Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Deer Print part 12

Time to see what this new print looks like.  Carried in some print paper from the car, then went back out to get my printing go bag. While the ink warmed up a bit, ate my lunch, also brought from home. When that was done, I decided to go ahead and ink up my new block.  No Molly, so I picked music and I picked the Zombies.  I consider the Zombies to be one of the premier British Invasion bands, not at the level of the Beatles or Stones, but on par with the Kinks or the Animals, yet they struggled to get success.  They signed to Decca, a major label that sometimes didn't seem to want to be in the rock and roll business. When new manager Brian Epstein was seeking a label deal for his band the Beatles, he arranged for a demo recording with Decca, where they recorded 15 songs.  Famously, the label declared guitar groups are on the way out and declined to sign them, a decision that would cost them uncounted millions over the years.  To make up for that, they quickly signed other bands, including the Rolling Stones (at George Harrison's recommendation) and the Zombies. The Zombies started hot with a hit single, and the label decided to produce an album.  But British record labels were not big on albums (the Beatles were given a single day to record their first album), and they were in no hurry to put out a second Zombies album.  The band released a series of well respected singles, loved by critics and loyal fans, but they didn't sell that well, and the singles never really entered the charts.   It took a few years (and one more hit single) before they got their second album, but at that point they were nearly over.  When the Decca deal ended, they signed with a new label, but those records didn't sell particularly well either, and the band ended.  But there were always fans, a solo career for the lead singer, and the band made the rock and roll hall of fame.  What I have on disc is a collection of the A and B sides to all those singles, released from 1964 to 1969, which is probably the closest we'll ever come to hearing an album that might have come out between the two we had.

Meanwhile, I got to work on my block.  I at least wanted to ink the block and see how it turned out.

The first inking is always the most difficult, trying to see how it is all coming together, getting a feel for the ink and the wood.  In terms of the block image, it was pretty much what I expected.  No significant flaws, and I don't think I missed cutting anything.  In rolling ink on with brayers, occasionally I left ink in some areas, such as out on the margins, or within the broad empty areas.  Short term solution is to just cover the unwanted ink with masking tape (or in this case I used blue painter's tape, essentially the same thing).  Before pulling a whole edition, I'll let the ink dry, use the gouges to cut any areas that accidentally picked up ink, making those areas much less likely to get inked the next time around.  But for today's test, this would be fine.

The Zombies disc ended and I thought I would follow that with my Cynics disc, but it wasn't there.  The Cynics were an 80's band, from Pittsburg I believe, that played in a very retro 60's style, sounding much like a mid-60's band, thus compatible with the Zombies.  I have a bunch of albums, on record and disc, and eventually made a disc with some favorites, but never made a Studio copy, perhaps why I didn't have one there to play, and the blanks are no longer available.   So I went with a substitute- a disc of favorites from the Shazam.   This is yet another band I learned of through my friend Doug, a band playing faultless 60's style pop despite being a 21st century band from Nashville.  (side note- once I had plans to get together with Doug at a music festival in NYC where both the Cynics and the Shazam were scheduled to play, but a malfunctioning subway line delayed our arrival, and we missed the Cynics, though at least we got to see the Shazam, and enjoy a long set by the reunited Stooges, including two performances of "i wanna be your dog" with Iggy in full Stooge mode) My Shazam disc has songs from the first several albums, including my favorite, Godspeed the Shazam.  It gave me the energy to finish my task.  As I said, the first inking is always the most difficult, which I attribute to the wood soaking up some of the ink.  Later the surface is sealed by the layer of dried ink.   I didn't look forward to hand rubbing this whole block, but I would have to do it anyway to clean up, so I figured I may as well take a proof and see how it turned out.

Had to re-ink much of it as I went, but at least I was getting a decent black, but before I could finish it, I noticed the paper shifting on the block, and once that happens, you are done.  It's impossible to line the print up perfectly again with the block, and continuing to print it would get a double exposed effect, not what I'm going for.  This version was not a proper print (notice the light areas on the large black tree on the left), but it would tell me what I need to know and I can pull a better one next time.  

Because I have spent so much time looking at this image both forwards and backwards over the past 20 years, it took me a while to realize that the print I was looking at was backwards from what I had known.  The shapes of all the parts, the balance of black and white, the textures- it all matches up quite well. The tension between the looming cranes and the fleeing deer seems to work just fine in mirror effect. My patron said she'd be fine with that switch, so once the block is dry enough, I will go back and clean out the unwanted marks, pull an acceptable proof, and properly document it for future use.  Meanwhile, I can relax about getting this piece done.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Deer Print part 11

Another Monday- time to go back to work.  Another cloudy and cold day, but not as bad as some we have had around here. My new block was almost done and I was wanting to get it done.  Molly was not in, but she had been- picked up her recently printed towels and left one of my discs in the player.  All I knew was that I had the place to myself.  Stopped in the office first to share some information with Nichole, then downstairs.  Had packed a lunch, so ate that first, then it was time to make art.  

