Friday, June 28, 2019

Countdown Continues

My plan for today was to put in some Studio time, maybe finish coloring the last narwhal proof that I have, but I got a call from my brother this morning telling me that today was the day to do some planned yard work at my parents house.  I continued getting ready for the day, and took the trip up to Ocean Grove.  I could postpone the narwhal print until next week, but I had other business involving other people and I had to deal with that today.

Nichole was in so we got in a lot of discussion regarding the coming classes.  I had heard through my mother that a new ad had run in the Coast Star, this time not only mentioning my classes but also the "Victorian" (crafts) classes in the Green Room later in July.  More publicity is always good, and I let Nichole know this had happened.  She did receive the print/block image I had sent and plans to use it in an upcoming social media campaign.  Lately she has been pricing air conditioners, as part of the plan to deal with our dampness problem in the basement in summer.  Someone else had mentioned to her that the guy who does guitar repair (the room that Molly and I had once built tables in several years ago) regularly uses a de-humidifier to keep the place more tolerable, probably a good idea for someone who works with a lot of wood in his business.  I pointed out that in the summer, temperature in the basement is generally not the problem, but dampness, and a good de-humidifier might be the solution to the Green Room problem.  Much cheaper than a large air conditioning unit, both to purchase and to run.   Of course both items generate a lot of water, so I suggested she look into that problem before buying and installing anything.  If that can't be resolved before the July classes begin, we may have a 1st floor option for small classes that month, but not in August.   However, they have a lot of ambitions for that room, so I'm guessing they would prefer to solve the problem and turn that space into a profit generator.

Meanwhile, there's the question of students.  I learned that there have been a few more sign-ups for the drawing class, so that one is definitely a go.  Woodcut is still lacking a bit, but there is a plan for more social media.  It may help that this week includes the Fourth of July, one of the three tentpole holidays of the shore season, so the towns will be packed with people, and they might see the ads in the papers.  There were a couple of women sitting in the office, waiting to talk to Nichole I guess, and the older one mentioned being particularly interested in that class, having enjoyed linocut years earlier.   How we get people to jump from interest to signing up for the class (and we have been getting inquiries) is always the challenge, but we have a week and a half to go.  Nichole mentioned a request for a materials list for the drawing class and wondered if I had one ready, but I pointed out that I gave it to her as part of the proposals weeks ago, and sure enough she found an e-mail with a subject about materials (I am very thorough with my e-mails), so she can pass that information on.

So no narwhal, but I did stop in the Studio briefly, partly to repair the door.  The door we use most often opens with a handle, and the inside one attaches to the knob with a set screw, which is requires tightening every few months with an allen wrench or it just falls off.  I wouldn't count on Molly or the building to get to that any time soon, but I keep the right size wrench in my drawer and took care of that in a few minutes.  With that done I headed down to my date with outdoor work.  Not fun on the hottest day of the year.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Narwhal part 15

Woke up early this morning to use the bathroom and afterwards looked outside- all was very wet.  Not a surprise as rain had been predicted overnight.  Got back in bed and before I fell back asleep I heard a loud rain shower falling, again expected. That confirmed my plans for the day- no lawn cutting today, but indoor work, which can mean the Studio.

Late morning I got up to Ocean Grove and worked my way down to the basement.  As usual, few cars around and few people.  Checked out my narwhal block, and in touching it I got just a hint of black ink on my hands, kind of like touching an old ink pad.  No harm in waiting a few more days to color the block itself.  Keep the lighter color inks from being contaminated by the black on the block. So instead I went to work coloring the third proof.

For music I went with one from the library I keep there, the soundtrack to the film Naked Lunch. I'm a fan of David Cronenberg, and even by that standard it's an odd film- not so much an adaptation of something many consider an unreadable book, but more an adaptation of the odd life of author William Burroughs and his frequent experimentations (drugs, sex, murder, etc) in the 50's and 60's that made the book happen.  The film was recommended to me because of the soundtrack, which is moody instrumentals by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with the off-kilter free-jazz saxophone of Ornette Coleman floating over the surface of all of it, which seemed like a good fit with the vast undersea scene I was coloring today.

Today's proof is a little different from the first two I colored.  This one is on white Rives heavyweight, as opposed to the okawara I used for the others, an almost tissue thin natural color Japanese paper.   Big difference in color, texture, and the way the watercolor is absorbed, but I've worked with both enough to know how to handle them.  The other difference is that this piece of paper was larger than the others, so it includes the full block, not the slightly cut off versions of the other proofs that had to bleed off the paper.  Minimal effect on composition.

For now, the same color choices and same order of coloring.  So for today that meant the cool neutral for the whale body, the pthalo wash for the underside of the iceberg, the pale tint for the rest of the iceberg and the horn, and some brown for the mud.  I'll save the rest for my next visit.


Two weeks from today is the beginning of my next round of art classes, with both Drawing and Woodcut beginning that day, one in Ocean Grove, one in Belmar.  At least that's the plan right now- I'll know more as we get closer.

Late last night I received an e-mail from the JSAC promoting all their Green Room classes.  Listed first are my two (drawing on Tuesdays, woodcut on Wednesdays), which are also the first two classes to start.  The e-mail also lists several other classes, all on other days of the week, and all starting a few weeks after mine.  I vaguely knew of them, but this is the first time I've seen the details.  All are more "craft" oriented, run by people with other connections to the building.  All will be held in the Green Room (as they are calling it, to me it's the old cafeteria in the basement).  

