Tuesday, August 28, 2012

School's Out

Tonight was the last meeting of this current series of woodcut classes.  Teaching the class is easy; getting all the supplies in and out is the hard part.  Each time we do this, I have to get all the stuff seen above from my apartment to my car, then into the Boatworks.  At the end of the night the process is reversed, but we'll get to that in a minute.

One of our members had informed me that she couldn't make it tonight, but the other five turned up within a few minutes of the official start time.  We opened with a quick group meeting to go over some issues that had come up since last week, and then it was time for everyone to work.  Two of the artists continued work on their blocks from last week.  The other three had managed to cut brand new blocks since last week and were ready to print.

Below are some of the proofs pulled in class tonight.

Michele (above) and Kate (below) continued their efforts from last week.  This was Michele's first night of printing, while Kate's proof came after she made significant changes to her block.

Mary came in with a new block and four state proofs she had done at home, all since last week.  We discussed what worked and what could be improved, and she spent most of the class period making adjustments.  She pulled the above proof just as we were finishing class, and was pleased with the changes.

The Meyer sisters went with bird themed designs again, and each pulled first proofs on white Rives Lightweight, but they also decided to experiment with color.  Not color ink, but printing on colored decorative papers from my supply.  The whole group was very excited by the results, which were more impressive in person than in these photos.

We ended up going a little over on time so that everyone could get their final proofs printed, so everyone pitched in and helped with the clean-up.  (some suggested to me last week that future classes should be longer, and everyone tonight was in agreement)  As a reward for cleaning, I shared some freshly picked figs from the family garden.   Three of the students had never tried a fresh fig before and were a bit hesitant.  Now there are three more people in the world looking forward to their next fresh fig.

After everyone had left it took me almost a half hour more to pack up all the class supplies, put away the tables and chairs, and load my car.  With this last meeting over, I'm now finally done with my summer job and on vacation.  College classes begin next week, so it's going to be a very short vacation.    Once again this group of beginning woodcutters tells me they would like to continue the class.  Once my fall teaching schedule is finalized I'll talk to the BAC and try to get something on the schedule.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Unite Collaborative Show

This afternoon I attended the opening reception for the Belmar Arts Council's new Unite exhibition at the Boatworks.  This is a collaborative show, so every piece (we had 39 entries in all) had to involve at least two artists.  I've shown both or my entries on this blog recently, but here's what they look like framed on the wall.

More photos and descriptions of the show can be seen over on the BAC blog.  The show remains up through September 19, 2012 for those who want to check it out for themselves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Busy Building

Things were a little different on this third night of the current woodcut class in Belmar.  When I arrived I saw several cars parked around the Boatworks, and a group of people inside the back room.  Turned out a photo class had decided to set up, not realizing that we had a class scheduled.  Since we needed more space and tables to conduct our business, they agreed to move into the small side room.  That's good, because when we get going, we need a lot of room.

The past two weeks have seen a lot of cutting, but I expected that most would be ready to print tonight. I had ordered a bunch of supplies after the first meeting.  Cutting tools arrived later that week (distributed week 2), but the supplier for the other stuff took their time sending them east.  The package with the paper arrived late yesterday, but the box with ink and brayers still had not shown up when I left for Belmar.  I would have preferred to have both for tonight, but the one I did get was the more important one.

Some of the group wanted to get some more cutting in (see above), so they got out their tools and continued work on their blocks.  Two of our veteran printmakers were ready to print, so I set them up at  a back table.

Another new thing this time around was that some tried oil based ink for the first time.  I always use the water soluble ink with my college classes for practical reasons, but some members of this group wanted to try working bigger and/or hand coloring with watercolor, and in both cases oil based ink is preferable, if not necessary.  Above, Jill tries the ink for the first time, while below she tries it on a second block and Kate inks the largest block tried in this class to date.  They quickly found the oil based ink easier to work with, and appreciated the resulting quality of the prints.  It's a bit more work to clean up, but that's the price you pay.

