Friday, February 16, 2018

180216 An unexpected development

An old friend stopped by the other day and asked how much my painting was. I told him – off the top of my head - $3,750. He saw a table next to it.
“It says here $850!”
“Oh, well. That’s . . ..”
I was thinking the label was put up by my daughter and my wife and somehow it went unnoticed. I do not expect my family to know the art market value of my work.
I said, “You don’t want that painting.”
“Yes, I do. Why do you say that?”
“It’s large,” I answered. It’s about four-by-six feet and of irregular shape. “It’s hard to move. And it doesn’t have a frame. A custom frame costs a fortune – maybe more than the painting!” I know, because I priced a frame I designed.
“I like it without a frame!” he argued. “I’ll send you a check for $2,000 to hold it for me,” my friend said. Two days later, his check arrived.
I had a funny feeling when I opened the envelope and found his check. I still have a funny feeling. I will bank it, but the funny feeling may not go away because while I have his $2,000 in my account, I still have the painting on our gallery wall. It was unexpected.
I saw him again last night and I felt like telling him I needed to find a therapist to help me figure out why I don’t simply be glad for the sale. There is no therapist, however, who can help me. And besides, therapy would burn through that $2,000 in a few sessions, I bet!
So, I will have to “go inside myself,” as I like to say, and ask my inner guide.
Here’s the result: All my art is to be disposed of within a few years, and this painting is among the best works I made. I’m shamefully proud of it. I love to recall its history, and the back story of its images. Its title is, “Voyage of the Emeralda,” and the title says many things. It’s a layered-story too long for telling; and the story goes with the painting, like a book.
That means that wherever the painting goes, the story goes. If the painting is separated from its back story, it is just another design to hang on a wall, out of sight of most people and never to be seen again. I’ve made many artworks in the past that I haven’t seen since and not had an opportunity to speak to their owners. It’s rare that I have contact with them.
This is changing, thanks to the Internet.
Incidentally, at another point in the conversation my friend mentioned that he acquired another one of my artworks. It was given to him by a woman who bought it from me thirty years ago. She was of advanced age even then; and now she is disposing of all her collected things and he was glad to get it. It is a print, and another one from this edition hangs in our family gallery, in fact, with a price of around $350 or more.

This print, framed, like everything else, must be disposed of—like that of my friend’s friend, the elderly woman’s. I have built a plan around this reality.
My plan is to use my life’s work to capitalize the development of the Northwest Print Center Incubators, which is my parting gift to Seattle’s cultural arts district where I live known as Uptown. I must, however, allow for my family’s share because my career has not been successful in the financial sense.
In other words, my teaching-motivated actions of the early 1980’s resulted in my forced resignation from the University Of Washington School Of Art. My ideas were unacceptable, and I fought the system, and I lost. Along with it I put our family into debt for $54,000 in 1983 dollars, and we never recovered the loss nor I the emotional cost. That amount was what I invested in a trip around the world to validate my plan to redirect the aim of the printmaking division to include art and technology.
It’s not an aside that I describe this, because the Northwest Print Center Incubators, in my vision, is a 21st Century vision I never let go of, one that considers the nature of printmaking as the ancestor of technologies and is based on the creative economy.
It seems far away from my confusion over my friend’s investment of $2,000, but it is germane. It is germane because the keyword is “investment.”
I decided years ago that artworks can be investments; this is borne out repeatedly, and lately I began monitoring the investment schemes developed on the notion that moneyed people will put their cash into artworks with the plan to either cash in on a sales price higher than they paid or have a deduction on the loss if the art sells for less.
The Northwest Print Center Incubators is capitalistic idea—not a plan for another non-profit organization. In my opinion, cultural nonprofits are burdensome on society if they do not encompass an ever-widening diversity of social members. It would be a risky venture to plan on one more nonprofit in light of the economy forthcoming, I think.
On the other hand, an investment in the creative economy and accountable as such, would be a good investment in human and social capital. Printmaking and its descendant art and technology are essentially social arts.
Thus, my friend’s $2,000 should be an investment in the NPCI. He is aware, more than most people, of my plan. He has supported it from the first time I described it to him. Two-thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket considering it will take millions to develop the NPCI according to my outline. But it means a lot, especially coming from him.

