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....

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...