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.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

171206 Me gusta una prensa para imprimir  

In Duolingo, I learn a little Spanish. I like to stimulate my brain with tiny shots of dopamine when I get something correct. I like the surprise when I surmise correctly the meaning of a Spanish word. I like being able to go to Google Translate to double-check my guess as to how to say a phrase, such as “Me gusta una prensa para imprimir.”
I like the press for printmaking, so I would like to enjoy looking at it in VR, but I would want to look at it for a surprising detail, such as finding an Easter egg in it. I would like to have a press to hold and find, in its structure somewhere, like Pokemon Go, a surprise, a ghost of a famous printmaker. I would like to find a different story in various parts of the press, a journey perhaps, such as a VR visit to Rembrandtshus if I had a miniature of the press he used.
Of course, I built a miniature Rembrandt’s Press, a toy, designed for printing cards. Thirty people bought them—several in foreign countries: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, England, Italy and Germany. The press won an award in an Italian design competition.
I would like to have a deck of cards. I would like to print on the press and then register it on Proximates and find “friends” (if not friends, then PrintMates) I never knew I had.
Out of these connections—when I hit fifty such PrintMates I would like a collection of postcards, like the ones of Native American carvings on the new Halfwood Press we are calling the Canoe.
Just as I found a “friend” with whom to talk about printmaking in the context of major real estate development, housing, tourism and international trade—focusing for the moment on virtual reality (as her son is working in this field), I would like to find more friends like her.
I am grateful for the friends I have.
For example, a PrintMate in Chile will write about how her little etching press I sent to her on permanent loan is useful in her efforts to teach children. Another woman in Colombia also wants to, and she wants a press (or possibly a Google Cardboard) to make this work. In both cases it presents me with meaning to learn Spanish—one of my long-held wishes—and cultivate friendships in South America.

But I want to do more. So much more.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

171202 Printmaking World branded 


 Looking back in time, at 76 and with 50 of those years giving time to printmaking I live in two worlds—the past and the future. At the moment I am using what is in-between the two. As a philosopher said, neither that, nor this, but in between. It is a state of suspension.
That is to say, suspenseful. What fun! Like going to a movie, or hearing a story, or dipping in a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get next.
For example, “Will I write something now of importance?”
Or, “If I put this on the Internet via my blog, will anyone read it?”
One of my favorite movies is "Planet of the Apes," from the beginning my career as a printmaker and professor in earnest. Many are the reasons—the scenes I used in my prints and the computer graphics that came from it—I remember it.
One is the scene and dialog when the spaceship captain gives the order to send one last signal to Earth, “. . . in case they find us!”
So it is when I tap out my “signal” to Earth . . . in case someone reads this, gets it, and finds me.
Like those survivors from the spaceship crash, about to search for means of survival on what those survivors of the spaceship crash thought was an alien planet, I live between two worlds—the past and the present.
The past of printmaking was when all that mattered was a supply of materials and a few tools to make prints, for fun and, sometimes, for showing and selling.
The future is unknown, like a good story to tell—a printmaking world no longer tethered to supplies and tools but, like one’s imagination, free to fall on whatever pathway is open.
The future of printmaking is to be seen in a multifaceted lens—some viewpoints showing this, others showing that, all aspects of printmaking through a variegated lens. History, technique, value as well as the people and places where the art, craft and design of printmaking is now, was, and will be.

In my printmaking world—my brand—anything is possible, like a story unfolding, like a movie being made, having been made, and will be made. As movies and leading edge technologies are all descendants of one ancestor, printing, so they are concomitant in one that is at front: Virtual reality and augmented reality.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

171128 The big disillusion 


 Margaret Prescott and eight partners are starting Phant, a social network. Margaret is concerned about human issues, seen from the perspective of sociologist and artist who studies art as therapy. Her rationale is as follows:
Humans want real connection and engagement — it’s good for us! — and thanks to the Internet and social media, we’re connecting more than ever. However, research links higher rates of time spent online with increased levels of unhappiness and loneliness. Isolation has become a health crisis—resulting in physical, mental, and emotional problems including shorter life expectancy, depression, and increased levels of stress (via the New York Times). It seems that, while technology has provided us with greater access to other people, for many, it has hurt our ability to form and foster deep bonds with others.”
Why do I hesitate to give the minimum of $5 to her IndieGoGo funding drive? Even though I like her idea, even the fact that she is working and a B-corp business model, there’s something wrong with her premise. It’s basically that she claims Phant, which is designed to help overcome loneliness and isolation, it has the same inherent technology that causes loneliness and isolation.
That is, physical reality.
Phant, like Facebook and other digital, online systems, is no substitute for face-to-face, physical engagement with people, processes and things.
Why? Because it’s easier. Physical contact is frightening in a world of uncertainty where the illusion of probability has taken over peoples’ brains and minds. From the chemistry of our brain functions to our intellectual reasoning, the path is toward isolation or grouping into shared clustering and power in numbers.
I would venture to say that one of the major dehumanizing forces at work in the world today is the disconnection brought about by the illusion of calculation based on probability, when it is an uncertain world that we really live from day to day.
Like the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane—an invention dating from the 1400’s and Leonardo Da Vinci’s time, today the notion that people feel connected by tapping and sweeping their fingers across a touch-screen is false. It comes from a chemical produced in a part of our brain which spreads to our thinking and rational actions. Not all parts of the human brain (and to some degree in other vertebrates) are impressed by this tiny center, this source of hope, love, anticipation and fulfillment. I think it may be traced to the nucleus accumbens—a coffee-bean shaped pair (one for each hemisphere).
Like psychological nuclear integrative fantasy (NIF), the obsessive and overriding desire to act at a distance, to live in a detached, imaginary world of virtual reality instead of the hard, physical reality is cultivated and encouraged by digital technologies such as social networks and virtual reality experiences.
We make a Facebook page. We buy a VR headset. We lust after virtual and/or augmented reality. I speak (or rather, I write) from experience. I am tapping my keyboard at my desk, it is 7:00 in the morning, I want to teach the world about the joys of printmaking and it appears I must join the mainstream (as Margaret and her associates appear to want to do).
In a keystroke I see today’s article about amazon’s new roll-out of Sumerian, tempting me with the words, I can “begin building immersive, interactive scenes for popular hardware and software (including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HoloLens, iOS, and Google Daydream).”
Add to this a Halfwood Etching Press and we’re good to go with a social, artistic and technical network as old as technology itself with printmaking. I have called my proposal, Proximates—a global network of press-users who register their prints by date and location and thus make a virtual print-pal.
We wish we could be rich both in spirt and cash, and having seen billionaires get their wish to do this without hard, physical labor, sweat, tears and pain. As human beings equally endowed, our nuclear accumbens makes this dreaming so.
Other parts of our brain, both left and right hemispheres, obediently take up the task to make our dreams come true and to achieve this without getting dirty or tired. I want to order Sumerian, and choose a platform to go with my etching press. Would I then be happy?
Not unless it includes physical reality—such as working with people right around my neighborhood, like Ethan Lind and Ed Raub, Tom Kughler and of course my daughers, wife, sons-in-law and granddaughter.
Initially I was interested in Cyrus’ Despres’—Margaret Prescott’s husband’s—description of her project. I thought he described it as a story-building platform where people compared notes of a shared process. As he spoke, I thought of my project—an autobiography—and the shared experiences that might make my writing project a success. To think it would be read by the hundreds of people who brought me to the point in my life history and pathway to my goal (NPCI), I secretly wondered if Phant might be a tool to help me.
This project of Margaret’s, or so I thought, I must learn more about. I learned that Margaret is seeking funding, and she was attending some of the same Techstar workshops at the same time that I was. I learned later she is a consultant, therapist, studied at Antioch and is artistic.
However, when I read the premise of Phant—that people will be less lonely and their feelings of disconnectedness if they shared pictures of their dinner plate, vacation or a sunset with one another, I thought Phant looked identical to Facebook. Yet, I believe the so-called “social media” have the opposite effect of bringing people closer and connected.
The evidence is in the current position of the USA in its relations to many other nations in the world—some of which view our country as the worst and most dangerous on Earth. It is the disconnect between what we say we believe in—racial equity comes to mind after my time with Ed Raub yesterday—that is killing us and ruining the future of Earth’s human life sustainability.

The US has more prisons than universities, yet the founders of this nation said only an educated population can sustain its ideals. It will be for another country to realize the dream of a better world. My plan is combine reality—hands-on printmaking on real presses and virtual presses which lead to face-to-face interaction no matter how uncertain the results may be.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

171123 Dream a big dream 

Joke: Question: “Which is closer, the moon or Florida?”
Answer: “Duh? Can you see Florida?”
From the top of Queen Ann hill in Seattle can be seen the high-rising towers in Bellevue. Nearer, where I live, the Uptown neighborhood, we have no towers. They are not allowed, partly because much of Uptown is in the flight path of an airport. Pontoon planes land in Lake Union.
My name is Bill Ritchie, and I am an artist. Artists typically neither live in nor do they like towering buildings. Yet when artists are attracted to city living, as in New York, for example, they accept the conditions that they need patrons. Innovative artists, in particular, need one patron for every one-hundred people in their viewing locale because innovative artists do not make consumer goods.
Much of what is called art is a form of a consumer good—something attractive to the eye and mind of the consumer. An ugly thing, like a stuffed goat with a tire around its middle, is not a consumer good. It’s suitable for the one-percent who see more in this weird combination than meets the eye.
Image result for rauschenberg goat
Monogram, combine by Robert Rauschenberg
However, in a city like New York, it’s a perfect thing for that one-percent and only one-percent is needed to not only house the object and keep it safe, but also provide a living for the artist and his heirs. Chris Rauschenberg may not need his father’s estate (he’s a successful artist in his own right), but Robert Rauschenberg’s legacy is a help.
That is, while Monogram was made in New York, the Museum of Modern Art declined the offer of it by its purchaser, so this signature piece of American art history is in Sweden at the Moderna Muséet, Stockholm. Stockholm is farther away than Bellevue. It’s farther than Florida, too. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, I can “experience” the elements of this artwork with a few keystrokes. I can read about it. I can use it to illustrate my Big Dream and how it relates to a yet-unbuilt Northwest Print Center Incubators.
Rauschenberg and the New York school of art of the 1950’s produced more than consumer goods. Of the thousands of artists at work who produced immediately likeable and beautiful objects of art, crafts and design in those days, few are remembered for their art because the handful of artists who turned a corner in the art world those days were thinkers besides makers of consumer goods.
I was born just in time and in the right conditions to learn the lessons of the New York artists—in addition to the artists who were working at the same time in the Pacific Northwest. Here we had our Northwest School of Painting—Mark Tobey and the others. In the years I shaped my art philosophy I had to give up being any kind of artist of influence and taste-making because of the fog of war.

Either teach or be part of the Vietnam conflict. Summing up, it made all the difference in the way I view the Bellevue high-rise projects I am learning about today.