Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I have been under a bit of a deadline with the gallery that currently represents my work. As such, I have been trying to complete a small series of "Park" drawings. A number of which have recently been posted. This past saturday my plan was to load my gear and get out early, so as to have ample time to complete the 5th in a series of five drawings. Well, the prior evening, my plan took a rather swift and dramatic turn. Around 10:30pm, while working at the computer I noticed that in the shadows of the landing was a fluttering dark shape. I was focused on the matter at hand, but my instincts reacted, as I have seen and felt this before....not another moment passed and as I glanced over to take notice, I dropped to the floor as a bat was moving through my bedroom on a direct path towards me....well as direct as a bat ever seems to fly. I say that I have seen and felt this before, because it seems we have a bit of an annual bat colony in our "belfry". The first I encountered was in 2000. Our roof was being torn off and replaced. It was the early fall. In the late afternoon I was outside walking amidst the debris and I noticed a small creature in bad shape. He must have been startled awake during the tear off of that section and ended up badly injured, now three stories below and exposed to the world.
Since that time I have had to capture and remove over a dozen bats. Usually a couple each season loose their way on their departure run and end up trapped in the house. And as much as I admire and even love the little devil's, they just can't stay. The first one I mentioned surley died....he was just to beat up from the demo work that likely awoke him. Several years later one died while we were out east on our annual run to the ocean in Maine. It took a few days to track the faint smell of death down, but eventually I located his final resting spot. There have been a couple that have been dinged up by my cats..one of which is coincindentally named "batman".
Sadly, I had to kill one bat this past winter. Though I always go to great lengths to put them back in the wild alive and well. So, on this most recent occasion after much consternation, I decided to contain him in the sun porch and just sleep on it. They move much slower in the daylight and seem less so that they might actually be a vampire. In the morning, after coffee....I got the nerve up to capture my winged friend. When I found his resting place he was none to happy, and made a point of showing me all his teeth. I must admit that they seemed larger and more plentiful, than any creature his size should have. He was tucked into a blanket that was sandwiched between the wall and the day bed. I carefully cleared the room of stuff that I would likely trip over, should the capture go horribly wrong. And then went to gather my miscellaneous bat capture gear. I had an old mailing tube, so I decided to fashion a receptecle for the little fellow. You see, the reason I decided to sleep on it was because he was acting rather strange and aggressive the prior evening. We have had one survivor from a rabid bat bite in Wisconsin...I figure the odds of another survival follwing a similar incident are not so good. So it became evident at some point that he might need to be not only captured, but also be tested. And to get him tested he needed to be transported to the Humane Society, so I made the carrier pictured above. With a bit of care, a dose of patience and the aid of my nets, one attatched to a painter's extension pole, I eventually coaxed him into the tube, sealed him up and made sure he had air. To arrive at my drawing site, I knew that I would be heading In the direction of my local Humane Society. And so, this particular bat is the rare creature to have gone for a ride on a bicycle. I eventually managed to complete that fifth drawing on site in the V.A. Grounds.
a view of my grass floor studio from above
a bicyclejazz short animation. Also posted on YouTube for slightly better viewing quality
V.A. Grounds 4
V.A. Grounds 4: detail
Friday, July 24, 2009
Despite the threat of rain I ventured back to Washington Park for the third drawing in a series that seems to be developing around an area of brush, tall grasses and wild flowers. It is a bit like an organised and mediated prairie restoration, but I think it exists because it costs the county capital to maintain a fully manicured space. Whatever the case may be I am sure glad it exists.
about an hour into settling on a view I needed to head for cover. the shower was light and brief and I was able to continue and find some resolution...this one was a struggle.
Washington Park 3
Washington Park 3: detail I
Washington Park 3: detail II
...In the field 2
...this is the second in an ongoing series of bicyclejazz shorts. Also posted on YouTube and viewed at a higher quality
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I have been working on some new drawings. I thought I might list some of the specifics and then let the work speak for itself. In this posting, below, is the first of my short films, "In the field". It precedes the work that came from that days effort. All of the pieces are drawn on Rives BFK. The painterly quality of the material is a direct result of using Sennilier oil sticks. They are the closest thing to painting as I ever get, while still "drawing". They are all small pieces, 9.5 x 4 inches, in a letterbox format. they are all singular session pieces. Though, they do get night picked a bit in the studio...
