Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Day Update

Even though I just posted yesterday, I think the Snow Day merits an update :) 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility, update

Hope everyone is staying safe and warm - please be careful - it's a mad, mad, mad world out there!

Since Thursday - it's been crunch-time here in artlandia. I'm honored to be included in this year's invitational Ten Spot Show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, MA Feb. 6 - 28th. And, and, and - Very Exciting!! - one of my pieces is featured on a billboard as part of the promotional materials for the show (!!!).

Getting ready - I framed the pieces for the show and am getting them prepared for delivery - think they're lookin' good (thumbs up!)

Next, I've been working like a maniac to get that last piece ready to photograph for 2 fellowship applications due the 31st, and also trying to stay on top of the other aspects of the applications.

It's been an interesting few days - Let me explain.

I have 10 pieces of work. I can put together a portfolio, and part of me  (we'll call this part Self #1) is ready to put a stamp on it and be done with it, but another part (let's call this one Self #2) thinks that a portfolio is not the same as the portfolio.

In the form of a dramatic re-enactment, the past 4 days:

Self #1: Is one more piece really going to make or break this application?
Self #2: Yes. It has to have one more piece. Just one more to pull it together into a beautiful, ambitious series that make a complete narrative cycle...
Self #1[sigh] Fine.

Self #1: Great, so we have a million blocks, let's make one more piece.
Self #2: We need new ones.
Self #1: You're kidding, right?
Self #2: [Innocent expression - who me?]
Self #1: Okkkkk, but we're kind of pressed for time here, nothing too complicated, ok?
Self #2: [Innocent expression - who me?]

(Blocks created Friday...)

Self #1: Great, now we have a hand and an hourglass, that's really helpful; let's print these and put it all together...
Self #2: Yellow glove.
Self #1: [confused] Yellow won't work with our background paper - we agreed on the background already.
Self #2: sunshine, canary, caution tape...
Self #1: Doesn't red make more sense symbolically?
Self #2: buttercups, sunflowers, bulldozers...
Self #1: Or blue would work with the rest of the composition.
Self #2: canaries, lemons, rubber ducky...
Self #1: Seriously?
Self #2: [nods] Yes, yes - yellooooow!
Self #1: [frowns] That can't be right.
Self #2: [innocently] Ask Google?
Self #1: ...Yellow gloves - historically worn for hunting and blood sport...
Self #2: [hums and pretends not to gloat]
Self #1:   ______.

Self #1: Ok, we have all the parts, lets put it together now...
Self #2: But where's the crown?
Self #1: ?
Self #2: [Rolls eyes] You know - the crown!
Self #1: Yes, we do have a lovely crown block, I'll go get it...
Self #2: No, no, we need a different one.
Self #1: [expressionless] It's 7 am Saturday morning.
Self #2: We already used the other one, and besides, it's Death's crown, it has to be poppies.
Self #1: No.
Self #2: Yes.
Self #1: No.
Self #2: Pleeeeeeeeease!
Self #1: And where are we supposed to get a crown of poppies now?
Self #2: We'll design it - it's going to be fantastic! [claps hands and bounces]
Self #1: I don't think we have time for that...maybe if we could find a picture of one...
Self #2: [sad puppy expression]
Self #1: Or, what if we modified an existing design?
Self #2: [teary eyed sad puppy expression]
Self #1: [frustration:] Do you have any idea how much time it will take to make a design from scratch, draw it, scan it, digitally prepare the file for transfer, transfer it to a block, fill in the design on the block, then carve it? No. Just No.
Self #2: [teary eyed sad puppy expression]
Self #1: I'm putting my foot down
Self #2: [teary eyed sad puppy expression]
Self #1: I hate you.

(Saturday, Sunday, Monday)

Self #1: Ok, it is kind of pretty.
Self #2: [Big Smile]
Still in process (waiting for the pieces to dry a little more before trimming the excess paper, gluing things down and drawing in the seems), but fingers crossed! It might, might be ready to photograph in time...
Wish me luck!

* Update 1/27/15:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility, update

As promised, I'm back with a mid-week update.

