Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Woodcut done in Belmar....for now

Tonight is the final night for the current woodcut class running in Belmar.  The good news- no rain in sight, so for once I don't have to drive around floods and worry about getting all the paper stuff safely from my apartment to my car to the art building and back again.  And the main air conditioner at the Boatworks has been replaced- stopped by the other day to make sure and to get a quick lesson in how to adjust it if need be.  And it's a good thing, too, as we are in the midst of our fourth official heat wave of the summer, although there have been so few not oppressively hot days this year, it all seems like a summer long heat wave.  Actual temps would be getting to the upper 90's, heat indexes (did I not mention the record humidity coming?) well over 100.  Limited my outdoor work today to mowing the front lawn and gradually loading my car for tonight's class.

Left home around my usual time, about an hour before the class was scheduled to begin.  Found parking, walked up to the corner for my traditional pizza slice, bought it back to the Boatworks and had that with a beverage from home, then unloaded my car.  Took about 4 trips, but at least the trips are shorter than the ones to load at home.  The new air conditioner was working well, but I plugged in the front one as well- figured the day the way it was, it couldn't hurt.  We moved down to 6 students officially last time, and the 6 all showed up right about the official start time.  The way that the education room was arranged it would not be practical for us to use it, so I set up 3 tables in the back gallery space and reserved the side room to be our print station, since this was the last night and I expected we'd do a bit of printing.

And it was as busy as I expected.  The six students had all worked on their blocks since last week and had either finished them, or just needed a few minutes of my tools to get the job done. A few did quick pencil rubbings to see if they had missed anything.  Early on, mostly discussing ink and paper choices for the proofing.  Thought I would try to keep the number of people down in our print studio, but they all wanted to gather and watch.  Well, they were excited to get their turns, and at least I didn't have to explain too many things twice.

My typical procedure is to pull the first proof for each student, demonstrating how to get ink from the can, how to prepare it, how to roll ink on the block, how to place the paper, and how to print using a wooden spoon.  Working as efficiently as possible, pulled a proof for all 6 in attendance.  Below are some examples of the proofs.

These two black and white proofs demonstrate well one of the great things about woodcuts, how the basic process can be so many things in different hands.  The beach scene on the left has marks in every direction and a very complex scene with a variety of textures, yet completely readable.  The ship on the right is a simpler image, with the boat dominating the scene, using perspective to leap out at us.

The next two were very popular with the class.  The one on the left was planned all along as a chin colle project.  The artist didn't quite know what it was, but she trusted me that it would work, and it did.  The one on the right was the largest single print in the class. This artist was the first to buy his own tools and worked steadily over the four meetings.  Looked at a lot of historical examples and gave a lot of thought to how he would use textures.  The big chicken shows he figured something out.

Some students got to make their second proof, some didn't, but at least everyone had a chance to get a print, which is one of my main goals with my print workshops.  Some were already talking about plans for future prints, and they all know how to do them.   I collected contact information, potential recruits for Mary Lane's woodcut show next year.  They all cleared out on time, leaving me with all the mess to clean up and organize.  Maybe it was dark when I left, but the air was still warm and steamy.  Checked the news when I got home and it said we were still in the upper 80's and we aren't expecting it to cool off much before tomorrow's heat wave.

As for future woodcut classes, I have no idea what they want to do.  If BelmarArts wants to put one on the schedule for the fall, I'm game, as long as it makes sense within my college schedule, and then we have to find people who want to sign up.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Art Talk

