earth day, 1970

I originally ran this last year, on the fiftieth anniversary. I thought it deserved a retread.

Senior picture from July of 1969

A student committee asked if I’d host the art room discussions about ecology. I was in the room practically all day anyway; it was my senior year and I spent all of my free periods working on art projects. I figured I could wing any discussion since discussion was easy. A mountain of trash, industrial air pollution and chemical run-off- Pottstown had it all: It was rich material. But when the day came, Earth Day 1970, no one talked. None of my fellow students had an opinion. At least, not early in the morning. I stuttered and stammered through the first period class, just filling the silence with my voice. As the class filed out, the art teacher strolled past and muttered, “Better get your head out of your rear, Stong. Come up with something quick.” Yeah. Got it. Bob Kingsley with sound advice. He was probably the best teacher I ever had. Too bad it was just for an elective my senior year of high school.

As the next class walked in, already bored having spent their last period talking about “ecology,” I was blank. Should I focus on ecologically sound art materials? Probably; but how boring would that be? How likely was it that any of these folks would go in to the Arts? In frustration, I started tossing out opinions, but even I was bored. The second class moved on and the third period started. Good grief did this suck.

“Look,” I said in frustration, “So we pollute. What’s the big deal? There are a lot of people. They’ll pollute until people die and there aren’t enough people to pollute any more.” Bingo. Reaction and discussion. Not much, just a bit; but there was discussion. Some of the students actually took strong issue with what I said.

“If we change nature’s balance won’t nature just adjust? re-balance on its own? So some weak species disappear and some sick people die, won’t we be stronger for it?” Could I call it performance art? Not really; performance, certainly, but art? Nah. It’s difficult being artistic while you pull your head out of your rear. I did create a moment for myself, though; a point, like a seed crystal, for memories to gather on and clarify. I realize in retrospect that this was probably a first for me. Performances of all sorts, some contrary some exaggerated some as a devil’s advocate, would follow. The most recent, suggesting we publish our salaries and performance reviews, leading to an “early retirement.”

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folder icons

Seven folders with colored labels on a mac desktop.

I just wasted a few hours. I’ve been irritated by labels on my computer- the File menu says I can add color labels but I just wind up with standard cyan folders with little colored text under them. See them in the top image? For visual display, I want the folders themselves to turn color. This morning, I thought what the heck, why not make my own icons and attach them myself?

Seven folders with colored labels on a mac desktop.

It took a couple hours making the graphic, taking seven of them into IconComposer to turn Photoshop’s PNG files into ICNS files (Why doesn’t Photoshop support ICNS? Or for that matter PNG8 with multiple levels of transparency? Stupid Photoshop) and attaching them to some folders. As you can see, I got it done.

Then I discovered that you can do it all in place with Preview. I didn’t even know Preview did anything. Silly me. So I waste my time. The color controls are a bit hard to use if you want to get something specific, so I’ll continue to use my own. If you want to try it, just go to Youtube and search “Change folder color on a Mac”. Well, duh.

If you like mine and want a set, they’re here in a zip file. Each folder has the icon attached, but also has the icns inside.

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new direction

Muted low key colors.
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canned memories

An old can of mixed fruit.

This was on a shelf in my kitchen: An off brand, several years past the best by date, with touches of corrosion on the top. It used to sit on my counter with a wine glass standing on top of it, and now, I can’t throw it out. When my daughter came to pick up her daughter in the evening, she was just done work and would pause to have a glass of wine. I kept the glasses in their box so they didn’t break, but I kept one out for my daughter. So that it wouldn’t get lost or broken among the clutter on my counter, I stood it on top of the can. Easy to see, easy to grab. On days she wasn’t here, the glass remained. Then she stopped drinking the wine. Then she stopped coming here to get my granddaughter. The glass sat in it’s place for months, then I finally put it back in it’s box. The can, too, continued on, but eventually I put it back in the cupboard. When I pick it up, I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. It’s dawned on me that maybe there’s a hope that it’ll be needed again?

I believe that insight came on a walk I had with a dear friend. We took a turn through a department store and passed a sale table. There were a few interesting items and a pile of bedding in all sizes, with great prices. I scanned the pile briefly but didn’t see anything. Not my colors, I explained. You see, when my daughter was young she’d spend some of her Christmas holiday with me. We did the usual, but quite incidentally she had red sheets and I had green. For the holiday, I used one of her pillowcases and gave her one of mine so that we each had red and green pillows. I swapped the top, unfitted, sheet, too, so that we each had a red sheet and a green sheet. It’s been over 15 years since we’ve slept at the same place over Christmas. I still only buy red or green sheets. Just a couple years ago, my granddaughter and I would nap together in the afternoon. Her pillow was green and mine red. She insisted. And she still calls the green pillow hers. Again, do I hope I may need to swap sheets again? Maybe. Maybe it’s just the smile I have when I remember. Regardless, I’ll continue buying red or green sheets. And the can stays for a little longer.

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seven year anniversary

Granddaughter at work, painting.

On November 30, today, I’ve been retired for seven years. Small problems, inevitable new problems, and obsolescence have me considering using fairly dear savings for a new 16″ Macbook Pro. It looks really good, but do I need it?

