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



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.  

Friday, November 19, 2021

What's Old is New


For the third time that I have been living with my parents, there was an episode of Shark Tank with an art based business. A pair of women were looking for financing for their art business, which were essentially paint by number kits.  This is not really a new idea. If you are not familiar with the idea, a line drawing is purchased, printed in black on a white surface, typically a piece of canvas board.  Within each white space of that drawing is a small number, which corresponds to one of the small capped containers of water based paint.  Using provided brushes, the owner of the kit fills in the color specified by the number.  Using this method, the whole piece is eventually filled in, and the owner now has a painted version of the original artwork.  This spares the "artist" the problem of having to sketch out the desired composition, or mixing the specific colors.  The two owners claimed they had made a large amount of money so far selling these through boutiques and such, but were still seeking a better retail location.  One shark pointed out an obvious problem- how do you control any business that uses a method that has been known for decades and can't be copyrighted?  

There's a point to that question, as the concept has been around and known for a long time- anyone with rights to a famous image can produce such a kit.  (the business owners in this case were using original artworks, so they didn't have that expense) And there is some demand for art results that don't take much skill.  As a young child I remember doing a paint by numbers version of the opening scene from the SuperFriends, a cartoon version of the Justice League that ran on Saturday mornings for years.  It didn't look nearly as good as the version that I saw on television, but I had fewer art skills then.  When I worked for a human services agency in Ocean Twp in the early 21st century, we had a client who used to do paint by numbers projects on his own time, better than my early try, but I didn't consider these to be true fine art.  In between I remember a group staying at the vacation house I used to be the live in caretaker for, where the staff went out to the store to get supplies for the group in the house, and came back with those, plus a paint by numbers project for themselves, which they did that night sitting out on our deck.  I suppose it's more creative than watching tv, which is what most people to came to the house did to amuse themselves.  

Can this idea be used in other real art?  One such example is a train station mural we worked on back in 2014 at the Belmar Art Council.  We had agreed to produce one though first we had to resheathe the whole building with new painted panels.  Like many others I was begged to produce a submission for a proposal, and as expected, my proposal was pushed aside for what they wanted to do all along- brought in a commercial artist with a plan.  What she did was create a large color drawing and a large paint by number plan. These drawings were put (by the artist) on a type of nylon with numbers representing premixed colors of a suitable paint, and the community was invited to come in and fill all those blanks.  (see above and below)

The next step was to install all those painted fabrics (done the previous winter and spring) on the new panels all over the station, using essentially wallpaper paste.

With a lot of help we got it all up in a few days, which is good considering that the station was still functioning at the same time, and it's a busy station.  Just in time for the planned train theme show.  As far as I know it is still there, so I guess that big paint by numbers project was a big success.   And while my design was not used for the mural,  I had the last laugh.  I was asked to design the postcard (see the photo original and the resulting woodcut at the top of this post) which was also used to make an outdoor banner, and two of those were made- one for the gallery building, and one hung at the station itself to build interest.  Since our banner was hung well in advance of the show, for a while, mine was the only train mural to be seen there. 

At the same time, I have to consider whether what I do is paint by number, at least those times I work in color.  My usual process is to cut the block and print it as a black and white proof using oil based ink, and a few days later, had color it with watercolors.

The difference here is that I create all the colors as I go, each mixed for the intended space and applied by hand to get exactly the effect I want.  No one tells me what to put and where.  So for now, I can still call what I do art.  And I will still call paint by numbers and activity. Perhaps more productive than watching reality tv.  

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Fever Dream part 20


Today was a fairly nice day for this time of year, so I decided to take care of a whole bunch of errands, including art making.  First I went to my PT place to investigate a prescription, then an auto repair place to get some new wipers for my car (needed and I decided best installed when it wasn't raining), then my insurance agent to deal with the needed renewal of my policy.  After that I was finally able to go to my Studio and get some work done.  I put my fresh paper and tools in the car, had printing stuff there already, and the block was up in the Studio.  

I wanted to print one more good proof of my latest block.  As this block has been printed twice before, inking would not take long.  For music I brought my rock/pop discs, and selected one I burned with the two (American) Beatles albums of 1967.   I had mentioned this disc once before, but never wrote it up in detail, so this time I will write about it.  The first album on the disc is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which is on many short lists of the greatest albums of all time.  That's a matter of opinion, but it was certainly one of the most innovative of all times.  Start with the most celebrated band of all times (then and now), the largest budget ever used ($100,000 in 1967 money) 6 months of work, the highest tech 4 track recorder available for the purpose of popular music, one of the most celebrated album covers ever, one of the first known concept albums, very innovative concepts in song writing, use of very eclectic instruments, plus a full orchestra when needed, and a recording and production team that could keep up with the band's demands.  The results blew away everyone at the time, and based on various reaction videos on the web, is still blowing people away some 54 years later. Despite no songs from the LP appearing as singles, a lot of the songs are well known and got much radio airplay.  I'm not going to get into particular songs right here, but if people want to know, it can be read about on the web.  The second album was something created for the American market- Magical Mystery Tour.  In England, the official soundtrack to the film of the same name appeared originally as a set of EPs. so there was no album.  In America, customers didn't much like EP's. but they liked albums, so it was issued as an LP, with the songs from the movie on one side, a B side of one of those songs (also issued as a single), and the A and B sides of two 1967 singles.  Earlier editions (including the one I had) included a full size book inside the gatefold cover, with photos from the film, and a story of the movie, complete with cartoon illustrations.  Later versions of the LP didn't have the story book, and eventually the British record company decided to issue the LP, thus it was turned into a CD (also without a book) when Beatles discs finally started coming out in the late 1980's.  It has often been looked at as a lesser album, but everything pales in comparison to Sgt. Pepper and the related film was seen as a disaster of a production.  Still, the songs are quite good, the production is excellent, some of the best examples of psychedelia ever produced, although also the end of that style.  The two albums fit on one recordable disc, so it made a nice addition to my Studio music library.  

So I strapped on my specially decorated print shop apron again (see above) and pulled another proof of my new block.  It was pretty much perfect, giving me two good copies of the print, which is enough for now, since I have no place to show it right now, but when I do, I can pop it into a frame on short notice. Someday I hope to have photos of it posted here, but so far I don't have the ability to do so.  (this means I have no way to submit it to shows either, though if someone offers me a whole show, I can always hang it on the wall)  I think it's a good print, so now I just have to think of what the follow up will be.  That's life as a creative person for you.

Two more stops on the way home- some needed groceries and something to bring home for lunch, since I knew we were out of sandwich materials and I didn't feel like soup again.  

Friday, November 05, 2021

Fever Dream part 19


A few days ago I pulled the first proof of my latest block.  In general I was pleased with how it turned out. Much like my piece Trance from 1996, it was a test to see what I could do in a new situation.  That older one was my first piece without being in school, and a test of if I could still make prints without the comforts and demands of being in a school program.  Turned out I could.  With my new print I was dealing with a whole lot of changes- a new home, not having my good tools, and following multiple brain operations, leaving the question could I still make art as I always had.  Again, turns out I can.  I can draw on wood, carve the drawings into wood, and print the results, getting what I expect.  As a bonus, I also learned I can still cut mats and frame, but that was a different project.  So all that was cool.

I brought that proof home, and have studied it.  I like it, but it could be better.  This is not an unusual situation in woodcut, sometimes you miss a few cuts, and don't know it until you print what you have.  Perhaps that is why it's called a proof.  You can't uncut things, which is why I always tell students to be sure of what they want to do- you can always cut more, but you can't put it back.   Most of what I wanted to change was little spots that weren't cut as expected, or a little ink I would draw back on with a scrap of mat card where a splinter had come out, or even a spot or two where I decided I wanted to remove a little more, to improve the balance of white, black, and gray in the composition.  I decided the ink on the proof was fairly dry, so my blotted block wouldn't be too messy.  I had nothing on the schedule for today, so why not take advantage of my cleaner table and go make some changes.

I left a little earlier than usual today, by around 10 am, so I could get an early start.  I left the proof at home, but had my student tools, and the block was up at the Studio.  I had my printmaking bag in the car, so I just had to grab my backpack and my paper, and I was ready to go.  

I had brought the rock/pop discs today and started with some Pixies, the disc I put 3 records on and you  can read my write up of that disc on this blog back at October, 2019.  While that played, I looked at my block (mostly dry, so no wet ink, just smudges of ink from what remained), pulled out my tools, and got ready to go. Using those tools, I cut some more out of the hand holding the keys (making the fingers a little better), the Disney castle (flames stood out but the castle cuts had filled in, so they became wider), the pizza slice in another hand, some bits of the comic book fan to clarify parts of him (jacket, face, Batman symbol on gray t-shirt), the two helicopter nurses in the Studio (made the helicopters a little clearer, a few defining lines), the central post, and Tinkerbell.  I guess I had a lot to cut.

Now time to print.  Old disc ended, so I put on a new one, the Tom Waits album Beautiful Maladies,  a greatest hits collection form his Island years.  Crazy stuff, and you can read about it back at February, 2020.  As I expected, printing this second proof went a lot faster than the first, one hour verses two for the first one.  I credit this to the block having been inked once before.  All of my cutting improvements showed.  I also took a few minutes to add a few bits of ink using small pieces of mat board.  You can't build complex shapes this way, but you can fill in splinters along the edge of the block, gaps in broken lines, etc.  I brought this one home again, but unless I find a significant flaw, I'll print another without making any changes to the block. Cleaned up my tools and space, made a few stops, and went home.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Old Frame Shop is Back Open


Today I had two tasks to take care of at the Studio.  First was clear off my table enough that I could use it to cut a window mat.  The second was to get out my mat cutting machine and cut the thing and then frame the new work.  