I see all this as a good thing.  Another general e-mail blast is a good thing, a reminder to all who get it that there will be arts classes going on this summer.  As part of it there is an explanation of why they are called "Green Room" classes.  I don't know, but I wonder if it's because I asked Nichole last week as to why they are calling the cafeteria by that name- her explanation matching my guess.  Perhaps it was decided that they should answer that question for everyone who might wonder.  And I see all these other classes as a good thing as well. More options means more people are likely to look into it, and it's possible that some of those people will be intrigued by what I am offering and decide to sign up.  None are in conflict time-wise, and it is unlikely that anyone who wants to learn what I'm teaching would decide to pass that up in favor of paper crafts.  Plus, more classes scheduled for July in the basement makes if more likely that the problems of the space will be resolved in time for things to get going.  Both Nichole and Matt have been made aware of the dampness issue down there in the summer and its potential to turn off future students; more classes means more incentive to solve it.

If Nichole had been in today I would have asked her about the latest status, but she was off this morning when I was there. Perhaps I'll see her later this week.  Meanwhile, not much else to do with the classes right now.  I've taught everything multiple times before, so no new preparations needed from me.  The one material I need for the first week of woodcut is wood, and that I get locally in town.  Ink and tools will be ordered from Portland, but none of that needed before week 2, and I can hold off on ordering that stuff until I find out it if anyone has signed up for the classes and providing money for that purpose.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Back to the Supermarket

In the late afternoon I was on my way home and stopped at a local supermarket to pick up a few items.  My path through the store had me taking the aisle for seasonal items to get from the front to the back.  Beach chairs, big coolers. etc.  Fireworks.  Did I see that right?  Went back and looked again, and the cardboard display said Fireworks, with big colorful letters, and warnings not to smoke.  Well I agree that it's probably best not to smoke by displays of fireworks, but I don't think anyone is allowed to smoke anywhere in a supermarket.  Plus all my life, it has been illegal to sell fireworks in New Jersey.  Even getting things like sparklers and "snakes" was a challenge, and getting small things like regular firecrackers might involve a trip over the state line.  Forget about fireworks.  Many other states had no such restrictions, and I remember one summer in my youth we were in the midwest on the Fourth, and on the block where the cousins lived many had invested in fireworks to shoot off themselves.   I guess the roman candles worked, but the skyrockets were pretty lame, and the big time display at a local stadium was also a letdown.  If this is what having fireworks for retail sale meant, we were probably better off not being able to buy and shoot off any, and just seeing professional displays at our local parks.  And that was life in New Jersey.  So what was going on at the Acme?

Like most people these days, when I have questions I go to the internet.  Sure enough, found a news story that our last governor had signed a law in this last term that made some kinds of home fireworks legal for sale.  Nothing that flew through the air, or made any really loud noises- no sky rockets.  Despite the colorful packaging and evocative names, these items are basically just large sparklers.  I'll collect more information when I am back there tomorrow on my usual Sunday morning shopping trip.

Still, I may have material for another supermarket print.  Sale of such items may be normal in supermarkets in other parts of this country, but it's something I had never seen before around here.  And the elaborate no smoking signs posted all around open up all sorts of possibilities.  I have produced images of fireworks in woodcut form before, so if I can work out an idea, I can do this.  And fireworks season is approaching.  I'll give it a little thought, and if I come up with something good, I may have my next print going soon.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Classes Coming Soon

Classes are still about 3 weeks away, but there is plenty to address before then.  I have already mentioned that I was asked to produce a written version of what woodcut is for a mass promotion that Nichole is planning sometime before the classes start.  Wrote and e-mailed that to her a few nights ago.  At the time she requested it she mentioned that she might look on the web for some kind of image to go with it, or to go with it on a social media posting, as she believes that the lagging sign-ups could be because potential students don't know what woodcut is.  Based on my experience in the world, she might be right.

In the late morning I went up to the Studio.  Partly I was there to do some art stuff.  Nothing new, but checking on the progress of narwhal related items.  The third proof seemed pretty dry, so whenever I'm back up there to color I can start the process of coloring the last one.  On two occasions over the last week I brought some old newspaper with me and each time took another blotter proof of the block.  Some people like to clean their wood blocks after printing, using water or solvent depending on the ink used, but I never teach that.  Instead, I use scrap paper and take what are commonly called ghost proofs, using residual ink on the block to make a print.  I think it's better long term for the block and it still serves the purpose of cleaning off the excess ink, which means it will dry faster. Did the last such proof a few days ago, and today the block was almost completely dry.  Still just a hint of ink, but nothing thick or gooey. I think by next week the block will be ready for the last phase, coloring the wood block itself with color relief inks, turning the block into a colored relief sculpture suitable for my niece to enjoy as an object.

Since Nichole was in I stopped to see her as well.  She confirmed that she had received the latest e-mail, but hadn't looked at it yet.  Soon she hopes. (very busy with grant season) Told her I was planning to send her a potential image to use with my woodcut write up, and she was welcome to use it or not.  Was a bit surprised to see Matt at his desk, as usually his hours are later.  Got answers to some of the questions raised by his recent newsletter.  He confirmed that the air conditioners were mostly going to spaces on the top floor, the warmest part of the building.   There is no plan to air condition the entire building- there are no existing ducts and running AC units large enough to do that  is beyond what the building can do.  Although there is no policy requiring them to do anything, he has been making small units available to spaces, but there are rules and maintaining it is the responsibility of the room, and since Molly is the lease holder, I can't agree to anything in her place.  I'm not even sure how it would work with our windows, which are not designed to hold an air conditioner.  As Matt pointed out, there has been less priority down in the basement because the air is typically cooler down there.  That is true, but I reminded him of the tendency to get damp heavy air down there in the summer (which officially began today) and how I had discussed this with Nichole the other day.  He said he was aware of that and that Nichole was working on the problem.  As long as someone deals with it. I also reminded him that despite what he said in the newsletter, I had classes planned for July and August.

