Saturday, June 22, 2019
vp190622 Is this what it’s like to die? All is quiet:
I get no emails. No press orders. No comments. Only one Facebook “friend” request. Is this what’s it’s like to die in obscurity – a phrase sometimes found in the annals of art history when an artist or poet, writer or other creative, inventive, discovering and imaginative individual passes?
Or is it, as prefer to think, my mysterious muse’ way of protecting me from entanglements with the distractions that emails, press order and comments on Facebook are to my real tasks of being creative, inventive, discovering and imaginative – in all, a producer of valuable things.
“Be gone, dull care” comes to mind. What? It turns out to be a title of “an extraordinary short animation, Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren painted colors, shapes, and transformations directly on to their filmstrip. The result is a vivid interpretation, in fluid lines and color, of jazz music played by the Oscar Peterson Trio.”
Something my muse dredged up out of my past, a film from the 1960s when I was a junior in college and Ron Carraher was bringing film to my attention. It was like the time Carl Chew and I were playing with video feedback and made the video, “My Father’s Farm from the Moon.”
“So,’ as Elmer Gates said on his deathbed, “this is how it has to be.” Whatever happened to Bill Ritchie and Carl Chew?
“Be gone, dull care.” What did they have in mind when they titled their film? What did Carl Chew and I have in mind? Stories I’d like to tell and, thanks to my freedom, I’m able to tell in my autobiography.
My stories are too long to tell in this age of sound bites and stampedes of people running over cliffs, fearing anything creative, inventive, newly rediscovered and imaginative which has not been vetted to fit on a “smart” phone.
The day after Carl sent me the advice I asked for regarding my Artistscrip idea, I checked out the title of his recommended reading: The art of selling altruism. But it was like the story of the yellow scarf tied ‘round the trees – there were too many books like that. I’m waiting for him to tell me which one to read.
In the meantime, I read one about partnerships for altruism[i], thinking of my strategic alliance with Rewana Nduchwa – my friend from Botswana – whose Kalahari Honey project is my current model. Reading the article, I felt like I could copy-write over it and insert Carl’s and my names into it and come up with a plan to, as I believe it can be done, sell off our legacy for the benefit of our chosen altruistic efforts.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
es190604 Noble, notable links: Inspirational phrase from a TED talk
He lunches in front of his computer with a TED talk on the screen,
lunching and listening to a presentation by Beth Mortimer and her co-worker Tarje
Nissen-Meyer and a phrase jumps out at him which reminds him of his current
work with Mavis Nduchwa. “Nobl…
Paraphrasing Beth Mortimer, scientific researcher on TED talk given November, 2018, I want to connect their inspirational talk with my current project with Mavis Nduchwa:
“Advances in science, technology and business require noble links to be made across seemingly disparate topics.”
Did she say noble or notable? Whatever it was she said, I hear her words and I think of the example of disparate topics farming, conservation, wildlife preservation and the disparate topics of art printing, books, and papermaking.
We hope that agriculture, entrepreneurship and printmaking experience will lead to practical economic solutions in education of young people and their families.
How can we do that?
Begin with the economics of it – the economics of agriculture and art.
However, the word art is not what it appears to mean, it’s not what is conjured up in peoples’ minds, such as art galleries, museums, theaters, dance, concerts and movies. If you’re in a field of maize under a hot sun, the word art is out of place. The work of farmers is unlike anything to do with art.
I grew up on a farm and as a kid I worked under the hot sun and I wanted to die it was so hard. I wanted to leave farming and I became what I thought was an artist. However, teaching in the arts is what I did.
Sixty years later I’m writing books about that; but lately I’m giving most of my time to a farmer-turned-entrepreneur and her goal of creating meaningful work in her community and raising money for educating the kids in her schools.
Economics of farming are not so different from the economics of art in that both depend for their meaning on consumers – one on food, the other for experiences. We cannot live without food and clean water – but if our bodies’ needs are met, then we enjoy experiences of art, craft and design.
