The sun has gotten gold-tinged, the temps have plunged into the 80’s. I had a week recently to try and collect my thoughts after a long brutally hot summer, and I’m thinking life is good. Last year at this time, things didn’t seem quite so sanguine. I’d had an unprecedented run of shows with no sales at all, in places which made expenses hard to control. I contemplated getting job.
I haven’t posted for a while, mostly due to preparations for the Art Students League Summer Art Market in Central Denver. As you can see, weather was less than art show-like. We had a total of 20 minutes of sun all weekend, with serial downpours, and temps so low you could see your breath. I’m still drying out, and warming up.
Somehow, and this is pending a few sales that have yet to finalize, I had my best show ever. At times, I was so swamped, I was pretty sure I was losing sales, and I’ve gotten two e-mail inquiries since the show ended.
I wasn’t the only artist telling this tale, and that’s one reason the event is viewed as a can’t-miss by many. I actually skipped the biggest football game in 60 years ( USA v. England) to do this show.
It’s surprising that so many shows don’t try to emulate the Summer Art Market, with its intimacy, walk-ability and simple, honest entry rules: if it is taught at the school, you can show it. No crafts, no jewelry, no giclees. I have nothing against crafts, jewelry and reproductions (giclees), but they’re all available at the mall. If you’re going to have an art show, focus on art. The people of Central Denver, and judging by the addresses on the checks, many other towns in Colorado, apparently agree.
And, I’ve said it before, when you support the arts ( Colorado’s 5th largest employer), you are helping the economy.
Millions of Monkeys are banging away in the back room on surplus Remington Selectrics, hard at work on the long-awaited Squishtoid Manifesto…well, wait.
It appears they’re actually working on the long promised World Cup brackets, actually.
Anyway, it appears the monkeys and I have gotten a bit behind. I’ve been getting ready for the Art Students League Summer Art Market, the best little street fair in the Rocky Mountains. Making art, then framing and shrink wrapping it, all while preparing to teach a workshop, and doing a small gallery show at Open Press. Though now the Spring workshop has finished, freeing up a little time.
Teaching a workshop has been good. Good for paying bills, good for focusing my thoughts on what I try to do with monotypes, good for making new friends. I’m very happy when I walk into school Tuesday mornings. Do something you love, and never work a day in your life, as the saying goes. I thanked the artists by bringing them donuts. Show people you like them by feeding them gluten, corn syrup and fat, I say!
The social qualities of art don’t get talked about. Art is supposed to be good for you, and those who go see it or collect it are generally seen as sophisticated. But the people you meet when you go to art shows, and art fairs and the conversations you have are just more satisfying. Much daily conversation in America seems to center around sports. I have plenty of sporting friends so I am one who joins in.
Though sports has a metaphoric value, let’s remember that art IS metaphor. Sports is like weather- it makes for good small talk, but deeper conversations are relatively rare. Art takes friendship into the realm of the spiritual without getting into the tricky, and sometimes contentious area of religious spirituality.
I’m including music and theatre in the general term art, but no place is more informal and cheaper to meet people than an art show, especially an opening or fair. And art is Colorado’s 5th largest employer! ( I’m sure other states can boast of similarly surprising numbers). By going to an art show, or taking a class, you not only enrich your own life, you help the economy.
One more point. With the extremists mobilizing often from right-wing mega-churches, and using these cultural centers to organize and exchange best practices, the Centrists and Liberals have no equivalent meeting ground ( unless you count PTA’s and Universities, themselves often under attack from extremists and tea-bagger types.) Urban neighborhood bar culture and Union Halls used to perform this function, but have been nearly legislated out of existence due to concerns about drunk driving and the prevailing anti-worker sentiment in government. So cultural institutions, from big civic mega-museums to art galleries, music clubs or street fairs will do just fine for starting a conversation. And change begins with EXchange! Sometimes, we have to talk ‘n’ walk, before we walk the talk.
Can’t believe how quickly the Monotype Workshop I’m teaching at the Art Students League of Denver is winding down! I also can’t believe the diversity of prints we continue to see there. Tuesday I did a quick demo on Chine Colle, a sort of collage technique where colored paper is glued onto the main ( usually white) paper during printing.
Two different approaches are seen here. Barbara (top) laid down a criss-cross pattern featuring the colors of the Italian flag ( turns out she’s from my hometown of Buffalo, NY) under a lively, folk art style rendering of a tree. The Chine Colle element adds emotional depth to an already strong graphic.
Beth ( below), has favored experimental modernism since the class began, as in her studio work. Mondrian would have disapproved of her jazzy diagonals and intersections, but our class meets only 3 blocks from Broadway Ave, so he would easily see the “Boogie Woogie” element here. Well balanced color, with blue and black triangles providing a steady beat for the orange, red and acid green.
