Saturday, August 31, 2019

Supermarket Fireworks part 8

Once again working from home, but sometimes sources come to where you are.  Local PBS stations often show episodes of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country on weekends, cooking shows that I enjoy as they often include practical information that I can adapt.  Sometimes even for art.  For example, today one of them was doing an equipment test on large plastic coolers, popular for summer excursions.  Large plastic coolers are also part of my next supermarket print, one of the items that was sold in the seasonal aisle where I saw the fireworks, and something I had always planned to include in the background of my print.  On the show they decided not to test ones that cost over $1000 (and yes they come that expensive), but I don't think I've ever seen one like that in a supermarket, but they had plenty that could be at home in that location.  Recorded it on the DVR, so I could go back and freeze frame anything helpful, then went back and made adjustments to my block sketch. (had some already from memory, but these are better) As with yesterday, I'll skip a photo for now, as shooting good photos in my apartment is a challenge, so you'll see the results sometime next week.

The food part of the episode was about the best way to cook a full brisket in the proper Texas style, and this also relates to my art experience.  Not cooking it, but eating it.  Back in 2005 I was invited to be part of something called the Print Blitz in Arlington. Texas.  Organized by faculty member Nancy Palmeri, faculty member at U Texas Arlington and longtime member of the Outlaw Printmakers group that I have also been a part of.  Four main groups were present- invited artists (my group, mostly college faculty), undergrad print students (mostly connected to those college faculty), print students from the host college, and about a dozen high school students from a Dallas area arts magnet school.  The faculty types were given beds in a college dorm within walking distance of the studio building.  That studio set up was quite nice (still have my school ID that I had to use to get in and out)- two very large rooms with tables, presses, counters, easels, etc plus a smaller connecting room with lots of tables.  That's the room I set up in. Mostly me, Bill Fick (an Outlaw I have known for years and worked with in various locations) and some of the high school students, though many of our friends wandered in and out of the space.  The UT print students got the job of driving us around as needed, such as the local art museums (not bad really) and when I needed some art supplies, the closest place to campus, a building that held an art supply store and a gun shop.  (this was Texas after all) Food and drink as well.  Once I was in a group that went to a local place and was prevented from leaving by a middle aged couple yelling about how our car had damaged their brand new Mercedes by parking next to it in the parking lot.  Their car was three rows away, but they claimed it had been parked next to ours earlier and demanded a police investigation and report.  When the cops arrived all they found was a small chip in the paint on the bumper (could be road gravel for all we know) and couldn't believe they were called out to investigate this.  Worst of all, our group was late joining the others at a bar and missed out on some free beer.

Naturally we had opportunities to enjoy the local cuisine, and in Texas it's all about meat.  I remember one place we were taken to.  I couldn't remember the name today, but I found it easily on the internet.  It was highly recommended by some of the local students, a place called the RailHead Smoke House.  Food dished out cafeteria style inside, find a seat outdoors.  At least one in our group was excited to try their smoked sausage (big in Texas barbecue) but it looked just like kielbasa, which  I like well enough but can get that here.  I went for a combination platter- a big cardboard container of barbecued ribs (beef-it was Texas and that's what they prefer there), another big cardboard container full of juicy slices of beef brisket, and a third large cardboard container with a mountain of french fries.  Inexpensive and very tasty, filled me up for the rest of the day.   As diners left, they left bones and such on the tables, and I got to watch the greasiest scruffiest grackle I have ever seen hopping among the vacant tables, grabbing the old spare rib bones.  I'm used to seeing pigeons and sea gulls picking through garbage, but this was new.  I imagined that mother birds there in Texas might bring old spare rib bones back to the nest to feed their chicks, and was inspired to create the following piece while down there in Arlington.

The other print I did was my second bowling alley scene, an imaginary thing based on memories of a 1970's bowling alley snack bar, with what one fellow artist called the "saddest hot dog he had ever seen".  Unfortunately, I do not have a digital image of that piece to share here.

That Print Blitz was on my mind recently because of the class in Ocean Grove.  One thing I remember well was the intense interest of the high school students.  No formal classes- just a lot of print artists doing their thing, and the kids were welcome to watch, ask questions.  Over that week, some did a woodcut, and an etching, and a silkscreen, and probably a few other things, too.  They had an opportunity to work side by side with talented professional artists who knew processes and equipment they probably had no access to back in high school, and they didn't want to waste a minute of it. We adult faculty could come and go at will, and might knock off in the early evening to go have a beer or two, but the high school students just wanted to keep making prints.  The local college students had to be present to monitor the high school students, and I had heard that on the last night they had to throw the high school students out of the building around 3 or 4 a.m. so they could go home and get some sleep.  Nothing quite that extreme happens in Belmar or Ocean Grove, but I have seen a lot of students work hard to finish their block (or blocks sometimes) so they can print it on week 4, or print multiple copies, working right up to the end of the scheduled class.  They have the knowledge of what to do on their own, and the ability to go buy their own materials, but they really want to get things done right there, perhaps while they have access to an experienced printmaker.  If that's what it takes to get them hooked, I'll do my part.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Supermarket Fireworks part 7

After taking a day off to recover from this week's classes and to mow the lawn, it was time to go back to the Studio.  On the other hand, we are entering Labor Day Weekend, and beach towns are the last place I want to be on summer holiday weekends.  Still, I had business to take care of.  After taking care of some other errands, I got up to Ocean Grove shortly past noon

Nichole wasn't in the office, but then I ran into her in the 1st floor hallway, so we could exchange information.   Gave her an update on the conclusion of the summer classes.   I had put information into the various e-mails I had sent her during the week, but I gave it to her in person today, bringing up a few concerns that had occurred to me related to the drop in classes next month, and more feedback from my August students.  We will deal with details in a few weeks.  Also an update on the ongoing basement hallway light problem, so I could tell the guy who replaced our bulb on Monday that by Wednesday it was not working again.  (checked other switches in the hallway and our bulb is the only one malfunctioning- and with no idea if it's the bulb, the switch, the fixture, or the wiring, or even something else, they have a project to deal with.  But not today- no one wanted to hang around too long in that town, so I picked up my latest supermarket block to take home.  Still in the pencil drawing phase, and that I can do in my apartment. away from tourist traffic.

