Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Circus part 10

Had a little time in the afternoon, so a quick Studio visit.  I have no particular deadline on my newest piece, but while I have the time I'd like to make as much progress on it as I can.

As I wrote yesterday, I wanted to take on the crab sandwich platter next, and I started on the left side of the block, with the onion rings and fries.  I did a bit of cutting in this area, though I will want to take a rubbing and see what I got.  At the time I was drawing it, I mentioned that color would play a large role in making this look like the food items that it is.  That is still the case, but my extensive experience in cutting things for black and white helped today- textures and contours will also aid in making all this look like the foods it represents.   I'll move on to the sandwich itself next time.  When students ask me how I manage to cut very large blocks (and at times I have) I tell them it's done a little piece at a time, and then keep going day after day until it finally gets done.  Today was another little piece.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Circus part 9

With most of the work for the East Meets West show done, I had time for some artwork of my own today.  Got to the studio building a little past 2 pm.  The office staff was not around, but the lights were on.  Yesterday when I saw the sign in book that Mary had put out it had a message from her, and I added one of my own. When I looked today, there was one from Nichole, and two from women I don't know.  I guess people are starting to show up.

Today I decided to take on the single most complex part of this block, the Circus sign on the roof.  (the crab sandwich and onion rings are in some ways even more complex, but being organic objects, no one would notice if there are any uneven or irregular portions, so a little easier in the end)  I started by removing the backgrounds first, then cutting out the letters, then finally the ring of clowns and acrobats that were attached to a rail that went around the sign like a ring.  About an hour and a half to cut that out today.  Probably move on to the sandwich platter next.

Monday, February 25, 2019

East Meets West is Open for Business

Yesterday I heard from Mary, telling me that things were progressing.  All that was left was the short wall featuring framed works from the east coast organizers (me, her, and her daughter), which Nichole would be taking care of when she got back.  I told her I would send a new statement, information about my framed piece and the two small works I dropped off with her the other day.  Which meant I had to get that done, but I've written about all those things enough times that I can knock something like that out in no time, so I took care of it and e-mailed that to her.  Then a relaxing  evening at home listening to the howling winds outside.

Awoke this morning to sunny skies, seasonable temperatures, and more intense winds roaring around my building. Nothing I couldn't handle or to keep me away from checking out the hung show in Ocean Grove.  Walking along the road through my complex on the way to my parking area was a bit of a challenge (the wind caught the small bags of trash and recycling I was carrying and drove me backwards a few feet).  Shore area towns are usually windy, but this was ridiculous. Sustained winds all day of 25 to 30 mph, with frequent gusts in the 50's and close to 60 mph.  Glad I wasn't driving over the Driscoll bridge on the GSP today; there can be some serious crosswinds there.  No problem getting to Ocean Grove.

Coming in from the front parking lot, the first thing I saw was the second east coast wall.  This one included my two additional prints, plus Katie's two traditional relief prints, a print from Molly of her creation "Monocle Bear", and an unidentified print, which I later learned was from Nichole.

The adjacent wall is the one started first the other day, with my new print on the far left. That middle panel includes 3 from Molly- one extending outward so both sides could be seen, and two from her sexy turtle series.  This wall also includes 3 from Mary G, a critique founder- two of her heart images, and an etching that I didn't recognize.

Next around the 1st floor main hall is the short wall for the east coast organizers, so my large framed New Year for America piece (as requested by various parties), Mary's recent Yo Yo Ma woodcut, and the color piece from her daughter- not a traditional print, but Katie did put two linocuts in the show and helped with the hanging and is designing the show postcard, so it was allowed.  Just to the left of those pieces is the East sign, as all to this point has been the east coast printmakers.

Across a gap that leads to a side stairway and a building gate, and we come to the west coast organizers wall, with a large framed piece by Mary Pacios, and small prints from others.  Plus a west sign to distinguish this second group of artists.

