Tuesday, June 30, 2020

99 Bottles part 7.1

Over the weekend I worked out my color choices for this piece, using the practice copy to test them out. On Sunday evening I taped the good copy of the print down onto my drawing board, but chose not to color it at that time.

Monday morning I was ready to go.  The biggest area was the negative space- all the sand.  Hadn't tested that, but I knew from extensive experience with beaches that the color I would want was Buff Titanium (seems to be a darker version of Titanium White), and put a wash of that down in a lot of broad areas.  Put a thicker version down in some areas to represent texture and shadows. For the paper with the words, I had experimented with New Gamboge, but as with the Vesuvio print, I found the full strength color to be too intense, and went with a mix of white and Naples yellow, and the same for the bottle label.  Normally glass would be clear, but I wanted it to separate a little from the warm tone of the sand, so added a hint of blue.  For the shells- black and white with a little brown for the clam shell, black and white with a little indigo for the mussel shell. And it was done.

Still taped to my drawing board, I brought it to the Studio to photograph.  Took a nice 1MB image to submit for the video, and the smaller format version seen above.  Molly was in working on some big production run, but I got out of there.  Very steamy in the basement, and in that kind of weather, paper sticks to skin, kind of hard to get anything done.

In the evening I submitted my large photo to the website for that purpose (a google drive thing- I've worked with it before for class, where my students had to submit everything online this semester), and sent a short note to Amy, along with the small photo as a preview, just to let her know it was in.  In my brief time on the drive I saw thumbnails of some of the other work.  In mail she had mentioned that she was expecting a lot of gel pen and refrigerator magnet art, but what I saw was bit more sophisticated than that.  Before the night was over, I got a response- thanking me for my piece and praising it, and answering some questions and comments I had regarding music.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Life in Other Media

I love woodcut and expect it to be my main medium for some time to come.  However, sometimes people pull me into other areas.  For example, this week one of my main activities has been my contribution to a music video.  I'm not actually making the video, which is probably for the best. My part is making a piece of artwork (surprise- it's a woodcut) that will be used as part of the video.  I finished cutting and printing the block a few days ago.  That first day I brought the practice proof home in the back of my car, and left the final one in my Studio rack to dry.  Yesterday I dropped by the Studio just long enough to pick up the good proof and put that in the back of my car.  Meanwhile, I brought the practice proof that had been in my car into my apartment.  (the ink seemed pretty dry)  The practice one is only half printed (the point at which it shifted on the block and was done), but it will work for allowing me to test potential colors. Spent part of today researching possible colors to use.  Have all my watercolor stuff at home right now, so I may as well do it there. Looked at a lot of photos on the internet, seeing what various objects look like- bottles, shells, sand, etc.  I don't expect that I will use full strength intense colors for this piece, but will keep it subtle, so the words are the focus.

Then late last night I got an email from my friend Jenny which related to another one of my side projects.  She was very interested in the potential to turn some of my woodcuts into jigsaw puzzles, which have grown in popularity during the enforced isolation of this pandemic.  I had sent her some additional large format photos and asked her to get back to me when she learned more.  Hadn't heard from her in more than a week, which was fine because I was busy with the video project. Turns out that during that time, she and her husband were busy working on their vacation rental home.   (maybe such things have just opened up again, or maybe they are just getting ready for the 4th) Where we left off was she was planning to have something made, and that got done. The mail included a photo of the box of the first puzzle, my History of Art woodcut.  The box looked good, and although they brought it with them to Maryland, they hadn't tried doing it yet.  May be for the best- if they lost a piece while moving around, I don't know if they could replace it.  But I assume they will start it soon, and then let me know how it worked as a puzzle. And what these things would cost to make.  Once we know that, we can look into the possibility of producing and selling them. One problem she is having right now is opening the photo files, which she says may be the fault of her laptop. Out of curiosity, I took those same photo files (still on my computer), and emailed them to one of my other mailboxes.  It all worked fine.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

99 Bottles part 6

Had to take care of some lawn mowing in the morning, so I didn't get up to the Studio until the afternoon.  No Molly today, so I could have music.  I decided to continue with the Los Angeles theme I had going earlier in the week, and brought with me a two disc set, the Best of the Doors.  This was a band that was as linked to Los Angeles as any band is to its hometown.  Very well known, too, so no need to write about them.  Kind of overcast today, so less hot, but inside the Studio it was quite humid, more so than the past 3 days that I had been there.

