Saturday, November 22, 2014

Art I'm Making: Two Small Collages

Work has picked up a little, leaving me less time to work on art than I'd like, but I've completed two or three new collages since the end of the Art Trails open studio event. Untitled Collage No. 79 (Santa Rosa) uses red and raspberry-colored mono printed papers I've made set off with a scrap of orange paper from a chocolate bar wrapper. Pictured above.

Untitled Collage No. 80 (Santa Rosa), pictured below, uses umber, black, and a very deep (nearly black) navy blue offset with warm tones. Both collages are small--about four inches square.

Click on the images for a larger view. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rain: Rain Yesterday and Today is Helping a Little (November 20, 2014)

Rain yesterday and continuing today after a short lull is bringing some relief to the landscape. We've accumulated about an inch in the past 24 hours, but it's still coming down--which is a good thing. We are about 8 inches below normal for the year and have a cumulative deficit of something like 30 inches over the past three years, so everything helps. As of 11AM on November 20 we have had 1.25 inches of rain  in the past couple of days, bringing the total at my location so far in the 2014-2015 rain year (which extends from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) to 2.95 inches.

[Update: More rain on the evening of the 21st and into the morning of the 22nd has added 0.45 inches of rain, bringing the season total now to 3.40 inches--still well below normal, but every little bit helps.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Art I'm Making: An Old New Collage

Once in a while I come across an unused assemblage of shapes and colors that somehow works in juxtaposition with another leftover fragment. This little collage is a pairing of two such fragments from months back. As a result, this new piece has an affinity with work I was doing a while ago. Echoes from the past.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Books I'm Reading: Lawrence of Arabia--A Film's Anthropology

100 years after his activities in the desert during WWI, people are still writing about T.E. Lawrence. He remains a fascinating figure. Most of that writing is biographical. Steven C. Catton's book Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology (1999, University of California Press), however, is about the 1962 film directed by David Lean--its conception, its reception, its meaning.

The better you know the film, the more interesting his book will be. I can imagine some of the detailed analysis of individual scenes being hard to follow if they aren't already fairly firmly embedded in memory. Given the time, the best strategy would be to watch the movie, read the book, and then watch the movie again. I suspect even people who know the movie very well will find something new to see in Lawrence of Arabia after reading Caton's analysis from the point of view of an anthropologist, examining the implications of the film's assumptions about other cultures, about colonialism, about class and gender. Caton succeeds in suggesting the film is rather more complex and ambivalent than it may at first seem. He also stresses how important it is to see Lawrence of Arabia as originally edited, arguing that seemingly insignificant details often cut to make a very long film more manageable are essential to understanding what the script writers and Lean intended. Worth a read if you're a fan of the film and want to add another dimension to your appreciation of it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wines I'm Drinking: 2005 Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva

A rather deep, more opaque red than Chianti Classico often is, this one showing its age, the color tending toward garnet. Leather, meat, wood, and stewed dark cherries on the nose. There was something about it that put me in mind of a wine made from the Carmenere grape--often meaty and leathery on the nose. I read later that the blend contains a considerable amount of Merlot ( a little under 20%, most of the remainder being Sangiovese), and the addition shows. A hint of cloves on the nose as well. Full-bodied (the wine seems quite alcoholic, although it's a fairly typical 13.5%) with deeply extracted fruit on the attack balanced by good acidity and chewy tannins. Chocolatey on the mid-palate and with a moderately extended finish marked by a hint of cola and bitter almond at the very end. Has character. Delicious, and a bargain at the Rohnert Park Grocery outlet at only $6.99 a bottle. This wine usually retails in the $20-$28 range. I'll be going back for more.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rain: Finally a Little Rain (October 25, 2014)

Finally--a little rain. Too little, unfortunately, but at least a momentary downpour. It's been raining on and off all day, actually. I just checked the rain gauge and was pleased to find 0.5 inches there. That brings our total so far for the 2014-2015 rain season to 1.45 inches. It's a start.

