Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ibis linocut progress

I dashed off to Studio V first thing this morning, anxious to make a little more progress on the ibis linocut. Last night as I was trying to settle down for sleep I realized that I didn't much like the contrast in the upper portion of the image and I needed to tone it down before carving any more of the block.

That meant the first order of business was some select inking and printing. Just this little bit behind the birds' heads. The gray-green that was there was just too dark, so I mixed up a very pale gray, semi-transparent.

Not sure if you can really see the difference here but, trust me, it's better.

There are some small bright green bits, a sort of iridescence, in the top of the birds' heads and in their wings, so that color went down next, just across the middle of the image.

Since neither of these two ink layers interacted much with each other or with the next intended color, I went ahead and printed a third today.  It turned out to be a tiny bit too ambitious– on the last two prints the tacky green ink "re-stuck" itself to the block when I was burnishing the blue and pulled up some paper. I'm not worried... I started with plenty of extra this time because I thought I might be pushing some limits.

Three (I think) more colors to go... 8 are down already. Through no great planning on my part it has worked out that I could do a lot of "selective" inking, so the ink layers remain quite thin. I like that the quality of the impression in the background is light and "airy" (watery?)... I can't decide if the darkness of the birds' bodies will be a nice contrast or too much... we'll see when we get there, I guess.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Livin' it up on a Friday night

David left yesterday afternoon for a gig on the Front Range and I didn't expect him home until late, so I decided to see what evenings were like in Studio V. Yup. Big happenings on a Friday night.

I'm feeling really manic about printing right now... it's been so long since I've printed just for me that every time I go to the studio I feel like I've had wayyyyy too much caffeine. (Note: pretty much any caffeine is way too much for me, so I tend to avoid it.)
HaveToPrintAsFastAsICanBeforeTheyTellMeIHaveToStopAgain. Or something like that.

The result is three color passes for 5 colors in two days on a brand new linocut. Goofy.

I didn't take a photo of the first pass, which was a very light pseudo-blend of gray to blue. What's a pseudo-blend, you ask? Well. It's one color of ink on one brayer and another color on the other brayer, blended on the block instead of the inking slab. It's a quick-and-dirty solution when I don't have a roller wide enough to ink the entire block, and since most of the middle part where the pseudo-blend occurs will be covered up by other colors.... it's good enough.

The third color, second pass was also very light, but I think you can see it here. Pink! Most of this will be covered up by the....

...third pass, which is another pseudo-blend of green and blue. I think you can tell that the bird bodies will ultimately cover that questionable mingling area.

There's a good bit of carving to do for the next step. I'm imagining a total of 8 passes... we'll see if it turns out that way!

In other news... I found out yesterday that my grandfather was a press operator for Stationers Corporation in California... must have been in the 1940s. Weird, huh? Do you think it's genetic?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meet Presszilla!

She's big, she's heavy, stalwart and strong. I haven't noticed if she has atomic breath (I hope not), but she definitely has some spiny bits that shouldn't be underestimated.

Meet Presszilla. (Challenge Proof Press, K Series)

Presszilla's previous caretakers are headed to new lives south of the border, so she's come to live with her Aunt Sherrie. Well, sort of. At the moment she's living in the garage of her Aunt Susan and Uncle Richard, but some time soon we hope for a consolidation of the family. (Elvis needs to meet his cousin, after all.)

Yesterday Printmaker Extraordinaire, friend, and former Presszilla-keeper Nancy and her husband Mark came to The Garage to help the DM and I reassemble Presszilla and get a tutorial in her operation. A little cleaning, a little lubrication, and we were ready to run some tests.

It was a tad chilly (we had snow on the ground, after all), so we kept it short. I brought an old block from a previous reduction print just to practice with... I learned how to lock a block in to the bed, how to lift the roller and lower it to engage the print. My lino blocks are not quite type-high, so a little fussing will ultimately be in order to get the pressure just right, but once everything's set up it should be great fun to run. (My test prints were rather light, and I didn't get any pix, sorry.)

A few other visitors stopped by during the proceedings and we had a good chuckle about being among "our own kind," which at the moment meant "people who like heavy old industrial machinery." All who saw her agreed that Presszilla is a thing of beauty. All she needs now is for me to make some prints worthy of her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Warbler linocut finished!