I've taught a lot of different classes in a lot of different locations and settings, but one thing seems to be universal- students respond best to seeing examples of the process and projects.  I knew of the concept and process of relief printing for a long time, but it was only after reading a large book about German Expressionist art for a painting class and seeing the many small reproductions of woodcuts that filled spaces in the book that I decided I had to try this myself.  In my woodcut workshops I bring a bunch of print exchange folios so students can see a wide variety of prints and get excited, and a selection of my own blocks and prints so they can see a practical example of how it works.  One I always use is a small woodcut from my old Dubliners series, showing a beer bottle and a plate of peas on a wooden table.  Also use it in my intro classes as an example of printmaking.  It demonstrates the ideas of relief, of positive and negative space, textures, and the mirror image from the block to the print.  I figures that would explain the process as well as anything I could ever write.

So I shot the pair, side by side, over a large piece of white paper on my tack board.  Sent it to Nichole in an e-mail this afternoon. Whatever else happens, I now have this on a computer and can use it wherever I use a digital image.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Narwhal part 14

Wanted to finish coloring the 2nd proof of the narwhal print today, so once I got my office concerns taken care of, I was down in my space working on that.

I had decided that I liked the color choices I had made to this point, and on this second proof I had two big things remaining- the iceberg and all that ocean water.  First, put on a home made disc, with the entire relatively short Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings album 100 Days 100 Nights, and I filled up the rest of the disc with excerpts from a bonus disc included with the album, Binky Griptite's Ghetto Funk Power Hour, a pseudo-radio show staring the band's guitarist, along with a mixing board, a microphone, and a collection of the label's r&b and soul records.  (real or not, very compatible with the retro-soul sound of Sharon Jones, and just as enjoyable)

For the iceberg, I ended up going with what I did last time, mostly white with just a hint of pthalo blue.  My first try at the ocean I had gone with washes of indigo.  It's a color I like very much, but this  felt a little heavy, and kind of dull.  At first I had thought about playing around with the washes of that color, but then decided to go with something else I had mixed up already-  a mix of indigo, ultramarine, and white, created for use on the St Dwynwen print from early this year.

The overall value was fairly similar, but this new ocean color was a little more intense blue. So far I like it better, but eventually I will make a decision, and then figure out how to deal with the last proof that I have.

Life Around the JSAC

Late last night I got an e-mail from Matt, the director of the building in Ocean Grove where my Studio is, the guy in charge of all things physical.  It was a newsletter, the kind of thing distributed to all tenants in the building.  The first topic as regarding upcoming leases, but that is in Molly's name, so I have nothing to do with that.  The second major topic was the installation of air conditioners in studios, which has begun, and will carry some responsibilities.  No sign of any of that in our space, and again that would be Molly's responsibility.  He also mentioned that all the spring activities were now done and most employees would now be able to go on vacation.  I haven't seen him in the building in weeks and was beginning to assume he was already on vacation.  Meanwhile, I have several classes scheduled there over the summer and decided I should get some answers as soon as possible.

I had plans to go in and work on some Studio stuff anyway, but I expected Nichole would be around, and sure enough when I pulled into the parking lot she was out there talking to a contractor about some job to be done. I decided to go inside and sit on the bench outside the main office, figuring eventually she'd have to come that way.  And she did, but our conversation was interrupted a few times by other building people desperate to get their questions answered.   I was in no hurry, so I was able to wait and talk to her.

Her answer to the Green Room question was in line with my previous theory- that it was related to the theater above. (of course, me being a basement resident, I think of it as a room in the basement and not as adjacent to a first floor theater)  I showed her the printed version of the class advertisement from the paper (she created the ad and knew what it looked like, but this was evidence that it was being distributed) and she was able to share some related news- we already have 3 students signed up.  Don't know if they learned of the classes through the ads, from the home page, or through social media, just that all the sign-ups so far are for the drawing class, although there are some inquiries about the woodcut.  As for the air-conditioning question, she didn't know much about that, except to think that it may be up on the 3rd floor.  But it did give me an excuse to point out to her that based on past summers, heavy damp air would become a bit of a problem in the basement around the time things get going.  Now, if I have a job and have agreed to a time, location, hours, and a task, I will do as agreed to- that's how I roll. However, as I pointed out, people who are paying to be there may not be so agreeable, and if the location is unpleasant, they will be unlikely to want to take future classes in that location, so it's in everyone's best interest if we can resolve this issue before classes begin in three weeks.  She promised to look into it and figure out a solution soon.

Her theory as to why the woodcut class is lagging so far is that most people just don't know what it is.  She may be right- even though the process has existed for over 1000 years, and has been practiced in all parts of the civilized world, there is an astonishing lack of knowledge regarding printmaking in general and woodcut in particular.  So I agreed to send her a 3 or 4 sentence description of the process that she can include in the next round of promotion. And earlier this evening, I wrote something up and e-mailed it to her.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Summer Class Promotion

Local ads in the Coast Star for my summer classes in Ocean Grove appeared last week, and I picked up the print version from my mother on Friday, but it's much easier to shoot this kind of thing in my Studio than at home, so here it is today.  Plus I was hoping to find out a little more about why these are called "Green Room Classes".  I know they are being held in the old school cafeteria (the sign is still mounted above the door to it) which is a large room, and this time of year mostly empty.
And those of us who have been occupying the basement for years know of it as the Cafeteria.

