Thursday, May 31, 2012

Boardwalk Days part 6

With the new saint on hold for a few more days, I went back to my latest boardwalk print.  Almost a month ago I took advantage of a sunny day to return to my location and do some sketches and take some photos of the scene from a different perspective.  A composite photo from that location can be seen above.  One thing I noticed in the photo is that the controversial lamp posts are considerably smaller and pushed to the sides more.  And I knew this view gave me more benches on the right side to seat characters.  So I decided today to try out a four panel version of this view.  Below is an early version of this idea, combining information from the early May photos and sketches.

When I compare the photo and the drawing, I can see that this drawing is pretty accurate to the scene, and it does make the lamp posts less conspicuous.  However there are issues.  None of the sources I had with me in the Studio today could help me verify the exact locations of the two lamp posts on the left side, relative to the building and architecture, but that can be fixed later.  To achieve this new view meant pulling back, which gives me plenty of space in the wide open paved plaza between the buildings, but the actual boardwalk itself is a sliver about a half inch wide, meaning any figures there would be practically microscopic.  Also bothering me is that a huge swath of the panel on the right will be occupied by shrubbery between the benches and the restaurant.  That's a lot of the composition filled with an uninteresting block of color that is not particularly symbolic of boardwalks.  I spent a long time considering this today (with the recent humidity gone and lots of fresh air, our basement space was a far more comfortable place to sit around than my apartment), and at the time I left I was giving some thought to going back to the two panel version, with some modifications.

Meanwhile, Molly was also there all day working on various projects.  She added a few layers of silkscreen to a tablecloth commission, but the big job was working on a wood piece.  She had done some ink drawing on the large piece of wood, and today she took it outside to use a router to carve out large sections of it.  (very helpful when working this large)  This is the process she uses on some of her tables, but this one is destined to be a wall hanging in a new cafe.  The next step will involve some more traditional carving, but below is the current state.  The person who commissioned it actually stopped by on another errand around the end of the day and gave her approval to the progress so far.  Perhaps we'll see a more advanced version at the next critique.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

St Genevieve part 5

Ready to print my new block today.  Digging stuff out of my parents' basement for a garage sale, I uncovered a small supply of Rives Lightweight- pieces that must have been cut down from full sheets for some unremembered purpose.  The pieces were the perfect size for saint prints, and it's the paper I have used for this series going back to 1994, so this was a fortunate find.

One thing that I had been thinking about since doing the original drawing was how much of the stone patterns should be included among the letters.  Usually with the saints there isn't any cutting right around the name, but once in a while the name goes over a more detailed part of the composition.  In that case I have to find the balance between image detail and clarity of the text.  With that in mind, I cut the area to include a few clues to where stone edges occur (a guide for when I color it as well), though none actually touching the letters themselves.  However, there's no way to know exactly how it will read until it's printed, so I decided to make two proofs- one as it's cut, and one with some of those in between bits not printing.  I did the latter first (adding bits of masking tape to the dry block, peeled off after the inking), then re-inked the whole block for the former.  Above is shown a detail of the first proof, the second one is shown below.  Looking at them side by side, I saw very little difference.  For those keeping track, the main differences can be found under the second E, between that E and the V, between the V and the I, and in the open end of that V.  I think both are readable, and am leaning toward keeping the masked bits in, but I'll show both to the critique group next week and see if they have an opinion either way.  I'll probably hold off on coloring until after that.

Below is the full proof of the second version, which besides including the little bits, is also a slightly better printing.

So far I like what I see.  I think it's already fairly readable, and color should improve that.  Molly (also working in the Studio today) gave her approval, mentioning that the background trees gave it a kind of 'alpine' feel.  In the drawing stage I had considered trees with more individual trunks and branches, but decided that might be a distraction from the well and that the simple evergreen shapes (which have occasionally popped up my prints in the past) would work fine as background.  I guess that was a good decision.

