Books, Comics, Music Etchings and Small Work Ideas Reading List

Summer Muse

MoPrint took a bit out of me, blog wise. Its frantic pace stretched into April and I also took May off, mostly. By June, I was back into a regular studio routine, but never picked up the thread here.

illustrates etching made in studio
Polymer etching with chine colle. 9×12″

My latest studio icon is boxes. I sometimes like to take a simple image and explore from all angles. Boxes, it turns out, have angles.

The boxes I’ve been doing are just ambiguous enough to pack a lot of thought into. What better than a box, for packing? In this case, the dead growth on the outside, and the dead leaves inside, seemed to go together, and suggest memory to me. Death too, of course, but that seems obvious enough. The page from a math text, as well as the dead leaves are chine colle, a way of collaging bits of paper onto the print, as you are printing it. As the name suggests, it was invented in ancient times by the Chinese, and revived by the French.

The equations have no specific meaning, although I can think of ways they might contribute to a narrative about the box. I do like visual non sequiturs, to ask these sorts of questions, ie., what does it mean to you?

It comes after another “Heart Shaped Box”, a monotype that I posted here only a little while back. That one sold quickly, which is gratifying, as when one gets on a mental thread like this, one often wonders whether the public will just think it’s trivial, or pointless. It was in a show, “Dark Hearts”, for Valentines Day, which appealed to the Goth element in our young art scene – the juror is a Goth pop culture influencer around here and the show featured quite a bit of black, both on the walls, and in the fashion at the opening. I like to think that I’m comfortable anywhere, but it’s possible many thought I stuck out with my bright, fragmented, and very ambivalent approach to the subject.

Etchings, like the above, allow me to do multiples, in variations of color and collage bits, which helps with inventory during a very hectic year. It also has a tendency to grease the wheels creatively. In addition, I can sell them more cheaply.

As for chine colle, I updated the “Workshops”page linked at the top, so if you are curious to know more, take a class. You are also welcome to use the “Contact” link and ask more specific questions, but it’s a bit complex ( the process ) and may benefit from being in the studio.

Coffee and my reading chair by the living room window are my excuse for not writing a post. I like my huge PMBs ( Post Modern Bricks, otherwise known as doorstop novels, but lately applied -by me-to Pre Modern Bricks, such as Tristram Shandy, which I have enjoyed thoroughly as I slog through its elliptical Georgian syntax and humor. I have much to say about that essential, hilarious, and baffling milestone in fiction, in another post. But one needs a break from that sort of book sometimes, especially as Summer arrives bringing travel and outdoor activities. Spoiler alert: Laurence Sterne is not beach reading.

That’s why I like essays. I’ve always subscribed to magazines such as The Atlantic when busy, so I’ve always read essays, but recently figured out that there is less clutter if you just get a collection. Essays, like a lot of non fiction, seem a bit generic at first glance, but obviously there are many different styles:

Arguably, Christopher Hitchens: Hitchens writes silky arguments, but has a tendency to assume you’ve done your homework on the basic background. So if it’s a subject you are fuzzy on, e.g. Edmund Burke in my case, you will be left behind. Phillip Lopate and John D’Agata have excellent historical surveys of essay writing where you can familiarize your self on everyone from Seneca and Montaigne, through Addison and Steele, and Walter Benjamin. But Hitchens is topical, and fascinating on more familiar subjects.

Hitchens starts off with a bang, arguing forcefully and well that the founders did NOT intend a Christian nation, as the fascist ghouls in Congress will often expect you to simply accept. Despite the seamless sentences, passion seeps in when he writes about such diverse topics as John Brown, and the death penalty for minors.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion: A journalist, at first, writing articles on the flowering California scene in the 60s. Unlike the fairly pompous Tom Wolfe, she embedded in her subjects’ lives to listen, not to preach, though somewhat like Wolfe, her voice tends to shade to the conservative side. Of course, that’s not unusual with contemporary commentary, especially in traditionally trained journalists. They are trained to be skeptics. But I really don’t need a laudatory profile of John Wayne in my morning coffee time. Nonetheless, I read it, it was fresh and immediate, and at the time, she probably really needed the money.

Her title essay, about the confused idealism of the Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, has certainly aged better than most, though.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace: Perhaps understanding that younger readers these days do not really see essays as fun things, DFW is the most direct, and expository of these writers, nor is he afraid of bold assertion. His argument that fiction these days is influenced by TV, is supported by discussing just one author, and is now a bit dated, since TV now takes far more creative chances. But his lead-in discussion on the semiotics and social function of 80s TV is a joy to read. One essay that still hits hard is his discussion of David Lynch’s movies. Another (not in this collection) is incisive on the debate about ebonics in English usage, while one here, on post structuralism and ‘the death of the author’ is as limpid a discussion of literary theory one is likely to find. Very non traditional use of footnoting is a plus, in my view, though in general, I’m very pro-footnote.

I’m not afraid to admit that I fared less well with collections by William Gass and Jorge Luis Borges, one, very academic, which I tip toed into and out of rather quickly; and the other also requiring a stronger academic background than I have, though with many lovely passages and allusions if you enjoy his Fictions.

Shakespeare Wrote For Money, Nick Hornby: Hornby’s columns for Believer Magazine, which I first discovered collected in The Polysyllabic Spree, inspired me to include a reading list of my own among my studio chronicles here. It breaks up the monotonous chore of having to talk about my own doings. This is the third of four volumes that I know of, a slim little trade paperback that I found at Westside books in the literary criticism section, though it is really so much more.

Hornby turns reading into personal essay, with digressions from his life, including soccer and raising an autistic son. I can’t recall running out and buying one of his recommended titles, many of which, I’m not sure I’d enjoy. He’s a Dickens fan; I’m not, preferring Eliot and James. I have my own agenda, really.

But I just like reading about reading, odd bird that I am, and Hornby turns this into existential satire by documenting his impulsive purchases, his beloved authors, and his failures to engage. Finally, a reviewer who admits he, like us, doesn’t always finish books he starts.