 I do know the space well, as my Studio has been making use of it for years.  Above is a photo shot one of the many times we held the critique there.  Lots of room when not otherwise occupied, and it meant that Molly would not have to clean up any of her mess.  And we regularly made use of other walls in the cafeteria or a near by hallway (which no longer exists) as gallery space during the critiques.  (I thought of it as our "annex.")

I also used a piece of the cafeteria as the location for the pose of my Twenty-first Century Employee print, as it was convenient to my Studio, had plenty of spare space, and natural light coming in from a window in a place that suited the composition I had in mind for the piece.

One thing I learned recently was that most of the people who regularly work in the offices or floors above have never been to the basement, seem to be a little scared of it.  (at a holiday party on the 3rd floor, and in the elevator, I've met senior citizens who did not believe I've had a Studio in the building for over a decade, until I mentioned it was in the basement, and they admitted they would never go down there.) I looked at the space today, and there is not a sign of anything green in the room.  The studio that Molly and I occupy came with a painted green floor that is still there; it's how I recognized the place in the beginning before the yellow path was painted on the basement floor leading to it.

So why is this room with no green known as the Green Room?  My best guess is that it comes from the tradition in television that the room where guests wait before it's their turn to go on stage is called a green room, and the old school cafeteria is just downstairs from the stage, the closest room to the theater and the dressing rooms are all down there just off the cafeteria.  I should try to find out before the classes begin- some students may want to know.

The Narwhal part 13

Had some free time today, so I decided to press ahead with this narwhal print.  For music, went with a disc my friend Doug had made for me years ago- an album from Shazam member Hans Rotenberry and his longtime collaborator Brad Jones, called Mountain Jack, and Street Songs of Love from Alejandro Escovedo.  After having looked at the photos of the first color proof, I decided that some of it was definitely working well. The cool gray color I had created for the whale body I liked, and I had more of that ready to go, so I put that to use. The tusk and the underside of the iceberg are standard tube colors, so nothing to mix.  The browns used in the mud of the ocean floor are also standard tube colors ready to go, so I got some of those down as well.  Because the colors were already mixed or chosen before I started, some of this went faster than the first time around, but at the same time I took a little more time coloring each section.  As a result, only half finished, but what's there looks good.  I'll finish the whole thing next time.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Narwhal part 12

The next step in the process of this piece is to hand color the proofs I took over the past week. Got up to the Studio shortly past 11:00 am, and once again the place was nearly empty. Worked my way to my space downstairs.  Felt like a day for jazz, so I put on a disc collecting favorite pieces from three albums that Dexter Gordon recorded for Blue Note in the early to mid 60's.  Had a color plan (not surprisingly, a lot of blue), but had to see how it all worked out.

At various times in the process of creating this piece I have turned to the internet for information.  Images of narwhals, environment, etc.  Went back again this week and used some of the findings in creating my color palette for this piece.  For example, they generally have a typical whale color, but with dark mottling on the top, and white underneath, a common pigmentation pattern in creatures that live in water, making them harder to see from above and from below in that particular environment.  Some of this went into my block design.  Another thing I wasn't sure of was the eyes.  The eyes have standard mammalian design (after all they evolved from something like a hippopotamus, like all whales), but in all the photos I found of actual narwhals in the environment, the eyes appear to be completely black.

Took my test proof out of the drying rack, the one I did a repair to the other day.  The black ink appeared to be dry, but any time part of my hand rested on the proof I ended up with a hint of black ink, so I tried not to let that happen often.  In images that involve landscape and distances, artists have learned to use atmospheric perspective.  The famous "purple mountains majesty" that we've all heard about is not about the actual mountains, that up close are the standard colors of rocks- browns and grays mostly.  However from a great distance, they do appear to be lighter and more purplish.  For that matter, so do forests of trees.  This is due to miles and miles of air between the viewer and the subject.  While we tend to think of air as invisible, it is a gas with substance and it refracts a tiny bit of light from the cool end of the spectrum, adding a blue-purple tint to anything far away.  Over the past several centuries artists have learned to make use of this phenomenon, that cooler colors seem to sit back, while warmer, and darker more intense colors (less air) seem to sit forward.  Water can have a more extreme effect.  While up close all water appears to be transparent, it also refracts and reflects a little blue (the blue surface on the oceans and great seas is more about a reflection of the blue sky above) so that the dominant color under the sea seems to be bluish. With water being denser than air, this effect can be magnified.  Before doing anything else, I tested various paints I had on palettes in my kit, a mix of straight tube colors and mixed tints and shades.  Some might be part of this new piece.

For the main color of the whale, I went with a pale gray, a common whale color.  Started by mixing a little chinese white with some pthalo blue, but the blue overwhelmed the white quickly (as it tends to do) so I added a little bit of permanent orange, which brought it to a cool gray.  That would do, put that everywhere.  A very pale wash of the pthalo for the animal's horn, a darker version of the same for the underside of the iceberg, and a wash of the phthalo mixed with white for the part of the iceberg going straight up, the lightest thing in the image.

A solid black eye would look too much like one of the large spots on the mottled back, and I had cut the block to have a white and pupil breakdown in the eye.  Colored it with a dark wash of black, giving it a dark look overall, but still allowing the pupil to be noticed in the dark eye.