Digital work is a lot of fun, sometimes I get to help friends, but looking at this little person lose herself in paint I get a different perspective. Thanks, granddaughter.

Late edit: I originally decided to go with the top picture, but every time I opened the page, I missed seeing the second photo. So here it is:

Granddaughter at work, drawing.

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rubbish bin

A dozen old sketches.

What do I do with piles of sketches? In books, in folders, laying loose. When I moved to Bellefonte six years ago, I cleared out what I thought was most of it, but I keep turning up more. flickr does an interesting job of aggregating the stuff- sizing the images I uploaded so they fit in even rows. The elm tree looks the smallest here in this screen grab from flickr. It is the largest illustration of the bunch: maybe eight inches tall. The pepsi truck is a small doodle. For me, though, the arbitrary size doesn’t matter. The cluster of images is satisfying and I didn’t have to code each one. I think that’s the answer I need- easy enough, an adequate reminder (remember Onion Head?), and I can dump all the paper.

I’ve been struggling with the implications of this. I’ve already decided to work for me, so images serve a personal purpose. Life notes, maybe? I just found a pile of matted images- some pencil wash and some pen and ink. They’re all far too precious in their mats and need to be stripped bare.


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Harriet Tubman

Colorized photo from L O C.

The iconic wild bronco statue.

The Library of Congress just received a photograph of Harriet Tubman. Since her biopic is coming out, it’s appearing in a few places on the internet. Since it comes with no restrictions and the Library provides a large TIFF download (seriously large, 160 megs) I had to grab it so I could stare into her eyes. Colorizing things like this is fun. I’ll have to give it a try with Afinity, too. Please, download the original so you can look into those eyes at almost life size.

I didn’t spend as much time as I could’ve researching appropriate colors, but the wall covering is from the period. I feel her over my shoulder, telling me that she’d never wear those colors, and the shirt was a beautiful union blue. Let’s go across the street for a glass of wine and we’ll talk about it, I’d respond.

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blew it

Graphical map of Boise State.

This was a tough one. It started a year ago with an old friend asking if I’d be interested in contract work. Likely as much an attempt to throw me a bone as use grant money. The needs started with a decision tree, but that felt wrong to me. At the time, I couldn’t say exactly what was wrong, but considering the possibilities, the approach felt out-dated. We got to the point you see here, had a verbal confirmation that we’re on the right track, then nothing. Lost work, lost friendship, lost opportunity.

Boise State has a federal registration for the color blue applied to turf. It’s trademarked. First installed in 1986, the turf in their stadium is recognized nationally as that of Boise State. Documents should have a dominant color of blue or orange. Boise blue and Boise orange.
Kid with a broncos shirt riding a skateboard.
In a lot of respects, the branding is similar to Penn State’s. I can comply. Graphics, though, should clarify and clearly, this doesn’t. Off the top of my head I tried a stream of suggestions- publish your phone number. Publish your email address. Let people feel that they’re talking with someone. Give help a personality. All good, but really- who would want to deal with that? Even if calls and emails reached a team or committee, it might be overwhelming. Though I seriously doubt it.

So what would help? If the conversation would have continued, if there’d been face to face discussion, I’m sure it would have come out: What’s needed is simple.
The iconic wild bronco statue. A free, introductory course called Intro to Careers in Public Health with lots of video interviews of graduates working in different fields and locations around Boise. Give people a badge if they complete the online introduction. Deciding on a career path is complex enough to require more than a graphic or chart. Exploring the online course could give potential students a low impact feel for how online courses work.

What they said they wanted.
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old drawings for the Bellefonte balloon story

A friend visited recently and asked for some of the cards I had printed with balloon sketches on them. I’m just about out- it was only an experiment to see how they’d print. So I could be more up-to-date, I had to take out my sketchbook to show him some of the more recent (five years old) images. I realized I’d never digitized these images, so I grabbed the iPad and shot them for this post. They seem to be about actual size on my monitor. If you’re from Bellefonte, you might recognize them. A historical note: image #7 — what I’d call the old balloon factory — has been drastically changed for the Bellefonte Waterfront Project. I decided to put others that have been in my blog before here as well. The story is about a young girl in Bellefonte who discovers her great grandfather’s sketchbook and wonders if the images were, well, true. The sketches are from his sketchbook and the two color plates are style experiments. They start to tell the girl’s story.The simple tale is about her imagination and vision growing until she can see the balloons too.

Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
Pen and ink sketch of balloons over Bellefonte.
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A baked Alaska, missing a slice.

I figured her mom would have a real cake with candles and singing. I wanted to do something different so I did an alaska. It’s been years, but it’s all pretty standard technique. Genoise in the morning, simple syrup, apricot glaze, and cherry syrup later that day. I compiled everything with three kinds of ice cream just before bed. For the meringue, I did a Swiss meringue- started over simmering water to dissolve the sugar, finished in the stand mixer. The result is firm, creamy, and very stable. I fired it up just before she got here.

So the impact was less than I’d hoped. She liked the candles, liked how it looked, but wasn’t too thrilled eating it. She didn’t even want to taste the left-over cherry syrup. Maybe left-over cake will be a hit?

Nah. Wont even try it.

Did I tell you it was Swiss meringue?

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