Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Bird Count, the morning after

It's that time of year again: temps below 0 F, snow on the ground, bitter wind..... Must be time to go birding!

Sometimes I think the mental condition that drives the citizenry of Pamplona to run before angry cattle must be the same as that which drives birders. Why else would otherwise reasonable people be out standing in snow-covered fields before dawn in sub-zero temperatures to count ducks and sparrows? Worse yet, there's a considerable subpopulation which does this for many, many days in a row in late December and early January, and they travel far and wide to do so.

Yes, indeed, it's Christmas Bird Count season, and Salida is not immune to the phenomenon. Five years ago I was duped by a hardcore birder chum into hosting a count circle here. "If you compile it, I'll come," he said, implying the presence of a certain level of expertise and experience to get the job done.

Said chum has never ONCE shown his sorry behind here for the event. You can imagine what sort of holiday cheer I send HIS way. (Yes, Woody, this means you.)

Still, we have a grand and dedicated group of local birders and a few equally dedicated out-of-town stringers who routinely DO turn up to tromp around the area and tick juncos until their heads spin. This year's Salida count was yesterday (I always aim for ours on the winter solstice).. with snow on the ground and a -1 F start temperature. Despite a slow start, we managed to record 75 distinct species, a goodly number of interesting subspecies, hybrids, and anomalies AND a record-breaking flock of Bohemian Waxwings.

We don't see BOWAs (for those of you hip to the Bird Banding Lab species codes) here every year. They're avian gypsies, typically found farther north, but once in a while we have a winter graced by BOWA spectacle. This is one of those years! They've been turning up in many parts of the state, but as far as I have heard, yesterday we hosted the largest single flock yet discovered: almost 2000 birds in one place. All total we found over 3000 of the handsome beasties within our count circle. On Friday I looked out my front window to find 1100 of them working the crabapple trees in my yard and across the street. Friend, expert birder, and accomplished photographer Tony Leukering was here for the CBC, and he took the great shots enhancing this page. You can see more of Tony's fine photos on his Flickr site.

A week from today I'm off to spend January in my new satellite studio in that most delightful of winter destinations: Cleveland, Ohio. So. The next few days will be chock-a-block with trying to get organized for the egress. Just in case I miss you in all the hubbub, let me offer warmest wishes for your winter holidays and your heart's desire(s!) in 2008. Expect news from the north after the first of the year!

Happy Birthday, Brush and Baren!

Hey! Look! Brush and Baren is one year old today! I would have baked myself a cake, except that I don't particularly like cake.
However, I am more than happy to break the piñata and share the sweets with everyone who has made my corner of the blogosphere an engaging and inspiring place. Special thanks and an affectionate ink smudge to Willy, Debby, Snail and Susan, who continually raise the blogging bar and to Alyson, whose fault it all is in the first place. Thanks also to all of you who read, comment, lurk, and send emails around the back way. I appreciate you all!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finished!


Ponderosa pine linocut, still untitled. 5 colors, reduction, 12 x 18 inches. Not a great photo... wet print propped up against the sofa and snapped. But, oh... Happy day!

If you missed the process, you can catch up here and here and here. And here. And here.

I'm gonna go take a nap now. I'm tired!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

End Game


Spent the morning fulfilling my civic responsibility (got called for jury duty, but in the end was not selected... I admit a sigh of relief). Am now engaged in serious printmakerly responsibilities: the carving of the final color for the ponderosa linocut.

At this stage the plate is fairly stained with the remnants of previous color pulls and it gets difficult to see what I'm doing. Out comes the Sharpie! (The pen, not the bird.) As I carve, I run the pen across the high spots so I can see where I've been. This doesn't work for earlier stages because the pen is permanent and obscures details, but here at the end I apply it with gleeful abandon. Aiming to finish the carve tonight or tomorrow... printing on the weekend! Whee!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Café = Community

If ever you come to Salida, make sure you stop in at the Salida Café. (Also known locally as "Bongo's," just in case you're asking directions.) Good food, good drinks, good people.... and a community atmosphere unlike anything I've known anywhere else. Granted, I half live there, but STILL....

A couple of weeks ago Sam (one of the owners) handed a tiny chunk of wood across the counter to me, asking me to embellish it as part of a little sculpture project. I wasn't able to be at Monday's assembly party, so I stopped in today for lunch and a look.

