Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where I spent last Fieldwork Friday

Hint: A long way from home.

A fire in the west as we headed north through Wyoming and...
... the new growth after a previous fire in our destination.
Yellowstone National Park!

Yep. We went to Yellowstone for the annual gathering of the Journal-Keepers... a fabulous group of women who keep illustrated field journals. We meet for about four days once each year in some spectacular place, and this year the circumstances were such that the DM could join the Men's Auxiliary and share the adventure.

Of course, having David along meant I was more inclined to be a tourist than to get a lot of drawing done. I did make a couple of sketches I like, so once I finish sorting through the piles of stuff that came out of the car and get the scanner running again, I'll share them. In the meantime, a few photos from the park, where we saw almost all of the Park's "charismatic megafauna" the very first morning. (Bison, grizzly bears, elk, coyote, deer, and WOLVES! Black bear we saw a couple of days later.)

It's an early morning bison jam. Again.
Who knew bison were such willing and capable swimmers?
Pre-swim dust bath. Yes, it was that close and No, I didn't
approach it. It approached US from behind.
Who knew bison were also sneaky?
Bison in the foreground, but at the far edge of the valley,
where the forest comes down to the valley floor,
we saw the wolves of the Canyon pack cavorting.
We could see the white-colored alpha female with the naked eye,
but good looks required a spotting scope.
Yup. Grizzly bears in the lower right. Click to embiggen.
Plenty of birds, too. We saw sandhill cranes and pelicans,
bald eagles and tons of osprey. Here on a nest in the Grand 

Canyon of the Yellowstone.
I think I left this image biggish and clickable, too.
And then, of course, there were the thermal features!
My family visited here when I was a child and I remember well
that my brother's favorites were the fountain paint pots.
I like them, too... Erupting mud!
Great Prismatic Spring. 'Nuf said.
Great Fountain Geyser making a great fountain.
Sketching waterlilies on the Continental Divide.
It was so hot that watercolors evaporated before I finished
each stroke. Palette puddles of color were no longer puddles
every time I reached to fill my brush.
Hm. I don't remember the name of this spring, but it gives a good
sense of the overall landscape.
With the DM at Artist Point.
1700+ miles later we are happy to have gone and happy to be home. We returned to Salida via all the back roads we could manage... obliged to spend only 30 total miles on interstate highways. Now to the oh-so-familiar routine of shoveling out the car and wading through correspondence. This afternoon I have to go take down my show at Cafe Dawn, so it's right back in to the swing of things for us!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fieldwork Friday: Secret location to be named later

Yup, I'm in the field on a Friday, but not anywhere with internet access! You'll just have to wait until I get back to see where I've been...

It's about time!

Q: How long has it been since we've had THIS sort of image on this blog?

A: WAAAAYYY too long.

I put the new "Baby" Jig through its paces and I'm happy to say that so far it works a treat. The only minor problem is that it slides around on the table more than the Big Jig. This can be solved with some of that grippy drawer liner, which I don't have at the moment but will get soon.

The process of printing again after long hiatus felt a bit like getting on a bike after an even longer hiatus. A bit wobbly and hard to control, but no major crashes. The image I decided to work on suddenly seems not nearly as great as I thought when I started, but we'll see how it goes. I won't have the opportunity to get the next color on until next week, so maybe I'll have a better idea by then.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Building a low-tech block print registration jig

One of the many events during the upcoming Birds in Art weekend at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is "Artists in Action." Eight of the artists whose work was selected for this year's exhibition will be "doing their thing" up close and personal on Saturday morning, September 10.

Guess who's one of the eight?

Because we are headed to the Wisconsin event by air rather than by car I decided it would be a good idea to ship my tools and materials ahead. Going through airport security with a bag of carving tools? Not too likely.

The complicating factor is that my handy-dandy, home-made, low-tech registration jig is BIG– the base is about 18x24 inches and can accommodate blocks almost that large. We've only got about 90 minutes for our demonstrations, so I plan to work on a small 5x7 block. My "Big Jig" is overkill, AND expensive to ship.

Hmmmm.... This calls for the (last minute) construction of a little, portable jig!

Simple materials for a registration jig

Profile view of the "outside corner" molding. They didn't do a good job
of cutting this, did they? No problem. I made sure this was placed to not interfere.

Step 1: Assemble materials. A quick trip to the local lumber yard produced the necessary wood parts from their scrap bin, cut to perfection by the carpenter-in-residence. Total cost for materials and shop labor: $5.00.

