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Showing posts from 2015

More on Music

Something I realised recently: music can be incredibly complex, but basically it is either loud or quiet, high or low, fast or slow, and degrees in between. Listening to and playing music for more than 30 years has led me, perhaps unconsciously, to that awareness. And it's as true for so-called classical music, with its elaborate structures and harmonies, as it is for the harmonically much more simple forms of popular music. Hardly an earth-shattering epiphany, but it probably explains why certain kinds of music that I used to find harder to listen to, like Benjamin Britten, now give me a lot of pleasure.

Another reason why I now love the music of some composers that I once found incomprehensible: the voice. Looking back, I realise that I always loved opera long before I became absorbed by instrumental music. Even when I listened mainly to people like Prince, Bob Dylan, The Smiths, or Robert Johnson, what I responded to most was not the tunes or the instrumentals so much as the e…

Musical Moments

My musical life:

I come from an amateur musical family. Both my father and grandfather were skilled self-taught musicians. My father and his brother played Everly Brothers-style guitar and harmony in the working men's clubs of Liverpool in the 1950s.

My mother didn't play an instrument, but she has a good voice, and has a unique condition that has been called Broadway Tourette's Syndrome. Meaning that all through my childhood, she would break out into show tunes at any hour of the day.

Because of this, I had a sweet soprano singing voice before my voice broke, and I sang at my local Catholic Church, one time in front of the whole congregation at Christmas, my rendition of Silent Night causing paroxysms of tears among the pious, I've been told.

The apartment where we lived in my teens had a rickety, out of tune piano, that I mainly taught myself to play. I had some lessons, and I can read music to a rudimentary degree, but mainly I played pop tunes by ear, though I als…

Frankfort High School, Part 2

Kristine Harvey, teacher at Frankfort High School in Michigan, sent me a new batch of monoprints from her class of high school art students, and they're just as good as the first. I've pulled out a few to show in this post, again not to single them out as better than the ones I didn't select, but this time just to highlight the different kinds of monoprint techniques that these young people were trying.

First, we have what I think are contact monoprints (where you roll out a thin layer of ink, place a sheet of paper on top, and draw through the back of the paper, the marks being made wherever the paper makes contact with the ink):


The next one looks like it was created using a combination of mask and stencil:

Then a multilayered print, where it looks like the artist reapplied the same sheet of paper to a surface that had been worked on more than once:
Finally, another additive monoprint that has some notably free, loose, expressive mark making:


Congratulations, artists. Ke…

Monoprints by Frankfort High School students

Five months ago, an educator called Kristine Harvey took my week-long monoprinting class at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. She really enjoyed the class and made some great personal artistic breakthroughs in this medium, as you can see by this print she made:


Kristine contacted me recently to say that she had been working with her students at Frankfort High School, Michigan, on making monoprints. With their permission, I am posting images of some of the prints they made. First we have some abstract shapes:






What impresses me about those is how comfortable the students are with abstract shapes, how well they organised them around the frame of the rectangle, and how eye-catching is the combination of colours and design.

Next we have works in progress:





As you can see, there's sensitive art-making happening here, which is why I don't want to single any one image out over any other. In my opinion, everything I've seen so far suggests a group of people having fun while …

News from the blogging class: 3

Another person who took my introduction to blogging and blogging content classes in the summer has contacted me to say that her new blog is up and running. (Previous posts about this here and here.) This time it's an artist, Linda Gardiner, whose blog is devoted to her practice of textile art. The blog has a great name, too: Pulp, Paper, and Pigment.


She's a good writer, and her blog is full of beautiful images, so I recommend that you go ahead and check it out some time.

Unfolding Matter: An Exhibition at Hubbard Street Lofts

Landscape is both a physical space and an aesthetic construction. It is the land that surrounds us and upon which we live, and it is the organization of that exterior space within a genre of the visual arts. Any artist whose practice connects with land, earth, or terrain, is dealing from the beginning with that twin focus, looking both outwards to the world and then back into the interior world. The land outside, and the land within. In this group show at a recently opened space at Chicago’s Hubbard Street Lofts, three artists showed work inspired by the land beneath our feet, the inner reflection of the outer world, and the land seen from afar.
Marzena Ziejka‘s work includes pieces that she made by scooping up soil and glueing it to large panels. They have an interesting tactility reminiscent of her large works in fibre, her customary medium, though I think they lack the visual charge and sensuousness of those pieces. Much more successful were very small works like A Small Landscape …

News from the Blogging Workshops

As I have discussed in previous blog posts on the subject, for the last few years I have taught classes in setting up a blog, and in creating and crafting content for existing blogs. One of the participants in a workshop I ran earlier this year just emailed me to say that she's pressing on full steam ahead with her blog. It's called The Barefoot Norwegian (a great, great title), and here is the link to the blog:

http://thebarefootnorwegian.blogspot.com/

New acrylic resist etchings

Over on my studio blog, a post about a new series of etchings produced using acrylic resist methods:


Six of the Best, Part 35

Part 35 of an interview series in which I pose the same six questions to different artists. Today's interviewee is Aine Scannell, an artist and printmaker who lives in Scotland. 

Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

Aine Scannell: Printmaking is the means or process I go through to create my art. I started out in ‘painting’ because I had the rather naïve idea that, that was what ‘artists’ did. I didn’t have any awareness of printmaking as a specialist discipline in my earlier years. In the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain, I completed a Masters in European Fine Art (that’s what it was officially called) but on the course we were identified as being either on the painting or the print pathway. 

It was over that time period that I began to realize that I loved the possibilities inherent within printmaking. I was just so excited by it and I could see that it was for me. Unfortunately, being as it was a small course (about 50 people in total), there was no flexibil…

Studio Blog: Getting Close

Over on my studio blog, another update about acrylic resist etching: Getting Close.

Studio Blog: Spit Bite

Over on my studio blog, a report on a tricky printmaking technique:

Spit Bite Test

Fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago today, I woke up in a hotel room in Boston, quite close to the art museum and Boylston Street. I went to the bus station, dragging a duffle bag on wheels that contained enough clothes to get me through two months in the USA , and a boxed set of my James Joyce Ulysses etchings. I boarded a bus going to Burlington, Vermont, and I settled into my seat with a John le Carré novel to pass the time. I recall how bright the sunlight was, how leafy and beautiful the interior of Massachusetts was, how green and hilly Vermont was.
Fifteen years ago, I arrived in Johnson, Vermont, after being picked up at the bus station in Burlington by someone from the Vermont Studio Center. I think there were three or four other people being picked up at the same time, all heading to the VSC to start retreats ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months. I remember arriving in Johnson and checking into my tiny room in an old 2 storey classic New England house, and meeting Brian from New York, and the we…

Exhibition news

These two paintings are on show in Chicago for the next four months as part of a group show at Robert Morris University Gallery, in the heart of the downtown loop district:



The reception for the show is on October 15th. Links describing the show:

Chicago Artists' Month
Exhibition Blog

Water Towers and Kevin Swallow's Urban Landscapes

As a foreigner living in the United States, I can attest that one of the most striking features of the urban landscape in America is the water tower. European cities may have walls built by the Romans, medieval palaces, and grand eighteenth-century neo-classical boulevards, but as far as I’m aware you can’t look up from a street in Paris, Rome, or London and see these giant wooden cylinders with their little caps, standing on a rickety framework and silhouetted dramatically against the sky. The Chicago water tower, for example, may have been referred to by Oscar Wilde as “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it,” but it is revered in the city as one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and it’s just one of several hundred that are still dotted around the city.


A century ago, almost every apartment building had a water tower sitting atop the roof. As modern plumbing was installed, most of these water towers were disconnected or demolish…

Six of the Best, Part 34

After a long break, here is the return of the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to different artists. Today's contributor is Krista Svalbonas, a mixed media artist who is based in Chicago, USA. Beginning September 29th, 2015, her installation Home is a Name will be exhibited at the Spartanburg Art Museum, South Carolina.

Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

Krista Svalbonas: That’s a difficult question for me to answer. I paint, I photograph and I create installations. I have a hard time remaining true to one medium and find myself often mixing or moving fluidly between media depending on the focus of the work. Recently, I completed a series of large-scale paintings on industrial felt that combined silk screens, slats of wood, rusted metal and oil paint. At the same time, I was working on a photographic body of work using aluminum dibond, CNC routers and gold leaf. I find that very often the ideas in the work are what help dictate the execu…

Three Books about Picasso

Continuing my Picasso obsession, I've read three books recently that focus on Picasso to a lesser or greater extent. Given how many books I've read about Picasso and his milieu (particularly in the early years of the twentieth century in Paris), my judgement usually rests not so much on whether I find out new information, but how well the author treats very familiar and often told stories.

The first one is In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse, and the Birth of Modernist Art, by Sue Roe.


I bought this one because I read a book by the same author about five years ago, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, which was full of interesting biographical information about Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro, and others, a vivid recreation of Parisian life before and after the time of Commune (1871), and a real sense of the struggles of these artists during the early years of the first Impressionist exhibitions. Sadly, that perceptiveness seems to have deserted her when it came to talking abou…

A Gift

As you may know, I am a regular contributor to Hyperallergic, the online art magazine that has come to be a significant landmark in the artworld landscape in the last few years, as print coverage of the visual arts has shrunk dramatically. (Just last week, for example, Art in America merged with its rival, ArtNews).

