Friday, June 11, 2021

Ocean Grove Business


Today involved some things around Ocean Grove, even though I never set foot in the town, or left my own.  I was being treated to lunch by East Coast and West Coast Marys, the former a woodcut student of mine, the latter one of her oldest friends, as well as her collaborator in the East vs West print show we had a few years ago.  The lunch was a belated thank you for my help with that show.  And I did provide a lot of help.  I set up the original show at the Boatworks, making the original connection with then director Rebecca.  I helped East Coast Mary create the written proposal and helped with hanging suggestions.  When the BAC turned over their staff and the show proposers were looking for a new venue, I hooked them up with Nichole at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, where I have had a Studio for more than a decade, and the director was looking for shows.  I was part of meetings, and assisted with the hanging of the show.  Plus I had a few prints in it, helping to fill wall space.  Lots of other things as well.   I hadn't heard from my student for a long time, and wasn't sure if she was even still around, so I was glad to hear from her last week. 

Eventually they settled on a plan to pick me up where I'm living now and take me out to my local choice of place for lunch.  As part of it we would be discussing some print related projects they were interested in.  Creating potential conflict was that West Coast Mary was heading back to Portland in less than a week.  They pulled up to the house as expected, I got in the car, and gave them some options, from which they chose Squan Tavern, a local Italian place that has decent food.   Was there a few times with family during my convalescence in their house, and had some take out, so it's the restaurant I know best these days.  They both went for full pasta dishes and very much enjoyed them.  I had a nice sausage and peppers sandwich, which I knew would be large and tasty, plus not too expensive.

East Coast Mary had mentioned in emails that she was interested in water based color inks and using them.  I have almost no experience in this area, but I can figure it out.  The question is whether she should take my upcoming class at Ocean Grove, or hire me as independent teacher to work with her on it.  West Coast Mary has two blocks that need to be printed, but at 87 and not as physically fit as she was in the past, was looking to get small editions made. That much I knew before today. I've done the print for hire thing in the past, but it's been a while.  I tried looking up my old email communications related to that time, but I don't seem to have access to that account these days. 

However, there was a lot more to be learned.  The blocks turned out to be linoleum, not a problem. And she is willing to leave them for her friend to ship to her later, so we don't have an immediate deadline, which is a big help.  She has paper, a Japanese style, which can tear easily if hand printed, but I didn't know if I would have a press available.  (Molly has a large roller press that we used for the last such job back in 2012, but I would have to excavate a lot of Molly's stuff just to get to the press and she would expect a big cut of the money made, so that's not my preferred option.)  Ink may already be available, and that and paper are big expenses, so that will bring the cost down.  There is no BAT, but she showed me some images of what she wants and discussed it with me, so I can probably do without them. 

East Coast Mary lives locally, so there is no immediate deadline on her color project.  Whether she would take my class or want to work with me independently was still up in air, and is partly dependent on if the class even runs.  What I learned today is that she is considering donating a lot of her printmaking equipment to the JSAC, in exchange for her (and me) being able to use it when needed.  Putting it in my individual space can't happen- Molly fills just about every square foot with things she doesn't want to get rid of. (see above photo as an example)  When visitors to the space comment on how messy and cluttered the place is, she just claims it is part of her working method, while finding other places in the building to actually work.  Another thing I learned is that she and Mary have a meeting with Nichole tomorrow, where they can discuss if there is such a place in the building, or to at least put the idea into her head. Another thing I learned today is that the Mary's are planning another show, and are looking for a space.  I don't know what space is available for either a print studio or a gallery show, but Nichole would know better than anyone, so the meeting tomorrow may be productive.  West Coast Mary may also want to donate some tools and equipment, which may help the deal.   I'll find out in the near future.  

I will have to give a lot of thought to all these things, and do some calculations.  In the short term, I was able to provide some ink information to East Coast Mary by email.  Turns out I know a lot about relief ink, having used it so much the past 30 years or so.  I have a bunch of print friends who have made deals in recent years to have special ink made to their standards, but also sold to the general public.  Some of these could figure into these projects. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Time to get to work


I haven't started any new work in a long time, which is mostly because of the brain surgery and recovery process.  Recovery is still going on, and probably will for quite a while, but I can walk fairly well now with a cane, have permission to drive, have my car as fixed up as it can be at its age, am done with my most time consuming therapy, and have had a few ideas, some of which relate to the events of the past 6 months.  So this seems as good a time as any to get something started.

