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.

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.