Thursday, October 19, 2017

Art I'm Making: Art Trails Update

Because of the recent Northbay wildfires, Art Trails 2017 has been moved back one week, but the event will go on. Artists that are able to open their studios will do so on the weekends of October 21-22 and October 28-29. Note, however, that some artists will be open only one weekend. Some artists, sadly, have lost everything and will not be able to participate, but more than 140 artists will be opening their doors and showing art on at least one of the two weekends, most on both. Many artists will be donating a portion of sales to a support fund set up by The Sebastopol Center for the Arts to aid artists affected by the fires. For details on who is participating and where, see the Center for the Arts website for the most up-to-date information. I will be open both weekends.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Books I'm Reading: The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes

Mark Urban's The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes (Perennial, 2001) is a  fascinating story that sheds light not only on the career of George Scovell, later Sir George Scovell, but a great deal of light on the man he long served, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. Despite the invaluable services Scovell performed for Wellington handling Spanish guerrillas and spies during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars and, most importantly, working as a code-breaker, Wellington appears to have been unable to overcome prejudices that made him favor upper-class associates over the common-born like Scovell, no matter how valuable the latter were to his successes (although his attitude was perhaps not unusual among the aristocracy).

Scovell was a linguist and had a talent for  ciphers. He was largely responsible for breaking France's "Great Paris Cipher," reserved for the most sensitive communications--a cipher the French never suspected had been compromised. At times, Wellington was reading messages between Napoleon's generals, between Napoleon and his generals, and between Napoleon and his brother Joseph, installed as the King of Spain (while Napoleon himself was busy failing to conquer Russia). Urban makes a strong case for Scovell's critical importance to Wellington's success in Portugal and Spain fighting the French and the book goes a long way toward reviving the memory of Scovell who doesn't seem to have deserved his treatment at the hands of Wellington--or his obscurity. Meticulously researched, well written, and important. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Miscellaneous: The Worst Mass Shooting in American History--Until the Next Worst One

It's raining again--a shower of thoughts and prayers from Republican senators who voted against a ban on assault-style weapons.

Maybe these senators should keep their thoughts and prayers to themselves and instead support commonsense reform of America's insane gun laws.

But I guess that's not as lucrative as supporting the NRA.

[Update: We have a new weapon in the arsenal for dealing with mass shootings: "warmest condolences."]

Art I'm Making: Art Trails Open Studios 2017

A YEAR OF NEW WORK: The Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event (October 14-15 and 21-22) will soon be upon us. This year, I'm studio number 61. I'll be showing abstract monotype-based collage, photography, and printmaking again at 973 Stone Castle Lane, Santa Rosa, 95405. Come by and see what I've been up to in the past year.

To see more of my work, visit my website at:
http://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 186 (Santa Rosa)

My most recent collage--a small piece, measuring 4.6 x 4.8 inches. This is Untitled Collage No. 186 (Santa Rosa). August 22, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, the 2017 ART TRAILS OPEN STUDIO EVENT WEEKENDS are fast approaching (October 14-15 and October 21-22, 10AM to 5PM each day). I'll have a lot of  work to show--including more than 25 new pieces since Art Trails last year. This year I'm Studio 61, showing at the same location as in past years, 973 Stone Castle Lane, in Santa Rosa. I look forward to seeing you at the event.

Also, TONIGHT, Thursday, September 28, 2017, is the OPENING RECEPTION for the preview show (through October 22) for the entire Art Trails event, 6-8PM at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts. A piece from each of the 151 participating artists is on view. Come by, say hello, check out the offerings, and plan your studio visits.