Nothing on the schedule for today, and rent was due on the studio, so it seemed a good day to start the process.  My parents had a doctor's appointment to keep them busy, but I had no problem getting myself ready.  I'm going to save the details for the future, but I will say now that it will be in the vein of the piece shown above.  A New Year for America was the first of my pieces that combined many small pieces (which may have been separate prints in some earlier series) into one large print.  Since there is one overall message, it works.  This, and a follow up, Employee. were both 36" wide by 24" tall, fairly large by my standards.  I kept them black and white to make the combination easier to put together, and more logical as a composition.  Eventually this was followed by History of Art, which turned the print on its side to make it 36" high by 24" wide, but that was planned for color, and cut as such.  This new piece will use the same idea of combining many stories into one landscape, and the horizontal idea, but go back to black and white, be mostly an interior, and be at a smaller size- planned at 18" x 24".  Still a good sized print and will have a lot to see, but a little easier to print and frame.  I have been doing sketches of items and spaces that are expected to be part of this piece for a few weeks.

Today was a chance to get up to the Studio. First item- leave the rent check for Molly, as I had promised her by email I would.  Second, see if Nichole was in (and with her door open I could) and discuss a few loose ends regarding my summer woodcut class.  I quickly learned that I will be covered by the building's insurance and won't need my own (that's good- will save me a bit of money), and gave her the  official letter she had asked for to give the board.  So far so good.  Except that she informed me that so far no one had signed up the July woodcut class.  She's hoping that promotion of the first session will bring more people to exposure to the second session, and I hope so as well.  But this was what I expected, and why I wan't too upset that I wasn't also given a June session.

On my first trip in I had brought in my saber saw, which had been in the back of my car, in its box, since the last time I used it, which may have been last fall.  But I knew I also needed a yardstick before I did anything else, so I decided to make my next trip outside.  I had one other task outside the building- get a slice of pizza across the street. This meant a walk across our parking lot, down to the corner, across the road, and though the shopping plaza parking lot.  This last part was the most dangerous part, as people like to use the parking lot for racing, so one must take a careful look before stepping forward. But I have known this for many years, so I was fine.   What I feared most was also true- many employees go there on their lunch breaks, and in that 12 o'clock hour the place was packed.  But we all engaged in voluntary social distancing, and we all got served.  Took care walking back across the parking lot and street, so that was again survived.  The slice of pizza served as both a drawing prop for my new piece and today's lunch. 

Then my luck finally failed.  I pulled out my saber saw, found it even still had a blade in it, got one of Molly's plugged in extension cords, and plugged in the saw.  But it didn't start running. Tried the other extension cord, but same result.  Took the saw over and plugged it directly into the wall, but still no action.  Changed the blade, tried again, same result.  This saw just wasn't going to work and I knew of no reason why.  Other than the saw's age- it was used when it was given to me, and I had been using it since I was in Carbondale in the early 90's.  That will have to be dealt with soon.  

By then I had been there a few hours and decided to call it a day.  But I had gotten things done, learned a few things, found some more postcards and a disc I thought was missing, and had driven my car more than I had in a long time, so on the whole, not a bad day.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

2021 Tournament of Art ends

 This year's art tournament has been a strange thing to say the least.  The schedule that is, organized in an unusual way.  But the games have gone on, and the fate of my 4 teams was resolved last night.  What was surprising was that the first one out was the one I expected to last the longest- Illinois. As a number  one seed, I expected better, but it was out in the second round, to Loyola Chicago, from my Missouri Valley Conference.   LSU also lost in that round, but they were only an 8 seed, so not as much a surprise.  

Villanova made it into the round of 16, before going down to Baylor.  My last hope was Syracuse, who lost in the round of 8, more than I expected of them.  But they were the last for me for this year.  All that is left is for me to wait until next year.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

2021 Tournament of Art part 2

 Because of Covid, the basketball has been played on a different schedule than last year, but the first round of games is now all done. All four of my teams won their games and will be moving on.  

Otherwise there have been some surprises.  Ohio State got knocked out in their first round game against  Oral Roberts, which messed up my brackets pretty good. All the other upsets I got wrong (either predicting them or not predicting them, were just one and dones in my bracket, so not a big deal.  My teams don't play again until next week, so there will be no new news for a while.

Friday, March 19, 2021

St Joseph's Day

 St Joseph's Day has come around again, one of the holidays we celebrate here at Studio Arrabbiata.  Still no camera, so we will have to settle for file photo, but boy do I have a lot of photos saved on my computer.  Traditional food here is a zeppole filled with cannoli cream, usually with chocolate chips as well.  My mother planned to go out for some and asked me and my father what we would prefer- cannoli (ricotta plus sugar), custard, or whipped cream (I've had all three and none are really bad).  I prefer the first, my father was hoping for the second one.