Like I said, no Molly, so I could listen to music.  Today I was in a Rolling Stones mood, so I grabbed a few discs on my way out the front door. In the eternal contest between the Beatles and the Stones, I will always pick the Beatles- far more innovative, creative, superior in art, synthesis, and many other things I value as an artist.  No shame in losing to the Beatles- all bands did.  And the two groups were friends- the Beatles gave the Stones their first hit, and praised them on an album cover.  Once the Stones stopped trying to copy the Beatles and started doing what they did best, few could keep up.  In my opinion, no band in any country at any time had a better understanding of the entirety of American music than the Rolling Stones, and it shows on their best albums- a run from the late 60's into the early 70's that most bands would do anything to match.  And that is some of what I had with me today.  I had three compact discs- Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, and Sticky Fingers.  All good to enjoy while eating lunch and cutting wood.  All loaded with examples of traditional blues, vintage rock and roll, country, and the kind of rock music that the Stones could do better than anyone else.  

Didn't have much left to do on the block, just some areas in the bottom section.  Once those were done, I looked over the whole thing, checking for any obvious things I missed over the last week, but I don't think there are any.  Below are the results of what I have cut so far, a detail shot of the lower part, and a view of the whole thing. 

The next step is to ink the entire block- roll some ink onto it and see what I got. If there are any areas I missed, they will easily be seen.  If I find any problems, I'll blot what ink I can off the block, and when it dries, make the changes.  If I find no problems, perhaps I'll go ahead and pull a proof right then.  I have a for sure order for one, but it might not be a bad idea to pull a few more as long as the block is already inked.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Deer Print part 10

Tomorrow is a very busy day, first day of class, so lots to do from sun up to sun down.  But I wanted to squeeze in a little more time on the deer print, so in the afternoon, amidst some errands, I made a stop in Ocean Grove.  No one around but me, so I put on some music- the Flat Duo Jets, a disc I burned years ago pulling songs from the first 3 albums.  I first learned of the Flat Duo Jets from a newspaper article, borrowed the debut album from the radio station stacks at Montclair State, and made a tape of some songs. Kind of forgot about them until my friend Doug started raving about them.  (they came from the Athens, GA scene that at an earlier time gave birth to REM and the B-52's, plus countless other bands, and it's one of many southern states where Doug has either gone to school or taught at one) After listening to the tape some more, I eventually went out and got the self titled debut album, then the next one (Go Go Harlem Baby) and the next one after that (White Trees). The band is often characterized as psychobilly (a mix of the genres of rockabilly and punk, with a lot of retro-50's trappings) and I've never seen any live performances, but on record they tend to lean toward the rockabilly part of that.  Besides being a band that I like (that mix disc is in my Studio library), I was put in a mood to listen to them by my recent block, which features some large white trees in the middle.  I could have just listened to the music at home, but this way I got some art done as well.

Several songs later, Molly showed up to get some work done- not her usual schedule, but no problem and she got to work on more screen printing. Meanwhile, I kept working on my block.  I did the two large shrubs, then the two deer, and then began on the ground all around them.  As I said before, all the shapes and textures I put in were just to remind me what I needed to do, but not something I was necessarily going to follow exactly.  As I cut, I listened to the cool tunes, looked at the drawn and painted shapes on the wood, looked at my small image of the original print, and brought it all together.  So yes, some drawing with the tool.  When my disc ended, it seemed like a good time to call it a day.

So far it's what I expected.  I won't know for sure what I have until I ink this thing up, but I won't do that until I'm done cutting, which will likely be next week.  What remains is some of the ground, a little in the lower left corner, and much of the right foreground.  I got quite a bit done in a little over an hour, so I feel good about what is to come. and excited to see what is to come.  As I told Molly the other day, all the big decisions were made decades ago, so all I have to do for this one is copy an image that I know works.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Deer Print part 9

Got up to the Studio in the early afternoon today (dealing with school stuff in the morning) and started with a conversation with Nichole, since I didn't see her around yesterday.  Updated her about things happening in Belmar in the arts, since they overlap with things she wants to do, talked about upcoming classes, etc.  Then I went downstairs and got to work.  No Molly today, so I went back to blues, playing two discs that came out from Alligator Records, the company that was invented to make a Hound Dog Taylor album back in 1971.  Started with Years Since Yesterday from the Paladins.  Don't know if I would consider them a true blues band, and the album's liner notes bring up this question of is this band blues or jazz or country or rockabilly?  They choose not to make the call. (at one point back in the 50's there was no hard or fast line separating any of those genres and a lot of good music was made)  I do know that I played their blues songs on my radio show, and they recorded some albums for a blues label in Chicago, and they are included on the Alligator 20th Anniversary collection, so that's good enough for me. And the whole album is pretty good, even what I wouldn't consider to be blues. When that ended I put on Bar Room Preacher by Jimmy Johnson, a more traditional blues album, with some overtones of soul.  Johnson also appears on that 20th anniversary set, but I first learned of him doing my radio show in Virginia back in the 80's, when a student called in a request for a song from him.  I liked the song enough to listen to more by this relatively obscure contemporary Chicago bluesman.  Not to the level of the stuff recorded by Chess in earlier decades, but good to listen to, and to cut wood by.

And speaking of wood cutting, I picked up where I had left off.  My stated plan yesterday was to finish off all the sky stuff, and now the four cranes are completely done, inside and out.  Then I moved on to the white trees in the middle ground, in front of the large black trees.

