Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blue ocean, redwoods, hot tunes

Or: David and Sherrie's Excellent Adventure, Part II.

I'm still trying to find my way to a new routine in a new place, conscious as always of the clock and the calendar... I REALLY need to figure out how to let that all go...

But in the meantime....

Last night the DM and I went to a house concert in the Bonny Doon "neighborhood." There are quotation marks around that word because it's probably not the sort of place you're imagining. (Unless you are the person we know who lives in the rainforest.) Despite a dot on the map marked "Bonny Doon," there is no town that we could find. There ARE however, amazingly twisty roads up and down through thick redwood forest. Dark and damp and mysterious forests punctuated by a few bright, clear, open spaces. Great fun, save for the folks who want to drive ridiculously fast through it all.

We had the presence of mind to head up whilst it was still daylight, which turned out to be wise. It would have been a challenge to find the house in the dark, and by giving ourselves plenty of time we were able to do a little sightseeing along the way.

We stopped first in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and took a walk through the forest. For arid interior dwellers like ourselves, the cool, dark, moss-covered, decay-wafting woods were a delight. I sniffed trees and turned over leaves like some sort of demented squirrel-bird... thank goodness we left the video camera in the car. After the park, and scouting out the location for the concert, we poked around the little town of Felton. Natural foods store, thrift store, restaurant that serves tasty pho, coffee shop, bar that hosts live music, community center... the entire package in two short blocks.

The concert was fabulous... Stickist Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams of the California Guitar Trio performed feats of musical prowess whilst we curled up on a cushy sofa. I was completely ignorant of the house concert scene before the arrival of David in my universe, but it's an amazing way to hear great music in a comfortable, casual atmosphere.

Assuming you can find the house, of course.

This morning I was flailing around trying to get some materials together for an exhibition deadline next week. Not successful. So we piled in to the car and went on another expedition, this time to find a nearby beach. Which we did. It was an amazingly perfect morning... sparkling skies, crashing waves, not TOO many people. I found a few things to draw, which I'll post tomorrow, and David took a walk along the shore. Whew! That's better. This evening I've finally started to settle down. Exhibit statement is written, although I'll take another hard look at it in the morning. Journal got some attention. A week's worth of email triage was completed.

Hey, look at that! Thanksgiving holiday is two days away, and I've already got my gratitude list well in hand. Of course, I had a head start, since I'm always thankful for all of you. Whether or not you're celebrating this week, I send warm and cheery greetings your way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

David and Sherrie's Excellent Adventure, Part I

Today the Darling Man and I are celebrating our second anniversary in fine style: As I type, he softly snores at the other end of the sofa.

No, really. This is FINE! We have spent the last five days on the road, enjoying perfect travel weather and a wide variety of sights, but we are tired and our behinds are car-weary and it's really quite lovely to just sit still.

Let's catch up, shall we?

Tuesday morning, 17th November, 7:15 am. Car is loaded. Travelers are occupying the front seats. Departure is delayed four minutes whilst the windshield defrosts. See below.

It was definitely cold. Windshield defrosted, we headed west, hopeful that our weather fortunes would improve, at least temperature-wise. There were some icy patches on Monarch Pass, just west of town, but as we descended to the Gunnison Valley the roads were clear.

And then it got REALLY cold.

Yes, that's the temperature gauge in the DM's car. A second before I took this shot it read 1 degree... warming trend continued from this point. We're not sure if the temperature never fell to zero or if the gauge just doesn't go lower than 1. I guess we'll have to wait until February or so back home to find out.

The first day was our longest, drive-wise. We hauled ourselves all the way to Springdale, Utah, at the mouth of Zion National Park, arriving about supper time. Very brief stops in Green River for fuel and lunch, and at the San Rafael Swell for a leg stretch. (And a few obligatory fuel-and-bathroom stops, of course.)

The Swell is... well, swell.

Places like southern Utah make me really regret being a geologic illiterate. I spend an awful lot of time exclaiming, "Look at THAT! How do you suppose it formed?"

After our crazy-long day we rewarded ourselves with an entire day off to do a "highlights" exploration of Zion National Park. It was fun to be back in the Park just a month after my previous trip, and to share it this time with David. Friend Sandy played hooky from work to run around with us, which made the day extra-fabulous. Sandy and I both managed to squeak in brief breaks for sketching in the afternoon, thereby declaring our adventure (at least to ourselves) "productive."

Sandy and Sherrie on the Canyon Overlook trail.

Cresting the Canyon Overlook. This is not a difficult or long trail, and I highly recommend it. (Especially if you've only a short time in the Park.)

Drawing along the River Walk trail.

The next day we made the short hop from Springdale to.... Las Vegas. Yup. We went to Vegas. We walked up and down The Strip (twice), visited (among other "attractions") "MnMs World" and overdosed on the smell of cheap chocolate and four floors of plastic MnM paraphernalia, lost $4.00 at the penny slots, people-watched like mad and bought the second piece for our new collection of tacky shot glasses. (The first one we bought in Springdale.) We took not one photo. As the DM eloquently described: we were there to take in the vibe, and then take a shower to wash it all off and get the heck out of town. Which we did.

I wish I could remember where we saw this wind farm. There was more than one. I liked the white mills against brown hills and blue sky. Didn't get any particularly good shots as we raced by on the interstate, but....

From Vegas we drove to Fresno, California, through haze and dust and wind. Many, many, many miles of corporate agriculture, which I found oppressive and a bit alarming. Probably didn't help that we watched "Surviving the Dust Bowl" just a few nights before we left. All day I thought about how fortunate and happy we are to have our friends at Weathervane Farm growing organic local produce "just for us."

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at our home base for the next three weeks... Soquel, California, near Santa Cruz. The journey was great, but we are happy to be more or less stationary for a while. This morning we did a little exploring of our new neighborhood, and wound up at "Pleasure Point" watching surfers. The morning was hazy and chilly, but now the sky is blue and the sun is shining with enthusiasm.

Surfers, not waterfowl. Although we did see gulls, cormorants, and pelicans.

Tomorrow the next phase of our adventure begins... we'll try to settle down to a little art-and-music-making, then head out in the evening to a house concert in nearby Bonny Doon. (Chapman Stick player, of course.) I'm twitchy to get some images and ideas down on paper, and David's looking forward to "sketching out" pieces for a new CD. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 16, 2009


There's a big pile of stuff by the door and a long list of last-minute minutiae on the table... I think we're just about ready to get on the road. I'm SO glad I elected not to pack up the entire office, in part because there won't be any room in the car for it, anyway. Geez. I can leave the country for two months with a daypack and a carry-on, but can I drive across three (okay, four) states with less than 60 pounds of stuff? Of course not.

Foolish optimism drove my belief that this afternoon I would kick back and make a little drawing to launch the journey. Right. Hasn't happened. If I end up not sleeping tonight (as is often the case before big trips), I may still get something done, but don't hold your breath.

Despite snow and cold, a few intrepid sketchers joined me for a little local sketchcrawl on Saturday. We ended up crawling through local stores to stay out of the weather, which turned out to be fun! Coffee shop, dog shop (where we tried unsuccessfully to sketch squirming participants in puppy kindergarten), kitchen store, herb-and-tea shop... Drawings were definitely outside the usual subject realm, although you can see that in the kitchen store I did still manage to find some wildlife to draw. Sort of.

We've a looooonnnnnnng day of driving ahead of us tomorrow, but the rest of the journey will enjoy a more leisurely pace. Whew! Catch up with everyone in a few days!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reality check

We have 4 days left until we depart for places west, and I've been on the edge of panic all day.

We'll be gone just about a month, and despite my best efforts, I'll still have to take one illustration project with me when we go. In my mind this has meant packing up my 20" iMac and all its attendant gear. Art supplies, of course. And what to do about my Etsy store, right smack in the middle of the holiday shopping season? Do I also pack up prints and books and MORE packaging material and....

It's getting out of hand.

Thankfully I just had a great conversation with friend Carla, during which I came to my senses. Taking my entire office with me would mean I would end up feeling compelled to do MORE work as it came in. And that is so not the point of this trip. David's going to work on a new CD and I'm going to work on the Underfoot project and THAT's the point. So... I dragged The Brick (ancient, barely-operating laptop) out from its place as a doorstop, just to make it into an email and blogging functionary. THAT took all night and made me slightly grumpy, but I think everything is working now. The Darling Man will have his far more up-to-date machine with him, too, so if things get too hairy I'll just have to smile nice and beg for indulgence. I'm hoping I can limp along with outdated software and limited memory long enough to get my illustrations done and files shipped out. And that's all. Really. I swear. Then it's sketches and lino reference and maybe even some carving. NO contract work.

I'm afraid I haven't a single image for this post... but Saturday we're having a local sketchcrawl, so I promise something after that. Two more days of contract insanity, one day to crawl, one day to pack... why, I've barely any time left to obsess about things like weather and groceries and what clothes to pack and paying bills and....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leaf litter linocut

One of these days I'm going to get good lighting and a decent camera and have images to show you that have neither reflections nor shadows across them. One of these days.

In the meantime... we do what we can. A tenth color went down yesterday on the new linocut... tentatively titled "Leaf Litter," although I have a large one in mind on this same theme, so I don't know if I want to use the title yet. This image is 6" x 9."

I have mixed feelings about how this piece turned out. I feel good about the experimenting I did with color, especially the order in which it was applied. In terms of color palette, this is the most diverse thing I've done, I think. I wanted a contrast between warmer leaves and cooler ground tones, which sort of works, but could have been more pronounced. The final color looks a little too much like black... The value contrast is great, but I'd like to have the color a little less stark. It this were a watercolor, I might consider washing the entire "background" with a little transparent color. I could do that here, too... just cut another block... hmmm. Maybe. It looks like I only "lost" 2 prints of the 20 I started with (Aiming for 15), so I could mess around with a couple of them and see if it works.

Final verdict? Reasonably satisfied. Satisfaction with a new image is usually short-lived... I can always find something I'd like to do differently the next time around. Every time I print I either solve an earlier question OR add to the list of curiosities about the process. I think that's part of why I keep working... why any of us keep doing what we do, really. Just enough answers to keep us from giving up, but plenty of mysteries to keep us tantalized and on the trail.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Honored, regarded, regrettted

It's been... a day. The DM played a gig last night until past our usual bedtime, so my groggy self spent a little longer than usual coming to grips with the morning. From my disoriented perch on the sofa I sensed a flutter and heard a thunk. Uh oh.

Sure enough, there below the front window was a bird. I hoped she was only stunned, but over a period of maybe ten minutes she faded, shuddered, and died. It's not the first time I've witnessed death, but for some reason this little passing seemed particularly poignant. How many times a day does such a scene play out unnoticed and un-noted?

Black-throated blue warbler, female. Not a common sighting in these parts. In fact-- she was my first. In action along the river would have been a preferred life-bird experience, but there she was, a little gray-green-yellow mound on my porch.

I imagined her last breath as a tiny, swirling eddy, so small that only the air itself would feel her exhale and acknowledge the loss. Except I was there, too. And as a witness it's my duty to testify...

I saw her. I held her. Honored. Regarded. Regretted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Almost done...

Color #9 changes the attitude of this image again.... Color #10 will give it a final tweak. I wonder what it will be...

It occurred to me today that this will likely be the last multi-color reduction image until the end of December! Why, you ask? Well! Let me tell you!

The DM and I have taken friends up on an offer to house-sit from about mid-November until mid-December. In California. On the coast. Wheeee! We're treating the adventure as something of an artist/musician residency, so we will be packing up assorted gear for working on linos and new recordings, but we're not going to go TOO crazy. Once upon a time I worked on multi-color linos on an out-of-state residency, and then had to deal with the problem of transporting still-tacky prints back home.

So, for the trip it will be mostly drawings and sketches and thinking about prints... and maybe printing a few single- or two-color linos.

The good news/bad news is that a client project can't be abandoned for a month, so I'll be taking my computer along. I'll have to do work... but I'll get to post, too.

In unrelated news, this little photo is for Iris and Beki. (And Deborah!) Yup, I started trying to knit again. (It was this time last year when the first attempts were made.) Aren't you proud?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book news!

Earlier this summer artist, neighbor, and friend Carla Sonheim asked if I would be willing to contribute to her new book, "Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun."

I tried not to trip over myself in my rush to say "yes!" It seems like a cliché, but I found it an honor to be included, and even more than that, it was FUN! Carla gave me an "assignment" or two that was right up my alley and, call me deranged if you like, but I loved having playful homework!

Carla's marathon efforts are making the last sprint for the finish line this week, and this afternoon I learned that the book (due in July 2010) is already available for pre-sale on Amazon. Congratulations, Carla, and thanks again for asking me to come along!

The ink thickens...

...but the new baren soldiers on just fine. This might not be only a passing flirtation.

I'm struggling a bit with my little camera at the moment (Too much sand in Zion?), so sorry about the fuzzy, shadowy image, but in the last few days I added two more color passes (#8 and #9) to the little leaf linocut. Crazy, probably, to go from red (for some tiny little pine needles in the final piece) to gray again, but I'm really trying to put this baren through its paces AND mess around with an a-typical (for me) color progression.

I thought there would be just one more color pass, but there might be two. So far I haven't done any masking, but I might want a few little areas of medium gray-brown before I go to the dark. I have a day or two to decide while the ink dries a bit, so we'll see. It's definitely an all-over-the-map sort of color scheme, but I'm still optimistic that it will pull together in the end. Could be that I've just had too much leftover Halloween candy, but that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kreativ redirection

I find it curious, and somewhat appropriate, that every time I click to open my blog dashboard the browser title bar gives a little spin and says "redirecting." If only a click were all we ever needed to refocus our attention, eh?

My list of posts-to-do is looming large, but writer, colleague, and friend Susan Tweit tagged me WEEKS AGO with the Kreativ Blogger Award, so a little redirect seems to be in order.

The tasks for the award recipient are these:

1. List 7 things that I love
2. Link back to the blog that awarded it to me
3. Choose 7 blogs to award as ‘Kreativ Bloggers’
4. Comment at each blog to let them know they’ve been chosen

So here we go... my Seven Loved Things:

1. Ginger anything. Fresh ginger, pickled ginger, gingerbread, ginger tea, ginger beer. Ginger in dark chocolate. What's not to love?

2. A new sketchbook, second only to a filled sketchbook.

3. Going away, because it means I also get to come back.

4. Fresh lino blocks, second only to completed prints. (I'm cheating, aren't I?)

5. Our farm share from Weathervane, now over for the season and already sorely missed.

6. Discovery.

7. The Darling Man, aka David. This might seem obvious, but...

I lived as a single and solitary person for my entire adult life until David. After he came along I realized that at the ripe old age of 46 I knew how to live by myself (thank you very much), but I didn't know how to live with another person. It seemed as if it was time to give it a try.

The learning curve has been steeper than I expected-- the biggest surprise came when I realized how much of my self identity (and self worth) was tied to my independence. Had it not been for David's patience and sterling sense of humor I would have 86'd the whole idea of redirected status. But he's still here and I'm still here and we're still laughing... so when our second anniversary comes around this month we will definitely be celebrating.

Next, seven bloggers I want to recognize with the Kreativ Blogger Award because their work inspires and informs my days (in no particular order):

Robyn at Have Dogs, Will Travel. She keeps me on my toes, always posting something that makes me think, "Dang. I have to go work more."

Bronwyn at Snail's Eye View. B recently shifted house and life to far north Queensland, and every time she makes a post it's like peering through the looking glass to some mysterious Otherworld. What's not to love about THAT?

Debby at Drawing the Motmot. Just go look. See if you don't feel simultaneously shamed and inspired. I always do.

Amie at Printsy. Amie has her own blog and squidoo lens and a thousand other things, but at Printsy she posts fabulous interviews with printmakers from all over the world.

Annie at Woodblock Dreams. Mind. Boggling. Cage. Rattling. Woodcuts. 'Nuf said.

There are plenty of others, but as usual someone else tagged them before I got my act together.

We now redirect you to your day (or evening) already in progress.

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...