We may experience these by looking, but scientific research has shown we are better at problem-solving if we have hands-on experience in art, craft and design.
If we have problems, then education – including creative experiences – will help solve them. It’s best to start young, and that’s where artists, crafts people and designers can help in the same way that farmers make their contributions to the world.
The devil is in the details, they say, and in the world today the devil is money. How does my co-worker Mavis bring money to her community? Surely it is through meaningful paid work – the work of farmers rewarded with sales of their products like any other productive farm worker.
How to bring creative experiences to the kids? Any of the tools for this – whether as simple color pens and paper or something more complicated and intriguing – takes money.
In my mind I go to Mavis’ country. I will not go there physically but I will use new technologies, from simple emails, Google Earth, and other Internet tools. I will show there is another kind of art, craft and design never seen in art galleries, museums and concert halls. It is printmaking intended for users, not consumers.
Adam Smith, one of the thinkers responsible for the wealth of some nations like the United States, is said to have written:
“Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this - no dog exchanges bones with another. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.”
I made a bargain with Mavis – we would exchange ideas. My need is to empty our family’s art gallery. Her need is to bring art experiences to her community schools with the profits of meaningful farm work.
It is from my benevolence that she expects money, but from my own interest – the ability to labor on her behalf as well as the meaningful work that her project affords me.
Science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math comprise the magic pill to the poisons of fear and superstition because they provide for communication and the satisfaction of solving problems creatively.
I am solving my family’s problem creatively. I am inventing artistscrip. I began this work years ago with the help of people like Carl Chew – one of the artists who make stamps (artistamps). My problem is 2,350 unsold artworks that will never find art galleries or other venues for distribution – never will they find consumers who buy art in the old-world fashion.
A new reason for offering art for sale has opened, thanks to current crises facing humankind. We artists in the developed nations, with our wealth of time and resources, can come to the aid of other nations’ people by using our artworks as scrip – like stock certificates.
I can sell my art as artistscrip, providing for my family payroll and also for Mavis’ project in Botswana. Thanks to the Internet with all the creative methods it has brought about (crowdfunding, for example), we can share our resources of time and creative problem-solutions.
As Beth Mortimer said in her TED talk, we can find noble (or notable) links across disparate disciplines and at the same time teach others as we learn together.
 Rewana Ka Nduchwa is an award-winning entrepreneur from Botswana, currently at Fledge, a business accelerator.
Friday, May 31, 2019
sp190220 Designing the XSTREAM press: A smart press for smart teachers
If I wanted to design a press that works in Africa as well as in America, I’d take a global view and make it competitive with Chinese and Russian press designers.
Cost would be my first target – I’d get the price down to less than $500 and yet make room for a reasonable profit. Plus, in addition to the profit margin, I’d make a rule to provide 5% of each press’ net gain to a fund to grant and send a press to a teacher who doesn’t have the money to buy and ship one.
Start with the rollers of the press. I’d make them of pipe, and the bottom roller would have only enough thickness – perhaps 3/16 or ¼ inch. I’d thread the inside on each end to accommodate an off-the-shelf plug that would require a minimum of machining to make it fit the hub of the driving wheel.
The top roller I’d give a thicker wall – perhaps ½”. It, too, would be threaded on the inside to accommodate a shaft or stub.
All the while I’m thinking about these small changes in what used to be my Halfwood Press, I’d be comparing my thinking procedure to that of a Chinese or Russian designer making a press as part of a STREAM teaching package.
STREAM means augmented STEM by adding an R for Reading and an A for Art through books and art. This will be a press associated with the rudimentary history of STEM, that is, printing – the ancestor of all sciences, technology, engineering and math.
My mind would be blending engineering and art, so I’d incorporate features which have less to do with smart engineering solutions and more to do with art – such as the overall appearance of the press and the back story of how the design got started in my mind.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it is the beauty of my Halfwood Press Design that sold more presses to people for its looks than industrial design features of most etching presses. People paid as much as twice as much for my presses than presses of the same functionality.
