Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Whoo-ee! Look at this view from the front porch this morning. Fiery! The remainder of the day has been rather gray... rumor has it that there's a storm coming. (Although we still haven't had any snow to speak of here in the upper Arkansas River valley, so it's hard to get excited about that sort of rumor.)

It's been a good day to stay indoors and work on the icon project. I have 6 blocks carved (14 or so more to go), but haven't started printing. For this particular project I left the linoleum unmounted, something I don't often like to do. But mounting takes time and material, and mounted blocks require more space for storage than do unmounted pieces. Since these are intended to be single color prints, well, it just seemed the most efficient way to work.

The other nice thing is that the unmounted linoleum responds very quickly to being set on the space heater in the studio. Warm lino cuts like butter, a consideration when facing a long carving project. My hands and shoulders appreciate a break.

So far the most fun little block to carve has been this 1930 (late 1920s?) Ford school bus. Charming, eh?

The funny thing about this project is that I've been working on these first six images simultaneously, rather than finishing them one at a time. I keep going from one to the other... a little carving here, a little carving there. I'm usually more of a one-at-a-time, start-to-finish sort of person. I don't like having too many things to juggle at the same time. Which probably sounds ludicrous to anyone who reads Brush and Baren very often. There's usually a lot going on around here.

Ferinstance, the next couple of weeks I expect my attention to be divided by an exhibition installation, several contract illustrations, and workshop preparations. I don't think I have enough brain cells available in the current budget to start in on the 16 x 20 chunk of lino that I mounted last week, but I don't want to lose momentum. This morning I mounted a small block for a new reduction print, to add to the queue with the 20 icons.

But, hey, lest you think I'm a neurotic printaholic... (okay, okay, I see your point)... I'd like you to know I DO still have the capacity to recognize other human beings and engage them in conversation once in a while. Just ask Jill Bergman of Art on the Page! Jill and her husband live in Steamboat Springs, another mountain town about 180 miles from here, but they both have roots in Salida. We had never met in person, until today! They were down visiting family and stopped by for quick visit before they headed back to the snowier end of the state. It's so nice to have a face and a voice to accompany the delightful work Jill shares on her blog. I encourage you to stop on over there and tell her hello, and check out her little traveling print book project, too. (Thanks for taking the time to connect, Jill!)

There's another human being here I'd like to engage in conversation for a while this evening, so it's time to sweep the lino crumbs off the table and hide the carving tools from myself for a few hours. It's Wednesday night, AKA "unplug-the-technology-and-spend-quiet-time-with-the-Darling-Man-night"!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thumbnails: Twigs and Trek

I am forever picking up "stuff" when I take walks. Sticks. Stones. Dead bugs. Leaves. Several weeks ago I picked up a small branch from a cottonwood tree and brought it to the studio, where it's been languishing.

Anxious to do a few thumbnails, I finally put that branch to work. And after I had exhausted my interest in twigs, I did a few sketches from a DVD. I don't often try to draw portraits, so it's a good stretch for me to work from character-driven cinematography. Likenesses are challenging to me, especially in a 2x3-inch format. I think this one came close, anyway.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Back to work!

Monday, Monday! It was a fine weekend, but I am ready to get back to work. (Remember that inner border collie?) I am just not good at sitting still for very long.

Granted, I was forced to sit still more than once the past few days, owing to the feats of culinary prowess demonstrated in the Brush and Baren kitchen and to the long digestion period required post-meal. The DM outdid himself this time, perhaps because his prep cook was so adept. (That would be me, of course.) Or not. He's just darn good at this cooking stuff.

Christmas Eve it was mild enough to fire up the grill. (What? In the mountains? In DECEMBER? 'Fraid so.) The last time we visited The City we picked up a Moroccan Tan Tan spice blend from our favorite purveyor of aromatic bliss, Savory Spice Shop, so grilled Tan Tan we had. Yum.

But Christmas Day was REALLY over the top. We procured a large package of lamb meat from a local purveyor, enough to make two different stews simultaneously. The rest of this week we'll be dining on alternating meals of Moroccan stew (with apricots and prunes) and a more "traditional" veggies-and-potatoes variety. Yeah. I'll be hiking straight up mountains for the next three months as penance for gluttony, but OOOOH... it's so yummy.

