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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

100 Thumbnails update: mid-October

Today is a big day, for several reasons. First of all, it's our "meetiversary"! Three years ago today (is it really only three?) the Darling Man and I crossed paths for the first time. The second time we met he brushed me off, and no, I'm never going to let him forget it.

It's also mid-October... more or less. We get thirty-one days this month, so finding the median point isn't quite as easy as divide-by-two, but SHEESH... am I THAT... erm... fussy?*

(*Repeat after me: Printmakers are a tad obsessive-compulsive. Just go with it.)

ANYWAY... in the world of the 100-thumbnails-a-month challenge October 15th means I should have 50 sketches done, and I'm pleased to report that I have 55. Presented for your perusal, sketches 46-55, created during some of the most stellar autumn afternoons I can remember... from a perch just across the Arkansas River from town. Hopefully the Blogger embiggen feature is working again and you can click to see the pages at actual size.

I finished another milestone today, too, but it's a longer and more sordid tale, so I'll save it for another post.

Linocuts on the wall, off the wall, back on the wall

The "Underfoot/Overhead" exhibition at the Salida Steamplant comes down next Wednesday, October 20. If you're in the neighborhood, stop on by (and please sign the guest book, too!).

Immediately following in this same space, the Salida ArtWorks Registry Show opens Saturday, October 23. I'll have a piece in the show and local musicians (Including the DM,  David Tipton) will be playing for the reception. (4:00-6:00pm.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Technical difficulties, please stand by

It was one of those weeks, and the current linocut sat neglected for way too many days. Between the too-dry inks on the page and struggles to get just the right ink consistency for the next pass things didn't go entirely as planned. I got some decent prints, but I also lost several to slipping and other annoying maladies. One more color to go, but unfortunately it's going to have to wait a few days again. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I've been keeping up with my "100 Thumbnails" project. Let's see, it's October 11... I have 39 sketches at the moment, and there are still a few hours left in the day.

It's starting to get a little more challenging, as the weather is changing and the available daylight hours for sitting outside with a sketchbook (my preferred thumbnail-making routine) are waning. Thank goodness the DM had a gig last week at Adams Mountain Café, so I could sit in a corner with a pencil and a glass of scrumptious spiced tea for a couple of hours! I don't often draw interiors, so I tell myself it's "good for me" when some complicated view of a corner or furniture turns my 5- or 10-minute sketch to a 20- or 30-minute analysis. The point IS to learn something, after all!

Another challenge that comes with the season change is adjusting to the end of our farm share. We picked up our last bushel box of produce on Saturday.... (sigh).

Yeah, this is how every Saturday has looked in our kitchen since June.
We'll still be able to buy some fresh produce now that we have a little local food market in town, but our Saturday morning ritual will shift. No more rolling out of bed and wandering down the street for coffee, apple strudel, farm eggs, and our box o' veggies. This coming Saturday is our last farmers market day, and I'll be doing a brief hands-on printmaking adventure at the Shed Fest celebration in the afternoon. And then? We'll have to come up with some other routine. As long as it doesn't involve shoveling snow, I guess I'll adjust. Like the ink. And my prints. And my thumbnails. Eventually.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Leafy Testament, revisited

If you've been following Brush and Baren for a little while, you might remember the story of this linocut of an iconic local tree:

I was installing "Cottonwood" in an exhibition this summer when I learned that its subject was no longer standing. It was chopped down to accommodate a pipeline for a water bottling plant. (See Leafy Testaments if you missed it.)

The loss of this tree inspired my friend Jacque to write a lovely essay that appears in this month's issue of Colorado Central Magazine, and at her kind suggestion the essay "Cottonwood" included the linocut "Cottonwood" as its illustration. Thanks to Jacque and to Mike Rosso at Colorado Central for another opportunity to deliver my own form of testimony– a visual record of a once-living treasure.

Hmm. Mayyyyybeeeee....

Work continued over the weekend on the current linocut, although for a long time yesterday I thought it was going to be a major "do over."

I'm not certain anymore how many times I fussed with the yellow-green-yellow-orange-yellow business... four passes, maybe? After mixing and rolling and printing and remixing I had this, and I was feeling pretty darn skeptical:

And, of course, at this point I realized I had a few little areas that I wanted to have lighter and NOT yellow or green or orange. So out came the white ink to make a light gray. At which point I was even more skeptical:

But three cheers for a dark color, which almost always makes me feel a little better about life, the universe and everything. I think I can finish this in two more passes, but I'm going to give it a day or two to dry (there are multiple wet layers here now) and see if some sort of brilliant aha! moment reveals the way things will go from this point.

As for the ongoing 100 Thumbnails project, I've got twelve so far for October, so I'm more or less right on schedule. My friend Roberta Smith has decided to join me in the challenge, and I can see already that she's going to keep me on my toes.

The week ahead is going to be a busy one (again! Didn't I think my schedule would be slowing down this month?) full of contract assignments and a trip down to Manitou Springs to deliver linocuts to a new gallery, The Green Horse. I'm also delighted to report that I've been invited to have shows at two different libraries in Colorado Springs this winter, as part of the Pikes Peak Library District's public art program. If you're in the Colorado Springs area, you'll have opportunities to see linocuts at the Penrose Library on Cascade in January and at the Ruth Holley Branch Library in February.

Do you hear the little voice? I do.

Must. Keep. Printing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I lied...

...when I said the next color would be yellow. I forgot this tiny spot that wanted to be gray-blue, so I mixed a transparent gray, cut another little stencil and spoon-rubbed the hill over the sky.

But the next color STILL wasn't yellow. It was a yellow-to-yellow-orange blend. Also transparent, which I'm now thinking might have been better off with some white in it on this cream-colored paper, but we'll see. I'm feeling really distracted this week, pulled in too many directions, and I do not seem to be thinking "process" very well. If you know what I mean.

As evidence, the next pass was a yellow-to-yellow-green blend which, by happenstance of fuzzy planning has almost covered the yellow-orange of the previous pass, but not quite. Hm. Well, the whole point of all this blending was to keep from getting a flat color in my trees, so hopefully that's what we'll get at the end.

Today is, of course, October 1 and I DID make it to 100 thumbnails for September. I haven't yet started on the next round, but tomorrow is a Farmers Market day and I'm betting I'll find something interesting to launch the next adventure. And in October I get an extra day to finish, anyway. Whew!

Linocut in Progress: The Finish and the Rescue

 In the first post about the process of this linocut I mentioned that I was distracted and unfocused during the time I worked on it... whic...