The surrounding water is all washes of indigo, which is made from a mix of blue and black pigment.  The one thing without a bit of blue is the streak of muddy dirt on the ocean's floor, done with some burnt sienna.

And that completed my first pass at this narwhal color image.  This is a pretty busy weekend in my family, so I won't touch the next one until next week.  Meanwhile I'll look at what was done here and decide if I like it as it is or if there needs to be any changes before I get to the second colored proof.

Home for a quick lunch and then out again for afternoon errands. That eventually brought me down to Manasquan.  Picked up some produce from the garden, and also my mother offered me the ad for my classes from the printed version of the Coast Star.  Has all the basic information about the classes- dates, times, materials provided, location, everything but my name, which is on the website which people will have to go to to register, unless they just send in a check, an option they are given.  There will likely be more ads as we get closer, but I'm curious to see if this one brings in any business.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Narwhal part 11

The first phase of this narwhal project was to design and cut the block.  The second phase is to pull some proofs with black oil based ink for use as prints.  The last phase is to use color relief inks to color the block itself, as I did with the mermaid block a few years ago.  The only problem is that when I searched my ink supply in the Studio the last time I was there, the color inks weren't there. Had just a few small Speedball tubes, but not my large Daniel Smith tubes.  What I had might get me through the process, but I knew it would be easier with the others.  This morning I had an idea.  All along I had assumed that the ink must have been put somewhere else for another project, but this morning (while the rain continued to fall) I remembered that I had brought color inks to all the linocut classes I taught last summer; perhaps they never got back to the Studio. I had checked my car yesterday, so this morning I checked my apartment and found a bag with 5 large nearly full tubes of water based relief ink- red, yellow, blue, green, and white.  Now I was in business.

The rain stopped late morning. While still at home I got a call from my mother, who had read the online version of the Coast Star (southern Monmouth coastal town weekly) while out of the house and saw the ad for my classes at the JSAC.  Out a little sooner than I expected, but that's not a problem, especially since the registration system is now in place.

News reports of the local weather were a little unspecific as to how long this break in the rain would last, so I decided to take advantage of the dry (and cooler) weather to get up to Ocean Grove with some more paper and pull one last black proof of my narwhal block.  So after lunch, I gathered what I needed and hit the road.

The weather stayed cool and gray, but dry as I got up there. The building was pretty empty, but that never bothers me.  For music I went with a copy I made of a disc containing the first two albums by X, the seminal Los Angeles punk band, and like so many southwestern bands, with a hint of country and western.  The first task was to put away my new supply of old color ink.

The company that made and sold these inks decided several years ago to stop doing both, so these are now a rarity.  However there is no value in hoarding them, so I'll just keep using them as needed until they dry up or are exhausted.  Put this collection away with the rest of my other inks.

My real purpose today was to get one more proof of the narwhal block before I started coloring it.  The disc included two albums, Los Angeles and Wild Gift, and still only clocked in at about an hour, but I figured with the hard fast music that was all I'd need to get a proof done. I had brought another sheet of the okawara with me, but I also had a piece of Rives Heavyweight torn to the right size but not used in the previous printing session, and decide to go with that one today. A lot of big black shapes in this block, so I decided to go with a small soft brayer that allowed me to put down a lot of ink, while avoiding the larger white shapes. Blocks with broad black shapes are easy to ink, but printing those shapes evenly often requires much re-inking and physical effort.   But I finished the printing in that hour.

My best proof of the block to date, most like what I expected.   Maybe it was the paper choice.  Took me another hour to clean up everything.  I expect to hand color these proofs- first my repaired test proof, then the others based on what I learn doing that.  But direct printing of the block is now complete.  The first two proofs I took several days ago seem pretty dry now, so maybe I'll begin the coloring process tomorrow.

Back home I sent e-mails to three local people- all fans of woodcut, and all visitors to the recent print show opening we had in the Ocean Grove building. Letting them know that the classes are now scheduled and registration is open. Not to get them to sign up, but with a request to pass the information on to anyone they know who might be interested in some art classes in the region.  So all in all, a busy day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Woodcut Class in Ocean Grove

Here are two photos of things that will never be exactly the same again.  The classes go on, but the settings have changed a bit.

Above is a linocut class I once taught in my Studio at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove.  Below is an image of a woodcut printmaking class I taught at the Belmar Arts Council.  Classes will happen again, but they won't look quite like that.

For example, my Studio space in Ocean Grove no longer has that bright red wall.  After some leaks, it was decided the solution was to repaint the walls with an ugly gray paint, and the windows were eventually replaced, taking the green trim with it.  (Those colors live on in other parts of the room and on our outside doorways.) I have no immediate plans to teach linocut there or anywhere.  However they are finally ready to start offering art classes at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  Individual artists in the building always have had them (the linocut class was part of a series called "Creativity By the Sea" from several years ago) but this is the first time that the whole organization has organized  them.  And they won't be held in our spaces, but in what was known as the cafeteria in the old school, but now they are calling "The Green Room".  Don't have any good photos of it right now.  They are hoping to have more of the resident artists involved eventually, but I get to be the first.  Round 1 is in July, with Basic Drawing on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 4:30 (July 9, 16, 23, 30) and Woodcut Printmaking on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 8:30 (July 10. 17, 24, 31).  See their website for more information and registration. Scroll down past the calendar.