I’m preparing a proposal for another, very similar workshop in the fall. I think we had a pretty good time, and I know of one participant, at least, who learned a lot ( the instructor). I’m also teaching a one-day workshop at the League Saturday, Aug. 7. You can register for either right here.
Want a free sample? Got that, too. Tomorrow at my show at Open Press ( 40 W. Bayaud), I’m doing a demo and gallery talk that’s open to the public, with drinks served. That’s 2 PM.
Was going to debut the long-awaited Squishtoid Manifesto there, but the monkeys working at my bank of used Remington Selectrics got a little grumbly when I brought that idea up. Then again, they’ve been working hard, and so have I. I might have to give us all the entire World Cup off.
May already! This is a very busy time of year for me even without a day job, have no idea how I managed it with one. This post will be a hodge podge just to let you know I’m still breathing- I’ll shoot for a longer post later this week.
First, thank you to Conor O’Donnell ( and all of the artists in the workshop) for letting me post these prints. Check out my Facebook page for more. It’s really been fun to see the wide variety of approaches, they look great on the pages, and the images provide me with talking points while I’m so busy. There have been some nice comments on the work, which I pass along to the artists. The class itself has been real fun. If you feel like leaving a comment, feel free. Though we’ve moved into color, Conor is still liking the rich black and grays on white, with the nice, sharp graphic look coming as a result of stencil.
The Open Press show is up and running, and there have been some sales (to some of my previous collectors, hooray). There are two events associated with that still to come, a demo and gallery talk May 22, and The June First Friday. Come down for a drink if you are in town!
Of course, those who know me well know that all of this frantic activity is in aid of only one thing: sitting on me bum all June, watching football! As you can see, I did start a series of posts on the various groups a while back, then got swamped. I still hope to post more on the World Cup, if only to get myself psyched up for the world’s greatest sporting event.
And naturally, I still have cultural opinions. Expect some sort culture wars-type of screed sometime soon. Nothing gets me and the typewriter monkees in the back room fired up quicker than soccer-related xenophobia.
The Grant Street School ( above, now the Art Students League) is a Richardsonian Romanesque building not far from the Mayan Theatre. It may have been designed by Edbrooke, I will have to check on that. When I arrived in Denver in the 80’s, it had already been decommissioned by DPS and was being rented out as Artists’ studios. I remember visiting many of my friends there- Mark Friday, Jill Hadley Hooper, Phil Bender, Meg Ingraham. I remember sitting in Jill’s studio, drinking beer and blasting the Pixies and Wolfgang Press.
The Art Students League had started in the same Victorian commercial building downtown where Open Press first began (and I began making monotypes). Then they bought the school.
The first day of the workshop was very fun, and it went fast. It’s not easy to anticipate all the little issues, and I didn’t. Next time I’ll be better prepared, and the demo won’t take so much time, and there will be more time for basics like paper-tearing, plates and of course, hands-on printing.
Everyone seems very nice, and most seem to be at least somewhat familiar with printmaking basics. There are eight peeps, which is more than I can remember ever teaching. Most are my age (-ish). I anticipate a lively eight weeks. We did get some prints done, but I got talking (go figure), and forgot to take pictures. Next week. I’ll post the demos too, and I bet there are some interesting progressions there, since already I can feel a renewed curiosity about things I used to do, and moved away from.
Boy, I sure was beat after that, so I hung out on the couch and watched some bike racing, then I took a nap. It felt great to have the first one under my belt, after so many months of waiting.
My new browser actually allows me to comment in the comments section. My class at the Art Students League has met the minimum enrollment for it to be scheduled. Life is good, people!
To celebrate, it’s Easter Egg time. The next 10 people who click “follow” are in a drawing for a print (those who have already clicked “follow” simply leave a comment before I get to 14 followers). No time limit, it’s just when there are 10 new followers. I’ve been too busy to pick out a print, but I will post an image soon.
Laura from the Art Students League very nicely e-mailed last week that she would like to use an older image of mine that she spied on the Open Press web site for a post card she was putting together. I definitely said yes, the more you get your stuff out there… The post card is to promote classes at the league, and I have one that is registering now for April and May, so that will help.
It’s often an eye-opener when someone discovers a picture you’ve sort of moved on from. Coming up with ideas I want to try is rarely a problem for me, but moving frenetically on to the next, before I’ve really delved into the first, can be. So Strange Garden (above), the piece Laura noticed, made me wonder if I need to revisit the idea. For one thing, with my focus on negative space this year, it’s interesting that she would call attention to a picture with so much of it. Also the print was done on a lithography press, as opposed to an etching press. An etching press rolls on the plate, a litho press scrapes across it, providing a different sort of action on the ink. Here at Squishtoid, where we are very technical minded, we refer to this as Squishmojonic force. Or something like that.
