Category Archives: MoPrint 2016

Get Back, Stack

 

Month of Printmaking Colorado has been going pretty well. It’s an artist/volunteer run event,  and Denver’s getting too big to do a large scale event with out professional organization and promotion, really. But the crowds have been pretty good, and the press has covered it well. I was pretty relieved when all of the first month’s burst of shows, events and openings (including my own) were over. Then I caught a mild flu. So I got myself on the couch and finished up several books I’d been reading. I recovered just in time for DINK (Denver Indepedent Comics Expo), a small gathering of the city’s burgeoning small press cartoonists and publishers held in an old Masonic hall downtown. There were also several nationally-known creators there and I picked up quite a haul of new stuff to read; I could easily have spent more time and money there, but I needed to get to a printmaking event.

I haven’t done a reading list since New Year’s Eve, so I’d like to catch up on what’s happening in my book stacks. There are two main ones, both titteringly high in the Winter crepuscule, so this is a long post. 

The Sea and Civilization, Lincoln Paine, is clearly a morning book. That is to say, when I’m not too busy, I can snatch an hour or two with coffee on the couch as rush hour jets by. This is important now, as my body clock makes serious, complex books hard to read at night. Some, like this one, get carried everyday from the Living Room stack (Po-Mo doorstops, notes-heavy history) to my Bedroom stack ( shorter, or humorous fiction or nonfiction, such as ambitious, large graphic novels and edgy short story anthologies), but the sheer weight of the many historical facts crammed into it makes my eyes heavy, and not many pages get read.

The Sea and Civilization deals with the role the seas played in furthering civilization, trade and exploration from the dawn of history on. Some how the author, Lincoln Paine, keeps it to 750 pages, including notes. Paine writes clearly and at a good pace, starting with the fascinating and awe inspiring tale of the ancient island-hopping exploration of Oceania, and through the story of the Egyptian trade and development on the Nile, and subsequent expansion into the Mediterranean and Red Sea. More familiar are the tales of Portuguese, Spanish and English exploration and colonization, though for me, the broad perspective he brings, fitting piecemeal seafaring tales from my youth into larger, economic and social trends satisfies my ship design and key battle geekery with a new found desire to understand cultural history as a whole. For instance, the advent of the printing press has a huge effect on European expansion because of the sudden availability of charts and navigational data. The book has maps to help visualize the myriad place names, though this is precisely the sort of thing for which I bought a historical atlas.

Pure Pajamas, Marc Bell: Pre-dates the Stroppy book I mentioned previously and is less refined- a little more fragmented and edgier of line and humor. The riffs on E.C. Segar and R. Crumb are more evident, and the humor- which sneaks up on you- is yet more surreal. Some things come close but miss altogether, such as some cartoon takes on song lyrics. Others anticipate the strange, commercialized dystopia of Stroppy, and its vapid, eager, Candide-like characters.

Sammy Harkham is a cartoonist and editor in the same vein of younger, somewhat surreal cartoonists whose simple, somewhat nervous line harks back to earlier times and definitely is a riposte to the over-worked, computer-assisted mainstream press. I met him at DINK and picked up Everything Together, a collection of shorter pieces that effectively highlight his well-tuned sense of irony, bathos, and precisely paced cinematic distance. I also got Crickets #5, the latest in his ongoing storyline about a small time movie producer in L.A. He very nicely signed and inscribed them with small drawings and we chatted a bit, but I thought of a dozen more things I’d’ve liked to ask him as I hurried off. And I know I will suffer collector’s remorse over not picking up the copy of the fourth Kramer’s Ergot ( cutting-edge comics anthology, soon to publish #9) he was offering for $50. 

Beverly, Nick Drnaso: These spare, candy-colored suburban nightmares recall nothing so much as the tone in Salinger’s Nine Stories. A surprising assertion, but the parallels are inescapable, and one story even takes place on a family vacation. There is a vaguely disquieting, even menacing tone, and the narrative drifts along, as if in a fish bowl, just short of resolution.  There are vague connections, with characters being referred to by other characters in other stories, and we have a hard time parsing which of them are actually menacing, and which are the menaced. Nor do the emotional weight in the words and pictures always sync up, a careful manipulation on the author’s part that proves as much about comics’ unique strengths as I’ve seen anywhere outside of Chris Ware. I was also reminded of Adrian Tomine, and others who’ve melded the simple lines of long ago Sunday Funnies with an existential dread.