As for Belmar, that space you see above, which was built to be a classroom space, has been claimed by the photographers to be their new lounge, but they can't stop woodcut from happening.  So it will be like days past, where I set up the tables in the front or back gallery, depending on what else was going on.  That class will be on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9:00 (July 9, 23, 30, Aug 13) with information and registration available on the BAC website under Classes.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Narwhal part 10

Late last night, I checked the website for the Jersey Shore Arts Center and found the classes I am teaching are finally mentioned on the home page.  Gives my name and the names of the classes.  Unfortunately, that's it.  No way to register, and if you find your way to the other page on the site that has a mention, it still has an incorrect time for one of them.  No registration there either, but under the circumstances, that may be for the best.  At least now the class is less secret, and if anyone runs across this and wants to know more, the real information can be obtained.

I had hoped to talk to Nichole about this today, and some other related things, but she wasn't in.  But the trip wasn't a total waste.  I did want to check the status of my two proofs from last week, and found the ink was still a little wet.  Not smeary, but did leave a residue on my fingers when I touched it- needs a few more days to be dry enough to color.  I suppose I could have pulled a third proof of the block, but with the constant rain, I didn't want to try to move my paper in from the car.  (more mist than heavy rain at times, but any water can be dangerous for paper)  One thing I could do safely was repair the hole made by hand rubbing the first proof.

The paper from the torn spot was still attached at one side, just scrunched up a bit.  Easy fix.  I carefully pulled the paper back over the hole, smoothed it, flipped the print onto its face, tore another small piece of okawara big enough to cover the hole, and glued it in place with a little pva. Left it in the rack to dry.  This kind of thing would be enough to eliminate this proof from an edition, but it's fine for this test proof.  I'll try my luck with coloring later this week.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

More Tales of Birds

When I got to the Boatworks for today's reception, I found that parts of the show had been hung in a new way.  For example, the very large painting that had been next to my piece (which turned out to be a pelican, by the way) was replaced with a new equally large piece, the above portrait.  Similar switches also occurred in other parts of the gallery, all since my visit yesterday, which did play havoc with some of the things I had shot for the BAC blog.  No official explanation was given, but it seems that most of the moved pieces were prize winners, and with our juror up from Florida for the occasion, I guess they decided to move them to better locations in the gallery.

Knowing how Belmar can be on summer weekends, I went extra early and felt lucky to get a space in our parking lot, the last one at the point when I arrived, which was before 4:30 for the 5:00 event.  So the gallery was still fairly empty.  One of the early arrivers was Linda Jensen, who was one of my Belmar woodcut students last year, and the one to hip me to the giant tree sculpture in Manasquan this year, woodcarving always being relevant.  She had been a possible participant in this spring's big traditional print show in Ocean Grove, but couldn't get her piece finished in time, though she did come to our opening.  We talked about relief printmaking, wood carving, landscaping her large back yard to benefit the deer (her topic) and the show there in Belmar.

Eventually the crowds did start to arrive.  As people walked in the door many were complaining about how far away they had to park.  The town did seem extra crowded.  Started with a nice weather weekend, and there was some big sports event going on over on 16th Avenue- big crowds on foot, and cars filling all the lots and street parking over there. Someone in attendance mentioned that there may have been something going on in the marina, but I can't verify that. Some people came into the Boatworks looking for a sailing outfit that has been a scourge on the BAC for years; since they exist only on the boat slips down the road, they have regularly tried to have us receive their mail, use our place as a street address for directions, have their customers use our restroom, have their food delivered there, etc. Still, we had over 60 works in the show, and as a rule, the more artworks in the show, the more artists and friends/family will show up to the opening, and within an hour the place was packed.

Most people clear out after the awards are announced, but one who arrived later was Jeanine, local artist who used to work with one of my far away college friends, and when that friend came up to see a show a few years ago, we all went out for pizza.  So now I know her, too, and we end up in a lot of the same group shows.  So we talked about the current show, and the latest news regarding our mutual friends, which I knew more of than she did.  She arrived just as someone was leaving and also felt lucky to get a parking space.  The show remains up through July 13th.  Not a bad show, but if you do go I recommend a weekday if your schedule allows it.  Picked a good path out of town, since escaping Belmar on a summer weekend can also be a struggle, delayed by a train, but that was all.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Bird Tales on Display

On the way back from the Studio I stopped by Belmar and today the Boatworks was open.  Sandy Taylor was in measuring wall space for an upcoming show.  The theme then will be large paintings and already she's being contacted by people with paintings larger than any wall we have, so she figured they better see what space they have before they accept anything.  I'm pretty sure we have these measurements somewhere, but no one knows now, so I suggested when she is done to make many copies and hide them in every file in the place, so we'll be ready next time.

I found my piece in the back room, which explains why I didn't see it looking through the windows of the darkened gallery a few days ago.  (Sandy mentioned that someone was supposed to be gallery sitting that day to let people in, but my experience tells me that didn't happen) The pairing of my small piece with pigeons and the church and the very large painting of the white bird (from what I can see in this photo, it looks like some kind of spoonbill, but I'll check again tomorrow) seems odd, but I like that large painting, so I like the combination.  I'll have more photos of the whole space following tomorrow's reception.

The Narwhal part 9

My plan for the narwhal block was to pull some black ink proofs, then to decide if it was done being cut and if I planned to color any of them.  The completed block was in the Studio, had a go bag of printing stuff  (ink, ink knives, brayers, wooden print tools, print apron, hand soap) in the back my car, packed an assortment of paper in my apartment, cutting tools in case I needed them, and hit the road.  Got up there in the 11:00 hour, place was fairly empty.

