Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wingin' into Winter

 Wingin' into Winter

Work has been spotty as of late. It seems I just can't get locked into a steady routine anymore. I get a little done here and there, but stuff comes up. Now, I don't have a clue what "stuff" is, exactly. I don't have to be too many places other than here but days slip out from under me, and nothing much gets accomplished, not even the "stuff" that keeps me from getting the stone work done. So here is where the spiral stone stands:

I'm shaping the drop in the center right now, slowly working it into a globe. I'm leaving a lot of the natural shape of the stone intact on this one. I'm liking the contrasts in the transition from the folded teardrop base, to the irregular outer ring, and into the more exact coil in the center.

Thanksgiving came and went. We had a good gathering with eleven people at the table. It's a big expense, and an awful lot of work to throw that feast together. Everyone had a very nice time, but I left the kitchen only long enough to eat. I don't mind. Our whole circle of friends is old, and nobody has children. If Mary and I hadn't stepped up, everyone would have spent the day alone.

 The week before, we had both my brothers here in town which is rare. Ross and his friend Pacho came in from New York. Don had the 24 hour flight from Thailand. Lani came in from Colorado, and Ian came up from San Diego. We had the whole very small clan over here for a BBQ. It was good. I guess that accounts for some of the recent "stuff" that got between me and getting my stone work done.

To the good, I have my work on display at a really for real Art Gallery. Here's the link.
Mary and I are driving up there to drop the three stones off tomorrow. There will be an Art walk/show up there this Saturday.

 The other stuff was the Lost Era film. We held the first showing at Whittier Museum this last Saturday. There was an afternoon, and an early evening show, 2:00, and 5:30. The early show had a couple dozen people come out to see, including my good friend Penny, from the bike gang. I hadn't seen Penny, or any of the gang since back in May. We had a burger at Mimo's, and she seemed to enjoy the film. (HT Penny for the pic) The later show had fewer in attendance. That was fine, actually. Julie C and her family came a long way out here to see the film. I've been trading notes on line with Julie for a very long time. Her husband and family were absolutely great. We all went out to dinner after the show. Seldom have I had such a fine evening of company and conversation. This was another great highlight for the season.

 The program was very well received.
 Lost Era is a strange piece of work. The forty minute film features about two hundred twenty four still pictures, slides of Pete Hampton's paintings, with narration, background music, and sound effects. It tells a story in seven vignettes of Pete's childhood life up in the hills above La Habra back in the early 1940's. 

One of the difficulties is context, and background. I need to preface the film with a fairly detailed introduction, telling about Pete, his life, his mission to save the hills, and his purpose in creating the slideshow. That means getting up before the audience for about a ten or fifteen minute talk before the film, and a Q&A session after it's over. Normally I don't have a problem speaking up in front of a group, but I was nervous enough to print out a few pages of notes before going in to this presentation. I didn't get the stage fright, but the notes served me well, nonetheless. 
I can convey the idea that Pete was quite an eccentric character, and that I made an extraordinary effort to put this piece together. Past that, the show has to stand on its own. Does it? I believe it does, but it's hard to know how others are going to respond to it. 

And where is this thing going to go? What is the goal? What would success look like in this endeavor?
I am not sure. But I'll find out, eventually.

And since I'm just kind of rambling here, I guess I could mention the rat. Every once in a long while we get one. A little over a week ago I got up, and when I went to feed the cats, I saw Skinnies charge over to  the refigerator and start looking behind it where he couldn't fit in. I got a flashlight, and looked. A rat had jumped up, and was crouching on the electric cord about four feet off the floor. I grabbed a yardstick, and tried to smack him out onto the floor so Skinnies could get him, but he escaped.

Thus began the war of the rat. I have three rat traps, two of the classic Victor traps, and a plastic claw type thing, sort of like a miniature bear trap. I never caught anything in the claw trap, and mostly use it for a clamp on the cat food bag.

I baited the Victor trap with a pice of muffin, and some peanut butter, and set it behind the refrigerator. Rat ate the bait, and didn't snap the trap. So I tried again, this time baiting both Victor traps with a piece of apple, and peanut butter.

Rat ate the bait again. So I tried baiting with an almond. Rat ate the bait. I tried peanut butter and cracker. Same result. So I bought a couple of sticky traps. Rat ate the bait, and left a paw print and some fur on the trap.
I was getting pissed.