We saw the first wall of west coast printmakers last week and we had installed some of the second wall that day, but a hook nailed in the wall prevented one panel from going up and we needed different tools to remove it, so that was delayed.  Fellow resident artist and part time building employee Little Bobby Duncan (as he likes to call himself- he's actually older than I am) told us he would take care of it.  He also provided two old framed prints, which he hung on the stair wall across from those above.

Mary mentioned yesterday her plan to have a table in the middle of the hall to put the binder with artist statements and a comment book, and it was all there today.  She even had my updated statements in there.  Now all we need are visitors.  Katie is working on a postcard for the show, but meanwhile the show is part of a large card done for all the March events in the building.  I was given a short stack which I will pass out until I get the others.

So as this card says, the show opened today, and will be up through April 26, 2019.  Stuff will be on view any time the building is open, but the best times to visit are Monday- Friday 1 to 3 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 1 pm, as all the hallway lights will be on.  There is also an official reception on Friday, March 22, 2019, from 5 to 7 pm.  More related events may be added, but we concentrated on getting this all taken care of first.

I don't know exactly how many artists are involved, but there are over 60 artworks, so it all came together.  Nichole said she was surprised at how quickly it all got up on the wall, which I credit to good planning and a good hanging system.  Still she is already looking into a rail hanging system for the near future.  The moldings are starting to break down, and while they will hold up for this show, something stronger will be needed eventually.  It's an expense, but after one time there will be a lot less work, which may be worth it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Postcards and Prints

When we were starting to install the print show in Ocean Grove, a few things came up.  When Mary had previously mentioned that she feared there would not be enough east coast printmakers (the advance list of west coast printers was quite long) I had offered to loan her a few more if she needed to fill wall space.  On Tuesday she decided that she could use two more, so I made plans to dig some up.  That same day, I also inquired about postcards.  I couldn't remember if it was decided to have any or not. She thought there may be some, just hadn't been done yet with other priorities handled first.

Yesterday I sent her an e-mail with information about postcards and their history.  Their place in the art world has changed radically, which I think is a generational thing.  Back in my school days, postcards were a necessity, the idea of doing a show without them was almost unheard of.  Not nearly so common these days, a few decades later.  What happened?

My guess is the world changed.  That never stops.  I remember once in the late 1980's, my college friend Dave and a high school buddy of his took a trip north and my father gave us a lift into SoHo, where our painting professor was doing desk duty at a co-op gallery he was a part of.  The SoHo neighborhood had once been home to a lot of manufacturing businesses, and the buildings had large loft spaces.  But those businesses moved out and the empty abandoned buildings were gradually taken over by artists, who needed cheap spaces and were not concerned about the lack of active commercial businesses in the neighborhood.  (on that first trip, it took a long time to find a place that served food for lunch)  In the early days, it was just block after block of galleries and studios, and we spent the day walking in and out of spaces, looking at art not found in art history textbooks, and collecting postcards.  A very fun day for us art types.  One thing that doesn't change in the world is that when artists reclaim a neighborhood, an audience comes, and businesses move in to cater to that audience, creating a demand for spaces and raising prices, driving out the artists.  About 15 years later I had occasion to show art in SoHo, as part of a curated group show in a 7th floor walk-up.  The ground floor spaces were occupied with competing branches of Starbucks.  (no more street level galleries)  The arts neighborhoods of SoHo and the Village gave way to Chelsea, then Brooklyn and whatever comes next.  Years ago I was part of a group show in a reclaimed building in Union City, and a few days ago I told the story of how our space in Ocean Grove came into existence.

Postcards were a part of many other shows I was a part of, both solo and group, easily into the 21st century.  But now they are much rarer.  Part of that may be to save money, even as the cost of producing them has been brought way down by technology.  I think most of it is that younger people have no interest in anything printed on paper.  They don't write or mail letters, don't read books, and probably don't collect postcards. They prefer all information to come in electronic form- websites, e-mails, texting, etc.  If they can't download it to their smart phone, they don't want to see it.

