Twigs and Berries

While my social status remains ‘distant’, there are of course little projects going on in my life, and an overall goal of reviving my creative endeavors. Professionalism dictates that I have to maintain some sort of public profile, even when health guidelines say I should be sheltering as much as possible. I’m trying to strike a healthy balance, but the need for social interaction and creative productivity certainly figure into my idea of a healthy lifestyle. These, I guess, are the sorts of questions and choices many are confronting right now.

As mentioned, classes began at the Art Students League of Denver September 1. It’s been slow going with enrollment at the school, but the need to bring in some sort of revenue is there. My September class for example was cancelled for low enrollment. I have another beginning October 19 and there are still limited spaces available. The cleaning and distancing protocols are stringent. The link is here.

To help make up for lost revenues during the shutdown, the school is hosting an online Artist Showcase in which all proceeds go to the League.

Let me stop right here and emphasize how wonderful my experience with this organization has been for over 10 years, and how hard they’ve worked to help artists during this crisis. Though the classes- and thus, their major source of revenue- were cancelled for months, they’ve tried to do what might help strapped artists most, and are still scrambling to provide opportunity where they can.

So I’m donating multiple pieces to this sale in order to give back. All the pieces are small, as they will be shipped to your house. One of my lockdown projects was to do a little painting and to re-hang the walls with new, or re-arranged art. It was a fun and refreshing thing to do, especially when stuck inside. Might I suggest this sale as a way to jump start your own Fall home refresh?

This small monotype is part of a series of deconstructed trees I did in the Fall of ’19, and will be available as part of the Art Students League of Denver’s Artist showcase, designed to make up for revenues lost to the Covid 19 shutdown. The art will be mailed directly to your home. and is available in November at ASLD.org

Another new thing for me is online classes. I’ve triumphed over my natural reticence for learning new technologies and designed a course that uses non toxic Akua inks and simple techniques to hand roll monotypes at home, and it’s gone pretty well so far. Another benefit of this type of class is that people outside my area can now take a class! Please click on “Contact Me” above if you have questions, or simply go to the registration page at ASLD.org beginning October 13th.

Open Studios are also re-opening at the League, with a difference- print room open studios will be monitored for now, to ensure compliance with the distancing and cleaning protocols. I’m going to be one of the monitors.

This applies to those already certified to use the facility, usually done by taking a class.

First, I’m glad to be back in the studio. I will be working on my own work as I’m monitor, and it’ll be nice to explore some new ideas after 6 long months. But for those feeling the rust ( as I will be, too) I’m happy to answer any questions or provide brief refreshers. Most of my shifts will be on Sundays in October, November and December. I hope to see you, should you feel that it’s the right time to get back into the studio for you.

Hope this finds you well, and I hope to see a return to art making for all.

Solitary Muse

“Fortunately, it turns out I’m very good at social distancing” I quipped on social media at the beginning of the virus shutdown, perhaps still wedded to the idea that May 15 or beginning of June would be plenty of time to beat the pandemic, and ‘get back to normal’. Close to 6 months later, I’m still good at quarantining, but could use a good conversation or two.

I guess we all could use more of that, and less Q-time.

And some studio time would be nice. The school opened September 1st after an extensive review of distancing and cleaning protocols, and my first scheduled class was September 16. However, it did not meet minimum enrollment, and was cancelled. I get it, certainly. People need to protect themselves and be comfortable with their activities.

I, for instance, have no plans to enter a bar this fall, no matter how juicy the burgers or on-field matchups. I’ve had (very) small group picnics in mountain parks, and on the lawn, but my biggest gathering was 7 longtime friends. So be it. A more coordinated response from the federal government would definitely help, so like most, I’m hoping November 3 will bring positive news. Until then, there’s no sense ignoring reality.

Science tells us the negatives: 1. Most of the continued spread happens at bars and other large gathering spots. 2. Slowing the spread below certain levels is the only way to get the economy going again; and ‘get back to normal’. 3. I’m in an ‘at risk’ group, as are many at ASLD, and abundant caution has been my watchword.

I miss the days when I could spend long hours in the studio, working on large monotypes. This one is one of the largest I ever did, 42×72″. Grievers, Monotype, 2005.

The positives, I think we all can agree, of getting out of the house, are what they’ve always been: 1. Seeing a friendly, smiling face (or at least, eyes) lifts the spirit. 2. A feeling of community, of ‘tribal’ creative purpose. 3. For some of us, productivity. I can’t really plan for shows until I can get near a printing studio again. 4. And I know many, like me, are anxious to support vital arts institutions like the League during this catastrophic time.

The school may soon open for open studio artists again, so that’s progress. But the conversations you can have with other artists in a classroom about technique and ideas you just don’t find anywhere else, so I’ll be excited for my first class, whenever it is. I have another ‘live’ class scheduled in mid-October, for more experienced artists. It can be found at: https://reg135.imperisoft.com/asld/ProgramDetail/3139363431/Registration.aspx

Sooner or later, all of this will pass. I’m grateful that I can eek by without a full employment schedule.

If you are considering a return to public life soon, and as I say, I GET why you may not be, here again are the facts regarding the extensive thought the Art Students League of Denver has put in on their reopening: Class size has been reduced, and in the print room, 6 people are the maximum number, 1 to a workspace. 2. Class times staggered and hallway traffic patterns defined to create distance. 3. Cleaning of work spaces and equipment before and after each class built in and mandatory. 4. Masks and sanitizer, of course, and excellent cleaning has always been a professional goal in printmaking.

Contact me if you have questions about any of this. I’m committed to being as safe as possible.

There is a third option: I have an online, hand-rolled monotypes-at-home class happening in November. I did test fly this one in July during the Kids Art Camp, and found it technically smoother and creatively more versatile than I feared. We use Akua water-soluble inks, so your house will not have fumes and your dining room table or craft area will not be permanently stained every time you slip up. like all things, there’s a learning curve, but professional results are possible, and I’ve shown them at several galleries. Registration opens October 8 at ASLD.org.

And to those living outside the Denver area, a bonus- for the first time, you can take one of my classes without traveling. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it!

I will be trying to post more video excerpts of various techniques and processes this fall. One of my home projects has been to catch up on updating my mailing list, so I’ll send an update out soon. And my web store, torpedoed by faulty software before the virus hit, is one of my last remaining projects. Though I’ve been knocked out of my usual routine, I haven’t been moping. I’m optimistic that we will, in fact, ‘Build Back Better’ as the saying goes, and I hope this finds you safe, well and rarin’ to go.

