Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Abandoned Diving Pool

Abandoned Diving Pool, Astoria, 2015, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches

Over the years this location has always been in the back of my mind.  I left it to brew in my head waiting for the right time for me to tackle a composition with so many components such as this one.  It's hard to miss area of Astoria Park, especially in the summer when on one side you have a large pool filled with people trying to cool off, and just to the south of the fence is this site of an abandoned diving pool, left to decay for decades. When looking at the two it's difficult not to think about the vitality of youth and slow withering of things and beings with age.  Once this used to be the venue for Olympic trials, it was from these platforms that athletes not only jumped into the water below but also to a brighter future.  As it happens with most things, in time they are forgotten, left alone and soon they become a ghost of what they used to be.  There has always been something about this place that attracts me, and in my runs through the park I would always stop to look at for a minute or two; a sign of respect and acknowledgement.  Recently I learned that plans have been made to refurbish the pool into a public amphitheater, a nice plan, but wouldn't it be better to restore it to its former glory?  Think of the greater good it could do to the community, it could give kids in the area something to do and aspire to.  The idea of the amphitheater has was proposed a few years back, it is not sure how much longer it will take, but in the meantime, this Olympic veteran sits still aging and waiting for a second chance.

For more on the history of the Astoria Park Pool click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sketchbook Making

In Christmas of 2009 I was given the second greatest gift I have ever received, a hand bound leather sketchbook with Italian handmade paper.  I had seen this book, and others like it at one of the booths in the Union Square Christmas Shops.  Every year I would go to the shops and look through these sketchbooks and say to myself that one day I would be able to afford one just like it.  These beautiful books sold at about $150, or more, each.  That's a pretty penny to pay for a sketchbook, especially for some one in their early twenties earning a low income in NYC.  My wish was granted and to my surprise this book was put in my hands that Christmas.  I was of course elated, and at the same time scared to even make a scratch on any of the pages.  Fast forward to October 2012 I finally began using this book in one of my trips. Since then it's become my watercolor travel journal.   
In the last three years I have been looking for a new supplier of this type of book; unfortunately the people who used to sell it at the yearly Union Square Christmas Shops stopped showing up.  I have found many leather bound books and suppliers but the difficulty is finding the right kind of paper that would be suitable for pencil or watercolor.  Most books are made with thin paper, or Japanese rice paper which is good for writing but not for my purposes. At some point last year I decided to make my own leather bound books.  I came across cream Arches Cover paper, which is cold pressed and it's very similar to watercolor paper.  I bough a stack from the left over stock of Pearl Paint when they closed in April of 2014.  I was able to get enough paper for two large sketchbooks. 
After putting together the stories I began searching for leather supply, but buying leather in NYC is too expensive, and I did not want to buy leather online because I wanted to look and feel it before making my choice.  For over a year my sketchbook paper sat on my desk, waiting for the leather.  To my surprise, the fabric store around the corner from my apartment, in Queens, sold leather.  I found a piece large enough to cover both books at an amazing price.  It was time to go to work. 
Last week I was able to stitch this book together and I am very proud with the final product.  Two nights ago I finished the second book, which did not come out as nice as the first one, but this is all part of learning.  I have lots of paper that can be turned into books, I don't think I will be buying more sketchbooks any time soon. 
Thank you to Jarod, my partner in crime, for always supporting my art endeavors and for the beautiful gift six years ago.  As to the first greatest gift I have ever received you ask?  For my 19th birthday my parents bought me a wood easel, the same one I still use and after sixteen years it remains a solid and faithful comrade.   

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

New Monotypes

River Bend, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

These are the two monotypes I completed at the Salmagundi monotype party last week. As always, trying to get two done in less than three hours can be a challenge, not only in speed but also to the imagination. I keep a small sketchbook where I have been doing some thumbnail sketches for these monotypes, but it seems like I'm running out of material.  Trying to come up with imaginary landscapes that work compositionally is not as easy.  
Dusk: Trail at the Edge of the Woods, 2015, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Sometimes things don't work as well as you think, and other times when you least expect it you are surprised by the final product.  This is the case with this print.  I had made a drawing in my sketchbook many months ago, and although I loved the sketch something was keeping me from doing something with it.  I was not sure if it will turn into a painting, or a monotype, or remain as an idea in the book.  As always, at the end of the printing session, when I'm down to the last hour to make one more print, I make quick decisions as to the kind of image I will be working on and the way that I will execute it.  It turns out that my second prints always turn out better than the first, at least this is what I gather from some comments I have received on this specific image.  Time to go back to the sketchbook and do some more sketches for future prints.  The question I ask myself these days, aside from being a painter, can I now call myself a printmaker?