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This review was written for my work blog, Read @ MPL. Enjoy!

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey is incredibly fantastic, offering a peek into the lives (and perhaps minds) of great cultural figures. The project started as a blog, so it has that same short, easy-reading format.

The book covers authors, composers, poets, artists, scientists, mathematicians, inventors, and filmmakers; and the huge variety in how different people create. Some toil waiting for inspiration, others chug ahead day after day. There are early risers (like W.H. Auden who said, “Only the ‘Hitlers of the world’ work at night; no honest artist does.” Harsh!), night owls (Jackson Pollock said, “I’ve got the old Eighth Street habit of sleeping all day and working all night pretty well licked. So has [my wife] Lee. We had to, or lose the respect of the neighbors.”), and nappers (Buckminster Fuller practiced “high frequency sleep” where he slept for 30 minutes after every 6 hours of work). There are many parents who write while their children are napping (Alice Munro and Sylvia Plath are two) and civil servants and blue collar workers who work after a full day on a job (like Anthony Trollope and Joseph Cornell).

And their eating habits! Holy moly, their eating habits! Soren Kierkegaard would pour sugar into his coffee cup so it was piled to the rim, and then slowly pour coffee in until it dissolved. He would down that concoction swiftly, then chase it with a sherry. Beethoven counted the beans in each cup of coffee (60, if you’re interested). Patricia Highsmith didn’t care much for food – an acquaintance remarked that “she only ever ate American bacon, fried eggs and cereal, all at odd times of the day.”

Currey focuses on the ritual, not necessarily the product. All of these individuals produced great work, but with wildly varying levels of productivity. People have quested for the perfect routine since the beginning of time, and this book is evidence that there are as many productive ways to work as there are people getting work done.  This book can also serve as inspiration for people looking to change up or tweak their routine.

As a sneak peek, here is Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine as outlined in his Autobiography.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Allie has
read 27 books toward her goal of 100 books.
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This is the first of a few “ghostly” posts in honor of Halloween.  School is also getting busier, so I have less time to putz around on the internet and write about paper and clay.

Anyways, yesterday I set out to scan a printmaking project I did in Australia.  It is a series of 100 self portraits that I made with 1 plate and several texture plates.  Some of the prints I altered and some other people altered.  I also did tons of “ghost prints”, which is where you run a plate through the press more than once without inking it again in between.

Each plate has its own key to how I printed it, which is sort of like a fingerprint.  For instance, if the texture plate was printed first then the face is embossed.  I can match prints by looking at where and how the ink spread.  A few of the plates were colored with a watercolor and dish soap method before they were printed, instead of colored after.  I printed mostly intaglio (where you ink the plate, the ink gets into the etched lines, then you wipe the flat surfaces to get the white tone back), but sometimes I printed my plate relief (ink on the surface of the plate, no ink in the etched lines).  I even printed a few using both methods.  I also printed on top of friends’ ghost prints.  I basically hung around the press while people were editioning and asked nicely if I could run my paper through before they inked it again.  When I show all the prints, I arrange them in a grid, with related prints spread out.  A lot of the prints look like they are related, but they’re not.  When assembled all together, it’s fun to find which ones are related.

This is by far the largest series I have. I printed the face plate first, texture second, then ghost-printed the texture plate.

This plate was over-inked so the ink would spread, and then ghost-printed normally. You can see how the lines are raised instead of flat because no texture plates squashed the ink. The third ghost was altered by Shannon.

 

This texture plate I forgot in the acid for a really, really long time (4+ hours I think). It was printed second and then ghost-printed. You can sort of see the original texture in the top right, where the cork holding it up provided a resist.

This series was made with the face plate printed first, then a tinted texture plate.

 

Pretty soon I will update the “Gallery” section with these prints.  Right now I am assembling them into mini-grids, which is pretty time consuming when I have 100+ prints to choose from.

I just finished working on a project drawing imagery from the book and subsequent movie Wisconsin Death Trip. It’s a loose interpretation of Wisconsin history from about 1890-1900 wherein many, many people seemed to go crazy and did extremely strange and violent things to themselves, their property, their families, strangers, their communities, etc.  It is not scary like the title might suggest, but instead extremely captivating, haunting, and enigmatic.

The main part of this project is doing majolica paintings of some of the people and events from the book on hand built and thrown vessels.  I am largely using the photography of Charles van Schaick, who was a professional photographer working in Black River Falls who took all of the photographs used in the book.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has an entire collection of his photographs which you can view as part of their incredible online image archives.

But I also wanted to include some imagery of the Mendota Asylum, which happens to be a Kirkbride building and the place where many people were committed during this period.  Kirkbride buildings were a bunch of asylums made according to the ideas of Thomas Story Kirkbride, built in many different styles all around the United States, many of which have unfortunately been demolished.  After watching a video in this post about transferring images to clay using a photo-lithographic process at Ceramic Arts Daily, I decided to try it and make some tiles with historic images of Kirkbride asylums.  The first run of tiles (which were quite small) were not very dark, so next time I plan to up the contrast and use slightly larger images.  The second batch turned out much darker and were a lot larger.  It’s definitely a process I want to try out again soon.

Here are some images of my larger pieces before I fired them:

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