Thursday, January 19, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 165 (Santa Rosa)

A new collage—a diptych of sorts that pairs a straight monoprint in pinks and orange with a blue-oval studded monoprint in streaky blue. The subtleties of the blues don't quite come through in the photograph, but this is a fair facsimile.

This is Untitled Collage No. 165 (Santa Rosa), January 5, 2017, acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. Image size 25.5 x 15.6cm (10.0 x 6.1 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

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

Rain: Yet More Rain (January 19, 2017)

It began raining again late yesterday and it has been raining all night, it appears. This morning I found three new inches of precipitation in the rain gauge. It's still raining, but that raises our total for the 2016-2017 rain year so far to 30.00 inches, well ahead of normal for this time of year, and more rain already than we've had in some entire years lately. Normal annual rainfall in Santa Rosa has historically been about 36 inches. This morning the sky is blue and mostly cloudless, but rain is in the forecast for the next three days.

[As of the morning of January 20, there were 4.10 inches of rain in the rain gauge, which brings the total to 31.10 inches for the current rain year. More rain on the way....]

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Art I'm Looking at: Marvelous!—An International Exhibition of Collage, Assemblage, and Construction at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts

Conversations with someone newly met nearly always get around to a question that means "what kind of work do you do?"—even if not worded precisely that way. When I tell people I'm an artist, I always feel a little guilty, because what they really want to know is "how do you make your living?" and it's my "real job" that I live on, not art. Next almost always comes "Oh, what kind of art do you do?" and I cringe inwardly. Then I cringe a little outwardly as I say I'm a "collage artist." I cringe not because of any shame. I cringe because I can see the image that pops into the questioner's mind as I speak: the collage they envision is messy and juvenile and made of torn-up pieces of glossy magazines or it's a mishmash of old magazine ads. To most people, collage is not serious art; collage is something you do in kindergarten with edible glue and scissors with no points. The truth is, a fair amount of collage is messy and juvenile and made of torn-up pieces of glossy magazines, but the Marvelous! show, now on at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, shows finer stuff. Marvelous! comprises more than 100 pieces of collage, assemblage, and construction chosen from over 600 entries (12 countries and as many US states are represented) by jurors Sherry Parker, Cecil Touchon, and John Hundt—accomplished collage artists themselves. None of the chosen works is anything but serious art.

Among the goals of the show's organizers was to suggest that collage, assemblage, and construction form a diverse and vibrant segment of the art world and to point out a recent resurgence of interest in these pursuits among artists around the world. The show is certainly diverse (and it's a challenge writing about such a big show: its scope can only be suggested; inevitably, worthwhile work gets left out). Artists from Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, Turkey, South Africa, South Korea, and Uruguay are represented. Although the majority of the work is collage (both traditional and digital), the show includes free-standing construction, table-top assemblage and construction, and wall-mounted assemblage and construction, as well as pieces harder to characterize: among these are altered books, an electrified mannequin (Spenser Brewer's Tesla Man), and something I personally would call a sculpture that looks rather like an exotic Southeast Asian fruit (shown here—beautiful, however you categorize it). Materials include everything from the detritus of human activity to porcupine quills. It's a large show likely to reward more than one visit.
Above: Octopus Egg, Susan Danis (Albany, CA), purple glass light bulb sockets and terracotta.

Collage (and its three-dimensional siblings assemblage and construction), usually is considered to have been born from the early Cubist experiments of Picasso and Braque (who together coined the term "collage" from the French word coller, meaning "to glue"). Although there are precedents (as far back as Western Han Dynasty China), collage as we know it today is of the 20th century. It is quintessentially modern—both in the sense of being of comparatively recent origin and in the art historical sense of association with Modernism as a movement in art.
Above: River Triptych, Lynn Skordal (Mercer Island, WA), inkjet images, found paper, ribbon, old book covers. 


At the same time, collage artists are a nostalgic bunch; while one school of collagists relies heavily on artist-made materials, another and perhaps the dominant school in terms of numbers of artists at work, seeks to evoke the past or the exotic by using found materials that point to centuries recently past or even to ancient times or by using materials that pre-date the medium itself. Antique stores and junk shops, discarded books illustrated with engravings, Asian calligraphy, and long-defunct magazines are favorite sources of raw materials for these collage artists. When done badly, collage of the nostalgic school looks forced and it relies on fetishizing the past. It is often fussy and busy-looking; it's easy to create chaos and noise with bits of the past. (Even in good work, the fetishizing tendency sometimes sneaks through in the way artists describe their work—taking care to tell us a book cover used is from 1875, for example, or that a bit of photo used is not just from an old magazine but from LIFE magazine, as if age itself or the reputation of the source necessarily transfers merit to the work of art.) When done well, however, collage artists using found materials create plausible new worlds or they project us into imagined pasts that are coherent and seemingly inhabitable or they at least keep their work focused, simple enough on the surface to allow us room to question what these bits of the past might mean in their new context. While the answers to the questions raised are not always clear, at least the questions themselves seem coherent, and the best collage work, whether nostalgic or not, always exhibits a sophisticated sense of composition.
Above: Tesla Man, Spenser Brewer (Redwood Valley, CA), vintage 19th and 20th century parts.

A good example of the nostalgic work in the Marvelous! show is Jane Murphy's Boy, in which a found photo of a young boy has been transformed into a playing card. We see the front of the card, but the lower third of the card seems to simultaneously show a design on the reverse. Below the playing card (which is framed by a pale duck's egg green, a color itself evocative of the past) is a piece of ruled notebook paper with illegible writing and a yellowed cellophane tape stain. Off to the left of the notebook page are scraps of map, other paper, cloth, and labels, that, taken together, look map-like, echoing the bits of actual map. In another echo effect, smudges in the two upper corners of the piece act like numbers in the corners of a playing card. Boy is quiet and contemplative and much more complex than it seems at first—without being busy.
Above: Boy, Jane Murphy (Petaluma, CA), found photo and paper, house paint, and pencil on vintage band card.




