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Archive for the ‘Visual art’ Category

Surprised to hear from me again so soon? I was on hold with the employment office and thought, why not write a blog post? Funny what goes through your mind after listening to repeated pre-recorded messages and disturbing muzack for an hour. That’s right, an hour.

In my last post I sent links to the print-on-demand books The Theory and I created for Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly. Two of those books (One through Nine and The Observatory at Jaipur) documented exhibitions Lee had at his gallery in Portland.

The books contained:

  • Photographs of each piece in the exhibition, captioned with names and dimensions
  • Photographs of earlier pieces that are related in some way to the new work
  • Critical discussions of the new work
  • Brief introductions explaining why we thought a book was a good idea
  • Biographical information about the artist

I’m going to discuss each point in turn but right now let’s talk about why a book can be an important tool for an artist and another way to direct the messaging about your work.

Exhibition catalog
I’m not speaking for every commercial gallery, but here most galleries don’t produce exhibition catalogs for their artists. Public museums and collections often do, as a matter of course. But most of us wait years to be included in a major collection or even (gasp) get a career retrospective exhibition. So what happens while we wait? We mount important shows in commercial spaces, the work sells or it doesn’t, and a month later it’s as if the show never happened.

Documentation
You probably document your new work and exhibitions on your web site. A web site is the most important tool you possess because it contains everything and is easy to update. But speaking as a user, I know how quickly most people click through web sites. And getting people to read anything longer than a caption online? Whew!

Old tech like a printed book can place images in context with writing and give depth and insight into the artistic process. Or allow a critical thinker the ability to write about your work at length. And because the book is available online (through whichever online publisher you choose) you can buy copies of the book at cost to give away or provide a link so that people can buy it themselves. It’s always there.

Preserving a body of work or important period in an artist’s life
I was talking to my father about the book we wrote called One Through Nine which discussed an exhibition of paintings he did in 2013. It was his first exhibition of paintings on canvas since sometime in the 1960’s. He said, “I didn’t realize until I saw the book that the paintings all related to one another. Without the book, the paintings and the ideas would be gone.”

All that said, this is not a get rich quick scheme unless you are a genius self-promoter.

A book is another way to take control of the messaging and presentation of your work.

Next time I’ll try to channel The Theory about why having a smart guy or gal write about your work is a good idea.

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Jaipur cover_bogHello, everyone, I’m not dead. I’ve been… well, that’s a long story for another post. Right now I want to tell you that The Theory and I have put together three new books about Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly. Who is, coincidentally, my father.

Observatory at Jaipur
Catalog accompanying Lee’s show in October 2015 at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Full color, 86 pages. Get it here: Observatory at Jaipur

One through Nine_cover_blogLee Kelly: One through Nine
In 2013, Lee Kelly created a significant body of new work, a series of paintings entitled “One through Nine.” These nine paintings are oil on canvas, a medium the artist had largely abandoned in 1963. However, these new paintings do not represent a return to Kelly’s Abstract Expressionist past but emerged from his sculptural work of the last ten to 15 years. Full color, 68 pages. Get it here: Lee Kelly: One through Nine

A bog cover_blogBook of Gardens
A Book of Gardens was first published by Lee Kelly and Bonnie Bronson in 1987 as a study of garden designs from India, ancient Egypt and Japan. Hand-printed and illustrated by Lee Kelly, designed and spiral bound by Bonnie Bronson, this small book had a single release of fewer than fifty copies. This 2015 edition includes a facsimile reproduction of the original book and photographs from Lee’s sculptures as installed at his home in Oregon City. Get it here: A Book of Gardens

For the next week or so, I’ll send free pdfs to anyone interested in taking a look at the books. Leave me comment below and I’ll get back to you.

What’s next?
With these books in mind, I’m considering doing some posts about the process of putting together print-on-demand books for artists. In a world where exhibition catalogs can be expensive to produce, print-on-demand might be something for artists to consider. So more on that later. And hopefully another year doesn’t pass before I do these posts!

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I’m watching the snow fall, the very snow I’ve been waiting for all year. I understand, people in other parts of the U.S. scoff at Oregonians’ inability to drive in the snow, dress for snow or, let’s be honest, think in the snow. Snow starts coming down and we flee the workplace by the thousands convinced it’s the end of the world and we’re all going to freeze to death. On the other hand, what group of people knows more about seasonal affective disorder than Oregonians?