Advanced the piece a little bit in the afternoon. The one part of the block where I had done the least work was the far left side, the bakery section, but I knew all along what I wanted to do.  In the front of the counter is that Jane cake with the sparklers, and at home I could easily pull up the photo of the inspirational cake (from this very blog) to sketch it.   However, for the assortment of other cakes on display, I used an old pro as my resource- Wayne Thiebaud.  I became familiar with Thiebaud's paintings back in my undergrad years, where my painting professor was a big fan and showed slides of his work in class a lot.  I show examples of Thiebaud's work to my students now, as we deal with color.  Thiebaud is sometimes grouped with Pop Art. which he disagreed with, but then Degas didn't like being grouped with Impressionists despite the obvious common ground.  Theibaud dealt with a wide variety of subjects (always thought his vertigo inducing views of San Francisco streets were fantastical, until I visited out there and saw they really looked just as he painted them) but he was always seeking to paint objects realistically. Did figures and such as well, but he's best known for images of food objects- sandwiches, bowls of soup, and cakes, with thick paint in bold colors, giving the objects almost a feeling of existing.  (retired from teaching in the 1970's, and had a retrospective exhibition in his native California a few years ago, but in his 90's he still enjoys playing tennis almost daily) When I need to see images of cakes, he's the man I turn to.   Have a good hardcover book, a catalog from a 90's retrospective, and cakes and pies are well represented.  Didn't copy his baked goods directly, but used them to get ideas of how to visualize cakes.  (my small simplified black and white images couldn't capture his thick colorful painted images anyway) I roughed in a bakery counter's worth of cakes and pies, and will clean up the details later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Woodcut Class Week 4

Teaching woodcut tonight, so some rain was inevitable.  Luckily the worst of it came earlier, after I had moved the large paper to my car and before I got to the Studio and needed to unload.  One advantage of teaching a class in the same building where I have a Studio is that some of what I need is already there.  Just two trips to carry in everything I needed for tonight's concluding class.

Got to the building around 4 pm, well before class was happening.  I could see that room #3 was all kinds of torn up, but I expected nothing else.  Eventually I'll want to know what they are doing to that room, but it can wait.  Saw Nichole just long enough to verify today's teaching location and that she would take care of posting the signs, then she was off to a meeting.  I went downstairs to relax a little before setting up.  No Molly.  Also, no hallway light outside our door.  Saw it fixed on Monday, saw it work yesterday, and now it's broken again.  I'll have to bring it to their attention.  Meanwhile I took advantage of the solitude to listen to a disc I keep there, a copy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!  Nick Cave is certainly an odd ball, who I first was exposed to in Carbondale when an undergrad saw my print of St Christina the Astonishing on my wall and said he knew the story from the song.  Seems that Cave was in the process of kicking heroin and started getting into religion, including reading about saints.  (the student lent me a copy of the album the song came from, and sure enough it's a straightforward account of the life of St Christina the Astonishing, the second Christina on that day, so she had to have a specifying characteristic) The title song in this later album was a joining of fragments from different songs (something the Beatles did from time to time), an odd combination of the intellectual activity of a man in a coma, and the life of a man who was resurrected from the dead, and wandered around California as a cult leader, before returning to New York City and dying on the street as a homeless drug addict.  Like I said, an odd ball, but he often makes you think. The rest of the album is all over the place, but somehow it all holds together.

By 5:30 I had started moving stuff over to the Cafeteria and getting ready for class.  This is week 4, which is when all the printing happens.  My two students have been working toward this goal, with both buying their own tools and working their blocks.  I made sure to have paper, ink, printing tools, etc.  I was ready when they arrived.

While hands were still clean we picked out the papers.   They both really liked the plain Rives, both soft and substantial, but also appreciated the decorative papers- bold colors, interesting textures, etc.  Used my metal straight edge to tear a few pieces to size.  I talked about ink and they chose to go with the oil based black ink- more work to clean up, but the black is so much darker and bolder.  And then they went to town.

When you have one night to print all your blocks, you can't waste any time.  Plus they really wanted to see what they had.

Pencil rubbings and preparatory drawings can be nice, but nothing compares to the first time you see a block inked and printed.  Relief printing is just so powerful.

Above is some of Nelly's output from tonight.  We had taken a proof of the eel head in my Studio the other day, but she saw the difference better ink and paper can make, and the other two were done with some of the wood I gave her that day and her new tools.  Mary Claire's piece is a little larger, started in class on week 2.  From the beginning it was always intended to be colored, and plans to go in with watercolor after the ink dries.

Below is the whole assortment of tonight's prints.  They had a busy night.

But soon class was over.  Both have plans for their next prints, and the knowledge to do them.  I'll be curious to see what develops. I explained to them that there is no part 2 to this class, and taking it again means more of the same, except less time needing instructions and more time working on their chosen projects.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Drawing Class Week 4

Nichole had told me yesterday that my classes this week would be down in the basement again.  She had thought that work on room #3 might be done by today, but now she realizes it could be another week. I do know that the large table has been removed from the room, it looks like they are planning to retile the floor, and maybe cabinets or shelves are being built.  No idea what is being planned there yet.  Luckily the weather has actually been pleasant this week, and the plan for these classes was all along to use the basement space, so I can't complain.

I knew my advanced student would not be in today (planned vacation), but I wasn't sure what would happen with the two beginners, but both showed up.  And both came down stairs without any complaints.  I brought the same mixed objects I had for week 4 in July, and let them select how large a portion they wanted to tackle, the size they wanted to work, etc. They both worked up to the end, not realizing that the time had run out- it's easy to get lost in art. I let them know about the drop in nights planned for September and the fall, should they want to do more. Then I packed up and headed home.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Supermarket Fireworks part 6

Got up to Ocean Grove a bit past noon. The parking lot was a lot more full than it usually is at that time, but I found one spot and grabbed it.  Inside the front door I saw the door to the basement propped open and a sign for the latest Victorian Craft series class.  Maybe it had to do with that?  From the top of the stairs I could see lights on in the immediate hallway.  Looked down the hallway and saw no lights on there, and the door was closed. Peeked into the cafeteria and saw that a class was going on, but I didn't want to disturb them, so I went to my space instead. Tested the light switch and the light was still not working.  Enough daylight around that I could find the lock and unlock the door.

Don't know if Molly is back yet from the northwest, but she wasn't there today so I could listen to music as I worked.  Brought one from home today- a home burned disc with two albums recorded from vinyl, both from the 1980's and learned about from listening to Montclair State radio, purchased used.  Repercussion from the dB's, and The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn from the Ben Vaughn Combo.  When the first compact disc recorder came out I was intrigued, but they were very expensive. Eventually the price was cut in half and I got one and began using it frequently.  Mostly making disc versions of things I had only on cassettes, like concerts from the radio, music not officially released for public sale, or from old vinyl, things that would never be released on disc. Also copies of commercial discs, to have copies in the Studio.  Back in my undergrad years I had a friend (chem major) who insisted that compact discs had no long term future- the plastic used to make them would begin to disintegrate within 10 years.  Of course the discs I bought back then are still working today.  Discs I burned at home in the 90's and early 21st century (such as what I listened to today) are still doing fine.  No, the problem is the industries- The younger generation prefers to download anything they need and doesn't like anything that can't be experienced with their smart phones, so music stores and book stores are pretty much extinct now.  Blank discs are no longer sold in stores, and compact disc players and recorders are no longer standard equipment in cars or on computers.  So I am back where I started, hoping that the equipment that allows me to listen to my collected recorded music will continue to be available. But I digress...

Anyway, enjoying some old music, and the fall-like weather we have had for the past several days, got some work done today.  One thing that I knew I needed for my new supermarket print was images of seasonal goods for sale, so when I went out over the past few days I always had some scrap paper in my pocket to take notes, including sketches of large numbers of folding chairs.   Had some of those sketches with me today when I got to the Studio.

So today I started roughing in some of these seasonal items that are being sold by the fireworks- large plastic coolers on the top shelf, racks of folded chairs on the middle shelf, and stacked pails and shovels on the bottom shelf.  A long way to go, but gradually getting there.

Meanwhile, one of the new building employees was finally working on my light problem.  Tried a new bulb, but still not working.   Was this a circuit problem?  We hadn't thought so, as every other light and outlet in that part of the basement was functioning, so power seemed adequate.  So he got a second bulb, tried that, and we had light again.  Glad that problem was resolved.  So was he, as he anticipated a long day of checking circuit breakers to try to figure out what was broken.

On my way out I stopped at the office and spoke to Nichole.  She gave me the check for the August classes, and confirmed that classes this week will be held in the cafeteria, but if the weather holds, that should be fine.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Woodcut Class week 3.5

Even before the last woodcut class ended, Nellie was already asking about another bonus visit.  She had been told that because she would have to miss a week on vacation, we would make sure she still got all the teaching she was entitled to if she signed up for the class.  Shortly before the vacation (like that day) she arranged to come in early on a Tuesday, when I am going to be there anyway, and I made sure she got her first piece of wood and a quick exposure to woodcut tools.  Only 30 minutes.  As it turned out, she never touched the wood, which is why she had to do her drawing at the beginning of our last class.  She needed to do a tracing of her original drawing onto a transfer paper and was very happy that I told her about how she could use the window on our front door as a substitute light table, something that hadn't occurred to her. Now we have just one more meeting left, and she wants to do 3 small prints, and figured she could use any extra time she could get.

She ended up asking to come in today.  At least to get the other pieces of wood, and maybe some time with my student tools.  We arranged all this via e-mail, then met around 11:30.  A lot of work still going on in room #3, so that was out.  Molly wasn't in today, so I decided to use my Studio.  First I quickly cut two new pieces of wood for her. Her plan from the beginning was to do three small prints involving animals.  The first one, now mostly carved, was based on a large sculpture of an eel head. She has already ordered her own set of the tools we use, but they won't arrive until some time next week.  Meanwhile she also cut a block of pink rubbery stuff, which the cheap tools she has can handle, a white line image of a cat.   What she really wanted was for me to ink and proof these early efforts, using the paper she had.  Not easy, as the paper was cut to the exact size of the blocks and was kind of thick and stiff. But I can handle this.

Used water soluble relief ink, so we could easily clean it with water and everything would dry quickly.  I inked the eel head and the cat piece and showed her how to print then with a wooden spoon.  Then she inked and printed a second eel head, plus an eye she cut into the back of the rubber block.  Better ink and better paper would get us better results, and I'll have both for week 4 (though she plans to buy her own paper before then), but she was overall pleased with the results.  Thinks she might already be addicted to the process.  Well, it can have that effect, especially after the first print is proofed.

