Tuesday, April 24, 2018

23and(not for) me

As a Christmas present, a close friend gave me a box that I didn't open until after Christmas. A few weeks after Christmas actually. For you see, I was getting ready for a trip to China and put the present with Christmas cards in my living room. Getting ready made me forget it until I got home.
     After I returned in the middle of January, 2018, unpacked and was getting the few Christmas things I had put out away, I came across the box. Opening it I discovered it was a "23andme.com" box. I had no idea of what it was so reading the outside and then the information inside I followed the steps listed, including registering the kit online then, with bills in hand, mailed it at the post office. Each kit had an ID number but as I later found out, it got lost.
      When several weeks went by and I received no confirmation that the kit had been received, as they said I would, I went online and logged in. That was about as far as I could go. It said, "Hi Alan" but there was nothing more. Then over the next few weeks I went back and forth with Eric in what is anything but Customer Care to find the kit. You would think my name, my email and address would be enough but no, for Eric that wasn't enough. I was pissed.
     When you can walk into ANY casino in Vegas and they know not only that you are there but know who you are, your gambling habits and probably much, MUCH more, more in fact than Zuckerberg and FaceBook could only hope to know, just from your facial image; I was stunned. They couldn't find me by my name, they couldn't find me by my email or name and address. No, I had not registered the kit though, they did admit I had an account on their web site.
And NOT for me!
      The questions got increasingly personal and finally when they wanted the name of the gift giver, his credit card number I forwarded that to him. Finally, I got an email from Eric on February 3rd that I was now updated, they gave me the number of my kit and I was told the results would be ready in 6 - 8 weeks.
     April 21, 2018 I came across the information in a place I keep uncompleted items. I tried to log in and other than getting their home page couldn't do anything more. Finally, I found an email link and wrote them the problem. They offered me an email reset the password email. When I did that it was as if I had never registered anything before. So I called.
     It was not easy and it appears just to get in, yet again, I had to fill in and answer a whole slew of questions, questions I had never been asked before. They were personal and finally I hit the skip answer so many times my fingers got tired. I got out of that screen and called.
     I don't know where I was calling because the woman answering spoke English so poorly that I understood about one in four words. I gave her my name, the request numbers and the 14 digital barcode. She said that she saw that I had just registered and it would take 6 - 8 weeks. No, I said, I had done all this again in February and the only way I could even get into the site was to answer all those questions. She was sorry, it would take 6 - 8 weeks.
     I asked to speak to her supervisor. "Oh, that is not possible. There wasn't anyone else." I hung up.
     Within a few hours I was sent a survey on the kind of service I received. Below is a screen shot of my reply:

     I hope my friend never finds out about the debacle this gift has caused. Another friend that I talked about it to said, "let it go." He is right you know. It appears that I will never find out much about my ancestry or at least not from 23andme.
     That said, let me caution you about this company. Many of us are curious about our history, who we are, where we came from. Ancestry.com advertises like mad on TV and the Internet. There must be some overwhelming need to know I guess. I have a pretty good idea of my background. My father was Saxon (German) and my mother's family has nearly direct linage from the Mayflower. But, as many have found out, there can be some interesting sidesteps along the way. As for now, I really couldn't care less. However, I feel that companies that give this type of service deserve, like our ancestors, to die.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Don't Think Design Guides Our Lives? Think Again!

The evolution of the cell phone

   The other day at dinner with a group of friends, I recounted the problems I had with my iPhone X. It seemed to be working after getting a new one though they told me at the Apple store it was fine. It wasn't and to prove it, when I downloaded all the material  from my computer backup, it all loaded THE FIRST TIME,  not two or four weeks of backing up a multitude of times. Most are Android users, something that I find hard to use, and the conversation turned to design. How things, everything we have and use and live by is designed by someone. Rather than brushing it off I continued ..."think of your car, it was designed. Think how you drove here. The streets, signs, signals were all designed. They agreed but didn't think design was that big a thing, saying that since I was a (graphic) designer I would say design was all important. It is but I gave up.
     I walk my dog early every morning and have lots of time to consider things. When I saw two Hyundai Sonatas of two different designs parked to each other in the carport, that conversation came back and I reflected how a single redesign of a ho hum car made Hyundai and their cars a force to be reckoned with.
An Early Hyundai  Sonata. Definitely not a head turner.
     Most people have forgotten the South Korean car invasion of the 80's and 90's. Considered poorly made and ugly, people bought them because they were cheap and had a 100,000 mile warranty. It tended to attract marginal people who wanted a new car but couldn't afford even Japanese cars that were now on par cost wise with many American brands. American quality sagged, Japanese quality improved dramatically.
     As Honda's Accord got bigger, along with Camry and Altima, they also got more daring in design and expensive. Nothing extreme but larger and pleasant to look at with impeccable quality. The Americans fought back but seemed to never catch up. Korean cars merely existed and really didn't enter into the conversation.
Mercedes Benz redesigned what a car could look like.
   Mercedes Benz took the car design world by storm with their 2006 500 SLA, probably one of their finest designs ever. People would stop and stare as one went by and it was definitely not Grandmas car anymore. Nor was it priced like one ranging from $80-100,000 each.
     VW not to be outdone decided to bring out their version of this design in their CC model. The car was lovely but I read in Consumers Reports it was expensive to own. 
2009 Sonata
    No American company followed this sedan - coupe design but it appeared that the Hyundai designers, in their design studios in California, did. They went from ... the 2009 Sonata to the beautiful 2014 Sonata that literally changed everyone's perception of this car company. Just like the iPhone redefined Apple, the Sonata and its smaller sibling the Elantra with their sleek, some might say, sexy looks made everyone take another look. They went from a ho-hum car company to one people were pleased to own and drive.
2014 Sonata
   We are all addicted to our technology today. Every single person in a subway train I was riding in Beijing was holding a cell phone. The only talking was me and the car announcing the next stop in English and Chinese. What would people do without their phones? 
One of the first cell phones!