This writing has helped. I will not need a therapist to help me. As they say, problems usually have within them the seeds of their own solution.

Monday, February 5, 2018

180205 The icky feeling of exclusion 


Curious about Hatchfund today as I studied the project by Barbara Noah, I went online to see when my $30 contribution would be deducted from my account. My account is down to less than $30 at the moment, so I don’t need any withdrawals without taking some money out of my SS income and Pension.
Since I stopped working as a Halfwood Press Finisher and order fulfillment man, I must watch my bank account closely as there is no press income for me! I’m scrambling for a few dollars to avoid overdrafts and Barbara’s project has less than a month to mature. I promised $30.
There are other unfilled obligations on the horizon. One of my unfinished projects is the Ed Raub etching press, an venture I took on last October when I met Ed and found out that he is not only a carver he’s also a printmaker and well-educated in his native arts. He happens to be skilled in entrepreneurship as well. In all, he’s a remarkable man.
Barbara’s imminent success with her project funded partially by Hatchfund made me think I should consider this crowdfunding platform instead of those I already considered: GoFundMe, Patreon and others. I discovered Hatchfund has two curious features: funds are considered donations to a non-profit and are therefore tax-deductible and, two, only approved artists qualify.
I can understand the tax-deductible feature (despite that the minimum tax deduction for people in our income bracket is far higher than the sum of contributions) but the approval feature gave me an icky feeling: I’m probably not qualified.
Qualification requires approval by at least one of 143 arts organizations. Online I scrolled down the list of organizations and I didn’t see any that would approve me because, with the exception of my being a member of Artist Trust in Seattle, it’s unlikely that I’d qualify.
That’s a funny feeling, an icky feeling of exclusion, like not being member of a labor union or a card-carrying member of anything.
There’s hope, however, because several organizations are listed for which Ed Raub would and he could have his own Hatchfund project. This way he could be reimbursed for the time he’s already given to the carving and painting of the “Canoe” etching press.
It’s a funny feeling of being excluded from Hatchfund because I’m not an approved member of any arts organization’s panel of experts. I’ve had the feeling before.
Writing my autobiography, for example, I tell how – as a fat, clumsy kid in junior high I would be among the last in line when sides were chosen in PE games. Then there was the time when I was a young art professor at the UW and fighting for my academic freedom. In the end I gave it up, partly on the wisdom of Chief Joseph: “I will fight no more, forever.” I learned from Stephen Hazel when I asked him about the name of the workshop he founded, the Nez Perce Printmaking Workshop.
I found an article from 2009 about Stephen’s work in Olivet, and it mentioned his Seattle time and the Multicom organization. Listing the participants, my name was excluded. Again, an icky feeling. I wonder if there’s something endemic about organizations that in order for them to exist, there have to be other people who are excluded.
There’s a joke, “We learn from the mistakes of other people. Some of us have to be the other people.”

Where I go from here, I don’ t know. It’s an icky feeling; I share it with many people.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

180204 Funny feeling of a sale lost 


“Debra” requested a press via Etsy and I referred her to the manufacturer, suggesting she may buy direct from the Kughler Company. She replied, “That’s perfect.”
Now I’m looking at my current payment due from FedEx. It’s only $10, but my account is down to $22—dangerously close to being overdrawn.
It’s a funny feeling to referring, or losing, my sale of a Mini Etching Press to Debra (in Australia) but such is the nature of, once again, reinventing myself.
That’s what they call it. It’s like the time, in 1968, that I had an epiphany caused partly by seeing the art of Rolf Nesch, a print titled, “Snake Eater.” It was an epiphany only in the germinal state, but it grew over the space of a year until I was in Europe to see for myself the old printmaking world as Rolf Nesch lived it.
To escape Nazi Germany and the war, Rolf had to reinvent himself, exiling himself and going to live in Norway as a hostile, a man without a country except Germany, which was corrupted by the Third Reich regime.
Should I exile myself from the USA? I won’t be drafted into the army at 76 (Rolf was still of fighting age). Where would I go? Would Australia have me? I no longer want to teach old world printmaking, in spite the possibility I could in the land Down Under.
There is only one way to exile myself from the USA, this nation with a corrupted government and its undeclared civil war. That way is the way of virtue, or what I think of as virtual reality.

Sending the orders for presses (for the second time in the past four days) to the Kughler Company is a way of exiling myself from the old world I was part of. By doing so I am opening a new door, where I have additional time to write my autobiography and work on Proximates as long as Sevan will help me.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

os180127 Ten reasons why I write my autobiography  
Seven-hundred pages into my autobiography I feel I’ve hit a hollow spot, a slightly dead feeling and I’m having a time getting into the first two and the last one of the eight book I planned. The words of T. S. Eliot come back to me, “We shall never cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time.”
This is from Eliot’s Four Quartets. Another excerpt is:
Do not let me hear, Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly, Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession, Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God. The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
I am an old man, and wise. But, as the poet said: “Do not let me hear.” And so, after a year of writing an accumulation of facts and my fancies about my life, I come to the beginning—1941—and dwell on the question, “Should I write about the bombing of Pearl Harbor 17 days before my mother gave me my birthday?” Shall I dwell on the triggering event that I found recommended on a website about writing good fiction?
Following that advice for a triggering event I employed a fiction about all my life’s work in a dumpster so that our little showroom can be cleaned out and rented or sold—no longer of any use to me, a dead man, after all is said and done.
But there would remain the story of my life so if anyone cared to read it, they would see what was lost. As if anyone would care enough to read a 700-page autobiography of an obscure artist and failed art professor in Seattle.
Get real.
Maybe I was good enough to read about. After all, no artist nor art professor that I know of from around here wrote his or her autobiography—that alone is a unique thing, original and authentic. But is originality and authenticity of any value today?
Today I will try to write ten good reasons to write my autobiography—maybe this will help me out of this dead spot.

Here are ten reasons.

1. Know thyself – to know the place and times better, a self-revelation which can be shared as if a teacher.
2. Family enrichment – by reading my autobiography, my family members might be entertained and enlightened in ways similar to what mom achieved.
3. Friends enrichment – the people whose name are in my autobiography might be interested to see their names in print and in the context of my life story.
4. Valuation – the worth of my legacy, be it academic, the physical artworks, or reputation might be developed in this first step toward making stock certificates out of the physical works in our family collection.
5. Gratitude – a way of acknowledging the people whose lives intersected mine in positive ways, often for reasons they didn’t know about.
6. Reinstatement – there were things a few people did, unknowingly I suppose, which harmed me and my family in subtle ways. Perhaps it was also my fault for letting those things happen but I may claim had it not been for their ulterior motives my family and I would be happier today knowing I should not have been treated that way. By presenting my point-of-view I may reinstate my self-worth as a step toward establishing the worth of my legacy.
7. Create another element to Emeralda: Games for the gifts of life, a game of keeping on top of new developments in printmaking, i.e., the new technologies of information creation, storage, retrieval and distribution.
8. Killing time – if this is not a serious project, then it is play, a way of giving myself a reason to get up in the morning and going to the gallery. By sending a draft to be printed by the Lulu service, I then have a reason to look forward to the mail.
9. Answering old questions – Why resign a perfect job? Why withdraw from the art world? Why leave Triangle Studios? All these can be woven with kindness to the dead into the autobiography with no sense of vengeance or getting even.

10. Money. If the book is online on Lulu, I could get $4 for each version sold for $20. If it were to be better, bigger and got good reviews, it might get $25 each for a $95 book in color.