Friday, May 25, 2012

St Genevieve part 4

Molly had told me that she was going to have photos of her work taken this morning around 8:00 am (for a local entertainment magazine), so I figured that getting to the Studio after 11:00 would be safe.  The good news is that the photo shoot was done, but she had left suddenly and I had to spend several minutes moving her stuff away from my table so I could work.  But after that I settled back into the current project.  She turned up a little later, and by way of apology brought a platter full of grapes.  (probably brought them for herself, but she placed it on my inking station where it was in easy reach for the rest of my time there)  In about two hours I finished cutting the rest of the block.  The image is mostly line, and with the dark wood background doesn't show up well in the photo, but the print should look fine when inked.  I'll take off from artwork for the holiday weekend and print it sometime early next week.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

St Genevieve part 3

Stopped by the Studio very briefly today, mostly to drop off the equipment and supplies that I used in last night's demo.  Before leaving, I walked over to Cookman Ave in Asbury to see a current show by Jill Kerwick, long time member of the critique group.  Walked back to my car and drove down to Belmar, to do a shift of gallery sitting at the Art on the Edge show at the Boatworks.

When I dropped off the rest of my printmaking stuff I held onto the current block and my cutting tools to use in Belmar.  Gallery sitting usually means 2 hours of sitting there with no visitors and it's good to have something to do.  They keep one of the round cafe tables out for the gallery sitters.  I put down some newspaper to protect its surface then got to work.  I cut out the rest of the border on the left side and most of the background, down to the top of the saint name.  The piece of wood has some splintery spots, and I want to save the rest until I have some glue handy in case something important starts to fall apart.  Below is the state of the block when I stopped for the day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lecture and Demo in Freehold

Tonight's printmaking demonstration for the Freehold Art Society was scheduled for 7:00 pm, but they requested I be there half an hour before to set up.  I figured I should give myself an hour to get there, just in case.  The meetings are held in an all purpose room at the county library headquarters in Manalapan.  The simplest way of getting there is I-195 west to US 9, north past Freehold to Manalapan, and then jughandle left to the library.  However, I was running a few minutes behind schedule and feared delays with rush hour traffic and the many traffic lights on route 9, so after consulting a map, took route 18 north (always moving at 65mph, no traffic lights) then a few blocks on route 79 south to the street that the library is on.  Took only 30 minutes, but I took advantage of the extra time to find the correct parking lot and the complex path to the meeting room.  Two trips to bring in all the art and supplies and I was ready to go.

The business part of the meeting only took a few minutes and then it was my turn.  Everyone was gathered around two folding tables, maybe about 15 in attendance.  Usually when I do these things I open with a slide show, but they had allotted me less than an hour, so I left the slides at home and just brought a variety of prints that I talked about and let them pass around.  The usual items- Fourth of July, saints, Ecclesiastes, supermarkets, and boardwalks.  (those last ones were too large to pass around, so I held them up to talk about them and then put them around the room for people to look at)  After that, I took out the new St Genevieve block and showed using my most common tools (small and medium round gouges, knife, chisel) to finish cutting out the date at the top and a little sky in the top part of the image.  I would have done more, but we had a deadline to finish the meeting and I also wanted to show printing.  For that I had brought my old reliable "Two Gallants" block from the Dubliners series, and pulled a quick print using water based ink, shown below.

Unfortunately, I was so busy with the talk and demo that I forgot to take photos until I had already started cleaning up, thus just these two.  It went as expected.  The crowd asked a lot of questions about the processes, seemed interested in my unusual subject and style, and were generally impressed with the work.  I did talk about the upcoming Belmar class and the BAC (the crowd includes one former student and one signed up for the June class) but time will tell if anyone there tonight decides to sign up.

With great efficiency I cleaned up and packed up, and since we could hear the announcements that the library would be closing, I got some help carrying it all to the car.  With the traffic now gone, I went with Highway 9 for the return trip home, once again only 30 minutes.   In the next couple of days I'll take the check to the bank, and all the printmaking stuff back to the Studio.

