Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The 24/7 Creative Life

Artists. We harbor so many myths and fantasies about them. They are either starving unknowns, living in poverty and working at their art full-time (à la Van Gogh), or they are flamboyant geniuses achieving fame and fortune (think Picasso and Warhol).

If an artist needs a money to live until his or her art commands huge prices, then one often-preferred path is to become an art teacher. Although the romantic idea of doing one’s work in a classroom while sharing one’s creative thoughts with an eager audience of students is desirable, the reality is often very different. There just aren’t enough teaching jobs to go around.

So for most artists the middle road between starvation and fame looks more like this: Waking up and readying themselves for work, working a full-time day job, often eight hours a day, five days a week. Painting, performing or writing is saved for after work, weekends or vacations. Artists often get frustrated and dream of the day they will become “legit,” working at their art full-time instead of being a “slave to the system.”

An artist, musician and writer herself, Summer Pierre has tackled this problem head-on in her new book, The Artist in the Office – How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week. In her introduction she writes: “This little book isn’t about not working, it’s about acknowledging the work we do. It’s about waking up in the life we inhabit now instead of putting off life for later.”

She goes on to offer practical advice on “how to focus and get your creative work done while keeping a job as well as your sanity." Some of her tips include:

1. Lunchtime adventures
2. Creative commute.
3. Make work an object of creativity.
4. Job searching tips.
5. Ways to find time (limit television, internet, etc).
6. Take a class.

Lavishly illustrated with amusing drawings, The Artist in the Office will help anyone thrive at both their creative work and their day job.

The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week by Summer Pierre (Penguin Group, 2010).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photographing San Francisco: Digital Field Guide

One of the reasons why San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world is the stunning combination of the physical landscape and lived environment of our city. For that reason it’s understandable that a full-length instructional manual, Photographing San Francisco by Bruce Sawle, would be written for our fair city.

The book contains 28 chapters, each devoted to a photogenic location within our city. Some of these chapters are written about individual neighborhoods like North Beach, Chinatown and Downtown (the Financial District and Civic Center). Others are dedicated destinations like our city’s museums or destinations in Golden Gate Park like the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Guard, the Windmills, and the Japanese Tea Garden.

Each chapter explains why it’s worthwhile photographing at each location, what are the best positions from which to take a picture, and what is the ideal equipment to employ. The author suggests the best times of day to capture picture the perfect picture. Each image shown in the book gives information about ISO, the aperture, shutter speed and the write lens to use.

A guide like Photographing San Francisco provides the novice photographer with guidance to master the medium of digital photography. While these exercises will take you to the City's famed beauty spots touted in all tourist guides, it can help the photographer to see the city with fresh eyes and use it as a palette to hone ones craft.

Photographing San Francisco: Digital Field Guide by Bruce Sawle (Wiley, 2010).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Come Up And See My Etchings Sometime...

Pont d'Espagne - High Pyrenees (from the Spain - Views folder)

The Etching and Engraving Picture File is a collection of illustrations culled from mid19th - early 20th century magazines. Some of the magazines clipped include the Illustrated London News, Harper's Monthly, the French magazine L'Illustration, and Scientific American. This collection is a wonderful resource for artists and crafters and others who can use copyright-free illustrations.

The Colossal Elephant of Coney Island (from the Amusements folder)

When you visit the Main Library, come the 4th floor to see a small display, Come Up And See My Etchings Sometime. This display, adjacent to the staircase near the Art, Music & Recreation Center reference desk, features reproductions of images from the Etching and Engraving Picture File.

The illustrations in this collection are filed in folders organized into more than 4,500 alphatbetical subject headings, from "Abbeys" to "Zoos - Philadelphia." These subject headings are listed in the Etching and Engraving Picture File Index.

See also: San Francisco Public Library Art, Music and Recreation Center blog entries using Etching and Engraving Picture File Images.

Putnam's Escape at Horse Neck (in the United States - History - Revolution (Leaders) folder)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Garage Bands from the 60s, Then and Now

Garage Bands from the 60s, Then and Now: The San Francisco East Bay Scene is a survey of the rock bands of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and the scene that supported them . As the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World defines them, garage bands were amateur bands in the United States inspired by “British invasion” bands. They came to be known by this name because the garage was the default rehearsal space for these largely suburban, high school-aged musicians. Though the Encyclopedia notes that these bands were often “characterized more by enthusiasm than technical skill,” some musicians did go on to have careers in music.

The concert promoter Bill Quarry was perhaps the central person in this scene. He established the Teens N’ Twenties dances and concerts that became a central part of the East Bay’s youth culture. Venues like Frenchy’s A Go-Go in Hayward and the Rollerama in San Leandro brought in nationally famous talent. He frequently employed local acts to open these shows, providing a platform to move from the garage to the stage.

Most of the book is devoted to short chapters about noteworthy bands from that time and place. Some of these are actual interviews with the musicians. You can read about one of the East Bay’s most famous bands, The Tower of Power, and learn how some of the members originally played in garage bands like the Gotham City Crime Fighters and The Motowns. Author Bruce Tahsler also catches up with many of the musicians to learn of their lives after they hung up their guitars.

Garage Bands from the 60s is full of illustrations--pictures of the bands and musicians then and now, as well as concert posters. These images are also available, sometimes in color, Bill Quarry's website. At the end of the book there is a list of clubs and venues, a selective discography, and page listing hundreds of band names (who knew there was an East Bay garage band named Public Library?).

Garage Bands from the 60's, Then and Now: The San Francisco East Bay Scene (2nd edition), stories written and edited by Bruce Tahsler (Teens N' Twenties Pub., 2007).

Enjoy a selection of East Bay sounds:

Baytovens - “Waiting for you”

Jimmy Cicero - "Sherrie"

Crystal Garden - "Peach Fuzz Forest"

The Epics - "Humpty Dumpty"

The Harbinger Complex - "I Think I’m Down"

Peter Wheat & the Breadmen - “Baby what’s new”

The Rear Exit - "Excitation"

The Savonics - "I Had a Girl"

The Sypders - "I Can Take Care of Myself"

The Staton Brothers - "Oh, Did I Miss Her"

The Tears - "Weatherman"

Tower of Power - "Sparkling in the Sand" (originally from the 1970 album “East Bay Grease” as performed at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival)