Sunday, March 29, 2015

Talking About Supermarkets

I started my supermarket series in the 1990's and finished the latest one, #23, just this week.  And I expect that more will eventually be made.  Stuff just keeps happening.  In a phone conversation this afternoon my mother mentioned that in doing their regular Sunday shopping they were charged a significant amount for fried chicken, which they saw as a problem because they hadn't bought any.  They complained, the store investigated their packages and verified that they had no chicken or anything else at the price on the receipt.  The store couldn't find a reason or excuse for the charge, but refunded the money.  This would be perfect for my series except that I did the same story five years ago when the same chain tried that on me ,  but with dog food.   A few months later, I turned the idea into a woodcut print, and then an animated film.

So today's chicken incident is out, but I was around for one thing today that could be adapted.  I was walking through the produce section and heard one worker loudly yelling at another.  They were by racks of prepackaged greens, lettuce and such, and the stated problem was, "Hey, we're not French!  We're English!"  (actually I believe they were both Americans)  I didn't get all the details, but it seemed to be regarding the name of whatever product they were stocking, and the shouter did not agree with something the other guy had done.  I stopped by the section when they were done.  All the labels were standard ones produced by the supermarket, nothing that could be blamed on any one worker, so perhaps the "English" guy didn't approve of his pronunciation or something.  Perhaps the solution would be language lessons in produce.  Not the most exciting concept, but I could easily do it if I had a need to do so.  I'll file the idea away for now.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Taking Advantage of Spring

Technically spring began about a week ago, though it did snow since then and they were predicting more for today.  But today's snow missed this part of the state, so I was able to do something outdoors.  I would have preferred a sunnier and warmer day (today was upper thirties), but I'm running out of time.  I'm teaching 3D Design at one of my schools this semester and one of the projects I traditionally do is what I think of as my caveman project.  Having very little experience with a 3D class (just the one I took in 1987, which was more like a beginning sculpture class, and I was told not to do most of that stuff), I decided to go back to the beginning of art.  I figured that was what was being done in caves.  What sculpture has been found from that era is carved items, often the subject and design related to the shape of the material being carved.  Like animals posed and positioned to fit on a particular piece of antler or rock.  So for this project the students are only allowed to use natural materials and must make their idea fit what they use.  I always take advantage of my location and easy access to beaches to provide shells as a starting point.

Because of the ancient nature of the project, I would prefer to do this early in the semester and let the idea feed into later projects.  Unfortunately, we had a few feet of snow on top of everything for a few months, which would have made it difficult for the student to find any natural materials of their own.  But the months of accumulated snow is gone now, so I figure it's safe.  Plus, I'm running out of semester and I can't put this off any longer.  I have some leftover shells from the last time I taught it, but I wanted a bigger supply, so I briefly visited the beach up the road from the Studio and collected a few dozen more.  Going for bigger ones when I could find them, since my supply had been mostly small pieces.  As I said, not really spring weather, so the gulls and I had the beach to ourselves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 23- finished

With an exhibition deadline looming, and expectations to be back teaching three days this week (been just three days since the last snow storm, but forecasts are favorable for the moment) today was the day to finally proof this block that I've been working on for several months.  Got there in the 1:00 hour, tore some paper to size and started working.  Decided to go with the Outlaw Black today, first time using it on new piece of significant size.  This is stiff thick ink, but it does cover fairly quickly.  No matter what ink you use, the first inking always takes the longest, but I could quickly see it coming together.

Including the inevitable re-inking, I got the first proof (above) pulled in about an hour.  Looked pretty much like I expected it would.  In one of our critiques, Molly was suggesting I should make it a true night time scene (actual time of the incident was dusk), have lots of shadows, but I said probably not, since I realized there would be a lot of black even in a day scene.  My white objects are nice and bright,  no shadows across them.  And there is plenty of black.

I took a few minutes to look at that first proof and decided to make some immediate changes.  The above image shows a bunch of them.  From the top- center car in the back is lightened to help it visually separate from the other cars and the background,  the clothing of the woman walking away was lightened to help her visually separate from the pavement, the pants of the brick guy were lightened to separate him from the pavement, and a thin white line was cut to mark the driver's door front pillar.  Below is the 2nd proof, which went a little faster, almost no re-inking required.

At this point I believe I am finished.  The one thing that bothers me is that I'm not sure how obvious it is that the guy is emptying his car back seat of bricks, the subject of this print.  On the other hand, it may fit in with the idea that the other figures in the parking lot don't notice it either, nor did anyone in the real life incident.  In any case, can't change it now.

The Band is Packing Up

The first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is now over, and so is my print connection to the event.  Villanova and Northern Iowa both lost their second round matches, eliminating my last two schools for this year.  They are both part of the East region this year and that whole quadrant is now gone for me, just a bunch of red marks.  Take out that one section, and my percentages on the rest of the bracket are pretty good.  I'll still watch when it looks like a good game is coming up, and to root for the teams I picked to keep winning (build those points), but nothing more to report here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 22

Back to the Studio again this afternoon to continue my cutting of the new block.  Spent most of my time working on the upper section, filing in grays everywhere, such as the textured asphalt and a little bit of vertical lines.  I also used lines to define the shapes of the trees and other objects, and gave a little rough texture to the planting bed that holds the trees.  Then I took a larger gouge and removed some of that texture I had put down for the asphalt, creating some variation, and I'm hoping building space in the inked version.

Using my v-gouge and smallest round gouge, I finished a few details on the vehicles and in and around the shopping carts.  Below is the whole block as it looks today.

I'm thinking that I'm done now.  Over the next couple of days I'll go over it carefully to see if there's anything that I missed, and on Monday I expect to go in and pull a first proof.  If I like it, I'll declare the piece finished.  If I discover some minor issues I'll try correcting them on the spot and reprinting.  For bigger issues, I can think about it and make changes and print again on Wednesday, and still be able to submit it in time for the Belmar show.  Then I have to think about my next print.

The Print Tournament, Round 1

The first round of this year NCAA basketball tournament ended last night, which means the first round of the woodcut tournament is also over.  (those first four play in games are not a round as far as I'm concerned)  Only two of my schools survived, Villanova and Northern Iowa, and if they both make it to the third round, they will have to face each other.  Of my other three print related schools, all were lower seeds.  I didn't pick Texas or Harvard on my brackets, so I was not surprised that they lost.  I had picked LSU in what would have been a mild upset in an 8-9 game, but they also lost.  I'll have another update after the 2nd round ends tomorrow.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 21

Had a busy day today, with a long list of things to do, complicated by today's St Joseph's Day holiday and news of yet another snow storm arriving tomorrow.  My third stop of the day was up at the Studio around noon.  After parking I went across the street to get a slice of pizza, which I brought back to eat in the lunch room.  Herb was busy cutting off and distributing slices and hunks of pepper jack cheese, working to get rid of the whole thing, finding it too hot.  Nothing is too hot for Studio Arrabbiata, so I was happy to take some off his hands.

Lunch done, I went down to my space to continue work on the current block.  As I was leaving the building yesterday, I put my stuff in my car, grabbed a piece of scrap paper, and did a quick sketch of a group of three cars in our lot.  All the redrawing and erasing of the female figure I had in that corner had obliterated one of the cars I had put there, and I decided it would be easier to just put in three new ones than try to figure out what had been there before.  So I took care of putting in the new cars first.  Then I continued cutting that section, moving the texture into all the areas in the corner and most of the way across the block.  The cars were done with mostly vertical stripes, so today I was making a bunch of gray.  I had a long list of other things to get to today, so this was a short session.  Above is the area I cut today, and below is the current state of the whole block.  Weather tomorrow may keep me stuck inside all day, so I may finally get around to making the rest of the decisions that I've been putting off, and I can finish cutting it, print it, and photograph it for submission to the next Belmar show.

A bunch more tasks followed, then home to watch some of the tournament (I'll update the status of my art schools after the first round is over) and enjoy the holiday feast.

