Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Documenting the package project


Longtime readers of this blog may remember that in 2011 I did a regular art project in which I made bundles or packages of stuff that I found lying around in the studio or on the street.  Although I had set up a blog specifically to record my daily art projects, for some reason I never posted my packages.  I had rationalizations: it wasn't technically DAILY art because I only required at least one package per week, and I hadn't gotten around to doing a good job of photography.

Years passed, and at the end of August I had an impetus to clean up my act -- I am getting ready for a solo show about my regular art projects of the past.  I wanted to have my daily art blog up to date with everything I've done since 2010, and also wanted to publish a magazine about the package project.  That meant I needed to haul the packages out of storage and photograph them, which meant I needed a photography station with a better background than the green cutting mat that I had perched packages on at the time.

Fortunately I have in my possession a whole pack of foam core boards (yes, the corners are all bashed in, but that wasn't a problem with this particular use) and many yards of black cotton.  So I made a photo booth:

Here I'm shooting my sketchbooks from 2016, in which my daily art was drawing, but the same setup worked great for the packages.  And you will be happy to hear that the picturesque drapes and droops of the fabric became invisible in the photo, leaving just a nice lush black.

So now all my packages -- 99 in all -- are properly photographed and identified and posted to my daily art blog.  If you want to check them out, go HERE.

And here are all the packages that were made out of packaging -- all the stuff that wraps, protects, swathes and bulks up the stuff we buy.  It has always seemed criminal to me to throw all that away.  I feel much better when I can wrap it up in a bundle, stash it away in a box and call it art.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Online publishing -- the easy way and the hard way


I wrote last week about sending a new self-publishing project off to the printer, using the Blurb service.  Although I get laughs over Blurb's spellcheck, I mostly admire their platform and its ease of use; same with Snapfish, another service that I have used several times.  In both cases you choose a format and up pops a template for you to work with.  It shows the dimensions of the page, with a pink line around the margins to show where you don't dare put anything because it's too close to the edge.  If you have chosen a format with information that has to go in a certain place -- for instance, if you're making a calendar, the grid goes HERE and your photos go THERE -- that's obvious on the screen.

Coincidentally, while I was working on Blurb for project 1, I was also working on project 2, the postcard for my solo show, opening in late October.  I needed a supplier who would not only print the card but mail it so I went with Modern Postcard.  I went to the website and downloaded the template for a postcard.  But wait -- it was a zip file and I don't have an unzip program on my computer.

Plan B was to just find a schematic for how a postcard has to be laid out.  Postal regulations are very picky about where you have to put the mailing permit into, where you have to put the address, which areas you have to keep blank for the bar code.  I sort of knew about all that; I didn't know that there are also large areas that must be kept free of any state abbreviation or zip code lest the optical reading devices at the post office get confused.

Surely there would be a diagram somewhere on the Modern Postcard site that would show me these specs.  And after only ten or eleven clicks I did find one -- but it was so small and blurry that I couldn't read it.

I had to run the video and pause it when the diagram came on screen; fortunately that wasn't quite so blurry so I could read and copy down the dimensions.

Now into Photoshop Elements to set up the postcard -- I made myself a little template marking off the no-fly zones.

Then I put in all the info in the space that was left, and I was all set.  And it only took 15 clicks around the Modern Postcard site to get me there.

All the while I kept thinking how much more difficult this was than project 1, which was proceeding at the same time.  If Modern Postcard had a user interface like Blurb or Snapfish, I would have just gone to their site, chosen "4.25 x 6" postcard," and up would have popped an interactive screen onto which I could have drawn text boxes and typed into them, drawn photo boxes and flowed images into them, and moved things around until I was happy.

This is not to trash Modern Postcard -- I've used them in the past and been happy with their quality, and get this, I even have a personal representative, based in the same hemisphere as me, who calls me on the phone and responds to my emails within minutes!  After I hit the SEND button on this project, I told her that I wished they would take a look at Blurb and Snapfish and maybe put in something like that instead of what they have.

Anyway, here's what I came up with:



If you're going to be anywhere near Louisville during the month of November, I hope you'll drop by and see my show!


