racks from the store closing sale when the local Rag Shop went out of business, one for me and one for Molly.  Molly just uses hers to lean screens against, but I use mine as a drying rack for prints, and to hold drying blocks.  Unfortunately, it's full, as is the shelf where I store other recent blocks (thicker birch, what I use now), so it was time to clear it out and make some room for the next batch of prints.  I moved some old Fourth of July blocks to the shelves where I have boxes of them, making room for recent birch blocks, and a few more spaces that are currently unused. I found a few things in the drying rack that I didn't know were there, information that was good to have.  

That was enough for today, so I locked up, took a quick walk to my car in the cold wind, and drove home. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Mardi Gras 2024

 My second favorite holiday has arrived, Mardi Gras.  Or maybe it's my first favorite, as I celebrate it for a few days.  (a batch of my jambalaya is good for three meals)  I celebrate it because I like cajun food in general, and at a studio called arrabbiata, we have to enjoy spicy food when we can.  I'm not as big on the drinking alcohol part of the holiday (though a beer to wash it down is always good), but I do lke the music, so it all works out.  

One thing I learned about jambalaya (in my quest to learn how to make it) is that it is a very traditional dish, with as many variations as there are cooks, so that means there is no one recipe.  Anyone can make it any way they want.  I tend to make one similar to one that was at a little cajun restaurant we had here in town once, now closed.  As you can see from the photo, there is chicken, andouille sausage (pork is in the name, so I consider it necessary), shrimp (since they don't carry crawfish at the local supermarket), rice, a variety of vegetables and spices (got to keep a few secrets here), and I find it tasty.  Plus, I can easily get all the ingredients.  Prep takes longer than the actual cooking.

So today I'll have a big bowl of the stuff, a cold beer, listen to some rockin' zydeco, all of which leads to a good time.  Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Monday, February 12, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 9

 Today was the free day, so up to Studio I went.  Weather may be bad tomorrow.  I brought with me one home burned disc, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and figured I'd find something up there if I needed another one.  You can read about this disc in this blog back in August of 2019.  I also brought my good tools, hoping that would be enough for what I planned today.

Got up there and got right to work.  The last remaining major thing to finish was the text at the bottom- the lyric that I adapted.  Got the first few words done last time, but this time I was determined to finish the whole thing before I left.  Carving letters takes time, but is not particularly difficult.  What I always tell people who marvel at my ability to carve words is that I can block print backwards as fast as I can do it forwards (true) and that it takes the same amount of time to cut a letter facing forward or backward, plus I have gotten plenty of practice doing it over the past few decades.  About halfway through the process my disc ran out, so I selected another from the small pile I keep there- The Righteous Ones by Toshi Reagon, which I wrote about back in August of 2021.  The other thing I did today was cut a little more bed, made it just a touch wider.  Results of today's cutting can be seen below:

I think that's all I need to do on this one.  Next step is to pull a proof of this block and see where I'm at on it.  If I like what I see, I can pull a better proof and send it along as I ask for an update.  If not, make whatever changes seem necessary.  Before I do that, perhaps I'll pick up a new roll of painter's tape.  I'm just about out of it.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 8


Another nice day, even warmer than it has been.  Still winter, but very nice out.  Got myself up to the Studio by about quarter after 11.  For music I put on a disc I keep in the Studio, a live album from Bob Marley called Babylon By Bus.  I have written about this one back in October of 2021 if you want to know more.  I probably was in the mood for it because a new Bob Marley bio-pic is coming out soon and the television commercial plays often.  No need for the office today, so I got right to work.  

I was continuing on the latest Robert Johnson block, and started today with the figure in the background.  For this one I borrowed one from myself going back over a dozen years, but one that fit the space well.   I think of her as the Chinese woman, not because of the race of the model (caucasian if I remember correctly), but because one of the other artists at the session remarked that the resulting sketch resembled Chinese writing.  The artist had a point, but in this case I was just thinking of a figure that was in roughly an "L" shape, which is what I was looking for, and I remembered seeing this when looking for another figure piece a few months ago.  I ended up redrawing the figure to change its size and location a bit, but it's more or less what I had planned,  plus I simplified it a little in the final version.  I also decided to make it more silhouette-like, reducing the number of lines and breaking it down to just black and gray.  The idea is that it will sit back and be less of a presence than the arm and bottle in the foreground, while still being recognizable as a woman.

