Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Studio Update including more purge, and a vintage lesson idea!

I've been married almost 30 years.  Which is a hint to when this sample above was made.  (Levine in my maiden name.)  The fact that the paper is heavily water-stained and the text-heavy project is pre-digital is another clue.  Anyhow, the project is one that I did with my students (I think it was either grade 5, 6, or 7), evidently in 1988, as seen below on the bottom of the box, though I got married in February 88, so I am guessing I decided my maiden name was more fun to work with that my married name, Brown.  Or maybe I started the project before the wedding.  It was (obviously) a package design project.  On the right is the top of the box.
Students used careful measurements, parallel lines, and tabs to construct the box templates.  The design work was done flat, and the boxes were assembled.  For the title lettering, we talked about using guidelines, and some basic tips for readability, such as not mixing caps and lower case within a word (consistency), not using yellow for lettering (unless outlined with black), and keeping all letters in one word the same color, unless there's a good reason to do otherwise.  I was much more lenient on the bulk text.  Here's the back of the box.
We looked at real package designs for what elements were important to include, talked about some basic design features for impact, and then we had fun being silly, which you'll understand if you take a moment to click on the pics so you can read the text on each side.
Looking at real  packages was important for the kids to see what colors are commonly used, what types of lettering, how color was used graphically to make an impact, and so on.  If it doesn't grab you right off, you likely will walk right on by.

It's in bad shape, and I'm throwing it out today.  I have to edit what I own and after 30 years, this has got to go.  It takes up space.  Meanwhile....
Also in my discard pile, the gyotaku prints above and below.  Now, I know many of you have tried gyotaku, using rubber fish purchased from an art supply store for printing.  But oh, not me.  These prints are even older than my Levine's Sour Lemonade.

Around 1980, give or take a year, I took a 6-credit graduate Oceanology for Educators class at Project Oceanology in Groton Connecticut.  (I wonder if it is still there.)  It was, I believe, a three week class, living in college dorms, and spending our days mostly on a retired Navy launch that had been converted into a research vessel, in Long Island Sound and the Thames River Estuary, testing stuff like salinity, using equipment like sling hygrometers (I don't exactly remember what that is, but I like the word), and sometimes putting out a trawl net and seeing what we'd catch.  It was a special, unique experience.  Everyone else in the class was either a secondary science teacher, or an elementary teacher with a science concentration, and I was a high school art teacher at the time. This enabled me to ask the stupidest questions without embarrassment, and come up with the craziest ideas.  Like this. 
I had heard of gyotaku (fish printing), so when we got a nice flat flounder in our trawl net, I said "Let's print it!"  For some reason I actually had printing ink, a roller, and some printing paper with me.  Heaven knows why.  Also the markers for added details to the print directly above.  Probably Flair pens.  But anyhow, the fish was slimy, slippery, and flip-flopping everywhere.  We had to sadly 'disable' the fish, to put it nicely, and scrub it down with Dawn to get the slime off so the ink would stick, and then we printed print it.  I suppose if we had the internet back then, I could have found out how to do this without harm to the fish.  But we laughed for hours, and I've saved these two prints all these years and have never done gyotaku again.  Never once as an art lesson.  Once was enough.  And now that I've told you the story, I don't need the prints any more either.  Please don't get on my case about animal cruelty.  It was at least 35 years ago. 

Another artsy thing  happened due to a trawl.  We had caught a squid. The boat captain, Walter (a tall man with fabulous rainbow suspenders and had a burly beard), asked me to come quick and grab paper.  He sliced open the squid, releasing its ink for me to draw with, using it's backbone as an ink pen. Then he proceeded to eat the tentacles raw.  This was WAY before anyone had ever HEARD of sushi!!!!  I don't still have the ink drawing, but I still recall the image of him standing tall above me with tentacles dripping from his mouth.  I also still have, rolled up in the basement, a large oil painting I did of Walter (not with the tentacles, but definitely with the suspenders) that I can't bring myself to discard.  I had a soft spot for Walter and I love the painting.