Last week was a big push to carve the blocks for and put together the diptych.
Excepts from the Magical Land of No,  30 x 48," 2015
Part of the reason I'm pushing very hard to get these pieces done is that I have two major application deadlines coming up Jan 31st (due on the same day - haha!), and then another Feb 15th, with framing, delivery of work, and an opening in between (All good things! Fortituuude! :) )

As much as I love carving blocks and spring out of bed every morning all excited to make more prints/collages, in putting together the portfolios, I had to face the fact that I don't (yet) have 10 medium scale pieces that make a tight set and show where I'm going with this work [head in hands - doh.] Luckily, this is situation is totally fixable, and there (may) still be enough time to have a full set of "Excepts from the Magical Land of No." (I'm so close - one more, just one more...)

made this 10 x 8" collage yesterday as a present,
 using a scrap piece of block to make the new village on the right.
I feel like I may have already dropped the ball a bit on phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility. I got so focused on making these, that I wasn't keeping an eye on my supplies, and I ran out of blocks...and they were back ordered (I know, I know - "world's tiniest violin;" but I do feel like the blocks (and possibly the gray paper and ink) may be the art-equivalent of coffee/ cat food/ an E string - since the chance of not using them is 0, it's probably worth it to try to have a back up if at all possible. Lesson learned - ancora imparo.

Maybe it's a good thing that the blocks were back ordered, because as much as I'm chomping on the bit to make the last piece for the portfolio, not having blocks is forcing me to make sure I'm using completely and taking care of the blocks I already have (and also doing the not very exciting but very necessary paperwork for the applications).

In terms of caring for the existing blocks, I (finally!) made a chart of them and put them away in books. An aspect of my goldfishiness is that even though I know what every line of each block looks like, I have trouble recalling their existence if I can's see them (- that's why I take a picture of the blocks each week, because when/how many is not the type of information I'm likely to remember without a dated photo.) So I finally turned the photos into a chart (...turns out there were more than 70 blocks out in the studio - no wonder it felt like they were taking over!) I sorted the chart and pages by type (birds, sea creatures, vehicles, plants, etc.)

I also did an experiment, trying to print gold on black (not quite there yet - hmmmm.)
On the left is a polyester lithography plate and the right is the relief print.

Another mission:  I got some new books recently, and I am so excited about them! I got a book on Martin Schongauer (love, love), starting to read more about Japanese woodblock printing, and a gem of a book about large scale printing (Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian, ed. by Larry Silver and Elizabeth Wyckoff, 2008) - the article on historic modular printing is pure gold ("Modular Prints: A Special Case for the Assembled Woodcut in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries" by Stephen Goddard - my heart goes pitter patter for giant modular prints).

These art books are wonderful, but my method of storage leaves something to be desired.

After - Yay me - I heart non-saw power tools.
Before - This is my bed.

Let it not be said though that looking through these books over and over (as well as attempting to absorb them by osmosis ;)) didn't lead to anything - art discovery!

[Complete and utter art-nerd gush ahead - fair warning :)]

Last winter, the "it's sub-zero outside" books I chose were on Durer and the Nuremberg Chronicle, by Durer's teacher Michael Wolgemut. By spring, I'd become particularly attached to this image from the illustrations of Creation in the Nuremberg Chronicle.
It's avian cannibalism ... the owl, of course, I notice the owl.
and there it is today, blown up on my studio wall,
on the left above the desk

I also love Schongauer. (I think he's in the "best" bubble of any artist ven diagram, right up there with Durer in terms of skill, but working at the very end of the Gothic era when his world and a whole way of life were ending.) So this year, about two weeks ago, I got a book of Schongauer's work (it's out of print, but I found an economic used copy). Looking through it (o, once, maybe twice ;) ) I saw this, one of Schongauer's last prints and burst out laughing.

I promise - this is extremely funny! Stay with me...

Durer loved Schongauer's work (and on a separate tangent for another day - Michelangelo did too). Shortly after finishing his apprenticeship with Wolgemut, Durer went to go meet Schongauer and hoped to study under him. Unfortunately he arrived shortly after Schongauer's death, though Schongauer's brothers gave Durer pieces of the late master's work and helped him during his subsequent travels.  