Need something literary and blurbaliciously brief to travel with? In between post- and premodern bricks and need a dependably offhand but original voice to tide you over? In between literary passions, and just want some suggestions for a new obsession? Consider Hornby for a FWB ( Friend With Books ).

#Readinglist #essays #summerreading

Art Students League Ideas Monotypes Month of Printmaking

State of the Art

MoPrint Grows a Medium

MoPrint 2024 is finally done now, and there’s a sense of relief for me. It’s hard work, and there are a lot of details and dates to keep track of. Sometimes, I get so busy and tired, I don’t get to see everything I’d like to.

This year I did pretty well, on that point. In general, as the weather improves, I see more shows, and that improves my chances as MoPrint moves farther into Spring. I skipped the opening for the 528.0 show, for example, in frigid weather, but then saw it later on on a beautiful day. I didn’t see every show, or even most. That would be hard to do. But the shows I saw confirmed a pet theory: events like MoPrint make the print community stronger in the state.

It’s amazing how much interesting work there is to see, and it seems to get more interesting each event. Printmaking can be somewhat hidebound. It’s not so surprising, considering it was originally popularized in Northern Europe as a way of illustrating books, and eventually in Netherlands to bring fine art to the growing middle class ( It was also popular in Asia, at an even earlier period, but I’m not as familiar with the history, which I assume includes some of the same motivations. I certainly don’t dispute or minimize this influential history, just can’t speak to it). Advertising and political thought followed, and eventually with commercial processes, graphic entertainments such as comics. I enjoy all of these facets of print, but as fine art, prints have tended to play a subsidiary role to sculpture and painting. And they have tended to stick close to their commercial, didactic roots.

Two reasons come to mind: The first is the aspect of illustration I’ve already alluded to, in which printed images are often utilized in conjunction with words, in very didactic ways. Second is the primacy of process in the medium, in which complex, ever evolving technologies must be mastered in order to get consistent results. And consistency is gospel in fine art printmaking, never far from the commercial imperative of publishing and selling editions of identical images at relatively low margins.

The idea of making monotypes beguiled me ( a former painter and draughtsman ) with their spontaneity and unpredictability, and their unique properties as one-of-a-kind prints. Monotypes have been around since the 1600s, but have always been a bit of a backwater in the medium, itself a backwater in high art. Process adds another layer of didacticism to printmaking, already shuttled into the ghetto of illustrative art. Monotypes are a very simple process, and give themselves to spontaneity and experimentation. They seem to have experienced a resurgence beginning with Abstract Expressionism. With this, I think I’ve made my perspective (bias?) on printmaking clear.

These more traditional, process things seem to me to be baked into printmaking, which is why I am pleased to report that MoPrint 20024 seems to have continued the trend of encouraging experimentation in the medium, and what’s more, is starting to reward it. A strength of printmaking is social exchange, not just in the democratic accessibility of image and word, but at process level as artists gather around not very portable equipment in groups working together.

It’s not a surprising development. MoPrint, by inspiring a plethora of shows, classes and demonstrations, talks and parties, fosters exchange. I mentioned in my last post how those of us on the first organizing committee were surprised by how many printmakers there were in the region. Even at my own school, there are now more than 10 instructors offering classes. That’s a lot of different processes, techniques and approaches.

At one of my shows, the Colorado Print Educators show at Red Rocks CC, the opening was lightly attended. Late on, it devolved into a group of us teachers walking around to hear about each person’s work. One artist, who also teaches ceramics at, I believe, Arapahoe CC ( I apologize for going on my poor memory here, I regret not taking notes but did not intend to write a review ) had figured out how to print ceramic etchings onto vellum or something, and had made light boxes from that. While I can’t accurately describe her process ( I’d had no wine, I swear ), it was only one of many incredible conversations I’d had about techniques I’d never heard of. And each new technique seems to bring its own array of graphic permutations and challenges. Printmakers were forcing themselves to adapt. It’s the crucible of spontaneity and experiment.

Everywhere I went, people were having similar talks. Not to mention the “civilians”, many of whom were learning, for the first time, the difference between intaglio and relief. Or importantly, real printmaking and “fine art” Giclees and other commercial reproductions.

Dynamic color and process by Sue Oehme at Arvada Center during MoPrint 2024.

This brings me back to the Arvada Center, which sort of became the holy center of this year’s MoPrint. They hosted the 528.0 show, a regional exhibition juried by print experts from around the nation (open to artists living within 528 miles of the Mile High City, get it?) This had its share of traditional, process-oriented work, but was certainly not afraid of experimentation. Several print installations were included, for example, including one involving car tires inked up and rolled across long sheets of paper, which strikingly addressed innovation in process, but I’m not sure had much else to say. A large wall hanging by Taiko Chandler, printed on Tyvek construction sheeting, and cut into looping designs, was far more successful. There was a beautiful installation of monotypes of ethereal leaf motifs hanging in the center of one gallery by Alicia McKim. On the walls I was struck by a simple, stenciled cyanotype, exposed, then shifted slightly and exposed again, the characteristic blue hues creating watery passages of light. All in all, a nice show. I went there during Print Jam, where crazy printmakers roll presses into the gallery and demonstrate various techniques, including a gentleman (again, apologies for not taking names ) who participates in the burgeoning discipline of traffic cone printing, where those smushed, muddy derelict orange cones we murder with our cars in construction zones are collected from the ditches and carved (they’re essentially linoleum) then rolled and printed.

If AC was the holy center, Sue Oehme was the high priest. She seemed to be everywhere during MoPrint, but her show in the upstairs gallery in Arvada set the tone. Oehme, a master printer who formerly worked in NYC with name artists such as Frank Stella, and who now runs a studio in Steamboat Springs, showed many of her clients, including a Stella, in rare black and white. Printmaking, with its stripped down aesthetics, often offers revelatory moments. And again, here was Taiko Chandler, combining collograph, monotype and stencil. A product of ASLD classes beginning in 2011, her creative progress has been phenomenal.

But the highlight of these shows was Oehme’s installations of hundreds of shards of paper and acetate, stained by their use in her watercolor monotypes and arranged in rainbow patterns of related hues on the walls, and ultimately in the heavens, hanging in resplendent clouds, floating and glittering in the front lobby, in the low early Spring MoPrint sun as one came down the main stairwell.

Other shows also highlighted adventure and innovation. NKollective, in the Santa Fe Arts District, an encaustic/cold wax gallery, showed artists such as Victoria Eubanks and Michelle Lamb, encaustic instructors who have been leaders in the rather saucy love affair between encaustic and printmaking ( using monotypes or other prints as basis for the translucent beeswax ). But a very interesting artist at NKollective is Carol Till, a graduate of the Botanic Gardens’ botanical illustration academy, the epicenter of traditional process, who turned to the polymer etching process to make multiples of her laboriously limned flowers and grasses and bird’s nests, only to see the repeated images as an opportunity for experiment. Now, combining photograms, polymer etchings, printed chine colle’ on textured papers, along with traditional watercolor, she achieves complex layerings of her images in negative and positive iterations, all still, of course, botanically accurate. She’s a sharp woman, fun to talk with, I know her and her equally interesting hub, Greg, well. It’s quite possible her work would have progressed so quickly into such unique directions without the Art Students League print room ( where she worked for a long time before buying a press), or the biennial madness of MoPrint ( with whom, she’s another longtime volunteer ). But I wonder.

Small moments of innovation pop up everywhere-Kathie Lucas smoothly blended up-cycled materials into some otherwise traditional monotype landscapes at Tenn Street Coffee.

Early during this MoPrint, I went to the Black Ink show at Trve Brewing. This show exemplifies the democratic spirit of MoPrint, and also the madness. It’s a benefit for the MoPrint org, where artists start in fall, carving donated Lino blocks, which are then printed in editions of 25 at Ghenghis Kern letterpress ( speaking of experiment- in a letterpress shop! Check out their printer’s dingbat assemblage prints next MoPrint Studio Tour ), then sold for $10 apiece. It’s a tiny Broadway South/Baker thrash metal bar with good micro beers. People line up down the block to stream in and look at all the numbered prints on the wall then get in the other line to buy 5 or 6. I was sitting in the back, by the Nashville hot chicken counter, sipping an IPA and trying to keep the prints I’d bought dry. One was actually two prints, by Collin Parson, the head curator at the Arvada Center: first, a set of wavy lines on Bristol, and another print of them on acetate, so that you can create your own adjustable moire’ image. Parson is an accomplished sculptor who saw the print medium as a chance to play with perception and optical effects- all for less than the cost of my meal that night.

The thrash band on the stereo was punishing their vocal cords, while the tattooed kids in all black, jeans, Airwalks, the whole bit, stood next to fashionistas to buy art. It was kind of glorious, a leveling in the art scene. Most of these printmakers could never get into a museum. But, on the other hand, that night, the museum people couldn’t get into the thrash metal bar.

Thus, a very quotidian medium meets its moment with verve, fearlessness, and a democratic spirit ( not to mention, prices ). After 11 years, MoPrint has changed the art scene in Denver.

#MoPrint #Printmaking #Art Shows #ASLDprintmakers


Trying To Reason with MoPrint Season

Sharon Strasburg, a longtime printmaking buddy from our old days at Open Press, now a professor at Regis University, did the image for the poster, a monotype about 3 feet wide. It’s in the show, along with several others by her, and several of my larger works. Runs through March 15.

I had participated on the organizing committee that launched Month of Printmaking in 2014 and ’16. I remember that we were sort of shaking our heads at just how many printmakers there were working in Colorado. They seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. I still volunteer on various associated events every MoPrint Biennial, including during this, the 6th one. I’m impressed with what the current committee is doing ( Chairs: Emily Moyer and Jen Ghormley), and am still shaking my head, including the first time I opened this year’s official event flyer. I realized that there was absolutely no way to attend every event. It would be a feat to even go to a majority!

My own participation is relatively restrained, and I’m listing it below. I’ll be out and about at many events I’m not in, as well, and I still hope to do a short video about the event, in my ‘spare time’. Contact me if you have questions about any of these:


Print Educators of Colorado, Red Rocks Community College, up through March 15, with open hours daily, except Sunday. This is where my largest recent works can be seen.


Printmaking 101, Opens March 8, 6-8 PM, Art Students League of Denver: will feature a large, new work as an example of ‘stencil monotype’ in a show devoted to catching art lovers up to just what constitutes a ‘fine art print’. Hint: it’s not one of those overpriced reproductions you see at some shows, that have never been touched by the artist. Also: a show of indigenous printmaking, curated by Melanie Yazzie and Sylvia Ortega.

Marks On Paper, Core New Art Space, March 8, 6-10 PM: I’ll have a medium sized monotype in this show, juried by Mami Yamamoto. It’s a national show, so I’m very intrigued by what she chooses, as I had juried the last one, in 2020’s MoPrint, and there was some very intriguing work.

Open Portfolio, Denver Botanic Gardens, March 9, 10-4 PM. They’ve expanded the space to accommodate the enthusiastic crowds from 2022. I get a 4 foot table space, so this will feature all of my small work, including brand new etchings, as well as portfolio test proofs and one-of-kinds from my flat files, all at very low prices. it’s a free day at the Gardens, too!

MoPrint Studio Tour, March 23-24, 10-4 PM, Art Students League of Denver: This may be the most casual of all these events, with several regular ASLD printmakers just hanging out, working, talking to the public each day. I’ll be there on Sunday. I don’t know how much work I’ll get done, but I’ll probably be printing some of my more recent ‘monotype style’ etching plates with chine colle. I’ll bring some finished work down, too.

Art Students League Print Fair, April 6, 10-4 PM: I’ll have a table here, selling aQsmaller prints, mostly. I’ll have a larger work donated to benefit the ASLD Print Room, in silent auction, along with several other artists at auction. And I’ll be doing a monotype demo, for free, along with 5 other free demos. There’s an exhibit on the various techniques included in printmaking, and even some info on collecting prints.

Heart Shaped Box, Monotype, 15×11″ 2024. Already headed for a new home! It was showing in a Valentine’s Day-themed show, “Dark Hearts”, at Kanon Gallery.

#moprint #moprint2024 #asldprintmakers #asldprintfair

Besties Besties Books, Comics, Music

Besties Be On My Way

I had a lot more time than usual to read this year, and I took it, sometimes ignoring my TV for days into weeks. I read quite a bit of prose this year ( finally finishing The Sot-Weed Factor), but there are reams and megapixels devoted to that, and so I return to my niche, the lowly comic, and yet niche-ier, literary and art comics, sometimes called alternative comics. I probably could’ve put down the reading of them to begin the writing of them a bit earlier, but here they are, just in time for the Oscars.

Alt comics have, since the 90s, made the journey out of the “direct market” comic book stores into bookstores and public libraries, so some will be familiar to prose readers. Others were searched and scoured for, from obscure web sites or persistent Ebay searches. Most, but not all, of the newer ones can be found at Tattered Cover, but the older or more experimental ones are often out of print, and pricey, because of their low print runs.

I do read mainstream Marvels and DCs, though it’s rare. I quit them, for the most part, in the early 70s, when I discovered Art Spiegelman’s (Maus) Raw magazine. I keep tabs on them for the sporadic bursts of creativity they include, and I’m glad I do. Some of the best get mentioned here, and one, Pretty Deadly, has won top Bestieness before. The rise of creator-owned works and royalty participation has shaken the trees for excellent ideas. Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda continues to be a standout.

Lately, I’ve been monitoring editor’s choices, including my own, for representative diversity, and there is some here, though choices remain few on the shelves, especially in such a limited sample. I don’t think publishers are the problem, after all, many publishers and editors are women now. But the social environment on which a lot of geek culture depends ( for creators, bloggers, etc ) was not that friendly to women for a long time, even into the teens (see below). So choosing comics as a career has only recently become a thing for women.

There is one woman, one POC, and a gender queer artist, are on the top list, with another four women, and four foreign creators if you count the Resties, which is my Honorable Mention category. Another woman was in the stack, waiting to be read, but goes into next year’s list, probably near the top. This does not include the anthology on the list, a 2004 publication where the breakdown is also sparse, about 20 male, to 5 female.

There are thrillers, satire, horror, a Victorian social realist novel adaptation, and gross-out humor, all of them uniquely suited to their medium, a bastard child of cave-wall storytelling, European satire, and American commercial chutzpah. The top choices happened to be the most original and innovative, A French all ages objet d’art that would have made Gutenberg proud, a Japanese spectacle of ideographic motion and onomatopoeia, and a self published L.A. based anthology of zine and mini comics rebels.

Born of the same creative/destructive impulse as graffiti, as Adam Gopnik points out in MOMA’s High and Low catalog ( 1990), most comics here can trace their roots to Rudolph Topfer’s Obadiah Oldbuck from the 1850s, Thomas Nast’s Yellow Kid, for whom “Yellow Journalism” was named, or Harvey Kurtzman’s revolutionary Mad Magazine. All of these predated Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s invention of current pop culture juggernaut Marvel Comics, and were equally influential. All pioneered new ways of storytelling.

The Besties:

Crisis Zone, Simon Hanselman, 2021: At number 5 is this over the top look at how a circle of slacker friends, many of them gender queer or otherwise marginalized, deal with the utter strangeness of the first year of COVID. Three roommates- a witch, her cat boyfriend, and an owl, find themselves forming a quarantine pod with other friends, a werewolf, a vampire, et al. A moneymaking scheme involving doing butt stuff on web cam evolves and is taken to hilarious, cringemaking extremes.

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to binge read Hanselman’s gross out humor, but when you’re in the mood, his sense for social satire is relentless. I assume the only reason this hasn’t been adapted for animation is all of the drugs and you know, butt stuff.

Olympia, Jerome Mulot, Florent Ruppert, 2022: Following up from their first heist thriller The Grand Odalisque, about three female art thieves, here the women attempt to steal Manet’s Olympia. Again the action is heart pounding, and the art gestural and suggestive enough to not bog you down. There is a unique twist to make you wonder if the women will survive, and as in all great caper stories, you cannot help rooting for them against great odds, which include their own womanhood, every step of the way.

The Magicians, Blexbolex, 2023: Blexbolex has been bouncing back and forth between comics and children’s books for years, and now has seemingly decided that there is no point discriminating between the two. This is an art object, printed on uncut leaves of paper to enhance its layered colors and silkscreened delicacy of composition. The story refers to the magic of storytelling as much as to its characters actions. This has become bit of a theme of this year’s Besties.

Detention #2, Tim Hensley, 2023: Henseley is a genius for conflating Golden Age comics stylings with pop culture pastiche, having done Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood career as a Tubby and Little Lulu comic previously. Here he goes after 50’s Classics Illustrated, adapting Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, by Stephen Crane. While I can’t compare it to the original Crane, the telling of the story is rich, with characters and styles from across comics history engaged to be the actors, including The Yellow Kid, Reggie from Archie Comics, a Manga cutie, Mad’s Don Martin, etc. A cultural stew is created, reminiscent Sugiura’s 70’s manga adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans, in which American cultural appropriation of indigenous culture is ironically grafted onto ‘nansensu’ manga for children in occupation-era Japan. Hensley is saying something about comics’ limitless ability to tell a story here, with a phantasmagoria of debased cartoon images being deployed to tell a social realist tale of socially debased youth. And the appeal, as well as the message here is that we should be mindful of stereotyping comics as simply illustrated prose fiction.

In reading comics, we are often told that we have the option of reading the whole page- or two pages in the case of a centerfold spread, at once. One takes in the entire grid before choosing to linger, or zip through. The reader is the ‘director’. Here one enjoys the ability to read the entire history of comics, in one sweep. From _ to Sailor Moon, from “Notary Sojac” to Kirby photo montage ( yep, they’re all in there, and more), it’s all here, stuffed (ironically?) into a literary ghetto. Whether I read Crane’s Maggie, or not ( early money: ‘not’. My social realism days may be over. I did garner an ‘A’ for a tenth grade term paper on Zola’s Germinal, so there’s that.), this comic has its own story to tell.