Full disclosure- there was a possibility of snow today, so she went out on Thursday, one day early. And what she found was cannoli cream, ones looking like what you see above, except garnished with a thin slice of candied orange peel, a common thing on these. I decided to go ahead and eat it last night, as filled pastry sometimes isn't so good the next day.  Had half, decided I liked it, and just ate the other half. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

2021 Tournament of Art

 Last year Covid shut down the NCAA basketball tournament, so I couldn't have my annual art school tournament, but this year they found a way to hold most of the games, so the art goes on as well.  Same rules as before- a school that I have an art connection to (such as an exhibition) that is also in the NCAA basketball tournament this year is my ticket to this alternate dance.

My highest one this year is Illinois, which is a #1 seed in the midwest bracket.  I had a big show there in 1994 when the 2D section at SIU was invited to show work in the main gallery at Champaign-Urbana.  It was decided by the department that I would be showing my not quite finished Fourth of July piece on a large brick wall in the gallery.  Word had gotten around both schools.  (It was also decided by the department that I would be on the food committee for our school and not the hanging committee, as baking was highly regarded,) My solution was to mount them on foam core, then mount the big pieces of foam core on the wall using double sided sticky strips.  This proved advantageous when I arrived and discovered that my wall had outlet boxes. power strips, and other things that made attaching the large flat pieces of foam core difficult. Solution- cut out pieces of my original grid, and place then in other parts of my large format piece.  In the later MFA show, it was all on a massive wood construction and each day stayed put.

Meanwhile, I have Villanova (1997 exhibition of two saints as part of the Art & Religion exhibition), #5 out of the South, and like Illinois a highly respected team, though many have doubts since they have lost one of their best players.  How it will go for them we will see next week. 

After that I have a #8 seed from the east- LSU, where I had a group folio displayed in 2006.  Don't really know much about them, but websites think highly of them.  These 8-9 games are very hard to predict, can easily go either way.

Finally, an 11 seed from the midwest, Syracuse, where I had 3 pieces in an invitational show back in 2005.  Another program I know little about this year.

Games begin in a few days, assuming players remain Covid free.  If not, it could be a whole different tournament.


My sister-in-law came by to do some hair trims today, which meant the whole family came over.  The oldest daughter is the one who took my drawing class yesterday and something not unexpected happened- she had another shoe drawing to show me.  One thing I found long ago was that if people drew shoes in my class, it was not unusual for them to draw more shoes on their own when they got home.  My theory  is that the shoes they did in my class was the first drawing they had done since they were a kid, probably the first formal drawing they had done since they were a kid, and possibly the first time they had gotten any drawing instruction, and they were excited to learn they could actually draw something and have it look like the subject. Once had a student in my Intro class bring back a shoe drawing she had been working on for a few weeks, which she was very proud of, and her mother was very pleased, and they planned to frame it at the end of the semester.  Best thing she had ever done she claimed. On two occasions I had adult visitors come to classes to evaluate my teaching.  Two different classes,  but each time it happened that I was doing the shoe project that night.  I gave each a shoe and a piece of paper so they could participate.  Neither was an artist (it's sometimes done that way), but both took to it, praising my way of teaching the subject, and one emailed me that she went home and immediately started drawing more shoes.  I had given no homework, but some people can't stop with the shoes. In my niece's case, she draws a lot, but I don't know if anyone ever told her how to do the things I recommended, but she was trying it. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Back to School


For the first time in months, I had teaching to do this morning.  My brother had suggested paying off some of my debt to him (moving related) by giving his daughter some drawing lessons.  Since teaching drawing is something I have done for years, seemed a good idea. Plus, I had seen her work and I knew she was no worse than some of the college students I was used to, and possibly better that some.  And we could both use some practice.

I've taught drawing many times (the above photo is from one of my 2D classes from years ago) so I had a plan.  In college, drawing was often part of 2D design, or Basic Drawing, or Introduction to Art, things I have probably covered at least 25 times, so I knew what I was doing, and it always starts with shoes.   This was how my first art class began in the 1980's, and it still works. However this was not college, so the format was more like the adult school class I taught a few times in Ocean Grove last year. Started with the shoes then, too. They sit still and work for free.