On Sunday mornings, CBS has a news magazine type show that often deals with arts.  More commercials for Broadway shows than any other show I've ever seen on tv.  (the Tony's might have more, but I've never watched that) Last week they did a story about a recent study that showed physical and practical everyday stuff can actually improve ability to learn and intellectual functioning.  Not news to anyone involved in arts.  I learned decades ago that using one's hands on a regular basis can make the brain work better as well.  For me, fine art is the ultimate pairing of brain and hands, of the intellect and dexterity.  I have no interest in art that tries to eliminate one half of that  and only address the other.  In my own art, I always try to deal with both, usually beginning with a carefully worked out idea, often incorporating my sometimes obscure interests, then using physical strength to carve them into a piece of wood and print it onto paper.  A writer at an artist colony I participated in once visited my studio and (watching me carve) remarked that I had to fight for every mark and line in the final piece.  Good sharp tools and proper skills mean that it's not a tough fight, but the point was that every bit of cutting involved a conscious decision and physical force- nothing was accidental or random.    Last year one of my Belmar woodcut students had used the internet to search the state looking for something like my class and was willing to travel a distance each week to get there, because his job kept him on a computer all day and he felt a deep need to give his hands something to do.  Some of my current students have mentioned that even though the process can be strenuous (especially if done for hours at a stretch), it is also very relaxing and soothing.  Glad to be of help.

But that was last week's show.  Today they had a story about a photography show in Los Angeles, almost 500 photos picked from the millions in the Library of Congress collection, chosen by curators to be a portrait of America.  Some I recognized from history (the Wright Brothers first flight), some from what I cover in my Intro class (Gordon Parks' American Gothic, Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, a portrait of Florence Thompson, as cleaned up as someone like that can ever be, but still showing the weariness of a lifetime picking vegetables and raising 11 children in her 32 years on earth, an uncredited newspaper photo of the aftermath of the Kent State shooting in 1970) Again, not a new concept to me, as my large format print A New Year for America was designed for the same reason, in 2003.

Not that I'm looking to take credit for the idea; artists have been documenting the societies they are a part of in great detail for centuries, even if that was not the intention behind the piece.  Genre painting (as the historians call it) starts getting big in the late Renaissance (Bruegel is a master at this) and continues through the Baroque, when there is enough money floating around to create a market for "art for art's sake", never really going away.  The introduction/preface to a recent edition of Frans Masereel's woodcut novel, "The Sun" includes a quote from Stefan Zweig, "If everything were to perish, all the books, monuments and photographs and only the woodcuts that he had executed in the ten years were spared, our whole present day world could be reconstructed from them."  In the case of Masereel, I agree with it completely.  The above image is my portrait of America, created from over 50 individual news stories.  Some photos were used as references, but nothing is copied directly from someone else's photo; memory and imagination are bigger factors.  The stories are all available on the web (find the link at the top of this blog), for those who want to know more, and the actual print is part of a show in Ocean Grove next month.

Photography has probably changed more than any other art form in my lifetime, switching almost instantly from film to digital, and in the process putting untold numbers of people out of work.  I know of at least one major metropolitan newspaper which was having a hard time coming to a deal with its photography staff, so fired them all, handed the reporters a smart phone, and told them to just take your own photos now.  Had a conversation with my sisters-in-law yesterday, one of whom teaches photography in a homeschool setting, and seems exasperated by the current state of things.  She loves photography, and probably individually sets everything on her digital camera but knows enough to be able to read an old fashioned light meter (they had needles back then!), set apertures, shutter speed, choose lens types, all the things that had to be done by hand in the age of shooting on film.  She says her students don't want to learn about settings, because their phones do it all automatically and that's good enough for them.  I learned this stuff for shooting slides, but galleries won't look at slides anymore, which may be good since the film isn't sold anymore in stores.  In Belmar right now we have a show called "Ancestry", where participants display both artifacts (objects, photos, etc) related to an ancestor and their own related artwork.  My parents visited it recently and my father mentioned that he particularly enjoyed all the old photographs, mostly family stuff.  Shows like this and the one in LA will be few in the future, because in the digital age few people print the photos on paper, just taking them, distributing them, and viewing them digitally, which puts the images at the mercy of websites, and computer memory.  When they go, they will be gone.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Art on the Move

