Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Workshop is Back

Summer is officially here, and so is the first round of summer woodcut workshop.  I had two official sign ups by last week, and my most loyal student Mary (having just returned from hand printing some 12 foot woodcuts in Portland) showed up to give us a third.  The other two are brand new, each with some woodcut interest but not much experience.  We had the usual first day, mostly looking at prints, some of mine and a lot from my collection, plus looking through books at some historical prints.  It's also traditional on the first day that I'm too busy to take photos, so here's a file photo of the heaps of materials and tools I bring with me for class each time.  Everyone got some wood to take home, and advice on their ideas for first projects.  Maybe next week we'll have something to show.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Woodcutting Across America

I did my first woodcut around 1990.  Not an assignment, and no training, just saw some in a book and assumed I could figure it out.  I did, but eventually I took some print classes at grad school and learned some important things.  And that class led to a graduate print program where I learned a whole lot more.  Since then my technical knowledge hasn't improved dramatically, but the two decades of art experience since school has taught me a lot.  By 1992 I was already starting to teach woodcut, starting with my college students as a graduate assistant in the print classes.  I have no idea how many people I have demonstrated woodcut technique to, but when you add up all the college classes I have taught, all the artist appearances, the workshops, it's got to be hundreds, if not over a thousand.  Most probably never thought about it again, but in some people the woodcut urge takes root and they continue.

The woman above, Mary, is a good example.  She had studied art in college (painting most likely) but had to give it up to raise a family.  A few years ago she decides to take my class in Belmar and completes a block.  Not a great work of art, but she liked the process enough to sign up for a second class series.  It was then that she found the place where the material, the process, and her ideas came together, and she became a woodcut artist.  She continues to take my class a few times per year, but she also studies woodcut in other places, and has shared tips and tricks with me.  (and she tells me some of my tricks and tips go the other way)  After reuniting with an old college friend at a 50 year reunion, she was off to the west coast to participate in a big print project.  I teach old school style woodcut, so she was well prepared when needed to hand rub a 12 foot print.  Below you can see one of the pieces she helped to pull.

I had nothing to do with the creation of that print out in Portland, but without a few years of my local class and of making dozens of her own prints, it seems unlikely that she would have been invited to be part of this project, or accepted an invitation.  And I did play at least a part in the making of Mary the woodcut artist.  Woodcuts are too much fun to keep only for oneself.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Art on the Edge Opening

Today was the opening for the latest Art on the Edge show.  Coming into this we've all been concerned about how the simultaneous Seafood Festival would affect it.  I love the Seafood Festival, but the sudden addition of 50,000 visitors per day to a small town like Belmar, plus the usual summer crowd, meant that parking would be quite a challenge.  I got there about a half hour before the scheduled start and was happy to find three spots on the street just in front of the building.  They must have just been vacated.  I quickly grabbed one, and before I was out of my car, the other two were occupied.

Eventually people did find their way to the gallery.  The overall attendance probably wasn't as high as some past years, but I'm sure we passed the 100 mark easily.

One of my pieces was in the front room (above) and the other was in the back room (below).  In a show like this, they did not stand out as unusual or extreme, but I did get a few compliments on each.

The show is up for another couple of weeks, then it's time to make way for the next one.  These two pieces will be up on the wall for the first meeting of my next woodcut class, and today I learned that I have two officially registered students.  That means it will run, and I have another week plus to build on those numbers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bd James Strepar part 12

Back to the Studio again this afternoon. A second proof always goes faster, with most of the specifics already worked out.  The whole process, from taping down the print to the last bits of color was done in two hours.  This one looks just a little nicer than the first, a combination of the stuff I cut away between the first and second proof, having a detail watercolor brush from the start of coloring, and the experience of having done it once.  I still plan to print and color a few more copies, but this print is now finished.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bd James Strepar part 11

Over the weekend a neighbor of mine mentioned that an empty store in a shopping plaza near a place I used to work was now occupied by a branch of a national arts and crafts chain.  This is noteworthy for two reasons.   First, there are no places with an equivalent selection of art materials within the same distance from my current home.  Second, this location had been occupied previously by a big regional arts and crafts chain (bankrupt) and then another national arts and crafts chain (moved five miles further away).  So yesterday I drove up there, verified it was true, and picked up a few cheap watercolor brushes that will allow me to do some detail work.  I wish them better luck.

