Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Show Coming Soon

A little ahead of schedule, the Belmar Arts Council posted on their website the list of accepted works for the upcoming 7th Annual Jersey Shore Juried Art Show. I had submitted two of the Floating World prints, the only two finished prints in the series that have not yet been exhibited there. The jurors chose one of my pieces to be one of the 88 artworks in the show at the Boatworks. The print above, The Floating World: Boardwalk Food, is being exhibited for the first time anywhere. The JAS7 opening reception will be Sunday, April 10, 2011 from 5 to 7 pm, and the show will remain on display during gallery hours through May 13th.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rooting Interest

A few weeks ago I posted my annual list of colleges that had in common that they were part of the current NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and had hosted me and/or my artwork at some point in the past. Sadly, all four teams had been eliminated by the end of the first weekend. And my brackets are a mess, with every one of my Final Four teams eliminated by yesterday. However, I do have a team that I'm going to root for in the next round- Virginia Commonwealth University.

Way way back, before there was a web or internet, I was a student down at the College of William and Mary, a public university in the Virginia state system. One of the oldest schools in the United States and known in academia for being very competitive both to get into, and to get through. And though it has (I've been told) the oldest college Fine Arts program in the country (1779) it wasn't considered a great one by Virginia standards. (I don't know if it was just a coincidence, but no process that was invented after 1779, such as photography, lithography, or silkscreen, was taught there in my years) On occasion I'd be asked by other students why I had chosen W&M, instead of VCU, which I learned was generally regarded as the state's best art program. Simple enough- I had no intention of being an art major when I started there, and did no research into those areas. Anyway, no regrets about that; I got a first class general education, enough art instruction to get me to the next level, and I can't imagine that I'd necessarily be a better artist today if I took a different path.

But seeing VCU on its tournament run (W&M is one of 5 or 6 schools in the US that have played division 1 basketball for at least 50 years without ever being in the tournament) the past couple of weekends reminded me of those college days. And after looking into it, I find that their art program listed as one of the best of the country by arguably the best known college ranking service, with other majors' rankings falling to numbers that are respectable, though not noteworthy. So if I can't root for a school that has exhibited or collected my prints, at least I can root for a school that's known more for its art department than anything else taught there.

And the photos up top? Very old photos of fun in the William and Mary printmaking studio, circa 1989. I believe it was Sandy who had wanted to try to fry eggs on the studio hot plate, which is normally used to heat etching plates for a variety of intaglio processes. My pan never got hot enough, so Dave came up with plan B, using the propane blowtorch normally used to melt rosin dust onto zinc etching plates (for aquatints) to cook the eggs, which I ate afterwards. Not the best eggs I ever ate, but not the worst either.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 27

In between dropping off work for a juried show in Belmar and moving a bunch of furniture in West Belmar, I got up to the Studio for a couple of hours to proof the new and improved version of my shower block. You don't get too many surprises with woodcuts and today was no exception. Below is the latest version of the print.

This is probably where I want it to be, but I'll consider the results for several days. If I find nothing bothering me at that point, I'll pull one more proof and start coloring.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 26

From the moment that I first printed this new block, I knew that I would eventually have to go back and do more cutting. Some of the shading lines were causing areas of the figures to flatten out, confusing rather than improving the drawing. Since I've taken the coloring of the first proof as far as I can, and the ink on the block is long dry, I decided to go ahead and deal with those issues. I made at least some changes to all seven figures (including the two behind shower curtains), but the biggest changes were to the two standing figures in the lower part of the left side panel. After the cuts were made I took a rubbing with a spare piece of loose leaf paper I had handy. Rubbings are always a little darker than the final version, especially in those gray tone areas, but I do think that the results are an improvement.

Above is a photo of the changes to the two standing figures. Most of the shading lines are still there, but they've been thinned, shortened, or had the shapes opened up. The other significant change to the block was that I also removed the shading lines from the tile wall to the right of the opened shower curtain, shown in the photo below. While the value change it created wasn't bad, I felt the lines added too much texture and were a distraction. So they're gone, and I'll just accomplish the same thing with color on the next proof.