So I wrote to Mary (and her daughter Katie) yesterday, since they had asked what kind of information would go onto a postcard.   I shared some of the above information and some of my experience of the past 30 years.  I also advised seeking information from the Portland contingent, since they make up more than half the artists.  In the end, it's up to the organizers and the host I figure.

Winter weather roared through yesterday, but was melted away overnight, so it was possible to venture out today.  I have a considerable number of completed unframed prints stored in my apartment, so I selected an assortment of Everyman (saints) and Ecclesiastes prints, which are about the right size for the plastic sleeve hanging system, grabbed several postcards, and drove up to Mary's house in the afternoon.  From the prints I had brought, she selected two prints for the show.

On the left is an Ecclesiastes print, "Money answers for everything" which comes from a passage that reminds us that food and drink are quite enjoyable, but eventually there is a price for everything.  My visualization was based on a typical restaurant table at the end of a meal, covered with empty dishes and glasses, used utensils, spilled food, trash, and of course the bill.  On the right is ST BENNO, from the saint series, which borrowed heavily from an earlier black and white piece I had done involving a toad, dead grass, and a quote from Christopher Smart relating to toads.  Now redone in color, with the story of St Benno, a bishop who loved fine music and was annoyed by the loud croaking of frogs around him and commanded them to be silent.  He quickly regretted this, as he realized that frog noises might just be the way they choose to praise God, took back his command, and the frog noises continued.  The toad quote came from Smart's long form poem Jubilate Agno, which includes a section about his cat Geoffrey, who he believes praises God in being as cat like as he can is all his cat activities.  That pure animal behavior worked into both pieces and was respected by both Benno and Smart is just a coincidence.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

East and West finally meet in Ocean Grove

As the above poster proclaims, this show was 57 years in the making. Luckily my part was only the past few years.  In a way it first started when Mary Lane first took my woodcut class in Belmar several years ago.  First woodcut was ok, but nothing special, yet she decided to take the class again.  The next time her woodcuts were a little better- she had figured out the medium a little better.  And she took more print classes, with me and others.  She met up with an old college friend at a reunion, now a print artist out west, and they had much to discuss.  They hatched the idea of an East/West printmaking show and sought my advice as to where they could have such a thing.  It turned out that the Belmar Arts Council, where I had been teaching woodcut, was seeking a printmaking show, so I had them create a proposal.  It was submitted, approved, and added to the schedule.  And then there was a major turnover in people running things there and many disagreements followed, to the point where the two organizers were looking for alternatives.  Mary had been to my Studio in the basement of that building many times, a regular at the critique group, but never had been to the first floor or above.  Meanwhile that location was looking to have more art shows.  Mary took a tour and was very impressed with what was going on in this restored building, and eventually the two print artists decided to move their show, and its dozens of artists from around the country, to the location in Ocean Grove.   There was still much to be worked out, but they got it on the schedule and began the long process of organizing a group show.  Today began the process of actual hanging the show on the walls.

Above we see part of the first floor, a main space for art shows in the building.  Below we see what it looked like earlier this afternoon, with part of the show installed.  The Jersey Shore Arts Center started out as Neptune High School, built in what is now Ocean Grove, in the 1890's.  Operated as such until the 1970's, by which time the needs of the school had outgrown the building (despite a few additions over the decades), and the building was abandoned in favor of a modern complex nearer the center of town.  The derelict building gradually became just a shell, but they built things to last back then, so it was still standing.  As it was on the verge of being demolished in the early 90's, a group of local people decided to reclaim it and restore it.  It turned out that grants were available for an arts related project, and between those and a whole lot of volunteer effort, we got the place we see today.  Theater, music, dance, visual arts (Molly and I have had our studio there for about a decade) all moved in as the building was gradually rehabilitated.   The top floor was only restored and repurposed a few years ago.