St Genevieve part 2

Another busy day, but all local things.  I managed to squeeze in about an hour at the Studio, long enough to finish the block drawing and begin the cutting.  A lot of changes since the last time- better perspective, more solidly constructed, and the date at the top is finished.  With that done, I wanted to get the block partly cut for tonight's demonstration, so that those in attendance could see it already in progress.  I just did the border on two sides and most of the date.

Having gotten the block to the state seen above, I cleaned up, packed up anything I thought could be useful for tonight's demo, and on to the day's next location.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Clearing Out

Regular readers here know that much of my life over the past year has been consumed with moving from one house to another.   The end is within sight on the effort to empty out the old family home in North Jersey.  Most of my stuff is gone, but today I went up to take care of some stored art.  The largest  project that I ever attempted was my Fourth of July series, a woodcut for each day for a year.  The whole set is up on the web for those who are interested.  I have shown the whole series three times since completing it in 1994.  The first time was a college exchange exhibition at University of Illinois.  I was given a large brick wall and decided the best way to use it would be to mount the prints on large pieces of foam core, stuck to the wall with double sided sticky tape.  Using the foam core worked to my advantage when I arrived to find that my wall had thermostats, electric outlet boxes, and other obstacles permanently attached, and I had to cut parts out of my foam core panels to get them to fit on the wall.  Unfortunately, the panels started falling off the wall before the show was over (the gallery added more sticky tape) and they didn't look that great in general.

I had almost a year after that to prepare to show the piece again in my MFA show.  This time I went with a prefabricated wood structure- lauan plywood mounted on a frame of 1" x 2" lumber.  The wood was painted white before I attached the prints with linen tape hinges.  Predrilled holes in the frames allowed me to connect it all together with bolts in the museum gallery.  The four panels combined to make one large 9' by 15' piece, which took 5 people to lift up and hang on the wall.  A lot of work for a one week exhibition, but if definitely looked much better than the earlier effort.  I took it off the wall, wrapped the four panels in brown kraft paper and brought them back to my studio space at the Glove Factory.  A few weeks later I loaded them into a moving van and brought them back to my parents' house, where they've been in the basement, waiting for the next show.

Because of the difficulty in moving them and in finding a wall large enough to hold the whole piece, they've stayed there.  (My third showing of the series involved attaching the first proofs of the prints directly to the wall with pushpins, for a show at Kean University in 2005. )   I have no place to store them, but don't want to see all those prints go to waste, so today I went up there to remove them from the wood panels.  A quick inspection a few months back showed that the prints looked ok despite the less than archival conditions of the past 17 years, so I dragged them out one at a time, tore off the paper, and carefully pulled them off in order.  Above is one of the panels at the start, below with one and half rows removed.

The whole process took almost 3 hours, but that included the struggle to move the panels around the cluttered, low ceilinged basement.  But in the end, the prints were preserved (three have slight water stains and will need to be reprinted) and the wood panels moved to the garage for eventual disposal.  I have no immediate plans to show the series, but I'm always looking for an opportunity.

Monday, May 21, 2012

St Genevieve

I had mentioned a few weeks back of my plan to start a new saint print to use as the cutting demonstration piece for an upcoming artist presentation.  That presentation is now about 48 hours away, so getting the block ready is a priority.  Last week I cut a piece of wood to the proper size and prepared the surface.  I spent a bit of time over the last week considering some of the possibilities I had noted going through my old notes, even doing a little research and thinking about specific images.  In the end I decided to go with a different idea.

My brother and his wife recently had a baby girl, who they named Genevieve.  Yesterday was the baptism.  For pretty much any traditional European given name there is a corresponding saint, so I went  to my copy of Butler's and sure enough found one.  French, 5th century, when only 7 she was picked out of a crowd by a bishop (who would later become a saint himself) who believed she was destined for a life in the church.  She agreed, accepting a special blessing at that point, and later taking vows at age 15.  From then on it was a difficult life, blessed with many people opposing her religious mission, hurling insults at her, and threatening death.  Her friend the bishop had to intervene a few times on her behalf until her reputation was properly established.  Over the years she was able to convince political enemies to let her help the people, and once, with the help of a prayer marathon, diverted the path of Atilla the Hun and his armies away from her local village.

