Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Thoughts on the Summer Makings Process

I’ve been productive this summer. Normally I wake up around eight o’clock and put on the coffee. I watch twenty minutes of online videos, have a couple cups of coffee, and go upstairs to work. This year getting things done is made easier by the inclusion of an air-conditioner. I don’t have to work upstairs until it gets too hot then move downstairs. Around lunchtime I eat, and then head back to whatever I was doing. Sometimes I set up the tables in the backyard to paint books. This means that I have production going in all floors of the homestead. I make collages upstairs and then go to the main floor where I make transfers and let things dry out, then I’m in the backyard to put on another layer of paint. I try and do this until about three o’clock in the afternoon when Misty gets home. In a good day I end having a solid six hours of creative activity. 

I've made 77 collages so far this summer, this is three of those. 
When I’m working during the day, I tend to leave less creative minded tasks for the evening. If Misty has to go to work the next day, I don’t want to be too loud so I try and scan things in the evenings, or put addresses on envelopes, or anything that keeps me from moving around too much. This period lasts from about 10 pm until 12 or maybe 1 o’clock in the morning.

My goal this summer has been to use as few of pieces of material as possible. I’ve been avoiding doing the assault on the eyes type of collages where every inch of the card is filled with color. Mainly I’ve been making collages out of transfers I do in the kitchen sink. Like usual these transfers are made from old magazines that I’ve collected over the years. The older the better since the paper and the image separates unlike with new magazines that don’t work out all that well. The less obtrusive collages are done in three different sizes, small bingo cards, slightly bigger than 5x7 ones, and collages on large watercolor paper. The latter of which I add spray-paint to give the composition a little more movement. As I move through the process, I use all of the random pieces of tape leftover from the transfers. When I start this process, the images are clear and big and clean, by the end of it I have lots of little scraps that clutter things up more. In the morning I can get through a nice pile of these and then in the evenings I tape them up and then scan them. I scan all the collages! The next day I might put them in envelopes with some other items and in a week they’re gone.

Because I’m working on things more than I ever have, I have a lot of items laying around upstairs. Not wanting to hold onto these things forever I’ve noticed that the packages I’ve made are getting fatter. I’m putting a lot more into a single mailing than I ever have, this goes for what I send out of the country as well. Most weekly trips to the post office are floating around 50 dollars.

One of the things that I pad out my packages with are the add and passes and broadsides. Before I left work for the summer, I made sure to make a nice pile of these, quickly. I generally put a few in each package depending on the size of the collage. To me the “main event” is always the collage with the other things tossed into justify the exorbitant cost of shipping. Might as well throw in a couple of add and passes if I’m making a package. The problem is that the general tenor in mail-art is to get annoyed with add and passes. Somehow, I’m seen as only making add and passes, which is far from the truth. I don’t even like them all that much. The other day someone wrote on the front of an envelope in a condescending tone, “Thanks for not sending add and passes, as usual.” I send as many collages as I do add and passes but no one seems to remember, or comment on those. Use the paper to make something else, why be so annoyed? I never comment on what anyone sends. Either way, that initial printed pile is starting to dwindle as I mix old add and passes and broadsides with new collages. I won’t be back at the nice printers until August. The digital to be printed” pile is growing, which means I’m not going to use any of the old images started in a little over a month. 

A broadside made from pieces left on the work table. This one is waiting to be printed. 
Yesterday I was reading a book about Robert Rauschenberg. He was given advice from Leo Castelli to save one in four paintings he made. Obviously, I’m not that good, so I don’t need to save one in four collages. For the first ten years of making things I rarely saved anything, like nothing at all. I mailed out everything! Only in the past year have I started to collect the collages that I really like, maybe one in ten or maybe one in fifteen. I put these in small binders so I can flip through them, at best they might be good reminders of what I’ve done, or ideas when I’m in a rut. This goes from the smaller ones on bingo cards to the bigger ones I put on watercolor paper and save in artist portfolios. In the back of my mind the bigger ones I’m saving for a show that’ll never happen. No one is interested in buying things, so it seems silly to try and sell them…but I have them.

