Monday, September 28, 2009

Sitting? Did I really think I would be SITTING this weekend?

We're back from the Colorado Art Ranch "Dinner Stories" Artposium, happy, enlightened, and exhausted, as usual. Probably more photos will trickle out in the next few days (in one of our workshops the DM and I pressed grapes and bottled wine, and a friend just told me he has pix of us in action), but for now here's an image of our group in the pear trees at New Leaf Orchard.

We spent a morning of autumnal perfection with poet and organic fruit grower Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, reading poems, writing poems, and eating juice-dripping pears that we picked up off the ground as we rambled. (contented sigh) No time for drawing, sadly, but a fine, fine morning nonetheless.

It was warp speed in to the new week this morning, and only now that the sun has set will I finally get to figure out what's on task for the next few days. Weather report calls for chilly and wet again mid-week, so it looks as if tomorrow will be all about cramming as much outdoor time as possible in to whatever needs to be accomplished.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is it really color 7 already?

It appears that the oak leaf linocut is back on track, at least for now. It's astounding to think that there are already 7 colors on this print (2 grays, 3 tans, yellow and orange), but that's where we are. There are at least 4 more to go, so this might turn out to be the most complex image of the series (so far!)

We're off in the morning to Delta County (western slope), for the "Dinner Stories" Artposium with Colorado Art Ranch. We'll be harvesting pears and writing poetry in the orchard on Saturday morning, and thankfully the weather gods seem to be ready to cooperate. It's been cold and rainy and even (ack!) snowy here all week, but things are clearing off and the forecast calls for autumnal perfection for the next three days. (oh please oh please....) I'm hoping for a little journal entry time, too. I can't WAIT to sit under a pear tree and breathe for a while.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Now where were we?

Oh, yes. One of us was subtly hiding the fact that she made a big boo boo on the current project, and was waiting until she found a solution before she said anything about it.

Before all the running around of the last week, you might recall there was a linocut, supposedly of oak leaves, underway. The last time you saw it, it had a mysterious mustard-colored smudge on it. Later that same day it had a mysterious orange-colored smudge applied, and then a tan leaf-like color over the entire block.

And there the trouble began. Smarty-pants me thought the tan color would cover parts of the orange and yellow smudges and obliterate the fact that lazy inking had occurred. Smarty-pants me was mistaken. Here's what you missed.

Oops. Houston, we have bleed-through. And the tan color is a little too dark for this step, too.

So you didn't see this shot... determined as I was to have a solution before admitting the error of my ways.

This afternoon (which I might mention has been cold, gray, rainy and even, yes, spitting something which might be identified in some locales as snow) I finally had some time to spend in damage control, so I decided to do a little selective stenciling. I SHOULD have done this for yellow and orange. The payback for my laziness is that have to do it anyway.

I made my stencil from a sheet of tracing paper placed over the block. A few choice shapes were cut out, and ink was applied. Worked like a charm. The most critical sections where bleed-through occurred have been covered, I avoided putting another complete layer of lighter ink on the print, and I can now go forward from here. I think. Whew.

The most fun part of this adventure, however, was getting to use my improved drying rack setup! I've been wanting to change the location and height of my snazzy clothespin and 1x2 print rack since... oh... about the time we moved in and installed it. On our way home from the Front Range last week we stopped by my brother's to claim another precious flat file that he had managed to acquire (for FREE), and had been storing in his garage. You know how this goes, right? You bring in one new piece of furniture and the entire room has to be rearranged.

Actually, we only had to rearrange one end of the room, because the only place to put the new file was on top of the old one. They weren't exactly the same size, so some tipping and sliding and smooshing had to take place. Once that was done, it was clear that the print rack had to go somewhere else. But WHERE? Space is definitely at a premium. The best spot to put it was right in front of the files, where I could reach it to use, but it would then be in the way of file access.

Good thing we bought those pulleys over a year ago and put them in the drawer to collect dust.

After a modicum of head-scratching and clothesline restringing, we finally installed my completely adjustable rack! Lower it to hang prints... raise it to access the files. Are we brilliant, or what? ;-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

On the road.... again...

Along the Arkansas River

We're off to the big city again tomorrow. David has a gig at the D Note in Olde Town Arvada Tuesday night, we've some errands to run Wednesday, and then we're coming home the long way, retrieving a precious flat file from my brother's garage on Thursday. Friday it's another day of "stuff in to the car, stuff out of the car," as I get ready to have a booth at the Salida Farmers Market on Saturday morning. (8:00am-12:30pm).

Scads of tasks to accomplish before all this travel, so of course I blew it all off and went out to make a few little sketches this morning. (Trying to get good habits in place before the winter chill arrives and lethargy takes over.)

Sunday one more DM gig, this time at Sugah's in Gunnison. We'll be home a few days and then... it's Colorado Art Ranch Artposium time! The art and science of FOOD! You can bet we won't be missing THAT.