For more of my collage art, visit my website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wines I'm Making: 2017 Sangiovese Harvest (September 25, 2017)

I picked our Sangiovese grapes on September 25, 2017. The juice from the just-crushed grapes was at 21 degrees Brix and a pH of 3.57 (although the pressed grapes tested much higher--at 26 degrees Brix). I got only 44lbs of grapes, which is a very low yield. I did not sulfite at all, but pitched the yeast (Epernay II) immediately. While the loss to animals this year was zero--proving my belated understanding that the key to preventing animal damage is getting the nets and the electric fence on early, while the fruit is still green and of no interest to four-legged intruders--there was a much more mildew damage than usual. I had to throw away probably a third of the grapes and even in the grapes I used there was more mildew damage than I'd have liked. I'm hoping the wine will not show evidence of unhealthy grapes. Time will tell. Because of the mildew, I pressed the grapes right after crushing them, so there was only about an hour of skin contact. In the past, I've let the grapes sit about 18 hours before pressing, which results in a deep rosé. This year the wine is likely to be a much paler pink. Our Cabernet grapes are still on the vines.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The City Club, San Francisco

Another neon cocktail glass in San Francisco. This one is at The City Club, 2950 16th Street. The glass itself looks fairly generic in design, but yellow is somewhat unusual.

For more, click the "Cocktail Glass Collection" label at right at the top of the page.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Andersonville

My grandmother always spoke highly of this book. Her interest in it stemmed in part from the fact that an ancestor of ours was captive at the infamous prison depicted in the novel, formally known as Camp Sumter. One Bernhard Kratzsch, an Ohio volunteer, (also known as Rheinhard)--to me, an uncle with many greats before his name, was captured at Gettysburg and ended up at Andersonville. According to my grandmother, he died there. In 2013, on a trip across the southern states (mostly for birding), I visited the site. I was unable to find Bernhard's name among those buried in the cemetery adjacent to the stockade that housed the captives. A guard told me many Union soldiers that had been at Andersonville--thousands of them--were moved south and east as Sherman's army advanced, and that many died en route or at prisons deeper in confederate territory. Our Bernhard was perhaps among those men.

It's a book I've long meant to read. And so I have now. I see that it would have interested my grandmother also because it is beautifully written. Her second husband owned a well-respected independent bookstore in Dayton, Ohio, McLean's Books,  in the days when nearly all bookstores were independent bookstores. She taught high school English for many years in Dayton. She read voraciously. She was an admirer of fine literature.

Andersonville was a shockingly horrible place. Kantor vividly describes the conditions in the camp--a simple rectangular stockade of upended pine trunks filled with tens of thousands of men given no shelter and little food, men with access only to fouled water. Though a novel, Andersonville is based on meticulous research. While characters in the story living outside the prison itself are mostly fictional, many of the guards and officers in charge and even some of the prisoners are based on people who actually lived. Some of the reports on conditions at the prison quoted are taken from contemporary reports. A substantial bibliography is provided. I see no reason to believe the author has done anything but bring to life the horrid place much as it must have been in reality. Although Andersonville was written almost 65 years ago. It remains quite fresh. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Buckhorn, San Francisco

On a recent day of driving around San Francisco after dark I passed this simple but attractive neon cocktail glass (with skewered cherry) at The Buckhorn. Unfortunately, I've lost track of the location. A Google search brings up only the Buckhorn Grill, with three locations in the city, but this appears to be an independent bar not connected with the grill. Somewhere in San Francisco....

[Update: Or so I thought. Oddly, I drove by the place again a few days after posting this. I se that The Buckhorn is in Petaluma, not San Francisco--at 615 Petaluma Blvd S.

For more, click the "Cocktail Glass Collection" label at right at the top of the page.
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Rain: Another Quarter Inch in 2016-2017

We had a rare thunderstorm today. It very quickly dropped a quarter inch of rain on us. As the official rain year is now calculated from October 1 to September 30 of the following year, this new precipitation, although it feels like the start of the 2017-2018 rain year, will be credited to the preceding year. That brings our already record-breaking total for the 2016-2017 rain year to 55.55 inches at my northeast Santa Rosa location.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 185 (Santa Rosa)

A new collage, this one a kind of diptych, the two halves separated by a thin white line. This is Untitled Collage No. 185 (Santa Rosa), finished August 8, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 25.1 x 15.5cm (9.9 x 6.1 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

For more of my collage art, visit my website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Wines I'm Making: The Waiting Game 2017

It's almost mid-September. The commercial vineyards, growing many varieties in many locations, are in the middle of a harvest that will last into early November in the higher elevations but mostly finish by mid-October. My Cabernet and Sangiovese vines will be ready soon, but the grapes aren't mature yet. They have been netted against critters. The electric fence is on. So far, no damage from animals, but a fair amount of the Sangiovese got hit by mildew earlier in the season and a lesser amount of the Cabernet. The removal of trees in the neighbor's yard right next to the grapes has helped to keep things healthy otherwise--more sun, more light. As long as the animals continue to leave the berries alone, we'll have a harvest at least as big as the very small harvest of last year. Now I simply wait for the grapes to mature while keeping an eye on their sugar levels. Quite a few raisins already, a result of the very high temperatures (well above 100 degrees) we had last week and the week before. I've watered only twice this year, once a deep watering of 7 hours and more recently, following the heat, about 4 hours. As always, we won't really know what's going on until the berries are picked and crushed. That's probably about two weeks away.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Delirium Bar, San Francisco

I recently passed by the Delerium Bar, in San Francisco, at 3139 16th Street. This appears to be a custom design with the cocktail glass in blue. It's unusual in that it doesn't have a skewered olive or cherry in it.

For more, click the "Cocktail Glass Collection" label at right at the top of the page.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Art I'm Looking at: Claude Smith, on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi

I'm pleased to announce the next show on the Art Wall at Shige Sushi will feature work by Graton-based artist Claude Smith. These are the last few days to see the exquisite work by Bob Nugent up on the Art Wall now (through tomorrow, Sunday, September 3). Claude's show will go up over the long weekend and open on Tuesday, September 5. The opening reception will be the following Monday, September 11, from 5:30 to 7:30PM. Drop by, meet the artist, have a glass of wine, take in the art.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 184 (Santa Rosa)

A recent collage, using a comparatively limited palette--mostly reds, browns, and oranges--with some subtly contrasting elements in shades of blue. This is Untitled Collage No. 184 (Santa Rosa). July 20, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, found paper, collage. Image size: 19.6 x 16.8cm (7.7 x 6.6 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat, signed and dated on the reverse.

For more of my collage art, visit my website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Picture This: How Pictures Work

Children's writer and illustrator Molly Bang's Picture This: How Pictures Work has come to my attention in the form of a recently released 25th anniversary edition. A new, hard-cover anniversary edition suggests the book has long been well known and loved, yet I'd never seen it before--never even heard of it--despite a habit of reading about art and perception. It was originally published in 1991 by Bullfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company as Picture This: Perception and Composition, but I read the revised and expanded (slightly re-titled) 25th Anniversary edition of 2016 from Chronicle books shown here.

It's a shame it's escaped my attention all this time because this simple, easy-to-grasp book is a remarkable distillation of much of what artists know about composition presented in a way that virtually anyone will understand. So, I wish I had read it long ago. My instinct now will be to recommend Picture This every time someone looks at a piece of my art and wonders what's going on, every time I'm in the presence of someone who expresses frustration with understanding art, especially abstract art. Although it can be read in a single sitting (the expanded edition is about 132 pages, mostly pictures), it's nothing short of revelatory. This book is quietly brilliant.

Picture This is likely to be extremely useful in teaching or presenting basic concepts of perception and composition to laymen. It provides a handy framework for talking about art, particularly with people who think they don't understand art--and again, abstract art in particular because the discussion is presented using simple paper cutouts, themselves abstracted distillations of the things they represent; Bang looks at how shape, color, size, and placement on a page affect our feelings.

At the same time, I suspect many artists will find the book concisely articulates much of what they instinctively know already about these subjects but may be unable to express in words. For artists, the book is likely to feel like an affirmation of instinct. The author touches on the subject explicitly at the end of the book (I suspect this is an addition to the anniversary edition) in a short chapter called "Finally, in Defense of Instinct." The chapter comprises a single illustration (from the author's book Dawn, an adaptation of the Japanese folktale known as "The Crane Wife") and a single page of text. She says "I made this image long before I wrote Picture This and before I understood its principles." You can almost hear her inwardly saying "Yes! See! I knew what I was doing all along!" And, as an artist, it's hard not to share her feeling.

