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And the Show is Over

To quote Bugs Bunny  “and that’s all folks”, it is done, my annual 15 minutes of being a medium size fish in a very small pond has once again passed.  I spend most of the year preparing for this 3 week show, take the best I have to offer and hope that at least a few people accept it.  And if I do say so my self I was very happy with what I was able to present this year, I was also very happy with the amount of people that took the time to come out and view it. But it is over.

Post show blues, I believe, are a common thing amongst artists and for me it is an odd mixture of relief, disappointment and guilt. It is a great relief to have survived the necessary social interaction that I so fear, the stress that builds up to even coming in to set up the show is often overwhelming.  My daughter brought me to the city on Thursday so that I could do a close down meet and greet that evening and then pull the show down on Friday.  Once we had the work loaded in the trailer and the van she suggested that we stop for lunch before she drove me home.  I just couldn’t do it, I was almost physically ill, I needed to get out of the city and back to the place were I belong.  Fortunately on the highway home there is a little Gas and Convenience shop that serves absolutely terrific home cooked to go meals and has a couple of tables if you choose to stop and eat there.  The added benefit is owned by a wonderful couple and is very much in my comfort zone, we had a great lunch, visited with the staff and the owner and some my world started to return.  The stress will slowly drain over the next week or so, I will sleep 12 to 14 hours a day for a few days and spend most of the rest of the time watching TV and reading and will become me again soon.

The disappointment arises from finding out I am not as famous as I like to believe I am and that there wasn’t line ups at the door to see my work.  No not really, I actually have little desire for fame and notoriety, I do wish that more people would notice and purchase my work but have no desire to be well known (that may be a bit of a white lie but I keep telling it to myself and and keeping the story).  The disappointment was, this year, as in the last three, sales just didn’t make the mark.  This year was a significant improvement over last year but still fell far short of what was needed to keep this going. There was enough to cover some of the bills but the cut off date for the power bill is still looming for next week with nearly $700 still owing and I still need to fill all my welding tanks and purchase rods and grinding discs and the like to keep the studio open.  This leads directly to the third and last emotion of the list.

Guilt, firstly my children take major time out of their lives to make this show work for me.  This year it was my youngest daughter Amy who spent the entire show running me around, setting up, tearing down, and all the odd little things that just seem to need to be done.  She did all this with with a 2 year old and a 2 month old in tow, and I am the one that complains about being stressed.  Both my children have always been the strength that has kept me going and with out them I would be completely lost. The other sector that keeps me going is that small group of artists and supporters that turn out every time and often drive many miles to show their support.  For the most part they are also the largest purchasers of my work and without them I would likely starve.  The biggest origin of guilt is my absolute incompetency with money.  The power bill should have been the first paid but I was sure that the sales would build and instead of that I paid several other bills first and as much as I hate to admit it spent some of the money less than wisely (read cigars), now I have several justifications for this but the truth is most of my calamities are of my own making and then I am reaching out try to find a way to continue on.  This part of what I am and in 40 years it has remained consistent and somehow I always find my way past whatever problem I create, will it change, not likely, will I continue to feel bad about it, for sure.

For all practical purposes my studio will be closed for a bit, I have lots of work that needs doing on the house and yard for now. But until I can cover the bills and refill the consumables that I need to create there will be little or no art for the time being. It quote my ever understanding landlord “it is what it is” so for now I will concentrate on trying to get the power bill paid and put together a bit of cash for the other stuff and will once again carry on.

Thanks to all who take the time top read my ramblings, this blog was originally intended to give people an insight into the life of one artist and the path I chose.  I do try not to look for sympathy although often when I read my own blogs that seems to be what they do.  In spite of the difficulties (especially the self inflicted ones) I live a life that I choose and would not exchange it for any thing.  Be good to one another, we are people of one planet and all deserve to be treated with love and kindness.