Today I took those brushes with me to the Studio to continue work on the latest print.  I had thought the first attempt on the color was pretty good. but had room for improvement.  Standing out in that regard was the canteen, which I felt should be darker.  Making the gray darker is a simple enough task with more black, but all my tubes of black were completely dried up.  Must be something about that pigment, since I have many much older tubes of other colors that are still in good shape.  I didn't like the watercolor options at the store yesterday, but I had another plan.  Unlike oils or acrylics, watercolor can always be resuscitated by adding water.  I couldn't squeeze it out of the tube, but I broke off a piece, used a hammer to pound it into a powder, added a little water, and stirred.  Added some of this the gray I had mixed on Monday and I was all set.  Used it wherever I had the metal of the canteen.  A few other adjustments- darkened the brown in the upper right corner (piece of wooden table under the map), added a little brown to the strap on the canteen (warmer tone helps it separate better from the gray metal), added a hint of blue along the river lines running into Galicia (very subtle- doesn't really show up in the photo), and a few minor touch-ups in the map colors.  I think this is the final version, so in the next few days I'll stretch the better proof and color it to match this one.  I will need to print at least one more good proof and color that one to match, but that can wait until next week.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Bd James Strepar part 10

I went up to the Studio this afternoon armed with my various maps, prepared to color the first proof of the new print.  The one thing that I am still lacking is a fine line brush- I buy them pretty regularly but they always disappear.  Maybe I'll try to pick up another one this week.  Meanwhile, I have plenty of medium and large brushes (they never disappear), so I made do.  Did the map first, then the objects.  This first attempt isn't bad- pretty much what I expected.  What bothers me most is the canteen.  I think it may need to be darker, to give it more physical presence and make it stand out from the flat map more.  I"ll give it some thought, and then maybe try to work on this copy, and then move on to my better proof.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Bd James Strepar part 9

I decided to go up to the Studio this afternoon and start thinking about the coloring.  I started by taping the first proof to a drawing board, so it will be properly stretched for coloring.  It was at this point that I discovered that I didn't have the actual geographic map of the region with me, I can easily recognize the border of Galicia, but there are a lot of other lines on the map, and it can get confusing.  So I took care of some color questions first.  The Four Color Theorem tells us that four colors is enough to color any map, and looking at the calendar with the vintage maps, I decided to go with the four used there.  Used a piece of scrap paper to try out the process, painting narrow borders of the full strength color, then drew some of the color into the middle of the shape.  It looks like that will work.  Now I just have to remember to bring the actual map with me next time and I'll be all set.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bd James Strepar part 8

Went back to the Studio this afternoon to try proofing my new block.  Inked it for the first time and pulled the first proof on a piece of Rives Lightweight.  Above is that first proof.  No surprises here, but I did decide there were a few minor things that I should fix.  I had the mountain range continuing across the whole southern border of Galicia, but as it moved west, by the bottom of the pocketknife, the marks got confusing, so I took those out.  Also cleaned out some of the value in the twists of the canteen strap,  and separated the wolf's ear from a line just above it.  Then printed the second proof (below).  Not too different, just a little neater and eliminating some potential confusion.  I left both copies there in the Studio to dry.  Meanwhile I"ll think about colors, which I'll try out on copy #1 in a few days.

Maintaining My Edge

Official results of the jurying for this year's edition of the Belmar Art on the Edge show were posted on the website this morning.  The committee chose to accept both of my pieces.  In fact, they took about 80 pieces total.  I'm told that there are fewer very large pieces compared to some earlier years, so I guess they figure it can all fit.  I believe I have both of these already framed as I need, but I'll go pick them up soon and verify this, leaving myself plenty of time in case I have to swap prints and frames.  I believe that the opening is scheduled for June 15th from 5 to 7 pm.  If I"m mistaken, I'll come back here and update it.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Critique Crowd

No doubt about it- the weather has been pretty nice lately.  We put the word out that we'd be doing the critique on this first Monday of the month, and got a pretty good turnout.  We had art from seven veterans of the group, plus a first time visitor, and a few people there with no art, but just hanging out.

The Cafeteria space was unclaimed, so we decided to move our crowd into it.  Our initial tack board group (above) included Margery (photo at top, sculpture lower right), Molly (various shoe image prints), Jill (one straight painting, one mixed media photo), and my new block.  Over to the side, we had a mixed media illustration from Mary's daughter Kate, and some small paintings from Elizabeth, a friend of Sheilagh, who had introduced her to me at an art reception in Belmar a few months back.  Mary had a recent white line monotype, which was cut off in the photos, plus her PCNJ exchange portfolio.

Sheilagh arrived late, blaming a clock mix up, and showed the figure in landscape below, who most of us recognized as a reworking of a painting she had shown at our Belmar critique.  The composition is the same, but the color is very different, especially that sun in the upper right corner.

We had three other people there without art, but maybe they'll be ready for July.  Meanwhile, reaction to my piece was very positive.  The more finished composition is more interesting, and everyone liked my cute little animals.  Showing my calendar of old map images didn't hurt, as it gave everyone a better idea of what I expect it will look like when printed.

Bd James Strepar part 7

Critique night tonight, giving me extra incentive to get stuff done.  I got up to the Studio around 4:30 pm, giving me a few hours to work before the crowd arrived.  I started by cutting out the interior of Galicia, then moved onto the rest of the knife, and the canteen.  Then the compass and the animals.  I considered taking a proof, but I'd have to rush it and probably still be inky at the start of the critique, so I settled for showing the block.