That last story particularly appealed to my brother the history teacher, but it doesn't really fit in with the Everyman concept of the series.  Instead I went with a childhood story.  The book reports that young Genevieve was struck on the face by her mother (she had been begging to be taken to church), and the mother was punished by instantly going blind.  Genevieve eventually restored her sight by washing her eyes with water from the local well, which she had blessed.  The classic walled in well with bucket and crank aren't too common anymore around here, but everyone knows what it is and has seen one as some point, so it seemed the way to go.  I went up to the Studio for a little while today to do some drawing.  The feast day is Jan 3, and I though that I might find enough previous saint blocks there to have the letters and numbers to copy from, but all I could find was the 3.   I put in the name in the usual spot and started sketching in a classic well in various sizes and places, before settling for what you see above.  At home in the evening I worked on it more, adding a few details and improving the perspective, which you'll see next time I photograph it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

School's Out For Summer

Tonight I put the final touches on my spring semester grades and finished submitting then to the school's computer.  All four classes are done, so in the coming days I will be getting back to making art.  But as I close the books on this semester (literally) it occurred to me that this time of year also marks a few artistic milestones for me.  I don't have exact dates to share, just a link to this time of year.

At my undergrad school students weren't allowed to declare a major until the spring semester of their sophomore year.  As that moment approached for me, I had a lot to consider.  I had always assumed that I would end up in some kind of science related field, but my grades in those classes to that point were not too promising.  Each department gave presentations as to what would be expected for declared majors and I went to a bunch of them, including the one for interdisciplinary (create your own).  In the end, I went with the subject where I was putting in the most time and had the most interest- fine art.  That fateful decision came 25 years ago, give or take a month or two.

As part of the effort to clean out my parents' house, a few months ago I picked up piles of used stretcher bars- wooden bars with ends designed to fit together to make sort of a frame.  In my painting days, I would then stretch unprimed canvas over the bars and staple them taught over the frames.  Years ago I removed a lot of old canvases from the stretchers and the wood pieces were stored in the garage.  I brought them down the shore, giving some to Molly to use as quick silkscreen frames.  The rest were down in the basement of my former residence, but I put them in the back of my car today, so I can drop them off in Belmar tomorrow for the BAC art materials garage sale this weekend.  Having discovered woodcut printmaking, I had walked away from painting halfway through my time at Montclair State, but my graduation committee demanded one more painting for my final exhibition, so sometime in the spring of 1992 I made one more, which is the last oil on canvas I did.  So this past semester marks 20 years since the end of my painting career.

The next big art anniversary will be coming up in the fall, but I'll save that story until then.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Edgy Opening

Tonight was the opening reception for the Art on the Edge show at the Boatworks.  My piece above (top center) was one of 68 artworks in the show.  Like last year's version of this show, there is a very wide variety of mediums and subject matter.  Lots of photos from tonight's reception can be seen here.  The exhibition will remain up through June 1, 2012, for anyone who wants to see it in person.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Getting My Edge Back

Got the word today that I will be represented in the upcoming 2nd edition of the BAC Art on the Edge exhibition.  The first one was last August/September and proved very successful, so it was decided to have another one.  Like last time, there are differing opinions as to what the show is actually about.  The postcard announcement lists such options as street art, pop surrealism, graffiti, skateboard, surf, and low brow- all mediums.  Do I do any of that?  Hard to say, so I looked at relatively recent works that haven't yet been shown at the Boatworks, and decided that the above piece might come the closest.  Retro imagery is big right now in contemporary art (especially among this show's target demographic), and I guess the idea of potentially scary food products can be edgy.  (is mule meat any worse than pink slime?)

So I dropped it off last Saturday, and it was one of the accepted works.  The mixed media print is called A Modern Treat For You TV Viewers, a title that many assume is taken directly from a vintage source. It's not, but I had similar advertising slogans in mind when I came up with it.  The piece was created to be part of a group folio called Blatantly Kitsch, with the work to address the theme in subject and style, and make use of kitschy, craft type materials not normally associated with fine art.  I used woodgrain contact paper and printed scrapbooking paper as part of that.  However it got made, the juror liked it, so it's in the show.

