Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dry Point Day 1

At the beginning of the day, I was surprised because no one wanted to make a print! Then, gradually, a few changed their minds and in the end, I'll have ten students printing tomorrow. Probably a good number to start a new project. A couple of them had really good drawings to work with, so we might get some good ones.
Switching over to teaching fine art has been an interesting experience. I have to admit I've been a bit clueless about how the change would affect me and my teaching. I guess I've always approached teaching drawing from a fine art point of view, because that's who I am. But now that I've done it for a year, I'm trying to think about how the course should truly be. The purpose of the course is to turn them on to art and art making, along with showing them some basic skills. I also want it to be fun, without doing a disservice to art.
In all, though, I think this has been a good change for me. So many things that I dearly loved have passed out of my life. There have been buckets of tears for these things. One of the lessons that I've learned is that impermanence is best embraced. Endings can be painful, but it's better to embrace the change and be in harmony with impermanence.
What if I made my next quilt out of the bike image, and then the next could be when she finally takes flight?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tomorrow is Drypoint Day

Tomorrow, I'm going to get my ARTS 101 classes started on drypoint. We are making do with a lot of things, so today I ground down some nails to the sharpest point I could to use as drypoint scribes. This will be my first time teaching printmaking. I hope it goes OK.
Making those scribes brought Frank Morgan up for me again. I'm not sure why I started thinking about him lately, or what made me look up Carol Estrup's site in the first place. She is amazing for making a web page for Frank. I wonder what he would think of it. Anyway, while grinding those scribes, I had strong memories of one of the first things Frank taught me, which was how to make tools. He gave me some scraps of wood, some spring steel and the grinder, showed me what to do and I spent a few weeks making tools that are meant to last a lifetime. The handles were turned on a makeshift lathe that Frank had set up with his grinder and vise. I ground the steel to the shape I wanted and attached them to the handles with fine silver wire. Two of my favorites are a very small, fine chisel, and a knife that can be ground down until there is no more wood left to hold it. Wasn't that an amazing gift?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I wish the wings would kick in

I've just discovered whole other worlds of artist bloggers our there! It all started for me with Illustration Friday, which I love. But after visiting blogs from IF, I've found Paint Party Friday and now Sunday Sketches. It is so fun to connect with all of these kindred spirits. I'm still buried, but making headway with the papers, so I'm posting this for my first entry to Sunday Sketches. Below is my original post for this sketch:

Well....I'm buried under a ton of grading and should be doing it, but instead I've been thinking all day about the IF prompt, "bicycle". This is the part of the semester when everything becomes very concentrated and intense, and it requires a lot of effort to stay above water. Last year, and even last semester, I had an image of myself barely keeping my nose out of water, I was so overwhelmed. This semester there has been some improvement. At least now I have a bike that paddles, and a new set of wings. Once the wings start working, I'll be out of the danger zone. Sorry this is just a sketch. I'll get back to it in a few weeks when I hit dry land again : )
When I lived in San Diego, my bike was my primary mode of transportation. I got into a few scrapes with opening car doors, ran down an old lady (I'm not kidding and I am very, very sorry for it) and got a ticket (still not kidding). But my most memorable and scary experience was when, as I was flying down a very busy 4 lane street that is a very steep hill, an exhibitionist opened his car door out into my lane and stepped out of his car to face me. He was stark naked. Again, not kidding. I was furious with him because losing control on that street and hill would have been disastrous. I yelled at him all the way down the hill.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A story about Frank

The only piece of art of Frank's that I own is a little statuette of a Pan figure that was used as an award of some sort for a nudist group Frank belonged to. This was San Diego, after all. He used to encourage me to become a nudist; he'd get out the phone book and find their number for me, but I was way too shy for that. The statuette, probably circa 1970, was broken, and he said if I fixed it, I could have it. That and an excellent set of woodcarving tools were my inheritance from Frank, besides all of the knowledge and experience he passed on. Several of our models were from the nudist group. One, wonderfully named Mercedes, whose cafe I ended up working at as a barista, used to stop by the studio on hot days, complaining about the heat. She'd strip down and Frank would take her out to his garden and spray her with the hose until she was cool. After looking at his photo and thinking about this aspect of Frank, an image of him as a jolly little Pan kami floated before my eyes. Might have to draw him like that. Doing his part to maintain the cool.

Dreamer quilt, first draft

This is how my Dreamer in Training quilt looks at the moment. About 3 hours before my final crit at Kendall, I realized that maybe a large portion of my troubles have been due to my printing on Okawara paper, because the tessellation which will form the border, is printed on Bageese paper and it prints just fine. Both are made from coquille drawings and exposed and burned the same way. The only thing that is different is the paper. So, I think I'm done with Okawara, and maybe graphite on coquille for a while, too. I'm thinking about doing my next quilt based on a charcoal drawing of the Guerilla Girl Julia Child, called The Fitting Room. You can see a print of it here:

No news from my spies about the Trojan Horse.

