Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's about time, eh?

It's been a few weeks since a linocut graced these virtual pages, so it's with great relief (get it?) that I post this satisfying picture of a drying rack loaded with freshly inked sheets.

It's another small relief print– only 5 x 7 inches. When I haven't printed for a couple of weeks I always feel tentative and not quite ready to jump in to something large and complex. The obvious solution is to print every day, but I'm not sure exactly when I might expect that blissful situation to present itself.

Since this first color is limited to a solitary chunk of sky I left the block uncarved and made a little stencil or mask from tracing paper. With the help of this handy technique I was able to ink only the area I wanted and make short work of printing the first color.

There are several reasons for masking this section first, but the two biggest for me are that 1) I've avoided adding to the overall thickness of ink layers on the paper and 2) the next color is yellow, which would not have been too happy about going on over blue.

Tomorrow's a big day... five more thumbnails to go for September, a second color to carve and print, and a visit from a fellow printmaker who's coming up from Colorado Springs to spend the afternoon. Could there BE a nicer day on the schedule? I don't think so.

Well, maybe if I also won the lottery. That would be nice, too. Then I could start that print-every-day thing. But three out of four ain't bad.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Countdown to the first 100

Only ten more thumbnails to go for the September 100, and then start over for October! Woohoo! So far I've been sticking with value sketches but I think some color is about to creep in, too. I'm feeling good... fairly limber with the pencil and always challenged to find five more sketches. (I've been doing them in sets of 5 mostly, because that's what fits well on a page, it's easy to keep track of how many I have, and it takes just under an hour if you include hunting-for-image time.)

I'm waiting on a paper order and anxious to get a new lino on the table. There's a woodcut in there somewhere, too, but I haven't yet decided what it might be. (I'm a little nervous about trying to do a reduction woodcut by hand after the experience of using a press. Might be a tad spoiled by the speed and ability to use really, really thin inks.)

 Of course I'm still struggling with settling in to much of anything... after one day of rain last week we're back to sparkling autumn weather and I can't keep myself indoors. I'm trying to avoid chastizing myself too much for it... indoor days will be here soon enough.

Update: For reasons I can't quite sort out Blogger has decided to randomly not make images enlargeable. I just reposted this one and the previous thumbnails and they should work now. Or not. Got me. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Aspen Glow

Clever David took some of our (hundred zillion) autumn color photos from the weekend and made a slideshow with one of his brand new tunes as soundtrack. Happy first full day of fall to you!

PS: And this is a screen shot from the nearby Monarch Pass webcam THIS MORNING. Uh huh.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A mind like autumn leaves

I don't know how it is where you are, but around here the autumn is a fickle and often short-lived season. So far this year we've been fortunate. We've had a week or two of glorious weather (okay, a little too hot for September, but it will do) and some spectacular color in the high country. But we're all completely aware that one good storm... wind or rain or (not yet, please) snow or some combination of the above and the aspen will be bare overnight.

The Darling Man didn't understand this phenomenon when he first moved here from the Midwest, where spring and fall amble along between summer and winter. My rather manic mid-September insistence that we go out NOW... Now!.. RIGHT NOW to revel in the golden light was a puzzle to him. "What's the rush?" he asked. I heaved an exasperated sigh and said, "Just TRUST me. We have to go out NOW." So we did, and it was spectacular, and three days later it was snowing and blowing and all the leaves were down. The color show was over.

He definitely "gets it" now, which is why we spent last weekend with our faces turned towards the flickering yellow light... rubbing suede-soft leaves between our fingers and inhaling the scent of change. The minute we see that gold skirt sweeping across the knees of the Continental Divide we are outta the house and up into the hills.

It's a horrible time to be trying to get anything done indoors... at least it is for me. So when I realized last night that I didn't have anything pressing (printmaking pun not intended) on the calendar today, I threw my sketchbook in a backpack and put it by the door. First thing this morning I was back up Marshall Pass, and until noon I didn't see another soul. (And only one vehicle... parked... empty.)