I had finished all the cutting yesterday, so I just went directly to printing today. I prepared two pieces of print paper (Rives Lightweight) of the correct size, and had some black ink out. Didn't have enough ink on the block with the first attempt (a common problem), so it didn't work too well. The paper wanted to stick to my skin more than the inked wood (could be because of the humidity), and the proof shifted before I could finish printing it.  For the second proof I put down more ink, and the paper stuck to the block better.

This is what that 2nd proof looked like when printed. It looks pretty much like I expected.  A little crude in spots, and if this was a straight black and white print I would need a better proof, but in this case I'll be adding color, so the minor flaws don't matter. Good thing, as I was sweating too much to pull another proof down there today. I blotted the excess ink from the block and left it and this proof in my rack to dry for a few days.  The first incomplete proof I stuck in the back of my car, where it can dry safely and I can experiment with adding color when it is safe enough to do so. Nothing more I can do until then.  I like what I have so far, and color will add clarity and balance, so I think this one is working just fine so far.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

99 Bottles part 5

Got up to the Studio a little past 12, and was surprised to see a tag on our hook by the door.  Other than our dealing with the police, I don't think I had seen Molly in there since before Christmas. But when I got downstairs, she was there, so I wasn't going to be playing any music today.  I had brought a bag of cutting tools, and a sheet of printing paper, just in case I got far enough to use it.

Today was very warm.  The news had predicted 6 days with heavy rains, and today would have been day #6.  So far, not a drop of rain all week, just sunny and hot.  A couple of days ago, they started walking back that prediction, saying that when they predicted rain every day, it really meant a 20% chance of rain each day, which also meant an 80% chance of sun, so really they were accurate in their predictions. Funny how they forgot to mention that 20% until two days ago.  Being that our space in down in the basement, and the dampness and humidity hadn't built down there yet, it was actually quite comfortable down there, better than my apartment.

I got right to work on my block. I had already decided that the drawing was good enough, so my goal was to complete the cutting today.  It's a relatively small block, about 6"x10", and I figured I could get it done. Did the two bottles first, then the empty sand.  The most complex thing to work on was the note- a lot of letters, and I'm used to cutting letters with the grain running vertical, but I didn't have a piece of wood like that, so I had drawn the piece in a way that had the letters on horizontal grain.  It can be done, just had to think a little more.  Meanwhile, looking through the window I could see them setting up for food distribution in the back parking lot.  The bags were disappearing quickly,  but I was more determined to work than to go in search of a free sandwich.  Then I heard a knock on the window- it was Nichole holding up a black and white cookie, in what I assumed was an offer.  I'm not one to turn down one of those, so I looked for my mask to put on and to go out, but then she was already in, with bags for Molly and myself.  Inside the handled bag were two packaged black and white cookies, a roll of toilet paper (always useful) and a closed paper bag marked Ham and Swiss.   Unfortunately she said this was the last time they would be doing this.  I don't know if the organizers had run out of money, or if the "opening" of the state meant that it wasn't thought needed anymore, but this was the last free lunch.  I decided to check it out later and finish the block.

The cutting seems complete, so I decided to call it a day.  (it had been three hours work to get to this point)   The printing can wait for tomorrow.  Get that done, I can still color it by the weekend and get it in on time.  When I got home, I checked out that lunch bag- a ham and cheese sandwich, a bottle of water, a bag of chips, plus the other mentioned items.  A good meal for a hot day like this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

99 Bottles part 4

Brought my new block back to the Studio today.  After looking at it since yesterday, I decided that I liked my general design, so just concentrated on fixing the drawing that I have.  I spent a little time redrawing the two bottles that I had, mostly fixing some perspective issues.  My original plan for the upper right corner was two mussel shells, but I changed that to one shell.  Changed the shape of my piece of "lyric" paper a little, made it look a little more curly.  But mostly it's like I originally planned. I had brought with me today some black drawing ink, so went over all my pencil drawings with brush and ink.

The one thing I wasn't sure about was what to do at the edges.  What I almost always do with woodcuts is to include a simple border line to mark the rectangular edge of the print, but I didn't do that this time, mostly because I don't know what will be needed.  Eventually the image will be converted from my print to use in a video. I tried to do it in the ratio she requested, and I think I got it right, but we'll find out later.  She may have to refocus the images, and I thought that a heavy black line might be a problem if it popped up where not needed.  What I do have is an implied line edge, some in wash in the corners to continue the line made by where the drawings end.  I did use some wash also in shadows, and to mark some values in the drawing. When I start cutting the block, I'll have to chose what kind of marks will be used for these gray areas.

