Sunday, August 31, 2008

Boardwalk Wheel Game

The first print in the new boardwalk series (at least the first to get started) will be about spinning wheel games of chance. You can find such things at travelling carnivals and fairs as well, but I always associate them with the boardwalk. Prizes can vary from stuffed animals to televisions, price to play from a quarter to a few bucks. Shown at the top is a typical one. From a distance it looks simple enough, but up close one realizes that there are color splits on each symbol, and a lot of smaller names between the big symbols. Participants are invited to press buttons to stop and start the motor, then just wait and see where the arrow points. Today I started preparing the block. I cut out a large enough piece of plywood, then surfaced it with wood filler. After sanding, I put on a border, adding indented corners, similar to what I found in many Japanese prints. I had started playing around with compositional ideas earlier in the summer, the rough diptych sketch (from around mid-July) shows some early thoughts. The last image is a sketch for the game attendant. Molly was in the Studio for the same hours I was there today, and she took a short break to pose for the 5 minute sketch. I'll use it as a reference for the figure that eventually ends up behind the counter. I'm planning to go back to the Studio tomorrow and take this further, perhaps at least finishing the basic composition.

The Floating World

Fans of Japanese art and of woodcuts are very familiar with ukiyo-e, usually translated as "pictures of the floating world". It refers to a specific period in Japan, roughly the 17th through 19th centuries. The otherwise very restrictive Japanese society gave an exception to the floating world, gated urban pleasure districts, first in Edo (modern Tokyo), then later some of the other large cities. In the pleasure districts could be found brothels, teahouses, kabuki theater, sumo wrestling, music, etc. Woodcut prints flourished in this time period, mass produced art depicting the activities and inhabitants of those pleasure districts. As Japan finally opened to western trade, these prints found their way to Europe (mostly as packing material in crates) where they influenced many early modern artists- such as cropped compositions, flat picture planes, etc.

My prints show far more western influence, but aspects of those Japanese prints come through, even if sometimes it's just second hand influence through impressionism. But the interest in Japanese woodcuts is there, and it will be reflected in a new series of prints. My working title for the new series is The Floating World, but the one I depict will be a different one. My subject matter will be New Jersey boardwalk culture. Although there are famous boardwalks around the country, they started here in Jersey, the first one created in Atlantic City. Boardwalks often literally "float" above the sand (and occasionally water), straddling the line between city and ocean. They are places people go to seek various pleasures. For kids, its arcades, rides, ice cream. Adults enjoy many of these things as well, along with the bars (and in Atlantic City, the casinos). And everyone likes the beach.

The idea came to me over a year ago, as I was on the boardwalk in Pt Pleasant doing sketches for another piece, and it's been gradually evolving in my mind and in notebooks since then. I feel it's now developed enough to start. My plan is 10 to 12 works, each about a different topic. These will all be diptychs, pairs of prints that can work as a set or as two individual prints. For example, the image shown at the top (by Utagawa Toyokuni) is actually 6 prints laid edge to edge to form one large image, but each print is in itself a complete composition. Some of mine will work like that- two prints that are halves of the same image, though each half will be able to stand alone. Others will just be pairs of prints with a common theme. I'm going to be working some things out as I go, but the plan is to have the prints show some influence of Japanese woodcuts without being imitations.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Get Well Soon

Went to the Studio today to work on a special project, making a get well card (of sorts) for the boss of the building. He's on the mend, but will be out of action a little while. Since Herb is the man most responsible for the existence of the arts center that houses our space, Molly and I felt that he deserved some kind of card. Being artists, that meant we couldn't do something as simple as just go buy one at the drug store. Molly had suggested doing a collage, making use of previously printed materials. Molly often works that way in her own art, and usually has a pile of prints to cut up for such purposes. I don't, but I have lots of blocks ready to go. Not only does Herb run the building, but he does more of the physical labor of repairs and renovations than anyone else, so I decided to go with images of related equipment. I brought in some saint blocks and made some partial proofs of three of them, as seen in the top photo. (by the way, those are St Joseph [drill], St Barbara [room construction], and Bd Guala [ladder]) Used water based ink, so they dried quickly.

Next, I cut them down and brought them to the table where Molly was busy working. We used an old print left over from one of her students as a base, some of which ended up being in the final composition (red fountain, gold lettering) To that we added various elements from her pile and mine, moving them around before gluing things down. The composition was completed with the hand written message along the top. We were both pleased with the results. It was decided to deliver it to him today at home. Molly took it with her on her bike, I eventually followed with my car. Being a weekend there was no place to actually park anywhere near his house, but he and some family/friends were on the porch, so I could wave to him from the street while Molly presented him with our collaborative project. She later told me that he seemed to like it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Figure Drawing Night

I went to the open figure drawing session at the Boatworks tonight. The model turned out to be one I know, having employed her several times over the years in the college figure class that I have taught. So I've seen her many times, but this was the first time I actually drew her. The above drawing (10 minutes) was my best of the night, but it's far from perfect. But since I'm going there to practice drawing, not create masterpieces, I guess it's ok.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Art In The Round Exhibition

From the Studio, I drove down to the Boatworks to join the reception for the Art in the Round exhibition. We had 31 entries, paintings intended to be used as tabletops for our little round cafe tables that we use for some BAC functions. At the reception today people voted for their favorite 12 paintings. The top 12 vote getters overall will be used for table surfaces- a 2 foot circle cut out of the square canvas and attached to the plywood round, then coated with some kind of resin, similar to what Molly uses for her tables. We had a huge crowd there for the vote, more than 60 people had filled out ballots when I left, and there was still about a half hour to go. Above I've posted a composite shot of a few walls, and a close up of some of my favorites. I spent most of my time there answering questions about the BAC blog; my demo a few night ago made quite an impression.