My table is a bit of a mess.  Half is covered with old blocks and occasionally prints.  Some of this is leftover from Hurricane Sandy.  What wasn't destroyed by flood, I quickly got out of the basement and to my car.  Shortly after that, I took whatever was stashed in my car and moved it to the Studio.   Some is in smaller boxes on the shelves, some just got stacked on the table.  Occasionally I have pulled stuff out of this pile, so it has become a bit disorganized.  The Studio being broken into last year didn't help matters either.  I have a portion of it that is clear of the mess, with some large boards on top that I slide out of the way so I can work, and put back when I leave.  However I knew my specially hand built mat cutting machine (some tongue and groove boards I found in my home basement, some other scraps of wood, a long heavy straight edge with a beveled cutting side, a long strip of lattice wood, a C-clamp, a squeeze clamp, and a hand held bevel cutter) takes up a bit of room, so this needed to be done first.

For music I put on my disc of the Reverend Horton Heat.  I learned of this band back in grad school, a tape that was sent to me by a professor who had been a visiting printmaker.  The cover of the cassette was the image from the album "The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of Reverend Horton Heat" with his added words, "This is not for Sunday."  He wasn't kidding.  This is straight up Texas psychobilly, and I eventually got that album on disc.  This disc is a copy of that album and eleven more songs from a greatest hits compilation.  I had always assumed that the leader of the trio was Horton Heat, but I learned years later that the singer's name was actually Jim Heath.  Makes no difference.  When that ended, I put on a compilation of Billy Childish songs from a double CD set pulled from maybe 50 different albums from different bands he had.  (one write up once stated that he'd rather sell 1000 copies each of fifty different albums than 50,000 copies of one album) Not psychobilly, but various low fidelity styles of garage rock.  It worked together.

So I started with the table.  I threw away a few things, put a few things away, and reorganized some stuff, while checking out what was actually there.  When I was done (and swept away lots of sawdust and splinters) I had a lot more table to work with.  (again, if I ever get the photos out of my phone, I have one of this)  

With that done, I moved on to the framing project.  I moved my mat cutting machine from behind the drying rack and to the table, which was quite an ordeal.  I had brought with me the framed piece I was planning to take apart for my brother's piece.

Looking through the rack of framed artworks, I decided to use this one for the frame. It's called "Kitchen Print", based on a dishtowel I had gotten as a Christmas present.  The original towel had a pizza theme, with the red checkerboard pattern seen above, but with slices of pizza on top, the words "Pizza Toppings" at the top and bottom, and in handwritten words all around the slices, the names of various toppings.  In this version (I think made at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, an artist colony I had received a fellowship to), the name of the towel was changed to "Household Chemicals", the images are of items found in the basement (leftover from what my grandfather left behind when he moved), and words in script are all taken from the labels of those containers.  Things like, "alkyd resin", "Control noA-27148", "clear gloss varnish", and "aluminum paste".  I wasn't sure of the last time I showed it, but I do have a document on my computer listing exhibitions, and I found two references to this work, a juried art show at Monmouth Museum back in 1999, and in Belmar in 2013 (where I found this image on this blog).  Can't think of any place I need to show this piece any time soon, so it became the candidate to donate its frame. 

I couldn't find a flat head screwdriver of the right size to unscrew the brackets that hold the frame together (we do have 6 philips head screwdrivers in the drawer in the kitchen), so I hoped there would be one up at the Studio I could use.  I knew I had had one there, but the place was broken into last year and my locking cabinet torn open.  I had determined that the responsible party had not stolen my bevel mat cutter (I had lost a tote bag, and they took some of Molly's old power tools, but left behind lots of stuff that was probably more valuable, certainly more costly to us artists), but I hadn't checked for anything else.  When I got there I checked the drawer, and there it was.  An added bonus- my spare roll of pH neutral linen tape, which I use for hinges to hold the artwork. 