Although we’re only getting our snow now, we had a savage cold snap in early December. The lows were in the single digits. And again, I understand, this is nothing for you folks in Montana (Stacey Jean Barron of Missoula, Montana, I’m talking to you) but for us it was unexpected, especially for beekeepers. A friend lost two hives, and we have no idea whether our bees are still alive. Anyway, it’s still pretty out there:

Sculptures in the snow.

Lee Kelly sculptures in the snow. The one in the foreground is from the 1960’s. The lonely table in the background is where The Theory and I had lunch during the reno. It was sunny and warm then. Seems so long ago now.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead. I don’t want to talk about it.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales. That’s Akbar’s Elephant in the background, a stainless steel sculpture by my father. Sculptures always look great in the snow.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

Well, I need to get the hurricane lamps set up in case we lose power. A happy snow day to all… and to my bees, good luck.

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Hello! Yes, friends, I’m back from the Reno Recovery Unit at Bellevue Oregon. This is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. When last we spoke, I had petrified albino rats on my mind and not much hope that the renovation of our kitchen would never be finished. I wasn’t far wrong on that last one. Still need to do some touch up wall work and some painting.

We moved back into the kitchen in late September, after the rains started—September was one of the wettest months of the year. There’s nothing like grilling in the rain, or washing dishes on your knees in the bathtub. Whoa, flashback! The doctors at RRU said there’d be days like this. [BTW, there isn’t any such place as a recovery unit for crazy DIY-ers, it’s just wishful thinking on my part. If it did exist, The Theory and I would still be there, eating soft-boiled eggs and watching daytime television.]

I offer some before-and-afters as proof that it wasn’t all a dream:

Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Sink wall before. Under that pretty blue tile was a gooey, fungus- and bacteria-rich plywood sheet of the 1979 variety. We salvaged as many of the tiles as possible. My mom made them.

Here's the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Here’s the same wall after demo. The shovel is pointing to the place where The Theory found the petrified albino rats.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you'll note the lived-in look.

Ta-da! Took this photo just this morning and you’ll note the lived-in look.

Before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It's acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stove wall before. Trapped between two doorways, the appliances were constant traffic stoppers. We saved the blue splash behind the stove. It’s acrylic paint over stainless steel, made by my dad. Free to a good home, if you have a truck.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

Stripped down to the wallpaper of previous owners.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that's NOT an improvement.

After. This simplified footprint makes it darn near impossible to incinerate children and pets as they walk by. Some might say that’s NOT an improvement.

Where’s the art?

To be honest, it’s taken me three hours to write this post. That’s how un-creative DIY has left me. For instance, I spent my xmas vacation curled under the duvet watching Wallander and developing a weird crush on Kenneth Branaugh. I think it was because he cried during season two, which is something The Theory did often during the reno. <sigh> Now that I’ve seen all the Wallenders I’ll have to think of something else to do. Art, anyone?

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This is truly random. Has anyone ever made their own oil sticks? All they are is pigment, oil and wax. I keep accidentally making encaustic paint that is way too soft. It never occurred to me that I might be able to use it for something.

One thing I like about the encaustic surface is being able to rub pastels and graphite into it. Working direct feels spontaneous, as though I can outrun my inhibitions. The slow precision of encaustic keeps my fears right up close to me, reminding me how little formal studio training I’ve had. That’s a wicked voice, by the way.

Having direct control of the line with a pigment stick would be fantastic. I could of course spend $50 on a stick. And I’ll do that—right after my root canal and bunion surgery.

When I get back to the studio, I might muck around with this idea. In the mean time, does anyone have any recipes or thoughts about oil sticks? And me? I am most certainly NOT in the studio. Where am I? Working on the Encaustic Materials Handbook and desiring some oil sticks. I have got to get out from under this thing soon.

I leave you with some early work by UK painter William Scott.  He was a wonderful artist, contemporary of Mark Rothko etc. who was simply on the wrong continent for abstract expressionism during the 1950’s. Look at this beautiful work:

William Scott. Nile Valley Red and White. 1962. This piece could almost be encaustic.

William Scott. Nile Valley Red and White. 1962. This piece could almost be encaustic.