Lita Kenyon's Aerodynamics 3 uses an old magazine photograph to evoke a past era. The yellowed fragment of an engineering diagram, too, is evocative of the past, but the collage is at the same time utterly modern, relying as it does on a hard-edged, geometric composition comprising only three elements—a study in simplicity. There are echo effects again; three strong elements in the center of the page divide the sheet into three segments. The diagram fragment, the red shape, and the white space between them form another unit built of three elements. The red, the strip of white at its left, and the flanking triangle of black that encroaches on the photo form another triad. When I say "modern" here, I mean in the art historical sense. While much collage is simultaneously modern and nostalgic, modern art itself is now nostalgic. Modernism was born more than 100 years ago. Modernism is antique.
Above: Aerodynamics 3, Lita Kenyon (Edmonds, WA), mid-century fashion magazine cut-outs, clippings from discarded engineering manuals. 


The absurd forms another strong current in collage, a current that has its source ultimately in Dada and Surrealism. Jenny Honnert Abell's Book Cover No. 115, for example, drops us into a parallel universe where birds have human heads and perch on branches in deep space. An old book cover with stains (that uncannily evoke stars and a spiral galaxy) creates that space while simultaneously drawing our attention to its independent existence as a real-life object—again an object evocative of the past, an old book cover. Collage of what I'm here calling the nostalgic school is particularly good at reminding us that we are looking at artifacts. Lynn Skordal's River Triptych (pictured above) uses book covers to create a triptych that suggests a Christian altarpiece. Religious imagery is evoked not only by the arrangement of the panels but by the glowing light on the hands and their cradling of the image on the central panel in a way that suggests veneration, but where we would expect to see a holy figure, we instead see a dissected head floating over a sun-washed riverscape, with a halo not of light but of smaller heads on pins. River Triptych creates a view into an absurd but plausible world, while exposed edges of the book covers tug as back into the real world at the same time.
Above: Book Cover No. 115, Jenny Honnert Abell (Santa Rosa, CA), boar's hair, glass eye, gouache, collage on book cover.

When collage is in a more abstract vein, it still relies mostly on found paper or cloth—on real-world artifacts. Pieces in the show by Mark Eanes, Louise Forbush, Susan Friedman, and Molly Perez are good examples of this approach. Perez's Throttle, for example, combines ripped paper fragments with pieces of cloth, the paper sometimes blank, sometimes with writing on it, the cloth sometimes plain, like blank canvas, sometimes printed. Perez creates an abstract "painting" with colored paper and cloth as her paints. Cheryl Dawdy's Sunrise, Snowy Field, a small but beautiful piece, is easy to miss but well worth more than a quick look. Here the artist takes the idea of painting with paper in a slightly different direction; Sunrise, Snowy Field is highly abstract, but here collage is used to reference reality directly by picturing a real-life scene, even if the scene depicted may be imagined. Dawdy uses subtly colored paper and tissue to suggest a snow-covered field at dawn, a bank of heavy clouds in the distance.
Above: Throttle, Molly Perez (Healdsburg, CA), mixed media collage on board. Below: Sunrise, Snowy Field, Cheryl Dawdy (Ann Arbor, MI), colored and printed papers, tissue. 

Less common is abstract collage made entirely or mostly from artist-made papers rather than found materials. This type of collage stands in contrast to the nostalgic type. Its approach is more cerebral, focused on composition for its own sake, less reliant on the inevitable associations that attach to artifacts. There is no attempt to evoke another time or place. Collage of this sort creates non-referential abstract spaces that resist dialog with the real world (although human minds stubbornly insist on finding "pictures" in even the purest abstraction). Liliana Zavaleta's Displaced 7 is such a work, constructed as it is from painted papers of the artists own making—although the title suggests the dark brown form split by the sky-like blue in the upper third may be the displaced (or at least interrupted) "7" of the title. Perhaps a clearer example is my own piece in the show, Untitled Collage No. 157, made almost wholly from monoprinted papers I create myself and entirely non-referential.
Above: Untitled Collage No. 157, Colin Talcroft (Santa Rosa, CA), acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper. Below: Displaced 7, Liliana Zavaleta (Milford, NY), mixed media collage on paper.


Diverse as it is, it's hard to say how representative the Marvelous! show is of collage, assemblage, and construction around the world today. The jurors had to pick from among the works submitted for entry. The sample was necessarily skewed toward the US and California simply because the show was best advertised close to home. That said, I noticed comparatively few pieces with any kind of political flavor (only three—the pieces by Serhan Turgut, Judy White, and Sally Briggs), although political commentary has been a prominent aspect of collage historically. The most overtly political piece in the show is by Turkish artist Turgut. In his Fear, we see a black and white photo of a man in a hat. On top of the hat, a workman builds a roof. A crew puts up walls in front of the man's mouth. Below the work crew, large white letters on a red ground spell FEAR. I noticed also that collage, assemblage, and construction appears to be a segment of the art world where women are conspicuously active. Of the 102 artists represented, 73 are women.
Above: Fear, Serhan Turgut (Ankara, Turkey), paper, collage.

There is not enough room to mention all the other interesting work in Marvelous! (although I especially liked the pieces by Olga Lupi, Barbara Wildenboer, Carol Dalton, Janet Jones, Koji Nagai, Peter Dowker, Deborah Salomon, Katie McCann, Antonia Rehnen, Rafael Bottino Pirez, Pål Misje, Michael Waraksa, Cynthia Collier, and Jef Arnold, among others—so many others). I've tried to give a sense of the diversity just within a small selection of the collage works presented, barely touching on the assemblage and construction in the show (with notable pieces by local artists Cat Kaufman and Rebecca Trevino), or on the altered books, or any of the pieces from the world of digital collage. Suffice it to say that the organizers have succeeded in bringing together a diverse body of high-quality work that achieves the goal of highlighting the creativity of artists working in collage, assemblage, and construction today. Highly recommended.
Above: Farewell, Antonia Rehnen (Groningen, the Netherlands), polymer print, collage. Below: Cutters, Peter Dowker (Lac Brome, Quebec, Canada), vintage papers, acrylic medium, collage.

Showing simultaneously at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts are Reflections Within—The Reliquary Series, a show of assemblage pieces by Valerie L. Winslow, in Gallery II, and Stranger Than Fiction, a show of exquisite collage work by two of the Marvelous! jurors, Sherry Parker and John Hundt, in Gallery III. Both shows deserve reviews of their own. In addition, two workshops associated with the Marvelous! show are planned. Cat Kaufman will lead an Assemblage Play Workshop on Saturday, January 28 from 10:00AM to 3:00PM. Jenny Honnert Abell will host a Wacky Portrait Collage Workshop for kids Sunday, January 22 from 1:30PM to 3:30PM.
Above: Mission Improbable, Sherry Parker, mixed media collage.

Marvelous!—An International Exhibition of Collage, Assemblage, and Construction is on view at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 252 S. High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472 (707 829-4797) through February 12, 2017. Admission free. Tuesday through Friday 10:00AM–4:00PM, Saturday and Sunday 10:00AM–4:00PM. Closed Mondays.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Machine Beauty

I've just read David Gelernter's Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology (Basic Books, 1998). I don't remember when or how I acquired the book. It was among those long unread on my bookshelves. It's quite out of date now in some respects, but not uninteresting because of that.

Gelernter makes one central point in his thin volume: that beauty is the essence of good design and good science. He defines beauty as the combination of simplicity and power. He has a lot to say about what is beautiful in computer software and about Apple Computer and the beauty of the Macintosh user interface—for example, arguing that Microsoft's theft of many of the Macintosh's features for Windows is proof of the superiority of the Macintosh interface. The book was written when Windows was comparatively new, when all computers were grey or beige plastic, and people made fun of the Macintosh because it was cute. This last irks Gelernter in particular, but we have made progress: Machine Beauty seems outdated precisely because much of the thinking he laments has receded. Today, few people think it strange that their phone is a slim, pretty slab of electronics with an attractive, intuitive, icon-based user interface. At least in the realm of computers and mobile devices, good design has largely prevailed.

Food I'm Eating: Curing Green Olives (January 2017)

I've cured ripe black olives in the past, olives from the tree in our yard and from a neighbor's tree, but never tried to cure green olives before. Usually olives are starting to ripen here as early as October, depending on variety, and nearly all are fully ripe by December. I had access this year to a number of trees at a winery tasting room where I work part-time. One of the trees has green fruit even now. I don't know what variety it is, but I decided to try green olives.

Recipes for curing black olives with brine always start with salt water from day one. Most green olive recipes, however, recommend soaking the olives in fresh water to start and then finishing them in brine. Recommended water soaks seem to range from four days to a month, with many recipes recommending 10 days. I'll probably seek a middle path and try waiting about two weeks before switching to brine. We'll see what happens. In the meantime, large ripe olives from another tree at the tasting room were already looking good in early November. Those olives are now finishing in brine with a touch of vinegar, lemon juice, rosemary and several crushed cloves of garlic. They are just about ready (below).


Friday, January 13, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 164 (Santa Rosa)

A new collage drawing on the results of a recent morning of making new monoprints.

This is Untitled Collage No. 164 (Santa Rosa). January 4, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper, collage. 25.8 x 17.5cm (10.1 x 6.9in). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse
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Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my collage work, visit my collage site at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rain: Almost Three More Inches (January 10-11, 2017)

It's been raining hard all day. Checking the rain gauge at 4:30PM on the 10th, we have an additional 2.60 inches of rain. That brings our total so far to 26.45 inches. We've had flash flood warnings all day long, but everything in our immediate vicinity appears secure, with drainage working the way it's supposed to. Others haven't been so lucky. Normal cumulative rainfall for January 10 in Santa Rosa is 16.44 inches. We are thus now more than 10 inches ahead of normal at my location.

[Update: As of the morning of January 11, we had had another 0.55 inches, bringing the total to 27.00 inches at my location.]

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Aaron's Code

Dr. Harold Cohen and his creation, a computer program/drawing machine named Aaron, seem to be virtually unknown today, even among my artist friends. From my first personal encounter with Aaron (in early 1985), however, I thought him an extraordinary creation. Having just read Pamela McCorduck's well written, deeply researched book about Cohen and his machine, Aaron's Code: Meta-art, Artificial Intelligence, and the Work of Harold Cohen (Freeman, 1991), my admiration for Aaron and his creator has only grown.

Before reading the book, I knew little about Cohen's background. I had assumed he was a computer scientist. To the contrary, Cohen was a successful abstract painter in his native Britain before he ever began to dabble in computer programming in the late 1960s, a time when computers were primitive. In 1968, dissatisfied with the life of a painter, he left the UK to accept a position at UC San Diego, where he met Jeff Raskin (later of Apple Computer), who taught him how to write code.

Cohen's initial motivation appears to have been creating a machine that would help him make his own art, but he quickly became fascinated by fundamental questions about the process of artistic creation, the very definition of art, and how art generates meaning—about the cognitive processes that underly art-making and the experience of art. He started down a decades-long road that resulted at first in a program that created crude drawings, based on a complex set of general rules about line and spatial organization, but eventually evolved into a vastly more sophisticated program with "knowledge" not only about the process of filling a sheet of paper with marks that are meaningful to human beings but with knowledge about objects in the real world, including plants and the human figure. In its initial, mark-making phase, Aaron drew in black ink on white paper. Later Cohen gave Aaron color.

Aaron is infinite. Run the program and Aaron will create a unique drawing based on his knowledge about what makes an image. While Aaron has a distinct style, no two of his drawings are ever the same. Now that his creator, Dr. Cohen has died (in April, 2016, at the age of 87), Aaron will learn nothing new, but he will forever be capable of creating art, so long as the platform he runs on remains viable and there are people interested in seeing a new drawing.  

The existence of Aaron raises interesting questions about art, about intelligence, and about the meaning of art and the meaning of making art. Is Aaron intelligent? In some sense, yes. Is Aaron self-aware? No. Is Aaron expressing anything when he draws? No: Aaron is a computer program with no feelings, no motivations, no memory even of what he has drawn before. Yet, what Aaron creates generates meaning in the minds of those who see his work. And this is, perhaps, the most interesting idea McCorduck's book conveys: that Dr. Cohen saw art as generating meaning in the viewer rather than communicating meaning from the artist. Aaron is an excellent argument for the idea that the meaning in a work of art is almost wholly in the mind of the viewer. The book and its subjects are rich beyond my ability to express them. Suffice it to say, this is likely to be an exciting read for anyone with an interest in the human activity we call art-making. Aaron's Code is out of print, but I easily found a copy for a few dollars on line, and good libraries may have a copy*. Recommended.

*I just did an online search: In the Bay Area, there are copies in the libraries of UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford, and in the San Francisco Public Library system.
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Rain: Stormy Weather (January 7-8, 2017)

In our first big storm in quite a long time, the wind is howling and it's been raining all night. A large branch has fallen from a coast live oak in our yard. So far, we've had 2.70 inches of new rain, as of the morning of January 8. That brings our total so far for the 2016-2017 rain year to 23.30 inches at my location. Normal for this date in Santa Rosa is 15.9 inches. It's supposed to rain for the next three days. Normal annual rainfall for Santa Rosa is a little over 36 inches. We're well on our way to having an above-average year for the first time in a long time.

[Update: As of the morning of January 9, we have had an additional 0.55 inches at my location, bringing the total so far this year to 23.85 inches.]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 162 (Santa Rosa)

A new collage--small, layered, and blue. 

This is Untitled Collage No. 162 (Santa Rosa). December 31, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. 13 x 7.9cm (5.1 x 3.1in). Matted to 14 x 11 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

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

Rain: A Week of Rain (Early January 2017)

Off to a rainy start to 2017. It started raining again on January 2 and rain is in the forecast through January 7. So far, this new episode has given us 2.85 inches of new precipitation at my location on top of 17.75 inches already. That brings our total so far to 20.60 inches as of January 6. I expect to be updating the total in the coming days, as heavy rain is in the forecast for the coming week. Normal for this time of year is about 14.5 inches, so we remain well above normal.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage N. 161 (Santa Rosa)

My latest piece is another diminutive one—just about three inches square. This one uses various leftover scraps from other work but also incorporates a piece of hand-written music with scribbles. Fellow collage artist Sherry Parker gave me a stack of old music that I've been going through. It's so visually appealing that it's hard the resist using it.

This is Untitled Collage No. 161 (Santa Rosa). Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper (handwritten music), collage. December 18, 2016. 8.2 x 7.6cm (3.2 x 3in). Matted to 14 x 11 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rain: More Rain (December 10-16, 2016)

More rain on December 10-11 added another 0.80 inches of precipitation to our total at my northeast Santa Rosa location. Our total for the 2016-2017 rain year now stands at 12.95 inches, which is well above normal for this time of year—and more rain is predicted in the coming days.

[Update: And indeed there was more rain. On December 14-15 we had a solid day of rain that added 3.25 inches to our total for the year, which now stands at 16.20 inches at my location—well ahead of normal, at least for the time being. Normal for this date is about 9.5 inches.]

[Update: More rain on the evening of December 22 and into December 23 added another 1.55 inches of precipitation. That brings our total for the year to 17.75 inches--still more than six inches above normal for this time of year.]

Books I'm Reading: The Black Swan

Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb frequently uses the publishing industry as an example of one prone to what he calls "blacks swans"—a black swan is a highly unpredictable event that has far-reaching consequences and one that we rationalize after the fact, making up explanations to reassure ourselves that what happened was not as random as it seemed. He mentions best-selling books that seem to come out of nowhere, like the Harry Potter series—books that become extraordinarily popular for reasons that are easy to come up with after they take off, but that few could have suggested beforehand. He mentions events such as the 9-11 attacks. Taleb's book, The Black Swan (Random House, 2007) is something of a black swan itself. It appears to have been a major bestseller when it was new, around 2007. I bought my copy at about that time on a business trip to Tokyo but have read it only now.

Detailed, far-ranging, and not a little bit arrogant, The Black Swan is entertaining, if hard to follow in places, and somewhat repetitive. It's the kind of book you immediately want to read again after you finish, wondering if you really absorbed all there was to be absorbed—although the repetition and the author's self-congratulatory asides can become a bit tedious. To be fair, though, Taleb considerately suggests that about half the book can be skipped by those already familiar with some of his ideas.

In a nutshell, Taleb argues that we are very bad at prediction but like to pretend that we are quite good at it—that we are far too often groping blindly in the dark, hoping to find our way safely through the minefield of life, victims of confirmation bias and narrative bias, in particular. He has especially pointed barbs to hurl at policy makers, economists, and investment advisors, marking their activities as those of people habitually making bad decisions because of these biases and because of a misguided belief that they are working on meaningful evidence from the past, which Taleb suggests is, in the vast majority of cases, useless information.

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 160 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage, my first in several weeks. This one uses found Japanese paper and several subtly different shades of off-white monoprinted papers of my own creation. Together these were originally part of an abandoned monochrome experiment. I've coupled the pale overlapping lays with an abortive black and red juxtaposition from a few months back that I had abandoned as well. Paired, they finally began to make some kind of sense to me. The subtleties of the monochrome areas are lost in the photograph here, but it's a reasonable facsimile.