1/4" tempered Masonite board, 9x12"
2 pieces of 1x2 (pine or whatever)
2 pieces of 1" outside corner molding

Also required: wood glue, flat head screws, clamps, drill/screwdriver, and a 90-degree triangle or other squaring tool.

Glue and clamp 1x2 strips to base.

Make sure it's square as you glue and clamp!

Step 2: Glue the 1x2 strips to the edges of the Masonite board. Clamp. I did mine one at a time so I could make sure they were square and not slipping. (Step 2.5: For extra strength you can countersink flathead screws from the underneath side. I didn't do this.)

Make sure molding is flush with inside edge.

Glue and clamp!

Step 3: Glue the corner molding on top of the 1x2 strips. Make certain the molding is flush with the 1x2 on the INSIDE edges (towards where the block will be) are flush, not the outside edges. (See above.) Check for square. Clamp.

Gap? What gap? Doesn't matter.

This funny little gap at the corner doesn't matter. If you wanted to be fancy you could miter the corners, but it's not necessary.

If you're not planning to heave this thing around, you can probably stop at this point and have a completely serviceable jig. But this one's going in a box and bouncing across the country, so I added some screws for extra strength.

Flathead screws with countersink to make them flush with the top of the molding.

Step 4: Counter-sink some flathead screws to secure molding to 1x2.

You're done! There are a few other little "finesse" things you could do.. like the mitered corner mentioned above, or ripping down the corner molding so it doesn't stand up quite as high along the outside, but I don't have tools for those details and they're not critical.

5x7 block in the little jig, with shims. Ain't it cute?

Here's my little 5x7 block in the jig with some shims to create the wider margin I want on these prints.

Piece of paper checks the width of the side margins. Perfect!

With a piece of paper set on top you can see how the shims let me adjust the side margins.

Ready to go!

Whew! I hope this all makes sense. It's not a perfect system, but it has worked great for me for many years. You can check out this earlier post to see a description of my larger registration jig in action.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fieldwork Friday: Stone Bridge

Ah, but I'm going to disappoint you, because I didn't actually draw the bridge. I wanted to draw the bridge, but somehow today I just couldn't find a vantage point that interested me.

Looking across the Arkansas to a private ranch.
Pencil on Stonehenge paper.

Stone Bridge is a popular "put-in" point for rafts on the Arkansas River. (I suppose people come off the river there, too.) The bridge itself is actually quite dreary, a chipped and crumbling 1908 concrete-and-rebar construction sporting a plaque that proclaims "State Bridge." Whether that's its name or just a label (as in "This is a state bridge.") I don't know. There are a lot of things I don't know. (Like why the area is called Stone Bridge when the bridge itself is concrete.) I should fix that.

These days the bridge separates the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area from a private ranch across the river. It's an idyllic-looking spot, but I imagine that during peak season they are inundated with noise from the boat ramp, picnic area, and parking lot. "My" side of the river.

Was it a homestead? Are the current occupants descendants of the original owners? More things I don't know... but I do wonder about them as I draw.

Luckily it was quiet today, both for ranch occupants and for me.  I saw one fisherman, one picnicker, and in the parking lot one lonely boat trailer, waiting for its cargo to arrive.  Peak rafting season is past, sunflowers and rabbitbrush are blooming. Hey! There's something I do know! Autumn is just around the corner.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fieldwork... Thursday

Shady in the gulch this morning.

I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. On the one hand, the countdown to a deadline helps me to focus on (mostly) one thing at a time. The tasks that are not immediately affected by the ticking clock move to the background of my attention. But SHEESH! What it is about deadlines that also induces some sort of unexpected crisis?

I've been conducting photo research for a publication that is scheduled to go to production tomorrow, and things have been going along pretty smoothly. There was one image of a plant that was still waiting for permission from the photographer, but I wasn't too worried. I had a backup image if the first photographer didn't come through. In fact, I had FOUR backup images.

At this point NOT ONE of the five photographers has responded to me at all. Not even to say 'no.'  This afternoon we resorted to Plan F, and I illustrated the darn thing myself. That'll learn 'em. ;-)

There's still one outstanding image left to resolve, and I'm chasing down photos in my sleep, so it's been extra-imperative that I get out for my hour of hiking-and-drawing in the morning. Today I took myself up Cottonwood Gulch, a nifty little trail that I can get to from my house with about a 10 minute walk. If you look hard you can find the spotted towhee who shared my hideaway. He doesn't give a flying fig for deadlines, photographers, or illustrators.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fieldwork... umm.... Monday?

