Thursday, April 30, 2009

Take 'em down, put 'em up

AKA: Art in to the car, art out of the car, art in to the car, art....

Today is the last day I'll have linocuts hanging at Café Dawn here in Salida. The show at Mother's Bistro in Buena Vista continues through June 2.

And yesterday I received the happy news that I will have two pieces again in the National Small Print Show in Creede. The show opens May 22 at the Creede Repertory Theatre. The Darling Man and I tried to go down for the opening last year, but were thwarted by yet another spring blizzard. Keeping our fingers crossed for a pleasant traverse this time.

On the walls for the show: Monarch and Milkweed and Lovely, Dark, and Deep.

Burning Questions

Everyone wants to know how many mini books can fit in a mini cigar box, right?

The answer is precisely ten.

Next go around (because, yes, I have more boxes!) I think I'm going to face the books spine up and make slightly wider, harder-bound books with actual write-on-able spines. But sadly it won't be today, as contract duty calls. (Byway interp panels are in their last go-round and scheduled to go off for fabrication tomorrow. Naturally this means I changed a whole bunch of things around yesterday.)

Anyway... I put the first mini book in my pocket and went off for my morning walk yesterday. Aside from slowing forward momentum due to irresistible urge to write down everything that came to mind, it worked great. Each book has 20 pages, so I figure I can get 9-10 days worth of notes in each one. That's 2 weeks of walk notes per book, since I don't go every day. Times 10 books.... I'm set all the way until autumn migration!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Okay, so I haven't yet gotten to the intended linocut work today, but it's not my fault. Really! Blame friend Michael, who has kindly been supplying both the DM and I with some really groovy cigar boxes. (It's not Michael who is emptying aforementioned boxes, BTW. He's just the conduit.)

David's making banjos (sorry, still in development stage, so no pics yet) with the nice, low, rectangular wooden (!) boxes, but yesterday we received some really nifty small, squarish ones. OOOH! I knew JUST what I wanted to do with one: Make a box of mini books!

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm, err... reinterpreting... an idea I saw somewhere else, which involved little books shaped like file folders. How can one resist filling a little box with little books?

The box itself is just 5.75" x 4.25" x 4.5". The little books are about 3.5" x 5" (closed). Perfect size to stick in my pocket when I go for a walk. Usually I just scribble my notes in little spiral notebooks, but how much more fun will it be NOW?

I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do inside the box cover, nor how to deal with the debossed writing on the outside, and I expect much scowling and lip-biting will ensue. Or not.

I'm still planning to get a lino started tonight. The DM went to the doctor yesterday and was pronounced "mending," so we're much relieved. He's back to poking around in the studio, alternating with periods of web surfing or sofa sitting. He also made supper tonight, which around here means we're eating much better again. Whew!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Furtive time

I met a deadline today and the next one is on hold until Wednesday, so suddenly, surprisingly, it looks like I might have time to think about a linocut tomorrow. No promises, but fingers are crossed.

This morning's walk was cold and windy, but I never regret getting out. I saw my first Wilson's warbler of the season, I was entertained by the antics of swallows, AND I walked in to the middle of one of those dodgy human-caused wildlife messes.

Story goes like this:

Next to one of the lakes I frequent is a house. In this house is a woman who no doubt has a kind but misguided heart. Years ago someone dumped domestic ducks and geese at this lake. It's possible they would have succumbed to fate had it not been for this woman and others like her who insist on feeding these interlopers. Now, instead, the domestic geese are the most prolific breeders... fat and happy and noisy and aggressive. At this point I don't think any wild waterfowl species breed on this lake anymore, except a few mallards and maybe a pair of Canada geese.

I met this goose-feeding woman one morning. Caught her in the act of tossing corn, actually. She beamed at me and happily prattled on about how much she loves birds. Bird Loving Woman is also, apparently, Cat Indulging Woman. Her cats were skulking around the periphery. "They never bother the birds," she told me, with utter confidence. ("Right," I thought. "They don't bother the geese that are four times their size, but what happens when you're not around?")

It's probably a good thing I haven't seen her since, because by now I have a thing or two I'd like to point out to her, in addition to the excess of Chinese geese on the lake.