Washington Park 1
Washington Park 1: detail
Washington Park 2
Washington Park 2: detail
...In the field
The first in what will be an ongoing series of bicyclejazz short films. It can be viewed on YouTube at a higher quality
V.A. Grounds 3: detail
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
In life, very few people end up pursuing their childhood " what'dya wanna be when you grow up?". It's hard to become that fireman or police woman. And it just may not have the same shine it held in our mind's eye, as one grows toward maturity...to say nothing of the odds of becoming an Astronaut...or President.
I am part of, what I suspect is a minority. I have arrived at a place I vaguely imagined and even romanticized as a young boy. I became an Artist. A painter to be exact. Ever since the first grade, when I won a ribbon for my 'stunning' portrait of Dracula I never really looked back or veered too far off course....I may not have become specifically an animator or comic book illustrator, but I have and continue to pursue my craft in depth and with certitude.
Today I had a moment of serendipity. In a part of the outlying area to my fair city, an area I am not in often, I ran into the man who may be in large measure responsible for my having gone on to pursue drawing and painting. There were many who encouraged my interest in art as a young man, but this man taught me how to see. He taught me how to use my eyes and how to think about what I see. He was the first to open my awareness to the fact that the result of two-dimensional work of art is always inherently abstract. And that no matter how illusory, naturalistic or "real" an image appears, it is first a series of decisions about color, value and shape. Adorned and articulated by some arrangement of marks and material on the surface of a substrate. This man's name is Roger Gifford, and to him I owe a great deal of gratitude.
At this point in the summer of 2009 I have been to Maine and back with my family, with a few stops along the way and a bit of riding in new places. I have missed out on some rides I had planned on . Weather has played a role, but getting my health under control became paramount. Living with a 5, 4 & 2 year old leaves my antibodies on high alert. This past winter I was overrun. Though, I am happy to report that in recent weeks I have come full circle and manged a wonderful solo bicycle/camping adventure and have begun some new drawings from the field. I hope to touch on all these topics, and others in the coming weeks...
Monday, April 27, 2009
On or around the ides of March my now freshly reconsidered and rejiggered brevet bike came out of the trainer pegs and had to be placed on the pavement. Though March and April have had their share of feeling more like January and February, my ability to daydream while stationary and below ground level, grew stale. So, I have begun another season; once again, possessed by the goal of riding as a randonneur.
The Saluki went through a final transformation over the winter. In the four years since this project began in earnest, it has now arrived at the place I vaguely envisioned early on. In building this bicycle I have searched for parts and components, new and old stock. Items of the moment as well as choice elements now out of production. Though, some of the changes I have made were done so for aesthetic reasoning, most have been under the auspices of what makes a highly versatile brevet machine. On the side of "bicycle jewelry" I installed these lovely (Constructeur influenced) VO brake cable hangers
One of my beef's about the Saluki from the start has been the shimmy in the front end. Rivendell sells their production framesets with Shimano Ultegra headsets. I had always found this bike difficult to ride with no hands. And felt that the problem was this headset. I was lucky to procure a venerable stronglight A-9, complete with needle bearings. Many have commented on this particular component working miracles for this very problem. I would have to concur. Though the Saluki could still have improved geometric trail, to be optimal in this regard.
The Nitto randonneur h-bar setup with Cane Creek aero brake levers came off my Waterford, which was liquidated to help fund the most notable inclusion. The Schmidt Dynohub lighting system (see prior posting 2/12/09...) wired to a single Edelux headlight and a vintage Luxor taillight that is nicely matched to my Honjo hammertone fenders (I intend to convert the Luxor light to LED and so is currently unfinished).
Thus far, the system seems to be magnificent in all respects. I have yet to be in the deep country with no other light source, however, I have made a point of finding well covered trails on some of my night rides. It's astonishing to me that a light powered by a human on a bike can be this bright and effective, not to mention....efficient! As for it's ability to function well in heavy rain, I would have to give the system an A+.....as of this past weekend, it has now been through a near all day rain while out on the first 200k brevet of the season (more on this to follow).....
