Monday, August 31, 2009

How to celebrate finishing a project, redux

Yippee! By this time tomorrow two long, drawn-out, angst-inducing projects will be delivered to their respective clients and breathing room will miraculously materialize. Duration of said breathing time is undetermined, but I can guarantee I will revel in it.

To celebrate, a quickie sketch of carrots from our farm share. This week's bunch was quite quirky... full of two- and three-legged beasties which became salad with raisins in short order. After weeks and weeks of fussy, tight, particularity-driven work it felt grand to scribble and splash a bit. Whew.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And they're off!

Guess what this is? Yes, indeedy, it's the first color pass on the next "Underfoot" linocut. Bonus points if you can figure out what's wrong with this side-by-side image of plate and print. I certainly hope the printmaker pays better attention to the other details of this process.

Artist, interrupted

If you're a Facebook chum, then you know it's been an eventful week. First, I gave myself my two weeks notice. Yup. I quit myself. It was that or get fired, and I figured firing myself looked a lot worse on a resumé. Quitting seemed more proactive. I had become a grumpy, unreasonable boss, and as my own employee, I resented the situation a LOT.

So I quit. What the aftermath of that will be is not yet clear. But it will be... interesting.

For example, yesterday my newly-empowered self decided to take an hour to go draw, for cryin' out loud. Not with any purpose or goal or project or client in mind. Just drawing for the sake of feeling a pencil in my hand. I found a semi-comfortable spot on a rock next to Ditch Creek and settled in. Fifteen minutes later a young man approached, coughed politely and said, "Sorry to disturb you, but I think you should know that a group of convicts is on its way here to trim the weeds."

Right here. Right now. What are the odds?

"Okay, thanks," I sighed. "I'll wrap this up. How long do I have?"

"About two minutes. They're already out of the van."

It has been suggested that such an event would make a good opening scene for a quirky movie. Perhaps I should take up cinematography as part of my new working routine. But only if the boss promises not to be cranky.

water under the bridge, interrupted by convicts

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Things get away

Yesterday's rainy ( hooray!) afternoon was spent facilitating a little journal workshop at the beautiful straw bale home of a friend. I'm exploring the possibility of adding more writing to my usual workshop repertoire, and three good friends agreed to be guinea pigs for a few hours.

What's that line about "one teaches best what one most needs to learn?" Um, yeah.

Loyal readers may recall that once upon a time "Brush and Baren" sported a lot more field sketches than it has lately. In the wake of yesterday's workshop I am contemplating conversations about all the things that "get away from us" in busy lives and over-committed schedules... and realizing much of my recent angst and grumpiness has come from letting myself get away from me.


So this morning I've christened a new journal, built by me some weeks ago, and patiently awaiting the finishing touches and beginning entries. I started with this little portion of the honeysuckle in the yard, now in berry. One of the last entries in the previous journal was a sprig of this same plant in flower. It seemed appropriate to pick up again just beyond where I left off.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dockyard Micro Tools

Some months ago (Months! I am mortified to be so slow.) I received a lovely note from Don Butler, the Carving Glove Guy.

First things first. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what the heck a carving glove might be, and you’ll be distracted and not pay attention until I ‘splain.

Turns out clever woodcarvers have solved two problems with one invention: a glove which both gives you a good grip on the piece you are carving AND provides protection from cuts. Leather and Kevlar! At present I seem to have a handle (so to speak) on keeping my non-lino-carving hand away from my gouges, but if I struggled with this more, I would consider using a carving glove.

ANYWAY. Don kindly and generously asked if I would be willing to “test drive” his line of Dockyard Micro carving tools for linocut work. The tools are designed for woodcarvers, but Don thought they would have application for lino as well. These tools are TINY, and you know me! I’m always going after these ridiculously intricate images. Of course I said ‘yes.’

A few days later a box arrived with 25 little tools in two fabric cases. Take a look:

So, first, the basics. (Most of these photos, BTW, generously supplied by Don as well. I had trouble getting anything good from my little camera.)

The tools are lightweight, about 5.5” inches long, with straight cherry wood handles. They arrive with that little tubing over the top… for protection and storage.

The variety of tools was a bit overwhelming, really. Straight blades and dog legs and gouges and V-tools and knives! I could immediately see why these would be popular with woodcarvers. A few tools, such as a scythe-shaped knife, probably do not have much application for linocut, so I focused my attention on the gouges.

