As promised, I am finally getting around to sharing my art endeavors of late.  The making of what I consider more serious art pieces has been few and far between, but I have been teaching regularly, working with an art outreach program in a Family Shelter since the summer, as well as reprising my volunteer art classes at the elementary school.  All of these art activities relate to each other, and though different in character, my experience in one setting informs my work in another, and I enjoy them all.

my painting students at work

In the midst of the disorder of moving last July, I gave myself the gift of time and space away from it all, by taking a printmaking workshop on two back-to-back Saturdays the very same week of our move.  My husband thought I was crazy at the time, but I had a hunch the class would be good for me, and in this case I was right.

Local printmaker and teacher, Denise Kraemer, was teaching a “Pronto Plate Printmaking” workshop at the Division 9 Gallery near where I live.  I know and admire Denise and her artwork, and as a printmaker I am always interested in learning new processes, so I signed right up.

We spent the first Saturday learning the process of using a Pronto Plate as an alternative to a Lithographic stone, with a similar plate treatment method–though much simplified.  A Pronto Plate is a very thin transparent sheet of polyester (plastic) that accepts permanent markers and ball point pens, the way a lithographic stone accepts tusche and oil-based materials.  And though the polyester material is not as sturdy and indestructible as a litho stone, it is inexpensive, and light, and can be printed on an etching press.  The other advantage to the Pronto Plate is that it can be run through a photocopier, so lends itself nicely to reproducing any photo-based image.

I relished every second of the workshop and the company of diverse artists, making art.  In those two days I was able to make two sets of prints from two different plates, about 15 prints in all, one based on an ink painting, and the other from a collage.

collage from May

Pronto Plate print from photocopy of the collage

And the print from the ink painting:

pond gazers

The workshop got me excited to try the Pronto Plate process at home, on my own press, but even with the months that have passed between that printmaking session and today, my garage is still not studio-ready.  Once we get the extra stuff out (like redundant large appliances and those same stacks of cardboard boxes), there will be room to operate the press, and the garage studio will happen.

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In late November, an annual art exhibit and fundraiser for the Riverside Art Museum called “Off The Wall” came around.  Any artist can submit art to Off the Wall, with the only limitation being a certain number of pieces, and set pricing at $100, $200, with the most expensive works selling for $300.  The last two years I submitted art to the show, and the first year actually sold a piece.  This year I didn’t feel like I had done much to contribute to the Off the Wall, but couldn’t pass up the easy exhibit opportunity, and the possibility of selling something.  I submitted three prints, including the Pronto Plate prints from the summer.

Off the Wall gallery

This is the scene.  The floor-to-ceiling, chock-a-block, gallery-style art hanging is not my favorite way to look at art, but there is something impressive about seeing the sheer volume of work in this gallery.

My two prints ended up on the black and white wall, where I found them when I went to the show’s opening.  Look for the goldish wide frame above Frank Sinatra’s head…

black and white wall

and there’s my collage-based piece, same gold frame, right between…is that Jim Morrison, or Steven Tyler?

same frame, different direction

behind that guy's shoulder


… and the scary clown Joker face.

After attending an art show like this one, I find myself conflicted.  On the one hand, I love seeing that so many people are out there making art.  I also love that they want to get it on a wall somewhere.  On the other hand, what passes for art is sometimes, well, downright schlocky.  There are gems to be seen on these walls, tucked between the celebrity portraits and the safe landscapes.  There are artists taking risks, and creating some edgy strange stuff, and others making beautiful, well-crafted, but still contemporary pieces.  My question to myself, then, goes something like, “If they–the talented and untalented alike–are doing this, why aren’t you doing more?”

The answer–always evolving– lies somewhere in my very own complicated mixture of available time, space, and inner artistic drive.  For now, I’m at peace with a changing answer.

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For the last night of Off the Wall, I went back with family and friends in tow, all of us out to enjoy the Christmas lights and the festive monthly Artswalk.

That's one huge Nutcracker!

looking at lights

When we got to the art museum, after sampling downtown pleasures like testing the Kettlecorn, admiring real live penned reindeer, and the ooh and ah of lighted palm trees, I took everyone to the gallery where my pieces hung.  The only thing was, they were not there.  Jim Morrison was still there, and so was that crazy clown.  Mine were gone.  Sold!  I couldn’t believe it.

Someone took them home, and I hope they are as pleased as I was.

To encapsulate the moment, my friend took this photo of me next to one of the gallery walls.  This picture shows everything–the good, the bad, and the schlocky, and the artist who sold her work, happy in the middle.

the wall of art makes me smile

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