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.