Below are some of the prints that were pulled tonight, using our newly arrived supply of printmaking paper.

Obviously we have a group that is very interested in printmaking, with each print demonstrating the individual style of the artist.  And we have one more week to go.  (they asked about continuing the class into the fall, which I expect to do, but not until all my fall teaching schedule is settled)  One of our new people should be ready to print her first block next week, some took home new wood tonight, and others may continue to work on the prints started tonight.  Check back next week to see what they do.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Art Unites

Today was a changeover day at the Belmar Arts Council- one show comes down, as people submit work for the next one.  So I was there to pick up my piece from the Animal Spirits show (just the bottles, as the cats were sold) and to drop off work for the next one, called Unite.  The theme is collaborative works, art that was made by combinations of artists.  It could involve things like writing or music, but I imagine that most will be between visual artists.  Mine are.

I've done a few collaborative pieces in the past, not that unusual for printmakers.  The most recent such project was the For Love Not Money postcard project from a few years ago.  After I had sent my card to Mauritius, and then another to Pennsylvania when most of the participants from Mauritius disappeared, I still had a bunch left over.  I offered them to people in the critique group to see what they came up with.  It seems that the group was not in a hurry to try it, as I only saw one in the first year.  Then a few months ago long time group member Tim Aanensen brought me the card shown below.

He added some yellow color in the sky over my blue and orange textures, the line drawing of the monster (Tim's label) and the little red bird, some coloring of the two figures, the words shown in the orange doors, and his signature.  Knowing that this show was coming up, I was glad to have at least one piece of art to submit.  Since Tim provided the narrative for the piece, I went with one of his suggestions for the title- The Chase Is On.

For a second submission I went back to the last century.  While I was in grad school in Carbondale I talked fellow print grad Linn Nelson into doing a couple of collaborative woodcuts.  The first was a small block on which she drew a stylized scene of what looked like dense woods.  I imposed a black and white shape breakdown on it and cut and printed it.  We took a different approach with the second one.  I gave her a larger piece of wood and she drew various figures and object above and straddling an arc that covered the upper third of the image.  Some of the images made me think of circuses and fairs.  A line (...saints at the fair...) from a recent song by the Breeders went through my head.  At the time I was doing this I was well into my saint series, which gave me the idea to create a quilt within the area under the curve, each square showing an object from one of my saint prints.  Again I chose values for both sections and cut the whole block.  The resulting print, which I ended up calling Saints at the Fair, is shown below.  Only a few were printed at the time, with both of us signing it.  She kept one which she showed at least once later in her home state of South Dakota.

While the print is an ideal example of a collaboration, I had one concern with this one.  One rule for this show was that works should not have been in a previous show at the Boatworks, but this one was.  About four years ago I ended up as part of a four person show,  a prize for being an award winner in the previous year's big annual juried show.  I put this piece in as one of the fifteen that were my portion of it.  I put the question to the organizers and it was decided since its last appearance was in a non-competitive situation (and they didn't remember seeing it before), it would be allowed.

Not a juried show, so as long as they are presented in a reasonably professional way (and my stuff always is), they'll be in.  The exhibition opens with a reception on Saturday, August 25th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, remains open through September 19, 2012.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Boardwalk Days part 9

Been a busy summer, but not so much for making art.  The last two months everything has revolved around the Belmar Arts Council, between the two series of woodcut classes and Animal Spirits, my only new print of the summer.  The BAC has been my main source of income this summer, so I can't complain.  Besides, I knew that I couldn't do much more with the latest boardwalk print without going back to the original scene, and that hasn't been practical, with this now officially the hottest summer in the history of the United States of America.  Back to back heat waves, high humidity, and constant threat of pop up thunderstorms have kept me indoors.  But today we had a rare combination- mid  80's temperatures, normal humidity, blue skies, and no place I had to be.  The kind of day to take advantage of for a hike to Asbury.