What a fun piece they've put together... it's the café logo, each piece of the puzzle a little contribution by kids and adults who live here in town. Can you find my tiny pinecone? (Hint: Clicking on the image will open a larger version in a new window so you can look a little more carefully.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's not easy making green


Argh. I knew it would kick my behind, this green. Not sure I'm entirely happy with it even now, but I'm fairly confident that once the last color (black) is on, it will all come together. Usually that's the way it works... but one never knows. But here you have it, pondo-lino stage 4.

Still don't seem to have resolved the comment problem, despite resetting the parameters for comments. I've heard that other Blogger-based blogs are having the same issue... film at 11:00.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I didn't do it!

It's been brought to my attention today that suddenly Blogger isn't allowing comments from outside Goggle or Blogger accounts. I don't know why! I've got the thing set up to "allow anyone," honest.

Hopefully it's just a temporary Blogger hiccup, but if'n you're having trouble posting comments, you can always try the "anonymous" option. It will let you use a name or not. (sigh) Technology, eh?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

And now for something completely different...


Sam, Bill, and Clark... the good folks over at the Salida Café... have a nifty project underway. They're creating a wooden wall sculpture.. a sort of "puzzle" of pieces crafted by café regulars. I don't think any of us know what the final shape will be when the puzzle is assembled. (But I've seen a couple of very-oddly shaped chunks.)

The piece given to me for embellishment is tiny! A roughly triangular bit... at its apex it is only 2" high! So this afternoon I've been pleasantly out of my comfort zone, applying acrylics to wood using a darn small brush. I have no idea if the pine cone will even be upright in the finished sculpture.

Pieces are due Monday, assembly is scheduled for the end of next week. Photos to follow!

Friday, November 30, 2007

What do you mean, it's not all about (Me)me?

It's a really long story, but let's just say that technology has recently impacted my life in unexpected and delightful ways. I've always enjoyed cultivating and nurturing a wide and diverse personal network, but adding the blogosphere and virtual worlds to my repertoire has had completely unforeseen consequences. And so far, as they say, "It's all good."

(Oh nice, Sherrie... very cryptic introduction. Has your brain come back from Thanksgiving holiday yet? I think not.)

That said, it's incredibly timely that friend and colleague Susan (I'm not forgetting the "J") Tweit has tagged me with the "It's all about (Me)me," which gives me an opportunity both to fire up this recently-neglected page and to cogitate on the joys of bloggerhood.

1. How long have you been blogging?
Ooh! Almost a year! Brush and Baren stumbled into being at the end of December 2006. Maybe I should throw a party. Will you all come?

2. What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?
Funny thing, this. Last autumn I participated in an art marketing workshop presented by Art Biz Coach Alyson Stanfield. As Alyson stood before us extolling the joys and benefits of blogging, I sat in the back row, internally rolling my eyes and thinking, "Great. One more thing to do."

But darn it if she wasn't right. Three weeks after Brush and Baren launched I found a circle of creative, intelligent bloggers to play with. AND traffic to my website grew exponentially. Crazy. (And in true domino-effect fashion, I am now being forced to rework the website. Could Alyson be some sort of technology demon in disguise, rubbing her hands together in a dark room gloating, BWAH-ha-ha-ha?)

As for other blogging heroes, that's easy. Debby Kaspari, Bill Schmoker, Susan J. Tweit, Snail. A diverse group of creatives, the lot of 'em. Birds, snails, pencils, plants, brushes, cameras, words, images... geez. They do it all.

3. Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?
Um.. hello. ARTIST. Trying to make money any way I can (within reason, law, and propriety, of course). But blogging has been a great way for me to actually THINK about what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, and how my work life and my explorer life fit together. And it's been a real smack upside the head on those days when articulation eludes me completely. Sorta like now.

4. What five things do you struggle with online?
I think this is a funny question, actually. Probably the same things I struggle with OFFline, but that's perhaps a little too personal. Blogging struggles are likely the usual ones 1) what to say, 2) what image to post, 3) what to do when there just ain't no inspiration. Do there have to be more?

5. What five things do you love about being online?
Again with the five! Sheesh. Obviously the person who started this meme is not a Monty Python fan. (Three is the number to which thou shalt count.)

