Monday, January 24, 2022

Classes and Exhibition coming to Ocean Grove

 


Last night I got an email from Nichole with news and specifics about some upcoming events at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  Things I knew about before, but now I know a bit more.

One email was regarding classes, this time including a form to be filled out.  My computer didn't seem to do it, so I printed out a copy and filled it out the old fashioned way-with a pen.  Nothing here I didn't know but all in one place now. Five classes are being offered in this go round, with two from me.  I am scheduled to be teaching Basic Drawing and Beginner Acrylic, on Saturdays, starting April 2nd.  My plan is to go in tomorrow, and drop off my form, and give them a copy of my vaccination card.  Whether either or both of these classes actually run is anybody's guess.  The first time classes were offered, I had drawing (the above photo is from one of those classes in the room I should have this time) and woodcut, which I did twice that summer for each.  I also did a pop-in drawing thing in the 3rd floor cafe that late fall and winter, but we didn't get a single person until the last of four nights, so I didn't make much money for that.  Of course we got shut down for Covid, and then when we started up again, twice I offered classes and no one registered.  Could be fear of the pandemic, or improper promotion- we don't know.  This time we have a new item, acrylics, so that may make a difference.  And we are starting sooner with announcing it.  On the other hand, there is no plan as of now to promote things through newspaper ads, only through social media and other free locations.  I plan to go in tomorrow to ask some questions, and when I know more, I will announce it here.

We also got information about an upcoming exhibition that I will be a part of, with some information due this week.  I'll save details on that until tomorrow, when I should know a little more.  What I can say now is that I expect to put in three framed works (one completely new to exhibiting) and that the show has an opening reception now, scheduled for Friday, February 18th, and will run through the end of April.  

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Artificial Intelligence and Art

 About a week ago an article ran in a regional paper, the Star-Ledger.   Finally got around to reading it today.   The article is called, "Artificial Intelligence is restoring lost artworks, but not everyone is happy about it", by Kelsey Ables of the Washington Post.  What the article is about is that artificial intelligence programs have been used recently to create or repair what had been considered lost artworks.  Over the years many historical artworks have been cleaned and/or repaired, but not to everyone's satisfaction.  I used to show my college students examples of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings, before and after cleaning.  The first time I saw the actual work, it was before the cleaning, while the second time I saw it, parts were original, parts were cleaned, and parts were covered by the scaffolding of those doing the work.   It was done one square inch at a time.  What had happened was that a proper cleaning had not been done since the original fresco had been done about 500 years ago.  Some repairs with glue had been done, but there was centuries of soot, grime, and exhalations up there, too.  So it was cleaned, that top layer of dirt taken off the plaster that had been painted into.  However, no one was prepared for the result.  Suddenly there was a lot more color than anyone was used to seeing.  There was some debate over what was meant to be there.  The painting had never been this bright and colorful before.  Was some of that glue put on by Michelangelo himself, to darken it and create shadows?  Was it brighter to account for the distance to the ceiling, and the poor lighting that had existed 500 years ago- just a few clerestory windows and some candles, now augmented with numerous electric lights?  No one was alive now who was alive when it was painted, to say what should have been.  

There are examples known to art history where the artist was to blame.  For example, Albert Pinkham Ryder, in his quest to make his new paintings look much older, applied layer after layer of oil paint, until they were sometimes inches thick.  And he put on layers of varnishes, rubbed on dirt, and other substances to make them look more like old master paintings.  Even in his lifetime these were recognized as problems, and in some cases, the back canvas was pulled off to reveal still wet paint underneath.  Much of this wet paint was removed, and some of those paintings still resemble what he painted.  Those that were not restored have done worse, as the paint continued to age and mature, and the images have all but disappeared. In some cases, black and white photos taken more than a century ago provide a better idea of the painting, than the paint that's on them today.

The paintings mentioned in this article were all in museums, and not nearly as old or exposed to the world. Some of the damage came at the hands of people.  A Rembrandt that had been cut down to size by the museum, and now people wanted to know what it would look like in its original dimensions.  Some Klimt murals that had been considered too odd in their day and had been unseen since.  A Picasso painting that had been painted over by Picasso himself, but people wanted to know about that original painting.  Toward this end, modern artificial intelligence systems have been employed to provide some algorithm to recreate what the artist intended. But getting people to agree to what that is can be a challenge.  Adding to the problem is that the more people love the original artist and artwork (or what they consider to be what it should look like), the more they oppose anything that could change it, even if it was what the artist intended.  I've seen this problem in the world of television, where fans have been up in arms because long running shows they loved have ended differently from what they wanted.  And sometimes art historians have been left out of the loop in this process, casting some doubts on the results. 

In the Rembrandt case, at some point it seems someone at the museum decided to take the large painting and remove the far ends, cutting it down to the part that is known now.   But what about the original painting?   Artificial intelligence, notes and copies of the original, and photographs were all used to develop copies of the parts removed.  The new version is probably the most accurate of all these modern works, related to what was originally painted.  (no one is trying to pass off any of these works as originals, just a guess to what the artist intended)  Does seeing this expanded view of the original painting make it better or worse? That is up to viewers to decide.  

