What I Wanted to Say …

by John Bloner, Jr.

This is my final article as Racine Writer-In-Residence as I will hand off its baton to the next honoree on July 1st. Thank you to ArtRoot, the Osborne & Scekic Family Foundation, Nick Ramsey, and the Racine Literacy Council for their support and encouragement.

Over the past six months, the Krazines, an art-making and creative-writing community I have worked to develop since 2016 has grown in membership and its monthly publication has seen many new contributors. Our July issue is our biggest one yet, featuring 38 artists and authors who deliver art, photos, prose and poetry on the theme: Way Out West.

As I reported in last week’s post, Spectrum School of the Arts and Gallery in Racine is welcoming a dozen or more Krazines’ artists to their space during the month of July. The opening reception takes place on Friday, July 2, 2021 from 4-8pm. Other show dates are Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-4pm from July 3rd through July 25th. Free admission.

Thank you to Denise Zingg and Stephen Kalmar II for welcoming the Krazines to Spectrum Gallery.

The past six months went by so quickly, I didn’t have time to say everything I wanted to share.

I’d wanted to tell the story of the Artists’ Coffee Hour, hosted by the Black-Eyed Press in Racine, Wisconsin. This casual gathering has transformed my life because of its comradery and inspiring atmosphere. For the past several years, Samira Gdisis, owner/operator of this letterpress operation, has welcomed artists, writers, and other creatives into her studio in the Racine Arts and Business Center on every Thursday morning at 10am for coffee, treats, and conversation. The pandemic kept everyone from gathering in-person, so participants connected instead on their laptops and phones during weekly video chats.

Beginning June 24, 2021, Artists Coffee Hour is returning to the Black-Eyed Press for visitors who are fully-vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine. Participation is free, although donations are appreciated to defray costs of beverages and treats.

Artists Coffee Hour may be scheduled on select Thursdays to meet at Petrifying Springs Park to take advantage of fair weather days, and there’s talk of a summertime field trip to a farm for rural sketching and plein air painting opportunities.

I’d also wanted to report on the completion of Phase Two of my world-building project, but found over the last few months that building a fictional world – its history, people, mythology, architecture, laws, and customs – required more time than expected.

My world-building project revolves around the creation of the town of Ferkelburg (translation: Castle Piglet), whose population includes eccentric characters such as Early Octavio Bumbershoot, a somnambulist photographer. Early cannot hold a camera in his waking hours without fumbling it, but when asleep, he’s another Ansel Adams.

Phase One of this project culminated in January of this year with the publication of Greetings from Ferkelburg, to which 19 artists and authors contributed. (Click on the photo below to view a copy of this zine.)

Phase two is re-scheduled for completion in December 2021, culminating in a second publication. In the meantime, I’ve sought help from a couple of world-building advisors.

I’ve joined World Anvil, a website that provides a set of worldbuilding tools to aid me in the creation, organization, and storage of materials about fictional cities, planets, and universes or multi-verses.

World Anvil provides 25 worldbuilding templates. the ability to embed maps, provide links and cross-references to materials, detail family trees and bloodlines, and more. If you’re looking to start your own worldbuilding endeavor, there are free and paid versions for use of this site, depending on the complexity of your project.

I’ve also turned for help to Nick Bantock, who is well-known for his Griffin & Sabine series of books.

Bantock’s manual, The Trickster’s Hat, contains 49 exercises to help you to find and engage your creative self. I

In one exercise called Building a Country, Bantock challenges his readers to “open the passageway between daily drudgery and infinite imaginings in our heartland.” He asks questions to make you picture a fictional place, to consider its geographic size, terrain, its creatures, its people and their politics and beliefs.

The intent of the exercise, Bantock shares in the book’s notes, “is to expand your inner life and open a dialogue between you and your mythic, so the creativity born within you can eventually exercise itself for the good of all.”