For the first 45 minutes or so I just hiked up Gray's Creek, but then I lost the uphill path in a tangle of trees and creek and turned back downhill. I perched on a granite boulder, made 7 or 8 thumbnails and listened to nothing but the splashing creek, the scratching of my pencil, and the breeze in the trees. Perfect sun. Perfect temperature. Bliss. Another stop... a few more sketches. Back in my car, I drove up a road I'd never followed until it turned into a four-wheel-drive track. I made a few more sketches... and then reluctantly turned towards home.

The weather forecast calls ominously for rain on Wednesday night, so guess who won't be able to stay indoors tomorrow, either? Unfortunately I have a phone conference smack in the middle of the day... but I think I'll still manage a quick excursion in the morning. (Oh, the joy of living in the heart of the Rockies... spectacular views are always close at hand!)

I have news about exhibitions and workshops and projects to share with you, but for the next few days you can just expect it to pile up in the corner. I have to go out now. Right now. And if you know what's good for you, you'll go out now, too. Wherever you are.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting away close to home

So much happened in the last week that any sort of coherent story arc is probably impossible. Let's just settle for an image-heavy travelogue and return to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow...

Somewhere in the midst of our insane summer schedules, the DM and I drew a big circle around September 17-20 and made plans for a getaway. But by the beginning of last week it was clear that a multi-day journey away from home wasn't going to happen, and we had no idea how those long-awaited days would unfold.

Thursday night and Friday morning David had gigs in Manitou Springs, so at least we could get out of town for one night. After good gigs and great visiting with printmaker pals we made a quick trip east on to the plains. I wanted David to see the Paint Mines.

We live in the mountains, but I have long been a prairie girl. I love the plains... and the myriad ways grasslands sneak up and bite your misconceptions right in the butt. The plains are NOT flat. They are NOT empty. And they are definitely NOT boring. 

The Paint Mines near Calhan are a great example of a prairie surprise. Even after you park the car and start up the trail, there's no indication of the wonders that await you. It all looks like grassland until you crest the hill and find this amazing eroded gully.

And THEN you leave the main trail and wander up the gully to find these fabulous hoodoos! On the prairie! (Or maybe that's IN the prairie.) Oh. Yeah.

We explored for a bit, I made a few thumbnail sketches (can you find me with my sketchbook in the shade?), and then we headed home to Salida.

The remainder of the weekend we took advantage of fabulous autumn weather and became tourists in our own country.. spending time on Marshall Pass (Saturday) and around Twin Lakes (Sunday). There comes a point when you realize that it's ridiculous to keep taking hundreds of photos of aspen when you already have hundreds of others and not one comes close to recording the spectacle. You don't stop, of course. But you do know it's ridiculous.

Marshall Pass, south and east of Salida.
I have... I don't know... hundreds... of shots like this. 
Doesn't stop me from taking more.
Secret location above Twin Lakes, north of Salida.
Willis Gulch area, on the Independence Pass road above Twin Lakes.
Tomorrow we'll get back to exhibition news and thumbnail sketch updates. (65 and counting for September!) But in the meantime... find your autumn spectacle and go sit in it for a while. For me, at least, it was a good reason to get away close to home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More thumbnails

Whew! One more crazy-busy week to go and then I think things will slow down for a while. Of course I always say that and I'm almost always wrong, but I do keep hoping.

The opening of "Underfoot, Overhead" (or, as I accidentally called it on my invitation, "Overhead, Underfoot") went really well, although I learned that hiring the Darling Man to play music during receptions means that neither of us has time to hoist the camera for photos. D'oh!

I've an appointment with "the media" to visit the show again on Wednesday, so I'll try to remember to take some photos then. The Paquette Gallery space is nice... a large enough room that one can get back from each piece and get a sense of the exhibition as a whole. And they've put up a nice little slideshow on their website! (Only two of the images are from this exhibition... oops. I had to turn in images months ago!)

After the chaos of last week it was nice to move rather slowly yesterday. In the afternoon I took my sketchbook down by the Arkansas River, still trying to get "caught up" with my 100 Thumbnails project.  I wandered around, settling in one spot for a few minutes, making a sketch or two or three and then moving on. The river park was busy on a Sunday afternoon... people strolling, reading, poking around on the banks, and two young women with float toys drifting down a short stretch, then hauling out and walking back up river to do it again.

I had been sitting on a rock for about 15 minutes when I looked directly down and discovered this little fellow at my feet. Oh yeah... I am a keen observer of my surroundings. It's a wonder I didn't step on him when I sat down.

"He" was so obliging for this complex pose that I started to worry I might be drawing a dead snake. I gently poked the tip of his tail with a stick and he slowly curled it out of the way. Whew!

Already the discipline and exercise of making these little sketches is producing unexpected rewards. Time spent in the company of a wild creature completely undisturbed by my presence is a marvelous thing, especially with all the other activity swirling around us both. As I was making this drawing a woman's voice came over my shoulder. "Do you actually see that snake somewhere?" she asked me. I smiled to myself because I couldn't decide if she was curious or just nervous about where an unknown snake might be. "Yes," I said, "it's right here below me." I heard a soft intake of breath as she saw it for herself... and then did a little slithering away of her own.

Tonight I'll be making sketches indoors, as today's outside time revolved around errands and a little yard work. I'd like to start a new print this week, but I'm undecided about size and whether it should be a lino or a woodcut! I'm still feeling the urge to work on a larger format, but not feeling that I have the "perfect" image to keep my attention through a potentially long carving process. In the meantime, back to those thumbnails!

Friday, September 10, 2010

100 Thumbnails

A few years ago my friend Tim Diebler and I met for a January lunch and challenged each other to make 100 thumbnail sketches each and every month during the year ahead. Sketches could be pencil, pen, paint, whatever, but had to be FAST (no more than 5-10 minutes each) and there had to be 100. We could work from life (preferred) or from photos (still useful) or from the television (can be fun and challenging, especially when there's a howling blizzard outside). Or from whatever. We just had to draw.

100 thumbnails a month works out to 3-4 sketches a day... or about 30 minutes if you count the deciding-what-to-sketch time. I confess that there were a few months that I got to the 25th or 26th and had to crank out 50 sketches in five days, but I always got them done, one way or another. And so did Tim.

Last month's "Project Woodcut" assignment (15 minutes to collect sketches and color notes as reference for a multicolor woodcut) reminded me of our "100 Thumbnails" adventure, and I've decided to launch another round.

2x3" thumbnails from the front step, September

Granted, I didn't start until Monday, by which time I was already 3- or 4-times-7 days behind for the month of September. I'm still not quite caught up, but I have every intention of getting the first 100 sketches done before October starts.

I christened a brand new sketchbook for the endeavor, which always feels good. (Last time I did this I filled 2 good-sized books with nothing but thumbnails. Raise your hand if you have a backlog of assorted empty sketchbooks that would LOVE to be filled this way.) The first page was horrible, since I started by looking at photos on my computer in the dark WITHOUT my glasses on. Ooph. But here we have page 2, sketches made from my perch on the front step, and I feel much more excited about the process. Thumbnail sketches are a little like weight training- one starts out slowly and ultimately builds skill and stamina.

Speaking of stamina... tomorrow I hang what I expect will be my last big show of the year. (Two days ago I would have said definitively that it's the last, but as of yesterday there's a slight possibility that will change. Won't know for two weeks.) Tomorrow evening we'll go up to Buena Vista for the opening of "5 Lines," an exhibition of drawings by five (of course) local artists and friends. Saturday is the opening for my show and then? An autumn full of opportunities to make thumbnail sketches. 3 or 4 of them. Every day. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Underfoot, Overhead" at the SteamPlant

If this past holiday weekend wasn't enough socializing for you, come on by the Paquette Gallery at the Salida Steamplant on Saturday from 4-6pm for the latest in my ongoing effort to blanket my home county in relief prints. In addition to linocuts I've lined up some great musical entertainment. Three guesses who-- first two don't count.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Knowing when to stop

Okay. So. Here we are at color #6 (and-a-half, if you want to be technical about it).

At this point I'm sitting back and saying "hmm." A lot.

"Groundcover," 6 x9 inches on Kitikata (top) and Hosho papers. Click to embiggen.

I think it's finished. There's a part of me that always wants to add one more dark to bump up the contrast, but in my post-woodcut-workshop universe I'm trying to avoid doing the same thing I've "always" done.