I'm pleased to report that I'm already meeting one of the goals of the move to Studio V! Separating art-making from business and illustration/design work is turning out to be the great thing I hoped it would be. This morning I went straight to the studio and spent most of the day there, stopping only for a short lunch break with the DM. The result of uninterrupted time?  Three (and a half) color passes and completion of a new linocut. YAY!

Of course, I'm still tripping over myself with little details like remembering to take photos. And despite new lamps I'm still not happy with the lighting situation in the space, but, hey! I'm getting stuff done anyway.

Rather than send you back to see where this piece was last week, here's a quick image reprise:

First four passes: Yellow, blue, transparent gray (stenciled),
and a green that was supposed to be a blend but didn't
work out exactly as I planned.

Before we left for the Front Range last week I had printed the
fifth pass. This was a transparent salmon-y color and I
quite liked the resulting warmth that came to the greens.

Whose idea of color mixing was THIS?

Yesterday I carved some more into the background area of the block, and this morning I was ready to print. I still had some of that salmon color left from last week, so I decided to use it in a blended roll with a transparent dark green. What!?!? Ugly on the inking slab, but OOOH!!!! Happy.

 At this point I considered carving and printing some more transparency in the background, but forced myself to exercise some restraint. (Not one of my best skills.) I liked how the bird was melding with the background, but I wanted to try something different and get it to stand forward.

I forgot to take a photo of the gray pass that came next. Bird and wire only, nothing changed in the background.

And then the moment of truth. I considered printing the border of this print in the darkest color, but I so liked the way it reflected the blend of the background colors that I opted to leave it alone. For this pass I ran a dark gray across the underside of the tail and wings and then black over the upper parts of the bird and the wire. After I had them all done I decided the bird's legs needed to be the darker black, so I very carefully inked only the legs and printed them in one last pass.

I think I took this shot before the black legs were done, but you get the idea. Once it's good and dry I'll make a nice scan and put it up here.

Overall I'm happy with this piece. The three shapes along the bottom edge were supposed to have been darker (that blended green that I wasn't thrilled with 'way back at color 4), but I don't find them horribly distracting. Subtlety still eludes me... but it feels like I made some steps in that direction with this print.

There's another new piece ready to roll (printmaker pun), but there are contract projects demanding attention, too. (sigh) So much to do, so little time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Prints are in the Mail

No, really. All 101 tiny woodcuts for the Barenforum 50th print exchange are on their way to the coordinator in Ohio. Gayle's got a big job ahead of her! (I interleaved them with glassine for transport, which is why the top print in the stack looks so mysteriously vague.)

I can't wait to get back my own set of 100 different images from all the exchange participants.

I'm anxious, too, to get back to printing my own stuff. Well, that... and now I REALLY have to turn my attention to my block for the City of the World Monumental Collaborative Puzzle Print project. (Due in December.) I have a rough idea sketched out, just need to get it going.

"Waxwing Waits," 2.5 x 3.5 inches, woodcut

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fieldwork Friday: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

A cluster of bullfrogs... great fun to draw interlocking shapes!

The DM and I spent the last few days in Colorado Springs, an excursion precipitated by a relief printing demo (by me on Wednesday) and music gigs (by David on Thursday and Friday).

So what to do about Fieldwork Friday when we were running around the city? A trip to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, of course! The day was spectacular, filled with cloudless blue skies, perfect autumn temps, and no wind. It was also filled with way more people than I usually like when I'm determined to draw, but these days I get to zoos and museums only rarely and I take whatever time I get gratefully.

Cooperative (or semi-cooperative) subjects included wallabies, lizards, fish and frogs. The bearded dragon (lizard above) was very sedate until the moment he caught sight of a parrot. It was full-on agitation after that... such a vigorous display that all I could do was put down my pencil and enjoy the show.

Chub-ably wallaby

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hog Island Audubon Camp 2012 Registration is OPEN!

Explore the intertidal zone with us!

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be an instructor for Educator's Week at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine again next summer.

Registration for all camps, including Educator's Week, opened on October 17, and I encourage you to check out the offerings. 2012 Camp Sessions. (Birders in particular will salivate at the field ornithology camp schedule.)