Because the disc was still going, I decided to start on the text at the bottom.  I cut out the first few words from the top line, beginning on the right (or what will be the left in the printed version).  Results can be seen below:

When the disc ended (that album plus a live version of "I Shot the Sheriff" from a different album I had, to fill the blank disc and not on the first album), I decided to pack up, clean up, document it, and head home.  

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 7

 Today seemed almost a spring day- sunny, not too cold.  It's been a few days since I was in the Studio working, so I was anxious to get there.  I had brought a loose cd with me, an all Texas thing, with an album each from the Hickoids and Jon Wayne, both gotten from a Texan in Carbondale, SIU grad Dave Kirkland.  You can read about this disc on this blog back in December of 2019.  The parking lot was relatively empty for a Tuesday, but there were enough cars to show that some people were there.  Gate was open and a few tags hanging.  

I had brought both sets of tools with me, but ended up only using my good tools today.  I continued work on the most recent Johnson block, my latest piece.  I finished the bottle, cut the bed and pillow (making the bed a little wider than it was), and did some stuff to the wall in the background.  I don't know if that's done yet, and won't until I cut the rest and see the value balance.  I'll leave the figure and the text for future days.  Results of today's work can be seen below:

I also spent time looking at both the block and proof for my Blood Draw piece, gathering more ideas for future cutting.  Think I came up with a few more possibilities.  It's not a bad print, but it needs work to get it to what I consider a satisfactory state.  But that's something for another day.  On my way out of the building I noticed that a few things had been taken down from the first floor walls.  I don't know if this has anything to do with the finally announced plans for the future, in emails we got over the weekend, mentioning the next show (photography) and our next official open studio event.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 6

No appointments on my calendar for today, and the weather was not terrible, so I decided to go to the Studio today to do more work on my latest block.  Packed both good and student tools, as well as my rock/pop book of discs.  Got there and found the lot almost empty, something I rarely see, but I don't always go up there on a Wednesday.  But the gate was open, and there were a few cars in the lot, so I figured it was safe to go into the building.   A few more colorful paintings and drawings (or maybe mixed media things) were up on the walls. Better, but still some room to fill up.

Once I got my business settled, I got to work.  Started with my copied disc of Marah and their album Kids in Philly, a gift from my friend Doug a few years ago after I asked him a musical question involving a song (couldn't remember the name of the band or the album, just a few lines from a song.   If you want to know more, I wrote about it on this blog back in early 2023.  I got out the block I cut the margin on the other day, but this time worked on the image.  Back when I used to teach 2D Design and often started with a fine point black dot drawing (some called it pointillist, but that style was all about color, and this project was always about value and nothing else) I always advised the students to start with a black area, so it would be easier to handle all the gray tones later.  However, with woodcut, dealing with the same three colors (black, white, gray) I generally start with the broad white areas, and do the grays later.  Today was no exception.  I cut all the big white areas in the main vertical element that runs right up the center of the composition.  This includes the whole arm and the hand, and parts of the bottle that the hand is holding.  This was done with a variety of gouges. knives, and chisels.   When the first disc ended, I put on my live Smithereens collection, a live in a studio radio performance from 1989 that you can read about on this blog back in 2019.  This was because yesterday on the radio I heard another song by the band, one that I have on a different live collection (a six song disc), though ironically, that song does not appear on the much longer live collection that I have access to right now.  Results of today's cutting session can be seen below:

There was a knot under the surface veneer, but I don't think this will be an issue with rolling it up with ink.  But if it is, a little tape will take care of it.  Next time I start with the other large white piece, one going in a diagonal across and behind the arm, then I'll figure it out from there.

I also spent a little time looking at the first proof and block of my Blood Draw piece, thinking about what changes I'd make before the next proof.  No cutting here today, but I did think of a few things.  

A lot to clean up today, but I got it all done.   The music was done, so I headed home, stopping at the supermarket on the way home.

Update Something I had intended to put in the blog post but left out.  There is a relationship between the two main elements in this piece, the arm and the bottle.  I often put bottles, usually wine, either full or empty, in my still life set-ups, and sometimes students ask why.  Two answers- part is that bottles work for free and keep still, but the main reason is that I see a relationship, and will tell my students that if they can learn to draw a bottle, then they can learn to draw a forearm, and if they can learn to draw that, then they can learn to draw any body part, and if they can learn how to draw a body, then they can learn to draw anything.  Same thing for shoes. too, and I still stand by that.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 5

 The possible snow never happened today, which spared me some shoveling, and let me go to the Studio.  I decided I had done enough drawing for now, and went ahead and started the cutting on the new Robert Johnson inspired block.  I brought with me the last of my Jean Shepherd discs, with a show of his from October of 1972 (about Sight of Sleep Phobia, a cinematic failure called Smell-O-Rama, people in the Village walking around with pacifiers in their mouths, and his father's love of Fu Man Chu books, among other odd topics) and a Suspense radio show from 1948 (a story I had also seen adapted years later for an Alfred Hitchcock tv show).  On the way in I could see that a few more artists had hung works on the first floor walls.  I like it, but more are needed.  I went down to the basement and my space.

I always start my blocks by cutting out the borders, which is not interesting, but they have to be done at some point, so why not now?  I had brought my good tools with me, which include the better chisels that I have access to.  I also outlined the lines of text I had put on the block, though I didn't do the actual letters yet.  Results can be seen below:

As my disc ended, I was done with that part of the block, and decided to call it a day.  Cleaned up, took a reference photo, and went home.  Next time I start cutting inside the border, which is far more interesting.  Later this week, perhaps. 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Cross Roads Blues part 4

 I was concerned with one particular part of my block, in the Studio the other day.  I had done text captions on all my Robert Johnson blocks, all based on his original lyrics, at least as put in lyric videos found on the internet, or just listening to the songs, again on the internet.  I continued this tradition on my current block, even though I have no idea if it will ever be needed.  The only time I have printed this text was for a proof of "Love in Vain", in my current show in Ocean Grove.  (by the way, I had left my pieces up at the request of the program director, and so I'll just keep them up now, as other tenants are invited to put new pieces up on the bare walls, which saves me the trouble of framing new things)  For the text, (done backwards of course for the block, but I'm used to that) I had block printed the opening of the line as "Ask the Lord above"  but I had written in my sketchbook, "Asked the Lord above."  I don't have any version of the song with me these days, so I had to go back to the internet to verify it.  Much easier to fix now in pencil than later after it gets carved. 

So I pulled up the video and it had the Asked lyrics.  Made sense, as the rest of the verses before and after that line are also in the past tense.  Today's weather called for occasional rain, so I decided just to remain home and do it here.  Didn't take long.  I saw that I had a little room to spare at the end of the first line, so I erased a few letters at the end of the line, drew in the new correct ones at the end, and gradually worked my way to the first word.  The original mistaken lyric can be seen in some of the previous posts about this image, parts 2-3, all from earlier this month.  The new version can be seen below:

I hope this is the last thing I need to do to this block.  I'll have it at home for the next few days, give it a good look, but unless I find another problem, I'll assume the drawing is done.  I plan to start cutting it next week.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Cross Road Blues part 3

We finally got some snow over the weekend.  Not much, officially 3 inches, but it was the first official accumulation over an inch in like two years.  I went out to shovel and clear cars a few times, both mostly done with a broom.  But the timing was enough to close all the schools, and I couldn't get out of my driveway until Monday.   Today was dry and more mild.  It may be even warmer tomorrow, but it may also rain as well, so today seemed the best day to go to the Studio.  I always have something to do there.

