Thursday, June 30, 2011

Still carving linocut icons

It's one of those projects that gets bigger the more I work on it. I'm pretty sure that's not the way it's supposed to happen.

Still a snow goose, melon, sorghum, and wheat to go. And maybe a different tractor.. it's possible they're going to want a more modern "high-tech" model after all. Oops. Good thing I just bought more linoleum.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Linocut icons... again!

Duck, goose, carousel, train! Still to come: deer, fish, cowboys and grain!

Printmaking reports here at ol' Brush and Baren have been on the slim side lately. Due to The Way of Things, I find myself slammed with contract illustration projects and workshop preps and paltry little time for linocuts. Between you and me, I'm a tad grumpy about it.

You can imagine, then, the cheer I found in a contract for more linocut icons for the Southeast Colorado Heritage Area project. Today I finally got to settle in for a longish carving stint... four new little pieces are ready to print. Nine more to go. (Yippee!)

And now we're recoverin'!

Hey, who's that guy in the background with the funny-looking
not-a-guitar thingy? Must be David "Stickist" Tipton.
Whew! ArtWalk weekend was HOT, in more ways than one. Saturday boasted the hottest temps of the year, somewhere in the mid-90s, and downtown Salida was filled with visual art, performance, music, and happy art-walkers.

I suspect that town was quiet today, but I wouldn't know for certain. I've had my head down at the drawing table since this morning. With CARVING tools in my hands. Yeah, baby. More soon.

Mark "The Maverick Potter" Rittman wows the crowd with
a blindfolded wheel-throwing demonstration. Fun, eh?

Friday, June 24, 2011

We're Art Walkin'!

It's the 19th Salida Art Walk weekend!

I'll have work at the Maverick Potter Gallery and the Book Haven, both on F Street between 1st and 2nd.

Local galleries and businesses will be showcasing lots of art and hosting receptions tonight and tomorrow night... starting around 5:00pm most places. Music, demonstrations, performances, art and food! Sounds like a great weekend to me. Come join us if you can.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art Hero: Francis Lee Jacques

I wasn't kidding when I said we were at warp speed around here.... and not one moment of this mad dash has had anything to do with starting on a new linocut (sigh). The good news is that I have a few more linocut icons to carve for the ongoing Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage project, so at least you'll be seeing carving tools and lino chips before too much longer.

Wood ducks, from "The Geese Fly High,"
(1939) by Florence Page Jaques.
Illustrations by Francis Lee Jaques.
In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share one of my "art heroes" with you.

It's been almost 25 years since I was introduced to the drawings and paintings of Francis Lee Jaques (1887-1969). At the time I was hanging out with "museum people," friends who either were working in the exhibits departments of natural history museums or had done so previously. It was astounding to discover such occupations existed, and a wrench to be told the field was diminishing and exhibits departments everywhere were shrinking.

Jacques was renowned in those museum circles, his background murals for the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History are considered some of the best ever painted.  It is his black-and-white scratchboard drawings, however, that delight me the most.

More than 40 books are graced with Jaques illustrations, and although many are out of print, a few have recently been republished. Titles by natural history author Sigurd Olson can be found as paperback reprints on with the black-and-white Jaques illustrations reproduced as well. ( I have one, the quality isn't great, but it's still Jaques.)

William O. Douglas's "My Wilderness" books are harder to come by, but I scored my early editions inexpensively on eBay some time ago.

From "The Geese Fly High"
Click to embiggen.
It's the books by his wife Florence, however, that are my most prized Jaques-related possessions. Florence was my kind of natural history writer: Not a scientist. Not an expert. She was not a great adventurer, but she was always game, always curious, and always, always delighted by everything she experienced. Well, maybe not everything. There are plenty of passages in which she questions the sanity of her husband and his colleagues, arising in frigid dark to traverse half-frozen bogs or slogging through clouds of insects enroute to some northern lake. She wasn't afraid to admit she was often uncomfortable and ignorant.  Accompanying her new husband on museum expeditions and hunting trips in the 1920s and 1930s meant she was definitely treading in "male" territory, but tread it she did, and where she couldn't find delight she could find wry and clever humor.

The combination of Florence's writing and Lee's illustrations made books like "The Geese Fly High," "Snowshoe Country," and "Canoe Country" irresistible to me.  ("Snowshoe County" and "Canoe Country" have been reprinted as a single volume by the University of Minnesota Press.)

One more from "The Geese Fly High"

Lee's bold graphic sense and sensitive, calligraphic line... the balance of black and white. Wow. Just wow. I often look at these illustrations and "see" them in color... the sense of space and atmosphere seems uncanny. I love everything about this work... composition, line quality, shapes... (sigh). Yeah. Hero.

And for those of us who have recently been discussing all the jobs we've had on our way to arts careers, here's one more thing to appreciate: Francis Lee Jaques was a farmer, a taxidermist, a railroad fireman, a lumberjack, and a soldier before he found his place at the American Museum.

More about Francis Lee and Florence Page Jaques can be found at the Jaques Art Center in Aitkin, Minnesota. One of these days I'm gonna get there....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And they're off!

Yesterday was the grand re-opening of the Maverick Potter Gallery on F Street in Salida!
Bigger, brighter space! More work! (Spanky new floor installed by the Potter himself.)

Summer. It's insane.

I laughed mightily the other day over a message from a friend who has a business quite different from mine. In it she mentioned the natural tendency to play more than work in the summer, a tendency of the self-employed to go easier on themselves in the summer months.

I refrained from responding with a query about what chemical substance she might be ingesting.

I suppose a slow-down happens in some lines of work, but in this household we go into overdrive from May to October. My contract work ramps up for undetermined reasons. There are exhibitions and gallery events to supply and attend. The DM's gig calendar goes haywire. Last summer we had two (count 'em, TWO) weekends between mid-May and mid-September in which one or both of us did not have a show, a gig, a workshop.... something. It's a tad frustrating, actually, because I would rather be playing. Seventy (or eighty, depending on who you ask) percent of the county where I live is public land. People come from all over the country to play in the surrounding forests, climb the 14,000-foot peaks, and splash down the river that flows through town. But it's not for us. We get our slow time in February, when it's below zero.

But this week, at least, we get to run around like headless chickens near home. David's gigs are all local. My contract work has a little room to spread out, since I don't have to cram it in between the day after we get back from somewhere and the day before we leave again.

Thanks for talking me into a glass ceramic goblet of wine, Mark.
Even if it did mean I was half asleep by the time we got to David's gig.

Did I mention it's busy? The local farmers' market opens next weekend, and the FIBArk whitewater festival starts in three days. The following weekend is the Salida ArtWalk... I'll have work at the Maverick Potter and a few pieces at the Book Haven (both on F Street between 1st and 2nd) and the DM will play a couple of locations. The next weekend we have to go out of town again, but for now we're happy to be limiting our scurrying about to a 6-block radius of the house.

Especially since I've already emptied the walls of the house in order to supply all this summer bru ha ha. It's WAY past time to get started on a new print.

Must. Make. Prints.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"50 Best Printmaking Blogs" at Interior Design Online

Yesterday I received a nice email from Tracy Myers at Interior Design Degree Online, who has compiled a list of the "50 Best Printmaking Blogs" and kindly included Brush and Baren in the cast. Thanks, Tracy!

Whew! That was fun!

Thanks so much to everyone who came out for the opening of "Intimate Landscapes" at the Dos Chappell Bathhouse on Sunday! A steady stream of visitors made for a fun and slightly surreal evening as multiple lifetimes converged. Friends I've known from the age of 12 were there, as was a new friend I met only a week ago! High school and college friends, decade-in-town-of-Golden friends, Art Students League friends, raptor foundation friends, ranching friends, Artposium friends, bird observatory friends, brand-new sent-by-Salida-friends friends, and even a brave blog lurker who– surprise, surprise! lives in the neighborhood and had the gumption to show up and introduce herself. (Hi, Martha!)

Taking a seat at the end of the evening
with my longtime friend Sharon.

Yes, thanks to all of you for showing up AND for having the good grace to smile when my pattern-recognizing brain cells short-circuited from so many people out of context. There were a few times when I had to just stop and shake my head to figure out where I was.

Thanks also to the fine folks who are now giving good homes to linocuts. It delights and honors me that you're letting my work be part of your daily lives.

The only disappointment is discovering that the person I saw out of the corner of my eye snapping photos was not David. Between us we only have 3 shots of the show! I'll get more the next time we go up to Denver, but in the meantime... if you were wielding a camera and got some good pictures, can you send 'em along?

The show is up now until July 27th, and if you're in the Wash Park (Denver) neighborhood you're welcome to stop in during regular business hours, Monday-Friday, 9-5. It's worth having a look at the building, too... the front room has some great photos of this Craftsman-era bathhouse, pre-restoration.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado headquarters
Dos Chappell Bathhouse, Washington Park
600 S. Marion Parkway, Denver

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If it's Thursday...

Prints and paraphernalia accumulating... must mean a show is imminent.

Times like this it feels as though I'll never get to print again. The last few weeks have been taken up by epic contract jobs, workshop and exhibition prep, and unending administrative details. Several times in the last few days I've heard myself grimly muttering that old joke about the light at the end of the tunnel and oncoming trains.

This morning, however, I suddenly found myself with a small window of unscheduled time. I finished the 14th of 16 (!) current illustrations and got the scan organized for the project designer... and then realized that the 350mb file was going to take almost two hours to upload to the server. It's possible to do other computer work while a huge upload is underway, but the risk of disaster looms if I forget myself and start too much multitasking. (If you've ever had an upload abort after an hour, you know what I mean.) Walking away from the computer seemed like the best plan.

Two hours! Just enough time to make a few little books.

If you've followed Brush and Baren for a while you might remember when I scored a stack of wooden cigar boxes from a friend. My favorites were snug little almost-cubes about 5 x 5 x 6 inches in size– perfect for collections of small notebooks.

I always put a small notebook in my pocket when I take a walk. One never knows when insight or inspiration will strike, or when an unfamiliar bird will defy identification unless I can jot down field marks. The last book in the previous set was filled more than a week ago and I've been forced to write on my hand ever since.

Starting to fill a new box with little books!

But now I've got 5 new little notebooks in a new box and all seems right with the world again.

And not a moment too soon. This weekend I'm off to Denver to hang my exhibition, "Intimate Landscapes," at the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado headquarters in Washington Park. The opening reception is Sunday from 4-8pm, and I'm really pleased that I won't be extending a list-festooned hand to welcome visitors. (Like you, perhaps?)

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...