Don't know how much of this shows up in the photo from today- the effect of today's cutting will probably show better when this thing is inked up, but that won't be until next week.  First I have to cut the lower part of the composition, the foreground scene of the deer, shrubs, stumps, ground, etc.  Don't know if I'll have time for that tomorrow or will be busy with more school stuff.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Deer Print part 8

School will be starting later this week, so now is the time to get other things done.  In the early afternoon I set out for the Studio, making a stop in Belmar first. Had 2 questions.  First was regarding an invitation I received by mail a few days ago- from the BAC, inviting me to a special Volunteer Appreciation Party in a few weeks.   I asked Diane, our secretary/receptionist, if she knew anything about it. She said it was some kind of luncheon thing, which is what I expected.  As long as they don't expect me to volunteer for anything more than I'm already doing.  I'll check my schedule and send a reply.  The other thing was to check on a woodcut class.   I was looking around on their site the other day, searching for other information, and I saw a listing for a woodcut class. Information showed that I was teaching it, not yet scheduled.  I suppose that last part was good, as I didn't know anything about it, but figured I should.  So I asked today.  As I expected, they put it down for now, figured we'd work out the details later.  For now I put my name down for four dates in April and May, not consecutive, but close enough.  (many students don't mind a week off along the way, so they can catch up with the work)

With that stuff handled, I proceeded up to Ocean Grove.  Noticed a tag up on our hook, but that could be a mistake.  Eventually got the basement door open (locks that are for the sake of the building, not for the people who have to go down there) and heard loud music coming from my space.  Wasn't sure what to make of that- haven't seen Molly since before Christmas, and while she likes to listen to things very loudly, she generally favors NPR talk shows, not music. As I got closer, I realized it was her.  The music was my Breeders CD, which is one of her favorites (NPR was all impeachment stuff today, which would bore just about anyone.) She was cranking out more product, so I set up my table and got to work.

The Breeders disc is mine, so I didn't mind listening to it. The Breeders were a side project by Pixies bass player Kim Deal and Throwing Muses member Tonya Donnelly, having met when the bands were touring together.  Molly always considered it a Throwing Muses side project, but she couldn't be more wrong about that- it was always Deal's band, who still had a few more Pixies albums to go, but was very dissatisfied with her role in that band. My disc contains the first 3 releases- the first album, Pod, which I have on vinyl, a four song EP (Safari) that I recorded on tape from a CD at the radio station at Montclair State, and the second full album, Last Splash, which I recorded on tape from a fellow student in Carbondale.  When I had my CD recorder working I put all three on one disc for my convenience, plus a copy for the Studio.  The music is very much college independent rock in the style of the Pixies (based on these and the solo recordings done by Pixies lead singer and founder Black Francis/Frank Black, it's easy to see how each contributed to the earlier band). In time for the 3rd release, Donnelly left the band to form another, and Kim brought in her sister Kelley to be the a new guitarist, despite not actually knowing how to play.  (like I said, this was always Kim's band)  When that disc ran out, I figured we should keep the mood going with a later release, Title TK (industry short hand for "title to come"), which was on a disc that my friend Dave had sent me years ago, which he had filled with the unrelated, but compatible first album from the Shins, Oh, Inverted World.  There was a delay of several years between the Breeders releases I had and the later one. which has been attributed to both Deal sisters needing extensive drug rehab.  The Pixies ceased as a band in the early 90's, but continued to be hugely influential.  When out in St Louis, one of Tom's students showed me a large woodcut of what looked like a scene in a disco, that had the words "stay all day if you want to" carved into it.  I know those words as a quote from the Pixies' song " Gouge Away", which is largely based on the story of Samson and Delilah (biblical references are common in Pixies songs), so I pointed at it and asked her, "Pixies?".  She agreed and was shocked I knew it, but it dates from my college years.  I was shocked that she was referencing a song released in 1989, when she would have been a little kid, and probably not listening to those albums.  The Pixies re-formed several years ago, and Kim Deal even joined up until more fights occurred and then she was out again.  Both the Breeders and the Pixies had albums come out last year, but I don't think either one was a big hit- it's tough to be a college rock star when you are well into middle age.

For the art part of today I continued work on the deer print.  My goal for today was to get through all that large negative space in the sky. And with the music playing and the heater blowing hot air (outside temperatures were only in the 20's today, thanks to a mass of cold air from Canada; it would be nice if they kept some of that cold air for themselves instead of sending it our way all winter) I did.

I even went ahead and cut the space between the steel towers and the cables that hold them up. I still have to cut out all the little spaces in the crane steel framework, but that can wait until tomorrow.  Maybe take on those mid ground white trees as well.  I'd love to get the cutting done by next weekend, as between that Volunteer Party and the art reception, I may see a few people who might be interested in the piece.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Deer Print part 7

Another winter day. Not as loud a wind as yesterday, but still a constant one out there, plus some really cold weather.  Nothing I couldn't handle. I like to combine trips that take me in the same direction, so I first stopped in Belmar. The latest Salon show opened this week- Art in Nature.  Not a topic I explore much in my art, so I had little that seemed good for it.  (the narwhal piece could have worked, but I decided to save that for another occasion)  I don't think my lack of contribution was a problem- the galleries were quite full. I counted over 80 works, hung very close together to make room. A few woodcuts, including one done in my class there several years ago. Took photos of some of the walls to post to the Belmar blog, since the public event is still over a week away and I think it would be good if people know about this show before then.  After that a stop in Neptune to pay my auto insurance, since I had to make a second stop in Neptune anyway , as Ocean Grove is actually a section of Neptune township.