The images from the photo shoot that Daniel and I did a couple months back have started to take on their own life. First, I made things from those images, but now those images are coming back to me in new contexts. They’re getting further divorced from their initial creation, which to me, is the best part of it. Someone used one of those images on the front of an envelope recently. I then scanned that image and I’m starting to use it as a jumping off point for new collages. Hopefully that image will appear elsewhere, and it’ll get altered again and again. 
The photo shoot images moving further away from their initial creation. 

I’m obsessed with making those spray-painted children’s board books. My thoughts have jumped all around with them. At first, I thought they were interesting and unique by themselves. I then made so many of them that I started to get bored with the finished result. There’s only so much you can do with stencils, spray-paint, and acrylic, I initially sent them around with the specific idea for people to add and pass them, which always returns very little results. If you tell people to add and pass them, they’ll never go anywhere. I then gave instructions that people could save them, that they were a finished thing and well…I never saw those again either. A couple have come back but dozens are still floating around. I’ve come to the realization that I just like making them, so I’m going to continue. Occasionally, a pattern will emerge that I find new and excited, which is rare, though. I just enjoy making them. Since they take weeks to complete, because I must wait days for pages to dry, I mail them in large groups. I have no idea if anyone enjoys the completed process. There’s six packaged and waiting to go right now.

Scans of some of the board books. 
And lastly, I’ve been slightly focused on cleaning up my area. Outside of summer break I don’t have much time to create so spending that time going through things is a waste of time. If I have an hour, I need to use that hour as best I can. I’ve been tossing things I can’t find any immediate use for. I’m especially focusing on tossing things that I haven’t used in years, or even ever. I know there’s things up there that I could find a use for, I just don’t want to wait for that day to come. I worry that the collection of random shit will get so out of hand that I won’t have any space to move so I’m preemptively thinning things out. 1960’s Life Magazines will always be key to the collection, Post Magazine is fine too, but Look Magazine is best.


C Mehrl Bennett said...

I love your children's hard page books after you've spray painted them, Jon. Hope you liked the one John and I altered and returned to you. Sorry that you took my comment on the envelope to heART, though - I did put a smiley face after it and did not mean it as criticism. It was only informed by mailart I've received from you personally, but it is wonderful to read here about your multitude of projects aside from Add&Passes, and if my comment inspired it, then I'm glad i made it! Wishing you six hours of creative play all summer long, Jon. See you soon at AfterMAF, I hope.

zzzzzzzz said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, and I did enjoy what you guys did with the book I sent you. When I get back I'm going to go through the last big pile of things and scan and post what I've received, much appreciated.

I didn't feel it was criticism at all, just a statement that connected to similar feedback I was getting at the time. Strange timing, I guess. I didn't take it personally.

I'll see you VA in a short time.

back.roads said...

Jon, as always, I enjoyed reading your blog. I envy you your many hours of creativity in the summer. :-) I was a very bad girl (as you know) and had a stockpile of Add & Passes from several years back. I sent all of them on to others at the end of May 2019, including those I had from you. I am sorry for hanging on to them for so long and causing a much longer time in the end for you to receive them back. :-( There was one A&P from you, a larger spiral bound (I think) book, that had specific names to send to. I sent it on to the person after me, someone in Washington state. (Can't remember who, now.) It's frustrating to not receive A&Ps back, especially after sending out so many. Please forgive me for keeping them in my possession for so long. I do hope they all find their way back to you! You have been more than generous with the art and ephemera you have shared. It is all very much appreciated. Here's to a creatively fulfilling summer!

zzzzzzzz said...

@ back.roads - Thanks so much for reading. Don't worry about the timeframe that it takes to send ADD and PASSES, it's simply great to know that they're getting moved around or at least used in some other composition. The only thing I've truly learned about those random sheets of paper is to be patient, no worries there at all. When you can get around to sending them go for it, there's an expectation that things might come back, but not a guarantee. It's all part of the game.

back.roads said...

Thank you, Jon, for your kind and understanding words.

Thoughts on the Summer Makings Process

I’ve been productive this summer. Normally I wake up around eight o’clock and put on the coffee. I watch twenty minutes of online videos,...