I had considered printing it today as well, but with the time needed to set up and clean up, I decided to just stop there, and deal with some other Studio tasks. On the weekend I'll pull a proof on the okawara, and if it's good, another one right after that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 25

A lot of family commitments kept me busy for the past week, but with that passed, I had time to get back into the Studio this afternoon. I used that time away to give more thought to the current proof and acted on some of those thoughts today. On the left side panel, I moved the aqua color from the standing figure to the towel of the seated figure. I think it works better than the white that was there (the color of the actual towel worn by the model), though I think I'll try a paler version of the color in the final version. I went over the bathing suit with some ultramarine, which contrasts nicely with the overall warm tones of the panel. I made the neutral color of the trash can a little darker. On the right side the biggest change was overpainting the yellow towel clutched by the standing figure with a cerulean color, which again brings a nice color and temperature contrast. To create a little separation between this towel and the towel by the head of the figure next to her, I added a little violet to the ultramarine that had been there. (a similar mix of ultramarine and violet was used on the hair brush of the seated figure)

And that pretty much takes care of this proof. Last week I briefly crossed paths with Molly, whose opinion of the proof (as it looked prior to today) was generally positive. One thing that she pointed out was that she thought the overall color and value balance felt more like a gym or athletic club than a boardwalk bathhouse, meaning the former is typically brightly lit and the latter not so much. Some of that may change when the next printing switches from bright white heavy watercolor paper to the "natural" colored very thin okawara. I'll also spend a bit of time in the coming days looking at some reference photos of figures in dimly lit rooms, taken over the past few months with this project in mind.

My next step- making some slight adjustments to the block itself, then pulling a couple of proofs. Don't know how far I'll get coloring any of those before the next critique.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 24

Got up to the Studio a little earlier than I usually do and put in a few hours on the coloring process. While at work yesterday I took a few minutes to chart tile patterns in various parts of the building. Some rooms had geometric patterns built around large square forms, others had what seemed like randomly scattered color tiles among the otherwise neutral floor. I decided to go with the latter. As far as which colors to use, I assumed one would be one of the red tile colors from the wall stripes and went with the brighter one. I also put in green ones as well, as a way of bringing more color down into that area of the composition. I didn't try to match the exact pattern of the floor I charted, but instead chose spots that would work compositionally, while matching the original floor's proportion of red and green to neutral.

Next was the shower curtains. I went with a pale blue wash- not too bright or intense, but still a contrast to the wall colors. I put this wash over the figures as well to make it seem that they are behind the curtain. The one in the upper right corner is pretty much what I was hoping for, and I'll try to make the other look a little more like that on the next proof. I continued with mostly cool colors elsewhere throughout the print- the poster logo, the bathing suit, and some of the towels. Some reds and yellows went in as well.

Some of the new colors I like and will stay the same on the next proof. Of the others, some could be worse, but they could be better as well. I'll give it some thought until next week, and maybe make some changes at that point if I come up with a combination that I prefer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 23

The biggest thing yet to be worked out before today was the coloring of the floor. I had been thinking of coloring the whole thing with the same reddish color used in the horizontal tile stripes, and briefly, the lockers. However, that's a lot of area to lighten later if I didn't like the results, so rather than commit to that, I went with a temporary test. The piece of paper I used for my proof is large, with wide margins on all sides of the print. I tore off a wide strip, then used scissors to cut pieces that roughly corresponded to the negative shapes of the floor. I colored these with the red color (see above) and then after they dried arranged them on top of the print, shown below.

It didn't bother me as much as the original coloring of the lockers, but I decided that the results would make the whole print darker than I had envisioned. So I removed the pieces and went with my alternate plan. I put that reddish color on the bench, to balance its use on the wall tiles. Speaking of which, one of the possibilities I had been considering was using two different colors on those horizontal stripes, with the top one being darker and/or bolder. Tested a few possibilities with more cut paper strips- a dark reddish brown (like the later version of the floor in the janitor print shown yesterday), or a more traditional red. I decided that the image could use some bolder color, so put a wash of red over the row of tiles. I mixed up two versions of a light color (both with varying percentages of white, ochre, and different yellows and browns), and put the darker version on the rest of the wall, the lighter version on the floor. The results of the day's work are shown below.