Last year, for example, I discovered downy woodpeckers nesting in a tree between this woman's house and the lake. (This is a distance of MAYBE 10 yards.) A few days later I saw her cat with a paw in the hole. I never saw woodpeckers there again.

This morning? Not birds. A fox. And a cat. And a potential for disaster that I did not stick around to see. (Although I'm fixin' to put a bug in the ear of my local wildlife officers.) I was on the trail, just about to come even with the house, when a ruckus came out of the bushes. Fox, pursued by cat.

I am sure that the fox was after food at the house. The cat was having none of it. The cat chased the fox, the fox ran, but then stopped and tried to go back to the house. My appearance slowed the action, but did not stop it. Cat would approach, fox would back off. Cat would stop, fox would try to head back to the house. Both looked at me, but neither was intimidated enough to break off the skirmish.


My sympathies, I admit, were with the fox. Not the fox's fault that the lure of free food would be so strong. It infuriates me to no end that "problem wildlife" have to be killed when the problem is not the animal in the first place. But you KNOW that if something happens to that cat, the fox will take the rap. And what if the "friendliness" of this fox turns to aggression when it's hungry? What if it bites Bird Loving, Cat Indulging, Wildlife Baiting Woman?

Oh, golly. I seem to have gone on a rant about Humans Behaving Badly when my intention was to relate the furtive behavior of a fox snatching treats to my goal of snatching some unexpected time for linos tomorrow.



I'm not taking it back. But I am taking time. Tomorrow. For linos. Really. Even if I have to be sneaky about it.

Maybe I'll do a fox.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What week? Revisited

Darn fingers on the keyboard. Previous post suffered from premature exposure, and before I could correct it, Jeff labeled it haiku! Can't very well change it NOW, can I? **

(**The previous post went away, so now you will all be confused by this statement. Except Jeff. Who will wonder where the haiku went. Never mind.)

It's been one of those weeks. The DM remains very much under the weather... I've been scrambling to get projects done... and suddenly it's Saturday night and I wonder what exactly happened to the week.

As proof that something productive is happening, here are two proofs of the nine new Collegiate Peaks Byway interpretive panels going off to fabrication next week. I'll still waiting on one photo and committee comments, but soon this project will be off to the next step. Hooray!

Also got the scans back for the sagebrush poster for Audubon-Wyoming, so I can get that wrapped up next week, too. Double hooray!

Now three more panels for a fish habitat improvement project in Cañon City, two for a state wildlife area, and... wait... there's more!

But not tonight.

I did take a little time out for fun today (AFTER getting blood drawn at the Health Fair). Our local library (the best in the universe, in my humble opinion) sponsored a bookmaking workshop, so I went off to see what tidbits I could glean from someone else's presentation. We worked with bookcloth, which was new for me, and instead of PVA or paste we used heavy-duty (supposedly archival) double-stick adhesive sheets. Huh. Interesting. Nice, clean adhesion and no mess. We'll see how it holds up...

Anyway, I have a little green book now, AND a new target on my List of Places to Go Next Time I Go to the City. Denver Bookbinding. Probably another one of those places where I'll need someone else along to hold my checkbook.

That's pretty much the news here. Most of my "spare" energy has been devoted to fending off whatever nasty crud has such a firm hold on the DM. Successful so far... keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fog event!

If by chance you've managed to stick with this blog for any length of time, you might remember that I get pretty excited about fog.

For those of you who live in places where atmosphere exists by default such excitement might seem a little odd, but you have to remember that despite living at 7000' altitude in the Colorado Rockies, our average annual precipitation is 10 inches, give or take.

Yes, I know... 20 minutes away at Monarch ski area they had 360-some inches of snow this year. And that doesn't even TOUCH what they got last year. But that is there, and this is here, and most of the time we are forced to run a humidifier so we don't completely desiccate overnight.

Fog is a big deal.

I felt a twinge of guilt as I charged out the door with binoculars and camera: The DM is wrapped in blankets on the sofa, suffering a nasty sore throat and cough.

Didn't STOP me. But I did feel a twinge. Really.

It probably took an entire hour to get around Sands Lake, since I had to keep stopping to take photos. (Well, that, and to suss out what birds were on the water in the fog.) I knew the fog wouldn't last long, and sure enough it was gone before I'd gotten 100 yards up river. But it still made for a lovely morning.

