Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

(It's actually not an image from today, when it's warmish and melting, but it looks nice, eh?)

Yes, it's been a bit of an art-free zone around here the last week or so. That little cold finally got to me (something about goofing around in bad weather with bighorn sheep gave it the upper hand) and I've been feeling decidedly sub-par. HOWEVER, I can still feel virtuous because I've jump-started my 2009 goals.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's true.

I am upgrading my database.

It's not the most exciting way to end a year, that's for sure, but it's going to feel REALLY good to have it all up to snuff. For the last four days I've been sneezing and coughing and drinking echinacea tea in front of the computer... testing demo software and making decisions and spending money in between naps on the sofa. (sigh) I'm way overdue for this task. I had perfectly functional files until two years ago, when I upgraded my computer system and, of course, rendered half of my previous life obsolete. The old mailing list data went "temporarily" and imperfectly into a spreadsheet, where it has languished all this time. Same thing for my artwork records. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, except that the new year is less than 8 hours away and I'm determined to start it on a positive note.

We'll be keeping a low profile again tonight, and tomorrow I think we'll spend a little more time fine-tuning our goals for the year ahead. I gave up on the whole "resolution" idea years ago, but I always find it helpful to spend the time between winter solstice and the new year reviewing my accomplishments and sketching out a course for the months ahead. I always have WAAAYYYYY more ambition than energy to get it all done, but a least I feel a little bit focused.

So.... from our house to yours, we send our very best wishes for the new year. Is it gonna be challenging? You betcha! But hey, at least I'll be organized.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The envelope, please....

Golly.

Katherine Tyrrell over at Making a Mark has gone to enormous and thoughtful effort to compile and create a lovely series of awards for art and artists in the blogosphere. I am quite touched and honored to have been mentioned in the "Going Greener" category.

Do stop over and see her collection of great ideas, links, and information. Quite honestly, I don't know how she keeps track of it all, but I'm glad she does!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feeling sheepish?

The last week seems to have dissolved in a blur of not-much-ness. After our victorious CBC, followed immediately by a huge party with 50 or 60 of our closest friends, I went in to serious Slug Mode. For a few days I've been wrestling with a little bit of a cold. It has never gotten the upper hand, but neither has it given up and gone slinking back to the morass of germs whence it came. Still, it's been a good excuse to sit on the sofa reading mystery novels and watching Star Trek reruns.

Christmas Eve we had a lovely dinner out with friends, and Christmas Day we spent bundled up in the house making such a feast for two that we have leftovers to tide us for at least a week.

Oh, yeah. We're slowing-moving non-vertebrates, alright.

It's a good thing I had our penance for this time-squandering and caloric indulgence all lined up.


Each winter the local Division of Wildlife baits bighorn sheep in order to administer lungworm meds. Alfalfa hay and apple mash are put out each day... think holiday cookies for sheep. Once a goodly number of sheep are coming in to the site, meds are added to the apple mash and voila! Everyone gets dosed without the stress of trapping or darting.

We're fortunate here in our area, because volunteers are allowed to help with this daily "chore," and I've been able to participate in the project for several years. This year I was really excited to be able to bring the DM along A) to have the experience and b) to help.

Yesterday was our first scheduled day to bait, so of course when I got up it was snowing and blowing and miserable. It's a 25-mile drive up the valley to get the truck, the hay, and the apple mash... so just GETTING to the site might prove challenging. (sigh) Not precisely what I had in mind for the DM's first bighorn adventure, but whaterya gonna do?

The weather stayed, in the DM's words, "funky" all morning. A little ice, a little snow, a lot of wind. In places we were driving through 18 inches of untrammeled snow, and twice I got us nearly stuck. A little digging, a little swearing, a little calculated effort and we made it back out to the main road. Whew!

But, hey.. it was worth it. I was delighted to see 14 lambs among the 46 sheep that came in to the Chalk Creek site, and 2 more among the 18 sheep at Cottonwood. It's still pretty early in the season, so probably more sheep will come down in the next few weeks. I've got my eyes peeled for one in particular: a young ewe I helped tag two seasons ago. Could be she's gone off to new territory, could be she's gone off to the great sheep herd in the sky.. but could be she'll stop by for a bit of nostalgic apple mash tippling and we'll get to catch up on the news.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Elev.... dangit.
One, Two, Three...

Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?