Early this year, Nichole, our current director at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, invited me to take part in a Tenants Only show there in our Ocean Grove building.  I don't like showing things more than once in the same space, but I have photos of shows on my blog, quickly verified what I had in previous shows, and sent her some options.  She also had plans for a big fall group show.  But nothing seemed to happen and the days got away from her, so it was decided to have the tenants show in the fall, and save the big show for the spring, so she contacted me to see what I had available.  What I had originally sent her was mostly boardwalk prints, plus one classic black and white print, but I decided to save those for the spring show (more in boardwalk season, plus, an incentive to finally finish the next one in the series) and checked my parent's basement to see if I had anything else suitable.  My woodcuts are plenty bold and can hold a wall (as the expression goes), but the walls there are so big, that big prints are called for.  A few days ago I sent her images I had on my computer for 5 options, all framed and not scheduled to be anywhere else.  She liked them all, as she had the boardwalk prints, and told me to choose any 3 I wanted.  I informed her of my plan to save the boardwalk for the spring, and that I planned to bring 3 of the older ones.  She replied that she was hoping to receive work this week, but she wouldn't be there on Thursday, and we are expecting rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I decided to do it today.

These are the pieces I chose.

I had a framed copy of New Year for America in my apartment.  Always a popular print, draws a good crowd, students like it.  But well over a decade old, so not going to any other shows right now.


Death on the Highway was drawn, cut, and printed during a visit to Tom Huck's loft and studio in St Louis in 2003.  An adaptation of Albert Pinkham Ryder's Death on a Pale Horse but set in an iconic piece of New Jersey.  Where the Garden State Parkway passes through a little sliver of Newark it also passes through a cemetery, with head stones on both sides of the highway, and for most of my life, the remains of a bottle plant looming over all of it.  (in my youth, the bottle was painted with a Pabst logo)  That large dark cloud is from Ryder's painting, and the general layout, but the rest is based on photos I snapped by aiming my camera at the open window as I drove past.  Shipped the block and my tools on ahead before getting to St Louis, brought the photos and a Ryder book with me (did some preliminary sketches in the waiting area of Newark Airport), but the whole drawing, cutting and printing was done while out in St Louis.

The last one I selected was a collaborative piece done with Linn Nelson, a fellow print grad from SIU.  I gave her a piece of wood and asked her to draw some of her typical imagery on some of it.  She provided the large head, poles, and what seem to be banners and merry go round horses around a circus ring.  I filled the ring with images taken from my then current Everyman series (saints), then cut the whole thing- making a print that I would never had come up with on my own, but still looks like my work.  I named it Saints at the Fair, a line from a song by the Breeders, released around then.

I realized today was probably the best day to bring the work in, so went down to Manasquan to pick up the 2 works stored there, plus an alternate in case Nichole wanted options.  I was able to get all three framed pieces to the top of the basement stairs, but I couldn't hold all 3 and open the door.  Thought I had placed the Saint print in a stable place, but it slid, then tumbled down the stairs, shattering and flinging broken glass all the way down.  (when I do my own framing, I use plexi, but this was a cheap store bought deal, and they always come with thin easy to break glass)  No time to reframe if right then, so I used a broom to sweep all the broken glass down to the basement floor and to the side (I'll deal with it tomorrow)  The frame and the actual print were fine, but I don't need them right away, and I decided that my alternate was promoted to being part of the show.

So my new 3rd piece is the above one, Extravaganza, a woodcut conceived, drawn, and cut in an all night session at the Corner Diner in Carbondale, marking Eddie's decision to temporarily leave the program and return to Europe to earn some money.  A group assembled on his final night to make art and such, and I completed the process in time to have my usual Tuesday diner breakfast (large omelet with chili, cheese, green peppers, plus hash browns, slices of toast, and a big pile of bacon, enough to last me until dinner) then a quick dash home (a block away) to put away the art stuff, wash up and change, then off for 6 hours of grad assisting in the print classes, and after a short break, walk across campus to the C&P building for film history class (gangster films that semester)  Survived the lecture, but when the lights were turned off to show the movie, I finally collapsed.  The next day I pulled an edition of the print so that everyone present at the diner could have a copy- Eddie's had to get his when he returned to Carbondale the following fall.