There's a big painting project going on the building this week, the whole 1st floor, which doesn't affect me directly, but it closed the main entrance, requiring us to use the wheel chair ramp, which meant a long back and forth to get to the door.  Good thing I had a heavy coat.  When I got to the Studio, my first task was to crank the heat.

On a day as raw as this was, it seemed appropriate that I chose some of the rawest blues in my collection- the first two albums from Hound Dog Taylor. Taylor was a fixture in the small blues clubs in Chicago, known to musicians but almost no one else.  Possibly best known to many for having been born with 12 fingers.  The extra two didn't really work, and one night while drunk he hacked off one with a straight razor, and had 11 for the rest of his life.  Didn't affect his guitar playing. His style was slide guitar, at which he was one of the best.  He eventually formed a small group, a trio with a second lead guitarist (they would back each other up) and a drummer.  The other two guys kept their day jobs, as there wasn't much money in playing small clubs.  This trio played rocking full tilt slide blues on some cheap and battered old instruments, a lot of Elmore James influence.  Eventually some one noticed, and when he couldn't convince the record company he worked for to record them, he used his savings to record and make the record.  It took a while for Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers to start selling, but it did, and was followed by a few more albums before his death in 1975.  (the second record, Natural Boogie was also with me today) The record company that was founded for the sole purpose of recording a Hound Dog Taylor album grew into Alligator Records, one of the largest blues labels in the country, well represented in my collection , but those early records are some of the best. Sounds like you are there in the room with the three guys playing their instruments like their lives depended on it. No overdubs, nothing being smoothed out, just two guitars and a set of drums, and one vocalist.  Very raw, and very intense.

Which is part of the appeal of woodcut I figure. Just a piece of wood, some sharp knives, an artist with some kind of plan, and ink and paper to record that idea.  That's it.  It is certainly the rawest of all the print mediums, the closest to the artist's vision.  And because woodcut is such a simple process, the results are usually unique to each artist.

Today I continued the cutting of the new deer print.  Still working in that sky area.  Now two cranes and the birds are up against the sky, though I'm putting off the intricacies of the crane structures for now. (not extremely difficult, just time consuming) But now half the sky is done, and that is the largest section of the print.  Snow is expected tomorrow, so I probably won't be back to work on this until next week, but it's progressing nicely.  Probably helps that I'm just copying an image that I know will work, because it already has.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Deer Print part 6

The weather yesterday was actually quite nice, but I had a lot of other things I had to do, and did not go the the Studio.  The weather today began a downturn- some sun, but a fierce wind that I heard roaring through my apartment complex all morning.  But no other commitments, and my artwork is done indoors, so I went to the Studio today.  Have a block to work on, and snow may come this weekend, and school starts next week, so today was a day to work.

Continuing the blues theme of late, grabbed discs from that shelf on my way out.  Opened today with The Original Johnny Otis Show, early works by the man/band of the same name. Don't know if this is a true blues album or not, but I do know every radio station I was at had a copy of it in their blues stacks (double album, gatefold cover, vinyl) and Otis is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, plus I liked it enough to buy a copy for myself.  Otis started out as a drummer, formed various swing bands out west, before heading up this band, the album collecting various songs recorded from 1945 to 1951.  The general arrangement is very much big band, but with significant guitar parts, and released on a jazz label.  Good cutting music though, and that's what I was up to today.  I started where I usually do, the margin around the border.  Of late my process is a small gouge along the border itself, then a larger gouge to widen that space, then scoring the wood with a knife and using a heavy chisel to clear it all away.  Not very exciting, and kind of time consuming, but this step has to be done at some point, so why not get it out of the way first?  Got through the first long side, a short side, then most of the second long side (print is about 22" x 15") when the first disc ended.

Not done yet, so more music, this time old favorite John Lee Hooker.  And the music was indeed old, but new to the world.  Hooker's musical start came as a boy when his step father nailed a stretched inner tube to the wall of a barn and showed him it could be used to make music.  (don't know the details, but I always imagined something like plucking the strings of an upright bass) Eventually he got a real guitar and learned how to play notes and tunes, but a percussive one note at a time style remained through most of his career, along with a droning vocal style that may have had African roots, often accompanying himself by stomping on a board, as few musicians could figure out how to accompany his idiosyncratic style.  Like many blues musicians of his era, he left farm life in Mississippi and made his way north, in his case settling in Detroit, along the way incorporating aspects of piano boogies into his guitar blues.  Today's disc, Jack O'Diamonds, was recorded in a private show in a Detroit living room in 1949, after his earliest records but before he had any hits, then lost until the tape was found in the early 90's, a posthumous release.  I am familiar with those early records, and this fits in well with them.  Anyway, continued cutting the margin around the image border, and when I was done with that, got to move inside to the image itself.

I decided to start with the sky area, simplest because it's all just black and white.  Also used the same gouges, knife, and chisel I had used to do the outside.  When the second disc ended, it seemed a good time to end the session.  I can come back tomorrow, go right to work on the sky, and get a lot done.  Above are the results.

Driving home, due south on route 35, ahead of me I saw a bright sky and sun, but in my rearview mirror the sky was a deep indigo, the color of a storm.  Hoped I'd get through my afternoon errands before any storm arrived.  The sun disappeared and the wind somehow increased, so in opening my car doors, the wind seemed like it was trying to rip the door out of my hand, or maybe rip the door off the car itself.  Whichever direction I walked, the wind was in my face, which often happens in these shore towns. Felt a few individual rain drops, but no real rain came, so I got my errands done and got home safely.