     Yet I remember the very first cell phone, an 8 lb. monster that had a battery life of maybe 30 minutes. I was at a trade show in Chicago when a friend visited me, a lawyer from Motorola, who had their first model. I remember calling home amazed I could be sitting on the showroom floor and talking 2,000 miles away with no cord! Soon though, they got smaller and smaller until they easily slipped in your pocket and didn't need charging for a few days. The belt pager died an almost overnight death! I had a Nokia, Erickson and finally a Razr, a flip-phone so complicated to use that I hated it. If I needed to set something I would hand it over to a teenager and explain what I wanted to do.
Motorola Razr flip-phone
    I can still remember walking into the Moscone Center for MacWorld in 2007 for the unveiling of the rumored iPhone as it was called. It could do so many things that no one could believe it. Apple, so famously secretive, had to do some FCC filing to sell the phone so used the event to tintillate the masses of geeks who loved Apple products. What we got was far beyond our expectations and overnight changed how cell phones were designed and used. Leaders in the field ... Nokia the world's biggest phone maker, Erickson, Sony and Rim didn't change fast enough and are now all gone. What was the iPhone? A cell phone that acted like a computer and camera that you could fit in your pocket. It changed everything but it's all the imagination of Steve Jobs who hated cell phones and wanted something better. And that folks, takes a better DESIGN! I don't know about you but I definitely don't want to go back to the old flip phones.
Gathered around a newspaper. Remember them?
     Another everyday item that changed the way we looked at the world was the world of reading. The newspapers tried and failed a few times to go online but finally papers like the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and finally The Los Angeles Times figured out how to go online. This led to the Amazon Kindle. Amazon famously replaced Crown Books as the purveyor of cheap books. Then as digital became more and more accepted came the Kindle. Here was something thinner than a paperback, no bigger than a hardcover book and capable
of holding 100's of books! They became travel companions to many. Not to be outdone though, MicroSoft, Android makers and Apple took an interest. What was once the realm of geeks was going to hit the mainstream. As Kindle's got better and cheaper they spawned a variety of similar items but it was Apple with their iPad that stole the show. 
    Running an operating system similar to their
iPhone, you could read downloaded books, write letters, read and send email, surf the "net" and so much more. All of this was designed taking what was and making it both new and different yet familiar at the same time. It was said when Apple took iPad's to senior homes to test when they came to retrieve them seniors would wrestle
them back because they found them easier to use than any computer. Pointing a finger beats scrolling over a much larger screen with a mouse.
Even a child can use an iPad!
    Would we ever want to go back? This was the result of design. NOTHING is done without planning and that includes the design of everything.
     And before I conclude let me point out the design of the Constitution of the United States. After the Revolutionary War the 13 colonies got together to create the Articles of Confederation. It was more like our states today. They all agreed to do certain things but it quickly proved to be lacking. No one state had the resources of the whole and after raids on our ships by pirates, markets that swindled the separate states, they all sent representatives back to Philadelphia to see how to fix this problem. The "fix" was the Constitution. Drawing from many sources and well aware of the British abuses, they created, designed if you will, how we live today. While nothing is perfect what they designed is the country, the elected officials, the laws that we live under. In fact, for Americans, it could be said this is our ultimate design! It's design allows us many rights and the opportunity to change what is wrong. Its rarely fast, it can stumble along the way but for good or ill our forefathers and the generations after have made this design work.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Saga of My Original iPhone X