Friday, January 12, 2018

180112 On the couch again 

Therapist have never seen me, in spite that someone, who I thought was my friend, suggested that I get help. He was a colleague in the art school where we had been working together—and playing—for almost twenty years.
He gave me this advice because I was raising a storm about the way my division in the art school was being run. I thought it was criminal, in the white-collar sense—how the students were being short-changed. It was my belief, after years of study and focused on global trends, that the printmaking division should spearhead a move toward recent technologies. It was 1984.
Printmaking, after all, can be said to be the ancestor of all technologies so it follows that a university of the size and reputation of ours (the UW) should take the lead. The pushback was strong, and some of the administrators resorted to covert methods to stop my campaign.
When I found out about their methods, I became the equivalent of a whistle-blower. It was at this point when my former friend said I was emotionally unstable and that I should get a leave of absence and seek medical help. In his judgement I was nuts, in other words, to think things like video and computer graphics had a place in the art school going forward.
I never put myself on the couch of a therapist. Like most crazy people, I suppose, I didn’t think I was crazy. The year before I presented my contentions (regarding future directions of the printmaking division) I had gone around the world, at my family’s expense, to gather evidence to support my thesis. What I had seen and recorded was evidence I was not crazy at all.
Besides, to offer myself to a therapist would have been tantamount to admitting I was nuts and, having risked my family’s finances, only proved it. I couldn’t bear that. I would no confess my error and as a result my family’s assets and my reputation, were ruined and I was forced to resign rather than apologize for my errors.
Today, as I read a business proposal plan offered to me by a recent buyer of one of my designs—a WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press—I experienced the same feeling of panic when I came to the part about hard facts of costs. The question, “Am I nuts?” reared its fearsome head. It was not a feeling that I was wrong to think printmaking is the ancestor of all technologies and therefore should be integrated into a printmaking teaching method.
It was ta feeling set off when, in reading the business plan template, I came to the requirement that I write down the financial structuring needed: How much will it cost? The budget must be known if I am to proceed. Otherwise I’m wasting mine and everyone else’ time.
I as a mollycoddled art professor who never had to write any more of a budget than an annual forecast of how much kerosene we might need in the etching studio, or what a new press might cost.
I’ve met this monster before and its name is financial ignorance. How would I know how much a printmaking teaching method designed for the cloud will cost?
If I am a subject matter expert, not a financial expert, am I supposed to know the answer? A printmaking SME is supposed to know how many drops of nitric acid one should put in how much gum Arabic when processing a medium-gray lithograph stone—and what considerations, besides the color of the stone, must be taken.
A printmaking SME also knows a bit of history and, above all, the place of printmaking in the world as it is today. He or she should know how printmaking fits in to education of young people above all others.
As a SME who gave a generation of his life to college-level printmaking education should also be equipped to adapt to the age of digital reproduction not only for colleges but also for the population globally. It might be argued that printmaking is the equivalent of buggy-whip manufacturing.
Why bother? Old-world printmaking is dead considering digital printmaking is easier, cheaper, faster, etc., is it not? Tell that to my 250 customers who shelled out thousands of dollars for the etching presses I designed and that my collaborator, Tom, built.
Tell that to the guy—a certified blockchain technology consultant—who provided me with boilerplate text to build my business plan on.
I deeply long for the ability to say what is the budget, but in the financial planning world I do not trust my ability to forecast what it should be. For example, as a SME, what salary or fee should apply to me? What should I pay the man who filled in the parts of the business plan as a gift, as—dare I say—a collaborator? He has not asked for anything, but I estimate, in his field, what he has already given me is of the value of at least $500 for two hours’ of work.

He has paid only $140 to me, which cost me about half to fulfill his order of a press.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

sp160818 Gifts of life


The ultimate gift of a long life is to have reached a state when you can take the pulse-quickening effect and sense of the things you want to do with what lifetime remains to you and have wealth enough to select from those. It takes all the discipline you've learned because there is no rehearsal for the end of your life. The discipline you've learned all your life is needed now. You have to get it right the first time. I am thinking the one thing I want to achieve: A game that serves as an interface for a printmaking teaching method to go online. I think of a screenplay based on the novel, "Rembrandt's Ghost in the New Machine". I think of bits of dialogue for the screenplay, taken from the novel. The very thought of pulling this off quickens my pulse, and gives me something to look forward to as I close out past projects and count the days left to me. Only a project of this scope is large enough to absorb all my legacy and makes room for other people, too, really and virtually.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