Reading Edge: Anime and Cartoons, the End of Cultural Quarantine?

With the shambolic response of tRump’s insane clown posse to the coronavirus, I think the virus restrictions will be lasting all Fall ( til November 3?), so I broke down and got a new TV. Now I’m able to stream and binge-watch a lot of stuff I hadn’t seen for years, such as Adult Swim cartoons. Given my recent reading list, it was no surprise that I wound up spending time with Anime classics, as well as Anime-influenced American cartoons.

Cowboy Bebop: I watched this on my brother’s videos in the early 90’s then saw quite a few episodes replayed on Adult Swim. They are very stylish though characteristic 80’s anime with a creative musical soundtrack. The backstory is of bounty hunters in the farthest reaches of the solar system in the 2060’s, but as the episodes go on, a more developed romantic backstory featuring two rivals for the same woman emerges. Characters are added along the way, and their backstory is explored as well. 

Thus, a fairly typical retro futurist genre pastiche takes on a bit of emotional heft. There’s humor and violence, but the surprising twists in the back story keep things fresh. Nonetheless, the overall concept is genre, and much of the backstory feels a little grafted on. There’s a lot of violence, in the mode of the ‘stylish’ violence of the 90’s.

In constructing this clever pastiche of popular genre tropes ( sci-fi, detective noir, western, with a strong dash of very 60’s Hollywood action thriller), the Japanese/ American creators seem to be borrowing a page from Sugiera’s 70’s/80’s Gekiga manga style. Pop Culture influences are mixed and matched in an almost off hand way. As with Sugiera, the American cultural appropriation is very prevalent, but the series retains its eastern flavor. The music helps to keep things fresh, provides a thematic glue between disparate styles and time periods, and seems to inform the pacing of the visuals, also reminiscent of Garo-era gekiga, such as Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy. The series held up well after a long lapse in watching it, and seems to fit in with its place in Japanese Manga/Anime. 

Samurai Jack, Genndy Tarkovsky: This was a turn of the century Adult Swim staple, but one I did not get to spend a lot of time with owing to schedule and other priorities ( Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Home Movies, Space Ghost Coast to Coast). It was always unique and intiguing, and never easy to just drop in in the middle of. This differs from those above in every way. It’s neither cartoon brut nor Hanna Barbera mash-up rescued from the vaults. It was a true original cinema-style cartoon series conceived by Tarkovsky and others and was clearly intended to advance the animation art stylistically. It’s certainly one of the most visually beautiful animation series ever, combining Oyvind Earle-style mid century modernism and landscape design with a color sense that borrows from cubism and 50’s advertising art, but also Japanese folk art and 60’s psychedelia. It really is a treat for the eyes, and won many awards for its visuals. 

This is not to say that the story doesn’t ascend to compelling heights at times, though it doesn’t always attempt to transcend its home genre, a bushido action series with many fight scenes. But Jack, the hero, must make difficult choices and this often redeems the regular violence, along with the pure stylistic energy of its animation. A class in color theory could be taught around its schemes, with their minimal elegance, ranging from complex tonalities to eye opening complements with rich secondaries a linch pin for its almost literally surreal naturalism. I’ve always extolled thoughtful secondary colors, balanced with hot primaries, and well considered neutrals in my work and in my classes. I enjoy Samurai Jack as a delicious bit of eye candy.

The stories are minimal as well. Jack has been banished to a dystopian retro future that is both medieval and coldly metallic by a demon, Aku, he has defeated in battle. In order to administer the coup-de-grace, and set his people, as well as future generations free, he must find a way back to the past. So he travels on a quest for a way back, helping peoples he meets, and battling demon monsters and robots. All in the rich chameleon colors and anime-influenced stylizations. An evocative simplicity rules.

The show is not really anime, but in its stripped down but elegant animation and nods to bushido and eastern martial arts, it feels that way at times. The pacing is patient and the cartoon enjoys the ride. There’s a joie de vivre in the half hour increments of Jack’s journey. The series went through 4 full seasons during the aughts before it was cancelled without reaching a conclusion. A movie was vetted before it finally returned in 2017 for a concluding 5th season. The wait was worth it, as the final season includes many masterful segments before reaching its stirring, even delicate, conclusion. Unlike the earlier seasons which meandered without any real momentum at times, the final season accelerates without sacrificing its evocative visuals and contemplative pacing. 

I haven’t seen all the episodes (101!), but this would be one well worth owning a collection, as even now, I watched rapt as episodes replayed. They really are that gorgeous. I think Akira is probably an influence ( another anime I haven’t seen in a long while) and of course, peak-era Disney. But this is a very original series and really has set the bar for a modern cartoon. Its vision speaks to the art of animation, as few cartoons do. 

Sherlock Hound, Hayao Miyazaki: Miyazaki is the ‘Japanese Disney’ to some, though others insist on Osamu Tezuka. The appellation itself may be a bit racist, as neither is really derivative of the House of Mouse, though Tezuka was definitely influenced in his early years, before Astro Boy. At that time, of course, Japan was awash in American pop culture such as comic books and movies, during the occupation from the mid-40’s to mid 50’s. It’s fascinating to see how they processed and appropriated these influences in Manga and Anime ( e.g, Sugiera’s pop Nansensu- nonsense) And my discovery of Sugiera’s freewheelin’ mash-ups got me curious about the roots of manga and anime. Miyazaki came later, and this series, which was an Italian-Japanese collaboration dubbed into English for British, and then American audiences bears his unique stamp at times. 

Sherlock Hound is an adaptation of Holmes, of course, with anthropomorphic dogs. It’s a fairly run-of the-mill Saturday morning concept, but the 6 episodes that Miyazaki directed bear his signature pastoral steam-punk stylings. Some of the same giddy panoramas are here, depthless blue skies, and the love of retro-futurist machines. There was some sort of interruption in production, and by the time the series came back, Miyazaki had launched Nauusica of the Valley of the Wind, and did not return to it. 

These are available on the Open Culture web site, where you can see anime from as far back as the 20’s, including a 30’s Fleischer Brothers- influenced short about a haunted temple. As an aside, there are classics from Jan Svankmeier, The Brothers Quay, and also Lotte Reiniger, for those who read my review of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly: The Rat.