Tonight I went with fettucini with the family meat sauce, a nearly perfect combination, and the traditional cannoli cream filled zeppole.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 20

Put in a few more hours on the block today.  A few minor touch ups (drawing and cutting), but mostly it was extending the textured area of the parking lot across most of the block.  Two exceptions- the upper section, where I need to redraw those cars and maybe add a little more, and I may want to put some in the spaces seen through the shopping carts.  I also need to make some decisions about how to handle what is seen through windows, particularly with the truck at the bottom.  Making the decisions will be more work than actually cutting what is left.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Time to Get Ready for the Dance

Mid-March means two things for me- spring break from school and the college basketball postseason.  It is my custom every year to track the results of all colleges that I have an art connection to and are also in the NCAA tournament.  I had hoped that this year my oldest alma mater, the College of William and Mary, would make the list.  Unfortunately W&M has a 321 year streak of not being selected for the NCAA basketball tournament.  Okay technically they didn't start playing basketball until the beginning of the 20th century, and they were classified as Division I in 1948, but that still means 66 years of eligibility for this event without making it, and no Division I school has a longer record of futility (four other colleges are tied).  However, for the second consecutive year, the Tribe made it to their conference final, but lost the game and the automatic bid it brings, so they are heading to the NIT instead.

That still leaves me with 5 of my art related colleges in the tournament: Villanova (exhibited two saint prints as part of a group exhibition in 1997), Harvard (purchased one of my saint prints for a museum collection in 2000), Texas (exhibited the Culture Rot group folio in 2001), Northern Iowa (exhibited two Ecclesiastes prints as part of group exhibition in 2001, and used those images as covers for an academic  journal in 2002 and 2009), and LSU (exhibited the School Days group folio in 2006).  Three of the teams are in the same region, so at best only one can win three games.  The other two are each in different regions, but aren't expected to get out of the first round.  I'll update the progress of the teams here as the games play out.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 19

Spring Break is here.  For some people that means a trip to warmer locations, but I'll just settle for most of the snow having melted and time to work on some art.  Was back in the Studio today for several hours, mostly working on the new block.  I finished drawing the shopping carts on the left side, and redrew the pile of bricks to clean up the shapes.  I had been thinking for a while how I was going to handle cutting this section.  This would be easy with color- just throw down some brick red paint and be done with it.  My solution was to cut the outlines of all the brick edges, and then to put a speckled texture on all the rest of the ground.  As I always tell my students, a pattern or texture in the black and white will tie a whole area together, the brain making it whole.  So the bricks will become a unified section, set off by the unified texture of asphalt.  The detail section of the cutting is shown above, and the current state of the whole block is below.  Did a rubbing to check to see how it's coming, and I believe this solution will work (and now that it's cut, it better) but the final proof will come when I take a proof in several days.  I suppose that's why they call it a proof.

I have more asphalt to cut, as well as all the area along the top, but so far so good.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Supermarket Rubble part 18

The deadline for the big annual show in Belmar is coming up in about two weeks.  Seems like a good excuse to finish the current supermarket block.  Have a week of spring break coming up, so it's doable.

Still wasn't completely satisfied with every part of the drawing.  I had redrawn that shopping cart on the right once before, but I wasn't happy with it.  Needed a direct observation.  So during the week while grocery shopping I brought a piece of paper and took a minute to position a shopping cart and draw it so that the perspective would make sense for the composition.  Redrew the cart on the block few days ago before class with the above results.  That should be good enough.

This afternoon I went up to the Studio to get in a little more work on the block.  Although the latest version of the woman pedestrian in the upper left corner was the best one yet, I didn't like the direction she was walking, so before leaving home today I found another reference to bring with me.  At my work table, I erased the previous one and put in this new one.  It's rough, but I think this is the way I'll be going.  Then it was time to do more cutting.

I touched up one of the vertical poles, previously partly obscured by the carts on the right.  With one cart now relocated, I cut the rest of the pole.  That moved cart also exposed another little piece of the pedestrian in that corner, so I finished cutting that section.  I did some cutting on the guy dumping the bricks.  Mostly I was cutting out some of those shopping carts.  Did the two on the right, then started on the ones on the left.  The problem was that all those metal bars results in a design that is very intricate, and my pencil sketch needed more work.  So I cut the lines I was confident in, then decided to put off the rest until I could redraw it.  (click on the photo to see it enlarged)  Still not sure how I'm going to handle those bricks, but that's a problem for another day.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Mystery Critique

Since we were delayed in February (weather) in holding the critique group, and we had a bad forecast for the first Monday in March, we decided to postpone it to the 2nd Monday again.  As of early this afternoon I had only heard a positive response from one of the people on my e-mail list, and had no idea who, if anyone, would be coming.  I got up to the Studio about an hour before to find a packed lot.  Besides the usual Monday evening dance people, there was some kind of theater rehearsal thing happening, but I was able to find parking just on the next block.  (considering how much precipitation has fallen in the last month, I didn't want to take a chance on the dirt lot behind the building)  About 10 minutes before we were to start, Molly called and said she decided not to come, leaving me no idea what to expect.