I started by taking apart the framed work, and measured the previous mat for the outer size, then cut my new mat board to meet those dimensions.  I had brought my brother's poster with me, and used that to measure what I would need for the window, and marked that in pencil, and cut it out with the bevel cutter.  After that, pieces of linen tape to secure the poster in place, reassembled it, put it all in the frame, and screwed it together. It looked good, so I decided to clean up.  I put away my mat cutting machine, and found I had a bigger table space than I had before.  Took two trips to get it all to the car, but better safe than sorry.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021



The other day my brother showed up at my current home to do some chores my parents had asked for, and had a framed artwork in his hands.  It was a piece of mine from years ago about Lou's Barber Shop, a place we frequented for most of our lives, until he sold it suddenly and got out of the business.  (He was from Italy, about my father's age, and practically a relative)  It's a long wide piece, one he had hanging in his main room for years.  (I don't have a photo of the actual print, from before I had a digital camera, so what you get above is a copy of something from that print I used elsewhere)  He also brought a poster of a Kevin Smith script reading he had been to, which carried some autographs.  What he wanted was to leave the framed print, and have me mat and frame the poster, part of a rearranging of his walls.  Just put it in an old frame you have.  Easier said than done, as I have never made a print to the same dimensions as his poster, and most of the stores that sold art supplies have gone out business.  Both brick stores and online stores.  

So I had two tasks today.  After looking at various online sites, I had concluded that the simplest and least expensive option would be to use an old frame and cut a new mat to fit it.  I would re-use the frame, backing board, and plexiglass.  I had measured my brother's poster at 12" x 18", and while I have nothing that would fit that size, I had bigger things.   One of the few art supply stores that I know still exists is across from the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, and I had business with a lawyer in Eatontown today, so I decided to go there after my afternoon appointment.  Luckily I know all those roads fairly well from my years of using them for work, so I found both the lawyer and the art store with no problems, and picked up a piece of mat board.  More than I am used to paying, but I don't know if the stuff has gone up in recent years, or if this is just the only store left and I have to pay what they demand.

Back home, part two.  Down to the basement where I built a giant rack unit a few decades ago to hold all my artwork.  (the flood destroyed some things on the lower level. but the top stuff was all fine)  I used the opportunity to see what I had up there (found a few things), and selected some possibilities.  Used my brother's poster to measure and chose one that was a little larger, but one that will hold the whole poster.  All my mat cutting stuff is up at my Studio, so next time I am there I will take care of that.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Fever Dream part 18


We got my father up and out to vote by late morning, and were back home by noon.  So my parents decided to go out shopping, and I decided to take advantage of the day to get to the Studio and pull a proof of my new block.  I had determined that I had materials and tools for printing so it was just a matter of loading them in my car and taking off.

I got up there about quarter after 2, giving me a few hours to work on it.  First proofs are always the most difficult, as I believe the wood absorbs a bit of ink on that first attempt.  I had multiple cans of ink, but I decided to go with the Outlaw Black.   I knew from experience that it's a bit stiff, kind of like a litho ink, but it gives a very dense black and picks up lots of detail. It was a brand new can, unopened but probably a few years old, yet once I cut through the top layer, the ink itself was just what I expected.  I did spend a bit of time working it to loosen it a little, but that is what this ink always needs.

I had brought my larger book of discs today, and from that selected a copy of an album by Hobex, a project from Greg Humphries (best known for his time in the alternative rock band Dillon Fence) that was a very traditional soul/R&B band.  I don't have access to the original disc anymore, but I do know it was called U Ready, Man? and seems to be an hour of people singing and playing instruments, as it used to be.  I have this album because one song, "Baby's Gone Away", got a lot of airplay on Brookdale's radio station when it was new, and that was good enough to check out the album and eventually buy it.  When that ended, I went with another traditional soul/R&B album, 100 Days 100 Nights by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, which I wrote about back in June, 2019.  

I had torn a half sheet of Rives Lightweight in half, which I had measured would be large enough for the new block, giving me paper for two prints.  As I inked the block, I liked what I saw.  The black was deep and enhanced the drawing as I expected.  Then I put on a sheet of paper and tried to hand rub a print, but there wasn't much ink on the paper. Unfortunately, that was also expected, that first proof thing. So I had to spend a lot of time re-inking, so that the resulting print would look as good as the block had.  Eventually it did, but it took about 2 hours to complete.  If the print was perfect, I'd be tempted to pull a second copy right away, but I could see there were some flaws in the block cutting, enough that I will want to do a little more cutting before I print it again.  There are a few chunks of wood that were missed originally, and not noticed until I rolled some ink on there.  As Molly had predicted, the fire turned out quite well, however the castle they were engulfing needs more cutting. I expect a little more cutting within Tinkerbell, and a few lines to better define the helicopter nurses, though I do like the effect of the dark uniforms.  I will let the block dry for a few days before I try that.  I did blot it before I went home, which should speed the process.  Meanwhile, I brought the proof home to study.

