Thursday, April 2, 2020

Trying to Work in the New World

I've started work on a new project but I've made a few false starts.  Maybe you'd enjoy a peek at the process.  It's not exactly sausage making but it's not pretty.
As a follow up to my book of Christmas Carols I'm illustrating just one carol--People Look East.  this is the one that inspired the whole project but it's copyright protected so I didn't include it.  For forty bucks I was entitled to make 200 copies to share with friends. that was too much of a limit on the book.  --so I'll just make it into a Christmas card.

So here's how I started.
Verse two says
"Birds tho you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled."

 I like the birds but not the composition; everything's squished into the lower right corner.
 A teacher once told me, "IF you make a mistake, don't erase it, let it show you where you want to go."  However, there's no fixing this composition.

Do over.

Better, and I like the projection of 1, 2, 3--one nest, two birds, three trees.  I didn't plan that, it just happened. A happy accident. Mrs. Cardinal's eye is a little sloppy but I can fix that with either white ink or photoshop.

Then I made the sky gray for some contrast.  I thought about putting in white dots for snow but I haven't decided.

Onward to verse 3;
"Furrows be glad tho Earth is bare
one more seed is planted there
give up your strength the seed to nourish
that in time the flower may flourish"

I imagined an underground scene with seed in a starring role,

but the tree took over and looks much too solid--the roots should start branching closer to the surface.

Do over.

The roots are better but I'm finding this image boring and I don't like the border.  I thought I'd fill the underground with ants and beetles but, no, I decided not.  I really like ants and beetles but I'm imagining my friends finding them in a Christmas card.  So no bugs.

Then I thought of the stage etchings I made a long time ago and used in collages.  An old friend, the wonderful painter, Francis Cunningham, said, "When you're having trouble, feeling uninspired, go back to something you felt comfortable with."
So I made a new stage. I'll float the seed right in the middle. It'll be surrealistic.  Great!

I worked like a demon on Tuesday and had a great time.

Now the work is going more slowly because I like it too much and I'm afraid of doing it harm. I heard that the secret of getting great art from children is knowing when to take it away from them and it may be true for me, too. But this is not finished.

So that's how I do it.  I hope that's not too much information.  I'll keep at it and let you know how it goes.

New Subject;
I have been posting on Instagram an image of PINK every day in March, partly in honor of International Women's month, partly inspired by my friend, Eileen Hoffman.  Here she is with her project for Art in Odd Places, 2019.

You can read what she says about pink and see her amazing work at Eileen Hoffman.

I'm also inspired by this quote from Audrey Hepburn which I found printed on a make-up case in the gift shop of the Museum of Folk Art.

It says, "I believe in PINK. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.  I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.  I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.  I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles." Audrey Hepburn

Here she is in a sidewalk stencil on Washington Street, right where I get my morning coffee.  

Thank you, Eileen, Thank you, Audrey.  
Dear Friends, I hope you're staying safe, taking care and feeling in the Pink.

Monday, March 30, 2020

More Subway Art

Tom Otterness at the A, C, E, and L Station. at 14th Street and 8th Avenue

Tom Otterness (born 1952) is an American sculptor best known as one of America's most prolific public artists. His sculptures of chubby little creature allude to sex, class, money, and race.



Tom Otterness studied at the Art Students League in 1970, the same time I was there but I don't think our paths crossed.  He would have been 18 and I was 22; a big gap at that age.  Besides, he would have worked in the sculpture studio in the basement, and I in the graphics class on the third floor.
I've found a terrible story in his past that makes me revisit the old saw, 
"Don't get too close to an artist, he might smell bad."  If you look behind the curtain, or more closely at your heroes, you might not like what you see.  It's a twist on "Love the sinner, hate the sin."  
It becomes, "Love the art, beware of the artist."
I'm sorry to know about his misdeeds and I really love his work.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

looking back and Walking forward

I said last week that I'd share with you another of our grandfather's great works.  Here it is.

The Float

There it is in the background, with my Dad and little brother Robby, throwing stones in the bay.

 It was a wooden platform with a ladder and diving board that sat upon empty oil barrels. Here we all are enjoying it on a beautiful calm day on Peconic Bay. It sat high above the water so you could swim under the barrels and come up beneath it, where everything had a green hue from the reflection of the water, and your voice echoed off the empty barrels.  It was a magical place. 

Unfortunately, it was quite top-heavy so it could turn over with too many people on it, but that was exciting, too.

Launching the float every spring was a huge job.  Here's how Uncle Dan describes Float Day.

"The Float was kept on the beach without barrels during the winter. The putting in the water days and the taking it out of the water days were traumatic. Davy was the biggest and strongest, so he did the heavy work. Each barrel had a metal band that had to be fitted around the barrel, lifted up together so it could be bolted to a bar on [the bottom of] the float. This required jacks, and much shouting and unnecessary directions. Also, it behooved the crew to attach the barrel while the float was in the water so that we didn’t have to drag it later on the sand.  As Bobby, Davy, and Jackie matured and moved on in their lives, Dad and I would do it together; that is he would give directions and I’d do the work.”

Those were happy days.  I"ll always be grateful for the memories.