There is an entertainment value, too, as the emphasis on printmaking with a hand press is like a performance art. It’s a magical moment when the proof is pulled after the crafts of making, inking, and wiping an etched plate or a collagraph, for example.
When I achieve this, imagine what I could do with a new market, emerging in Africa because of the growing concern of educators in both the sciences and the arts.
It’s likely this demographic is dominated by the X-generation - the demographic cohort following the baby boomers and preceding Millennials. Demographers and researchers typically use birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1960’s to the early 1980’s.
For example, African educators over 40 are working hard to catch up with developed nations. They do more with less. It’s an old story – by working with available and sometimes cast-off resources, educators in less developed countries have worked near-miraculous results.
They have encouragement, too. Sunny Varkey, for example – in his ‘sixties - sponsors the Global Teaching Prize. It’s a million-dollar award given annually to exemplary teachers and most of these prizes have gone to teachers in developing countries.
As someone who lives a life in a country like the USA of such luxury that we thoughtlessly discard a huge part of our resources (both natural and human resources) I have the benefit of time and money to design an XSTREAM press.
With the help of my friends around America and around the world, I can.
Friday, May 24, 2019
ap190514 Chabana Fun: Sustainable Development Goal realized
I carry a cache of cards in my shirt pocket to remind me of my goal – to take part in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the means I have. To begin I added an eighteenth card to the original seventeen posed by the UN, which I call Printmaking Access.
I will pilot an idea which has been gestating for a long time, which is to turn our family’s art collection into a fund for the good of the Earth’s human and other life sustainability. Thanks to a recent meeting of an African woman, the gestation is complete, and the idea is born.
It was her comment, “We can start the Bill and Lynda Ritchie Arts Center in Botswana!” that made it so. She was half-joking. I had told her – also in a joking manner – since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is only a little distance down 5th Avenue from our Mini Art Gallery, my wife and I could call our foundation by a similar name – the Bill and Linda Art Center.
We had laugh, and it was fun.
However, my friend, Mavis Nduchwa was half-serious, too, because it is her wish to bring arts experiences to young students in her community.
“What better way than to do this with printmaking,” she stated in a message: “We work with women in bee keeping, we educate them on conservation and land restoration. I suggest we do the same for kids, kids engage best when there is stimulus and what a better way to do it than art print making?”
I never planned to go to another country to teach. Each time I sent one of my press designs to another country over the past fifteen years, a little part of me went with it. The teacher in me wanted to hitch a ride and go with the press – be there with the owner in a way.
I love prints, printmaking and printmakers, so it is this love that energizes me whenever I see a sign that someone agrees with me. When someone like Mavis sees possibilities for printmaking being more than a mechanical way to make images, but as a blend of science, technology, engineering and even mathematics, I glow inside.
It’s true my enthusiasm is inflated, like a balloon, because printmaking is seen by most people as a kind of “fine art” suitable for making framed things on the walls of homes of people of high accomplishment and wealth. This is truly fine art and it has been my source of income for half a century – and continues!
However, printmaking is to me greater than the sums of money it attracts. For the young, it is a way to learn science, technology, engineering and math. When these STEM education goals are blended with printmaking, Reading and Art generate a mix greater than the sum of these parts.
The reason is printmaking is a group effort. Call it a social art, for in many ways, printmaking can bring about interaction among people – even people at long distances away. That’s because printmaking is a media art, and it is media that has made global communication an ordinary thing.
I titled this essay “Chabana Fun” with the idea in mind to add my efforts to those of Mavis’ for her organization, Chabana Farms – a cooperative and network of small farmers in Botswana. The organization has a fund in order that contributors can invest in her project – money to provide materials, supplies, training and education. Land restoration and conservation – a sample of objectives in keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Where kids are concerned, it may help to fund printmaking experiences because, let’s face it, printmaking is fun. Not only is it a grown-up fine art, it is fun, too, for all ages.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
pp190508 Printmaking Access: The means to communication
The goal is printmaking access.
The means is communication.