As planned, I brought another homemade Jean Shepherd disc with me, this one a show from September, 1965, on the topic of the Jackdaw Syndrome, and the Hupmobile they briefly had when he was a kid.  If you want to know more about Shepherd, you can find it on the previous post.  The Jackdaw Syndrome was about the tendency to collect possessions, a habit of the Jackdaw (a type of bird), and of more than a few people over the years.  Not the most amusing thing he ever talked about.  The end of the show was talking about used cars, something people are converted to, baptized to, or born to.  He felt his father was part of the last category.  At one point his father traded in the family Oldsmobile (a car he was once a big fan of, but now was aching to get rid of it) for a problematic Hupmobile, a new used car he had grown fond of, though in this case it didn't even make it home before problems occurred. and it was brought back and a refund demanded.  (don't think it was said if he got it)  I filled the rest of the disc with a Bob and Ray show (Matinee with Bob and Ray) from December of 1949.  In general their show was funny, though the heater kept me from hearing some of this one.  Like a typical Shepherd show, there seemed to be no script, just two guys riffing on the subject (not sure what it was), reading a commercial (no idea if it was a real product or a comedy bit) and interviewing another film star (John Barrymore), out promoting a new movie.  It took up the half hour.

Part of why I was there was to do a little more work on my most recent Robert Johnson block, results of which can be seen below:

Mostly I worked on two things the bottle, including the label on it, and simplifying some aspects of the background figure.  Not many changes to the latter, but some of the lines are more implied than clear now.  I noticed one more thing I may need to change, but I want to verify this first, and that needs the internet, something I don't have access to there.   So I'm not done with the drawing yet, but I am close.

So close, I started doing some preliminary work on the next ones.   I have ideas for two other prints, but need something to draw from to help get things right.  I prefer a model, but I don't know of anyone right now who had the proper look, never mind the wardrobe (I don't provide clothing, so it's up to the model to bring something) but I do know I have occasionally worked from photographs.  And over the past few days I remembered that there in my Studio I have a huge thick book of reference photos from commercial photographers.  Is there something in there I could use?  Only one way to find out.  So after I was done drawing, I got out the book and went through it.  Didn't solve all my problems today, but found some partial photos that might work, and some images that have given me some things to think about.  Marked all the pages for the future.  Good thing I don't have to get this done right away.  Had just as thick a book of commercial illustrations, and I went through it (some images had both drawings and photos), but most of the drawings were very cartoony, and none were the right angle or pose, so nothing there I can use.

And that was all for today. I packed up, cleaned up, and headed home.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Cross Road Blues part 2

 We had a holiday on Monday, I stayed home in Tuesday's bad weather, went to speech therapy on Wednesday, so today was a good day to go to the Studio and do a little work.  Besides, it's supposed to snow tomorrow.  I decided to bring with me something new, discs I burned for my father of old Jean Shepherd radio shows. He had been in radio most of his life, and had found a late night spot at WOR in New York by the 1960's.  A 45 minute show where he played his required commercials, but mostly told stories from his past, based on scraps of paper with a few words written on them.  One of those radio stories led to the classic film "A Christmas Story" (the one with Ralphie, the BB gun, and the leg lamp) which he narrated and had a small cameo in.  That radio show was on the air for more than a decade, and was basically just him telling stories, something that would never be allowed today.  But he still has a fan base, and many of those radio shows were recorded and can be heard today.  A while back I recorded those shows on tape (sometimes for listening to on my ride up to the university) from a weekly overnight radio show that specialized in such things, and burned a few to disc back when I could do that, usually accompanied with another short classic radio show, also rebroadcast.  Since my father currently has no place to listen to discs, they are mine again.   I know that they are good ways to pass the time, and brought some with me today.  One that I ended up playing was a Shepard show from 1965 and a Jack Benny "mystery melodrama" from 1950, with his usual crew, plus guests Frank Sinatra, Rosalind Russel, and Gene Kelly (all promoting various movies they had out, so what happens on tv talk shows today is not a new thing) and lots of flubbed dialogue, as sometimes goes with live radio.  The Shepherd show was about old radio days, which had him living in cheap places in the midwest, and having to open the radio stations and start up the transmitter, things I know far too well.  You see, I lived in Illinois for 3 years in grad school (where I did radio) and my first station was at a college in Virginia, where my blues show was grouped with the Jazz department, and for my first three semesters we had the job of opening the station and starting the transmitter every weekday morning.