Shortly past noon I stopped by the Studio just long enough to pick up the block (last seen about two months ago) and a few pencils, and then walked through town and up to my chosen spot by Convention Hall.  Sunny and warm, but relatively pleasant.  Lots more people on the boardwalk than the last time I was there, but few walked past my spot between buildings.  The hedges by the restaurant (see above) were a little more colorful than before, but nothing else had changed.

The challenge here was sketching in reverse- looking at buildings and drawing the details in mirror images.  Having my original photo-based drawing gave me a starting point, so all I had to do was adjust a few proportions and lengths, along with filling in some backwards details.  The results of today's drawing is below.

Neither half of this diptych looks exactly like what I saw from any one point, and I still may have to adjust some proportions and perspective on one or both sides, but at least I now have the information to work with.  I didn't do any sketching or take photos of any of the people on the boardwalk or beach, but I did take notes of some of the things I saw, archetypes and activities that could figure into this one or the planned beach oriented print.

When I was done sketching all I could, I walked back to the Studio.  Lunch was waiting for me in the cooler, which helped me avoid the temptation of getting some ice cream on the way.  As I was eating I noticed Herb through our new big windows, walking around in the back.  Eventually he noticed me and waved me over the windows.  He wanted to point out that they had finally started the process of finishing the insides of the windows, sills on the bottom and framing on the sides, like what's shown above.  Still a work in progress, but what is done looks nice.  And when it's done, this will allow the needed installation of shades, so we can have the great light when we want it, and not when we don't.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lots to Learn

Didn't get any artwork of my own done over the past week, but I've been busy nonetheless.  This is the time of year when all the colleges start getting ready for the fall semester, so that has meant updating syllabi, though in one case I'm still waiting on crucial information from the college.  But those classes are still three weeks away.

I'm in the middle of a new run of woodcut classes in Belmar and that also took time over the last week. With six students this time around I had to order new supplies.  New cutting tools for those who wanted them (and extras for the class supply).  I have some paper, but maybe not enough of the good stuff for everyone, so I ordered a bunch and got a good price for the bulk order.  By the last week I may have all six wanting to print at the same time, and I didn't think that I had enough brayers to go around, so I ordered a few more.  My returning students have expressed an interest in working bigger (and some already have started), and that's not practical with water based ink, so I ordered a can of my favorite oil based ink.  Picked up some extra ink knives as well.

Most of this stuff will arrive by the weekend, but the cutting tools were in New Jersey this past Saturday, and that's the only thing we needed for tonight.  I was at the Boatworks plenty early, and usually my students are showing up while I'm still unloading the car, but this time it was right around 7 pm when all six showed up.  My veterans all had their blocks in progress, and my new people also came in ready to work.  I opened by distributing the new tools to those who had ordered them and then did the customary cutting demonstration.  This is very important for the beginners, but I had everyone join us because we had a new wrinkle this time.  One of my returning artists had ordered a large flat chisel, to make it easier to clear large areas of wood.  No one had used one of these before and I felt they should all know how to use this useful but potentially dangerous tool.

There were a few technical processes to share (transferring a drawing to the block, taking a rubbing, etc), but tonight I devoted a lot of time to artistic concerns, especially for the advanced students.  I take this as a good sign- understanding the basics of cutting, they are now thinking more about composition, value relationships, and the other concerns beyond just making a picture of something.  Sometimes this was by showing examples in books, sometimes it was just drawing on my own experiences.

Once again the hours few by, and I didn't realize until everyone was packing up that I hadn't had time to take any photos again.  I'll have to try harder to remember it for next time.   Most of the students will be ready to try printing next week, and those prints alone should be a good excuse to get the camera out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Woodcut Takeover Continues

The summer woodcut class that I held in Belmar in June and July was a big hit with the four participants.  So much so that they all expressed an interest in continuing it.  And there were other requests as well, so I arranged to put an August session on the BAC calendar and hoped it would work out.