1) Reading other blogs: ideas, quirks, rants, and the delightfully new things I learn from bloggers every single time I read. It's a worldwide community of creatives, literally at my fingertips. Click! Australian invertebrates. Click! Caribbean sharks. Click! How not to behave at literary events. Click! Bloody Schmoker snapping another 100 drop-dead gorgeous Colorado bird photos despite having a family and being a science teacher and..... Click! Tsunehiko's daily sketches of Paris. Click! The real, live Sleepy Hollow.

2) Feedback: Ohmigosh! People actually READ this thing, and some times they even get something out of it. How cool is that?

5) It's a good excuse to avoid washing dishes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Forward, slowly


Really, I HAVE been working on the ponderosa pine linocut (known affectionately as the pondo-lino). Today I pulled color #3, carving begins this evening for pull #4. Five are planned (more or less, "planning" not one of my greater skills).

Shim-my


A while back, Debby over at Drawing the Motmot asked about my registration jig for multicolor linocuts. Specifically she wondered about my less-than-clear description of what I call "shims," but which might more accurately be called "spacers."

The low-tech rig is a sheet of masonite with 1 x 2 boards affixed squarely in one corner. On top of the 1 x 2s rest charming corner molding pieces, which serve as paper "stops" to help with alignment. The plate fits snuggly into the corner, paper goes on top against the stops... life is good.

Except that sometimes I want or need a deeper margin of clean paper around the image. (As in the ponderosa pine in progress. It's 12 x 18 inches on a 19 x 24 inch sheet of Hosho.) Enter the "shims." These are just chunks of pine, ripped in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1-inch widths. I stack them up against the 1x2 rails to hold the plate a little farther from the corner.. and magically get a wider margin in the process. Cool, eh?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Fish

Yikes. Yes. Quiet from this corner lately. About to get even more quiet for a few days, as I retrieve a highly anticipated holiday guest from the airport tomorrow. Unplug your computer and join us for the festivities in quirky downtown Salida. Friday night is the Parade of Lights and lighting of Christmas Mountain. I'd try to describe it, but you just have to be here.

Once upon a time I thought I'd have a nice turkey drawing for this spot today, but no dice. But when I start to think of the myriad things for which I am thankful, I feel I must include the interesting and entertaining guys at Zooilogix. Every time I go there I learn something AND I laugh out loud. What could be better?

For the holiday, they solicit descriptions of weird Thanksgiving meals. But before that, prepare to be amazed at the discovery of 57 new species of fish. Or don't. It's a holiday, after all.... you don't have to do a darn thing.. except remember to be thankful for it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Neeeeeext.......


Okay, so finally I have managed to have the camera, its cable, the computer, and myself all at the same house at the same time. I pulled the second color on the emerging ponderosa pine linocut... when? Last week Friday? Took photos and then promptly misplaced the camera.

Of course, now that I have downloaded the photos, I have discovered that the camera struggled even more than I expected to get an image.... but the prints are hanging in the studio at home and I am at the home of those Majorca-visiting friends mentioned earlier.. so we have to put up with this. The colors are actually a very pale gray blue, and an only-slightly-less pale gray blue... but you get the idea. (They look much more contrast-y here.) The next carve will be to print green, methinks. Starting tomorrow.

But today it is gray and cool... and I've already had to build a fire in the stove to keep dog, cat, and artist comfy. Could it be we're finally succumbing to autumn?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Invoke the Python (Monty)


I'm not dead yet!

Although probably there have been some questions on that count lately. I have lots of excuses for no posts in ten days or more. To facilitate said excuse-mongering, I shall give them by the numbers. It will save time during future long silences.

1) Work. As in the kind designed to generate income, which has been woefully slim lately.
2) Company. As in the kind that removes you blissfully from your usual routine and then lands you unceremoniously back there with a thump when they leave. This thump is immediately followed by a panic-striken reminder of #1, above.
3) House-shifting. As in a temporary move to the home of friends whilst they are in Majorca. Adjustment has taken more time than anticipated.
4) Laziness. As in... laziness.
5) Company. As in the kind that hasn't arrived yet, but will right about the time a new routine is established at temporary home, beginning the cycle of #2, #1 and then #3(a), as in going back to my own home and settling it all back again.

But, blog guilt will always win out in the end, so here I am... sketch at hand... ready to make amends.