Those Klimt paintings are a little different.  When created as public murals, they did not look much like the work he was known for, which can be attributed to the artist trying new things.  They were not liked, so Klimt took them back and never created any public murals again.  The original paintings haven't been seen since, and only have existed as black and white photographs.  Artificial intelligence has been used to color those images.  The problem is they look so little like what he was know for, many doubt the accuracy.  These new versions use bright, bold colors, and don't fit with anything Klimt was known for.  And art historians weren't contributors to this plan, and don't much like the results.  Klimt has been dead for a long time, so we can't ask him what he intended.  

The Picasso case hits a little closer to home.  In the example given here, Picasso had done a figure painting, and decided to put a newer painting over the top of that one.  No copies are known to exist of the original, but x-rays and such can be used to see the underpainting, as has been done for many other artists, usually done to see how paintings change and develop.  In this case, it's a completely different painting.  Artificial intelligence has been used to recreate that original figure painting.  Again, no art historians or Picasso experts were consulted (which makes them quite unhappy on principle) but the computers looked at other examples of his work from that time to help create this lost painting.  Left unanswered is why he painted over it.  Was he very displeased or unsatisfied with the result and wanted it gone, replaced with something much different?  Or did he just not want to waste a canvas and put a new painting over a primed canvas he didn't want to discard?  

 Where this hits closer to home is that I am a huge fan of the Beatles, and their songs and lives have been more documented than almost anything else on earth.  The recent Get Back film took over 50 hours of filmed footage, showing them developing songs for a new album, and then recording it.  A small portion of this would be turned into the movie Let It Be.  Along the way, we see dozens of songs that would appear on later Beatles albums and solo albums being worked on.  As a result of this new 8 hour documentary, viewers have developed some new opinions of this somewhat contentious time for the band.  They knew they were being filmed, so none of this is really a surprise, and all the music has appeared on bootlegs (including some I own), so for fans there is no real surprise.   We do learn that the band members sometimes played guitars while talking, so that their conversations wouldn't be heard by by the 1969 technology.  Modern technology makes it possible to hear these conversations now.  Is this an invasion of privacy?  The two surviving Beatles and the spouses of the other two have agreed and endorsed this new film, so this invasion of privacy has been accepted.  Possibly more of concern is all the other studio material.  As their power and profitability increased, the band was given more and more studio time to develop ideas and experiment with recording.  For example, the band was given a single day to record their entire first album (which also used the four songs recorded for their first two singles) in 1962, but by the time of Sgt Pepper in 1967, they were given 6 months to make it, and whole orchestras to work with.  The Anthology sets that came out over a decade ago contain dozens of alternate takes, early versions, bits of recordings that would be used to make other things, finished songs stripped down to hear just music or just vocals, etc.  For a fan and an artist, this is valuable material.  For example, we get an early version of I'll Be Back with a waltz tempo (something the Beatles did a lot) but when it was too hard to sing, they changed it and we hear an early version with a 4/4 time, close to the final version.  Or there's part of an instrumental of I'm Only Sleeping performed on a vibraphone, much different from what was used eventually.  We only have part because the rest was taped over by other performances.  Was this because the Beatles were unsatisfied with this version (no vocals were ever put on it, so this may be the case) or was the record company being cheap, and was making them reuse tape to work on their songs?  Did the Beatles want the public to hear this stuff?  Three surviving band members and one widow did agree, so it was done with their permission, but these versions never appeared on any records, so I have to wonder.

The point is, we don't know if these artificial intelligence systems are giving us what artists may have intended, or creating new styles of artwork that make sense to them.  And we may never know.  So what viewers make of these new items remains to be seen.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Opening the Frame Shop Again

 


Last week I sent Nichole requested information for two items- possible classes in the spring, and a tenants exhibition that may happen sooner.  As far as I know, she has received all this information now, but that means I have work to do.  For the class stuff, it's two classes that are scheduled for April, a basic drawing, and an acrylic painting. I have taught the former there twice before, in the pre-Covid days, the only difference now is that I have fewer still life objects, and the classes then were four week sessions, but these now are 6 week sessions.  Pay still has to be worked out, but I merely had to take the 3 four week sessions (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), and reworked them as two 6 week sessions, the same 12 steps now divided into beginner and advanced.  I've never taught acrylic paints there, but we used acrylics in all the 2D classes I have taken or taught, so I just came up with six weeks of activities that seem important to me, and put that together.  All that was submitted a week ago, as requested.

The exhibition may happen sooner, but there are a number of steps, the first of which happened back in January, giving an intention of being part of it.  I did that, choosing to show 3 framed works.  I haven't put these in writing yet, but I have picked them out. selecting three prints that I don't think I have shown there before.  (used photos on the blog and the blog itself to figure this out)   Two are older works, already in frames, though I will attach the long wires favored by the building for hanging, moved from other framed works that have been hung there.  But one thing needed a new cut mat and frame job, my newest print.  I don't have a frame that will fit this print exactly (it's a little larger than the supermarket prints), but I found one that is close enough that I can adapt it.

So early this afternoon I set off to the Studio to take care of business.  On the way I stopped off in Belmar to get a meatball parm sandwich from the place I think makes the best one, and continued up to Ocean Grove.  I had packed one of my large Belmar tote bags with the framed print I had, various things I could use, and my blues/jazz set of discs. In my Studio, ate half the sandwich, packing half for another day and bringing it to my car (which I figured would be about the same temperature as a refrigerator on a day like today)  then got to work.  I took out my mat cutting machine, and the framed print I had.  It was a collaboration between myself and David Lasky, a tribute to our former art professor, Henry Coleman.  It's not a bad print, but I haven't shown it for a while, and I need that frame soon. 