This morning, however, it's a tad chilly to start that hike, so attention is turned to practical matters. Last week I mentioned an illustration project that will have me carving linocut icons for wayside maps. In all the project has 20 new images to carve! Yikes! Better get moving. Towards the end of last week I worked up a few drawings and trimmed down some lino... carving will probably start tomorrow. (Today I have to work up sketches for a different project.) Should be fun to work on these icons, though. I get to carve things I wouldn't ordinarily choose: a 1920s school bus, a grain elevator, an outhouse!

Next week I'll be off to Colorado Springs for a day or two to hang an exhibition and get the new year started right! This first little show will be at the Penrose Library in downtown Colorado Springs, part of the Pikes Peak Library District's public art program. The work will be up January 4-31, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop on by.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thumbnails with old friends

Muppet.* Fan.

Hang around me long enough and you'll add those two words to your list of personality descriptors. (And hopefully those won't be the only nice words on the list.) Cookie Monster and I grew up together, as I was able to remind him in a letter that was published in "Sesame Street Upaved" a few years ago. (Seriously!) I've been told I was part of a test survey when Sesame Street first aired in the 1960s, and I mourned Jim Henson's death as the loss of not one but of many dear friends.**

So it should come as no surprise that among my December rituals is the repeated airing of "The Muppet Christmas Carol." My now-decrepit VHS tape needs replacing one of these days, but so far I've managed to eek out the 2010 screenings without serious mishap.

What IS surprising is that until last night I hadn't ever tried to draw a Muppet character. Not one. What the...?

I am pleased to announce that I've now at least partially amended that oversight. (As well as accomplished a set of thumbnails.) I can also say that Kermit is way harder to draw than it seems he should be... especially during the amount of time allowed by the pause button on the VCR. But may I introduce you to The Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Rizzo the Rat as literary commentator?

Drawing Muppets is like drawing any other living creature. Gotta get the eyes right or it's all over.

It was a fun way to spend an evening and it dispersed some of the anxiety that starts building when my inner border collie*** isn't getting enough exercise. (***Thanks, Patrick... it's a useful image.)

Solstice countdown: It's TOMORROW NIGHT. 'Nuf said.

(*It should be noted, of course, that Muppet characters and all their attendant paraphernalia are copyrighted and trademarked and all that sort of thing. In no way are my little sketches intended to suggest any sort of ownership or to usurp authority and they are certainly not for sale. It's just practice, eh? And a bit of hero worship.)

(**At one time the entire memorial service at St. John the Divine in New York was available on YouTube. It doesn't seem to be there now, but there's still a wobbly clip of "One Person" that will break your heart. And Big Bird singing "Bein' Green"? Ach!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where HAVE you been?

Oh, wait. It's me who has been MIA. Sorry 'bout that.

This has to be the weirdest December ever. Instead of slowing down, as usually happens with my workload this time of year, things are at a fever pitch. As of this week I am completely booked up with contracts until at least March. No room in the schedule to add anything else if I'm going to be able to meet workshop and exhibition deadlines (which are stacked up through AUGUST). Eek!

It's all good, of course. Great, even. But hmmm. I've been procrastinating a few important tasks, like paperwork and goal-setting and studio reorganization, anticipating a little contemplative time between now and the new year.

Right. Ain't gonna happen.

Sadly, an amusing and engaging blog post ain't gonna happen just now, either, but here's a quick glimpse into the mayhem I'll share in the weeks ahead:

100 Thumbnails. Pah. Stalled. Don't know why, exactly, except that the intense mental gymnastics required to get myself through December are taking more than their share of energy. Could be I spend New Year's Eve in a marathon of sketching.

Linocuts. Well. I did finally get down the block to the lumberyard yesterday. (Yes, literally. One block.) Scored a nice sheet of 15 x 20 particle board for mounting a linoleum block. Have a biggish (obviously) new print in mind, but it's going to require some feats of PLANNING that have heretofore been ignored by this particular printmaker. Foot dragging has commenced.

More linocuts. Which are also a contract job. How cool is THIS? A few years ago I did a set of 6 black-and-white linos to be used as icons on a wayside map. And now I get to do a dozen more! That project starts Monday. (In other contract news, I'm also drawing salter brook trout and estuaries, trying to figure out how to produce a room-sized mural, and doing some research for local interpretive panels.)

Exhibitions. I delivered some "new" pieces to the Maverick Potter gallery here in Salida yesterday, and will take some new things down to the Green Horse Gallery in Manitou Springs the first week in January. At the same time I'll be hanging work at the Penrose Library in Colorado Springs as part of the Pikes Peak Library District's public art program.