Avoiding a rut is also why you may notice that these prints are done on two different papers. If you've been following Brush and Baren for any length of time, you've probably heard me grouse about the inconsistency of Hosho paper.  I've used Hosho almost exclusively for years, but I struggle with it. Every batch I get is inconsistent. Some sheets are thick, some thin, some vary within individual sheets. Part of why I've been sticking with it is that I have loved the bright white under blues and other cool tones. But since I wasn't particularly concerned with creating editioned pieces at the workshop I was able to try other papers. Much to my surprise, even under cooler inks I quite liked the warmer-toned papers. The images seemed richer and more cohesive, somehow.

So this linocut, Goundcover, was editioned on two different papers. Hosho (because it's one of a series done on that paper) and some Kitikata that I've had in the drawer for ages. Surprise, surprise... I think I like the Kitikata prints better. Hand-rubbing is a little easier on the Kitikata, too... although now that I'm also working my inks even more thinly (thank you, beautiful Takach brayer) I found the first couple of passes required some serious leaning into the block for both papers.

I may yet put a darker dark on a few prints, just to see how they look. I can't mess around for too long, since this puppy has to go in a frame on Tuesday for an exhibition that opens next Saturday. I'm satisfied with it as it is, but it's really hard to resist tweaking it "just a little bit more." Which is, of course, how I keep getting myself tangled up in 11- and 12-color images. Must. Resist. Just to prove to myself that I can.

This afternoon we're making a quick trip to Colorado Springs, where ultra-inspirational woodcut artist Jean Gumpper has an exhibition opening at Smokebrush Gallery. Can't wait to catch up with Jean, her work, and a few other printmaker-chums from our mutual experience at Anderson Ranch. But then it's home for the weekend, hopefully to catch up on long-neglected studio and yard projects. Monday is the Labor Day holiday here in the States, summer's last "official" hurrah before our collective attentions turn towards autumn. It's actually my favorite time of year, can't wait to get out and be a part of it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Would you believe six-and-a-half?

I can hear you snickering already. "Told you she'd never stick to six."

I'm back to work on the "ground cover" linocut, but of course the first thing I discovered when I returned to the block was a mistake in the previous carving. Oh, horrors! (She says with tongue firmly planted in cheek.) There were just a couple of leaves that should have remained yellow and/or green when the third color was printed, but in my rush to squeeze in one more pass last week, I overlooked them.

I tried for a while to figure out a way to ink just the one section in green and the rest in the next reddish color so I could do it all in one pass, but in the end it was faster to cut a little stencil, ink only that small area, and print it. Just a little section to clean up, and then the reddish color could go right over the top.

Of course, I forgot to take a photo at that stage, but you'll just have to believe me. Colors 3 1/2 and 4.

Tonight I did pass number 5-- another blend. This time from light at the top to dark at the bottom. I struggled with my 6" brayer... it's developed a bit of warp and it won't roll out evenly... but in the end I decided it was okay. Didn't want it TOO perfect. (Cough. Ahem.)

I also struggled with a dilemma I don't usually have indoors. Gnats. Little. Tiny. Gnats. Small enough to find their way in through the window screen and on to my work table. Thankfully I finished before I squished too many of them on the back of prints during burnishing, and before too many spent their last moments expiring in my ink. Who knew studio work could be so much like Wild Kingdom?

Curiously, the green stenciled area shows a shadow more in the photo than it does in real life. The red-orange has gotten lost, too... too much direct overhead light or something. At any rate, there's just one more color to go. Should be able to wrap it up tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed!

And on a completely different subject... Monday I went out on my favorite morning walk route,  through clouds and rain and sun and clouds and... well, you get the picture.

I wanted you to get this picture, too. Frantz Lake, about 5 minutes before it started to really rain. I stood under some trees and listened to the shower intensify as it swept across the lake surface toward me. A lovely moment, especially since it didn't last long enough for me to get completely soaked and I made it back home without squishy shoes.

Linocut in Progress: Let's wrap this up!

 Okay...  Remember that cartoon in which a couple of scientists stand at a chalk board filled with complex equations, at the bottom of which...