The original iPhone, June 29, 2007

     I have been an iPhone fanatic since I walked into MacWorld at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in January of 2007. Rumors had swirled for months that Apple was going to offer a cell phone and what it would look like. How it would work was completely up in the air. Just about every guess was wrong.
   The most plausible versions showed something like the by then popular iPod with a dial, a small face probably not a flip phone, a form factor popular at the time. In fact I had a Motorola Razr, a phone that I sincerely hated. Other than Rim, this was the cat's meow. To me it was the cat's claws. If I wanted to do something new with it I had to find a teenager to do it for me.
   I walked in to MacWorld just as Jobs was finishing his keynote speech. In the foyer we were  greeted by a 30 foot tall image of the now dubbed iPhone. It was nothing like what anyone had predicted. It was much like the current offering but then, in January of 2007, like nothing that was being made anywhere. There was one on display in a revolving bubble just like the Hope Diamond at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
   People were explaining all that it could do for unlike most phones it was a phone, could surf the net, take photos and email them, and the list went on and on. I was not the only one that thought that they were smoking too much of something in Silicon Valley.
    The next day we heard David Pogue speak at the O'Reilly book booth and what he said resonates even today. He said, "This is the definitive device of the 21st Century. This phone changes everything." He was right, it did and with Android competitors has changed the way we interact around the world.
       I was excited the day I got my iPhone X. This was my 6th iPhone and by then I knew what to do, or so I thought. It arrived on November 7th and I immediately plugged it into my computer having already backed everything up from my iPhone 7+ that I really loved. It had traveled to Hong Kong four times, Canada once and even on several trips to New Mexico. I printed books from its photos and I remained stunned at their clarity. Finally, I stopped taking a camera and relied on my phone. 
        Yet I quickly discovered they were different. VERY different. Gone was the home button. You just touched the face, anywhere, and it would look at you and usually open. If that didn't work you punched in your "code." Then the familiar home screen appeared over the entire face. Touching an icon launched the App like before but to close something you have to pull up from the bottom and all the Apps opened showed, To close them you hold the center of whatever App was there and a small red circle with a "-" in it meant that you could close that App. I didn't learn about this until weeks later.
    Immediately by plugging the X into the computer the 7+ was disabled. As the installation process continued things did not go as I thought they would. It didn't load what had been on he 7+. So I backed it up again and sometimes the phone would work but more often it didn't. It seemed to refuse to install anything that had been on the other phone and by 5 pm I packed everything up and headed to the Apple store.
Trapped in hell!
   When they asked what the problem was, I showed them the two phones and said the X wouldn't work and neither would the 7+. I was giving it back and I needed to get the 7+ to work as I had no phone. 
     For once I immediately had a tech from the Genius Bar and we spent nearly two hours trying to get it to work. Finally, having to get an iCloud account, the phone started accepting material off the older phone downloaded to their MacBook and I had a dial tone.
    I completed the installation at home but it took four weeks and numerous back ups to get what had been on the older phone on the new one. That was not acceptable.
Night shot of bridge in Tianjin, China
       Then I went to China and the phone part wouldn't work and Internet connections were pretty useless as in China there is no Gmail, no Facebook, no Twitter, no just about anything of what we are used to using in the West. As a camera though it was world class. I just received the book I created from Apple filled with photos taken with that phone and I know my Nikon DSLR wouldn't have done better.
    However, the phone began to act odd about a month after I got home. It wouldn't ring and I would only notice calls from the App. It had terrible connections to the Internet then would settle down. Finally it started to cut out when I was talking. I could hear them but they couldn't hear me.
    I was on the internet talking to someone at Apple several times while struggling to make a HomePod work and it cut us off. The tech called back and asked what happened. I didn't know. She put in the first tech repair order but I didn't realize it was at the Best Buy store ... a week later as there were no appointments at the Apple store for weeks. On the appointed day I showed up at the Apple store that was closed and it was then I realized I should have gone to Best Buy. When I went there I was told the tech was sick but they had called everyone with an appointment. I looked at him and said, "No, they didn't."
    Waiting a few days to calm down I again made an appointment and the phone cut off as I was talking to someone at Best Buy. I had explained the problem and she was wise enough to tell me the time and date and sent an email. I could hear her but she couldn't hear me. I arrived and the tech looked at it, did some diagnostic tests but couldn't find anything wrong. When he used it to check several other things, he looked at me, then the screen and said, "It shouldn't be this slow. There is something wrong." He advised me to try to restore the phone. If there was still a problem just walk in as he couldn't find an appointment time either.
    I came home and tried to do what the tech recommended ... a full restore of the operating system and about halfway into this the phone came up with an error 9 and completely shut down. The iMac said there was no phone connected to it and the phone would not turn on. I was stunned. I now couldn't communicate with anyone. And since I had no other phone was unable to contact anyone other than on the Internet on my iMac, something I couldn't put in my pocket.
   The next morning I headed out to the El Paseo Apple Store arriving at about 9:15 am for their 10 am opening. As I crossed the street to park behind the Apple Store there were two people in line. By the time I parked and got to the front of the store the line had grown to 10. Oh my.
   I was given an appointment in two hours so poked around Palm Desert finally arriving at the appointed time. About 15 minutes after my appointment time I finally had my "genius" who somehow got the phone to finally turn on. He too ran diagnostics saying everything checked out. I said everything was not ok. I couldn't turn it on now for two days. He did a complete restore of iOS 11.3 and I left when we started restoring from my iCloud account. He said it would finish when I got home and had wi-fi. He was right, it did but the information was from last November so I had to start from my computer back up. It took two weeks to restore what had been on the phone. It finally had everything last Friday.
    Monday, after Easter I got four phone calls. Each one of them cut out after a minute or two. Some called me back as they knew I had been having trouble. I could hear them but they could not hear me.
    That evening I went back online this time using text chat since the phone would cut any calls off. After a series of tests the tech finally said that I could get a new phone (he saw all the complaints made over the phone) but I had to pay $29 and put the new phone on my charge card. They would credit it back when they received the old phone. That would take several days. I was livid. After paying $1,000 for a phone that clearly didn't work I had to pay more money to exchange it? Well, very reluctantly he said I could go to the store. There were no appointments available;  just walk in.
    One of the things Apple does is give you a print out of your text chat so I printed that out and the next morning headed over to the Apple store. I had to wait awhile but within a couple of hours I had a new phone though they were clearly not happy with me or my insistence. However, they also had a long list of calls and visits with complaints so they gave me a new phone. The phone had caused me more problems in 4 months that the 10 years and 5 previous phones combined. You can diagnose all you want but the reality is sometimes very different. Just like Toyota could never find the problem that caused their cars to accelerate. However, they did and people died.
So ... we shall see on number 2
      I started the download process at the store and it finished here. Then I plugged it into the computer, picked out what I wanted to install and guess what ... it did it all. 
     I have used the phone and so far everything works fine. All my songs, books, movies and everything else is there just it had been on the iPhone 7+. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this is the end of that saga. Parts work but clearly from the many updates things didn't. I feel the iPhone X was ambitious but it clearly was not ready for prime time. Some say theirs work fine but a good friend here, a geek and SalesForce employee, is not happy with his either. We both got ours in November of last year and maybe, quietly, Apple has made adjustments after they started production. I am hoping the next version is better as I am still not sold on mine.
    Since I have a package plan with Spectrum, you know - phone-Internet-cable, I got a landline phone and plugged that in as well. It came with 3 handsets so I have them sprinkled around the condo with one on the nightstand. As I have learned, cell phones are wonderful but ... in a crunch and you're older, and need help immediately, nothing beats a landline.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Same Wooden Birdhouse - VERY Different Styles

