Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boardwalk Season

As with my last time printing, today's Studio visit was linked to a request to purchase a print.  Last time it was a supermarket print, and I pulled what became the second proof so that I would have a good finished copy once I sold the first proof.  This next one is a more complicated situation, as the request is for a boardwalk print. The specific one requested was the Wheel Game print, and I already had two finished proofs- one framed in a show and one as part of a set I show to classes and such.  These have to be hand colored, and there are a lot of colors.  Few are straight from the tube, so they will have to be carefully mixed to match the previous proofs, much easier when you have one of those previous ones in front of you.  With that in mind, and today being a warm, free day, seemed like an opportunity to go to my cool basement studio and begin the process of proofing a boardwalk print.

The requested print in this case was the first in the series, the Wheel Game.  The first idea done in this series because it's one of my strongest boardwalk associations, and I felt it would work as a design.  It has been part of many shows since then and is an award winner, so at least some other people agree with me.  This series is printed on okawara, a very delicate Japanese tissue like paper, which I had stored at home, but everything else was up at the Studio already.

After a quick lunch in the building's lunch room, I got to work.  A lot of stray black marks on the block from previous prints, and at some point I should take my gouges and clean out some of those.  However, few of them took ink, so other than a little bit of taping, the inking went quickly.  Above you see the paper on the inked block- just light hand pressure brought the image through, and the darker image on the left side is where I had rubbed it with a printing tool.  Because it's almost transparent from the start, you don't waste time rubbing places where you don't need to, and it's easy to see what's inked and what needs more.  Below is the resulting proof.

While that proof looks fine at first glance, as the person who printed it, I knew there were problems.  The danger of such thin paper is that it can tear easily, and there were a few such problems.  I put a piece of bright yellow behind that section in the image below to make them stand out more.  My guess is that the paper had gotten slightly damp.  Down in the basement things were relatively comfortable, but even a hint of moistness on my skin could have caused this to happen.

Not going to worry about it today.  Once the ink has dried, I can carefully patch those sections with some okawara scraps.  Then touch up the ink.  Once colored, it will look fine.  This will take this proof out of the edition, but it would still work as a demonstration piece, which is what the one I am planning to sell was serving as.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Jobs

It's been about a month since my college classes ended.  For a week beyond that I was busy with grades, but those are long done.  A lot of the time since then has been devoted to trying to find work.   The year round part time job I had for more than a decade no longer exists.  I'm working on finding some regular work, but so far nothing has come through.  I do have a few classes scheduled at the Belmar Arts Council in the coming months, but those depend on people signing up, which I do hope happens.  The Swedish cooking show idea is likely a long way away at best.

One thing that I could do today was see to a potential sale.  Got a specific request last week for a copy of the most recent supermarket print.  I do have the official final proof, but I'd like to have another good proof in my hands before I pass that one on.  Today my morning was free and predicted humidity and 90 degree temperatures told me it would be a good day to be in my basement Studio.  I had loaded my paper in the car a few days ago when I thought I might be doing it, and everything else was already there.  Once again I went with the Outlaw Black, since it had done well for the last proof.  On the previously inked block it was hard to tell at a glance where the new ink was, but at certain angles the light revealed all.  Once again printed it on Rives Lightweight.  About 2 hours from start to finish, including cleaning up everything.

From there I drove to Belmar, to check about recent and upcoming events at the Arts Council, and to grab a Sicilian slice up on the corner.  I was back at the BAC eating my pizza when my phone rang.  It was my former student and sometimes collaborator Tom Huck, who I haven't been able to get on the phone for years.  I do get his mass e-mails, and we know a few people in common, so I get some news, and knew about his new giant studio space and that his job at Washington University had ended.  The point of today's call was to recruit me to teach a summer workshop at his studio.  This wouldn't be until next summer, but it's still a summer job of sorts.  (like last time, he'll cover plane fare and put me up, plus some cash for my efforts)  Did mention I had used his ink earlier in the day.  I have other questions for him, and he said he'd call me back tonight.  As I write this it hasn't happened yet, but when we have that conversation, you'll learn about it here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Some Unexpected News

