Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I'm not a fan of those "social media" bandwagons everyone is jumping on. Their structures and functions confuse me and I find them intrusive. This blog is simple and as close as I get to participating in social media. The publisher of The Fly on the Wall asked me to get a Facebook account when the book was released. I thought it was for some kind of live internet interview with the publisher's customers (my internet savvy is showing). So I did. Someone I know "invited" me to "join" Linkedin. I didn't want to offend him, so I did. Those were the only social media wagons I've jumped on. I've finally cancelled my accounts at both of them.

Just before I cancelled Facebook, a notice arrived from Facebook, letting me know that someone had sent me a message (I can't remember the term Facebook uses for that; "poke" or "pinch" or "chat", or some silly term). I went to my Facebook page and found it. It was a message from a person who asked if I was the artist who had created a print he had. He included an image of the print. It shocked me because it was a multi-block colour relief print I had created in the late '60s or early '70s. I believe, from information on his Facebook page, this individual lives in the central US somewhere. I answered the message (to the whole world, of course, because I can't figure out how to send a direct e-mail in Facebook) and told him, yes, I was the person who created it. I mentioned that I was very curious as to how he had come in possession of the print. I mentioned my distaste for Facebook and asked him to go to my website and contact me via my e-mail address listed there. I cancelled my account the day after that.

A couple of weeks have passed and there has been no e-mail from this individual. This would be a good opportunity for one of the con-artists-conning-artists, like "Stan From California", "Jon From Norway" or "Debbie From New York". They could contact me, pretending to be that individual and use that as a means of trying another con. C'mon, "Wei From Shanghai" or "Victor From Nigeria", give it your best shot!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


The results of yesterday's voting have been announced and I'm happy to report that the citizens of Red Deer have remembered after all and have NOT given a city council seat to Dennis Moffat. Kudos to the citizens of Red Deer!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


It was 1980, the 75th anniversary of the Province of Alberta. The Province set aside funds for each city to create something to commemorate that anniversary. The city of Red Deer chose to commission a series of public sculptures, as one of its projects. Dennis Moffat got himself onto the committee to select the sculptures. Dennis was a teacher in the local school district, and eventually ended up taking over an art class in the high school. He was also involved in city politics and served on city council for 27 years. The committee’s task was to run a competition and choose sculptors. Some of the finalists worked in the abstract constructivist manner. The sculptures were created in the city, where everyone was invited to watch if they were interested (I don’t think very many were interested), then the sculptures were placed in various locations on city property. Venomous letters to the editor spiked regarding the sculptures, especially the abstract metal ones. One idiot suggested shooting at them (no shortage of NRA sympathizers here!). A group of seniors named one of the steel sculptures, located near the senior centre, “Rusty Ridiculous”.  In 1982 one of the sculptures that had been placed on a grassy hill between two directions of a main thoroughfare was vandalized with paint. The city was forced to spend taxpayers’ money to sandblast and refinishing the sculpture.

Ten years later, Dennis (high school teacher, member of the city council, the committee to select the sculptures) decided to admit that he had led a group of his high school students to vandalize the sculpture.  Here is a portion of the interview he gave to the paper.

The night before graduation I told my (high school) art class if they wanted to go down in history, they should paint it, said Mr. Moffat recently at his downtown studio. I gave them some money and sent each one to a different paint store. We were very careful to spread out so no one could trace it back to us. Mr. Moffat told the group to meet at the old Beaver Lumber store at Parkland Mall that night and to wear black. They worked in pairs, one painting while the other watched for police. It was a real operation, he laughs now, remembering.”  Red Deer Advocate by staff writer Michelle Jarvie, Dec. 23, 1992

(Notice how he admitted not only organizing the vandalism and paying for it, but also thoroughly instructing the teenagers how to escape detection? A dedicated teacher, don’t you think?) Very few people condemned Dennis’ criminal act and their opinions fell on deaf ears. The school board didn’t care, the Minister of Education didn’t care, the justice system didn’t care, and the majority of the voters didn’t care (maybe because it happened ten years before and the statute of limitation had run out on destroying public property and contributing to the delinquency of a minor). Dennis continues to enjoy his status as a revered Red Deer artist, the owner of the Red Deer Farmer’s market, a retired school teacher on full pension and now, after losing an attempt to be re-elected a few years ago he is running for city council again. That’s politics! We’ll see if the voters of Red Deer remember any of this, or if it matters to them, on Monday.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I've always preferred to engrave on wood. I've tried Resingrave, Corian and other synthetics for various reasons, including curiosity and cost (creating a large wood engraving on end-grain wood can be quite expensive).  Each time I've used synthetics I've been dissatisfied with them. The chipping of the Resingrave, when using hand tools was my main objection to it. When I heard that the formula for Resingrave had been changed to eliminate the chipping problem I tried it again.  I use a power engraver (Foredom Micromotor) for the majority of the engraving I do.  Resingrave is basically a plastic and when the engraver bit is cutting through the plastic it creates a powder that clings to everything and is impossible to clean up. Have you ever tried to dispose of those foam "packing peanuts"? It's like that. Despite the change in formula, the static electricity remained a problem. So, I have a few synthetic blocks that sit on the shelf year after year.

I'm currently working on a series of small portraits. I'm calling the series "The Quotables" and these include, so far, Mark Twain, George Carlin and W.C.Fields. They're "The Quotables" because I'm also using the images on my line of letterpress printed cards, where I'm including some of the things these people have said that have been quoted and passed down to us. A week or so ago I decided to start a portrait of Groucho Marx and when I went to my storage of small blocks I noticed a couple of lonesome synthetics sitting there. I decided to try a Corian block that someone had given me to try out. Corian is a material manufactured primarily for counter tops, I believe. This 2 X 3 inch block of Corian was mounted to a piece of plywood to bring it to near type high. When I started running trial proofs of Groucho there were some low areas that weren't inking evenly and I added pieces of paper to the back of the block as make-ready to bring it level. This is common, even on end-grain blocks. I proof and print on a Vandercook SP-15 proofing press and I added a piece of paper to add pressure before doing some more engraving. I reached a point where I made the final decision that enough work had been done on the block and it was time to print an edition. One small little area at the bottom of the block needed a narrow slip of paper added to the back of the block and it was "good to go"!

I placed another sheet of print paper in the press and rolled the carriage over the block and ... "POP!"  I was stunned. This was one of those "S**T!" moments. I knew that sound and I knew the block had cracked! (I had heard that sound years ago when I was a guest artist at Wake Forest University and a graduate student and I were printing a block of mine on an intaglio press. The rollers on the press had been set too low.) My press is made for printing from this thickness. The block only had three or four thin pieces of paper added to the back and it was not too high for the setting of .918 of an inch. That crack shouldn't have occurred. But it did.

You can see the crack in the photo here, running horizontally through Groucho's moustache.

I'm not going to mess around, trying to figure out how to fill a crack in Corian. So, as they say: "Back to the drawing board". Only this time, on wood.