Fifty species of birds didn't hurt, either.

Fog is burning off already, just upriver from Sands Lake.
Turn 180 degrees from the photo above, just a moment later,
and it looked like this:

Finally the bloody ibis have shown up. They're LATE.
Could have turned up while we were away, but that was still later than normal. Slackers.
This shot was taken maybe 90 minutes after the first one above.
No sign of fog. Anywhere.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why going away is a good idea, even in a blizzard

We just crawled in. As predicted, the weather for our little expedition was of the spring blizzard variety, so mostly we got where we were going and then assumed a semi-vegetative state for two days. Not exactly the original plan, but it was still good to get away from work and be mostly mindless.

The REAL kicker was that when we got home there was a message saying I sold four linocuts from the exhibition at Mother's Bistro this weekend. WaHOO!

There's an interesting pattern developing here: I generally print better in my pajamas, and I sell more work when I leave town. Can't say I mind either of these realities... but will it be possible to maintain them?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New arts resources and running away from home

I had a nice note today from the folks at Art Connect, who have included a review of Brush and Baren as part of their growing new resource. I confess I had a bit of a chuckle over the idea that this blog would have a "calming influence" when its author is generally running around like a headless chicken, but hey! I'm also flattered by the idea and by inclusion on this site.

Katherine Tyrell, who I already suspect is at LEAST three people, has launched yet another nifty resource for those of us who can't go in to book stores or art supply stores without someone else to hold our wallets. Pop on over to Making a Mark Reviews and join the fun. And then try to figure out how she manages to run such excellent blogs AND get art made.

Closer to home, Arts for Colorado just announced their new website. Looks nice so far... I have high hopes.

Closer yet, Salida ArtWorks has their blog up and running. For a small community, seems like we have an awful lot going on!

And after much waffling and mind-changing and uncertainty and such, it looks like the DM and I are going to take a couple of days off and get some space between our respective projects and our selves. Even as the garden mumbles "barely spring," the calendar screams "summer insanity just around the corner." Running away from home seems the best response, don't you think? So we shall, despite dire weather forecasts. Back on the weekend some time. See ya then!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Spring is coming, but it's taking its sweet time about it.

I hate to use the word "typical," since weather patterns seem to be anything BUT typical these days, but true to spring-in-the-Rockies form we spent our entire weekend in glorious rain (and a little snow). We've been so desperately dry here that two cloudy, damp days were a blissful change. But STILL. Can't I put away at least one layer of fleece now?

Yesterday I took a long walk in the cold and gray and was rewarded with a pair of American avocets at Frantz Lake. Common elsewhere, avocets seem to only pass through our area, and getting a glimpse is a treat. A black phoebe is back, too... and suddenly I am twitchy to be out walking as often as possible.

Here at 7,000 feet altitude we have only the tiniest bits of green showing through the ochre and brown. I don't mind too much, until I start wandering around the blogosphere and see photos of lower altitude gardens in bloom. (sigh) Patience. Patience.

When we moved in to this house last spring we were faced with a yard that had been sadly neglected. We did what we could to clean it up last season (a particular challenge during the month-long roof replacement adventure), but there is still a lot to do. With the generous help of mad gardener friends we managed to put in a few new plantings, and several times a day I wander out to the yard to see what has survived my novice gardener stumblings.

Here come the daylilies! Friend Scott, from whose garden these were transplanted last year, assured me that even an inexperienced gardener like me couldn't kill daylilies... and he was right!

Discovering things that we didn't plant and which didn't show their faces last year is fun, too. There are hyacinth, and tulips, and one or two as-yet-unidentified mysteries poking out of beds that last year hosted... erm... less desirable... plant life. Yippee! Now, if I can just keep the deer from chomping on them.

The grass is starting to green up in the park down the street and this, of course, makes me long for the farmer's market. Last week the DM and I paid our deposit for our veggie share from Weathervane Farm, our local CSA. Do I really have to wait until June to spend Saturday mornings visiting with friends, eating fresh-baked strudel, and procuring the week's foodstuffs? (another sigh) Patience. Patience.

Oh, forget patience. I'm gonna go check the yard again. Maybe something new came up in the last three hours.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A tiny flock of sparrows

Or is that a flock of tiny sparrows?