Back to the studio update, which is what this post was supposed to be about before I found the two projects above.  Here's what it looks like today.  The futon arrives tomorrow. It will go in the empty space in the pic directly below. It looks like it won't fit, but it will.  A bed was there before.  The height of the back will JUST make it.  I've had to move shelving to accommodate the bed opening out.   The rugs will not be piled in the middle of the floor like they are now!
Turn to the right, and here's the window wall, with shelf above and shelving below. 
Here's the opposite end of the room.  You may not believe this, but I cleaned it up today.  The cat likes sleeping on my chair, so the cushion is reversible.  The paper cutter will spend its unused time on the floor under the table.  There's no other choice.  The trash (right-floor) will be emptied tomorrow.
And here's one end of the fourth wall.  The folders that are leaning against the red cart will go under the futon, as will the carton of paper and other stuff, topped with toothpaste batiks, on the lower left. 
Here's a longer look.
And here's the rest of the 4th wall.  The door is temporarily off the hinges to make it easier to bring in the futon.  So you are seeing into a walk-through hallway closet.  Weird old house.  That's a patch of light on the floor, not a sock. 
Here's the floor with the stuff that needs to be emptied, moved, and put away. 
Tucked at the wall behind my table are some of my sewing stuff on the left, and my French easel and outdoor stool for plein air painting.  No other place to put it all. 
A closeup of some very stuffed shelving, and Wendell, the bookworm puppet that I made a long time ago.  He serves no purpose these days but I like him.  I suppose I should find a kid who wants him.
Here he is again.
Below, some of the shelving to the right of the door, including two Laurel Burch papier-mache cats, and a ice bucket diving helmet.  Or maybe it's a cookie jar.  My favorite yard sale find. 
Also a papier-mache daruma, and a photo of me and my boys a dozen years ago while in Alaska. 
Behind my room easel are boxes of large cardboard and tagboard, a giant frame, and  other stuff.  Every space counts.  Behind the cat is a weird candle-holder I made from papier-mache mash. 
And finally, the Ugly Lamp.  Still a lot of painting to do if I'm ever going to finish it.  And then it needs rewiring and a new shade.  Here's an old post link about the lamp

Monday, August 7, 2017

Attempting to Purge

My "studio" in my home is my son's former bedroom.  (You can read about the renovation that turned it into an art studio HERE.)  But it is also the only spare room in my crazy little house that has a place to put a bed for a guest.  So the twin bed from his childhood bedroom has remained.  But now.... he is engaged to be married to a wonderful woman, and I realize that the twin bed isn't enough if I want them to visit. So in a couple of days, the twin bed is going out, and a futon is coming in.  While the 'footprint' of the futon isn't much bigger than the twin bed, it needs the space to open, so I've been working on rearranging the tiny art-making space that I have in there. 

In the four years since I did the original renovation from bedroom into studio, a lot has changed.  Somehow, the room has also become my sewing room, so along with art supplies, there's a sewing machine and various paraphernalia related to sewing.  Plus, all the remnants from my  37 years of teaching are stored in the room.  In addition, for two summers I've taken an immersive plein air painting class, cranking out 9 or 10 paintings in the one week class.  A couple of the paintings from last summer have found new homes, but the rest of them, plus all of the paintings from this summer, are in the studio (and being oil paintings, they take FOREVER to dry), along with a box full of stretched canvases, and some incomplete canvases I've been painting in the interim.   Plus I now have a rather large paper cutter that has to be moved every time I want to use the table!  I keep accumulating stuff, and the room keeps getting more and more crowded and is less and less viable as a work space. 

Today I started doing a little cleaning to make room for the futon.  My first line of attack was boxes of examples of projects that I had saved from all my years in the classroom.  I had already given away several papier-mache creations when I retired: a flying pig, an iguana, a fat cat, a goofy 4' tall totem pole, a large frog in a tuxedo jacket, a penguin, a dragonfly, a couple of goofy monsters/creatures, and more.  I had also left behind, with my replacement, several teddy bear chairs, a couple of 36" god's eyes, and more, including mountains of 2-D samples on paper.  Sigh...

Anyhow, here's a few things that I threw away today - a couple of papier-mache vessels:
Some air-dry clay big-mouth fish, painted with acrylics (I had already disposed of a many many other air-dry clay projects, including coil pots, pinch pots, animals, 3-D slab people, "posy pockets" made from slabs, cave paintings on clay slabs, and more.  But somehow I had a hard time parting with these fishies): 
 And these Model Magic bugs, even though I made them in a workshop and never used Model Magic in the classroom and don't even like the stuff:
 I also threw away a mountain of paper examples that filled a large trash bag.  But the room.... it still is so crowded, so cluttered.  What the heck do I do with it all, in a house with zero extra space???  I can't get rid of the oil paints, the acrylic paints, the craft paints, the fabric paints, the roll of canvas, the easels, the drawing pads, the brushes, the drawing tools, the papier-mache supplies, the binders of ideas, the flying pig, the papier-mache ice cream cones and sundaes, the sock monkey named after my grandmother, the papier-mache light bulb maracas, the 2 large Laurel Burch style papier-mache cats, the pile of carved sheet rock, the Barbie Doll dress-making supplies, the half-done sewing projects, Violetta the duct tape dressmaker's dummy, the Ugly Lamp project, the box full of colored glass fragments, the roofing felt relief mask, the carton of mailing tubes, the 10 lb. carton of polyester fiberfill, the dropcloths, the roll of bubble wrap, the random weird sculptural or collage materials.....  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Two Days, Two Museums, One Post

So without too much further ado, I'm going to tell you about my visits to both Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA, and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.  But first, a little brief background.
[Above, upside down trees at Mass MoCA - I think there are 4 or 5 of them - greet you when you walk to the entry.  I've seen them bare in the late fall and winter, and now fully leafed, but I'd love to see them in early/mid fall, when they are color-changing. My question: since the trees are upside down, do the leaves fall up into the sky instead of down to the ground?  I think they should.  Also above, part of a a sculptural installation in the museum.  Sorry I don't have the artist name.  Below, a view of part of the museum, which consists of 6 large interconnected buildings.  The photo was taken from the viewpoint of an outdoor seasonal installations.]

