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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Board Retreat

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Despite the pun begging to be expressed, the annual MFA board retreat wasn’t the least bit boring.  It helps that I like all these people, but it wasn’t a party.  It was a assessment and planning session to evaluate how well we met last years goals and what our goals for 2011 might be, including a fairly detailed look at our finances.  Our facilitator did a great job and we were done an hour and a half early.  Everyone stayed on track, and as usual there was not any bickering or ridiculous pointless rants.  Just another example of why I like being on that board.

I got home in time to have dinner, watch a few episodes of a BBC series called State of Play on which the movie with Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck was based, as well as get a little time in on defining some of the planes on one of my little plaster head models. As noted previously, I’ve been giving this some research, and I’ve decided I need to make my own “head of the plane” model.  Next stage: File, shave, sand, and carve out these areas into flat surface and see how it looks.  If it still looks vaguely like the original (based on a young woman named Linda) I’ll be happy and surprised.  I hope I don’t have to go out and buy more tools.  Lately the only tools I really enjoy buying are camera lenses, tripods, digital monitors and the like. I have so many other art tools, the thrill of owning them as objects is pretty much gone.  They are just tools.  I was looking at one of my watercolor brushes recently and remembering that I paid $40 dollars for it back in 1979.  That was about as painful for me then as spending $1000 would be today.  And I dropped it crossing a street in San Francisco about a week after I bought it.  It got run over by a car and the metal ferule was crushed. I spent hours painstakingly repairing it, wrapping the ferule in sailmaker’s dacron thread, and coating the thread with several layers of varnish.  The Brush is still in use today, working fine, and the repair is holding.  Works out to about $1.30 per year for one brush.

I’m hoping to get out today for a little photo shoot, around downtown with local web designer  and photographer Tom Boddorff.  Aloha ya’ll.

Planes of the Head

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I spent a good part of yesterday sanding and painting my little sculpture heads.  I have about ten out of twenty done.  In the process, I’ve been thinking about what’s called the “planes of the head.”  There are quite a few planes, an infinite number actually, and many different systems have been devised starting with the simple blockhead…a sort of cube.  At the other extreme are people who break the head up into so many planes it becomes sort of useless as a guide for sculpting and understanding the structure of the head.  So I ended up dreaming about the planes of the head, to no good outcome, probably.  So here’s a picture of a sort of random way of breaking the planes of the head up into planes.  The easy Raku way.  Just heat it up to 1800 degrees F and  then douse it in sawdust.  Easy peasy.  Also fairly useless for understanding the structure of the head, but fun.

I’m off to a day of hanging out with members of the board of the Maryland Federation of Art for our annual retreat.  Actually my first one, so I have no idea of what we’ll be up to, but I’m taking my ukulele just in case.


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I’ve been comparing the proportions of the human face as seen in sculptures to the so called ideal proportions.  I decided to take one of my own sculptures and subject it to some rudimentary analysis.  The original of my piece was not any closer to the ideal than the sculptures of other artists whose work I’d looked at. I applied a few modifications to the images using the Photoshop digital image editing program and came up with the following.  Ther 0riginal on the right, and the photoshopped image is on the left. The next set of  images below that shows the same faces with a template of “ideal” proportions overlaid.  It’s hard to know at this point how much of the difference is due to my “artistic license” and how much is due to the subjects departure from the “ideal.”  Bit of both I’d image. Down at the bottom there is a comparison of a photo of Einstein and a sculpture made in clay.

Our Christmas tree is finally down and out.  I burned all the branches in the wood stove and will chop up the trunk pretty soon and burn that too.

Got Popcorn ?

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Here’s a link to the new movie:  Tenant. Weeks in the making, with a cast of three.  Yet to be critically acclaimed, the long anticipated mini-blockbuster, potential movie-of-the-week.  Or not.  One of these days I’ll figure out how to embed a movie in this blog.  I’m an early riser today, so that I can get out and play some tennis.  There’s snow on the ground and on my car, but we’ll be playing in one of those bubbles.  woohoo!