This is Untitled Collage No. 160 (Santa Rosa). December 11, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper, collage. Image size 19.9 x 27.2cm (7.8 x 10.7 inches). 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 of my collage work, visit my collage site at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Art I'm looking At: Traveling Exhibit of Botanical Art & Illustration at the Petaluma Arts Center

The Petaluma Arts Center is hosting a small but very high quality traveling exhibit of botanical art right now. Tomorrow, December 11, is the last day to see it. The show features works of botanical art and illustration from the collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. The show comprises 36 works by artists from nine countries (Australia, China, England, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, and the US), all but one piece by women, and each one exquisite. The Institute was established in 1964 to support and encourage botanical artists.

I was impressed by the care taken to depict the most minute details of even the drabbest of plants. While there are floral showpieces among the works, notably a luminous Hydrangea by Gael Louise Sellwood (United States, detail shown above), I was strongly drawn to a number of portraits of rather weed-like plants, such as the winged sumac and Queen Anne's lace by Lara Call Gastinger (United States), rose hips by Denise Roxanne Walser-Kolar (United States), a selection of oddly formed heirloom tomatoes by Asuka Hishiki (Japan, top), and curly dock by Barbara Klaas (United States, bottom).

Well worth a visit. The Petaluma Arts Center is at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA, 94952, in Petaluma's Historic railroad station (707) 762-5600. Open 11:00AM to 5:00PM. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Wines I'm Drinking: Recent Grocery Outlet Wines (December 9, 2016)

Ever hopeful of finding bargains, I continue to visit my local Grocery Outlet on a regular basis. I've tried a couple dozen wines there in past few weeks. As usual the majority are fairly uninteresting if not objectionable wines, but I've lately come across a few bargains and a few worth mentioning as wines to avoid. The biggest recent disappointment was probably the 2009 Ripanera Chianti Classico. Ripanera is a fairly reliable brand for everyday wines. I've had decent examples in the past, but this wine was flawed, with an odd, jarring, volatile component. I took it back.

The 2014 Castle Tower Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel looked promising—although "Castle Tower" sounds like one of those generic, made-up names slapped onto wine of no special interest just to get it on the market. The wine was fairly tannic, not very fruit-forward, shortish, and generally ungenerous. Not terribly interesting. The 2013 Benison Lodi Zinfandel I tasted it with was better, with some red berry and sandalwood scents and a bright palate. Although it seemed a bit hollow—the flavors disappearing on the mid-palate—it came back with a fairly concentrated fruity, if somewhat woody finish. Acceptable everyday wine.

Recent Grocery Outlet finds that seem particularly worth recommending include the 2011 Bailiwick Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($6.99). Pinot Noir is perhaps the hardest of all common varieties to find cheap. I've been disappointed over and over again trying to find decent examples at an affordable price. The Bailiwick Pinot is not fine Burgundy, but it's quite solid California-style Pinot at a bargain price. It's as good as some I've tasted costing four to five times as much. It has presence and true Pinot qualities with a little character of its own. I went back for a case. Recommended—if it's not all gone. (The label shown here is the 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot from Bailiwick.)

A good deal is the 2011 Alto Cinco Grenache ("High Five" get it?), from Spain. Another decent wine for everyday consumption with real Grenache character. Grenache is an under-rated grape in my view. When well done, it can have an irresistibly appealing ripe fruitiness. Also not bad is the 2013 Flying Feet Syrah.



Around Thanksgiving time I picked up a decent Champagne, the D'Armanville Brut, for $19.99 a bottle—actually less than that, as they were having a 20% off sale on all wines at the time. I can't say the D'Armanville is the best Champagne I've ever had, but its competently made, has pleasingly fine bubbles, and is a nice change from the local sparkling wines in the same price range from the likes of Mumm Napa  and Roederer. It's hard to find real Champagne of any kind at this price, although Grocery Outlet now has another on the shelves at $19.99 (with a blue label, I've forgotten the name) that was not as good, with comparatively large, loose bubbles and a bit on the sweet side despite being labeled "Brut". The D'Armanville is still available. I also picked up several bottles of a decent $6.99 Cava called Gran Barón. This appears to be all gone, but I'll be picking up more if it appears again. Not great wine, but respectable everyday sparkling wine—and why not drink sparkling wine every day?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Miscellaneous: Old-School Barber Shop

Not long ago I came across this old-school barber shop in Petaluma, CA. Didn't go in. The place was closed. So, I can't attest to the barbering skills, but I liked the colorful chairs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Art I'm Looking At: Do We Need a Collage Taxonomy?

Why create a collage taxonomy? Presumably the goal is to allow clear, concise discussion of collage art, which seems a worthy goal given the recent surge of interest in collage among artists and collectors around the world. Kolaj magazine, the world’s premier periodical devoted to collage art, recently asked readers to help create a “collage taxonomy” in an effort to facilitate discussion about collage. The idea got me to thinking—and wondering whether such a taxonomy is really necessary.
(Above: Untitled Collage No. 135 (Santa Rosa), Colin Talcroft, 2016, acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, fragment of a doodling robot drawing in marker, collage. Mixed media? Collage? Both?)

What is collage?



What is the essential characteristic of collage art? “Stuck-togetherness,” I would argue, is the defining characteristic, if you’ll forgive the awkward term, and this is appropriate as the English word for collage comes from a French root meaning “to paste.” A collage is a work of art made of at least two elements somehow stuck together, typically, but not necessarily, with glue. Other means of sticking elements together include a variety of pastes and artist’s mediums that act as glue, such as acrylic medium, or actual paints, all of which can be considered glue for our purposes. I will discuss digital means of sticking things together below.
(Above: Order, Nancy Goodman Lawrence, 2016, paper, dry transfer letters, acrylic)

Having written that, a couple of possible “problem children” come to mind immediately: 1) is an artwork made of elements sewn together a collage? I would argue yes—unless it’s a quilt. I think common sense will allow us to distinguish the two; and 2) is a collection of three-dimensional objects stuck together or a three-dimensional construction of other elements stuck together a collage? I would have to say no, as we have better words for these things: “assemblage” and “construction” (I will leave it to the three-dimensional artists of the world to work out the precise differences between assemblage and construction and the nuances of the words in detail—but more about dimensionality below). Note that many dictionary definitions of “collage” assume collage involves pasting disparate elements to a fixed surface—to a backing—but that is clearly an error. There are many examples of art made of elements stuck to one another without an independent backing that we would easily accept as collage.

