Tuesday, December 11, 2007

#12 of the TOP TEN:

I tallied up the votes from my myspace friends and had a tie in the last four prints people wanted to know about. So, instead of a "Top 10" you'll get a "Top 12". I'll begin with number 12:

“Chasing Thoughts…”, 1993, woodblock relief print, 11 1/8 x 7 7/8”

In the winter of 1993 I had just completed graduate school, had no studio to paint in, and little money to my name. At Christmas time I wanted to make something for my family in lieu of having to buy presents. I had scrap wood I’d salvaged from the arts center I worked at so I decided to make a relief print that I could print by hand in my apartment. My first attempt was “Volador” which I loved, however, it’s 18 x 24” size was way too much work to print by hand in time for that particular Christmas. “Chasing Thoughts…” was the second and smaller attempt.

The idea for making prints instead of painting meant a change in my method of working. I wanted the prints to be radically different in process from my standard way of working. I didn’t want to spend many hours and days making studies and references for life like accuracy. I wanted the pieces to be immediate and not necessarily true to life in subject matter and presentation. I wanted to go with an initial impulse with little editing. I also chose to work from memory in describing the figures and environments. Dreams, memories and out of context ideas left in sketchbooks were to be the source for images.

The initial idea for “Chasing Thoughts…” came from a dream I had in which a guru-like man was talking to a group of people on the second floor of an apartment house. He sat cross-legged, with his back to a wall, while many people sat in front facing him. As he spoke to those gathered around I was stuck outside on the balcony peering in through the sliding glass doors. An old friend came up the stairs intending to sit in but we began to talk and catch up instead. In the end, we both missed the discussion.

The rest of the dream unfolded in a dramatic way until I awoke. The rest of the day I carried on at my job but couldn’t shake the persistent memory of the dream and a feeling that I had missed out on some really important message being transmitted by the guru-man. At some point during the day a song came on the player that suddenly locked together with the dream residue and formed an immediate image in my head. The song was “Secret Journey” by the Police. The whole song resonated with my feelings associated with the dream but the line that got me was:
“…And on the days that followed
I listened to his words
I strained to understand him
I chased his thoughts like birds…”

Most images I work out take hard effort to come up with, but every once in a while an image presents itself in an almost fully realized way. This image was one of the latter. I envisioned a literal interpretation of the song lyric, saw the figures, saw the birds emerging from someone’s head and I saw the vantage point. I made a quick notation in my sketchbook so as not to forget it and waited anxiously to get home in order to work it out on the block.

Once home I drew out the image on a block in pencil and prepared to carve. At once, the problem arose as to how to represent the figures as volumetric forms with only line to work with. For the longest time I had been working predominately in paint where I could blend and glaze to create volume. Representational relief printing had always seemed so flat and boring to me when I studied in school, which is one of the reasons I avoided it. I recalled my love of M.C. Escher prints and how he used contour line to magnificently describe objects. I knew this was the way to go for me as well. I would use the weight of line and cross contour to give me the volume, dimension, and patterning that I sought. I also included stipple marks as a contrast to all the linear and planar forms. I love to play at contrasts for a fuller range of possibilities: black and white, curve and straight line, flat and volume, chaos and order, movement and calm, etc.

The bird’s eye view composition is based on a spiral superimposed on an intersecting diagonal structure. My intention was to keep the viewer’s eye in constant motion from one side of the picture plane to another and from the outside to the “bird in hand” and back out again.

I am really pleased with the result and my family was too. Initially I printed up 25 prints for my family on a tableau paper. I later printed up a second edition of 25 on Sumi paper that I have available for sale on my website: RamiroRodriguez.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Prints and Sides

Last night in the studio I printed out 6 more sets of the 3x4" prints while watching the snow quickly accumulate outside. I made various variations of a violet color to use on "Air", "Bubble", "Annunciation", "Sh!tbag" and "Nullify".

All the while listening to my freshly received "Side Four Live" by Adrian Belew

This cd rocks!

First impressions:

Adrian Belew (and the Power Trio)
Side Four (Live)