Whichever way you look at it, this was fun! Six colors on a linocut only 3" x 3"!

I forgot to take photos of Color 4, and only just thought of it as I was adding Color 5. We now have a non-convention-conforming image in the string. Appalling.

Rusty head color, which ultimately only shows in 2 spots on the little critter's head:

Color 5, some green in the grass:

And Color 6, the ubiquitous black-or-near-black:

Despite my inability to hold the camera square to the image, a closer look at the finished beastie:

I'm enjoying these little prints for a couple of reasons:
  • They're small and don't take much time, so I can work on them even when I only have 30 minutes or less to spare.
  • They're small and don't take much time, so provide semi-instant gratification.
  • They're small and don't take much time, so "Oh, oops, DUH" comes more frequently and tightens the learning curve.
So far I've sorted out some technical questions when working this size, mostly about registration. One would think that little pieces of paper would be easier to manage than larger ones, but one would be mistaken.

The next round I want to answer some aesthetic questions. I've been feeling that familiar itch to threaten my comfort zone.... YOU know what I mean.

Not sure when that next round will start, exactly, since I've had to clear the table to get back to a couple of illustration projects, but you'll have a front row seat. Promise.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bet you thought I was slacking off

We "lost" pretty much all of last Thursday to Dancing With Plumbers, so yesterday (Saturday) was devoted to catching up with work things. The DM spent his day in further recording efforts. I spent mine tweaking text and organizing an inventory of historic photos to acquire for the Collegiate Peaks Byway interp sign project.

By evening, however, I was ready to fling the entire project off into the Great Beyond. What's the obvious cure for too much time in front of the computer? Time in front of the lino jig, of course!

Second colors were pulled last night on both of the tiny linocuts, and this evening (after a looooooonnngggg hike in the hills just outside of town) color #3 went down on both of them, as well. For the sunflower this means the game is over, but for the sparrow, well, we've got 3 colors to go. What happened to "little and simple," eh? I just can't seem to help myself.

Sunflower colors 2 & 3.

Sparrow colors 2 & 3 (3 more to go!)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A book, a brush, a brilliant sky. Need we more?

The Walking Nature Home Blog Tour is underway, and Brush and Baren is today's lucky venue. This stop in the tour focuses on the illustrations created for the book's chapter headings. Why? Because we're at the home of their creator. Fancy that.

Walking Nature Home is Susan Tweit's brand-new memoir, released just a few weeks ago by the University of Texas Press. Susan is a neighbor and a colleague, but above all a friend, and it was my great honor and privilege to be a small part of this very personal and long-crafted project.

To get the conversation started today, Susan sent me a list of questions about the illustration process. It's a little bit disconcerting for me to be the one on the receiving end of the interview, but I guess it's about time for Susan to turn the tables.

For more essays, reviews, and commentary on Walking Nature Home, visit the other stops on this tour, listed at the bottom of this post.

SJT: When you agreed to do the illustrations for Walking Nature Home, did you already have an idea of what they would look like?

SY: Oh, Susan! You know better than to ask this question! It implies some sort of planning, and have you ever known me to be much of a planner?

When we first talked about the illustrations, it was clear that the spirit of Walking Nature Home called for something quite personal. We agreed on a "field journal" style, and for me that usually means watercolor. So, I guess I had an idea of how I might get started... but that's usually as far as planning goes.

As for the actual subjects of the illustrations, that part was obvious. Walking Nature Home moves us through time and place guided by particular star constellations.

SJT: What was the biggest challenge in doing these illustrations?

SY: Aside from the terror of not pleasing the author, you mean? ;-)

I found several challenges in this project, actually. First, I am more or less astronomically illiterate. I can find the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Pleiades... but otherwise the sky to me is a mystery. Illustrating constellations that were more than connect-the-dot drawings meant some serious research.

I don't know how often readers have looked at stellar photography, but there are some stunning images out there. The galaxy in which we spin is an unbelievably complex, writhing, roiling expanse of light and vapor. How in the world does one put that feeling down on paper and still keep it personal? My little rectangles of paper and I seem very, very small.

To further complicate things, we were told early on that the illustrations would be printed in black and white. Ordinarily I'm the first to champion the graphic nature of black and white images, but yikes! This was, in my mind, a subtle textural effort, not bold expressive mark-making. I wasn't entirely sure I could pull that off in monochromatic watercolor.