In the end we had half a dozen people, so actually better than last time.  My student Mary led off with two pieces (above), the first state proof of her latest woodcut, and a drawing of a model from a recent figure class.  Everyone liked how each started and saw potential for each.  Our other Mary (no stranger to prints herself) brought in the piece below, a small watercolor.  The group had many associations with this pictured sphere, relating to the colors and movements and shapes.

Margery brought two clay figurines (above) of interesting characters.  Neither is named yet, but she's open to suggestions so we may have a contest.  Harriet brought in a work in progress, a small sketchbook that she's putting together, much of it filled with photos of previous artworks, which will be combined with hand drawn and painted images, words, etc.  Below are some of the photos that she's making use of.

Tim has been making art on lampshades (blanks purchased at retail) using permanent markers for about a year now.  Some black and white, most with color.  More graphic than his paintings, probably because of his medium, but still using birds, one of his favorite subjects.  Whether it's something to do with the format or his evolution as an artist, this is working well for him and so we all encouraged him to continue.

That left me to wrap things up.  Many in this group hadn't seen my current block recently, if at all, so I gave the quick explanation.  One person commented on how much they liked the juxtaposition of the bricks and shopping carts, so I pulled out the old butter print with its prominent shopping cart and bricks of butter.  Also a good demonstration of the graphic style I am going for and a sense of where this one will end up.

In the end, a decent crit.  I have spring break next week and my goal is to be done or close to it by the end of that week, as I may submit this as one of my entries for the next show in Belmar.  Which means that I'll have it ready for the next critique as well.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

School Closings

Weather forecasters tell us we are about to get hit with our third snow event in five days.  The one this past Sunday made for some tricky driving, but was cleared quickly, and I drove home through light snow on Tuesday, but it never really accumulated.  On the other hand, tomorrow we may get our biggest snow of the season, and the school I teach at tomorrow night went ahead and cancelled all Thursday classes by this afternoon.  If it's as bad as they are saying, they would have to.  After I saw the message on the school's home page, I checked e-mail to get more details.  During the week we get e-mails with links to education related stories, some of which are interesting.  Today I clicked on one about a school I was familiar with.  It was officially announced yesterday that Sweet Briar College is closing at the end of the academic year.

Sweet Briar occupies a nice piece of the rolling hills not far from Lynchburg, Virginia.  It's an all girls school in a nice rural setting, and I got to spend a few weeks there back in the late 90's.  For decades the school has leased a chunk of property to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, an artist colony.  It occupies a former farm, and what had been the original main farm building (and some small outlying adjacent buildings) has been divided up into individual studios, designed for visual artists, writers, and composers/musicians.  A few years before I was there the original residence building had burned down, but had been replaced with a modern building that looked like a cross between a dorm and a ski lodge.  Each fellow (as we were called) had a single room with a bed, desk, shelves with reading material, drawers and closet for clothes, and a bathroom shared with the room next door.  Breakfast and dinner were served in a dining room, buffet style with everyone sitting at round dining tables that could hold 6 or 8 people.  Lunches were box lunches, left at central pick up points by the studios during the morning.  My typical routine was to get up in time for breakfast, then walk down the road to the studio, and be there until late afternoon.  Then back to the residence to relax and hang out in the lounge area before dinner.  After dinner there was always some kind of presentation- a play reading, musical performance, etc.  Sometimes I'd go back to my studio afterwards for a few more hours.  The satellite dish was broken, so no television.

I had no plans to seek out such a place, but I had seen an ad for fully financed fellowships for New Jersey artists, supported by the Dodge Foundation, applied, and somehow ended up as one of the dozen to receive one.  Probably the relative rarity of woodcutting helping me out again.  I was offered a free five week stay, but just took half of that.  All in all, I had a great time.  Some of the fellows insisted on quiet privacy while at work, but I'm a printmaker, and used to having lots of people around me, so I had told everyone to feel free to knock on my door if you see my studio lights on, and many took me up on the offer.  But even those who hid in their studios were mostly friendly people back at the residence and the interaction made me realize how much I missed the Glove Factory of my Carbondale years.

One of the side benefits of being at the VCCA was that we had access to the Sweet Briar campus, just across the highway.  In nicer weather it would have been walkable, but being February I took my truck.  I still have my pink plastic library card, which I used to check out things while there.  My visits to the campus backed up a lot of what I read today.  Not particularly academically rigorous, it was a small school for rich southern girls in the middle of nowhere.  The few students I saw were usually dressed nicer than students I went to school with or teach now (often wearing pearls to class) and the one part of campus we were told we couldn't use was the horse stables.  At the time I calculated that the college  had only something like 10 or 15 students per building on campus.  The article I saw today said it was the numbers that did them in.  Enrollment is far to low to maintain the campus, few college students these days are seeking single sex education, and those who can afford the high tuition can probably afford better places.  After I read the article, I went to the VCCA website to see how this would affect them.  Having just learned this themselves, they don't know.  I guess it will depend on what is decided about the college property in general.  It's not on the main campus, so maybe it could be split off, but I'm sure there will be many legal issues to settle with the college before anyone worries about the artist program.  As much as I enjoyed it, I had no plans to return.  I have a Studio and plenty of interaction with artists in New Jersey.  Still, the fact that it may end is little sad.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Winter and the Winter Arts Festival

Today is the closing day for the first ever Winter Arts Festival in the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  The plan for today called for a brunch and Open Studio tour, plus some performances of music, dance, etc.  That the forecast called for possible snow should not be surprising for two reasons- this winter being what it has been, and Belmar scheduled their annual St Patrick's Day parade today.  On parade day, you have a better than average chance of getting winter precipitation, snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain.  Don't know why, it just works out that way.  Going out this morning it was cloudy and cold.  Looking out my window as I was getting ready to drive to Ocean Grove, the same.  As I reached my front door, snow flurries.  Reached my car, heavier flurries.  Stopping for gas, snow starting to stick a bit.

I reached the Studio about a half hour before noon, getting a spot in the parking lot.  Inside, the building was getting ready.  Tables and chairs (above) had been set up in the main hall, with microphones and speakers by Molly's art for a later performance.

Food was being prepared in the lunchroom, which would eventually be served in the vacant classroom #4.  Eggs and sausages in steam trays, along with bagels, muffins, danishes, plus juice and coffee.  Something about steam trays of eggs and sausage seemed familiar.  Oh yeah, I made a print about it a few years ago.

Brunch done, I headed down to my space.  Moved the last few boxes off my table and got to work.  I brought with me the current supermarket block.  Had my tools as well, but never got to use them.  I decided that I should fix the parts of the drawing that I wasn't satisfied with before I cut anything else.  Also, I actually had some visitors.  Around 15 people, arriving in groups of 1 to 3, wandered in over the two hours I was in my space.  Lots of questions about the process.  Everyone seemed impressed.

I had been told that performances would be going until around 3 pm, so I figured that was also a good time for me to leave.  Changes made to the block include redrawing the female figure in the upper left corner, making her a little smaller so as to look a little further back.  I also completely reworked one of the shopping carts on the right side, creating a needed gap in the long diagonal line from the cart corral to the painted parking lot line.  Not necessarily done with either part, but the above photo shows the progress.

Thanks to the large windows installed in the Studio a few years ago, as I worked and talked to visitors I could monitor the weather situation.  Over the course of the event, the flurries had become a steady accumulating snow, leaving about an inch of white on top of everything. By 2 pm it had started shifting over to sleet and freezing rain.  Plows and salt trucks had time to clean up the roads a bit, so I put away my stuff and headed home around 3:00.  Brendan was estimating the overall number of visitors at maybe 150, no doubt boosted by families of the performers, but still pretty good for a day like this.  I believe they were satisfied with the festival, but I made a recommendation for next time.  Maybe go with a Not Winter Arts Festival.  Maybe we'll get some real crowds.