Monday, December 22, 2008

We must be living right

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood....

Remember I said the forecast for yesterday's Salida Christmas Bird Count called for a low of -5 F and a high of 14 F?

Well!

Imagine everyone's surprise when we got up before 6:00am and found it was 24 F! I checked first online (there's a Weatherbug station at the local middle school*). Didn't believe it. Hit the refresh button three or four times. It still said 24. So I groped around in the dark until I could find the temp gauge for outside the house. It said the same thing!

(*When school isn't in session, the site often defaults to the Monarch Pass station, 3000+' higher than town. Not useful unless you're going skiing.)

Probably people who get to do their CBCs in places like Florida and Texas shake their heads at those of us who are happy for start temps below freezing... but I think this might have been the balmiest start for us, ever. The lowest point of our circle is at about 7000' elevation, and parts of it are probably at about 10,000'. (Methodist Mountain elevation is over 11,000' at the summit, and we have a hearty team who hike the Rainbow Trail across its northern face for the count each year.) Teams in the higher elevations still had cold and wind, but NOT like we expected. Hooray!

In all it was a good day. I haven't run the numbers yet, but it looks like we had 74 (*nope, 77!) species, which is typical for our count. A couple of interesting birds new to the count: Lewis' woodpecker and two species of Rosy-finch. Finally! We knew the little buggers had to be here somewhere! My dear friend Tony found them and got some pics... hopefully I'll get him to send copies. In the meantime, a nice Lewis' woodpecker shot by Randy Hancock....

Many thanks to our local Division of Wildlife office, which sponsors lunch for our counters and whose officers participate in the count (often driving volunteers into hard-to-access areas of our forest-ridden count circle).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ritual insanity

My kitchen table is strewn with papers covered in these odd ritualistic markings: a circle, some numbers, some wavy lines, some colored blotches. What can it all mean?

It means that at oh-dark-hundred tomorrow morning, when the forecast calls for a balmy -1 F, bundled and binoculared crazies will gather to crawl over stream and under shrub in search of feathered wonders.


Yup. Salida Christmas (Solstice) Bird Count is tomorrow. Get out your woolies and your insulated hot beverage container.

Tick tock tick tock


Probably those readers in the southern hemisphere aren't NEARLY as excited about the upcoming solstice as we are in this house. Even so, I wish a little more light (in all its varied meanings) for everyone in the approaching new year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Overdue thanks and kudos

A ridiculously, embarrassingly long time ago, Toni at A Spattering was kind enough to tag me with both the "Arte y Pico" and "Brillante Blog" awards.

Only now am I getting around to passing the torch... I have several excuses, so if you would like to hear them, let me know. Otherwise, we'll just skip it.

Here's how we play:

Arte y Pico
The following 5 rules are attached to this award:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and that also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.

4. The Award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte Y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. To show these rules.

And.... the Brillante Weblog Premio!

Since this one is dated 2008, I'd REALLY better get the lead out. Not too many days left in the year!

The following rules are attached to this award:
* Put the logo on my blog.

* Add a link to the person who awarded me.

* Nominate at least 7 other blogs and add links to those blogs on mine.

* Leave a message for my nominees on their blogs.


Since I am inspired by a wide variety of blogs (unable to focus?), I'm tagging a pile of folks. They're fun, brilliant, inspiring, amusing, and passionate about all sorts of things. My kinda people.

My Arte y Pico nominees are: Colors Outside the Lines, Have Dogs Will Travel, Dr. T's Teaching Blog, Paintings, Prints and Stuff, Soulsong Art, and The Illustrated Garden. Oh. And John Steins' Art Journal. And let's give Brillante Awards to Rural Chatter, Community of the Land, Hurricane Art, Making a Mark, A Snail's Eye View, and Visualizing Evolution. Probably that's too many for one and not enough for the other, but surely that gives everyone enough to read for a while, eh?

Now I get to deliver all the good news! (And of course I'm hoping that everyone knows that they're not really obliged to play, AND they don't have to worry about taking longer to get around to it than I did!)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

One more week!

Winter Solstice looms lovely and comforting on the horizon. Next weekend is also the annual Salida Christmas Bird Count (yours truly, compiler)-- I always try to align those two events in meaningful constellation. The count and the solstice also usually coincide with the birthday of my friend and fellow bird-counter Randy. It's a tripley celebratory sort of day.