The simple $5.99 birdhouse at Michael's

It has always amazed me to find that the same surface, in this case a birdhouse, can be used in so many ways. Now and then I peruse Pinterest or even fellow crafters on ETSY just to see what's up. Many of us buy our items to paint, decorate, etc., at the same stores (or they may sell the same things) yet so often their results are very, very different. This, of course, just means that we all have different tastes and that what you create most likely will be different than me, unless you go to a crafting show. There, everyone (tries) to do the same thing as originally taught by the teacher creator and then mimicked by paying students. And often they are similar but more likely are not! I went to learn technique and enjoyed most of my classes.
     I guess I should not be so surprised. A canvas in a blank square, rectangle and yet look how different each painting on one can be. It's merely a starting point. What we do with it is our desire to create. What we create is often very different.
A "Crazy-Quilt" birdhouse design
     It was then that I realized that I seem to be two, maybe three different people. I might use the same basic, raw, wooden birdhouse (as shown above) but the results are often so different that it appears different people painted them. Often they are as different as the variety of "styles" I have created ... my "crazy quilt design," my "Pennsylvania Dutch" designs, my attempts at Rosemaling and lately my abstract series. There have been other ideas but these four seem to be what I concentrate on.
    The "Crazy-Quilt designs try to replicate a real crazy quilt but with painted fabric! Each fabric has a base color and then its own unique "print." Usually I use 8 base colors and much like the scraps left over from making something with a pattern, the pieces are put together and stitched with gold paint. It is unique and extremely time consuming as you can well imagine. At times I think I would rather be actually sewing the pieces together. Since I already have quite an investment in unfinished wood products and lots of paint, I'll stick with what I currently have.
This colorful Rosemaling Birdhouse sold quickly
     However, I also like Rosemaling and some of the designs of  Pennsylvania Dutch and find that they are interesting too. Yet, at the same time they also require patience and are time consuming as you want to be sure the patterns match, the colors are right, etc. I have found that colorful seems, at least from my sales, to be more popular than subdued tones. I have discovered that yellow and reds are particularly popular. 
     Not to be outdone, I spotted interest in an original design I did when I first started craft painting years ago. It was a Morning Glory design that I had climb from the bottom to the top of the birdhouse. They were bisque birdhouses, a style that I can't find anymore, so I decided to return to that pattern and used this wooden style of birdhouse. Again, as you can see, this completely changes the look of the original wooden design.
Pennsylvania Dutch Morning Glories
    It's a fun challenge and one that I didn't really realize until in looking at my ETSY store listings, I realized that a birdhouse I had hanging in my bedroom had never been listed for sale before. So, liking this raw surface I tried the Morning Glory pattern used before and realized how I had used it in the past. In the painting of this design, I reflected on the other items I had painted before and thought it might make an interesting blog comparing how, like a canvas, surfaces can, and are, used to create a series of totally different products.
   Even as I write this I keep thinking that I should keep to this surface, this birdhouse pattern and see how many new and different designs I could make. Maybe when I am 80 or so because I have a storeroom filled with blank surfaces ... wood, canvas and metal that need to be dealt with first!
    I wanted to show you how different designs, colors and even possible additions change the look and feel of your birdhouse as you make it your own! 