vi171222 Pressing issue: Printmaking VR 


It is the future and I have lived into it. As a boy I read about the future, saw pictures of what was to be, and most of it was science fiction. Much of it still is still to be realized—into infinity, I suppose. My boy’s imagination may have been smaller or greater than the multifaceted reality which has turned out to be, but I didn’t write it down when I was a boy, so I don’t know for sure.
In a day or so I will have lived all of 76 years, so the end of my story is nigh, as they say. Yet I am fortunate to have learned some ways to use the devices of this future that were the stuff of fiction sixty years ago. In living those years I narrowed my focus to the arts in many forms—crafts and design and the so-called fine arts. At some point I got stuck with the notion of learning for its own sake.
It seemed like a good idea. I figured that when all the industries of mankind had been figured out, education would continue to be the key to continuance of the human species.
Now is the time to take stock, for the end is nigh (as they say) because my resources are dwindling and the Earth’s ability to sustain humanity is dwindling, too. Scientists predicted twenty-five years ago that humanity will be done for by 2022 unless we made dramatic changes.
But humanity—or effective parts of humanity—didn’t heed the scientists’ warning.
In my years of teaching, research, production and service, my accumulation of stock is considerable. That is, my stock is capable of being considered as having value. I learned from an attorney who specializes in the legal aspects of art valuation that back story is a consideration in valuation of art. The same is true of intellectual capital.
Therefore, if I have achieved anything in my years, then my achievements, although puny in the larger scale of things, may be subjected to the same rules as those of any artist or intellectual. I consider myself a creative artist and creative intellectual, therefore it is timely to take stock, creatively.
Taking stock also means concurrently liquidating stock. Our family collection is our stock. Marketing is more than standing by the roadside, as I have written before, with boxes of apples hoping someone will stop and buy. You must go from your fruit stand and put up signs, giving your customers a chance to think and slow down and stop to buy.
Sales comes next, price point, benefits and continuing customer service.
What presses on my mind—364 days into my 76th year—is the untried notion of converting our family’s collection into scripophily. Creating the VR PrintmakingWorld is the forefront of all my good intentions. Our collection are like the signs leading up to the sale of shares in my next (perhaps my last) adventure, leading to the sale of the fruits of my labor.
It occurs to me that Carl Chew could design the artistscrip certificate border, his art adding considerably to its value. He has perhaps the most ability of anyone for this task as he knows me perhaps better than anyone outside my family. In fact, he knows me as a cohort in the arts and education, which is more than I can say for my family because I understand that my family members have their own unique lives.
My problem is that Carl told me many years ago that I lack nerve. He may be right. A few days ago he took me to lunch and I didn’t have the nerve to bring up the subject of scripophily. Well, I think I remember that I once did, but nothing about scripophily seemed to interest him at that time. Unlike me, as an artist, he is already disposing of his work the easy way—by giving it away for free or recycling it.
True, I am using the landfill-image as my last resort to provide for my family—posting an advertisement for rubbish removal on the wall of our gallery as the “emergency number” to call if I die with a gallery full of art. Into the dumpster it goes in order that my survivors can rent or sell the space as commercial real estate.
But there is a better way! It is the stuff both of science fiction and the stuff of fantasy, a kind of science fiction that few artists have attempted; because conventional, less creative artists have had little or no interest in education and are oblivious to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Warning to Humanity of 1992 which had a profound effect on my actions for the past quarter-century.
Tomorrow is my birthday, a good time to seal my plan for the next five years: Produce scripophily of the kind that is consistent with my artistic philosophy and principled intentions. Emeralda Works, my “games for the gifts of life” (as I call it) will focus on one project, the hybrid method for teaching printmaking online with virtual reality being its distinctive feature.

The business plan entails using my established patron base to determine and test the market value of teaching printmaking VR, and then use my artworks as the stock basis to proceed with prototypes, test the idea as a minimal viable product to share printmaking experiences with people worldwide.