Tomorrow is expected to be a little colder, but less windy.  An improvement, maybe.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deer Print part 5

Got up to Ocean Grove in the early afternoon, but it looked almost like evening.  A very dreary gray day, the kind we have had a lot of around here.  Appropriate music would be blues I had decided, and grabbed a few compilation discs on my way out of my apartment.  Compilation albums can be a disc jockey's best friend- when you have just a few minutes to find something to play next, grab one, drop it on the turntable or in the disc drawer, and you are bound to find something with the right tempo, the right length, to get you to the next one.  On the other hand, they can be a solution for lazy dj's.  On a few occasions I was listening to blues radio show someone else was doing and realized that most of the songs could be found on a few common compilation albums (I am familiar with many) and knew the jockey was just doing a show from a few sources.

Of course in my Studio, it's just me (still no sign of Molly today) and I can listen to whoever I want. First up was The Best of Duke-Peacock Blues, which collects 18 tracks that had been recorded by those legendary Houston blues labels, late 40's to early 60's.  Some big name artists, some I never heard of, but all enjoyable.  When that ended I put on Atlantic Blues: Guitar, part of a series of double albums (LP's in those days) that came out when I was first doing a radio show, the piano one a good emergency music source for me.  Picked up the guitar set on CD a few years later.  Back in the day, Atlantic was one of the biggest blues labels, but that was back when artists cut and released single songs, not albums.  A lot of these songs had been released on LP's collecting a single artist's work, but probably out of print. One advantage of the compilations is that you bought it for its inclusion of a few known artists, but you got exposed to a lot of other cool stuff.  Learned about T-Bone Walker, Blind Willie McTell, and Guitar Slim from that album, and later bought albums from all of them.

Today's art task was to continue the drawing phase of the new deer print.  Most of it was done, so the focus today was on adding some texture, and all on the lower part of the block. Left the brush at home and did it today with a permanent marker.

I wanted to put back the space that should have been between the shrub and large tree on the left side of the block, but you can't erase ink.  Luckily I always have some sandpaper. which can also clear the space in a case like this.  All over the ground in the image I put down lots of little black marks, similar to the ones found in the original print.  An optical gray.  I wasn't too careful about matching the exact size and location of those original marks, as it wasn't needed.  These are just a guide and suggestion for when I cut the block, and I'll just work them out in the cutting process, what is sometimes called drawing with the tools.  I do this pretty regularly, and have confidence it will work. Also erased some unneeded pencil lines, added a few marker lines to fix a few shapes.  Unless I find a few other issues that I must correct, I'll probably start cutting the block by the end of the week.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Deer Print part 4

Got up to the Studio after an early lunch.  My last visit included a dark pencil over everything, which didn't take that long.  As a result, I only got to listen to one of my first two compact disc albums that day, the double album of the Beatles White Album. So today I decided to continue where I had left off with the other disc I had bought in that first purchase, the Beatles Abbey Road.  Last time I wrote about that whole transition from vinyl to compact discs, including how that was handled by the Beatles, so no need to do that again. And if you don't know anything about Abbey Road, nothing I can write here will help you very much.  But then I realized that I had a problem.  While I am very sure what my first two compact disc purchases were, I'm a bit less sure what the third one was, and I had more work to do today than would be covered listening to one disc.  (by the way, still no Molly around today, though Nichole assures me she came by to renew the lease for 2020, which meant I could enjoy music while I worked) So while I am not sure exactly which disc was my third purchase, I knew of one that was an early purchase and grabbed that from home, Hard Again from Muddy Waters.  Not nearly as important an album in any genre as the first two discs, but still one worth having.  Muddy's biggest success was in the 50's, when he travelled from the fields of Mississippi to Chicago and became one of the biggest stars of the blues world, so still less known to much of the rest of the world.  One thing he was famous for was a loud, amplified sound, not the acoustic style he practiced back home, but something suitable to the loud blues clubs in Chicago.  Another thing he was known for was all the people he had played with.  Signed with Chess Records, and almost every up and coming blues artist was in his band or played on his records, and quite a few established artists as well. But by the late 70's, the music industry had moved on, and all the big blues labels had folded, leaving Muddy a mostly forgotten man.  However established rock guitarist Johnny Winter had fond memories of his music, and managed to join his band and get them signed to a deal with Blue Sky records (part of Columbia) and they put out a series of albums, as loud and raucous and bluesy as any he had done before, records that were successful both artistically and commercially.  The result was two rarities for a blues musician, Muddy went out on top and got to die of old age and natural causes.  Hard Again was the first of these releases.

So with good music to listen to, I was able to get some work done.  With black and white woodcuts I sometimes like to go over them with a brush and ink- drawing ink (or india ink if you prefer) and ink wash, loosening up the drawings a little, making them feel more like charcoal. The fine details on the cranes meant they had to remain pencil, but everything else black got the brush treatment today.