Workshops. I'll be teaching a half-day "Field Sketching Basics" class and a half-day bookmaking workshop at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory's Old Stone House Education Center (Barr Lake State Park, Brighton, Colorado) on January 29 and 30th. Come for one or both days!

If you've made your way through this tedious recitation (I can't decide if seeing it all typed out makes me feel better about not finding time for a blog post or worse about how much I still have to do), here are a few other little treats to check out.

• My friend Roberta Smith recently launched a new blog, where she is at present posting a collage-a-day. Check out what A Fine Mess she's making.

• The DM and I were in Denver earlier this week and rewarded ourselves with a little break to see the IMAX film "Hubble 3D" at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I recommend the adventure, especially since images of millions of galaxies larger than our own can go a long way towards making a long To-Do list seem pretty miniscule.

• And speaking of the Darling Man, today is David's "Stickiversary"! One year ago today his brand-spankin' new, dark bamboo Chapman Stick arrived. You can wish him a happy Stickiversary on his FB fan page, if you're feeling mischievous and/or celebratory.

• That show I once mentioned in Romania? It's on, and I have a piece in it! There's a blog, Birchscapes, with lots of images from the exhibition, which will open in January. Cool.

• And here in the Northern Hemisphere we're counting the hours until the Winter Solstice. (Okay, I'M counting the hours.) Monday night we get the super-colossal-winter-solstice-full-moon-full-lunar-eclipse-and-oh-I-think-some-meteor-showers-too celestial event. Tuesday we get a few more seconds of daylight. Ask me which I think is the more exciting.

Until then, then....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

100 Thumbnails update: November

It's 7:44 pm on the last day of November and I have just squeaked out the last of my 100 thumbnail quota for the month. Whew!

Things got trickier this month... Cold, windy weather made me disinclined to hang around outside. The DM has been on injured reserve for almost two weeks... also feeding my disinclination to go outside. And I had a contract project in the myriad-small-details-at-the-end stage... so even when I did want to go outside, I felt I couldn't go far.

All of this meant that getting through the 100 Thumbnails project got a little more challenging. That's okay. That's the point. So this month, in addition to compositions made in the field (or from the car on the side of the road), I drew from the collections of "stuff" that I bring home from walks. And I drew at the zoo. And I drew from photos. And I drew from the movies.


It's kind of fun. 

I'm assuming that most DVD and VHS (for all us old-skool types) players have the same features mine do: When you hit the pause button you get 2 or 3 minutes of freeze frame before either the screen goes dark or the little bouncing ball comes on or something. Perfect for quick sketch-making.

The other night I popped "Winged Migration" in the player and spent an hour or so watching for interesting screen compositions and/or bird postures, hitting the "pause" button, and drawing as fast as I could. All from the comfort of my cozy sofa, with cup of tea close at hand. It's not exactly drawing from life, but I find it an interesting exercise to analyze videography and screen composition. And besides, how often do I get to draw gannets and red-breasted geese from the middle of the Rocky Mountains, anyway?

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Longing" linocut final

"Longing," 10-color reduction linocut, 12" x 16"
 Okie dokie. As promised, a nicer shot of the new linocut. (Click to embiggen.)

I think the title is "Longing," based on both my own sense of the image and some comments made by Brush and Baren readers. There are multiple interpretations, even for me– lengthening shadows, branches reaching out of the snow towards the light, the pink twigs ready for spring. A certain wistfulness.

Ideas for the next one are stumbling around in my head. Something birdy, methinks. I'm overdue for a critter image.

I took a long post-Thanksgiving-gluttony walk this morning, but I don't think it was enough. Time to grab that sketchbook and catch up with some thumbnails from some sunny spot along the river.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays are for.... updating websites?

Oh, brother. Yes, this is how I am spending the start of my Thanksgiving weekend... thankful that I have electricity and a computer and the skills and time (although perhaps not the joy in doing) to work on some long-overdue updates.

Really, though, there are some exciting things to report:

• Come on out next weekend and join me and oil painter Joshua Been at a benefit exhibition for the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas. December 4, 6:00-9:00 pm, at Virtuosity Gallery in Salida. 30% of all sales support LTUA projects.

• Holy buckets! The Romania show is a go! Last summer I was invited to submit work for an international exhibition of work on the theme of birch forests. I hadn't heard anything more until today, when I learned there's a blog, Birchscapes, with lots of work posted! The organizer is in Romania as I type, getting the show ready for its January 14 and 15 opening at the Art Museum of Timisoara. Who knew? Too bad I won't be able to get there for the opening, eh?

• In workshop news....  In January I'll be teaching a couple of workshops at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory's Old Stone House facility in Brighton. Beginning field sketching and a simple stab-bound book construction are on the menu. Details to come, but mark January 29 and 30th for getting your year off to a good start.

• And EDUCATORS.... the big news is that I'll be teaching at Audubon's "Sharing Nature: An Educator's Week" at Hog Island, Maine in July. It's going to be a fabulous time with a variety of workshops and field trips. (Including a trip to see Atlantic puffins!)
I've got a ton of other workshop things in the works: Monte Vista Crane Festival, Rocky Mountain Land Library, Rocky Mountain National Park, Crested Butte Wildflower Festival.... whew! I'm trying to keep the Workshops page of this blog more or less up-to-date, so check back often to see what's new.

Unfortunately I don't seem to have a single turkey drawing to share with you on the eve of our Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. I did find this old sketch from Stone Bridge, just up the river from town... a suitably autumnal image.

Yes, I am thankful for the time and capacity to communicate updates... but I am even more thankful for the far-flung community this technology has brought me. (Yes, I mean you.) So tomorrow, when the DM and I are raising glasses and forks in celebratory feast, you all will be at the top of the list of things that make us go "ching ching." Cheers, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snow shadows linocut.... el fin!

Once again I found myself doing a little pacing along the cliff edge before committing to the final step of this image. There wasn't a lot of carving to do, but there was so much material out of the block already and so many little tiny lines that it was hard to keep track of where I was and what needed to be done. I'd carve a bit, and then get up and wander around the house, then carve some more, then eat a cookie, then carve some more.

But there comes a time when one just has to call "uncle" and start mixing ink. (Especially when one runs out of cookies.)

The nice thing about an image like this one, where the last five or six colors are related, is that I build each ink color from the remains of the previous. It looks black in the photos, but this final color is really a rich blue-gray-brown built from saved ink scraps. I thought it might be fun to see what the last color looked like all by itself... so here it is (on a warmer toned paper, sorry, it's what I had handy), followed by a reminder of what the first carving looked like. (Remember that I'm working in reduction, so it's all from the same block.)

The path from Step 1 to Step 10 is a little brain bending even to me, and I was here for the whole process.

So late this afternoon this is what the studio floor looked like. (They're all hanging on the rack to dry now, but I just wanted to see them flat and together as I worked.)

Really darn satisfying.

And here's the final piece... although as usual it's just a quick snap and not a careful piece of photography. Expect a better image once the ink dries. Reduction linocut, 12" x 16", 10 colors.

I think I finished just in time. Maaayyyybbbeeee we'll actually get some snow tomorrow. I haven't got a title for this one yet... need to think about it. Something cold and crisp and blue, no doubt.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Of giraffes and steamrollers

My friend Jean Gumpper teaches printmaking at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She also taught me a thing or two this past August at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and whoo-EEE. That woman is amazing.

She also might be slightly out of her mind. Which sort of goes without saying if one is a printmaker, but there are extremes even in this particular subculture.

I knew I was headed to The Springs this week, so a few days ago I sent Jean a note to see if she was available for a cuppa and found out that today was going to be Steamroller Printing Day. Her students had been laboring over huge woodcuts and this was the day they'd go under the rollers.

So of COURSE I was there to watch some of the fun. I shot a bunch of video, but am not inclined to figure out how to use the editing software at this exact moment, so you'll have to settle for stills clipped from the file. You've all heard me muttering about wanting to work BIGGER, and today did nothing to stifle that desire. All the way home I was wondering if there's a place here in Salida that I could rent one of these little babies myself. And where I might find a suitable expanse of pavement. And bigger carving tools.

Oh? And the giraffes? While I was in town I took an hour to stop in at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and make a few sketches. Bullfrogs, orangutans, and a giraffe in a position I'd never seen before. I kept wondering if s/he was going to be able to get up again.

Going back to work on my lino tomorrow is going to seem pretty darn tame after today.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oh, so close!

