Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year That Was 2009

Time to sum up another year. Like most, this one had a mix of good and bad, and plenty of art related activity. You can get every detail by going over the past 12 months worth of blog posts, or just read the highlights below.

Prints- Completed the first four in my Floating World series during 2009. Since each is a diptych, I guess technically that means I completed 8 prints. The 5th boardwalk print is in the block sketch stage and should accelerate once we get past all the holidays.

Shows- No solo shows this year (after 2 in 2008), but I had work in a lot of group shows. By my count a total of 27 pieces in 10 shows. Those can be broken down into 3 open shows, 2 juried shows, 3 curated shows, 1 invitational show and 1 awarded show. The biggest of these was the printmaking exhibition at the Arts Guild of Rahway, where I had 9 pieces chosen by the curator, more than from any of the other nine artists.

Publicity- Just minor stuff. Two group shows I was in chose to put my work on the announcement postcard (Ocean County Artists Guild and the Printmaking Council of New Jersey), and my contribution to the adjunct exhibition at Kean was featured in a school newspaper article about the show.

Awards- Nothing this year.

Miscellaneous- Taught my first woodcut workshop at PCNJ in a few years. It was successful enough that I expect to do more in the future. I was invited to participate in a large scale international collaborative printmaking project that will be completed early in 2010.

The Studio- Nothing really new there, but the Critique Group is still doing well, with new people joining all the time. And it's still a great place to make art.

Next Year- Continuing the Floating World series, maybe a long in planning large figure woodcut, and I wouldn't be surprised if some interesting ideas for future works emerge over the next 12 months. A lack of major exhibitions in 2010 means I need to work on getting some shows on my schedule.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bonus Night of Drawing

The Belmar figure group that I regularly participate in meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month, but in those rare months that have a 5th Wednesday, we usually take that one, too. That allowed us one last drawing night in 2009. Same model as last time, but in general I did a little better this time around. The above drawing is not without flaws (40 minutes, including the model's break in the middle of that) but it was my best of the night. The model also seemed impressed with it as well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata...

After trying several different approaches to coloring my latest Christmas Card, I found one that I thought worked well, using the season's traditional red and green (plus some yellow on the moon). It may not be the classic Masereel look, but I think it's an effective design. I went ahead and colored the rest of the edition to match. Then today I took them to the Studio where I used the paper cutter to trim them to the proper size. Results are seen below. I should get the first batch out before the New Year.

... and from Social Animal Press
Meanwhile Molly had a holiday project of her own going these past couple of weeks, colorful screen printed and assembled birds. She dropped off a small bag of them at my house late this afternoon and I decided to add them to my inside decorations.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back to Work

Holiday over, time to get back to work. I still haven't resolved my color question yet, but nothing happens without the cards being printed first, so today I took care of that, producing 18 of them. Used oil based ink with a little drier, so they should be safe to color (if I decide to do that) and trim by Monday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata

This year's card, inspired by my woodcut hero Frans Masereel, was a little late getting into production, between the late end of the semester and this past weekend's snowstorm. What you see above is one of the prototypes that I printed yesterday afternoon. So far I've stuck with the black and white of the original, though it's a bit different from what one typically expects in a holiday card. I have experimented with tinting some of the white with various colors, but so far none are working to my satisfaction. If I find a combination that I like it will end up in the final version. If not, I'll go with what you see above. In any case, I'll put it into production over the next few days and have them in the mail by early January for all who are destined to get one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tis the Season

Most of the area roads have been reclaimed from the blizzard for the use of automobiles, so the last couple of days I've been able to get into the Studio to work on some Christmas related projects. I'm going to keep those under wraps for now. Another thing I did while there is set up my traditional festive Christmas tripod easel.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Boardwalk Mini Golf part 3

The weather and its aftermath kept me away from the Studio today. Luckily I still had the current boardwalk block at home (having taken it home to work on while gallery sitting) and plenty of time to work on it. Today's task was to draw a finished version of the windmill hole on the far left of the left side panel. I don't know that the original course had one- it was a relatively primitive layout by today's standards, mostly simple angles to deal with. However, if not there, I've played windmill style holes in other places and it's a classic miniature golf obstacle. Besides, I need some other large items in the composition to balance out the big bluefish. I based the design on a well known windmill here in Monmouth County, and to get the perspective right I made myself a little cardboard model to work from. It may need a few slight adjustments, but it's pretty much done.

