Monday, May 30, 2011

Converting to Grayscale, or, Linocuts Get Poetic

At the end of April I was approached by our local poetry ensemble, the River City Nomads, about including some linocuts in their soon-to-be published chapbook. The only catch was that the work would be published strictly in black and white. Well, that... and they needed it... um... the following week, really.

One of the members brought me a draft manuscript and I started sifting through my files for appropriate images that were either already black and white or that would hold up if converted from color to grayscale. It became clear that I wouldn't have everything they needed, so on International Print Day in May I put together one additional small piece and then bundled all the scans off to the publication designer.

"On Stage – River City Nomads" was out in time for the Nomads' performances at this weekend's Colorado Art Ranch Artposium, and I was tickled to see that a few of my color linocuts converted quite well to black and white.

Dwelling on Dwellings

Action-packed, mind-expanding, exhausting... that's what the weekend has been. It was Artposium time again!

I've gushed effusively about Colorado Art Ranch more than once on this blog, but if you've somehow missed my flag-waving I encourage you to check out their website and think hard about coming to their next event. (Yes, I realize not everyone lives in Colorado, but that's really no excuse.) This weekend's theme was "Dwellings: Habitat, Symbol, and Art," and featured speakers and workshops in fields from anthropology and architecture to photography and poetry. Check out this lineup:

Danny Wicke of The Rural Studio.
  • Architect Danny Wicke wowed us with the work of Rural Studio, which is designing artistic and environmentally responsible “shelters for the soul” for the impoverished residents of Hale County, Alabama. Check out his current project, “The $20,000 House.”
  • Christina Kreps, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Denver University, shared images and interpretations of the traditional architecture of Nias, Indonesia.
  • Leigh Davis, Brooklyn- and Washington DC-based artist, shared her photography that documents how people adapt generic living spaces, such as self storage units and YWCA rooms, in response to radically changing economic conditions. 
  • Craig Nielson, a Salida, Colorado designer and green builder, discussed the need for portable shelter for people displaced by war and natural disasters and demonstrated the ShelterCart, a low-cost solution for humanitarian relief.
  • BK Loren, an award-winning Colorado author, led two writing classes: “Dwelling in Words: Finding Your Place in Writing” and “Nomad's Land: The Internal Sense of Home.”
  • Sandra Dorr, a Grand Junction author of poetry, essays, and short stories, led the writing session “Ancestors, Visions & Dwellings.”
  • Dean Dablow, Professor Emeritus of Photography at Louisiana Tech University, directed two photography classes: “The Space Between Us”
And speaking of the space between, our local River City Nomads provided poetry readings between presentations. Who was that dashing musician accompanying them, I wonder?

The general consensus among those attendees who have somehow managed to communicate post-event is that our brains are fried in the best possible way. Yeah. I love these things.

Local poets make good: Craig Nielson, Barbara Ford, Peter Anderson,
Laurie James, Linda LaRocco. Musician David Tipton ain't bad, either.

Here's Craig again, demonstrating the ShelterCart. We know he's carrying a heavy
load because some one we know is riding in the back.
Hey! That's me!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Check one mini task off the list

Whoo-eee!  It's FINALLY nice enough to have the studio windows open today! The neighborhood is infested with evening grosbeaks and yellow warblers, their songs and chatter more entertaining without a glass filter. Why, I can even hear the serenade of crickets!

WHY am I indoors?

It's the sort of day that makes it painful to stay indoors, but stay in the studio I must. Most of the week has been given over to a big illustration project, but even when I set down my brush to take a break there are plenty of other tasks at hand. Surely Murphy recognized weeks like this and wrote some sort of pithy aphorism about inevitable simultaneous deadlines... but at the moment it eludes me.

I AM nearly a week ahead of the Salida ArtWalk "Mini Masterpiece" deadline, however. Surely that's good for a bonus point or two.

Each June local artists donate "mini" artworks for a fundraising auction during ArtWalk weekend. Through a series of unfortunate events that would make even Lemony Snicket cringe, I have never participated in previous Mini shows. This year, however, I had canvas and entry form in hand in plenty of time.

Wait. Did I say canvas?

Yeah. Canvas. The auction committee provides 4x4- or 4x6-inch stretched canvases for the work... a wee bit perplexing for a diehard works-on-paper gal like me. Thankfully some friends requested I mount a small linocut on canvas a few months ago and that successful experiment made me brave enough to try again.

Where's my baren? My brayer?

Like most printmakers, I've got a drawer full  of "failed" prints. Bad registration, bad color, uneven printing... whatever. They're no good as editions... but one never knows when they might come in handy as collages.

So here's my entry for the "Mini Masterpiece" auction. Bits of four different linos are here, representing four seasons. A little PVA, a little paint, a little varnish, and voila! One deadline checked off the list.

I now return me to my regularly scheduled drawing board.

"Seasonal," linocut collage on canvas, 4x4 inches

Monday, May 23, 2011

A quick change of scene

It seems as though the "summer crazies" begin earlier each year. The Heart of the Rockies has barely said goodbye to winter (it was still snowing around here last week) and suddenly our calendars are completely booked until October.

So, the DM and I take our escapes where and when we can find them, often combining them with something work-related so we can feel semi-productive (or at least not guilty). After David's Front Range gigs on Thursday and Friday last week we headed south to New Mexico. The DM arranged to connect with a fellow Stickist in Taos, and I wanted to see how the quintessential New Mexico town's gallery scene had weathered the economic rollercoaster.

Southbound I-25, headed towards Walsenburg. Interstate highways
have become a bit of a novelty for us. We hardly ever drive them.
It's apparent as you drive in to town that the galleries have struggled. One proprietor told us that 8 or 9 had closed up shop over the winter. But artists and musicians are resolute and determined. On Friday night we came across several cheerful and crowded opening receptions, and the Station Bar at the KTAO Solar Center was packed with folks enjoying live music. "Keep calm and carry on," as they say.

We squeezed a lot into just two days... galleries, music, eating, schmoozing... visits to the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, Taos Pueblo, and of course, a short hike along the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. It was great to get away and, as always, great to come home.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, about 10 miles north of Taos.

A local resident, not particularly camera shy.

Gorge Bridge and the Rio Grande, looking north.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Marxy made a mark

In the trickle-down way of things, I learned this week that one of my college professors– a friend, an influence, a delightful spirit– passed away in April.

Reinhold Marxhausen, "Marxy" to those around him, danced to his own music. At the time I met him he was approaching retirement... His mysterious presence arrived in and disappeared from campus at irregular intervals. I only had one formal class with him, Modern Art History, and remember quite clearly how we arrived for the semester final to find him giggling away in a room conspicuously devoid of a slide projector. (For in those days, youngsters, images were projected on screens by means of a bright light shining through transparent colored film.)

"No slides!" he hooted. "How can you have an art history test with no slides?" We wondered the same thing, but there it was... a written exam about Isms and such! No slides. No visuals at all. Mystifying. But this was a man who also built his own coffin from a kit... decades before he could expect to need it. He kept it in his studio and said it helped him not to be afraid of death.

There were many quirky Marxy moments during the four years I spent in Nebraska, but two stand out for me. One came about during my Sculpture 1 (and only) class when Marx, renowned for his "junk sculpture" assemblages, took a liking to an armadillo I fashioned from rusty corrugated pipe and rebar. He asked me what I wanted for it, and I took a deep breath and suggested an exchange for one of his trademark sound sculptures. The deal was struck and the armadillo went to his office desk. A few days later a Stardust appeared in my campus mailbox. I was the luckiest student. Ever.

But it was a moment shared across Marxy's garden fence, and not on campus, that comes to mind most often. I was passing on the sidewalk just as Marx was collecting his mail, so stopped to visit. Marx opened an envelope as we chatted, pulled out the contents and laughed a bright belly laugh.

"What's so funny?" I asked.
"It's a rejection notice," he replied, gleefully chortling away.
Novice art-putterer that I was, I felt horrified. "That's FUNNY?" I said.
"Sure!" he exclaimed. "Look what they rejected."

He handed me a two-by-two slide. I held it up toward the sun and squinted, and then I laughed, too. The rejected piece had recently taken Best in Show honors at another (more prestigious, I might add) exhibition.

It was a hugely valuable lesson... and one which, 30 years later, still tempers each rejection notice I receive. Sure, it's disappointing not to get The Big Envelope. But every Little Envelope conjures up the smiling face of Marxy... and how can you not laugh along with a man like that? David Letterman couldn't help himself, either.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Exhibition Miscellany

I finally made it the two blocks to the Salida Regional Library to check out the show "Haiku: The Essence." It really is a lovely exhibition, especially since it has introduced me to some local folks whose work I had never seen before. Here's a little shot of my piece alongside its inspiration, a "haiku of haiku" by Eduardo Rey Brummel titled "Ever So A Round."

