Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will reach finally exceed grasp?

Sorry about the glare on this photo. Maybe it's a sunspot. Maybe it's the influence of sunspots that compelled me to start this zany thing. It's as valid a theory as any. Yes, this is a new linocut block. (9"x12") Yes, it's an insanely complex pile of shells and stones and eel grass. Yes, it will be in color, and...


I haven't got a plan, really.

How many colors? No clue. At least 5, probably. Mostly blues and grays. Where will I start? No idea. This it what comes of looking at photos I took in Maine and thinking, "That's kind of cool. I wonder what it would look like as a lino."

Probably it's a good idea to map out a plan for the color... but I don't usually have the patience for that. I know better. Really I do. But sometimes I like feeling like I'm headed downhill on rollerblades with no brakes. At least until I crash.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Black & Blues

Coming up in a scant two weeks: linocuts on parade at the Salida Café. Show goes up November 6, reception Saturday, November 8, from 4-6. The DM will provide music and if you're early enough there will be snacks.

There's so much to do before the start of an exhibition. This one has the added challenge of engineering a new hanging system!

The Salida Café (known to locals as Bongo's) is actually a great venue: lots of traffic, engaging atmosphere. But it's tricky to hang work there. The walls are soft old brick and the ceiling is high (this once was a feed store), so there's the good old-fashioned picture rail system. There's a strip of moulding that runs around the walls, about 8 feet from the floor. To hang art one puts a hook on the moulding and drops a wire to the framed work. It's not great.... work tends to tip out from the wall at the top, and hanging it STRAIGHT can be a real challenge. Not so bad for big stuff... but THIS time I have 16 tiny linos to exhibit. In frames they're only 11" x 11" each and they don't weigh much. I foresee 16 different hanging heights and some serious wobble factor.

So... enter the need for engineering. I think what I'm going to do is get some nice 1"x 8" boards, cut them the width of the wall sections, paint them brick color, and hang THOSE from the picture rail... straight down from their top edges. Then I'll mount the framed linos on the boards instead of hanging them from individual wires. In theory it seems like it will work. Stay tuned, as this week the experimenting begins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program

When my friend Andie taught me to make journals, she ended the lesson by saying, "Make another one immediately, to reinforce what you learned. You'll remember better."

I did, and she was right. So after the struggle to victory over the age 7+ knitting kit, I resolved to do it again. The DM now has a nifty new scarf (which he insists he actually LIKES) and I can go back to dreaming about things other than yarn and needles. Whew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Home at last

Can you hear the contented sighs from where you are?

We returned last night from our last scheduled adventure of the season, and 30 minutes later it was raining. By the time we went to bed the rain had turned to snow. SOOOOO happy to have made it over the pass before all THAT started.

The DM didn't have work today (a good news/bad news sort of arrangement), so it's mid-morning and we're still in our bathrobes, puttering around the house. At the moment the DM is practicing and perhaps recording for his new CD. I'm making lists and catching up on several days of correspondence and such. There's work to be done this afternoon, but I'm taking my time getting there. After all.. there's snow on the ground and blueberry tea in my cup. What's the rush?

We've been in the Grand Junction area the last few days, near Colorado's western border with Utah. The landscape on the western side of the Continental Divide is much different from what it is on "our" side -- more like Utah with its mesas and plateaus, canyons and red sandstone. It's curious, because plant-wise the habitat is quite similar: rabbitbrush, sagebrush, piñon pine and juniper are dominant.

So a few pics from the season's swan song of travel, and then it's off to organize for the rest of the week.

The DM and his buddy Matt at "Cold Shivers Overlook" in the Colorado National Monument. Matt and his family were the excuse for our excursion: They live in Ohio but were visiting Utah this past week. So close, and yet so far. Grand Junction was sort of midway between us, so became the meeting point. Dave and Matt performed together in Ohio as the instrumental duo "WindWood," with Dave on Chapman Stick and Matt on EVI. I can't explain it. Look here, too. (The yellow blobs behind them are big cottonwood trees in the bottom of the canyon, just to try to help with scale.)

Despite living in Colorado almost all my life, and despite having a friend and colleague who did vireo research in the park for YEARS, I'd never made it out to the Monument before. Bad me! It's a fabulous place.

More high ridges and roads along cliffs! It's been a theme for months, hasn't it? Royal Gorge, Independence Pass, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Sheesh. And we don't even LIKE heights.

It was a great afternoon, with constantly changing light and the occasional rain shower. The DM and I are resolved to come back and spend a little more time here... there are lots of intriguing trails to explore.

But for now it's a more introspective and home-based focus, at least that's our plan. Once we empty the suitcase, do the laundry, buy some groceries, go to the bank, pay some bills.......

Uh huh.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Knitting update!

My friend Iris, who teaches all sorts of beautiful creative techniques at the Kimberton Waldorf School in Pennsylvania, assured me that casting off would be easy... and she was right. I did go out and get plain white cotton yarn and regular needles and practice a bit first on something I could actually SEE and manage. Hurrah! The kid kit is finished.

And, yes. I started another. Compulsive behavior is one of my best things. :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Different is good

As if Fungus Opera weren't enough...

I got one of those silly wild hairs this week. Having just rejoiced over a certain relaxing of the schedule (a somewhat premature celebration, but that's another story), I found myself at a loss about how to fill the time. It's not like I don't have anything to do. It's just that all the things I had to do felt like more of the same. I just wasn't interested in any of it. I wanted ADVENTURE.

Last weekend the DM and I were in Kaleidoscope, the local toy store, hunting for the perfect birthday gift for his about-to-be-five-year-old niece. On the shelf I saw a knitting kit. "Ages 7+" it assured me. "Make this scarf in 2 hours!" it declared.

In college my roommate and I tried to teach ourselves to knit. We found a really simple sweater pattern, one that basically consisted of 4 squares of knitting sewn together. We bought yarn and needles and set to work.

I think Mary told me a couple of years later that she did eventually finish hers. I think I got one square done and gave up. I struggled to get consistent stitches, and was brought far too many times to a memory of a weaving failure in Grade Three. Nope, not for me.

So at the store I laughed about former knitting failures and we went home with a present for Lily.

Monday I was still thinking about that kit. ("Easy instructions!")
Tuesday I was still thinking about that kit. ("Make this hat, what are you waiting for?")
Wednesday my head was full of "Why not?" and I started fantasizing about yards of colorful scarves as gifts for friends.
Thursday morning I bought the kit.
Thursday afternoon I was obsessed.

Not obsessed with my success, mind you. Obsessed with the fact that a 7-year-old could ostensibly make a scarf in two hours and I had pulled out all my work four times and spent four hours already. The "easy instructions" told me how to pick up dropped stitches, but they didn't tell me what to do if I accidentally ADDED stitches. And the lovely chunky yarn and needles were slippery. And the dark parts of the variegated yarn were impossible for my 40-something eyes to sort out, if that was where the problem was. ARGH!

By yesterday afternoon I had invented my own system for trouble repair... one that only involved pulling out a row or two of stitches instead of my entire progress, and I finally found a working rhythm.

Of course, NOW I have to figure out how to cast off and finish the thing... which I think is going to involve buying plain, non-slippery yarn and smaller needles, and trying to figure it out on a different piece. Whew. I wonder precisely what space-time continuum was consulted for the 7-year-old, 2-hours calculation.

Last night at a little FAC gathering I confessed my adventure. My friend Mark looked incredulously at me and asked why on earth I thought I needed yet another project. I didn't have a good answer at the time (especially since my aggravation level had barely subsided), but this morning I think I know.

1) This is something completely unrelated to my usual work. It's like a brain vacation, except that the part of my brain that won't GO on vacation unless I'm going to accomplish something* is appeased.

*Yes, I realize that this is the antithesis of the whole vacation concept. It's just the way I am.

2) It's not easy for me. I ADORE textiles of all sorts, but I am not a natural knitter or weaver. Humility is good. And it makes me appreciate the work of my weaving/knitting/sewing friends that much more.

3) Different is good. Working my fingers and my brain in a different way feels like mental exercise. Stretching different mental muscles makes me feel engaged with the world in a "bigger" way. I like that. How does that saying go? "The longer the shoreline of knowledge, the wider the ocean of wonder." Or something like that.