Luckily, I do not own black paint. Period. It's an old bias picked up in my early painting lessons: no black, no pre-made grays. When I want to paint something black I use sepia (a dark brown) and either Prussian or ultramarine blue. Mixed together these make a quite rich dark that can be "pushed" to a warmer or cooler feel. (The complete irony of this, of course, is that when I'm working in lino I love my black ink.)

The nice thing about making a dark this way is that the two pigments "settle out" differently on the page. Using a toothier paper, in this case a cold press paper, allows the mixed pigments to separate and create some really interesting mottled textures without too much interference from me. It turned out to be a perfect way to approach a dark-but-varied expanse.

SJT: What surprised you about the illustrations?

SY: Completing these illustrations actually required me to step outside of my usual watercolor comfort zone. I made all the lovely rich sepia-blue sky patches, painted some constellations on to them, sat back and thought, "These are completely boring. Now what?"

Another of my early-painting-days biases was against mixing gouache (opaque watercolor) with transparent watercolor. It just wasn't "done," according to the artist I studied with. I let myself be influenced by such proclamations for a long time. Thankfully, I got over it in time for this project!

I decided that the illustrations needed some random starfield against which to anchor the constellations... so I rooted around in the junk drawer until I found an old toothbrush, squeezed out some white gouache, and went to town sprinkling stars across dark rectangles. Much better!

SJT: Are you pleased with how they turned out?

SY: Are you? Please say yes!

Really, I am quite happy. The images translated well to black and white, I think. And I learned a lot about constellations while I was working on them, which was a plus. If I can learn something and make successful images, well.... that's the best possible outcome.

SJT: Which illustration is your favorite?

SY: It would have to be the Milky Way, in part because it was the most challenging to visualize.

In the course of my research I was reminded that not everyone defines the image of a constellation in the same way. Some interpretations anchor the "drawing" in the sky with different stars. Diverse cultures have diverse names and stories to accompany astronomical figures.

The richness and intrigue of the Milky Way, to me, both invites and defies interpretation. I love that in Walking Nature Home, Susan finds anchors, signposts, and pathways in that rich expanse. She reminds me how wondrous it is to ground ourselves with the stars!


The Tour continues! Of course you can always check in with Susan at her blog, but come along and be a virtual groupie for week ahead.

Upcoming venues:
April 6: The Bicycle Garden
April 7: Women's Memoirs
April 8: Susan's Art & Words
April 10: Story Circle Network

Previous stops:
March 25: Women Writing the West
March 27: Riehllife
March 29: Independent Stitch
March 31: Love of Place
April 2: Sheep to Shawl

Friday, April 3, 2009

More tiny linocuts underway....

The plumbing adventure which began on Monday ended up becoming a day-long distraction yesterday, so schedule-wise everything has got a little out of whack. The good news is that, whilst I couldn't get a good run at any big tasks yesterday, I did manage to squeeze in the first carving on two tiny linocuts.

I also tore down a stack of paper and got my jig all set up last night, so this morning it was once again time for Printing in Pajamas. I don't know... just a strange personal quirk, I guess. There's something nice about going straight from bed to printing table. When I'm finished printing I can eat breakfast and take a shower and turn my attention to the rest of the day with the satisfaction of already having completed something worthwhile.

So.... new on the rack: Tiny sunflowers and a tiny lark sparrow-to-be. Yippee!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Apparent radio silence...

Just busy. This week's tasks:
  • Poster illustration. (Teaser portion here.)
  • More writing, illustration, design of nine scenic/historic byway interp panels.
  • Magazine illustration concept drawings.
  • Exhibition installation.
And of course, half of today was spent trying to figure out what to do about recent flakiness in our 100+-year-old plumbing. We tried to manage it ourselves, but didn't have a long enough snake. Plumber comes tomorrow. (sigh)

(OOOH! And I almost forgot! I've been working on the DM's new CD cover, too. Expect news in early summer!)

More smiles

Okay, I realize I've been rather video-driven lately, but isn't it nice to find so many things to make us smile? Remember the Improv Everywhere event where everyone stopped in Grand Central Station?

I don't know who organized this one, but spend a few minutes at Antwerp Central Station. Julie Andrews would be proud.

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...