In the days prior to the GLR 200k brevet, many hours were spent finalizing the items, gear & food I would bring. I am certain I carried far more than I really needed, however I made decisions based on how I would like to be covered on a 400, 600 or even 1200k. So, I assembled tire and tubes (1 tire, 3 tubes). The Saluki being a less common tire size it only makes sense to be overly covered. I also had a patch kit and a small tube of super glue for any small holes where glass or metal may have embedded. A 35mm film container held some spare bolts and I wrapped a bit of gaffers tape around the outside. My first aid pouch held a number of potentially useful items including key medicinals. Though this ride was done with plenty of available daylight, I did carry my battery lighting. 1 LED headlight and 2 LED red rear lights. I also had spare batteries. The rules of brevet riding also call for reflective wear for both ankles and some sort of torso coverage, front and back.
The forecast was for a cold front that would surely bring rain (and it surely did!) so I loaded my rain wear pouch with jacket, gloves and newly acquired Craft Bullet pants. I should thank my good man Jim @ National Bicycle Co. who helped get these for me just in the nick of time. I am not sure I would have been able to complete the ride without these! Along with the usual necessary tools, the last notable element in my bag was a full set of cables for shifters and brakes...all cut to size with the ends soldered. This may seem over the top, but the alternative is trying to cut cable on the roadside with some kind of pocket tool....if you have ever tried, you know how the results look...usually a frayed mess of unraveled cable. With the exception of my rain wear bag, all my items were stowed in either my front bag or small saddle bag. I weighed around 157lb. the day before the ride and was curious enough to drag the house scale to the basement shop to see how my total weight was running. So, while holding my bike fully loaded standing on the scale the reading was just over 197lb. My luggage and gear weighed nearly 12lbs. I should say..I am not the type to obsess about weight, but I was curious to know what I would drag along.
The Saluki spent most of the week prior hanging on the work stand. I made some overdue adjustments from the spring training, cleaned the drive train and replaced my brake pads. I then proceeded to check each bolt for tightness and made a few other adjustments as the week went on. Because of the forecast, I needed a place to strap down my rain gear. So I chose to install my new Nitto Campee rear rack (without the low rider attachments). I had to cut and drill to fit, but now assembled it is a fine inclusion to the rig and will serve many purposes. It has become increasingly difficult for me to understand why you would want a bike without proper lighting, racks and fenders?!
The day before the ride was a sunny and blustery 80 degrees. Ahead of the cold front was a big pocket of summer that I thought would last through most of the following day...I was wrong...never the less...I spent time the day before taking in the sun and warm air while doing some final wheel cleaning in my yard. My daughter Oona was on quality control.
"Ride in weather most people won't." -Grant Petersen Rivendell Bicycle Works
On the morning of the ride I awoke at 4:20. When I first stepped outside to load my bike and gear for the hour drive to Delavan, WI the air was still balmy. The wind was less than 5 mph, if not still. It felt like an early morning in south Florida. Even with the less than desirable forecast, there were twice as many riders in the lot at the Super 8 parking lot. I would say near 2 dozen set out, though I am not sure if everyone finished? After a few short words from the GLR officials we were off just after 7 am. The first hour of riding was the last hour of weather that would be considered fair, and even at that the wind was persistent on the lead of this front. Our track was to the WNW towards Madison, WI. The prevailing winds were either head or crossing. Neither of which is very forgiving at 15+ mph. Ahead of the front the rain was scattered and the temps were still moderate in the low 60's. While in the second hour on the road, we knew this would change as we approached the front...
...a view of the horizon as we met the front...
The other side of the front was eventually better than 20 degrees cooler than how the day started. It felt even colder given the wind and rain.
It became clear that it was time to put on some coverage...above is my riding partner and older brother...may I just say...thank god for older siblings! We have been on many rides in the past few years. Some organized others not. He is a hell of a strong rider and a natural climber, a far better athlete than I am, but he is less inclined to all the trappings that may come with being smitten with all the cyclo-touring lore. Had I been any less spellbound we would have turned around early in the day. However, I was not interested in a DNF. It seemed like we were prepared for the adventure...and he being the good big brother, persevered in ways most people just would not have.
...all things considered, that day was not without a certain beauty..above is looking back as we transitioned into what would become a personal cycling jihad for the day...
...the remainder of the day looked much like this...The temps. hovered in the forties, the wind started out of the WSW was eventually NW and rarely ever seemed to help. The route had us on several shoulderless roads for a fair distance next to 55 mph traffic, though not a high volume was out there. Still, I would have preferred spending less time on these types of roads. I think it is fair to say that the route was more disappointing than the weather. Given that these same roads will be used for the other distances I am not sure I would want to be that exposed after nightfall. Which will be the case for riders of the 300, 400 & 600k brevets. And I think that there are many alternative roadways in the area to accomplish a potentially safer experience. I trust my own night riding skills and savvy in traffic, and I would also take some solace in riding with others, but I do not trust many of the drivers on Wisconsin roads and highways on a late Saturday night or after bar time. Should riders continue through the night, these I think are legitimate concerns. I don't mean to be disparaging of the organizers of an otherwise fantastic series of brevets. I know that a great deal of energy and resources are spent by those involved in the organization. And planning a route is not an easy task, but I do believe that one of Wisconsin's assets is an abundance of relatively well maintained country roads that offer light vehicle traffic.
...Though, we aren't talking biblical amounts, it did rain enough to do some flooding. This is on the way to Verona somewhere around the 50 mile mark.
Verona, WI (which is just SW of Madison) was our midway check point and our turnaround point. There we stopped a bit longer for some lunch. A Kwik Trip acted as our control. I had a salami sandwich, half a bowl of chicken chili and a coffee. Within 1/2 an hour we were on our way back to Delavan. My computer is in need of recalibration, but I can say that we covered better than 125 miles and were in the saddle over 9 hours. I had hoped to do more photo documentation and perhaps a bit of video, but given the weather, I became more focused on simply riding and enduring. We passed a couple of ethanol production facilities that I wish I had taken some captures of, as they were easily as ominous as any nuclear reactor I have encountered. And unfortunately for the locals not making any money off the plant...ethanol production sure does stink!
The night before this ride I was explaining to my oldest boy, Angelo (he is 5) that I would not be here when he got up and that I would be gone until bed time....that I was going on a bike ride with Uncle Craig....Angelo asked in a slight forlorn tone...why was I going on a ride? To which I anwered, "Angelo, I don't know?" Earlier today my brother sent an email and mentioned that he still could not understand how or why we did what we did.....I am still wondering, as well. While already mentally planning the upcoming 400 & 600k brevets I plan to ride this season.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
As St. Valentine's day is nearly upon us, I try to shake the stillness and dark of the northern winter. There are time's when I embrace the psuedo-hybernation that winter imposes, with the deep and bitter cold and the lack of sunlight. And then, winds change and days get longer. By chance a southerly airstream brings what feels like late march...if only for a few days. And I am reminded of all that is ahead. The feeling of time begins to accelerate, if ever so slightly. And new plans for bicycle journeys and the making of art begin to refresh my spirit.
In addition to general daily riding and commuting about the city, I enjoy doing several challenging group rides throughout the season. My riding partner is my older brother. together we have done rides like The Horribly Hilly Hundreds, The Brute or the Dairyland Dare. Rides that sound menacing, that you might think are full of painful miles alongside testosterone laden compatriots. And to a certain degree this is true, however, as the miles spread out one can find theirself virtually alone, enjoying the peace of a rugged prehistoric land, unchanged by the glaciers that have shaped much of the rest of Wisconsin. It is here in the driftless area that most of these rides take place. My brother and I tend towards the routes that are in the neighborhood of 200km. In this terrain that means 12,000 to 15,000 feet of climbing. so needless to say, one needs to "train". And as I have never been one to embrace this notion I am finding that it is a necessary routine to "ride" your bicycle to "nowhere" as much as possible, until which time as you can actively pursue forward motion in the open air once again!