Since I still don't have my old camera, or a replacement yet, I have taken a number of photos of it using my phone, but I still haven't figured out how to get those photos from my phone to my computer.  When I do, you can see what this thing looks like, from the pencil drawings to the final print, but for now you'll just have to be satisfied with my words.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Fever Dream part 17


My parents were out most of day, so I ate lunch early, took care of a local errand, and left for the Studio a little earlier than usual.  Saw Nichole's car in the lot, so after going inside, I stopped at her office first.  Gave her an update on my adventures with her friend at the agency, who she had texted earlier in the week, since 2 weeks had passed since they were supposed to contact me with information.  This time I got a bit more action, including a contact, and a lawyer.  We will see what happens, but if all goes well, I'll get some help for my appeal.

With that taken care of, it was time to get to work.  I had done a little more internet research last night, making sure about part of the Jefferies Tube that took up much of the right edge of my block, the last part that needed major work.  My hope was to complete the cutting today, so I can print it next week and see what I got.

First thing I noticed was that the Studio was a lot cleaner than it had been- most of Molly's tote bags and t-shirts were gone.  (Nichole had said something about stopping by to pick up the rest of the t-shirts, which didn't happen while I was there)  So I didn't have to waste time clearing my space to work. Took out my block and tools and got to it.

First thing I did was cut the ring of keys held by the large hand on that side, representing me and that particular key ring.  (I have one for that building, one for everything else)  At the same time I took care of a few details in the hand itself, pieces between the keys in my drawing.  Next was the interior of the Tube, which was just the cylindrical interior and a few colored long pieces (what was known on the show as GNDN for "goes nowhere, does nothing") that were around it, all converted to gray, black, and white in my image.  And that was pretty much it. I took a rough rubbing of the whole image in pieces (the paper I had) and decided to just remove the two hanging hoses.  The parts I had carved were not that great, and this saved me from having to try to do it also where they were in front of the black part of the escalator.  Gives a needed large piece of white as well.

I don't plan to print it until next week (avoiding the Halloween activities up at the building for one thing), so I will spend the next few days gathering what I need for printing, as well as looking over the block and seeing if there is anything I missed, as well as noting any nicks and splinters that I will need to deal with in printing it.

For music today I had brought the blues case, so I got to enjoy some things that have been mentioned here before.  I started with a nice copy of the T-Bone Walker's fine collection, T-Bone Blues.  I wrote about him and the original record back in October, 2019.  When that ended, I went to another blues disc, one that I have paired with the Walker disc before, a John Lee Hooker collection just called Volume I which was put out by Modern Records and included songs from 1948 to 1954, so about the same time as the Walker sides.  In this era, the standard record was the 78 rpm single, so all musicians pretty much recorded songs that would be put out as singles.  The invention of the 33 and 1/3 rpm LP allowed record companies to put out albums and all these recordings had a new life, either as albums put out by the record company that owned the masters, or by companies that licensed the recordings to put out albums.  In the case of T-Bone Walker, he had cut these sides for Atlantic Records in the 50's, and that record company put out this album much later, as well as included at least one song on another album collection that came out even later.  As for John Lee Hooker, I have no idea who he recorded these sides for originally (he made records in many places), and I don't have access to the original record right now. I just have my copy of a copy of the album paired with another JLH album I had on record, This is Hip, which was put out by VJ Records, who put out some of the early Beatles singles in America when no one else wanted them.  (times would change on that)  And I have the photo of this album at the top of this posting, from way back in 2007.  So these are not new records to this blog, but all I have right now is what I had stored in the Studio.  

Monday, October 25, 2021

Fever Dream part 16

 A decent day today- 70 degrees, partly sunny, and probably better than tomorrow, which is expected to be a nor'easter with lots of rain and wind.  Therefore, another good Studio day.  I left as soon as my parents got home from their morning activity, got up there by a little before 2 pm.  Saw Nichole's car in the lot and went directly to her basement office from the parking lot.  Had to wait while she spoke to someone else, but then got to talk to her about the two questions I've had for a few weeks- had she spoken to Mary, my former student who was looking to start a print program there in the building, and what happened with Judiyth, a friend of hers who might be able to provide some professional help to me in my condition, but hadn't been in touch for a two weeks, nor anyone from her agency either.  Short answer, she hadn't spoken to anyone recently, but agreed she probably should, and planned to do so.  With that bit of business settled, I could go back up the stairs to the parking lot, then back in the main door to the first floor (which allowed be to put a tag on my hook), and ultimately back down to the basement to my Studio.  Lot of cars in the lot, and a lot of tags on hooks, but didn't see many people there on the 1st floor.

In my Studio I had a bit of work to do first.  Molly had been there, and it seemed she had gotten the job of making product for the Halloween event scheduled for the building this weekend.  They have a Trunk or Treat thing scheduled there- which is an event where various volunteers have candy available for kids, who visit each person (by their car, supply in the trunk I guess) and get candy that way, instead of the traditional door to door thing that I grew up doing.  My mother's theory was that this started with Hurricane Sandy, which took out power (and thus street lights) and left a lot of wires down throughout the region for much of October that year, making the trick-or-treat thing harder to do.  Now, it's a way for houses and kids to avoid Covid.   I knew from e-mails that one thing participants would get is a tote bag they could color, an activity as well as a useful tool.  It turns out that Molly was making the tote bags, or I should say decorating them.  It was a nice decoration, though, a black and white silkscreen print of a haunted scene, complete with a haunted house, full moon, skull, headstones, a contorted tree (dead or at least without leaves, as happens this time of year). and a giant rat, plus the words "trunk or treat 2021" and "jersey shore arts center". She printed this on off white canvas tote bags, and white t-shirts, part of the event I assume.  Pretty much every horizontal surface in our space was covered with them, including my inking table and my chair, so I had to excavate those to give myself a place to work and put my stuff.  The only space in the room not so covered was part of one of her tables, so that's where it went. 

For music I chose my single disc version of Live at Raji's  from The Dream Syndicate, which I wrote about on this blog back in April 2020 if anyone is interested to hear about it.  It does have a song called, "Halloween", so I guess it was appropriate. It's also a favorite disc, which is why I had a copy of it in my Studio stash.

I'm getting close to the end of my latest block, which is a reason I wanted to work on it.  The fact that we are expecting some bad weather in the coming days was a good reason to do it today, as well as I probably needed to pick up some milk on the way home.  (as is said, there's something about a coming storm that makes everyone get in the mood for French Toast, because everyone goes to the store and buys milk, eggs, and bread)  Knowing I was going today, I had done some block drawing in the morning, working on those hanging hoses, resolving the circular clothing rack, and making some decisions about other small areas.  Up at the Studio, I made those changes by cutting to the clothing rack and the small areas, then moved to something new- the brick wall and the hand holding the keys.  I didn't cut the keys today, or the Jefferies Tube behind it or the hanging hoses, so those items will wait for my next visit, but that may be last time for new cutting.  This thing is just about finished.

As I was locking off and turning out lights in the basement, suddenly Molly arrived, who I haven't seen in the Studio in maybe a year.  So we had a brief chat.  I told her I really liked the design she had created for the bags and shirts, and I did, too. It's a very complicated composition, but an excellent use of black and white.  (she appreciated my comment, as I am known as a big user of black and white in prints) I also pointed out the bank of florescent lights that was out, and told her that if Nichole was still in, I'd let her know about it.  She said she was there today to finish the job for Nichole, so I left her the room, stopped by the office for what I planned, then headed home.  

Friday, October 22, 2021

Art as Commerce


Earlier tonight my mother put on one of her favorite shows, Shark Tank.  For those not familiar, it's a television show in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a group of successful business people, hoping to get some financing for their ideas and businesses.  The sharks often have questions relating to the businesses (after all, they don't want to lose money on potential investments) such as various costs, profits so far, etc.  Most of the ideas relate to clothes or food (I believe at least 3 of tonight's products were consumable), and I tend to ignore these.  Once in a while they relate to art, and I pay more attention to these.  For example, last season there was someone who wanted to expand their jigsaw puzzle business, so I listened to her pitch and the subsequent questions more, and eventually passed this information on to my business partner in the jigsaw puzzle game.  (the person in question couldn't give a good reason why she needed more money or assumed sales would continue to rise and was not funded)  

Tonight the opening pitch was two longtime friends who are offering art lessons online and wanted some funding to expand their business.  I know something about this, as almost anyone who is in a creative field offers art lessons on the side, including me.  That's why I know how difficult it is to make money in this field.  My last few attempts to hold art classes in Ocean Grove haven't worked, as no one has signed up for  them.  I don't know if it's the subject, the times/days, or just the problem that people are still afraid to do anything in person.  (any or all of these could be true)  The problem with online classes is that online is a terrible way to try to learn art.  For millennia, the processes of art have been taught person to person, and it seems to work best that way.  Last year, as Covid raged, the college where I had been teaching for 15 years decided to switch from classrooms to online only, which I survived, but it wasn't easy.  I was lucky that the hardest stuff happened early in the semester before the changes came, and the students did well with the later projects (some slightly modified) that were all done completely online.  It probably didn't hurt that the classes were things I had taught many times before, and I had always put information online, including my vast number of good successful images of student projects.  Unfortunately, after that the school decided to switch from having its experienced instructors teach art classes to buying art classes directly from an online company (one that most colleges refused to work with) and I was no longer employed.  