But she's thinking about instinct in another, more fundamental sense. Throughout the book, Bang looks at pictorial elements pared down to essentials and draws attention to the basic human instincts these elements play on to evoke feeling through the agency of the artist. For example, she makes it abundantly clear how our intimate, unavoidable relationship with gravity informs the way we interpret nearly all pictorial forms. Almost the entirety of the book is illustrated with diagrams made using only black, white, red, or lavender paper cutouts--just the essentials (see the book cover above). The first example in Picture This not such an explanatory diagram appears only on page 117, at the very end of the book. Presenting the illustration from Dawn mentioned above, she invites the reader to contemplate the image using the ideas presented in Picture This without herself "deconstructing the picture." By page 117, however, there's no need for her to reiterate. With the concepts leading up to this image in mind, it's easy to see how the illustration works. Her ideas are clear, elemental, and obvious once presented; they leave a deep impression. The last time I encountered such a clear, convincing, extended argument about any topic was reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Highly recommended. This book should be in the collection of every artist, every school, every man or woman who's ever struggled with interpreting (or making) imagery of any kind.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Serendipitous Art: Paint and Shadows (August 19, 2017)

A patch of paint, a spill, pieces of tape, and light came together to make this unintended composition. Serendipitous art.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 183 (Santa Rosa)

Untitled Collage No. 183 (Santa Rosa). July 10, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, found paper, collage. Image size: 18.7 x 21.4cm (7.4 x 8.4 inches). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse. One of the only two pieces I managed to finish in July.
Click on the image for a larger view.

For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Miscellaneous: North Dakota License Plate Finally Spotted

Yesterday I spotted a car near Santa Rosa, CA bearing a North Dakota license plate. That's not a big deal, except in the context of a game I've been playing with myself for about three years now. I've been trying to see a license plate from each of the 50 United States--without going out of my way to do that. I had been stuck at 48 states for well over a year.

North Dakota was one of the two I'd never seen (oddly, South Dakota is moderately common around here; I've seen South Dakota plates a handful of times). Logically, Hawaii and Alaska would seem the most unlikely in Northern California, but I see Alaska plates once or twice a month and Hawaii not infrequently either. In addition to the 49 states I've now seen, I've seen plates from Washington D.C. and even the Marshall Islands--all in the course of my regular wanderings around the San Francisco Bay Area. One state still eludes me.... Care to guess which one it is, or what the other rare ones seem to be?

Miscellaneous: New Yard Bird

I've long had Hooded Oriole on my list of yard birds as I define a yard bird as any bird I see on my property or FROM my property. I've seen them in tall trees in a neighbor's yard, but never in my own garden until a few days ago. A female Hooded Oriole, probably a young bird, was in a bush right outside my kitchen window. I got a nice photograph of it even though I had to shoot through a window screen. I feel like I can count it as a more authentic yard bird than before.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 182 (Santa Rosa)

Sometimes you finish a piece of work, reluctantly, not entirely happy, but somehow needing to move on, and you're left with something that demands more work or a complete re-think after a little time has passed.

This is Untitled Collage No. 182 (Santa Rosa), initially finished June 8, 2017, but completely reworked on July 13, more than a month later. Originally a horizontal piece, transformed into a much more dynamic and satisfying vertical composition. Now I'm very pleased with it. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, graphite, collage. Image size: 25.4 x 35.7cm (10.0 x14.1in). Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Monday, August 7, 2017

Miscellaneous: Location, Location, Location

I found myself recently in the town of Larkspur, in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate. Looking for a shady place to park, I pulled into a side street and came to a stop in front of the house pictured here. In front of the shack-like building was a "for sale" sign. One bedroom, of less than 700 square feet, un-landscaped, old and not very well put together to begin with, this is something you might pick up for about $30,000 in many parts of the United States--say, in central Alabama. Price in Larkspur, California? $800,000. It truly is all about location.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 181 (Santa Rosa)

A recent collage. This is Untitled Collage No. 181 (Santa Rosa), May 17, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size 22.9 x 29.7cm (9.0 x 11.7in). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat, signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/


Wines I'm Making: 2015 Cabernet Labeled (July 29, 2017)

Yesterday I got labels printed for our 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc. 2015 was a tiny harvest. We made only 18 bottles of wine, but the wine is very good--perhaps as good as the 2014. 2016 was a wash. I made no red wine at all last year because the yield was so bad. I pooled all the Cabernet and the Sangiovese and made a blended rosé--and only about a case of that. With a row of trees behind my little vineyard creating shade, yields have been very low and mildew has been a problem. This spring I persuaded the neighbor to remove the trees, which has greatly increased the sun on the vines. I'm hoping to get a more normal yield in 2018. In past years, we've made as many as six or seven cases of wine from our 34 vines.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 180 (Santa Rosa)

A recent collage using a rather bold magenta-tinged blue. Unintentionally, this ended up with the feel of a landscape. Whatever you happen to see in it, I think it achieves the kind of dynamic stasis that is crucial to a good abstract composition.