Frank James Morgan

I found this site about my dear teacher, Frank James Morgan, posted by his friend Carol Estrup. Frank was an extraordinary man and artist. He took me in to his studio and made me his apprentice. From Frank, I learned anatomy, composition, mold-making and casting. I will be forever grateful to Frank for all that I learned and for having the opportunity to experience this type of traditional apprenticeship. He was a wonderful man.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


For Paint Party Friday: This is not a painting, but since the question for this week is about how we cope with technical or natural disasters, I'm posting this litho, the first I've done on my own. Litho is one technical challenge after another, and it seems like almost the whole piece is in response to what went wrong and how can I save it? I do the same thing in paint, but it is rarely as crucial, since paintings can be changed so easily. In this one, curse me for a novice, I didn't know that you are supposed to wash the plate with citric acid before you draw. The result of not washing was that the tusche formed little dots everywhere it was applied. Not the classical elegant tusche texture I was looking for! But, I incorporated the dots into the design, by making the loose nuts and bolts in the background. So my answer is, work with what you've got. Art is a large part problem solving, right?

For IF: Lesson
Boy, did I learn some lessons on this one! Mainly, that it takes patience and intuition to make a good litho, but also that lots of things, like ink viscosity, room temperature, press setting and tons more details can make the difference between a fair print and a mess.

One thing is for sure, real lithographers, people who do it every day like my friend Catherine Chauvin, are amazing iron people. On litho days, I go home completely whupped, because it is such a physical printing process. Catherine is the real deal; she is a Tamarind trained master printer. A true iron woman.

Original post:
I was finally able to make a decent litho from a plate printed on an etching press. It was touch and go, because the day was warm and my ink was very soft, but I managed. I'm convinced that litho requires years of experience to really master. My first tusche was too light and this one is a bit dark. Maybe the 3rd time would be the charm.
I might get back to it, and I'm glad that I got the CAC equipped and up and running for litho, but I'm putting a bookmark in this process for now. As part of my M.F.A., I feel I need to learn all of the usual printmaking methods so that I could teach them if I need to. So this summer, in addition to working on the quilts (I think I have a new one cooking) I'll try a color-reduction woodcut, and in the fall, maybe serigraphy.

Guitar Kami

I finally got a good plate for this image, no thanks to my daydreaming tendencies. I was off in another world while burning the aquatint for this plate and exposed it for 10 seconds too long. I didn't want to risk using it for the quilt (I've had enough troubles with that!) so I hauled out this drawing and quick used it to make this plate. It turned out, so it was a happy accident after all.

Calvin College Trojan Horse Update

Well, I was at Kendall tonight for my final crit of the semester, and the Trojan Horse isn't looking so good. It has pieces torn out of it, and some writing on its front. I'm not sure if the students around it were crafting a response to the warriors at Calvin, or if they were just dismantling it. I spoke to two students about it; one was a grad and the other an undergrad. The undergrad didn't know much about it and was not surprised no one had acted yet. It is our final crit week, and next week are the reviews for B.F.A. and M,F.A. candidates, plus there are accreditation reviews going on, I think. So the event was ill timed for our side, but all's fair in war, right? The grad thought it was a Kendall project at first (as did I). I got the impression he thought it was rather silly.
I don't agree. I thought it was brilliant, because not only did the Calvin art students try to engage us, they did it in a very literary and cultured way. And, they provided me with the opportunity to talk about Homer in my ARTS 101 classes.
I'll find out tomorrow and report back about the fate of the horse. But I say, way to go, Calvin College Art Students!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trojan Horse

This was in my Ferris/Kendall mail today:

If you have not been in the Ionia Lobby lately (outside the Activities & Resource Center), you may have missed the large Trojan horse. This is a declaration of "Art War" from Calvin College's Art Department. Their students came to Kendall, unannounced, and placed the large cardboard horse in our lobby. The following note was left with the horse.

"We, the members of Calvin College's Art Department, are ending the age of silence and are hereby declaring 'Art War' on the following institutions:

Kendall College of Art and Design

Hope College

Grand Valley State University

For too long has silence been the only common thread among the above schools and our own campus. Therefore We have taken it upon ourselves to send a message; we will no longer tolerate apathy, indifference, and lack of communication within the frontiers of the next generation of art makers and thinkers.

In the dark of night we have infiltrated the domains of the above establishments and placed a gift upon your doorstep. We stand ready and waiting for your next move.

-Calvin College, Art Department"

If you are interested in making that "next move" and/or helping to remove the horse from our lobby please sign up in the Activities & Resource Center. We would like your suggestions and manpower. If no one signs up by Thursday, April 21 at 3:00 pm, the horse will be removed with no response.

You've been challenged!

The horse is just a bit smaller than my living room.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ice Mountain

For IF: bottled

I swore I'd never publish this painting, but I'm such a glutton for blog hits and this one fits today's prompt bottled, even though you might not know it by looking at it.

Our community has been though a legal battle with the Nestle company, because they bought a piece of land, plopped a factory on it and proceeded to pump the ground water for their Ice Mountain bottled water. So they basically got their product for free at the expense of our wetlands and water table. It stinks, but as far as I know, the Nestle people's money was bigger and better than ours, so the factory stands.

During the heat of the argument, I made this painting. I was studying eastern Indian myths at the time and doing a demon series based on absorbing and learning from the dark side, seeking a balance. The goddess's hand gesture is one of warning. I don't use this painting because it has some unresolved technical issues and it kind of beats the issue with a stick, but again, I am a glutton for hits : ) I always liked the demon, though.