Progress on the SP Portrait Project at SPTC

I was asked to photograph the actors in the Backstage at the Santa Paula Theater Center production.  The show was Bugs.  Very dark but I did not know that when I showed up to shoot the cast.  The title Bug reminded me of bugs on a windshield.  I brought a thick piece of plate glass to the shoot.  I asked everyone who came in to pose for me with their face smashed against this sheet of glass.  I photographed each face under glass.  Everybody said yes and went right to it.  The results were very unpredictable.  One subject lives in Santa Paula so I am including his portrait in the Santa Paula Portrait Project series.

The next phase of the project was to decide what to do with the images.  I’ve been exposed to ATC lately.  Those are Artists’ Trading Cards.  Artists can make cards 2.5×3.5.  They can only be traded or given away, not sold.  I printed up batches of 5 or 10 depending on how the layout worked out for gang printing.  I applied an over-lamination material and cut them to size.  I wrote CCTC on the back (Creature Company Trading Card) with the edition number and initials.  Then I gave them away.

Go to the Santa Paula Theater Center web site for more info on their productions.

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I Like Portraits

I visited a photo show in Culver City recently where several dealers showed vintage photos.  I was struck by the number of portraits on sale.  Who would want to buy a portrait of somebody who was not your family member?  Me for one.  Buy and look a lot.  I think looking at portraits of previous humans leads us to a greater understanding of what it is to be human in our own skin now.

I started looking around at the art and photos hanging on the walls of my home and gallery.  There are a ton of portraits.  That’s the way I like it.

Now the challenge is to create some portraits for the Santa Paula Portrait Project that tap some of the depth of that tradition.  The goal is to reveal as much of myself in the portrait as I reveal of the sitter.

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Duck Breast Success

I’ve been on pins and needles for the past three weeks.  That’s when I wrapped my salt cured duck breast in cheesecloth, tied it up and hung it in the garage.  The drying process was supposed to take only 7 days.  The duck breast was supposed to lose 30% of its weight and it was done.  I weighed it every day.  At the end of the first week it was down 1 oz. from its original 16 oz.  It still felt very soft.  I posted a question on the

charcutepalooza blog.

I was advised to have patience, put a bowl of salted water under the duck and grope it.

There’s also a Flickr group with a lot of photos of the process and results.  I’m now one of the 55 members. That helped a lot.

After about two weeks of this I obtained an old refrigerator and a temperature control.  The humidity control has yet to arrive but I made do.  I think the new environment was conducive to the process.

Yesterday I felt it for the final time.  It occurred to me that I was feeling the fat side and that’s the side that would not have stiffened.  The meat side was feeling pretty done but I had no experience so had to guess.  I bent it back and forth and it seemed about right.  I cut it down and took it into the kitchen.

When I unwrapped it I thought I was a goner.  The meat side looked almost black and the fat side almost white.  Sort of like an Oreo with one of the cookies ripped off.

The Meat Side of the Duck Breast

The fat side sure looked like a lot of that bad old fat I’m supposed to avoid.

The Fat Side of the Duck Breast

I sharpened up a chef’s knife and cut into it.  Two thin slices went immediately into the mouths of Leslie and John.  Leslie was eating only the meat and I encouraged her to eat the fat with the meat.  It was pronounced delicious.  Better than any other duck breast prosciutto we had ever tasted.  After three weeks of gently kidding the pants off me for my daily duck grope and constant talk about it Leslie gave me a big hug.  I was redeemed.

Here’s what the inside looks like.

Duck Breast Prosciutto

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Makin’ Bacon – And Other Things

Somehow I got onto charcuterie.  I ate some in Sacramento on a recent trip at The Grange.  It was “house made”.   I wanted to make my own.  Next I came across a web site to teach me and inspire me.  The site is Mrs. Wheelbarrow.  That site started something called “Charcutepalooza”. Each month they put out a challenge.  In January it was to make duck breast prosciutto.  I ordered a duck breast, followed directions and it is now hanging my garage.  Should be ready to eat any day now.

Hanging Duck Breast for Prosciutto

The Duck Breast

That’s it, wrapped in cheesecloth and hanging from a string.  Being a male I had to assemble a few pieces of equipment and tools.  I found the refrigerator at the Ventura Swap Meet for $20.  I got the meat slicer at Goodwill for $12.99.  The thing hanging on the side is a temperature regulator.  The sensor is inside and I can set the temperature of the box to 60 degrees if I want.  Usually refrigerators won’t go that high.  Drying and curing the meat needs a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees.  I also will hook up a humidifier and gauge to keep the humidity about 60% by a similar system.  I’ll be able to control those two variables all year round.

The February challenge from Charcutepalooza is to make bacon and/or pancetta.

Hog Belly

As luck would have it I went to a vintage photo show in the Helms Bakery and had some time to kill so I shopped at Surfas just down the block.  They had a frozen pork belly and the pink salt I also needed.  I got 6 pounds.  That was more than I needed but it was the same price as 3 pounds shipped UPS in those cold cartons.

The Belly Sliced

I sliced the thawed belly into three portions.  The ends will be come bacon and the square middle will become pancetta.


I dredged the slab in the dry cure of  Kosher salt, sugar and pink salt.

The Wait

I put each slab into a 2.5 gal. freezer bag and into the refrigerator for a week.  I’ll turn it daily.

What will happen next?

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The SPPP (Santa Paula Portrait Project) Continues

After Gail and I talked we got ready to begin taking some portraits.  I think we are going to use the name Santa Paula Portrait Project.  I emailed her all the model release forms I had in English and Spanish.  … Continue reading

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The Santa Paula Portrait Project Begins

Gail Pidduck and I met at my gallery on Wed., January 5 to talk about our next project.  We both need one.  She planted the seed a few months ago and asked me to think about doing a series of portraits of our fellow citizens here in Santa Paula.  I liked it and began researching and thinking.  Here are a few elements of the project that came out of our talk.  Subject to revision and change due to the nature of reality.

The Santa Paula Portrait Project sounds like a good title.

We are not copying anyone else.  It’s a universal theme.

This is something neither of us thinks can make money so we will be doing this in the background.

We will start out by each doing some portraits either 8×10 inches in size or 12×12 inches.  That’s because Gail can order canvas panels in those sizes.  I can then print to those sizes.

We can eventually display our portraits in a grid with one Gail next to one John.

Those individual small portraits could lead us to go deeper into the subject if we and the subject want to.  One head shot could lead to larger portraits of any size showing more context and putting the subject into their environment.

We may ask one other artist to join us.

Each of us will blog about the process and our experiences and post examples of how the project is going.

We will print up some business cards with a coupon good for a drawing for a portrait.  We give one chance to each person who will allow us to do their portrait.  On the card will be links to our blogs.

We need to work up some model releases in English and Spanish.  Although we don’t have plans to use the portraits for commercial or advertising use it will be nice to be direct about what usage the sitter is granting.  It’s also a way to gather the name and address of the sitters.

In a year or two we might want to hang an exhibit and publish a book.

This project, the SPPP, will grow organically as we do it.

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Every Day We Must Spit On The Altar of Cocktails

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