After inspecting the block, I decided that the cutting was satisfactory, so proceeded to the inking.  Put out some oil based black ink, and chose two brayers, one hard and one soft.  Measured the still dry block against my papers and realized it was too big to fit the entire thing on half a sheet of any of my papers.  Since these are just tests anyway, I took a sheet of the okawara, tore it in half, with the plan that I would have to bleed the block partly off the paper.  The focus of the print is the part in the middle, so losing bits of the ends wouldn't matter.

Inking the block helped pick up some of the dark shading I had cut into the block and not pre darkened with ink wash, but it was pretty much what I expected. The downstairs felt fine when I arrived, but the more I worked, the warmer and moister it felt down there, the heat and dampness of the summer. But I kept working.  Put on a disc with the complete collection of Zombies singles from their original run.  Inking the first time is always tricky, as the wood absorbs some of the ink,  but I got through it, and pulled the first proof.  A slight tear in the dark black area above the tail, but I can repair that later.  The second proof inked a lot faster, but I took more care with printing (no tearing this time).  Short term hung them both on my tack wall to inspect them.

Zombies disc done, I grabbed a disc onto which I had burned the UK version of the debut album from the Manic Street Preachers (two record double LP, as opposed to the single shorter CD distributed in America, courtesy of my friend Doug Daniel, the biggest fan the band ever had in this country) Above are the first two proofs. The top one is the one with the small tear, so that will be my practice proof for coloring. The shadowy areas in the water on the second proof picked up a little more ink, which was intentional.

This is a better photo of the best proof of the day.  With the heat and humidity, I decided against pulling a third, so blotted the block and cleaned up.  I can get one on another day if I wish it, or just go ahead and start coloring the block as planned.   I don't consider this to be a major work, but I think it turned out just fine.  Composition is fine, good balance of black and white, though I do plan to add some color to the proofs.  Left block and proofs in my drying rack.

Making Art in My Sleep

Woke up after the sun but well before my alarm was set to go off, so I eventually got back to sleep. And art invaded my dreams.  I had walked into a dimly lit large room that had stuff piled up everywhere, and some large low dumpsters in the center of the room.  In the closest dumpster to me (sides low enough that I could easily see over them) was loosely piled bodies.  Not living humans, but life size sculptures of adult bodies, both genders, carved in stone, or cast in concrete or bronze.  Some nude, some dressed.  All were incomplete, missing some parts, though I didn't know if they were made that way or had broken off.  Was this a storeroom for things being disposed of, a workshop for repair? Where had they come from?  I had no idea.

In walked Lewis Cohen, who was the main sculpture professor at William and Mary in my later years there.  Never took a class with him and probably had few conversations, but it's a small school so we knew each other by sight. Last saw him in 1990- probably retired by now.  He asked me what was going on, and I told him I had come in looking for some scrap paper, which at the time seemed truthful. Then he asked me what this place was, and I obviously didn't know the answer.  But my reply was also truthful, "I think these are the makings of an interesting figure art installation."  None of the figures was standing or laying down straight at attention, but all were posed as if sitting, reclining, or doing other activities, although the missing parts would have made it challenging.  He mumbled an agreement. Told him I was going to go get my camera to get some photos of all this for future reference and left.  

Outside it had gotten darker, but the sun wasn't down yet.  Crossed a very wide road, watching out for swerving cars, but none came close to hitting me.  I believed my camera had been left inside a particular store, but the place was packed, with a big crowd (appeared to be college age) waiting outside to get in.  But something seemed wrong.  Faces were blank, eyes were vacant.  Didn't know if they were waiting for a drug connection, or selling their bodies on the street, or worse, but I did decide that I didn't want to hang around to find out, much less push my way through the crowd.  Figured I'd deal with my camera another time and get away from there before anything bad went down.  I realized that these living people standing around were more disturbing than the bin of piled up and broken (seemingly dead) bodies I had left in the other place.

Still not sure what all this means.  Except for a 3D foundations class I took even before I met Cohen, all my figure art experience is flat- drawings, paintings, prints.  And there has been a lot of it, as head and figure have been a focus in my art from the start. (an influence of comic books, or renaissance and baroque art, or maybe both) When I taught 3D Design, I had students make small figures for an exercise in canons of proportion and create an installation around them for a later project, but it involved nothing life sized and I have never done any such thing myself.  No immediate plans to either, but I wrote all this down and I'll give my subconscious (which produced this dream in the first place) a chance to work on it. If it sends me an interesting and workable art idea, you'll find out here.  Meanwhile, the cure for weird dreams about art is to go make some good art, and that was my plan for the morning.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Bird Tales

According to the BAC website, today was the opening of the new Bird Tales exhibition at the Boatworks.  Dropped by on my way up to the Studio to check it out, but I couldn't get in.  I wasn't sure what would happen, as Wednesday is normally the day off for our office person, and last I heard we had no assistants on the payroll.  For that matter I heard she may be on vacation all this week, but that's neither here nor there.  The door was locked and the lights were off, but looking though the window it appears the show is hung.  Didn't see my piece, but this show had a lot of entries and mine may have been hung in the back room.  Swung by the building again on my way home, but saw it was still dark, no flag up, so I assumed it was still closed.  Didn't need to get out of the car.

Maybe I'll stop by tomorrow, maybe not. I do know that the opening reception is scheduled for Saturday June 8th, 5 to 7 pm, so I hope they have someone to open the building in time for that.

