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Showing posts from June, 2011

The Bulgarian Connection

I've recently started looking at the web/blog/Facebook pages devoted to a small gallery in Bulgaria. Through the weird, magical connections that come about in this emerging new world of social media, it turned out that an artist connected with the gallery is also based here in Chicago. I will be posting an interview with him next week.

The artist is called Konstantin Ray. The gallery is called Artray Gallery. The gallery used to be the studio of an artist called Georgi Raychev (1936-2004), and it is situated on the bend of a river in the old town of Velike Tarnovo, in the middle of Bulgaria. Looking at the pictures of the town, it reminds me of places I visited in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland during summers of teaching in Prague:


Maybe if you follow the above link to the Artray pages, you'll become fascinated, too, by the images of this beautiful little studio/gallery space in a town that you've never heard of before, right in the heart of the home country…

Another One Thousandth Anniversary

Another of the YouTube videos on art that I call Meditations has just passed its one thousandth view. This is no big deal given that when I typed 'kittens' in the YouTube machine, the first results had 707,000, 13 million, and 49 million hits respectively. But in my little world, I'm pleased that it did -- and surprised that it's the one I did on painter Cecily Brown:



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Hamish Fulton's SloWalk

This is a little late, but I thought I'd link to it anyway: film of a recent event at the Tate Modern, London (courtesy of the excellent Tate Channel) in support of Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei during his imprisonment by the Chinese authorities.

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Kitchen Printmaking

We drove straight from Interlochen last Friday to our weekend house near the Mississippi. There's no TV, phone or wi-fi here (actually, we don't have TV in Chicago, either). All we have to do is tidy up a few dead insects and cobwebs here and there, tidy up after the cats, who have been looked after here while we were gone -- and then we can spend a few days doing a bit of R & R before the rest of a busy summer gets into gear.

For most of the weekend, that just meant sleeping, walking around the tiny downtown area (Mt Carroll, pop. 1500), cooking a meal for some friends on Sunday night. Patty is continuing to work on her novel, while also trying to fix up more readings to tie in with the release of her short story collection in September. I commandeered the kitchen for a day to do another reduction linocut:


It's a commissioned image of the Mallory-Towsley building at Interlochen, home of the Center for the Creative Arts. I did a five colour reduction linocut in four sta…

Interview with multi-media artist Lauren Targ

Lauren Targ's extensive artistic resume includes acting with Steppenwolf Theater, improv at Chicago's Second City, film work, and multi-media projects including collaborations with Jaume Plensa on the Crown Fountain in Chicago, and The Crush Project with Mary Rachel Fanning. She currently teaches in the Television Department of Columbia College Chicago. After I spoke to Lauren at the One State conference last month, she agreed to an interview for this blog.

Philip: Take us right back to the beginning, and tell us how your artistic life began.

Lauren: I can’t begin to talk about my artistic development without talking about my childhood and the influence of my parents. As a child I was always creating adventures.I liked imaginary games where one played a part in the story. If I were playing with others I would tell them what part they would be playing and what their motivation was. It sounds like I was bossy but I just had good ideas for play. When I would play outside in the yar…

A discovery in northern Michigan

Well, a discovery for me, at least. Someone introduced me to the work of Gwen Frostic when I was teaching at Interlochen, in northern Michigan. Her studio is only about 30 minutes' drive from Interlochen, in fact. I'd seen postcards of her relief prints for sale in frou-frou gift-shops around the area, but I tended to skirt past them, surrounded as they normally are by the usual floral-style paraphernalia of provincial tourism. The way she's marketed, as a kind of 'hullo clouds hullo sky isn't nature wonderful' pantheist, also put me off.


Then our friend Anne-Marie Oomen, writer and host of the Writers' Retreat we were teaching at last week, told us that she was collaborating with a dancer on a project drawing on material from Gwen Frostic's oeuvre. When we had dinner at Anne-Marie's beautiful house deep in the woods near Empire, Michigan, she brought out a stack of Frostic's printed books. Looking through them, I saw affinities with Japanese pr…

Video from the Journal & Sketchbook class, Interlochen 2011

This is a short video of participants from the Journal & Sketechbook class at the June 2011 Interlochen Writers' Retreat. Every day, we used a variety of drawing and writing activities to explore how to visualise scene in a piece of writing, and then to carry over the visual discoveries into the writing. It's a 'generative' class, as opposed to the traditional 'hand out ten copies of your work and let the dogs rip it to shreds' approach of the traditional writing workshop. In other words, the idea is always to move at a certain point to your writing, whether that's fiction, memoir, personal essay, or other prose forms (not poetry).

In the video above, people are in the process of drawing three moments of scene from their writing, related in subject but with some time between them. They then go to the writing, read back from what they've written, and perhaps show some of their drawing. In this class at Interlochen, as in the other times we've ta…

Interlochen Writers' Retreat: Slideshow

Here is a slideshow of images from the final class activity in the Journal and Sketchbook class -- a three-stage drawing of moments of scene from ongoing written material:


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Interlochen Writer's Retreat: Day 4

Yesterday was the last day of the Writer's Retreat at Interlochen. In the Journal & Sketchbook class, we did final read backs, discussion of which pieces to read at the afternoon students' reading, and then one last activity -- the three-stage drawing, shown in process above.

It was also Lynn's birthday today, so Patty and I brought in cup cakes, one with a birthday candle on top. The cup cakes were also adorned with big, coloured plastic rings, which all the girls (including Patty) wore for a final group photo:


I will post more pictures and even video from this class. Until next time, here is one of the three-stage drawings created by Jo-Anne:


It was another great week, and the work was at least as good as if not better than what came out of the class here last year. Better not just to my eye, but to the participants, each of whom got a lot out of this intensive four days of thinking about their writing in a slightly different way.

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Interlochen Writer's Retreat: Day 3

On day three, we went into the blind contour drawing, using giant wax crayons on big sheets of newsprint. After doing that, we lead the participants straight into 'blind writing', where they move a sheet of paper down as they write in their journals to cover up what they've written as soon as they move to a new line, the idea being that they don't stop to look back at what they've written, but keep moving forward in the moment. The discussion about the process, together with a short read-back from their writing afterwards, made it clear that everyone got a huge amount out of today's class, and were seeing the parallels between the blind contour drawing and their writing. Even on an abbreviated schedule like this, we can see and hear break-throughs beginning to happen in the writing.

It would be nice to excerpt from the journal writing, but in lieu of that, here is a blind contour drawing from each person:

Joan
Lynn
Lindsey
Viki
Linda
Jo-Anne
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Interlochen Writer's Retreat: Day 2

On the second day, we did the cluster drawing/written list activity. Participants make word lists, and then they draw separate or matched drawings of objects that they either see or just want to group together. The idea is that these can be mined for story. (A classic 'list' story would be Tim O'Brien's 'The Things They Carried'.)

Here are some of the pages from the journal/sketchbooks, showing lists, cluster drawings, and some combined writing/drawing:






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Reading at the Interlochen Writer's Retreat

Here are a couple of pictures of me reading at the Interlochen Writer's Retreat on Monday evening. I projected a slideshow of images from the Lucerne Project, and I read about five pages from the imaginary Lucerne travel diary that I've been writing and posting to that blog. It was the first time that I've really read anything like fiction, which is what those small pieces are, in the setting of a reading before a live audience -- and of real writers, no less. The pieces, and the images from the 100-page accordion book, were quite well received.

I was preceded by Anne-Marie Oomen, who read from her published volume of memoir:


And I was followed by Patricia Ann McNair (my wife), who read from her forthcoming collection of short stories (available in September from Elephant Rock Books). As usual, Patty brought the house down:


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Interlochen Writer's Retreat: Day 1

On day 1 of the Journal & Sketchbook class here at the Interlochen Writer's Retreat, we had people out and drawing within 20 minutes of the first class starting:


There are lots of flowers around here, by the way:


We have 6 participants for this class, which is a nice number. At least 3 have either passed through Columbia College, teach at Columbia College, or both. But the three other participants brought their own experience, professional and personal, to the class, too. Everyone jumped right in when we did the quick drawing activity. Here's a selection of some drawings:




Click on any image to embiggen it.

Once again, the range of gestural mark-making that comes out of people who say they cannot draw is pretty amazing. We turned immediately from the drawing to the writing, and it was also striking during a short read-back afterwards to hear how the writing was filled with a heightened visual sense.

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Journal and Sketchbook: Past and Future

Today, Patty and I welcome a group of people to a four day Journal and Sketchbook class at the Interlochen Writer's Retreat, organized by the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in Collaboration with Michigan Writers. As this group of talented and eager adults begins to make work, I will post images on this blog.

Meanwhile, here are some images of the final projects produced by students at Columbia College Chicago, from the J&S class that ended in the middle of May. All of the work related in some way to the 35 pages of their final written piece.

First, Ashley Lyons, who brought in this five feet by six feet canvas. Medium: acrylic, embroidery:


Aviva Einhorn: ink, paint, and collaged text on wood:


Amanda Koester: ink and watercolour on paper:


Jeremy Zitnik: acrylic paint on paper:


Hattie Parmeter: hand-made jewellery, each piece embedded with a word or object relating to a character in her story:

Lauren Niemiec: acrylic. pastel, collage on paper:


More below the fold: