Friday, December 03, 2010

Oddballs: the book

I don't look after this blog site very well. I intended to use this as a means of letting people know of my projects and what I was doing in the studio, but I continually forget to go back to it and keep it up to date.

I've been working on a number of projects over the past year. Some of them are my own and some are commissions. The largest project, and my own, which I've been working on for a few years, is called Oddballs. I have printed editions of the forty prints in this series. Another, that I'm still working on is called See What I'm Saying. There have been a couple of commissions to illustrate some books for Porcupine's Quill Press of Erin, Ontario, including Suit of Nettles by James Reaney and Beasts of New York by Jon Evans. Beasts of New York will be released in early 2011.

I've come to an agreement with Rollin Milroy, the proprietor of a quality book press in Vancouver called Heavenly Monkey Press. He will be publishing the Oddballs in a limited edition book of thirty, to be released in the spring of 2011. The text will be printed on handmade paper and the images were printed by me on Zerkall mould made paper which will be tipped into the book. The binding has yet to be selected.
There endeth my update of current projects. I hope everyone has a safe and peaceful Christmas!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer? What Summer?

This has been a summer I will never forget. Or, better yet, a summer I will want to forget. I doubt we have had more than five days this whole summer here in Red Deer, Alberta, when it was warm enough to put on shorts and go outside. If it wasn't overcast it was overcast and raining and in both cases it was chilly. In August, when we are normally using fans to keep cool, the furnace would kick on! I don't want to hear any more about "global warming". "Global climate change"? OK. But not "global warming"!

Now, with that bitching out of my system, I can get on with how I spent my summer. Besides escaping south of the border to enjoy the warmth in the good ol' US of A for a few weeks, I've been staying warm in the studio and working on a number of projects. Usually I scan work as I finish it and put the images up on my website, but this summer I've let that slip. I haven't uploaded anything since last February. I'm not computer savvy and I fumble my way through these things at the best of times. When I finally got around to the project it took me nearly all day because I had forgotten many of the complicated (for me) steps.

I added two wood engravings that are part of my series called See What I'm Saying? which I worked on over the Summer.

Last Spring I was offered the opportunity by Porcupine's Quill Press to create a series of wood engravings for a book titled Beasts of New York by Jon Evans and after I read it I couldn't wait to get started. I finished the last one a week or two ago and the Beasts of New York wood engravings are now on the website as well.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Colorado or Bust

The Durango to Silverton steam train arrives in Silverton.

Fritz and Jim at the Silverton Station

NA Graphics building in Silverton

Main Street Silverton, Colorado

Bill Starke at the Hyatte Regency in Denver, with his sculpture on the wall in the background.

Three days after I returned from Erin, Ontario I was packed and ready for another trip. The two form rollers on my Vandercook press were looking a bit "long in the tooth", so I decided Carol and I would take a road trip to Silverton, Colorado where NA Graphics is now located. NA Graphics is the company which has taken over the Vandercook press inventory. This trip would give us an opportunity to visit friends and family along the way. We had lived in Denver when I taught at Metropolitan State College for five years. Sculptor, Bill Starke and his wife Judy are still living there. During our stay at Bill Starke's studio, he and his wife Judy took us to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver where we saw his sculpture, The Climbers, installed in the lobby.

Our route to Silverton was west of Pueblo, Colorado and eventually over Monarch Pass, where we drove through a Spring blizzard. Then, before arriving in Silverton, there were miles of tight hair-pin curves to negotiate over other passes. But the occasional jolt of fear that these roads gave us was all worthwhile in the end when we saw the quaint town of Silverton. The next day we met Fritz Klinke, the owner of NA Graphics and we toured the facility. He also took time to show me how to install the bearing blocks for the new rollers. Since Fritz is a narrow gauge steam train enthusiast he was more than happy to take us to the station in time to see the Durango to Silverton steam train come in before we had to leave.

Made of Wood Exhibition

Tim Inkster of Porcupine's Quill Press suggested I enter a competitive exhibition in Erin, Ontario called "Made of Wood". When I looked at examples of entries from prior years and the description of the exhibition, it seemed to me that my use of wood, to create wood engraving prints on paper, would not qualify me to enter. As it turned out, 2010 is the first year wood engraving was included, so I entered and was accepted. There was a weekend event planned in Erin to present examples from the exhibition and to offer demonstrations of the various processes. Wesley Bates and I were scheduled to spend a couple of days at a charming boutique on Erin's Main Street called Renaissance. We were to meet with visitors who wanted to know more about wood engraving. Wesley had brought his antique table top vertical platen press to demonstrate the printing process and I stood around in awe of Wesley's presentation, with very little to offer but moral support. It was a marvelous weekend filled with wonderful people. On my way back to the Toronto airport I stopped in Steinburg to see the McMichael Gallery and to meet Tom Smart. Tom plans to organize an exhibition of wood engravings in 2012 at the McMichael, in which I've been invited to participate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Rat Gave Up

It had been nearly two days since I had received an e-mail from Stan, so I figured I should send him a "fish-or-cut-bait" e-mail:
Stan, I thought you wanted that drawing for your new apartment and that you were in a hurry to get it. I haven't had any response after my repeated requests that you send me the address you want it sent to (California or the UK?). I'm afraid I've had another request for the drawing and I can't hold onto it much longer. Do you want it or not? You had first request, buddy, so I'm giving you a chance if you want it, otherwise I gotta go with this other request. Jim

Now another day has passed. He had been so anxious to get the drawing and so insistent that we get on with our transaction, his silence makes it apparent that he has moved on, to spend his time conning some other artist. My most entertaining customer has dropped me! So, I decided to send him a farewell message:
I guess you don't really want the drawing as badly as you claimed. So, how about it; let's be honest with each other, Stan. After all, we've had this trusting relationship and we're both responsible people (as you said earlier) so you can tell me the truth now. You didn't want my drawing at all, did you? You were just after the money you could get from my refund cheque which you were going to ask me to send you, because you were going to send an overpayment in a phony money order. Right? Come on, tell me the truth. I know all about the cons you guys are running. They're all over the news over here on this side of the world. And you don't live in California either, do you? You aren't getting transferred to the UK, are you? You're in Nigeria, aren't you? I saw the record of your visits to my website and I've got your IP address.

While I'm waiting for you to tell me the truth, I'll tell you the truth. You did this con so badly I had you figured out with your second e-mail. Here's some other truth: I've shared this con of yours over the internet with others. I've shared the information with lots of others; with artists and the police. I know at least one other artist who received an e-mail from you which was an exact copy of the e-mail you sent me. So give it up and get an honest job, Stan. We're wise to you and your organization and it's not going to work any more. You might think the internet is a convenient vehicle for you to use to steal easy money but it's also a convenient and effective means of communication and a way of warning others about you.

There, I've been honest. Now, tell me something truthful for a change and stop bullshitting me, Stan.

Rat Bait

Sunday came and went without another e-mail from Stan. On Monday I made that call to the RCMP then sent Stan this e-mail:

Sorry I didn't get back to you, Stan. I took the rest of the weekend away from the studio. I think I have a solution for us which might satisfy both of us. Actually two solutions.
1- You could pay me through PayPal and I will cover the cost of packing and mail from the $3430.00 US. That is simple and easy. Do you know how to use Pay Pal?
2- The other method could be for you to send me the bank cheque for $3430.00 US and I will take it to the bank. I will not send the drawing until my bank assures me that your bank cheque has cleared.
How does that sound?

Then, not many hours later (those guys in that Nigerian boiler room must never sleep) I received Stan's response:

Its okay,i will prefer the check,do consider the pieces sold and get back to me with your name and address with your phone # for me to proceed with the payment.
∂Will await your message.

No real surprise there, about Stan's choice of payment. And did you notice how he's reassuring me that he REALLY wants the drawing and he's hitting that request for my address and phone again (which I've told him before are on my website).
I thought I would push it a bit and see how much I could get away with in my response to that:

My address and all the information you need is on my website. What I need from you before we go any further is your mailing address. I will pack the drawing in a safe tube and have it addressed and ready for when the cheque clears. I want to prevent the drawing you want from getting sold while I wait. By the way, you were mentioning that you were being transferred to the UK, so you will need me to send it there, won't you?

Stan came back with a short one:
nope my shipper will be coming to your place for the pick up

I like that "nope" touch. Sounds almost like someone else is writing this one for Stan. It sounds too, like they're getting impatient with me so I decided to remind him about the mailing. I notice Stan ignored my question about his being transferred to the UK:

I thought I made that clear, Stan. I am going to absorb the cost of the packing and mailing.

Now, I would never write to a purchaser of my work with that tone but I was trying to see how much sarcasm Stan could read into this and whether he could tell I was stringing him along. Stan didn't seem to pick up on the sarcasm, but he did finally catch the message that my address and phone number are on my website because he sent this:

can you send me your site again i want to confirm something.

I'm thinking that the "something" is my address. Strange, that he wants my drawing so bad but he can't figure out how to get back to my website. Oh, I forgot to mention that the subjects of his e-mails have been changing. The first subject was the title of the work he wanted and the next group of e-mails was titled "Interested", then the last batch have been titled "Payment/Pickup" as if they are being pulled from a file of sequential topics. I answered his request for the site this way:

You first, Stan. I mentioned earlier that I needed your address to prepare the packaging and you haven't cleared up that issue of your move to the UK. First you said you were in California then you said you were out of town and you were being transferred to the UK. This is going to necessitate a difference in the way I pack the drawing.