She went back up the stairs to do another tracing on the front door light box, then came back to the Studio to start drawing the second block- a bat with its wings folded up.  Then she wanted to get some cutting in.  I had told her she had access to me and the tools until 1pm, which would be an hour and a half, and complete the two bonus hours we had promised her.  We had done a cutting lesson during the last class, so I just handed her the class tool collection and let her get to work, sitting at my table.  Not sure exactly how far she got, but she seemed happy with what was done and excited about what will all be done next week in class.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Woodcut Class Week 3

Got word yesterday that the woodcut class would have to move back downstairs to the Cafeteria (or Green Room as they are calling it) because room #3 would be unavailable. Was painted today, and it was though that the paint smell would be a problem.  The dehumidifier has had a positive effect on the basement, and the weather had been a little better, and with only two students, we had plenty of room.  Not nearly as much stuff to move in as in week 1.

Both students found their way there on time. Both also wondered why it was called the Green Room, since nothing in it is green, so I answered that as best I could.  But then it was work time.  The student who was in class last week had ordered some of her own tools and they have already arrived. They seemed sharp, but not quite as effective as the ones from last week, until I cut the handles' size  down (as the catalog suggests) and suddenly they were doing a great job and she got most of her block finished during the class. My other student had received her wood before going on vacation, but hadn't touched it yet, so she had to open the class with some drawing.  Once that was done, gave her a quick cutting and safety lesson and she could get started on that part and made some good progress.

Where we will be next week is still unknown.  But I do hope to continue our streak of having prints finished in time to print that day.

Supermarket Fireworks part 5

Class wasn't until 6 pm, but I decided to go up to Ocean Grove earlier.  There's always business to take care of, plus art to be made. Molly was already there (atypical for her to be there in an afternoon), so we were both working for a while.  She was doing silkscreens, while I was working on a woodcut.

The current project is my latest supermarket piece, about a fireworks display in my local supermarket.   This alone would have been very unusual, as explosive novelties were illegal in the state until recently, but it looks like our outgoing governor did a deal to make some legal.  So I added some what if things to make it more like one of my prints.  Here's the latest:

I completed the two figures, roughing in some legs, then adjusted the display cases adjacent to them to bring them all into scale.  Still a long way to go.

Molly departed shortly before 4:00, and about 10 minutes later I decided to walk across the street and grab a slice of pizza, my dinner break.  Unfortunately, that's when an expected rain storm showed up. Waited a few minutes, then grabbed my umbrella and headed for the door.  The problem was that every time the weather seemed about to lighten up and I ventured out, another wave of heavy rain and wind would come in.  Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out, and I took off.   Had to wade across parts of route 35 (that area never drains properly), but got my food and got home safely.  Molly insists she has to listen to NPR talk stations while there, even if the topics have nothing to do with either of us (could be worse- when we had our third partner Jackie, she listened to static at a very loud volume, so the whole basement could hear it.  When questioned why she didn't switch to a station with anything else, Jackie insisted she had to listen to that station that didn't come in because it was her favorite radio station.)  But now Molly was gone, hoping to bike home before the rain arrived.  So when I returned with my pizza, put on a homemade disc with two albums from Morphine, a band that emerged from the end of bluesy rock band Treat Her Right.  Morphine's sound was more jazzy, built on saxophones and bass guitars, and they had some success until the death of lead singer and principal song writer Mark Sandman.  (part of my disc was the band's posthumous release of their last album) Turns out, good music to eat pizza by.

Played around with a few more details on my block, but then photographed it and cleaned up, so I could get ready for my woodcut class.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Drawing Class Week 3

Another week, another visit to the one room schoolhouse, as one of my college professors once put it.   He was referring to the old days, when small towns often had a single one room school house and one teacher who had the job of teaching everybody, with all the different ages and grade levels.  Montclair's grad program had moved this way decades ago, so as a grad student painter in oils, I worked along side freshmen using acrylics and people at more advance experience levels than I was at.  When I joined the printmaking class, I was there to learn woodcut, but I also did an etching diptych, and got to see people doing silkscreen, types of collograph, learned about how viscosity could be used, a very busy school room.  A lot of colleges have gone this way now, paying one professor to teach 3 or 4 different simultaneous classes instead of paying 3 or 4 professors.  So when I proposed my drawing class, I mentioned the possibility of teaching multiple levels at once.  Multiple higher levels will be able to work from the same still life set up, just with different materials and focus.

Meanwhile, I have a beginner class and an intermediate class, so I have to set up two still life subjects and move back and forth.  Following the same schedule used in July (and based on the college level drawing class I have taught), week 3 is a lesson in perspective, so after a quick lesson in two point perspective, I tell them to ignore it, and just draw what they see, using proportions, contour lines, negative spaces, and other stuff we have done. So I set up boxes for straight line exercises and paint cans for ellipse exercises.  My one advanced student has been working with charcoal, and had told me she will be on vacation next week so this is her last day of class, and so I got out one of the subjects I typically use with students at the end of drawing- a mannequin torso that I retrieved from my parents' house yesterday.

As I pointed out several weeks ago, if you can figure out how to draw a shoe, you can figure out how to draw a foot.  And if you can do that, the rest of a body is easy.  And this student did the shoes several weeks ago.   No real experience with figure art, but her mannequin torso turned out pretty good, no surprise to me. She would like to do more drawing classes, but she will be away next week, and the building is too busy over the next few months to schedule more right away.  Told her to keep an eye on the website and wait for details.

