Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Year That Was 2019

On this last night of the year, my annual summary of all things art.

Looking at last year's end of the year post, I see I was still working to finish my class grades, which this year I finished a week ago.  I'd like to say that it was because I am much more efficient this year, but really it comes down to variations in the calendar, which resulted in may class finishing a little sooner before Christmas this year.  I'm glad those things are done.

My annual holiday card is cut and all the copies printed, and while not all are colored yet, some are and have been mailed, but people who expect cards from me know that I don't always get them out before Christmas.  A teaching thing.  Enjoyed Chinese food and the Twilight Zone marathon tonight- so some things never change.

Prints- Not my best year, but not my worst either.  2019 saw me finish a few things in progress, such as my St Dwynwen print and my planned tribute to the Circus Drive-In, both hand colored.  And another sea creature piece was finished for a relative, a narwhal this time, completed as both a print (not yet shown, but available to be so) and a sculpture- block on the wall in her room.  Another woodcut in my ongoing series about supermarkets was completed, number 25 so far, a milestone I suppose. Plus the annual card.

Shows- Always keep busy here.  I have a lot of completed art, so I usually have things ready on short notice when a show comes up.  The planned print show at the Belmar Arts Center didn't happen there, but it was relocated to the Jersey Shore Arts Center and had 4 works from me- the piece created for it, plus two more to help fill the East coast wall, and one for the organizers wall.  Also had work in two other BAC group shows, the annual year opening Salon, and a bird themed show that I was rejected from last year.  (same piece, same theme, different juror)  Also had a solo show there this past fall, a sudden surprise thing, where my having work in frames that goes well together gave me the ability to pull it off on short notice, along with my ability to install and hang a show. Didn't have to hang it myself, but I did have two works in a spring off campus faculty show.  Nothing specifically scheduled in 2020 yet, but I assume they will come.

Teaching- The usual college classes continued- not exciting and things I have done before, but it is my main income.  My summer work included four classes up in Ocean Grove- two sections each of basic drawing and woodcut. A planning meeting for next year's classes has been scheduled and postponed (by the building) a few times, but I am prepared to try again.  Looked into another art center this year that expressed interest, but I don't know if they are ready to try it yet.  Attempts at Belmar didn't work out- they were willing, but all the people who said they wanted to take such classes never bothered to sign up for them.

Studio- Always busy with things to be done and to do.  Parts of the above three categories happened there, and all three are expected to happen there again in 2020.  Specifics still to be worked out. but they will be listed here as they are known.

Firsts-  Always a few. After more than a decade, a new person in charge got me some classes in my building in Ocean Grove- drawing and woodcut, both of which were enrolled.  We also offered drop in drawing sessions, but few dropped in.  However, I believe more are planned for next year.  For the first time I showed at the Long Beach Island Foundation- a nice enough building in a shore area location , but I'm not sure if the people running it know what they are doing.

Details about all of the above can be found by digging through this blog over the past year, including photos in most cases.

Next Year-  I'll save that for tomorrow's post on that topic.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Card Factory Open Again

Back in December we were scheduled to have a planning meeting up in Ocean Grove, for discussing and planning art activities in the building for the coming year.  But winter weather forced a postponement of another big event, which took out our meeting, postponed a while.  But over the weekend I noticed that on the building website homepage they listed it for early evening tonight, just shy of the new year.  So that became part of my schedule.

But first, there was art work to do.  Between holidays and grading I haven't been able to get to the Studio or do anything art, except my cards.  And the cards still aren't over.  After coloring the three print paper cards that I thought were salvageable, I decided that they still aren't up to the level I would like.   Since I knew I was going to the Studio anyway, why not just pull some more copies on the Japanese paper?  Ran across an old sheet of okawara that was a bit crumpled and wrinkled, too much so to ever be used for a large boardwalk print, but could function for Christmas cards- smaller and glued down to other stiffer paper.  Folded it up and stashed it in a bag of materials I was returning  to the Studio today- things I had brought home to get the cards done, not knowing if and when the place would be open next.