Every piece I do is first composed as a black and white image, and this was no exception.  It may be why right now it looks fairly similar to the recent black and white t-shirt designs. One big difference here is that the final piece is intended to include color, and some of these value shapes will be depicted with color in the actual image.  As the artist I know where they will be, and I'll deal with that  as I cut the block.  By the time it is cut, printed, and colored (probably a few days from now), you'll know it as well.

For no other reason than a song I heard on the car radio on my way to the Studio, today I ended up having a Los Angeles theme for music, items in my Studio library.  First was Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  This album, from around 1999, ended up being their best seller (I bought it myself after much radio play), but they had been around since the 80's, and were well known on the alternative circuit back in my college days.  What may have held them back a little was a love of illegal drugs and all of them had some addiction problems.  The album I have addresses those issues quite a bit.  A lot of musicians have made records about the problems of drugs, some after giving them up, some while still struggling.  Don't know where these guys are at now, but they are still alive, and the album is good.  When that disc ended, I put on a copy of the first two albums by X, released as a single CD, Los Angeles and Wild Gift.  X goes back to the early 80's, but never became huge.  Part of the alternative rock world,  considered an early American punk band, although like many bands from that part of the country, more than a little country-western influence. I first learned of them back in high school, as they had one of first videos on MTV, in an era where there were so few videos being done, having any video could get you onto MTV.  Most active in the 80's, but once in a while they get together and put out something new.  Both bands are known for their connections to the Southern Californian music world, so they have that in common.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Something New/ 99 Bottles Part 3

My contribution to this 99 Bottle video (thus why I am renaming these entries) is supposed to be in by July 1, so I figured I'd better get going on it.  I went back to the link I had been sent and listened to the song again and read the full lyrics.  I verified that the narrator is stranded on an island (having jumped ship and having no way to get back to it), and while she is consuming the content of the bottles, what she wants most is the empty bottles, to use to carry messages back to civilization. (where this supply is coming from I have no idea) My idea was a piece of empty beach, some empty bottles, and a piece of paper onto which she has written her words.

In the song she mentions both whiskey and beer, but for bottles I am going with the former because I happen to have some to draw from. I do have a few cans of beer in my refrigerator, but that won't work for the song.  I don't drink a lot of whiskey, but occasionally I get it as gifts.  

I know that one I have came from my college friend Doug on one of his visits north, kind of housewarming present.  It was a flask style bottle of Jim Beam, which is produced in Kentucky, the state he was living and working in at the time. I did a bunch of sketches of it from different angles while I was still home in the morning. I also have a full size bottle of Jack Daniel's, another bourbon style whiskey, produced in Tennessee, Doug's home state, but I don't think this came from him.  I know he knows it well, and has called it "the Tennessee country cure", as a shot of it is a common medicine down there.  Did drawings of that bottle as well, as I figured bringing open bottles of whiskey to the Studio and having them in my car could be considered a problem. Whiskey bottles are shaped in very specific ways, and the shape will let people know what they are without labels needed.

I decided to borrow a little bit from last year's BAC/shell t-shirt design, which was never used, as the people in charge couldn't make up their mind what they wanted.   Since I have to put the words somewhere, I thought to put them on a scrap of paper, since the singer is sending notes in bottles.Worked out some ideas on paper first, then got my block and started a pencil sketch there.

Didn't get as far as I had planned on the block drawing today, as I was called away for a family emergency, so the shells are not fully realized yet.  And the lettering will be done better in the final version, plus the one I turn in should have some simple colors- sand, shells, glass, paper, maybe a little left in each bottle.  I think the idea is fine, and if I feel the same way tomorrow, I'll fix up the pencil drawing, and go from there.  The bottle labels will be kept generic, as brands are not significant to the song.

The music that seemed appropriate for today was blues, and I forgot to grab anything from home, so I went with one of the discs I keep in the Studio- a home burned one with the two heaviest albums I have from Buddy Guy- Stone Crazy and Sweet Tea, which I believe I have written about already.  One thing I thought about while listening to the song again was that besides the heavy use of harp (harmonica), the music seemed to mostly be slide guitar.  And in blues, slide guitar was traditionally played with a bottle neck.  Could be one cut off and worn on a finger, or could be achieved by holding a whole bottle and running the neck along the frets. Is this a coincidence or part of the plan for the song?  Is there such a thing as slide ukulele?  These are questions I can ask later.