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An Introverts Hell

I dislike crowds as defined by me as being gatherings of three or more people, my first response is to find a quiet corner and ride it out.  It is so bad that I lose one or two nights sleep when I have to make a trip to the city.  I do not necessarily dislike people, in fact I enjoy most people and look forward to conversation, but I don’t do small talk well. The problem is once a year I do a large solo show of may art and this entails having either an opening or a meet and greet session, I both love and hate these with passion.

I am just through this years meet and greet and it was a success, there was a great turn out and I was elated to see all the people that showed up.  There were people there I hadn’t seen for decades, people that I had only met online, and people that I had never met at all. It was great to see them all and I truly wish I had had more time with each quest. Conversely I spent three hours in a room full of people all most all of which had come specifically to see me. Now I am sure that every one understands that and understands that my position in that evening was to smile promote my art and be the floating host selling may art. That would be everyone but me.  I felt guilty that I couldn’t extend the attention to every person in the room who took time out of there busy lives to come to this event that they deserved.  It is my sincere hope that over the next year there will be a time when we can meet and spend more relaxed time.

I did make it through the night, thanks to the support of my children and several close friends that always have my back.  Without these people I would have been a pool of nerves hiding in the corner singing Tower of Song under my breath.  At the end of the day I went to spend the night at my daughters house and got to sit up with her and chat until 4 in the morning, probably one of my favorite things to do in the world.

I did make it through this and am grateful to all who attended, given another day I will have recharged and be back to my quiet introverted self.  I am at home with my coffee and cigars and looking forward to visits form my old friends and any new ones that would like to make the trek out to my world. Again thanks to all that came out and made the event a success and I do hope to see you again soon.
Take care of yourselves, love your friends and family and be kind to those that need it, until later  ric.

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Truly A Rambling

I have been trying to finish up the Steam Engine in time for the show and yesterday I drew my line in the sand and said it was finished.  I was planning to put a canopy on it but that would have meant at least one more day and I am already 23 days into the project.  I just couldn’t seem to stop, there always seemed to be one more detail, one part that should move, and each alteration was another 4 or 5 hours.  The actual assembly time is really not that much, it is the constant digging through storage sheds and trailers looking for just the right piece, something anyone else who works with reused materials can relate to I am sure.012

The long and short of it is yesterday I opened the big shop door and dragged it out into the light for the first time.  I tried to do it early enough so the ground would still be frozen and I wouldn’t have to drag it through the mud.  That almost worked, at least for the first 80 feet where we had a mechanical failure.  Now just a brief interjection here, I am an artist, at no time have I ever claimed to be a welder. I weld well enough for my art to stay intact almost all of the time, but there are failures. This one happened right in the middle of the lowest part of the yard where the ground had already started to thaw and get mucky.  The only good news was it happened close enough to the studio that the cables from my big welder could reach it and I could repair it on the spot, that would be in the mud.

Got that done, dragged it to high ground through what now had become a slough, and photographed to get it online.  Still early in the day I hoped to get another smaller project started but the firewood was running low.  I decided to buck down some of the smaller branches to get me through the next few days. By the time I dug out the saw dragged out the wood, cut it up and dragged it into the studio another two hours were shot.025

The worst part was between dragging that 400 lb monstrosity (when you come to buy it at my show it will be a fine work of art) and handling ever piece of firewood 3 times my old body was about done.  I ended up spending the rest of the day gathering pieces and standing in the middle of the yard looking at piles of metal in a fashion that would likely suit someone staring at a 10,000 piece jig saw puzzle knowing that 3 pieces where missing.

Now that was the story of yesterday, today has to refocus and work needs to be done. The truth is being able to keep my studio open hinges much on the success of this show. I have reached a point where almost all of my consumables (welding rods, oxygen, acetylen, grinding and cutting discs, etc.)  in the shop have dwindled to nothing, there is close to $1000 in power and internet bills and $400 at the welding supply store.  In order to keep the doors open art is going to have to sell.  Most of you that either know me or read this blog regularly know that this is not an uncommon state of affairs and so far I have always managed to scrape it together and keep going. This, is in fact, the almost never ending story of every full time artist I have ever met. The unfortunate truth is that many of them have been forced to give up and put their art on the back burner so as to make enough money to survive, one has to wonder how much good art has been lost because the person that would have made it was stocking shelves in Wal Mart instead of creating art.