If anything, the return influence of these early Japanese pop culture inventions on American creators is probably underrated. The American stubbornness on infantilizing cartoons ‘ for the sake of the children’ stunted creators until well into the late 70’s, and in Tartovsky and Adult Swim, Raw Magazine and Watchmen, more recently, Pretty Deadly and Jimmy Corrigan, you can see American creators beginning to rise above the weight of censorship. (Not all of those titles are completely American productions, of course.) Garo magazine revolutionized manga and anime in the 70’s. Alternative comics and Adult Swim followed in the 80’s and 90’s.

So it’s a very exciting time to explore cartooning, which cannot at all be separated from earlier innovations by Japanese and European creators. I was excited to receive a copy of Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy in the mail this week. It’s a beautiful book I’ve read before from the library, that I’m excited to re-read in the context of these later landmarks. Exploring this history is a counterpoint to the American exceptionalism that has stunted all forms of American culture. We’ve proven that exceptionalism is a recipe for disaster in health policy. Let’s not make the same mistake in our readings of pop culture.

Corona Update: School’s Back in Fall!

Registration Opens Aug 11 for the first wave of distanced, in-person classes since the shut down.

I updated my Fall workshop schedule with my limited class offerings, and that is here. I’ve gone in, along with other instructors, to finalize the distancing preparations in the print studio this week. It’s certainly spacious, as classes will be smaller. There’s a little about what the League as a whole is doing about this as we prepare for the September 1 re-opening, here. And I attended a Zoom meeting where our Faculty Advisory Committee of various community-minded instructors presented a Zoom/Keynote about how to get started in online classes.

There I learned the nugget that a third of the school’s Fall offerings will be online. I shared my insight that by actually doing an online class my self, I learned quite a bit about the process. It was fun, too.

I think this qualifies as one of the positive opportunities that the virus does present. And it was probably overdue for some of us, certainly me. It’s also a nice channel for my energies right now, as the print studio is still closed, and I’m not making a lot of work. However, I’m also working with staff and faculty with an eye toward a limited open studio re-opening, so hang on, art is coming!

I did, however, get a small series of hand-rolled prints done in association with the online class, so I’ll generate a post about that soon. It goes without saying that one is limited in how much one can do outside the print studio, and without a press, but not as limited as one might first think.

I also have some reading/ binge watching reviews to post, as that’s been my go-to for home entertainment during quarantine. Those will be posted next. I certainly hope to be spending significant time at home this Fall, in caution. I haven’t read a lot lately as things are suddenly opening all at once, and I find myself out a bit more than I’d like. But I intend to make reading a major part of my Autumn.

Cam Do

Quiet on the set.

I’m halfway through my first online class and I’m relieved to report it’s going pretty well. Online teaching is obviously a new thing for me, as well as for the school, so I was obsessing not only about lesson plans, but video and slide show integration as well. Compounding that was that they changed the materials I was using (ink) at the last minute to something I’ve never used before. In response, to all these uncertainties, I simplified everything. It helped that in the transition to the new normal, registration was low- just two very attentive and clever teens. I think that’s pretty normal for the summer camps in our new normal of online learning. I know I was freaking out about the logistics a little too much to really promote. 

Leaving aside the simplified lessons and materials learning curve for now, I’ll put down my impressions on the tech side of things, in case other artists are interested in the process. I’d posted my reaction to doing a full length video previously, and that’s here if you want to read it.

The software used is Zoom, and it being my first time doing this, I can’t compare it to anything, but I will say that it’s simple enough to learn and to use. The school is ‘hosting’ the meetings, so I don’t have full control over the functions, which can be limiting, but there are certainly enough work arounds to keep a smooth flow. 

I’m able to switch back and forth between slide shows of art examples and bullet points that I prepared ahead of time using Keynote, meeting style face shots, and my ‘studio cam’ which is my iPhone mounted on a tripod, and connected with Lightning/USB. It’s not instantaneous switching as in a video control room, but certainly fluid enough. 

The students have their face shot/webcams, and so have to hold anything they want me to see up before the camera. This is not optimal, of course. Seeing how artists are working can give me as much info as what the results are. Also in art, not everything can be held up vertical while in progress. They can solve this with their own phones if they have a hook-up, but I don’t know if Zoom really supports that. 

Other equipment that’s essential: obviously, the tripod, a cheap one I got just for this type of project. A nicer one with an adjustable boom for straight down shooting might be my next suggestion. For one thing, it would enable both close-ups of work and full table medium shots. But at any rate, a hands free studio cam is essential in art instruction. Zoom’s interface does make it easy to hook up a second camera, and switch to it when the demo begins.

Lights: the first part of “Lights, Camera, Action!” And just as important as the other two. I used basic painter’s lights with flood bulbs, though possibly the diffused bulbs might create a less shadowy look. But having two mounted higher up at different angles did do a nice enough job. 

For the slide show, I kept my sentences and bullet lists short, and tried to include lots of pictures in between. For illustration, I used both my own work as well as pics from the web of monotypes by Degas, etc. I had pics of student work from previous classes to show them examples of peers’ creative solutions. One nice thing about the slide show is, You can pick a slide to leave up as a reminder, or just as a decoration while you fumble with switching to the studio cam, or even clean your tools for the next demo. It buys you time. 

The work area would necessarily be set up in advance with tools handy and short distances between your work area and your ‘anchor desk’ for good transitions. I also took masking tape and did preset blocking for my viewable work area and my camera position. You’ll probably want to see the Zoom screen as well as your work area when demoing, in case questions pop up in the chat. So I placed my laptop behind and slightly to the side of the work area, and was able to monitor the screen while demoing. When you switch to studio cam, Zoom shows that, so you can make sure they’re seeing what you want them to see, although it’s backward, one thing a camera boom might help with. 

All in all, it’s a pretty fun and doable project that I will tinker with after this class to set up for an adult online class I’m teaching in the Fall ( ASLD.org), as well as short videos that I can post to my You Tube channel to promote future classes. I spent a day setting things up and testing it in advance, that is certainly recommended. If using Zoom, you can just set up a 1 person meeting with yourself for a dry run. 

Please comment with any comments or suggestions. I think it’s natural to learn as you go, so I’m glad in a way that the lockdown forced my hand. I do miss live classes, and can’t wait to get back to properly distanced classes at the school, which are coming in September. I’ve updated my Workshops page ( above) with info on the Fall class schedule. I haven’t plugged in all the dates and links yet, but registration isn’t live yet, anyway. That’ll be soon, so check back.

Reading Edge: Strange Landscapes

Sugiera’s Nansensu gangsters in an Utrillo streetscape.

Outside my window, in the park, people are anxious to get on with their pre-pandemic lives. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but it’s a fantasy that won’t let go, and it’s leading to a resurgence in infections.