[Update: On Friday, the 31st, we had another 0.25 inches, bringing the total to 1.70 inches.]

Miscellaneous: I actually Used Pi to Solve a Real-life Problem

In high school, I got it into my head that it would be impressive to memorize the value of π to 100 digits. I don't remember why. It was just one of those things.

I started out with enthusiasm but quickly abandoned the project because of something my girlfriend's mother said as I was attempting to rattle off what I had learned--she questioned the need to memorize 100 digits if my intent was just to impress people. She reasoned that most people probably know the value of π to four or five digits at most. Therefore, she said, it would be more efficient to memorize the first 10 digits or so and then make up the rest because almost no one listening would ever know the difference.

At this remove, I've retained the value of π in my head to nine digits--3.141592635. That seems like plenty to impress and for practical use. Yesterday I actually used π to solve a real-life problem. I was drilling drainage holes in ceramic pots. I was trying to decide whether it was more efficient to drill three 3/4-inch holes in the bottom of each pot or to drill two one-inch holes. To compare the area opened up by each of the two options I had to know the value of π. Three 3/4-inch holes gives 7.0 square inches of drainage (0.75 x 3π), while two one-inch holes gives 6.3 square inches (2π)--close enough given how hard it is and how long it takes to drill holes in a thick ceramic material. Nine digits was more than enough to do the calculation. Thanks Mrs. Knoll.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rain: Drizzle

Overnight we had a light rain. Rain is good, but it was hardly enough to make any difference. I found only 0.1 inches in the rain gauge this morning. That brings our total for the 2014-2015 rain year to 0.95 inches.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Art I'm Making: Another New Collage

Chartreuse is one of those love it or hate it colors. It's not a favorite of mine, but, having made some chartreuse paper recently, I started playing with shapes and colors and I developed a composition against a chartreuse background that I rather like. I used bright, sharply contrasting colors--magenta, red, burnt orange--to set off the yellow-green. Untitled Collage No. 77 (Santa Rosa) was born. Visit my studio this coming weekend to see the original (which is rather more subtly colored than the photo here suggests).

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Rain: 0.1 inches on October 15

The forecast promised real rain on the night of the 14th and into the 15th, but we got only 0.1 inches, at least at my house. It's supposed to rain again at the end of the week, but the long-term forecast is for another dry winter. I miss the big three-day storms and downpours we used to get regularly in the winter months. The recent rain brings our total for the 2014-2015 rain year to 0.85 inches.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Art I'm Making: Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 First Weekend

I opened my studio as part of the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails event on October 11 and 12 (the event continues next weekend, October 18 and 19) and enjoyed talking about art and making art with the many visitors who stopped by. It was a pleasure to get feedback on work I've never shown publicly before. During lulls, I had time to do a little work and finished a couple of pieces using paper I made to demonstrate my working process, which involves painting on paper or mono-printing on paper and then using the papers I make to create collages.

Pictured above is Untitled Collage No. 75 (Santa Rosa), which uses some paper elements printed using Sennelier's Naples yellow and incorporates some scraps of a sheet of paper with pastel marks on it that a fellow collage artist brought me.

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. Stop by to see my work in person. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Untitled Collage No. 76 (Santa Rosa) also uses a scrap of the pastel-marked sheet and some of the Naples yellow paper, but also incorporates older raspberry-colored papers and a peach-colored paper with round shapes.

Wine I'm Making: 2014 Cabernet Pressed, Sangiovese Rosé Racked

I got up early on the morning of October 11 to press our 2014 Cabernet before the Sonoma County Art Trails weekend began. I finished about 15 minutes before the first visitor arrived. I ended up with only 5 gallons of new wine, which will mean only 25 bottles of 2014 Cab, while about forty bottles is normal. The following day I racked and sulphited the 2014 Sangiovese rosé. We'll get only about 15 bottles of the pink wine. The Sangiovese yield has typically been between 15 and 25 bottles a year. I inoculated the Cabernet with malolactic starter on the morning of the 12th, so it should be starting its malolactic fermentation. The carboy in the living room makes a nice conversation piece amidst all the art I'm showing. I still haven't bottled the 2013 Cabernet. Perhaps this week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Art I'm Making: New Collages (October 12, 2014)

During the first two days of Art Trails, I spent a lot of time on the floor working on collages in between visits by people coming to see my studio. I had time to finish several new collages. Here are Untitled Collage No. 73 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 74 (Santa Rosa). The first of these plays with the space a little. I've left the edges at slightly odd angles on two sides, which gives the piece a somewhat playful feel.

The second uses a rather large swath of green to balance the dark forms at the left and top edges. The green is offset by a beige circle.

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. Stop by to see my work in person. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Books I'm Reading: Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance

I purchased Lynne Munson's Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance (Ivan R. Dee, 2000) several years ago. I read it this week. I wish I had pulled it down from my book shelf sooner. It clarifies a great deal about trends in late 20th century art. It crystallizes in a very useful way lot of what I and many others have sensed about the "art world." Munson looks at the art world using two case studies--the evolution of arts funding through the National Endowment for the Arts (the NEA) and faculty politics in Harvard's art history department. Both cases are instructive, but it's enough here to look at the example of the NEA.

President Johnson signed the NEA into law on September 29, 1965 following a congressional act of August 1964 that had created the National Council on the Arts. The council--an impressive group that included Isaac Stern, David Brinkley, Gregory Peck, David Smith, Leonard Bernstein, and later John, Steinbeck, Richard Diebenkorn, and Sidney Poitier, among others--was tasked with creating an outline of the new Endowment's mission. An advisory panel that set priorities for the Endowment's visual arts program recommended that top concerns should include providing "direct assistance to the creative artist" and recognizing "excellence in artistic achievement." The first group of NEA grantees included men and women from all over the country working in a wide range of styles of painting and sculpture. The grants were based on a combination of artistic excellence and need. In other words, the people who created the NEA saw the Endowment's role as a source of direct support for the best working artists in the country, particularly those who were struggling financially. Many of the artists chosen to receive grants had virtually no income from their art, while producing work widely recognized as superior. Gene Davis, Edward Ruscha, Donald Judd, and Mark di Suvero were among the first group of grantees.

With the election of Richard Nixon came a change of leadership at the NEA that immediately and permanently changed its tenor, propelling it in the direction of the controversy perhaps most associated with the entity today, and, ultimately, creating public skepticism about the wisdom of any kind of public arts funding, sabotaging the original intent of those who brought the NEA into existence, people who took it for granted that quality art was essential to the life of a healthy nation. At the same time, Nixon's advisors recommended vastly increasing the NEA's grants--but mostly for political reasons; they believed spending on the arts domestically would go some way toward ameliorating the increasingly negative impact at home of what was going on in Vietnam. The associated bureaucracy grew and efficiency declined. The NEA's budget was less than $10mn in 1969, but well over $60mn already in 1974, when Nixon left office. The NEA awarded $16 in grant money for every administrative dollar spent in 1967 but only $10 per administrative dollar by 1983.

When Nixon appointed Nancy Hanks to the leadership of the Endowment, a shift in emphasis away from artistic excellence and toward pluralism accelerated. Nixon wanted to expand the audience for art. Hanks wanted that and much more. With growing funding at her disposal, she oversaw a sharp shift away from supporting individual artists (which, as Munson notes, became the Endowment's lowest priority). Public outreach and support for art institutions became the priority while the scope of eligible activities was expanded to include photography, printmakers, videographers, performance artists, conceptual artists, and even art critics. Before long, virtually any kind of creative activity or arts-related entity (many highly controversial) became eligible for NEA funding and the NEA began to feed the fringes of an expanding art world rather than support traditional artists in their studios.

As Munson puts it, "This weakened standard for awardees, together with the increases in funding, encouraged a freewheeling approach to grant making. Instead of painstakingly whittling down a list of candidates to only the best and brightest, the visual arts panels were now handing out hundreds of grants." The NEA was fueling the expansion of just about every new trend that came along, creating an illusion of value where often there was none and debasing itself at the same time. Eventually, the NEA came to sponsor the radical and deliberately controversial almost exclusively, effectively censoring most serious artistic activity. To get a grant, it was more important to be different, "interesting," or shocking than to exhibit any kind of technical skill or artistic vision. The NEA came to foster exhibitionism while banishing what many would still today consider more serious art from the pool of those eligible for support. This is the exhibitionism of Munson's title. The intolerance she refers to is the entrenched institutional hostility toward traditional art forms that has come to characterize the contemporary art world. Her book goes a long way toward explaining how we got where we are now.

The story of the NEA's evolution nicely illuminates the backdrop of public confusion about the visual arts today and deep public skepticism about art and government agencies associated with the arts. It also suggests why the only people that make a living as artists today seem to be those that feed off the arts bureaucracy--the leach-like posers that create "art" for dealer leaches and gallery leaches that foist a great deal of trash on "collectors" who have no taste and have few places to look for less biased guidance. While not everyone will agree with me about the lamentable state of affairs that has resulted from trends in the last 40 years or so, Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance is well written, well argued, and hard to put down.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Art I'm Making: Last Collages Before Art Trails

The Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event, held each year in October, will soon be upon us. I'll be participating this year for the first time, showing mostly abstract collages made from hand-printed papers I make myself, but also showing some of my photography and printmaking. The event is on two weekends--October 10 and 11 and October 18 and 19. More than 160 artists across the county will open their studios to show their work and to show how that work is created. For more information, visit the Sonoma County Art Trails website. My studio is No. 125. Stop by if you have a chance. All studios are open 10:00AM to 5:00PM on each of the four days. I've been busy with preparations, but I've finished two more collages in the past couple of weeks--Untitled Collage No. 71 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 72 (Santa Rosa). 

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at (requires Flash Player).

Books I'm Reading: Inventing Wine

Two developments in the history of wine and winemaking are largely responsible the quality of the wine we drink today and for the range of choices we have: the development of sturdy glass bottles with reliable cork seals (a combination that banishes oxygen); and temperature-controlled vats for fermentation and storage. These two innovations set the stage for what Inventing Wine author Paul Lukacs rightly refers to as wine's "second golden Age."

Inventing Wine (Norton, 2012) is a history of winemaking from ancient times to the present with an emphasis on how wine was transformed from a highly perishable, short-lived, near accident to a highly sophisticated creation of the human imagination, benefiting from the choices winemakers are afforded today by innovations like temperature-controlled fermentation. Lukacs makes it clear that the global selection of high-quality wines we take for granted today is a very recent development.

Winemaking is believed to have begun as long as 8,000 years ago, but wine is highly susceptible to the effects of oxygen and spoilage caused mainly by the strains of bacteria that convert wine into vinegar. Most wine through history has been short-lived. While amphorae allowed quantities of wine to be sealed against oxygen and stored for long periods if unopened, most wine was stored in casks that, once breached, allow the contents to quickly turn sour if not topped up. Wine was often transported in animal skins (which imparted scents and flavors few would tolerate in wine today). It was typical to add spices, herbs, and resins to wine to mask off flavors and spoilage. Wine has not always been the sophisticated, natural drink it has become. What we think of as wine is comparatively new. Inventing Wine takes the reader on a journey through the history of winemaking with an emphasis on how we got from sour, adulterated wines of little distinction to the highly particular, carefully handled fresh-grape creations we enjoy today.

Serendipitous Art: Loading Dock, Graton (October 9, 2014)

I found this paint-smear composition on a loading dock in Graton, CA. The old warehouse building is now used as artist's studios. It looks like someone was working here.... Unintended art, serendipitous art.