This is Untitled Collage No. 180 (Santa Rosa), May 21, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 25.5 x 19.8cm (10.0 x 7.8 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

On a technical note, I've been describing my collage work as "abstract monoprint collage" but I now think that was a mistake. Strictly speaking, the collages I make are made from monotypes rather than monoprints. From now on, I'll be calling them "abstract monotype collages."

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Pan Am: History, Design & Identity

I bought Pan Am: History, Design & Identity (Callisto, 2016) on impulse because it appeared to present the entire history of Pan Am's branding in photographs of the company's aircraft, destinations, hotels, and personnel at work as well as in reproductions of posters and other ephemera the company used—hundreds of posters, luggage labels, brochures, and other promotional material. But the book turned out to be much more. I hadn't really expected a lot of text, but, in addition to a remarkable collection of images, author M. C. Hühne presents a succinct yet thorough history of Pan Am's origins, it's development into probably the most influential airline in the world, and then its slow decline and failure. Along the way, we get an insightful portrait of Pan Am's visionary leader, Juan Trippe, and a look at some of the people he worked with, including Charles Lindbergh. The illustrations are beautifully printed on heavy, coated paper, which makes the book feel like a brick, but it's a brick that's very pleasurable to peruse. Owning it is an indulgence, but it's the kind of book that will reward repeated visits—in the end, a worthwhile investment.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Art I'm Looking At: Exhibit Pipeline on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi

Susan Stover: Where is My Allegiance?
I'm excited about the artist line-up for the rest of 2017 and into 2018 on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi. I've now filled the next five show slots (from July 2017 through the end of April 2018).

Bob Nugent: Sementes 80
First up will be Bob Nugent: Dialogues with Nature, a show of works by Bob Nugent, inspired by the time he spends in the Amazon River Basin in Brazil. Bob's work will be on the walls from July 5 through September 3, 2017. The opening reception will be July 10, 2017 from 5:30 to 7:30.

Claude Smith: Margins 06


The September–October 2017 slot will go to Graton-based artist Claude Smith.  Claude was a participant in the very first show on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi, in December 2014. Claude is primarily a painter, but he also does mixed media and collage work.

The November–December show will feature the work of Susan Stover, known for small, wall-mounted sculptural objects and abstract mixed-media pieces and encaustics.

The first show of 2018 will be devoted to work by Oakland-based printmaker Linda Yoshizawa who does intricate stencil-based prints and solar plate etchings of mostly botanical subjects.

Linda Yoshizawa: Morning Magnolias
 The February–March slot will go to Katie McCann, also an Oakland-based artist known for her wonderfully imaginative collages.

Katie McCann: Mind Full

Art I'm Looking At: Bob Nugent on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi (July 5 through September 3, 2017)

I'm very pleased to announce the upcoming show on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi. We'll be showing works inspired by the Amazon River Basin by Bob Nugent. Nugent's work has been shown around the world (over 100 solo shows and inclusion in more than 550 group exhibitions across the US, in Europe, Asia, and South America.) Don't miss this opportunity to see a selection of Nugent's subtle, evocative paintings. The show runs from July 5 through September 3, 2017

OPENING RECEPTION: MONDAY, JULY 10, 5:30 to 7:30PM

Bob Nugent appears on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi courtesy of Erickson Fine Art Gallery, Healdsburg.

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 179 (Novato)

Finally getting around to posting the last of the four collages I made while co-teaching a class with Suzanne Jacquot at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art back in April.

This is Untitled Collage No. 179 (Novato), April 22, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Image size: 34.8 x 26.7cm (13.2 x 10.5in). Matted to 24 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, visit my collage website at: http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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