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Inspired by Matisse

For more than ten years, off an on, I have taught a class called Journal and Sketchbook. The class alternates between writing and visual-art activities in order to heighten a writer's "seeing in the mind" and sense of story-telling. I co-taught it with Patty McNair until recently, when I have taught it solo, to small classes of between three and eight people. Even during a one-day class, there is a noticeable difference in people's writing by the end of the day: more sensory detail, more sense of scene, more fully told moments.

In the most recent session of teaching this class, I have increased the level of visual art stuff. Each week, I took as inspiration a book by an artist that combines text and image. So we had Frida Kahlo week (using her Diary as inspiration), Paul Gauguin week (Noa-Noa), and then Matisse week (Jazz).

First, I read a piece by writer Maija Rothenberg that uses the format of an alphabetized list to tell the story of a life:


Stage 2: invite the p…
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The Brant Hardware and Implement Company, by Jeanne Locke Johnson

I taught a day long journal and sketchbook class recently, at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan. One of the activities was called Writing in Place, devised by my writerwife Patricia Ann McNair. A participant in the class, Jeanne, wrote the piece I'm reprinting below. As soon as she began reading it back in the class, I knew straight away I was hearing a really good piece of writing. The image was also by Jeanne, made in the collage class the day before the journal and sketchbook class.



I

I remember going to the Hardware after school. The bus dropped us off at the house. If I was feeling the need to make money, or Dad needed work done, I walked to the store. If Mom or Dad were in sight, I checked in while clocking in on the old time clock punch card. Usually, I needed to dust displays or clean the bathrooms, or wash windows. My favorite was filling the old pop machine. I had to get the keys, check inventory for flavors, empty the change bucket, clean the…

Original and Imitation (Inc. Tips for Good Collage)

Teaching a class in Mixed Media Collage last weekend, I used the digital projector in the room to show some examples of collage going back to the Cubists. Here is one by Georges Braque from about 1913:


One of the participants was inspired to produce this:


That is really pretty good! She tried out the pencil shading at the right and left, though not the quotations of parts of instruments that Braque drew. But the choice of papers, the cutting, and the placement, are all excellent.

The day also produced these collages from different participants (all are 10" x 15"):




Some tips that I've found useful for making collages:
Use acrylic matte medium to glue down magazine pages and newspaper, thin decorative papers, etc.Use acrylic gel medium  to glue down thicker materials such as fabric, and to embed three dimensional materials such as buttons.When everything is dry, coat the collage front and back with acrylic matter medium. This seals the front, and counteracts any warping th…

From the Archives

I've taught a lot of classes in the past two years showing people how to make different kinds of artist's books. Two of my own small handmade books recently made their way into the Joan Flasch Collection at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago. For me, this all started in 2010-2011, when I embarked on an extensive project: a 100 page accordion book of lithographic prints, each page printed in up to 5 colours.

Closed and stacked, the book measured 6 x 5 x 4 inches:

Extended to its full length, it was about fifty feet long:


To store it securely, I made a clamshell box for it:


And so it sits on a shelf in my studio, occasionally unwrapped to show to visitors, waiting for the time when it can be added to another collection. It's still the best artist's book I've made.

He Killed Her Father

He killed her father, right there in the street outside her house, at night. She was inside at the moment that it happened. No-one knew for sure who the murderer was because he was wearing a mask, and besides it was pitch dark.

When she found out, the grief erupted from her body in wild cries. It was too much to bear, and she fainted. Later, she vowed she would take revenge on whoever had committed the terrible act.

Now, some days or weeks later, she knows who did it, who it was that took a knife and cut him down without a second thought. With the help of two friends, she is going to a public event where she is sure she will be able to confront the murderer, unmask him before all the world for the ruthless man that he is.

And then, just before they enter the building and embark on the final mile of their struggle for justice, they pause, suddenly hesitant, filled with doubt and a little afraid, and ask the heavens to protect them and to avenge them:



If you haven't guessed already…

Soft Ground Etching with Baldwin Intaglio Ground

This is another post where I talk about my own research into how to obtain the best results from non-toxic etching materials -- specifically, the Baldwin Intaglio Ground. This is a form of etching resist developed by printmaker Andrew Baldwin, from the UK, as a non-toxic alternative to the nasty chemicals contained in traditional hard ground and soft ground resists. It comes in a tube, and when you squeeze some out onto an inking slab it looks like etching ink. You roll it onto the copper plate with a brayer, as if you were inking a relief block, in contrast to the traditional hard grounds, which are either melted onto the plate or poured on as a liquid hard ground. Applying the BIG to make a hard ground is relatively easy. Using it as a soft ground can be quite tricky, and it has taken me many tries and many failures to achieve a satisfactory etch.

The main problem, unfortunately, is the lack of specific instructions in preparing the BIG soft ground. Andrew Baldwin has some excellen…

Me Talking About Alexander Calder

In the first years of this blog, in 2010-2011, I created a series of 100 short illustrated talks on art that I called Meditations on Art. There is a page on this blog linking to a complete playlist. I remember, about a year after I completed the series, checking in via YouTube and seeing that one of them had passed 1,000 views. An insignificant number compared to your average viral cat video, of course, but considering I made these little videos mostly for my own amusement, it still amazed me that one of them would get 1,000 clicks (whether they were purposeful or accidental).

Well, I just looked at the stats again, and I am amazed to find that one of these videos, the Meditation on Alexander Calder, has now surpassed 18,000 views. Here it is: