Monday, May 31, 2010

High Water, High Altitude

We seem to have gone directly from winter to summer. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

It warmed up so quickly this week that when spring runoff began the Arkansas River went the river's version of zero-to-sixty in about 3 days.

Yesterday morning the DM and I wandered down to the river before heading over the Continental Divide to Gunnison and Crested Butte for the day. It turns out we must have been there for the peak runoff moment.. At about 8:15 yesterday morning the flow was 3500 cfs (cubic feet per second).

This chart (from the Colorado Division of Water Resources) is interesting, but I think a photo tells a good story, too, don't you?

Yes, there's usually a paved trail under the bridge.

We shot a little video... let's see if I can figure out how to put it up here.... (Where have my Blogger video upload controls gone? The "new, improved" post editor doesn't seem to have them anymore. Sigh.)

Okay, here it is! The view upriver from on top of the F Street Bridge. (Looking the opposite direction from the photo above.)

Today, the unofficial first day of summer, we left the river and went instead up the mountain... a goodly hike up a portion of the Colorado Trail from the Angel of Shavano trailhead. I love this portion of trail... once you make the initial climb it undulates easily through mixed coniferous stands, broad aspen groves, and open, damp meadows. Perfection!

We ended up being out longer than expected, so tonight we've headed to our respective corners to catch up with online tasks and prepare for another busy week ahead. Between my schedule and David's I'm fairly certain we do not have a free weekend now until some time in mid-September! The calendar looks ominous, but I'm clinging to the belief that we'll find at least a day or two in there to run away from home again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After the wave

Whew! What a weekend! The seventh Colorado Art Ranch Artposium was, as always, a mind-expanding, network-nurturing, idea-stimulating event. As is also typical, we emerged mentally energized and physically wiped out. Yesterday you would have been hard pressed to distinguish me from pond scum.

Today I've not been moving a whole lot faster, but I've at least evolved into something with enough appendages to pick away at a keyboard.

So, until I get something interesting going again... here's a little adventure from the Saturday breakout sessions.

On Saturday afternoon I took a small group out to one of our local lakes to spend some time creating event maps. An event map isn't a representation of geography so much as it's a record of an experience. One goes on a walkabout with a piece of paper and a pen and records whatever catches one's attention.

(I left this image big and clickable this time, so you can go on my walk with me!)

Despite the wind, which was so intense that the sky was hazy with dust, we had a nice time discovering the myriad ways that water (our Artposium theme) moves through this small area. I think of myself as knowing Sands Lake reasonably well, since it's on my regular walking route, but slowing down even further revealed unexpected delights. (Like a snake at my side near a shady culvert. Brought to my attention by its great-tailed grackle escort.)

I guess that's the point, eh?

I've got a new block ready to receive an image, but so far I'm undecided about what to do next. Going to work a little smaller again, 6 x 9 inches, just because the summer busy season is about to launch!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another one down....

The DM left this morning for a couple of days' work on the other side of the Continental Divide and, for reasons I can't quite understand, I spent most of the day wandering around trying to decide what to do with myself. It was after 3:00pm when I finally settled down and started carving on the current linocut, but in the end I managed to put in 8 productive hours in the studio. It's now after 11:00pm and I am happy to report that I finished both carving and printing of the last color.... wahoo!

Just in time, really, because the day after tomorrow the studio turns into a spare bedroom for the weekend. Here's the block in the jig, RTP. (Ready To Print.)

And here's the finished piece!
It was great to get a good run at it, even with a late start. Eight solid hours are a rarity (heck, THREE solid hours are a rarity)... But next time it would be nice if I got my act together a little earlier in the day, don't you thi..... zzzzzzzzzzzzz?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We now return you to the linocut already in progress

Okay, back to work. The lampshade digression was fun (thanks for all your positive comments), but next time I think I'll carve a block specifically for the purpose. There are design considerations for the shape of the shade, and it would be nice to be able to experiment with color and transparency and all that without feeling like I need to get back to the task at hand. But I'm glad I gave it a try... next time I'll have a much better idea of how to procede.

One more color pass to go, and I'll call this linocut finished. In some ways the progression of this piece has seemed really disjointed... a lot of starting and stopping to deal with other tasks. It's not my favorite way to work... difficult to get in "the zone," but sometimes that's just how the days unfold.

I'm hoping to get this last color on before the weekend, because it's Artposium time once again! I am so looking forward to immersing myself in the ideas and inspiration of writers, artists, scientists, poets, thinkers, and even a musician or two. A Colorado Art Ranch experience is always great for some good old-fashioned mind expansion!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A new linocut.... lampshade?

Ta daaa! Told you I had something in mind for those print experiments. Betcha never guessed. (Unless you saw the naked lampshade in the background of an earlier photo.)

I can't remember if I posted last summer about the little incident with the ceiling in our spare room. David came home in between gigs one Saturday to find a huge chunk of plaster had given way.... spreading plaster chunks and dust everywhere and exposing the 100+-year-old lath underneath.

It's not a room we use every day, so fortunately very few things were damaged in the crash. One thing that did suffer was this lamp. The pleated fabric shade got crunched and the fabric torn... and it's been sitting there looking forlorn ever since.

I've had it in mind to do linocut lanterns ever since I saw lamps made by photographer friend Michael Mowry. Michael printed some of his black and white images on large pieces of paper, which he fitted to cubical wire frames and used for lamp shades. Very modern and sleek and lovely...

I'd still like to try such a thing, but when I "rediscovered" the wounded lamp last week I decided to mess around with the idea a little. I figured this was a case where I couldn't make things any worse for the lampshade, after all!

It's not quite finished, since I need to do something with the ragged bottom edge and eventually I'd like to do something different with the lamp body, too. (It was my favorite blue in 1985!) But I learned a few things (namely that piecing multiple printed pages together on a conical surface is trickier than I expected) and kept myself amused and now have a better-than-crushed-and-torn lamp for that room when company comes next week.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Linocut experimenting again

I've been a busy little bee, printing some strange experiments with the pine branches linocut block at its current stage. I actually have something specific in mind here... a clever photo-analyst might find a clue in the background... but I'm not saying until I have made a go of it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's here! Printmakers Today

My copy of Printmakers Today from Schiffer Publishing arrived this afternoon. Woot woot! I confess I was a tad nervous when the publisher's letter said my work would be on page 248 of a 256-page book ("Oh dear, I hope it's just because it's alphabetical and not because they decided they didn't like the work after all...."), but I'm pleased to report that yes, indeed, it's alphabetical. I'm the last one in the book, and sometimes that's a great thing!

60-plus printmakers using a wide variety of techniques are included... perhaps it's easiest to quote from the dust jacket:

"Inspiring color photos review the art of today's printmakers, from massive installation pieces to small and surprising three-dimensional works. The techniques range from classical to the experimental, including woodcuts, lithographs, screenprints, silkscreens, etching, mezzotint, serigraph print, linocut, solar plate, vitreograph, photoetching, drypoint, digital transfer, and more. Each artist describes the techniques employed and inspirations involved."

Whew! I don't even know what some of those things ARE, so I'm looking forward to perusing the pages and learning a thing or two.

It was a nice surprise to discover that, in addition to the 4-page spread of my work (!!!), one of my pieces was used as the example for the description of linocuts in the book's front material. It's sort of nice to be the linocut poster child. 

Fell winds indeed

Many Brush and Baren readers know the blog Drawing the Motmot and the gorgeous work of my friend Debby Kaspari.

On Monday of this week, Debby and her husband Mike had only enough time to grab the cat and race to their storm shelter before an enormous tornado leveled their Oklahoma home (and Debby's studio). It's a devastating loss for Debby and Mike, and an agonizing time for their many far-flung friends who feel so helpless in the face of this disaster. Folks are mobilizing, so as I hear of opportunities to help, I'll let you know. The first event I know of has been organized by colleagues of theirs in Oklahoma, who are gathering art supplies. The event has been posted on Facebook, here.

They are safe, and they are moving forward. Supportive energy and sustaining thoughts appreciated.

UPDATE: Check the comments for this post for an address to send support directly to Debby. And once Lauren has a bank account set up, I'll let you know about that, too. Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Exhibition news... again!

The invitations for "Drawing on Nature" at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque, New Mexico) came out today. Nifty. (Image by Margy O'Brien, design by Sandy Bell.) I'll be there for the opening reception on June 10, 5:30-7:00. Come on out if you're in the 'hood and check out the nature journals of 30 talented women from across the country.

Pine branches linocut progress

Alrighty, then...  I'm feeling fairly satisfied with progress so far on this new linocut, although as usual I'm changing plans in mid-stream. I originally intended to keep this simple, just 4 color passes, but now I'm considering a fifth, just for a little more oomph. I can't imagine there's a single soul out there who's surprised.

However... I think I'm going to digress here for a little bit because I like the carving on this green pass enough to pull a few as just black and white prints. Or maybe brown on tan. Not sure yet. But something. I have to do it at this stage, since it's a reduction print and there's no going back after I move on with the carving.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Blue square revisited

I still have a long list of administrative things I need to be doing in the wake of our canyon-exploring week. So in true procrastinator fashion I started carving for the next pass on a linocut. Of course.

Perhaps I should reframe this statement. I am not procrastinating. I am refining my priorities for a few days. Yeah, that's it.

At any rate, the big blue square is starting to look a little more interesting. I didn't want to just put one solid color down over the previous, so for this pass I did a bit of blended rolling. The block, you may recall, is 14 x 14 inches in size, and my largest brayer is only 6" wide. Hm. I would have loved to do one big blend from top to bottom, but settled for two blends and one solid roll (more or less) down the middle.

I think this will work out as something fairly interesting once the next color goes down. At the moment I'm only planning for 2 more passes... the carving is intricate enough on its own.. no need to go too crazy with color. At least that's the plan for now, anyway.

This next carving step will be long, so make yourself a pot of tea, get a good book and some cookies, or talk amongst yourselves for a while. Better yet, if your weather is nice, go outside and play. We've snow in the forecast here again. (sigh) I hope spring gets here before the end of summer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The clock is ticking: come Wade in the Water!

