Sunday, April 27, 2008

Still working

More interp panel backgrounds. This one in progress is the lower Arkansas River. Also finished the grassland background this weekend... More on that later.

My living room is filling with boxes, as the DM has been shipping belongings ahead. He leaves Ohio and starts his westward journey today, hooray! The canyon panels are due to the fabricator tomorrow and these other two backgrounds are due to the client on Wednesday. The DM arrives Wednesday night after a 1500-mile drive. I expect the reunion will go something like this:

A delighted and exhausted embrace, followed by "Nice to see you. Can we go to sleep now?"

Message board

Jean-Louis... I received your nice email, but my return mail to you keeps bouncing back.

I tried to send my reply one more time, this time using a different account. I hope you received it. Thank you so much for sending the lovely beetle image.

(Aren't the rest of you curious now?)

Monday, April 21, 2008


Hooray! New abode located and terms agreed upon! I shall be ensconced in a fabulous Victorian house in the heart of Salida by the middle of May. But I shan't be moving alone.

Yes, indeed, that's a Darling Man in the picture. (Insert ridiculously happy grin here.)

Three for three

Yippee! All three of the linocuts I sent to the Creede National Small Print Show jury were accepted for the exhibition. This is a great little show, now in its eighth year. It gets better every time, and I am always pleased to be a part of it.

Opening reception is May 23rd, 6:00 pm at the Creede Repertory Theatre and the show runs through July 6. If you're in the neighborhood, stop on by!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The spring crazies

Chock-a-block with doings and goings on, these days have been.

First... a rush job for a client, two big (48" x 42" each) interp panels to be completely finished in 10 days! Crazy! So I spent the last two days working on this background painting, which will go across both panels. (Ultimate size, 48" x 84", although I am painting it at less than that.) I'm still waiting for text, and then it's on to the rest of the design process. I've got the whole shebang roughed out already, so it shouldn't be TOO bad.

I spent the end of last week wrapping up another client project... this one an interp display about birds for the local office of the US Forest Service. It was a fun job to do, since I got to write about the local avifauna and paint a nice scene of the Arkansas River. We are so fortunate here to have a great variety of habitats coming together: river riparian, pinyon-juniper woodlands, montane forest, sub-alpine and alpine tundra. We don't get big shows of shorebirds or gulls, but we get lots of other goodies. This is the main panel, and each of the featured birds is the basis for smaller "callout" panels describing some interesting aspect of local birdlife.

Speaking of which... FINALLY... migrants. Everything is slow this year... about a month behind last year. Last March I was writing about pillaging a catkin-laden tree which is only now showing its flashy tendencies. The tree swallows which arrived March 23 last year didn't show up until April 16! Capistrano we ain't, but I have never been so happy to see the little buggers. We've had a long, long winter.

There have been a couple of nice moments of play mixed in with all the work crazies, though. 'Tis my day-a-year day today, and despite my tendency to not participate in such an event.... something always happens. My friends Mark and Brenda called yesterday, for example, offering a motorcycle ride on a beautiful day. I'd spent most of the day chained to the drawing table, so an hour's break sounded great. And it was! It had been many years since I'd been on the back of a motorcycle....

This morning I took a long walk along the usual path, followed by breakfast with my dear friend Jacque. Today's "year birds": snowy egret (mixed in with 56 ibis), Franklin's gull, common yellowthroat, western grebe, pied-billed grebe. Last week's arrivals were black phoebe, tree swallow, barn swallow, yellow-rumped warbler. The passing-through of myriad waterfowl continues. A total 45 feathered species showed themselves during my not-quite-two-hour ramble. Not bad for April at 7,000 feet.

And the icing on this happy birthday cake? Not two hours ago my annoying downstairs neighbors pulled out of the drive in their motorhome. Oh please oh PLEASE, let them be gone for days! (Expect good news about that situation later in the week. I'm reluctant to say anything until all details are in place... but.... change is a-comin'.)

Sadly, it's back to work for me now, but I had a great morning and am anticipating a lovely evening... so I'll concede a few hours of labor. All in all, a good day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A delicate stabbing

I had a couple of queries about the binding of the sketchbooks (all finished now, hooray!), so I thought I'd give a quick explanation. If a clamor for more detailed (read: actually decipherable) instructions ensues, then I'll try to be articulate about it.

Exhibit A: "Flora and Fauna"

This particular style of page gathering is called "Japanese stab binding." The interior pages are straight cut sheets rather than folded signatures. The stitching goes straight down through the covers and pages, but a clever little hinge device allows you to still open the silly thing.

In this case my book "guts" are 8.5" x 5.5" sheets, a US standard page cut in half, so the dimensions I give for the cover parts will give you something slightly larger than that.

The covers are not complicated. I've done a version of this construction with grade school kids... although an adult at the drill was imperative. I'm going to post the handout for the "kid journal" construction... I do a few more steps to make a nicer presentation, but you get the idea.

For each book:

2 pieces of mat or book board, .75" x 6" (the spine)
2 pieces of mat or book board, 7.75" x 6" (the body)
2 pieces of cover paper (I'm using acid-free "scrapbooking" sheets for production, but you can use anything.) 9" x 12"
2 pieces of "end paper" for the inside, 5.5" x 7.5"
I reinforce my hinges with linen tape, but it's not completely necessary.

So.... you can follow the kid steps above, but my extra steps are here:

Step 1.5... NOT included in the kid version: This is where you can add the linen tape, across the gap. Also trim the excess paper from the corners before folding up for a nicer finish. (See below)

Step 3.5: For kids I use a 5.5 x 8.5 endpaper and they just glue it smack in the middle. This works okay, but adds bulk in the hinge and doesn't necessarily fold back in an attractive way when you open the book. SO. I gave you dimensions for a shorter end paper. This shorter paper does NOT cross the gap or cover the area where the spine is. The thing to remember here is to leave more cover paper at the spine end when you glue the boards down so you have more to fold over on that end. Otherwise your short endpapers won't cover the exposed board. Capice?

Step 4+: This style of book leaves the spine open. I wrap a little piece of cover paper around the edges of the pages at the spine end to make it look a little more finished. (Plus it seems to add a little stability.) Like this:

A piece of double stick tape will hold the spine wrap in place while you stack everything together and clip it.

I'm stitching my books together with ribbon, but waxed yarn or thread or floss works great, too.

Clear as mud? Good. Now go make books.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shhh! It's a surprise!

I was able to change tack a little today to work on a project for A Secret Entity.

A couple of years ago I started producing little handmade books of my sketches. I have two titles out just now, one a collection of miscellaneous flora and fauna and the other sketches from an epic journey.

A few weeks ago the art administrator at A School District Which Shall Remain Nameless But Is In A Nearby State contacted me about purchasing a copy of the "Flora and Fauna" book for every elementary school art teacher in her sphere! This thoughtful nurturer of teachers wished our efforts to be a surprise, so for now the district will remain anonymous. She's procuring a bunch of lovely things for her teachers, and it's nice to know I'm going to be part of a "teacher appreciation" package. It's something I suspect doesn't happen in too many school districts.

After this it's back to interp panels for a while. And maybe I'll sneak in the start of another new lino. One never knows.

Anyway, I'm about done building these 25 books (!) Just another couple of hours tomorrow and the project will be done. Hooray!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sorry, your server is down.

It's been one of those days. It began dubiously enough with the downstairs neighbors in a row, slamming doors and breaking pottery at 6:30am. (sigh) (I AM looking for a new place.)

Then... oh bother! Email isn't working. Hm. I know a workaround to get to my server from the web. Oh, double bother. My entire server is down. No website. No email. The problem is at the host server, and "my tech guy" is working on it, but he's been at it all day, and still no fix.

Conference call at 8:00am, rescheduled from yesterday afternoon because just as the call began, the New York office of our project leader was evacuated for fire alarm. Just as TODAY's call began, a fire DRILL commenced in the office of our editor. We tried again at 8:30 and managed to get all the way through the meeting without further mishap.

What next, pray tell?

I spent the rest of the morning finishing the linocut "icons" for the Southeast Colorado Heritage Trail project. These will be used on maps and brochures and interp stuff: simple illustrations of the major historical sites on Colorado's eastern plains. It's a surprising mix: fabulous native petroglyph sites, a once-genteel settlement along the Santa Fe Trail, the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, Bent's Fort, and Camp Amache, a relocation camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Most people regard southeastern Colorado as a featureless plain, if they regard it at all. But this prairie girl will tell you that the High Plains are pure magic for anyone who will take the time to see them. There are hidden canyons and great birding spots all OVER the place out there.

Once all that flurry of morning activity was over, I began to enjoy the lack of email blips. Sure, I can't send my icons to the client, but they don't really have to be there until tomorrow, so I won't panic yet. And I have some other projects for which I am anticipating feedback that isn't here, but it'll get here. And if there's new stuff coming up... I guess I don't mind not knowing about it for a few more hours. This afternoon I was able to catch up on some writing for another project, visit with a friend, sweat through a workout, and chat with the FedEx guy when he dropped off packages.