Got another email from Amy late in the day, a general one that went to all participants. All the important question I had were already answered or just figured out.  One new thing was that she was retaining the right to alter images slightly to make them work in the video format, but I was expecting that already.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Something New part 2

Was getting tired last night so I cut off the story of the video early.  Can finish it today.

Yesterday I got my reply to my offer to help with the project.  It verified that the image was to be horizontal (makes sense for a video to be shown on the internet), and received my phrase to illustrate.

My assignment is to create some art to illustrate, "And I would drink all the water in the sea."  The general theme of the song is that the protagonist seems to be stranded on an island somewhere, isolated from the one she loves.  As a result she is drinking down every bottle she can find- whiskey and beer are mentioned.  Maybe partly for the effects of the alcohol, but mostly to get empty bottles so she can put messages into them and throw them into the sea, to get in touch with her lost love.  Perhaps this willingness to consume a sea is meant to demonstrate how far she will go to get more empty bottles.  Perhaps it's to empty the sea so she can walk back home.  (I should read it again to make sure, but for now I'm assuming it is the former) There is a lot of narrative here, and that is the starting point for all my art.

Can I make art with bottles?  Of course- here are some samples-

Can I make art with water or beaches?  Here are some recent examples-

Of course none of this are exactly what I want to do here, but elements that will go into the design have been in my vocabulary in the past, so it's just a matter of coming up with a design.  Another thing I looked at yesterday were images from Frans Masereel, who was a master of narrative art, plus in his years of doing woodcut novels, he drew just about everything. I always bring those with me when a teach a woodcut class, because if you need to see an example of how something can be rendered as a woodcut, it's probably in there. Not because I want students to copy him, but because I want them to see that things can be done.

My next step is to work out some designs on paper, and once I have a plan, start to sketch it out on the wood in pencil.  Then some brush and ink to loosen the drawing a little, make it more gestural. (this style of music seems to call for it)  Then cut it and print it.  Once the ink dries, add a little color, photograph it, upload it, and then wait for her to do her thing.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Something New

Late last night I got an email, the latest newsletter from Amy Kucharik.   No problem, as I signed up to get these.   Amy was a student of mine back in Carbondale, in what I think was her first semester.  Had her for 2D Foundations.  An excellent student, and I kept up with her.  The following semester the took 3D, which included making giant boats out of cardboard and waterproofing, but nothing else,  and she made this giant Viking style dragon boat- seated 6.  (as part of this project, students had to race their boats around the large lake in the middle of campus, for multiple heats if the boats could take it, with people in motor boats to rescue those whose boats had disintegrated) She loved comic books and sci-fi, and wrote me that one year for Halloween she and a boyfriend and gone out as two characters from one of Dave Lasky's mini-comics, Bettie Page versus Nosferatu.  (in the comic Nosferatu realizes he's no match for her and gives up)  Another year her costume was a perfect rendition of the Bride of Frankenstein.  (she sent a photo) She was an art major as an undergrad, and I think she studied literature in grad school, but while still in Carbondale she got a guitar and learned to play.  These days she works as a professional musician specializing in ukulele, which is why she has the newsletter.  As such, she plays festivals, puts out albums, had made videos, and was doing lessons until covid 19 ended in person lessons and public performances.  (These days she lives in the Boston area.)  Isolation is no fun for musicians either, and lately she's been using her time to explore digital video making, some of them for songs that she recorded a few years ago.

This newsletter included her recruiting people to help her with a new video of an old song. Images of musicians performing together are hard to do these days, so what she's looking to try is a lyric video. The words of the part of the song that is playing is shown as the song plays.  She figures to get art from interested outsiders, something that matches the specific lyrics, but she'll find a way to use anything.  Of course the more technical parts of the process are hers to handle, but she wants people to do what they can, so she lists resolution goals and other format things. I've never done this before, but it could be interesting. A lot of the things I'll need to do are related to things I needed to do for the jigsaw request.  So late last night I sent word I was interested.  This morning I was sent a phase to adapt, and a few more instructions.  I think I'll be able to handle it, but you'll see the results as they happen.

Supermarket Panic part 8

The weather reports had predicted heavy rains today, and for the next 5 or 6 days, so I made sure to get the lawn mowed yesterday.  Of course, they were wrong, or maybe lying.  It was warm and sunny all day, which makes for a hot evening in my apartment.  But it also meant I had the day free for other  things, including art.