A few weeks ago I attended a photo walk at a local brewery, which reminded me of a fun brewery visit in San Francisco when visiting my college friend Dave.  I sent him an e-mail to tell him about the Jersey version, along with a link to a blog post if he wanted to see some photos.  Tonight I got his response.  First, he thanked me for giving him an opportunity to relive the memories of our visit to the Anchor brewery.  Then he sent some related news.  Back in his early comic creating days, Dave's output was mostly self published as mini-comics, and one of his classic early stories was about when I visited him in San Francisco.  I was staying with him for a week, and the first meal he served me was ramen noodles and tofu.  That would need improving for me to survive a week, so we went shopping and I got ingredients for a variety of Italian dishes, including spaghetti arrabbiata.  Later Dave asked me to send a list of ingredients and directions.  Eventually it turned into a comic book story called "Arrabbiata" which shows me cooking the sauce as I explain it to him, while his mind drifts to the build up just before the Gulf War, a combination that sounds odd, but as a story it worked perfectly.  (did make for an unusual vacation, as some plans had to change to work around anti war riots throughout the Bay Area, but still a good week)  This first recipe comic was a hit, and he later followed it up with another one set in SF, where a coworker/roommate teaches him to make refried bean burritos.

It turns out that someone from Sweden had acquired a bunch of these 90's comics and enjoyed them, and had recently contacted Dave to get permission to translate the stories and republish them there.  That guy did so, and had sent Dave a photo of the results, which he forwarded to me.  I have no idea what DET GRYMMA SVARDET 21 means, but apparently it includes me explaining in Swedish how to make arrabbiata sauce.  There's a skill I didn't know I had.  The publisher was not only a fan of the comics, but of the food; he wrote Dave that he's a stay at home father, and both the spaghetti and burritos became regular parts of his family's diet.  Well, if this art thing doesn't work out, maybe I should try doing a cooking show in Scandinavia.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

My Relaxing Hobby

I was watching something on one of my many cable tv stations tonight and I saw an unusual commercial.  The product was essentially coloring books for adults.  The commercial showed lots of scenes of adults (looked to be age 30's and up) using crayons, colored pencils, markers, or paint, and coloring in black and white designs on white paper.  The designs included scenes, complex geometric designs, florals, etc. Mostly people sitting at tables, and at least one working in bed.  The announcer talked about how coloring was a great way to relax after a day of hard work, plus you can end up with beautiful unique artwork which can make great presents.

Unless you are a small child, few people will see your colored pages as a fine present.  Some people might put my own color work into that same category, but in my case I design and create the original black and white line drawing, choose colors based the original artistic vision, and none of it is mass produced.  The above image is an early color version of one of my boardwalk prints.  Those colors would change in the final version.  The part about it being a relaxing way to wind down from a hard day, that can be true.  Most art processes share that quality- I've had many students tell me that the process of carving a design into a wood block, despite requiring exacting effort with very sharp tools, is very relaxing for them.

Coloring can be the same way, too.  I remember a time back in the 1990's, when I was working in a vacation group home in the area.  One day a staff member from a visiting group went out to buy supplies and came back with a bunch of paint by number kits.  While the clients were all inside doing whatever, some of those staff were sitting on the back deck around a picnic table filling in numbered spaces in the design with the correct colors. No great art was made that day/night, but they all had a relaxing time before dinner.  If that's all you're looking for, then why not spend your time coloring pages of art.

Of course, I wouldn't spend $12.99 on a coloring book, as this tv offer was suggesting.  You can find these kinds of designs on the internet and print them for free.  Otherwise I could make a living just printing my own coloring books.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Art Party In Belmar

Last week Molly brought up the idea of holding an art reception in place of our usual monthly critique, so that people could go see her latest batch of new work , which was currently hanging in an art friendly restaurant in Belmar.  Fine by me.  Scheduling was the main trick.  The art space was scheduled to turn over to another artist this week, and she had commitments on Monday and Tuesday, so it had to be tonight.  She sent texts to her list, and I sent word out to my e-mail list that it would be Wednesday at 7 pm.  Then last night she remembered something else, and decided she couldn't make it until 8:15 tonight.  So I got that out to everyone as well.  With no real idea what was going to happen, I showed up 7:45 at Stay Gold Cafe.