I've been hoping Stan sends the cheque and I can frame it and put it on my studio wall. I got an e-mail from Ron Lines with the most brilliant suggestion yet:

Why don't you tell Stan to send you the bank draft. When he does, keep it until a Nigerian "Government Official" needs your help to get money out of the country then send Stan's bank draft to them. Sweet revenge.

I figure if Stan hasn't caught on by now, he never will. My last message to Stan was sent yesterday late afternoon and there hasn't been a response to that. Maybe Stan, or his supervisor finally caught on. I may have played with the rat too long. I'll give him time for one more nibble and see what happens.

Monday, March 22, 2010

More about the rat

There have been no more e-mails from Stan the rat, but there have been some developments in the story. I decided to send Stan an e-mail today with a proposal which I suggested might be a solution to our stand-off. I suggested two solutions. One was that Stan pay me on PayPal and the other was that Stan send me a money order and when the bank lets me know that the money order has cleared, then, and only then, I would send him his drawing. I suggested that I would do the packing and mailing and would waive the charges to avoid using his own personal shipper. There has been no response from Stan.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. I was checking the statistics on my website stat counter this morning and noticed a visit to my website which occurred very close to the day and time of Stan's first e-mail. The statistics indicated that there were multiple visits to my website from this computer and that there had been a referral link to my site from a gallery in the US. The computer used to visit my site was located in Nigeria! I've seen and read news items about the many fraud schemes coming out of Nigeria. Of course there is no absolute proof that Stan is in Nigeria (he has a gmail address and claims he's in California and moving to the UK) nor that he is at the computer shown in the statistics on my website.

But wait, that's not the end of it! Over the weekend I notified Bill Starke, a sculptor friend of mine who lives in Denver, about my exchange of e-mails with my buddy, Stan. This morning I received an e-mail from Bill and he included a copy of the following e-mail he had received this morning:


Good day to you over there, My name is Stan thomas i'm from California and i hope this message finds you well.I was going through your works and my eyes caught...., i will like to have it for my new apartment this month. please let me know if the piece is available, if yes let me have the detailed price and more information about it. i will be waiting to read from you asap.


The exact same e-mail I received a couple of days ago. Word-for-word, letter-for-letter, including the string of periods after the phrase "and my eyes caught....," in which, if Stan had the intelligence and wasn't so lazy, should have contained the title of the work of art he was interested in.

I consulted an office of the RCMP crime prevention unit and was told that Stan's con is very common and results in the con sending a phony money order or bank draft worth more than the amount required. The victim of the con is then asked to deposit the money anyway and send their own bank money order for the amount of overage. Of course in the case of Stan the art collector, the victim also loses a piece of art work. Although I doubt that will happen because Stan will probably never give an address for the art work to be shipped to.

So, all you artists out there, look for an e-mail from Stan and it's seller-beware! And Stan, if you're reading this, you gotta do better than that, man. You're so bloody transparent a child would know you were about to steal his candy. I hope nobody takes your phony bait!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I smell a rat

I received an e-mail yesterday from a person named Stan, who had a address. Stan had apparently been on my website and had seen a drawing of mine that he said he wanted to buy right away for the wall of his new apartment. Stan had also visited the page on my website which gave purchasing instructions because he followed my suggestion to copy and paste the title of the work in the subject of his e-mail. Since Stan mentioned that he was in California I looked up the current exchange rate between the US and Canadian dollars and I replied to Stan with the price of the drawing in US dollars and I requested that Stan give me his address so I could calculate the cost of shipping, to add that cost to the drawing.

Here is Stan's reply:

Thanks for the message, I am very happy to know that the Pieces is still available for sale. i must tell you i am very much interested in the immediate purchase.I will like to let you know that your payment will be in form of a Certified Check.You dont have to worry about packing, insurance and tax because my shipper will be in the best position to do that as soon as you get the payment.This is because i will be traveling out of the country any moment from now for a business proposal.So get back to me with the information needed to send you the payment I:E :
Full Name
Standard Address
Phone number
Asking price reconfirmation

so that i can proceed in the payment arrangement, consider it sold get back to me asap with needed information.

OK, now red flags came up and I started to smell a rat. There was something not quite right here. First of all the structure of this answer sounded more like an automated response from a business, instead of a purchaser completing a purchase. Forget, for a moment, the clumsy spelling, grammar and phrasing. The insistence that I supply my name, address and phone number seemed to add more stench to this transaction since it was obvious Stan had already visited the page of purchase instructions which contained my name, address and phone number. In each message there was this "asap" urgency as well.