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Finally, A Book That Explains Contemporary Art!

     I have a habit of collecting books, historical often but am addicted also to art books. Famous artists, works of art, history of art ... you get the picture. I am not exactly sure how I stumbled on WHO'S AFRAID OF CONTEMPORARY ART by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi, probably something I read in the Sunday paper, and ordered on Amazon or found in the Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert. 
     While I don't know where I found it, I read it and am glad I did.
     To be honest, much of contemporary art eludes me. I never really had a deep appreciation for the Expressionist period, though I did love the art of Vincent Van Gogh, until I went to the Los Angeles County Art Museum with a tour of their exhibition by the curator of the exhibit. Walking through the show with no visitors, she was able to explain much of the motivations of the artists in a way that was, well, in plain English. Explaining and standing among this amazing collection, I could finally understand the world as seen through the many artist's eyes.
     All art is a form of reflection, be it of beauty, history, rebellion, and probably much, much more. With an image of one kind or another it tries, much like a writer with words,  to tell a story.
MONA LISA by Da Vinci
   The irony of art today is that a realist image of the MONA LISA is the best known and recognized painting in the world, the entire world. While the enigmatic smile befuddles us even today, there is a form of peace and quiet that haunts. Few would consider this contemporary art today, but it was quite modern in its day. It is an image that haunts and often made fun of today. Maybe that is a token of appreciation to its amazing and haunting image. Often we mock what we do not understand.

STARRY NIGHY by Vincent Van Gogh

   The second most recognized painting in the world is Van Gogh's STARRY NIGHT that resides at Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 
     Now this is art that is starting to enter the realm of contemporary art. What makes it so amazing is how this early contemporary art piece has captured the hearts and minds of art critics and viewers. When he painted, Van Gogh's art caused consternation of fellow artists and much has been made of his mental state. Was he crazy as so many allege? Or did he lead the way for fellow artists to paint what they felt, not necessarily what they saw. 
     WHOSE AFRAID goes a long way towards explaining modern, contemporary art. To me art was painting, but increasingly we are seeing film, video, people acting out or machines doing things that are also called art. Warhol famously made everyday objects "art." Probably since the end of the Second World War, though there were movements in Europe from the time of Van Gogh, that art became increasingly abstracted. Duchamp's NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE was all color and lines; there was no figure per se. German artists came on board quickly having missed the French Salon Era but were temporarily halted by Hitler who hated contemporary art and put a stop to it. Both sides of the Atlantic exploded after the war. While we may not be as familiar with it Latin and South America fell in line. Looking at a volume of Latin artists you realize they also painted all genre's.
An index of explaining contemporary art
    An, a curator at the Guggenheim in New York City and Cerasi, an Exhibitions Manager go a long way toward making the puzzling, puzzle solved. Going from A - Z, with some quirky uses of the letters, explain what artist are trying to show, to depict, how a gallery works, the amount of work it takes to mount a show, how artists are merchandised  both in a gallery and what have become increasingly, worldwide shows. 
    One chapter especially tickled me. They went head on and in their way chastised the verbiage of art. They ask, "Why is it so difficult to find plain English in the art world?" They go on to cite a study of this form of "Artspeak" using press releases from the Internet for 13 years. What were the defining features? International Art English (IAE) loves to invent nouns: 'potential' becomes 'potentiality," ' experience becomes experiencability. In IAE the longer the word the better. This reminds me of an English class I took in college. We had to take so many English credits and one of my teachers more or less liked my writing until he found out I was a Journalism major. In short Journalists are taught to use as few words as necessary. He felt that "more" description was better. He finally relented and gave me a "B." Maybe this same professor was hired by the art professionals.
    That said, and I am glad they said it,  I know the next time I see a gallery show and stare at some abstract of whatever it may be, or abstraction of something familiar, I will try to understand what the artist is trying to depict. Though I still feel that if it's that obscure, maybe it needs some refinement. If you can talk to the artist, that makes it all the better. Artists really are visualizes, societal mirrors if you will, and as anyone knows after reading a book then seeing the movie, the vision of the author is often not what the director sees and creates.
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Are Tattoo's The New Collectible (Wearable) Art?