We are in the midst of a run of gray miserable days right now- dark, cold, damp, windy.  What my old classmate Brian would call a "fine Scottish day", and since he was from Scotland, he knew what he was talking about and meant it.  In Carbondale we had a significant number of grad students from Great Britain (thanks to a program in Scotland) and one thing the English and Scottish students had in  common was a desire to find a way to not go back there.  My Studio being indoors, not a problem once I got there.  The planning meeting was scheduled for 6, so I figured work for several hours, then go up to the 3rd floor for the meeting.

My goal was to print a bunch of the cards on this new found okawara, so I started with that. I had brought a set of cutting tools with me, and made a few adjustments to the block, untouched since the day I did the original printing.

I had planned to make four, but the ink really couldn't be put back, so I made a few extra.  Small, black and white, thin paper- these go fast.  My boom box was still set to CD player, which means likely Molly hadn't been in since the last time I was there, sometime before Christmas.  Started with my live Smithereens disc, and when that ended put on my disc of assorted Billy Childish songs, from various sources I had.  Hard to easily classify him- has had dozens of bands, and put out hundreds of albums, mostly of a low-fi garage rock music.  Also a visual artist who enjoys woodcut, and has published books of them, but I knew him from music before I ever learned of the art.  

Eventually I cleaned up and went upstairs in time for the meeting. (left the prints in my rack to dry) Unfortunately, I was the only one. Other than a few yoga people (wandering around with their rolled up mats), the place was dark and deserted.  Hung there until a few minutes past the start time, but no one showed.  Went down to the first floor, watched a few more yoga enthusiasts come in (braving the rain and wind and cold to get there), but no office people were there.  One last trip to the 3rd floor, but still empty.  Decided to go home, relax, get something to eat.  Once home I checked the web and saw that now the building's home page says the meeting has been rescheduled again.  

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Cards Go On

I decided to finish the making of the cards today, and get that out of the way.  I glued the two remaining Japanese paper printed images to two of the rejected print paper cards, and colored the three salvageable print paper proofs.

These still need to be folded and trimmed, but all the coloring is done.  If the ones printed on the whiter paper look a little out of focus that is because they are, an effect of printing a small piece of stiff paper on a small block, where a little shifting is hard to avoid.  Four of these five are already accounted for, but no more can be made until I get back to the Studio, which probably won't be until next week.  Can return my watercolors then, get them out of the apartment.  That is because the grading process still goes on as well. I will have the preliminary numbers by tonight, but I will still want to double check everything before I submit them. Then I will have to do the student assessments, ten categories for each student, which has nothing to do with their grades, or educating the students, but my job requires it.  Verified the student ID numbers today (required for each).  I'll do  more of all this stuff tomorrow morning. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from Studio Arrabbiata

Haven't said much the past few days for two reasons.  One, not much art related to talk about- cards printed, and holiday activities made me too busy for much else.  Two- my internet was working only intermittently for several days, then not at all.  My provider did a remote check and decided the problem was with my modem, which may be since it was several years old. But I have to submit grades soon, so getting that fixed was a priority.  Plus, as I have mentioned a few times in recent years, it's far too easy to get dependent on the internet. Considering that it didn't even exist though my initial degree, and I had no access to it until I got home from grad school, it's astonishing how much I end up using it.  So, at their suggestion, yesterday I disconnected the old modem, and brought it in and exchanged it for a newer one.  I installed it in the early afternoon, then called them to have it registered and activated, which all worked, which is why you get to see this year's Christmas card today, colored last night.