I have been interested in venturing into rides known as "brevets" which are similar to the rides mentioned above. However, the big difference is that brevets are entirely self-supported and of varying lengths, from 200km to 600km. If one is involved in brevets that are sanctioned by RUSA, then you may qualify to ride in some of the more historical bicycle events that exist. Before there was a Tour de France many touring cyclists endured a challenge ride from Paris to the costal town of Brest and then back again to Paris......all this done in 90 hours or less. This is the grandaddy of them all known simply as the PBP. This is a 1200km event that runs every 4 years. the next one is in 2011. For several years now I have fantasized about traveling to do this and be part of the cycling history. So a major step towards this goal is to begin a series of brevets closer to home. I have somehow talked my brother into partnering up with me and we intend to ride in several of these staring in April with a 200km brevet sponsored by Great Lakes Randonneurs and culminating with a grand 600km brevet sponsored by Iowa Randonneurs. The latter must be completed in 40 continuous hours or less with stops at specific controls along the way to have one's control card stamped, proving that the route was maintained throughout. In the longer brevets, lighting becomes critical and is in fact required. Having done my research I decided to contract my bicycle heard by doing a bit of liquidating this winter, in order to have the funds to acquire a proper lighting system. Seen below is the latest version of a Schmidt Nabendynamo known as the SON 20R. This hub, according to information I have gleaned form sources like Peter White Cycles, is lighter and offers less resistance than earlier models. And though, it is designed for smaller wheels, when paired with a high quality LED light, will acheive full brightness at a very low speed. No need for heavy batteries as your own locomotion provides the necessary energy output. I have been thinking about investing in one of these hubs for a number of years, but with their high cost, I have held off.....until now. Given that I have decided to plunge headlong into the brevet scene, I felt that it woud be easier to justify. Afterall, cycling life in a city (in my experience) does not require lighting that would light up the road like a motorcycle light may. Cycling through the night on remote roads would be impossible without such a lighting system.
The Edelux light is the latest in LED technology from Schmidt in Germany. Since these hit the market last spring they have sold fast and furiously. I put my order in back in the early part of November and received my light at the very end of January. According to Peter White, it is the brightest single light he has seen. If you look over his site you will find pictures comparing the throw of lights from a number of different types and brands. and from those images one can see how this may be true.
Now that i have figured out my mounting position and hardware, all I have left to do is to wire the Edelux to the hub and wait for the streets to be reasonably clear of salt and let the night riding begin. I will follow up with my take on the pros & cons (if any) once I have put in suitable time and mileage
Thursday, January 8, 2009
The other night I rode across town to meet with a friend who is helping me with some digital wizardry. I am hoping to have a website up and running before the snow thaws this spring. When I left home, I headed out into a mild evening with the temperature around 30 degrees or just less. However, some light snow was picking up and the temperature was falling. The roads have been a bit trecherous as the infrastructure in many parts of town did not fare well coming out of our record snowfall & deeply cold winter of '07/'08. we have had considerable snow fall so far this season. Recently the temps. have been a bit higher than average and some rain and a recent ice storm had left the roads well burnished, and now all these trappings and pitfalls being covered by lovely white snow, here is what I learned:
- Falling happens often in these conditions.
- Goggles are only effective when you are traveling over 10 miles an hour, otherwise..steam bath for your eyeballs.
- studs may really be a good idea.
- it is possible to fall stylistically if not gracefully.
- drivers do not expect you to be out there, no matter how many bells are ringing or lights are blinking.
- best of all....when the roads are empty and everyone is home for the night in front of the tv; syncopated by your cadence, the sound of the snow under the tires is transcendental...
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Several years back, while teaching along the adjunct circuit at my local art schools, I found myself preaching a steady diet of spatial issues and their relationship to the strictly formal, two-dimensional dynamics. Richard Diebenkorn was my staple example of a painter keenly aware of the pliable perception of the picture plane and its ability to be transformed in the viewers eye into something more tangible, when given enough cues. And that a whole array of vocabulary can be employed to suggest a specific place or region.
Milwaukee is a city that was built on a large marshland. The rivers that form a confluence carve small paths in the surrounding areas and the land rises slowly and subltly from the water's edges. Being at the end of the Iron Belt in the upper midwest, Milwaukee has a rich history as a manufacturing center. Therefore, in large measure there are scores of low lying buildings that rise ever so slightly, in relationship to the earth and to each other. Milwaukee is a city that was cobbled together by many European craftsmen and being rather religious every group & every neighborhood has it's churches, mostly Catholic, and Lutheran and some Protestant. Church Spires pierce the sky near and far. Utilitarian structures are seen in contrast or in concert with the architecture of the divine. intertwined with nature, both cultivated and indigineous. Milwaukee has a wonderful park system that was devised in the early days of the city's growth. The immigrant's, German & others, thought of these vital greenspaces as the lungs of the city...and shame on County Exec. Scott Walker for neglecting this public heritage! ...I digress,...what I describe above are the elements that began to inform my work in the early part of the decade, when I called myself an instructor. Though I have drifted away from a life in academia, on other currents of life, I carry many of those experiences with me.