We just have to get there from here.

Yesterday was No-Rest-for-the-Wicked Day for the DM, who had two gigs back-to-back. Can you find the Chapman Stick player in this crowd at Apogee Studio (DM gig #2)? It's like "Where's Waldo?" for musicians.


And, hm... someone a while back noted (gently) my tendency to post less-than-clear photos if my mug is present. It's my personal manifestation of mid-life crisis: I generally hate photos if I'm in them. But here we are, in front of a lovely quilt by Lori Isenberger, at her exhibition opening at the Paquette Gallery (DM gig #1).


I, of course, spent both gigs schmoozing with friends and eating entirely too many holiday sweets. But, OOOOOOH! Look what I got:

This lovely box is by Betsey Downing. The lid is covered with hollyhock, piñon, maple, and mountain mahogany seeds. Delightful! I was all set to acquire it for myself when my dear friend Jacque intervened and made it my holiday gift. Sneaky, she is.


Supporting local art ventures was still on my mind, though... so I also brought home this nifty little "mini screen" by Fay Golson. (sigh) I love having good stuff around, don't you?

Friday, December 12, 2008

After the goofing off - the reckoning


So.

Now that we've all wasted more time playing around than we care to admit, can I prove my earlier assertion that online slacking can lead to productivity?

Here's one of my many "Make-a-Flake" creations. It was simplified for its application to a 3"x3" lino block, but it's definitely where this whole mess started.

For a change I cut out the black lines of my design, instead of the spaces in between. This messed with my head in all sorts of ways, but this was the first result.

It was okay, but I wanted to give it some more depth, so I chopped out the background and printed again, this time with the graduated ink roll-up going in the other direction. I liked the way that looked, and printed it on all kinds of stuff: Hosho, some black scarpbooking paper, some dark blue handmade paper, Canson paper, tracing paper, glassine... if it was lying around, I smooshed ink onto it.

I even printed it into the new little Moleskine that arrived for Art House's sketchbook project. This might not have been a great idea, because it's taking a lot longer to dry on the Moleskine paper than it is on everything else. Oh, well!



And, of course, since the original idea was to give depth to the first print pass, I printed the second version over the first. In the end I couldn't decide what I liked best for a potential Winter Solstice greeting... so I put them side by side and...


I think that'll do, don't you?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blame Jeff

Okay, so if compulsive virtual snowflake cutting hasn't ensnared you yet... you can also do your own Picasso-like image here and throw virtual paint like Jackson Pollack here. Do not blame me. Blame the Director of our local library, who should know better than to disseminate such things. But then, free and unlimited access to revolutionary, troublesome, and even controversial ideas and information is what libraries are all about. It's why we love them, eh?

More soon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bring it on! Or - how to turn online slacking into a productive evening

It's after 8:00pm on a December night and I have just come in from standing on the front porch trying to take photos in the dark. We're getting our first actual, countable snowstorm of the year, and I couldn't wait until morning.

Must be the streetlights that make everything look so strangely orange.


(And then I walked across the street to take this picture of our house in the snow and dark. Those are my footprints. My feet are wet now.)

I am SO relieved to have this snow, since we are at less than 50% of our usual precip for the year and it makes me a little crazy to have to think about watering the trees in December.

The funny thing about this is that I decided this afternoon to do a little linocut experimentation. What am I carving? Tiny 2.5-inch snowflakes, of course. A coincidence?

This is the first pass... I carved a little more on the plate tonight and we'll see what happens next. As usual, no real plan here... but also no real goal. I spent a fair amount of time dinking around with ink additives today, so there aren't many matching prints.


But here's where the online slacking part comes in: Last year I stumbled across this "Make-a-Flake" site, which lets you use virtual scissors to cut virtual paper snowflakes. AND you can save the files. Which I did. Several times. Guess where this design came from?

So go make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and play with virtual paper snowflakes. (You can drink chocolate and cut flakes at the same time this way, because it only takes one hand to work the scissors AND hold the paper.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Look beyond the headlines and towards the light

My friend and colleague Susan Tweit sent me a link yesterday to an article about Our Fair City of Salida in the New York Times Travel and real estate section. My knee-jerk reaction to such things is always "Oh, great. Now MORE people will want to come here and continue to price us out of the housing market." (Which might be struggling elsewhere in the country but which is still out of reach here.) Grumble grumble grumble. (Grinch grinch grinch.)