William Scott. The Habor. 1952. Stunning grays. I just love this work.

William Scott. The Habor. 1952. Stunning grays. I just love this work.

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I just talked to sculptor Colleen Rudolf through my other job. She’s doing a Kickstarter project to get a sculpture cast at a foundry. I really like her video–it looks like art! And I like wolves too. The video ought to be embedded below, but if not here’s a link to her Kickstarter page.  I’m not seeing the video in Preview mode but then I have the Friday-afternoon-just-picked-up-my-car-from-the-shop-put-it-on-a-credit-card-waiting for-my-fairy-godmother-whose-name-is-not-Chase-back-at-work blues. Sing it with me!

And good luck to Colleen!

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I’m in a glaze myself today as we finally reach Friday here at The Hive. In my first post I talked about a glaze made from an enhanced version of the wax medium recipe that we all use. In the next post, I gave the recipe for a hot glaze made with damar varnish and linseed oil.

Today we’re turning cold. Yup, a cold wax glaze designed to be used in works where there is both hot and cold wax media, or even non-wax elements. The reason I’m focusing so relentlessly on glazes is that I am working with both types of wax, and one of the things I don’t like about cold wax is the rather flat surface. I wanted a way to level and unify the values of both. All three of these glaze types have advantages but the one we’ll talk about to today is the easiest to use and the most versatile.

Francis Pratt interviewed an artist and educator named Fred Conway (1900-1972). He taught for years at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri. Like many artists of the era, he began using encaustic during the war years. WWII, that is. Sadly, Fred is forgotten now, and pictures of his work are hard to find, and I didn’t locate any encaustic pieces at all. Here is a painting called Missouri River Landscape which you can almost see as encaustic. Even though the label says it’s an oil, who can tell? I think mis-labeling encaustics as oil paintings happens a lot, especially in older art works.

Fred Conway (1900-1972). Missouri River Landscape. Date and location unknown.

Fred Conway (1900-1972). Missouri River Landscape. Date, materials and location unknown.

Fred Conway’s Thin Glaze

¼ wax
¾ damar varnish.

Mix the wax and varnish in a glass jar. Seal the jar with a tight lid and gently shake the contents to fully incorporate the ingredients. Fred wanted you to let the glaze stand for three weeks or longer before using. But almost as soon as I added the varnish, the mixture became a thick, translucent jelly. I used it after five days, after twelve days and used my last bit after nearly twenty days. The only change I noticed was that the goo became even more translucent.

Fred says to use a brush or knife to apply to the surface of your painting. I actually globbed it on and rubbed it off with a cloth, as you would furniture varnish. The piece will be dry in an hour or two, but you should wait 24-48 hours before fusing. The strong smell of turpentine will get less, and that’s how you know the material has gassed off sufficiently for fusing. And use your heat gun. Your torch can catch it on fire. And yes, before you ask, I’ve done it. Here’s Fred’s Glaze on the six point scale:

1) Application method: Brush or wipe it on.

2) Drying time: 24 to 48 hours.

3) Transparency: Clear if applied thinly, has a slight white haze if applied too thickly.

4) Interaction with underlayers: Slight interaction with top hot wax layer.

5) Appearance: Medium body, eggshell finish.

6) Bloom prevention: Excellent.

Here’s a piece I glazed on Monday. It’s still a little sticky and you can see the cloudy areas where the glaze isn’t quite set. It’s my usual abstract hot mess but The Theory asked to keep it! He said it showed that I am making tiny steps toward composition. Now if ever a word could strike TERROR into the heart of a writer it is the word composition. I felt like I needed to apply to the nearest art school immediately. I know nothing about art, and what the heck is composition, anyway? Judge for yourselves:

Tasker (2013). Encaustic on board, 5 1/2" x 6". The brighter yellow parts are cold wax, the darker yellow parts are yellow unfiltered wax. All the rest is hot wax paint. Some of the cloudy areas are actually gray paint, not glaze. You get what I mean about a hot--and cold--mess.

Tasker (2013). Encaustic on board, 5 1/2″ x 6″. The brighter yellow parts are cold wax, the darker yellow parts are yellow unfiltered wax. All the rest is hot wax paint. Some of the cloudy areas are actually gray paint, not glaze. You get what I mean about a hot–and cold–mess.

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