Besides making the shapes more organic, the process gives a better representation of the high contrast that relief ink will have on the paper, as you can see above.  I will probably go back tomorrow and use a permanent marker to add some texture to the ground and stumps, but otherwise the drawing is just about done, and I can begin the cutting soon.  May get a lot of it done before classes start up again toward the end of next week.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Deer Print part 3

Decided to go in a little earlier today, late morning, as I wanted to talk to Nichole.  No problem, just wanted to update her on a few things. For example, the other day we finally had our planning meeting, and the other person in attendance seemed very interested in the building hosting some kind of macrame class or workshop.   Kept bringing it up.  (Also very opposed to any kind of life drawing involving nude models, claimed no one would attend.  My experience says otherwise, but I wasn't going to argue it.) In a later conversation with Nichole she agreed with me that the macrame thing seemed unlikely.  But then last night I was looking at the Belmar Arts website, scouting upcoming shows for participation/blogging, and saw something about an upcoming fabric arts show.  We've had them before, something I don't participate in.  But it mentioned macrame as a possible medium, which was never the case before.  Is this a thing now, or did our other meeting member convince them already?  When I did see Nichole she raised both possibilities, so I knew I wasn't crazy.  My advice was to monitor this fibers show and see what was happening, and be ready to react. We talked about a few other bits of business, then I went downstairs and got to work.

My goal was to finish the block drawing for this commissioned deer print. Before leaving home I had done some quick sketches on paper from the original framed print, including a grappling hook that was too small to notice from the photo I had, and lots of other crane parts.  Brought all that to the Studio.  Still no Molly yet, though Nichole mentioned having gotten a text from her.  For music I went with something from my library there- the Beatles white album, which is my oldest compact disc.  Back in the 80's when compact discs were first introduced I didn't buy any right away.  Vinyl was still more common and much less expensive, plus, there were no Beatles albums out on disc yet. But I remembered an old blues tradition- among the relatively poor blues fan base, few could afford record players, so those who could buy them did so, and everyone else in the community bought some records, then when there was a party, everyone would show up with what they had.  What finally tipped the balance was when EMI/Parlophone finally started issuing Beatles albums on disc. What they settled on was to follow the British album system.  The EMI subsidiary in America was Capitol, and so American albums through 1966 had very different contents- generally a few songs shorter, and had to contain singles that British buyers did not want as part of an album. plus occasionally some songs in America were held back for different albums, plus (as all bands did back then) sometimes the Beatles put out singles that had no connection to any album.  And other nations had their own variations.  But when it was time to deal with the compact discs, the decision was made to do one digital remastering and put out one disc line up for the world, and they chose to match the original British line-ups. So the first four discs were based on the first four British albums (none the same as the American ones), then the next four British albums, etc.  It finally wrapped up in 1988 with two volumes of Past Masters which collected all the songs that didn't appear on the British albums- singles, EP's, etc, with the exception of the Magical Mystery Tour album, which had been created for the American market, with the songs from the British Magical Mystery Tour EP plus several uncollected singles.  That album was later issued in England and was now part of the compact disc line-up.  So the first two compact discs I bought were two Beatles albums from the last wave- The Beatles (aka the White Album) and Abbey Road, in grand blues tradition, purchased before I had something to play them on.  One of my college friends of that era was a chemistry major who insisted that compact discs had no future, as the plastic used to make them had a 10 year maximum life span.  Those discs that I bought in 1988 are still working, so I guess he was mistaken.

Anyway, I had a block to finish. When I did the original block, my drawings of the towering cranes (seen over the tree tops) were based on photos I had taken of such things, a common sight at our rapidly redeveloped shore region.  They were not exact copies, but approximations, abstractions meant to evoke the idea.  So this new block drawing didn't have to be a perfect copy of that one, just carry the same connotations. Took about an hour to fill in those details, sometimes requiring a complete redrawing.  Then moved on to finish filling in the drawings of the shrubs, put in something on the ground. Eventually I'll hit all these with some brush and ink wash, but I didn't have that with me today.  Results are below:

It's pretty much what I expected from this so far. Sent a copy of this photo to the person who commissioned it, and I'll continue the block next week.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Deer Print part 2

Right now my biggest problem with this new print I am working on is what to call it.  The piece it is derived from has a title, but this is really a separate piece, and will look even more so when it is finished.  So for now on this blog I will just call it the Deer Print, and figure it out some time before the piece is finished.

Today was sunny, but still very cold, not a good day to do yard work, but suitable for Studio work, an indoor activity.  So that is where I went this afternoon after lunch.  With me I brought a new pencil, a 3B that came with a large set of pencils I got as a Christmas gift. I know from experience that the softer pencils make darker marks on wood, which will make the results more visible and the dark/light balance more visible. Also grabbed some discs from the shelf. I'm going to need some heat down there today, so music loud enough to compete with our heating unit.  (Molly seems to still be on vacation, so I had the place to myself and could enjoy music) First up was the Screws Get Loose album from Those Darlin's, who I first noticed when their debut album came out and an article I read mentioned they had formed in Murfreesboro, TN, which happens to be the hometown of my music friend Doug. That first album was traditional country, which I guess didn't interest him, but when the second album came out (more a girl group sound, which is fine because it was founded by 3 women) he sent me a copy of it, which I liked enough to get an official copy, which came with bonus tracks.  But they changed sounds again before the third album, and one of the band's founders left, and then after the 3rd record the lead singer died in her 20's from a form of cancer, so there will be no more albums. For the second music selection I went way back- a collection of live tracks from the Jam, called Dig The New Breed. (How far back? The last release for the Jam was one of the first videos on MTV.)  These songs were recorded at various venues between 1977 and 1982 (roughly their existence), when they were one of the premier bands of the British Mod movement. Still holds up.  When that ended I switched to something very different, the debut album from 24-7 SPYZ.  First came out when I was a college senior, an all black hard rock band from New York, signed on the heels of Living Colour hitting it big.  I remember a college music magazine with an ad promoting the still unknown band referring to their debut album, Harder than You , as "Van Halen meets Run-DMC on a corner in the South Bronx."  Probably not far off.  The band was scheduled to play a free show at Montclair State, but at the start time they had not arrived.  I left to host my radio show, walked back out later, and they still weren't there, but had been replaced with Meatloaf. Not what I was in the mood for.