After the Snooter, Eddie Campbell: It’s been a while since I’ve read Scots/Australian Eddie Campbell’s comics and that was an oversight. He’d been one of my favorite autobiographical cartoonists from the 80‘s, though his approach was always more straightforward and literary than the very satirical or stylized American counterparts such as Joe Matt, Julie Doucet and recently, Gabrielle Bell. His scratchy, unfinished-looking inks and impressionistic zip-a-tones mask a real precision of characterization and setting. His dead pan voice over, understated banter and subtle shifts in narrative weighting draw you into a life well-lived but prone to hangovers, regrets, new freindships and old haunts. In short, the whir and whirl of life itself, which Campbell has always excelled at depicting.

As soon as I got home after finding this used copy at Tattered Cover, I went barreling to the graphic novel shelf to assure my self I hadn’t blindly culled my copy of The King Canute Crowd.  I knew this boozy, gestural early chronicle of working class bards and bastards would be next on the bedside stack. I also read Three Piece Suit, a series of linking shorter stories. Campbell has moved from the pub crowd into family and professional life and from England to Australia, all without losing his very understated humor. I will probably be searching out more installments I’d missed. Like Love and Rockets, the story takes on a sort of genius in the aggregate.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Leandro Valentine: I extol DeConnick’s complex take on female anger and male repression here, and was quite excited to try Planet, which like PD, the company has gotten behind with value-priced TPB compilations. It’s a bit of a disappointment, though. BP is a fairly standard issue Sci-Fi dystopia, albeit with DeConnick’s strong feminist leanings and Fifties-style female prison sexploitation tropes built in. A male media-dominated near future Earth punishes “non-compliant” females by sending them off-world to a prison planet, where contemporary Hunger Games-like gladiatorial combat pertain. I get that it’s a mass medium, and all writers must entertain, and importantly, sell. This, however, is not nearly as original as Pretty Deadly, though the retro-grindhouse graphics by Valentine are pretty clever. I’ve “bitched” about comics’ dark, stereotyped themes before, and don’t really find them improved by simply stereotyping a different gender.

Love and Rockets #8 I’ve linked to my very early L&R homage so many times that it’s pathetic. Search for it if you like. Los Bros continue to explore their respective obsessions, with perhaps a few more missteps than in their earlier days. But Jaime’s 35 year Locas storyline continues its usual understated brilliance and emotional wallop here with a “Hoppers” reunion tale; and Gilberto’s  Palomar characters continue to provide over the top twists and turns. Amazingly consistent and readable saga that has flown underneath the pop culture radar for far too long.

Massive Vol. 6 Ragnarok, Brian Wood and Garry Brown: Ends the cycle of stories that began with the environmental activist vessel Kapital looking for its mysteriously missing sister ship the Massive, after a global environmental “crash.” A strange storm wraps things up somewhat abruptly, though two new series, including a prequel, have now begun. I may check them out, but I wonder if the author, like the near-future Earth he depicts, has run out of gas.

The Surface, Ales Kot and Langdon Foss. Another disappointment as Kot, one of the more popular writers in the mainstream, whose Zero spy saga I was very impressed with before dropping it as it was simply too violent for my taste, weaves a tale of three millennial lovers who attempt to escape a Matrix-like virtual reality for “The Surface”. Just as I was wondering whether I should care, Kot abruptly suspends this little metafiction for his own, blithely declaring that the characters were all “himself” and the comic is really about his relationship with his dad. Thus, the characters and situations from the first three chapters are jettisoned, and lushly rendered metafiction gives way to a spare, peeling away the layers-type surreal personal journey, which to me spells “self indulgence.”

Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell: A book I culled from the Ten Years in the Tub collection of Believer mag columns on books written by Nick Hornby. It was actually Assassination Vacation he’d recommended, but rather than go on Amazon and order that book the easy way, I prefer to poke through local used bookstores until I run across it, and this one turned up first. If the snark factor in this tale of Puritan intellectual infighting, banishments and Indian atrocities is glib seeming, its story sticks to your ribs like Thanksgiving dinner. And does even the word “Puritan” call to mind boring, black-coated prudes? I can tell you Vowell’s writing of it reads like a breeze. (Bedroom Stack!).

The Puritans who left 1630 England with John Winthrop in the ship Arbella to found Massachusetts Bay Colony were non-separatists, anti-Catholic but still nominally pro-Anglican. But the colonists soon soon saw a faction of congregationalist “separatists” emerge who wished the right to treat with their god without the controlling mediation of any Church . This faction rose under the wing of Roger Williams, who was eventually banished to Providence, RI, which he founded. This conflict of ideas, as well as other, more violent conflicts with Indians and Anne Hutchinson, Vowell exploits wittily to tell the rich story of still simmering

If Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon was lifted by Reagan to justify American exceptionalism, so his refusal to surrender the colony’s charter anticipated by 150 years the (real) Tea Party. If Williams saw all central authority as against God, so also was he the founding voice for religious freedom and separation of church and state, now anathema to his evangelical descendants. And the guiding Puritan ethic- if you disagree with someone, simply move West and impose your will on the natives (don’t forget the gun powder!) remained a central, polarizing zeitgeist through the era of Manifest Destiny and into today’s Bundy-stained politics.

So the book is highly recommended, and now I’ll probably cave and order Assassination Vacation from Powell’s as I’ll soon be visiting one of its (un)holy centers: Buffalo, NY, where McKinley met his end. I’ve also begun my long-postponed reading of The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s examination of Roosevelt, Taft and the Muckrakers. I’ll post about those in the Summer.

Studio Update

"Dreaming Place" working title for this monotype in progress.
“Dreaming Place” working title for this monotype in progress.

 

I’ve been on the Organizing Committee for Month of Printmaking Colorado, a two months long festival of exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and lectures about printmaking. It’s a Front Range-wide event that extends from Pueblo, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming. So needless to say, as it kicked off this week, it’s been eating my life.

I’ve really enjoyed it, though, and it’s great to see all my colleagues both long-time and unfamiliar, and to see the amazing amount of great printmaking being done in the Rocky Mountain High Plains. For more about it, and to watch a video interview about my own work from 2014’s MoPrint event, go to the web site. 

Amazingly, despite my MoPrint duties, I’ve been getting regular studio time this year so far. It’s never enough, naturally, and progress is somewhat slow, but I am trying new ideas, and some are almost ready to go to the photographer and framer. In the meantime, here is a snapshot from the studio to give you a taste of what I’m working on. I’ll have more soon.

Leave a comment if you like.

Workshops, Shows and Free Stuff Scheduled for Spring ’16

It has been a busy beginning to 2016, and I’ve neglected to post in a while. It’s been a good start to what looks to be a hopeful, transformative year.

I’ll post upcoming ASLD classes, library workshops and samplers here. You can find all of the various links on that page.

"Sex Worker", Monotype, 30x22", 2014. This piece about women's stereotypes is included in the 2016 "Pressing Matters" show juried by Master Printmaker Bud Shark. More info in the post below.
“Sex Worker”, Monotype, 30×22″, 2014. This piece about women’s stereotypes is included in the 2016 “Pressing Matters” show juried by Master Printmaker Bud Shark. More info in the post below.

A couple
Of notes:
This Spring’s DPL workshops will be the last of the year, as I’ll probably take a break from those over Summer and Fall. They’re free, so they’re the best way to try monotypes.

The MoxieU classes are very affordable and allow you to experience the League’s gorgeous print room. Sorry, the one scheduled this term rather quickly sold out, and I guess I’ll need to try and schedule more of these in coming terms. Contact the League at 303-778-6990 if you’d like to be on a waiting list, as cancellations do happen.
The regular workshops have been divided into two lower cost sections for beginners and advanced beginners. The Monotypes for Beginners section is filling fast, so I would register quickly if you’d like to take it.

The Monotypes for Advanced Beginners is intended to provide a more studio-oriented atmosphere for people who have taken Monotypes for Beginners or who have printmaking experience from another class or school. Please contact me if you have questions about this workshop. There are still spots open.

I have a one day, Monotype Sampler workshop on Saturday, May 14th, for people who can’t do weekdays. Very affordable at $67.50 (members). It’s a 6-hour intro, and most can get several small prints done in that time. There are spots still open.

There is a free demo planned for Saturday, March 19th, 1-2:30 PM at Meininger Art Supply on Broadway. Their set up is gorgeous and viewer-friendly with overhead mirrors and a P.A. system and comfortable seats, so you don’t have to strain to see and hear. A discount coupon for supplies is included.
I have several shows coming up this spring and I’ll put up a separate page for show/event info soon. Many are part of the Month of Printmaking Colorado fest, and I’ll be at many of the other MoPrint events, as I’m on the organizing committee. So let’s schmooze! I’m expecting to be in four shows this Spring:

“Print Educators of Colorado”, Space Gallery, Opens Feb 25th.

“Pressing Matters”, Juried by Bud Shark, Art Students League, 200 Grant St. Opens March 12th.

“Planting the Seeds: Pedagogy in Print”, The Corner Gallery, Lakewood Cultural Center, Opens:  TBA (March)

“Summer Art Market”,  200 Block, Grant St, June 11-12. I will again be showing with monotype artist Taiko Chandler.
I also have a couple of nearly complete pop culture posts in the can, and I’ll put those up soon. One is a review of “Pretty Deadly” by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is leading the breakthrough for women creators in the heretofore embarrassingly male dominated comics field. The other is a pet project; a close reading of a favorite Beatles song.
I think it will be a good year, and I wish you a prosperous and hope filled 2016.

Lipstick Librarians on Top, Down There at the Bottom

I’m busy tying up loose ends as I return to a normal routine. So this post is a grab bag of abstract musings from both my winter couch diversions, and my spring projects.

I am on the committee for MoPrint 2016, a city-wide printmaking festival which is entering its second scheduled biennial and had its first meeting this week.  I’m on the Publicity Committee for MoPrint in my now-accustomed social media role, so I’m sure you’ll be getting news from that front as well. I’ve also joined an ongoing Faculty Advisory Committee at the League.

I’m trying to make larger work in the studio, both for inventory- I need to sell larger work, and to do that, I need a large selection of bigger work, and to enter a juried show in March. I’m making a series of monotypes in which I’ll visually express personal musings on love, sex and dreams, as well as teaching myself new methods in the printmaking craft. I’ll be posting soon, and two-three times subsequently about the new prints, which will of course feature poppies and thistles- what else? I’ve already started in the form of small studies. I just need to flatten the work and take photos before I post.

I’m busy putting up flyers and trying to fill my upcoming workshop. For me it provides, besides needed cash, a real social opportunity to get out and converse about art and making with peers (mostly middle-aged folks, a large percentage of them women, take my Tuesday morning class). I’m completing a series of quick-study cheat sheets about planned class sessions that I hope will help those who take the class absorb the welter of information, but will also help to promote the class in a more detailed way to those who are considering it. I’m going to find a .pdf downloader plug-in widget-thingie to make them available here.

I also need to install the long-promised web-store plug-in. I enjoy teaching myself to do these things, but it goes slow. Rather than pay someone to teach me- quickly- how to do it, I fiddle around endlessly, as if it’s a series of monotypes in which I’m projecting personal thoughts to the world at the same time I’m learning a craft. I recognize that this is less business-like than simply eccentric. I now feel that eccentricity is instead of a vaguely amusing, stylistic feature of old age, rather, its essence.

And, as during most winters, I’m entertaining myself with a stack of books and DVDs before the soccer/art show season starts.

So I’m going to post about books today, as I have a backlog of thoughts from the Holidays. Many of them will be comics and graphics-related, which I intend to continue with periodically, as it’s something which still doesn’t get a lot of attention. So I feel like it’s my niche as I’ve been reading them all my life and have a certain perspective as they lately enter a sort of renaissance in both publishing and TV/Film.

I’m reading Gold Pollen and Other Stories, by Seiichi Hayashi. I’m probably long overdue for an examination of Manga. Besides garden-variety xenophobia owing to its right-to-left pagination, strange art styles and often bizarre subjects, there’s another reason I’ve sidestepped it. It’s just so big, and a linchpin of managing my reading/collecting jones has been to limit the areas I spend time and money on. But Ryan Holmberg, who edited this series on Masters of Alternative Manga for publishers Picture Box, who also put out The Ganzfeld and several issues of Kramer’s Ergot, makes an irresistible appeal to my attention by including introductory essays which place the artists he covers in context. Lately I’ve been fascinated by the context in which comics are created. Just as the American comics were indelibly influenced by 50’s censorship, 60’s drug culture and the punk/DIY movement of the 80’s; so post war Japanese artists were early influenced by American Disney and newspaper comics that came with occupation, and the inherent irony of American superheroes fighting for “freedom” during the Vietnam war. Hayashi navigates these social touchstones creatively incorporating comics iconography, Edo-period woodcuts and his own war-torn life to come up with innovative pop graphics.

The Mystery of the Underground Men, by Osamu Tesuka. This earlier ( late 40’s) manga shows the influence of turn-of-the-century Victorian science fantasy, Mickey Mouse, Milt Gross, Popeye and other American comics in a very compelling sort of steam punk tale of a tunnel through the center of the earth.  Also includes a loving essay by Holmberg concisely tracing Tesuka’s influences.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel ressurected several c-list characters, mostly from the 70’s and 80’s ( e.g. Gamora from Starlin’s sci-fi groundbreaker “Warlock”), in this effects-drenched buddy movie that does not take itself too seriously. Its a refreshing change from the bombastic superhero movies, while still offering lots of opportunity for spectacular CGI.

Agent Carter This prequel to TV’s Agents of SHIELD features a kick-ass heroine, a genius scientist/weapons developer, Captain America’s DNA, American post war sexism, and hadn’t even begun to stop manufacturing plot twists when I missed the last two episodes owing to meetings and workshops. Is it a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma; or just comic book-y plot holes you could drive a Packard through, wrapped in unresolved loose ends? Who cares? It’s fun to watch. The fan-boys writing on my favorite comics blog love it, though it fails to generate half of the suspense and dramatic tension of SHIELD, which the fan boys revile.

The Spanish American War and President McKinley, Lewis L. Gould. Those who wonder why I would read something on this tawdry little exercise in colonialistic jingoism, engineered by one of America’s ignored presidents, obviously are unaware that I’ve already read a biography of McKinley’s predecessor, the even more obscure Grover Cleveland. And that I’m about to start on a major new study of his successor, Roosevelt, and his adventures with fin-de siecle journalism ( The same sensationalistic press that launched the comics). So it fits a twisted logic. And- a ginned-up war in a marginalized third world country, in aid of overly empowered American corporate interests. Sound familiar?

Petty Theft, Pascal Girard.  A graphic novelist in the midst of a bad break up witnesses a woman shoplifting his own book from a small book store in this very odd mash up of cringeworthy Seinfeld-ian self-involvement and cartoonists behaving neurotically, all told in jittery Jules Feiffer-like drawings. That pushes all my buttons. Like this:

"Nympho Librarian" by Les Tucker (Jake  Moskovitz) New York: Bee-Line Press, [1970] Cover by Paul Rader: I think this is the stereotypical bookworm's fantasy; don't forget the glasses! It's a BOOK about a bookworm's fantasy- levels upon levels of metaphor- on the floor!
“Nympho Librarian” by Les Tucker (Jake Moskovitz) New York: Bee-Line Press, [1970] Cover by Paul Rader: I think this is the stereotypical bookworm’s fantasy; don’t forget the glasses! It’s a BOOK about a bookworm’s fantasy- levels upon levels of metaphor- on the floor!