Ade’s powerhouse trio kicks off with a frenetic yet tasty “Writing on the Wall” that is solidly grounded by Julie Slick’s bottom end. Makes me wonder if this is why the young woman wears no shoes on stage – perhaps to keep Adrian and her brother Eric’s fast paced chops from sailing off through the roof.
An old Crimson favorite from THRAK, “Dinosaur” comes next. The composition gets some new twists from the Trio, mainly substituting the synth guitar break for some signature Belew dino blasts. The Power Trio does the Double Trio proud.
The main groove of “Ampersand” gets more of an ebb and flow feel than the previous “Sides” cd versions. The drumming is not as busy yet still powerful with the right amount of finesse.
“Young Lions” has all the galloping jungle rhythm of the cd version. An added, almost bolero-esque, break provides the base for some crazy Belew guitar pyrotechnics.
Eric leads off “Beat Box Guitar” with some fine high-hat sticking. The trio has really expanded this gem into a highlight jam platform. The talented Slick rhythm section really holds it down while Adrian works over the top with an assorted bag of guitar sounds that are pure Belew. However this isn’t just a showcase for Ade, the three musicians really lock in with some great interplay and even drop in a “Discipline” nod.
Adrian’s layered backwards guitar sound on “Matchless Man” is one of the most strangely beautiful effects I’ve ever heard.
Eric and Julie lay down the ominous grounding groove to one of the harder songs for me to listen to on cd - “A Little Madness.” It’s difficult listening for sure. Live, however, this beast builds with the layered architecture of maddening looped Belew wailings. The live experience feel is excellently captured on Side Four and this track is the proof of the quality engineering and mastering done by John Sinks and John Zonana respectively.
The hypnotic, “Drive,” allows an intermission of sorts as the Slicks take a breather. Adrian accompanies himself via rhythms built from loops. My very favorite part in this solo piece speaks to my inner Beatlemaniac - the “Within You Without You” reference. Wow!
The Slicks rejoin Ade for a rollicking “Of Bow and Drum” complete with ghost harmony vocals by Biff Blumfumgagne. I’ve always loved the pinched squeal of the guitar on this piece but it’s Belew’s attention to contrast in texture that really makes it for me. Julie and Eric’s groove at the end is a treat as well.
The re-vamped, big drum sound of “Big Electric Cat” made me think I was going to hear “Gun Man” for the first few beats. The update polishes up this older favorite.
Two classic 80’s Crimson songs played as encores during the tour close out the cd. “Three of a Perfect Pair” is probably my favorite KC tune and watching/hearing Adrian playing his and Robert’s parts while singing in odd time is amazing. Julie’s playing and rich sound should make Tony smile. A short nod in the “Frame by Frame” direction is fun to hear as well.
A run through “Thela Hun Ginjeet” makes for the perfect leave-them-wanting-more ending to a great set and cd. Adrian is always a pleasure to experience live. I’ve seen him many times over the years with Crimson, the Bears and solo. Every time I’ve seen him play he always looks like he’s having the time of his life on stage. It’s nice to hear a recording that captures that sense of satisfaction. Time to hit repeat.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spin it again

My buddy Maynard is interviewed in December's issue of SPIN.
My painting "Caduceus" gets a mention too.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prints for the Holidays

People have been asking so I thought I would place the info here:

The 3x4" color relief prints that you see in my photos section are available for sale. Just $50 a piece plus $15 s/h while supplies last.

Order as many as you want but remember that these are very small editions of each color (5 or 6 per color) so they may go quickly. Each print is mailed out unframed and in a secure rigid holder. Get your orders in now if you'd like to have one or more before the holidaze.

Here's how:
send me and email address and the title and quantity of the print(s) you want to info@ramirorodriguez.com and I can invoice you through paypal, or if you prefer, I'll email you an order form that you can mail in with your payment. Sorry, I'm not set up for credit cards.

And as always, my other prints are available as well at my website RamiroRodriguez.com


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Questions and Answers

My "friends" at myspace asked some questions about my work.

Ramiro Rodriguez Question and Answer

Waking up from the American Dream asked:
“Have psychedelic drugs played a major role in inspiring your art? I have found that through the use of such substances I have an increased sense of creativity and visual capacity for artwork that I create.”

While most things in my life play a role in contributing to my art making I wouldn’t say that drugs play a major role in inspiring my art. I just don’t have the stamina (or time) to mix the two. However, I do drink a lot of coffee while working.

Jimmy asked:
“Got any more plans on working with Tool?? On a shirt or maybe designing something for that "live dvd" we are all awaiting..?”

If they ask I will be happy to oblige. I haven’t had any requests lately. Whatever they do, I’m sure will look fantastic.

Th3rd3y3 and EHNB (scott) asked:
“What is your inspiration?”
I try to be open to inspiration from wherever it chooses to come from. I help it along by reading stuff that interests me, listening to all sorts of music, watching interesting films, having discussions with great friends that talk about ideas, my wife usually brings things to my attention that I may have otherwise missed, watching my boys and family, etc.

U4icide asked:
“How do you overcome days/weeks/months where you feel uninspired or unmotivated?”
It’s really difficult but I try not to get too down on myself. Everything works in cycles and there has to be some recoup time before a swing into action. When I can’t think of anything I try not to, that is, I do something else, turn my attention elsewhere and try to ingest things that will feed the creative impulse – watch a show, listen to some music, read, sketch, go talk to people. Sometimes I just try boning up on my skills or just go back to working on something that was left unfinished in order to find a place to re-launch from.