I really like those usb flash drives and our new DVD player has a slot to plug one in, thus allowing me to show these little movies straight from the usb on to my big (not too big) TV screen.  It’s the new standard for even inexpensive DVD players.  Also new in technology are LED screens which are much much thinner than the older LCD and Plasma screens.  Nice that as the end of the world looms, we get to enjoy first rate movies in the comfort of our homes.  Despite claims to the contrary, I suspect the revolution will be televised, videotaped, filmed an available on DVD and Blueray disc.

Here’s me at age 38, down by the Mississippi in St. Francisville, Louisiana, among the derelict barge equipment, wielding a pellet gun for target practice.  Taken shortly before moving up to Annapolis.  I can’t believe how slender I was. I guess I was earning my “starving artist” status.  Anyway, I just came across this while looking for something current to post. I need to be a bit more diligent about my daily photography.  Today I’m feeling grateful for: USB devices, tennis friends, friendly mechanics, sugar cubes and my heated floor…right off the top of my head.  Hope you enjoy the movie.

Five Things

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Wouldn’t it be nice to start each day thinking about five things you feel grateful for or about?  Something my daughter has been doing for years.  Oatmeal, blank DVD’s, comfortable office chairs, smell of a Christmas tree, and (finally)…Jumping jacks.

I started the day meaning to get to this blog right after I…  I’ve been distracted by one thing and another.  Distracted as in:  Diverted from the track.  My mechanic tells me there’s no reason I can’t get 600,000 miles out of my aging BMW.  All I have to do is make sure he makes his boat payments.  I’ve pretty much finished my short movie today, renamed Tenant. Perhaps I’ll be able to post it here tomorrow.  This movie represents the last of my projects left over from last year.  It was a lot of fun and quite challenging to create.  One of the actors dropped by today to record a few sentences of replacement dialogue, since some of our on location dialogue was a bit on the weak side.

Just to have an image to show here’s one of my favorite tea bowls which I’ve made.  Shino glaze on stoneware clay.

Back to Work

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For the self-employed artist, getting back to work after the holidays is a bit tricky to define.  For me, it means getting focused on some projects I put on to the back burner and letting some other projects languish a bit.  I made some huge progress on the short film I made in collaboration with my daughter.  The footage I got was far from idea, due to my shortcomings both as director and cinematographer; but I originally wanted to get the film to be three minutes long, and after solving most of the problems as well as I could, it turns out to be just over three minutes.  Maybe I can actually get it under three minutes.  I’ve really been amazed in my short editing career how cutting the fat from the movie clips really improves the story.  I spent a couple of hours browsing the internet for sound effects and got some nice stuff.  I might have this ready for viewing in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday we found the Jefferson Memorial closed (of all things) for renovations.  So we went right to the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Here’s one of about fifty sculpture busts I photographed (with Carlea in the background on this one):  Philip Johnson, I believe.  I didn’t take the time to note who all the portraits were of, but it was a rich vein of material as I get ready to do my portrait sculpture workshop in March.

Then we saw a show called Hide and Seek, which is a note very focused but never the less absorbing collection of diverse work on the theme of gender identity; and subsequently wandered in to a wonderful collection of large black and white photographs made early in the career of Elvis.  How that young man ever turned into the “Las Vegas” Elvis is, maybe, the story of the United States.  Still a mystery to me.

DC Day 1

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I bit of brisk but sunny weather yesterday as we went first to the Vietnam memorial, then to the Lincoln memorial, and then to the National Gallery to see a show about photography in the pre-Raphaelite vein  and a show by this guy named Arcimbaldo who painted portraits of people using images of fruit (in a sort of trompe l’oiel technique) to build the images. Here’s a little something about the other show: The pre-Raphaelite photography.

The vietnam memorial was, as all reports have lead me to believe, a really great monument.  It’s understated tone does great honor to the men who served and died.  No bombast.  No grandiosity.  As a sculpture it is very modern without being cute or self conscious in any way.  The Lincoln memorial, on the other hand was Huge!  One might say “Monumental ” in scale.  It dwarfed the gigantic statue of Lincoln which was tucked away among the columns, and which in any other setting would have been overwhelming all by itself. Very moving, though.