When the aforementioned Majorca-wallowing friends (see #3 above) finally put their suitcases in the car this week, they lamented that the lovely magenta-colored orchid on the kitchen table had chosen the morning of their departure to bloom. In their honor, a little sketch. Probably I shouldn't have tried to add color by dim table light... but I did. So there.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Imperceptible


Were it not for the smell of ink in the studio, I'd be hard-pressed to convince myself much progress was made on the new linocut. The first color is down, but it's a very pale gray-blue. I tried to take a shot of the prints on the rack, but the camera wouldn't pick up the color and it just looks like a bunch of white sheets of paper!

So.... the low-tech print set-up is the star of the show today instead. On the left, the nifty little registration jig which has evolved with the help of a clever friend. It's just a piece of masonite with 1x2s affixed squarely in one corner. Two pieces of L-shaped corner moulding sit on top of these, as "stops" for the paper edges. Small strips of plywood serve as shims to adjust the distance of the plate from the paper edges (margin control). Ink the plate, slide it into the corner, place the paper on top, get out your baren and kitchen spoon and print away!

Now that the first color is drying I can return to carving the plate. This next pass will remove a lot of material from the plate, so I'll be at it a while.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dem bones


In honor of the approaching Hallowe'en festivities, a few sketches of a very decayed bone found in a neglected lot not far from town.

I put the first color on the new lino this morning. Photos and whining later today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Window basil

I had to take photos for some interp signs today, and intended to make sketches while I was out and about.

Didn't happen.

So now it's dark and I still want to draw. Basil in the kitchen window planters. Line drawing first.


Followed by a little color. One of these days I'm going to find a paper that's good for drawing AND for painting. This ain't it.


I tried to work quickly... 45 minutes, start to post.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Big 5k

Hey! Thanks everybody! Brush and Baren crossed the 5000 hits mark over night. :-) It's a nice thing to see on a Monday morning.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Back to work...


Okay. All the running around of the last month has been great and necessary fun, but it's time to get back to the table. As evidence thereof, I present to you the start of the next linocut. Largeish in size (12x18 inches), probably 5 colors in reduction. (As usual, no solid plan past the first carving.)

It feels remarkably good to manipulate tools and imagine where the image might go. Remember that when we're halfway through and I'm whining and despairing. (Also usual.)

Ponderosa pine, Chaffee County, October snow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Okay, so the autumn isn't COMPLETELY over

Views from the trail this morning. Snow tonight, I think.
It's been snowing on Monarch Pass all day.

I tried to bring home an interesting piece of sticker-y bush to draw this morning, but DUH! It stuck to my gloves and disintegrated in a pile of seeds. (sigh)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Warning label

My friend Brenda hangs a poster in her home workspace that says, "It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others," or some such interpretation of that theme.

And that's a little how I feel about today. FINALLY this morning I got out for the long-neglected walk, and OOPH. The season has changed and I missed the entire process! Travel and work and an unfortunate encounter with an ice-covered step kept me either on the run or under an ice pack for most of the last month, and while I was away my familiar landscape got an extreme makeover. One portion of "my" trail has been scraped away by hospital-constructing bulldozers. Another has been widened and covered with new gravel. Yet another has been denuded: large clumps of willow taken out around the lake to make room for more fishermen. (I guess.)

The swallows are completely gone and the juncos have come down from the high country. Many trees are completely bereft of leaves. And I am chagrined that I wasn't there to note the change in gradual increments instead of great swaths. (This is the part about serving as a warning to others: do not let doing interfere with being!)

My one consolation is that the "good winter ducks" have started to arrive: ring-necks, gadwall and wigeon are in. A few grebes, a few mergansers.-- and one handsome wood duck. Sands Lake's lone summer coot has 8 or 10 buddies now, and an osprey haunts Frantz Lake before continuing south.

The milkweed has transitioned from pink flowers to brown husks, so I brought a chunk in from the trail to draw this afternoon. My original intention was just to make a pencil drawing, but the temptation of a brush close at hand was too great. I'm not sure I like the drawing as well with the color... but there you have it.

And yes, I'm walking tomorrow- before it starts snowing or something!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Some days you're the windshield....

Some days you get the sketch. Some days it gets you.

Zoo scribbles. Black-footed penguins, Siamese crocodile.

This just in

Home again from what I think is the last extended road trip for a little while. (Maybe. Hopefully. Possibly.) A stop at the post office to collect my mail was rewarded with this little gem, hot off the press and ready for me to drool over.

