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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Catching Up

It was somewhere in the middle of the "DeSoto" print, or maybe very near the beginning, or perhaps even in the middle of "Memorial Day," that I realized that something didn't feel right. I mean, the prints themselves had their issues, and I wasn't happy with them, but the frustration went far deeper.

It was August, a really hot, steamy August, here on the shores of Lake Erie. I was still getting used to our new place back in Hamburg after fleeing our rotting house in South Buffalo. I had my work space pretty well set up in a clean, dry and well-lit basement, plenty of board to cut, plenty of ink to roll, lots of paper to print on. And, after several dry years, lots of ideas.

And I think it was the disconnect between the sweet scenes in my head and the...stuff...that was coming from my hands that was really getting me down. The pretty "Autumn Camper" had turned out to be an anomaly, and I found that terrifying.

I'm a self-taught printmaker, and as such, I know that I can expect a lot of moments of frustration as I learn along the way (and that was what last year's daily updates were about, the journey to figuring it all out). But what about being an artist? And just exactly what does  that mean?
Art has a pretty sad history in my family. Though my dad was a craftsman in spirit, the only real art ever practiced on that side was sarcasm and covering up odd branches on the family tree. My mom's side was creative, but sad; my grandparents told my uncle that if he could copy a tapestry with pencil, they'd try to find a way to send him to art school. According to my grandmother, he did, and it was beautiful, like a photocopy. Unfortunately, there still wasn't any money, and he went onto a rewarding career in the US Navy. My mother was also a natural artist and crafter. She didn't draw or paint much, but when she did, it was flawless, and beautiful. For his part, my brother actually was able to marry talent and ambition, and is an architect.
Me? Funny story. I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in 6th grade carrying around a Picasso monograph. Yeah, I had all the silly notions of what it was to be an artist that a young kid has, but I also really loved art. But every time I touched a pencil to a piece of paper, it was a disaster. In my mind, anyway. But I still tried. My notebooks through high school looked like a cross between a comic book and a cave painting, but looked nothing like a notebook. Still, when the time came to pick a path and head to college, I chose journalism.
Mmmm. Smart choice.
But what I wanted to study was art. Why didn't I. Because I was told, by my folks, by my teachers, by family friends: you can't make a living as an artist. Unfortunately, I accepted this at face value, not even bothering to investigate all of the art-based careers out there.
That, and I couldn't draw noses. Seriously. I got so hung up on not being able to draw a proper nose that, instead of actually learning to draw a nose, I avoided an entire discipline for almost 20 years. And then, one night I dreamed of carving a block and printing it on paper, having little knowledge of block printing, and I began working and studying on my own.
Again, I've done what I can through books and whatnot, and a lot of observation. But I finally realized that what was causing the disconnect was a lack of some real training, and some real guidance.

So, for the last few months, and for many years to come, I am back in school, starting from the ground up. I hope this will show in my future work. I don't plan to do daily updates, because I don't think anybody needs to know how the pictures happen, but I will post when I think there's something cool to show.

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