This year my studio assistant was old favorite Wayne Thiebaud, still hard at work as an artist as he approaches age 100, though this piece is based on one he did back in the 60's.  It shows a flat counter of bins of toys in the foreground, and back shelves with stuffed bears in the back.  How close the two are to each other is not apparent from the painting, and in my imagination there is space between them, enough for people.  So I decided to put some toy makers working on the toys in the bins- painting wooden alphabet block, pumping up inflated balls, and assembling large spinning tops.  I did a Santa and his elves Rembrandt piece several years ago and didn't want to get too close to that so soon . One good thing this time of year is that there are a plethora of Christmas specials on tv, great opportunities for research.  Most of them have traditional toy making elves in colorful costumes, pointy hats and ears.  Or they don't show it all.  One exception is March of the Wooden Soldiers, a favorite since my youth, and always shown on Thanksgiving. It's an adaptation of Babes In Toyland,
an operetta built around nursery rhymes, but filmed by Hal Roach in black and white with two of his biggest stars- Laurel and Hardy.  They portray versions of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, in this case renting a room in the giant shoe, owned by the old woman who used it as a rooming house, and lived there with her beautiful young daughter shepherd girl Bo Peep.  The guys work for the master toymaker, and naturally do a lot of dumb things in both places, but before they lose their jobs we get a few scenes of the toy operation, and all the workers there wear white shirts, black overalls, and little caps, so my Christmas card workers do as well.  The feature length film is quite cheesy, but the climax is the village being overrun by Bogie Men from outside the city walls, with big furry suits, formless rubber masks, and large amounts of padding, and 6 foot tall mechanized wooden soldiers (one of Stan and Ollie's many mistakes) saving the residents and driving the monsters out. Can't have a holiday season without it.

The image shown above is one made from a proof on the Okawara paper, glued down with a little PVA to a stiffer paper, in this case one of the unusable cards on the heavy paper from my initial printing run.   Knew those early proofs would come in handy.  I made and distributed two such cards today, and have two more of those Okawara proofs left. I also have 3 proofs on the heavy paper that I think may be salvageable, which sets the overall edition at 7 cards, which is probably enough in this era when few people send Christmas cards anymore.  Hope to mail out a few by the weekend.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Life In a Christmas Card Factory

Like I said yesterday, the holiday is coming up on us fast, so these cards need to get done soon.  This is my first Friday off since Thanksgiving, and the second since the summer,  so I couldn't afford to waste it.  Late morning I showed up at the Studio with my new card block,  my bag of cutting tools, my printmaking supplies, and some paper.  I had things I had to get done today.

I made a few last minute adjustments to my block drawing, then get started on the cutting.   Small block, and a lot of details, but nothing I couldn't handle, so it was just a matter of starting at one end and cutting until I finished it, about 90 minutes work.  I was in a mood for some Neil Young, so brought with me a disc with the Live Rust album, starts with some acoustic but works its way to some serious rock and roll.  Not that I could easily hear much anyway,  as when I arrived the thermostat was turned way down and the room was quite chilly.  I turned it up to about 70 degrees, which meant that the heat (and its loud fan) ran continuously the whole time.  Never got that high (got near 65 in the room) but when I switched from cutting to printing, I turned it down again so I had a little peace.

Time to print.  I took the piece of paper I bought yesterday, my metal straightedge (well chilled from being kept in the car), and tore it down into several card sized pieces of thin watercolor paper.  When I arrived I had brought my printing bag in from the car, also very well chilled, but as I cut, the ink had a little time to warm up.  Decided it was time to set the mood with a little Christmas music and started with one of my favorites- the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.  Basically the full length versions of the songs from the cartoon special done by the jazz trio that  made the music from the special.  If you have seen the show, you know what it sounds like.  Quickly I ran into problems.  The paper, the best option I could find in that store, was cold press paper, and had a little bit of texture, kind of pebbly. I could deal with that.  Bigger problem was that it was difficult to keep this small paper on the block without it moving during the hand printing process, so many of the proofs ended up with some smearing.  I may be able to fix a few in the coloring stage, while others will just be for practicing color combinations.  I found a big scrap of hot pressed (smoother surface) paper there in the Studio, and tore a few card sized pieces, and added them to the mix.  Looked a little better, but the small block and the stiff paper meant I still had challenges.  When that disc ended I switched to another Christmas one- a radio broadcast of the "Another Country" Christmas radio show from WMSC in 1992.  One of my priorities when I got the disc recorder component was to make disc copies of recordings I only had on tape (such as radio broadcasts and out of print records), and this week hiding inside from the cold, I ended up listening to some of them, including some from radio stations that no longer exist.  Not the case here (as far as I know Montclair State still has a radio station) but recorded from the airwaves on cassette on a visit back to New Jersey from grad school, one of my old friend Kathy's Sunday shows.  Only half a dozen of the songs are actually Christmas songs, the rest being various alt-country, including some bands I listen to year round, but those half dozen songs mean I only listen to it this time of year.  Our station had transmitter issues, so the 90 minute cassette included a lot of moments of static and interference (the worst of which did not make the 70+ minute disc version), but when listed to on the old boom box in my school studio, was indistinguishable from a live radio broadcast, so it was like a little bit of home.  As a result, listening to the disc now reminds me of being in Carbondale- the associative power of music can be very strong. But I digress.

I found another large scrap, this one of Okawara, and I remembered that a few years ago I had a similar problem printing on a stiff white paper, and used the Japanese paper as a solution- softer. easier to print on, and thin enough that I could easily mount the cut and colored pieces onto card stock for card use. Not ideal, but I'm running out of time.  And there was enough to pull four proofs, all perfect of course.  I think I can salvage 2 or 3 of the proofs on the watercolor paper, so I'll have enough for the coming week.  As the third disc was ending, I was cleaning up my ink.  Since I have no idea if the building will be open next week and when, I just brought everything home- the proofs, my watercolors- I can finish making cards in a few days once the ink has dried. Meanwhile, there are grades to be calculated, but that's another story.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas is Creeping Up on Us

Got a card in the mail yesterday from one of my old college friends, which reminded be I needed to get my cards done soon.  Prepared a block and did a background drawing last week, but nothing else. So today I braved the cold, and brought my block and source book up to the Studio.  These card blocks are small, so don't take much time to draw or cut.  Drawing is done now.  My plan is to go back tomorrow morning to cut it and pull a few good proofs.  Which meant I needed some paper.  So on the way home I stopped at the local AC Moore, which had plenty of going out of business signs up.  For Christmas cards I need something with some stiffness but not too heavy, like a bristol board.  Most of the store's paper racks were empty, and what was in them wasn't correct, but at least the paper had adhesive tags with bar codes and descriptions, making it easier to figure out what it was. Found one suitable sheet, enough to print copies for the first batch, what I need for Christmas day.  Left the paper in the car (cold won't hurt it), since I need it there to take to the Studio tomorrow.

Monday, December 16, 2019

2019 JSAC Holiday Volunteer Luncheon

Back when we were still having Wednesday night drawing classes on the 3rd floor, Nichole had given me an invitation for the annual holiday luncheon, to be held in that same room in mid December.  I remembered the one from last year.  Sounded good, but I told her I'd have to let her know once I knew my schedule.  Last week I was able to RSVP, on the condition that there wasn't a blizzard or anything like that- you never know this time of year.  By last night there were predictions of snow for this area of the country, but probably not on the Jersey Shore until late evening. I guess the luncheon would be on.

Come late morning today it was very cold, but still no precipitation, and forecasts still called for nothing until late tonight, so I set out for Ocean Grove.  Dropped off a few things in my basement Studio, saw Molly hard at work- printing new fishes.  Nichole was among those who had expressed interest in having her make more (the original screen was finished), so I'd let her know.  Took the elevator right to the 3rd floor, a little past the official noon start time.  Steam trays and a beverage table were being set up, but nothing was being served yet, and maybe 12-15 other people in attendance- less than we had when it got started last year.  The others (all elderly women I don't know- they never come to the basement) were seated over by the food, while I took a seat by myself at the other end of the giant U that had been created by the tables.  At one point one of the elderly ladies invited me to move over to where they were, but I told them I expected more people would eventually arrive where I was sitting.