Get your virtual raincoat ready

The DM sent me a link to this video of Perpetuum Jazzile, an a capella jazz ensemble from Slovenia. You'll have an 80s flashback when you recognize the tune, but first you have to get past the spectacular introductory minutes. Get your raincoat and your hankie and turn up the volume.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It's pepper season! The big ol' roasting tumblers have arrived at the Salida Farmers Market and the air is piquant with warm chile oils.

This morning in our farm share we got these beauties to go alongside the jalapeƱos from last week. Methinks tonight's supper has something to do with aubergine and peppers, wouldn't you agree?

Next Saturday, September, 19, I'll be hawking linocuts and handmade books at the market again, 8:00am-12:30pm. If today's weather is any indication, I might be having to do so in fleece and gloves, but it's all good.

This coming Tuesday the DM plays a gig at the D-Note in Arvada, so we'll be on the road for a couple of days. I'm ready for a little change of scenery, although suddenly our schedules have become full again and home sounds good, too. Hibernating time will come soon enough, I guess. Run like headless chickens until then. Go. Go. Go. (Squawk.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Weird interruptions 2, Artist 1

Hooray! I made it through an outdoor drawing expedition without wet dogs or convicts! There WAS an annoying incident involving a woman, a bag of grain, and a noisy bunch of aggressive domestic geese that have been dumped in the state wildlife area where I went to draw. Grumble grumble grumble. But that was between drawings, not smack in the middle of them, so hardly counted.

Elm roots, Sands Lake SWA

I did learn that the problem with going to draw at a place where I regularly walk and take note of birds is that my first compulsion is to pick up binoculars and keep moving. I made a quick circuit of the lake, just to see what was around and then, WHEW! Managed some quality time with my pencil.

[And in case you're wondering, the quickie bird list included: Canada geese, American wigeon, common goldeye (an unusual juv that spent the summer here), a lesser scaup (seems early), gadwall, mallards (with ducklings), coots (with cootlings), Wilson's warblers by the bucketload, yellow warbler, evening grosbeak, red-winged blackbird, black phoebe, belted kingfisher, 60+ pinyon jays, blue jay, great-tailed grackle, lesser goldfinch, black-capped chickadee.]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wet dogs and hikers and bears, oh my!

Roadside, end of season

Maybe it's a Wednesday thing, but it sure seems like the Universe is still testing my drawing resolve.

This morning I gathered up paper, pencils and paints and headed up Greens Creek to sketch. The DM and I hiked this lovely trail a bit on Sunday, it's one of my favorites.

The trailhead is less than 15 miles from home, up a dirt road in to the national forest. At 8:30 on a Wednesday morning after a holiday weekend, I figured things would be pretty quiet. Except maybe for bears. (We had one in town last night, a sure sign that they're stepping up their winter preparations.) There was one other vehicle in the parking area when I arrived... it all looked good. I hiked a little way up the trail and settled in to draw a ridiculously complex scene of a cascade in the creek. I was a little nervous that the creek was so loud I wouldn't be able to hear bears, but I really wanted to draw.

Maybe 30 minutes passed as I struggled to get in to the drawing "zone." The verdict was still out on my ability to salvage the marks made so far when suddenly I was overtaken, not by a bear or weed-whacking convicts, but by three wet dogs.

Most definitely I would not have heard a bear if I didn't hear three dogs splashing in the creek and the four or five people who were with them coming up the trail.

I was of course sitting precisely at dog level, so it was happy wet tails and muddy feet and slobbery muzzles and chaos... paintbox overturned, pencils flying... (sigh). The entourage apologized and assured me they wouldn't be back my way for a long time, but I never did reclaim my tenuous hold on the drawing and the location. I packed up and headed back down to the trailhead, where I perched alongside the road... in full view of anyone or anything that might wander by. More success there, but after an hour my growling stomach hauled me to my feet.

You know what this means, don't you? Uh huh. The Stubborn One goes out again tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Whodathunkit. And no, I'm not selling the movie rights.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dockyard Micro Tools, Part 2

Suddenly I hear Majel Barrett's voice saying, "Last time on Brush and Baren..." Even if you understand that, you won't admit it. Just rest assured you have friends here.


Finally, the chance to take a closer look at the Dockyard Micro Tools generously shared with me by Don Butler, the Carving Glove Guy. You can find my first impressions in the Dockyard Micro Tools Part 1 post.

I twiddled around with the tools for a while... picking them up in the middle of other carving adventures and using them a bit, and then putting them back down in favor of more familiar gouges. Hm. Didn't really learn much, so I decided to take a more systematic approach. Enter the sample block.

This is an unmounted sheet of regular battleship gray lino, available from various supply houses. The actual size of the test block is 4" x 6", so I've scanned all the samples at 100% size to place here. If you click on the image you should see the full-size scan.