The objective is trade.
The trading objects are printing presses and farm honey.
Review of Stephen Covey’s Quadrants of resource allocation:
On any given day, ask how one is doing in following this guide? As one’s time is running out, this quadrant becomes more important every day; and as the Earth’ human and other life-sustainability is diminished, importance becomes critical.
There is another quadrant in my mind which is one which places cynicism, skepticism, criticism and hope in places in the quadrant, similar to (and complementary to) the above.
It is possible that cynicism fits in the lower-left quadrant, alongside the unimportant, non-urgent factors. A cynic is a personal trait of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
A skeptic might be placed above this, at the upper left. A skeptic allows that there is a value, but it must be measured and analyzed – and soon – because time is running out and the bets bet must be placed and acted upon. The clock is ticking. This is a trait of an old man whose lifetime is shorter than it was when he was young.
In the lower right, the critic is one who can see there is a crisis but there is time to analyze, think, write criticism (as I am doing right now) yet without taking real, physical and tangible work.
The fourth quadrant is hope. When a person has a structure for collaboration, it is like an insurance policy for hope. Many older people will exhibit this, and younger people can only wonder why. When one is old, how can one be positive in their outlook?
In my case, it is because I believe collaboration is possible if one can structure it by drawing from resources.
The first and most important resource is time. Using time with Earth’s human and other life-sustainability as the goal, one can set one’s alarm clock, as it were, awaken and act every day as if it were his or her last opportunity.
Because one day, this will be true.
Friday, May 10, 2019
ri190510 The sign on the bus: Metro features Uptown
It was a sense of heart-crack (which is something of less emotional impact than heartbreak) that I felt when I saw the sign on the side of a Metro Bus yesterday featuring Uptown. It seemed to be promoting the virtues of my neighborhood based on the arts district designation achieved two years ago.
Arts district was an idea promoted by the city government one of the means to improve the overall economy of Seattle by tapping into the creative economy. It’s well-documented that the presence of art and cultural activities is a driver of consumer activities. Art and culture are – in the view of the city – lucrative and therefore should be promoted.
The sign on the side of the buses had images of arts and culture activities supposedly making Uptown (AKA Lower Queen Anne) a cultural center and a destination. One of the images was difficult to make out at first, but it turned out to be of a person’s hand pulling a squeegee. It referred to the VERA project, a mixed program of printmaking and music.
Also on the sign were the logos of contributing organizations and the Uptown Arts and Culture Coalition of which I was a part until 14 months ago. I left because I was out of money and out of time to participate. It became clear to me that I would get no support for my concept of an international print center incubators and work places.
The scales fell from my eyes when the committee agreed to focus on brand, and a logo, instead of sharing their combined forces to help me with my goal. Partway through the process I was accused of not helping others on the committee.
“When other people raise their ideas, you sort of leave the room,” my critic said.
It was not true. Most often I was silent because I had past experience with whatever it was that was on the table for discussion, but I could not say so lest I come off as a know-it-all, old man and arrogant professor-type. No one likes a smart ass, and old white men are often the worst offenders.
I was even compared with Donald Trump! Slights like these, the decision to give six months or a year to deciding branding and a logo design (provided free by students at Cornish), caused me to give up hope of getting support for a print center in Uptown.
One member on the committee was offended when I said, “Your group reminds me of someone who is more concerned with how they look, their clothing, their fashion, their makeup, than on items of real substance such as a physical center such as I propose.”
There, on the side of a bus, was the logo they worked a year to see made physical and real, and with it the hand of printer (a staged photo-op, probably). Yet were I to go this center – the VERA project, as I do many times of the week, it is empty. The reality is smoke and mirrors, not a full-time activity.
Yet, I saw the sign because I was driving to an art supply store to get a set of carving knives and a picture frame for a real, ongoing activity. A woman from Africa is here to see how the creative economy can assist in her development of honey production. Our discussions are divided between business and printmaking.
So, in a way, I have my international print center incubators and work places, although not on the scale I’d hoped for.