Shepherd got a wake-up call from the "two-bit tank" hotel he lived in (with a bunch of salesmen and a smell he could never quite identify), while I had to set my own alarm and get up around 5:30 in the morning, walk across campus to the police station, show ID to get the key to the student center, walk to that, open the front door, walk down to the basement, open the station door, then begin the long process of starting up the transmitter, shut down the night before.  (press a button, wait 10 minutes, turn a dial, wait 20 minutes, etc)  As I waited for the steps, I called for the weather, pulled records to play on the air (back then all music came on vinyl), etc.  Do my 7 a.m. show, then put everything away, return the keys, and go home.  My final semester there, we went to 24 hours, and through my seniority, I got an evening spot.   My other stations were all 24 hours, and my specialty show happened afternoons.

I arrived at the Studio, popped in my disc, and got to work.  My task for today was to work on my latest Robert Johnson block, my take on Cross Road Blues.  I liked what I had before, but there was a big empty space in the composition, and I had no ideas what to put there.  After thinking about it the past few days, I decided just to move the background figure over a few inches to the center, which balanced things out a bit.  I also listened to the song some more, and read the lyrics, and came to an important conclusion- the song is often linked to the story of his trading his soul for guitar lessons and blues prowess, but it has nothing to do with that.  So I don't feel bad at all for coming up with my own interpretation that has nothing to do with his infamous deal.  

What I had settled on was the lyric "Ask the Lord above, "Have mercy, now save poor Bob if you please."  It has often been assumed that this is Robert (poor Bob) Johnson asking to be saved from the deal he had made with the devil, but the song makes no mention of the incident.  What I got to thinking was maybe he was asking for help saving him from himself.  No one knows for sure how he died, just that the death certificate says that he was 27 (making him an early member of the "27 Club", a group of famous musicians and singers who died at that age) probably from congenital syphilis (transmitted at birth from infected parents, an endemic disease among his population), but no autopsy was done, as he was just a poor black man in Mississippi and was treated as such.  He was known to be fond of whiskey and loose women, and according to story, it may be what did him in.  He had a reputation for hooking up with available women when he came to town, particularly less desirable women, who may have liked the attention and were less likely to have jealous husbands or boyfriends.  However, the popular story is that he was playing at a club, and he and a woman with a jealous man were flirting a little too much for the man's taste, and some poisoned whiskey was sent to the musician.  Another bluesman slapped it away, but Johnson did not like that.  More whiskey was provided, he drank it, got very sick, and never recovered.  That the illness came on so quickly, and he was relatively young, plus his reputation, have made this story plausible.  

So my illustration (shown above) is about my idea of the lyric- in which fans of the musician (then or now) might ask God to save the blues musician from himself, and his tendency to chase after alcohol and available women.  Because it may have been what did him in.  And his early death may have deprived us of whatever other songs he might have written and recorded.  The whiskey bottle came from the many left behind by my grandfather when he moved out of that house (he had converted the basement of a previous house to a hang out for his friends, complete with full bar, pool table, ping pong, and fireplace), the arm is mine, the rolled up sleeve from a shirt I found in the closet, and the woman from an old figure drawing of mine from more than a decade ago.  Is it done yet?  Probably not, but it's far enough along to be worth showing now.  I'll do some refining of the figure and arm, fix the label on the bottle, decide what to do with the background, and fix anything else that I decide.  No hurry here, as there is no deadline that I know of.