Anyway, a quick stop at home to retrieve my large print, then up to Ocean Grove to catch Nichole during the hours she planned to be there.  Dark skies looked threatening, but no rain and I got all 3 pieces inside safely.  And she was happy to get them, as my work looks good in photos but even better in person, plus it was the first to arrive and she was getting worried.  (if it's just my three, it won't be much of a show) She asked me to send a brief bio and an price list, which I did when I got home in the late afternoon.

Don't have all the details on the show yet, but I believe it opens on September 9, 2018, and will be up for about two months, or until they have to make way for the Christmas trees.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Woodcut Class week 3

Today is Tuesday, so must be time for another woodcut class.

Two weeks ago my students were complaining a bit about the temperature there in the building, since the main air conditioner was broken.  I passed word to the people there and shortly afterwards I got two e-mail from the current director apologizing for that.  She mentioned that the plan was to acquire a (barely used) air conditioner/furnace and have it installed on August 7th.  I stopped by the Boatworks late last week to see how this went and was told that the air conditioner was still not replaced, so I verified that nothing was scheduled in the front gallery on the 14th.  We do have a working wall unit in the front room, and I had held the class there before.  Means hauling the tables and chairs a little further from the closet, but the lighting is much better.

Today is Tuesday, so it must be time for another rain storm.

This part of the state was hit very badly with rain yesterday, lots of local flooding, road closures, etc.  Forecasts were saying it could happen again today.  Most of the day was hot and sunny, but late in the afternoon the sky started getting dark, very dark to the west.  Decided to go to Belmar a little earlier than usual, just in case.  Got a spot next to the building, on what passes for high ground.  Went up to the corner to get my traditional pizza slice for supper and brought it back- no rain yet.  Still had some stuff in my car from yesterday's class, and got the rest loaded in the sunny weather.  Brought that stuff into the building, still no rain.  Turned on the from room air conditioner, brought out a few tables and chairs.  Then a pizza break.   I used the extra time to finally sand smooth the ends of all the tools I had cut the handles of a few weeks ago, and marked the size and blade style on them.  I knew one would not be coming, from e-mails she had sent me, but I was prepared for the rest.

Close to the official start time the students started to arrive.  In the end, 5 showed up, including the one who missed last week, all ready to work.  They didn't mind the room change, as they all remembered how oppressive the weather in the back was last time we met.

So five we were and that was enough to keep petty busy.  Everyone had done at least a little work since our last meeting, but no one had finished, so everyone was busy.  Rain did show up eventually, but it was very brief and I didn't notice it happening- just noticed some drops on the front door window. By the end of the night, still no one was finished, but everyone was a little closer. We meet again in two weeks, one last time for this group.

Monday, August 13, 2018

This Is Going to be a Busy Week

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain hitting the pavement.  Matched up with the weather predictions, so I didn't give it a second thought and went back to sleep.   Eventually the alarm woke me again and I decided to get up.  Heavy rain still coming through in great waves.  Had no where to go right away, so I dealt with other things early on.  More tv weather reports showed a massive rain storm over central Jersey, expected to be past by around noon.  That seemed to be good news, as today was my scheduled day teaching linocut in Brick.

When I did my reconnaissance run last week it took about 30 minutes and I knew exactly how to find the location, the Brick branch of the Ocean County Library.  However the news had reported some extreme flooding through my region, which happens to this part of the state when rain falls like it did this morning.  (parts of Brick had reported 4.5 inches of rain from this morning's storm)  On the positive side, the main storm would have passed my area a good 3 hours before I had to leave- more then enough time to drain the roads...maybe.

I knew where to go, but a lot of other things seemed up in the air.  Several weeks ago the person who organized this told me she had 10 people signed up, but last week she mentioned only 4.  (pay is the same either way, and I had enough supplies for either size class) The best way to get there remained to be seen, but at least the early end to the rain allowed be to load my car under dry conditions.  Didn't need to bring as much as I do for a typical woodcut class, but I still had my large supply of paper, and my large tote bag full of tools, inks, etc.  My backpack held all the books- examples of relief prints.