So, tune in later to discover if I actually finish a knitting project, 25 years after the first one was abandoned. It's safe to say none of you will be getting anything so complicated as gloves or socks for Christmas. But you might get a nice drink coaster or hot pad. ;-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And now for something completely different... again...

Okay, so I'm at least a month behind the power curve on this one, and probably all fans of strangely fascinating natural phenomena have already seen it, BUT... just in case you haven't:

Brush and Baren proudly presents:
Fungus Opera

On September 16, Carl Zimmer posted to The Loom at Discover Magazine this lovely video. Mr. Zimmer reports:

"Nicholas Money, an expert on fungi at Miami University, has been playing around with very fast video. Ultra fast. As in 250,000 frames-a-second fast. He knew exactly what this kind of video was made for. To film fungi that live on dung as they discharge their spores. These tiny fungi can blast spores as far as six feet away, boosting the odds that they’ll land on a clean plant that a cow or other grazing animal may eat. The fungi develop inside the animal, get pooped out with its dung, and fire their spores once more."

(The rest of the article here.)

I love this because a) it's in black and white! Do you see prints here? I do. b) it's a view of something that happens all the time, but I've never seen it- even when I lived on a ranch and was surrounded by cow dung, and c) it's one of the more whimsical applications of Verdi's "Anvil Chorus" I've ever seen.

Beauty, whimsy, and mystery first thing in the morning. Can the day get any better than this?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Starting to hunker down....

Summer is officially gone, and autumn hasn't been looking that robust, either. It's been COLD the last few days-- in the 20s F at night and in the 40s F during the day. It's even been gray and cloudy, and on Saturday we actually had RAIN. (First time since August.) The high peaks are decidedly white with snow.

I've been managing with just a space heater in the studio, loathe to turn on the heat in the house, but today the radiators clanged to life for the first time since we moved in last May.

The lamp in the living room is on a timer. Lately it hasn't been coming on early enough to beat the darkness.

I can barely drag myself out of bed by 7:00am. In the summer I'm easily awake before 6:00. Last night at 8:00pm I was ready to go to bed.

Yes, indeedy. Change is not only a'comin'. It's here.

Life has been ridiculously -- wonderfully -- busy and full since the DM arrived at the end of April, but lately we've been looking at each other and declaring how much we're going to enjoy being home and quiet for a while. We've one more out-of-town jaunt next week, to rendezvous with Ohio friends on the CO/UT border, but then no real plans until spring. I'm sure something will come up, but right now we're happily making soups and stews and stocking up on hot chocolate and reading material in anticipation of some quality hunkerin' down time.

The last few days I've been enjoying some time to build books. These little stab-bound volumes are hand-built collections of bits and pieces from my sketchbooks- the first ("Flora and Fauna") contains random field sketches and studies, the second ("Living on the Edge") is a gathering of sketches made during a two-month journey from Colorado to Holland to New York to Maine and back again. Like a lot of good things, they started out as a small idea and mushroomed for a time into something only barely manageable. These days the production pace is a little more sedate.

Building books requires a clearing of the studio tables to make room for trimming and collating and stacking and gluing and sewing, so it typically requires goodly stretches of time. HA! We all know how often THOSE happen. But since a considerable percentage of my compatriots enjoyed a holiday yesterday (no such thing for the self-employed, eh?) it's been quiet in the client department since Friday.

We're also gearing up to build some blank books. A few years ago my friend Andie Thrams taught me to make lovely little journals with soft leather covers. I've filled several of them myself, but I also build them for others, and it's time to make more. Not long ago I taught the DM to make his own, and he's anxious to be involved in this next construction phase. New endpapers arrived in the post today, so I've trimmed them down and we're ready to start assembly. I think tonight after supper we'll be folding signatures.

I'm sure things will pick up again tomorrow, but I have found it really refreshing to have a few days to work at a thoughtful pace. It's lovely to feel ideas come out of the cramped corners of my otherwise static-filled head and stretch their legs for a bit. Will there be more of this soon? Oooooh. I sure hope so.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Five more!

Five more Tiny Linos went up on the web page today... wahoo: Turtles, ants, a dragonfly and flying birds. It's still a secret known to Brush and Baren readers only, but October 15 all that will change. Of course, you guys have fairly decimated the inventory already (thank you!)... there are only 3 damselflies left, and more than half of several other editions are already living in new homes. It's nice to think of a little community of Tiny Lino-ites around the world.