While the show was still scheduled for Belmar, the idea of hanging the works in plastic sleeves was developed, a system they had done there a few times.  Seemed like it would be good for those west coast artists, who wouldn't have the expense of framing and shipping all the work to New Jersey.  And then when the show moved to the new location, where we had hand plastered walls (no wall board in this historical building) and driving nails is not allowed, we were ahead of the game.  Over the time between the proposal and the hanging, the organizers developed a new version of what was originally planned to be a line hanging system, with those sleeves now attached to foam core boards, and hung with wire to hooks mounted in the molding above. The boards were prepared at home, so all that had to be done was install them today.

The large rolling ladder that the building had made the process easier.  Each board arrived today with prints attached and a long wire fixed to one upper corner.  First Nichole (building supervisor) put in hooks mounted to the molding (the one place nails and screws can be put) at the spacing that Mary had devised, then as Mary and her daughter Katie bought each panel over, Nichole draped the wire over the hook, and then Katie attached it taut to the other corner and cut the excess wire.  A good plan and executed efficiently, and soon most of the show was installed. Above we see the first panel from the east coast side going up, and below we see how he first few looked.

A few more of these panels need to be made, and a few framed works from the organizers (brought one of those in myself today) will go up in the next few days, around the latest expected winter storm.    But it looks like it will all get done on time and look good, a nice outcome for Mary's first organized art show, some 57 years in the making.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Circus part 8

No snow or ice today, just a lot of cold wind.  But that wouldn't stop me from getting up to the Studio to do a little work.

I had expected that I might use the time to sharpen my personal tools, and had brought my water stone container with me, and before going into the building, grabbed my sharpening stone and class tools (as possible back up) from the car.  I did begin the process of sharpening the tool I had used most in the last session, and a test showed improvement, but it looked like it would need more and I had a limit on my time today.  So I set that stuff aside and decided to work on a part of the block that my small gouge (with a sharp edge last time) could handle.

So what I ended up doing was some trim and stuff near the roof line.  Not a lot, but it needed to get done at some point, so why not today?

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Circus part 7

Had a little time available this afternoon and decided to put it to use.  If nothing else, going up to the Studio was an opportunity to return the wooden chair I had used as a drawing prop in yesterday's classes. and getting that out of my car was alone worth the trip.  Hard to say what the future will hold.  For example, there have been a whole lot of forecasts calling for big winter storms to pass through the area over the next week.  Haven't seen any significant snow yet this winter, but meteorologically, the Jersey Shore has for too long been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.  Since it hasn't happened yet, I'm going to try to get in as much cutting as I can.

Had an event to get to late in the day, so by the time I got to the Studio and brought in the chair, I only had about an hour left to work on art.  At least I was better prepared this time, with a large non- skid mat to help hold the block in place, and without having to devote so much effort to keeping my block firmly in place, cutting went much faster.

Unfortunately, I uncovered another knot, though I don't think it will affect the print.  And it seemed like there were a few tough bits in the top ply, as if a small amount of knot wood got mixed in.  I also suspect that my tools may need a new sharpening.  My 1.0 mm round gouge was still cutting cleanly, but it is small, and would take a long time to empty a large area.  The 2.0 can do that better, but by the end of the session, it seemed like it was tearing the wood more than cutting it.  I didn't want to go up to my car to get my class tools, so I worked with what I had until it was time to leave, which allowed me to finish cutting out the sky above the building, as can be seen above.  I think I have all my sharpening tools at home right now, so maybe it will get done before I will go back to work on this.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Circus part 6

Went up to the Studio in the afternoon to get a few things done.  One was to take some photos of an old pizza menu, a follow-up to a phone conversation I had last night.  Another was to get any updates regarding the upcoming print show.  Yet another was to pick up some bulky items and move them to my car for class later this week, on what may be the last non-rainy day this week (if forecasts are correct).  And all that got done.

