Monday, November 20, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 190 (Santa Rosa)

Another diminutive collage. This is Untitled Collage No. 190 (Santa Rosa). November 12, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 14.6 x 10.9cm (5.7 x 4.3 inches). Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse. Matted to 14 x 11 inches.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Goshawk Squadron

Derek Robinson's Goshawk Squadron (Cassell Military Paperbacks) was first published in 1971, but I read the 2000 edition pictured. This is one of the books left behind by my father who had an interest in military history, among many other things. It's not something I would have bought myself and I went into it with no particular expectations, but it turned out to be well written.   The central character, is the young but seasoned leader of Goshawk Squadron who has a simple, brutal philosophy: aerial combat is about killing enemy pilots. The idea of chivalry in the air is alien to him. He sees no honor in combat. He does his best to drill this idea into a string of utterly green replacements in the hope of keeping some of them alive. This reminded me a little of Andersonville, which I recently read, in that it is fiction but fiction apparently based on careful research. Much of the impact of Goshawk Squadron can be traced to the fact that it feels entirely authentic. A short but worthwhile read.

Rain: 2.55 inches of New Precipitation

It's rained on and off the past few days, at times heavily. We've had 2.55 inches of new rain since I last reported. That brings the total for the current (2017-2018) rain year to 4.90 inches.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Page, San Francisco

At 298 Divisadero St., in San Francisco, is The Page, a small neighborhood bar with a nice neon sign out front. I like the custom script here and the contrast between the yellow lettering and the blue cocktail glass.

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

Art I'm Making : Untitled Collage No. 189 (Santa Rosa)

My latest collage—a rather large one for me, although small by the standards of most. This is Untitled Collage No. 189 (Santa Rosa). October 30, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 34.6 x 25.3cm (13.6 x 10.0 inches). Matted to 24 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse. This one features some venetian red papers I made recently that are suggestive of writing. These asemic scrawls were entirely unintentional, but I liked them.

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

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Boom Boom Room, San Francisco

I recently drove by the Boom Boom Room, at 1601 Fillmore St, in San Francisco. The glass in this one appears generic (although the blue-green hue is unusual), but the rest of the sign is a custom design with a lot of nicely done text.

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

Art I'm Looking At: Edvard Munch in San Francisco


Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894.
Munch museum, Oslo. Photo by the author.
It's been weeks now
since I saw the recently closed Edvard Munch show at SF MOMA (which ran from June 24 to October 9, 2017). I had intended to visit a second time and to write something, but time slipped away and then the fires hit (on the day the show closed). I did want to record a few impressions, however, even if belatedly. Mainly, I was struck by two things: the extraordinarily loose brushwork in many of the later canvases and a boldness of color that I have never associated with Munch. The latter, in particular, was a surprise. Munch is best known for two or three distinctive images: primarily The Scream and Madonna (in their various forms), and perhaps Vampire and Puberty (both of which exist in a number of versions as well). These are all angst-ridden, psychologically dark works rendered mostly in somber colors. This is the Munch I suspect most people know. The SF MOMA show brought together a large number of less familiar works, an extraordinary number from the Munch Museum in Oslo, that, seen together, fundamentally changed my view of the artist.

Edvard Munch, The Death of Marat, 1907.
Munch museum, Oslo. Photo by the author.
His brushwork often was bold—daring even. Many of the canvases look barely finished. They give the impression of roughed-in sketches to be completed later. Faces are mask-like, skull-like, or cartoonish. The Death of Marat (1907), for example, is a loose lattice of lines in thinned paint that allows the canvas to show through.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait with Bottles, 1938.
Munch museum, Oslo. Photo by the author.
There is no denying that Munch was fairly obsessed with the death of his older sister Sophie, obsessed with sickness and death in general. His was a morbid mind, apparently, and many of the paintings are of morbid subjects. Yet, what was most striking about stepping into the galleries at the SF MOMA show was the color. If Munch was psychologically dark, he was by no means always dark in a literal sense. Munch was a strikingly distinctive colorist, as some of the examples here show, even if he often used slightly garish, starkly contrasting color combinations mainly to heighten a sense of unease.

Edvard Munch, Model by the Wicker Chair, 1919-21.
Munch museum, Oslo. Photo by the author.

