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.

Monday, November 13, 2017

171113 How shares in Emeralda differ 

The image is my painting, Voyage of the Emeralda, Emeralda being the name of a mythical ship to which I am applying the name of a platform for investing in the Northwest Print Center Incubators.

In the past five years some companies have started up to sell shares in art collections. People enter with small amounts--$13 in one instance—to be part owners of artworks. Another, starting up with over a million dollars in seed capital, calls itself a platform for art investing where people with $10,000 or more can be part owners of entire collections, or blocks, of artworks.
These artworks are purchased with the pool of money thus committed and kept in storage. The premise is that the art will grow in price, so investors can hope for up to 10% growth of their investment. Not only is the profit an incentive, but it’s fun because of the collectible and cultural value of the art objects.
Over the course of several days I read a number of stories and propositions, and the assumption is always the same—big sums of money and the promise of positive ROI and the assurance of the artistic, cultural value of the objects grounded in expert opinion and big data.
My platform for investing in arts and culture takes a different point of view. Profit remains a motive, but a holistic view of art-making and community makes my platform different. To begin with, there is one unique, one-artist collection to invest in: Mine. Thus far, with my wife and daughter’s help we have a database of about 1,500 pieces of artworks spanning a variety of media in different sizes, shapes and descriptions.
My position in the community has made this possible, as I have retained my life’s work instead of selling these objects over my fifty years. However, it’s true I sold some of my art, and I have another database of over 400 people, corporations and institutions who bought it and, for all I know (and hope) still have it.
My mother taught me not to brag. In her memoir she derided people who “amaze themselves” with their own inventions. That may be one reason I still own what I made—a hoarder of amazing things, one might say. I am shy about this as I remember and honor my dear mother’s words.
Still, there is something to be said for things I achieved and the ways in which I have touched peoples’ lives. For example, because I was not compelled to sell off my work to make a living during my most creative years (I had a secure teaching job) I still have much of my art. There is something valuable in this which now, thanks to modern technology, can be mined to start the Northwest Print Center Incubators. It's mine to mine!
In my drive to think outside the box during those halcyon years at the 'Dub, I was involved with projects which, at first, were not considered art nor anything like art. Now, in the instance of video art tapes, they are. They may not be what consumers consider art as yet, but to historians they are something to consider in the context of art history. Thus, I have the largest privately-held video collection of locally-made videos.
This has brought me to a privileged position of having a diverse art collection which I estimate to have a valuation of half a million dollars or more. In today's industry, a half-million is not enough to bring about my great ambition—the Northwest Print Center Incubators—but it’s a start. It gives me hope, every day, that it will be seed capital to get to the bottom rung of the ladder toward construction.
Shares in other, similar investment pitches (Arthena comes to mind) give investors a piece of an art collection which is assumed will grow, and these investment schemes offer perks, besides, such as privileged interviews and exclusive online, insider viewpoints. These are good indicators to show me how to structure a plan for investing in the NPCI.
My plan is not to appeal to consumers—for it is a consumer model upon which Arthena is based: on monetary profits only, but as an investment in the Seattle community or, expanding on this, the creative economy via the experience economy. Art is experience, in my opinion, not only the owning or looking at an artwork. The “work” of art means the action of art, the experience of art and that which can be communicated in today’s global communication and interrelated cultural exchange. Most importantly, it can be part of educational experiences.
My art collection, which consists of thousands of bits and pieces of Northwest printmaking art history stored in our family art gallery and storage area of our condo, reflects the kind of global thinking I was privileged to indulge in during my 19 years as a mollycoddled art professor at the UW. It was my work. I did it for pay.
Now, notwithstanding my family’s rights to this legacy as an income stream, too, I want to give back to my neighborhood, the Uptown Arts and Culture Coalition, a physical building for artists, crafts people and designers’ housing which is sustained in part by cash streams I exploited within my domain-of-expertise—printmaking and other media arts, education and entertainment.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

