2019: Workshops?

…so I’m thinking about doing workshops again.

Why am I thinking about it?

  • It could be the adrenaline rush that follows getting to the curb
  • We definitely could use the extra income
  • I miss the classroom environment and interacting with students

…or any combination of the above.

There will be one big difference – they will be on-line classes. As I still have much to learn about both Patreon and video production nothing is etched in stone at this point, but I will say that the cut-paper sculpture will figure prominently in the syllabus. In the past I’ve also held sessions on:

  • Marbleizing paper
  • Making custom folders and booklets
  • Basic model-making

Getting up to speed will also mean one or two practice sessions here at the house – workshops like the ones I did ten years ago. If you’re in the area and would like to sit in please email me – space will be limited. Any fees for these practice runs will very reasonable and I will provide certificates good for continuing education credits in selected school systems around Middle Tennessee.

En Garde!

You wouldn’t know it by my current profile, but I fenced in college – two years foil and one year saber. I did my best to continue the sport after graduation but other than weak jokes about replacing the rails and tightening the wire around the back pasture I found little interest among friends and family. As time went by and my waistline expanded I sold or gave away most of my gear so I was surprised to find two (each) masks, sabers and gloves while cleaning up the garage this last weekend.

Any thought of a clean escape quickly evaporated as My Star Pupil took notice of the equipment as well ; since that discovery we’ve had two sessions with the sabers. I decided right off that we weren’t going to just goof around and aimlessly smack each other – I’ve taped off a properly-proportioned-but-smaller piste on the shop floor  and we work on technique and terms before any Errol Flynn stuff.  He’s pretty sharp for a little guy and can remember the 2, 4 and 6 positions most of the time. Lori says she can still see a little bit of form in my movements but I tell her she is just watching me with her 1977 glasses….

… one step further along

As I wrote last winter I’ve never been happy with the Batgirl cut-paper sculpt that I put together five or six years ago so it should be no surprise that I am up to my elbows making a new version, based on the original sketch. As I was taking pictures my Beautiful Saxon Princess suggested that I make a video presentation about my technique…and I think it’s a good idea. I’m in the “baby-steps” stage of planning right now,  still researching video production and funding options like Patreon but it may be that this is the direction my teaching career will take now that I am no longer in the classroom.

…but for now I will share a snap of the work in progress, which starts with a drawing that I cut up to use for templates when making the individual parts.
CPSProcess1

Wheels!

Big day for my Star Pupil yesterday. Our next door neighbor Wes very graciously bought a bike for him at a local yard sale and the little guy has been in wheeled-transportation heaven since then.

It’s had me thinking back to my first bike and the incredible sense of freedom it gave me – my hunting grounds quadrupled in area by late afternoon of day one. It’s quite a different world now so I don’t think we’ll be quite was hands-off as my folks were, but it will still be interesting  to observe the impact two wheels and a chain bring about in Jaybug’s life.

I Am The Axe-Man!

Ax-man

Every weekend my Star Pupil and I try something new and this week it was use of an ax. It was a skill that really wasn’t on the schedule but a box of tools I recently gave him unfortunately included a sort of multi-tool-on-steroids that inexplicably included an ax blade…and as anyone with kids will  tell you glaciers can be moved by hand before you’ll get a five-year-old boy to change his mind about something like this.

After a safety briefing we spent about forty-five minutes in the shop chopping away and eventually produced the sundered one-by-two you see in this photo. The process could have been faster but one too many roadrunner cartoons convinced him logs literally jump into with one direct chop with an axe held straight on. I’d demonstrate alternate chopping at an angle but then he’d politely correct me and attempt to bludgeon the board in half.

We finally succeeded in parting the one-by-two and now he’s out with his mom visiting friends while I am busy hiding every other cutting implement before he gets back.

Music: Ghost of A Chance (Rush)

 

Teaching at Lincoln Memorial University was a good news/bad news type of situation. On one hand the school’s expectations weren’t too high, I had a tremendous amount of freedom in the way I handled my class and there were  a few fairly competent students. On the other hand the pay was terrible, the administration gave scant support and most of the art majors avoided my class because I actually expected them to work.

I just told myself I was fortunate to be teaching somewhere.

Capping it all was the miserable commute: while the school was located only 50 miles to the northeast there were several ridges and valleys to transit, and I spent as much time going up and down as I did moving forward. My schedule also had me returning to town in the middle of the evening rush hour which made the last 5 miles as tedious as the preceding 45.

It was a wet, sloppy evening in early November, I was tired and cold, and it was a strain to see through the rain and slow-moving traffic. Struggling to stay awake and alert, I turned on the radio and tuned into the local classic rock station – which like every classic rock station ever had a playlist shorter than a five-year old’s attention span.

I was surprised – instead of hearing the inevitable “Freebird” or “Stairway to Heaven” a young man was talking about Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, a topic which caught my attention in the same way dog whistle rattled a collie. I’d discovered Jung in graduate school, became intrigued with this work, and worked at integrating some of his concepts into my thesis project but just as I was piecing together what was being said, the speaker stopped, and the song he had been so long in introducing started to play.

Electric guitars shot out a very basic but compelling tune which repeated  like a car alarm, accentuating the tension and stress of the surrounding traffic. Negotiating this nerve-wracking commute had my pulse pounding so hard I could hear it in my inner ear and when a vocalist suddenly started to sing it took me a moment to hear past the thub-thub-thub.

Like a million little doorways
All the choices we made
All the stages we passed through
All the roles we played

 There was no mistaking that voice: Geddy Lee, which meant I was listening to the Canadian rock trio Rush, most appropriate for my situation as I didn’t have the soundtrack for Mad Max in my CD player. Lee continued to sing, his voice getting more forceful and strident:

Somehow we find each other
Through all that masquerade
Somehow we found each other
Somehow we have stayed

 Voice and instrument continued to build to a point of frenzy, then suddenly it was like cresting a mountain or going into free-fall:

In a state of grace

Languid guitar chords lead into a restful interlude devoid of the song’s previous intensity::

I don’t believe in destiny
Or the guiding hand of fate
I don’t believe in forever
Or love as a mystical state

 The cardiac pounding in my ear eased off as I relaxed a bit

But I believe there’s a ghost of a chance
We can find someone to love
And make it last
And make it last

Guitar chords echoed and a feeling of calm continued to envelope me, but then the chaos abruptly renewed with strident vocals and crashing guitar chords once more

Like a million little crossroads
Through the back streets of youth
Each time we turn a new corner
A tiny moment of truth

The quiet, calm returned:

In a state of grace

I believe there’s a ghost of a chance
We can find someone to love
And make it last

This time when the pattern broke  the lead guitar began an improvisational guitar solo that caused my heart to sing as well.  It  also helped me  tune out the lurching/honking/swerving and I was startled to find myself on the last leg from the freeway to my home, free of the tension and chaos of rush hour as the song returned from the solo to the calm of the dreamy interludes:

I believe there’s a ghost of a chance
I believe there’s a ghost of a chance
We can find someone to love
And make it last

…which transitioned into a measure or two of a slightly mournful, slightly wistful echoing guitars. I pulled into the driveway, turned off the engine and sat listening to the tick-tick-tick of the cooling engine. Rush was not a particular favorite group of mine; while I had respect for their talent and dedication, their music and their message usually did not resonate with me … but I had no doubt that at this point Ghost of A Chance was stealth scripture – truth given in an unexpected manner that would have otherwise been ignored, and at this very low point in my life it contained a very important message for me.

Tomorrow morning I would get up bright and early and face another week head on:

  • submitting job applications to colleges sure to ignore me
  • canvassing art directors who routinely told me I was too old
  • worshipping in a congregation that cornered the market on cliques
  • teaching students who regarded study as a process akin to hustling free t-shirts at a concert

….but right now as I walked in the door…

You know I read somewhere that the onion is a distant relative to the opium poppy. Maybe that’s why I felt calm and happy as I walked into the house,  maybe I was getting a contact high as Lori was browning onions in preparation for making soup, but I knew there was more to the warmth I felt. I drew it all in as I shelved my teaching binder and hung up my coat: music was softly playing on the stereo and my sons had their yearbook open, scoping out the young ladies while conducting a post-game wrap-up of the Oldest Game Ever. Wrapped in the warmth of my family I felt the very essence of joy.

It may be that life was getting the best of me, that the academic and creative arenas in which I fought daily were more than a forty-year man could handle, but as long as I had this wonderful home and family as a place of refuge I had a chance, albeit a ghost of a chance.


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“Ghost of Chance” Songwriters: Neil Peart / Geddy Lee / Alex Lifeson

 

 

It All Works Out…

It’s been a good news/bad news type of situation the last couple of days. Good in that I’ve gone almost five months without an upper respiratory infection, bad in that I’ve finally come down with some kind of bug but good (?) in that it is some sort of stomach virus and I’m still able to breathe. I’m not getting as much done as I’d like but I’m grateful to be able to work.

My Star Pupil and his father helped me with installing a shelf in my Beautiful Saxon Princess’ part of the closet. In these types of situations BSP just laughs at me “at the five minute mark I hear you voice slip into that measured cadence and I know at that point you’re in teacher mode again. “

The Rekindle School

I don’t know how many of my readers live in Seattle, but if you do live in the Emerald City, work in a creative field  and are interested in professional development I would recommend enrolling in The Rekindle School (https://www.classesandworkshops.com/). Rekindle is an independent education program  loosely affiliated with the  Seattle Experimental College and features classes in traditional art, cartooning, writing and film-making.

Nils Osmar is the writer, director, producer, principal and chief cook/bottlewasher of this program and every semester he puts together an entire academic program from scratch. Even if his former  students didn’t sing his praises as a teacher and creative professional I would still recommend him highly, if nothing else but for the firm shove he gave me towards professionalism when I was taking baby steps towards a creative career 40 years ago.

nils

Nils is one of those rarest of animals – an established creative professional who is also a decent teacher. Not only can he walk the walk, he can talk the talk….and you’ll understand him when he does.

Doors and Windows

When I wrote about shuffling studio space the other day I failed to mention one important point – why I made the change. Yes, I wrote earlier that the move was meant to get me moving, but what I didn’t mention is that it wasn’t just exercise-type moving that needed to happen.

I needed to move out of a window.

A couple of weeks ago I was informed that my contract was not being renewed at the junior college I have been teaching at since the doors opened in the fall of 2012. I’ll skip editorial comment other than to say that the dismissal was handled in a most callous manner because the first reaction I had when I found out was a feeling of serenity.

  • Never mind the abrupt last-minute email message.
  • Never mind the loss of income.
  • Never mind the fact that at 65 it’s doubtful that I will ever be hired to teach again.

When I read of my dismissal I sat back and the thought came me: “When a door opens God will open a window.

OK – I admit it. In the past I’ve dismissed that phrase as trite and over-used, but it’s the first thought that came to mind and it has prompted me to jump-start other parts of my life and career – and I am convinced the new studio is an important part of that new beginning.

What’s more: when we finished the move and surveyed both the new studio and the sitting room in the space the old studio used to take up both my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I felt an overwhelming sense of “right” in the new arrangement.

Works for me.