I had worked out the basic composition yesterday, so today I was fixing details and filling in some dark shapes with my darker pencil.  (doesn't really impact the print, but just to be a guide when I go to start cutting the shapes and may need a reminder of what is black, what is white, what is gray.   The one things I didn't want to do was draw in the details of the towering cranes, as my only source in the Studio was a small photo and I couldn't see enough detail. I'll sketch that from the original print and bring it in next time.  So far so good, but that's not surprising as it was always a good print and so far it's a pretty close copy of that, just slightly smaller.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Another Move

Can't keep a good print down.  Back in the last century, I submitted two works to an exhibition with a theme of preserving the environment, inspired by a recent policy of our then governor.  The gallery (the now defunct Printmaking Council of New Jersey) liked both, even selecting the color one for an advertisement they were offered in a magazine, until the magazine banned the piece from the magazine, fearing it might offend some of its advertisers.  (the first time, but not the last time, one of my artworks was banned for fear it might offend someone)  The black and white one made the show, and was even featured on the cover of an exhibition program.

This piece has appeared in many other shows since then, more than I can remember off hand.  I think that's because it seems to have some political content, but does not pick a side, so it leaves it to the viewer to decide what the point of view is, which inevitably is the one the viewer who likes it has.  I just showed some facts- as people move into locations that had previously been home to wildlife, those previous residents are displaced.  Are you sad because the poor defenseless peaceful woods creatures are losing their forest home, or glad that the disease infested and sometimes destructive creatures are being driven out of the places they had lived and replaced with houses?  Either way, this piece is for you.  Unfortunately, another force of nature, Hurricane Sandy, destroyed the wood block the piece is carved on, leaving me with just one remaining copy, which is in a frame.  That framed copy keeps showing up in exhibitions, such as a few years ago in Ocean Grove, and in Spring Lake, and this past fall in Belmar, 20 years after I originally created the piece.

That leads me to this moment. In that last show a lot of people appreciated the piece (it's a nice design, a good use of positive and negative space, makes people think- all part of a successful print) and a few inquired about purchasing it.  With just one copy in existence, I don't want to sell it, at least not for a price that people want to pay.  So I turned to another option, make another print.  So last fall, I decided what size it would be, cut a piece of wood to the proper size, and set it aside. Had to get through school, another print, my Christmas card, etc, but now those things are done. Time to get to some new art (sort of), especially since there is a promised sale here.

Since I have a successful design to copy from, not much work in creating it. I'm copying it from the completed print, so the carved block will end up being reversed from the original.  This is something I often do anyway to make the new version a little more unique, and I checked with my committed customer first and she was okay with the mirror reversal.  Also checked the image of the print in a mirror first, and decided it would work fine in this direction.

Haven't seen Molly since before Christmas (her card is waiting for her when she gets around to showing up), so I could play whatever I wanted in the Studio today.  Overall theme today was my friend Doug, who has excellent taste in music and a long history of sharing what he likes with me, so his involvement in this selection covers a lot of years.  There was White Blood Cells from the White Stripes (before they had any hits or anyone had heard of them), Locked Down from Dr John (had never been a big fan of Dr. John and his extreme theatricality, a common aspect of music in his New Orleans home, but Doug vouched for this and turned out to be right), and Street Songs of Love from Alejandro Escovedo, a disc that he had burned for me, and while I later bought my own copy, that first one is still in my Studio.  All good music to make art by.

Started by making a large grid for a grid transfer, then started working on a pencil drawing.  Just roughed in for today, but the basic shapes are there.  Next time I'll refine the drawings of all these elements, copied from a photo of the original print, and get the final block drawing.  Then just cut all that out, but I know this design will work.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Third Time's the Charm

 A planning meeting for the Jersey Shore Arts Center Artist Collective has been in the works for a while.  The first schedule had it happening in December, but snow forced the postponement of something else, and that thing got to have our meeting time.  It was scheduled again last week, but then Nichole get sick and had to postpone it again, which I only found out about after showing up and finding a dark room. It was scheduled again for today, and like last week, I got there early in the day, so I could get some work done before the meeting.  Saw Nichole when I arrived, and she confirmed that the meeting would happen tonight, so I went downstairs to the Studio for a while.

The one thing that I can say I did was assemble one more Christmas card- glued one of my recent okawara prints to a piece of card stock.  Folding and cutting can happen later.

Shortly before 6 pm I went up to the 3rd floor. The building was a lot fuller and noisier than it was last week (dance kids, etc), but for the moment I was alone on the 3rd.  Then a few minutes before the start time a woman I didn't know walked up the stairs from the 2nd floor.  She said she had come for the meeting and was surprised the room was locked, but said she had seen Nichole who told her she was coming up, so I guessed this meant that it was on.  And shortly after that Nichole came up the stairs as well.