In the afternoon I headed up to Ocean Grove to continue work on my latest supermarket print.  In advance of that, I had done a little online research last night.  One idea I had a while back was to dress my shopping cart pusher in a sorority sweatshirt, like someone I had observed in a local supermarket several weeks ago. Didn't note which sorority she had been part of, not that I wanted to use a real one for this purpose.  There are hundreds of Greek letter organizations around the country, the first one (Phi Beta Kappa) starting at my college centuries ago.  Often the initials are based on a slogan.  Sometimes this is a secret.  My college had a number of secret societies, with long existences, including one just known as the FHC, but the meaning of the letters was unknown, at least to the general public- I guess the members know.  Eventually it was decided that the FHC stood for the "Flat Hat Club".  I don't know, I was never a member, but it was decided to adapt that name for the student newspaper, and so the weekly newspaper was named The Flat Hat.  I offered to do illustrations for them when I was a freshman, but the graphics editor didn't approve my style. As a senior, my good friend Dave Lasky was the graphics editor, so I was invited to come join the bullpen every Thursday night.  (The paper came out on Fridays. so Thursday night was when the whole paper was laid out, and graphics people got the job of doing illustrations and otherwise filling up the empty spaces in the paper before it went to press.)  Didn't pay great, only about $2 an hour, but when you are a college student every little bit helps, plus I do have a page that includes one of my signed illustrations and one of Patton Oswalt's comic strips. We were both on the Flat Hat graphics staff for a  year, but I don't recall ever meeting the guy.  These days it's probably all done on computers, but back then everything was stuck together with wax, and all shading was done with Zip-A-Tone.  Actually back in those days, Dave and I started a secret art society, named for something we knew and we abbreviated it to the three initials.  What was it?  I told you, it was a secret.

I came up with a phrase that I felt described the situation with this sorority girl. a three word phrase (in English- I don't speak Greek), and translated the three initials into their Greek counterparts. Last night I had looked up the Greek alphabet and determined which Greek letters were the equivalent of the English letters I was using, thus naming my imaginary sorority.  Verified that no actual Greek letter fraternity or sorority with those initials ever existed.  Today I added those Greek letters to her sweatshirt, at least what was visible in the image.  What is the phrase?  I told you, I can keep a secret.

Whether Greek or Latin alphabet, in woodcut all letters have to be drawn and cut backwards in order to print forwards.  For now I decided to keep the letters white, and make the sweatshirt gray.  Played around a bit more with the perspective on the shelves, and some items on them.  It's coming together. No Molly again today, so I brought music, the first solo album from Mike Watt. Played bass with a number of important bands (mostly punk), and pretty much knew everybody, so when he decided to do this solo album in the mid 90's he as able to call on over 50 other musicians and singers to be part of it.  Ball Hog or Tug Boat also included Ray Pettibone illustrations (did a lot of Sonic Youth as well) and 17 songs.   I actually saw Mike Watt perform live several years later. The Stooges had reformed and were playing at various festivals, including original lead singer Iggy Stooge (aka Iggy Pop), but the original bass player had died, so Watt filled in for him on that tour.  My friend Doug had come up to NYC for the occasion. Several years earlier I had seen two other performers who ended up on the album performing live- Evan Dando and Dave Pirner, singing leads with their respective bands at a show in Nashville that I saw with my friend Doug.  We've seen a lot of good music together over the years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

One More Time

Recently my brother came up with a plan to start storing things in the shed in my parents' back yard, for when he brought his family to town, and to that beach.  The problem is that the shed is quite full. Some of the stuff belonged to my grandfather, who left it behind when he sold them the house.  This includes an interesting selection of insecticides, considered very effective in their day, now completely illegal.  We don't use them, but disposing of them is complicated enough that we haven't dealt with it yet.  Taking up more space are a lot of lawn and garden supplies and tools, some of which are used quite often, usually by me, as my parents are no longer of the age or physical temperament to spend much time in the yard.  I also have used the shed to store some art related materials, since I have no other place to put them.  Mostly still life objects, nothing that couldn't handle being in a sheltered outdoor setting.  No problem the past few months when no one else was going out there.   But now there is more demand.

My brother has been there a few times in the past week, helping to reorganize the space, disposing of things he left behind when he lived there, etc.  One thing I have had there for the past few years is my portable spray booth. Don't know where the idea of having white painted objects came from- it seems like a basic part of any drawing class.  Still life involves learning to render three dimensional objects in their setting, and white painted objects work well for this. Take out the local color (colors on the surfaces of objects), and just deal with the light and shadows over the surface, which reveal the form. Where I got the idea to start using plastic beverage containers I am not sure, but I have made use of them for in teaching drawing for years. Turns out that the plastic bottles that milk and orange juice come in are more complex than people realize- I don't know whether it's an accident or the designers are demented geniuses.  All kinds of planes, curves, and angles are left behind when they are just painted white.  Used them at my colleges, and in my recent drawing classes in Ocean Grove.  When the paint peels or wears away, I just paint some new ones.  I also make use of cereal boxes, as well as my supply of glass bottles, vases, old tools, and other interesting objects.