In the past I brought a giant bag of old shoes (mine) and gave students the choice of take one from the bag, or take one off your own foot.  If they tried to just draw from a photo they pulled up on their smart phone, I put a stop to that.  Real shoes are three dimensional, and photos are already images reduced to two dimensions, so you are already losing a dimension from your source if you are doing that, and a chance to learn a skill.  I'm not even sure if my niece has a cell phone, so we went straight  to selecting a shoe.  (had some women's options from the ones dug from my closet a few weeks ago, which she selected-better anyway)  She had brought a nice set of pencils and stuff, so we were in good shape with supplies. A large pad would have been better, but most of my students at college don't have then on the first day, either, and some never get them.  With last year's covid related problems, we were given instructions not to hold students to materials and let them use what they could get, so I allowed any kind of pad, crayons instead of pastels, etc. Even gave some suggestions online for substituting, something artists have to do a lot.

The shoe lesson is pretty basic, like I said, something I've done many times.  It went well.  I was told I had at most an hour (at college, we have 3-4 hours to fill usually, but I can adapt) We just did the first three types of contour,  the most important ones. As I told my student, this is the starting point of all drawing, and with this tool she could eventually do anything.  From here it's just practice.  Next week we move onto negative space.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Are They Kidding Me?

 My spam box had a bunch of e-mails with the same topic, one that has popped up in the past. All were offering me the chance to make "prints" and other fine art out of other works I had.  Since my medium is carving images into wood, thus making art, they are basically offering to use a computer graphic system to reproduce my handmade work. The equivalent of running off copies on a xerox machine.  All deleted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021



My mother recently pointed out that I haven't posted the blog much lately, which I attribute to not being  in the Studio much lately. But then I realized that this is an important day in the arrabbiata calendar- Mardi Gras.  We do love the spicy food in this Studio, and I did make a huge batch of jambalaya for the occasion.  Cooked it up on Sunday to start making some room in my parent's very crowded refrigerator, and had some that day. And it was good.  But today is the big day, so I packed it up and put it away for a few days.  Now today is the big day, so I put some in a dish, and the microwave quickly bought it up to eating condition. Then go to YouTube and call up some zydeco to set the mood, since all my discs are somewhere in storage.  (some Beau Jocque and Rosie Ledet did the trick)  Jambalaya is one of those things that is better the next day, so this worked out quite well. 

Unfortunately, I still haven't found my camera yet, so above is a file photo from about 6 years ago,  but the new batch looks the same as this one, so you get the idea.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Captured Again

 Normally I follow up my new year's eve posting with New Year's Day talking about plans for the upcoming year.  However, I spent the morning in an ambulance, being hauled back to the hospital. Nothing so serious as last time, a slightly rapid heartbeat which is normal for me. But Mom freaked out and I was on my way.  Spent a long time in the waiting areas of the ER.  Asked for water but they didn't bring any. Spent a long time in an exam room. I was told that they were trying to figure out what was causing my fever. I'm  told that at first they thought it might be meningitis, but after observations, they decided it wasn't that.  Then they were isolating me for COVID, but after yet another test, they cleared me of that.  Then is was just more isolation.  (don't know if then ever decided what it was) In the following days, countless more tests- ultrasounds, CT scans, etc.  I thing there were 4 separate ultrasounds just on my legs.  Hospitals at night can be strange places- noises etc.  I woke up around 9 on Sunday, and every light was on bright.  Figured it was morning.   Got out of bed , started getting ready, and the nurses descended on me.  I told them what I was doing, and they told me to sit on the edge of my bed  for 5 minutes.  And that it was 9 pm the night before.  I've worked a lot of overnight jobs, and in most places they dim the lights at night, especially in places where people are sleeping. Did that and nothing happened.  Sat another 5 and nothing.  Moved over to armchair next to the bed (not even a full stop away).  I still didn't know where I was and why I was being kept. Two days ago I got word I was being released and couldn't get out fast enough.


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Another Year Ends, and not too soon

Not one of my most productive art years ever for a variety of reasons.  But probably not my worst either.  Began normal enough, but then there were things like the arrival of Covid, my college deciding to change formats, and for fun, a brain tumor, that last one one of the lesser problems.  But I'll try to stick with established format.

Prints- Actually got a few made this year.  After showing my old Moving Day (deer) bring in a local show there was a demand for more copies, but one  problem- the block was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  Solution- recut the block and make more. Result was pretty good  and the print brought in some extra cash.  Also created a new color print based on memories of Vesuvio, a new Covid inspired supermarket print, the christmas card, among other things. 