I have the luxury, and the imperative, to keep quarantining, to a certain amount. The recommendation for people my age is reduce contact by 65%, and while that may be unattainable as the world rushes to get back to what was once viewed as normal, I’m going to try to remain at home as much as I can.

The school is still closed to live classes, but online classes are starting, and I’m doing what I can to transition. I have a corporate slave job on a college campus that remains closed, and I do not miss that. There’s plenty to do at home, whether in my studio/office, or online.

I do miss the actual studio (at the school) which also remains closed. And I miss popping into a pub for a beer and a burger and a soccer game, but again, there’s no hurry, Fall or Spring will be fine for a return.

So that leaves, for the quiet evening hours after trying to maintain a career, reading. I’m watching movies online for variety, I’m tuning in as soccer comes back on TV, but mostly, I’m reading. Even what little online shopping I’m doing is mostly for books. In analyzing what I’m reading, I find I can’t really analyze what I’m reading. Part of the purpose of writing about what I read is to help me process it. Later, I might come back and look at these quarantine lists and think, hmm. Right now, it seems random, and you’re getting it face value. Most of these books were ordered on small press-oriented web sites at bargain prices, or pulled from my shelves after buying them on spec from used bookstores, so that may explain their eccentricity. But maybe not.

Last of the Mohicans, Shigeru Sugiera: One of the main joys of reading this beautiful little Picture Box volume is the long critical essay by Ryan Holmberg, whom I’d encountered in some Seichi Hayashi reprints from the library and who did a lot to put my ignorance of Manga into a historical context with other comics timelines. These essays, probably too detailed for many fans, touched on the artists who I’d encountered sporadically in the pages of Raw, and The Ganzfeld. Later on, the Mazur and Danner book, Comics: A Global History, 1968-Now brought my curiosity to a head. 

This book, as Holmberg explains, was a part of an artistic renaissance in mid-60’s Japanese Manga that for the first time, treated comics as an artistic art form. But it also is a remake of a manga that exemplified the cultural crosscurrents in play in occupation era Japan. The sources of this, American movies, often as filtered through American comic books, are at play ironically in both versions of Mohicans. Neither is so much an adaptation of the James Fenimore Cooper novel, as a Pop Art pastiche of cultural assumptions surrounding it. 

This is apparent in the visuals of the original comic, with some characters played in ‘straight’ images swiped from western movies and Classics Illustrated comics, which aspired to a literary/historical truth, but often missed by miles; and others conforming more to ‘Nansensu’ (Nonsense) children’s Manga of the 50’s. Thus the original 50’s version is strange enough, with big-eyed, round headed Astro Boy-style characters interacting with characters and scenes from Hollywood. Iroquois-era Native Americans find themselves anachronistically dropped into the sweeping John Ford vistas of Monument Valley, and Hawkeye, now a manga cutie, mimics the impossible action sequences of post war DC/Dell western comics. 

Sugiera’s second version of the comic ( printed here) does not stop there, though. Conversant with the intervening cultural appropriation aesthetic of Warhol’s Pop Art movement, and still fascinated by the comics and movies American GI’s introduced to occupied Japan during his formative years and before, Sugiera redoes the comic in the early 70’s, heightening, rather than downplaying its cultural collage. Characters such as Oliver Hardy and Little Lulu are added. Some characters seem to spring from a stylized, mask-like Asian folkloric aesthetic, others remain rooted in mass media ‘realism’. Holmberg exhaustively traces these sources, and the book, which it should be obvious- is pretty silly on its surface, now lives on my shelf, awaiting another reading as I continue to explore other works from this fascinating period in manga. This includes a riotously synthetic short from Sugiera that I ran across in The Ganzfeld #4 which mixes primitive manga characters with Utrillo street scapes and- Mr. Potato Head. A feast for the eyes, and a little explored instance of the clash of cultures. 

Pig Tales, Paper Rad: Paper Rad is a comics collective which grew out an earlier zine group called Paper Radio, and is contemporaneous and linked to the Fort Thunder collective. This digest-sized collection espouses, if it does not directly reference ( I don’t know for sure), the zine resurgence of the late 90’s and early aughts. 

The pigs referenced are big haired, ‘fab’ fashionistas who like to party and shop. The plotting is abrupt and even arbitrary, and the satire deliberately obscure. The cartooning is garish, cartoon brut imagery that seems to source the 70’s faux psychedelia of Saturday morning cartoons. The book is a flip book, and the other side, Cartoon Workshop #3, makes these references even more explicit, with Hanna-Barbera type images spliced in. This is also put out by Picture Box, a now-defunct imprint published by radical comics/art critic Dan Nadel which I’ve been searching out on small press oriented sites because they offer the most comprehensive selection of an edgy comics underground that hasn’t quite reached the mainstream yet. It’s coming on fast, though. 

Nadel edited and published The Ganzfeld, a journal which only lasted for 7 issues, but which represents a very momentous and substantive look at how comics, as art form, intersects with high art. Thus, if you are interested in understanding comics as one of the 21st Century’s most vital art forms, then any book with the Picture Box imprint is a great place to start. 

Nadel doesn’t seem to have been able to make it work. Remainders from his often exquisite output are still available on the web, usually at remainder prices. They are intellectually very ambitious, and range from examinations of Henry Fielding to post war manga to ’00’s zine collectives, the undercurrents of pop culture made manifest. He has made the linkages between comics and high art explicit, at times; for example, a long article on the Hairy Who, the Chicago Art Collective whose images and aims often intersected with comics. 

Emily Dickinson: An Interpretive Biography, Thomas H. Johnson: I found this slim volume from the 50’s a few years ago at a favorite little shop on Broadway, Fahrenheit books. I put it away for a rainy day read which the pandemic brought along. 

As an amateur reader, I often run into a problem with more challenging material, as Dickinson, with her highly specialized imagery and language and difficult rhythms, definitely is. That is: critical support materials related to the poems often (unsurprisingly, I guess) prefer to address other academics, embedded in the wars of words surrounding a given author, rather than a general reader. I’ve complained about academic jargon, but it goes beyond that. Certain critics just do not want to take time addressing basic concepts of American Romantic literature covered in undergrad courses, and skip right to theses that will make their careers. 

I did take several Lit classes in my undergrad career, but none that I can recall, on poetry. Thus, Johnson’s discussion of the meters and rhyme schemes in Dickinson was very welcome. Not that his treatment of recurring themes and metaphor in E.D. are simplistic. It makes for a gem of a book, a real page turner, in fact.