As a part of the process in building the world of Ferkelburg, I’ve created many preliminary sketches of the people that populate a story, Ferkelburg in Black and White, by Kenosha author, Jodi Diderrich. In her tale, Jodi tells of a time when the town, except for its puppet theater, was painted in black-and-white, and the townspeople and nature itself soon assimilated these two outcasts of color on their skin, clothes, and by the natural surroundings.

Into this scenario, enters a puppeteer, dressed in bright colors, who learns of the town’s secrets and plays a role in its transformation. His name is Beau Zander. Along with him, other townspeople, the owner of the theater and her son, his girlfriend, and a market vendor are depicted below.

Last week, I’d shared artwork, inspired by an online class by Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson. (Read this article HERE). This class nudged me to create another piece in order to showcase my favorite corner in Kenosha, Wisconsin: the intersection downtown between Sixth Avenue and 56th Street. I’ve populated this picture (below) with Kenoshans of today and yesteryear.

It’s a tribute to the late Judy Rossow, whose life and legacy will be long-remembered and cherished. The marquee of the Rhode Center for the Arts reads, For the Love of Judy, and an illustration of her, wearing angel wings, can be seen just below the theater’s sign. Judy had served as president of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District, worked to save the Rhode building from the wrecker’s ball and restore it to an artistic showcase for the Lakeside Players, the Kenosha Art Association, and for other creative activities.

This image appears in its inking stage. I’ve begun to add watercolor, watercolor pencils, and colored pencils toward a finished piece.

I’d wanted to share news on this blog about podcasts that have delighted my ears and challenged my mind. I’m making up for lost time here.

I have at least one podcast in my ear for every day of the week. This month, I added Dan Nielsen with Five Minutes to the rotation.

I’d first encountered Dan when he was performing with his girlfriend, Georgia Bellas, at Fusion, a performance space in Kenosha. I was enthralled by their humor and use of unconventional instruments. They have a Theremin in their quiver, and I’m pretty sure I spotted a kazoo, too.

A few takeaways from listening to the first seven episodes of Dan Nielsen with Five Minutes. Dan’s speech rhythms remind me of Allen Ginsberg’s, but Dan has better jokes. He’s the counterculture’s response to Rodney Dangerfield and can tell great two-liners. He could be another Steven Wright if there were any modulation in Steven Wright’s voice.

I didn’t complete 
all the work 
on your car 
but I did 
put a dent in it

- Dan Nielsen

Want to know more about Dan? Check out his bio on the Spank the Carp website:

Dan Nielsen is old. Early influences include Howdy Doody and Hopalong Cassidy. Raised above a Polish meat market, he fed apples to the horse that pulled the wagon driven by the farmer who delivered the vegetables. Educated by Polish nuns who barely spoke English, Dan taught himself to read and write. Dan likes to read. He’s pretty good at writing. Dan lives with his girlfriend Georgia in a house in Wisconsin a few blocks from Lake Michigan. He’s happy.

Another podcast that’s caught both of my ears is KTown Connects, hosted by lifelong Kenoshans  Donny Stancato and Jason Hedman. Every week, they interview Kenosha area business owners, nonprofit leaders, historians, politicians, and celebrities, including Brett Bjorn of Bjorn’s Fine Clothing; Matt Geary of Public Craft Brewing Co.; Chris Allen of Kenosha History Center; radio personality Lenny Palmer; and many more.

Donny Stancato recently joined the Board of Directors to an organization I’ve served for over 35 years, Kenosha Community Media (KCM). KCM is collaborating with the Kenosha Public Library on a podcast called Cruising Through History with Scott Kroes. The first episode should drop into your favorite podcatcher at some time this summer.

Well, as Porky Pig says, that’s all folks! Thanks for stopping by to read this article and others published here in 2021. If you’d like to see more of my artwork, check out my Instagram page, Junior Barnes Art. If you’d like to get involved with the Krazines, send me an email at info@krazines.com or join our Facebook group.

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