And by the time the food was uncovered, they started arriving.  Guys from the basement, some from the office. Someone noted that the seating was not unlike a high school dance- guys on one side, girls on the other.  (if the "girls" weren't all senior citizens who dislike artist types, perhaps we would have mixed more) As for the food- it was good as usual.  Started with a plate of salad (mixed greens, some goat cheese, bits of fruit, a bowl of a balsamic type dressing), then went back for a plate of hot foods- something with some green beans and almonds, penne alfredo, small meatballs (not Italian, but a spicy vaguely asian flavor), salmon, a chicken dish, and then a tray of eggplant parmesan.  Tasted good, so I went back for a second plate of some of my favorites, but after that point I was fairly full, so there would be a lot of stuff left for the employees to eat over the ne xt week.  I also knew that I would not need to make an evening meal tonight. I saw Nichole and mentioned to her that Molly was working on a new fish image print, but she said she had seen it this morning. At that point one of the elderly women decided to try to organize a sing-a-long, and I decided it was a good time to get out of there.  Down to the basement to get my stuff and found Molly was still there working.  Her fish screen had broken down, so she might have to make another one depending on what Nichole wanted. Snow had still not arrived, so a took care of a few errands and headed home.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Last Collagraph of the Year

Being a printmaker, it is my custom to work a print project into every class I have.  And why not- people seem to like it.  The process that seems to make sense for my Intro class is collagraph- collaging material to a flat surface and inking it and printing it.  Not a thing I typically do for me, but it has its followers.  Works well for the Intro class because it takes no real training and can be done with almost any materials.  I developed a style that uses just old cardboard cereal boxes and scraps of whatever, plus a little white glue.  My current classes started it several weeks ago, making a cardboard collagraph plate (cereal boxes and scraps left from interior design that I found in the hallway), then printed a few weeks later, and colored after that, which satisfies a new school requirement.  Of course some students want to wait until the last minute, which happens to be tomorrow (our last meeting).  So a few days ago I was given the last collagraph plate of the semester, which I printed at my Studio today.

I will return it to the student tomorrow during our final meeting.  She'll get the credit for that, and if she decides to add some color during the class, she can get credit for that last step as well.  But it looks like that will have to be the last one, since I won't be bringing my ink and such to school tomorrow.  While I was up there I confirmed with Nichole that I will be coming to the annual holiday luncheon.  Short visit to the Studio, so only needed one album, which turned out to be a copy of Nick Cave's Dig Lazarus Dig that I keep in the Studio.  Wrote about it last summer if you need to know more.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Busy Day

Picked up a slice of pizza on my way to the Studio, arriving in the early afternoon.  Ate in my Studio, then got to work.  First job was to grade some student work, projects arriving late at our last meeting, but with the semester about to end, some students are finally dealing with things they should have dealt with weeks ago.  That didn't take long, then got on to my Holiday card.  I chose the idea last week, and some test sketches looked promising, so now came the important step of getting the wood. Luckily I have a bunch of scraps left from classes and other projects.