I’m not trying to minimize the intense investigations of academics who like Dickinson. In fact, this book will make a possible return to Cynthia Griffin Wolf’s examination of the poet, which I put down 2/3’s through, not out of confusion, but more out of a sense of having come into the middle of a conversation, more likely, and more enjoyable. 

I received a 3 issue bundle of Pressing Matters, a beautiful printmaking magazine from England, and I’ll write about that upcoming. I also got Powr Mastrs, a book by a Paper Rad alum, C.F., a tour de force in comics brut lyricism, and will try to mention that. I’m re-reading Pynchon’s wonderful funny/scary Mason and Dixon, and ordered a collection of critical essays on that, and those will get a post. With Dickinson’s revivalist gothicism, Sugiera’s pop culture frontier pastiche, and Pynchon’s surreal Enlightenment walkabout, I guess we do have a slender theme: American Romanticism in the Blender for 100, Alex.

I do miss the pub, but books provide a certain amount of companionship, and I don’t mind being judged by the company I keep.

The Reading Edge: When the Going Gets Weird

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Hunter S. Thompson

A vacancy of purpose takes hold. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a creative sense; I’ve alluded to large empty landscapes in my work and in my creative process. An idea, I’ve said, might be compared to a single rider appearing on a dark plain.

It becomes a bit disconcerting, doesn’t it, when vacancy overtakes your daily routine. It’s an issue I’ve seen coming but delayed addressing, but as I reach official retirement age next spring, it’s been a subtext to my lockdown activities. What to do to keep everyday fresh. I’ve got projects, like everyone, there’s the slow reorganization of life around the idea of staying home. I’ve made a teaching video, applied for economic relief, attended to chores both bureaucratic and domestic. Odd that enrolling in Medicare came at the same time as the virus exposed the weakness of the American health infrastructure.

I had set aside creative production with the closing of my normal workspace, but now I’m looking to return to sketching and studio tasks in anticipation of its eventual reopening. I’ve kept busy. But a creative response was always going to be a must going forward.

But what’s the response? What is the meaning of this newly recovered time? That’s not as easy to resolve as painting the bedroom or as simple to unlock as a studio door. I’ve always turned to art and pop culture in my resting hours to inform that investigation, but now, in a sort of free floating anxiety, I found it hard to pursue new, complex projects. So I returned to older revelations to see them in a new context. Creative flipping, I’ve called it- like a monkey with a stick, I’m turning things over to see if there’s some important function I’ve missed. It can feel repetitive. But in repetition is motion, in motion there can be found rhythm and in rhythm can be found music (art).

And that is -of course! -what led me to Thomas Pynchon and Neil Young. I won’t try to link them- a process that would certainly fill time, but also condemn this blog to the farthest, and very vacant reaches of SEO exile. But I will post separate speculations as evidence of something I consider an essential truth: art’s rarely great, without first being weird. Both Pynchon and Young have had long successful, honored careers. Neither ever foreswore their insistence on being weird.

Mason and Dixon, Thomas Pynchon: In the void that opened up between daily creative purpose (what to do?), and mindfully spent days (what to make of this?), my full docket of readings collapsed. I’m a browser. With the library closed, limited budget and shelf space for online purchases, and the strange, vacant days having tracked us down, I searched my shelf and found a reliable poltergeist to fit the zeitgeist. This is the third time I’ve read it. Why?

Pynchon, like America- and let’s be honest, we didn’t need a pandemic shutting down The Cheesecake Factory to show us this, it’s been right there in front of our faces all the while- is weird and more than a little scary. Pynchon happens to be much better at dressing up the existential paranoia with humor, with robust sentences and images, with the sort of literary parallax that post modernism specializes in, than the country, especially as represented by the incomprehensible word salad of its titular spokesman. We wish America was funny-weird-scary right now, rather than scary-weird-scary. As soon as I pulled the book from my shelf, hefting the 865 pages of funny weird creepy improvisations on the very heavily loaded line drawn in 1863 between Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and a host of very American histories they stand for, I knew I was home. I wish I could say the same when I look out my front window.

Novels having flown their arcs, this is a very simple tale. Straight line, east to west, actually. To complicate it: some monarch ( James II and VII, but who’s counting) has botched the math in awarding proprietorship in colonies to Penn and Calvert, and borders must be surveyed to fit the authoritarian ignorance. Mason and Dixon, between gigs sighting Transits of Venus, a measurement of solar parallax that was a landmark in determining astronomic distances, are hired. The line surveyed took 4 years of hacking their way through the wilderness and triangulating it with the stars. It eventually wound up becoming a political-cultural touchstone when Americans could not triangulate their way around the question of owning human beings and how much the darkness of their skin devalues them. It sits there invisibly in the pleasant rolling Middle Atlantic landscape, having become as much scar as inscribed line.

That’s where Pynchon comes in. His genius is exploring the dark dreamlike wilderness between science and storytelling. Apocalyptic rainbows etched by erectile weaponry, capital “V” vectors between identity and desire, that sort of thing. The astronomers/ surveyors survive sea battles to get to slave states, pick up chicks with Franklin, smoke pot with Washington. Then they get out their instruments, and the weirdness really kicks in.

This is not beach reading, though it is at times hilarious. It puts the lie to the Rousseauan Arcadia of pre-revolutionary America, and includes Indian massacres, professional-grade geometry and robot ducks. This is an America that is unmapped, and thus dreamlike. “Does Britannia when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?” There is a long section in which a character lives through the 11 days that everyone else skipped over when England converted to the Gregorian calendar. It immediately came to mind when the reality of the shelter-in-place was fresh, and weird.

I set myself up on the couch in the hours formerly known as morning rush hour, or the now perfect silence that settles after dark, with my beverage ( coffee, the official drink of Enlightenment era political ferment, now the drug of choice for essential workers, gets a starring role in the book) and my Pynchon Wiki, a pioneering internet lit crit innovation that TRP can justly claim indirect credit for. The wiki helps one to negotiate the myriad historical and scientific allusions, the coffee opens one’s eyes to Pynchon’s rich imaginings, faux Early Modern English patois and robust syntax, the quiet streets remind us that however strange and frightening our history, we are still a work in progress, a nation that can be about the future. Who, after all, writes a book about 18th Century surveyors; unless he thinks it can tell us something about how our lines are drawn now?