For music I selected a disc from the book I had, New Moon Daughter from Cassandra Wilson.  This album came out around 1995, very mellow, her variety of jazz singing, a collection of originals and covers of famous tunes.  The album opens with a pretty good version of Strange Fruit but what probably got the most press was her take on Last Train to Clarksville much bluesier and sadder than the one made famous by the Monkees.  Only about an hour, but that's all I would need.  

The original print held by this frame was vertical, but my new use would be horizontal, however, I had taken that into account.  I had to take apart the old frame, remove the wiring, remove the old print, kept what had been the two bevel cut horizontal edges of the window, which now became part of the two vertical edges.  I cut two new edges to be the new long horizontal edges of the window, extending the now two vertical edges to meet them and form new corners, attached the new print to the backing board (I had learned that the reversible neutral glue on the linen tape was no longer holding as well as it had, so I substituted some white glue here.)  Wouldn't do this normally, but it was the only frame and mat board I had to deal with.  And with that done, I put away everything, packed and cleaned up, and took off for home.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Art Continues in 2022

Last year began with me going to a hospital, for the fourth time I think.  So far I don't have that problem this year.   I hope I am past the worst of my health issues, but as of now I have a therapy appointment on Monday, and a neurological exam the week after that, so who knows?  

I am hoping for a better year.  I think I am done with printing for the time being, but I need to decide what will hang in the next show by Monday, and get those framed in the near future.  Also once they are decided, produce wall tags for those pieces.  Framed works to be delivered to the gallery early next month.  Have to settle some decisions about local classes very soon, then do some preparation, but some can wait until people actually sign up for those classes.  With another wave of Covid coming our way, that may not happen.  

I have some vague ideas about another piece of art, but I'll save those thoughts until I am ready to start something.  By then I should have tested my new saw, and maybe purchased some additional materials. 

Beyond that, I am not planing anything yet, but these things have a tendency to happen as they do, so I will be ready.


Friday, December 31, 2021

The Year That Was 2021

 

Again, not exactly a good year.  It began with me going back to the hospital, the place where I spent much of 2020.  Luckily this stay wasn't as long as those involving surgery.  Still, I spent much of this past year trying to improve my physical condition, with therapy for physical and speech, and many appointments with doctors for general check-ups, blood work, mental tests, ultrasounds, an MRI, and prescribed medications.  Meanwhile, the pandemic still rages, and though we at least have vaccines to keep us from the deadly effects, I had to wait a long time to get mine, and with a new variant making its way around the area, I still have to wear a mask any time I go anywhere.  Covid had an effect on the art world, and it still hasn't recovered.   Somehow my Studio remained open and available to me, and I'm allowed to drive a bit now, which has enabled me to make art at least.

Prints- Not surprisingly, with much of my time taken by medical issues, and not really having use of my car for half the year, I didn't get a whole lot of art done.  I only produced two prints this year, a good black and white print, Fever Dream, which was based on ideas that came to me in the hospital, and this year's holiday card.  I have ideas for one or two more, so I hope to get going on some of those in the new year.

Shows- I don't think I showed work anywhere this year, which had some to do with me, and some to do with the pandemic shutting down many art spaces.  That should also change in the new year, with at least one planned show in a space that I can get to, as long as I can hang the works myself.

Firsts- I discovered this year that my trusty sabre saw, which came from a friend of my father and has been in my possession since I was in Carbondale, has now stopped working.  But a replacement just showed up at the door a few days ago, so I'll be testing that real soon.  The two prints I did this past year involved wood pieces already cut to size.   This year's holiday card was a black and white print, combining woodcut and ink wash, as a result of not having any color paint to work with, a first for me.

Teaching- My longest college job has ended after 15 years, not because of my tumor, but even before that.  Covid accelerated that, but the process of dismantling our department had been going on for years, so it's not really a surprise.  Specialists gotten rid of, tenured faculty moved to other departments, studio equipment gotten rid of, overall faculty cut by more than 50%.  And though I had scheduled classes in drawing and printmaking at my Studio building (where I have had classes before), no one signed up, so they didn't happen.  However, I did get to do one related thing, I've been providing art instruction to my niece since March, at the request of her and her parents, sort of a payback for the work they did cleaning out my apartment while I was in the hospital.

Studio- Somehow, it remained open for the whole year, even as the pandemic raged and most classes and theater productions were shut down.  Somehow we printmakers are considered essential workers, so as long as we had our keys, we could keep using it.  I was a bit shocked to come in last month and see my tack board almost off the wall, but that has been repaired.  Made my first print since coming home from the hospital, and I think it was a success, so that's a good sign. 

