Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Blog Available

My blog has a new but temporary home - The Shoddy Onion. Expect more of my rants and raves about art, politics and the state of my mind. Eventually I'll create a dedicated site once I have a consistent flow of pennies coming in for income. Regardless of any delay in my jump to a permanent blog, feel free to drop by and listen to my soapbox postings.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Riding on the Bach of Athletes

Instead of the final post on this blog being a selfish complaint, a discussion about humanitarian issues is necessary in regards to Thomas Bach's disingenuous speech about the Olympics. His comments can not and must not go without a response.

The following quote from IOC president Thomas Bach can be found in the article:

"Please understand what your responsibilities are and have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful environment and not on the backs of the athletes,"

I feel outrage and utter contempt at the audacity of Bach's words. Under the guise of wanting a purity in athletic competition, he attempts to distort what he wants others to subscribe to as ethical behavior. His deceptive nature does not sneak by unnoticed. The current IOC president has much in common with a garbage bag advertisement: he talks more trash than any politician he maligns.

An event such as the Olympics should not be elevated to a status more important than dealing with the injustices of how human beings are mistreated and persecuted.

Those of us who truly values others will understand the meaning of courage is to speak out about an issue we believe must be addressed regardless of the scenario.

Responsibility means taking a stance when we know people will malign, hate or demonize us. It also means sacrifice at times, be it a sullied sporting event or letting go of hatred no matter how wronged we feel.

Unlike the arrogant and deceitful Bach, true champions understand what is important in life.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blogger is Becoming Unusable

Dear Google, Blogger is becoming useless to me.

With considerable anguish, I watched as a carefully written and emotional post I wrote vanished into the bit bucket as a dialog popped up giving me that irritating "Snap" context message. It destroyed all but a single paragraph of the post I'd labored on. I'd even saved drafts which didn't help. Even I have my limits and I've stood all I can stands and I'll stands no more.

Update: the single paragraph that had been saved as a draft before is now completely gone. What more can I say? This situation is boning me completely.

Whether it's the Blogger editing framework or Chrome, adding blog content has become completely unreliable as of the last few days. I have timeouts and crashes but only when accessing my blog. Regardless of whether it is Blogger or Chrome, I'm totally out of patience and energy to deal with unnecessary reliability problems. Add on top of that the fact Google does not try to even help Bloggers filter out spam referrers like VampireLeStat and you have a soup mix of frustration. Time to consider other options. Perhaps Wordpress or maybe it's time to create a full-on website somewhere reliable. Google might not care, but I certainly do.

I apologize to my readers, but until I come up with a reliable solution, no more blogging for a while. It's a damn shame too because I'd worked this entire year to try and build some traffic only to have reliability problems make things so inconsistent that I end up pulling out what little hair I have left. I can't deal with the frustration of watching blog posts vanish or trying to deal with an editor that spins itself into an eventual spinlock of looping death.

Student Life, Still Life and Self Portraits

As an art student, you'll must harden yourself for the seemingly never-ending requirement to draw self portraits or still life settings. Take a look at an assignment and expect to find one or even both of these popular subject matter choices staring back at you from the laundry list of expectations. In fact, if you look at the list of requirements to sustain life for an art student, it would goes as follows: air, water, food, brief moments of sleep when possible, the ability to sketch still life settings for hours on end as well as being able to twist your neck in unfathomable ways to do self portrait drawings.
A hooded owl is watching you.

I have a sore neck so I think we can infer something from that can't we? Well, for one thing that perhaps my name should be Woodsy Owl because it feels like I did a 180 turn with my neck after spending the afternoon sketching self portraits for my current woodcut assignment. The net results are not enough though as I only managed to come up with three sketches of the five required. These are thumbnails so they are filled with numerous perspective and proportion errors which I'm sure I'll get called out on. Since I sometimes alternated between using pencil and pen as I worked, making adjustments has some limitations.

The existing sketches are only partially complete in that they need to have a moderate amount of ink to represent the areas that will be black. Mine only have a few strokes from the pen here or there and in one case, there isn't even a single drop of ink yet. Another thing to note is that these sketches are not yet tailored for the type of lines I can carve out with the woodcutting tools. Looks like I know what I'll be doing tomorrow - finishing the other half.

A bench hook I built for
another student.
In between all of the sketching, I also drove down to school to pick up wood from one of the students I attend class with. They needed a bench hook made but didn't feel comfortable trying to build it so they asked if I would make one for them. Since this was for someone else, I decided to get some wood glue to make for a nicer look on the finished project so I had to stop by Home Desperado. Talk about crowded, there were people coming out of every corner you could find there and that place has a lot of corners. Once I got back home I realized I forgot to pick up the wood I need for my woodcut project. Oh well, I still have a few days to deal with that since the thumbnails still need to finishing before I can even start drawing on the final selection.