Age is not kindly to tattoo's
   When I was a kid I can remember that many of    my father's friends, most who had served in the military during World War II, had tattoo's though my father didn't. My prim and proper mother thought they were very low class and from this woman (who made me read Amy Vanderbilt's BOOK OF ETIQUETTE) I inherited my ideas about tattoo's. 
  Frankly few of my generation got tattoo's though I suppose those serving during the Viet Nam War changed that. I just thought they were low class and few, if any of my classmates in college, had them.
   When we moved to our home in the San Gabriel Valley in California there were still several homeowners that had served during WWII. Mr. Bullock, two houses down, was memorable as he usually worked in his front yard shirtless and my 4-year old son was fascinated by the huge eagle that spread across his chest and stomach. I'm sure, in its time it was magnificent but well into his 80's, the eagle had landed. You have to wonder how many of our children will discover this simple fact as they age? That droopy eagle's wings sagged a lot.
  Captain Cooks first visit to New Zealand exposed
  Europeans to the Maori who tattooed every part of
  their bodies ... not so unlike what we see today. 
  However, as the 80's faded into the 90's I began to see more and more men, first, then women who had a small tattoo here and there. I never worried about my son who fainted at the sight of a needle but was told my daughter had one that I couldn't see. One nephew in particular had bolder and evidentially colorful tattoo's on one arm, then two and finally other parts of his body. And they are not cheap either.
  I began thinking about tattoo's as art after seeing a new millennial resident walking around the complex today and it suddenly hit me, rather than buying art is this generation turning itself into art? Think about it. In an era with so much being the same is this the ultimate act to distinguish ourselves? Are tattoos ART or merely some kind of vanity? 
Popular Ancient Roman tattoos.
   We know that tattoo's have been used in just about every society in history. Ancient Egyptian mummies, Chinese, most of Polynesia, Greeks and Romans, Celts and on and on. Jews and Muslims forbid tattoo's but I believe even this generation has abandoned that stricture. A Star of David worn with a full sleeve arm (tattoo) proves that.
   Tattoo's have been used in a wide variety of situations ... to denote power, on slaves, as decoration, you name it. Cattle today wear a brand  to prove ownership. In our history brands were not just placed, sadly, on cattle.
   When you look at the cost of even the simplest tattoo (above) you begin to realize that this is not just a simple case of branding ourselves. It begins to enter the realm of buying art. These people are
When young performers wear them, why not the fans?
buying art but instead of hanging it on their walls walk around wearing it for all to see. While once it was something you hid except in intimate moments, men and woman began to wear fewer clothes to show to the world their new "art." While it may have had its start in the military in our era, it has had a long and honorable past that many cultures have cherished. In aways, Europe and now America has rediscovered a type of art that most collectors and curators might eschew but has graced us for millennia. The men and women of today like it and while it is a form of disposable art, it certainly is art.
Most military tattoo's are symbols
of patriotism ... love of country.

Japanese tattoo's had no problems with
western style inhibitions.
  For many military men and women today, other than say prison, what they could tattoo and show followed a strict military policy. Much like piercings, they were forbidden to show any form of tattoo above a collar or outside of a long sleeve shirt. Yet, with so many young and talented citizens getting and exposing more of their bodies to tattoos, and reluctant to pass up on the very best out there, standards have loosened. There are policies that regulate what can be written and seen. Exposure has been loosened but comments "prejudicial to good order and discipline" are prohibited. Racist comments may be your right to say, but not wear in the military, nor for that matter, anywhere. 
While the art may be beautiful that does not
necessarily mean the body will remain so.
Is that a paunch?
Celtic tattoo's
    It is in the larger areas of the body, a full half or entire body tattoo where these new tattoo "artists" really shine. Where once you would see low riders in Los Angeles cruise up and down the boulevard's with their lowered and flashily spray painted cars, it wasn't long before the art of tattoo's flourished on bodies and not just cars. It was further enhanced when more Asians immigrated bringing their centuries old traditions with them. The Chinese Tong's and Japanese Yakuza gang's all sported tattoo's under their white shirts and dark suits with just a hit of something creeping up their necks. It was at the local gym and its many new Asian clientele that I became aware of them and was awed by the detail and clarity of their body art. I think that was my first real realization that this was, however impermanent, art!
   It's hard to know what is and what is not art. But take a quick look on Google - images - tattoos. You will bring up a vast number of photos showing simple, silly and at times stunning body art.
   You have to ask, is that not beautiful? Is the person who created this not an artist? Just like some of the graffiti that graces walls, sidewalks and building around the world, mankind has an urge to create something. It might be beautiful or ugly, bring up things we would rather forget, signs of protest and scenes of great beauty. 
I'm sure the Disney Company never authorized this!
  The Warhol show I recently saw, once again, made me realize that art is all around us. Often we don't notice it yet who can deny not knowing the apple bite of Apple? The four rectangles of Microsoft Windows? The blue round oval of the Ford Motor Company? A Campbell's soup can? Like tattoo's these are brands, a kind of branding not unlike those used in ancient Greek or Roman symbols. Symbols confer power, and to mankind they have always held great magic and power.    However, some tattoo's may include symbols their owners may not have envisioned. Somehow I can't imagine the CEO at Disney sporting a Snow White scene on his back.
   Is there a limit? I don't know. It seems that many that start can't stop. One sleeve (arm) becomes two, one chest symbol then covers the whole torso. So, are these considered patrons of the arts ... only art not purchased at a gallery but the local tattoo parlor, also from the original artist? I am sure there are tattoo artists who are famous and can demand ever increasing prices. Is this not any different from what a photographer or artist putting paint on a canvas does? I think that while many might never want any and dislike evidence of this on a body, it is here to stay and has been part of every culture from the beginning of time. Like all fads, it too will run it course, for awhile, and be reborn again.
    The family that tattoos together, stays together? They can
    at least share the pain. And there will never be a problem 
    identifying the body!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Defining Colors and Design

