I usually start with a photograph. I make a few drawings from the photos to familiarize myself with the subject and then I do many arrangements of scanned drawings in photoshop, either staying true to the drawing with the emphasis on modeling or outline.
I settled on two types of rendering in this print. A painterly aquatint for the banana plant that roughly followed a drawing and an outline for the figure with guitar that I traced from another drawing. I'm not really interested in photorealism here. In doing a few drawings, I'm more interested in the feeling and message carried by the way an image is made. I am able to distill the necessary details through drawing and I use photoshop to make quick arrangements.
This is a two-plate hard ground and aquatint etching. One plate for the figure and one for the banana plant. Banana is printed in bluegreen Akua ink with 5-1 trans base. Figure is printed using carbon black Akua ink with a 5 - 1 trans base as well. I used cold-rolled 20 gauge steel sanded down with a final 1500grit paper. You get a massive amount of plate tone even with 1500grit. This is something I don't want, considering there's a lot of negative space that I want clean, so I added 5 parts trans base to one part ink.
etchant - 1 part copper sulfate to 1 part NaCl
hard ground - 1 part Graphic Chemical asphaltum to 1 part naptha
aquatint - hand dusted and crushed rosin through some leggings and melted on a hot plate.
So it's been a while since I last posted. Not because the output has died out or
that I've quit all-together, though the thought has crossed my mind. Throwing in the towel is easy on the one hand and impossible on the other. I have a dialectic tendency and with that I amuse myself with lots of stylistic breaks. So, I've been busy and I'm happy for that. I've stayed in the game.....
The above shot is of a sculpture for Avenue of the Arts in Kansas City. It will move to Webster University next. Thanks to Dana Turkovic, Oren Yagil and Steve Strang for making this happen. It'll be on loan to Webster for an undetermined time. Gotta thank my man Porter Arneill for inviting me to play in KC.
I purchased a Peter Marcus intaglio press and have started a print studio with a
good friend and fellow print aficionado - Gina Alvarez! Ain't that cool!?
We are slowly getting things ready. We've built some walls, scraped and painted the floor and now we need to fabricate a press bed. Good thing I just outfitted my mig with argon.
Gina has a piece in KC as well. Just thought I would share a small portion of that huge project.
YELLOWBEAR is our studio name and possible brand. It comes from my daughter's words that were translated into sculpture - "I am a big yellow bear queen". It sounds Native American. I jokingly say it reminds me of my favorite place to live. It has the element of color. It shows strength in reference to the bear. It's simple. I struggled with conceptually challenging names and names that referenced printmaking. I even threw in my favorite GBV album as a name. Almost went there too.
Gina and I have some projects underway and I will get to posting them when the press bed gets done. Thanks for reading.
Finished my class assignment. For the final, I have my students run an edition to be traded between us. This semester was a class of 8 students so the edition is 9 prints, including me. I have done this for every printmaking class I have ever taught. The tradition go's back to 1995 when I taught grad printmaking at Wash U. Flesh and ghost hands working together. A print from a record that had been painted on by Chris King. I visited the PoSco prop shop to reconnect with King and caught site of a group of paintings he's been working on with Amy Broadway. I was struck by the texture of the paintings and mentioned that I would be interested in seeing how one might run through the press. Not bad. I was wiping my intaglio plates vigorously and transfered that method to the record. There's no need to wipe as much off with these I guess. I used the same ink from the print trade edition - Orange Pink for G6 and Blue Black for Em#9sus4. The text painted by King's hand reads, "I'm A Ghost". Inspired by Muldoon's, Incantata and a poltergeist tap on the shoulder?
making a score determined by random traffic in a specific location. color and sound relationships determined by Scriabin, Korsakov and Sabaneyev and the color of the cars. note duration and appointment determined by cars relationship to common fixed points in photo. i'm using pseudo diegetic and non-diegetic audio recordings and trying to fashion a drone highlighted by melodic instrumentation. exhibition is Sept. 30th, 2011 at the Sheldon.
waterless litho waterless litho and relief waterless litho steel engraving and relief
This series started in 2011 and began as a print trade with my students at the end of the 2011 spring semester. These were printed last week at the St. Louis Artists' Guild printshop. They are not on view as of yet. I'm just putting some up on the blog and keeping some hidden.
Here's a shortened tale of my connection with the Guild. When SGC came to town I took my students around to see the various exhibitions in printmaking. One of these shows was held at the St. Louis Artists' Guild. I was particularly interested in the Printeresting exhibit because they offer a great resource for printmakers, I'm a fan to say the least and I have a slight connection with one of it's founders - Jason Urban. The story go's that I was surprised to see Gina Alvarez, Director of Exhibitions and Education at the guild. I have admired her work for some time and having both survived Washington University and the following years, it was a pleasure to see her still vitally active in the St. Louis art scene. Gina talked briefly about starting a printmaking residency and I wholeheartedly agreed to being the first printmaker in residence. Well, there's more to the story but really what needs to be added is that Gina is doing important work at the Guild and one thing I've noticed is that the exhibitions have gotten more "printeresting" and have stepped up in calibre. Amy Thompson and Eden Harris kick it up a notch this time around.