Warp-speed preparations are also being made for the opening of my solo exhibition, "Intimate Landscapes," in Denver. The last few pieces are at the framer now, postcards have gone out, and the first round of emails... but there's still a lot to do.

If you're in Denver on June 5, I'd love to see you at the opening reception at the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado Headquarters, Dos Chappell Bathhouse, 600 S. Marion Parkway, in Washington Park. 4-8pm. Music by none other than David Tipton, aka the Darling Man.

"Intimate Landscapes" will be on view through July 27, so if you can't make the reception you'll still have time to check things out. This will be my first exhibition in Denver in almost 10 years, and I'm looking forward to it!

And on a completely different note...

It's been cold and gray and windy around here today (sigh), and my woodcut attempt was unsuccessful, but the day hasn't been without its perks. Look who's been visiting our yard! (This shot made through the dining room window...)

Western tanager. Ain't he the bees' knees?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fieldwork Friday

Thursday morning our "niece dog" Scooby went back to her home pack. The next morning I was still adjusting to her absence, so decided it was time to reinstate Fieldwork Friday.

What? You've never heard of Fieldwork Friday? Perhaps it's because I've never mentioned it. In fact, I only decided to institute it a few weeks ago. Right before I didn't have any available Fridays in which to practice aforementioned field work.

As an artist whose work tends to focus on nature it's imperative that I spend time outside. That seems straightforward enough, but it can be maddening trying to decide how to make "productive" use of limited time. Do I draw? Do I walk? If I'm walking, am I doing it for exercise or inspiration or do I want to make finished drawings? Am I using binoculars? A spotting scope? A camera? A sketchbook? When I can't decide I end up packing everything and accomplishing nothing.

Despite my continuing efforts to be Wonder Woman I have to admit I just can't do it all. Not all at once, anyway. While I'm still working out the rules of engagement for Fieldwork Fridays, I've decided that at the very least these will be days in which I give myself permission to take an outing with only one goal. Okay, maybe two. But not five.

Yesterday's goals were 1) check two lakes in the northern part of the county for spring migrants and 2) practice using my new(ish) camera to take some reference shots for potential linos or woodcuts.

I am pleased to report the day was a complete success. Part way through the morning I was joined by a friend and we had a great time visiting long-neglected local haunts. I added several bird species to my 2011 list, including one that was new for me: semi-palmated plover (at 9000' elevation)! I took lots of photos, too. Most of them were schlock, of course, but I did score a couple of things with print potential.

It's satisfying to know that I gave these particular needs/desires (get out and about in the county, look at migrants, practice with the camera, and collect image reference) some quality time and didn't let the long list of additional things I "should" be doing with my precious outdoor time get in the way. So satisfying, in fact, that I'll do it again. Not THIS Friday, unfortunately. But soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Print Day in May

Today was the day! International Print Day in May! I don't remember where I first heard about it, but here's the short and sweet from their blog:

"Print Day in May started in 2007 at the Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), Monterey, California. The MPC Fine Art Print Club created it to encourage printmakers everywhere to create prints on the same day... an all-inclusive printmaking effort!"

I only had half of the day to devote to printing, but I figured even a little solidarity would be better than none. I carved and printed a small single-color block... an illustration for a local poetry journal.

It's been some time since I last did a single-color image. I found it more challenging than I expected to carve this little scene of S Mountain and the Arkansas River at the edge of Salida. I'm reasonably pleased with the result, and happy to report that Elvis's new cabinet perch worked a treat.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Even more exhibition news!

Well! It turns out today was super-jumbo-bonus envelope day! This morning I got "The Big Envelope" from Birds in Art via email, and this afternoon I got the "Not Quite So Big But Still Significant Envelope" from the Creede National Small Print Show.

Both pieces I submitted to the show were accepted, and one was chosen for the traveling exhibition. That's three-for-three today...can we call it an exhibition trifecta?

11th Annual National Small Print Show
Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede, Colorado
Opening reception: Saturday, May 28th, 4:00pm
Show runs through June.

Getting The Big Envelope, via email

If you've ever entered a national or international juried exhibition, you know about The Big Envelope.