Update- The results are in. To see the 12 winning paintings, click here.

A Less Interesting Day

I put in a few hours at the Studio this afternoon. Nothing too exciting today. A good bit of the time was spent putting a coat of spar urethane on a sheet of half-inch plywood on which I had previously cut a 45 degree bevel on 3 sides. Part of a home improvement project- not art, but it's nice to have a Studio when you need to do a messy job. After I cleaned up, I spent a little while organizing some of the reference material I have been gathering over the past several months, preparations for my next project. My goal is to get started on it before the end of August. School begins for me in about 3 weeks, and after that my schedule gets a little crowded.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Blogging Lessons

Tonight I was called upon to share my expertise with a group of artists and other interested persons. Usually when this happens, I get out the tools and start cutting a block, but this time I grabbed a keyboard. Tonight the lesson was blogging. I started a blog for the Belmar Arts Council back in April, and while we are transitioning to a new main website, it's become the de facto online presence for current BAC news. The BAC blog has built interest in the process itself, so in the spot that we usually offer to artists, I was asked to demonstrate blogging. Thanks to the new digital projector, what I did on a laptop went up where the whole room could see it. I showed the crowd a variety of blogs (including this one), showed how the BAC blog was made, and then created an account and blog for someone in the room, using it to demonstrate the basic procedures involved. A handout I created over the past few days was distributed to help those who want to try it on their own, and I get the feeling that quite a few of them will.

(photos were taken of the event, and I'll add them after I get them)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

August Discussion Group

Another enjoyable critique session in the Studio tonight. We had 7 artists in attendance, all contributing to the discussion. The top photo shows most of tonight's work. Some of the pieces discussed includes Molly's surprising sumi-e paintings (done as a teaching demo, but nice enough that we'd like to see more), Jill's recent dog painting (which Molly and I enjoyed at the recent Asbury show), and Tim's black and white doodle painting (as Tim said, "the more you develop a painting, the less simple it becomes.") As you can see, I showed my two most recently completed prints, the new saint finished today, and the last supermarket print. I put up both proofs of St Leonard, to see if there was a preference. Without stating my opinion first, everyone liked the second "finished" version best, citing the lighter color made it easier to read, among other things. I knew which one I liked already, but it's nice to get some confirmation. As usual, the discussion continued on for a while, finally breaking up around 9:30 pm.

Next critique night will be Wednesday, September 3, 1998 at 7:00 pm. Open to the public. No charge. Just bring some recent artwork and be prepared to talk.

St Leonard of Vandoeuvre part 9- finished

After work I made my way to the Studio. I finished coloring the 2nd proof of the new print. This included adding a dulling/darkening wash over the lower part of the main building, slightly darkening the orange building in the upper right, and touching up a few details. I think this is as good as it's going to get, so I'm declaring it finished.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

St Leonard of Vandoeuvre part 8

I went into the Studio for a while in the afternoon. First order of business was to finish (more or less) the proof I started coloring on Sunday. After looking at the possibilities in the different services, I chose to go with a blue dress uniform for the soldier seen through the window. That seemed to work with the color palette of the rest of the print.

Next, I stretched the second proof on a board, and once the tape dried, started the coloring process. This time I started with the light tan color on the lower part of the main building. Otherwise, most of the colors are pretty much the same ones that I ended up with on the first proof, just that I got there directly, and sometimes applied them with slightly lighter washes. One result is that the saint name may be a little easier to read the second time around, though if I had it to do all over again, I might make those letters a little bolder. I definitely like the second one better so far. I may add a slight dulling wash to the main building, and a few other minor adjustments, tomorrow before the monthly group crit in the Studio.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

St Leonard of Vandoeuvre part 7

Back to the Studio this afternoon. I had a vague idea of how I wanted to color the new print. The lack of a clear vision for the print can be a problem, however, as it proved to be today. The first image shows where I started. I chose a blue-gray color for the recruitment building at first, which I had in my head was the color of the current one in Times Square. I didn't like it. I decided to change the building facade to a dark brown color (second photo), now thinking of the one I sometimes pass on the the way to the Studio. Better, but it seemed a bit heavy. After considering it for a while, I decided it might look better lighter. I overlaid it several times with a light tan color (the same one used in the background in the upper left). Of course, it mixed each time with the earlier dark brown color, so it never got truly light, but it gives me enough to see how it would work lighter. At the same time, I put the blue gray color over the brown in the lower right background, so the blue and brown ended up switching places between the beginning and the end.

I think the last state of this proof (last photo) is the best of the 3 color variations. (Just checked on the net for the actual Times Square building- none of my versions were exactly right, but the last version is closer than my starting point.) When I color the second proof, I'll start from this point for the buildings. Before then I need to resolve the interior space- the soldier's uniform, etc. I'm pretty sure it will come together next time.