Here they are, one large and three smaller mini-birdhouses. They
all use the same colors and "fabric" designs but you would never
know it!

While I have been creating, if you will, a series of eclectic birdhouse designs, my first claim to fame was a contest I won back in 2012. I was taking painting classes from a teacher who was also a DecoArt instructor and she encouraged me to enter one of the new style birdhouses I had come up with.
   I had started craft painting in my 50's as a way to relax from my graphic design business by following my roots - you see my Dad was German. When I started to paint birdhouses as a way to relax I was drawn to Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. You see "Dutch" was a corruption of "Deutsch" the name for Germany. Leave it to the English, right? Anyway I got some books, studied German folk art and began creating my own designs.
As any craft painter knows, neatness is on the bottom
of your need to do list. It took over 30 paint colors to
create 4 birdhouses.
   Never one for staying in the same mold, I began to play around with other designs, got books from the library, took classes in Vegas picking up more books on the subject and taking classes as well.
   Since my wife at the time was a quilter, I would look at her quilt patterns and decided that they could also be considered folk art designs. My first attempt at this, a style I called "Crazy Quilt" was very geometric but I decided that like a quilt, each time I used a background color, I would put the same "painted" pattern on it. I started then with a geometric Crazy Quilt!
   My teacher heard about a contest DecoArt was sponsoring around the country for craft designs using their materials. I was reluctant but she encouraged me to enter this first attempt. First I found out my birdhouse was reduced to three national finalists and while on a cruise to Alaska found out, docked in Juneau, Alaska, that I had won. There was no cash but several boxes of paints, stencils, brushes and the like. I was both surprised and elated. I was on my way. 
Here you can see the base colors
and the starting of the color pattern
   Over the following years I tried a more random kind of crazy quilt following the rules that every base color would have the same pattern painted on top. I painted birdhouses, boxes, trays, sewing boxes, dishes and many have sold on my Etsy store. I also found out that the brighter or lively they were, the more they would most likely sell. In fact, I had been using a tissue box I had painted a few years back and looking at it several weeks ago thought, well, why not put it in the store? I did and it sold a day later.
Here is the same birdhouse finished.
   As I struggle to get productive again, I came back to my love of the crazy quilt idea and remembered the box that sold had been painted in a kind of rainbow, meaning that each side of the tissue box had a difference main color starting: red, fading to orange, fading to yellow, fading to green with blue and purple on the top. It made for an interesting box because no matter what side you saw at any time, the colors seemed to belong. I always made sure a color from another side flowed into a new color way.
Same exact colors as red base but
started in a different sequence  with
a dark base.
Even changing the base color made
a vast difference
   Realizing that I had three small six sided, or mini birdhouses and found, in my huge stash, a larger 6-sided footed birdhouse I decided to follow the idea of the tissue box. Here with six sides it was much easier.      On the large birdhouse I reversed the 6 colors top and bottom then used the exact same colors on three, hanging, mini-birdhouses that followed the same sequence of red to purple on top and bottom. While it was complicated at least I could paint on all four in sequence and when I got to the end and started the next base color or pattern, the first one was now dry!
This top view gives you a view of most of the
color ways and the patterns each base color had.
   Generally I had about 5 colors per base color way and had to be sure that at least one would invade the next color way so that it looked continuous no matter how you looked at it. And I can certainly say that each color way was repeated on every single one of the 4 birdhouses ... yet, I was amazed at how different they looked. I did not follow the same pattern of the quilt fabrics only followed the base colors and patterns of each one.
   The final, and believe me, the most tedious step was "stitching" the fabrics together. I tried a gold gel pen but on wood and acrylic paint even water washed most of the "sewing" off. This time I got a very fine liner brush and painted it on using gold paint. I hate this part the most and for awhile used a gold fingernail paint pen that gave me consistent gold lines but I have been unable to find the product I originally used. Not happy with the fading or washed out ink finally painted the stitches on today. Well, if there is anything good about this, you won't have to worry about the fabric fading or the thread unraveling!!!
Its all in the details!
   It does keep you busy and as a friend noted today, I should stick with the larger birdhouses as it takes about as much time on the small ones as the large ones. He was right. They do. In fact those small buggers probably take more time and people can't seem to understand why you ask so much for something so small. I can tell you. THEY TAKE JUST AS MUCH TIME ... maybe more!
   The final paint step is what I call antiquing. I use a dark brown wash on all the edges or corners. That tends to tone down brighter colors and actually makes even discordant colors harmonize. This time I "antiqued" all but one. Which one will be most popular? I don't know. Guess I will have to let the marketplace decide on Etsy. One thing is for sure, while they may have all used the same colors you would never tell!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible products. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Remember When? And Wonder Now?