Edvard Munch, The Artist and His Model, 1919-21.
Munch museum, Oslo. Photo by the author.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Miscellaneous: Things We Need Names For

I wish there were a word for a mysterious small object that creates an alarmingly loud ring as it shoots up the vacuum cleaner and disappears before you have had a chance to see whether it's something worth digging for in the vacuum cleaner bag innards to recover.

Speaking of useful words, a while back I came across a wonderful word for marks that look like writing but aren't writing--think of the marks in some of Cy Twombly's work, or imagine fake calligraphy. Does anyone know this word? I've been unable to remember it. It's something I'd like to recover from the vacuum cleaner bag that is my brain.

[Update: Someone has reminded me. The word I was looking for is "asemic."]

Rain: More Rain (November 10, 2017)

More rain on the night of November 9 and into the following day has added 0.30 inches of new precipitation, bringing our total so far for the 2017-2018 rain year to 2.35 inches.

Books I'm Reading: Wine, Giant Squids, and a Yellow Diamond

I normally write about the books I'm reading one at a time, but so much time has been lost by dealing with disruptions caused by the recent fires that I have three to note here in order to catch up. I've recently finished Todd Klimann's The Wild Vine (Clarkson Potter, 2010), the tale of one of North America's most interesting native grape varieties, Norton, also known as Cynthiana. Years ago, driving across the country, I stopped in the Missouri wine country where a lot of Norton is still grown and tasted Norton wines. They seemed the most familiar among the many wines I tasted on my trip made using non-vinifera grapes (Norton is believed to be Vitis aestivalis or a hybrid including a large aestivalis component). I thought the Norton wines I tried competently made and drinkable but not very exciting. Port-style wines made from Norton seemed the most successful. The book discusses Norton's history in Missouri and elsewhere, its origins, a rise to domestic prominence (and even some surprising successes overseas), and then its subsequent fall into obscurity. An interesting, if rather narrowly focused read.

I followed that with a rather different book, Richard Ellis's The Search for the Giant Squid (Penguin, 1998) a highly readable look at the rather mysterious, poorly studied, poorly understood, largest members of the squid family. Much of the book is an attempt to bring some clarity and objectivity to historical reports of giant squid from around the world--often reports of "monsters" that probably were squid. One section looks at squid biology. Another looks at the giant squid in literature and film. An entire section is devoted to known models of giant squid, mostly in museums around the world. In short, everything to know about the giant squid is here. That's a lot, but the take-away from reading the book is actually that we know very little about the biology and habits of these largest of the invertebrates.

In another switch, I then turned to reading the latest mystery from Andrew Martin, The Yellow Diamond (Faber and Faber, 2015). I'm not usually a fan of mysteries, but my mother introduced me to Martin's Jim Stringer series of mysteries a few years back and I enjoyed those very much for the good writing, the masterful evocation of period (early 1900s), and of place (various parts of England, France, and later one in India), but especially for the vividly described railroad culture in them; Jim Stringer is a detective on the railroads, formerly an engine driver. The books are steeped in the language of the railroads, which makes them both a little challenging to get into at first but rewarding. The Yellow Diamond is the first in a new series that takes place in more modern times and with a new detective, one Blake Reynolds, investigating the super rich in London. The ending leaves one wondering what's next for the main character. I suspect another Reynolds adventure is on the way--if one hasn't been published already. Reading this after the fires was a welcome escape.

While waiting out the progress of the recent fires I also read The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin (Picador, 2006), the first in another series of mysteries recommended by my mother. This one features Yashim, an investigator in the late days of the Ottoman Empire. Yashim is a eunuch, which gives him access to the harem and other inner chambers of the Sultan's palace in Istanbul, usually off limits to outsiders. He has an interest in cooking, eating, solving mysteries, and—because Yashim became a eunuch  after puberty—in women. In this tale, a series of gruesome murders--linked, we learn, to the disgruntled remnants of the Sultan's Janissaries--keeps Yashim in the streets of Istanbul, in the harem, and in trouble.  Like most good mysteries, the pleasure here is as much in the atmosphere and detail Goodwin achieves as in the plot.  I'm not usually a mystery reader, but I liked this well enough that I'm curious to find out what Yashim gets up to in the next book in the series.

Music I'm Listening To: Santa Rosa and San Francisco

Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen
I've had the fun of going backstage to do photography as a volunteer for the Santa Rosa Symphony this season. I had intended to write in some detail about each of the five concerts serving as auditions for the Symphony's new conductor following the upcoming retirement of Bruno Ferrandis, but, with the fires, I've been unable to write much and many of my impressions are no longer fresh or they have been lost altogether. Two concerts have already finished. Candidates Francesco Lecce-Chong, and Mei-Ann Chen have both led the Santa Rosa Symphony in concerts designed to give audiences a sense of who they'd be if chosen to replace Ferrandis. Both Lecce-Chong and Chen seem enthusiastic and competent, but I thought Lecce-Chong a trifle nervous in his interpretation, a little rushed, a little in need of rubato to vary tempi. Chen seemed more in control of things, more self-assured, and I liked the way she seemed very cognizant of the mid-range instruments like the violas. The next audition concert will feature Andrew Grams as guest conductor with performances at the Green Music Center on December 2, 3, and 4.

Guest conductor Lecce-Chong
The first San Francisco Symphony concert I attended this season featured violin soloist Agustin Hadelich, who gave a very good performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto notable, I thought, for the articulation and the way Hadelich let the inherent romanticism of the piece shine through without exaggeration. So many performances of the piece are a bit over the top and often marred by laziness in the slurred passages. Hadelich's was a model of clarity throughout. I never got around to writing anything about the final SF Symphony performance I attended last season either, which included Joshua Bell playing Lalo's Symphony Espagnole. Bell is not among my favorite violinists. He likes very romantic music and tends to give it more romantic passion than it needs (very much unlike the Hadelich performance noted above). However, he played the piece nicely, I thought, despite a minor mishap; Bell at one point got the tip of his bow momentarily caught in his strings. Guest conductor Vasily Petrenko took the music at a rather faster pace than is usual and perhaps that kept Bell from getting carried away.

Miscellaneous: The Fires

It's been a month already since wildfires swept into Santa Rosa from the north and then began to threaten from three sides. The first night was particularly scary. The wind was extraordinary. Warm and relentless. I went to bed thinking only that the wind was strange and unsettling. A few hours later, my son wakened me, smelling smoke and saying something about fires. Later, when I told him he had roused me, he said that I had, in fact, awakened him. I have no recollection of that. Memory becomes patchy in times of stress, perhaps, because next I remember gathering a few things together to put in the car, just in case, and then standing in the street with neighbors, looking north toward Fountaingrove, into a wall of black and charcoal-colored smoke fringed with an orange glow. And then the distant, repeated popping of what people tell me was propane tanks and cars exploding. I don't remember exactly when we left, but the power was out soon after we awoke to the smell of smoke. It was some time the next morning. We filled the car with some important possessions--mostly art and family irreplaceables--and headed to my mother's house, in Sebastopol, about 10 miles to the west, three cats in tow. There was so little news at first and rumors swirling. It was surprisingly hard to get information about what was going on. Ultimately, local radio stations proved the best source of accurate news. The photo above shows the wall of smoke behind a neighbor's house. Below, a firefighter from the Los Angeles area gives details of progress in fighting the blazes at a makeshift information post in front of the Coddingtown Mall Whole Foods store.



We spent a week in Sebastopol, the cats in the garage, disoriented, two of them quiet, one crying softly but incessantly. We had the luxury of being able to go back home during the day to take out more valuables. The house, although powerless and in a neighborhood largely abandoned, remained just outside the mandatory evacuation zones. We drove the second car out. Evenings were occupied by a little reading and watching the fire updates on Internet maps. The situation continued to worsen. The fires kept spreading. The air was heavy with smoke at home. The ground in Sebastopol was littered with ash. It was about five days before it became clear that the fires would be contained before they reached us.

Unsettling. An inconvenience. An anxiety-filled temporary disruption. Happily, for us the fires were not more than that. For so many others, the fires took everything in minutes. Many escaped with virtually nothing, and so I feel I have nothing to complain about. It could have been much worse. I feel particularly for my artist friends and acquaintances who lost not only their homes but their studios and years of work, which I imagine must feel almost like losing a child.

Part of me wanted the house to burn. I suppose that's a strange thing to say and perhaps easy for me to say because it's so hard to know how it would really have felt to see everything reduced to ash. But there was a part of me that kept thinking it would be liberating to lose all material possessions. It would allow a clean re-start. It would create an unequivocal demarcation line. A before and after. The Buddhists tell us that to possess nothing and to desire nothing is the true road to happiness. Perhaps they are right, but I am hopelessly attached to beautiful things. Most of what I took out of the house was art--my own and the art of others. And, as I say, it's a luxury to be able to think about these things in the abstract, without the actual shock of complete loss. We were lucky. Most of me is glad the house still stands, contents intact. Grateful to the firefighters from all over the country--and as far aways as Australia--who came to help.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Rain: New Rain November 8, 2017

We had 1.15 inches of new rain last night, the night of November 8, 2017, which also marks a month from the wildfires here, not to mention a year with the criminal, national embarrassment. That brings our total so far for the 2017-2018 rain year to 2.05 inches.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 188 (Santa Rosa)

A new collage, the first I've made since the chaos caused by the recent fires here. For those of us who did not lose everything, life is beginning to return to normal. I feel for those still sorting through the wreckage, dealing with insurance, finding a place to live, mourning the loss of possessions and, in some cases, loved ones.

Trying to move ahead, this is Untitled Collage No. 188 (Santa Rosa). October 21, 2017. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. 20.1 x 20.8cm (7.9 x 8.1in). Matted to 16 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

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

The Cocktail Glass Collection: St. Mary's Pub, San Francisco

I've recently had reason to be in San Francisco at night more often than in the past. I'm enjoying the opportunity that's afforded to see some new neon cocktail glass signs lit. This is the sign in front of St. Mary's Pub, at 3845 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110. The glass itself is generic, but I like the script "St. Mary's Pub."

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Art I'm Looking At: "Somewhere Else" at Blasted Art Gallery, Santa Rosa

Bill Shelley and Chris Beards have launched a new art space in the Backstreet Building, in Art Alley, in Santa Rosa's SOFA Arts District. I attended the grand opening of the new space on Friday night (November 3), not knowing what to expect from the outset and then feeling a bit baffled by the curtain closing off the space when I arrived for a look. There was no door, just the curtain. The entry was reminiscent of a curtained-off side gallery in a museum reserved for a video installation, projected film, or a piece of neon or other lighted art--and that was what I had expected to find.

When I poked my head in, I was disappointed. First, neither Bill nor Chris was in the space, and I had come in part to say hello and lend support, but I was disappointed more because the space was simply an empty room with black-painted walls onto which a series of empty white frames of varying sizes had been hung--or, I should say, a series of framed white blanks, the frames painted white as well. My heart sank. I like these people. I wanted to like what they had done, but it seemed there was nothing much to see. The show seemed a hackneyed conceptual art piece that was immediately graspable and therefore of little interest. I left almost immediately to look at some of the other studios. I found Chris (pictured above) in a hallway. I said something polite and later was able to greet Bill on a second foray into the space. I had a little wine (and they were serving some decent wine). I talked with a few of the people visiting, mostly acquaintances. I looked at the empty frames on the walls.

Before long, the framed blanks seemed not entirely white any more. They had a slight blue-green cast, as if someone had got the color balance wrong in Photoshop. I thought that a little strange.

A few minutes later, I suddenly saw that the frames and the spaces they enclosed were not white at all, nor were they a pale, slightly blue-green sort of white, but a vivid, saturated aqua, the color approximated in the photo of Chris above. Chris later told me the color is called "Poolside Blue." I was genuinely shocked. I began to doubt my own eyes, but it became increasingly clear that it was no illusion. The "paintings" were, indeed, a blue-green reminiscent of the bottom of a swimming pool. I realized something else. When I first saw them, I had expected the mounted pieces to be white. Because of that and because my eyes took some time to adjust to the darkness in the room, I had seen them as white. It was only as my eyes became accustomed to the darkness that I was able to see the color. It wasn't long before I was doubting not the color, but that I had at first been capable of not seeing the color. And so it turns out that there was much more to see and think about in that black room than I first thought. I feel a little embarrassed that I was initially so quick to give up, but, in my own defense, I went back. I kept looking.

On one level, there really isn't much to see in the room--it's just a series of uniformly colored, framed spaces on a black wall, but during the past two days I've found myself thinking about what I saw almost constantly. The installation raises many questions about how we see, how expectations can color (literally) our perception, and how two people can see identical images very differently (there were quite a few people discussing what color they were seeing and not all agreeing). I keep asking myself: what color were the "images" on the wall? The answer depends on who you ask and when you ask.

Adding a layer of complexity, the chosen color is somewhere between blue and green. The blue/green distinction is notoriously slippery in many languages. In Japanese, for example, my second language, the word ao often stands for both the English words "blue" and "green." In Japanese the sky is ao but so is a "green" traffic light. Foliage, too, is ao. Chris and Bill chose the color deliberately for that ambiguity.

And then there is the problem of photography. When I got home to look at my photographs, they were dark and had to be adjusted. But adjust them to what? What color are those framed spaces on the wall at Blasted Art Gallery? I really can't say. When I first entered the space, they looked like the image below. When I left, they looked like the image above.

I look forward to seeing what Bill and Chris get up to in the future. The current show, "Somewhere Else" will be viewable again next weekend, November 11 and November 12, between 11AM and 3PM. Congratulations to both Bill and Chris on the new space and for presenting us with an entertaining intellectual exercise.

[Update: I later read some comments Chris wrote about the installation that mentioned the recorded highway sounds playing in the background. I didn't hear any sound. I have no recollection of a "soundtrack" to the show. I imagine I was so focused on what my eyes were telling me that I completely ignored what my ears were telling me.]

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rain: First Real Rain of the 2017-2018 Rain Year

Overnight last night (November 4, 2017), we had a good rain, the first real rain since the start of the 2017-2018 rain year (which began on October 1, 2017 and will end on September 30, 2018) and the first appreciable rain since the fires. We had a trace of rain about a week after the fires started on the early morning of October 9, but not enough to make a difference, and things were in chaos. I didn't record the amount. It was very little--unfortunately. Rain then would have helped tremendously.

I have had no time at all to write about the fires or to write about the other things I usually write about in these pages, but I hope to get back into stride again soon. For the time being, I simply report that our rainfall so far this year stands at 0.9 inches.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Art I'm Looking At: Susan Stover on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi October 31 to December 31

I'm pleased to announce the next show on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi, in Cotati. We'll be showing recent work by Susan Stover, known internationally for her textile-inspired encaustics. I put up the show yesterday. Looks great. Join us on Monday, November 6, for the opening reception from 5:30 to 7:30. See the work, meet Susan, enjoy nibbles and wine...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Art I'm Making: Art Trails 2017 Second Weekend, October 28 and 29

Art Trails 2017 FINAL WEEKEND this weekend, after the one-week postponement caused by the recent, tragic fires in Sonoma County. We continue to mourn the losses here, but taking refuge in art seems one good response to the tragedy among many others. Artist studios will be open from 10AM to 5PM Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and 29. I would love to see you at Studio 61. There's much new art to see, including one or two pieces finished in the past week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 187 (Santa Rosa)

Life has been on hold for the past two weeks, but things are beginning to return to normal after the Northern California fires that hit us on the night of October 8--normal for those of us who evacuated but did not lose our houses, our studios, years of art work, loved ones.

I'm trying to catch up with posting new art. This is Untitled Collage No. 187 (Santa Rosa), the last piece I made before the confusion began. It's a small piece, the result of a difficult birth and many reworkings, but I'm  happy with it now that it's done. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. September 28, 2017. Image size 9.7 x 9.7cm (3.8 x 3.8in). Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Art I'm Making: Art Trails Update

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Art I'm Making: Art Trails Open Studios 2017

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

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The City Club, San Francisco

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Books I'm Reading: Andersonville

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Buckhorn, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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

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

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

Wines I'm Making: The Waiting Game 2017

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The Delirium Bar, San Francisco

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

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Miscellaneous: North Dakota License Plate Finally Spotted

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

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

Miscellaneous: New Yard Bird

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Miscellaneous: Location, Location, Location

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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