My little camera gave out after a few images, so this is pretty much all I have for the day…the Washington monument:

In response to a request:  Images of my oatmeal bowl.  My current favorite along with a very similar one which is a little bit larger…this one is 5 and a half inches in diameter.

So off we go again today for Jefferson Memorial and some Museums too.

Off to the Races (almost)

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Our plans to go to DC and see some museums and monuments have been delayed slightly as we wait for a tow truck to take one car to the mechanic.  Apparently, they like for you to be with the car.  Just a little hiccup in the plans.  I had oatmeal for the second day in a row…I love how the oatmeal and the coffee become ready at the same time.  Starting on Wednesday, I’m going to be discussing my preparations for the workshop I’m giving in Australia in the spring.  I have a little “tableau” set up with lighting and a camera at the ready, so that I can document all the steps I’m going to be teaching.  I think I’ll be putting together a little program that I can offer to other groups, perhaps; including Power Point, video, and slide shows, as well as printed handouts.

In the meantime it’s a couple of days of museum and monuments.  It’s cold…29 degrees. I’m taking my leather gloves…and a small camera.  The Canon G9 which is small but quite powerful.  It shoots “RAW” files as well as 15p video.   Aloha!

Dust Settles

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January 2 .  1/2/11.  Forty percent chance of  showers translates into sixty percent chance of playing tennis this morning.  But looking out the door makes the chances seem quite a bit slimmer.  Like zero. Guess I’ll head over to the courts looking for a miracle.  Day 1 of New Years resolution to each oatmeal in the morning instead of buttered toast.  Conveniently, it the oatmeal and the stove top espresso are ready to serve at more or less the same time.  So here I am munching on oatmeal, sipping on coffee, wondering what sort of comments I can make on my life as an artist.  My favorite small bowl (the one I’m eating from) is like a large teabowl, thrown from porcelain clay and fired with a glaze created by the  great Japanese potter Shoji Hamada.  A rich iron saturated glaze, it goes black or brown depending on the thickness of the application. I once found my self wandering around a museum with a vast exhibition of potters.  I came upon a body of work which intrigued me to the point that I lost all awareness of myself and my whereabouts.  I was just very interested in the work, which was essentially simple but executed with complete honesty and confidence.  When I came to my senses about twenty minutes later and looked for the name of the artist: It was Hamada.  Of course!  I never aspired to emulate his work but occasionally I find some quality about one of my bowls that I might find in his and I like that.

New Years day open house was great! Missed some folks who have come in the past and was happy to greet some folks who had never been by before.  Ate too much, but mostly “good luck” vegetables.  We got the house all cleaned up and the dishes washed and I was in bed asleep by 9:00 PM.  Reading the Magnolia script.

Happy New Year !

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January first.  1/1/11.  Up early to fix to food for the annual New Years Day open house with three kinds of “good luck” food…A tradition I’ve been carrying on sometime after my sister moved south.  Our New Years revelry consists of baking and housecleaning.  I spent a good bit of yesterday getting my video of the Blues Concert at St. John’s College edited and published to DVD.  In addition to the final edits, it took about six hours for the file to export to a movie file (H.264) and another several hours of creating the DVD menus and rendering it all for those formats.  I finished just at midnight and sat down to watch for a few minutes on the family TV, and testing the menu buttons:  chapters, play, next, previous, etc.  Hey! It all worked.   Your can create those menus in Photoshop with each button being a layer.  You just have to put little codes in the layer names “(+)” for example, goes before the name of  most links.  Nice to be able to use one’s own images and layout, rather than accepting whatever templates are provided with the program.  Collard greens are boiling, along with the black eyed peas.  Corned beef and cabbage are mostly done.  Pies, cakes, cookies baking away.  Cider stewing in the samovar, fresh hot coffee.  Crisp weather outdoors, but not frigid.  Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine.

Happy New Year!!!