So thanks again, everyone... and who knows? These are turning out to be nice things that I can do when I have a couple of "spare" hours in the midst of contract craziness. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around larger pieces when I'm so focused on client work... but these seem just about right for keeping me from tearing out my hair when I've had just TOO MUCH computer. Could be an entire legion of these critters is just waiting to be carved.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Catching up and moving forward

My replacement veiner turned up this weekend, so I was frantically back to work yesterday. Sixty little linocuts were pulled by 9:30 this morning... whoopee! I'm hoping they'll be dry and ready to post to the Tiny Linos page by Thursday or Friday.

Once I had a new tool in hand, it became obvious that the disaster of my sharpening attempts last week was not entirely my fault. I've been using this same tool for probably ten years... it's my most reached-for workhorse. Holding it up to the same tool by the same manufacturer revealed the fact that it's a solid 3/8" SHORTER than the new tool, and sports a significantly less deep channel.

I've worn it down!

So.. with a nice, sharp model of what it's SUPPOSED to look like, it's possible that the original can be resurrected. In the meantime, the replacement works just fine. It doesn't quite have that "sweet spot" that develops in response to the way I work... but it'll get there.

And a quick word about Colorado Art Ranch this past weekend: Fabulous.

As always, the CAR Artposium brought together a fine group of presenters, who entertained, inspired, and unsettled us. Check out some of these folks:

Libby Rowe: an artist who may challenge you with her ongoing project: "Pink," about what it means to be feminine.
Bill Amundson: artist, humorist who engages the tragi-comic world of suburbia.
Brady Udall: award-winning writer ("Miracle Life of Edgar Mint" and others), reading from his new novel, "The Lonely Polygamist."
Roz Chast: cartoonist for The New Yorker, and more.
Marj Hahne: poet laureate and all-around brilliant human being.

And that's just the beginning. Ask me if I slept Saturday night after all that creative overload. (Answer is no. That should be obvious.)

And of course, the DM wowed the troops with some spectacular tunes on the Stick. Unfortunately it was an enormous dark space (good for sound, not so good for light), so no good pics of the man at work. (I tweaked mightily in Photoshop for this one.) I tried taking little videos, too... but no real luck. (sigh) One of these days.

So.... my schedule this week still appears to be gloriously flexible in a way it hasn't been for MONTHS. I anticipate more linos, some writing, some THINKING, some pre-winter garden tending. We had our first hard frost in town last night... everyone ran around stripping their tomato plants of the last fruits. Too bad, really... one of my plants was actually still producing flowers.

Off to take advantage of it all......

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gone Art Ranching

We're off today to the Colorado Art Ranch Artposium to learn "What's So Funny About Art?"

Speakers include artist/comedian Bill Amundson, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, poet laureates Marj Hahne and Chris Ransick, columnist and novelist Particia Marx, author Brady Udall.... more more more!

The DM will be providing ambiance at the receptions both tonight and tomorrow, featuring an appropriately funny-looking instrument, the Chapman Stick. (It looks like a big, wide fretboard... sort of like a guitar and bass mashed together, but with no body.) This little event did spur him to put a couple of audio clips back up on the website... CD still at large.

Hopefully when we get back my new veiner tool will be waiting for me. Limping along with wounded gear just isn't making me a happy camper. See you then!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Slow going

Favorite linocut carving tool is still on injured reserve, but I'm trying to keep moving on this Tiny Linos project. Phrases like "glacial" and "snail's pace" (no disrespect intended) keep rattling around in my head.. and I can't get Joni Mitchell's voice out of my mind...

"Don’t it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot"

I thought my veiner needed sharpening, but now that I've wrecked it, well... I can see how perfect it was just the way it was. It cruised along just fine and now... bump, scrape, chip. (sigh)

But never fear. We're still trying to fix it AND... I resorted to Plan B. I ordered a new one, just in case I've crippled this one beyond repair.

So let's see.. on the table, moving slowly: ants, cranes, turtles, a single turtle, and a dragonfly so far. The damselfly is almost sold out already, so I decided it was time for a new winged thing. But OOPH. I want my veiner. Now.

Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...