Saturday, December 5, 2015

ps151205  Gamify your press: 

Building community for the NPC&I 

Is it feasible to start the Northwest Print Center and Incubators with a printing press? Could the Halfwood Press Line be the beating heart of this enterprise? Are manufacturing and customer support the keys to successful, job-creation and sustainability? 

Is it feasible?

In my excitement to fulfill an order for a new press—this one a unique, white Galleon Halfwood—is rather like a fifteen-year slow burning fuse lit in the year 2000. It was about that time I lit out on an effort to take on the world. I started with an art gallery in our condo. This game me space to meet the public, plus room to organize and show our art collection.
The next year I moved my space to a unit text to ours—a 600-foot space I converted to a mix of art studio, video production and display area. We sold that in 2003 and I moved to Captiol Hill to participate in an experiment called the Seattle Artists Mall, which lasted six months.
Immediately after leaving the SAM, I rented a 300-square foot space at SMJ Studios. I wanted to get back to my roots in printmaking, so I put pencil to paper and drew my perfect press—a beautiful press half wood and half steel. In a few months—it was now 2004—I had it made. As an afterthought, I asked for a miniature version of the original Halfwood.
The Mini Halfwood let flow a new current in printmaking for me. Although I was to continue my printmaking, I discovered that people were hungrier for printmaking experiences than they were hungry for my art.
My art satisfied me and a few art patrons (as it always has, and continues to satisfy) but then—as now—I learned that a more true artistic interaction with people lay in sharing the experience, not only the art.
This was proof of a theory which I hatched when I was still teaching college: Printmaking is a performance art as much as it is a visual art. As the ancestor of all technologies, the value of printmaking experiences is greater than as an art form. Print spawned numerous arts—photography, cinema, video, computer graphics and interactive games.
This is all fine and good, but can printmaking create jobs? What America needs now is meaningful, sustainable work for imaginative, creative, discovering and inventive people. Productivity is the key to sustainability, and it must not help ending Earth’s human life sustainability as many other products do. Press production, education and business development must bring about another age of reason.
I produce etching presses called the "Halfwood Line," and variations on the theme of the printmaking experiences that open up when there is a press handy. Now I am startingup the Northwest Print Center and Incubators with the Halfwood Press line as its cash cow Can the manufacture, sales and support for the Halfwood Press Line—and the WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press—create jobs for other people as it has done for me?
A feasibility study is the only way to find out. However, there is a condition to meet: It must be a feasibility study that uses new ideas, like Concurrent Engineering, Lean Startups, and Gamification.

About the Author: Bill Ritchie plans that printmaking will be taught, researched, and practiced in a community of practice and blends traditional printmaking and new technologies. His press designs and videos are for printmakers globally while he builds local teams to develop the Northwest Print Center and Incubators.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

ps151114  Values and Valuation: An ambiguous pairing in art  

Moving toward the Northwest Print Center and forming the corporation to build it, the author examines the two meanings of value as they apply to his plan to use his family art collection as seed capital. Putting education before art has importance to him.

Illustration: Sandbox stage of building the Northwest Print Center and Incubators

College experience

The most profound experience I had as an undergraduate in college in 1962 was the Symposium in American Values. As a farm kid I never thought about the meaning of the word, values. We were not well off, financially, as my mom and dad eked out a year-to-year, season-to-season existence between the bank, the Native Americans, weather, and diseases that could wipe out livestock.
When the colloquium was announced, I had several questions: What’s a colloquium? What are values? What distinguishes American Values from, say, Mexico’s migrants’ values? Value, in my mind, went no further than the income from a ton of potatoes or corn, or the price-per-pound of beef on the hoof. Monetary value was everything. Moral values were vague, fuzzy notions having more to do with the heart than the mind.
For several days while the colloquium took place back in that time, I was immersed in the questions and answers from our invited speakers. Those days had a profound effect on me; half a century later, I still consider that experience as I proceed toward the building of the Northwest Print Center and Incubators. I have to decide how to turn straw into gold, you might say, to get the money to start it happening. I have to turn art valuation into something other than what it has become in common terms—make the value of my art more than meets the eye.

Values and education

Fifty years ago, Vietnam was not a front page item. The cold war, the rise of Castro in Cuba, assassinations of the Kennedys—these were emerging events. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, TV, and folk music were uppermost on the minds of many college-age people. All the while, in my ‘twenties, the specter of being drafted into the army was omnipresent. When, in 1964, it was time for me to move on from undergraduate school, what I wanted most was to be an art teacher, get married, and get a Master’s degree and, hopefully, teach college art. I did all three—I got married to Lynda, got a Master of Arts degree, and got a job teaching printmaking at the University of Washington in our home state. Life was good.
Looking back, I wonder if the exposure to the Colloquium on American Values had a subtle effect on my choices. What made me put being a teacher above being an artist? Or, did my attitude come from earlier experience—farming, and my parents’ influence? They were exemplary people. They never got rich, but they had a rich life in the sense of living pretty well and living long—though, sadly at the end, not in the best of health.
Something made me say I wanted to be a great teacher when the art department chairman at San Jose State University (where I got my MA) asked me, “Well, are you going out to become a great artist now?” He was set back, I remember, and seemed a little let down. Maybe his years of teaching art history, and being chairman of the art department, had jaded him.

Institutionalized artists

Many teachers in our educational institutions will agree that it is difficult to achieve your teaching goals in American educational institutions. It is confusing, for example, to teachers with education in their hearts and minds to be asked to spend time on non-educational efforts. Sitting in committees, for example, or calling roll, giving tests, filling out forms, reading the latest orders and changes to the rules and regulations of the institution. Then there are is the competition for wages, promotions, and the question of what to do if teaching doesn’t pan out.
Art teachers seldom have a high place in American educational institutions, but we seem not to mind because we not only love teaching, we also love art in all its varying manifestations—performance art, crafts, design, fine art, art history, experiments in art and technology—it’s possible to see why art teachers get by on the meager budgets allocated to their domain of expertise.
The difference might lie in the different meanings of value when applied to art and non-art. Training to design cars, for example (a course which I came very close to taking) is different than learning to make art using creative, inventive, and imaginative, discovery research. Car design comes from without, from corporations and stockholders who have one thing in mind: valuation by money, or some equivalent of economic and political power.
Today, the influence of incorporated economic and political power on American educational institutions is profound—to the point of eliminating concern for American values. This is not good, because the founders of our experiment in government made it clear that the experiment depends on education. Without an educated voting population, we will fail as a nation, and knowing values and valuation in art is, to me, key to our survival—of any nation’s survival and, ultimately, Earth’s human life sustainability.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

ap151010 STEAM Printmaking  

Illustration: WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press “steampunked” by Ron Myhre for the 2015 Port Townsend steampunk event. Ric Miller used CNC routing for manufacturing the press; Miller and Myhre collaborated with Bill Ritchie, who adapted the design after a 17th Century etching press typical of Rembrandt's time.  


“S” is for science—how science and printmaking are related. Think of the big picture—how it was the science of pigment and templates that constitute the invention of printing. The hand is a template, and science is described in terms of exactly repeatable signs, symbols and the makeup of atoms, molecules and the forces that bind and split them.


“T” is for technology, the result of the joining of science and templates. Making an exactly repeatable image was decisive in communication over wide spaces and time. We have the prints on the walls of caves—a broadcast of hundreds of centuries. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Try to describe a hand print with words only. Sure, letter forms are great and words are great, but had it not been for their being exactly repeatable as templates, you’d have no written or printed language. Printing is the ancestor of all technologies.


“E” is for engineering. We started with the science of paint and template, came up with technology, and now we mechanize the procedure and that takes the wile and way of engineering. Engineering is practically an art in itself but requires following the laws of science to make technology workable. Making a printing press—whether old world style or with laser light—requires engineering.


“A” is for art, and this has been left out of the STEM programs about organizing school and training institutions. If you leave out the A-word, art, then you have training. You can train a robot by science, technology, and engineering, but you can’t “train” art into the robot. Don’t be fooled into thinking a machine that makes designs that stimulate the five senses to pleasing effect is an artist. Humans own the art field. The five senses as a robot sees them are not the same as being human. A robot can design weapons of mass destruction and put an end to Earth’s human life sustainability, but an STEAM-educated human can change the course of the trend.


“M” is for math; we come to the interesting part because mathematics figure into all matters in education, whether it’s finding the area of physical space needed to have an art studio, or rent it, or for how much finished artworks must sell for to meet expenses. The more amazing mathematics express theories of relativity, black holes and the exact course for putting a rover on Mars. Math is essential to economics, the vice-regent to social and political science, which brings us full circle back to humanities.


The case for making printmaking THE art, craft and design to stand up for art in the STEAM proposition is that printmaking engages all its four neighbors in the STEM proposition - always has, always will. The same is not true of hand-painting, drawing, and sculpture; connections with STEM are somewhat true of the craft  and industry-oriented arts such as ceramics, weaving, paper making for example.

Proponents of STEAM should study this deeply with me, as I have studied and applied the principles of STEAM; and balanced the printmaking world that I made. For example, apply math to the economics of making presses in order that more people can have a printmaking experience.

Monday, August 17, 2015

ps150519 Personal Positive Experience with Cultural Arts Technologies 

How I survived the University of Washington 

His experiences with technologies have been positive, and it is a certainty that technologies played an important role in his professional life. The experiences are the foundation for the Northwest Print Center and Cultural Arts Technology Incubator plan.

Personal Positive Experience with Cultural Arts Technology

My experiences with technologies have been almost entirely positive, and it will come as no surprise that technologies played an important role in my professional life.
My wife and I moved to California from Washington when I was 24 so I could work on my Master of Arts in printmaking. Due to our country-born-and-bred backgrounds we were perceived as different, and my art was different from that of other graduate students.
This, coupled with the strong sense of displacement that we felt at such an abrupt change in place, made it very difficult to make friends. Often I found I had nothing in common with the other students, and as a couple we felt like social outcasts.
That all changed in the spring of 1966, when I was hired by the renowned printmaker, Glen Alps, to teach at the University of Washington School Of Art. Despite my good fortune, I was still an outcast, it seemed, but I forged ahead and taught with dedication.
I worried about the possible ramifications of rumors—that I was hired not for my strengths but for my youth and pliability, as Glen needed a protégé. There was no choice to make the best of the situation. If I held out for three years, I might be promoted to Assistant Professor, gain time to avoid the draft into the Vietnam Conflict, and maybe start a family.
Without even realizing it, I started to use technology as a facilitator for printmaking in 1968, when I tried photo-etching. Furthermore, I was successful in art shows and winning a few small grants and prizes.
Technology provided a way for me build confidence as teaching printmaking came easy for me. Among faculty I began to make friends and print their art in a collaborative way which helped my social interaction, and a sense of self-value and self-worth.
I had no fellow outcasts except among students who were having difficulty reconciling their needs with the allegiance Glen Alps expected of them. I quickly developed a shared enthusiasm, not just going by the books, but also for the interpersonal connections that good teaching provided.
Of course, at the time I didn’t know the significance of the split that brought my students and I together and widened the gap with Alps. I saw my teaching and research simply as a fun game to play. When Stephen Hazel moved to Seattle, he added his enthusiasm to the technology experiments and shared his knowledge with me like a teacher.
 Printmaking and technological things that are involved in it was more than just a means to making prints to us, it became the focus of our friendships. Printmaking was the basis on which an ever-expanding social group was slowly pieced together. Daniel Smith and Keith Achepohl came. I traveled to Europe and worked briefly with Rolf Nesch, who exemplified for me the artist struggling to make new graphic art against greater powers.
When I returned from Europe, I wasn’t alone anymore. I was still low-ranking and strange in my interest in technologies like photography, film and video, so had to endure the indignity of academic bullying. But with a group of students who shared my interest such issues seemed less important; and the prizes and grants kept coming.
As we—the students and I—grew, the technology thing grew with us, and we began to expand our interests in other directions, such as performance art, music and dance. Gradually, our group evolved from being based simply around printmaking in the University’s closed-circuit studios into a campus-wide network linked by a shared interest in a wider world of new art forms.
Students graduated and some of them were immediately snapped up by young, aggressive art dealers with new galleries to stock. A group formed a co-operative studio called Triangle Studios, and I was invited to join. It wasn’t until years later that we realized the full significance of our early days, and how the technologies had aided in creating an entire social network of peers with similar beliefs.
I was often faced with censure from other faculty and passed over at promotion time. I fought back, which only worsened my relations with other faculty. Ostensibly this was due to my involvement in students affairs and my perceived battle with Alps.
I had experienced the indignity of collegial politics for most of my career and knew that playing with my own cards, as it were, was just another excuse to get picked on. I was getting a reputation nationally, and my students were doing well. This made life at the UW tolerable.
Besides, the UW was larger than the art school taken by itself. At times I felt like I had the run of the whole campus! A phone call would get me thousands of dollars worth of video and mainframe computer services. Engineers were there to help me with anything I needed, and more grants came to me than I can remember.
If anything, technology helped with the bullying and faculty censure, and with my former students I developed a strong group identity that lasted for years.  Well along in my career I still maintained contact with most of the members of this group. Needless to say, I continued to develop ways to use technology as an artistic and cultural tool despite the potential risk they posed my university job.
Eventually, I could no longer tolerate the demeaning nature of the art school—the ways the faculty manipulated the code of ethics, the out-of-date curriculum, and using students as hostages in their internecine shenanigans.
During my nineteen years, I met thousands of students, visiting professors and off-campus artists and made countless acquaintances, rivals, and friends, and while we all have different life experiences, I’ve found that many artists have similar stories.
Technology, instead of having an alienating influence in art, contemporary technological cultural arts have been an inclusive experience, allowing me to make friends, bridge gaps, and meet new people outside my circle.
Instead of making me feel like a loner and a weirdo like my affinity for things mechanical and my country-boy mien, technology for culture helped me to create a positive self-identity, helped me develop a much-needed sense of self-confidence during the difficult early years of teaching at the UW.

Monday, August 3, 2015

es150803 Paraphrasing Rifkin 

If I had told my UW colleagues 30 years ago, in 1985 when I walked away that, by 2015, one-third of the human race would be communicating with one another in huge global networks of hundreds of millions of people simply exchanging audio, video, and text on a device in the palm of their hands, and that the combined knowledge of the world would be accessible there, that any single individual could post a new idea, introduce a product, or pass a thought to a potential billion people simultaneously, and that the cost of doing so would be nearly free, they would have shaken your head in disbelief.

As it was, they would not speak to me, let alone listen. All the things I forecast, even as early as 1972, are now reality. This has come to pass, and with benefits that a teacher can continue teaching after he has passed away, and students, too, can live in the virtual, virtuous world of the teacher.

For example, Maury Pepin was a student of mine, and he passed in 2004, too young. Yet it happens that I have a print he made, and his family may still own a print I made and which Maury bought when he was a student at the UW. Maury, in my memory, was inclined to science and engineering, and helped me to add another element to my game, Emeralda.

See his page at

The first paragraph above is my paraphrasing of Jeremy Rifkin's article in Huffington Post.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

sp150720 Another look at Magic  

It was in the 1970s that I was introduced to video games by C. T. Chew, who was, at that time, a student in my printmaking classes. Around the same time I was privileged to see other creative artists at the UW mashing elements of performing arts and technology into their work.
Partly this happened because of video, which I took to be a medium friendly to the arts—the way independent films had been in my early art education. Technology didn’t bother me; I could have been an engineer, or even a dentist, with the gifts of my parents—Dad for his inventiveness and persistence, and Mom for her art and writing.
My background made the game, Magic: The Gathering, fascinating. Partly it was because a teacher invented the algorithm for the method of play. It was one of the first games to win a patent. Hasbro was interested in the game since 1994, and bought Wizards of the Coast, its producer, in 1999 for $325 million.
For an artist to be interested in algorithms, patents and game mechanics is odd, but I am also interested in artists’ survival. Artists were contracted by WOTC for the illustrations and, when I would visit the Magic flagship store in Seattle’s U-District, I liked to look at the original paintings there. That store was an art gallery, complete with a rooms for play, life-size monsters and regalia from the card’s art.
These events took place from 1975 to 1995. By the turn of the century I had left the art world behind, and it was—and is—lonely. I travel in new art worlds that are trying to be born, bearing the marks of an art world that’s dying—the art world of the 19th and 20th Centuries. My former colleagues—who are still alive at the UW Art School—and my former students cling to that world.
Oddly, but I have never played Magic. I borrowed a deck from a guy and I tried to play it but I was befuddled. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it, even when I tried to read the rules. For every term there were questions I couldn’t find answers to. I think it is because the engineer and science side of me won’t let me slay make-believe monsters, or think that I can get strength by buying an expansion deck at a game store.
For me, there is something else besides entertainment in collecting and playing cards. Today I turned my attention to Magic again; but it was from a different perspective. I was on the trail of deck-building games, as Magic is one type of DBG and, in my browsing the web I found videos on the latest software for building custom decks on my computer. Also, a ‘Magic for Idiots” video series.
This is feeding my imagination with a fresh, new visit, reloading the inspiration I got from artists like C. T. Chew, Dennis Evans, Norie Sato and Sherry Markovitz—to name a few—inspiration that is at the root of making my 21st Century art into a card game. In other words, the game mechanic for Magic can be repurposed to fit my game, Emeralda: Games for the Gifts of Life.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ap150723  Life after death  Leading from the grave  

Forty years after he wrote a short sci-fi story about one who was frozen for 40 years and is brought back into his world of academe, the author describes what it is like. It is, he says, as if he foretold what was going to happen to him over four decades. 

 Death in the ‘70s

I forecast my death and rebirth in the early 1970s. Somewhere in my computer files, and on a printout made on a dot-matrix printer, I have the year I wrote about my rebirth—or, as it is in my short story of that year, re-entry. Probably I wrote it because I was feeling badly about the way things were going at the university, and maybe I saw the end coming.
Writing journals is therapeutic, so this story was therapy. As it turned out, scenes in the story about the technologies of my field—printmaking—were accurate descriptions. For example, one scene is set in an art class. Students were watching as a full-size, color print came scrolling out of a slot in the wall. The print was art by a “visiting” artist 3,000 miles away.
In this story I foresaw digital printing as it is with today’s Epson 11880 Stylus Pro printer in use for a distance learning class—perhaps a Massively Online Open Course, a MOOC. In the early 1970s, these technologies, like sending pictures over the telephone, hadn’t been invented. Yet, a few years after I wrote about it, in 1973, my students and I used the Telex machine which exchanged pictures with a Canadian artist; and the FAX was soon to come.
Writing this short story was my way building my hope. Writing would help me get through the politics and shenanigans prevailing in the School Of Art at the UW. Mixing new and old technologies with my students had been my joy since 1968, when I made my first photo-etching. Despite the real possibility that I’d soon be voted out of my teaching job, lose our home and my young family be put at risk, I hoped I could try new things like video art and yet survive.


There was another element in my short story besides visionary, digital printing and distance learning as new kinds art and craft of teaching printmaking. In the story, cryogenics was common practice at the time my protagonist was subjected to it. Therefore, many other people with life-threatening cause were frozen in the hope that a cure would come in the future—if the patient could survive long enough. Consequently, the proceedings of “re-entry” was fairly common and provided my protagonist with a sidekick—someone special who shared something of in personality—a troublemaker.
In my story the sidekick is a woman. This is not a love story, because, as the author, I was already in love; I didn’t need anyone but my wife but a personification of a muse. The two “re-entrants” (as the thawed-out people were referred to) were a mission to find out why the changes they saw all around them—pollution, monotonous, mind-numbing social practices and shallow educational regimen—came about while they slept.
Besides the new technologies that I saw being developed in 1970—portable video cameras and automatic telephone answering devices for example—there were movies that influenced me: Planet of the Apes, The Man who Fell to Earth, and Forever Young, for example. In Planet of the Apes, as the spaceship sinks, Charlton Heston sends a last signal, he shouts “Back to earth, in case they find us.” The captain had hope, despite the sinking ship.
Hope, in my thoughts, is always there. In the story of Pandora’s box, when Pandora shuts the box’ lid, we’re told that the last thing is hope and she shut the box before it escaped. Thus, writing, and having the new technologies with which to write and publish on the web, is my Pandora’s Box.
Today you can always download and get a song on your device; there is always music, always hope. Back in the 1970s, when I was writing about my probably future, despite all the indications that I would lose my job and never get to participate in the new technologies that were the latest forms of printmaking, I hoped I would hold out.
And, look at me. I did!

About the Author: Bill Ritchie thinks that printmaking should be taught, researched, and practiced as a community service and so he blends traditional printmaking with technology. His press designs and videos reach printmakers globally while, locally, he is building a team to develop the Seattle Printmakers Center.

Monday, April 13, 2015

sp150411 Printmaking school reboots for 21st Century

Copy written over medical school education article the author heard on NPR on April 9, 2015

Thirty years ago, this article—which the author copy-wrote over another article heard on National Public Radio—would have been appropriate to describe his experience when he was a professor in a university which happened to include a major medical school.


Copy-written By Bill Ritchie over the article, Medical Schools Reboot for 21st Century by JULIE ROVNER, broadcast on PBS radio station KUOW. The original transcript was copyrighted and provided to the public by NPR. If article about changing art school printmaking curricula were created and broadcast, this would be the revised transcript. Unfortunately for printmaking students, the curriculum was not changed.

Printmaking School Reboot for 21st Century

REPORTER: (The imaginary reporter here might have been hosted by one from Seattle’s member station KUOW. As it stands, the only tape I recall was made in 1980 for radio by Angela Henrick.)

REPORTER: The art of printmaking has changed a lot in the past 100 years, but art school training hasn't kept up with modern needs. To equip artists for the 21st Century, a printmaking professor at the University of Washington wrote up a new curriculum and started teaching differently. Reporter (Fictitious) of Radio (Fictitious) paid the professor a visit.

REPORTER, FICTIONAL BYLINE: In a bright, cluttered corner art gallery in Seattle, I sat with a 70-something professor watching videos about his teaching of printmaking. These are not traditional classroom recordings, but vintage, black-and-white. They show students forty years ago polishing their management skills. In one video, students report on safety and security measures in the etching studio. Their teacher is Bill Ritchie, and he’s showing me the video now, in 2015.

STUDENT: (In the video) “I want to point out that the fire extinguisher . . .”

REPORTER: It may seem like an odd way for art students to have been spending their class time, but the students appear to have taken it a seriously. They will have to practice safe procedures during their careers, especially in printmaking. Etching is a process that uses acids and hazardous solvents.

RITCHIE: I was piloting some new approaches to management and leadership, and that was one of the ways. Students got credit for attending to the management part of the course. The video, by the way, was made by a student on camera.

REPORTER: It was a far cry from how art students were traditionally taught. The longtime model for art classes was the Master’s atelier, in which students spend years in classes following the directions of art professors and studying pictures of how other artists worked—19th Century methods adapted by art educators and applied to college. Bill Ritchie architected a new curriculum in the 1970s. He says the atelier model persists even as art has changed. Classes stayed the same for generations chiefly because of painting.

RITCHIE: I think the vast majority of art schools still use a 19th Century painting atelier model, but printmaking has different qualities than those of other visual arts. It is not understood very well by most painters, and printmaking teachers seem to feel bound by the rules of painting—as if painting were the only visual art form.

REPORTER: Ritchie says the painting studio model simply doesn't work when it comes to his favorite art, which has always been printmaking. For one thing, there's so much science, math, and engineering in printmaking—too much for anyone to learn in just a few years. And the field is constantly in flux. What Ritchie started in the 1970s at the University of Washington School Of Art was to prepare artists for the inevitable changes they would see over their practice lives that technology would cause.

RITCHIE: I didn’t try to predict what art was going to be like in forty years and teach my opinion, but I wanted to give students the tools to be adaptable, resilient, to problem-solve, to focus on some things, accept new things, and change other things for good.

REPORTER: Ritchie says he succeeded for a short while. He saw his former students do quite well. Yet, despite that, faculty saw Ritchie’s innovations as disruptive. Since printing, according to Ritchie, is the ancestor of all technologies, he stressed learning how media systems work and he benefitted because he had to learn right along with the students about some of the possibilities on the horizon.

RITCHIE: It started when I made teaching videos live—like a cooking show—right in the class. Right away students saw video cameras and monitors as sources for art ideas, and they mixed the media. They took video’s special effects and made electronic prints off the video monitor!

REPORTER: And sometimes it wasn’t the art professor who was the best teacher about making interesting art. Professors in the performing arts came to his classes.

RITCHIE: If I hooked the art students up with music and dance professors and their students, all of them together playing with live video—then we all learned about improvisation and what teams can do.

REPORTER: Printmaking art students learned to work as part of a team, rather than be like the painter, who often is an innovator working in isolation. Printmakers share the printing press for etching, for example, and, later, shared video studios with medical students. Next came the computer and networking. These added layers of interaction revealed new relationships among students, engineers and people outside of the university.

RITCHIE: Our work went global. Students were getting invited to international shows, and people were making the UW a destination, visiting us to see what we were doing with video and computers.

REPORTER: It’s obvious from watching the old videos that Ritchie was more guiding than teaching, but he says he didn’t learn that when he was a student.

RITCHIE: I was not taught this in school. My teachers didn’t teach how to work in teams, how to communicate with peers and colleagues and how to communicate to the general public about what art has become. As far as I know, they still don’t. I wish they would. I owe it to printmaking that I see and enjoy the difference between the arts of the past with what art has become today.
Back story copyright 2015 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

pp150408  Value Back Story: Analyze this  

He attended a lecture on the valuation of art based on its monetary worth in the eyes and hearts of art collectors and their asset management experts. A casual reference to back story by one of the speakers cracks a door to a different view of media arts.

Emeralda means asset management and legacy transfer

Emeralda is my structured asset management and legacy transfer system. In a meeting with Kevin Collette (Ryan Swanson & Cleveland) in the 1980s, I introduced Kevin and one of his associates to my plan to team up with software engineers and design an algorithm[1] for artists’ families to identify, control, evaluate and disseminate the artist’s legacy. The objective is artistic legacy transfer to the advantage the family and society. At that time I was to begin by applying for a trademark, “Living Prints.” The USPO mistook my application for hardware design and I could not afford to reapply.
My plan went back into its box, which is a casebound trilogy called the Perfect Studios Series—and I carried on with R&D for the asset management and legacy transfer algorithm. Then, last night, on the occasion of a presentation by Dave Buck (Riddell Williams) and Michelle Dunn Marsh (Northwest Photo Center), I gained a fortuitous insight into art valuation and my dream of Emeralda was awakened.
The insight came in to stages: First, when I walked into the lobby of Riddell Williams, I saw two artworks facing each other across the seating area—a work by Dennis Evans’ and, on the opposite wall, Norie Sato’s. Dennis and Norie spent time with me at the University of Washington, where they were getting their MFA degrees in the School Of Art and where was one of their professors.
The second thing that awakened my Emeralda dream happened during the course of Dave Buck’s discourse on factors that affect the value of artworks. He mentioned “back story.” This piqued my interest because back story is an essential element of Emeralda. In the arts, back story is a literary tool for fiction, poetry, and screen play writing. Back story functions too in day-to-day social intercourse and personal relationships. In the age of digital communications, back story is finding its way into our lives in ways we could not have imagined except in science fiction, mainly through social networks.
Following the talks I related my delight, speaking up to the gathering and telling them my experience, and so there is another aspect to valuation of art, one which I experienced when I saw the art of Dennis and Norie in such a fine setting as these law offices. I said, “Value works of young, unknown artists you like or believe in, despite that young, up-and-coming artists (and the down-and-going and the down-and-out) are not famous, or that their art is cheap.”
“Lend a hand,” I said, “because you never know what a difference your purchase can make.”
To which Michelle Dunn Marsh, added, “Also older artists.”