As I mentioned before, the full set of 25 tools includes several items that were outside my experience or interest, including plough, paring, and parting tools. Since I do not typically use these tools in my carving I didn't feel I could give them a fair shake, so they remained in their handy carrying case. I kept my experiments limited to the U-gouges (5 sizes) and V-gouges (4 sizes).

I divided the test block in to columns, and made some sample marks with each tool. In particular I was looking at a variety of mark lengths, and maneuverability for curved lines and shapes.

Did I mention these things were sharp? Wow. I did manage to nick my thumb, not during carving but just moving the tool from one hand to the other. Yes. Sharp. Pay attention.

I initially headed straight for the narrowest tools, anxious to find a delicate workhorse. I would say in the end that the Micro V15 gouge makes a mark comparable in size to the cheapie Speedball #1 V, although I think deeper and definitely more sharp.

To my surprise, it was in the wider U-gouges of the Micro tools that I found real pleasure. In my regular practice I use a cheapie Speedball #5 U (sad, but true) and a shallow Ramelson 1/4" gouge to clear large areas. The Micro G5 and G4 tools tackled the same area with good results, the G5 providing, in my estimation, a wider mark.

Typically I don't spend a lot of time with V-gouges in my practice, but I was delighted to see the variety of line weight one could achieve with the range of Micro V-tools. If I did more "white line**" work, I think I would find plenty of reasons to pick these up. (** By "white line" I mean that the carved line is the focus, rather than the raised lino material left behind by the gouges. This sample print is an example of what I think of as "white line.")

This sample print is made on a sheet of Hosho "professional" paper, smoother side up. Any "fuzzies" you see in the carved shapes are the fault of the printmaker, not the tools. All marks were clean, I just didn't use my jig when I made this print, so things slid around a bit.

In case you can't read my notes on the side, the marks are made, top to bottom, by:
Speedball #1 V-gouge
Ramelson 1/8" veiner
Speedball #5 U-gouge
And then the Dockyard Micro tools: 75V, V15, V2, V3, G15, G2, G3, G4, G5.

I'm using the Dockyard Micro tool numbers as they appear on the tools themselves. If you look at Don's website you'll notice the numbers are slightly longer, but I think you can suss out which is which. The V3, for example, is listed on Don's site as V3090. (V-tool, 3mm, 90 degrees.) There is one odd tool out, the 75 V. This is a 3mm gouge, but the angle of the V is 75 degrees, rather than 90.

In all I think these are perfectly fine tools for linocut work. The blades are sharp and from trolling through comments on a few woodcarving forums they seem to be durable.

In my earlier post I mentioned that my first impressions of the handles was that they were flimsy, and this remains my chief complaint for these otherwise fine tools. I do not find the thin, straight handles to be comfortable in my hand for long periods of time. They are octagonal in shape, which is better than just round, but I still prefer a mushroom-handled tool with a flat bottom surface. A mushroom "bulb" fits into the palm of my hand, and the flat bottom helps me to control the gouge better. These straight-handled gouges tend to turn in my hand, so that the width of the carved line becomes irregular. Probably okay for the way some people work, but I found it distracting.

The steel stock on the Micro tools is very narrow below the actual cutting surface, and I found this less comfortable, also. When I grasp my tools for carving, I keep my index finger on top of the steel stock. On Ramelson tools this is a wider, flatter, and longer surface, which feels more natural for the way I work.

Ramelson 1/8" veiner, grip from top.

Ramelson 1/8" veiner, grip from side.

Dockyard Micro G15, grip from side.

Ramelson 1/8" veiner, grip from bottom

Dockyard Micro G15, grip from bottom.

The biggest disappointment was that on a few of the tools in the set, the steel stock was set crooked in the handle! Probably one could bend them straight with a good pliers, but it seems to me that they should be set straight in the first place.

So... overall, a mixed review. Definitely the Dockyard Micros are sharp tools offering a wide variety of mark-marking for the linocut printmaker. Price range is moderate, certainly these are good blades for their cost. But those darn handles! In the end I'll be keeping the G5 (widest U-gouge) and G15 (narrowest U-gouge) to supplement my existing tool selection. If I had more confidence in and comfort with the handles, I would seriously consider buying the complete U- and V-gouge sets.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Suspicious-looking smudge

Colors 3 and 4 of the new leaves-and-sticks linocut are nothing more than smudges. Mysterious, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Down shift


In the wake of abrupt, simultaneous completion of several long projects I hit a wall. Hard. By mid-day today I was in a stupor and stumbled upstairs for a "quick" nap. Two hours later consciousness was regained.

That's better.

So... second color down on the new linocut of sticks and oak leaves (working title: "Decay," although that might not stick, since there's a secret little non-decaying element that will hopefully materialize as this image evolves).

After supper we took our usual stroll to the river (a whopping five blocks away) and I picked up my first autumn leaves of the season.

It's been a quirky sort of day, but it sure feels good to switch to a lower gear.

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...