Supermarket Fireworks part 4

Had drawing class scheduled for 2 pm, and nothing planned for before that, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to get there earlier in case something was going on.  But nothing was going on.  My woodcut student who came in for an extra session last week had mentioned possibly wanting to do it again this week, but had made no such arrangements.  Nichole didn't seem to be around.  Turned out Molly was,  working on some large screen prints, and she gave me some updates on her recent activities.  She left to go elsewhere around 1 pm.  Shortly after that I went upstairs.  Still no Nichole, but signs had been posted saying that drawing class would be on room #3 (first floor), which was the thing I was curious about.  (an hour earlier there were people working in there)

Meanwhile I had used the time in the Studio to advance my supermarket print.  Earlier Molly had asked me if I had heard from Jane, our critique group regular, since word was that she was trying to organize a critique group where she lives.  I have not, but I did remark that it was odd that she mentioned Jane as I was referencing her in my new print.  Actually the reference is to the famous sparkler cake done in her honor, which she was probably lucky to miss.  I have an image of such a cake in my piece, along with text saying not to do it.  Kind of a public service.

But what I was adding today was two figures, which I have referred to as the sneaky smokers.  Two men trying to look nonchalant near the fireworks display box as it is erupting with rockets.  My two characters are based on Jake and Elwood Blues, taken from the scene in The Blues Brothers where they have just acquired musical instruments from Ray's Music Exchange in Calumet City.  Ray properly assesses that they will have to owe him the money, causing the brothers to do things like check watches and adjust ties, and avoid making eye contact, indicating their embarrassment at the truth.  (that Ray is played by Ray Charles, and shares his blindness, is part of the humor of the scene) It's all up on YouTube, so no problem finding it, freeze framing the action and getting a quick sketch. More work will be needed, but for now I have the postures and gestures that I wanted.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Supermarket Fireworks part 3

Nothing major on the schedule for today, so it seemed like a good day to get some art done.  Had some minor building business to take care of.  Besides, one of my woodcut students had asked in week 1 if I would be working on any blocks during the class run.  I think students like to see their teachers actively involved in the process.  I remember once having a college student remark that she had no respect for art professors who weren't actively making and showing art.  I never showed her or talked about what I was up to, but anyone who looked me up on the internet would easily find it.

One of my bits of business goes back to Wednesday- I had noticed that night that the light outside my  main door was not functioning.  Maybe just the bulb, or maybe the circuit, since they had been doing things with them on Tuesday.  The lights inside my Studio worked fine, so I think it's likely just a bulb needs replacing, but that's the building's job. On the day of my class, I made sure to take care of anything I needed to do there during the daylight hours, when enough daylight leaked in from a few windows that I could find my door lock.  Otherwise I'd have to feel my way around the rabbit warren hallways of the basement- not desirable.  When I arrived today I found Nichole in the hallway upstairs.  I don't think she has anything to do with physical property, but if I let her know she could pass it on. She decided to walk with me downstairs to see for herself, safe enough during the day.  She also wanted to talk about the Green Room.  The dehumidifier had been moved from the cafeteria to the kitchen off of it, where it was propped up so a hose could let it drain and it could run continuously.  The Green Room space actually was fairly comfortable, but I don't know if that is because the dehumidifier has been running continuously for several days or because the week has seen a break in the record heat and humidity we have had around here this summer.  Predictions are that the heat and humidity may be back for early next week.  But if basement conditions remain tolerable, she may ask me to move the classes back down there, as was always intended. I wouldn't object- plenty of room, lots of table space, lots of chairs, so if the temperature and dampness can be controlled, we could work there. We'll see how things turn out.  We also talked about some possible future changes- more light, fixing the floor, repainting the white walls (but leaving the exposed brick alone; too beautiful to cover up)

She went on to something else, I went to my space to get some work done.  Thanks to the demands of classes (Ocean Grove and college preparation) I haven't had much time for art lately, and hadn't touched my latest supermarket print since July.  Have ideas for other prints, but this one is the most developed so far, and I'd like to see it.  The block was there, but when I looked in my knapsack, my pencil case was not there, so I didn't have a good dark pencil.  Had some yellow #2's in my pack (from Nichole for the drawing class, and maybe more drawing stuff will come next week), but unsharpened.  I keep a pencil sharpener in my pencil case, so that was not an option.  I keep one in one of my tool rolls, but I didn't have those today either.  Luckily I also keep one in my print cabinet.

These pencils are HB's, tend to make light, fine lines, hard to see against the darkness of the wood in these photos. I suppose I could have made the lines heavier and darker, but I'm still in an early stage of the block sketch, working things out.  What I drew today can be easily seen in person.  There is the firework display box, a rotating rack that holds sparklers, a few figures who will be the sneaky smokers who had set off the fireworks, shelves that will eventually hold coolers, folding chairs, pails and shovels, (and other seasonal items), a bakery counter, and an early version of the sparkler cake, which will be copied from photos of the real one we had years ago.  As I wrote earlier, in person these sketches are all visible, and I'll be sure to bring a softer and darker pencil for next time, so as these shapes become more defined, photos of the wood block will be clearer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

More Woodcut Class

The woodcut class that started yesterday continued to today.  No rain today, but I still got there by around 4 pm just in case. Discussed a few things with Nichole, reserved and set up in #3, then relaxed until it was time to start.

Because I had one student yesterday, only one today as well.  But she was there on time and brought in two sketched out ideas for prints, both of which had the potential to be successful, so the first thing was getting her to choose one.  Cut her a hunk of plywood.  Did a tool lesson and a safety lesson, and showed the use of non-skid mats and bench hooks, and looked over some prints (historical and mine) for methods of cutting, but after that she was ready to start.  Did a pencil drawing.  After I showed her a block ink drawing I had a photo of she was very intrigued, but we didn't have the material to try it.  (may try one on the back of her block later) She asked to borrow a tool until next week, but I draw the line there, so I let her copy stuff out of the catalog, told her which ones we were using tonight, and she made some progress on her block image and cutting.  But before long the class was over, so we cleaned up and packed up.  Forgot to take the camera out, so no photos from tonight.  Next week should be more interesting anyway.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Long Studio Day

Had and extra long day in Ocean Grove today, all part of working.