making use of Ready Made Abstraction or fashioning one myself then using it as a relief printing plate or as a stencil for litho. the plates are copies of the pickguards from my 62' Strat reissue ((89' American)) and an 89 G&L SB-1 bass. i'm intrested in the potential to take an object and repeat it's form until it becomes an 'instrument' of it's own abstraction. reminds me of Chladni Patterns or Cymatics, something i worked on in the mid 90's. i had a room in my apartment that was tuned to Bb and i made a few paintings using the sound furnished by the space, and some amplified stringed instruments. sorry, no images of that...only a memory.
checking in...with myself? good news is that i'm printing at the St. Louis Artist's Guild because Gina Alvarez has asked me to become an artist in residence. i'm working on music and printmaking for this residency.
above image is from a current series that i'll be working through. right now it's relief and waterless litho but i'm trying some etching in the lab. this will be a productive summer in isolation and i'm looking forward to it. happy father's day btw!
Since I was disturbed from a post not quite a year ago I've been teaching printmaking at East Central College. Printmaking was my major for two degrees in art and I have always held a super geeky interest in it even if my art has wandered through many forms. As for teaching, I have taught printmaking for close to a decade and it always amazes me when I meet people who create a niche existence in this particularly unforgiving and most surprisingly beautiful art form. Eric Woods is an artist who has created a livelihood making hand made prints for industry and art through his business, The Firecracker Press. I first met Eric through a multi media project called Poetry Scores. Since getting back to printmaking I felt compelled to ask him to do a lecture and demo for my students at East Central. Eric has always been willing to share his craft, art and business with the community since I've known him and he responded as I thought he would, even with his busy schedule. My angle is to invite artists from various backgrounds in printmaking that give purpose beyond the classroom and can share a unique knowledge in the form. Most importantly, the experts I select have found a methodology that is unique and successful. While success is part of my golden rule; it's the strange and beautiful result that is most interesting. In this session with Eric we learned about woodcuts, posters, books, digital imaging, type, running a print business and working on a late 18th century Chandler & Price relief press. I will have a follow up post about Tom Reed's visit soon. Special thanks to Eric Woods for making time for my students and creating a community in print. Look for The Firecracker Press during the Southern Graphics Council art conference this March 16-19, 2011.
the end of the fall semester 2010 brought an opportunity to place my work in a faculty exhibition. i treated the show as an experiment in staging works that employ strategies in music/sound and art. some of the work is new and some was made within the last two years.
the foreground sculpture is a song fragment. i think of it as a silent song. it's made from 1" torch cut steel plate and weighs a lot for such a little thing...kind of like the song it comes from. in the background you can see a text based work that is derived from the same song but is made from a different set of words. it is a large format inkjet print made from a torch cut, intaglio print.
this work is called guitar circle. i like thinking of it as a guitar drawing with a nod to guitar player/singer songwriters in the title.
this piece is from a set 5 actions i did in 2009-10. this one is called guitar drop duet in a & d. when i was doing this work i had in mind the early work of Richard Serra, namely the little film loop where he tries to grab a piece of falling lead - Hand Catching Lead.
A couple posts back I talked about chainsaws and good cheap vodka. I keep thinking about the title and how it grates on me, how quickly I decided I wasn't making art. Off The Art Clock apparently illustrates an amnesia of personal creative history.
Recently, I was sifting through some flat files to make way for new work when I came across a series of 4-color photo lithographs from grad school. The series contains images of the grind, working on a kitchen line. I put myself through two university degrees by slinging hash.
While making puffy tacos in a small Texmex kitchen I pondered the magic of the lithographic stone. During the summer of 94' I was fortunate enough to have a brief but immeasurable encounter with Ronald Binks . Binks had agreed to take me on as an independent study that summer, before I shipped to the midwest. Binks cut a large figure and he was relentless in his instruction on the "Grand Scale". I shook my head in agreement during our sessions, so that he would continue, and perhaps a few more pearls would drop. My head was spinning with contemporary art nomenclature, from the lectures of Francis Colpitt, and I was coming to grips with my own interests and how they fit into the art world puzzle. I was wrestling with the personal narrative, the here and now and trying to comply with the Binks/Colpitt accounts of Minimalism, Rome, Albers, German Neo-expressionism, Golub and Judd. I made a lot of work that summer but I was going down divergent paths, listening and reacting to everything. It didn't help that the girl friend situation was a hurling locomotive, over the cliff, car wreck, earth quake..., and I was numbing myself with lithotine and living off black bean tacos and the ink under my nails.
I came right off the press and into St. Louis finding a familiar spot, working at Ciscero's. I think the change in scenery, the quiet, almost lonely and religious air of the studio, coupled with the Ciscero's sphere, helped bring about a new relationship between the "Grand Scale" and a humble life in servitude. I began to understand the language of the WPA printmakers as it pertained to my situation. I was "grandly" poor - check one. I had a new found interest in Dox Thrash - check two, and I was working in tandem with my piers Tom Huck and Howard Paine - check three, four. Tom was and still is producing prints steeped in the topics and mannerisms of early Renaissance and modern printmakers. His language, fortified by the masters, embellishes on the colloquial. I was attending critiques and learning that Tom's work wasn't much appreciated at the time, for it's embrace of printmaking history and I feared the same torture from professors who held the key to becoming contemporary artists.