Coming into this morning I had 3 people signed up, two from before and one new one.  Certainly enough to make it worth holding the class.  Then things changed rapidly.  My new participant asked if her sister could sign up.  No problem.  Then as the starting time approached, a fifth person arrived, a woman who was waiting to find out her work schedule before committing to the class.  Then a further surprise, a sixth participant, another one who had been part of last month's class.

So now I have 6 students for this latest round of classes.  This thing is getting popular.  Good thing the building has plenty of tables and chairs.

Like last time, most of the first night was spent talking and showing prints to the three new people, though the three veteran printmakers took time out occasionally to come check out what we were doing.  I had three classic group folios, some printmaking books, and some representative examples of my work.  I cut boards for those who wanted them and demonstrated how to surface them with wood filler.  All this required my full attention, so no time to shoot photos tonight.

Next time we'll likely have the new people ready to start cutting, and the experienced group may be ready to print.  Looks like I need to order some more supplies and soon.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Air Conditioner Wanted

We've had some hot and steamy weather around this area for weeks.  Maybe it was that, or our new windows that let in a lot of sun, but the Studio was not the most comfortable environment to hold our monthly critique.  I had gotten there a few hours early and quickly colored another copy of the cats with the super large spotted ball.  Don't need it right now, but although I've been busy with a lot of art activity this past month (teaching classes, palette rebuilding, meetings and receptions), I don't have a lot to finished work to show for it, and this at least represents something done in that time.

People gradually started drifting in as the starting time approached, and we ended up with nine artists, all with work to discuss.  My old studio fan helped make conditions a little more tolerable.  Above are two mixed media drawings from Tim and a painting in progress from Edy.

The above photo shows a graphite drawing from Katie, the just colored cat print (third overall) from me, and an encaustic painting from Sheilagh.  Below are two recent paintings from Jill.

Jane had written me that she was planning to bring the large painting with three side by side trees (seen at a few previous critiques), but when she arrived she brought the painting to the left, a new work in progress.  Not shown are works by the two other artists.  First time critique participant Margery brought a tiny sculpture, small enough to fit in one's palm.  Too small to get a good photograph.  And Vince's piece was completely inside his head, an idea for a somewhat conceptual piece he is considering, and was seeking our input.

As usual, the discussions at times turned away from the specific pieces in front of us, and toward general art concerns.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the concepts debated can help all of us as we work on our art.  More often the discussions are more about the technical- choices of specific colors, proportions, etc.

My piece was well liked, despite being a somewhat lightweight subject.  I showed the original postcard version of the cats and explained the process involved in creating that, compared to how I reused the image and the changes made to the composition to make up for the missing tea bags.  I can't see myself making any more cat blocks, but I'll hang on to this one should I ever have another place to use it.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Another Genevieve

Today it was my scheduled turn to gallery sit at the Boatworks for the current Animal Spirits show.  I always bring something to keep myself busy, as visitors tend to be very few.  I considered putting together something to help with a new or ongoing project (like the latest boardwalk print), but I was running late and grabbed the easiest thing.  I had taped a new proof of the St Genevieve print to a drawing board, so I just needed my watercolors and my original to work from.  I had been through the process of choosing and mixing colors previously, so the whole thing took only about 90 minutes.

While I was there I got confirmation of at least three people signed up for next series of woodcut classes  beginning next week.  Two are returning from last month, and one new name.  Still a chance that more will be added in the next few days, but even just three is enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Building A Better Palette

For the last meeting of my July woodcut class I had pulled out the old palette I had made for painting classes back when I used to paint.  It had also been used over the years as a portable inking palette, and with everyone in that class printing that last night, I knew we would need it.  I have a new round of classes scheduled to begin next week.  Don't know the numbers yet on that, but it wouldn't hurt to make an improved version before then, just in case I need it again.