But wait, there's more. I still need to trace and cut another linocut plate for the art club sale. Crikey! That's why I was frantically searching about for Xyline so that I could try and do an image transfer via burnishing with lacquer thinner. I'll spare repeating the lacquer thinner babble I've been talking lately and simply say that while Xyline is available but it's only in one gallon containers. Considering I only need enough to brush onto the back of a piece of paper now and then, a gallon is too much in a number of ways, cost included. I'll say no more for now as it's mostly a matter of deciding what route to go.

Going back to the original subject of the repetitive nature of drawing a still life or self portrait, it forces us to do several things. First, we have to observe from life rather than a photograph. Understandably, this is valuable because photos alter information by simplifying a three dimensional scene into a two dimensional photograph. Some information will naturally be lost in the process such as potential clues about motion. Okay, so drawing from life is good. But that doesn't make it exciting necessarily. After you've seen an arrangement of boxes, bottles, cones and balls a few dozen times, you start feeling a little bored with the setting. The mind likes to do new things it finds exciting. Made up sketches or combinations created from multiple photographs are examples of ways we try to change things up. Ah, but the repetitive nature of drawing something over and over does have value. We begin to map it in our brain so that we can draw it in more realistic looking. For most of us, moving from being able to go from drawing an object as a loose representation to being able to nail it dead on regardless of foreshortening, elongation or in a variety of lighting scenarios requires repeated practice sessions.

But what do you do about the boring nature of it? It's hard to draw something when you don't feel a drive. That's where I am today, struggling to do self portraits. How do I get around the creative slump? Well, how about some unusual poses or strange settings to spice things up? That's why I went with the hooded pose. I wanted something that shows me in my natural element, hooded and trying to stay warm during winter. There are other things I can do too like wearing hats or laying on the couch and sketching myself. It's all a matter of trying to find something that spices it up while not bending the rules so much that it becomes a distraction. Play with it, make it fun. If you can't, you're going to be in for a lot of dull, lifeless drawings because people can tell when we aren't into it because our drawings speak volumes about how we feel inside at the moment we are sketching.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Woodcuts and the Hunt for Xylene

My rage mode is full on. Google's worthless editor for Blogger editor when running under Chrome keeps destroying my post content. It crashed about half a dozen times with the first occurrence taking down a sizable draft in the process. The problem is that it quickly becomes non-responsive then ends up stalling completely by putting up a dialog that basically says to wait or cancel. If I wait, it never gives focus back to the control so I can't even copy content out by control keys. Useless.

Considering this happened last night too, it's really irritating that I once again have to fall back to an abbreviated version of the post. Sigh. This editor is so horked tonight that I had to use Wordpad to make the post then cut and paste it here while crossing my fingers that it would stay up long enough to save the post. Talk about a house of cards.

The earlier part of the day was spent doing contract work. Afterward, the second shift whistle blew and I started doing homework. Double sigh, this is where I'd written up a nice paragraph about the wood carvings of Paul Landacre but Google saw fit to eat it alive. Grr. Landacre did fantastic work with leveraging woodcuts at something they do well, portraying highlights and rich, deep tonal values.

The woodcut of Landacre's that I used for my homework analysis was "Forest Girl".  With numerous linear and curved lines, the merger of the naked human form and jungle foliage worked well. While the results were worth the research effort, it took a considerable amount of time to complete. Once finished, I checked the clock and realized I was running late for the two remaining tasks of the day: picking up some Xylene and a package of Nitrile gloves. I slipped on a warmer sweater and trotted out the door.
Thirty minutes later I was at Harbor Freight buying the gloves. One more store to go with only twenty-five minutes before closing time.  I arrived ten minutes before closing time and just managed to gain entry before the door guard took his place to block incoming traffic. Back to the solvents I went. Let's see, Xylene,  Xylene, where are you? Oh there you are but in a gallon can. Let's see, where's a quart can? None? What the...? So I found an employee and asked. Nope, the other thinners were sold in quarts but not Xylene. That scuttles that idea for now. Looks like I'll have to find another source tomorrow. I wouldn't call that a winning end to the day but that's how it goes sometimes.

If I can find a quart can of the desired lacquer thinner tomorrow, I'm going to give the laser toner image transfer another shot. I'll go into it in more detail then. For now, I need to go chill out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Night Owl Linocut Print

Well, thanks to Blogger, I just lost a post I spent a lot of time writing. I can't believe I couldn't even access a draft copy. I mean it trashed everything. Since I just don't have it in me to try and write everything again, I'll create a terse post instead. Sigh. What a day.