All of this only took one disc, so that was all I put on today.  But there are more of these, so I may bring some more radio shows to the Studio in the future.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Blood Draw part 17

 A pretty nice day today, probably the best one of the week.  (we had a big rain and wind storm a few days ago, and are expecting more bad weather this coming weekend)  In any case, it seemed a good day to take care of some errands, and stop at the Studio to do some work.   So that's what I did.  I had brought some discs with me, including the one I left home the other day.  However, on the way there I heard a song on the radio, a faithful acoustic cover of Neil Young's Old Man, and it put me in the mood to listen to some more acoustic Neil Young, so I called an audible and listened to that disc that I left there in the Studio.  (by the way, that cover was by Beck, if the back listing by the dj was accurate)  One of the discs I left there was a live acoustic show from Young (I think a gift from Siblik, and Molly is a fan of the artist) done in Massey Hall in 1971, and it has that song.  There is a more detailed description of the album on this blog back in September of 2021.

I had also brought a bag of good tools from home, and my container of orange gritty soap from the car.  Both were for use on the Blood Draw block, now proofed a week ago, and I judged dry enough to work on.  The soap was in case I got some residual ink on my hands from new cutting, as this type of stuff does a good job on inky hands.  (used to bring in that type of thing when my students were doing their collagraphs and once had a student ask me if I made it myself, but I told the truth, that I probably got it in the automotive section of the local Kmart, or in a Home Depot)  I had an idea of some things I wanted to recut following the proof last week, and I'd look at the proof a get more ideas.

I got to my space, popped on the Young disc, and got to work.  I had also brought my brand new carving tool, but that is actually a finer round gouge than any I had, and what I needed was something wider.   I was planning to work on two areas- lighten the right side hand of the nurse, and fix her right side eye.  I did those.  Inspection of the proof and block convinced me to do one other thing today- use a v-gouge to cut a fine line in the needle part of her blood drawing tool.   Nothing else turned up in my first inspection, and I'll save cleaning up stray marks on the rest of the block for another time.  Didn't bother with proofing the new version, but I did take this photo showing changes to the block:

The pumice and orange soap proved to be enough to get the tinge of ink off my hands, and I put away everything quickly.  Next time I am there, I'll have to decide what block I am going to work on.  This one is definitely better, but I might be able to make it better still before I print it again.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Cross Road Blues

 I decided to let the ink on the Blood Draw block dry a little longer, and work on my other project today.  That is my latest Robert Johnson block, based on his song Cross Road Blues.  This is probably Johnson's best known song, or at least the one best known to the general public.  That is partly from the famous Cream cover of the song, and partly because of the well known story of Johnson going down to a local crossroads to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for being taught to play guitar.  Here in 2024, we don't really know if Johnson ever went to a crossroads, and what he may have done there, or how he suddenly learned how to play guitar, and at this point, almost 100 years later, we are not going to learn more than we knew before.  I had avoided this song in my first batch of prints because is is so well known, assuming someone else would have tried to do a print based on the famous story and song, while I knew many other of his songs.  But then I had an idea that was not about the famous exchange, but more about Johnson's life and death.  And it did not require the use of a model.   

One thing I needed to do was fix the borders.  I had put them in based on things measured on other completed blocks, but before I did any more work, I thought it best to get this done right.  So from my car I had brought in a yardstick, one of a bunch I keep in my car.  It turned out my homemade borders were not quite right, and since this piece is supposed to go to another location, I figured I should get it right.  So I redrew that.  This changed the proper location for the text, so I put in new lines and roughed in new letters to match.

It is my understanding that text will be added to all the prints, as specified by the artists, at a letterpress specialty shop, so the photos I send to the gallery will not have this.   However, I am planning these images to be also shown in other places (such as my current show upstairs from my Studio), so I am cutting text with each one, though the only one I've printed that way to this point is "Love in Vain" as one of the prints I am showing now.  

The other thing I was working on today was the image area.  I drew a couple of main elements in the past and liked them.   In one, my hand holds a whisky bottle (from the collection my grandfather left behind when he mover out of this house), with a rolled up sleeve, as I imagine a guitar would be played in an un-air conditioned southern road house in those days.  In another, I adapted a figure drawing that I assumed would fit the space well, based on a figure drawing I had done a decade or so ago.  Based on the positions of arms and legs, nothing was shown that can't be in a public space, and the first element covers her up more.  Part of my assignment for today was to fix both of those.  This took the form of changes to the label on the bottle of whiskey, and some simplification of the figure to make her a little more stylized and abstract, while still leaving it obviously a woman.  I like the new versions of both better so far.  However, this still leaves me with some blank space in the image area, so I have to think about what I will do with that.  And I won't be showing the block until I come up with some resolution of that.

