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Retour a Paris

I'm back in Paris, teaching for the fourth consecutive year. During my most recent free weekend, I visited the Rodin Museum for the first time in more then twenty years. My visit coincided with the best weather so far -- bright and sunny and mild. The view of the Invalides from the gardens of the former Hotel Biron is spectacular:

 This summed up the experience of the museum, actually: the building being as deserving of admiration as the work displayed inside it. The rooms on the ground floor were full of these mouth watering combinations of belle epoque decoration and Rodin's writhing, muscular statuary:

Typically for me, the documentary material also caught my eye. Here is on the of the photos of Rodin using rooms in the hotel as a temporary studio, where he would entertain admirers, hangers on, and potential new clients (Rodin is seated at front-left):

The gardens surrounding the museum consist of sandy pathways leading through orderly bushes and topiary, interspersed with…
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2017 in Review

It's about time I wrote another blog post. As it is the last day of 2017, here is a list post looking back at some of the highlights from the last 12 months.

January: Taught in Paris for most of the month with my wunnerful colleague Kathie Bergquist from Columbia College Chicago. We were teaching a class which is basically "Hemingway and Baldwin in Paris." Here is a photo of our drinks, purchased at the newly reopened Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel, Place Vendome:

February: Participated in a group drawing event at the Ed Paschke Center, Chicago, organised by the terrific artist Anne Harris.

March: Spent a week in Tucson, Arizona, truly one of the most magical places in the United States:

May: Two of my small handmade books were purchased by the Joan Flasch Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

July: Patty and I moved after 10 years in our third floor apartment, to the 9th floor of a high rise building overlooking Lake Michigan:

September: I took up a posi…

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…

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…