Sonya asked:
“How much importance do you place on the formal training you received in your artistic area? Do you feel that it (college art classes, apprenticeships, etc.) are beneficial? Needed? Required? Or do you feel that it could possibly stifle one's creativity because they are constantly being influenced by outisde points of view? I ask this in reference to style, ideas, etc.”

I place great importance on the training I got. Everyone is different but I don’t think anyone learns much in a vacuum. Being in contact with others who are working toward similar goals helps one realize things faster than if one slugs away at it alone. As far as being stifled, I think imposed parameters can only feed the creative output. Creative people always find a way to work around those restrictions. I think that is when some of the best stuff is created.

Beth asked:
“How old were you when you decided to be an artist? Are you kids as artistic as you?”

I’ve always liked drawing some of my earliest memories are of drawing on the insides of paper flour bags. I’ve been blessed with a very supportive family who always reinforced my strengths. They kept saying I was probably going to be an artist and eventually I believed it too.
My boys have artistic streaks in them. How far they take it is entirely up to them. Having two artistic parents certainly doesn’t hurt.

Somebody, Somewhere (tali) asked:
“if you could live one other person's life, and then go back to yours and live yours again, who would it be and how different do you think yours would have ended up as a result of it?”

I don’t think I could live someone else’s life. I believe I’m here for the one I got and should make the most of it. For the sake of your question I’ll say: One of my great grandparent’s life. I think that it would give great direct insight into what made me what I am.

Lea asked:
“Your work is an obvious expression of your interpretations of: consciousness, spiritual exploration, the human condition, sensory perception etc., so what, if any, "answers" about existence have you learned in your life and/or artistic endeavors?”

I don’t know that I have any definite answers but the posing of questions has been most interesting. My work is more about trying to express some of the questions in various forms in order to get more thought energy involved, both from the viewer and myself. I believe everything is a vibration and we are all more connected than we realize.

Sinji (Christophe) asked:
“I'd like to know more about where you're coming from, your studies and when you discovered how to express your works at best.”

If it’s a resumé you want you can see it at RamiroRodriguez.com. Where I’m coming from: I’m just trying to create images that I want to see out in the world. I happen to come from the “go with what you know” school of thought. Therefore, most of the ideas for my work are drawn from my interests in world myth, the Jungian concept of a collective unconscious, meaning in everyday occurrences, ritual and a search for self.
The process of discovering how to best express my ideas is ongoing. I’m always looking for a better way to show something – that’s half the fun.

Holy Pink Floyd asked:
“How has your work evolved over time & where do you see it going in the future?”

My skills and technique have improved with time and practice, my ideas evolve as my view of the world changes with age and experience. The “grand scheme” ideas have been pulled closer to myself and are much more personal than before. I don’t know where the work is going exactly. There are projects I’d like to accomplish, like more painting, installation and film. I just hope that I continue to have the opportunity to do what I love to do.

Jonna asked:
“do you listen to music while you work? if so, do you let it take you in unexpected directions?--maybe different that your initial inspiration/intention/direction?”

Oh yes! I can’t live without music. There is always music playing when I work. Music is my muse. I try to remain open to wherever a particular piece wants to go. Yes, sometimes music has often times presented a solution or direction for a particular piece.

JasonPaul asked:
“what piece of art that you've done do you think you will be the most remembered for, or perhaps the most 'timeless'?”

I hope I haven’t made it yet but right now it is probably for “Caduceus” which has been used for the Tool poster and inspired the name of Maynard’s wine line.

Tom Burns asked:
“what are your favourite linoleum blocks to cut from? (brand)
how do you register multi colored prints?”

I don’t have any favorite linoleum. I’ve tried regular floor linoleum, shoe rubber and stuff from Daniel Smith. I don’t really use it much. I prefer wood - poplar or birch faced plywood. The poplar has a much nicer grain than the birch but may be harder to find.
Registering blocks: I have only started to do multi colored prints with multiple blocks so I’m still perfecting my method. However, I’ve found that building a jig that will hold the block on two sides as well as account for the overall size of the paper. I work backwards. First I carve the block that has the line work, ink that and transfer to a sheet of waxpaper using the sides of the jig to line up the waxpaper to the block. Next I place a new block on the jig, line up the printed waxpaper and transfer that image onto the new block. This way I know both blocks will match where they need to be. Once the color blocks have been cut using this matching method I use the same jig to help me print the final color runs.

Shaun Buehler asked:
“What, in your opinion is at the root of your fascination with submersion in water? Is there any singular event, maybe traumatic, or subconscious, that you are referencing?”

Probably that I floated in amniotic fluid for 9 months…
It’s an ongoing search for that answer but I have always lived and spent most of my youth playing around water (streams, lakes, ponds). It’s a gentle yet powerful force, we have approximately the same ratio in our bodies as the globe has on its surface, the list goes on. I’ll refer you to my website for some more on that subject.