But that was it, so it was a small meeting. No problem. A lot was discussed, not much decided.  As of now it looks like there will be a plan to try a live model type class in the spring.  Big concerns are where to find models and where to find artists, but we have a goal. Also talked about some other art forms and possibilities, including some potential community projects, but I'll save that news until I know something more definite.

Friday, January 03, 2020

A Short Trip

Just a quick trip to Ocean Grove today.  If Nichole had been in, I was going to ask her about a change on the 1st floor.  The whole time I've been there, room #3 was the first floor kitchen, with stove, oven, microwave, refrigerators, plus a very large table, and we were encouraged to use it when we ate in the building.  Since then the 3rd floor kitchen was created, but never used for the intended purpose, but it could.  And room #3 could be used for a number of other purposes and it has- I had some classes there over the summer, and it was used to teach a small Irish step dancing class this fall.  Around that time the room was emptied, and it looked like they were starting to build a large shelving until on one  long wall, but nothing has happened there for a while.  Perhaps because of the holidays. Several days ago when I was hanging around waiting to see what was going to happen with the planning meeting, I noticed that on the large directory board near the main entrance, the hook for room #3 now reads, "room of many feasts". What is that?  Sounds a little like a religious cult activity almost.  The door is locked, and the room looks empty, except for the stuff piled on the old counter where the sink is.  I enjoy a good feast, so if they are having a lot of them, I'd like to know about it.  Maybe I'll find out something next week.

My real reason for going was to drop off my annual Christmas card for Molly, stuck into the envelope where I have the next rent check. Haven't seen Molly since before Christmas, or an evidence of her being there. but the card will be waiting for her when she finally comes back.

Took care of some other errands while out, then back home to continue with the never ending grading process. Turned in class grades over a week ago, but now we have the student assessments.  A university thing, which seems to be their substitute for actually trying to teach the students in any academic way.  Scored the 12 categories for each student a few days ago, so today was just inputting them into the computer system, not as straightforward or logical as when we input the class grades.  No real directions are given, and the system make many offers to download programs to our computers, but I always decline that.  I made it work last year, and I made it work this year.  I may be one of the few people in the department who has figured out how to do this. Maybe it's what keeps me employed.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Card Factory Back Again

A few thing on the agenda for today.  One was to complete another layer of the college semester requirements, in this case the student assessments.  Of no relation to the class grades- just our opinions of how the student is progressing in various academic ways, in the categories of writing and transdisciplanarity. (that latter one make no sense to me either, but that's what the school is into)  I have 32 students and we need to assign scores in 12 areas for each.  No mathematical formula here, just opinions.  I just try to be consistent.  Started it in the afternoon, and later finished it at night, the scoring part.  I'll input them into the computer system tomorrow.

More fun was the Studio.  Earlier this week I printed the last set of cards I'd need for this holiday, and today I came back to color them.

Just set up in the assembly line style and did one color at a time until I was done.  It was was a bit chilly down there, and I knew I would need to crank the heat. The big heater/blower thing works just fine, but is very noisy, so I figured what would be best was some good old raucous rock and roll- so I went with my Wipers disc and Live at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go from X- good loud music that could be heard over the sound of the heater- nothing subtle for today.  Got the cards finished, so all worked out as planned.  Brought the colored pieces home to be assembled another time.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Art Continues in 2020

A new year, a new blog post.  But art goes on- some things never change.  No one knows what the future holds, but here are some thing art related that are expected in the new year.

Finally got word today that the planning meeting from a few days ago is officially rescheduled for next week. I'll probably go, because part of it is about classes and I would like to continue having them. As with everything I mention here, details will follow once I know t hem.

The cards printed a few days ago are expected to be the last ones printed for this holiday season, so once they are colored and completed, I can move on to the next piece. Have some college stuff I need to finish over the next few weeks, so they are also on the immediate agenda.

I have a number of print projects in the works as ideas, but none started yet. One is an order for a new version of my Moving Day print, the image of the deer running through the woods from construction vehicles. This will just be a copy of the original print (the original block destroyed by Hurricane Sandy), showed most recently in Belmar.  Multiple people have expressed an interest in acquiring it, including one who has mentioned it multiple times (including in a Christmas card), so I should probably get it done- take the money and have it ready for future shows, sales, etc. I also have plans for another piece about a vanished shore landmark restaurant, but I'm not going to talk about that until it's about to start. Like my Circus Drive In piece, it will be hand colored.  On hold for now is the next BAC t-shirt.   The person most in favor of it has left her position in the organization, though she tells me that the trustees are very much in favor of having a new t-shirt and having me produce a woodcut design for it, but no idea yet what they want for a subject of the design or any other details. Can't do anything more until they give me some instructions.

No big shows officially scheduled yet.  The deadline for the next Belmar Salon show is this week, but I think I will skip it. Theme is nature, not one of my big subjects.  I suppose my narwhal print could work, but I think I'll save that for another occasion.  I also have two other new never exhibited prints- the Circus and the newest supermarket print.  I'm told there are plans for another tenant show in Ocean Grove in 2020- these can be possibilities for that show.   As the blog proves, shows can come and go suddenly, so I would not be surprised if suddenly I have some soon.