Tuesday, March 13, 2018

180314 All I want for Christmas 

 Christmas is coming and my birthday is Christmas Eve. People say, “Oh, you must hate that – Jesus’ birth takes away from yours.”
“No,” I answer, “I get MORE.” Like I hijacked His birthday. Like when I turned 14 and I got both a shiny new Columbia bicycle PLUS a .22 rifle. Imagine two days’ gifts when most people only get one.
Now comes my 77th birthday in only nine months –enough time to gestate my dream – an international art center with a printmaking core. A hard core in the form of half-wood, half-steel etching presses.
In 2004 I designed a line of etching presses, built by hand working with a Ballard machinist and his wife. One by one we made and sold over 200 of these in the US, and in another 18 countries besides ours.
But it was only a test. I’m not in business – I’m in art and education. Of course, I had to learn a little about business planning and managing capital. Fourteen years was a great run. Now I’m old and tired of bookkeeping, packing, detailing, marketing and shipping. I’ll hand it over, use it to level-up.
Proving there’s a global market for my design and teaching that goes with it, almost stopped me from making art. However, as a professor at the UW, I researched worldwide changes in visual arts moving from the physical to virtual forms of art, craft and design.
Now a new world is opening up. Now, thanks to my press design, a global community of people who love prints, printmaking and printmakers are linking up via social media. Daily I experience teaching in a new way; whereas I made 200 how-to videos at the UW so a hundred students could learn at-a-distance, now just one of my 200 Youtube videos has had over 66,000 views and over 700 likes!
Not to brag - real teachers don’t brag - but that’s real teaching, I you ask me!
It gets better. There’s no digital substitute for face-to-face experiences when you have a Mini Etching Press with you, and people can try printing themselves. It’s beautiful! And last week I was asked by the Bumbershoot organizers if I can line up a row of these baby presses so families might come to the festival be able to have hands-on experience with printmaking.
I am answering with “Bumberprint.” I hope to find people to join me. I’ve got an Eventbrite coming.
Back to my Christmas/Birthday wish: An international art center with a hard core – a Halfwood press of proven market value to bring jobs to money from around the world. It’s a press with possibilities not only for artsy people, but children, seniors, STEAM teachers and in-betweeners.
The exciting thing is I might see this vision come true right in my own back yard. For ten years my wife and I used our Mini Art Gallery to incubate a world printmaking community center, build and prove feasibility, learn business and real estate development basics and find a location - hopefully nearby.
And, lo and behold, the Kreilsheimer Block will be developed for affordable housing and needs a stable of cash cows on the first floor! I see in this opportunity as 125 feet of storefronts (ten times the width of our shop on 5th Avenue) of retail, edutainment and services specifically related to one of the oldest art forms – printing.
And to keep salaries, pay expenses, and help sustain the upper floors of this development, a niche market that’s just waiting to be supplied, grow, extend and endure.
As my partner pointed out, it will not only be good for here, but for international trade, as export efforts at the hard core bring dollars into the United States, into Washington State, and have a positive effect, however small, on the country’s balance of trade.
Who could ask for anything more?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Image: The world’s first Mini Halfwood Press aboard press-maker Tom Kughler’s sloop, Kadeca, 2004.

180311 If I were Sherry 

Sherry Krivosheev is sailing around the world. She leaves in September on a 43-foot sloop, the Eclipse, with her husband and their two sons. Sherry is a marine artist, and she’s planning to paint and, if possible, do printmaking.
Sherry is living my dream.
My dream is (or was until my lifetime became too short) to circumvent the world once more, evangelizing printmaking as the link between the world I was born into and the world that I will leave. I was born just as mechanical printmaking was morphing into the digital age and into the virtual world.
To explain, consider a recent demonstration in Italy of printmaking in virtual reality. As an artist and a teacher, this event fulfills my vision that connected my real art and teaching in a virtual, virtuous world. Education is the real thing; and as my knowledge is printmaking, I design tools and systems to teach it.
Sherry and her husband, Gleb, came into my life by chance (as so many good things have) as they were buying coffee at the Café Vita across the street from our Mini Art Gallery. She knew about our Halfwood Presses through Ethan Lind, another artist I met by chance.
When she mentioned she had experience in business – including experience with the famous Zodiac two-mast schooner – an idea was lit. Not only is she a sailor, she’s also a painter of sailing vessels. We agreed that we had two things in common: art and sailing.
She and Gleb are more experienced in sailing. I am not a sailor; I’m only acquainted with it through a lesson or two, a few day-sales with Tom Kughler, press maker, and a yarn I wrote about a fantasy ship I named the Emeralda.
When they told me they were sailing around the world, I could hardly contain myself. The thrill – notwithstanding the risk involved – reminded me of my adventure when I took my little family around the world over thirty years ago.
In addition, as Sherry plans to make art and videos on the way, and a blog to document it, I wanted to accompany them. Who would not? That they are going to utilize technology and, concurrently, old technologies of art will be enchanting to millions of people. We can all go, virtually – that is.
I personally have contact with hundreds of people who own the Halfwood Press which, as many of my customers know through my book, A Printmaker’s Tale, emails and YouTube, was inspired partly by sailing ships.
Here’s another thing: Gleb is a software engineer. When he spotted a USB cable dangling off my prototype Mini Halfwood Press, he immediately updated me on the technology potential of true, feasible ways in which the press could be merged with new technologies.
When I told him about Proximates – my idea of a social network of Halfwood Press owners – he instantly counted the ways to make this happen by piggy-backing on other social media.
For an engineer, Proximates would be a piece of cake.
Here, I thought to myself, was the pair who – if they so desired – could take my ideas and make them better.
If I were Sherry, I would subsidize the journey by giving subscribers a bound book recounting their adventure. No one has made a journey around the world on a sailboat making prints and used new media to give an account of the adventure.
Two items stand ready: the Halfwood Press and perhaps a Mini laser. Remembering that some ships in the old days had printing presses aboard I wrote my fiction, Vladimir’s Tale, describing it. I got my idea from obscure book I happened to find, The Sparrow.
Making etchings while sailing isn’t practical. Drypoint is practical, but laser-cut acrylic printing plates made from photos and enhanced by hand are more likely to sell. Keeping sufficient printing paper on hand to make editions is also not practical on a 43-foot schooner.
If I were Sherry, I would begin now to learn and train myself for creating an account of their saga with old and new technology. I would learn now to turn my digital photos and hand-drawn accounts into plastic printing plates. I would learn how to publish them on the web so that followers could “watch” and also buy the images both during and after.
I would take advance subscriptions through a crowd-funding effort. That’s what I’d do if I were Sherry.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