As I made the decision to make the floor light instead of dark, I considered a compromise of sorts- mix some dark tiles in with the light ones in some kind of pattern. I like using checkerboard designs, but I think it would be too much here. I took a break to walk around the building to see if I could find any interesting possibilities- most of the rooms with tiles had floors of one color, except for two maintenance closets that had a strip down the middle in sort of a ladder pattern. No need to decide this today, so I'll be on the lookout for possible tile patterns wherever I am in the next week or two. The next step will be to start adding some bolder colors and cooler colors in the few remaining uncolored shapes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Going Back to the Dance

As in the Big Dance- a.k.a. the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It is my custom each year on Selection Sunday to note how many of the field of teams in the tournament have an official connection to my art, such as an exhibition, collection, or artist visit. This year I have four that are part of the tournament. In chronological order of my connection they are Illinois (9 Seed Southwest Region), Villanova (9 Seed East Region), Texas (4 Seed West Region), and Syracuse (3 Seed East Region). No one is picking any of them as a likely Final Four team, but I'll hope that a few of the at least make it to the second weekend.

There are unofficial ways I can increase my number. For example, I have had exhibitions at two schools that are not part of the tournament, but are in the same city as two schools that are in the tournament. These would be a print in a juried show at Columbia College (Columbia, MO, home of West Region 11 Seed University of Missouri) and a solo show at the Princeton Theological Seminary, just a stone's throw from East Region 13 Seed Princeton University. And there are three schools in the NIT that have seen my art- Northwestern (group show), Harvard (museum collection), and Fairfield (technically nothing official, but my brother borrowed a few old paintings to decorate his residence one year). But almost no one cares about the NIT these days, so I'll likely only follow up on the four in the first paragraph at the end of next weekend's games.

Update- Not a good year for schools that support printmaking. Villanova lost their first round game, and the other 3 lost their second round games, so none of them survived the first weekend.

Boardwalk Showers part 22

Since I had the new proof and all my watercolor stuff with me from yesterday's session at the Boatworks, I decided to just work from home today while I took care of other business. I started today's coloring by going back to the figures, making some subtle adjustments to all of them, though nothing likely to be noticed in these blog photos. Then my first stab at a background. Yesterday I pulled out an old print (see above) from storage, a part of my Ecclesiastes series, set in a similar setting to my new print. I liked the color combination in general and figured it was a good starting point. I mixed up a reddish color and put it on three of the horizontal rows of tiles. That worked fine. Then I used the same color to color the bank of lockers on the left side. Not so fine. In my opinion, too intense and heavy a color to take up such a large portion of the panel, but you can look below and make up your own mind.

After a couple of hours of staring at it, I came up with plan B. I went over the lockers twice with more watercolors- first a wash of white, then a slightly heavier application of white mixed with a buff color. When first applied it has a very neutral beige color not uncommon to lockers, but it mixed with the red as it dried. The result is lighter and more neutral, but still with a reddish tint. The new version is below.

The next thing I have to decide about is the floor. My original thinking had been a light color (as in the janitor example at the top of the post), but now that I lightened the lockers, I'm open to other possibilities. In fact, I have three colored proofs of that janitor print. All three started like the one above, but on one I moved the floor color up to the lower part of the wall and put a much darker reddish brown color on the floor. I liked the new version better, and it was the one I decided to frame for exhibitions. It can be seen in the photo below.

Would it work on such a large area as the whole floor? Going to give that some thought before I do any more coloring.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Evil Prints Hell Week

Now that I have your attention...

Next week the Southern Graphics Council will be holding its annual conference, and this year it's in St Louis. Anyone who knows anything about printmaking knows that St Louis is Mr Tom Huck's town, and he's got a whole big slate of activities planned for everyone who comes to visit. His Evil Prints studio will be open for visitors all week (March 14th to March 20th) and there will be several events related to his work and our Outlaw Printmakers group. Sadly, I won't be able to attend, but I'm sure I'll make back out there in the future. Anyone lucky enough to be in St Louis next week would be crazy not to check out some of the "Bad-Ass Alternative Evening Printertainment" that Tom has arranged. Some appear to be public events, others require an RSVP. All the details can be found on the home page at Evil Prints.