The U-gouge, my weapon, er, tool of choice has the greatest size range in the set, from 5mm to 1.5mm wide.

I, of course, dove straight for the tiniest one to put through its paces.

But, ooph! I realized immediately what a creature of habit I am. One becomes accustomed to certain tools used certain ways, and making a switch can be eye-opening and challenging. So. Some first impressions:

1) Straight handles. Hm. I realize that Japanese woodcut tools are straight handled, and that traditional tools are used with a drawing motion rather than a push, but I'm pretty attached to my mushroom-handled tools. I also, I confess, still use a couple of the old bulb-handled tools (think Speedball linocutters from grade school, only mine are wood). I like that the Micro handles are octagonal for better grip and less rolling about on the table, but in the palm of my hand for long periods of time I like a wide, rounded base. Still, I know plenty of people who feel otherwise. After the polished wood handles of the Ramelson tools, I thought these seemed a little flimsy, but a visit to woodcarving forums where the Dockyard Micros were discussed didn't turn up any complaints on the part of those users.

2) Sharp! As I mentioned before, the set I received was plenty sharp right out of the box, which is great. Especially since we all know what happened LAST time I tried to sharpen my favorite small tool. Again, I checked around on a couple of tool forums, and the woodcarvers there describe these tools as holding their edge for a long time and easily refreshed with just a light strop.

3) Dark patina. This was something I had never considered before. All of my usual tools have bright, light-colored steel blades which show up nicely against gray or dark-tinted linoleum. The Dockyard tools arrived with a dark patina to them, which my middle-aged eyes found difficult to deal with against a dark background, especially as the tools are so small. I puzzled this for a while until I realized that woodcarvers are probably often using light-colored material like balsa wood (or whatever it's called these days). A dark blade against a light material is probably useful in that instance. Or maybe it's just a coating that comes on them from the manufacturer and will wear off with use. I asked Don about it, and he said that the dark patina could be polished off the Micro tools. So there you go.

4) Price. Retail prices are more or less in line with what you would expect to pay for good carving tools. My mushroom-handled gouges are from UJ Ramelson, with individual tools priced at $9, $40 for a set of 6. The Dockyard Micro tools are $12 each, with a discount once you buy 5 or more.

Coming up next, a little about the tools in action. In the meantime, have a gander at Don's website and expand your tool envy horizons.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Next up!

One of these days I'm going to learn to set my weekend task list at a more reasonable level.

No, really.

There are several major items without tick marks (or even smudge marks) on this weekend's list, but I DID get the new linocut plate ready to go. Yippee! Yes, it's oak leaves and sticks. Yes, it's further evidence of insanity on the part of the printmaker. But you're going to follow along, aren't you? Even if you watch it the same way I watch horror films: with my hands over my ears and my eyes closed. Tell me when it's safe to look again....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And I thought I was going to get work done today

HA! I should have known better. First, our regular Saturday morning trip to the Farmers Market to pick up our CSA share from Weathervane Farm.

THIS is what our kitchen counter looks like every Saturday morning. (Although the weekly ginormous head of lettuce had already gone to the fridge by the time I thought to get out the camera.) Feeling jealous? Check out the Weathervane blog, where Caitlin keeps us up to date on farm news (FROST this week!), lists the contents of our treasure box, and gets us started with recipe tips. I'm already worrying about how we'll readjust to store-bought veggies once the season is over.

After the market and the usual Saturday morning errands, the DM packed up his gear and headed down to Riverside Park for his first of three gigs during the Salida Riverside Arts Festival. After the set his roadie/groupie/sherpa (that would be me) helped him schlep gear back home, and by then it was time for lunch. Naturally we headed back down to the park, intending to do a quick cruise of the Festival and be home in time to get work done.

Your Surrogate Cousin, the Deluxe Extended Edition

After lunch I remembered that we needed to check out a great little photography show at the Paquette Gallery, the work of brothers Russell and Clinton Bauder. Russell and Clinton live in California, but I know Russell because he has been a gracious and enthusiastic collector of Sherrie York linocuts. In fact, last week I received this fabulously heartwarming photo:

Russell and his fiancee Carolyn have been hard at work remodelling their new home. A delay in the work (ain't that ALWAYS the case?) set back their move-in, so while all of their "stuff" is stacked in the garage, they are sleeping on an air mattress in the unfinished house.