Friday, September 7, 2018

A death in the family


I've had freezers go kaput three times in my life.  The first time was 40 years ago and that load of bad meat represented not only a big waste disposal problem but a huge hit in the pocketbook.  I remember sitting on a stool in front of the open box, loading rotten steaks into a garbage can, trying not to puke from the smell, with tears running down my face every time I caught sight of a price sticker.

The second time was two and a half years ago; a different house, and this time the freezer lived in the garage.  We started noticing a bad odor in the house -- was it a dead animal?  It took us a couple of days before we realized that it wasn't a dead animal but a dead freezer.  The chore of cleaning out the rotten food was just as unpleasant, but at least this time I didn't cry over the hundreds of dollars down the drain.  The intervening years had given us not only a bigger bank balance but a more mature perspective on life: on the disaster scale, a freezer full of rotten food wasn't anywhere near the top.

The third time occurred last weekend.  We had had premonitions for a week or so beforehand, a gallon of ice cream that wasn't rock hard, but the temperature still seemed cold enough and we forgot about it.  Then on Saturday a gallon of ice cream was not only soft to the touch but sloshed around when I lifted it.  The bacon was soft and pliable.  The big ham yielded a bit to finger pressure.  Oops.  Of course this happens on a long holiday weekend when the repair people are off duty.

We bought two huge bags of ice and put them in the freezer, and monitored the temperature twice a day.  We invited people over for dinner and cooked up the big ham.  I sent a box full of food home with my daughter-in-law.  We moved some food into the little freezer in the kitchen fridge.  We cooked up a pot roast that was thawing and had bacon for breakfast.

Days passed.  The Maytag repair shop reopened -- but couldn't send a guy out until Thursday.  We watched the thermometer in the freezer go up.  Finally on Wednesday it hit 40 degrees, maximum fridge temperature. Time for the final solution.

I gave five pounds of ground beef to my house cleaner.  I gave ten pounds of chicken breasts to my friend Debby, who proceeded to poach it all, eat some for dinner and package up the rest for future use.  We moved various containers of leftover soup and spaghetti sauce into the fridge, told the previously frozen bread and nuts they would just have to get by at room temperature, and pitched a stack of TV dinners (good riddance).

No tears, no rotten meat; five stars on the dead-freezer-experience evaluation form.  My only big regret was that the two-year limited warranty had expired -- wait for it -- on Sunday of Labor Day weekend!  That is, the day after we realized we had a big problem.  I kicked myself for not acting sooner when the first gallon of ice cream seemed soft.

By the time the repairman got here yesterday the freezer was empty.  He diagnosed a leak in the plumbing, allowing the Freon to escape.  To fix it, he would have to inject dye into the innards and come back in a couple of days (at $89 per visit) to see exactly where the leak was.  Then, he thought, it would cost about $350 to fix it.  The whole freezer had cost $550, so the decision was a no-brainer -- DNR.

There was one bright spot: the two-year limited warranty wouldn't have covered Freon leaks anyway.  The repairman cynically pointed to the sticker on the door that in large type announced a ten-year warranty on the compressor.  He told us that compressors never go bad so why not be generous!  But leaky plumbing is only covered for one year.  Makes you think twice about buying a new freezer.  I guess we'll do that we did the last time around -- try to get by without a big freezer for a while and see what life is like.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Don't you love spellcheck?


I spent the last couple of days at the computer, trying to finish up two big projects.  One was to put out another issue of my art zine with Blurb, my in-demand publisher of choice, with whom I have made several books and magazines. 

The very last step before you hit the "SEND" button is a spell check.  I don't put much faith in spell check, because I have seen it leave too many trusting souls in the lurch, but I always run it anyway because you never know.  And with Blurb's version, because it provides a dose of much-needed humor.

Blurb's grammar mavens obviously don't approve of contractions.



They apparently don't believe that a quotation can start with an uncapitalized word.

They never heard of a blog.






















Strangely, for a publishing company, they don't recognize the copyright symbol.






















And the coup de grace is always what the spellcheck thinks of my blog name.