Transitioning into the new Millennium

by Alden Cole on July 23, 2017 · 0 comments

1999: The Choice is Ours #1 • oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″ • collection of Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow!

The end of the 90s and the transition into the new millennium was marked by radical changes in my life. In 1996, Roberts & Raymond Associates, the advertising agency where I had been working for the past decade, since moving to Philadelphia, closed its doors. Once again, I was out of a job and looking for work. Full-time employment eluded me, but I picked up temporary work through MacTemps for a while, until I found a more regular free-lance situation with Articus, Ltd. – another advertising agency that coincidentally was located on the fourth floor of the same building where I had worked from 1988-90, when Roberts & Raymond rented office space on the ground floor of the renovated four-story atrium building at the corner of 22nd Street and Arch Street, that had once been the Philadelphia Women’s Prison. Deja Vu!

2000: The Choice is Ours #2 • oil on linen, 14″ x 18″ • collection of Lezley Steele

Despite the uncertainty of my daily working situation during this time as a free-lance pre-press production artist, I would continue to sporadically turn my attentions to making art for my own enjoyment; including these three variations seen here, above and below, on the theme of choice, all of which were painted during the millennial change – between’99 and ’01. The concept for the three oils went back to early idea sketches in pencil of which I had first drawn variations in small sketch books and on file cards (which I still have) as early as the 80s.

2001: The Choice is Ours: #3 • oil on linen, 11″ x 14″ • collection of Lou Szyumski.

Finally in the late 90s, in response to more free time on my hands without a full-time job, and occasionally even whole weekdays on my hands, I gave form to the ideas that had been brewing in my mind for quite some time, starting with the one at the top of this posting, which was the loosest, most easily accomplished. With the others, I worked harder at physical definition and a more polished surface, possibly at the expense of vitality as well as ambiguity. THe jury is still out on this one.

1996: Silent City • oil on linen, 13″ x 65″

Unfinished Business: Inspired by the view of Center City Philadelphia from my third floor roof, I decided to dedicate a painting to that skyline, the first of many, using a particularly panoramic canvas for the job. The process was a bit tedious: scanning the original photo I planned to work from, then enlarging sections of it in photoshop, printing those sections, taping them together, then transferring the drawing of the skyline itself to the canvas. Painting the silhouetted city first, I then went on to paint an evening sky. The plan was to eventually fill in the details of the city buildings in a night scene. But as with many projects I’ve started over the years, my enthusiasm flagged knowing all the precision work that was ahead if I stuck to my original plan. I’ve even reached a point where I enjoy the stark silence of the piece; so who knows if the long hours of finishing work will ever be accomplished. Maybe someone else with more talent than myself will rise to the occasion of giving the city what it needs: Light.

1995: Night & Day Bed – head- and foot-boards for a four-poster rope-bed; turned posts are maple, panels with Night & Day oil paintings are pine. Each
measures 44″ high x 54″ wide x 4″ diameter posts. At left are details of the two panoramic paintings.

Truth to tell, I did very little easel painting during the 90s. The blog posting prior to this one shows some of the major pieces done during the early part of the decade. I had a full time job and had moved into my own first house in 1991. In my leisure time, the new focus was on the 3-story row-house I called home, turning it into a work of art. My intent was to create a unique environment that could function as a studio and gallery as well as my base of operations and heart-home. Along the way, it also became my castle, my sanctuary, and my storage unit, all rolled into one. The goal was to furnish this new spacious acquisition inexpensively, elegantly and comfortably. I started bringing old furniture from Maine where it had been in storage, and restoring those pieces. For instance, my aunt Charlotte had first given me all the parts to the old-fashioned rope-bed seen above, including its side-rails, back in the 1970s while I was still living in NYC. At the time, all pieces were painted white, probably lead-based. In the mid-90s as I was settling into 717 Federal Street, I took the time to strip all these pieces down to raw wood which had been originally stained with an old traditional recipe of brick-dust and buttermilk, which gives the wood that lovely ruddy color. The decision to paint panoramas on the pine panels was an afterthought. Unfortunately, the bed has only been roped together and made functional for showing once, when the Dumpster Divers had a store-front on South Street back in 2009.

The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (26 Sep 1872 – 9 Sep 1945)

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become bitter or vain; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in our own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

1994: The Desiderata was the fifth poster printed by Conscious World Art. Unfortunately I was only able to print an initial edition of 500 copies because the copyright holder would not renew my usage contract; by his lights, I was not selling enough copies fast enough to warrant a renewal of the $300 lease. Go figure… Those 500 copies will be collectors items someday folks…

“You, who are with me in this life for my guidance and protection, I light this candle in thanksgiving for your constant help and guidance.”

1993: Guardian Angel poster – printed b&w on cream-colored card stock 14″ x 11″ – $10 each. This was the fourth poster published under the imprint of Conscious World Art, using a photogravure of a painting by German artist Wilhelm von Kaulbach (15 Oct 1805 – 7 Apr 1874) one of the most popular portrayals of the Guardian Angel.

1992: LipBoat #3 – colored pencil on black presentation board, 8.5″ x 14″ – collection of Nellie Burano

The artwork at left was a development of/inspired by LipBoat #2, the first drawing from the “Anatomy of a Love Affair” series of four artworks featured in the posting before this. Inspired by Mary Renault’s passionately and sensitively written novel, The Persian Boy, volume two of her extraordinary tale of the life of Alexander the Great which I read in the late 80s, while on a Mary Renault roll, reading most of her published work at the time dealing with the glory that was Ancient Greece. The Mask of Apollo is one of the Great Novels in my estimation. Makes me want to reread it after all these years…

1990: Creating Your Giant Self – luma dyes and colored pencil on paper, 16.5″ x 10.5″ – original has faded somewhat with time.

In 1990, Jim Wasserman of Studio 31 in Florida, whom I had known since we both worked at Weiser’s in the mid-70s, commissioned me to create cover artwork for a self-help book by Dr. Robert Rose. Of the several ideas submitted, this is the one developed from rough sketch to finished art; my last completed illustration project using an air brush. And I have to add, I haven’t missed working with an air brush since; despite the magic that one can create with an airbrush, they are a pain to work with, and demand incredible patience, especially when they spatter paint, as they sometimes do, over a nearly completed artwork, requiring you to start all over again…

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