For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Art I'm Making: September 2014 Collage Work

New collages. These two are further explorations using the raspberry-colored papers I've been making, but also drawing on some of the striated indigo blue papers I've made in Untitled Collage No. 69 (Santa Rosa) above and using the mossy green papers of a few weeks back in Untitled Collage No. 70 (Santa Rosa) below.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Books I'm Reading: Just My Type

We look at letters every day, often all day long. We see them on signs; on computer screens large and small, fixed and mobile; in books, magazines, and newspapers. But more often than not, we ignore their form, choosing instead to concentrate on the meanings they convey--and a good typeface (a good reading typeface, that is, as opposed to a display or advertising typeface) is often praised when it's seen as being "transparent," which is to say that it draws no attention to itself. Just My Type (Gotham Books, 2012) author Simon Garfield is far more sensitive to the shapes of letters.

Garfield takes the reader on a grand tour of typography. The book is an entertaining, often witty look at typefaces--where they come from and what they do for us. You may never look at street signs, billboards, print advertising, or book pages the same way again. Particularly fascinating is the way Garfield puts fonts into historical context. Next time you're watching a movie, you may find yourself looking for examples of lettering set in typefaces that didn't exist at the time of the film's setting--a new dimension in movie error trivia to explore.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Fermentation (September 29, 2014)

I inoculated our pressed Cabernet grapes yesterday, after a four-day cold soak. We picked the grapes on the 24th. This morning, the wine is beginning to bubble a little. The fermentation appears to have begun. The Sangiovese rosé fermentation is now in day four. Having had minor problems with hydrogen sulphide in the past two years I decided to use the yeast nutrients usually recommended (DAP and Fermaid K), although I've never used them in the past. I'm hoping better nutrient availability will prevent hydrogen sulphide problems this year. We'll see.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Harvest 2014 (September 24, 2014)

We picked our grapes on the 24th of September this year, which is about a week to two weeks earlier than usual. The grapes were looking a little dehydrated and rain was threatening. While rain is good for the plants, a heavy rain on soft, ripe skins could have been disastrous and I was worried about mold. With the sugar levels close to optimal anyway, I decided to pick.

The Sangiovese must tested at 22.8 degrees Brix and a pH of 3.47, the Cabernet at 24.5 degrees Brix and a pH of 3.37, both close to ideal, although these are averages of all the grapes in the vineyard. I would like to have let the fruit hang a little longer, but I'm hoping the wine will be at least as good as it usually is--which is not bad at all.

I pressed the Sangiovese grapes on the following morning. I always make a rosé from the Sangiovese. The juice was about 18 hours on the skins, which has been normal. That amount of skin contact typically produces a wine of a pale salmon hue. The Cabernet is still cold soaking (or cool soaking anyway). I usually let the crushed grapes sit for about three days before inoculating with yeast. The Sangiovese fermentation is already underway. As usual, I have used the Epernay yeast for the rosé, the French Red yeast for the Cab. Soon the house will smell like a winery.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rain: First Appreciable Rain of the Season (September 18, 2014)

There was a little rain overnight. It left 0.1 inches in the rain gauge--not a lot, but it was the first measurable rain of the 2014-2015 rain year, which began on July 1, 2014. We had traces of rain in July and, bizarrely, in August, but not enough to register. So, the 2014-2015 total stands at 0.1 inches as of today.

[Update: Still raining. So far, 0.25 inches as of 5:30PM. The following day we had another 0.3 inches and on the 26th we had yet more rain (0.20), bringing the total for the year to 0.75 inches.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Music I'm Listening To: San Francisco Symphony with Leif Ove Andsnes (September 12, 2014)

I attended the Friday, September 12 performance of the San Francisco Symphony. The program included Rossini's overture to La Gazza Ladra, Alternative Energy by Mason Bates, and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. Leif Ove Andsnes was soloist in the Beethoven concerto. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted. The orchestra gave a lively performance of Rossini's very familiar overture (although I would not have been able to name it before I had read the program), getting the evening off to buoyant start before shifting gears to a very modern piece, the Bates, which was composed in 2012.

