JIM DORAN

Excel Blades

I’ve been using Excel Blades ever since my friend, Annie Howe, gave me some to try last summer. Previously, I had always used Xacto blades (hundreds and hundreds of them).

I’ve found Excel blades to be more consistently sharp, especially at the tip, which is what I use the most. As a surprise bonus, they sent me new handles today! Of all days, too.

I love them. You can follow the company on Instagram. They really are family owned and operated, and seem like very nice folks!

Excel Blades

A Dark and Gorey Night

Jim Doran talking at AVAM

Being a part of the great mystery show at AVAM has been one of the great honors and pleasures of my life. It is a thrill to see my art in the same room with Ingo Swann’s paintings, and around the corner from Edward Gorey’s The Gashleycrumb Tinies and Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon.

Gorey's Dracula Toy TheatreAfter I was well underway with my dioramas, I started hearing that my work is reminiscent of  Gorey. I wasn’t familiar with him until an acquaintance told me about his toy Dracula Theatre, which was inspired by the Broadway production that earned Gorey a Tony award for costume and set design. It made me swoony, and then I came into several of his books. Gorey had a fantastic sense of humor, elegantly placed around dark subject matter, and super human crosshatching abilities, which are two of my favorite qualities in another human being.

I read several books as I was preparing for this evening’s talk and my favorite is from CJ Verburg: Edward Gorey On Stage: a Multimedia Memoir: Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer. Verburg helped Gorey produce around twenty “Entertainments” in a community theater near where they both lived in Cape Cod. These “Entertainments” were plays that had twenty or so acts running from two to five minutes each. Gorey wrote and typed the scripts (something he began doing during WWII, when he was drafted to a desk job in Utah), designed the costumes, made puppets, arranged for the music, and designed the programs and posters. Verburg seemed to know Gorey better than the other authors I sampled.  I think the later part of his life, when he was so involved in these projects, is fascinating. Many of these were incomprehensible to the audience and abstract/absurd.

Gorey loved ballet, and dance informs many of his characters’ gestures. He would attend some 160+ performances on the New York City Ballet a year. He wore a fur coat, jeans and white converse sneakers. Verburg tells great stories of Gorey’s time at Harvard and the Poet’s Theater Project, of which he and his roommate, Frank O’Hara, were members.

Jim Doran talking about Edward Gorey

I talked about many other things, but one of the Great Mysteries I solved for myself is this: Gorey was influenced by French artist Charles Meryon. He collected some of his prints, which were heavily crosshatched, and quite nightmarish. Another interesting fact: Gorey was known to paint his toenails. Gorey claimed to be a Taoist, and maybe a surrealist. Gorey was also a voracious consumer of books, movies and television. According to his bio in the Gorey House website, he accumulated around 25,000 books by the time of his death at age 75. He liked soap operas, Third Rock from the Sun,  and anything he found entertaining.

So many of Gorey’s protagonist kids meet grisly endings.  When asked “Why do you hate children?” Gorey responded with “I don’t know any children.”

Ready to crosshatch

Pop-up drawings Gorey-esque drawings

People drawing in the gallery

 

The latter part of the evening involved a crosshatching exercise, inspired by the toy Dracula theatre. I made my own characters, and a zine with some basics on hatching techniques.

A quick guide to crosshatching

I have more of these. If you’d like one, please write to me.

 

Zine Scene

I had a very lucky thing happen today. I got to visit the special collections area of the library at work. There, I handled and read some very old science fiction zines. Fanzines, or “zines,” are amateur fan publications. From Wikipedia:

A science fiction fanzine is an amateur or semi-professional magazine published by members of science fiction fandom, from the 1930s to the present day. They were one of the earliest forms of fanzine, and at one time constituted the primary type of science-fictional fannish activity (“fanac”).

The first science-fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. The term “fanzine” was coined by Russ Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours. “Fanzines” were distinguished from “prozines”, that is, all professional magazines. Prior to that, the fan publications were known as “fanmags” or “letterzines.”

 

Detours Zine, October 1940

Zine detail

Detours, October, 1940

I took dozens of photos – too many to share here. These are some of my favorites:

futurian-war-digest

Triton Cover Triton #2 cover

The Fantasy Amateur

Ray Bradbury Imagination cover

Imagination Zine

St. Louis

In an attempt to validate some theories I had regarding using WordPress in Higher Education, I attend the 3rd annual WPCampus conference in St. Louis. I had never been to St. Louis, and discovered was hotter and more humid than Baltimore. I was able to use the MetroLink to get from the airport to Washington University in St. Louis and to my hotel.

I met a lot of other folks who are using WordPress as their main institutional CMS. I learned what plugins are useful for universities. I learned about other CMS solutions. I learned about governance in higher ed (the politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low). I learned about Gutenberg. It was nice to be at a WordCamp again.

And, I learned a few things about the city itself. I visited the arch, which one really has to see in person to understand how astonishingly big it is.

The Arch in St. Louis

On the second night, I decided it was just too gross out to take the train to whatever was happening post conference, so I decided to wander around the neighborhood around the hotel. I found a place on Google Maps called El Burrito Loco. Upon entering, I wanted to move in and never leave.