Boardwalk Showers part 21

A busy week has passed and my new proof has dried enough to start the coloring process, so that's what I did today. I had signed up for a gallery sitting shift at the Boatworks, so I went up to the Studio in the early afternoon and collected the print and all my watercolor stuff. I got down to Belmar on time, but with various people hanging around there I was maybe able to spend about half the time actually working on my piece. (no actual gallery visitors, as usual) I have a few ideas about how I will color the background of the piece, but the one thing I know for sure is the figures, so I'm starting there. None of these are finished, but what I've done so far gives some idea of where I'm going. Above is my on location work station, below is the current state of the proof.

I was already sure that I was going to cut away some of the shading lines on the figures before the next printing, and today's coloring did nothing to change my mind. Some will remain, but I'd much rather handle most of the shadow effects with color.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 20

I managed to take care of a few tasks before work this morning, freeing me to go directly to the Studio right after. I found a sheet of some kind of heavy printmaking paper (no watermark or label on the bag) on my supply shelf, and decided to try proofing my new block. I prefer a heavier paper for these first proofs, since I may need to recolor some areas as I try to figure out what will work best, and that's just not possible with the okawara that I use for the editioned prints in the series. I inked it, put the paper on top, and started the hand rubbing. After the first pass I picked up a corner to check and re-ink the light areas. After more rubbing I checked the result and knew I was done- the paper had slipped.

This block is mostly line work, with very little solid areas of black. The good part with that is that thin lines are much easier to ink and print, while broad areas of black are hard to get evenly black on the first try. And most of these lines turned out fine. The bad part of a mostly line block is that there is much less ink to adhere the paper to the block while printing. While the soft tissue thin Japanese paper will stick with no problems, a stiff printmaking paper may not, and I noticed a little bit of double exposure lines happening. There's no way to line it up perfectly again, so that was all for this proof. It could be worse- the only parts that have real problems are the borders, and while this one would never be suitable for exhibiting, it will do fine for the purposes of evaluating the cutting and trying out colors. The resulting proof is shown below.

For now it's drying in the Studio, and should be stable enough to start coloring by the weekend. My first feelings about the print are that I mostly like it, though I think I might want to reduce the amount of shading lines on some of the figures. Keep some of them, but do most of the shadow effect with color. Still haven't settled on a color scheme yet, but I have a few days to decide on something.

From there I went home and enjoyed the rest of my jambalaya in honor of Mardi Gras. Didn't take any photos of it, but this photo from last year gives you the general idea.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Gold Standard

Tonight was the March meeting for our critique group. One of our regulars mentioned a recent disappointing critique in a class he's taking, and a lackluster critique at a place in Asbury. It seems that our monthly group in the Studio is the gold standard of critique groups- interesting art, good discussion, useful ideas, and tasty refreshments. (in honor of the season, I brought some of the jambalaya I made last night) We had 10 artists in attendance tonight, as well as a few of Molly's students.

The first people to arrive got to put their stuff on the main wall above. The art includes two paintings (dancer) and a collage (cowboy cat) from Jill, ink drawings from Trevor, a cast sculpture from Adam, a mixed media sculpture from Michelle (colored lights), plastic trash assemblages from Lisa, and my current woodblock. Later arrivals put their work up after that, including (below) oil pastel figure drawings from Vince, a mixed media painting/collage from Mary, and an abstract painting/drawing from Tim.

The finale of the evening took us down the hall to the darkened cafeteria, where Molly had set up an overhead projector. She's beginning another collaboration with dancer and choreographer Kristin Dexnis, who was in attendance tonight to see the piece for the first time. So far Molly has done a couple of ink drawings on glass, and the projected images are planned to be part of an upcoming dance piece.

As for my piece, I gave the basic explanation again and addressed some of the same concerns for some people who missed the last meeting or two. I had taken a rubbing just as people were arriving, and based on that I'm not planning any significant changes before proofing it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 19

Put in about 3 more hours on the current block, which brings it just about to a finished state. Today I did the last 3 figures and the bench. (see above) After I had put away my tools I noticed a couple of little spots that I missed- should take a couple of minutes to resolve. Below is the current state of the block.