My plan had been to bring a disc from home, from my pile of loose discs in individual cases, but I left it on the table at home, so that was not an option.  I ended up putting on one of Molly's discs (one I have, too), so I'll try to bring something better next time.  At least I remembered my photo ID tag this time, so I could get in the front door.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Blood Draw part 16

 With possibly bad weather predicted for this weekend (probably just rain around here), I decided to go up to the Studio this morning and take care of a few things that needed doing.   One was stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few things, one of which I needed for the meat sauce I planned to make later. The other was going to the Studio to possibly proof my newest completed block, to see what I have.  The block itself and the paper were already up there, and all my printing materials were already in my car, so I didn't have much to pack at home.

I went through the front door with my printmaking go-bag.  Checked that my framed work was still on the wall (it was) and then proceeded downstairs.  First thing I did in my space was take out the ink cans, to let them warm up a bit.  Then while my hands were still clean, I grabbed my box of paper and extracted some of the Rives lightweight I expected to use.  Next step was to put on some music, which turned out to be one of the discs I rescued from my car- Come Dancing with the Kinks, a best of compilation that collected singles from 1977 to 1986, which was past their invasion years, but still a time of relevance for them.  Much to my surprise, I haven't written about this one yet, so here it is.   I also have a disc of all the 60's singles, A & B sides, but that is in storage when I can't get to it right now.   This disc I do have also overlaps a bit with the live album I have a burned copy of, which includes a few verses and lyrics that are not in the studio versions of the songs.

I put out some standard black relief ink and got started rolling out my newest finished block.  Below is what it looked like:

I do need to get another roll of painter's tape, so for now I just covered bits of accidental ink, rather than covering whole sides as I sometimes do.  Good enough for what I needed to do today.  I rolled out ink over the whole block and got my first look at what I had created.  I saw issues, but liked it enough to pull a copy on paper and really see what I had.

So I did that, using a sheet of Rives Lightweight, a paper I have used for proofing and sometimes for editions.  The first proof is always the most difficult, as the wood tends to absorb some of the ink, but this one wasn't too bad.  Still, I had to re-ink some sections to get them properly saturated.  I was just about done when I saw the paper shift on the block, and I know from experience that it is pretty much impossible to put it back right, so that was the end of the proof.  I fixed a few spots by dabbing with ink, then hung it on my wall mounted piece of homosote so I could get a good look at the proof.  What I saw can be seen below:

The reason one takes a first proof is to see what needs to be fixed, and it didn't take me long to figure it out.  Most of the figure of myself seems fine, though I will look a the above photo more closely to see what is there.  I can see bigger problems with the other figure- that left side eye is a problem, but I may be able to fix that with some more cutting.  Same for that left hand on her.  While the right hand seems well defined, that left one doesn't.  It's also the first opportunity I have had to see it in this orientation.  But I'll let the block dry thoroughly first.  I left the proof hanging on the wall to dry.  And if the weather keeps me rom getting there the next few days, so be it. 

As I was cleaning up, Molly showed up.  She was in a hurry, gathering a piece of papier mache (?) and getting ready for a Zoom call in the cafeteria.  She did tell me that the rent was being raised on our space for 2024, which didn't surprise me too much.  She gave me a number, but said no problem waiting until next month to get it all settled, as I already gave her the January check with the old rate.   Then she was gone.  I did stop by the office on my way out to see about this rent increase, and it is real, but the number I had written down was not correct.   Was I at fault, or did she give me the wrong number (I'll assume an honest mistake)?  Didn't matter, only a few dollars anyway, and I have most of month to get her the next check.

By the way, the meat sauce smelled delicious, but I won't be eating it until later.