Shows- Covid took a hit on exhibitions in general, closing down many galleries for months (some still closed) so there just weren't many place showing art.  Got a few things up on walls anyway.  The big surprise was from Jackie, former studio partner (who was always more Molly's friend).  She had some empty walls in her gallery/gift shop in Ocean Grove and I had nothing else going on.  What she wanted was supermarket prints and those were available so we got it done in about a day. Knowing what kind of tourism Ocean Grove gets, I figured there was good possibilities. Of course. that was before Covid.  I don't even know how many days the gallery was open. My Belmar show was shorter, but both artistically and financially successful. 

Firsts- Two new experiences.  My college friend Jenny got the idea that the popularity of jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic could be an artistic outlet for my woodcut prints, and since I  couldn't say she was wrong, we decided to pursue it.  Made a bunch of prototypes, and they looked good, so now we need to play with formats and pricing. and see if we can figure out where to go with it. The other new thing was that my former student Amy used her extended time off (music was also hit hard by Covid) to learn some video editing and decided to take on the creation of lyric video for one of her recent songs.  For the video part, she asked the public to create images related to dozens of phrases in the song and somehow she got it together into a video.  

Studio- For various reasons, not as much as I would normally like to do, at least partly because I can't get up to the Studio.  And that is a mix of the place being closed down to much from the Covid thing, and from the sudden discover of a brain tumor, which as caused all kinds of complications in my life,  How that gets resolves remains to seem. but it will end up being posted here.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Busy Day

 One of those days when I had a lot of things to do and it started early in the morning, or early for me anyway.  One nice thing- the sun was out today, for the first time in about two weeks.  On the other hand, the temperatures dropped about 20 degrees.  On the whole, probably a net gain for any kids going  trick or treating, if such a thing is even happening in this covid era.

Month is ending this weekend, which means bills are coming due.  One of my tasks today was to go to the bank with a check, and to write a bunch of checks and get those in the mail.   At least there was no rain.  One of the bills due this weekend was for my Studio rent, so I had to leave that today.  

Things were busy around the building today, with some of the first activities scheduled for a while. Early in the day there was a trick or trunk event, which generally means candy distribution out of cars, so kids don't need to go to all the houses, so I assume that's what this was. Later tonight there will be a outdoor seasonal movie (indoor activities are still a problem these days), and I knew from the newsletter that at the time I planned to be there the parking would exist.  As I drove up Main, I could see things were set up in the back parking lot, but I could park in the front, and there were only a few cars there. Through the window in my space (see above) I could see things were happening in the back, but I didn't need to get candy, so I stayed out of their way.  

When I was finished with my business, I locked up and went to leave. Two elderly women were banging on the front door window, demanding to be let in.  I told them that the afternoon event was out back and they should just walk around the building.   They insisted that they had a scheduled meeting in the theater.  I pointed out that all the people involved in running the building were out back (I had seen them from my window), but they weren't having any of that. One thing I have learned is that people that age can't be reasoned with (see the last posting I did) One went charging past me, and the other just gripped the door and wouldn't let go.  I didn't want to interfere if there was a reason for them to be there, and if there wasn't, they would find out soon enough.  One asked if I would let them back into the building. I told them I was leaving, and that if they needed more information, the people in the back parking lot knew everything.  

But I wasn't quite done with my day yet.  On my way home last night the maintenance light had finally come on.   All the cars I have owned in the past, you kept track of mileage and at a certain point you changed the oil or whatever else was required. This car tells me what it wants when it feels it is time.  Every year, on the first cool day of the fall, it insists that the tires are flat.   I used to check tire pressure, but now I just look at them and see the tires are fine, a system that had worked for decades.  This car wants the oil changed when it reaches what it decided is 15% oil life left.  The last oil change was probably back in the spring (when things were still open everywhere), because we have had very little driving to do the past 8 or 9 months.  But last night the car said it was time, and it's probably overdue.  So I stopped off and made an appointment for early next week. 

I could have stopped for some takeout for lunch, but I wanted to get home in case any trick or treaters came around.   Cleaned one of my metal beer trays, dumped a bag of candy on it, grabbed a pair of tongs and a mask (my solution to the social distancing and safety concerns) and brought it downstairs to near my door, and then had lunch in my kitchen. But no one rang my bell, and I heard no hordes of kids roaming around seeking candy.  At 8 pm I put it all away. My one bag of candy will be enough this year.