Nellie, one of my current woodcut students had been in touch last week via e-mail. During the first class meeting she mentioned she might have to miss a day of our 4 weeks while away, and it turns out that it's this week.  Week 2 is usually when I do the cutting and safely demonstration, so not a good week to miss.  Plus neither of my students was ready to get wood just yet last week, so missing this week would put her even further behind schedule.   I've done quick meetings for Belmar woodcut students who had to miss a class for unusual reasons, so I agreed. Besides, she specifically mentioned Tuesday, when I am there anyway to teach drawing, so I agreed, selecting a time of 11:30 am, just a little before I might arrive anyway.  She agreed.

Didn't have as much woodcut stuff to bring in as last week, but had a lot of drawing stuff today, including props for two classes and example value drawings that my advance student wanted to see again.  So of course, weather predictions were for a giant storm to arrive near the start of the class. By the time I left home today they had changed the path of the storm to probably turn south and miss us.

Got to the building around 11:00, no rain falling. Not sure what would come today, I decided to go ahead and unload my car first, carrying everything to my Studio in the basement.  I had been told yesterday that I would be able to use room #3 for my drawing class, but work might be going on up until 12, so I prepared to do my demonstration for Nellie downstairs. However, I had told her to meet me by the room upstairs, since I knew she knew where that was.  Besides, I've seen way too many people wandering the basement lost.  So having finished my unloading, I took a seat in a chair in the hallway near the classroom. She showed up on time, but had a problem- she said she was sick and wondered if we could meet next week.  I pointed out that she still needed wood and should get that today, and she agreed.  She had also brought in some borrowed tools to show me what she had. I was familiar with the brand, come 10 for $10, not too good.  Told her if she was able to get anything from them, fine, but don't count on it.

Went down to my Studio to get the wood and all that, then carry it to the cafeteria, but I figured since everything I needed was there, why not just take care of it right there?  Let her look at a few blocks and prints while I put a blade in my saw.  I knew she had some linoleum experience, so she understood the basic concept.  For now she wanted just one block, about 4x6, so I quickly cut one off a scrap I had.  She had some curiosity about the tools, so at her request, I tested each type on the back of her block and labeled what it was, and let her try them out as well.  Gave her a few more bits of advice regarding designs, then sent her on her way. But she didn't leave right away, asking me to guide her to the exit, probably a safe bet.  Took about a half hour all together.

Around 1 pm I started moving stuff into room 3 and setting up for class.  That included carrying my wooden chair upstairs (on the elevator) for the negative space exercise, plus all the stuff I had brought  in for the day.  That included a pile of value drawings from past college students.  Suzanne, my advanced student who was most interested to see these seemed surprised that I had so many, as I had explained that what I had was because students never came back to reclaim them.  As someone who has been teaching a while, I know this is all too common- all the drawing students were required to bring in all the work from the semester, and about a third never came back to get anything.  I'd hold stuff for another semester, but eventually it had to go to the trash to make room for a new semester's worth of student drawings, and I would take things that might be good to demonstrate ideas to students.  Which was essentially what I was doing today.

All three of my enrolled students were there today, which may be the first time that I had the same number two weeks in a row.  My two beginners did exercises in negative space, while my advance student drew from a mixed value still life in charcoal.

Class ended at the regular time, I took a few trips to load the car, and left around 5 pm.   It was a long day.  More woodcut class tomorrow.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

More Studio Business

This summer it seems like I always have a lot of business to take care of up in Ocean Grove, and so I was back again today.  Normally Nichole is off on Thursdays, but she said she'd be there in the morning today, which was good because we had things to take care of. Got up there around 11:30 and saw her car in the lot, so I knew I was in luck.

My sudden student for woodcut last night had given me cash to pay for the class, so I wanted to get that into Nichole's hands as soon as possible.  Gave her the cash, she created a receipt, which I can give to the student next time I see her.  Gave her an update on how the class went.  We also talked about a variety of events that are coming up and that I may be playing a part in.  There may be a one night drawing group in September, maybe two of them, so she lined me up to cover those.  Will involve pay, which is always good.  A while back she reserved a day in October to have me do a linocut demonstration for some teachers, also a paid day. Today we discussed materials; I had researched some sources and costs, and this would eventually be billed to the organizers.  We also talked about some other art events she is considering.  We are hoping to get a variety of building artists involved in some of them, but for the moment I am the one who is around the most, so I am taking advantage of these money making opportunities.

Had other business as well.  Now that I know that the woodcut class will be happening in August, I know that next week is when we start teaching cutting and tools.  Which means I have to check my inventory and make sure they are in good shape.  I provide cutting tools to my woodcut students to use during class meetings- gradually purchased over the years that I have been teaching local workshops with some of the materials budget.  If a student breaks one (happens once in a while), I replace them.  At this point I have 21 class woodcut tools- the catalog calls them standard quality tools, and they aren't up to the level of the hand forged superior ones I buy and use for myself, but they are still better than most of what is out there on the market. Rather than buy sets, I have acquired individual tools, the sizes and shapes that I find most useful, so a mix of round and V gouges in what I consider the most useful sizes, plus a few flat chisels.  Last time I did this inventory was for the July woodcut class, and I have the same number of tools, so I guess none got broken.  If the photo below showing the set looks familiar, it's because I used it a month ago for this same purpose.

As part of the counting process, I also checked the sharpness of each.  All but one were in excellent shape, with only the 1.5 mm round gouge needing work.  Not surprising as my one 4 week student last month used that tool far more than any other.  But no permanent damage, as just a few minutes with the stone had it as sharp as ever. Looks like I'll be in good shape for my August students next week.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Woodcut Returns

My other mission today was to see what was going on with the planned woodcut class.  Went into the day with only one signed up student, but hopes for more.  After all, we had some sudden students in drawing yesterday.