Nic asked:
“In your early paintings, do you see yourself inside the people, meaning are you conveying your feelings (about your life) to us as the viewer, and what does the water represent to you?”

Yes. Water is life, death, womb, tomb, the feminine, the unconscious, etc. I’ll refer you to my website for more on this @ RamiroRodriguez.com

JW asked:
“What is the most rewarding part of your art for you: the cathardic expression in creating, seeing the finished product after all of the work, or public response to the end product?"

All of the above, however, the process and seeing the finished image can’t be beat.

Marisa Silos asked:
“What were you thinking about when you were working on your newest pieces?”

My “antepasados”, my ancestors and what they went through in their lives that make me what I am. What will my contribution be to this world, what will my son’s contribution be, what will their children’s contribution be?

Junko asked:
"Are the themes for your work defined before or after you finish it? In other words, do make your art based on your stories or do you see the stories after you look at your finished piece(or find new aspect of it)?"

Both, sometimes I know what I want the work to say, other times I have no idea what the image that presented itself means. Through the working process and inner dialogue I usually come up with an answer to what the piece is trying to tell me. There are some images that don’t present an answer…maybe they weren’t for me?

Corn on the Cob asked:
“what possesses you to paint the things you do? where's your head at? how do you bring what's inside outside? because i paint too and i have trouble turning myself inside out because there's so much going on in me that its overwhelming and sometimes i can't bring it out so it stays in and makes shit really hard.”

I may have answered this already. I don’t think I turn myself inside out, I have to keep something for myself. If it’s making it “really hard” then I say, “better out than in.” Bring some light to it.

Nobody asked:
"How do you know when you're done? Do you feel done, or do you feel like you can always make changes?"

To know when you are done it is best to have an idea of what you want to accomplish before you start making marks. Intention is an important part of art making for me. That being said, I always think I can improve on a piece once it is “complete”. Best to just move on to another work.
Also, you’re done when the gallery is waiting to pick up the works for the show… :)

Happy Now asked:
“What about Formalists...the aesthetic approach, the concept of disinterestedness, and the concept of not containing a concept? Should the entire explination be there for the viewer, is it all experience here and now? Should the work reflect life outside of itself? How could an image transend the viewer with aesthetics and emotion alone? Does it take and idea, a preconcieved notion, some "viewer baggage" to understand your work? Should it?”

I don’t know. I like the viewer to do some work too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


November 6, 2007

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today I was up early and enjoying a cup of coffee while I watched the sun rise over the Dominican Republic. My friend since graduate school, Raul Miyar, had arranged for me to visit Los Altos de Chavon for a week and give a relief printing workshop to the students there. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The Dominican people are warm and friendly and everyone at the school was generous and gracious. One year later and the D.R. is trying to recover from Noel blowing through last week and wreaking havoc. Today my thoughts are with all my friends who may be suffering in the Dominican Republic.

One of a few revelations I had while in the D.R. occurred on my last day there. My friend David was driving me to catch my shuttle to the airport when a sign I had passed a few times during my stay caught my eye. The sign stated directions to various wealthy subdivisions near the beach including one called “Riomar”. In a flash I read it as an anagram for my name, Ramiro. This was something I had never thought of in all the years of my life and for one that has spent the last 16 years, or so, mining the significance of water in his artwork it was a stunning revelation. Rio (river) Mar (sea)

The whole reason for me being in the D.R. seemed like one big coincidence but everything felt like it was as it should be. Firstly, one of Raul’s students, Tomas, was a big Tool fan and had seen my website because of the band. He asked Raul on one occasion if he had ever heard of this artist, Ramiro Rodriguez. Raul responded that he did know of a R.R. and when he saw my website recognized the work as his grad school friend. The other reason Raul would recognize the work is because he is the model for most of the male figures in the underwater paintings. So, one thing led to another. Raul contacted me, we caught up, he asked if I still printed and would I like to come down to give a workshop. I agreed right away and made my way down.

Raul is a great person to be around. There is an almost zen-like presence to him that seems to radiate calm. One of the first things he said to me when I arrived was “I always knew you would come here.” This surprised me because I had lost track of Raul after grad school and hadn’t seen him in more than 10 years. “I just had a feeling” he said. Well, his feeling was right. I can’t wait to visit again and see what else comes about.

In other news: Pablo Ros of the South Bend Tribune wrote a story on my Dia de los Muertos installation. Read it HERE

Monday, November 5, 2007


November 5, 2007

This weekend was slightly more relaxed than I have experienced for the last couple of months. Saturday the family hit the local farmers market for some fresh eggs and hot pretzels. I did some tree pruning and leaf raking while the boys and pals played in the yard (and busted through my leaf piles). I had to give in to the idea that fall is really here so the window air-conditioner units came down and the storm windows went up.