I left at the expected time and went down route 71, which I planned to take to Brielle, and a long local road from there to U.S. 70, a major shore road that would bring me close to my destination.  Unfortunately, as I approached Main St in Manasquan, I could see that 71 was blocked off just up ahead, probably where the creek passes underneath.  So I made the quick right onto Main, which was moving extremely slow.  My alternate choice was to take South St to 70, but I discovered the reason for the slowdown was that local police had blocked it off as well and were not going to let me take that road either.  Luckily I had family in Manasquan all my life and had lived there a while, so I know a lot of roads through town.  Looped around on side streets, got back to South St, and it turned out that those were the only detours I had to deal with today.  Got to the Brick library maybe 10 minutes later than I had expected, easily on time.  Eventually I was shown the room reserved for today (carried everything in from my car in the one trip) A few minutes later my new contact stopped by (the organizer is on vacation right now, but she had e-mailed me his name) and he also wasn't sure about the size of the class.  Thought he had seen something about 6 students.  At my request he brought me something to protect the tables, as I know ink can be messy.

It was a big room, with two full size tables set up, more than enough for 4 or 6, and if we had 10 there  were a bunch more tables and chairs for the room.  At the official start time I had no one, but a few minutes later two girls walked in the room.  One had really liked a linocut project done in school and the other had some experience but hadn't realized it.  Neither had a specific plan for a print, so while we waited for more people to show up, I gave them some books to look at.  But no one else came, and no one knew who was even signed up (the two girls said they had just signed up online a few days ago, so not part of the 4 or 10 numbers I had been given before), and at a certain point, I decided it was time to get them started.  Some basic safety rules, a few suggestions, but they knew a little about the tools, so they could jump right in.

As with the recent Belmar linocut class, they had no specific ideas, but turned to the internet for inspiration.   Gave each a non-skid mat, a handle, and some basic suggestions for best performance of the task.  Watched them work, offered suggestions, etc.  Both were excited to make something and made good progress.  I was never given an official end time, but in one of the e-mails I had received it was referred to as a "1 to 3 hour class", so I told them they could have 3 hours.  At 2.5 hours in both were getting close, so I brought out the paper and ink to show them the possibilities.   They chose to go with basic black ink, but were excited by the paper possibilities.  In each case, we pulled a practice proof on white Rives lightweight, then each chose two colored papers to try.

In the above example, the speckled yellow paper provides a nice contrast to the dark image, which seems to be a skull in a floral setting, while the dark red paper with its colored fibers results in a more mysterious feel.  In the below example, the light blue gives that high contrast (which allows the details of the tree to really stand out) while the marbleized version combines richer colors and makes the cat seem more mysterious.

At the three hour mark both were printed, and probably a bit tired from the effort of finishing, but pleased with the results, more than worth the sore hands. What surprised them the most was the printing process; their art teacher in school had printed by rolling a dry brayer over the paper to apply pressure, but I leaned long ago that a wooden spoon is more effective and gets a more consistent result, and now they know it, too.

I got home just before dark (evening news raised Brick's rain total to 8 inches, and my mother informed me that Brick had declared a state of emergency, but things seemed normal enough at the library), and left most of the materials out in my car.  Because tomorrow the whole process happens again with my woodcut class in Belmar.  And more rain may come.  Wouldn't expect anything else.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Catching Up, week 2

Last night was the second episode of "Making It", and arts and crafts themed reality competition show that sometimes seems to be based on the 3D Design course I have taught at a few local colleges.  Didn't have a chance to write about it last night, so here are some thoughts today.