Wolgemut received the commission to start the Nuremberg Chronicle while Durer was still his apprentice, and since Durer went from his apprenticeship with Wolgemut to seek Schongauer, it seems likely that he was already familiar with Schongauer's work by the end of his apprenticeship. Of the hundreds of blocks that make up the Nuremberg Chronicle, no one knows for sure which ones (if any) Durer may have worked on, but, to me, given the Christian world-view of the text, it makes the most sense that the first blocks to have been developed would have been those illustrating the Creation from Genesis. Not only is this logical sequentially and in keeping with societal values, but also, (though admittedly, I don't have them in front of me) I think the later contracts concerning the Nuremberg Chronicle which were drawn up after Durer had completed his training focus on the city blocks, (the "Sixth Age"); if so, this implies that the Genesis blocks (the "First Age") were no longer a subject of discussion - i.e. they were already complete.  

With a little digital manipulation trying to get back to what the original drawing for the Nuremberg block would have looked like - subtract the color (which is added by hand later,) and flip the image (since the process of printing results in a mirror image), now zooming in on that cannibalistic owl...


Martin Schongauer
close up from the Creation in the Nuremberg Chronicle

The curves of the owl's wings are the same, even the way the tip is obscured; the dead bird is in the exact same position; even the landscape elements in the Nuremberg image mimic the ornamental elements in Schongauer's print!

I imagine Apprentice Durer working on this, lovingly making a drawing with Schongauer's print in front of him, discussing it with Wolgemut. A fantasy? Maybe, but Durer would have had to bring proofs with him when he went to meet Schongauer (how else would 'recent graduate' Durer have convinced the master to take him on as a student?) and Schongauer's brothers must have seen something in Durer's work that convinced them to give him Schongauer's prints, help him with introductions to other printers, and even let him stay with one of them while he was traveling. What better evidence of admiration than the skillful integration of the master's work? 

Ah - and that is how it all comes back to the cannibalistic owl, hahaha.

...And I could keep gushing about Schongauer (to the point of being irritating I'm sure, so just two more then I'll stop - promise! :)):
Madonna and Child with the Parrot
(yes, 'the Parrot!' - he
not only made an owl, but a parrot too!) 
Best St. Sebastian ever?!?
As much book fun as I've been having, it hasn't been all indoor time - some recent photographs from the nearby conservation area. Even though I don't always directly quote from the landscape, the idea of  "magical land + contemporary/potentially destructive tech with uncanny feeling of interruption" comes directly from experience. I think it really does look magical (and see the airplane in the upper left of the right picture. It was just out of frame to get it in the left image, but it was there!) 

Also, I feel like I've been having animal encounters
lately when I don' t have my camera on me
(or, um, have run the batteries into the ground - again ;)).
Busting out the cell phone camera...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility

At the risk of sounding like a 13 year old girl, I'm just going to come out and say it - OMG!
Excepts from the Magical Land of No, mixed medial collage, 30 x 48" 
I made a diptych this week! I'm proud of this one (two ;)), so I'm going to go ahead and post the photos even though my energy tank is too empty for me to add much by way of verbal commentary right now. (I'll swing back around soon :)). For now...let's return to the Magical Land of No - 

Of course, first, it required additional blocks (oy.)
New blocks this week :)

I especially like this one - every magical land needs a

Close ups:

To research for the tree blocks, I spent some time early in the week running around photographing trees in the conservation area ( - Brrrrrrr.)

I tried (unsuccessfully) to work on these without feline assistance.  I came back from the bathroom to this little rascal. Mini decided to nap on the collage, having comfortably scattered all the pieces I spent all morning arranging out of the way first, (naturally.) She was purring at maximum volume, and, really, who could be mad at that face?
 - "Hey Mom, here to remind you that life without kitties would mean more pristine work, but a less happy life...also, next time, you might want to make sure the door actually catches when you close it, because I am strong, clever, and not to be deterred ;)"