The Narwhal part 8

Back to the Studio today.  On my way downstairs I stopped and saw Nichole, who showed me the print ad she will be running regarding the classes.  She told me that online registration for the classes will be up soon.  I told her I would get her some photos of past classes by tonight, in case she wanted to use them.  I have plenty, so I'll send her an assortment in case she wants to use them. And with that settled, I went downstairs to finish off my new block.

There wasn't much left, so I knew a single album would be enough, and chose a disc with Vendetta! by the Brood.  Good aggressive music got me through the job quickly. Sometime in the near future I will pull a standard proof (black ink on white paper), and a few other copies if I like the results.  Maybe it will stay as a black and white print, maybe it will be hand colored- I'll decide when I see the results.  Then I will color the block, to eventually be used as a wall hanging.

Monday, June 03, 2019

The Narwhal part 7

No other plans for today, so it seemed a good day to get to the Studio.  Some others felt differently it seemed. The most direct route from home includes a portion traveling on route 35 north.  Pulled onto that road, no problem. Then a problem, because police decided to close it down. Saw no problems from where I was, but we had the choice to turn left or right or nothing. I went with right.  Either way it would be a detour of miles- such is the nature of roads in that area. Luckily I know many ways to get to where I go, but it added time.

Got up there eventually.  Lots of cars in the parking lot, but I think they were all yoga women, because I saw no one else in the building, and just one other name tag up.  No problem- I don't need anyone else there to get work done.  Put on a disc which had a couple of Beatles albums burned onto it, estimated that would take me up to about 2 pm.

The art plan was to continue work on the narwhal block, starting from the left side.  What remained was mostly the water and such.  First did the area around the anchor and chain, then gradually did the rest of the water around the whale's tail.  After that, gradually crept up toward the rest of the animal.  Left some bits more dark than others, but the water was pretty much randomly cut out.  When my music choice was over, seemed like a good time to clean up, pack up, and head home to get some lunch. Came back home on 35 south, and saw no evidence of any accidents, disasters, or construction, so I assume they had just closed down the road going north to annoy us.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Birds on the Wing

I had gotten a reminder yesterday that this morning was the intake day for the new Birds show in Belmar.  A little unusual, as in all the years I have been a artist there, intakes have always been on a Saturday, not a Sunday, but one day is the same as another most of the time.  I was there on time, and it all got done.  I think it opens next week, but I'll post something here soon.

But it was indeed a Sunday, so at one point I had on the CBS Sunday morning show, and once again there was some art.  A story about a wood carver, a guy who was doing some very fancy wood carved sculptures.  Very complex and delicate, realistic renderings of things as thin and delicate as leaves and feathers, but executed in wood.  Spent years learning to do it, but the result was there.  His workshop showed his tools- a table with dozens and dozens of wood carving gouges, some looking not unlike the ones I use. I guess that makes sense.  If my tools were sharp enough, and I had wood that could handle such carving, I'm sure I could do things like that as well.  Luckily woodcut is never that fancy.  The goal is a two dimensional image, and blocks that can stand up to the pressure of hand printing.  I can make things that are quite delicate, but the viewers will never see them.  Just need something that can make the print I have in mind- the block is not on display.  Once again, I see a story like that as something that can build interest in what I do.  Possess quality tools, and if you have the ambition to try it, why not?

Part of the story was about the artist's career ending, a medical condition catching up with his physical ability to make the sculptures.  That happens, too.  In his case, it was ALS so the last fancy sculpture that he completed was the last one he ever did and would do.  The story didn't mention his death, just that he was not physically up to the task of wood carving anymore. The human body seems designed for about 40 useful years, then after that they start to gradually break down.  I passed 40 a while back, but I can still carve as well as I ever have, so I will keep going.  There's always another project to be done, another idea to be executed.  When I finish the narwhal, I have ideas ready  to go for the projects that will follow.  I recently caught a M*A*S*H rerun that I always felt was an accurate description of how art works.  A wounded soldier arrives at the hospital and Major Winchester uses his skills to do amazing repairs to his leg (which he expects will eventually be good as new) and  his arm (which will be usable and look fine, but not quite what is was) but the patient is not happy.  Turns out he is a concert pianist, and realizes that the ability will likely be gone forever.  The doctor feels he has failed, not just because the patient will never be able to again play a piano at the level he could, but because the patient is too despondent to see any other possibility.  What the episode becomes about is Winchester getting the patient to realize that there is far more to his musical gift than his physical ability to play a piano.  That may be gone, but his artistic ability can live on if he can find another outlet.  What the doctor eventually gets him to see is that the lessening of manual dexterity in one hand does not affect his brain and his soul (where our music loving doctor feels the true gift resides), so there are still things he can accomplish.   At the end of the episode, we don't know what this former piano player will do, but he seems to realize that his musical knowledge is still there, so it's just a matter of him picking a new path and seeing what he can accomplish. And that is a lot of what art is.  Most of my students are true beginners, no real skills yet, so I try to get them to think how art gets made.  Master that, and the rest will follow.  I don't know if this retired wood carver has a new career ready to go, but he clearly understands how three dimensions work.  He has a disease that eventually takes down the whole body, so he may not get the opportunity to do much else.  But he clearly has an understanding of the world that most people don't, so one hopes he finds another way to use that knowledge and transmit it to someone else.

As for the rest of my day, a lot of e-mail mostly. A lot of people out there need to learn a lot of things, and I have the ability to share my experience with a lot of people, so I do what I can.  But tomorrow I will likely also be back in the Studio, continuing on my latest block.  That's another thing that can be shared with people, and probably the most fun one to accomplish.