One more color to go.... but it will be a couple of days. Just WAIT until you hear what I'm doing on Friday.

Yes, that's what I said. Wait.

Mean, aren't I?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bit by bit, color by color

The pink ink was, I admit, kind of fun, so I felt a little sorry to see most of it go when I pulled the next color... a plain ol' brown.

But then I pulled the next, darker, brown and... okay. Now it's feeling like something good. Two more colors to go. And in real life the pink twigs look just dandy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In the pink (ink). Twice.

Well. I'm relatively certain that we can count the number of times I've used pink in my palette on one hand. And that includes the two color passes I did this weekend. Not a pink person. Except when I've had too much sun.

But when deep blankets of snow encourage slumbering plants to dream of new growth, it's possible to find some rich blush among gray twigs, and it just seemed like a little warmth was needed in this shiver-my-bones blue-toned linocut. Out came the red and white inks.

The first pink was roughly the same value as the light gray I printed on Friday, so it's difficult to see the difference here in this shot. But it's there. Trust me.

Of course I couldn't stay satisfied with this pink. I decided it was too.... tentative... and mixed something a bit brighter for some selected twigs.

Much better.

So... I'll have a rather short carving session today to accommodate the small amounts of these colors that will remain, but ink drying has slowed down so I won't print until at least tomorrow. In the meantime, I've pulled out a couple of boards and would like to tackle some small woodcuts. Yesterday I did a lot of staring at a board, but no image miraculously appeared on it. What's up with that?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Printing. Printing. Printing.

As predicted, color 3 wasn't very exciting... just a few spots of a darker lavender-blue that are mostly covered up by color 4... but I wanted them anyway.

Here's the crazy-best part. After all that previous carving these two steps went really quickly. I had both color passes done and was cleaned up by noon today. Groovy. Four more colors to go, I think.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Carving. Carving. Carving.




By golly, that's a lot of material to take out. But it's finally ready for the next color.

The next color is just small bits, however, so I probably won't show progress until there's something interesting going on again. Keep your fingers crossed. In my mind it's a dramatic piece...

Monday, November 8, 2010

A little linocut progress

My Queendom for a really big ink roller. Something thirteen inches wide or better would be great for  a 12-inch high linocut like the one I'm working on now. Had I such a beast in my printmaking arsenal, today's second color could have been applied simultaneously with the first in a blended roll. But alas... my largest brayer is just 8" wide. (sigh)

 No matter. I can fake a blended roll. You all saw the first color.... a solid light blue. To give the effect of a gradation, I mixed today's color by adding some purple to the blue and a LOT of transparent base. I then rolled this transparent color in a gradation of color-to-nothingness along the width of my 8" brayer.

I'm not sure if you can tell from this image, but the fade-to-nothing roll-up was run only along the top edge of the block. The ink is quite transparent... in this shot the block is ready to print. (Once it gets aligned correctly in the corner of the registration jig, that is.)

Ta daa! One dark-to-light, 12-inch-wide gradation faked.

Now I get to obsess about whether this qualified as "the easy part" of this particular image. What the heck color am I going to print next?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh, okay. Some thumbnails. Just because.

Our freakish warm weather continues... crazy to think that it's the end of the first week in November and we're still running around in shirtsleeves! Makes it very difficult to stay in and get other things done... plenty of time for that.... later.

Last week's crazy schedule put me behind on my thumbnail sketches for the month, but today I caught back up. The wind made an appearance mid-day and I had to do a few of these from inside the car. (Not a bad deal, really... warm, no pages flapping in the wind, a non-tipping place to set my tea, and NPR for company.)

This afternoon I made granola and the DM made ginger-squash soup AND chicken soup. And then it was dark at 5:30pm. Rats. It really IS November.

I'm still scratching my head about the next color on the lino. I know what it IS... I just don't know how much of it I want. Next day or two. Promise.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is that ink I smell?

I'd almost forgotten, it's been so long! But here we are, first color printed on the new 12" x 16" linocut.

This turned out to be the most labor-intensive first carving that I've done in quite a while. All those crazy-thin lines intersecting! I had to take the work in small batches and do a lot of getting up and staring out the window. But once I pulled the first sheet I realized how satisfying it is to have an image suggest itself right from first color pass. Already it seems like the effort was worth it.

In addition to the long carving, it took me a surprisingly long time to "psych up" for the printing today. As I wrestle with new ways of working I also wrestle with variable success rates, and I've been feeling a little gun shy. And I knew this particular printing would take a long time... it's a big expanse to rub by hand.