The problem is whether I will need any of these things in the future. Some students love learning these basic concepts. I've had non-artists observers in my class room on a day when we were drawing shoes (very basic contour line exercise) and I gave them a pencil and some paper so they could keep busy, and then have received emails later telling me they went home and drew more shoes, excited to learn that they could.  I have had a student tell me they took my basic drawing class a second time because after trying all the other teachers at that school, I was the only one teaching "real drawing".  I have had students get excited to realize how they could use contours and negative space to draw a complex still life. I've been told a few times by students that it was worth it to travel a far distance to work with a real live artist, and not just a computer.   On the other hand, I've also been told by some students that drawing shoes, and learning negative space are just too hard.  (these are not art majors) In recent years, colleges have worked to eliminate anyone with any kind of academic training from any part of the decision making process, favoring having "business" types in charge who have no knowledge of any of the subjects being taught, or any teaching experience whatsoever.  They would much prefer to buy education from a corporate source, rather than have people who actually know what they don't, teaching it.  The whole covid pandemic thing hasn't helped, forcing the closing of many places where art was still being taught, and scaring many seniors (a big audience for this kind of stuff) into staying home and hiding.

I've been an adjunct professor for 15 years, so I'm used to a certain amount of uncertainty- sometimes we don't know our schedules until school starts, and the school could change its mind then- that's why they prefer adjuncts. But right now the school doesn't know what it want to do. One email tells us that no classes will be pushed to be online.  Another tells us that all classes will be online.  One tells us we have to take a training to be hired, another tells us they will not require the training.  There may be a deadline for next week, but they won't tell us what needs to be done. (my opinion is that if the pandemic continues to rage, and the economy continues to struggle, there may not be a college or students to go to it, but who knows what happens between now and the beginning of fall classes?)

Knowing not much, I decided to use my portable cardboard box spray paint booth one more time to paint white objects.  Use up the can of paint I had going, paint a collection of containers I had stored in the shed, recycle the box, and set them all aside in case I need them again, whenever that is.

So down in Manasquan today, I did just that. I was also there to mow the lawn, and do some laundry, but I got in one more spray painting session, just in case I need more of these things in the near future.  Left them in the shed to dry overnight (and be free of the spray painting fumes), and tomorrow I'll pick them up, combine them with the painted ones I already had, dispose of the beat up old cardboard box, and move on to the next task.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 7

As usual, there were things pulling me in multiple directions all day, which limited me to a short visit to the Studio today.  But there is always work to do there. Brought my current block, which is getting closer to the finish. Still at home this morning, listening to a disc I burned myself, which included various live songs recorded at a radio station that has since closed down and changed formats more times than I can keep track of, but on their way out they decided to play a lot of their archive of recorded live shows, artist appearances, etc, and I taped a lot of these rare bits of music, and later converted them to disc format, so the station has been gone for a few decades, but I can still enjoy what they once were.

What this led me to today was to choose a home burned disc of Matthew Sweet. He's classic 90's power pop, songs with some complex arrangements.  Sweet emerged from the musically fertile Athens, GA scene, and finally had a breakthrough with the Girlfriend album, the title cut becoming a huge hit on radio and tv.  At the time it came out, the media claimed it was a complete solo effort, him playing all the instruments and doing all the vocals.  Not unbelievable, as such things had been done before- Paul McCartney was the only performer on his first solo album back in 1970. In this case, it turned out not to be true- many musicians and vocalists played a part.  Either way, it was quintessential 90's pop.  In the end I came to own two of his albums- a mid 90's album called 100% Fun, and a compilation from 2000 called Time Capsule, a best of for the previous decade.  (plus those live songs on one of my radio discs) I combined songs from the two albums in the era when I could burn discs to make this one I keep in the Studio. Only a little over an hour,  but that was about all the time I had today.