And the 2023 Bestiest:

Plaza, Yuichi Yokoyama, 2022: A comics spectacle that is in constant motion, and incorporates deafening sound into its design through the use of onomatopoeia. There is an even more minimal story than some of his previous manga ( a parade ) and Plaza foregrounds comics’ potential as an art form by emphasizing its formal elements. It’s in black and white with textured screens (it really doesn’t need color ), and its Kirby-esque dynamism is just as compelling and propulsive as the King’s, at his peak. It’s quite possible that this will be one of the more influential comics to come along in years.

I’m midway through Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne. It’s my Post Modern Brick du jour, succeeding Sot Weed Factor. I have to be a bit dialed in to read it- there’s a lot of classical philosophy allusions, and medieval fortification allusions, so I block out some time so I can google the terms, and don’t consider it a fail to get through 5 pages a sitting. Plaza is much the same. One gets in the mood for its spectacle of crashing, rolling, thrumming sound effects which one must actually peer through to get to the visual action. There, exotically costumed humanoids march and cavort in front of a cheering crowd, transforming themselves before out eyes.

Since there’s no plot, one is not in a hurry to get anywhere ( I average 10 pages ) The manga is itself, ink and abstraction and symbol, and not a series of illustrations of ‘writing’, or source material.

This is relatively unusual, and again the reference point is Kirby. He was not afraid to let the stylized ink marks tell the story, and wound up helping to launch a multibillion dollar film franchise. Manga is big money in Japan, not so much, here, but if it ever gets there, we may put Yokoyama up there with Tezuka and Otomo as a reason why. To paraphrase, Plaza is comics for comics’ sake.

The Resties: This is my catch-all honorable mention category for comic book critical analysis, history, and older titles I’m just now catching up on, in no particular order:

Goddess of War, Lauren Weinstein, 2006: Weinstein tell a story of a woman disaffected with her job as the Goddess of War, who falls in love with Geronimo as he battles the U.S. Cavalry in the 19th Century Southwest. She apparently never finished it, or I might have ranked it higher. She later wrote a graphic novel about motherhood during COVID, but I haven’t read it, and we already have one COVID-addled family on this list.
Jimbo’s Inferno, Gary Panter, 2006: Again, I cannot compare it to the original, but Panter warns us right off not to base our term papers on it. The vision of hell as a giant mall is just too rich to resist. It’s not as searing as Jimbo In Paradise, or as visually exquisite as Daltokyo, but Panter rarely disappoints. Again, his invention is dependent on source material. These works exemplify why comics must be treated as their own art form, and not derivative of a source in prose.
Black Hole, Charles Burns, 1999: Burns’ dark vision of a teen plague probably draws from David Lynch’s work, especially Blue Velvet, with its sexual overtones and horrifying weirdness. And it sparked a revival of horror comics, though few were able to match its Lynchian blend of bland suburban creepiness and hyperreal visuals.

All of the Marvels, Douglas Wolk, 2023: I mostly quit reading Marvel Comics in 1978, when I discovered Euro comics, and then, Love and Rockets. This book isn’t nearly as tedious as it sounds, and summarizes a lot of the major threads, including much of the source material for the movies, in a lively way. As with Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, and Dante’s Inferno, reading this in no way commits me to reading all of the Marvels.

Kramer’s Ergot#4, Sammy Harkham, ed. 2004: The break through publication of both the best comics anthology of the 21st Century, and the influential comics art brut of the Fort Thunder group. Its rarity and significance made it hard to find for under $250, but lately as people realize what they have, the market has softened, and I found it for under $100 after years of searching.

As comics finds its artistic niche and its intellectual defenders, landmark publications such as this, and many of Panter’s masterpieces, often self published, or with small print runs, continue to be out of print collector’s items on the secondary market. I don’t know how that will affect Hanselman, Blexbolex and Hensley, though the latter two show signs of being hard to find already. Anthologies such as Kramer’s allow one to explore new, innovative artists without too much guesswork. They can often be found fairly cheaply in used bookstores- for a while at least.

I usually include a “Clunker”, but I’m not sure about the name, as many of them are very readable books. That’s true here, and there are two of them this year, but I recommend these books because they’re actually excellent reads, but with glaring flaws.

Jews in American Comics, Paul Buhle, 2008: The fact that Jewish people were essential in the development of American Comics, and indeed, American humor as a whole, has been an open secret for decades. This book explores that truth in depth, offering fascinating, if perhaps a bit muddy, accounts of seminal Yiddish comics in the early 20th Century Jewish press, solid accounts of EC comics and the undergrounds, and alternative press innovators such as Harvey Pekar and Aline Kominsky-Crumb. It remains on my shelf, to be read again.

But how on Earth you can write a book about Jews in American comics, and mention, only in passing, Jacob Kurtzburg and Stanley Leiber, is beyond me. Lee’s Yiddishisms seem essential to the humanizing spirit of Marvel, and what is Spider-Man but a classic schlemiel with an insect bite? As to Kirby, this is a man who portrayed a character punching Hitler in the jaw, long before Pearl Harbor made the rest of the ‘Greatest generation’ feel comfortable in saying Der Fuhrer must go. And forgive my gentile’s vagueness on the details, but those stoneware husks, fizzing and crackling with light and energy, from which Kirby’s super beings often emerge- do they not seem familiar? [ Fantastic Four #61 for one citation ) Ben Grimm, The Thing in Fantastic Four, is later portrayed as definitively Jewish. We are all wearied by the sheer volume of schlock Marvel has put out over the years, but Marvel definitely belongs in a history of Jewish comics.

There is, I’m guessing, the issue of assimilation, but that haunts all of Jewish pop culture, from Superman onward, as Buhle discusses at length. Buhle is a fan of alternatives, as am I, and that lineage leads pretty directly from EC to Undergrounds and then on. But that’s not what the title suggests, is it? The omission is puzzling to me.

Comic Book Women, Peyton Brunet and Blair Davis, 2023: As with Jews, I was excited to see this title. It is indeed necessary and worthy as a corrective to the male-centric histories of comics’ Golden Age, 1938-1955. These narratives, a precursor to the boy’s club of comics fandom in the 70’s and 80’s, did a lot to close off comics to women and girls, after they’d been a huge part of the audience. Brunet and Davis explore women’s roles as creators and characters, and among the many intriguing assertions made is that it was a woman editor at Fiction House who actually invented the vaunted ‘Marvel Method’ of Lee, Kirby and Ditko. The book is, again, well worth a second read. Its scope is limited, and it does not deal with the slow struggle of women for a place in comics in the 70’s and 80’s, in the U.S. and Japan.

However, it, too, is plagued by editorial error. The book unfailingly gives credit to female creators, but none to males, in its illustrations. This sounds like a quibble, I admit. But it is academically sloppy and projects pettiness, in the sense that male creators at the time were only somewhat less marginalized than women. This calls into question the professionalism of not only feminist pop culture scholarship, but comics scholarship as a whole, something the still nascent disciplines can ill afford.

This is published by University of Texas press. University presses exist to a large degree to publish tenure-track research, and doctoral theses, and are undoubtedly mostly staffed by poorly paid interns. But someone needed to call bullshit. As for Jews, it’s published by New Press, a non profit that I think, seeks to fulfill a similar mission as a university press. This seems a problem of vision, and the definitive book on Jews in comics doesn’t seem to exist yet.

That’s the Besties for this year. I read over 40 books that qualified, and really, enjoyed most, on some level. This list is intended to alert art-minded readers that very creative work is out there, along with interpretive materials.

It’s a busy year, so I don’t know when I’ll post on comics again, but I certainly have a mind to do a post on Shigeru Sugiura, a mid century alt-manga genius who helped set me on the road to enjoying Japanese artists, such as our Bestiest. If you are in the 303, nice places to shop alt comics are Kilgore Book and Comics, and Fahrenheit’s Books. If you prefer the web, check out Copacetic Comics. Comment below if you think I may have missed a recent book on this list.

#comics #alternativecomics #besties


Holiday Twigs and Berries

Incommunicado, Monotype, 18×30″, 2023. About a certain segment of Americans who have isolated themselves from facts and science, it is, somewhat ironically, hanging in Portugal right now.

2024 is a MoPrint year, thus, I’m very busy right now. There’s a lot of preparation goes into it in the Fall preceding. There are larger shows which require framing; and smaller “market” type shows which need smaller work. During my travels, I didn’t get any studio work done, now I’m trying to add work forMoPrint in Spring, as well as a holiday market I’m trying out in December.

WHAM ( Winter Holiday Art Market ), a new show being held at The Import Mechanics at 235 Broadway.

December 9. I have quite a bit of newer, smaller works for this. The spaces are just 6′, so small work is the focus, although I will have a limited amount of framed work as well. The prices are in the lower range of my Summer Art Market selection, $50-200 or so. There will an evening version on Saturday, which includes food and music ( $20 admission), and a Sunday afternoon version, market only, for $5 entry. Tickets available here.

Open Portfolio, Botanic Gardens, MoPrint 2024

This is a very popular event, held at the Botanic Gardens, that is part of MoPrint 2024 and offers a chance to quickly build your print collection at affordable prices. I bring monotypes and etchings that are unframed or are simply loose, from my flat files. There are often finish quality test proofs that have never been offered, or monotypes that haven’t been offered in years, and are at their original prices (which are lower than today’s). I have a standing 10% discount for two prints, 15% for 3, etc. Admission is free, and there are many artists. This year’s floor space has been expanded, which I think will reduce crowding.

Print Educators of Colorado, Front Range Community College, Moprint 2024

This invitational show highlights teachers of various print techniques at schools around the state. I hope to have multiple works, including my largest recent works. The opening will be February 8th at 4 PM. I’ll be there.

ASLD Print Fair, Upstairs Gallery, Art Students League of Denver

It’s at 200 Grant Street in South Capitol Hill. I will have smaller works and portfolio-type works available, but also a few larger framed works. There will be demos and displays about printmaking, including info about collecting. You can sign up for classes, too.

In addition, I may have work in one or two other shows, I will post news about that when I know.

There are classes coming in Spring, too. The first up is Monotype Blast, a one day sampler, in which the ink is provided, all mixed and ready. You simply print. It’s February 17, a Sunday, 9-4 PM. Registration begins January 2, here:


Re-sort Life

I took a break from studio. It makes me anxious to get back, and there tends to be more in my mind than I really have time to do, so it becomes a sort of settling in process, about sorting out my various experiences and trains of thought. During my travels I saw some things which naturally, have an influence. I mentioned the red and black imagery of Classical Greek and Minoan pottery I saw in Toronto. I also saw a Sol Lewitt sculpture which stuck in my mind, that was in Buffalo.

I haven’t been sketching, which is somewhat irrelevant to monotypes. The hand can only approximate what the press might do to the ink. However, I’ve been sorting, which is somewhat relevant, as my basic instinct when making monotypes is to plan/react, and there are always a surplus of images to react to. I have drawers full of them, in fact.

Sorting is also relevant to museums, which essentially sort works for our consideration. So it’s no surprise that I might consider red figure pottery, or Sol Lewitt as jumping off points.

I took some failed works from my drawers and arranged them on the work bench, overlapping them in order to create new contexts. I’ll probably print some in red and black, to experiment with that color combo, which has been on my mind. These are failed works, which means I never showed them, or I showed them very little or they attracted very little engagement. Thus, they are pretty irrelevant, even to me, who is also pretty irrelevant, at least to the people who sort work for museums.

Box with Object, Monotype, 15×11″, 2023. A series of smaller prints led to a larger version (below), done 2 or 3 months later.

Adrift on this sea of irrelevancy, I’m free to do what I want, which can be pretty liberating. Boxes also relate to sorting, in a way, as they are often the end destination for things we’ve sorted, at least until we must re-sort. I’ve posted two boxes I made this year. I describe some of my ‘iconography’ here, in case it is relevant.

#Monotypes #ArtMuseums #Studionotes


Fall Twigs and Berries

Fall is my happy place. The summer was very busy with shows and classes, so a lighter schedule is welcome. I do most of my longer travels in Fall; this year I spent time in Toronto and Western New York. It’s hard to think of a place where more can be done, in such a small area, and for so little money, as in this area of the Great Lakes.