The Big Envelope means your work has been accepted. The Big Envelope is full of instructions for shipping and catalog photography and loan agreements. The Little Envelope has a very polite "perhaps next time" letter.

It's been fourteen years since I last had work accepted to the international Birds in Art exhbition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. (Granted, I can only remember submitting a piece once during those fourteen years, and you can't win if you don't play!)

"Submit work to Birds in Art" has had a perpetually neglected spot on my annual To Do list for a long time now. The show's April submission deadline is always the same, but year after year I let it pass because I haven't felt I had anything strong enough to submit.

This year, though, I had the newly-completed "Ripples," which received many favorable comments from blog readers and Facebook friends.

"Hmmm," I thought. "Hmmmm."

I made the submission at the last minute and told no one, save the DM, that I had done so. And until this morning I put it out of my head completely.

The Big Envelope comes electronically now, but I still had that same heart-stopping moment when I saw something from the Woodson Museum in my inbox instead of my mailbox.  That intense feeling of hope-braced-for-disappointment made it difficult to comprehend the letter... all I could do on that first read was skim for the word congratulations. And then the words: "Ripples has been selected."

There is always excitement and gratification when a Big Envelope arrives (by whatever method). But this one is special. My first selection to Birds in Art was in 1991, exactly 20 years ago. That exhibition marked the start of my journey as a professional artist and introduced me to friends who have never wavered in their support, even during the times I stopped working completely. Some of them, I already know, will be there this year, too. To say I am looking forward to attending the opening is a major understatement. See those ripples behind the duck? They're actually caused by me, vibrating with delight.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Royal Dog, a Squeaky Beaver, and a home for Elvis

Unusual weeks are the norm around here (if that makes any sense at all), but these past seven days have been really unusual.

The week started with a watercolor illustration project which, I am pleased to report, has been completed and already approved by the client! No, wait. I'm wrong.

It started with a dog.

The DM and I don't have any pets, partly because I'm allergic to everything but goldfish and partly because our schedules are too erratic to allow any sort of stability for critters. But this week we've been sharing our space with our "niece dog," Scooby. Scooby is a labradoodle (labrador-poodle cross), so she's acceptable on the allergy spectrum. And she's a sweet, mild-mannered creature, to boot.

There's been a lot of talk about royalty this week. Auntie says
I'm a Royal Goofball, so they all must be talking about me.

Of course any extra body in the house is disruptive, and it's taken dog and dog-sitters time to get used to each other. But how could you not be entertained by a face like this? (And a Squeaky Beaver. Don't forget the Squeaky Beaver.)

We must drag ourselves out of the hound's orbit, however, and get some work done around here. For me it's been illustrations and other contract projects. For the DM it's been new music videos. In the week ahead, however, I know I'll be twitchy to get back to printing because today Elvis finally got a new home.

The DM is handy as a Dog Entertainer and a Tool Box Assembler.
The arrival of Elvis Press-ley (a Richeson Baby Press) at the end of February unsettled things in the studio in much the same way that Scooby unsettled our household routine. I've been moving Elvis around the studio, looking for an efficient working location and a sturdy work surface. (Scooby's been moving around the house trying to find the perfect napping spot.) My tables are all too low, and I need every bit of horizontal surface I have already. (If you saw the photo of my work surfaces during the course of an illustration project, you'll know what I mean.) Elvis is "portable," but at 65 pounds it's not something I want to be constantly shifting from table to table as I work on other projects. It is possible to buy a press stand, but in my small space every piece of furniture must serve several purposes.

A solution eluded me until a few weeks ago when we were in Colorado Springs. I wandered into the tool area of a department store and there it was! A rolling steel tool chest!

Just the right dimensions! Moveable! With storage drawers! Best of all, it could be delivered (free!) to a small appliance outlet in nearby Poncha Springs, rather than the main store 2 hours away.

This morning we picked it up, and I must say I'm feeling rather smug about this solution. The drawers will hold my tools and inks and even a good number of blocks. Elvis sits smartly on the top at a comfortable height. I can roll it next to a work table or under the print rack or just leave it against the wall where it is. The wheels lock, and I'm going to get a piece of pressboard to fit in the top, both for extra stability and in case I want to bolt the press in place.

I'm excited to give it a run and see how it all works. But at the moment I have to give myself a run to get a towel, because The Dog and The DM just came in from a walk and they look like this:

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...