If you don't know Gustave Baumann's woodcuts... what are you waiting for? The New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe has an exhibition of his work up until 2010.

Probably the two greatest influences on my own linocut work are Baumann's woodcuts and the scratchboard illustrations of Frances Lee Jaques. Jaques was a painter of dioramas for the Bell, Peabody and American museums of natural history. He also made color illustrations for natural history tomes, but it's the black and white work that he did to accompany his wife Florence Page Jaques' nature writing that just knocks me over. If I can ever begin to touch on the graphic sensibilities of these two guys (and the charm of Florence's writing)... well.... I'll figure I've finally made some progress.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

They're hee-ere!


Hot off the press, the new issues of Audubon Adventures arrived in the mail this week. This is a project for which I've done illustrations for several years... and this year we took on a completely new format. (Courtesy of the amazing folks at Cataleno and Company.)

Also exciting, my first soup-to-nuts project for the Adventures program: Sherrie as writer, illustrator and designer! "Nature Journaling for Everyone" is a little booklet written for youth leaders of all stripes who want to start nature journaling with kids. Yippee!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Boston and its aftermath

Last week's journey to Boston and environs was the usual whirlwind of activity. What was surprising was how little drawing we actually managed to squeeze in. All of the folks we hoped to visit with ended up being available (what!?!?), so we largely went from one warm and wonderful conversation to another. A whole lotta "blah blah blah," as we say. But GREAT blah blah blah.

Not much photo-taking went on, either... but a few highlights can be dredged up:

A day spent at Plum Island with another artist friend, Barry Van Dusen. In the morning we visited the banding station here... catbirds and one brown thrasher were our rewards. Later we ogled shorebirds (sigh, I'm so bad at peeps), and made a few sketches. Mostly I was chewed on by mosquitos and no-see-ums. Inland skin and blood must have been a rare treat for the little buggers, since no one else seemed bothered by them.

Men at Work: Denis and Barry

On the weekend Denis gave a presentation and workshop for the close of his exhibition at the Mass Audubon Visual Art Center in Canton. That's the back of our friend and fellow field-sketcher Clare Walker Leslie in the striped shirt. It's a little crazy how many tribe members are in Massachusetts. I'm beginning to feel as if I didn't get the memo when the headquarters were chosen.


From Canton we sped to Lexington for the opening of "Birds of America" at Francesca Anderson Fine Art, where Barry had work on display. Our friend Cindy House had a typically fabulous piece there as well, and I have to say that her surprised face when we walked in the door will long be a favorite memory of the trip.

Mystery art lover, Barry, Denis, Sherrie, Cindy

I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know the woman in pink on the left, but the rest of the rogues in this gallery are, left to right, Barry, Denis, me, and Cindy. You can tell who came straight from the field and who was on duty for the party, can't you? The two in the middle look a little ragged.

(And, WHEW! Also in this exhibition were some pieces by Coloradoan Bill Alther. He didn't get the memo about Massachusetts, either.)

Sunday evening Denis headed for Maine and I took the fast ferry to spend Monday around Provincetown. A great sunset over the city as we sped away... a few hours for sketching the next day, and then the trek towards home. This time I think the only thing I left behind was a hairbrush. Somewhere.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If it's Wednesday, I must be home


Email, mail, and phone triage is underway. In the meantime, a little sketch from Provincetown on Monday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Here and gone

A surreal moment this past week: The day after I got home from New Mexico, a favorite college chum I hadn't seen in 24 years, and with whom I hadn't even been in contact until a few weeks ago, turned up on my doorstep.

We managed to squeeze a lot of running around into the not-quite-an-entire-day we had. The NEXT day I found I was really glad I had taken photos of him at Cottonwood Lake and on top of the pass, otherwise I might have thought it was all a crazy dream. Here. And gone.

Home is starting to feel a little like a crazy dream, too, since I'm off this afternoon to the east coast again. Beantown, here I come! (Here. And gone.)

But autumn has arrived in the high country. Aspen trees and black bears are pulling their attention inward.... like me they seem manic one day and introspective the next. My admonition to you all: get out and be a part of it. Autumn will be here and gone before you know it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

One more creative blogger

Yes, yes... I realize this blogger love-fest could go on indefinitely, but I want to be sure to introduce you to one more Second Life creative.