So besides taking care of other business today, I asked what was going on with the class.  Nichole said that we still had just one sign up, though she believed we might get that needed second person.  We had two options- cancel the class or go through with it and hope for an additional sudden student. I decided to take my chances, so met with her again in the afternoon (after I was done with my narwhal task) and told her I would come back tonight prepared for class.  Adding to the problem was that all the weather reports were predicting a massive storm to pass through the state, just about the time that my class would be happening.  Wouldn't be the first time that the first woodcut class in a series would be met with rains and floods.

Went home and had a meal, then packed for class. Still sunny and warm at that time of day.  In response to the forecasts, I had decided to leave my collection of exchange group folios at home, but did pack my woodcut books, as well as an assortment of my own work- some boardwalk pieces, some supermarkets, some saints, and some odds and ends.  Got up to the Studio around 5 pm, an hour before class.  Still hot and humid, no rain, so I was able to safely move everything inside.

Nichole had said that she'd been in touch with Nellie, our visitor last week, trying to sell her on the class.  Late today she told me that she was expected to come visit again, even a bit before class, still not committing to the class.   And indeed she showed up with many questions.  Shortly after that my signed up student, who mentioned she actually owned one of my prints. Had a saint that she had bought at Patricia Colrick's store in Manasquan many years ago, and it was recognition of my name that encouraged her to sign up for the class.  Unfortunately, that was all.  When class officially began, I got out the collection of books so I could get them excited.  Masereel, Ward, German Expressionists, Japanese woodcuts, plus some of my hand bound works, like my Fourth of July book (photocopies but good ones) and my stab bound Trip to Mexico book, woodcuts and text from metal letters.  (one student had done some letterpress stuff up on the old Print Council, so she was impressed) At their request I showed them the catalog I get my tools from and then the tools themselves, hard to find in any stores (though I told them they were welcome to try, as long as they told me where they might find them).  The student who owns a saint described it and I realized she was talking about Frances of Rome- the one with the vintage vacuum cleaner.  Had that one and half a dozen others with me tonight.  They were impressed with the colors, choices and how they were applied. They also liked the colors in the boardwalk prints, plus all the details I had included. And they were impressed with how I handled night time scenes on the boardwalk on in the supermarket prints.  And general characteristic of the two large rolled prints (one recognized the Newark city scape in the upper corner of A New Year for America)- I learned long ago the best way to get students excited about prints is to show them some, others and my own.

The heavy rains did eventually come, but we were safe inside a building that has been surviving hurricanes and worse for over a hundred years, so I wasn't worried. Both decided to think more about their projects and we can cut blocks that they need next week.  I guess the print collection convinced Nellie, because she gave me the money before leaving.  They hung around until the rain had eased up.  If it hadn't, I would have stashed all my stuff in my basement space, but it was dry enough that I could safely move stuff to my car, and later to my apartment.

The Narwhal part 23

Got to the Studio early today, partly to settle some teaching things, and partly to get this narwhal done.  Squeezed out a little water based black ink, got a brush, and carefully applied the ink all around the edge, where the roughness of the wood kept the black ink from sticking when applied with a brayer.  Now it's a uniform black.   Blotted some of the excess with newspaper, and then I thought I had photographed the results, but I find no photo on the camera.  Perhaps something distracted me.  So you get this instead-

For music I chose to bring one from home- John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, an acoustic blues duo (Piedmont style- Virginia coast) who put out an album in 1984 called Dog Days of August, which pretty well describes what we have right now. It remained on the radio station B list (newish, but not our usual college rock format) for quite a while, and ended up getting played on my blues radio show regularly.  A good record then, but I really came to appreciate it years later, when I caught the pair performing on the acoustic stage at the River Blues Festival in Philadelphia in 1990. I have seen many excellent live blues performances over the years, including all the legends who were still alive when I became a blues fan, but this live show may be the best one I have ever seen, which is why I chose this image of John Cephas (based on a photo I took that day) as the inspiration for a two block linocut print, done as a demo piece for a workshop.  Sadly, he's been dead a few decades now, but I can still enjoy the record.

Meanwhile, the narwhal piece is now back in my car, until the ink is dry.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Drawing Class Returns

Last Tuesday we had the final meeting of the first drawing series.  Would there be more?  Didn't quite know.  Some interest had been expressed, but some doubts as well.  Not knowing what was going on, time to prepare for all possibilities.

One thing I knew I needed was more white objects.  With all my college drawing value assignments and exercises, I start with white objects- vessel forms spray painted white.  The idea is to eliminate any local colors and values, so that just have to deal with light over the surface and any shadows.  I knew I had some ready to go, but I also had some that were chipped.  I expected to use some for my new Ocean Grove drawing class, but I will also need them for my college Intro to Art class in the fall, so why not get them done.  Picked up a fresh can of white spray paint and headed down to my parents' house, where I usually set up my spray booth- a large cardboard box I keep in the outdoor shed. Had with me an assortment of vessels- mostly former milk and orange juice containers, some previously painted, some brand new.  Did that on Sunday, a first coat and then a second coat touch up, the later moved the whole thing to the shed to let it dry.

Checked in with Nichole on Monday.  When I arrived we had one signed up new person and that was it- not enough to have the class.  But while I was there in the office we had one call, then another, so it looked like it would be happening.  And with a day to go, we might get more.  That's how this kind of thing can happen.  Picked up my now dry painted items from the shed.