On this note I urge you to come out, not only to my show, but the exhibits of as many artists and craftspeople as you can, and support them. I was at my kids house some time ago (in my case that is likely several years) and I decided to buy pizza, the pizza arrived and was just a little short of $100. So for the price of a night out, ordering pizza in,  or going to a movie you can buy a small piece of art that will last you for a life time and be there for your children.

Support your artists, they support your community.029

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Old Friends

I have been blessed with more good friends than most people and have never understood why.  The consistency among my friends is that it has never been a thing that we had to see each other or stay in constant contact, it was just there, they are friends and nothing else need be said.  Having said that I have three men who where friends for 40 plus years. These are the special ones. It is said that old friends are the most valuable because they know you for what you are and like you anyway.

I had been planning to write this piece on the anniversary of the passing of the first friend but shortly before I sat down to write I discovered the second one had passed away that afternoon.  I had lost two of my three closest friends on the same day two years apart. It has taken me several days to process this and this morning I decided it was time. This is a tribute not only to both of them to both of them but to all the others out there that have honored me by letting me call them friends.  I’ll not make this an epilogue obituary, the memories I have of them are mine, they are held in my heart and there they will remain.

Dennis Robson passed away April 10, 2015 and Rick Turner on April 10th 2017.  Both fought cancer and it never occurred to me that they would lose, it just never felt it was their time. Or more in reality I was not ready to lose them.  Rick was planning to move back to Canada to be with family and was looking forward to being able to see him more often than was the case while he was living in Texas.  Dennis was excited about his sons upcoming marriage and his new grandchildren.

After Rick passed away I felt an emotion that I probably have not felt for a quarter of a century, loneliness, a need for human contact.  I live quite comfortably with minimal human contact and like it that way, however I always knew my friends were out there, they were, in Ricks case, thousands of miles away, but they were there.  The combined loss of these two friends left a hole in my soul and a realization of my own mortality.  It is not that I fear dying, sometimes I think it is that I fear living. I am tired of losing those that are close to me.

I was left the unenviable task of informing my mother of Ricks passing and one of the first comments she made was to tell me that I needed to out live her because she didn’t think she could handle outliving one of her children. I know how she feels having lost a grand child and worse watching my child lose a child. We all suffer the losses of loved ones, the pain is there for human that lives and the world continues on leaving each one of us a little worse for the loss but much better for having known and loved that person. For myself I have to remember that the only way to avoid this pain is to not love and that is not an option. I am thankful for each of those that I have loved, the ones that have gone before me and those that remain to make my life as wonderful as it is.

I apologize that is this is a rambling extension of my grief, I wrote it for myself, and shared it because I am sure that there are others out there that struggle with the same issues. Hopefully it helps to know that you are not alone.

Be at peace and remember that family friends are far more important than what the world offers. Love each other and be kind to all.

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My World My Art

Preparing for the Show

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This is my biggest show of the year and for many years was my bread and butter show.  Up until a few years ago it was responsible for one third of my income. The last three years have become increasingly more dismal, to the point that last year I announced that I would no longer be do this exhibition.  As you can see I am not always a man of my word.  The truth is I have been showing annually in this venue for more than a decade and am quite attached to both the staff and the venue itself, so one more try.

I have spent the last two months trying to get enough new work together so that this is a fresh and contemporary exhibit. It is a large venue and takes a great deal of work to fill so I decided to do a few larger pieces to center piece the exhibit.  This turned into an undertaking that I was no wholly prepared for.  I wanted the pieces to be large enough to hold a significant presence in the room but they still had to be small enough to fit through a 36 inch door.