Familiar, and yet strange. That is the textbook definition of the surreal, and not to overuse a very overused term, a perfect description of what passes for our daily lives right now. A bit of a horror show, really, though not without its irony, humor and possibility. These days, like all days, once we see them, for all their weirdness, approach the sublime. We’re going to need artists like Pynchon, who in this book says, through the voice of a framing character:

“Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir’d, or coerc’d, only in Interests that must ever prove base. She is too innocent, to be left within the reach of anyone in Power,- who need but touch her, and all her Credit is in the instant vanish’d, as if it had never been. She needs rather to be tended lovingly and honorably by fabulists and counterfeiters, Ballad-Mongers and Cranks of ev’ry Radius, Masters of Disguise to provide her the Costume, Toilette, and Bearing, and Speech nimble enough to keep her beyond the Desires, or even the Curiosity, of Government.

The tiny hands of corruption are all over the narrative of the present day; the poets and artists- essential workers, by Pynchon’s lights- are on the back heel. In casting about restlessly in my quarantined space I found, on my shelf, the perfect book for this eerie, vacant lost world. Fabulist, counterfeiter, ballad-monger, crank- which am I? In a time when society tends to put people like me, older, poorer, marginalized by choice of profession- on a shelf; in a nation that has never prioritized the health of its people, it’s a healthy question to ask.

And here is your reminder that whatever you read, listen to, or do to get you through this bizarre period, to remember to vote on November 3, as the health of a nation depends upon it.

Director’s Cut

I made a video about hand rolling monotypes using water-soluble non toxic ink. You can watch it here, and let me know if you like it. I intend to make more, and I’m planning on a series of follow-ups before Fall. I’m also exploring Zoom-based online classes. The catch is that printing in a studio with a press doesn’t translate easily to home-based learning, so I’m basically designing whole new classes, based somewhat on my experience teaching classes through the Plaza program at Denver Public Library. Just like the video, in other words. What I know on the status of my in-studio workshops has been posted on my ‘Workshops’ page, here.

There are stirrings that may lead to limited studio and class access in June or July. Check back for more info. I really wonder whether we’ll see a Summer Art Market this year, but, the school is working with the city to see what might be possible. There’s an incentive to work on online alternatives, naturally, and the school is exploring that, as am I. As we settle in to the new normal, I hope to develop more online presence, which I’ve always felt to be important.

I also opened up a Zoom account to get familiar with that, as it’s bound to be a growing factor at the school and elsewhere. What follows is a ‘making of’ account, for those who are interested, of the video in the link above.

Making a video is a challenge. You have to organize in your head what you plan to talk about, all while paying attention to details of light, composition, clarity and originality. So essentially, talk about light, composition, etc, in art while being mindful of its light and composition in presentation. 

I took about 12 hours to plan, set-up, shoot and edit the 30 minute video, which can’t be that bad of a ratio for the medium ( I had worked in video during my Public Access TV days, so I was under no illusions that it would be a 1-day project), yet, at what I was paid, reduced my hourly to well under minimum. I’m not complaining, it was more of an opportunity to make a demo than any sort of payday. I thought of it as a minimally paid internship. I learned a lot by doing it, in other words, and it’s now a resume piece in case someone offers better money.

I outlined the vid right in iMovie by creating title cards for the various subjects I intended to touch on. This  created a structure and allowed me to familiarize myself with the program’s controls, which I hadn’t used since 2010. At that time I created a short video for my soccer group, and later, I began to experiment with art video at Open Press, using a fellow artist as my camera guy. I even started a YouTube channel to collect my videos, and posted one that Joshua Hassel of Channel 12 made for me there as well. It still exists. I was planning on making a series of vids to promote my work and classes, but time gets in the way, and as one can see, it is time consuming.

The virus closures brought the issue to the fore. Even then, I was still working in my ‘essential’ ( a new synonym for poorly paid?) day job, and it was difficult to make time for shooting. Only after being let go at the bookstore, and with the school’s deadline forcing the issue, did I get into my spare bedroom/video studio and complete the thing. Even after 12 hours it is a bit rough around the edges, but the perfect being the enemy of the good, and all, I went ahead and uploaded it. 

Lighting was a bugaboo, I remember from my old Public Access days. Getting it to look halfway natural is very time consuming, and I got as close as I could, and moved on. But before setting up, collect your painter’s lights and floods and experiment with a multi directional set-up, which will fill in shadows. Blend in diffused bulbs and natural light if you have those, too.

You can see the simple format I used. Intro-title card- set up, title card, etc. You can save time and file size by using dissolves or even jump cuts. I get distracted on camera, as mentioned, and there were goofs and awkward moments as I tried to stick to a mental script without sounding wooden or nervous. Segmenting the creative process helped me to focus, and reduced the amount of re-shooting if I screwed up ( I screwed up).

Camera angles were also time consuming. Reserve a day for set-up and test footage if you can. And one for fixing errors. Other glitches are inevitable- the phone ran out of power in the middle of a crucial long segment for example. I re-enacted what was a live to tape action in a minimal way, and edited it in. But recall that monotypes are a one of a kind print. If you lose a shot just as you are printing, the final piece will be different. Finally I added a couple of informational or personal touches to give it character. Such as a studio shot or web site info with illustration. I’m looking forward to doing a follow up soon. I’ll see about sharing both here going forward.

I’ll be making more, that’s the whole idea- to use the extensive set-up time and the experience of it to make future productions smoother and faster- and will be seeking to get more money for them, but certainly to get the promotional value too. First up will be a movie trailer-style promo of about 2-3 minutes that I can post on my media platforms to drive traffic to them, as well as the full video. I can have real fun with that, and will probably explore all the toys in the tool box. 

The basic light and camera set-up I’ll leave available for further deadline work, and the lessons learned will be more productive if I go right back in and use them. So a rough, once-a-month shooting schedule would seem to be a good goal. 

Reading List: A Short Detour

I haven’t touched the TV. I worry about myself sometimes when I do that. How culturally out of touch does that make me? I did sign up for the library’s Kanopy movie streaming service. But after reading a magazine article about him, the first film I searched for was Jacques Tati’s “M. Hulot’s Holiday. I think you can see why I don’t watch TV. But cabin fever sets in when I’m cooped up at home, and restlessness is not conducive to large reading projects. My solution is brevity.

Magazines were what I’d read while working full time, or fiction and nonfiction in small bites. A large book I’d put down before the quarantine explores cultural historical vignettes in aid of a larger history of Britain’s wars with Napoleon. It has short chapters, each one on a different aspect of life, industrialization, navy, press, politics and is just the ticket right now, with the added benefit of drowning in others’ distant sorrows, rather than my free floating anxiety.