Tuesday morning I had a new problem- electricity was gone again. Just weeks after a 3 day blackout that pushed me to the limits.  Not having lights was tricky.  Not having tv or internet was a problem.  But what really did the damage was not having air conditioning or refrigeration, especially in an apartment that is generally between 80 and 90 degrees at all times this time of year.  But at 6 am today, my clock radio was no longer showing time and my fan had stopped.  I went back to bed.  At least it was a cloudy day, keeping the heat lower.  There had been no storms, just the usual poor wiring job done by our electricity provider. By 9:00 am there was a truck outside, a guy in the cherry picker, working on our power line- so this was not a regional problem, just us.  But shortly after 10:00 I heard the refrigerator motor start up, then saw the cable box light up, so it was resolved.  I had eaten breakfast in the half darkness, but had light to shower and shave by.  Took care of all that, gathered my stuff for class, and took off.

Got up to Ocean Grove around noon, but no one around.  Always work to do, so down to the Studio to work on the narwhal project. Carrying stuff back to my car I ran into Nichole, who confirmed we would be set up in room #3 again.  Dropped off art stuff in my car and went to pick up class stuff (now that I knew where to unload it to) and ran into a woman who seemed a little confused.  Turned out she was interested in the day's art class but didn't know who to talk to.  Well I could help with that.  I brought her to the classroom and ran off of fetch Nichole so she could collect the money and register her.   While chatting with my new student, the other new student who had signed up online also showed up.  Then one of my July students, who decided to continue even though she might have some conflicts, but she really likes learning this art stuff. A fourth student, another returning one who had expressed interest, not there today and I don't know if she had registered.

I set up my white objects (along with drapery) on the main table so my returning student could try out  her new charcoal and kneaded eraser, all new to her.  So far she's digging them and getting good results. Meanwhile I had brought my bag of shoes for the new students (now two) and got them started with the typical exercises in contour line.  Results were what usually happens.  At the scheduled end of class everyone seemed happy with the results and planned to be back next week.

Narwhal part 22

Came in extra early to the Studio today, since there were still questions about what was going to happen with the drawing class, and I had some things to do on the narwhal project.  One thing I had wanted to do was cut a few grooves in the wood mounting system.  Cut these kerfs (as they are technically known) from the hole inward, using my keyhole saw.  Not deep, just enough to hold the wire so it won't be in contact with whatever wall it goes on.  Did both sides, and after each pressed the hanging wire into the kerf and then tightened it.  

Since I am not framing this thing, I decided to blacken the outer edge to match the black areas on the surface.  And I figured the best way to match the ink would be to apply it the same way, so I put a little on my palette and used my smallest softest brayer to roll it onto the edge.

I believe the idea is sound, but I'm not quite done.  The block edge is rough in spots, sometimes to the extent that the brayer could not blacken it as evenly as I had hoped, so I will need to use a small brush and touch up these areas around the perimeter of the block.  Perhaps when I go in tomorrow to take care of some teaching business.  This project is almost done.

Friday, August 02, 2019

The Narwhal part 21

Late morning I headed up to the Studio, but it was a bit of challenge.  Drove directly from Manasquan (where I had been doing some work) but this being a Friday, the roads were all choked with traffic. Took about 45 minutes which is way longer than usual.  I was hoping to find Nichole in her office and get an update on the class enrollments, but she wasn't in, and some assistant said she might be back at 2:30.  No way I would wait that long.  So I continued down to my Studio and got to work.

Most of the black ink on the narwhal block was fairly dry, dry enough at least to move on to the next task- the adding of the wire system.   I retrieved the items I had in the car and set things up.   Today's music was 'Round About Midnight, the 1956 debut album from Miles Davis and his quintet, which included a young and relatively unknown John Coltrane on saxophone. It opens with his take on Round Midnight, originally written and recorded by Thelonious Monk, but Miles' version is considered a jazz classic, worthy of naming the album after.  Part of my Studio library.

I lined up the two cut pieces of wood with the interior side holes facing each other, and ran a piece of hanging wire through the holes.   I glued the wood down, weighted on top with one of my large wallpaper books, a good size and weight to keep everything in place while it dried.  Later I will tighten the wire and adjust the grooves, and being able to keep it off the table, I can ink the edges to cover the visible wood completely with black.  Here and there it was still a bit tacky, so I moved it back to the car to dry for now.

At quarter past 1:00 I was done reloading the car and Nichole was not back.  Had nothing I needed to see her about today, so I went on to my next stop- Belmar.  Again a bit of a challenge.  Most direct route would be straight down Main Ave, but every time I have gone that was this summer I got stuck on the Belmar drawbridge.  All different times, but somehow a boat always showing up just before I was ready to cross.  So today I took route 35, with plans to loop around at the 8th Avenue light, and just as we were about the get the green, a train showed up and blocked my lane.  Eventually I could make my turn.  I had exchanged a series of e-mails with one of the chairs there recently, who was concerned about the classes I was teaching in Ocean Grove. One that I am doing there is drawing, which is one I had offered to Belmar, only to be told that it wasn't possible to arrange one for the summer.  Events proved otherwise and now we are working toward a second round of drawing in August.  Now Belmar wants to set something up, so I stopped by to do so with Diane.  After a brief discussion what we decided was for now to arrange a woodcut class (since at the previous reception we had two people express an interest) and hold off on the painting and drawing for now.  I think we should figure out exactly what we want to do first with those classes.  But we have woodcut on the schedule for October and November, giving us time to get people to sign up.

Later in the afternoon, I got an e-mail from Nichole.  She had heard from a potential new student interested in the drawing class and with questions, which she answered but included me in a copy of the reply.  The guy said he'd sign up, but I never believe these things until I see the registration.  Still, it is promising, and with a few more days to go and people I have spoken to myself, I think we have a good chance of August classes happening.