Before I go down the dusty road of what happened, I'll share a photo of the Night Owl print as it nears the point where I'll turn it in for grading.
1/3         Night Owl         DH114
You might be asking why the edges haven't been cleaned up as they look pretty ragged. The reason being is that I want the instructor to see that I haven't clipped material to center a print that was out of alignment with the press. In other words, we need to demonstrate we understand how to line up the print in the clamping mechanism. It also means we understand which edge was intended for registration alignment. These may seem like trivial things to others, but they are important and do play a role in tradition which printmaking seems to be deeply steeped in.

Short summary: day starts before light as I get ready to zip down to an art club meeting on campus. Once there, we spend an hour talking about ways to raise money. After discussing several ideas, we each took on a task to help out. My part is to write a mini-grant to request additional funding. With that, we adjourned the meeting and I dashed over to the administration building to talk about transferring transcripts to the school. A few hours later I had the ball rolling on getting three sets of transcripts sent to the school. It's going to take the remainder of the quarter before I know the results.

A Happy Owl Star for Everyone.
Enough time had passed that it was now time for class. I headed back to the classroom and started work on my spot illustration which involved a lot of stamping tests. Just to give an example, here are a few owl faces I hand pressed while trying to get a feel for the amount of ink and pressure required to get a consist look.

With a hacked up set of paper guides, I set myself to the main task - stamping the owl face in the place where the "O" would be in the word "Owl". Mind you, if I botched this, I'd have a lot of work to generate another set of three prints to work with. I inked up the stamp and lined it up against the guides as best I could while trying to control my usual tremors which can be quite nasty on some days. About fifteen minutes later I'd stamped the three primary cards and the one backup card I had in case things went wrong. A few small problems existed but not enough to warrant an assembly line stop so I'm declaring the cards as complete. Now it's time to move on to the wood cut project.

Of course, more happened throughout the day but as I said, my first post received the scorched earth treatment from Blogger so you'll have to take my word for it that I learned and relearned many lessons today. Some of which involve recognizing when to keep my mouth shut and when to spend time speaking with clarity. Then there's also learning about others such that I trust my instincts when they tell me something should or shouldn't be. There are times when our own internal guidance system tells us to go one way and we don't listen. Think carefully and let that internal voice have its say because sometimes, inner voice knows best. With that said, I'm exhausted and will retire to the crypt for the evening.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Making an Owl Face Stamp

Tomorrow I'll be able to take some pictures of my the Night Owl relief print as it should be dry enough to handle. I don't know how many successful prints I have but hopefully at least three turned out since that's the required number to turn in when the exercise is due for grading next Tuesday.

I still have one more task which is to stamp my secondary spot illustration on the prints. The spot illustration needs to be carved from Safe-t-cut linoleum which I did tonight. In my case, I wanted to replace the letter "O" in owl with my owl face. Carving the material is easy since it's so soft. I just had to make sure I went slowly so as not to tear out chunks of material. It only took a few minutes to carve out the simple design I needed. To proof the stamp, I painted it with some acrylic paint then pressed it against a sheet of paper. It's backward from the owl face in the relief but I'm okay with that. I'll need to make sure its size isn't a problem when lined up next to the stamped letters but I suspect it will be okay since it's larger rather than smaller in comparison to the type.

The Cat's Meow.
Another task I worked on tonight was sketching out two more potential thumbnails for carving into reliefs. One of the thumbnails was a more realistic version of the cat on the building ledge. I don't know enough about how cats bones are put together so I dug around a little bit and found some information in Jack Hamm's book "How to Draw Animals".  I rather like the book as it gives good examples of how to sketch the basics using a build up approach usually starting with block-like shapes then showing the skeleton as well as external aspects of the animal in various poses. While my cat geometry still sucks, it's better than it would have been had I not referenced the book.

The second thumbnail I worked on was a rooster. While nearly every other barnyard animal was sketched or carved by other students in the class, nobody did anything with chickens. Heh heh heh, chickens, I can't help but like them. Regardless of whether they're in a pen out in the yard or drawn on my paper, I have an soft spot for chickens. The first thing I did was hunt for pictures. The title "Strut Your Stuff" quickly came to mind as I found a few pictures of roosters strutting about so I set about sketching a rooster quickly. For the spot illustration, I thought a broken egg shell would work, possibly even with a chick sitting within. That led to adding a chick to the main illustration. Sadly time quickly ran out and I have to quit for the evening since I have an early morning task that's going to make me drag my sorry butt out of bed earlier than I'd like. Perhaps if the instructor has time to tomorrow, I'll see if she can work with me to do an image transfer of one of these images from a photocopy to my one remaining linoleum block.