And what of paintings with paper or other elements pasted into them? Picasso and Braque were early pioneers of the technique, adding bits of newspaper and other items to the surface of oil paintings. Are “mixed media” and “collage” synonymous?

Mixed media and collage are not interchangeable



I suspect I’m not the only collage artist that finds the term “mixed media” annoying. It’s a sloppy catch-all. “Mixed media” is virtually self-defining. The term is a broad one encompassing any artwork made using two or more media (the paintings by Picasso and Braque mentioned above fall into that category). The term doesn’t tell us much more than that. Many artists combine watercolor and ink or ink and graphite, for example, to make drawings or create paintings using acrylic and oil paints on the same canvas. These are rightly called mixed-media pieces. Stuck-togetherness is not the issue. Robert Rauschenberg’s famous Monogram 1955-59 (a stuffed goat in a car tire mounted on canvas) quite obviously uses more than one medium. It’s probably adequately described as an assemblage or a mixed-media piece, although Rauschenberg himself called such works “combines” and thought of them as being in a novel artistic category combining elements of painting and sculpture. “Combine” is probably a better word for Monogram 1955-59—and that underscores the vagueness of “mixed media.” When speaking of collage, let’s abandon “mixed media.” So, to repeat, combination of media is not the main point when talking about collage, stuck-togetherness is the first salient point.
(Above: Monogram 1955-59, Robert Rauschenberg, 1955-1959, goat, tire, paint, found objects on canvas. Collage?)

Dimensionality

Both assemblage” and construction” are useful terms. I will not attempt to define either in any detail, but I hope readers will agree that both immediately connote three-dimensionality. I suppose you could call a flat artwork composed entirely of two-dimensional elements an assemblage, but we have a better word for that: “collage.” “Assemblage” seems best reserved for three-dimensional art objects made from assemblages of other three-dimensional objects. A “construction” is a three-dimensional art object made of discrete elements that is in some way architectural or sculptural. Note that the elements making up such a construction may themselves be two-dimensional—imagine a glued-together tower of playing cards. To define these two terms more precisely would take us too far afield—into a dimension beyond the two dimensions of collage—but I hope the point is made.

There are, of course, grey areas. Imagine a work called Canvas Landscape, made of thickly painted canvas scraps cut from abandoned paintings and stuck together with glue. Is Canvas Landscape collage or is it assemblage? I think we have to accept that there will always be hard-to-categorize outliers, but I appeal again to common sense: if Canvas Landscape seems more flat than not and its elements are not obviously object-like, then it’s probably safe to call it a collage. No physical artwork is truly two-dimensional, even the thinnest paper has a third dimension, but we happily ignore the third dimension when it seems small enough to be irrelevant. Is the impasto of Canvas Landscape irrelevant? Probably not entirely, but, given that “assemblage” connotes stuck together objects, I’d argue that “collage” is the better term in such a case as the fragments of paintings in my hypothetical example seem to have little meaning as independent objects. I don’t believe collage must be made of paper. Again, media of the elements involved is not a defining characteristic. We come back to stuck-togetherness. So, a collage is a two-dimensional artwork made of two or more essentially flat elements stuck together somehow.

What kind of collage?

We see any number of modifiers in front of collage.” These include words that describe physical attributes and processes such as “digital,” “analog,” “hand-cut,” “handmade,” and stylistic tags such as “surrealist,” “Dadaist,” and so on. I would argue that style and art historical DNA are irrelevant to a collage taxonomy. To call a collage “surrealist” is no different from calling a painting “surrealist.”  We learn something about style, about content, about art historical associations, but nothing essentially new about the thing as object. Process and stylistic modifiers may be useful in describing a piece of collage art, but they are not words with meanings specific to collage; they can apply to art in any medium.

Collage or digital collage?

Computers allow us to stick digital elements together in ways that look like actual elements stuck together. Inevitably, digital collaging emerged as soon as software allowed it. Here, digital layering and mental processes are our “glue.”
(Above: Evelyne Chevallier, Rock Solid, 2016, digital collage)

All digital elements are virtual. The sources of digital elements are infinitely diverse (they may be entirely computer generated, or digital photographs, or bits of other digital images, scans, etc.), but we are always left with pixels on a screen or tiny ink blobs on a medium such as paper if a digital collage is to become a viewable image. Sets of pixels or tiny ink blobs we mentally process and understand as physical elements (images of things or swaths of color or texture) are not in reality more than sets of pixels or tiny ink blobs. They become understandable as things because our brains insist on processing them that way; if our brains didn't do that, we'd be unable to understand images of any kind. The digital–analog divide is real and important. A digital collage is an artwork that imitates collage.

The elements in a digital collage are realized and stuck together more by our brains than in reality, but we seem comfortable with the analogy, willing to accept the idea that the digital elements could have been printed out individually and stuck together in real space (or at least laid over one another) as they appear to have been in a digitally created scene. Thus, there is a fundamental difference between collage and digital collage, albeit one we find easy to ignore. Nevertheless, it seems very important to point out that difference when we talk about collage. Collage is non-digital by tradition and precedent, so I recommend using “collage” as the default. Let’s abandon descriptions that seek to distinguish the two in other ways like “analog collage,” “handmade collage,” and “hand-cut collage.” All collage is analog and handmade—unless it’s digital.

Found or made elements?  

Are the elements in a collage found or artist-made? If artist made, how are they made? Does it matter? Stylistically, yes. Just as a collage of cut elements is stylistically distinguishable in important ways from one made of torn elements, a collage made of found paper elements has a very different feel from one made from artist-created elements, but these are stylistic differences. Expressions like “found paper collage” or “monoprint collage,” or “artist-painted paper collage,” while useful, are terms that highlight how the elements in a collage are made, not how they come together. They give us information ancillary to the essential characteristics of collage: stuck-togetherness and two-dimensionality.
(Above: Untitled 8-4, Daniel Anselmi, 2016, artist-painted paper, found paper, collage)

A non-problem?

So, it seems to me that talking about collage shouldn’t be more difficult than talking about any other kind of art once we clearly define “collage.” A collage is an essentially two-dimensional, non-digital artwork made of two or more essentially flat elements stuck together somehow. A digital collage is a digital artwork analogous to a traditional collage. All else is description of materials or process, and we already have a rich, widely accepted and therefore useful vocabulary for describing artist’s materials and processes.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Rain: More Rain (November 28, 2016)

More rain in the past couple of days has added 0.60 inches to our 2016-2017 rain year total, which now stands at 11.05 inches at my location in northeastern Santa Rosa. Normal for this time of year is just under six inches, so, for the time being, we are significantly ahead.

[Update: More rain on December 9 added 1.1 inches of new precipitation, bringing our total to 12.15 inches for the year—but it's still raining as of early morning December 10 and more rain is predicted in the coming week.]

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 159 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage is another predominately green one, using sheets of monoprinted paper I made when in the mood for green. This is Untitled Collage No. 159 (Santa Rosa). November 3, 2016. Acrylic on Paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. 20.3 x 27.6cm (8.0 x 10.9 inches). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on reverse. Signed on the mat. I haven't been in the mood to create art since the election, I'm afraid.

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

Rain: More Rain (November 19, 20, and 24, 2016)

A good steady rain the past two days has added 2.80 inches to our total for the 2016-2017 rain year, which now stands at 10.00 inch at my location in northeastern Santa Rosa—very good for this time of year. I hope it keeps up. More rain is forecast in the next couple of days.

More rain on November 24 raised the total to 10.45 inches.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Miscellaneous: The 2016 "Supermoon"

I wasn't able to get a good photograph of last night's super moon down low, where the size is most dramatically apparent, but I did get a decent shot of the full moon after it had moved above the band of clouds that had veiled it nearer the horizon.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 158 (Santa Rosa)

Almost caught up with posting recent collage work. Here's another new one. This piece is now on view on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi, Cotati, California (through December 31, 2016), along with many others. Come by and see it, and me, and have a glass of wine--or two--at the OPENING RECEPTION on MONDAY, November 7, 5:00PM to 7:30PM.

This is Untitled Collage No. 158 (Santa Rosa). October 22, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper, cotton thread, collage. 15.3 x 20.1cm (6.0 x 7.9in). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

Art I'm Looking At: "Cries and Whispers" Contemporary Painting at Sonoma State University (Paintings by Cate White and John Yoyogi Fortes)

I attended the opening last night (November 3, 2016) of a show of contemporary painting at Sonoma State University's University Art Gallery, tucked away in a corner of the campus and hard to find (I wonder who thought it was a good idea to give EVERY building on the Sonoma State campus the same address?) but worth the trouble. "Cries and Whispers" features paintings by two Northern California painters, John Yoyogi Fortes and Cate White.

Both painters draw in a way that seems deliberately intended to look less skilled than it really is, White using a nervous, wiry line, Yoyogi Fortes a thicker, weightier line. Both painters make narrative paintings, White's seemingly grounded in reality, Yoyogi Fortes's more abstract, a little surreal. Both painters use layering and juxtaposition of apparently random elements that give the works a graffiti-like look. The work of neither painter would look out of place in an urban concrete setting. It's easy to see why this pairing made sense to the curators.

While the two painters clearly have affinities, they have different concerns. Cate White's work is intensely personal. Assuming the named characters peopling her canvases are real people—people she knows—she is recording significant moments in her life. If these are fictional people, there is at least a recurring cast of characters. "Rory" is one such character. Among the most memorable paintings by White is Rory Counting His Money (2015, acrylic on wood panel), in which we see precisely that: Rory, secretively counting money in a kitchen, seemingly worried about who might observe him, perhaps someone in the room pictured through an open door behind him. The kitchen is crudely depicted but realistically enough drawn in the top half of the painting to make it easy to accept the space on its own cartoon-like terms, but White pulls the carpet out from under the viewer in the bottom half of the painting by making Rory's legs transparent, by suddenly shifting to an abstract depiction of space roughly blocked out with patches of flat color. And Rory's cat, too, is transparent. The orange outlines of the cat and the orange patch beneath Rory's boots are jarringly set against the aqua highlights in the room. The real world dissolves here. In other works, White again uses this transparent effect to keep things one step removed from reality.

In Dre Looking at Me at the Mike Brown Memorial (2015, acrylic on Canvas), a nude female figure is one of several figures (the others clothed) that hold up cell phone cameras to snap photos of the pile of stuffed animals and other objects that appeared in Ferguson, Missouri's Canfield Drive as a spontaneous memorial at the site of the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, in August 2015. If the female figure is White herself, the image shows an outsider both observing and being observed—observed by people local to the scene (the man in the car, Dre), the scene under the surveillance of police cars tucked away into nearby alleyways. Why the foreground figure is nude, I cannot say. In other paintings, a prison visit is depicted; a woman, possibly the artist, stands naked, peeing in the shower; a soldier, flanked by two dogs sits in an ambiguous space (apparently on a sofa placed outdoors), a pair of phantom arms holding his gun.

The work of Yoyogi Fortes is bolder. In some ways it appears crude. The thick, clumsy outlines are reminiscent in places of Philip Guston's late work (itself a crude departure from his earlier representational work). At the same time, however, Yoyogi Fortes is a subtle colorist and his concerns are more painterly than White's. He works in layers. There are splashed areas of dripping paint. Some layers are applied, sanded down, and then overlaid with new layers. Thin, wiped layers float on top of textures left behind by thicker, sculpted layers underneath. The surfaces are of interest in themselves.