I love autumn. Maybe it’s the transition aspect that does it for me. Plants are getting ready for sleep, the weather cools off and the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind has a lulling affect. The autumn harvests are colorful and sweet. Some of my favorite memories from childhood involve the fall and trekking through the woods with my cousin, Miguel, and our dogs. We’d get home from school, eat a quick meal and head out until sundown.

In the studio:

I’ve had a few people contact me through the blah-g and Myspace expressing interest in exhibiting my work. This is very good though I feel like I need to create a whole new body of work. I had intended to start in on some new paintings after the Dia de los Muertos ofrenda was up. My painting has taken a back seat to printing recently and it is high time I get back to the brushes, however, an image I created months ago has been selected for an obesity awareness project. This means it is back to screen printing until I can deliver this edition. So the brushes will have to wait a bit longer.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Los Muertos

November 2, 2007 (All Souls Day)

Thanks to all my family that has come before me. I couldn’t have gotten here without you.

Last night was the reception for my ofrenda and a celebration for Dia de los Muertos at the Snite Museum of Art. The talk I gave about my ofrenda was well received though I sometimes felt like I was talking in circles. I’m glad I was able to use some powerpoint slides to emphasize my points.

Many thanks to all the friends that came out to show their support. And once again, many thanks to all that helped me out in constructing this ofrenda to my family.

What follows is the statement written up to explain this year’s ofrenda:



A family’s history suffers when an individual dies and his/her life stories are forgotten. If the deceased’s life is like a collection of stories within a book, then a family’s history is a great library containing these collections. If the family members pass on without conveying their stories to a younger generation, then it is as if a great library has burned to the ground.

Ramiro Rodriguez’s Dia de los Muertos installation, Cuentos y Memoria, honors the lives of family members from the Martinez-Rodriguez family that have passed on. The ofrenda’s (offering/altar) arrangement of traditional elements, such as pictures, flowers, and food is supplemented with contemporary elements in an attempt to document the stories of those relatives.

The title Cuentos y Memoria (Stories and Memory) refers to the stories family members recount about those loved ones. The telling of these stories adds to the collective memory of the family and keeps alive, in minds and hearts, those who are gone. The narrating recalls anecdotes of the departed’s life to family who knew him/her, as well as to younger children who may not have known him/her at all.

A portion of the installation features a loop of video interviews that are part of an on-going family oral history documentation by Rodriguez. Various members of the Martinez-Rodriguez family (parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces…) relay memories about their departed loved ones. In this instance, the video replaces the conversations, remembrances and storytellings, which traditionally occur at a graveside during the Dia de los Muertos celebration.

In the gallery a book-filled coffin represents the lives of ancestors long-since buried and forgotten. When viewed in sections, the sides of the box present a snapshot of various aspects of a life. However, when viewed as a succession of prints pulled from the individual side sections, a life’s journey is exposed as a continuous circular image that repeats infinitely–as the body of an Olmec dragon carved into a stone sarcophagus.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Los Angelitos

November 1, 2007

All Saints Day

On this day it is the Mexican tradition to remember and honor the spirits of family members who died in infancy or childhood.
Here's to the angelitos.

Tonight's my talk and reception at the Snite Museum of Art @ the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. See previous posts for details.

Tonight @ Notre Dame

Day of the Dead Celebration Thursday, November 1, 2007 7:00 p.m. The Annenberg Auditorium and the Great Hall, University of Notre Dame. Free and open to the Public
Sponsored by The Snite Museum of Art and the Institute for Latino Studies.

The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame and the Institute for Latino Studies present the sixth annual observance of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Mexican tradition that honors the dead and celebrates the lives of those gone before us. The event is co-sponsored by Campus Ministry, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and Multicultural Student Programs and Services.

It will be held on Thursday, November 1, 2007 with a 7:00 pm lecture and performance in the Annenberg Auditorium followed by traditional Mexican refreshments in the Great Hall of the Snite Museum of Art on the University of Notre Dame's campus.

South Bend painter, printmaker, and Snite exhibition coordinator Ramiro Rodriguez will create this year's ofrenda (Day of the Dead altar) and will discuss his Día de los Muertos installation, "Cuentos y Memoria" and the tradition of Día de los Muertos at 7:00 pm in the Annenberg Auditorium, followed by a performance by Notre Dame's Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro and Mariachi ND.

Everyone is invited to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo by participating in a Frida look-alike contest. Prizes will be awarded for the "Best Look Alike" Frida and the "Spirit of Frida."

Dia de los Muertos T-shirts will go free to the first 50 people.

This event is free and open to the public.
For further information please contact Jackie Welsh, curator of education at the Snite Museum of Art at 574.631.4435.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Done...? (Happy B-Day Lightboy)

The exhibit opened on Saturday. Everything went well except for some glitches in the dvd authoring that I still have to fix up. My family came to view the installation and celebrate some October birthdays. They were all pleased and impressed with the installation.
This week I have a couple of gallery talks and the reception on Thursday.