If the reading list seems fragmentary and unfocussed, I’m going to put it down to plague living. It- and not my inherent laziness is the driver behind the various trivial home improvements, online Scrabble games, puttering on eBay, and popcorn dinners that have interspersed the exercising, business promotion and mind improvement I intended would fill my days.

Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges: I’m on his second cycle of stories, The Garden of Forking Paths from 1941, after starting with 1935’s a A Universal History of Iniquity. I started with “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quijote”, spectacularly meta-fictional and funny, but thought provoking for sure. The conceptual labyrinths are profuse, and there is, at the ends of his bright surrealist hallways carefully hung with curiosities, the dream-like mystery of empty rooms.

Pierre Menard is a man who wants to write Cervante’s Don Quijote, word for word. Not transcribe, mind you, but create it by becoming alive to its necessity, and erasing from his mind anything not integral to its creation, such as the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. In a way, isn’t this what we do when we read it? ( I read Part One.) It’s what I’m currently trying to do preparatory to trying Tristram Shandy, and I suppose, Ullysses.

 A bright, warm, vaguely deserted spring morning is the right time for this type of mind game, and I think a dark roast, with just a touch of milk. My cup was black with a matte finish, contrasting with the blonde veneer on the end table. The cat was chasing a toy lobster around, had gotten a treat, and then climbed up onto the couch to settle in next to my thigh. These plague days at times create their own sort of clarity.

The Most Dangerous Book, Kevin Birmingham: This is an inspiring read about the censorship battle surrounding the greatest novel in the English language, Ulysses. Spoiler alert, love- and art- wins. Birmingham does not cheat for drama, adding in rich detail about the conception and writing of the book, and the people who risked it all to see the book in print. In a measured, but uncompromising way, he also introduces us to the (spoiler alert) men (yes mostly men, and the defenders were often, not always, women) who made a moralistic crusade of keeping it from the eyes of Americans and Britons. It is part literary critique, part smuggling adventure, and part courtroom drama, and when the final triumph comes, in 1933, after 12 years of government overreach and harangue, there were tears in my eyes.

Like any book about this dense, challenging, earthy but ultimately uplifting book, the final result is to make one want to read it (again, in my case). And Birmingham provides loads of context for first or second-time readers, or perhaps any reader. I devoured this book, and I’m anxious to use the enforced downtime to get back to the original. We’ll see.

Fantastic Four #37, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee: I sold this artifact from my teen age collection on eBay and read it one last time before shipping it off. It dates from ’65, when the Marvel phenomenon -snarky, angsty superheroes, existentially grasping supervillains- was just reaching its peak. A few months later Kirby, who did the storytelling, and Lee, who supplied the flippant dialogue- the ‘Marvel Method’, would hit their stride on this title, with a long run of sci-fi fantasy gems by Stan and Jack, with later series by Jim Steranko, Jim Starlin, Chris Claremont, et al that helped form the underpinnings for the now famous- and lucrative, Marvel Universe. 

But this one is a patched together mess, verging on pure hackwork, with the FF sending themselves rather arbitrarily off to a distant galaxy to deal justice to a Skrull murderer (of a protagonist’s father, a bit of a nasty edge to this business) left over from a previous issue. Everything about this story is off hand- The journey through a time warp, the revenge killing thinly disguised as justice, the conveniently conceived weaponry and the fairly preposterous victory scheme.

Kirby and Lee were never strong on female characters- Marvel heroines tend to be solicitous of male superheroes and often in need of rescue. Here, there’s a bit of sisterly solidarity as one rescues another conflicted woman from a codependent relationship with a supervillain. That’s about as good as it gets for this era- later, we see a typical Marvel resolution, as the Invisible Girl, having made a bold decisive move to tip the battle, then frets about her capabilities and defers to the boys to mop up. As a 15-year old I had no perspective on this embedded sexism. It, like many things from the era, all gets internalized. What internalized mental hackwork is still clogging American progress, in politics and pop culture even now? At the time these Kirby/Lee comics were being published, Japan’s Garo magazine was already pioneering a more mature vision of comics, and women such as Moto Hagio were a part of that.

Kirby was pretty overworked at this point, in order to capitalize on Marvel’s sudden popularity, and the drawn perspectives are jumbled, the faces rushed and inconsistent. Lee is not really in sync either. He did add a lot to Kirby’s more ponderous characters and situations, but here seems to never settle in to the rushed plot, whipsawing between quips and bombast. There are hints of what was to come: a 1-page photo spread, a brief abstract starscape, some leavening domestic humor. Despite what the fan letters in the back say, a fairly forgettable episode from Mighty Marvel. I did get a little cash for it- more books, incoming!

…Almost certainly including a trusty comics anthology, or two. Anthologies are a living history of a real renaissance in current comics, and a great way to keep up while spending small chunks of time or money. My tribute to those of my past is here, but it’s time to update with the two issues of European mag Scratches ( #’s 1, 2, Joost Swarte) that I was finally able to locate domestically and had delivered just as the lockdown was beginning.

Scratches is a showcase of Euro cartoonists for American eyes, and vice versa. It’s edited by Swarte, the man credited with helping to start the Ligne Claire revival in the 70’s (he coined the term) and bringing it to America, and to the essential Raw magazine. Neo-Ligne Claire naturally has a strong presence here, especially #1. Ligne Claire, (clear line) one of the essential stylistic movements in 20th century comics, is modernism in narrative pen and ink, with all that entails, including Herge’s proto-fascist racial stereotypes of the 30’s and 40’s. The revival, dripping with PostModern irony, implicitly comments on this history. Of course, other issues are inherent in 70’s and 80’s comics as well (see below).

Scratches, like its inspiration, the groundbreaking Raw magazine of early 80’s NYC downtown, presents subtle stylistic differences from its American counterparts, Karamers Ergot, and Now, which also have recent issues out. I enjoyed the opportunity to compare in real time the sensibilities of this Euro/NYC hybrid with the West Coast-originating American anthologies. I leafed through Kramers #9, and Now #6 from my shelf, to even up the samples.