In this case it really worked to my advantage, and you can see the thicker blobs of ink were fortuitously extruded in a very organic, iris-like way that as far as I’m concerned, really makes the image. Anyway, it makes me wonder if I should use a litho press sometimes. I’d been doing some very gothic flower prints for a while that I loved, then bango! couldn’t get ’em the way I liked them all of a sudden. I like flowers for their abstract colors and elements. It would be nice to celebrate spring with some new flower prints.
As for the workshop, it runs for 6 weeks and you can get more info here. The League has a revamped web site with online registration, and it’s very easy to use. I think we’ll have a lot of fun, and we’ll cover technical as well as aesthetic issues, so no experience necessary. This one will run 6 weeks, but there are one-day workshops planned for Summer. When it’s done, you’ll be able to dazzle attractive persons with your knowledge of Squishmojonic forces. Or something like that.
Questions? Leave a comment, or e-mail me.
I posted a few images from 2006 on my fan page on Facebook. There’s also 2004, from a previous post, and as I slowly organize my digital files ( and scan in the old slides), I’ll try to catch up on all the other years as well. Also, as the class didn’t fill, the deadline has been extended to Oct. 16, and the workshop will now run through Dec 7. If you know anyone who might be interested, please mention it to them. They are instituting online registration, and their website appears to be down right now, so no link. It’s www.ASLD.org, or you can call 303.778.6990. I’ll be posting class doings and photos to this blog, and we will keep it lively and fun. I believe you can also attend certain weeks, and pay a pro-rated fee. The full fee is $220 for all 8 weeks. See you there!
I wish all Art Fairs were like the Art Students League of Denver Summer Art Market
The crowds are always there, and they are rarely there for the hot dogs. They are there for art. It’s a great little fair. I’m never bored there, partly because of the strong crowds, partly because it’s such a social occasion. Also there’s the weather in Colorado in June, which can be …dramatic.
This year people were buying smaller (at least in booth #57), but they were still buying. Sales weren’t as strong as ’08, but they were solid, and as it was my first real chance to make money at my new profession, that’s huge.
I might actually have approached last year’s total, but the whole thing ended in chaos. Around 2-ish, the clouds came in, and tornado sirens started wailing. From experience, I keep a tarp and trash bags, tubs, etc, for quick wet-proofing, and I had a friend there who could help pull framed pieces off the walls when the wind kicked up. I happened to be finishing up a sale as the eerie sirens started, but with my eye on the rapidly thickening sky, I figured it wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to pack and zip up, get in the building and hope for the best.
Then another woman wanted to buy 2 small pieces. These were, to coin a phrase, some cool customers! A steady crowd was streaming into the building, but not Monotype collectors- they’re not easily intimidated! Putting the whole ‘squish or be squished’ manifesto to its first test, I completed the sale as quickly as I could. I couldn’t find the tax chart, so I simply rounded it off and called it good, got the nice lady a bag to protect the prints from raindrops and the odd flying trailer home and thanked her as she and her friend exited the tent.
“Okay, Nicole, let’s zip it up and get inside.”
Only, as Nicole zipped up the front flap, the lady and her friend popped back in the back flap. Her friend wanted to buy a small framed piece. I’d already packed it into a tub, so I dug it out. “Is there a tornado discount?” She asked. Like I said, cool customers! Hey, if I die, at least I’ll have art! “Shit, yeah, there’s a tornado discount”, I’m thinking as I knock 20% off the price, again round off the tax, bag the art and even, out of habit remember to ask for her phone number on the check.
The sirens are on their 3rd go-round, weird suspicious tendrils are trailing off the thick dark clouds, which are beginning to swirl. Someone has taken a cell phone photo of a funnel cloud. By three thirty, the sirens, after 4 warnings, are finally silent, and there’s even brightness in the west. We throw the tent back open, and a steady stream of people wanders by, but the crowds never really return. At about 4:30 there’s another thundershower, and we pack it up for good. 4 tornado warnings and a thundershower and not a piece of art damaged. Plus 4 sales while the sirens are sounding. A good omen for this Squishtoid, I guess. As for the Summer Art Market, drama is nothing new there. One year it took place during the Hayman fire in the foothills. That Sunday, the sky turned orange, the sun was a big red ball behind all the smoke, and pieces of ash rained on the artwork. Strange days, indeed.