I started with a 6 foot long tractor which turned out well and after much indecision went with a similar sized steam engine instead of the steam locomotive I had originally planned.  The reason for this was two-fold, first I believed that I had most of the pieces rounded up to create the steam engine, where as I was having difficulty with some of what I needed for the locomotive. Secondly having done both on a smaller scale I am aware of how the locomotive keeps screaming for more detail and the steam engine lends itself it a simpler representation. I was wrong.  I am now 5 days into the steam engine and have at least 4 days left. It keeps growing things, for example fenders, not on the original plan but as I looked at it it just kept saying it was naked and needed fenders. Not a big deal, shouldn’t take that long, famous last words.  The one thing that people tat don’t work with reused items often don’t understand is the assemblage of the parts is a small part of creating the sculpture.  The largest amount of time is spent in finding the appropriate piece and then modifying it to fit the work in progress. The bottom line is the fenders took close to a full day.

 

The process of creating from scrap metal the most enjoyable and fulfilling of vocations I have ever undertaken, but some days I wonder about origami.  I have been working steady for over a month to prepare for this show.  Because of financial restraints I am down one welder and have had to forgo some other obligations to keep creating.  The bills are adding up, the fridge is empty and every bone in my body hurts.  Normally I work in the studio for 4 or 5 hours a day and take several days a week off, this has not been the case lately, it has been 10 and 12 hours days 7 days a week.  Truthfully I love the intensity of the process as I am doing it now but it takes a toll.  The limited groceries make cooking a little tougher and at the end of the day I just don’t have the energy left so end up eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches and canned soup or just a bowl of rice.

So today is a holiday, I am staying out of the studio.  I am going to catch up on a few things like bucking down and splitting the last of the firewood, dealing with the water in the basement, and most importantly, cooking up the last to the red meat.  I have a pound of both ground pork and ground moose, this will give me burgers tonight and since I know have potatoes will give shepherds pie for two more nights. I have enough assorted groceries to get me through until the end of next week when I will go the the city and set up the show.  I had been hoping to sell a piece or two before the show to help cover the electric bill and pay the Praxair bill but it seems that is not happening.  I will make it and it will be a good show.

Since my decision to work on my art full time my life has been a series of minor financial catastrophes all of which have worked out and none of which have ever been of a scale to dampen the love I have for my chosen path.  I am living the dream, and even though I do complain, I do it with a light heart and a happy soul.

Take care out there my friends, and come see me at SCYAP.

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Snow Days

Normally I enjoy snow days, which is any day that the weather is just too nasty to bother wandering out in.  It is simple, I don’t have to wander out in it, I can sit on my couch/bed which is right beside my window, watch a bit of TV, read a book, have a glass of wine and watch the weather. It is an opportunity to just exist, do what ever I like and not feel guilty about not getting anything done. The truth is I quite look forward to them as long as I am prepared.

However this last little storm caught me off guard, but none the less it should have still worked out ok.  Unfortunately this was not to be the case, I woke up fairly early to the sounds of 60 mph winds and snow swirling in some sort of evil vortex around the back of the house.  The second thing I noticed was it was abnormally cold in the room. I am using electric baseboard heaters to heat my small living space (less than `140 sq ft.) because of a lack of firewood and also because of a knee that I injured before Christmas which makes  climbing up and down the stairs to put wood in the furnace somewhat painful and a little dangerous.  My first thought was the power was out so out of bed I bounded and checked the temperature in the house. Firstly the power was on and secondly it was a balmy -1c. in the house. It turned out it was the thermostat had ceased to function. This is a problem that happens once every year or two and I keep a spare for just this moment, it is an easy repair and takes only a few moments.