The smaller piece above is the wood that will be for the card.  Actually two cards- as next year I just rotate it and the part that wasn't cut will be the new design and the part cut this year and uninked will line up with the new card's back.  Then I decided to go ahead and start the pencil drawing on the block. I had brought with me the art book that has the starting design, and I keep a small mirror in my drawer there to assist with the backwards rendering required in woodcut. Not perfectly complete, but I roughed in the basic design of the fine art, at least some of which will be covered by my Christmas additions anyway.  I can do some of that at home, but for today I was taking advantage of my large work table, and the music was enjoyable.  (no Molly today)  Started with a home burned disc- taped from an LP found by fellow grad Dave Kirkland, the debut album from Austin legends the Hickoids (then called "We're In It For The Corn", but I later acquired an official reissue on CD with bonus tracks called "Corn Demon")  paired with another Texas cow-punk classic I got from Dave,  Jon Wayne's Texas Funeral.  The latter had become an underground classic, even as no one was quite sure  what it was.  Suggestions included a well known rock and roller working under an assumed name, a crazy Texan (almost every song has the word Texas in the title), a country band that hijacked a recording studio and recorded an album as they continued to get drunk.  In any case it often sounded like a guy channeling Walter Brennan as he spewed lyrics that were occasionally sexist and racist meant to be stereotypical of Texas, but more recently it was revealed to be the work of a music producer and his friends, a parody.  Entertaining in its ridiculousness, and the two albums go well together. Kept the theme going with some songs from the Reverend Horton Heat (more psychobilly than cow-punk), then packed up and headed home. As is my custom, what I drew on that block won't be shown here.  Some people will see the results when they get it in the mail, others when I post it to this blog on Christmas Day.

I was also hoping to talk to Nichole about the upcoming annual Holiday Volunteer Luncheon, but she wasn't around, so I'll send her an e-mail tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

That Holiday Season

I was in the Studio yesterday for a while. Got up there in the early afternoon. Stopped by to see Nichole, as I had received a mass e-mail stating that the building's Christmas Tree Lighting was being  postponed a week, because of the Monday snow storm, which would put it up against the planning meeting that was scheduled.  Seemed like it could be a problem.  What I learned was that the meeting would also be postponed, now until January probably.  Can't compete with those Christmas trees.

On to the basement.  Molly was already there, hard at work cranking out product.  I left my bag there, then went across the street to get a slice, picking up my portfolio case from my car on the way back.  I wasn't there to make art, but to get some grading in.  But Molly was still working, with the radio tuned to an NPR station, so we had no music. (main story was about a problem for international students).  But I did get the grading done, and we left about the same time for our various destinations.

I had gotten there later today, and found the place quiet, but Bobby mentioned some big event coming up, so I didn't want to hang around too long. Down in the basement it was dark- no Molly today, but she was still a presence from all the work from yesterday. Piled up around the Studio, and also hanging in the hallway.

With the place to myself, I could listen to music as I worked, and went with a disc I burned of Morphine.   The band grew out of the ashes of an 80's band called Treat Her Right, an odd hard to characterize group from Boston.  Lead singers and songwriters varied song to song, but the vocalist and songwriter of their biggest hit was a guy named Mark Sandman.  When that band broke up, Sandman went on to form Morphine, and their first album (and last album) ended up employing the drummer from his previous band as well.  Considered a rock band, but overlapping into blues and jazz, a music with a low feel, as in low voices, low instruments- a lot of bass and sax, low notes on guitars.  My disc had the whole first album, and most of what turned out to be the last album. Sandman died on stage while performing in the late 90's. (a model I knew said it had to be drugs, but the official cause of death was heart attack)  That last album was a posthumous release, basic recording completed while the singer was alive, surviving band members contributing to the final production.   Some of the tracks do have the sound of being constructed from outtakes and demos, but the results were good.

For the art today I was working up ideas for my annual Christmas card.  Usually I don't get these out until after Christmas, but with the calendar causing classes to end by mid December, maybe I'll get some out sooner this year.  My tradition for the past few decades is to start with a famous artwork, and adapt it as a card image, changing it to a Christmas or winter scene.  Choice is ofter related to something else going on- a recent show I have scene, or a work featured in a fall class, or even something that was an influence on a recent work of my own.  So far this one is looking like the last option.  No wood today, just a sketchbook, a pencil, and a large catalog from a retrospective of this artist.  Who is the artist and what is the artwork? Again following my tradition, you'll learn that on December 25th.