171029 A shared vision 

Yesterday I wrote about the coffee bean-sized nucleus accumbens, a shared characteristic nugget tucked deep inside the brains of 99.99 percent of we humans which, given the right environment, care and feeding of the rest of our bodies, can advance a human being or destroy itself—and even destroy all humanity.
Image result for how big is the nucleus accumbens?
Image from the Web
Today I am feeling the benefits of this little morsel of organic material in the good feeling it both thrives upon and regenerates—the feeling of sharing. Many pleasurable sensations derive from the nucleus accumbens—looking at or making artworks, a beautiful sunset, culturally-attuned music, for example—and for me, sharing experiences, too.
Sharing looking at an artwork is perhaps more pleasurable than experiencing an artwork by myself. Being in a movie theater is better than watching a movie streaming on a home screen by yourself. Streaming a movie with Lynda is better than doing that by myself. I never do it, in fact, unless it’s to examine the exact words of an actor, such as I did not long ago with Proof.
It occurs to me I would like to share those lines with a reader, but I will postpone this and drive toward my point: Sharing in the printmaking experience is more important than making prints alone. The only pleasure I get from making prints alone, by myself with only myself to talk to or sing is the anticipation that someone, someday, will have the print I am making.
They may, at some point in the future, look at the print and derive some pleasure merely by looking at it. They may not know what it is in the sense of its meaning or what I, the artist, was thinking, but the essence of colors, line, texture, etc. may please them—give them pleasure. And I can thank the health of their nucleus accumbens for this.
In a sense, this other person—or people all gathered around the picture in a museum with a docent’s guidance—completes the act of making the art, or what some people call the act of creation. I venture to say we’re sipping dopamine together in a pleasant, nonverbal communication across time and space. The nucleus accumbens is the source of dopamine, an organic chemical produced in humans, animals and plants.
It is the source of art, you might say, and any activity associated with art in all its forms. This includes activities not considered art at all, such as truck driving or weight-lifting, science and deep-sea diving. I am exploring what possibilities there may be in Seattle a person or a group interested in partnering with me to develop my brainchild—offspring of my 50-year printmaking career: the Northwest Print Center Incubators. Perhaps the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. Perhaps Artist Trust. Maybe the Seattle Print Arts will change their minds and take up a conversation because they need a central office.
Or, maybe it will never be an existing nonprofit in Seattle which will talk with me and look at my plan. It is true that—as is said in stock investing—past performance is no indication of future performance. I am thinking how my vision has not drawn support in the past encounters with nonprofits in Seattle. They don't answer my calls for help.
I learned these lessons when investing in stocks via an investment club years ago. Now, this morning, as the eastern sky grows slightly lighter, I think of my friends far, far to the east for whom it is already past lunch time and who have a Halfwood Press somewhere in their home. That press has my fingerprints on it! It may be in a closet, but they have not disposed of it like so many mass-produced consumer goods they decided that were no longer of value.
They bought the press, paid dearly for the Halfwood Press (or the WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press) due to their nucleus accumbens’ indicating that if they did so, good things would come from it. Or, even if they didn’t use the press, they could admire it. Their friends could admire it, too, or their spouse. Those who gave the press as a gift can know that it was a nice gift to receive, even if hopes for an art career didn’t pan out.
I shall end this speculative essay now, finish my online Spanish lesson (Duolingo) which is my way of stimulating my nucleus accumbens into giving me hope that, in a circuitous way, will lead to the formation of the Northwest Print Center Incubators. For example, my long-held dream is that printmaking will be the nucleus of teaching second languages to kids (and maybe adults).

Ask me about that if you’re interested in your kids or your school’s kids learning Chinese.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

171028 A Town without Pity 

Yesterday I did what many people in the art community might consider a strange thing, something out of the ordinary way of doing things in the Seattle Arts Community. It is something I did which many artists would say, “I sure wouldn’t do that!”
It’s typical of me, though, and therein lies the core of my creative soul—the tiny bit of my brain which Elmer Gates studied, the source of dopamine his Collie dogs demonstrated to be the possible key to intelligence and what he called Mind Growing. Today it’s called the nucleus accumbens located in the so-called pleasure centers of my brain and which resembles that of almost everyone.

Image from the Web
What is it that I did? I wrote a blast email to the entire staff of Artists Trust—from the topmost Executive Director to the new Interns. I asked them to consider partnering with me on the development of the Northwest Print Center Incubators.
In a similar vein, I sent a blast email to my colleagues on the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. This is a key group whose purpose is to encourage cultural and artistic endeavors in the neighborhood where we live and have our family’s art gallery.
The nucleus accumbens is the source of dopamine, an organic chemical produced in humans, animals and plants. It is the source of art, you might say, and any activity associated with art in all its forms. This includes activities not considered art at all, such as truck driving or weight-lifting, science and deep-sea diving.
My blast email was, and is, part of my deep-sea diving insofar as I am exploring what possibilities there may be in the Artist Trust staff in partnering with me to develop my brainchild, the Northwest Print Center Incubators. The same goes for the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. Is there any interest, I wonder? To date (and I am writing less than 24 hours after my email and have not, at 6:30 AM, checked my email).
Past performance is no indication of future performance, I learned, when it comes to investing in stocks. Years ago, I formed an investment club to learn about investing—one of my many exercises driven by dopamine. In other words, I have communicated with Artist Trust in the past. In fact, I was in touch with the founders of Artist Trust from it inception, notably Anne Focke and David Mendoza.
When Artist Trust was started, the group was to address as many of the deficiencies in the artists’ support infrastructure as possible—from housing to health insurance. Lobbying and grants may have been the most successful aspects. Health insurance was, I suppose, out of its capacity. My personal wish was that it would address educational deficiencies artists find and, today, Artist Trust is possibly the best source of education in matters of economics, i.e., the business of being an artist in today’s economy.
For example, Artist Trust lists almost twenty resources on line—ranging from asset management to laws that effect artists and their families. Many artists, I think, who would scan this list of resources would experience a tiny hit of dopamine just reading it because there is help available on pressing questions like, “What about copyrights?” and “What about grant-writing?”
Artist Trust espouses community-building. Anne Focke’s life has been a life of a community builder, and Artist Trust would not exist were it not for hers and David’s vision and design plus their political acumen in getting support from the monied people in Seattle both in industry and government.
I shall end this speculative essay now, finish my online Spanish lesson (Duolingo) which is my way of stimulating my nucleus accumbens into giving me hope that, in a circuitous way, will lead to the formation of the Northwest Print Center Incubators.

Ask me about that. And if you’ve read this and wonder why I gave this essay the title, A Town without Pit, it’s the title that popped into my head—a title of a song, the lyrics of which are, “It isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do.” It’s about the possibility that my blast email will not receive a single answer from a staff member at Artist Trust, as has happened with my emails to the UACC asking for partners to develop the NPCI.