I detest rats. The last several (and I mean several) who got in the house died under the heel of my shoe. There is nothing to recommend that task. This one was sly. He was not going to give me the opportunity to stomp his rat ass. I had hoped the sticky trap would get him, if, for no other reason, it would give me the pleasure of killing the damned thing myself. I wanted that thing to suffer.

But every morning, the traps were empty, and unsprung (even the claw trap).
I decided to click it up a notch, and blew seventy five bucks on an electronic rat zap trap. I put it behind the stove.


To add insult to all this I was finding rat shit on the stove, and in the kitchen sink, and on the counter. And I found a hole in a bag of apples I bought, and one apple gnawed away.

New strategy. I left a sticky trap, that zap trap, and a Victor trap, and, for good measure, even the claw trap that never worked- left them all set and baited on the kitchen counter. But I baited them with pieces of the apple that already had rat teeth marks all over it. I figured the rat would smell himself, and get a little careless.

Usually I'm the first one up in the morning, and it falls to me to feed the cats, check the traps, and make the coffee. I slept in, and Mary came in to wake me. "You got the rat."

Did I ever.
There it was on the floor with its head in the jaws of the claw trap that never worked. Until now. There was blood all over everything. The claw damn near decapitated the rat, and both rat and trap were in a big puddle of dried blood right near the corner of the stove. There must have been a hell of a struggle for that rat to thrash around enough to drop off the edge of the counter. 

Well, I was angry enough to want the rat to suffer, and it looked like he did. He suffered big, if not for long. 
No, I didn't feel bad about it.
And now I have a brand new, unused, electronic rat zapper.  Just what I need.
It would be cheating to return it to the store.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Mid November. Time so Fast

 Mid November. Time so Fast

I seem to remember deciding to keep a weekly post up here at the blog, but I have not done so. No excuses. I just get lazy, and distracted. I drop notes over on pbird's blog, and Founding Questions, and a few of the other stops I make in the morning, but then I feel like I've done enough internetting for the day. I'm getting my strength back at long last, albeit slowly. I've talked to a few other people who said it took them a good six months or even more after they came down with the bug. That eases the fear. It shouldn't be hard to forget, but it's amazing how quickly I lose track of being seventy one years old, which is past any pretense of being in "post-middle age." I'm still dealing with breathing issues, and having to hit the inhaler periodically. But I'm back on the bike, and I can do the fifteen miles on the local bike trail without much trouble. Maybe I'll be able to get back to Cyclone Coaster, and riding with what remains of the bike club.
Too, this last week has been eventful. Both my brothers were in town, which very seldom happens. We had a few good gatherings during the week.
And I have been pecking away on the stone project, even though I have been lax in taking pictures of my slow progress.
What else?
Oh, yeah. The Lost Era film.
We finally got the event posted up on the Whittier Museum calendar. I'll be giving two presentations at the museum on Saturday, November 25th. at 2:00, and 5:30. I'l also be showing at the Whittier Art Gallery in December, but that show is contingent on getting the use of a projector. We'll see what happens. I'm looking forward to doing this. The screening last August got very good responses from people. This time the Lost Era is the show, and not just an unplanned opening event. I'll have to get up in front of whatever audience we have, give an introduction to the piece, and answer some questions (if there are any) afterwords. So that means I have to prepare notes, and rehearse the pitch. I'll have to be concise. The whole affair is not a story that can easily be condensed into a few sentences, and even though I've told the story many times I find it very easy to get sidetracked, and run on too long.

So, anyway, let's look at the stone stuff. First is a small piece I prepared for the miniature show at the gallery in December. The orange stone is one of the first things I carved. Originally the top of the carving was a loop, but It got knocked off the shelf in an earthquake some years back. I had glued it back together, but it got knocked over and broken again. So I rounded the ends of the broken stubs, and put the bird-like heads on them, so they lean into one another without touching. Sort of creates a little dynamic tension between the the two bodies if the piece. I made the base from a scrap of some very cool green alabaster, and glued the two pieces together with Liquid Steel. I bought the green stone in Utah when Mary and I were on our honeymoon. I wanted a high gloss finish on the base, but I also wanted the natural texture of the rough stone, Can't have both. So I did something I've though of before, but never did because it seemed like cheating. I sprayed it with urethane. Came out good too.