You Move Sixteen Tons...

Snow arrived early yesterday morning and near as I can tell fell for almost 24 hours. When I got up this morning it was finally done, but left behind was a solid two feet of snow, with drifts 2 or 3 times that high in spots. I put in two hours clearing my front steps and walk, my driveway as far as the street, and cut a trench between the two. However no plow came by, so my efforts ended in deep snowbanks. Finally the plows and a bulldozer came through in the evening and cleared most of the width of my street, leaving me with still about six feet or so of packed snow to clear if I want to use that street.

The result of all this weather is that I didn't get up to the Studio this weekend. The biggest impact of this is that I still haven't completed my annual Christmas card. Luckily I found a suitable scrap of plywood in my basement and at least got the drawing part done, but it won't get cut, much less printed, until I get to where my tools are.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boardwalk Mini Golf part 2

Took my current block on location today, as I was putting in my turn at gallery sitting for the Small Treasures show at the Boatworks. As usual, no one came by, except for a guy who I believe was a town maintenance worker who was just came in hoping to chat with our administrative assistant (she wasn't there). The lack of visitors was not unexpected, which is why I brought the block and some of the preliminary sketches. Didn't get too far- mostly just fixing some of the perspective on the holes and the boardwalk. Not exciting, but it needs to be done before I deal with everything else.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One Last Long Wednesday

Wednesday has been my long day this past semester, getting up before the sun so I can get (through NYC bound rush hour traffic) to school on time to get parking and prepare for class, then teaching back to back classes for 6 hours, then another rush hour commute home. Then twice a month I've been doing a quick turn around and heading up to Belmar to participate in the figure drawing group. Some unusual extra paperwork kept me busy before and after class today, but now that's all done until next year. But the drawing night goes on. We had our biggest crowd in months, and a good model (new to us and new to posing for artists rather than a camera), giving me a little more energy than I might be expected to have after a day like this one. The 25 minute drawing above was my best of the night.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Boardwalk Mini Golf

I have a number of possible projects to work on right now, but the one that's going to start first is the next print in my Floating World series. The topic will be miniature golf. It's a game that can be found anywhere in the country, but I'll always associate it with boardwalks. (I had a summer job at a course once where the closest body of water was the Passaic River) This wasn't on my original list of subjects for prints in this series, thinking maybe it might be referenced in one one of the wide view scenes. But then several months ago I brought the arcade print to the Belmar Arts Council's critique group, where one of our members was reminded that she had recently run across an old family photo set at one of the two courses that once existed in Belmar. She scanned the early 70's photo and sent it to me. That photo is shown below.

This was a miniature golf course on a portion of Belmar's boardwalk. It was not a particularly elaborate course by modern standards, but my brother and I knew it best for the giant bluefish in the middle of it. (we used to call it a whale, because of its size) From the photo above, it looks like players climbed a few steps to a platform, putted the ball into the fish mouth, which came out through one of the side fins toward the green below. The course was destroyed 25 or 30 years ago in a big storm and never rebuilt. Belmar's other course was on the roof of Belmar Playland, and that one disappeared when the building was demolished a decade ago to make way for yet more expensive beachfront houses. Anyway, when a photo of the famous long lost bluefish fell into my hands, I knew a golf print would eventually follow.