A stylistic common that links all of these is a comics brutalism. This can take many forms, and is a direct reaction to the literary comics of the 80’s and early 90’s which espoused a sort of punk/DIY Neorealism, often autobiographical. Comics brutalism- cartoon brut? ‘cute brut’ Dan Nadel, editor of the art/comics journal The Ganzfeld calls it- expresses a love of the medium’s material qualities and tropes, in some cases drawing on comics’ roots in the googly eyes, sausage noses, and big foot look of the early newspaper strips, but also the scratched-out inking and spare dystopian noir of Golden Age comic books. These are beloved of our era’s punk, ‘ratty line’ artists such as Gary Panter. Its earliest antecedent, as far as I can tell, is oddly, Phillip Guston, who appropriated R. Crumb’s underground comics style for his signature, existential, politically charged paintings of big-foot neurotics, unblinking eyeballs and Klansmen in the 70’s.

Its most recent influencers, however, are the Paper Rad and Fort Thunder collectives of the late 90’s and early Oughts. They were part of a second zine and mini-comics explosion that began in the late 80’s with notably, feminist icon Julie Doucet. Their impact has been huge, and has also invaded animation and fine art.

Kramers Ergot has been a leader in showcasing these artists, such as C.F., Lale Westvind, and Anna Haifisch, who comments directly on art world hierarchies in #10’s acidly chromatic “Hall of the Bright Carvings” an adaptation of Mervyn Peake.

Scratches tends to look at these trends through the filter of cutting edge design as seen in Brecht Evens’ untitled sequences in both #’s 1 and 2, where water media fantasy figures evoke children’s book illustrations, but undergo sometimes vaguely disturbing transformation. Also a strong presence is the riotously iconoclastic Brecht VandenBroucke, who got the ‘Bestiest’ pick of the decade in my tragically under-coveted ‘Besties’ awards posted this year.

Now #7, which has been finding its way under Eric Reynolds, highlights a very literate and subtly constructed tale of a mother and daughter exploring mom’s sexual history by Kurt Ankeny. There is a slow peeling back of life’s narratives and falsities in a simple yet wistful colored pencil sketchiness. There is a never heavy-handed juxtaposition of interracial relationships and a frozen lake. There is much to find in comics right now, and in a new decade’s fever dreams, brief epiphanies abound. Neither does Now ignore cartoon brut.

Since we’ve already broached the subject, and since this post has dragged on almost as long as one of the Insane Clown President’s wack medical advisories anyway, let’s close by doing the numbers: my best count of the gender representation in these anthologies, for what it is worth to the reader, is: Kramers #10, 5 women/out of 30 artists; Kramers #9, 6/37; Scratches #1, 5/39; Scratches #2, 4/31; There is a “Scratches Academy” listed on the editorial page, with 2 women listed among 11; and Now #7, 2/14; Now #6, 6/15.

A strikingly consistent percentage, and the question is, why? We touched on the individual editorial visions; that is a variable. And comics, especially the solitary time-intensive, very low paying alternatives, seem tailor-made for socially, um distant, males. At any rate, they have not over the years, attracted a lot of women, and the audience has been mostly male, though those things are changing. Are these editors ( all male) pushing the boundaries only in a stylistic sense? I won’t presume to judge that. But only by being mindful of these problematic raw numbers can one expect to have a voice in their solution.

Twigs and Berries From a Strange Garden

In this strange, dreamy plague limbo, I guess I thought that my blog would emerge from its own. There’s plenty of time to write, after all. A bit of restlessness has infected my reading, and that’s carried over to writing, I guess.

There’s a lot of both happening, actually, but short pieces seem to be the mode. I’m actually tackling long term tasks- house projects, aid applications, financial tidying, with steady success, but if I thought I’d re-read Ullysses during the shut down that’s not what’s happening. Yet.

We don’t know what will happen this summer as political leaders and medical experts wrangle over when and how to open the country up, and I can’t really tell you much on my various art projects. I did compose a reading list post along with this one, separated out to make it more searchable, and I’ll post that in the next couple of days. This is intended to update my art doings since the lockdown cancelled all of my MoPrint shows.

The Summer Art Market, like everything else, is in limbo. It won’t happen during its regular early June slot, we were informed of that. The League is consulting with the city about a later date this summer, but a city official quoted on Denverite.com has already made remarks discounting a normal schedule of festivals and events this summer, so I don’t know how much faith to place in a postponed SAM. If it does happen, much studio time has been lost, so it would probably involve less new work, and perhaps filling in with older work from the flat files.

I still have quite of work in quarantine, however, at least 16 pieces. This includes 2 prospective sales, which I can only hope are still consummated after this all ends. If they don’t, I’m not sure how I might describe that lost income on an unemployment app. I think it will all work out, but here’s a reminder to spare a thought for the self employed as you make your way through the post-virus political landscape. Our bureaucratic infrastructure is designed to ignore them.

One of my cancelled shows, quarantined in a closed gallery, in a weird limbo of its own- the house section in To The Lighthouse is the unavoidable mental image every time I think of this- may be extended through early summer. This is assuming there is a citywide opening of some form this summer I haven’t been good with the social media, but I will try to post updates. It all depends on what the world looks like if people stop dying, but a gallery might seem to be a place a brave socially distant new world could tentatively open up to.

I did complete a video about Making Monotypes At Home, which is here. It’s my first longer art video, a medium I’ve been intending to explore. As you might expect, it’s kind of a mess. The pay was not glorious, though welcome, of course, so I took it in the spirit of an internship in making art videos. I’ll get back to that sooner than later. Last time I did a (short) video around 2010, I didn’t make time for advancing my craft so I never made more. Like many things it requires repetition to learn, and I want to pursue it.

More than ever, I’m rueing the dysfunctional Woo Commerce freeware on which I wasted my time this winter. It verges on a scam- they have paid software which you can install, and which is supported, I’m sure. The freeware comes with WordPress and was obviously mailed in to fulfill a community promise, and definitely not supported. I have a couple of choices- cave into the scam and just get the paid version, or go on the discussion boards and see if there’s a work around to the crappy freeware. But I will probably have lots of time to do that. Another virus project to keep me occupied.

What does happen after the quarantine ends? Hmm. I’m trying to see this time as a reset, a chance to look at everything I’ve been doing, and how it could be done better. I hope people will see that as a good way to approach the quarantine as a whole. The way we work and commute, the way we protect our planet, the way we treat our ‘essential’ workers ( the word ‘essential’ now exposed as a synonym for low paid and powerless), and from my perspective, the social net as it applies to self employed creatives. Do we really benefit from going ‘back to normal’?

Illustrate the strangeness
Strange Garden, 1/1, 2004, 42×72″. A sparse bouquet of goopy, sickly flowers with a metallic scaffolding. What exactly was I thinking? Sometimes, I don’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.