Tomorrow before the critique I will do a rubbing of the whole block and see if I missed anything else or see an obvious need for an adjustment. Ideally I'd just go ahead and proof it then as well, but I don't expect to have the time.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 18

Today was a pretty busy day. Errands around town in the morning, and then up to the Studio to do some block cutting for a few hours in the afternoon. As shown in the above photo, I cut out the two foreground figures in the left side panel. As I was working I made a few decisions as to how to cut the shadow areas of the women and the towels. As with the shower curtained figures, I'll see how well it works when I first print the block. All that detail was time consuming, so that's as far as I got today. The others have fewer shadows to work out and may go faster.

From the Studio I drove to Belmar for the opening reception of the Humor & the Lighter Side show. My contribution is shown above, an older piece called Advertising in the Jerry Springer Belt. Like much of my work, this one started from a true incident, a late 90's episode of Jerry Springer's talk show being pulled from syndication when advertisers found the topic too disturbing. I guess it's nice to know that there is a line they won't cross, but it did also remind me that every other day that the show airs it still has sponsors. Logically, advertisers only pay for spots if they feel that they can generate more income from the commercials than they pay to air them, so they must feel that Springer's viewers are the target audience for their products. So I started studying the commercials and eventually this print was the result. Based on the show's sponsors, the typical Springer viewer is unemployed, lacks a college education or even a high school diploma, is collecting or seeking a large settlement from an injury, suffers a variety of ailments, and seeks guidance from telephone psychics. The background map shows the territory of what I call the Jerry Springer Belt, a great swath of the south and midwest that (based on the accents) seems to be home of the overwhelming majority of the show's guests. The territory extends northward enough to include Chicago (where it's filmed) and New York City (from where I was seeing it broadcast). The piece attracted a bit of attention at the show today, where people enjoyed the fun images even before learning the whole story.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 17

I got to spend a few hours in the Studio this afternoon, continuing the cutting of the current block. I started with the last column of tiles (far left edge of the block), doing the broken edges thing that I did with the previously cut tile wall. The last bit of architecture to finish was the line of upward facing tiles on the shower enclosure sill. From there I moved on to other stuff along the back wall. First were the two figures showering behind curtains. I decided on a combinations of discrete shapes and silhouetted shadows among the ripples of the shower curtains. (see above) I'll find out if it worked when I print it and color it. I continued across the block to the right, cutting out the hanging towel by the center shower stall, the pushed aside shower curtain, and the posted notice about lost or stolen items. The results of today's cutting can be seen below.

So now all that's left is the most important part- the figures (and the bench that one sits on). I just might finish the cutting on this before next week's critique.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Little More Practice

Things are coming along well with the current boardwalk block- I figure there's a good chance that I'll have it more or less finished by the end of the month. I will probably hold off on the next block in the series until summer when I can do more research, so it's likely that my next project will be to finally get back to the smoking figure that I haven't touched (other than bringing it to the BAC Salon event) since August. The model for that piece is our most regular model for the Belmar drawing group, and the one there tonight. So putting in a couple of hours drawing her is getting a little more practice that may help when I have to go in and make adjustments to the block drawing. I did two 45 minute charcoal drawings tonight. I liked the one above the best, and while the other wasn't bad, the part that turned out best was the area around her hand.

On the smoking figure block the two things I know that I need to adjust a little are the face and the hand holding the cigarette, so tonight's drawings can both help me prepare for when I'm ready to get back to that.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Boardwalk Showers part 16

Dropped by the Studio today after my day job and put in about 90 minutes on the current block. Today I moved on to the next column of tiles that frame a shower stall, to the left of the one I completed last time. Like the one to the right, all the square tiles had been individually drawn, but before I began cutting today, I erased out bits of the drawing, so that most of the squares are broken on at least one side or corner. (the rows immediately below the black row are a notable exception, but it's because they will be colored darker than rest of the wall) There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that the second column is about 25% smaller than the first (due to perspective) but it squeezes in the same number of tiles. This in turn means that including all the tile edges would result in a higher proportion of black to white, shifting the overall value balance. The goal of removing some bits and pieces is to return that balance while still providing the necessary information for the viewer to still feel the effect of the perspective. Even if it's not perfect, it's all just background anyway, and I imagine that most of the attention will go to the figures. I'll treat the little bit we see of the last column the same way, and when I do a rubbing of the whole block before printing I'll find out if it worked.