There's a $50 discount if you register before December 15. For more information, photos and to enroll, visit or call (607) 257-7308 x.14. Some scholarships are available - check with your local Audubon chapter or birding club.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Warbler linocut progress

Pass number five, and it's starting to look like something. I decided to try and do something nebulous in the background, just some odd shapes. I may decide I hate it, but so far it's okay.

I envision one more transparent pass in the background, but there might be two. Two colors remain in the bird and wire and they'll be fairly opaque.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's.... another press!

When I added a musician to my household I learned about an ailment common to the breed: GAS, or Gear (or Guitar) Acquisition Syndrome. I've enjoyed rolling my eyes at conversations about mixers and amplifiers and the equipment minutiae typical of musicians. I shake my head and chuckle, "Musicians!"

Which is not to say I don't have my own art gear foibles. I have a zillion daypacks and bags because none is ever perfect for all iterations of travel with sketching gear. I have many tubes of ink and paint, scores of drawing implements, drawers of paper and sketchbooks. But until recently the common feature of all of it has been that I could move it myself. Well, except for the paper storage cabinet... but that's another story.

And then something started happening. Back in February the stork brought me a Richeson Baby Press, now affectionately named Elvis (Press-ley). Elvis weighs about 65 pounds and I can schlep him around a bit, but he's pushing the envelope.

Of course I then needed a steel tool cabinet for Elvis to sit upon, which arrived in April. This I could NOT move by myself, but the DM and I teamed up to haul it up the stairs to Studio V with a modicum of huffing and puffing.

With the move to Studio V it became clear that I needed a new work surface. The solid-core door which is now the table top is also a two-person shift. As is the new stall mat. Rut ro.

But as of this morning I have now officially gone 'round the bend, having taken custody of an old Challenge proof press*. Well, I've taken partial custody of it, as it's in temporary storage in the garage of friends nearby. At several hundred pounds of awkwardness there's no WAY the three strong young men and we two middle-aged printmakers and our significant others could have gotten this thing upstairs to Studio V. So yeah, I'm already hunting for new studio space. (sigh)

Suddenly I'm shaking my head and chuckling not at musicians but at myself... the proud caretaker of a behemoth about which I know nothing and for which I have no permanent home. Printmaker's Gear Acquisition Syndrome? 'Fraid so. But it's a thing of beauty, ain't it?

(*To my surprise, I'm finding it difficult to locate information about this press online. Challenge proof presses were originally supposed to be competition for Vandercook models, but Vandercook won a legal action against Challenge and they stopped manufacturing them. Could be the name "Challenge" will be more appropriate than is comfortable. We'll see.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Carrying on in Studio V

Work routines in Studio V are starting to take shape, although there are still a number of details that need attention. Lighting is chief among them, and I hope to have some solutions in place in the next few days.

The new workbench works a treat, although I'm wishing now it were a little deeper. Might have to go back and see if I can't talk Ves out of the larger door/tabletop he has at the shop. Yesterday I bought a "stall mat" from the farm store and this morning the DM cut it down to a fit-in-front-of-the-workbench size. I'm hoping it's going to make my feet happier the next time I stand printing for 8 hours.

In between all the space-tweaking I'm still getting work done. Last week's 130+ tiny prints remain scattered over most horizontal surfaces. They're dry to the touch, but I'll wait a few more days before I package them up and send them to the exchange coordinator.

Coming up this Wednesday I'll be giving a printmaking demonstration at the monthly meeting of the Pikes Peak Watercolor Society, so yesterday I got down to work on a small (5 x 7 inches) linocut that I think I'll use at the presentation. Maybe. I never finished the piece I used as a demo at Birds in Art last month, so I might use that instead. It all depends on how things go tomorrow.

This morning I did a little damage control creative problem solving on the new print... by the second color I realized I had accidentally removed a section of lino prematurely. Oops. No problem, though. I had another uncarved block of the same dimensions! I made a stencil for the areas I wished to print, inked the uncarved block, and printed from it for color #3.

Good thing I had an uncarved block of the same dimensions.
I needed it to print from a stencil. Aka: covering up a boo boo.

Here we are with four passes down. My apologies for the worse-than-normal image quality here. My little point-and-shoot camera turned its toes up a couple of weeks ago and I haven't been able to replace it yet. I've been borrowing the DM's even older camera and I haven't yet come to terms with its particular idiosyncrasies.