But what do they have in the house with them, their cat, and the air mattress? Three tree linos stacked along the wall! If ever I needed a boost (and the day the photo arrived, I most certainly DID)... well.... this is it.

So. In the waning minutes of this day I'm going to get a narrative written for a show proposal, and then (hopefully) get the drawing finished for the new linocut in the "Underfoot" series. The roadie/groupie/sherpa will also be CD wench tomorrow morning for the DM's solo set at the Festival... can I carve lino and sell music at the same time? Worth a try!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There and back again

The DM's 5-year-old niece and her family were in Denver this last week, so off we toddled to The Big City. Again. Not sure how it is that we seem to be spending so much time running back and forth to cities this summer, but that's the way it has panned out.

Being in the company of a 5-year-old was a good excuse to go to the zoo, of course... so even though I knew I wouldn't get a LOT of time to draw, I still schlepped along my sketchbook. Definitely not an "on" day, but as I told the DM, "A day of bad drawings is better than.... just about anything except a day of good drawings."

Philosopher I ain't.

Before we left I did manage to start up the next installment of the "Underfoot" linocut series. The drawing isn't quite finished, but should be ready to meet a chisel on the weekend. The remainder of this week will be spent catching up on tasks for this year's Audubon Adventures. We're nearing publication deadline, so things are at a fever pitch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ditch linocut finished!

(Sigh) Sorry I always seem to get these shots with big shiny spots in the middle. Blame wet ink and poor lighting and a flash. But you get the idea. Color #8 is down! It looks black here, but it's really a dark blue/brown.

I have an entry deadline tomorrow and I'm trying to decide if I should send this one...

"Ditch" linocut 9 x 12 inches

In the meantime... today I'm working on a watercolor commission. Crazy. I haven't done a "straight up" watercolor painting in such a long time. The first attempt was a disaster, plain and simple. Second attempt is going along better... I'm still ambivalent about it, but I think it will meet the requirements of the project.

As I'm working I'm intrigued by the constant chatter in my head... "hey, this is kinda fun... oh.. that's an ugly mark... wow, look at that paint settle out so pretty... oh, yuck, I can't make this brush do what I want..." It's a different internal conversation than the one I have during carving/printing of linos, and for today it's rather refreshing. (Even if it IS slightly tormented.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ditch linocut color 7

One more to go! The burnishing is getting intense... my fingers are pretty sore this evening, but I think things are going pretty well. One more color, the darkest bits, and then on to the next one.

Has it only been 48 hours?

David tuning up (or perhaps waking up) at the Farmers Market

How much can be crammed in to one weekend? A lot!

Despite our early morning setup for Farmers Market this weekend, we (foolishly?) decided to have a little happy hour gathering at our place Friday night. Fun! At least until it was followed by a fairly sleepless night. Ooph.

Thank goodness we only had to go two blocks from our house to the Market for our 7:00am booth setup Saturday morning. We ALWAYS go to the Farmers Market: a) because it's easy coffee for the DM, b) because we have to pick up our CSA share, and c) because there's no better way to visit with friends and neighbors than over fresh, local food in a sunny green park.

This weekend, however, we had signed up to have a booth of our own! Salida ArtWorks bought vendor space for the Market season and offered days to local artists and musicians... a brilliant idea for keeping the offerings "fresh," (that's a market pun, get it?) and for letting busy people participate without having to commit to the entire 16 weeks.

Fortified with coffee and scones (and later with Thai noodles), we enjoyed a sparkling summer morning chatting with neighbors and visitors and explaining both reduction linocuts AND the Chapman Stick. David sold CDs and I sold linocuts... in all a rousing success.

Saturday afternoon we schlepped everything back home and I carved for the next color in the ditch linocut (coming up in a separate post). We also moved our cars to the next block for 24 hours, as our street corner became part of the route for this year's Salida Omnium. All day Sunday we heard the whoosh of cyclists coming around the house... dizzying!

Who needs the Tour de France?

This morning I printed the seventh (second-to-last) color on the new lino. This afternoon we ran errands and stopped in at the Chaffee County Fair... and David learned that a fabulous review of his new CD went up on the Stick Enterprises website this evening! Woohoo!

Almost makes me wish for another weekend so we can recover from this one, but that's the way summer goes! Someone this morning said, "Rest in November," so I guess that's what we'll do.

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...