Arriving, I saw several familiar faces at tables toward the back of the restaurant and a big jug of sangria, which she had promised us.  Food started to show up as well.

And then Molly came in at 8:12 on my watch, just ahead of her promised time.  By then there were at least a dozen people there for the event- some critique group regulars, some guests of theirs, and some friends of Molly with no connection to our group.  Above, Molly is in the center, holding court.

This restaurant is generally a noisy place, so there was no way we were going to hold a regular group critique.  If anyone had brought any work to show, it did not get brought out.

Molly did circulate around, so anyone who did want to talk to her about this batch of work had the opportunity to do so.  I've been part of at least two other critiques of this work, and have discussed it with her in the Studio, so tonight I was just there for food and drink and to party with some art friends.

Molly's wall of work should be down some time tomorrow.   The big pieces had been part of her display on the 1st floor of our building in Ocean Grove, so maybe they'll be going back there.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

An Old Tradition

A few things have worked together to get me to do something I haven't done in years- some life drawing.  I have done a lot of it over the years.  I managed to avoid ever taking a basic drawing class in college, but was able to develop my drawing skills by working from models instead- in weekly open sessions, in painting classes, and in my last semester as an undergrad, in an actual life drawing class.  I started my graduate art career with a summer of life drawing, and only after that applying to be a grad student in art.  I began my second masters degree in a more traditional way, but continued to go to figure drawing classes almost weekly, whether officially as a student in those classes, or unofficially just being invited to sit in whenever I wanted.  As far back as I can remember I wanted to be able to draw people, which could come from my love of comic books or my admiration for great paintings, and I worked hard to do so.  I always tell my students that being able to draw from life trains them to be able to draw anything else, and many arts organizations make figure drawing opportunities a priority, whether an open workshop or formal classes.  An established organization may be in better position to provide a working space, to provide a salary for the models, to bring everyone together, and to provide instruction where appropriate.  

There have been a number of arts organizations in the region that have offered life drawing in a workshop situation.  (local colleges offer it as an official class, but that can be a lot of money if you just want some practice)  The Belmar Arts Council started up a group several years ago, and I eventually became a regular.  Besides the always useful practice, meeting models gave me a source I could use for some print projects of my own.  But the guy running it had to give it up, and for a long time no one else had the ability or interest in doing so.  Earlier this year someone finally decided to do so, but I've had plenty of other things to keep me busy.  And I don't have any projects in the works that require a model.  However, as of now I am tentatively scheduled to be teaching figure drawing at one of my colleges in the fall, which I haven't done in several years, and I think it wouldn't hurt to get a little more practice before I do so.  Their page on the Belmar website said that it would be one pose for two hours, which doesn't work for me, but when I spoke to the new group leader a few weeks ago, she said its the usual mix of short and medium length poses.

With that in mind, I reserved a spot with the new Belmar group for tonight's drawing session.  When it first started up again it could be quite crowded, but the numbers have dropped lately, so my reservation was more about making sure they had enough people to run it.  It opened with some short poses, 5 to 10 minute drawings, for which a small sketchbook and pencil would be fine.  My last pencil drawing was the above 20 minute drawing.  Later I set up my easel and got out the drawing board, big pad, and charcoal, and did my first charcoal figure drawings in about 3 years.  The 30 minute drawing below was the more complete of these.

I definitely felt rusty, especially with the charcoal.  I teach a little charcoal almost every semester, but there's a big difference between still life and the figure, and between telling students what to do and doing it yourself.  But considering that I haven't done this in years, I didn't do too badly.  And the other artists present tonight (all younger than me) were suitably impressed by such things as my willingness to draw hands and daring to use soft dark charcoal.  Will I be back next time?  We'll see.