Genome Island is the brain child of Max Chatnoir, the alter ego of a brilliantly innovative educator at Texas Wesleyan University who is using Second Life to teach genetic concepts. She's blogging about the process and experience at A Seacoast in Bohemia, and again, if you've got a Second Life, visit Genome Island. Pat the kitties, sort the peas, admire the flowers, and enjoy the protein symphony. But be careful. You might learn something.

I'd like to thank the Academy....




Well! Color me golden, and basking in the light of high praise. Debby at Drawing the Motmot has presented me with a Creative Blogger Award! What a nice note to come home to after a week on the road.

Of course, the fabulous thing about awards in the blogosphere is that honorees get to tap the next round of award recipients.

Naturally, I'd award Debby right back, but that would make us dizzy. I stumbled upon her blog early in my own posting adventures, and was immediately inspired to attempt production of something equally insightful, informative, and beautiful. I fall short most of the time, mostly because she keeps raising the bar.

Since Debby's done a stellar job of honoring our fellow artist/naturalists, I'd like to tap a few of the creatives in other fields who challenge, inspire, and some days perplex me.

Envelope, please....

1) Alyson Stanfield is the beauty and brains behind the Art Biz Blog. She's an art career coach who won't buy in to whiny artist excuses, and she's the reason I started blogging in the first place. She has recently put her money where her mouth is and finished her new book, hooray!-- so kudos and creativity awards are definitely in order. Alyson: You were right, you were right, you were right. Dang it.

2) Bill Schmoker is one of those people who you SWEAR must have a half dozen clones running around. He's an excellent and active birder, a dynamite photographer, a doting father, AND a high school science teacher. Not to mention erudite blogger and Sunday funnies analyst. Pop on over to BrdPics and see what I mean.

3) I'm afraid you'll need skills in either French or Japanese (or a decent online translator) to read the notes accompanying Tsunéhiko Kuwabara's charming sketches, but tell the truth. Don't you always look at the pictures first, anyway? I knew Tsunéhiko first as a sculptor, and it's fun to see his take on pencil and paper.

4) Okay, okay. I confess. I recently got a Second Life. (Which really ought to be called Fourth or Fifth or Sixth Life, but who's counting?) I'm finding this virtual world darned intriguing, and meeting some interesting folks there, to boot. Hackshaven Harford is the Second Life alter ego of the project manager for NOAA's education island, and while I don't yet understand some of the subtleties of the SL vernacular, I DO understand amazing feats of creativity and discovery in a new medium. It's pretty much 180 degrees from my own work, and that's what makes it so fun. If you, too, have a Second Life: Go to Meteora. Ride the hurricane chaser. Swim in the tsunami. Watch Science on a Sphere. And watch out for cows plummeting from the sky. Just set a timer so you know when to go home.

5) And finally, Katherine Tyrrell's blog, Making a Mark, is an amazing repository of exhibition notes, art history, sketches, commentary, and more arts-related links than you can possibly get through before you have to look like you're working again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Animas River, mid day

Farmington Riverwalk. A few minutes in the shade.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Land of Enchantment

Yup. I'm in New Mexico.

I've been on the road about a week, wending my way slowly across the southwest corner of Colorado and into the Land of Enchantment. (24-hours after my arrival in Farmington I think it should be called the Land of Outrageous Library Booksales Causing Me to Fill the Trunk of the Car with 40 Additional Pounds of Reading Material.)


The last several days have been... well... they've been a lot of things. Last Thursday I met several delightful and accomplished women for whom I did a little field sketching workshop. We did some drawing, and indulged in panini and books and the stunning views above Crested Butte. A fine way to spend an afternoon, and invigorating as always to meet new people.

That evening I stayed with friends in Montrose, caught up on some chisme, and admired the progress of their work on their new house. Their chinchilla, Santiago, consented to sit with me for a little while, too, which satisfied a childhood desire long-stifled. I had friends in grade school whose family raised chinchillas, but those critters were declared untouchable. FINALLY, 35 years later, I got to sink my fingers into that ridiculously dense pelt. A good reminder that some goals just take a while to attain.

From there to Durango, for the Colorado Art Ranch Artposium, "Mapping in the Arts." More about this later, but it was a fabulously mind-expanding, idea-inspiring, question-launching, laughter-filled gathering once again. Of particular intrigue to me were the presentations by Peter Turchi, whose book, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, I have been enjoying very much and Nikos Salingaros, outspoken thorn-in-the-flesh of contemporary architecture and eloquent proponent of biophilic design.

And now I'm in New Mexico, visiting friends and enjoying that off-balance feeling that comes with being in unfamiliar territory. Tomorrow I'll turn around and head for home, since the next day I'll be receiving a visitor of my own... a college chum not seen in 24 years.

So... in addition to still feeling snake-skin-ish I am now feeling like a manic squirrel, stockpiling ideas and experiences, memories and explorations for the shorter, darker days ahead.

Life is good.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Morning skies and slow change

Still moving slowly around here. At least I am. Sumacs down by the river went from green to gold in two days. Why can't I manage that much drama so quickly?

I did manage to go on The Quest for the Perfect Ponderosa last week. I've a mind to do a new, largeish linocut of a ponderosa pine, and I'm hunting for the right candidate to immortalize. I have a particular character in mind: a fan-shaped crown, branches open enough to reveal the trunk. A "survivor" type, standing in an open meadow. It's a shape I consider ubiquitous, but a recent drive around the county proved me wrong. More common here are the dense, pointy-topped, thickly-clustered variety. Younger, healthier trees. Hmmm... have I stumbled into the coniferous equivalent of Club Med?

I think I've found "the tree" now, but I need to spend some more time with it. It's unfortunately adjacent to a house with large dogs, so I'm not sure how well my desire to park out front for an extended period of time might be received.

In the meantime... I found some green yucca pods to draw. In all my years of looking at yucca, I don't think I've ever noticed the pods in their green state. Flowers, yes. Open pods releasing seeds, yes. Dry pods in the middle of winter, yes. Green pods? No. So here they are.

On the road again at the end of the week.. off to Colorado Art Ranch Artposium in Durango. I have it on good authority that there are still some spaces left, so come on down!

Monday, August 27, 2007

On snake skin and living big

The signs of encroaching autumn have sent me into a bit of an activity frenzy, anxious to get out to see and do EVERYTHING before the weather (and more specifically, the weather-covered road) confines me to a smaller territory. I am restless. Unsettled. Twitchy. And it dawns on me that I must be in "snake skin mode" again.

You know what I mean. I feel the way I imagine a snake must feel as it prepares to shed its skin. The present skin is tight. Uncomfortable. Itchy. Irritating. And to make matters worse, even vision is compromised. I can't see where I'm going.

I am flat out cranky.

But it has happened often enough that I know the discomfort is just prelude to a newer, bigger, more flexible skin. I'm restless because I'm stretching and I'm outgrowing the present skin, and this can only be a good thing. It means I'm getting bigger. And I like to live big.

I think I probably need to clarify some personal semantics here, because for me there is a difference between living big and living large. To me "living large" is a condition: it implies a certain excess and a quest for things. But "living big" I think of as an attitude... of openness and expansiveness and curiosity. Living big implies a quest for experience and understanding.

So I like to live big. And if I've got to shed a little skin to get there, well... just don't poke a stick at me while I'm doing so.

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. " - Nelson Mandela

"The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder." - Ralph W. Sockman

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is this thing on?

Or: Now for something completely different. I'm going to try to embed this video of my friend Tim and the rest of the Spydercam team at work on the movie Spiderman 3. I love this stuff, in part because I don't have the sort of 3-D mind required to visualize getting from Point A (cameras and wires and winches and software) to Point B (cool scene on film). And in part because I absolutely can NOT deal with heights.



OOOOH! I think I did it right! So while we're on the subject of Spydercam... check out their demo reel and stuff here.

Tim and I went to high school together. My grandmother adored him, and I vaguely remember she dutifully saved coffee cans for his "science projects." I can't imagine we ever told her he was stuffing them with powder and shooting tennis balls across the neighborhood.

Sunflower season


Flowers and I both turn our faces eastward in the early morning, watching for the fire-bright line cresting the piñon hills. Highway 291, just below home.

What a tangled web we weave....

And not just a cyberweb.

I woke this morning to find a nice email from Katherine Tyrrell over at Making a Mark, who has kindly highlighted both this blog and that of my friend and colleague Debby Kaspari. Making a Mark is chock-a-block with resources and connections for artists and art lovers, so do take a peek at what Katherine is up to.

This week I also enjoyed catching up with sculptor and friend Tsunéhiko Kuwabara, who keeps tabs on the critters in his Paris salad greens (among other things) at Blog Illustre.

A couple of days in Denver strengthened a few regional strands.... I visited with Grant Pound and Peggy Lawless of Colorado Art Ranch at the CultureHaus bash and later with catalyst, spark, and wasps-nest-stirrer Michael Mowry of, well, both those organizations and just about everything else to do with art in the Denver area. Wine and conversation with Michael always twangs a thread or two, and more often than not leaves my brain vibrating for days afterward. (Interpret that statement as you will.)

Traveling back out a once-familiar anchor line, I did manage a couple of hours at the Denver Zoo, breaking in a new sketchbook. Why is it that the pristine white pages and tightly-bound spine of a new book make drawing so difficult?

I wasn't much satisfied with the morning's zoo scribbles, so wandered across City Park(ing lot) to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. When I lived in Denver the museum and the zoo were my two favorite haunts, and despite the fact the institutions and I continue to evolve, it still feels a little like coming back to my center to walk through their gates with pencil-stuffed pockets.

Home again now... ready to weave some strands for the week ahead. There's a cool breeze through the open windows... Despite the fact our days still hover oppressively in the 90s, night temps have been falling into the low-to-mid 40s. Gonna have to think about outfitting my web in wool rather than silk before too much longer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On the road yet again


In to the car, out of the car, in to the car, out of the car. Off to Denver tomorrow for a couple of days again... so only a little sketch made from Riverside Park in beautiful downtown Salida. But I'm hoping for another round of sneaking off to the zoo with a sketchbook....

At long last

Some projects just take a long time to get into the ground instead of off the ground. But this week I received photos of the long-awaited kiosk at Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area. (Illustrations by yours truly.) I've done quite a few interp signs this year... some illustration, some design, some writing, depending on the project.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From shrimp to dragons


I don't often get a chance to draw at zoos these days, since the closest one is two hours away, but I had a couple of hours to indulge my pencil and sketchbook this week. This particular sketchbook is 11" x 14", so it doesn't fit well in my scanner and leaves a lot of page tone... but you get the idea. Komodo dragon, spotted turtle, and some sort of groovy-but-unidentified shrimp.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

okay, okay


One more linocut before I go. And then I'm outta here. Really.

Snow shadows near Cottonwood Lake. (No, it hasn't snowed yet this year, this is from a previous season.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the road again (briefly)

Off to meetings and such out of town tomorrow... back in a couple days. I leave you with the blanketflower linocut until I return. Performed as a reduction in 5 colors, 6x9 inches. You can see the block part way through the process here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mishmash morning

Just one of those days, I guess.

As I walked this morning, my mind wandered down a half dozen paths... none of which I seem able to map at the present time. So... a visual checklist for when my brain and fingers conspire to create complete sentences.

We had another brief fog event this morning in the wake of more evening rain. There's a story to be told about a waterlogged bin of potting soil, but it's a stinker... literally...


By the time I got around the first lake, the fog seemed to be wandering in aimless blobs (kinda like me)... time elapsed between Photo One and Photo Two? Eh. 20 minutes, I'm guessing.

The story here is that the trees are starting to turn. Yet another example of incomplete childhood nature education, like "Monsoon = India": "Trees turn in the autumn, autumn starts in September."

Swallows. I have lots of thoughts about swallows. Some I've even articulated before. But not here. And certainly not today.

This here's a cliff swallow. (Photo by Tony Leukering.) Two, maybe three weeks ago the Spiral Drive bridge writhed with them. Today it was silent and still. Erroneous childhood nature knowledge #3: "Birds fly south for the winter, which means they leave in the autumn, which doesn't happen until September." (Tell that to the rufous hummingbirds, whose fall migration brings them through here starting in July. And the Bullock's orioles, which start to clear out about the same time.)

Once I got home I did manage to hold onto a train of thought long enough to put the last color down on the blanketflower lino this morning. I always like seeing the print rack full... makes me think I accomplished something. Maybe.

Oh, wait. Did I say train of thought? My friend Kevin just called. He's on his way to Chama to work on the train.

Chama. That's in New Mexico. I might go to New Mexico myself. Wait, wasn't I talking about walking? It would be a long walk to New Mexico. I wonder if their cliff swallows have left yet?