I made the above item over 20 years ago and didn't remember exactly how I had done it.  I do remember the origins.  My years at Montclair State coincided with a day job in Hackensack, and next to the building where I worked was a then unoccupied one story building.  Facing a driveway between the buildings was a large multi-pane window, which at one point had started falling apart. The framing between panes of glass was rotting away, and many of the panes had fallen out and shattered on the ground.  One day I noticed a pane of glass hanging out into space, only still attached at its bottom edge.  The next stiff breeze would likely send it to the ground, so I decided to save it from a certain death and stashed it in my car.  I mounted it and used it regularly at Montclair, and now and then as a portable palette for inking blocks.  When Molly and I designed the Studio, we made two palette tables (glass permanently mounted to surfaces), so I haven't needed it lately.  Putting it back in use a few weeks ago reminded me that it had problems.  The paper tape that held it together was old and dirty, and gave no protection from the heads of little nails I had used in construction.  I didn't expect that it would be too difficult to make a better one, though the effort ended up being spread out over three days, the delays caused by needing to purchase materials.


Before I could do anything else, I had to tear it apart and see what I had.  Used a screwdriver to tear apart the tape and reveal the base.  The glass turned out to be about 10" x 20".  Not sure how to otherwise attach it to the lauan base, it seems I had made some rough narrow strips of lauan as a kind of frame.  At the short ends they were attached to the base.  A few little pieces of wood on the long sides kept the glass from sliding out those sides, and two longer lauan strips covered the long edges of the glass, holding it in place.  The frame was held together with dozens of staples and 1/2" brads.  It took only a few minutes to pull all that off.

I was surprised to see that the edges of the glass still had bits of whatever cement had been used to keep the window in the frame, along with the frame's dark green paint.  Not sure why I had left it on there back then (maybe fear of cracking the glass), but the old mounting system hadn't required removal, so it wasn't an issue.  That wouldn't work this time, so I carefully knocked it all off.

I came up with an idea to center the glass in double thickness window mat, which would match the thickness of the glass.  Then I'd make a wood frame from flat wood strips- the frame would overlap the glass on all four sides and be screwed through the mat into the wooden base.  Since the only item I had with me there in the Studio was the glass, the rest would have to wait until I acquired the other items.

Later in the day I went to the local home center, and picked up an 8" strip of flat moulding, along with some supplies I'll need for class.


In the morning I went down to Manasquan to mow the lawn.  Before leaving I went through the basement wood pile and selected a good solid board that would be wide enough for what I had in mind.  From my place I took an old piece of matboard, a little too damaged to be use for framing art, but good enough for my purposes.  Up in the Studio, I measured my base board and cut a window mat with very narrow sides- it would fit on the wood and snuggly hold the glass in place.  I didn't have enough matboard to make a second window, so I just made mat strips the same width as the sides of the first window.  I glued the mat window to the board, and glued the strips on top of that.  The old piece of white paper that had backed the glass before was too small now (this design will give me another inch of glass surface in both directions), so I cut a new piece from a roll of paper I had with me.

While that dried I made my wooden frame.  I was afraid that my power miter saw would destroy the thin wood, so I cut the mitered corners by hand with a coping saw.  Laid it out, and made little adjustments with saw and rasps to make it fit better.  I drilled pilot holes in the frame parts in places that would hold them solidly and not be too close the glass.  I had some 3/4" wood screws of a suitable thickness, but I realized that they would barely reach through the wood frame and the mat, not very secure.  Best bet would be to get some longer screws and finish the job tomorrow.


On my way to the Studio today I stopped off and bought a 99 cent package of #6 wood screws, 1" long.  I test fit everything, putting in a few screws just far enough to hold the wood in place.  One slight change of plans- I put down a little silicone caulk (left over from another project) along the perimeter of the glass.  This would help it adhere to the frame a little better and seal it along the edges.  I screwed it down tightly on all four sides, and with that it's pretty much finished.  Results are shown above, along with the scraps from the previous version.  At some point I'm going to try to scrape up the dark residue of tape, paint, and ink that show the old edge of the palette surface, but all my scraping tools are packed up at home for convenient transport to my Belmar class, so I'll get to it later.  This new palette is much heavier than the original one, but it's more solid and you don't get poked by nails when holding it, so I think it's an improvement.