Posts Tagged ‘Randal Davis’

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.

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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When we last spoke (regrettably, almost a year ago), my studio needed a new roof and our bee hive had died.

So let’s catch up. The roof was replaced, but not without further adventures in dry rot, wet rot, basically all sorts of rot. The Theory and I had to lie down with warm compresses on our foreheads and whiskey in our coffee cups after writing that check. The good news is that the roof doesn’t leak anymore.

On a beautiful day in early May, we welcomed a new box of bees to the hive. We learned so much after last year, such as don’t let paper wasps set up shop anywhere near your girls. Don’t let your hive get wet and moldy (see paragraph above for rot). And keep feeding those girls into the fall months. We had favorable weather through November, and even when winter set in, it hasn’t been cold or rainy for long. We have our fingers and toes crossed.

The summer months were taken up with a new project. My father built an archive building to house and preserve his and my stepmother’s artwork. When I say build, let’s keep in mind that professionals (Meng-Hannan Ltd) were involved. Check this: the archive building is the first new structure on the property since 1923 and the only one that is up to code. I just get shivers.

And no year of ups and downs would be complete without someone losing their job. And that would be me. After 19 years and 11 months, my stint as a kept woman came to an end. I know about doors closing and windows opening (people say the darnedest things…over and over again). But what I came away with, along with my wheelie chair and a box of binder clips, was admiration for the people I worked with for all those years.

What will I do next? I believe a nap is in order. But I have one interesting factoid from the land of the unemployed: there is just as little time in the day when you don’t have a job as when you do. And here I thought I would get so much done!

The Theory has some encaustic research goodies to pass on, which I will do in a couple of days. In the meantime, happy new creativity, everyone!

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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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For Christmas this year (no doubt as part of his therapy), The Theory made me a little book of pictures entitled Caprice. The images are from our kitchen renovation and show details of old wallpaper, textures and other strange follies we found under the wall board. For instance, we found newspaper pages glued to the wall as insulation, which looked like photo transfers in contemporary mixed media art. In other places, we found layers of paint (probably lead-based) dripping and flowing over one another in fantastical shapes. In other places, someone patched holes in the original walls with old Folgers coffee tin lids.

You can just make out the words “drip grind” along the upper edge. What were they thinking, those farmers?

The Theory photographed these occurrences as they came to light not just to document the reno, but also in stunned amazement at the activities of our house’s previous owners. Who were these people?

About the title
A caprice is a kind of architectural fantasy tableau made up of buildings, statuary, archaeological remains such as columns, arches and  broken sculptures looted from ancient sites, all combined in a landscape setting to tell the story of some fantastical, imaginary past. Merriam-Webster also defines caprice as a sudden, impulsive, unpredictable and seemingly unmotivated notion or action. I’m not sure which definition I like best to describe what we found under the walls of the kitchen. Evidence of a mysterious world long gone certainly, but also it was just so random, so… capricious.

Some of the images in Caprice seem like art waiting to be made. I can see building up a dense layer of impasto on a board and working in layers of wax and sand and charcoal to make a grid of squares and circles like what we found under our kitchen tile. And if it caught my imagination, others might want to try it too.

Detail of counter substrate.

Detail of counter substrate.

So I asked The Theory if he would make a pdf copy of Caprice (with all the private bits removed; use your imagination) that I could share with other artists for inspiration. So here it is, take it and use it. I also have a link to the file in the Free Box on the upper right side of this page where it will always be available for download. Keep in mind that it is a large file, over 8 mg, and might be slow to transfer.

And before anyone asks (by anyone, I mean John) why I didn’t just save a step and keep the grotty old 1979 plywood and call it art, I confess, it did cross my mind. But what’s the fun in that?

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I hate blog posts that start with excuses for why I haven’t been in the studio or haven’t blogged. It either sounds like I can’t manage my time very well (true dat) or have vastly more Important Things To Do. To prove that isn’t so, here’s a sampling of my activities for yesterday that prevented me from getting out to the studio:

  • I slept late every day for the last MONTH and it felt great. I may never get up early again.
  • I visited an art resale gallery in Portland that has some of Bonnie Bronson’s (my mother) art for resale. This place is chock full of great Oregon art gems and the owner is very nice. There is so much work on the walls that I couldn’t immediately see if she had any encaustic work. Here’s the link: Resale Art.
  • Then I went to some friends’ very clean house where someone told a story about a cat litter box that was so funny I peed my pants.
  • Then I had to go home and bury my head under a pillow, unable to face the world.

As you can see, no time-wasting there!

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Obsolete Pigments

The Theory sent me a link to an art blog called Hyperallergic: Sensitive to Art and its Discontents which I at first thought was a blog about asthma. Anyway, this two-part article talks about the origin, composition, risks and other odd tidbits about such vanished pigments as Dragon’s Blood red, Tyrian purple and white lead. Read the updates and comments because those are good too. Here’s sample about Mummy brown:

The pigment, a favored shade of the Pre-Raphaelites, was first made with Egyptian mummies, both cat and human, that were ground up and mixed with white pitch and myrrh. It had a great fleshy color, but due to the actual fleshy components it would crack over time. [Artist] Martin Drölling reportedly used the mummies of French kings dug up from Saint-Denis in Paris. According to a 1964 Time story, the Mummy Brown pigment didn’t last due to a shortage of its name defining ingredient. Managing director of the London based C. Roberson color maker told the magazine: “We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere, but not enough to make any more paint.”

Read part one here and part two here.

And just to prove that we (and by we I mean The Theory) have not been idle, here’s a photo of a lovely seating area that we hacked out of the wilderness and inaugurated with gin and tonic just this weekend:

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called "Welder's Table" circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called “Welder’s Table” circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

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As of yesterday afternoon, I am an official beek… a bee keeper. By “I” I of course mean “we” because The Theory did all of the actual work from building the hive to bonking the bee package and dumping the little guys into the hive. No one got stung, which is probably a comment on our weather more than our awesome beek skills since it was raining all day and about 49 degrees. These guys traveled up from Chico, California just a day ago. Right now, they are probably sitting in their hive asking themselves how the heck they got to this rainy planet and when is the space ship going to come and beam them back to sunny California.

A question I have often asked myself. Here’s a photo I took this morning of our occupied bee hut:

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can't you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, "Does it rain here ALL the time?"

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can’t you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, “Does it rain here ALL the time?”

Making your own conte crayons and pastels

I’ve been trying to reblog a great post about making your own conte crayons from Pistrucci Art Works.  I can’t get the reblogging thingy to work on WordPress, so I’m hard-wiring it here. Conte crayons are a great example of an art supply that seems to have been born in a factory somewhere without human intervention. And yet, this product had humble DIY origins. Pistrucci Art Works often posts recipes like this, recipes the author developed herself. So click on over and enjoy!

Exploring Conte Crayons – Experimental Recipe for Fine artists and Clay artists

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