The program notes say the San Francisco Symphony has done of series of concerts during the past two seasons pairing the music of Mason Bates with pieces by Beethoven, and this was another in that series, but nowhere does it explain why these two composers have been paired. I imagine there is a notional link, but it isn't obvious to me and the program had nothing to say about the juxtaposition, which was a little annoying (the failure to explain was annoying, that is). Personally, I'd rather hear a program of all modern music or all music of whatever period, unless there's some compelling reason to pair two pieces that are very different in style.

Composer Mason Bates wrote an extensive comment on Alternative Energy for the program notes. The piece begins, we are told, on a rural farm in 1896 and takes us to 2222, in Rykjavik, by way of Chicago (in 2012) and Xinjiang Province (in 2112). The piece is described as "an energy symphony" that moves from the cranking of an automobile engine, to sounds of contemporary Chicago, to scenes of a futuristic Chinese energy industry (including a meltdown), and finally to a post-apocalyptic Icelandic rainforest, before ending with "the occasional song of future birds" and "distant tribal voices" that call for fire "our first energy source." A motif played first on the violin (by Associate Concertmaster Nadya Tichman) recurs throughout the piece, often as a violin line, but in other guises as well. The composition includes recorded sounds played back through a surround-sound sound system that were nicely integrated--which is often not the case when electronic and live instrument sounds are used together. Some sections had a clearly Chinese feel (with the violins sounding like an erhu), other sections suggested gamelan music, sometimes the mood was jazzy. There was a cinematic sweep throughout. I thought the piece consistently interesting. I very much enjoyed the performance but didn't feel the need to know the "story" behind it. The audience was very appreciative. The composer appeared on stage to take bows along with conductor Thomas and the orchestra. He seemed very pleased with the performance, which was recorded for possible future release.

After intermission, Leif Ove Andsnes gave a controlled but lively rendition of the Beethoven piano concerto that was very well received by an appreciative audience. The applause lasted long enough to bring Andsnes out again to play two Beethoven bagatelles as an encore. Andsnes looked very sharp in a nicely tailored suit. The quality of the fabric it was cut from was apparent even from the audience (I was seated in the second row and right in front of the piano). The concert was a very nice start to the 2014–2015 season.

(Photograph of Mason Bates by Ryan Shude, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony website.)

Wines I'm Making: 2014 Harvest Approaches (September 12, 2014)

I did a full sampling of the fruit in our little vineyard on the 12th, the first serious look I've taken at picking the grapes so far this year. The Cabernet vines showed 23.8 Brix at a pH of 3.30, which is fairly close to ideal, but I'm afraid some of the sugar level reflects dehydration rather than full ripeness of the fruit. September 12 is about a month earlier than the usual harvest date. I will continue to monitor the sugar levels. I usually like to pick at about 24-25 Brix with the pH no higher than about 3.5. One theory says that the pH level squared times Brix should ideally be at 260 for picking. My September 12 numbers yield 259--so technically ready, but I will wait at least another week, perhaps two, unless the sugar or pH levels seem to be rising precipitously.

The Sangiovese grapes look a little less ripe, showing 20.8 Brix and a pH of 3.44. I usually like to pick the grapes for the rosé we make from the Sangiovese at about 22 Brix with the pH as low as possible. So, as with the Cabernet, I'll be monitoring the grapes over the coming week or two to see how things are progressing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Art I'm Making: More Collages (September 2-3)

In the past week I've completed a couple more collages. Untitled Collage No. 67 (Santa Rosa) shown at the top uses more of the raspberry colored papers I've recently made but also incorporates bits and pieces leftover from older work.