At this point I decided coffee need to be made first and thermostat replaced in a close second.  Having made coffee I went in search of the spare thermostat  which much to my chagrin seemed to have gone and hid itself somewhere.  After some deliberation and lighting a fire in the wood furnace in the basement I remembered that it had gotten moved, along with all the other electrical stuff to the storage shed.  Still not an issue, at least until I tried to go outside to retrieve it from the shed. Remember the evil vortex of snow twisting its way around the back of my house?  It appears its sole purpose was to deposit several feet of snow up against my back door and it succeeded.  Now I do have a front door that faces North and each winter I seal it off from the outside to help keep the wind from flowing right through this old house.  I can force  it open form the inside with a small amount of damage but with the 60 mph winds it would mean wind and snow whistling through that portion of the house until I could find a way to re cover the door, and need I say that the repair would have to be done in less than good conditions. So I opted for plan B which was wire past the thermostat and let the heaters run continually.  Good plan but a small note to self, keep a few more tools in the house, butter knives are only marginally good screw drives.

This being accomplished it was time to address and issues caused by the living area getting to cold. the first was the potato bin, I managed to freeze it. This meant that my remaining 10 lbs of potatoes needed to be used immediately. Fortunately my kids had just brought groceries out and I had 2 lbs of ground pork and a lb. of ground beef from earlier so making shepherds pie was the calling for the day.

In order to do this I had to first was dishes, which meant I had to go to the basement and get water.  This was when I discovered that it had gotten cold enough in the basement to freeze the water line and crack the the poly pipe.  Easily discovered by the water which was now spraying around the basement offering itself as one very cold shower should I feel the need.  I was able to turn the water off and as in the case of the thermostat I keep spare pieces to repair such issues, unfortunately as was the case in the the thermostat they got moved outside to the shed.  The hole in the pipe was between the two shut off valves (redundancy has its good points) so I was able to cut the pipe and re attach it to the valve just making the line a little shorter, remember the note regarding more tools in the house, once again a reminder.

We are know half way thorough what was supposed to be day of reading drinking wine and feeling sorry for those that had to go out in this nasty weather. All that is left to do is wash the dishes, make my shepherds pie and open my new bottle of wine.  You have to know that this just isn’t going to happen.  If you read this blog regularly you may recall a recent blog on the slop pail, every thing that comes in has to be carried out and it is an integral part of this system. And it is full. The search now begins for a back up slop pail.  Not a real big deal just one more hurdle in an already frustrating and annoying day. One that should have been not that difficult to overcome, note to self bring in a back up slop pail.  I did over come the problem, but it involve finding some 4″ abs pipe shoving it out the window and pouring the rather obnoxious contents gingerly down the little opening in the pipe so it would run over the fence into the neighbors yard, oh what fun we are having on my snow day.  But finally every thing is a go, the house is warmed up somewhat and relaxation is real close.

I got my shepherds pie started and decided that it would be a good idea to begin my relaxing by changing into my sweats and house shoes (a pair of old flip flops that are easy to take off and on when I climb on to the bed to watch TV or read).  Having done this I figured I should probably keep the the fire going in the downstairs furnace for a while longer as the wind was making it hard to get the house comfortable.  Off to the  basement I went and grabbed up and arm load of firewood to take over to the furnace.  While walking back to the furnace my flip flop flopped and caught a piece of wood laying on the floor between the sandal and my toes sending me ass over tea kettle straight to the ground.  As I was laying of the damp, cold floor trying to decide if I broke anything and if even if I hadn’t was I going to be able to drag myself upright again I considered that if I did break something I could call an ambulance and they would have to dig out my back door to come in and get me.  I have to admit that for a moment the thought appealed to me, but as it turned out the only thing that may have been broken was maybe a toe or two and that is not worth a trip to the hospital, a little tape will solve that issue.  As it turned out other  than a sore toe, some lightly bruised ribs, a moderate sprain to my left wrist and aggravating a knee injury I got falling out of a trailer before Christmas I was fine.  Sore as hell, but fine.

This pretty much ended my snow day. I finished up the shepherds pie, opened the wine, took a hand full of tylenol.  That is about what I recall for the rest of the night.  I am more than a little disappointed in my snow day but the next one will be better and I will try to remember the notes to me mentioned earlier.