180228 Art buyer’s confidence 

 Consumer confidence is an index used in the context of the stock market in capitalist systems. In the ideal of the capitalist system – and I think it might be true in communist and socialist systems too – consumer confidence is based on hope.
I’m sitting in my art gallery, a near-perfect result of my lifelong hope I place in art and education and in my ability to participate in these.
Yet, less than three feet away from where I’m typing, a homeless man sleeps. He’s in the place on some mornings, even in freezing conditions, with only a blanket covering him. A doormat serves as his mattress on the concrete floor of the breezeway.
I have to be callous and inhuman to sit typing on a computer keyboard in a warm studio, Joan Baez’ song playing on Pandora about the poor and the broken hearted people of folk music themes. How can I stand it?
Sure, I could call a non-emergency number and in time a pair of officers would come and tell the man to move on. I described this situation on Facebook one time and suggestions came as to how I could converse with him and give him a list of places and times where the homeless go.
Actually I have talked to him. “At him,” I should say. He doesn’t speak. He has a kind of vacant look in his face, he gets up and wanders off without a word. Sometimes people put snacks, energy bars, coffee and money beside him, and he leaves it lying there.
Does he have hope? Do I have hope? I know myself, I know I am hopeful that homelessness can be ended but I know there are conditions that must be put in place first. Conditions must be initiated. In the capitalist, communist and socialist systems, the economics of society are the first conditions to be met.
In the ever-present ignorance of facts—scientific facts—economic conditions are as hard to learn as science. It’s easier to fall back on hope based on the ineffable spirit of humans. Ironically, science has made inroads on humans’ abilities to learn and apply sciences’ discoveries.
Those discoveries that are the most rewarding to humans are those which become popular and accepted by the majority. The majority rules, theoretically, in a democratic capitalistic society. The facts that have the most appeal, are the most entertaining and easy always win.
It is extremely difficult to talk to a homeless man who may have given up hope or who lacks consciousness that someone is speaking to him or offers him an energy bar. From what I have seen in documentaries and written accounts, even a place to live is difficult to accept for a homeless person.
Confidence in a system that purports to address the homeless person’s needs but supports a corrupt government at the “very top” suffers. What good would it do to stop working in my gallery and give my entire day to working with this man for his good? Here is where “consumer confidence” comes to the front of my thoughts.
This is because I recently “sold” an artwork for a partial payment of $2,000. My reactions puzzled me. I should have been happy, but instead I felt confusion. The buyer has confidence—consumer confidence of a kind all artists welcome as they practice their art and craft. A musician practices as his or her confidence in consumers—and the consumers’ confidence flourishes that they will by enjoying music.
I am listening to music via the Internet. I’m confidence that I will be able to do so tomorrow, too. If there were a way consumers could be confidence that the homeless among us will find homes, they would invest in this hope, would they not?
No, they would not because at bottom the typical consumer who, given the choice of spending $100 to begin a year-long program to “fix” a homeless person or, another choice, to spend $100 on a dinner for two, will spend the money on dinner every time.
I come back to my latest art sale and think about this buyer’s confidence—parting with thousands of dollars for an artwork. Their confidence in something soars! What is it? That the artwork will be part of the interior of their home? I warned, when they offered to buy the work, “No, it’s too large, difficult to move, and somewhat fragile without a frame.”
“I like it without a frame,” was the response. The next day a check arrived in the mail.
The day after that, I bought shares in a mutual fund.
The next day the market fell; it fell again the next week because the Fed is considering raising the interest rate.

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.