Zounds! The Colorado Art Ranch Wade in the Water Artposium is less than three weeks away! (May 21-23)

As always, we're looking forward to a great weekend of thought-provoking, mind-expanding speakers and workshops, this time back "home" in Salida at the Steamplant Event Center. Check out this line-up... and then pop on over to the Colorado Art Ranch website and download the entire weekend Schedule in PDF (including an Event Mapping workshop with me!).

(PS: As a bonus for readers of "Brush and Baren" and my e-newsletter "Fit to Print," you can enter the coupon code LINOCUT on the registration form and receive a $30 discount on the weekend tuition. (And you thought I was all wet!))

Craig Childs
Author Craig Childs' work focuses on natural sciences, archaeology, and mind-blowing journeys in the wilderness. He has spent years in the American Southwest canyon country, exploring the geography and the implications of water’s presence and non-presence. He has published more than a dozen acclaimed books on nature, science, and adventure, including House of Rain and The Secret Knowledge of Water. Additionally, he’s a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and has contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Outside Magazine, and Orion.

Greg Hobbs
Justice Greg Hobbs took office as a member of the Colorado Supreme Court on May 1, 1996.  He practiced water, environmental, land use and transportation law for 25 years before that.  He is a co-convener of the western water judges educational project, Dividing the Waters; Vice President of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education; and the author of In Praise of Fair Colorado, The Practice of Poetry, History, and Judging (Bradford Publishing Co. 2004), Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2005), and The Public’s Water Resource, Articles on Water Law, History, and Culture (Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, Inc. 2007).

Basia Irland
University of New Mexico Professor Emerita, author and artist Basia Irland often works with scholars from diverse disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connecting communities along lengths of rivers; filming and producing water documentaries; and creating waterborne disease projects around the world, most recently in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and Nepal.

Basia is the recipient of over forty grants including a Senior Fulbright Research Award for Southeast Asia, Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship Grant, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Grant. She lectures and exhibits extensively. Essays about her work have been included in books published in Germany, England, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Canyon Sweet

We're home.

And so far that's the only remotely comprehensible thing to say about our journey of the past week.

Pictures.. and video... and drawings, and paintings of the Grand Canyon are everywhere and, as the old saying goes, not one does it the least justice.

I've spent most of my life in the American west. Clear and open skies are a comforting quilt. Vast unpopulated spaces and dramatic vistas feel snug as a well-worn sweater. But the Grand Canyon felt different. Intangible, untouchable, and completely indifferent to my presence. I belong in the west, but I did not belong there.

Some of that feeling no doubt came from the National Park experience. It's all so... convenient, with shuttles and rim trails, restaurants and gift shops.

Well, it's convenient once you arrive, anyway. Our particular approach involves about 10 hours of driving, at least five of which trace a gray line across salmon-colored rock and blush-pink sand and sparse, sparse desert vegetation. It's a place where summer temperatures average 99 F and even tiny settlements are many miles apart. It is Hopi land. Navajo. Havasupai. It is stark country, not for the faint of spirit or for anyone afraid of loneliness.

To arrive at the Grand Canyon from the east, as we did, is to arrive at an oasis. From the desert floor we climb 2500 feet to the canyon rim, where we are embraced by pine, juniper, scrub oak. It is the landscape of home, and no surprise, since the rim of the canyon dances along the same 7000-foot altitude as Salida. Our campsite is replete with western bluebird and mountain chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch and juniper titmouse. We know these voices, recognize this activity.

But then there is That Canyon.

From rim to river? One mile straight down. But we, of course, can not go straight down. Mere mortals, we must wend and weave and pick and choose a less precipitous route.

Four days is, of course, never enough time to learn any landscape. We spent two days hiking, but I never got a feel for the place. Never felt that I actually touched it.

For me, one of the best ways to touch a landscape, to engage it in conversation, is to draw. But even this wasn't particularly satisfying. Each time I looked up from the page the canyon showed a different face. Clouds and light changed constantly, and the dominant landmark of one moment vanished in light or cloud the next. I swore I wouldn't try to fit something grand into 5x8 inches, but I couldn't help myself... and was perpetually disappointed.

I think it's right that such a place would be so stingy with its embrace. Many travelers go only to see the Grand Canyon. A smaller percentage go into it, and an even smaller percentage engage it. This is a place built by time. Why should it give up its secrets to those who scurry back and forth from bus to overlook to gift shop?

There are hints, though, that this canyon has compassion for the honest explorer. Our third day in the park, when the wind blew in 70mph gusts on the rim, we went over the edge into quieter air. As we descended, two California condors caught the rising thermal and soared around us, at one point passing at nearly eye level. I looked up and down the trail, and only the couple immediately behind us (who had to stop because we were blocking the path) seemed to share the moment.

With that encouraging gift we're already making plans to go back... to hike all the way down and all the way up... to take time and make time and maybe, just maybe, get to know a canyon (and ourselves) a little bit better.

More as we settle back to a home routine....

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...