So this was a challenging year, but I seem to have survived it, and have the ability to make art, which counts for a lot.  Can't do much about the difficulty in buying supplies, but that is out of my hands.  When my students had problems buying materials for the last college class I taught, my supervisor told me to tell them to do the best they can, and to accept substitutions for some things.  Right now I am working with lower grade tools, and it's much harder to get frames, plexi, and mats than it used to be, and I don't know if and when I'll see all the things I possessed before, but I can make prints, so I am doing the best I can.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Studio Work

 

As I have said, I don't get nearly as many Christmas cards as I used to, so I don't make as many copies of mine as I used to.  I had enough to give them to all who sent me cards this year, or who I had promised them to, but I decided I could use a few more, if only to have a better proof to photograph, whenever it is I get a camera.  Adding to the printing process, I learned a few days ago about the planned tenants exhibition at the JSAC.  I had heard about it previously from Nichole, but this was an official announcement.  I don't like to show the same things I have shown before in a particular space, so one of my tasks was to go through my piles of information, and see what I have shown there before.  One thing that I am thinking of showing is my recent Fever Dream print, completed earlier this year. The problem there is that I didn't have a copy of the final print, as I had given my third and final proof to the model who posed for it.  Simple solution- make another copy of the print from the completed block. 

Today I decided to take care of a bunch of things at once.  All that printing, learn more about the show from Nichole, leave Molly's card for her, and mail the last two cards I have for people who had sent one to me. Had to wait until my parents came back from their morning errands, but I had everything ready to go as they arrived.  Just one trip to my car with my book bag and paper, and I was on my way. 

In my bag I had discs, some taken from the Studio library.  Started with one of those, Other Voices Other Rooms from Nanci Griffith.  How I ended up with that is kind of a long story.  Way back in the early 90's I was making regular trips down to Northern Virginia to see college friends who were living there.  Some were from that area originally, some found jobs there.  Had my folding cot in my trunk, or was happy to sleep on a couch if they had one for me to use.  A home base to stay in for free at night, and days spent going to museums in Washington, or going through book stores, record stores, or comic book stores in Northern Virginia.  At one point, between living with her parents, and her husband in the house next door to her parents, my friend and former housemate Jenny was living in a condo with two roommates, who I was under the impression were a couple.  In the kitchen, there was a small rack of compact discs, which included two identical copies of one album I had never heard of, So Far...So What  by the Pheromones.  Didn't know who owned them, but I noticed that.  That fall, back at my radio station at Montclair State, I found a disc of that album in the file cabinet where they stored all the discs (they feared that they'd be stolen, as all college stations did then), so I borrowed it to see what it was.  Put what part of it that I liked on one side of a cassette tape, and brought the disc back.  

Flash forward to Carbondale, and I had that tape in my studio there in the Glove Factory, the converted building where all the student studios were.  I don't remember what I had on the other side of the tape, but it intrigued Cynthia, the grad student with a space next to mine, so I lent her the tape.  But what later interested her even more was that collection of Pheromone songs.  (two guys from the DC area, who made music that was often topical, often political, and occasionally just musical, including songs about Dwight Eisenhower, the disappointments of owning a computer with only a 64K memory, young Republicans, and a rap about eating the plethora of cicadas that were all around that year)  One song on that tape was the band's update of a Woody Guthrie classic, called "Do Re Mi" about the problems of seeking one's fortune by leaving the Dust Bowl in favor of California.  The new version kept the tune and some of the words, but made it more about the problems of people leaving third world dictatorships and hoping to achieve riches in America.  (I told you they were often political) Hearing that new song, Cynthia decided to lend me the Griffith album, which was all duets with various folk and country people, doing famous folk songs, including a more faithful version of the original song.  The album is a bit more mellow than what I usually listen to, but I found it was good to work to, and years later got a copy on disc for myself.  Burned a copy of that to keep in my Studio here, and that is why I had it today.    (by the way, I don't have that Pheromones disc with me, so I can't bring it to the Studio, but the whole thing is posted to YouTube if anyone wants to hear it, )  See, it's a long story.

So I got to work.  Put out some Outlaw Black (the ink I used for both) and printed a new copy of Fever Dream.  It seemed like a good copy. It will be 2/10 in the edition.  I left it there to dry, and will find a suitable frame around here once it is ready to frame.  I don't need to photograph it for this show, just let her know how many pieces I intend to hang.  As I was finishing proofing the block, the first disc ended, and since nothing I have really goes with that one, I went with something brand new to me, something that arrived with a card from my music loving friend Doug, an album called Mod Jazz and that's all I know.  It's a full disc of songs that I would't call jazz, but more like a mix of r&b, blues, soul, creole, and anything else you can think of, though almost no vocals, and no band credits, at least in the copy I got.  But it is also good music for working, and getting anything new is a good thing.  (he also sent another album, by a particular band, but I'll save talking about that until some other time)  I had brought with me just enough paper to print two cards. One slipped on the block, but the other is usable.  Left those there for now as well, as there is no need for them right now. 

Nichole wasn't in, so I'll send her an email with my questions later.  On my way home I stopped at the Spring Lake post office (on my route) and dropped off the addressed and written out cards for two friends, who got the Christmas letter attached to email.  Molly's was left for her, so that task is now done.  Not a complete success today, but I got enough done to make it a worthwhile trip.




Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata

 


This has not been a great year as far as these things go.  I ended last year in a hospital, and at the beginning of this one, I went back to one.  Most of what I own is still in storage, including much of my completed art and art materials.  But I still have plans to be an artist, and am doing what I can to continue that idea.  For decades I had a tradition of making my own holiday cards, starting with a known work of art by a famous painter, changing aspects of it to be a more winter scene, or have a Christmas theme, cutting it as a small block, printing it, and coloring it to make sense to both the original and my new idea.  I often chose these works based on things I had seen recently, such as a museum show, or even something shown on a slide in class, or seen in a book.   

But some things have changed.  Last year I didn't do a card, having spent much of the late autumn and winter trapped in a hospital bed.  Though I have done a little printmaking this year, I had not planned to do a card this year, since I still have no watercolors, and my list of people who I send cards to has diminished, because people have stopped sending them as much.  However, I did have the materials to make a black and white card, and connection to the internet to find art examples, as long as I could remember who I wanted to look for.  

After checking out a variety of black and white art (mostly prints), I settled on the etchings of Edward Hopper, not his best known work, but something I have always enjoyed.  Another thing that has changed is that I don't have a camera at the moment, so I can't take a photo of this new card to post today.  As it turns out, I have made cards from Hopper works before, twice before in fact, and what you see above is one of those.  I will eventually get a camera, and get a photo of it posted to this site, but in the meantime, if you want to see the original work that inspired it, check out some Hopper etchings, and specifically a piece called East Side Interior, then substitute Santa Claus for the woman sitting at a sewing machine, gazing out a tenement window.  Translate that into a woodcut and ink wash piece, and you have the idea.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Television


 This time of year, most television stations go heavy on the holiday programming.  We are going to get rerun anyway, so they will sometimes show older episodes with Christmas themes or scenes.  Late last night I was catching an old episode of the original Twilight Zone (there aren't any new ones of that series that ended before I was born) and this week they have shown some of the episodes that had something to do with Christmas.   This was the episode called "Changing of the Guard", and it stars Donald Pleasance, playing much older than he was at the time.  His character was a very old literature teacher at what seems to be a prep school for boys.  He learns on Christmas Eve that he was being laid off from the job he'd had for many decades, due to his advanced age.  This causes a bit of depression, as he decides that his life was wasted- the boys he taught didn't care much for the old poetry he was teaching, probably got nothing from his classes, and he now had no future.  (he would be given enough money to cover room and board the rest of his life, but his teaching days were over) He takes a handgun from the drawer of his desk, and walks out into the snow.  

He runs across a statue of Horace Mann, which included a quote from him. "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind," or something to that effect.  This further puts him in a black mood, deciding that he had no victories, that his students learned nothing from the rote teaching of poetry he had been doing for many years, he had wasted his life.  As he is about to put the gun to his head, one of those metaphysical moments common to the Twilight Zone happens.  He hears bells calling students to class, and not knowing what it's about, goes to his classroom.  There, a whole bunch of former students fades into existence, and he recognized many, but the young men he recognizes are all dead.  The former students we meet had died heroic deaths, in the military, or doing deadly research that benefited many, etc.  And they mentioned having learned such things as courage, ethics, commitment, devotion, etc, through the poems and poets he told them about.  They talked of particular achievements, showed medals awarded posthumously, or just mentioned what qualities they had learned.  And with that, they faded away again.   No problem, lesson learned.  The teacher goes back home, in a much better mood.  Now he's accepting of his imminent retirement.  Perhaps he never won a great victory for mankind, but he seems to have helped those who did, and can claim some partial credit for those victories.  

So why bring this up here?  I've had many students go on to military service, and a bunch who were in the sciences, but none have come back to see me and tell me I have made a difference in their lives. However, I know that I have made a difference for some students, just for doing my job.  I was mostly dealing with first year students, and most had received little art training before my class.  Let's take shoes for example.  This is a very common exercise for beginning students, and as such I have used drawing from shoes as a regular exercise for many of my classes.  Some didn't like it (would have preferred to draw from a photo pulled up on their smart phones instead of an actual shoe) or thought it too hard, most probably didn't think about it ever again.  But some were astonished by what they had done.  Many never had tried to draw something real, and some discovered that they could.  Had evaluators (outside the department) who visited my classes, I gave them materials to participate, and they had gone home and drawn more shoes, having discovered this new ability.  Or once I had an intro student, who brought me in a new shoe drawing she had done, several weeks after we had done this activity in class, but now as good as she could do.  She was very proud of it, and she said her mother wanted to frame it. What I saw was a pretty good drawing, but for her this was a major achievement.  In those same intro classes, I had students learn some very basic color mixing, making secondaries from primaries, but this was something they had never seen before, and were excited to learn it.  Or combined compliments and white to create a variety of colors, astounded by the results.  In a true drawing class, I had a student get thrilled by realizing that he could draw a complex still life, that he understood now where to put all the objects.  Or a woman I recognized as having taken the class years earlier, and when I asked her if she could get credit for taking the class again, she said it didn't matter, because she was there to learn, and having taken all the other instructors at that school, she decided I was the only one who was teaching "real drawing", whatever that is.  I always required museum visits for my North Jersey students, and for many this was their first time in any museum, and it turned out, museums had some really cool things in them, and this experience was available to anyone who wanted it. A few people who have done woodcuts in my classes went on to do more, prints, exhibitions, even careers. 

