Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 6


Was at my father's house today to view the Giants game, but I felt like this was something else I could take care of.  When I was there yesterday (lawn mowing), I checked on the pumpkin piece and found it was still a little tacky.  The forecast called for no rain on the weekend, so I left the piece out on the patio table last night, hoping the sun or the constant breeze would finally complete the drying of the surface.  As predicted, no rain, but the pumpkin was still not completely dry when I checked it today.  No color came off on my hands- just a  little bit of stickiness to the surface.  Perhaps that is as good as I can expect any time soon. 

So at halftime, I went out to take care of the next step.  I knew there was a can of clear acrylic spray in their kitchen (why I wasn't sure, but I had seen it sitting on the counter for a while), so I grabbed that.  Instructions showed that it would work like spray paints, so I gave it a proper shake and applied a coat to the front side of the pumpkin.  A few minutes later, that front side was completely dry, so I gave it a second pass.  When that proved dry a few minutes later, I put it down on its face and sprayed the back, since this is plywood and if it rained, that would probably get wet as well, then put it upright and sprayed the edge.  Left it that way for the rest of the game.  At that point I checked it again and found everything dry.  I showed it to my father, who liked the paint job,  so I installed it as it was intended to be seen, on one of the front steps, holding one of the potted chrysanthemums on top.  It seems this project is done.  

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a camera with me, so a photo of what this looks like will have to wait for another occasion.  When I get one, I'll attach it to this post, and you all can enjoy it.  

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 5


Back to Manasquan today to mow the lawn and check on this pumpkin project. The coloring is definitely done, and I took another blotter proof. Mostly dry, but tacky enough that I decided not to spray the finish on it yet.  Anyone who knows painting knows that putting a varnish coat over still wet paint is inviting trouble.  Rain may come tomorrow before I am back there again, so I moved it into the shed.  Halloween is still weeks away, so another day won't hurt anybody. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 4

 Using relief ink to color a wooden object relates to some of my recent experiences making wooden sculptures for my nieces, but long before that it was part of woodcut printing.  That's how I knew it would work, and besides, I had the color inks. I had left it in the shed to dry, knowing when the ink is applies thickly (as in a brush) it takes longer to dry than the residual on a printed block. However I also know from printmaking that pulling a ghost proof on scrap will remove a little more ink from the wood and help it dry faster, which is why I sometimes call these things blotter proofs.  Yesterday I stopped by the shed just long enough to check the progress on my painted pumpkin, and used a sheet of old newspaper to pull one of these blotter prints.

Today I got there a little earlier with a goal to finish the coloring job on the pumpkin.  I had the tube of brown relief ink in my car, along with the glass palette and brush that were also in my Studio.  I also brought a tube of black ink I had in the car already, plus my print shop apron. 

The pumpkin, all the color inks, and the ink knife and brayers were also in the shed. One extra thing I brought from home was an empty can left from lunch, a place to put some water.  Inside the tubes the ink sometimes separates over time, the thick pigment separating from the liquid medium.  Squeezing it out on a palette, no problem- squeeze out enough to get some of each and use a brush or ink knife to remix it, good as new.  Squeezing out just a little directly onto the wood I was coloring, more of challenge, which is why I picked up a palette the other day.  I also grabbed a folding chair from the patio to use while I painted- the last few times I just stood, bending over the table, and my legs didn't like that.  For this longer task today I decided to use a chair and spare my hamstrings the ordeal.

Used the backyard hose to put a little water in my can, into which I could dip my brush to make the water soluble ink flow better, or what in printmaking is called viscosity.  (with oil ink I would use oil, such as a burnt plate oil or something like that) Squeezed out a little brown ink on my palette and added that over the top of what I had painted on the stem. Quick and easy.  Then some lamp black, and touched up the cut holes in the jack-o-lantern design, such as the eyes, nose, and jagged smile.  Also used it to repaint the tendrils over the surface- they had been covered by my early layer of orange, but showed through so I could see where they needed to be.  Then outlined the leaves as the original design had.  Then more orange, a better one than I had put down the other day.  Put out a squeeze of fresh yellow and red on my palette, a little white, and the leftover black in the brush I used to mix it gave me a suitable color, more vibrant than what I had there.  Adding a little water helped me put it exactly where I needed it. 