I had spent some time studying the block since my last time working on it.  What I felt needed the most work was the floor, where the black and white tiles function both to balance the values of the whole composition, and to unify the location with the rest of the prints in the series.  (Items on the shelves will also help with the balance, but I have to settle a few other things first.)  I don't know if I have it solved yet, but this is better.  Perspective is improved, and the black and white do create some contrasts that emphasize other shapes.  And then it was time to get to my next location.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Supermarket Panic part 6

A few days ago I got an email from my college friend Jenny, who at times has collected my work.  Sometimes she even comes up to New Jersey to look at it or buy it.  (her enjoyment of local pizza may have something to do with it as well)  In my reply I advised her not to come for a visit  (she had inquired), what with the pandemic having closed most restaurants, and restrictions around most public gatherings. One other thing she had asked about was using one of my prints as a design for a jigsaw puzzle. One effect of months of self isolation is that puzzles have sold in huge numbers, and my graphic style seems like it could lend itself to that.   She asked if I had any high resolution photos of any of my larger prints. To be honest, no, as everything I shoot digitally has been for the internet, where small files sized are preferred (loads faster, uses less memory, etc) I sent the largest files I had (resolution is pixels per square inch), but these weren't good enough. The prints are already made, so I don't have to worry about that. I thought maybe how this could work is the puzzle manufacturers could buy or lease the image from me for a fee, then make and distribute the puzzles. In Jenny's further research she believes it may be more like I would have to have the puzzles made then have to find places to sell them.  Tall order for a number of reasons.  Meanwhile she is exploring having a few prototypes made, and gathering information.  If it works, she has an activity to do, and possibly something to hang on her wall, and I'll have information that could lead to a new source of income.  (a portion of those profits would go to Jenny for her work on my behalf).

My next step is to get her some better photos.  One piece she had specifically asked about was A History of Art, which has full color and lots of details.  There are two full color copies, both in frames, but I use simple frame kits, so all I have to do is unscrew the corners, remove the plexiglass, and they are ready to be photographed.  And I have one of these in my apartment.  Yesterday was hot and sticky, and weather reports said that today would be hotter and more humid,  so not a good day for yard work. After an early lunch, I grabbed my framed work, a pile of boardwalk prints (which we had agreed might also work for this), plus my current block, and headed for the Studio.

I could see that they were setting up for another free meal distribution in the back parking lot, but I parked in front as usual. Took a few trips to get everything inside.   First thing I noticed when I got to the basement was that the door to my Studio was wide open.  Was Molly in?  Was some work being done on the space?  Answer in both cases was no, so just a mystery. Nothing seemed to be missing, but it's hard to tell with all that mess.  Well, I had work to do.

For music I chose two things that had a hint of common qualities.  Albums by two bands from the 21st century that were said to be partly classified as psychedelic.  Usually when people think of psychedelic music they think of the 60's, when it was truly a major factor.  But like any style of music it never really goes away, but shows up as an influence. The first disc was the self titled debut from The Coral, a British guitar band that I first learned of when I ran across an unending show about them on a music station on my cable.  (never did figure out if it was a long form video, or just a lot of things shown together) Listened to the album in the store and liked it enough to buy it. The band is from the Merseyside region (the same place that long ago created the Beatles, who helped invent psychedelic music), which I suspect may be a cause of so much influence of sea related elements (mentions of pirates, sea chanteys, etc).  The result is some standard pop and rock and roll. Never really made it big in this country, as happens with most British guitar bands.  When that ended I put on Venus on Earth by Dengue Fever.  Them I leaned of from a newspaper article.  A group of guys from California decided to travel around southeast Asia, and fell in love with Cambodian rock, which combined remnants of late 60's American rock (the psychedelic influence), Asian pop, and whatever else.  (imagine music that would make a soundtrack for movie about the Vietnam war and you're getting close) The band wanted a singer that could handle Khmer lyrics and found one, who had been a singer in her homeland before moving to the States and making a living doing karaoke and as a singer for a wedding band.  (yes, that is a thing, once I went to a wedding in the Little Vietnam section of Philadelphia, where the band played in that style, but exceedingly loudly, and it was probably the least weird thing about that reception) Like the first band, they are still together and have their fans, but never really became big.

What seemed most important today was getting the photos, so I took on that first.  Opened up my framed piece and got large format photos of it- whole, details, etc.  Figured I'd send them all, let her figure out what she needs.  Also a boardwalk print (the food themed one) in large format, in case she wants to see how that would work out.

It's also good to work on new art, so I had brought my current block with me. Only got as far as starting to play with tile designs for the floor.  Black and white there will be used to balance the whole composition in the final version.  It's gradually coming together.