Toronto has the Royal Ontario Museum, a huge place, and there I saw Roman mosaics and Greek and Minoan black figure pottery. I’ve been considering an exploration of red and black printmaking, iconic modernist graphic colors. So the black figure pottery struck a nerve. I also saw period dioramas of home interiors that resonated when I later went to visit the Susan B. Anthony house in Rochester. Toronto is a very international, user friendly, walkable city. The food is great, and reasonable places to feast on French, Indian, and Asian fusion, as we did.

The prices are noticeably higher than the two smaller cities I visited, but owing to exchange rates, you come out fine.

Rochester is a small city that did take some recent economic hits (Kodak closed), but also has a large University presence to help it through, and it appears to be starting to bounce back. There’s the University of Rochester’s Metropolitan Art Gallery, which I didn’t visit this time, but we did tour their outdoor sculpture garden which featured nice work by Rashid Johnson, Tony Cragg and Tony Smith, among others. I saw a nice artists’ studio complex in a warehouse district a few blocks away. Rochester reminds me of Denver in the 1980’s.

In between the two, Buffalo continues to be an architectural wonderland. The Doors Open Buffalo event featured exceptional examples of Gothic Revival, Nouveau, Prairie, Craftsman, Deco, Gothic Deco and Moderne, all within blocks of each other. Buffalo features an extensive Fredick Law Olmstead park and parkway system, making the two cities pretty much required visits for devotees. Throw in a Beef on Kummelweck, and you’ve got a legendary day.

On another day, I visited the newly reopened Albright Knox Gallery, now known as Buffalo AKG, recently expanded with an addition by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu, and now with more space to show off its spectacular collection of modernist art. This is on the site of the Olmstead Delaware Park, across from Buffalo State, my first University. The list of art history book staples you can see there is prohibitively large, but I’ll restrain myself to mentioning a room full of Kiefers, More Pop and Ab Ex than you can see anywhere outside of MOMA, and my new favorite Nick Cave piece.

Returning to the theme of architecture, we walked across the street to the Richardson Hotel, a refurbished portion of the H.H. Richardson State Asylum complex, a masterwork of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It contains a small architectural museum and a bar, which we didn’t get to visit as it was closed till 4 PM.

Traveling and reading are aspects of mental drifting that I see as a nice break after a big show. My mind ‘shops’ for new ideas. A lot of my traveling is about relaxing and eating good food and drink- I got on an Old Fashioned kick while away. I’ll be back in studio soon, and I predict that Russian Constructivist red and black, as well as Ernst Barlach’s The Avenger might make their presence felt in new work.

The Fall temperature was congenial, too. The leaves were starting to turn. I tend to hide from Summer. Fall is good reading time. Summer is too busy to focus on big reading projects, graphic novels tend to rule. September came, and suddenly I was reading Tristram Shandy. I’ll be reading it all Fall I’m sure, and will write about it when done. So far, with its digressions and long mazy sentences, it reminds me of an early Modern Pynchon or Barth.

My next class is Monotype Starter, a detailed Beginner/Advanced Beginner class that still has spots available for next week.You get certified to use the print room independently, and we generally enjoy the Fall weather out the tall windows at the (Richardsonian ) ASLD. Click on ‘Contact Me’, if you have questions. Here’s the link for registration.

MoPrint at the League is also on its way, though the date has to be changed owing to a conflict with another League show. There is a holiday show the League is presenting called WHAM ( Winter Holiday Art Market), which sounds interesting, and I’ll be doing it and posting more about that later. I’m also doing the Portfolio Show at Botanic Gardens during March as part of MoPrint ’24, and there is lots of new work in all sizes, so starting your own collection will be very easy this next 6 months.

As I settle in at home with all my new books, I’m sure I’ll be back to graphic novels as well, and I’ll have a post about those

#travel #architecture #art galleries #culturaltourism #buffaloakg


Finish Lines

A very early improvisation on the theme of a box, with a nested figural object, and an ampersand. I was exploring grammatical symbols as visual elements, such as asterisks. This small study seems to have inspired a later full sheet idea. “And”, Monotype, 13×9″, 2023

I somewhat offhandedly posted a picture of me at work on a monotype in the last post. It seems fair to post the final image. I now have a professional shot, as opposed to my rushed iPhone shots taken while moving between phases. They’re bad, and I generally get professional shots of the bigger, more important pieces a couple of times a year, for publicity. But the snaps can be great for tracing the sometimes confusing history of an image, with elements criss-crossing and popping up in multiple iterations.

This is a second layer view of the piece in the studio picture. The relief element (L), and chine colle element (R) in the margins are actually just laid there to explore composition. You can see the final execution in the last image, below.
I began a series of boxes in different colors with different variations of stenciled imagery. I did not try to make specific ideas, but to take a simple idea and drill down with different solutions. This makes them both decorative and a bit edgy. “Box With Object”, Monotype, 15×11″, 2023.

I have been better about documenting the various stages of a given art work, and it’s been a while since I explored the various permutations leading up to, and out of a given idea, so here’s a series of images that explicates that process.

The ‘Box’ series, like my ‘chair’ or ‘place’ series, is meant to explore the possibilities of a given simple image, both visual and metaphorical, in a gradually refined way. It’s typical for me to start off with many small variations, then pare down the options to execute a grand, refined image using some of the same ideas, or indeed, some of the same stenciled imagery.

A blue toned variation in the same size, printed over two sessions at the Art Students League of Denver.

I always explore different textures and effects as I go. Gradually the image seems to take on meaning, to me, at least. The first boxes were visual/textural experiments. Then I gradually moved into almost pure decoration:

But boxes were meant to contain something, so that implies a simple statement, or context. I’m a fan of organic branchings, and this implies outgrowth. I had added an asterisk, a symbol of “further information to come” to a chair image, and these were quickly co-opted to act as placeholders for stars, their alter ego. The spheres are somewhat molecular, but also astronomical, and I often put those lower in the plane to represent earth, but a famous comics artist Jack Kirby, often employed those as crackling, electric energy. A somewhat heart-shaped object in the box calls to mind an obvious reference to Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”, but the slatted construction also, to me, feels like a rib cage or a coffin. Sneaking all these diverse elements in is a bit of a gamble, trying to create levels and complexity without becoming too busy.