I responded that I've never heard of a purchaser sending their own shipper to my studio to collect the work and said I prefer to pack and ship purchases to clients myself. I said if he was still interested in purchasing the drawing I needed his address. Stan's reply was short. He said I didn't need his address because his shipper would be coming to my "place to pick up the pieces" (remember, I'm in Canada and he says he's in California). I replied, again, that I didn't do business that way and I suggested he supply me with the name and phone of his shipper.

Here is Stan's reply:
Thanks for the details which Ive noted down and have also forwarded it to my shipper.He's due in the US sometime next week and will definitely be getting in touch with you for the pickup.The truth is, I would have handled this much differently if i would be at home but Im a bit pressed for time myself. Im moving to the UK this month as im being transferred.As it is, I'm sending you an overdraft which will include my shippers fees as well.He has asked for an upfront before coming and since I have no access to a lot of cash, Im trying to kill two birds with a stone.So, once you've received and cashed the check, deduct your funds and PLEASE help me send the remaining funds to him(shipper).I'll forward his contact details to you once you've received the payment.Now I'm concluding you are a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement.Ill let you know Immediately the check is sent out to you so you should be looking out for it.

P.S:I`ll require that a reconfirmation of your address is done for me now. I await your reply.

Now there's more than the smell of a rat. I smell an outhouse in August. His shipper has been out of the US and will be returning next week. Well, Stan, I am out of the US, in case you haven't picked that up yet, so your shipper will need to turn around and get back on the plane! You betcher sweet bippy Stan is "trying to kill two birds with a stone". He's trying to get one of my drawings and giving me an "overdraft" (this is an admission that his check will bounce). I'm still trying to figure out why I should bail Stan out of his cash shortfall by paying "him(shipper)" Stan's bill.

That is where I've left it. If there's anything more from Stan I'll let you know. Stan may have concluded that I am a responsible person and that he can entrust me with this arrangement of his, but the feeling is not mutual. Folks, if it's too good to be true; chances are, it isn't. And this one has the smell of something that definitely isn't.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Since when has fashion been a concern in the Olympics? Apparently the American snowboard dudes take it very seriously. They are claiming that all snowboarders competing in the freestyle race should dress in the baggy costume worn in skateboard parks and recreation slopes. Now they're criticizing the Canadian snowboard dudes for wearing pants too tight and too aerodynamic! GIVE ME A BREAK! I thought the object was to cross the finish line first and fair, not who looks the most "cool". What's next? Helmets on sideways?

Obsession with fad can apparently distract from the issues at hand as easily in sport as they can (and do) in art.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Power tool recovery

The Foredom people responded promptly to my question about parts replacements. Meanwhile I was curious what my local small appliance repairman, Don, would have to say about the broken wire covering. Yes! We still have someone in our city who will repair things! In about thirty minutes he had shortened the wire by about two and a half inches and had re-attached the same connectors. When I put the hand piece back together and plugged it back in, it worked beautifully! I'm back in business, and at far less cost than buying new parts or a new hand piece. All that was thrown away was two and a half inches of braided copper wire.

Having spent a day back on the block with my hand tools, I have a different perspective on working with the power tool. I realize how I miss the control and slower pace of the hand tools. I believe I will find myself distributing the work between the power tool and the hand tools a little differently from now on.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A case for hand engraving tools

I was made aware today of the value of simpler technologies. I started engraving a new block a few days ago and was returning to work on the block this afternoon. I picked up the hand piece of the Foredom micro motor I rely on for the majority of my wood engravings and was about to turn it on. Then I noticed the covering of wire which comes from the hand piece was cracked and I could see the copper wire. Both stands! If they touched I doubt it would be a good thing. I have no idea how long the break in the wires had been there and I suppose I'm fortunate I spotted the damage before they touched.

I tried to take the hand piece apart to see if there was a means of making a repair but wasn't able to gain access to the point where the wire connects to the hand piece. I went immediately to the Foredom website to see if there was a replacement hand piece listed. The model number of the hand piece I own is not listed now. The machine is apparently obsolete. If I want to continue engraving I must use my hand tools for the remainder of the block. Waiting to solve the problem of the disabled part is not an option. I must continue to work.

This incident got me thinking about how we rely on technology for so much in our lives and when technology breaks down or is unavailable, how panic sets in and things shut down. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get the hand piece fixed or replaced but I do know I need to continue engraving and the hand tools I use for some areas will replace the power tool and will return as my main tools... until I find a solution in my spare time.