The rest of the week, then, looks like printing... painting for a client... a demo... and hopefully some fieldwork time. Same old, same old. There IS, however, some excitement in the wings for tomorrow morning. It involves a truck, some young, strong guys, and a big hunk of metal. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Epic printmaking

Lookit my new-today taller work surface! Sawhorses and a door.

Little by little I get more organized in Studio V. It's a slower process than I expected (or hoped), but it's getting there.

Yesterday was the big test of what the priorities are for the space. (Read: I had to get a lot of printing done.) You might recall that I decided to participate in the Barenforum 50th print exchange, which requires the delivery of 101 tiny prints by the end of the month. You may also recall that I decided to experiment with woodcuts. And that I did so right before moving in to a new space. Just call me the Queen of Too Much at Once.

Last week I thought I had an image sorted out. Something simple and single color.

Four discarded blocks and one winner!
It was a disaster. I carved four different blocks, and worked each of those multiple times. I even switched to back to the comfort zone of lino instead of wood. Nope. All I got was a pile of black and white prints that I didn't like.

A small portion of last week's Epic Fail. Magpies everywhere.
After several frustrating days my frantic brain finally conjured up Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens talking about a beloved scene that they couldn't fit into the edit of "The Lord of the Rings." They tried it in the front of the film, in the middle, in the end. Couldn't make it work. Ultimately it was abandoned because Philippa said, "If you're having that much trouble it probably means the scene isn't right for the film as a whole."

If I was having that much trouble making the print work, then apparently it wasn't right for the project. On to the cutting room floor with it! Do. Over.

A scramble through my sketchbooks and photos brought me a new idea.. simpler design, but slightly more complex printing because it needed color. I printed the "rainbow" roll last week... and yesterday I spent eight straight hours printing the second color... 134 times!

100+ tiny prints on the new workbench! Phew!
Now if they'll only dry in time.
I printed lots of overage because the rainbow rolls were pretty variable. Not the end of the world, but I'd like the latitude to cull the extremes from the edition.

After eight back-tweaking hours yesterday it was VERY clear that a taller work surface was in order, so today I went down the street to the lumber yard and visited with "my" shop carpenter. Ves is a fabulous fellow who has helped me more times than I can count... cutting blocks and sifting through scrap wood to find me parts for building jigs and all sorts of things. Today he scored an old solid-core door and cut some 2x4s so I could make this (inexpensive!) workbench. The DM helped me haul everything up to the studio and put it together, and tonight it's a drying rack for all those little prints. Later this week it will be a printing surface! Hooray!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Welcome to Studio V

For more than 25 years my home has been my studio... painting in the living room, rubbing linocuts on the drafting table in the bedroom. Somewhere along the line I moved in to a two-bedroom apartment and got in the habit of dedicating a room to graphic design work and art-making.

When I moved to Salida (almost ten years ago), working at home became a full-time operation, and the "spare room" became studio AND office. It's a situation that has served me reasonably well, and I'm thankful that I've been able to make it all work.

But that's part of the problem. It's ALLLLLLL work. And it's all jumbled together. If I want to make prints I have to put all my paints away. If I'm in the middle of painting a big contract illustration I can't print. And the darn computer is there either way... insistent and tyrannical.

I started daydreaming about studio space OUT of the house more than a year ago. There have been all sorts of practical reasons not to get a separate studio (cost being chief among them), but I've found myself less and less productive in the home studio. I've been too distracted by my "to do" list, by the myriad house tasks and business tasks and, yes, by the musician in this household for whom this place is also studio and office.

So this week I took a deep breath and rented a space that I intend to dedicate to printmaking... Sherrie's fine art space is now separate from her commercial art space and her office!

The new space isn't perfect yet. I need taller work surfaces and more storage, and a carpet on the very noisy wooden floor. I'm upstairs in an old Victorian-era building in downtown Salida, just two blocks from home, so an easy walk back and forth. I've had two days there now, and I feel like a klutz with creative amnesia. The automatic work routines of the old space don't apply to the new and I keep discovering little things I need that haven't made it down the street yet. But I'm getting there.

I consider it all an experiment. Thankfully I'm in a situation that doesn't require a long term commitment, so if I crash and burn here I can haul everything back home and try again later.

More news from Studio V (for that's what it says on the door) as I get going!

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...