I have been thinking about what I would do with it for quite a while. A lot of the structure will be used directly- the fish, the overhead lights, and a variation on the fence in the front. The other holes in my version will be more detailed and complex than anything in the photo, and I'll have people on the course rather than just posing in front of it. Above is my rough preliminary composition sketch, while below is the rough version of the image I drew on the block this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Seems Like Old Times

Today I did something that I haven't done in quite a long time, hire myself a model for a project. In recent years I have participated in the BAC figure drawing group, and for several semesters I arranged models for the figure drawing class I was teaching at my community college, and a number of times since I moved back to New Jersey I've convinced friends to pose (dressed) for various projects (including a number of figures in the current boardwalk series). But the last time I specifically arranged to hire a model for myself was back in grad school. In my undergrad years back in the 1980's, it was something I did pretty regularly- once for a sculpture project and several times for paintings. It helped that the going rate for nude models at William and Mary was only $7 per hour, or sometimes less. On one occasion a couple of girls posed for me and my good friend Dave (Happy Birthday, Dave!) for a total of $4 per hour between them. (they considered it more of a fun evening out than a money making opportunity)
Actually I attempted to do what I did today a year or so ago, making arrangements with one of the models that sometimes worked for my college class, but she never showed up at the arranged time and had no interest in rescheduling. Never lacking for projects, I put off the problem for a while. But I felt now was as good a time as any to get the sketches I need for some upcoming prints in the boardwalk series. There are a number of good models working for the BAC group right now, one of whom lives very near the Studio and was happy to get some work, so we made arrangements to meet this afternoon.
I got there a little early so I could crank up the heat. She arrived on time and I spent a few minutes explaining the whole idea behind the Floating World series that I'm doing. After that we got to the drawing. These were short pencil drawings, reference sketches for characters that will appear in the next few prints in the series. Most were nude, some were in bathing suits or other coverings. A few examples are above. One odd moment- about halfway through the session the door to my Studio (which was closed for the occasion, for both privacy and to retain heat) opened, and an elderly woman peeked in. She closed the door, then opened it again to tell us that she was just exploring the building and was curious to see what was going on. It's extremely rare that any visitors make it down to the basement, making the odds that it would happen on the one occasion in four years when I had a naked woman standing around in the middle of the room that much more unusual. Otherwise it went well, providing me with good material for some prints. And other than the fact that the going rate for models these days is a lot more than $7 per hour, it was a lot like old times.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Packing Them In

We had a bigger crowd than usual for this month's critique night, 18 people. About half of those were regulars, half students of Molly's from her art history class. Lucky for us only 6 of those in attendance brought artwork, or we would have been there until the next day discussing all of it. I showed the recently finished boardwalk food print, Molly had some pieces in progress, and the rest of art was a mix of painting, sculpture, and digital art. Good comments and questions from everyone. Another successful critique night.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Still Drawing

I always tell my students that the only way to improve drawing skills is to keep drawing. My first experiences in life drawing go back almost 23 years, and I'd estimate that I've put in over 1000 hours working with the figure ever since. But I'm not done. My current series of boardwalk prints is calling for a lot of figures. In some cases I've been able to find people to pose for them, but most I'm just making up. Either way, more practice will help me with the dozens of figure yet to come, as well with figure based projects yet to be imagined. It's why I attend the figure drawing group in Belmar, as I did tonight, more often than not. The 20 minute charcaol drawing above was my best of the night.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Under Construction

It's been about a year since I had my last solo show up, which required me to devote a few weeks to building boxes to get all that art safely to the gallery in Iowa. Now I have to send a few more prints to Iowa, a couple of unframed pieces requested by my contact out there. That means one more box. A smaller one this time, more flat than cube. I have some large pieces of lauan that are very warped, too much to ever use for a large block, but smaller pieces of it are not so curved that I can't find uses for them in art or construction. Cut off a few such pieces and set them aside. Then I cut out the box parts from a sheet of cardboard. Almost out of wood glue, but I was able to squeeze out enough to put it all together. Some paper tape rounds out the package. Results are below. That top flap will be trimmed to fit, and some sealing tape will add some extra protection.

At times while glue and paper tape were drying I put in some time working on a basic compositional sketch for the next boardwalk print. I'll save the details until I'm ready to start the block drawing.