For some reason this Rockwell cover stuck
in my mind. It shows how quickly Americans
became, well, Americans no matter where they
came from. Having a German father helped.

When I was a kid growing up, TV was brand new so we depended on the daily newspaper, the weekly magazine and the newsreels that started every Saturday matinee movie. Being visual, I can remember pouring over THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, LIFE Magazine and at my grandparents some pretty lurid cops and robbers magazines my Grandfather had.
   Billboards were actually the major advertising venues after magazines. I can remember ads such as the one with Jack Webb extolling the virtues of his Chesterfield cigarettes. You have to remember the first real warnings about cigarettes and the relationship to cancer didn't appear until 1959. I can remember in my high school freshman biology class we were all required to watch a movie about the dangers of cigarettes. It was pretty graphic. The poor soul on the operating table had to have one very black lung removed and on the way out they tickled his heart. All the school's football players passed out while geeks, like me, sat grim faced. BTW, the football coach was our biology teacher.
Everyone watched DRAGNET back in the day so this endorsement
hadclout. Webb died of heart failure at 61. Many feel cigarettes
were the cause.
 Many ads simply were not allowed ... no lawyers, no advertising doctors and definitely no patent medicines. They were forbidden and soon the first warnings about cigarette smoking came out with finally a total ban. Beer could be advertised but you could never be seen actually drinking it!!!
  Using the guise of "free speech" lawyers finally were granted the right to advertise, at first just their name and number but soon that was jacked up to some memorable ambulance chasing ads. Generally they have replaced the soaps as denizens of daytime TV.
This ad speaks for itself!
   That brings to mind the soaps. When I was growing up "soaps" ruled the airways. Most women were stay at home Mom's despite what MAD MEN would have you believe. Every station had soap operas, called that because soap manufacturer's were the principle advertisers. Most soaps are gone now but to hear our mother's talk, what so and so did on such and such show had the ring of reality! In many ways, those were the good old days.
 When cable arrived with even more opportunities for advertising, more and more late nights shows and shopping networks were invented. Late night became the playgound of "infomercials" where all kinds of things were huckstered. These are the guys that sold things not deemed suitable for the average store like Sears, Kmart or even Walmart ... then
   Tonight watching the CBS evening news I was startled to see all in a row ads for the "Hover Cover", "Flawless", and "The Wonder Bible." I had seen them before but not in that order. Those, even five years ago, would have been relegated to the late show format with their ... "Wait there's more" cry. When did AS SEEN ON TV ads make it to prime time? Even more, when could these companies afford the usurious rates that Ford, Bud or Viagra can afford?
Hover Cover ... buy it at
Walmart. Its cheaper.
Watching women pluck their mustaches is not dinner fare.
Will the husband and wife that shave together stay together?
   Actually I shudder to imagine what the next wave of ads will bring. What we are subjected to now is pretty bad. These informercials that go on forever are bad enough.

 But the most recent wave is the one that, from experience, drives our doctors crazy. I'm taking about ads for medicines. Now, from my own experience it does pay to ask questions but, as I wrote in an earlier blog, even if you're not sick by the time they list all the side-effects you might get from taking them, you will be.
If this didn't make men squirm
 I don't know what else would.
           Remember when Viagra hit the airwaves? That provided fodder for late night TV for months if not years. Since men are far more reticent to discuss personal health issues you had to wonder who those ads were really aimed at? One little Viagra pill could set you back up to $60.00 as pharmacy insurance didn't cover it!
   With the release of Viagra on TV, the gold rush began. Just about every disorder you could think of was talked about. Bladder leakage, heart attacks, memory loss, eye vitamins, insulin, pneumonia, even adult diapers sweetly called Depends ... the list goes on and on.
   I don't know about you but I would rather see suds, drive the USA in my Chevrolet, plop plop, fizz fizz oh what a relief it is, Bucky Beaver shilling Ipana toothpaste ... you get the picture. Tonight, I felt that I was at the carnival on the midway and all that was missing was the bearded lady!
   In 1976 the movie NETWORK was released. In it a TV news anchor-man, played by Peter Finch, went crazy by what television had become. His memorable line was, "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore." He won the Oscar post mortem, he passed before the movie released, as the anchor-man who lost it. In many ways, Paddy Chayefsky's script predicted the FOX Network. All they need to add now is the fortune teller. Maybe that's next. Infomercials have hit big time!
   TV certainly is a time capsule of our life and times. Watching those ads tonight, I wonder what is left? 

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible products. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!