Anyway, tonight's entrepreneurs said they were trying to break into the home schooling market, but that's a hard market to break into.  They also admitted that most of their customers lasted about 7 months in their system, and no one was continuing art lessons with them for a year or more, which is what the sharks wanted.  To my surprise, they were actually offered a deal, but with a contingency- they had to show a profit after 6 months (not a big concern of theirs to this point), and if so they would get funding.  This seemed like a pretty good deal to me.  Essentially it was what they were already doing, hustling to make ends meet with art skills, and if they showed a profit, they would get a big influx of cash.  If not, they would be where they had been anyway, and maybe get the message this wasn't working out for them.

It all made me think of something from my past. As I said, I have spent a lot of time giving art lessons, but there was one time I had an opportunity to apply for a full time teaching job at a school (community college) I had been working at for several years, teaching 2 or 3 studio classes per semester, the requested specialty in areas I was covering.  All well and good, but then I had occasion to talk to one of the people on the hiring committee (digital art) and was told I was the last person they would want to hire.  Why? Because I was an artist, and artists are always concerned with making art and exhibiting it.  What the school needed was someone who would sit at their desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and only care about the college.  Despite that, I went ahead and applied, came up with a lesson plan for what they asked for, and did the interview (they decided to interview all adjuncts who applied for the job) but needless to say, I didn't get the job.  The person who was hired took down his website shortly after being announced, but it was up long enough for me to see that he had no more experience than I did, just part time adjunct stuff.  And from the years I worked there (3 or 4 years after that), I can tell you that no full time faculty ever worked 5 days a week, and some didn't even cover their classes, which were at most 20 hours per week.  I concluded that the school had decided what they wanted long before anyone was interviewed, and they got what they wanted.  

Tomorrow, I have lessons with my niece.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fever Dream part 15

 Had some time today, so I decided to go up to the Studio and do a little more work on my block.  Plus, I like how the cutting went yesterday and want to do more while everything is still working.   Still no Nichole, so I just went to work.

Took out an assortment of tools that made sense, and I had brought my case of rock/pop discs with me today.  From there I selected the Wipers disc, written about back in July of 2019.  Once a co-worker heard me playing a Wipers tape and thought I was listening to heavy metal.  No (wrong rhythm for one thing), but it is very heavy guitar, yet very atmospheric, and thus very suitable for cutting to.  

I continued with the desk, including the hand holding the pizza slice.  Went on to the comic book guy and the display of comic books (probably long boxes on a shelving unit), doing everything except the parts that are defined by the circular clothing rack.  From there I went on to the most complicated thing remaining, the burning castle in the distance.  I had redrawn this from my internet source last week, and studied the video of it with fireworks (some recent Disney specials and commercials on television) to see how it looked partly lit up at night.  It made today easier.  I also took care of the guy watching the Cinderella castle go up in flames, from the escalator.  A little more time on the wild grass and circular clothing rack, but on the latter I want to update the drawing before I cut any more, and that I can do at home.  The last thing I did was the door frame on the right side of the block. I need to decide soon what I want to do about the two hanging hoses near the top of the escalator.  

Otherwise what is left is the far right of the block- the brick wall, the hand holding the keys, and the Jeffries tube opening on the wall.  That means a few more decisions, but that sounds like work for the weekend.  

As I left, a lot more tags on the hooks, but still no Nichole.  No need to stop on the way home, so I just drove back to where I live.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Fever Dream part 14


Back to the warm weather for a few days, though I think it's too late for the figs.  Leaves haven't dropped yet, but they are looking rough.  On the other hand, the flat tire alert on my dashboard disappeared somewhere around Belmar.   Every year as soon as the weather cools a little, the car tells me I have a flat tire.  After a few years I realized it was a lie and that the tire warning system was on the panicky side.  Now I just look at the car, and if all the tires look normal, I assume they are.  Like I did for all the decades I didn't have a tire pressure alert system.

I left a little earlier than usual today, so I was up at the Studio by quarter past one.  No sign of Nichole's car, so I went directly to the basement.  Once there, I saw her door was open, and heard voices, so I stopped to listen.  However, all I heard was a male voice, talking for long periods of time without break about vitamins and such- I assumed he was a salesman and didn't want to get too close.  

Even before I left from home, I decided it was a blues day, and brought the appropriate disc book with me.  I started with my disc of the Robert Cray broadcast recorded from WNEW-FM back in 1990, burned to a disc in time for my trip to Texas in  2005.  (I had brought several copies of good music, but there was nothing there to play them on, so they stayed in my luggage that week, ended up as Studio copies a few years later) I believe I wrote about that in July 2019 if you want to know more.  When that disc ended, I continued the hard blues with the Buddy Guy album Stone Crazy, which I think I wrote about in February, 2020, if you want to know more. The music brought back a lot of memories, and was good to cut to.

