Monday, January 12, 2015

Phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility

 All new things this week:

Phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility was timely this week. Let me explain...

Last fall I became a member at Zea Mays Printmaking (heart!)  As a member, I'm eligible to submit work to be considered for inclusion in their flat files - a curated selection of member's prints housed on-site at the studio. The flat files are a great resource for curators, collectors, and anyone interested in seeing current work in non-toxic printmaking, and I very much would like my work to be included...

To apply, I need to submit an application....which means filling out forms and following written instructions [Uh Oh.]
I would rather assemble a hundred pieces of IKEA furniture than fill out a form :(

The jury is made up of artists whose work I admire and respect, so I don't want to seem like I wasted their time by being unprepared because I struggled with the directions and/or paperwork (Meep!)

Even though this may be way way more than anyone wants to know (as always - skipping the text in favor of pictures only is a ok with me ;)), I'm going to try to explain the process I went through this week, in case it's helpful to other picture people out there.

It's not that I can't follow instructions, it's just that it sometimes takes me a long (long) time as I translate them into diagrams/pictures as needed. For example - the instructions outline the portfolio both as "best work" and "set" - my first reaction to this is panic/confusion because those seem like two distinct criteria "best" and "set;" - which is more important? [deer in headlights moment].

Enter the diagram.

First, I need to figure out "set" - what makes a set? This is tricky for me - many artists work in cohesive series, but right now I'm organizing my work as a place - I want to have enough work to encompass the viewer so that they become part of an art-fantasy-space. (I'm not sure I'll be able to pull this off, but I know it can be done, because I've seen it done well by others; right now it's a "long-term goal" ...patience...)). It's a goal I believe in and continue to work toward, but for now, it means I need to rethink the organization and edit the work to present it as a set where I'm limited in number and don't have the element of space. [Eep.]

I think the question I need is "what makes a set to other people" (which I can't really know, but analyzing visual data...)
Set = Similarity in:
1) content (what's in the picture)
2) form (what makes up the picture)
3) technique (how it's made)

- and there are sub-catagories, but basically it seems to me like  any 2 of 3 will be a tight set, 1 of 3 will be a loose set and 3 of 3 will be boring (at least, when I do it :p).

...Now I try to make decisions [note to self - any decision is better than no decision!] - I decide to go with technique (linocut collages) and content (animals)

So, it should be easy now, right? Just choose the best linocut collages of animals (of which I have many!)...

I get confused again. [Oy.]

"Best" - does this mean the best completed works (present), or the the best blocks (potential)? If they're relating based on content (animals) - does the animal just need to be in there somewhere or should it be the main focus? Also, if I'm really aiming for "best" are there cases when that overrides the content relationship?

[Moment of (justifiable) self loathing. Repeat to self - just decide something, decide anything...]

I really really wanted to include the portrait, hand, and skull blocks, so I loosened the content criteria to "animate things." To compensate, I tighten the form criteria to "all life-scale on marbled paper," so that the set reaches "2 out of 3" as 1/2 content + 1/2 form + 1 technique. I decide "best" should mean best blocks, and the animal should be the focus (which meant more marbling, printing, and making new things). I worked in some of my other favorite non-animal things (plane, boat, flowers, trees) in supporting roles (and even though I swore to just focus on the existing blocks and not make new ones, I lied - I carved the helicopter in Death).

The instructions said up to 20 pieces with a maximum of 10 to be selected for inclusion. I started to get confused about how many, but  Phase 6 to the rescue! I decided I couldn't produce and care for 20 pieces, so I went for the mid-point of 15.

...So, that's step 1(Yay! Do we start to see why written instructions make me cry?)

But, once I got through step 1, things got better [repeat to self: I am an experienced, professional artist; I am an experienced, professional artist; I am an experienced, professional artist, haha!]:

Step 2 - sit pieces under boards to flatten
Step 3 - photograph (and re-photograph)
Step 4 - work with and format files
Step 5 - label all the pieces on back, double check glue (re-flatten as necessary)
Step 6 - mount and place everything in poly-sleeves
Step 7 - order

Ordering was fun! I started with the portrait and ended with Death as a sort or book ends of a spectrum Life to Death, then put the animals in order of their scale and symbolism (so the owl, a symbol for death is next to last, the raven which bears messages between life and death one before that; the frog part of a mythic plague portending death one before that, the goldfish which has no sense of future and limited past next to that, etc.) I included little humor (raptor...then bunny - haha), and I put the more narrative pieces in the "well" slightly more than half way through (just when the mind might be tempted to wander). ["More narrative" pieces are ones with more elements and therefore more internal character relationships; also the narrative curve corresponds exactly to the amount of color].

Round 2

Step 8 - make the disk. Check the disk
Step 9 - fill out the entry form and other submission materials (don't forget to sign/date!)
Step 10 - double check everything (going over the sleeves with a dryer sheet to remove any stray kitty fur - it's a glamourous job ;) ).
Step 11 - place work in a portfolio and the paperwork and disk in a folder
Step 12 - deliver

O my.

So that was the first part of work this week, but there's more...

Because I was making the 3:30 to 4 hour round trip to deliver the portfolio in-person, I thought I might as well arrive when the studio opens, drop off the portfolio, then use the rest of the day to print (self-bribery for getting the portfolio done ;)). I had the animals and plant polyester plates from the last week of December. But because I don't like to waste any of the plate, I added a second plant (this time without litho crayon, and I do think it inked up more cleanly - excellent)
the plate with new plant on right, inked on the press bed

Once I decided I was going to print, I needed to marbelize more paper, and if I was going to make a huge mess with the paper, then I might as well do the whole pack (20 sheets), and with that much paper, why not try to make and print another plate...

[Self #1 raises eyebrow at Self #2, but is just too tired to argue.]
new polyester plate

polyester plate lithography prints from Sunday - 

tried using color ink this time -
 mixing sepia into the black so the 

ink is in the same color family as the paper

I also laid the groundwork for work this coming week. The animals polyester plate didn't turn out as well as I would have liked - one of the pens didn't take, and therefore there's weird gaps, but I was able to print the animals and plants from the polyester plates onto linoblocks so that they can be a guide for carving this week.
linocut blocks with polyester plate prints on them
In anticipation, I also started making relief blocks of trees this week for a forest, since the animals will be needing a home.
proof of new tree blocks

this week's lino blocks

Part of the reason I've been working so much is that I've been stuck inside. I haven't been able to go for walks or photograph all week and staying in motion helps me feel less trapped. Random personal anecdote - I woke up, and it was -6 degrees. After double checking that I read that right and my phone was indeed working (Nope, it's really -6), it occurred to me: "that means it was even colder over night..." This seems wrong to me - I like to think of negative temperatures like negative numbers - they exist for convenience and symmetry, not to be experienced in this plane of reality. My poor Sunny was not feeling well earlier in the week, but, thankfully, she's doing much better now, resting on the electric blanket and keeping our pillow warm.