This is unrelated, but I discovered something recently. I started this blog back in 2007, and I have posted to it about 2100 times since then.  I knew that, but what I just found is that the blog has been viewed over 80, 000 times.  That is a lot of people stopping by to see what I have written.  When someone leaves a comment or question I always respond to it, but that is less than 100 in all that time, so I have no idea who all these people were.  It would be great if I could make some money from this.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Supermarket Fun part 2

 What got me out of bed this morning was my cell phone ringing. Thought it might be something from the medical office where I am seeking help with something, but I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voice mail.  Later listened and it turned out to be the county clerk's office- my ballot for the next election had been received from the drop box where I had left it several days ago.  Not processed yet, but that will be soon. Well, that's good news, my vote will be counted, not a given in this country this year.

So where did I leave off?  As we moved through the 20th century, A&P got larger and larger, and other chains were created and joined the party.  More departments, more products. Frozen foods for example. The tv dinner was created when a supplier found himself with a excess of turkey after thanksgiving, and was tired of paying to keep it refrigerated.  Got the idea to cook it, package it on a divided tray with meat, side dish(es) and dessert, and sell it as a frozen convenience food perfect to eat in front of those new television devices that were getting popular.  Priced at about a buck, sold out quickly and became a new ongoing item.  (this kind of thing happens- comic books were created when a publisher ended up with a large supply of newsprint, reprinted old newspaper strips on it, and created an industry) In my youth tv dinners were packed on aluminum trays, and cooked in standard ovens. Those don't exist any more (looked in vain when I was doing a tv dinner piece decades ago), now replaced with plastic plates and microwavable products, ready in minutes.   Half of the tv commercials I see are for ready made meals, delivered to your door- you heat and eat. Could be for dietary reasons or just convenience ("we never need to cook again!" exclaims a woman in one commercial I saw today) Most supermarkets have two of three aisles of frozen foods now.  Deli counters also became standard. Freshly sliced meat and cheese, prepared items, all very convenient.  Thanks to cars and roads, instead of small buildings in downtowns, they could be larger buildings on the outskirts. My father's father started working for A&P, a variety of jobs, and moved the family down to the shore around 1950 to help open a new location, which eventually resulted in my existence. He died when I was young from a fatal illness, living just long enough to qualify for his pension, which his widow continued to collect for decades.  Not a huge amount, but every little bit helps.

The A&P did well, but the original owners were a bit greedy, which what did it in.  They organized the corporate structure to give most of the profits to them and their estates, with little going to the chain itself.  Other chains started to catch up and surpass them.   Went through a bankruptcy and reorganizing around the turn of the century. but still were popular.  Some store brands remained popular.   There was one across the street from where I live, and I ended up taking a part time job there while still teaching at the college. I was told that the deli was my grandfather' favorite department, so I decided to try that. 

Had its good and bad points- probably not the same as 50 years ago when my grandfather did it.  Slicing meats and cheeses is not particularly challenging, though if you got an order for prosciutto, you were granted access to the best slicer we had (the store was not expected to repair or replace them any time soon. )  The cleaning was a lot like what we did at McDonald's, so I could do that.  More complex tasks like loading the rotisserie with chickens and using the deep fryer was handled by the full time staff, jobs not available to me. Once I was asked to pluck chickens, which surprised me.  Did they come to us with feathers still on them?  Turned out this was their term for removing meat from the bones, which we did after there freshly roasted chickens had reached their maximum time under the heat lamps.  Not wasted though, that meat (now devoid of skin and bones) was refrigerated and used to make chicken salad, a very popular item in our department- sold out very quickly.   All our store made salads did (red skin potatoes, macaroni salad, freshly made cole slaw) especially in summer when they were commonly used as part of cookouts.  We just raided the other aisles for ingredients. 