One of the features I write is called A View from the Easel, for which artists from all over the world submit a photo of their studio (no people), and a short description of the space. It's one of the most popular things on Hyperallergic now, regularly getting 1500 Facebook shares. A few weeks ago, I received an envelope in the mail sent by someone whose View was published in June:


The artist is Alan Neider, and the work in the catalogue consists of assemblages of plaster and collage on cardboard. They are reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg's assemblages, though with more colour. My quick response to the work is that the pieces that contain looping shapes seem less…

Sound as a Pound

Back in January, when I was teaching the American Authors in Paris creative writing class, one of the main assignments for the students was to do a presentation on one such author in a site in Paris related to that writer. So, for example, we had presentations on Fitzgerald in front of the first hotel he stayed in, on the Rue de Rivoli; Gertrude Stein in front of the Rue de Fleurus apartment; and one on Ezra Pound, not too far from Stein's place. A very talented student called Jesse read aloud from the Cantos while standing in front of the building where Pound spent many months. Here is a photo I took, as we all huddled close to him on the sidewalk to allow the sour-faced locals to squeeze past us:


It made me realise that I hadn't read any Ezra Pound in many years, even though I always loved his work when I was a student. So over the weekend I bought this:


And I am really enjoying getting back into the music of his poetry again, particularly the Cantos, which, even if they are…

News from the Blogging Class (2)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the two blogging classes that I taught at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan. More news has reached me from one of the people who took the class, Carol Ivkovich.

She came to the class having already started one blog, but in the course of the sessions, she experimented with writing about more difficult subject matter, relating to her aging parents, one of whom has "the three As: alchololism, addiction, and Alzheimer's." The difficulty of engaging in this sort of writing, not just for the writer but for the writer's other relatives, kicked off a serious discussion about self-censorship and the limits of revelations. In the end, Carol took the brave step of starting that blog.

Oh, and one important thing: she was one of the best writers in the class, too. Here is a link to Carol's blog, Finding Mrs. Poppins.

A Fiesta of Giovanni's Tender Buttons, Revisited

In January 2015, I taught a class in Paris which took as its source texts the writings of the American expatriate writers of the early to mid-twentieth century. In chronological order, they were:

Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, In Our Time, & A Moveable Feast (written and published towards the end of his life, but the events take place in the 1920s).
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
David Sedaris, various essays about his Parisian experiences.

In preparing for the class, I read Stein and Baldwin for the first time, though of the two, I have to say I am only ashamed that I left it so long to get acquainted with Baldwin's writing. My experience of reading and talking about Stein is as someone who recognizes her as an important literary landmark for her experiments with language, but who leaves me cold in terms of an emotional response. In class, by the way, I am completely professional and leave my…

Blogging about Teaching Blogging

Nine days ago I taught two classes about the mechanics and craft of blogging to twelve adults at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. The first class, which I've taught several times before, was a day long session exploring the ins and outs of creating a blog, playing with the layout and template, establishing a preliminary design, using Google's Blogger app. The second class was a new one called Crafting Great Content, in which I took my years of blogging and put them together with the creative writing and process classes that I have taught at Columbia College and elsewhere. I hope the result was satisfying to the participants. I think that the combination of direct advice and the sort of generative, in-class writing that I've learned to use at Columbia led them to explore some new ways of writing in a blog. I will be very interested in getting feedback from their evaluations, so that I can tweak the class format if necessary.

One person wrote a hilarious anecdote t…

Short movie from Interlochen

While teaching a monoprint class for adults at Interlochen a few days ago, I wandered around the studio room taking short videos on my S5 of participants as they worked. Then I used a feature of the camera and cloud photo storage app in the latest version of Android to knock out this little movie. Total time from filming until playing it back on YouTube: 15 minutes.


Printing like a painter at Interlochen

Today was my third day of teaching in the adult summer classes at Interlochen, and the first day of my monoprinting class. It's the second or third time I've taught this class here, and as usual it doesn't take long for the beauty and simplicity of monoprinting to take hold of the participants and lead to some very fine results.


We started the day with a talk about the history of monoprint, illustrated by projecting images from my laptop. Then we got into contact monoprints, which this class liked so much that it took us up to 2 pm until we changed techniques.

For the rest of the session, I helped the students make prints by painting with the inks using brushes on the monoprint plates, with thick and thin ink, then taking prints from the plate with dry paper and damp paper, using hand pressure and using the printing press. Everyone got at least one fine looking print out of the day:





It's hard work, printmaking. Not like working in a factory, of course, but still, you s…