"Sorry, your server is down."



Monday, April 7, 2008

Weekend wrap-ups

Seems like everywhere I've been this winter, I've been surrounded by folks with The Crud. There's been a nasty flu making the rounds... one that hangs on for weeks and weeks... and of course the usual spate of colds. I've been hours in cars and planes and public places with the walking wounded breathing on me, and I have been relieved (and, I admit, a tad smug) that I have managed not to catch any of it.

Well. Until last week, anyway, when I started fighting a cold. So far neither of us has the upper hand, nor is either of us conceding the battle. I'm functional... more or less... but without much stamina. So the weekend was spent working in odd little bursts....

Burst #1: I finished "Twisted." Reasonably satisfied... but the paper struggles never let up. I lost more than my usual number of prints in this edition, which I think will end up being 10. Maybe 12. I have to sort through them more carefully when they are dry and handleable.

Burst #2: I'm working on a set of icons for the Southeast Colorado Heritage District... black and white linocuts! Three of them were finished and printed this weekend. Three (maybe four?) more to go.. but finding the images for the second set is proving challenging.

Burst #3: I made a little progress on writing some interp content for a display at the local office of the US Forest Service. More of that today, I think.

Hm. I just looked outside, and it appears to be snowing. (sigh) Of course, that's just in the driveway. In the street the sun in shining. The weather seems to be functioning in bursts, too. Must be springtime in the Rockies!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

While I was out...

The last 24 hours were adventurous in ways other than the 50-mile detour, too. My sketchbook and I managed to sneak about an hour and a half at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo late on Tuesday afternoon. Penguins, gorillas, sleepy komodo dragons with only their heads visible, and a few other critters were reasonably cooperative. I like being at the zoo late in the day. I think I saw 5 people who weren't staff, otherwise I had the place to myself.

This morning I took a little hike with my friend Linda and some of the other ladies who volunteer at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Scrub oak woodlands are among my favorites... and today they were chock-a-block with Steller's jays, mountain bluebirds, chickadees, flickers, meadowlarks... a northern harrier quartering the meadow and a red-tailed hawk working the ridge. A great, great way to start the day.


My little town of Salida sits along US 50, a two-lane highway that crosses the state roughly east to west from Kansas to Grand Junction. It's scenic and winding, but once you leave the plains you'd best be sure it's the road you want. It can be a long drive until the next available right or left turn, as I was reminded today.

Climbing west out of Cañon City I spotted a highway notice sign that said, "US 50 Closed because of accident. Alternate route Hwy 9 to Hartsel."


This is no small detour. From Cañon City to Salida up US 50 is about 60 miles. Taking Highway 9 to Hartsel adds 50 miles to the trip. A second sign tells me that the closure is at Howard, a mere 20 minutes from Salida. I could turn a few miles up Highway 9 and then try to navigate unfamiliar dirt roads and come over Aspen Ridge... but the chances are good those routes are still snowed in or washed out. (I think I am one of the few people in the entire state who a) doesn't have a 4WD or truck and b) could actually use one or the other on a regular basis.) Of course, I didn't have a decent backroads map with me either.

Hartsel it was.

I took the attitude that the universe had decided I needed another hour of down time, and adjusted my brain accordingly. Forced site-seeing? Okay. What did I see?

1) Pronghorn. Don't let anyone tell you these are strictly a prairie species. They are all over mountain meadows. This year they struggled with all the deep snow... we even had a small herd move in to town in January because they couldn't get to the grass in the open valley. (Sketch from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science dioramas.)

2) The road to the town of Guffey. The mayor of said town is a dog. This was an upset, because for years the mayor was a cat. (This Wiki entry lists the cat from 1998.)

3) Someone driving the other way with a dashboard so full of papers that it reminded me of a stereotypical newspaper office desk. I'm not sure how they saw where they were going, but since they stayed on their side of the yellow line...

4) Far more snow than I would have seen going up the canyon.

5) Entirely too many "For Sale" signs on ranch properties.

Of course, I took a few obligatory "camera-perched-on-the-steering-wheel" photos, and one "pulled-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-because-I'm-sick- of-being-stuck-behind-this-semi-going- 40" photo.

Linocut in Progress: (Lucky 13th) Final Step

 I am off next week to head up the Arts & Birding session at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine , so I have been feeling the pressure to w...