Some customers wanted a lot of help, seeking to know what might go with something or make a special request.  Once had a customer ask for half inch thick slabs of ham for a recipe.   I adjusted the slicer, did a sample,weighed it for him so he would know what such a thing would cost, and at his request. sliced a few more.  He was very grateful.  Occasionally customers would thank us for being so helpful. Most did not, and some were downright mean.  We had one regular with what is commonly called a "resting bitch face" (not our slang- it's out there in the world) and some deli staff just didn't want to wait on her. On an evening shift, with only two people on line, had an elderly man throw a tantrum because he was tired of waiting while the other customer ahead him was being served.  (quarter pound of this, quarter pound of that, and a long list)  He eventually dragged some manager over who took the side of the complainer, and didn't notice the the customer with the long list of items left, tired of the discord, and not purchasing. The manager took out his anger on my coworker who was doing exactly as our immediate supervisor had requested- clean the slicers while I took care of the first customer so we could close down for the night. (it was clear I was working) Once had a customer just walk up and ask for ham.  "Which one?" I asked, since we had maybe 8 varieties. "The best one", he said. Which one was the best? "Obviously the most expensive one" he told me.  In my head I thought the managers must love this guy, and hoped that people would be really impressed with he extra $3 per pound he was spending, but I kept my mouth shut and filled the order. Once had a customer ask me which was the best ham for dogs.  None, really, with all the preservatives- he'd be better off getting something from the pet aisle, but while I worked there I cut a lot of cold cuts that were intended for dogs- mostly ham, roast beef, and liverwurst.  Probably the tipping point came with bologna.  Word had come down from above that we were to sell more of the store brand, but most of the customers had been cultivated to like fancy name brands advertised on tv, and that is what they wanted, no matter how much you tried to suggest the other ones.  I decided that helping the owners (most supermarkets these days are owned by international conglomerates) sell more baloney no longer held my interest.  In the end though, I needed more time to grade at the end of the semester and requested a lighter schedule, but instead I was given more hours. When I started we were told it was part time and we'd be limited to 20-25 hours per week. Instead, we got no full time pay, no vacation pay, no pensions, and asked to work a full time schedule.  I just had to go.

Even while I was there, I wondered if something bad had happened there. There was the kind of vibe that you found in 80's movies like Poltergeist, and The Shining, evil caused by the presence of spirits of those who had died there. I asked people who had lived in the area for a long time, and one told me the property had once been a horse farm.  Plausible, with Monmouth County being well known place to raise horses.  I was also told that the property was known to host lynchings.  I have no facts to back that up, but unfortunately, also plausible.   Back in the 1930's, the KKK attempted to acquire the old Marconi property here in town and turn it into a resort for themselves.  The IRS put an end to that, and eventually the military got it and used it as a base for decades, a place to test high-tech items, such as a radar bounce off the moon. It's been a few years since I worked at a supermarket, but it looks like things have gotten worse.  Any supermarket I go to I feel a lot of anger.  My current thoughts are less evil spirits, and more likely they are just unpleasant places to be. People don't go to supermarkets because they want to, they go because they have to.  And they resent it.   You can take your life into your hands walking through a parking lot, second only to convenience stores for danger.  Inside, around any corner you may be hit with a shopping cart, people in a hurry to get what they want and get out of there.  Compare it to a casino.  Go to a casino and you will likely lose money, and if you think otherwise you are probably delusional, but people still like to go. They are bright, colorful, with flashing lights, lots of music and action.  I do not think much of Donald Trump as president, but I have to admit that in his Atlantic City casinos the restrooms were impeccably clean, and the buffets had tasty food.  The cocktail waitresses were always good to look at.  If supermarkets were decorated like casinos, people might be happier there.   

How would this work for art? Hasn't been settled yet, much less drawn. What I am thinking right now is a print larger than my current supermarket series prints, more room for details. Still black and white.  Maybe show the evil happening in supermarkets, maybe ideas of what could have caused these to happen.  Or maybe something else.  Have to give this one a bit of thought.

Supermarket Fun

 One of the few things that remained open through the whole pandemic was supermarkets.  Arts related businesses, schools, restaurants and bars, many local stores- all had hours cut back or went out of business. A lot of the products that people buy at supermarkets were in short supply for reasons that have yet to be explained, but the stores remained open.  People to need to eat, which is one of the theories behind my supermarket series of prints- people need to buy food and so everyone shows up eventually, which means you will eventually see some odd behaviors there.  Started the series back in the late 90's, have shown them in dozens of places, but still haven't run out of ideas.  The last block was about odd things related to the current crisis, but supermarkets continue.

Should they? More convenient than what came before. In the old days, food shopping was done at small stores, a lot of them. Shopping for a family might include a grocery store for dry goods (canned or boxed items), a butcher shop for meat, a produce stand for fruits and vegetables, a bakery for bread, etc.  The idea came that if all these things were in a single location,  simpler for shoppers.  The first major chain was A&P, which had started as tea and coffee supplier, but it caught on.  Soon they were everywhere in the country, and the chain had become one of the most successful corporations in America. The chain grew bigger and the individual stores got bigger.  A downfall was inevitable, but I'll save that story, and the artwork that I plan to make from all this, until tomorrow.

Return of the Puzzles

 A couple of days ago I finally heard back from my friend down south, the one who got the idea to try turning my artwork into jigsaw puzzles. Such puzzles became popular this past year- people were trapped indoors for long periods of time, and these things can be a nice low tech way to keep occupied. As a result, some stores couldn't keep up with the demand.  My friend, who has collected some of my art of the years, thought my prints would work as puzzle images, and it seemed a plausible idea. My work tends to have bold graphics, solid shapes and colors, images of recognizable objects. So she started looking into the process, and even had a bunch of prototypes made up, mostly around my boardwalk prints, which have all of the above characteristics. She sent them to me to try out.  I tried two of them, both about 20"x30".  Went with color images on all these, figuring they would be easier to put together and have more appeal. The biggest problem seemed to be finding space to work on them. A table is needed, and since these take a while to put together, it needs to be a table that can be used to hold a puzzle for days or weeks.  The ones I tried came from two different manufacturers, so slight difference in how the pieces were cut, but the images reproduced well in both cases.  We learned that my art does translate well into jigsaw puzzles, and that one needs space to work on them.  But then I didn't hear from my friend since July.  I hoped she was okay, but covid being what it is, one never knows.  Sent an email a few weeks ago, and got a reply late last night. 

Good news- she is alive and well, and still interested in this project.  She got called back into work and was putting in some long hours, which accounted for her absence in communication.  

What we know is that the product is good.  We are both doing research into how they work as puzzles (having friends and family try them out, seeing feedback)  What remains is the question of whether they can be made at an affordable price and how and where to sell them.  The prototypes are all beautiful, but cost more than most people would pay for amusement.  And while both of us have residences in shore communities where puzzles featuring boardwalks could be popular,  the pandemic closed a lot of local shops and places that sell souvenirs, cutting off what would have been a good option.  Months ago she had suggested displaying one in the building that has my Studio, a sea coast town, but since the spring the building has been closed to the public, one of those state laws. 

One thing that may be in our favor is we are moving toward the cold months of the year- more indoor activities, which can include puzzles. According to the news, the virus may be making a comeback into this area, as it overtakes the entire country.   That's bad for a lot of reasons, but a stay at home order could create a demand.  This seems like a time to act, get product made and into the public. There may be a lot of emails in the near future.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What Is Old is New

 On Sunday I wrote about the pumpkin, one of the things I did at my parents' house that day. But then the story continued.

On the way home I experienced something I had happen to me a few decades ago, but I recognized it instantly.  I had just turned onto Warren Avenue, maybe a mile from home, when suddenly my car became very noisy.  Both a roar and a rumble.  The last time I experienced that was in Pennsylvania, summer of '94 I think.  I was making my twice yearly trip from Carbondale to New Jersey, and pulled off the interstate into a rest stop.   Took care of business, got back in my car and started it up, and it sounded like the world was coming to an end.  My best guess was that I had lost my muffler.  Shut down the car and went back, and saw the tailpipe still there.  That's good. Started it up, and the noise returned.  Shut things down again and went back out of the car.  I crawled down by the back of my car, felt the muffler, and realized it was hanging loosely.  Thought about trying to secure it in place, but found it was hanging by just an unsecured bracket, and decided (since it wasn't serving any particular function), just to take the item, stick it in my trunk, and continue east.  With windows up, surrounded by trucks, I hadn't even noticed it wasn't working, so I figured no one else would notice or care.  And no one did.  Got home, and had my warranty with me, so a few days later I got the muffler replaced at the shop where I had gotten it. 

From that experience I knew that a car could function without a muffler, but very noisily.  I continued my trip home from Manasquan and parked in my assigned spot.  The next day it rained, so I didn't want to go deal with it.  The day after that I checked it out.  

My muffler was still there, but the exhaust pipe was barely there.  Everything was hanging low, barely off the ground.  I might not need the muffler to operate the engine, but I didn't want to try driving the car too far in this condition.  And I needed to get the exhaust system repaired.  Sought recommendations for nearby repairs, and got a place my brother recommended, and made an appointment.

That was for early this morning, so I was up with the sun, the car started, and went to the repair place without any new incidents.  Left the car and the keys.  Checked back an hour later, and they had figured the problem and the repair would be quick and inexpensive.  Picked up my much quieter car in the afternoon, and even took it on a short errand to make sure it was fine. Eventually I will need to replace the whole exhaust system, but this repair will cover me for a while.  

So what does this have to do with art?  First, that initial trip was on the way back from Carbondale, where I earned my MFA. It seems like many of my stories include Carbondale- it was that kind of town.  Second, having no car makes it difficult to do anything, such as get to my Studio.  I have a bunch of other problems to deal with right now, but if I had a new piece I had to work on, I'd be able to get there to do it.