So I probably have not won any victories for mankind, or even participated in a few, but I have taught a few students to appreciate art, to do the basic skills of art, and to want to make art on their own.  So I know my time in the classroom was not wasted.  Where they take it from here, is up to them.   Unfortunately, there is not much of a demand for art, so this knowledge may have no way of leading to a living, but I have done what is in my power, and hope it makes the lives of all those who care a bit richer.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Christmas Card 2021 part 4

 

I had brought home my printed cards from the last time, and they seemed dry, so last night I pulled up my source art work on the computer, and added various washes (as always intended), to make the values approximate those of the original.  I liked the results, so this afternoon, I "colored" the cards, so to speak.  This is my first black and white card, so my addition to the black printing ink is some black india ink, mixed with water to achieve various shades.  Doesn't look exactly like an etching, but then none of my woodcut cards with watercolor looked exactly like the oil paintings they were based on, so it all works out.  

Today I finished the job, copying from my first attempt (if not a BAT, it serves the same function), the ink wash on the seven remaining proofs.  Since I didn't need my computer to see the original today, I put it to other use.  Normally I'd listen to some Christmas music as I did this, but everything I had on disc, ranging from commercial Christmas releases, to home burned discs of other artists and radio shows, is now in storage.   My supply of Studio music never included any holiday things.  But the internet does, and I found a week or two ago that the whole Charlie Brown Christmas album on YouTube.  Around this time of year there are many Christmas themed specials and episodes on tv, most of which I don't watch, but the Peanuts special was always one I watched, but of late it's not on any channels I get, probably now owned by some streaming service.  I had the album, which included the jazzy music of the Vince Guaraldi Trio and some children's choirs, the music being one of the main reasons I always liked the special.  But I can't access that now, so the internet version was fine to have in the background as I brushed on my various washes.  When that ended, I didn't like the Christmas music that was next offered, so I switched to one of my discs, Kirsty MacColl's tropical brainstorm, which is not a Christmas album, but in my mind compatible music.  You can read about that one at March 2020 if you want to know more.

It took about 2 hours to complete the 7 new copies, to go with the master I created last night. All of those are accounted for, but unless I get a bunch more cards, I won't need any more.  (if I do, I'll deal with that after the holidays, like every other year) Over the next few days I'll trim these to size, make sure they fit into envelopes, and gradually write them out. Meanwhile, I will compose a Christmas letter on my computer, but that can be dispersed via email, to as many people as I want to exchange that with.  My choice for the inspiration will be announced on Christmas day, though the image of my piece will have to wait until I have a camera again.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Christmas Card 2021 part 3

 

Another mild day this week, mid 60's around here.  In my Studio, no problems with weather today.  In fact, I had lowered the heat last time down to 70 degrees, and I don't think it came on once today.  Nichole's car wasn't in the lot, so I just went inside, carrying my backpack (with carved block and music), and my package of paper.  After looking at an old one, I decided that Rives Heavyweight would do, and I knew I had some of that.  Once I unpacked it all, I realized that all the paper was a bit wrinkled, but I hoped it wouldn't matter.  

First I looked at my sagging tack board, and it was no longer sagging.  Three new anchors were in place along the top part, and it was firmly attached to the wall. Molly's board was still disconnected from the wall in one corner, and the one bank of lights was still out, but the one I was most worried about was done.  (the other two problems have been going on for months or years) I set up the boom box back on top of the shelving unit, and chose the first disc of my Bruce Springsteen favorites.  Why?  Because as I was getting ready to leave home, the news mentioned a story about Bruce selling his catalog,  details to come after the commercial.  So I waited for the next news segment, but that story wasn't told. Sat through another commercial and saw the next news segment, and still no story.  I left and went to the Studio, where I could listen to Bruce all I wanted and didn't have to pay anyone.  First I returned all the glass stuff to the top of the counter, more or less where they had been, then I got to work on my card.

I took out a sheet of the Heavyweight, measured pieces the right size, and used a nice piece of lattice on my table as a straightedge and marked them out.  I had brought a pair of scissors from home, and used those to cut 9 pieces of paper.  One had the price tag on it, but the rest would work.  I knew I wouldn't have time to do anything else today, so I brought the rest of the paper back to my car, and grabbed my printing go bag.  Back in the Studio, I pulled out the can of Outlaw Black that I had used recently, a hard brayer, an ink knife, and a razor scraper, and got to work.  Also had a roll of blue painter's tape, which I used to mask one bit of the largest white area, and had a long piece ready to put where the fold would go.  The routine of inking, taping, and printing went fairly quickly, and eventually I had 8 decent copies.  Cleaned up the ink and my tools, placed the cards into an old issue of the Tri-City News to carry them back to my car, and left.  

Out in the parking lot, I saw Nichole's car, so I decided to give her an update in person, and save myself from having to send her one by email later.  From her I learned that Molly's board would have to wait until she cleared some space, which may not happen any time soon.  I also learned that new bulbs had been tried in our light fixture with no effect, so the problem may be elsewhere.  Nichole also mentioned a possible tenants show in the spring, so I will give some thought (and do a little research) as to what I might show in such an exhibition.  

