I’m not doing a booth at the Summer Art Market this year. After about 25 years or more of doing it, I wanted to take a break.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be there. I plan on being there, volunteering and posting on social media. And my artwork will be there too, at least one of them: I offered to paint a parasol/sunshade that will be on sale there to benefit the school programs.
The photo I made in a Square app for shooting things for sale on one of their web store pages. I wish I could make it work for flat art as wall as this 3D object, but I’m working on it, and may have more to share in time for the show.
Registration for my first Fall class, Monotype Starter, a beginners class that runs Tuesday evenings in September, opens August 9 here: asld.org. Search under “Instructors ” for Joe Higgins.
I’m working on larger works with my free time not preparing for the show. It goes slowly, but you can always see it by private appointment. Click on “Contact” in the menu bar above.
The Summer Art Market returned, about 14 months late, after the COVID shutdown. People were clearly glad to see it come back. Attendance was crowded on Saturday morning, and steady for the rest of the weekend, with only the afternoon heat really slowing things down. The sales were strong for most artists I spoke to.
It was no different for me, as the show was an all-time high. That makes all the work of framing and wrapping, packing and hydrating worthwhile, but it’s been over 25 years of doing it, and I’m going to take a year off next year, in all probability. It’ll be nice to recharge the batteries, and the steady time in the studio has been very rewarding, so a year of simply doing new work without regard to what might sell could be a tonic. I’ll undoubtedly volunteer to enjoy the vibe, and for the first time, see the whole show.
As for now, I’m going right back in the studio, as I was really pleased with the way things were going, and was a bit reluctant to stop for the show. I’ll be monitoring the print room most Fridays and Sundays this Fall, which is when I work on my own things.
Other than that, I’m planning a relaxing autumn. Restaurants and shopping now seem safer, at least in this area, and like many who attended the show, working on freshening up my house will be a nice distraction. I’m postponing travel till Spring, hoping things will stabilize.
Reading is always a go-to activity in my house, and while I’ve been too busy to attempt any major works, I’ve been reading enough lighter things to post some blurbs. That will be next.
It’s ironic to note that as the reopening of quarantined restaurants, bars and businesses presents options for going out after a long lockdown, the heat has made leaving the house quite unappealing. Viruses and global warming have made our world resemble a Steve Erickson novel.
My own narrative this Winter/Spring has included a health issue- no, not that one in the news- a lovely condition where one’s autoimmune system attacks your own joints and muscles, making going anywhere, even to the fridge for a drink, painful. Thanks to treatment, that’s now manageable, and I’m back in the studio, if not in the bars.
And I’m preparing for the Summer Art Market, now postponed to August 26-7, and distanced and limited to a few thousand visitors. As I was incapacitated for March/April, this postponement has been a fortunate twist. It was not fortunate for a friend- we’ll call her Susie- who went down to visit my booth during the traditional weekend, this last one, and found a quiet intersection in front of the school.
Don’t be like Susie! Read my blog for further updates.
Classes are also ongoing as people begin to venture out. A teen camp in July is full, and an adult evening class is registering now. The print room is religiously cleaned and distanced, and we’re going on a year without any reported re-closures or incidents. You may attend without a mask if you are vaccinated. Evenings in the print room are cool and pleasant.
Other than that, It’s been a lot of what I’ve come to think of as ‘comfort’ reading and viewing, with soccer books and telecasts a prominent feature. International football is returning with the Euro Championship, and with the US national team winning its own continental championship. I also re-read The Ball Is Round, by David Goldblatt, a history of the game from a somewhat Marxist/cultural perspective that is even more rewarding with a second run-through. I post on reading and pop cultural matters to break up the content presented here, and I may work up a post on that soon.
Stay safe and be cool! #sam2021 #asldprintmakers #monotypes
The Summer Art Market is back! It will of course be different as a result of the pandemic, and I’ll be posting about it several times before it returns, August 26-27. I’m going to be in a very similar spot to where I have been in past shows, which is right near the school’s main entrance at 2nd Avenue and Grant. I’m not publicizing the booth number yet, as the restrictions on attendance and number of artists are fluid, so the booth numbers may change, though the location will remain the same.
First note the dates. The old second weekend in June slot was too soon and too uncertain, so August was chosen. I’m glad, as the studio was closed for several months, and it’s given me time to make more work.
Second, and most important, the event will be smaller, per city guidelines. This may also be subject to change. There’s a limit to how many artists and visitors will be allowed in, 5,000 people as of now. This is about a 6th of the normal crowd, IIRC. It will allow for distancing.
To control for crowd size, a reservation system is being set up, and thus the show is expected to sellout before it opens. If you’d like to see the show, please consider reserving early. There will be a nominal $5 charge for reservations. The festival is the school’s major fundraiser, and will help them recoup lost revenues from the reduction in booth fees.
For more info, go tothe school’s website. I have not seen a link for registration yet, and will post it here when I do. I’m having photos of new work done, and will post previews soon.
I have several classes scheduled for Summer. An online teen camp from June 20-25 is registering right now. There is also a live teen camp in July which is full, but again, guidelines for class numbers may change, so getting on the wait list can’t hurt.
Tomorrow, June 8, begins registration for my adult evening class, Monotype Starter, which is a beginner’s class that gives you all the basics of printing monotypes and also certifies you to use the studio on your own. Registration link for that class is here. Numbers for adult classes are currently limited, so don’t delay. Again, however, changing guidelines may open more spots, especially as unlike kids, adults have generally been vaccinated.
More general info on all my classes is under ‘Workshops’ on the menu at top. I’m hoping to see some people this Summer, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!
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’?
The Summer Art Market was one of my better ones in terms of sales, and also one of the hotter ones. After this cool spring it was not that surprising, but it didn’t melt the crowd- I had sales in almost every two hour block of the weekend, which also keeps the time moving. Thank you to everyone who came by and helped me celebrate a positive year!
I had fun with the posters featuring my artwork, giving them away with sales and to my friends. Beginning with my “Best Of Show” award at 2017’s show (which landed me on the poster), I had a fun year; appearing in Westword, showing in the State Capitol, participating in MoPrint.
So after a very busy Winter/Spring, it’s a month to enjoy some relaxation, and the World Cup.
The World Cup is living proof of American exceptionalism. It’s by far the greatest sporting event in the world, but especially with the USA having crashed out, it gets little real attention here, not that attention span is something Americans excel at in sports viewing. Some overweight fool somewhere is on his couch, trying to convince himself- with ESPN’s help- that the four hour baseball game he’s watching has more significance than, say, Portugal v Spain, a gripping early clash of titans in the Group Stage.
One for the ages? Hard to say, as there were many mistakes. Ronaldo jobs Nacho for a PK early, then Spain works their way- patiently with characteristic precision passing, back into it for a number of chances before equalizing on a brilliant Costa run.
Patience is required to enjoy Soccer. More than any sport, it takes place in real time- it’s not bloated with commercials, fantasy league statistics, and long-winded analyses. One must actively read the ebbs and flows of momentum on the field, rather than passively await a scoring highlight or statistical benchmark, as in American sports.
Now Ronaldo sneaks a counterattack goal past DeGea to bookmark the first half. Again, a mistake by Spain. But Spain is patient and works a brilliant set piece goal from Costa. Then Nacho gets redemption with a brilliant, trailing whiplash shot off both posts.
Spain has clearly been the better team, yet they made two major mistakes at the beginning and end of the primer tiempo. They must close this out efficiently, or their WC will be in question from the get go. The Group Stage seems to offer multiple chances to get into a rthym, but for favored teams like Spain, it can be unforgiving.
Another mistake, and Ronaldo lasers the equalizer. What a game! If the rest of the WC is as good as its start, perhaps Ronaldo- and even Putin- can be excused for taking his shirt off.
The intensity ramps up with Peru v Denmark(0-1): the most intense 90+ minutes of football seen so far; end to end for most of the second half. The cruelty and drama of the stereotypically reviled one-nil: Peru will play entertainingly for all three matches, but will be eliminated after the second.“Insufficient guile” is Derek Rae’s assessment of a Peruvian FK late in their game v France. They couldn’t turn their exciting play into goals. That sums up their tournament.
Mexico make no mistakes. Their tactics are excellent against the World Champions. The first half they show a fairly high press with very concise long balls over the top to keep Germany out of rhythm. They stay wide and keep up a nice tempo- short, short, long; basically playing Germany’s slow midfield press against themselves, lengthening the field, where Germany loves to shorten it. The goal is a brilliant bit of cutback and a seeing eye shot by Lozano.
They bunker a bit in the segunda tiempo, with Germany slowly shortening the field, and Mexico with just enough counter to relieve pressure, though they misfire on all. GK Memo Ochoa is there for the inevitable final siege. Mexico puts themselves in good position to go through, if they can maintain their aggressive tempo.
This plays out in the second round of games, where the stakes are suddenly higher, and teams walk a fine line. Mexico v Korea (2-1) and Germany v Sweden (2-1), a late thriller with one of this tournament’s many extra timegame winners= one of the more thrilling days of the Cup, and it carries over into Sunday with Japan v Senegal (2-2), and Poland v Columbia (0-3) which actually puts Senegal in a bad place in the final match day. This, too, would prove significant. Monday, the first day of the third round, is also dramatic with Spain coming back (2-2) and Portugal being hauled back (1-1) intense, complex, Video Assistant Referee-flavored battles that decide knockout round pairings.
France v Denmark (0-0), not so much. The commentators are fond of saying “This game needs a goal”. Sometimes that’s all it needs, but here it’s a stultifying bird-in-the-hand type game between two teams who already have what they want, and little to gain in future pairings, unlike Mexico, who have a real incentive to avoid Brazil in the next round. So we get the only nil-nil of the Cup so far, as the crowd whistles, but it’s plenty enough to perpetuate the soccer stereotypes, I’m sure.
Now, today, it’s the last day of Group Stage -always bittersweet. I’m on the couch, well-coffee’d and watching an intriguing start for Columbia v Senegal, two dangerous teams. Senegal does take their usual aggressive attitude toward attack, but after half time, Columbia’s quality and resilience begin to turn the tide. Final score- yes, 1-0. Senegal is out of the knockouts on a tie breaker. I had already watched a complete collapse by Mexico (not to mention Germany) on replay last night. But Mexico ends up on the right side of the math, and goes on, at least as far as Brazil.
Now, there is bacon in the skillet and I’m awaiting the kick off for Belgium v England. Both teams also already through, but the well regarded, high-scoring Red Devils and the underrated Three Lions have a lot to prove with top of the group at stake, and I’m not expecting nil-nil. Commentators are the erudite Derek Rae, and former WC player Ally Wagner, who retains her field-level feel for tactics, and is thus far unsullied by pundit-speak. Fox has had an up and down WC so far. Rob Stone is a football lightweight, Lalas apparently the designated loudmouth, with Terry Bradshaw the model. Rae and Wagner are firmly in the “ups”.
We’ll see what kind of match we get. Group Stage has been surprising and very evenly matched. Even the bigboys- Brazil, France, Spain, have struggled to find rythym, and some- like Germany and Argentina have not found it at all, or rarely. There’s been a lot of late drama, and half my bracket is in shambles. My predicted finalists, Spain and Brazil are still alive, though.
Baseball and NFL are for bean-counters. Baseball flatters itself that its cheap stats make any of its long slogging progress toward September and October meaningful. When the brain rattling violence on the claustrophobic gridiron is done, the last team to do an end zone dance will be declared “World Champion”, having never ventured out of the astro-turf infested suburbs, none of their “highlights” having aroused any interest in the world. To Americans, soccer’s a game that doesn’t “count”, but in 2026, The USA will find out that no travel ban will keep it out.
My own experience with other Americans, especially those of my generation, who created the hype machine that is the Super Bowl, and are often heard extolling the copious commercials- is a frustration. Even friends who profess a positive attitude toward the game, when they can be coaxed out to the park, seem to see the jockeying in the midfield as some sort of pause in the action, rather than integral to it. They treat it as an opportunity to drift into triviality, as if it was a commercial break in NFL, or the interminable tics and twitches between pitches in baseball. Soccer, where one pass can define an entire game, measures itself on a continuum of emotion, it’s a game defined by persistence of the heart. It provides few defined periods, incremental territorial gains or mandated possessions. Politically, culturally, and especially in sports, Americans have little patience for the grey areas of life. They are considered “boring”.
Soccer is poetry in motion, possibility centered squarely in the moment. It’s the game that breathes and sings. A team (and nation) in the 80th minute of a 1-nil match are only seconds from a blowout disgrace, a life-saving draw, or a glorious fight back triumph. It is always up to the players. Each one on the expansive field has the power to change the result. Even for Ronaldo, it takes a career for any impressive numbers to be tallied up, but his greatness is visible on the grass long before then.
It’s on to the Knockout Round, where, sorry, bean-counters, the tension ramps up and the goals are fewer. (Update: often fewer. Not on the first day, though.)
Greatness and glory poised on a knife’s edge. The whole world is watching, not counting. To the world, it’s only the game that counts and thus it’s the only game that matters.
Again, SAM! The Art Students League Summer Art Market posters are out, and guess who’s the poster child? It’s a reward for winning “Best of Show” in 2017. I’ll be there again this year in booth, number 97, on Grant St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
I’ll have new work, as well as some older stuff from the flat files, at older prices. And I’m giving signed SAM posters, while they last, with every purchase of $150 or more. I have enough for a typical show, though I’ve had shows where they wouldn’t have made it to Sunday afternoon, so get there early, as I’m not sure if I can get more.The League will also have them available for a donation in their booth.
In addition, I’ll have a few copies of the beautiful catalog for the now dearly departed Open Press’ 2014 25th Anniversary show. 9×12”, 64 pgs, with over 50 of the best printmakers from Denver and beyond, including moi ( Really, Nick Cave is in there, along with Dale Chisman and Joellyn Duesbury). These are signed and free with any purchase of $400 or more.
SAM is a classic, and a real social scene, featuring 180 artists and the first blast of summer. I hope you’ll come down!
Classes: I’ll have three this summer, and the first, Monotype Starter, June 19- July 10 is already full. You can call the League to get on a waiting list in case of last minute drop outs, which are common.
The other two, Monotype Portfolio, July 24-August 21, for experienced printmakers, and Monotype Blast, an all day Saturday sampler on August 4, are filling, but if you have questions, you should be able to stop down at SAM and ask me, then register at the ASLD booth. Fair warning: Blast is half full already, so it will eventually fill.
I’m hoping to debut a new workshop in Fall. It’s called Monoprint Mad Science, for intermediate and advanced artists. Monoprints are monotypes with repeating elements, such as drypoint, Chine Colle’, and polymer etching, etc. It’s starting as a 4-week workshop, which will keep it affordable. I’ll get confirmation sometime soon.
It’s been a very fun year, and people taking my classes and buying work make that possible. Thank you so much for your continued interest.
I have a post I didn’t have time to finish and post last week, on the Beatles’ 50th anniversary of the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, June 1. I didn’t post it with the rush to prepare for the annual Summer Art Market show. That went okay, with the main news being I won “Best In Show.” I’ll put up an album of photos soon. But here’s the Beatles post, and I’ve got another that I never posted, so I’m going to finish that, too.
It was 50 years ago today. We’ve been seeing that almost obligatory headline a lot recently, as the media return to a longtime, can’t-miss subject: The Beatles, and the anniversary of the release of their ground-breaking Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Everyone old enough will have memories of this release, which was a watershed in both artistic and cultural, even political history. Its effect is probably emotional for some people who lived it, and difficult to describe to those who weren’t there without using hyperventilated superlatives. The Beatles were sort of magical at that time; the hair- a big issue then, the flippancy, the “more popular than Jesus” defiance. There were some Goldwater Republicans and what we then called “Jesus Freaks” who hated them, but no one else did. It’s important to note- you young whippersnappers! -that no later artist, no Prince, no U2, R.E.M., Beyonce or Katy Perry, has ever had that grip on the imaginations of the young.
Suffice it to say, I’ll never be all that distant from Sgt. Pepper’s. It seems a part of me, and retains its immediacy. For one thing, at that time Sgt. Pepper’s was the only show in town. But it’s become fashionable to place it behind Revolver in the Beatles’ canon.
Like many, I’ve read a lot of books on the Beatles. My two go-tos, musically, remain Tell Me Why, by Tim Riley, a song-by-song analysis of the musical and lyrical structures of all their albums, and The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, by Mark Lewison, a day-to day record of their studio work with George Martin. Both provide critical analysis, as well as cultural and biographical context for their many moods and innovations. As I’ve mentioned here before, The Beatles Anthology albums (Vols. 1-3), with their out takes, creative progressions and studio half-steps, are an indispensable companion. Also search out The Atlantic’s The Power of Two, (July 2014) by Joshua Wolf Shenk, a shorter analysis of what made the Lennon and McCartney collaboration so effective.
In 1967, others, notably rivals The Rolling Stones, were still standing on the shoulders of blues giants. The Beatles however, had leveraged their unassailable chart postings by quitting touring, and had unlimited studio time to explore pop, folk and psychedelia.
On Pepper’s, the sheer power of George Martin’s control room vision can no longer cover up the centrifugal motion of Lennon and McCartney’s artistic intentions. On Revolver, we hear McCartney’s R&B masterpiece “Got to Get You Into My Life” moments before one of the first great 60’s psychedelic/mystic songs, Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”. They are clearly moving apart musically. But with Pepper’s, their ideas are still engaged in metaphorical dialog, thanks in part to its loose concept (faux Victorian psychedelic nostalgia, which quickly became the rage for pop bands, and eventually informed steam punk genre fiction and fashion). Three songs epitomize the Pepper album’s failures and its triumphs. One is on the album, two are not.
The first is “A Day In The Life”. It is the emotional core of an album that has been criticized for not having one, when compared with the worldly love songs and social realism of Revolver. But its disjunct between bouncy pop and existential questioning is part of its brilliance, and the Atlantic article defines this as part of Lennon and McCartney’s collective genius, the tendency of John and Paul to respond to each other’s ideas, in the same way that the dreamy search for identity in Strawberry Fields plays off against the uncannily superrealist nostalgia of Penny Lane, the other two songs I allude to above.
This is the real problem with the record: it’s not complete. In early 1967, their record labels Parlophone and Capitol, anxious that a cash cow single had not been seen for all of 10 months, were pressuring the band, just liberated from brutal touring schedules, for a new 45. The fireman rushes in, indeed. The labels’ release schedule was out of sync with their creative one. Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane were two of the few songs ready. But by custom, these midterm singles were not included on the subsequent album. By late April, work had begun on several other songs, and only a month after Pepper, the “All You Need Is Love” single is released. No song was ever released from SPLHCB as a single, in fact. “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” are included in December on another Capitol mash-up, the “Magical Mystery Tour LP. It’s treated as a trivial oddity if mentioned at all, but is in fact a pop artistic tragedy on a par with a lost Shakespeare play. Or perhaps it’s enough to state that George Martin called the songs’ omission from the record “a dreadful mistake”. He’s right- only those two songs refer both to the floating anxiety of Lennon’s distant, ironicized dreamscapes brought together with McCartney’s photorealism in one disturbing “Day”, between morning newspaper and first cigarette.
In A Day In The Life, the Beatles themselves puncture their own nostalgic Victorian band conceit before the record even ends. As Riley points out, in a useful discussion of the song’s metaphoric soundscape, the spare acoustic guitar opening of Day emerges from the fading illusion of Sgt Pepper’s (Reprise), and Lennon’s dreamy absurdity ( “4000 holes”) asks us to ponder what is real and what is illusion. We hear an alarm clock; the dream is over- a studio alarm clock included in an early take as a time marker inspires McCartney’s man on the bus smoking segment, which plays what is in this context, as quotidian zombie horror, as his working stiff rushes for the bus. This daydream plays off perfectly against Lennon’s existential nightmare.
Without Penny Lane, however, The crystalline nostalgia of McCartney’s hyperrealist suburban vignettes (When I’m 64, Lovely Rita) can sound gratuitous and superficial next to the anxiety-prone absurdity of Lennon’s hallucinogenic Victoriana ( Good Morning, Mr. Kite). These songs, in turn, sound like LSD fripperies without the primal identity quest (“No one, I think, is in my tree”) of Strawberry Fields to anchor them. “Fields”- about an orphanage grounds, and “Lane”, about an everyday intersection, center the ideas of the Pepper sessions as no other song, other than “A Day”, can. The metaphoric backstory of the album begins with these childhood memories and ends with Paul and Martin’s orchestrated crescendos, knitting disparate sounds and leading to a note of attenuated anticipation, a sort of definitive ambiguity. What’s next, the long closing note asks? Martin was excited by the creative effusion, and anxious to return to the studio. But the band, in retrospect, suddenly seemed adrift.
“A crowd of people stood and stared” referring perhaps, to the just-exited Sgt. Pepper’s audience? Or to the Beatles themselves? Nobody was sure what exactly they were seeing. The disjunct between Lennon’s dark apocalyptic dreamscape; and the sunny clarity of McCartney’s blue suburban skies is explained, as a dream within a dream. It all adds up to a kind of existential, hallucinogenic identity crisis, one that mirrors the one many of us, in large parts of society as a whole, experienced then. But the Beatles, now without Brian Epstein, might’ve been having one, too.
It brings up the question of what might have been released instead of these two songs, and the correct answer is, really, “Who cares?” “When I’m 64” was the other song ready in February 1967, and would be no great loss to the album, where it’s more of a breathing space between more meaningful songs. Same with “Within You Without You” which fits only by virtue of geography into the album’s loose concept. But that brings up band politics, as it was Harrison’s only song on the album. So why not include them all? Recording technology was apparently an issue. Sgt. Pepper runs 39 minutes, Revolver, 35. Mostly, though, it was commerce triumphing over art.
For the Beatles’ part, they’d made themselves clear on this issue with the “butcher” cover to the spurious Capitol Records release Yesterday and Today, but never seemed to have returned to the issue. “Well I just had to laugh” is, as Riley notes, a token of resigned disillusionment.
By the time Pepper’s was released, they’d recorded several sessions for Magical Mystery Tour. Self indulgence was rearing its head. On the very day of the Pepper album release, Lewison reports the Beatles in studio, recording unplanned and “frankly tedious” jams. Perhaps it was the Beatles themselves who had lost their emotional core. Did they have an inkling that some element of magic had gone mysteriously missing? Had hubris set in? But if the album does fail, it’s a failure of execution, not of artistic vision. Sgt. Pepper’s, always great in terms of its cultural influence, if not in terms of its artistic cohesion, was sacrificed to an already outdated business plan.
Textures and graphic effects are a way of bringing energy to a print composition. A highly detailed texture will attract the eye and demand attention, a subtle one will invite mental rest and contemplation. A heavier, darker texture or a very transparent one will tend to create depth by playing off what’s behind or underneath it. In this three staged monotype, I had some fairly unique coloring and a balanced, if plain image, and I put it aside with a vague feeling of disappointment as it really didn’t have a lot of intrigue. Intrigue can be defined in prints, probably in all art, as something, a bit of mystery or surprise that might keep the eye exploring the picture, possibly to extract meaning ( or determine if meaning is indeed there), or to solve the puzzle of its composition, or simply to bring the visual exploration to a fairly logical stopping point.
In this case, I didn’t want to give up on the print because I liked the sense of calm, or is it desolation? which I think comes from the pink light and the fairly empty expanse on the left side. So I wanted to heighten that distance and light, without cluttering the picture.
The picture was also a bit sparse though, lacked a real focal point and featured mostly hard edges. I wanted to add a bit of visual richness and narrative movement while maintaining the graphic simplicity.
First I added in some more visual elements in the foreground which enhanced the designerly, modernist look of the first layer, and although these are also hard-edged shapes (created with mylar overlays), I think the addition of more complexity in the foreground makes the emptiness in the background more pronounced.
Then I thickened the glade at the right avoiding too much clutter, by adding some trace monotype lines.
I rediscoverd trace monotype, a favorite from Paul Klee’s early work in my art history class days, and decided to experiment with it to see if it might add to these pictures I’d never finished. It has a fairly spontaneous and softer-edged feel to it as opposed to the hard edge of the mylar stencilling, which might, given the subject ( strangely lit glade) add some visual balance. The softer-edged elements were placed in front of the earlier graphic elements, not usually how you do it, but as in photography, the depth of field is being manipulated to sharpen and highlight middle ground elements, an example of what I mean by visual intrigue. When you highlight or sharpen the middle ground, you are, in effect, asking the viewer to “enter” past the foreground elements. Like pushing to the front of the crowd for a street busker, say, it asks for a bit of commitment.
It added a bit of “dirty” look to the print, which adds an edgy but also timeless feel to the modernist hard edges. Blacks ( not too heavy) always add depth by bringing out color and balancing tones, which here were sitting mostly in the middle-light to middle-dark range except the ghostly whites. I used the trace mainly for spindly forest brush (plant) images and ground debris which adds a bit of suggested perspective and realistic “bottom” to the pic, but also a kind of synaesthesia in that one can imagine the crackling of twigs, which draws one in to the place depicted. It’s also somewhat calligraphic and hints at a story in the scene. The second layer of leafy designs in mylar plays off the twigs to create a sort of diversity of textures and heightens the original play of positive negative space in the pic. I like that the imagery is denser, but the two image sets are now in a bit of visual tension with each other in a sort of necker cube shift of dark and light. Is the white log stencil some sort of border treatment, or is it a log that has shifted to another dimension. A ghost log? I always enjoy signal-to-noise problems, and this one suggests information degradation or decay, since it exists at the edge of the picture plane, where an image might be expected to fade anyway.
Whether this all works is of course for the viewer to decide, but as the “first” viewer, it made me happier. This was a print which seemingly had no chance of ever being seen by the public, until I decided that other textures might make it just intriguing enough to show ( Yes, I have to see intrigue, or at least stylistic interplay in something before I can bring myself to show it). It seemed to lack any sort of visual grace or interior dialog beyond the pink and brown coloring, which I always loved, and which probably kept it near the top of the stack of unfinished items, rather than buried in a flat file. It seems to have a fair amount of depth and “placeness” in it now. It’s a place I would like to go to and walk around in, so I went there.
You can see it and judge for yourself at the Art Students League Summer Art Market, June 10-11, Booth #96, where I’ll be showing it along with work by my booth mate, Taiko Chandler.
Sincere thanks, as always, to the folks who came by during the Art Students League Summer Art Market a couple of weekends ago. It’s always a fun show, and this was another successful one. It’s also a lot of work and often comes during the year’s first full-on heat wave, as did this year’s, so I rewarded myself with a week’s vacation on the back porch with a stack of new reading material. So I haven’t posted, but expect a book post soon; it’s already being written.
I also hied myself down to the DAM for a first peek at the “Women in Abstract Expressionism” show that is attracting a significant amount of national attention. I wanted to get in while the conversation is still just beginning, and I’m joining it soon with a post of first impressions which may be posted here as quickly as a day or two, as I’m in the final edits with that.
My Summer workshops have started again. Most are sold out, but one, “Monotypes for Advanced Beginners“, starting in July, still has space left at last check. It’s intended for people with recent printmaking experience, so contact me if you are in doubt. If you missed out on one of the others, the Fall schedule for those will be confirmed, and posted here in not too long.
I’ve tentatively added a free Meininger’s Demo and Dialogue to the schedule for November’s Denver Arts Week. I’ll post on the Workshops page when I confirm date and time. I don’t have a lot of free stuff going on this year, but the Meininger demos are real fun, with a great space and usually a good crowd, so I thought you should know.
I hope you are having a great beginning of Summer!