Press Ghost Investor

The trilogy that I showed Kevin Collette that time many years ago was the beginning of my writing practice. The first book of the trilogy was the “Art of Selling Art: Between production and livelihood.” After the rejection of this tome by the first publisher I offered it to (and, later, seeing the same title published soon after by someone else!) I swore off big publishers and took advantage of an element of my algorithm, the technology of self-publishing.
An example of this is my paperback “Press Ghost Investor: Art crowd sorcerer’s guide to investing in a new school of printmaking.” I gave a copy to Mr. Buck, encouraged by his wife Chris. In this book, I suggest that—within Washington State—equity crowd funding may be combined with using artworks as preferred stock. At the time I wrote “Press Ghost Investor,” I was focused on developing a new school of printmaking and technology. This became one of nineteen startups I work on in my current ten-year plan—the Seattle Printmakers Center.

Call to action

Valuation of art in the age of digital reproduction is a deeply fascinating topic. Moreover, I appreciated the chance to revisit artwork by Dennis and Norie and meeting Dave Buck and Chris. The Seattle Printmakers Center will be the end my quest for the Perfect Studios—possibly sooner than my target year of 2023—and my quest will be the back story to the physical structure of the Center. If you, who read this essay, can join in the quest, please indicate your interest and how you can help.

1.      [1] An algorithm (pronounced AL-go-rith-um) is a procedure or formula for solving a problem. The word derives from the name of the mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was part of the royal court in Baghdad and who lived from about 780 to 850.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

es150115 Hacking Rembrandt 

Thanks Pablos Holman  

“We’re using the brain for the wrong things,” said Pablos Holman. It’s an important natural resource. Discovery is fundamental to innovation, and you can’t skip it. “Humans are trying to figure out how to keep more people alive on just one planet, and the only way we can do this invent our way out of this question.”
What happened to me was, in taking apart a toy truck in 1949, I discovered it was made out of an American coffee can. Probably it was part of the reconstruction program after World War II, probably the United States was sending shiploads of scrap metal to Japan and one of the cans came back and ended up under the Christmas tree.
Before long I had my truck all apart and that’s when I learned about the surprises you can find when you hack it. I took apart clocks, car engines and sometimes I’d turn parts of things into things like a crystal radio or a rocket.
“Our imaginations are not keeping up with technologies. We have a supercomputer in our pocket and we’re using to play FartAss or Dots or something,” Pablos said. “We try to take on the biggest problems we can find. We don’t need more APPs for the iPhone. What we do need is to take on the bigger problems facing human kind.”

Rembrandt was a hacker

At the height of the Golden Age of the Dutch Empire, when Rembrandt lived and worked, he was surrounded by a boom in technologies of all kinds. Not only painting technologies, which was what Rembrandt knew best, big things were happening in medicine, shipping and shipbuilding, manufacturing, optics, navigation, publishing, international trade, the sciences, philosophy and education.
He was a great painter, one of the best, but I believe his fame today owes partly to his use of the technologies of printing—or what we artists like to call, “printmaking” because we make the plate and print the plate ourselves. That’s what Rembrandt learned how to do by hacking the printing industry and doing it his way.
He took apart the process, in other words, that all the other painters were using, and made the process do things other artists hadn’t tried. Other painters were not hackers like Rembrandt—they took printing as it was and did not change anything—it was just a way to make reproductions and promote themselves.
In my humble opinion, by hacking printmaking, Rembrandt got one up on his contemporaries. When I started out in art school, I discovered that my childhood hacking days—taking apart toys and such—helped me master the technology of printmaking. Then, when video came along, I found I could hack video, too, and the same with the university’s mainframe, the mini, and the microcomputers that were just coming out.

It wasn’t programming and writing code that I needed—I just needed a different use for the computer. Like all innovative artists—like Rembrandt—we take existing ideas, technologies, ways and means to express and communicate and we see what else we can make of them.