But what I really wanted to do was get some cutting in on my new block.  Might still try to refine a little bit of the drawing here and there, but there are plenty of parts that I'm relatively satisfied with, and I just feel like getting started on the process.

I didn't get too far.  Next time I need to bring a non-skid mat to put down.  However I did outline around the whole print area, a classic starting point for me, though I will likely widen that margin a little later when I have a knife blade with me.  I also started on the sky over and around the Circus sign on the roof.  Discovered a small wood knot under the surface, right next to the head of one of the figures in the ring of clowns around the sign.  I believe I cut away enough that the area will be able to print, but I really won't know until I'm inking it up.  Lots more to cut before that happens.

Monday, February 04, 2019

The Circus part 5

One advantage of blogs is that they do document everything in a format that can be easily reviewed.  I have been told that the blog I have kept on behalf of the Belmar Arts Council is the only comprehensive record of the organization over the past 10 years.  My teaching blogs are as useful to me as they are to the students, reminding me of what has been done, due dates, etc.  I had to go back through a few months of this blog to find the last time I worked on a piece that I am resuming work on today.

It was back in November that I last worked on my Circus Drive-In print.  The drawing was coming along, but I had to set it aside to meet deadlines on my annual Christmas card, and on my piece for the East Meets West show, and then to print and color my piece for the LOL: Humor show in Belmar, plus some student related projects.  But those other projects are all behind me now, so I enjoyed this sunny and not below zero weather to go to Ocean Grove, get an update on the upcoming print show and some Studio business, and to work on some new art.

Not that much to add to this one at this point.  I cleaned up the Circus sign and the ring of clowns around it, made some minor adjustments to the building, played with little bit of shading.  But I could probably start cutting it tomorrow, and perhaps I will.

News from East Meets West

We are now in February, which means that the long in process East Meets West show will be coming soon.  The local organizer and the host did a test hanging the other day, but a day I teach so I couldn't be part of it.  However, on a visit to the building today I got to see the result.

Mary's idea is to attach the plastic sleeves with the prints to larger boards, which can be hung from the hooks that currently exist on the hallway walls.  Because of the historical nature of the building, we can't put nails into the walls, which saves from the effort of measuring and nailing up many framed artworks.  Above is an example of what Mary came up with, black foam core boards with the prints in sleeves, attached with velcro, and each hanging from a thin wire on a wall mounted hook.  One advantage is that the boards can be put together at home, and it won't take long to hang them in the hallway.  Hooks already exist above the hanging portion of the walls, so someone just has to climb a ladder to put them up.  Building coordinator Nichole told me she's rather have someone from the building do the actual hanging rather than Mary or I climbing the ladder, which is fine with me.  Those hooks may not be as rugged as one might like, and there was talk of replacing them in the near future, but these foam core boards are light weight, and so far the test piece has remained up on the wall for several days, so it looks like this will get us through the show.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Business Progressing

This has been a brutally cold week.  The upper midwest has especially suffered, with record low temperatures in many of the states, places that are regularly super cold in winter.  New Jersey has been relatively balmy, with wind chills only slightly below zero many days.  Predictions are for a major warming trend over the next several days, and that bothers no one.  Visited the Studio building a few times on business related to the upcoming print show, but haven't started any new projects yet- that will likely be next week when going outside will be much safer.

One other bit of business had to be done today and that was to pick up the piece I had in the recent Belmar Salon exhibition (the LOL Humor show), as today was the closing day.  (could have waited until tomorrow if need be, but with snow predicted to arrive today, I decided not to take any chances) This is my school day, so I had to finish my classes and put away my equipment first, then drove straight to Belmar, a slight diversion from my route home.  Some light snow in the air, but no accumulations, so I got there with no problems and about 20 minutes to spare.  Picked up my piece (one of the last ones remaining) and got home.  No significant snow came, but I was glad to have it done anyway.