I’m only sharing a few photos of the many I took, but some of my favorite aspects of this outstanding establishment are, a diorama of skeletons in a door transom:

loco burrito diorama

The fabulous art and colors. The COLORS! loco burrito

The giant skeletons partying outside the building: loco burrito

And the HUGE papier-mâché skeleton on the ceiling of the dining room. YES!!!

loco burrito

I ate very well that night – they had the best queso I’ve ever had – so, I decided to walk about, and I turned down Maryland Avenue (because, well, I’m from Maryland).

I happened upon a chess club, which I visited, and a chess themed cafe. As I looked across the street, I observed the world’s largest chess pieces, and the Word Chess Hall of Fame (which has an informative  web site).  I spent an hour and a half here and it was great!

historical Staunton chess pieces

Floating chess exhibit from London

The Word Chess Hall of Fame

World's Biggest Chess piece

I wish I had more time to explore St. Louis, but for a guy like me, I lucked into an amazing experience.

The Great Mystery Show at AVAM

This has been an amazing year – after a fantastic jubilee of a birthday, I was invited to participate in the Great Mystery Show at the American Visionary Art Museum. AVAM is my favorite place in Baltimore, and one of my favorite places, period. I always feel lighter after a visit to the museum, as though I’m operating at a higher frequency.

Preview Party

The Great Mystery Show is my favorite yet. As with previous AVAM exhibits, it touches upon deep, timely and profound subjects. This show, however, is right up my alley. I would be surprised if you, dear reader, did not encounter profound synchronicities, intuitions and revelations that affect your life.

Jim Doran @ AVAM

I loved getting to know some of my fellow artists and participants. Some of them are discussed briefly below.

 

The preview party was one of the finest nights of my life.

Me & the Girls

Bondage and Maiden

Rebecca and I

Edward Gorey

I am so delighted to  be just around the corner from my man, Edward Gorey and his Gashlycrumb Tinies. It so great to see these pages, full sized and up close.

The Gashleycrumb Tinies

Rebecca Hoffberger talking Edward Gorey

J is for James who had lye by mistake

Ingo Swann

I am deeply honored to have my work hang in the same room as Ingo Swann. He was a brilliant researcher, writer and remote viewer. Visit his site – fascinating!

The Mysterious Mother Mary

This painting The Mysterious Mother Mary was missing for a time. Through a miraculous and arduous path, it was found in time for this exhibit and is the cornerstone of the show. Swann didn’t like to make “predictions.” His niece told me he was cornered at a conference, and was relentlessly hounded to predict the future. With great reluctance, he said “The Berlin wall will come down 18 months from now.” At the time he said it, there wasn’t a shred of evidence that the cold war was in danger of ending. It seemed far fetched at the time, and yet it came to pass.

Swann was not a Catholic. What’s unnerving about this painting is the atomic mushroom cloud over the ocean that takes up 1/3 of the composition. At the time of this writing, that is a potential political outcome. I hope Swann didn’t see this happening.

Peter Eglington

I got to know Peter Eglington a bit. He’s a 65 year old surfer from Australia who looks 40. He’s a mystic lighthouse of a man, and has three adult children. He stepped on a stingray on two different occasions and lived to tell about it – he says it informed his work as a “rite of passage,” like a trial by fire.  He works with technical pens, color pencils and some paint. His works are HUGE, and a must see.

Peter Eglington discusses his work

Peter Eglington & Dorans

The Beadists

It was a pleasure the meet the “beadist” three graces; Nancy Josephson, Jan Huling and Betsy Youngquist. It’s worth spending hours just in their wing of the museum alone.

The body of Betsy’s rabbit was made by her partner, based on her own body.

Betsy

Jan’s dress is a 3D print of her own wedding dress, which was also her mother’s dress.

Jan

Nancy is a priestess, ordained in Haiti.  She draws much inspiration from this background.
Nancy

Nancy

Len Jenkin

Len Jenkin is a writer and playwright from NYC/NY state. He’s been painting for many years, and is highly knowledgeable about “outsider” art and artists.

Len Jenkin

Complete list of artists: Anonymous Artist • Kelley Bell • David Bowman • Mary Bowron • Paul Darmafall • Jim Doran • Dr. B • Peter Eglington • George Figgs • Edward Gorey • Paul Graubard • Michael Green • Richard “Duke” Hagerty • Julian Harr • Gerald Hawkes • John Root Hopkins • Jan Huling • Lorann Jacobs • Len Jenkin • Nancy Josephson • Paul Laffoley • James Leonard • Scott Long • Rafael Matias • Antar Mikosz • Greg Mort • Margaret Munz-Losch • Chris Roberts-Antieau • Dr. Ned Rosinsky • Richard Smith • Bernard Stiegler • Ingo Swann • Christian Twamley • Louis Wain • Aric Wanveer • Frank Warren • Edward Woltemate • Betsy Youngquist

Decennium

I started this blog 10 years ago today.  What’s more, this my month of Jubilation.   I just celebrated my 50th birthday.

I like to tell the story of how my friend Roni Noone advised me investigate using WordPress to enhance this site, which began in 2001. I set up a blog and began sharing art, and some other things that bring Joy. I called the site Joie de Vivre.

It was like adding water to a big box of instant powdered AWESOME LIFE mix. It amplified the great parts of life, and helped me cope with some very challenging, darker things.  I am brimming with gratitude.

Best Birthday Cake EVER

It seems appropriate to mark the occasion by sharing this photo of the best birthday cake that was ever made, or ever will be made, ever. It was perfect and delicious. Thank you my dear, lovely Maiden China. You are the best.