Finally, here's the progress on the September Stone. Once again, I thought of doing something easy that wouldn't take a lot of difficult shaping, but ended up cutting a spiral out of the center of the rock. 

So I'm back to a task that proceeds slowly, and takes a lot of attention to detail. And it's going to get harder and harder the farther along I get. 

Not a problem, though. I like the shape that's emerging from this piece of rock, and it will have that three-dimensional Rorschach quality that always seems to surface in my work.  All to the good. So that's it from here for now. Thanksgiving and the Lost Era show rolling around next week. More to the good there.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

28 October

 28 October

Just after dinner. Mary made quesadillas with chicken left over from the BBQ from the other day. They were great, and I'm stuffed.

Right now I'm unaccountably tired, but I've been so for what seems like a very long time, now. Ever since June. I've been having breathing issues as of late, and I've been depending on inhalers for shortness of breath. I got tested at Kaiser, and they said I have a mild case of COPD. Has to be, at least in part, my just deserts for fifty five years of smoking weed. But I haven't smoked since June. But too, there was the covid in August. I'm barely beginning to get my strength back from that. It's an evil fucking bug, designed by evil fucking people. Hell cannot be deep enough or hot enough for them. 

The doc started me on a new puffer this week: just one blast in the morning. Today was the first day I haven't had to hit the tweeter since that morning spritz. Maybe it's going to work.  Joys of post-middle age, I guess. 


 I remember when I was much younger, hearing old folks say how strange it was, because they don't feel old, but physically they just couldn't do what they did not long ago. Now I get it. Sit still, and close your eyes. Shut out all the distractions you can. What's left? Just the awareness of... you. That sense of "I am." That little microcosm of God. It's the same now as it was when you were a child. It never changes. What changes is the container, the housing.

Mine is old.

I  got some small work done on the stone. I've dialed in the form of the project, and today I drilled. I'm not as accurate with the drill as I was twenty years ago, but I did an acceptable job placing the holes. I have one more to go, which is the long hole through the base. I'll need to set up the big drill, and the jig to make sure it comes out right. Then it will be the slow process of carving out the spiral in the top section while shaping the curves and tapers on the base. It all has to proceed together. It won't do to concentrate on one part at a time.

 I'm looking forward to showing The Lost Era slideshow movie at the Whittier Museum next month. Nick hasn't posted the November calendar yet. I've had one niggling concern on the project, and that's the use of the excerpts from the Beethoven symphonies. I have heard that the copyright holders can cause a work to be unplatformed if stuff is used without official permission. Now this is more of a concern when using pop music, or movie themes for a commercial project. I doubt if The Lost Era is ever going to have the kind of reach that it would come up on some corporate radar. But film festivals do check to make sure that those ducks are in a row. Too, I'd like to upload it to Vimeo, or some site other than youtube

 So, just to be sure, I looked up the protocols for requesting permission from the corporate copyright holder. I found a letter template on line, filled it out, and sent it off to the big office on the 12th of October. I got an email from them this last week, and traded a few notes with one of their people to clarify what I wanted to use the excerpts for. We'll see what happens.

Now I'm just running a test. Blogger won't let me comment on my own goddamn blog.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Cracks n' Stuff

 Cracks n' Stuff

Alabaster is gypsum, which is a soft stone. It comes in at just a notch above soapstone at #2 on the mohs scale, although some alabasters are harder, and other alabasters are downright mushy. The Anza Borrego stone comes from the US Gypsum quarries, way deep in the Anza Borrego Desert in the wilds of San Diego County. It is not quarried out for sculpting. The colors in the material I've been working on for the last couple of years are impurities in the gypsum that render the stone unfit for crushing into powder to be used as the matrix for drywall. The stuff does not get careful treatment. Rather, it is plowed out of the mountainside with huge earth moving machines, broken up, scooped up, and dumped. Even alabaster that is quarried for sculpting is full of cracks. It's just a natural feature. These pieces are fragments of broken rock. Sometimes the cracking is the aforementioned natural property of alabaster, but just as often a piece may be shot through with fissures. Usually, that means just getting out the five pound mallet, and smacking a big chunk out of the stone before beginning work.
It sometimes happens that the fissures don't show up until a carving is well underway, and when that happens, it causes problems.
You might guess that this is what I'm dealing with right now. At least, with an abstract figure this means adjusting the shape in progress. There is always some room for improvisation. You can't do that with a bust, or a statue.