The Art on the Edge exhibition opens with a reception at the Boatworks on Saturday May 12th from 5:00 to 7:30 pm.  Besides the art (about 70 pieces), there will be a couple of live bands, and perhaps some art demonstrations, all for free.  A separate live music show featuring acoustic guitarist Matt O'Ree will start at 8:30 pm and cost $5 at the door.  The exhibition will remain on display during regular gallery hours through June 1, 2012.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Talkative Group

Back on our first Monday schedule this month, but again not a large group.  Eight regulars, six of whom brought art.  We decided on a 10 minute time limit and figured we'd be done early like last time. Not so much.  Discussion was especially spirited tonight, both on the artworks themselves and as we digressed into related topics.  All good natured, however, so at the end of the evening everyone was happy and looking forward to next month.

Above, Katie's three drawings (some with encaustic) in the column on the left, Jill's painting, Molly's ink drawings and Vince's grid painting in progress.  (not shown, a whole bunch of Molly's printed napkins and tablecloths)

Jill was back from her latest stay in Costa Rica, and in addition to the previously mentioned painting brought two photo collages (above).  Jane brought back a large panel painting (below), changed significantly since its last appearance here in December.

I showed the 4 panel version of my latest boardwalk idea.  Some knew of it from last month's discussion, others were seeing the idea for the first time.  And people were split on whether they preferred the original 2 panel version or the newer 4 panel version.  There were also some disagreements among the group regarding some individual elements, but since a lot of that has yet to be worked out, those will be things I can take into account when I'm ready to get back to the drawing.

In the end, we averaged 20 minutes per artist, twice what we had planned, but it was a good time, so no complaints.  The people from last month who were going to take the lead in searching for a possible location for a critique group exhibition weren't present tonight, so we put off that discussion for another month.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Boardwalk Days part 5

It's been almost a month since I last worked on the latest boardwalk print, just days after the last critique group meeting.   A lot of the last month was spent working on the relief printing job, and there were several days that I hoped to go back to my chosen site for some additional photos and sketches, only to be faced with cold and rain.  But the sun came out this afternoon, so I rushed up to the Studio and walked up to my usual location.  As expected, a day like this had brought a good crowd, including a lot of outdoor diners at restaurants up and down the boardwalk.  I took a bunch more photos of the two buildings, different angles than the ones I had.  Also did several sketches, very rough, like the ones above, mostly for notes on relative scale and locations of figures and objects.  This week I'll probably switch over to a new saint for my upcoming demonstration, but once I have that ready, maybe I'll finally be able to get going on this print.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Wrapping It Up

 It's been about a week since Molly and I had our printing session for the four editions.  They've been sitting in the drying racks since then and I judged them reasonably safe to move.  Plus, the artist needs them for a show that opens this Friday, so it's time to get this job wrapped up.  Ashley and I made plans to meet around 2 pm, so I got there about half an hour before to get things ready.  I found that the prints were indeed dry.  One at a time I removed each print from the rack, carefully erased the pencil registration mark on the back and stamped it on the back with my studio/artist stamp, then returned it to the rack, keeping them in proper order.  I had just finished that and was beginning to take photos of the finished prints, when Ashley arrived.

She looked over all the prints and liked what she saw.  No surprise here- we used top quality ink and paper and our decades of professional experience.  It didn't hurt that her designs were pretty good to begin with.  She signed each edition, and then I helped her pack it all into the large box that the paper was delivered in.  I also turned over to her the extra paper she had requested, the leftover ink, and her blocks.  The show on Friday is in a private space, but she told me that she expects another area showing of the prints in a public space over the summer.  I'll post information about it when I get it.  These are medium to large size prints with good woodcut graphic punch and are best seen in person on the wall, but meanwhile here's an online preview of the work.

So this job is done, but maybe there will be more like this in the future.  Meanwhile, I can finally get back to work on some of my own art.