Back home, I put out the cards to dry, and later learned that Bruce sold his entire catalog to a media company for half a billion dollars.  Hope he knows what he's doing.  The Beatles sold their publishing rights in the late 60's to fund their Apple Corps concept and fought for decades to get those songs back.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Christmas Card 2021 part 2




Drove up to Ocean Grove today and saw Nichole's car in the lot, so I knew that would be my first stop after I dropped off my backpack and checked out the status of my tack board.  I wasn't expecting that things would already be fixed, and they weren't, but at least it didn't seem to be hanging any further from the wall, and it hadn't come crashing down yet.  Onto the office, and once Nichole was off the phone, I brought her to my space to show her what the problems were.  (as I also expected, she never saw my email from the week before last)  She agreed it was a problem, and thought it might be fixed tomorrow, along with the ongoing light problem we've had since at least October.  

She went back to the office and I got to work on one of my tasks for today, clearing the top of that shelving unit.  This would need to be done in advance of any repairs, plus I was worried that if the board came down, all of Molly's glass plates (examples can be seen above in this critique scene) would be smashed.  I put all the glass and her discs on her low table, the only horizontal space in that room that was cleared.  Everything else that was hers went onto shelves in that same unit.  The only thing that was mine on that unit was my boom box, which I had left behind there for Molly's use (she likes radio, and I left some discs she likes) and for my own use on days I go and bring in some discs of my own.  I put that on an empty wooden chair by the windows, where I knew an empty electrical outlet was located.

For music I had brought my pop/rock book of discs, and started with Kicking the Toybox by Twang Bang.  This is a very odd album, which I can't really classify.  It came from my former student Tom Huck, who gave it to me at a time when we were in the same place.  All he seemed to know was that the band was two guys who used to busk under the El in Chicago, who somehow won a contest that sent them to Japan, where they were given studio time to record this album.  Music styles vary widely, though it does include a song about the game of Rock/Paper/Scissors, which I have heard is popular in Japan.  Also one about Pinocchio. It's that kind of album.  I made a copy, put the original on my shelf, and the copy became part of my Studio library.  When that ended, I put on a greatest hits collection by Tom Waits, which may be the only record that can follow the other one. I wrote about this back in February of 2020 if you want to learn more.

As for art, today I was working on my annual holiday card.  This tradition goes back to my time in Carbondale, taking an image from art history and altering it to be a Christmas scene.  As I wrote last time, the problem was that I have no watercolors these days (probably all in storage), and these have always been done in color.   I do have plenty of materials for black and white, and I doubt anyone knows more black and white artwork than I do.  As long as I have access to the internet, I can probably find anything I need to see.  So I thought about favorite artists who sometimes worked in black and white. I've done one based on a Masereel woodcut before, so I didn't want to do him again if I could avoid it.  I looked at Goya, whose series Los Capricos is one I always enjoyed, but none of those etchings seemed like good choices for a Christmas scene.  I used to have books of Rouault as well, who is best known for paintings, but also did woodcuts in black and white, and I came close to choosing one, but decided to go another way.  What did I choose?  For that you have to wait until Christmas day.  But today I cut the block, a small piece of woodcut so it went fast.  

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Studio Business

 


A relatively nice day today (clear, but cold) and I was thinking about going up to the Studio to do some work on this year's holiday card.  But I still haven't got a design yet, and that can be done at home under better conditions.  Still, I had things to do, so I decided to take my car, get some gas, and stop by the Studio while I was out.  I knew Nichole is going on vacation soon (if not already), so today might be my last chance to see her before then.  I had gotten a mass email earlier today about a movie tonight at the building, so maybe she would be there.

So I got up there around noon and it's a good thing I did.  Right away I noticed that my tack board was hanging with the top about 8 inches from the wall, completely unattached.  It wasn't that way the last time I was there, and I wasn't sure how long it would remain up.  Now it was just held in place by the two big screws at the bottom corners.  Not good.  And no one was in the office while I was there.  The two tack boards (I got one for Molly as well) were hung on the walls by the building, so I decided it was up to the building to repair it, whether that be now or taking it down completely and putting it back up later.  These were made of homosote, which is a thick board made from recycled cardboard, inexpensive and excellent for holding works with tacks and pushpins.  It was used all over OCC, until a fire inspection told them they had to trim everything because it was a fire hazard.  I bought the two 8' x 4' pieces from a home improvement place, where the guy got a good chuckle when I told him that when I called Home Depot, they didn't know what the stuff was.  (true story)  Short term I took the two prints I had up there down, two old prints that had been dry for years and didn't need to remain up anyway.  (the above photo shows parts of the two tack boards, including the prints I had up, as well as the general mess that Molly makes)

What concerned me (besides the loss of the tack board) was what might happen if it came crashing down before anything was done.  I took down the antenna on my radio, but otherwise left everything that was on the counter up there.  Had to- except for my boom box, it's all Molly's stuff anyway.  When I got home I sent emails to both Nichole and Molly telling them about the situation and making some recommendations, but at this point it's out of my hands.

Unfortunately, I never heard back from either of the people I wrote to.  But as I said, it is out of my hands now.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Christmas Card 2021



The other day my father asked me if it was time for me to start making this year's Christmas card.  I told him I didn't expect to be doing one, and gave him a whole bunch of reasons.  To start, I usually put them on something like card stock, but I don't have any of that now, what I had was in my apartment and almost everything that was there ended up in storage, and no stores are left in the area that sell art papers.  The catalogs I had patronized are also all out of business.  Next, I usually got my ideas for cards by looking through art books, which I had on my shelves.  Once again, all are currently in storage.  Cards always made use of color, and my watercolors were at home, so again, now in storage. (there are catalogs that sell those, but no point in spending the thousands it would take to rebuild that with no idea what I'd be doing) And in recent years, I have produced short editions of the cards, as most of the people who had been on my list for holiday cards are no longer sending them, and I'm not going to make a lot of cards for people who can't bother to even buy them.