EPILOGUE

It is now tomorrow, I have broken out of the house with little damage to the front door which I have repaired and shoveled out the back door so now have access in and out of the house.  It turns out however that either someone was in the studio and left both doors open or I didn’t latch them properly and  the wind some how was strong enough blow them both open.  I personally going with the wind and that evil vortex from hell that invaded my back yard. Ultimately I ended up spending several hours cleaning snow out of the studio but there appears to be nothing missing and the only damage was a couple of lbs of welding rod got covered in snow.  The rods are know in the oven drying and I am going to declare the rest of the day a snow day and eat shepherds pie, have a glass of wine and watch TV. And for the record I ache all over.  Such is the life I have chosen, at least it has its challenges, even if most of them were self inflicted by my own actions or lack of actions.

 

 

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And A Gooder day It Is

It is shortly after 8am as I sit down in front of the keyboard, this may not seem startling or even unusual to most of you but for me it is a good 2 hours before I even consider getting out of bed.  I have coffee made and a fire started in the furnace in my studio and am know just waiting for the the studio to warm up and I am there for the day.  The inspiration for this unholy early morning attack on the day may well be in part due the massive influx of sugar into my system by the large bowl of  ice cream (first of two) I ingested last night but is mostly due to several hours spent with my oldest daughter and her husband yesterday.

Briefly, so as not to bore the regular readers (both of you) I live close to an hour from a major city and because of financial restrictions I am unable to keep plates on my van so I rely on my two daughters to be my lifeline to civilization.  Yesterday Shannon and Travis brought me this months groceries and some other odds and ends that I needed, thus the ice cream frenzy. The idea is this is a once a month trip, however never works that way and they usually end up coming out some time towards the middle of the month as well.   I love this arrangement, their van broke down and they needed time to save up the money to repair it and my van was sitting here with now plates on it because I had no money.  So presto they have a van to use and I have indentured delivery children, everyone, or at least me, wins.

Now that I have completely digressed from my original point let us return to why I am out of bed and so dramatically inclined to get to the studio as well as do blog entry almost a week ahead of some imagined and never hithered to schedule. (One might also add the questionable use of archaic old English words).  While the kids were here we spent several hours discussing the general facets of existence,  politics, religion, why so many of my friends are sick, and just general adultish stuff. If you read my previous blog you may have garnered that I tend to minimize long involved adult conversations. And while that is true I have a very close relationship with both of my daughters and they are in fact both my muses and the force that pushes me forward through each day.  I rely on them to tell me when I get to close to the edge as well as to push me towards it should I stray to far back towards normalcy. It was not just a good day, it was a great day, aside from getting ice cream, cigars, and welding rods, I got several hours with half of the inner circle that makes me what I am.  I came into today well rested, well fed, and prepared to face another onslaught of the world.  Which started this morning.

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Yes that is more snow, it seems the weather is going to cool down for a bit and we are going to get a tad more of the white stuff. This normally wouldn’t be an issue at all but I am now under the gun to prepare for my annual solo show opening the end of April. There are two issues here, first I am woefully short of firewood and heating the studio once it gets below freezing uses a lot of wood. I am now stealing firewood from the house stock pile, which means I am carrying it out of the basement to the shop.  It also means I am using the electric base board heaters to heat the living are in the house, which is a little costly but better that burning the furniture and the books.  This of course is due to some bad time and money management last summer, and of course is my fault.  Secondly there is an issue with a fairly large bill at the place that supplys my oxygen and acetylene which I need to continue on creating.  In the spring the flowers I make  sell fairly quickly and this is the income I was hoping to use to cover this bill, however in order to make them I need to be able to work outside at least to paint them.  This will set this back more than I had hoped and my create a bottle neck in my limited income.

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So be this as it may I still am excited to get back to work and I will make things happen and one way or another I will create more art and I will continue on this bizarre little existence that I have chosen.  There are several things that make this possible, not the least of which is remarkable support from several friends and relatives, but without the support and guidance of my two daughters and their husbands none of what I am today could have ever been achieved.  Shannon and Travis Durand, Amy and Eric Afseth you are my forever heroes.  If any good ever comes from my existence it lays directly at your feet.

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