.....So, while teaching painting in a summer pre-college program, One of the many places & spaces I came to know intimately, was in our "backyard". I began to exploit this spot, as it offered many long vistas to gaze down. This is an area in the city, not far from the big lake and is in the basin of the city on the SE side. There is a great deal of industrial activity and a train line runs through. The detritus of years of commerce, shipping, storing and whatever activities, is apparent, though there is a rich growth of foliage as well. During one summer session, I decided that if the weather held I would have the students work on a panoramic composition. Given Milwaukee's history as one of the panorama house centers, it seemed appropriate to attempt. As you see above in my painting, Polyrhythm 1: Milwaukee Basin, students worked in a similar fashion to develop a series of small drawings on paper, from this site. I asked them to attempt to get as close to 360 degrees as possible. Most students seemed to fall somewhere between 90 and 180 degrees. After, a few days of drawing and little time to paint, the workshop came to a close and we hung the results in our final exhibition. Sadly, I did not adaquetly document these paintings. I was struck by their sense of rhythm, and and movement. They were layered and lyrical, and no matter the level of skill they all had a pulse! Following this experience I knew I had to try this project for myself.....
...I started my project in the waning days of summer, in late august of 2002. I too had intentions of recording 360 degrees of space, but only managed aproximately 100 degrees. I spent many afternoons drawing in graphite on the panels I had prepared earlier in the summer. At first I would go out with light drawing supplies and a panel or two. From where I parked..(this was prior to my bicycle drawing journeys)... the trek down the train tracks was several hundred yards to the point of view I had chosen. This was still a manageable walk. Once the paintings began in earnest I quickly realized a need to find a way to hike in with my supplies and all the panels. I of course needed them to be stable as I would leave with wet panels. I was painting these with an oil & beeswax medium, so they were slightly set-up as I would leave, but It was during the hot August sun and into the early color change of september.
...This, then, is the case I built to house the work as it was being transported.
...Most of this view has been built over by some light industrial expansion. I did not complete this painting until 2004, which followed the early days of the new construction. These images were shot in my studio this past week as I was getting work ready to drop off at Katie Gingrass Gallery
Friday, January 2, 2009
The following are a couple of shots taken while I was building frames for a show I put up this past fall. I am currently giving them some final touch up and coatings of oil, so they will be ready for delivery to the gallery this next week. I have recently been included in a group show at Katie Gingrass Gallery here in the Third Ward of Milwaukee. And naturally, I want the work to be tip top in terms of presentation. I have been making these frames in this way for many years now. The construction is an overlapping finger joint similar to joints used for drawer and furniture construction. Not a complicated joint, but one that is very effective and for me, aesthetically pleasing. I chose to cut them by hand because it just seems like a natural extension of my processes concerning the making of the work, be they drawings or prints. In the same way that the imperfect and irregular quality of the deckle egde is an extension of the grammar of the drawing, so is the evidence of hand in the stroke of the blade as the joint's parameters are being defined. I am sure there are more efficient and flawless ways of making a frame, but efficiency is a small part of the puzzle.
It is worth noting that a dear old friend of mine by the name of Richard Beda, showed me the way towards a kind of Japanese work ethic in the studio. We both had space in a building above Joe's East Coast Car Shop on Center Street in the Riverwest. This was in the early 1990's, shortly before the Fuel Cafe helped populate the neighborhood. Acting as an instructor, Richard showed me how to make joints using spare tools with precise marking. My first project was to make the very bench seen here in these pictures. This bench has served me through many projects and has traveled to Ohio and back. There it was certainly a centerpiece in my graduate school studio space. Today, it resides in my basement workshop and serves equal time as woodworking bench and bicycle mechanic's station.
.....a side benefit to this methodology is that there are no potentially "dangerous" power tools, so a nice IPA on the bench seems just fine...