Howard went about it through digital means. I followed Howard's approach because it was a method I hadn't become familiar with and saw it as an avenue to make "correct" (forward thinking) art. Howard had developed a process of color separation in photo lithography, this was before it became common in the graphic arts. Howard was very generous in sharing his secret and I soon began putting together a language that combined life and art with the study of printmaking on the "Grand Scale".
Still thinking about songs and art. Terry Allen said to me over the phone that songs are the same as art. I take that for the truth and ponder the meaning and construction of songs in the same vein. When writing a song I'm channeling the content and living the words but sometimes the thought gets away from me. Sometimes the song gets put away until I feel it again. I may answer a question a thousand times and If the question persists then I usually feel that much closer and obligated to finishing the thought or at least and more times than not, riding a slippery thought to a viable conclusion. That's how songs are made, out of the living and sleeping of everyday life. Making a song takes an awareness of the self and a proclivity in putting that into words with a melody and hook. Like Terry said, art does the same thing and yet some questions still remain. Here's a new song for the occasion: confusion
Moonlighting as a wood chopper. Kent Gray was part owner of the Famous Bar with is brother at one time. Before that he made himself into a chef. You might suspect we have a lot to talk about. While working on stacking logs or boulders we might share a recipe for food or beverage. Today we made a pile of wood and respectfully cut trees. Earlier we removed vines, moved boulders, built walls, made waterfalls and anything that's a little crazy or too dirty for white collar work. I'd recommend the Stihl MS391 for eating wood. Kent and I came up with Ruskova for a good martini or an all purpose "on the rocks" drink with lemon or lime.
Making sculpture out of song...not just sound I might add. What is a song you say? There's many opinions and I'll add mine to the mix - song: some words strung together with a good amount of conviction and honesty and maybe a little loosen-up juice along with some chord intervals and a beat. Sculpture at it's basic has a conveyed scale, weight and material or maybe lacks one or more of these. It may or may not take up space but it probably addresses the topic of space as it has volume, gravity, specific gravity (a dimensionless quantity) or a measured displacement. With this juxtapose I have looked into a forced commonality between sculpture and song. I remember Ron Laboray talking about my work and making up a great term on the spot for this propensity - alien relation. Given that these sculptural letters are made of 1" thick steel, there's a measured weight. The song on the other hand can only convey weight by achieving an emotional and physical connection through a righteous beat, a great guitar hook and for lack of a better term - poetic and heartfelt lyrical dysfunction. Here's the song.
a nice surprise happened when i googled tobin sprout. i've been waiting 7 anos for his return and i'm very psyched about the new album - the blue birds of happiness tried to land on my shoulder. from what i can tell he hasn't changed his approach to playing and song writing. some would say that tobin writes the way pop songs should be written but i'm saying this is my mantra for the summer. i'd like to think that his music forms perfect intimate gem-like circles around the reality of the day. it makes me want to crawl into my musical space and craft or rather bash perfect little diamonds too.
Brett Williams makes video, audio, performance, sculpture and installation and sometimes collaborates with me in Nosey Parker. I recently made it to his wonderfully air conditioned studio that he shares with his artist wife Jamie Kraher. Brett and I have a long history in collaboration that runs the gamet of new media. We've used guns and utopian architecture to express a uniquely American solidarity that was founded on the principles of Platonic ideals. Recently Brett has been active in high definition video and methods of displaying his thoughtfully crafted sequences so as to disrupt the preciousness of his art. When an artist uses video, more than likely audio has a significant presence. Brett creates soundscapes that mimic or join the flow of his quirky jump cut video creations. Jump cuts are like guitar riffs in early nineties indie rock found in the likes of Fugazi or Mission of Burma. Later we might hear this in bands such as Square Pusher or Climax Golden Twin. Brett's video's used to take the form of ridiculous self commercials. In these videos the artist might wear a beach towel cape while running through an empty gymnasium in front of seated on-lookers or he might be siting on the toilet nude while eating peanut butter. Later we see only his name paired with seemingly stupid moving graphics and an obnoxious soundtrack of home made instruments and electronic noize. Recently Brett has transitioned into combining video with discreet objects while maintaining the "lowfi" aesthetic in conjunction with very complicated new media processes. He likes to defy the glory of well made video and audio by translating it through shitty 2W speakers and old CRT screens but he's equally as interested in screening in well made video rooms with HiFi sound. It's the possibility of presence that interests this artist and I hope to continue in dialogue and possibly make some more free spirited shit with him.
There was a band out of Portland, Maine called The Mother Fucking Shit. I picked up their vinyl at Vintage Vinyl sometime in 95'. They were indie, putting work out through holes in their pockets. I'll never forget putting the record on for Mike DeLeon, his expression much the same as mine on first listen. An appreciation for a band that can fulfill the namesake and here's a St. Louis by way of Tennessee version - Black James.
You can check Black James out at the Sci Fi Lounge on March.19th.