Uh, well, umm, yeah it's supposed to be a guy with no arm, and right shoulder. I planned that way to uhh- make a statement, that's it!

Enter Starbond. The super-glue that you get at the grocery store is watered down. Starbond is the real deal. It comes from Japan, and it's a little bit treacherous to work with. You can easily weld your fingertips to each other, or anything they may touch. It come with needle fine dispensing tips so you can drip it into a crack with some precision. Even so, the fluid is very thin and it runs all over the place before it sets up. If the fissure is fine enough, the Starbond can keep the edges from flaking, and keep the fissure from spreading and causing a chunk to fall out of the stone.
In this case, the crack is on the left side near the bottom where I've been shaping the butt end of the rock into a wedge. The Starbond is the wet looking patches. You can see the drip in the top pic as well. We'll just have to see how it works out. I may have the fissure under control here. If it continues to give me trouble I have the option of cutting much of the tail end away.

  Again, this is the freedom that you have when working an abstract form. It doesn't mean anything goes. It is entirely possible to wreck the composition by hacking the wrong way. So now, it is time to slow down a little, give attention to other parts of the figure, and as always, spend a lot of time just staring at the stone.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Drawing on the Stone

Drawing on the Stone

I haven't put up a post in a few days, because up until today there wasn't any sort of progress to show. I have been working, but this part of the project is simply staring at the stone. Truth to tell, I don't draw vey well. I seldom make sketches on paper, because I do poorly trying to translate a three dimensional idea onto a two dimensional plane. It is much easier for me to sketch directly onto the stone. It's not exactly a spectator sport. I did have an idea, and I drew it out on the face of the rock, but somehow, it just didn't seem right. I messed with it for a few days, but ended up just saying, "No." Maybe something more simple, more elegant. 
Of course, opting for a more simple design sets off the nagging inner voice I call the Carp. Carp will say, "You're just too lazy to do a difficult design. You've lost your touch. It'll look like something you already did. People will see it and say, "Anyone could do that. What's the big deal?" And on, and on. 

I sketched out the design on one side of the stone, then flipped the rock over to put the mirror image on the other side. It's surprising how difficult that can be, even with a simple design. I kept making the same mistakes over and over. I'd look, and say, "That isn't right," then had the devil's own time figuring out what was wrong. 

Eventually I got it down, but it took an inordinate amount of time to do it. Of course, the sketch just looks like a big "S"curve, because that's what it is. There will be more to it than just a big "S".

I got the point chisels out today. and started cutting, then drew a line for a base, and scribed it in.

So the project is underway. I know right from the gate that, unless I get some really brilliant flash of inspiration, it's probably not going to be one of my prize-winning pieces. I need to work, and I'm happy to feel well enough to do it, but I don't have much in the way of creative fire just now.
My energy level, physical, mental, and psychic is still uncomfortably low. I've made the observation before, that we do not age on a bell curve. The faculties do not decline in a gradual slope. They fall off like a series of stair steps, sometimes small steps, but more often in big ones. I'm realizing, and none too graciously, that the illness of this last summer kicked me down a solid step or two. I won't come back all the way from it. I need to accept that there has been a decline, and it isn't a temporary setback. It's a decline.

I'm realizing, too, that my efforts with The Lost Canyon Project may come to naught as well. I refer the "The Lost Canyon Project" as the overall effort to see my late friend Pete Hampton's work recognized for its greatness.

The Lost Era blog, book, and now movie are the vehicles for that effort. The blog gets very little traffic except for the Singapore scumbags trawling through Blogger to plant scams, and viruses. I have not made too much effort toward trying to publish the book, but the queries I've sent out haven't been fruitful. The Lost Era got off to an encouraging start at the Arkhaven Comic site, but traffic has fallen way off, and now it's running about the same number of views as The Little Red Hen which is simply scans of an old children's book. I've sent out quite a few downloads of the slideshow movie, and given out a few SD cards, and thumb drives. This has had mixed results. All but a couple of people who have seen it were very impressed. The flip side of that is that over half the people I've given it out to haven't bothered to watch it.
The next effort will be the show at Whittier Historic Museum. This will take place on November 11. I'll be giving an afternoon, and an early evening show. Hope I don't end up sitting there all alone. We'll see.