It is rare that a title comes before the image. Usually, the image suggests a title to me. If it’s a simple image, such as a box, then a simple title becomes a working title. I add other details to the image, usually to create a new metaphor, such as a tablet, or ampersand, or ladder, and these accrue new meanings and new expanded titles.

If the various studies and small work-ups seem to have their own metaphoric presence, I put them in some shows. The #SummerArt Market2023, for example, requires a lot of work, so it’s the best place to see the various stepping stones in the process. The various create threads turn into finished lines. You can track them from the small work bin to the larger framed works. There are many other creative threads on display there, as I have a lot of new work. I hope to see you there!

The Art Students League Summer Art Market is August 26-7, 9-5 Saturday and Sunday. I am in Booth #54, between 2nd and 3rd on Grant Street, near the garden. One ticket ($5) gets you into both days, and is available here:

This is the finished piece, “The Juggler”, Monotype, 30×22″, 2023

#SAMprintmakers #ASLDprintmakers #summerartmarket2023 #monotypes

Books, Comics, Music Summer Art Market

Twigs and Berries: Life’s Been Berry Good

I have the luxury of time lately, which is very good for art. A regular studio routine is great for following up on ideas, and midweek days to work on framing, etc, without feeling rushed or stressed by deadlines, makes one feel more professional.

The weather has been vivid. I’m taking more walks, looking at birds, watching the clouds roll in. Of course, I’ve always believed that an appreciation of ‘now’, a certain presence in the moment, is valuable in the studio. It’s wonderful in daily life as well.

Nights have been mostly about reading, and I’ve chided myself for ‘wasting’ my streaming subscriptions by not flipping on the TV and catching up on my odd series, such as Dickinson ( a Hip-Hop-infused mash up of Puritan retro futurist takes on the poet’s life ), and Upstart Crow ( Shakespeare gets the Black Adder treatment). You can see the problem here- my favorite TV shows only remind me of how much there is to read!

I’ve been organizing my studio/workroom to make a more pleasant place to frame art and work on the computer. It’s less like a storage/ creative dumping ground, and there’s more room to work on projects, which can then remain out until the next time I’m ready to work on them. I wound up with a better set up for quick photos, too:

Illustration of blog post
Homestead, Monotype, 2023 15×11″. From my series of boxes, exploring all a box could be.

#MoPrint24 is bubbling into existence as we speak. The main organizers are working on not just next year’s event, which looks better than ever, but serious organizational issues that will strengthen it for years to come. I’m not as involved in that as I used to be.

I am trying to contribute, in my own way, by helping to organize the ASLD Print Fair event at the school. That is also in process already, and will accelerate in Fall, after the 800-pound gorilla that is SAM is fed.

I have several classes going on, mostly for kids. My next adult class starts July 11, and is registering now. It’s called Monotype Portfolio, for people with a bit of printmaking experience and is registering now. Here’s the link:

The demos often reflect what I’m currently working on myself, which is certainly valuable dialog for me, and I hope others craving those kinds of conversation- hard to find- will feel free to join us. If you are curious about MoPrint, or just want to talk about books, there’s plenty of time for that as well.

What I’ve been reading is a wider range of fiction, non-fiction, as always, modern and older comics. I’m thinking of starting a separate, pop culture-oriented blog for my reading and bookstore adventures, and converting this one to all art. I perceive this as more professional, although posting regularly is always a challenge. Also, diverse readings certainly inform my creative explorations, and would certainly continue to pop up here.

Examples of things I’m reading lately: The Sot-Weed Factor, by John Barth, a hilarious picaresque that skewers the essential venality at the heart of Puritan America, and led directly to one of my all time favorite novels, Mason & Dixon, by Pynchon. Jews In American Comics, which explores the ethnic, European roots of this historically repressed medium, which naturally goes a long way toward explaining why the repression. I also finally located an affordable copy of the seminal Kramers Ergot #4, a landmark publication for the Fort Thunder group, as well as other avant grade cartoonists. Until Fall, after the Summer Art Market, I won’t really have time to launch a new blog, so I may go into a bit more depth about these books here later.

On a related note, my dictum that ‘a good walk ends in a used bookstore‘ ( it used to be ‘bar’, of course, and there was a “Bookbar” in my neighborhood, a great idea which failed of incompetent management ), has become a mantra. In that vein, I’m inserting a mini-review here of the recently relocated Fahrenheit’s Books.

The new one, several blocks farther down South Broadway, on Antique Row, is larger and less dingy. It’s still cluttered, which some people like, and why not? -it allows them to display more books, and the selection was superior even before. As an example, I quickly found Jews In American Comics and a William Gaddis novel, A Frolic of His Own, in clean copies for great prices. It goes along with my obsession with obscure comics criticism, and Post Modern Brick fiction ( see: Barth and Pynchon, above ). You can’t find these in most bookstores.

There is a sort of simpatico curatorial consciousness to stores like this, and Kilgore, On 13th. There, I found But Is It Art?, a book I’ve been wanting to read. I don’t read as many art books as I used to, partly because I can find plenty of germane concepts in PMBs, where I don’t feel as derivative. Sot-Weed is one of the early PMBs, and Gaddis also was a pioneer, though Frolic comes much later. A store across the street form Fahrenheit’s specializes in nice clean, collectible copies of mysteries and histories, etc. It’s less about the reading, although, I like clean copies, and I collect some of them. There’s such a thing as not enough clutter!

By comparison, another cluttered store, Westside Books, caps off a lot of walks, as it’s near me, and I like to support neighborhood business. But it’s dusty, poorly laid out, and choked with outdated redundancies, which make browsing a chore. Fahrenheit’s is much more mindful in their selection, and user friendly.

I can’t go there every week, as I would just buy 2 or three books every time. But here’s a shout out to a wonderful place to finish a bus ride/walk.

#Artclasses #Bookstores #ASLDprintmakers

Art Shows Ideas Summer Art Market

A Studio Bestiary

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