My father came outside, was surprised by how warm it was there in the sun, and asked if this would survive the weather, since while today was dry,  there would likely be rain a few times before the end of the month.  Good question, one I had thought about myself, and I don't have an authoritative answer.  Never left a finished block out in the rain. In my experience, once this ink dries it is pretty stable, but I told him after it was dry I would spray it with a clear acrylic finish, knowing there was a can of it in the kitchen.  Hope that will do. 

I decided the coloring was done, but left it on the table to continue drying in the open air and sun.  No rain in the forecast for tomorrow, so I decided to take a chance that it would be safe until then.  The only problem is that with everything else I remember to bring today, I forgot my camera, so for now you will have to take my word for it. I'll get a photo and post it tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 3


I stopped by Manasquan just long enough to check on the planter piece, and as expected, the ink was still a bit wet.  So nothing painted today, but preparations were started.  Earlier in the afternoon I stopped by the Studio to pick up a few items.  Got the glass rotating plate from an old small microwave oven, a small tube of brown water soluble relief ink, and a small square brush.  Any one of these things would have made yesterday's work easier.  I use the glass plate (and also a square one from a different microwave oven) as small portable palettes for mixing and rolling ink- the thick tempered glass doesn't seem likely to shatter as I carry it from place to place, and the smooth surface is easy to mix on, to roll ink on, and to clean off with water.  The brown ink will improve the depiction of the woody stem on the pumpkin, and the brush will allow me to paint the details a lot better.  For now these items stay in my car, but when this thing is dry enough for the next layer, I'll be ready.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 2

 Had some time this afternoon, so I went back down to Manasquan to check on the progress of my pumpkin project.   I had everything from yesterday out in the shed, so I went directly there, brought it to the patio table outside, and got to work.  Yesterday's orange ink wasn't quite dry yet, but I wasn't planning to paint directly on that, so I figured I would be fine.  

The original design includes four sections of cool green, which I figured could be the Phthalo green and some titanium white.   All the leaves have veins in them, but those can be added later as lines of black ink, and I can fix the jack-o-lantern cuts the same way.  The other thing today that had no orange ink on it was the woody stem on top. In theory brown can be easily mixed from red, yellow, and green, plus white, but today I still have no palette, so had to do the mixing directly on the wood surface.  It didn't help that all I had with me were a set of very cheap brushes (probably a gift because I would never buy such things for myself), falling apart as I tried to use them (bristles falling out, ferrules coming off the handles).  Comparing this photo to the previous one, the stem color isn't too far off from what was there, but I think I can do better.  Probably have a little actual brown color ink in my Studio. Meanwhile, it all went back out the the shed to dry, and I'll wait a day or two before I try again.

Monday, October 05, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin

 Yesterday when I was watching football with my father he pulled out something he wanted my help with.  An old wooden holiday item, flat boards, one basically a shelf, and rising vertically behind it  a background piece, in the shape of a pumpkin. It was painted to look like a jack-o-lantern, the idea being a potted plant can be placed on the flat shelf and the pumpkin would sit behind it.  It was pretty old, much of the paint worn off, whether it be from age or weather, but enough paint remained that it was clear what the image was supposed to be.  He wanted it repainted so he could use it for this coming Halloween. I told him I had no paint there in the basement, but I could probably figure something out.  Before I left, I had.   

For an image on paper, I'd have a bunch of options. Being that this is a wooden object, I thought of some of my recent wooden sculpture pieces, which I colored by painting them with water based relief ink, which I have in many colors.  And thanks to my color theory training,  I can use those colors to create all the others. Apply the ink thinly to the wood and it will dry on it, in whatever color I chose.  Figured it would be best to put on a background color, then paint objects on top of it- the holes in the jack-o-lantern (black). the leaves and vines (phthalo green) etc.  All those inks are in my Studio, so a visit to there was added to my list of errands for Monday.

My third stop this afternoon was at the Studio, picked up some inks. Down in Manasquan, did the lawn first, then my pumpkin project.


 Mixed an orange color using red, yellow, and white inks, and used a small soft brayer to put a thin layer over the whole pumpkin shaped piece of wood, then left it in the shed to dry overnight.  Everything else can wait until tomorrow. Halloween itself if still a few weeks away, so I'm not worried.  Applying ink with a brayer is not as precise as using a brush, so it's not as neat as the final version will be.  

Thursday, October 01, 2020

A New Challenge

 Right now I have a problem I have not had to deal with for a while, finding a job while not having one.  That would seem challenging enough in this age of high unemployment, but I was unprepared for one task that is part of the process- finding job references.  Most job applications ask you to provide references, maybe letters, or at least a list of names they can contact to check up on you.  In the past I had a list of such people, generally linked to past or current jobs I had.  The problem is that it's been a while since I had to look for a job, and the list of people I had is a problem- they have all moved on from the jobs they had.  Retired, moved away, died, etc.  And generally there is a preference for people who are currently working in jobs, which is not as common as it once was. 

Generally most jobs ask for three, so that was my goal. Thought of a few likely candidates and got their agreement to do so early in the week.  Still wanted at least one more.  Yesterday when I was talking to Nichole (from that initial list, and she agreed), she suggested a few more, some of whom I had put on a short list of potential third persons.  Sent an email to one last night (recent former student in Ocean Grove) but as of now I still haven't heard back from her yet.  The email was not bounced back, so I guess the address is still valid, but I have no idea is she has read it or not.  Meanwhile I tried another possibility today- Bobby Duncan.  He's one of the artists down in the basement and has known me for years, plus he even has an actual job title- building monitor, which sounds more impressive than it is.   So I went to see him today, taking a meal break in the Room of Many Feasts, between a shift on the mural he's been employed to create and his job in the building. He agreed, and gave me one of his homemade business cards to use for his reference contact, so at least I have this task done.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dream World


What is a dream?  We don't really know.  There are many theories, and they have been studied as long as people have been walking the earth. And maybe before that, as we know animals can have them, too. The images come from our experiences, except when they are so fantastic that we don't know where they came from.  Maybe they are a way for the brain to clear itself of a day's worth of ideas. The bible is full of stories of dreams being used to carry messages from beyond, warnings even.  Psychoanalysts have spent much time trying to interpret people's dreams, with mixed results. One common thought is that the subconscious uses them to reorganize our thoughts, and as such may use that part of our brain to figure out what our conscious mind can't figure out, or doesn't want to deal with.  Or it may just bring together a bunch of weird things we did or saw during the day. I have often had some very odd dreams, but that goes with being an artist.  Years ago one of the DSM's listed something called "dream anxiety disorder", but never defined what it was or how many or how frequently to qualify for the disorder, but did say that it was more common in artists.  Makes sense.  I have read that artists seem to have an excess of a certain natural neurotransmitter in their brains, which acts a bit like LSD.  Generally not enough to cause hallucinations, but it does make it easier to connect weird things, or to jump from one thing to another.  

One common type of dream is what is ofter called wish fulfillment, where we have dreams about things we don't have but wish we did.   A meeting with a person we'd like to see, of an object we'd like to have.  Into this category I'd put a common thing that has appeared in a lot of my dreams recently, small hole in the wall restaurants, the kind of place where you can pop in and get a slice of pizza or something simple.  Nothing fancy or expensive.  In my dreams, just a place on the street selling quick snacks, visits are short.  Nothing is particularly memorable, but they serve a purpose in real life.  Except in real life they don't exist much any more- Covid-19 made much indoor dining illegal around here, and some places won't let you come in even to get take-out.  You don't know how much you'll miss this kind of thing until suddenly it is forbidden and unavailable.  

What brought this all to the fore was an email from my college friend Doug. If he was to have a wish fulfillment dream, it would probably involve going to see a favorite band, perhaps one that broke up 30 years ago and he never got to see. In his mail he mentioned a particular band where a member may have had a connection to SIU, a place where Doug had visited me and saw some live music.  In his letter, who wrote of how he missed the old days when colleges regularly booked cool bands and people could go see them.  Maybe that's what made me think of the joy of walking into a small place a getting a slice of pizza. And maybe my next piece should be about one of these fantasy places.

None of these dream locations are particularly memorable- not the buildings, not the food.  Plain outsides, dimly lit inside.  So it's more about the idea.  Had some business with Nichole today, but otherwise I was in my space working on this idea.  Wrote a lot of words, did some very rough sketches- all on paper, as this isn't ready to be put on wood yet. Here's what I did today-

The Don's logo came from a boardwalk print, a thing I made up years ago, but it's original.    I see brick walls, which fits with some of the dreams.  Neon signs in the windows, and through those windows we see lots of people, since a restaurant full of people is pretty much a fantasy these days. The visuals aren't much yet, but this piece is more about the idea than anything else.  I expect it will get better as I go forward.

Thursday, September 24, 2020



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Newer Phase part 2

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

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

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

And So It Begins


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

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Newer Phase

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

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A New Phase part 6

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

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

A New Phase part 5

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

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

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