These days are very different but Arthur and I are getting outside as much as possible, keeping a safe distance but smiling at our neighbors.

Here's what I've seen on my walks.

The garden at First Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue and 12th Street.  I'm pretty sure those are the daffodils Don Kilpatrick planted years ago.

In Washington Square, in the shadow of the arch, someone has drawn footprints within a circle with a radius of 6 feet, to make it graphic how much space we need to keep between us.

I hope you can see this--and take a hint.

Bluebells and tulips in Sheridan Square, Stonewall Park.  The bees were busy at work here.

The magnolia I posted last week is now in full bloom.

A flowering Pear in the local playground.

Rhododendron in Abingdon Square.  The tulip leaves are up and so the tulips should be appearing soon.  

Here's my drawing table. I've started a new project, to be revealed next Christmas.
I hope that you are finding ways to keep productive and connected as we all practice safety.

As we walk in our beautiful Hudson River Park, which was just being created in September of 2001 I'm reminded of a letter posted by Captain James J Gormley of the New York Fire Department on September 15th of that year. He was holding out hope for survivors.
 He said, 
"Pray.  Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Hope remains.  Make your hope contagious. Inspire courage in one another.  Be polite to each other, it makes life easier.  If you despair, act courageously. If you are scared, stand up straight and march forward. Allow yourself rest. Maintain your health, we have lots of work to do." 
He also says, "Embrace the path God puts you on.  Again, I ask you to pray, because Hope remains."

Here's a sign posted in Hudson River Park.

I'm aware that as I speak of being productive and connected, cozy in my home, and walking for exercise, there are people, in particular, health care workers, but also, grocery store clerks, the sanitation workers, delivery workers, the Police, the postal workers who carry on in the face of real danger.
Let's all thank them and keep them in our prayers.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Even More Subway Art

Here's another wonderful subway station installation with CROWS, The A,C, and E at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue.

  Canal Street used to be a regular haunt for me and many other artists because of the late lamented Perl Paints; four or five floors of art supplies staffed by artists who really knew their stuff.  
I once told a friend I was headed there and she said,
"You're going to the candy store." 
 But, alas, Mr. Perl forgot to pay his taxes and that was that. Life will never be the same. I don't get there much anymore, and so it took me a while to discover these guys.

This is one of the cooler among many cool art installations in our subway system. I was talking about it with a woman I met at Ellen Grossman's opening at The Yard, a co-working space that's probably not open now.  and she told me that she once found a crow that had fallen off his perch.  She didn't know who to alert and admitted she was tempted to take him home. I didn't ask her if she actually took him. They all look pretty healthy to me.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

First Week of Self Quarantine

The flowering pear trees are in bloom all over the Village.

The daffodils are popping up. Spring is coming, no matter what.

Arthur and I are staying home but also taking long walks. 

A man walked by as I shot this tree and said, "Lovely magnolia--it means hope."

I'm trying to use this quiet time to work but it's hard to settle down and concentrate.
I began one piece but I've already discarded it to started over--the composition was too one-sided.  

So I started looking through old photographs and I've decided to share some happy memories.  My grandfather Swanson, PopPop, worked hard and expected everyone else to do the same, but he also knew how to have fun.  He thought up some wonderful toys, like the Putt-Putt, a little car with a vacuum cleaner motor that we could actually drive.

Here it is in an early stage, with my Dad and Aunt Jan.  Nice hat, huh?

PopPop's company had a fleet of delivery trucks and a body shop so the Putt-Putt soon got a snazzier look.  Here's our whole family at the time; it wasn't quite a station wagon.

This is PopPop and an uncle, doing road repair.  

And here we all are; me, Uncle Dave, Cousins Kathy, Danny, and John,
Brother Robby, Uncle Dan, and PopPop.

And here it is, on the move. That's Henry the dachshund chasing the wheels.

Then the next generation took over.

It was the main entertainment at Jessie's sixth birthday party. 
The gas pedal sometimes got stuck and that made it especially exciting.

Next time I may tell you about PopPop's other magnum opus, the Float.

In the meantime, we'll keep walking. Look who we ran into in Hudson River Park, on a rest break from their long trip north.

As we maintain a physical separation I'm feeling grateful for the telephone and the internet. Do keep in touch and keep washing your hands.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

More Subway Art

Houston Street

After my post about the Weimaraners my friend, Louanne, reminded me of these amazing mosaics at the Houston Street station on the number 1 line. Designed by Deborah Brown in 1995,

they show marine creatures frolicking in our subway cars and stations.  In 1995 it was amusing, now in the age of climate change and rising sea levels it’s ominous.
But at the moment we have other things to worry about.  let’s just enjoy that we have a subway system that believes art is important and if you're avoiding the subway right now, here they are.

A manatee looking over a reader's shoulder.  This one may be my favorite.

I'm sorry not to have the whole picture in some of these, but standing with my back to the subway tracks gave me flip flops in my stomach. 

Let them inspire us to be active in saving our mother, the earth.

Trying to Work in the New World

I've started work on a new project but I've made a few false starts.  Maybe you'd enjoy a peek at the process.  It's not exa...