So I grumbled at Susan about it. Silly me. Her response? "I just thought it was cool that there was a photo of the café with your art on the walls."

There was?

Oops.

Sure enough, in the slide show that I didn't look at because I was grumpy about houses (and gray weather with no snow and darkness at 4:00pm and holidays and....) there's an image about which I can now say with only slight exaggeration, " My work has appeared in the New York Times."

So let's see if the link to the photo works, here. (And if that link goes away, the permalink to the entire slide show is here. ) And let that be a lesson to me to not let December get the upper hand. Only two weeks until the Winter Solstice and it all starts getting lighter from here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Linocut Jig

"The Linocut Jig." Sounds like it should be a piece of contemporary Celtic music, eh?

As promised, some pix and descriptions of my high-tech, highly evolved registration system.

When I first tried to make a linocut of more than one color, I used a simple paper registration system: Trace the block squarely onto a sheet of paper, draw some registration marks on the bottom sheet AND on the print paper, line up the marks and drop the paper on the inked block. Okay on unmounted lino, but there was a lot of lip-biting and swearing involved. So....


#1 - The development of the trusty jig. The base is 1/4" masonite. Two pieces of 1" x 2" pine have been attached at a right angle in the lower left corner. (I also do my inking-up here, as you can see. Probably once per edition I drop the brayer. Oops.)

Originally this was the extent of the sytem. I aligned the bottom edge of the paper with the bottom of the 1x2, and used pins on the left edge. It required making holes in the print paper and then reinforcing them with tape. It was a passable system, but the pins were prone to popping out or twisting at the exact wrong moment.

Somewhere along the line a friend suggested affixing corner molding on top of the pine boards. Seemed a reasonable idea, so....


# 2 - A closer view of the L-shaped corner molding on top of the pine boards. The little gap on the left is just a function of being too lazy to miter the corner. It doesn't matter, paper stops just fine where it is supposed to.


#3 - The highly important box of shims in a variety of widths. These are just 3/4" plywood, I think the thinnest is 1/8", the widest is 1". These slide into the lower left corner of the jig to create the desired paper margin.


#4 - Like this. These are the shims I used to create the paper margins on "High Tide Detritus." The shims are the same height as the block on which I mount the lino. This means the lino stands slightly proud of the shims- enough to help keep the paper edges clean if I have an ink smudge, but not so much that the paper bows over the block.


#5 - You can see with the print turned right-side-up how the margins are defined by the shims. (Funny, the lower edge of everything looks bent in this photo. It's not, I promise. Blame the photographer.)


#6 - More shims, fatter margins. Just make sure you get the same ones every time, and that everything is snug to the corner before you put the paper down.


#7 - The paper! It was challenging to get a useful photo of this step, but here's how I do it:

Holding the paper in both hands and suspended above the inked plate, slide the bottom edge until it butts up against the corner molding.

Still holding the paper up, gently slide it to the left until it butts the corner molding on the side.

You can see here that I'm holding the paper a few inches from the bottom. I think by now I have an automatic point at which I grab the paper to keep it off the inky plate as I slide it left. When I'm confident that the paper is snug to the corner molding in both directions, then I lower the paper the rest of the way. There's a definite "feel" to it... a sort of point at which everything feels solid and square.


#8 - So here we are, paper down in the corner, flush with both edges. Typically I put a piece of tracing paper over the back before I start rubbing the print.

With a fairly narrow margin like this one, it can be tricky to get even pressure along the edge as I'm rubbing, so I often slide the block-and-paper sandwich out of the jig corner to work the edges. This can be dangerous! If the paper is going to slidge and smudge across the plate, this is where it will happen. It's imperative to be sure your paper has good contact with the wet ink and that you are delicate about moving everything if you try to move away from the jig.

I generally have really good success with this system. In "High Tide Detritus" I mis-registered one print when I wasn't paying attention to shim position (oops), and one I bent just as I lowered the paper. It's not even off by 1/16", but it's enough in a complex piece like that to make your eyes go funny.

I typically use Hosho paper, which has deckle edges, but I do not usually have a problem, as long as the "feel" of the paper is right each time. I want the paper to feel firm and solid, but not moshed against the jig. Using a paper with cut edges would probably be divine in this system.

So that's it. None too technical, and I hope a least a little bit clear! Now go make one yourself and pull some prints!