The standard format seems to be a short first craft and a related longer craft.  The overall theme last night was "home".  Their first assignment was to create a terrarium that included a figure, a structure, and something else, based on where they were from.  The glass containers varied widely, from fishbowl, to rectilinear aquarium tanks, to domes, to complex polyhedrons- I don't know where they came from or if they go to choose the shapes.  I was impressed that what was made was done in only three hours- there's a lot of detail in most of them.  I guess their professional experience gives them some speed to go along with their skills.  Again, materials varied from artist to artist, often relating to their particular specialty.

I've never had students make a terrarium, but the above assignment seems to be closest to what they had to do last night.  This was actually a two-part assignment, the figure coming from a short exercise in canons of proportion (a second figure in the same pose had very exaggerated parts, in the way that some canons of proportion required specific relative sizes for body parts- the one above is the original  size figure).  This longer assignment was to take that figure and place them in a structure based on our class room, including a proportional sized work table, stool, and something else from the room, all made from foam core and bristol board.  Rules varied from semester to semester, but you get the idea.
Last night's winner of the first part used paper and felt and probably other stuff to make a very detailed scene of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

The big project last night was to create a kid's fort and related play thing.  Children love building forts- as a kid I made many.  Snow forts, club houses from wood, etc.  The artists last night could use any materials they wanted. The only rules were that it had to be large enough for a person to get in and out of it, and there had to be a toy with a related theme.  No time was given, but it seemed they had two days to work on it.  The winning piece was a colorful play house in the form of a taco truck, smaller than a real one, but large enough for kids to play in.  The toys were large fake tacos.

What it made me think of was an example of my short exercise involving planes- exterior surfaces.  The assignment called for students to use good old foam core and bristol board to build a replica of a vehicle of their choice, something they like because they think it looks cool.  How?  The official motto of this tv show is "make it!"  My class didn't have an official motto, but my unofficial one probably would have been "figure it out".  The specific assignment was to make all the pieces of the vehicle from foam core or bristol, only requiring pieces that would be visible from the outside.  However, after each piece was made for the vehicle, they were required to make an identical piece and set it aside.  Once the vehicle was complete, use the second set of parts to make an abstract sculpture.  The idea was that if the parts looked good in car form, we would probably like them in something else, and this generally worked out.  In the above example, Angelica made a nice little ice cream truck, and sitting behind it is her abstract sculpture.  Just an in class one day assignment, but she did a fine job and her classmates admired it.  Asked about her plans for this truck, she told me that there were some kids she watched after school and she was going to let them play with it.  The following week she told me that the children fought over the truck and in the process, destroyed it, not unusual for kids.  I told her not to worry- first, it was already graded, second, we had photos of the finished truck, and third, having figured out how to make one, she could probably do it again, maybe even better, plus now she knew to keep it away from children.

Of course, in a classroom that we had to share with 4 other art classes, we had no room to build forts, so small scale stuff was our limit.   The forts that were built last night would allow an adult inside, but kids would fit better.  Among other things were a structure built from large butterfly wings, a space capsule/landing craft, a circus tent, a small geodesic dome style structure (pentagons instead of triangles- the favored shape of Bucky Fuller, who later became the most famous Saluki 3D teacher), a sort of a tent made from arcing pool noodles making sort of a rainbow (by the way I had a student in my Intro class use pool noodles for her 3D project a few years ago- so not a completely original idea), plus the taco truck.  I don't know if any of these things were great art, but all would have been fun to play in or on when I was young, which seemed to be the point of the show anyway.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Woodcut class continues in a way

Nothing major, but there is always something that needs doing.

Today was the first of the month, which means a lot of rents are due.  My apartment, which I took care of by stopping by the rental office in my parking lot.  And also my Studio, but that requires a trip in my car.  Late in the morning I took that ride and did drop off the check in the usual place.  Took care of something else as well.  One thing I concluded from last night's woodcut class is that the students all preferred the shorter handled tools.  I had cut some down a few weeks ago to shorter lengths, but last night was the first time they actually used the cutting tools.  As long as I was going to the Studio, and I had last night's tools still with me in the car, and I always have my saws in the car, might as well take care of that, too.  So I retested the tools for sharpness and cut down the handles of 9 more tools, most of what I had in stock.  I put them in the place I keep them and will do the sanding of the ends later.  Kept a few at the original length for anyone who might prefer them that way.

Stopped in Belmar on the way home, just to make sure everything was in order in the building the way I had left it, and to get an update on the air conditioner.  But I was told all was well, so I continued on my way home for lunch.

Catching Up

A few months back I saw the first commercials for a new reality/competition type show, called "Making It".  Hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, who had worked together on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation" for years, one of my favorite shows of its era.  However I am not a fan of so called reality shows, which are generally built on creating conflicts that aren't very interesting.  What made me notice this one was that the theme was built on art, an emphasis on crafts and the idea of making things by hand.  The few clips shown on commercials often looked a bit like my old 3D class, which I taught for 7 semesters across two colleges, building my interest in the show.  The two hosts have been making the rounds in recent weeks promoting it and the premier was last night.  I was home in time to watch it, and did so, but in recent years I have found that when I'm very tired (as a woodcut class will make me) I don't really get what I see on tv, so I recorded it to watch later.

Shows about art don't always do well on tv, and mixing it with reality shows doesn't help.   Some of the early reality shows had interesting premises, but the tv producers decided long ago that the emphasis should be on creating conflicts, which they believe are more interesting than contestants actually accomplishing goals.  Over time it has gotten worse.  The last art themed show on tv that I remember was one called Work of Art on Bravo, which seemed to have no desire to show the episodes.  We just got one night and that was it, while all the various Real Housewives shows they carried were shown 5 or 6 days and nights per week.  When the second season ended it was not renewed, despite the involvement of big institutions, large sponsor prizes, famous artists, and more nudity than you usually get to see on basic cable.  The weekly competitions had little to do with normal artistic approaches and experiences, and many of the contestants seem to have been chosen for how poorly they would meet the challenges.  Still, I wrote about each episode as they happened, so I figured I should at least give this new show a try.

The set up is they start with 8 artists, all with different mediums, and each episode they have to complete a short craft (the winner of which receives a patch to wear) and then a longer more involved one.  The judges then award one contestant a prize, and then send one home.  They are given a nice well lit space to work in, each has a large work table, and there seems to be plenty of tools.  No mention was made where the materials come from.  Our hosts contribute to the discussions, but may have nothing to do with the final decisions.  (on that show a few years ago, the tv producers sometimes overruled the judges and made sure their favorites prevailed) On the sitcom, Offerman portrayed Ron Swanson, a hyper competent man who could hand build anything out of wood or metal, and had many obscure but respectable talents.  On one occasion I had one of my 3D students remark that something we were doing was something that Ron Swanson could do.  I think Ron could have been the patron saint of our class, and agreed.  Poehler's character on the old show had no such abilities, and on this one her character seems particularly clueless, but this is all tv stuff.  In real life, Offerman is a skilled woodworker and carpenter, and some of this is bound to come out in his role as co-host, but so far he's not trying to out shine the contestants.

So how was the first show?  The episode opened with the starting point that the world is full of people who like to make things, and have the hand skills to do it.  I agree- it's a big part of how I teach classes.  The materials used by the contestants so far include wood, fabric, paper, natural materials, found objects (what they call "hodgepodge materials"), which sounds a lot like my 3D class.   The projects so far do not reflect things I have done or would likely do- like most college level foundation level classes, mine had an emphasis on learning formal issues, while the projects on the tv show seem to revolve around creating a craft object.  For example, the first project called for making an animal that represented their spirit self.  A lot of the 3D projects involved an animal, but never as a personal symbol; for my assignments it was just a simple starting point, not really the purpose of the project.  Some of the participants showed decent hand skills, but none of the resulting artworks particularly impressed me.  The one person sent home was the oldest contestant, who didn't quite finish her two projects- so maybe an art decision or maybe a tv decision.  I'll continue to watch the show for now and see where it goes.