And it was a productive day.  I had shown the block in progress to my nurse model the other day and she was impressed with the detail in the block drawing.  Well, there is a lot of detail there, but that's what I like.  Some will be lost in cutting, so it's good to have a detailed drawing to start.  The time I spent working on the Entenmann's aisle cap drawing was not wasted, and the cutting was very detailed. A lot of time spent spinning the block, turning it to make cutting easier, definitely easier with a piece of wood this size rather than the 2'x3' blocks I had used for similar pieces in the past.  Of course, the amount of art that appears on the actual baked good boxes is far more than I could draw in the tiny spaces this drawing gave me, but I'm used to simplifying things as I shrink them  Having finished cutting all that, I went on to the bit of tile floor around it, then a bit of the wild grass and weeds, then the other two nurses (I had redrawn the helicopters as part of my time at home last week), part of the circular clothing rack, part of the comic book display, the silkscreen frames, and much of the desk behind it, especially the papers on top. So now, about half the block is done being carved.  I said it was a productive day.  I wish I had my camera so I could share the results with you, but for now, you'll have to settle for my description.  

As I was leaving the door to the office was closed, and I don't know what happened to the vitamin salesman, so I just left.  

Friday, October 15, 2021

Dream, No Fever

 Did a little drawing on the block today, working from home.  Mostly filling in values, based on source material already acquired.  But what I am writing about today is a dream I had, for which there is no art, yet.  It's a dream I've had variations on many times before, so maybe someday it will be art, and worth putting down here.

This was actually during a late afternoon nap, a short time in bed, but long enough for this, and probably a lot more, but this is what I remember.  It was a big building, people in it, large rooms, small rooms, etc.  But at some point I realized that it was just about time for me to be hosting a radio show, as a DJ.  Got myself quickly to the air studio.  I had theme music all set, and in the dream it was stored on my watch.  I rapidly set up the mixing board for what I would need, pressed a button to open a small drawer, much like the place where one would insert a compact disc.  I put my watch in the center of it, tucking the watchband into holes in the drawer, and pressed a button to close the drawer, then started it, as it was top of the hour and time to start.  Pieces of magnetic recording tape (like a cassette) popped out of cracks, but somehow the intended theme music also started.  I let it run, set up a song to be played next.  I left the small DJ booth, and found myself in a very large bar. The first room had a large bar with stools,  which seemed kind of empty, though a lot of small European flags were festively draped everywhere.  In another room, mostly booths, more flags, but some people at least.  All were dressed in black leather, with a punk vibe, or maybe a little bit biker.  (my radio show is playing over the bar sound system, and these two groups have some known appreciation of blues music, so this could work out) Go to another room, more people at a booth, but dressed in more conventional bar clothes. I recognize one as a friend (in the dream), the one who gave me a ride to this place.  I should get back to my radio show. 

And that's all there was.  I woke up,  realized that it was past the time I had planned to get up, and decided I should go ahead and get up and get ready for dinner.

So, is there any art here?  I don't know.  The part that is common, is the sudden need to be ready to do a radio show.  There is a common nightmare called "test anxiety" where the dreamer suddenly finds themselves in a classroom (high school or college), about to take an exam in a class they never attended or something they forgot to study for.  As a student who had mostly studio art classes, the exam dream had little meaning for me.  I did have to occasionally proctor an exam, and once saw one of my students, who had missed so many studio sessions, he had already failed the class, and I told him nicely that there was no point in sitting for the exam.  But he decided to anyway.  May have been a bit high.  On another occasion, a student asked me to read the projected section numbers, as he didn't bring his glasses and couldn't see anything.  I realized he was one of my studio students, unrecognized as I hadn't seen him in about 13 weeks, and gave him the same advice, especially since without glasses he would do very poorly on the largely slide ID test he was about to take.  Like the first student, he decided to go for it.  May have been in the same condition.  Since I had no inborn fear of exams, my variation on this nightmare either involved being back in the grill area of McDonald's (where the never ending beeps of timers going off echoed though my head as I tried to sleep at night) or doing my radio show and needing to cue up another record before the current one ended, and in dreams the current record was always so short. 

The sound board set up was more like a component stereo system than any sound board I have worked with.  (and it was the same hardware at all three colleges, but different components hooked to the sliders in each case)  And very dark, just the lit up displays to see by.  I could probably draw my watch (inexpensive Timex with two hands that never held a song in any kind of memory) in the compact disc drawer, but I'm not sure what the point would be of that artwork.  I could probably also draw the bar scenes well, lots of wood, bottles, flags, though finding models for all the customers would be a challenge.  Again, though, I don't have an artistic use for the idea right now.  So for now, I write it down. Some of the items depicted in my current Fever Dream work go back to my youth, so you never know when ideas will come in handy.