I went outside to ask Nichole about some Studio stuff, but she wasn't there.  Someone walked up to me and handed me two bags of food.  They were shutting down and I guess wanted to get rid of the stuff.   No V bags this time.  Didn't bother to open them to see what I had until after I was home.
When I got home, I downloaded the photos, edited them, and eventually sent them to Jenny. When I learn something I will share it here.  This batch of free food wasn't exactly the same as last time.  Sandwiches were a little smaller, wrapped in fast food style foil wrappers. but not bad.  Tuna salad on a bagel, and what seemed to be pulled pork and cole slaw on a roll.  A lidded cup with some potato salad.  Each bag included a snack sized bag of chips, and a prepackaged large size black and white cookie.  No toilet paper this time, but one had a 16oz bottle of water,  perhaps more appropriate in this weather. More than I could eat at once, so I had some, and put away the rest for later.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Keeping Busy

Haven't had much to write about lately, but art still keeps going on. Using the Studio is more of a challenge.  Over the past week, from coast to coast, there have been thousands of scheduled protests of racial policies, and it should be no surprise that some have occurred in Asbury Park.  Like most of them, these were completely peaceful, but for each occasion, the building felt it best to shut everything down and prepare for the worst. (we tenants were allowed to come in, but I saw no reason to do so when the work I was doing could be done at home).  Monday's march was scheduled to include the train station, just a few blocks away.  Other than a huge buildup of traffic, no consequence for our building.  There was another one scheduled for Friday, other side of town.  Haven't heard of any problems, so I'll assume no news is good news.

So far I haven't done any work directly related to the political unrest, or racial situation.  Mostly because it's not a topic I usually deal with and so far I have nothing to say.  If I did, there would be a print.  For now I am just monitoring the situation, keeping my eyes and ears open, just like for everything else.  I did a sketchbook drawing from the news, Donald Trump looking very uncomfortable standing in front of a church, holding up a bible. where it came from he didn't know.  It struck me as a potentially iconic image, so I figured record it now, in case I find a use for it later.  If I do, you'll see it here.

Got an interesting email this week from my supervisor at the university.  Seems that one of the galleries on campus is organizing a covid 19 themed show.  Strictly online- fill out a form, attach an image, and if accepted it will be viewable on the website.  It's open to students and staff, so they are hoping if we gave an assignment that dealt with the topic, we can encourage our students to submit some pieces to the show.  I don't like to give such specific assignments, but I had a few students use it as a subject in pieces they did.  Not surprising with so many people trapped at home the past few months.   Since the only way for me to see student work this semester was photographs, so I know they exist, but it's not my place to send them.  In those cases, I forwarded the original email (which includes links back to the gallery page) to those students, and even attached the images if they didn't have one handy.  The class is long over and I can't force them to apply or offer them a reason to do or not do it.  As for me, I have some appropriate work, but I won't be applying. I see a big issue in their disclaimer, where they claim that any submission automatically becomes their property to use any way they want. I don't imagine many professional artists agreeing to that, and as a printmaker I can't. These works are part of editions, many copies produced, and I can't give away rights to all those other copies.  I may wish to sell them, exhibit them, or put them in other collections, and this gallery is saying that they would be the only place to decide that in the future.  When a real collection (museum, etc) sends such a form requesting I turn over all rights to them, I cross out that part and write a polite note explaining why such a thing can never happen.  So far this has always been accepted.

Got an interesting request today from my college friend Jenny.  She has purchased a number of works over the years, come to some shows, and visited this area, which I think may be as much about the opportunity to eat pizza as it is to see me or the art.  Still, I think it's good to listen when she contacts me.  Today's contact relates to the current pandemic.  One effect of this is a run on jigsaw puzzles- I've seen reports from both manufacturers and stores.  A lot of people stuck at home have found jigsaw puzzles to be a good way to use time.  (when we both lived in the Italian House, there was often a large one going on a spare table, for anyone in the house who wanted to work on it) Her inquiry was over whether I had high resolution photos of some of the larger prints, things she sees as potentially interesting puzzles, and whether I would consider such a thing. She's open to paying for such a thing.  I had never thought of this before, but it could be a new career opportunity.  For now what I will do is send there the largest size files I have for each piece.  I have no idea how large a file is needed in this case- mine are all shot for the internet, where smaller file sizes are beneficial. I'll let her do that research and let me know.  She also asked about a visit to here.  I'm always happy to see her, but with all the restaurants closed down, and the summer crowd expected to show up soon, that may have to be put off for a while.