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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.

Gert Germeraad is a Swedish artist I quite like, who works mainly in ceramic sculptures.  I first encountered his work on access ceramics, which has images from his “Depicting Criminals” series.  The criminals in the series are actually people arrested by the gestapo during World War II, and their crimes (like “escape from work” and “illegal relations”) are part of the title of each piece.  What initially drew me into the work was Germeraad’s beautiful visual sensibility combined with the subtle approach to a challenging subject matter.  Much of his work focuses on portraiture and human expression.  From his website:

According to the American psychologist Paul Ekman, there are only a few ‘basic’ facial expressions which are worldwide the same, independent on culture.
These expressions are: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and, although less clear, contempt.

Germeraad explores the universality of expressions in his series “Portrait of a Man”.  The piece is a series of busts of one man, each with one of the basic human facial expressions.  It is odd and true that one can identify and identify with the expressions.

Portrait of a man, 2004 - 2006, ceramic and pigments (water color painted after firing at 1200° C)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love a good series.  Germeraad really does a series well.  Repeated images are always really striking and add weight to the subject matter.  A single expressive portrait of a man could be interesting, beautiful, and moving.  But 9 portraits of the same man has a much greater effect.  You see progression, you see contrast.

Another series I love is based on physiognomy — the assessment of a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance, especially the face.  It was a popular school of thought in the middle ages, but was also revived in the 20th century.  Germeraad took physiognomic descriptions of different indicators and sculpted them into faces.  The expressions are blank, and the faces themselves are  normal yet somehow looking at them evokes an odd reaction in me.  The descriptions are pretty outlandish and it’s clear that you cannot infer the sum total of someone’s character by examining their face.  When I encounter these sculptures, I think about the absurdity of the descriptions but also the kinds of snap judgments I might make if I met these people.

For the junior art seminar (which I took as a senior), we had to create a blog on a theme.  My group’s theme was color, and Gert Germeraad was one of the artists I chose (the other was Misty Gamble).  Many ceramic artists look down on using non-ceramic, non-glaze methods of coloring pieces.  Ceramics can be sort of cultish, and using a non-ceramic process to color a piece is seen as sacrilegious in some circles.  Obviously Germeraad doesn’t subscribe to that.  After the piece is complete, he colors the work with watercolor.  I think this adds dimension and a tenderness to the pieces in a way that underglaze or glaze couldn’t.

For more information about Gert Germeraad and more images of his work, you can visit his website at

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.