But then I thought about it some more.  The heavy weight print paper I have in limited supply would probably make a decent card, and I have enough for the few people who would get one.  I do have a suitable piece of wood ready to go.  I don't have my good tools, but the student tools I have were suitable for a woodcut this year, so a card is something I could carve.  I don't have color, but I do have black ink and ink wash, which means I could adapt work from a printmaker who also worked in black and white, like an etcher or a lithographer, or even a woodcutter.  And I don't have my library of art books, but I do have this computer and access to the internet, so if I have an artist in mind, I can find images.  And at the moment I have no job or time commitments like grading.  So maybe I can do a holiday card.  

Been doing weekly art lessons with my niece the past year, and that may have given me an idea. In her painting, she tends to like outlining every shape with a heavy black line, which reminded me of a famous artist whose name I could not remember.  Couldn't find it through common internet searches either, but I was sure that I had shown examples to my students, mostly because of that heavy black line. All my slide lists are saved as documents on a emails I sent to myself (so I could easily print them out at school) and those I can still access, and so I found the name. Everything is on the internet if you know where to look or what to ask.  And while only two friends have sent me holiday cards in recent years, my brain surgery has resulted in more communication than usual, so if I wanted to send more, I have some names and addresses of people who might have earned a card.  And thanks to years of teaching and grades due in late December, people are used to my cards arriving late.  So maybe I can do something.  I'll think about it.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Anniversary

 


As we were watching the Giants lose another game tonight, my father reminded me that today, November 22nd, is the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.  That is true. That death doesn't mean as much to me as it does to him, as I wouldn't be born for a few more years, but I was aware of it for a number of reasons.  Just as memorable for me is that it is the birthday of someone who was my boss for over a decade.  But most of all, I think of St Cecilia on November 22, as it is her feast day.  A lot of people don't quite understand the concept of the feast day, and assume it's the saint's birthday.  It is, but not their birthday as a human, but their birthday in Heaven, meaning the day they reached there, or to put it another way, the day they died.  (or at least what is believed to be the day they died- with the early ones, we don't know how accurate these dates are) When I started my Everyman series, I decided to include the feast day as part of the design, choosing a type style that wasn't exactly traditional Gothic, but something that seemed crude and archaic, that would evoke the same idea.  I used that same typeface for all of them, a number that is probably somewhere around 80 now, but I am not sure and don't have access to the whole set or books right now.  

The series began in 1994, the follow-up to my infamous The Fourth of July series, with a print a day for a year. This one was considerably shorter (almost had to be as I knew I had a show to install in about a year), though it added an element of color, which wasn't part of the earlier series.  The volumes in the college library (Butler's Lives of the Saints) were broken down in 3 month sets, and further by feast day, thus part of the reason I wanted to include it.  I started with volume 3- July, August, September, but at the time I had no idea what I would be doing.  I wrote down interesting stories and assumed I would come up with a meaning and design idea later.  And I did.  What I came up with for the idea was that I would seek stories or objects that could relate to a typical contemporary individual.  The concept was that most saints were ordinary people, who mostly had jobs, or tasks they had to do to live.  Some saints had lives that were full of religious thought, but most didn't.  In fact, some were downright sinners, criminals, etc, before they found religion and changed their ways.  If they could become saints, then anyone could, thus my title, taken from the medieval morality play.  The idea was to link the sacred and the profane, the high and low.  To some extent it was successful.  The results have pleased religious people (they've been shown in galleries run by priests and nuns), but are also liked by people who are against religion, much to their surprise.  

For example, St Cecilia was martyred (according to the story told in the book) by sealing her in her own bathroom, and stoking the furnace that heated it with seven times the normal fuel. After 24 hours, the room was opened and she was still alive.  One thing about the book was that it never claimed any of the events were true, and in fact sometimes pointed out that the stories were taken directly from other stories or legends that were know at the time.  So in this case, I don't know if her surviving was divine intervention, or if this was just a bad plan.  So they went with an alternate plan, cut her head off with an ax, which never fails to get the desired result.  No one who is still alive knows what it is like to get their head cut off, but almost everyone has a bathroom, and can relate to that part of the story.  So my visual was a bathroom. As was my custom, I chose somewhat vintage versions of the relevant items (helped by a very weird book I found in the library), like that old style tub, and a sink and toilet drawn from those found in a restroom.  The color choices for tile were based on a bathroom in the house I grew up in, constructed in the 50's, when black and pink were a popular combination.  

When I started the series, I had been though volumes 3 & 4, and stated with the ones I wanted to do most, and St Cecilia was one of those early ones. Eventually I read volumes 1 & 2, and ended up doing about 60 prints in time for my MFA show.  That was the most ever shown at one time, but a dozen or more have appeared in several shows. and individual prints have appeared in many places and publications.  And once in a while I do another one.  This one was always a favorite, which is why I had it saved to this computer.