Frantz Lake shoreline, pencil and watercolor on Stonehenge paper, 11x14 inches
(Click to embiggen)

Now that I'm home (read: not on the road) for a couple of weeks I'm trying to re-establish some routines... like finding an hour a day to draw... preferably from life and preferably in the field... but I'll take what I can get.

Sadly, there's no odd or amusing story to go with today's effort. Well, I guess it was amusing that when time was up I discovered an even more interesting subject at my feet: a dead crawdad. Drat! I'm hoping it will still be there later in the week, but I expect some other creature will get to it first.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fieldwork Friday: North Backbone Trail

Old piñon on the North Backbone, pencil on Stonehenge paper, 11x14

At about 8:00 this morning I pulled into the North Backbone trailhead on CR 175. It was a later start than I had hoped, but I was pleased to find no other cars in the lot and a hillside full of quiet.

It's possible to hike back to town on this trail– from the northern trailhead to my house the journey is about 5 miles– but today was about dawdling.

I strolled 15 or 20 minutes down the trail and then settled in to spend some time with this downed piñon pine. I quite like this drawing because I can see myself relax as the lines flow from top to bottom of the page. Those first marks are tight... illustrative, not interpretive. The shapes are tense and, if you'll excuse the pun, wooden. But by the time I was ready to move on, I felt myself a little more in sync with my subject and my surroundings.

I did have to chuckle, though. If you've been reading Brush and Baren for any length of time, you might remember that peculiar interruptions are de rigueur for my outdoor drawing adventures. So picture me, if you will, seated just off the trail. Smell of pines. Pip of birds. Scratch of pencil. No wind. No other hikers. From time to time the sound of a vehicle drifts up from below, but it's otherwise just me and soft morning sounds.

And then the crunch of gravel and unmistakable metal ring of a shovel. Step step. Scrape. Ring. Thunk. Step step step. Scrape. Ring. Thunk. Someone is moving slowly up the trail. With a shovel. Suddenly I am reminded of creepy stories told at childhood sleepovers and a vague unease sets in. I did, after all, find what appeared to be two carpal bones just down the path.

The sound comes closer, then fades, then comes closer again. After probably half an hour it becomes clear that whoever it is is almost upon me and my pencil lines become distracted. And suddenly, there he is.

It's Larry. A trail volunteer. A retired fellow in a floppy hat, wearing a camelback and wielding a long, thin shovel. He's flipping loose stones, "ankle twisters" he calls them, out of the trail and down the hill. Scrape. Ring. Thunk. He stops to see what I am up to.

"You came all the way up here just to draw that old stump, eh?"

"Yessir, I did."

"Well. (Pause) I guess that's better than all those folk who come up here with their cell phones, goin' 'Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Click. Click. Click.' Those pictures don't even come close."

Well said, Larry. Well said. Thanks for the chat... and thanks for clearing those ankle-twisters.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gathering up loose ends

The Wednesday Knitters meet in the company of linocuts at Cafe Dawn.
I would say they were gathering loose ends, too, but Gwen
assured me she was creating more than she was tying up.
After several weeks of (apparent) absence the evening grosbeaks are back in town, chattering up a storm and gorging on whatever they can find. It's odd to be thinking of autumn migration when it seems as though summer just started, but the signs are quietly appearing. Rufous hummingbirds bully the resident broad-tails at the feeder and the neighbor's maple tree is undeniably a "yellower" shade of green than it was the last time I paid attention to it. There are back-to-school supplies piled in the aisles of the local department store.

But it's all okay with me. I'm ready to throttle back just a bit... to walk forward rather than race.

It's been a day of gathering up loose ends. I spent the morning organizing information and following up on research contacts for a client project, and this afternoon made a couple of quick stops relative to exhibitions. The first was at Café Dawn, one of several popular local coffee shops, where Monday I installed a collection of linocuts that will hang for the month of August. After that I strolled over one block to the Maverick Potter Gallery to update my inventory there and replace a couple of missing artwork labels.

A little rain shower came through and the DM and I put a big batch of cabbage rolls (cabbage from our local CSA, elk from our local meadow) in the oven and suddenly everything seems to be chugging along rather than sprinting. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm ready to enjoy it.

What's that sound? Oh, right. It's me. Breathing.

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...