Here are some in progress installation shots. More to come later.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


October 25, 2007

Three wise people came to visit yesterday. They brought gifts. My parents and aunt arrived in the morning with some elements for the ofrenda, paper flowers, pictures, and some needlework. Mostly they came to show support. I love those people.

Since a few of my great grandparents were beekeepers it is only fitting that I have…hives. I tend to break out when under stress it seems. This happened before when I was in Austin trying to create a full edition of prints in five days at Coronado Studio. I’m breathing through it all trying to remain calm drinking my nettle and peppermint teas.

This morning I checked on the drying progress of the ink on the coffin panels/print blocks. They still feel a bit tacky but I am going to have to go ahead and start gluing them together. The prints are dry enough to start handling and hanging. I’ve discovered another flaw in my grand plan: the wall on which the long string of prints is to hang has a fire exit door in it. Now I thought I had measured right and the prints would end at the doorframe. However, I had forgotten that I wanted to bookend the piece with the same image on each end to emphasize the continuous/ouroboros nature of the print. This means the last 14” section would hang over the door seam and therefore be in peril of being ripped through if someone used the door. So, on to plan B, which is to leave the last section at the extreme left loose to stick to the door and start the rest at the doorjamb.

So on I go to retrieve and hang prints and to piece together my wet wood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


October 24, 2007 (Happy Birthday to my lovely L)

I’m running on 3 hours sleep this morning. It was a late night in the ND print lab. Thanks to Jean for allowing me to use the lab while classes are on break. Extra special thanks to Steve F. for coming in to help me pull the 54” long prints. I don’t know how I would have done those alone.

Best thing about printing for ten hours: having the prints and having another check mark on my list of things to do. Also, it was great to have another person there, especially a knowledgeable printmaker. It was doubly great because Steve is a musician and music lover as well. We had running commentary and conversation over the “classic” rock station music coming in on the lab’s busted radio.
Worst thing about printing for ten hours: knowing that I had to live with the best I could get from that night’s printing with the impending deadline.
Very worst thing about printing ten hours: not having my own music or a cd player to listen to. I cannot work without music. I had brought along a cache of cds because I remembered the lab had a cd player. When I got there I got the news that the cd player had been stolen. My only alternative was a "classic" rock station that came in on the decrepid radio in the corner. I hate radio and “classic” rock stations especially…ugh! At least I could tell how many hours were going by as each cycle of, the same bands but different "hits," came around.

The prints look pretty good in the pthalo green ink. The blocks/coffin panels look amazing in the green. The earth dragon sarcophagus is going to look amazing. Next step is to wait for the ink to dry enough for me to put the pieces together and install the coffin. The prints need to dry as well so that I can scab them together to make up the dragon’s body.

Pics coming when I have some time to get some.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Four more...

October 23, 2007

Yesterday was a blur or running around, checking lists, making new lists, making a plan, changing a plan…

The gallery install is going slow as I need a few things that will be last minute. Pictures are printed, video monitor is installed, altar base is installed and draped, coffin base and servilleta is installed, and Mr. Bones is in the house.

Video elements are feeling much better thanks to some valuable insight from the video guru, Krista. I should be able to make the last adjustments and burn today. Whew!

The coffin panels await their fate on the press. I am still waiting for my ink and paper (nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh?) I should have the stuff today via my very expensive next day air order. My buddy Steve F. has agreed to help me pull some prints at ND’s print lab. Psyching up my rolling arms for what’s to come. I had thought of staining and sealing the panels before printing. The idea is to leave the panels inked up after printing so that the recessed cuts stand out against the darker ink. The sealer would be a safeguard against that idea not working out and I having to clean the panels down. Last night I nixed the idea for fear that the stain or sealer would cause lifting in the wood grain and therefore blurry lines in the print. I’ll experiment with that idea when the sword isn’t hanging over my head. So it’s on without the safeguard. Live dangerously someone said (I know it wasn’t me…)

Things that can go wrong…will go wrong. My lovely L has been on sugar skull making duty (I told you Dia de los Muertos is a family affair). They look awesome all decked out in frosting designs and color foil. I wrote the names of my deceased relatives, one each, on the skulls and set them out overnight to dry. Yesterday morning we discovered some rascal had been making a taste test out of the bunch while we slept. The little bugger didn’t just confine his rodent feast to one skull he tried about 5 of them. He must have like one better than the rest because the chin was almost completely gone! So it was back to the sugar bowl for L last night.

This morning our little taste tester got his just desserts at the end of my broom. Maybe I should make him a skull too.

Monday, October 22, 2007

5 and counting...