The cast of characters is more abstract than in White's work. It includes a stylized monkey face and headless bodies with skinny, booted legs (or heads on legs, reminiscent of Spongebob Squarepants). Recurring symbols include dollar signs and elongated, bloodshot eyes (R. Crumb comes to mind), and brick walls or linear grids. There is frequent use of irregular blobs of pure color that help to rob the paintings of depth—the flatness and the color blobs reminiscent of Japanese techniques, the first associated with traditional woodblock prints before artists in Japan were widely familiar with Western-style perspective, the latter a favorite technique of certain schools of contemporary Japanese abstract printmakers—as in Sweaty Pickle (immediately above: 2016, acrylic, pencil, charcoal, enamel, and collage on canvas). The positioning of these various elements on the canvases suggests narrative in some places, particularly the narrative style of manga or other graphic novels. Elsewhere, the elements appear more randomly placed, more like graffiti tags on walls that have been tagged and covered, tagged and covered repeatedly—although, no doubt, the artist is making decisions about placement based on compositional concerns. Text fragments commonly appear, as in POV (above: 2015, acrylic, enamel, charcoal, pencil, collage, and glitter on canvas), again suggestive of graffiti or street art, a style very much in vogue these days. Not all the pieces by these two artists are immediately appealing. It took me a while to warm up to some of the work, but I left the show glad I'd made the effort to see it. The paintings of both artists are worth a look. Recommended.

"Cries and Whispers: Paintings by John Yoyogi Fortes and Cate White" runs through December 11, 2016 at University Art Gallery at Sonoma State University. Parking Lot A is the closest. Exorbitant ($8) parking fee required. Gallery hours 11:00AM to 4:00PM Tuesday through Friday, weekends 12:00PM to 4:00PM. Closed Mondays and holidays. Closed November 11 (Veteran's Day) and November 23-25 (Thanksgiving). For more information, call (707) 664-2295.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 157 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage. This is another done during the recent Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event. This piece (and many others) is now on view on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi (through December 31, 2016, opening reception Monday, November 7, 5:00PM to 7:30PM.) Come by and see it, and me, and have a glass of wine--or two.

Untitled Collage No. 157 (Santa Rosa). October 17, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper, collage. 30.8 x 25.5cm (12.1 x 10.0in). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rain: More Rain (October 24-25, 2016)

Rain all day today (October 25) and yesterday has so far added 3.20 inches to our total for the 2016-2017 rain year. As of 7:00PM on the 25th, our total stood at 4.85 inches. Off to a good start—and more rain is forecast.

[Rain has continued on and off since writing the above—an unusually extended period of rain for us. Since last reporting (and, as of noon on October 30) we have had an additional 2.10 inches of precipitation, bringing our total so far to 6.95 inches, which is very healthy for this time of year. May it continue.]

[Occasional sprinkles since last writing have added another 0.25 inches to our total, which is now 7.2 inches, as of noon, Sunday, November 6.]

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Music I'm Listening To: Pablo Heras-Casado and Alisa Weilerstein with the San Francisco Symphony

Last night, October 21, 2016 was the opening of the 2016-2017 concert season—for me, at least. I was in San Francisco to hear Pablo Heras-Casado conduct the San Francisco Symphony in Mozart's Symphony No. 29, Schumann's Cello Concerto in A Minor (Alisa Weilerstein soloist), and Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. Each time I've watched Heras-Casado conduct, I've been impressed by his apparent rapport with the San Francisco Symphony musicians. Everything seems crisp, clear, taut, and in its place.

I enjoyed the Mozart performance, which had these qualities in spades, the Schumann less so. The Schumann concerto is from that period in musical history when it was fashionable to leave no pauses between movements; it's always felt wrong to me. There's nothing inherently necessary about dividing music into clearly separated segments, but the breaks allow the listener time to reflect and absorb before being asked to consider a new set of ideas. The Cello Concerto seemed amorphous, without direction, and a little overblown, the lack of pauses contributing. It's not among my favorite cello concertos. Weilerstein, Heras-Casado, and the orchestra seemed very much in tune (pardon the pun), however, and Weilerstein played with the drama she's known for, the drama heightened by her voluminous crimson dress, but I thought the sound of her low string rather ugly—gritty and grippy, as if she had put much too much rosin on her bow. I suppose that's a minority opinion, but I found it distracting.

The highlight of the evening was perhaps the Dvorak. Sitting near the front is a compromise. It's fun to be close to the conductor and soloists, but the sound can get a trifle out of balance, with the brass and low strings a little too strong, the violins a little lost, and that was apparent in the Dvorak, particularly when the sound was biggest, with the horns threatening to overwhelm the violins—but that was not the fault of the performers, who were, as usual, in good form. Dvorak is nothing if not colorful. He always uses the full orchestra, giving everyone a lot to do—in this case, the winds, in particular. His Symphony No. 7 is a passionate piece of music. There's plenty of drama (and it's hard work for the conductor; Heras-Casado was dripping with sweat by the end), but Dvorak, even at his most intense, never seems willing to accept the notion of hopelessness. There is always something optimistic about his writing, a positive energy always swirling around at the eye of the storm. All in all, a good start to another season of fine music in San Francisco.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 156 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage piece. This was done during the recent Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event.

This is Untitled Collage No. 156 (Santa Rosa). October 16, 2016. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, collage. 21.8 x 31.6cm (8.6 x 12.4in). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed and dated on the reverse. Signed on the mat.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Rain: First Real Rain of the New Rain Year

We had drizzle a couple of weeks back (0.2 inches) but the first real rain of the new rain year (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017) began last night. The first rain is always refreshing. It's very welcome, even if it comes in the middle of the Art Trails open studio event tomorrow and Sunday. So far this morning (October 14, 2016) there is 0.75 inches in the rain gauge. I'm hoping we'll have had a couple of inches by the end of the weekend.

[Update: By Sunday morning (October 16) most of the rain clouds were gone. We ended up with 1.45 inches at my location, bringing the annual total to 1.65 inches. I was hoping for more, but everything looks refreshed and the air smells clean.]
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