In the end I think it took almost 2 hours to pull 16 sheets. I'm starting with 12 on Hosho because I still love the bright white quality, but I also did 4 on a new-to-me paper, Awagami Kozo. So far I'm pleased with the way the color went down.

In other news, the 100 Thumbnails Project continues! I decided not to bore you with too-frequent updates, so there's a new "scorecard" in the sidebar.

As I work on these small, quick sketches I am challenged to come up with new approaches... I get in a comfort zone for a while and then realize I'm just drawing the same things over and over.. or tackling different subjects in the same way. I've started to keep a list of "thumbnail challenges" and hmmm..... I have a few ideas about how they might be shared in the future.... keep your pencils sharp!

But for now, let's just enjoy the perfume of fresh ink (on a November day when it's actually warm enough to have the studio windows open!) and contemplate what might come next on the lino. I'm feeling a little bit purple-y... how 'bout you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oldies ARE goodies

It's that time of year again– the end of another turn around the sun approaches and for me that means a reorganizing frenzy. Forget spring cleaning. Around here it's the winter purge that gets me all fired up. I like to start a new year fresh and organized, and 2011 is now less than two months away!

As I whined about mentioned before, summer busy-ness has held over a few weeks longer than expected so the purge is slow to start. Our local library's twice-a-year booksale was this past weekend and I didn't even manage to cull a box of books to take over there before I came home with another stack.


Last night I decided that if I didn't do SOMETHING I'd get even crankier than I already am. (NOT a pretty concept, just ask the DM.) So... I opened the drawer storing my old, old linos and decided it was way past time to close out those editions. Anything 6x6 or smaller that was at least eight years old went into a special pile, and seven of those images went up in my Etsy store, Rio Salida Art, at $12 each.

Yeah. Twelve bucks.

In many cases I have just one or two pieces left in these old editions. A couple of the images, though, are things I carved, editioned, and then promptly put in the drawer, where they have languished for years. My Etsy store has been languishing (read: ignored) of late, also... so consider this a Brush and Baren readers' special. In another week or so I'll let folks know through my newsletter, but for now it's all you.

I expect I'll be adding a few more images as I consider where I've been and where I'm headed. It's always a funny sort of thing, trying to decide what to do with work created years ago. These pieces represent a different time in both my personal and professional life... steps along the path to the work I am producing now. While I don't consider these pieces any less valuable to me or to my process I do think it's time to make room for the as-yet-undiscovered work to come. So... consider these an early holiday gift for my loyal Brush and Baren readers, and help me make way for new work!

And speaking of new work.....

(And it's 12 x16 inches, to boot.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BIMPE VI on the move again

The Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition (BIMPE VI) moves to a new venue next week...opening at SNAP Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta on November 4. My linocuts are getting more travel time than I am this year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Signs and sighs

Ooph. Things have been a bit slow in the update department, here at ol' B-and-B. Contract projects have been stacking up, which is both good news and bad news, and studio adventures have been squeezed to a mere trickle.

Wednesday, however, I was able to get outside with a sketchbook. It turned out to be the last sunny, cloudless, wind-free day for the week. Sigh. Our perfect autumn couldn't last forever, I guess.

I made a few sketches for the 100 Thumbnails project, and then settled down with a fresh sheet of paper to enjoy the cozy autumn light and a longer drawing.

Sands Lake this week, with the Sawatch Range in the background
If you know Salida, or if you've read Brush and Baren for any length of time, you're familiar with Sands Lake. It's more of a pond than a lake, really...  Okay, okay... What it really is is the settling pond for the effluent of an upriver fish hatchery. It's a popular spot for fishermen-and-women-and-kids and a great little birding area. The constant in-one-side-out-the-other flow of water through the pond keeps it open for waterfowl even in the deepest part of winter. In late summer the deliciously tall and dense willow shrub can make a stroll around the lake feel like a jungle safari, and the pond's proximity to the Arkansas River makes it attractive to all sorts of migrants spring and fall.

Yeah, I think it's pretty spiffy, too.

Perfection gets a bit of a trim in the autumn, however, when the managers of this State Wildlife Area slash some of the willow to stubs. My first year here I was horrified to come across the post-chopping scene and grumbled that "just because fishermen need access to the shore doesn't mean they should destroy all the willows." Silly me. I understand now that, left to their own devices, the shrubs would take over the trail and I wouldn't be able to even get around the lake, much less walk to the edge to see ducks. And each year they grow back just fine... thick and green and higher than my head.

I hadn't been down to the lake in a few weeks, and in my absence the willows came down for another year. Sigh. Another sign that autumn is waning.

Willow stubs seem pretty unattractive after the verdant exuberance of summer– until you sit down with one. I mean, come on! Look at that thing!

Hmm. The metaphors available for that simple observation are staggering, but I think I'll leave you to connect your own dots. Further signs that autumn is on the wane are piling up in the yard, and signs of winter are piling up on the peaks. Sigh. Gotta go rake before it's time to go shovel.

The one left behind....

My exhibition at the Paquette Gallery came down last Wednesday, but I left one piece behind for the Salida ArtWorks "Valley Visions and Voices" show, which opened yesterday. It's a big show, featuring the work of nearly 50 local artists. Check out this "month long celebration of the arts" through November 24.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Growing printmakers at our food shed celebration!

Three great words from a gaggle of small girls at the Shed Fest printmaking table:

This is FUN!

That's my friend Kathy (she and her husband Steve are the Salida Bread Company) in the blue shirt, making herself a new SBC logo, and the red hat belongs to "our" farmer Caitlin, keeping an eye on the creative efforts of her daughter Juniper. (Printing was okay, but Juni REALLY liked just rolling the brayer around. Such a satisfying noise and mess!)

It was a perfect autumn day... except for the occasional gust of wind. For young printmakers who were using foam plates and paper that meant a holler and a scramble to catch things every few minutes, but they were all quite cheerful about it. Full contact printmaking as an Olympic sport? Maybe!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

That's not carving, that's hacking*

(*With apologies to Truman Capote.)

Well... I finished the latest reduction linocut yesterday, but it was an arduous crawl to the finish. I have a couple of excuses explanations for why things seem to be a struggle challenging. If you wanna hear 'em, I'll put them at the end.*** Otherwise, here's What Happened Next.

My three large foreground pines needed to be delineated, and my thought was that a warmer, lighter value green would do the trick. I didn't want the value to be TOO different from the distant hillside, but enough to make the tree shapes clear. Probably I should have put this color down earlier in the process, but for some reason my brain started working compositionally from back-to-front (more like painting?) than from light-to-dark.

No big deal except that it meant I had a lot of material to remove from the block. Hack, hack, hack.

The challenge with removing so much from the block at this stage, when there are so many other ink layers already on the print, is that there's not much inked surface for the paper to grab on to when it's time to burnish the image. Can you say "high chance of slippage"?

I tweaked this color a LOT. Too dark. Too light. Too blue. In the end I settled for this, but felt as though these pines were floating rather than settled in the landscape. They're fine at the top, but at the bottom there's too much contrast with the dark blue on the hillside. (Sigh) I decided I needed to squeeze in one more color, but only in even smaller amounts.

Hack, hack,  hack. This is bordering on ridiculous, now. (Keep in mind this block is only 5 x 7 inches.)

Better, but there are some shapes I'm just not satisfied with. This may be an opportunity to try pochoir, but I'm going to sit with this for a couple of days and see if it grows on me. At the moment I'm not sure whether it's done, or I'm just done with it. After so much experimentation and futzing around, I think I might have an edition of 5 from a start of 12 prints. Not my best percentage. However....

I think once before I invoked the mantra of a high school friend who tried to teach me to ski: "If you're not falling down, you're not trying hard enough." Granted, I never learned to ski... but I did learn to be a little more philosophical about bruises– both the physical and the mental ones.

So, for a little change of pace, this afternoon I'll be doing a quick little hands-on printmaking adventure at Shed Fest. (Our local post-harvest-season celebration of our food shed.) Pencils on foam plates, black ink on paper bags. Come on by the SteamPlant if you're in the 'hood.

***Angst excuses: I'm trying to apply everything I learned at this summer's woodcut-on-a-press workshop to linocut-by-hand, and it's too much at once: Different paper, different ink modifiers, different ink application, and a change of subject matter. (Distant view and big shapes as opposed to complex underfoot noodly shapes.) It's a little crazy! But I'm learning even MORE. Always a good thing, even when frustrating. I just need to learn to be a little more systematic!

Like that's gonna happen.

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...