October 22, 2007

I spent the weekend at the studio finishing off the carving on the blocks/coffin sides. Boy is my elbow sore!

Saturday morning, I received a good omen, on the wings of a surprise visitor. As I was unlocking the street side door leading up to the studio the Lightboy spotted a giant moth on the wall. I figured it was trying to warm itself up in the morning sun before attempting flight. It had a great mottled look that helped it blend into the brick wall. When it flexed we discovered bright pink accents hiding beneath its wings. We walked it onto our fingers and brought it upstairs to introduce it to the butterfly woman. Later in the day we took it back down to where we found it. We were surprised to see it still clinging to the wall of the building many hours later.

The rest of the day was spent finishing up the emerging man panel and starting in on the other 54” long panel. As I worked I realized that some more transitional marks were needed to unify the over all image once all the panels are viewed together. I lay out the wood on the floor, end to end, to get a feel for it all and made some adjustments.

The Lovely L and miracle boy came by in the afternoon. Laurie pounded out the papel picado (cut tissue paper) images from a template I had printed out. The result looks fantastic! I can’t wait to see them all strung together and hanging.

I worked late into the night trying to get as much done as possible.

Sunday morning the Lightboy and I headed to the studio once again. I was determined to finish the rest of the side panels off. (The coffin lid is going to have to wait. That thing is going to be a beast.) I made good time with some breaks here in there to give my aching elbow and sore palm a rest. Lightboy leant a hand by dremmeling some texture into some areas of the big panel while I started the last, and smallest, panel. The last panel I had to work on is the tree of life portion that will go at the foot of the coffin. The rest of the day was spent cleaning that up and carving away late into the night. Aside from a couple of small portions, the coffin panels are ready to print. Now that will be another story…

Friday, October 19, 2007

and miles to go before I sleep...

October 19, 2007

Good news today. Apparently, I will be mentioned in the December issue of Spin magazine in conjunction with a Maynard James Keenan interview. Maynard has been my biggest patron of the arts. He owns quite a few of my paintings and prints as well as my wife’s work. The article apparently mentions my painting “Caduceus” and it’s relation to Maynard’s vineyard name.

In other news…

I received an email from my high school art teacher and friend, Sue. She is enjoying her retirement by traveling and building up some inspiration to get to painting. Go Sue! I wish you a happy, inspirational, and safe journey.

Last night I worked on some of the pictures that will be part of the altar at home. I watched my boys play in the yard collecting bugs and climbing trees before putting them to bed. My boys and I listened to the crazy storm front that blew through the area causing much mayhem and damage. I thought it would be a good night away from the studio to catch up on my sleep and rest. I think I awoke more tired than the nights I’ve been working late and my mind was racing with a list of things to do from the moment my eyes opened.

The gallery is painted! The layout is being finalized and I should be able to bring in some of the elements on Monday.

Carving to go
Printing to go
Final video tweeking and burning to go…
...and miles to go before...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting there

October 18, 2007

This morning I’m running on auto pilot…and still haven’t had my coffee.

I did more carving last night. I’m working on the companion piece to the Butterfly woman and there is still one element that is missing. Usually when working on a piece there is a point, either at the sketch stage or during the process, when all the elements fall together and the image just zings. The emerging man hasn’t reached that point but I trust that he will get there.

The gallery painting went well. I decided to paint another wall with a bright complimentary orange to play off the Mayan blue green. I had left the door on the left hand side the original grey but late in the day I decided to paint it over as well. That should be the last thing before I start bringing in the other elements to set up. The coffin and prints will be the last in the door and on the wall.

The video test was burned yesterday and today I will set up the monitor and see how it runs.

Things are coming along.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

painting, cutting, panting...

Yesterday I got one of the colors for the gallery walls. It’s a nice “Mayan” aqua green. Two opposing walls will have that color and the third wall will have a red orange feel. Since exhibition installation is part of my day job I also have the privilege of painting the walls myself…
Yesterday I got closer to a final edit on the family conversation/history video. Rather than project, as I once had planned, I’m going to have the dvd run on a monitor above the altar. This cleans up much of the space that would have been needed for the projector mount, dvd player and sound system.
It was another late night at the studio after a run around the lawn and tree climbing with my boyos. I have most of three blocks carved with three to go …Oh! And the lid to the coffin…yikes! Make that more like 5. Last night the Woman lit by Butterflies (sorry Jim Harrison) came along quite nicely. If the print looks half as good as the wood block she’s gonna be a beauty.

I’ll post some pics when I get a chance to breathe.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I gave up trying to sharpen my v-tool back to a usable shape and ordered another one on line. My new Flexcut tool came on Friday. I spent the weekend at the studio cutting away at one of the 54” sides. 16+ hours on just one block! I have 4 more to go. One more 54" and the rest significantly smaller. This is taking longer than I thought, however, what I do have cut looks really, really good. I can’t wait to get to the rest of the blocks. I need to be printing by the end of the week. Installation begins on the 22nd and the exhibit opens on the 28th.