BelowUntitled Collage No. 68 (Santa Rosa) uses a piece of green paper with graphite scribbling on it as well as some deep blue papers and a scrap of dark blue mono-printed paper that involved scraping into the paint on the glass with different tools to create lines of various sizes. These two were completed on September 2 and September 3.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Books I'm Reading: The Jim Stringer Mysteries by Andrew Martin

I'm not a fan of mysteries. Most mysteries seem hopelessly contrived. Usually my reaction to reading or trying to read one is annoyance, but Andrew Martin's Jim Stringer--a reluctant detective who really wants to be a steam locomotive driver--was a pleasure to follow through the four Jim Stringer mysteries so far published. The last one (Murder at Deviation Junction) first appeared in 2007, however, which makes me wonder if there will be more. I hope there are. Martin has captured the mood of his chosen setting (England in the early 1900s) so masterfully that reading the books feels like time travel--with a railway-obsessed young man as Cicerone. The heavy use of railway jargon, particularly in the first book (The Necropolis Railway), is confusing at first, but once you get used to Jim Stringer's language and settle in to the backstage railway world he inhabits, the stories are compelling.

Art I'm Making: Yet More Collages (August 2014)

Visiting a friend recently, I sampled some of his favorite chocolate bars, exotically flavored with green tea, cardamom, and other ingredients. They come in velvety paper wrappers that I just couldn't resist using in a couple of new collages. These are Untitled Collage No. 65 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 66 (Santa Rosa). The wrinkled red paper and the orange paper are from the chocolate bars. I finished these two at the end of August.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Books I'm Reading: The Nobility of Failure

Originally published in 1975, Morris’s influential The Nobility of Failure was recently re-released by Kurodahan Press in a new paperback edition, making it readily available again. I’ve just finished it. The book still reads well after 40 years.

Morris’s central contention, supported by ten extended essays, is that throughout their history the Japanese have been so deeply drawn to sincerity of purpose that outcomes are virtually irrelevant in constructing hero stories—that failure may actually be preferable to success in a model Japanese hero, so long as the hero pursues his cause with sincerity. Morris starts by reaching back into prehistory to identify the legendary Yamato Takeru as the nation’s ur-hero, whose trajectory he sees as a kind of template for the pattern of initial success and subsequent downfall the author presents as common to the heroes of the essays comprising the bulk of the book.

Morris makes his case well, but the suggestion that Japan is unique in this regard may overstep the evidence, at least a little bit. The general pattern of admiration for a doomed underdog is more widespread than the book’s thesis admits, even if heroes in Japan seem to come to their end more than usually frequently by their own hand. Other nations have similarly revered failed heroes, some of whom have been posthumously elevated to near-mythical status. Great Britain has more than its fair share—Boudica, arctic explorer Scott, T.E. Lawrence. Still, the combined effect of reading the stories here of figures who rose then fell back to Earth in a futile struggle, suggests convincingly that the Japanese have an especially deep sympathy for this type of character, even if the author makes no attempt to examine why that might be so. Morris’s writing is clear, precise, and highly readable, in places having the sweep of a novel, despite being aimed as much at the specialist as at the general reader. The book is entertaining and it retains its appeal as a well-written piece of historical psychology that offers still-useful insights into Japan’s cultural history.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Art I'm Making: New Collages (August-September 2014)

I continue to make collages at a fairly steady pace--roughly finishing one a week. Here are Untitled Collage No. 63 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 64 (Santa Rosa). Both use new papers I've created in raspberry and dark blue-black colors with a lot of striping and scratching done with a cake decorating tool and the back end of a paint brush.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Grapes Coming Along Nicely (September 3, 2014)

We're probably still several weeks to harvest, but I tested a couple of berries on the vines today, just to see how things were progressing. A single Sangiovese berry measured 21 degrees Brix, a cabernet berry 20 degrees Brix. In a couple of weeks I'll start taking sample berries from clusters all around our little vineyard to get an idea of the average ripeness of the fruit, but above 20 degrees Brix at this date suggests harvest may be on the early side this year. I like to pick the Sangiovese (for making rosé) at about 23 Brix, the Cabernet at 24-25 Brix. Depending on the weather a one degree increase in sweetness can take a week or more. We may be picking toward the end of September rather than in the second week of October, which has been typical. 2014 will be our 11th vintage. Soon I'll bottle the 2013 Cabernet, which will give us ten years of winemaking in bottle. Time for a vertical tasting soon.
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