Anyhow....  Last post, I told you about my week of immersive plein air art-making at Bennington college in an Mass Art program called Art New England.  An art teacher friend of mine from Michigan was there the week after me, also plein air painting, and after her week concluded I joined her for two days of museum touring nearby.  We visited Mass MoCA (I've previously told you about other visits to this terrific museum, in blog posts HERE, HERE and HERE, and also HERE.  The next day we visited the also-fabulous and completely different Clark Art Institute, pictured below.  That's the older part of the museum.
Last time I was there was several years ago, before a major renovation.  The new building is a fascinating (and I might guess controversial) use of space.  There are lots of large architectural spaces that do not serve the purpose of displaying art.  I'm still trying to decide if I loved it or hated it.  Or maybe it was a little of both. But Mass MoCA also has unused architectural spaces, and I love it.  So.... I guess I need to figure out why I reacted so differently to them.  Mostly, I think, it's because Mass MoCA is built in old warehouse/factory buildings, and the original architecture is what makes it so gorgeous.  The spacious empty spaces at the Clark are all sterile brand-new construction, like this lovely reflecting pond below.  Pretty, yes.  Practical use of space?  I just don't know. 
The three photos below are interior spaces in the newest building of Mass MoCA. The walls and floors are very similar to that in the other buildings.  Beautiful architecture.  Not sure who made the hanging sculpture of wildly intertwined bodies (note the feet and heads).  The sculptural piece in the 2nd photo is by Louise Bourgeois.
Below is some of the expansive outdoor space by the new construction at the Clark.  Unfortunately I evidently forgot to shoot photos of the large 'dead' interior space in the new buildings. Probably because it just didn't 'grab' me aesthetically. 

 Anyhow... the real reason for visiting the museum was for the art, not the architecture.  While Mass MoCA is a contemporary museum, here's what it says on the Clark's website about their collection:  "The collection of the Clark features European and American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The collection is especially rich in French Impressionist and Academic paintings, British oil sketches, drawings, and silver, and the work of American artists Winslow Homer, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent."  Below are a few of my favorite images from our visit.  Some of these were big surprises to me! I am smitten with this George Inness directly below, called Autumn in Montclair
Below left, Chrysanthemums, by James Tissot. Isn't it beautiful?  So lush!  On the right, Woman with Dog, by Pierre Bonnard.  I was first introduced to Bonnard as a favorite of a very special college painting teacher.  I think Bonnard is often overlooked and this painting is just exquisite. 
I think this painting below might be my favorite of the whole museum.  Looking at the brush strokes close up, it amazes me how much detail you can see without it actually being meticulously drawn in!  The painting is Young Woman Reading by Lucius Rossi.   This wasn't the only gorgeous Rossi painting in the gallery.
 Below, Crossing the Street, by Giovanni Boldini.   Again, it wasn't the only Boldini, and each painting was just as expressive and rich in its portrayal.  I wish I could show you them all in this post!
The painting below, Terrace in the Luxembourg Gardens, is, believe it or not, is a Vincent van Gogh.  It definitely caught me by surprise to discover it was a van Gogh.   
Two other favorites from the museum were both of these white-on-white paintings.  On the left, one of the few paintings by a woman in the main galleries, is The Bath, by Berthe Morisot.  Lovely!  On the right, and in the detail below, by John Singer Sargent, is, in English, Smoke of Ambergris
Below, Low Tide, Yport by Renoir was my biggest surprise.  I'm not generally a big fan of Renoir's sugary sweet portraits, 'pretty' colors, and soft-edged brush strokes.  But this landscape, and a couple of others, really grabbed me!  Below it is a lovely Monet. 

In another building, accessible by walking up a hill or riding a quickie shuttle bus (we chose the shuttle bus), was an exhibit of abstract landscape paintings by Helen Frankenthaler.   This first, gigantic painting was my favorite.  I found that if I visually blocked out half of the painting, it was easier to see it as a landscape. 
In an experiment, I turned it upside down, and it still reads as a landscape.  
Check it out!!!
 Here's a couple other of the Frankenthaler paintings. 

Before we totally leave the Clark, here's Spring from a collection of The Four Seasons, paintings by Alfred Stevens. 

 And before I close this post, here's another handful of images from Mass MoCA!
 Below, is a tiny part of the installation all utopias fell, by Michael Oatman. 

Many times we have driven over the overpass in the background, while on our way home from somewhere else, and I had a brief view of these giant pink sculptures.  I always wondered what the heck they were, (and maybe I still do), but never was able to stop on the bridge for a closer look.  So I was glad to finally get a closeup view of Franz West’s Les Pommes d’Adam.

And finally, to close this post, here's some pretty pink waterlilies from a large lily pond on the grounds of The Clark.  I should mention, the grounds are beautiful, and there's lots of wooded walking trails.  I'd like to return in the fall for some time in both the museum and to hike the trails.