I had iTunes playing a music shuffle while I cut and I kept catching myself laughing at the synchronicities happening between what I was cutting and the lyrics to various songs. It made it all feel right.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First post with catshup

This is the first attempt at my own blog page. I’ve had a blog running on my myspace page but just realized that older posts get wiped out. So, this first post will be a recap of some of the posts that I’ve put up over there in an effort to keep them around longer.

The current project I’m working on is called “Cuentos y Memoria” (stories and memory). It is a Dia de los Muertos installation at the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. The exhibit will run from October 28 – December 16, 2007. For this particular offrenda (altar/offering) I will be creating a traditional altar with some contemporary elements to honor those members of my family that have passed on.

So, working backward…

October 10, 2007

Last night's cutting session ground to a halt. Somehow I wore down my favorite "v" cutting tool in an unbalanced fashion. Where once it cut like a hot knife through butter, now, it cuts like a ...well, it's ripping more than cutting. So I have to grind it down and build a clean bevel on it once again to get it where I need it.

I guess it was bound to happen. I've had these tools for a few years now and have only had to strap them to keep a good edge on for cutting. I hope I haven't totally f'd it all up.


October 9, 2007 (happy birthday John)

The sliver of a moon plus a super bright Venus, Saturn and Regulus made me stand like a stunned ox in the middle of the road this morning. Beautiful.

Two weeks to go before I have to install the Day of the Dead ofrenda. I'm still carving the 6 blocks of wood that will make up one 14' long image when pieced together...and boy are my fingers sore! The decision having to be made: do I save time and go for a linear and broad flat spaces approach to defining the images or do I do more of how I usually handle my woodcut print mark making? I'll have to decide quick and get on it.

The video...I'm going to have to go with what I have and hope it all makes sense with the editing. It's only meant as a slice of a running documentation but I really want it to look good. The stories and recollections being electronically regurgitated will take the place of the conversations that traditionally occur at the gravesides. Of course, I still need to translate some the spanish and add subtitles for the mono-lingually impaired.

Things that have dawned on me by doing this project:_
-People want to help...let them._
-It's a family thing._
-My parent's married at such an early age that their siblings and their spouses really did absorb one another as a second family. For instance, my dad knows much more about my uncle T (my mom's sister's husband) than he does about his own brothers, mostly because he spent his life from age 17 on working and living next to him.

September 17, 2007

I got to record three more family members and their recollections this weekend. I'm not a very extroverted person so it is difficult for me to be "out there" and get someone else to open up. However the common bond of family and my excitement for how this project is evolving makes it easier.

Recorded this week - two brothers, mis primos, talking about their beloved father who's resourcefulness, story telling, and zest for life is missed on the eleventh anniversary of his death. My uncle, recounting his travels to the States, talked, tentatively at first, about his siblings that have passed, his father's hard work and the effect of his mother's last embrace and kiss.

I know it is hard for people to talk but I'm grateful that they are willing to expose themselves and do it. Of course all this can't help but cause a change in how I'm looking at things. Right now I'm just glad I can listen and that I might somehow be able to pass the story along.

September 11, 2007

The elements for Cuentos Y Memoria (Stories and Memory) the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) installation I will be creating at the Snite Museum of Art are coming together. I've got about 4 1/2 weeks before the actual installing is supposed to begin. I've planned to make the installation a combo of traditional and contemporary elements. The installation is planned to fill a small gallery rather than just the traditional ofrenda (altar) that usually takes up the corner or one wall of a room.

The gathering part has been going on for some time now. I'm really glad that the whole process has evolved, as it would be for a home ofrenda, into a family and friends collaboration. My Mom has been making the table coverings required for the ofrenda. My sisters are helping me out with the flower arrangements and offering elements. Various people are lending me their photos and my elder family members are making time to give me their stories on tape.

Video is an unfamiliar media for me that needs to be worked on in addition to various 2-D and 3-D elements being gathered and later assembled. My nephew, Adam, and my friend, Krista, have been walking me through some basics to get me started with the video element I'm incorporating. Now, I have no illusions about being a videographer so this will have to be a pretty basic point and shoot exercise. The big work will be in editing down all the great stuff I'm getting from my relatives into a coherent shorter block that can be looped and projected in the space.

Some of the stuff still to come are the prints, papel picado (cut paper), sugar skulls, and more…

August 27, 2007

This weekend I began collecting video stories from my parents and family for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit I'm installing in October.

It was interesting to hear my parents recount memories of family members that have passed and their histories. I'm going to have more information than I'll know what to do with. Besides getting the material I need for the installation my priority is to get some of these stories recorded before they are lost. First steps...