Thursday, December 27, 2012

Milestones and Mark-making

In the midst of December's chaos Brush and Baren quietly passed its sixth blogoversary. 764 posts, 200-plus subscribers, and many more lurkers after I first clicked the publish button I am gratified and humbled that so many readers have come along for the ride.

I've made some good friends here in the blogosphere... most of whom I haven't yet met in person. But how nice it is to imagine that wonderful "someday" when I will share a delighted laugh and a hug with the flesh-and-blood people behind posts that have made me smile, and ponder, and laugh, and appreciate, and most of all work harder at my craft.

One of the earliest connections I made was with the amazing work of Katherine Tyrrell over at Making a Mark. Katherine maintains some of the most extensive online resources for artists that I've ever found, and she's a darn good artist herself. I've never been able to figure out how she manages to do it all, but I'm very glad that she does.

For the past year Brush and Baren has been sporting the "Going Greener Gong," an honor bestowed through the annual Making a Mark Awards for art bloggers. I'm going to have to retire the badge in a few days, to make room for the next proud recipient. But gee whiz! Yesterday I learned that my little magpie linocut made the short list for this year's Making a Mark Prize for the Best Portrayal of Nature. Wow.

Other prize categories include portrait, still life, and place... and I urge you grab yourself a cuppa and take some time to explore the offerings.  There's some fine, fine work there, and I'm pleased to be included. You can view all the nominated work and participate in the voting on the Making a Mark page here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Do we call it a lino-coot?

I tried several iterations of "one last ink color" before settling on this beauty:

Makes you want to run right out and paint your entire kitchen, doesn't it? Okay, maybe not.

I did decide (at Wendy's suggestion, thanks!) to try a blend from the side rather than the top of the image. In the end this color was so subtle that the blend from color-to-nothing didn't really show, although blending one edge into straight transparent base did keep a hard line from forming down the middle of the image.

And here's the result. I had done a bit more carving in the green reflection, so this slightly darker addition put a bit more life in the flat areas. Not overpowering, but enough to give us somewhere to look other than just at the bird.

I'm going to call it done. I have this sudden urge to title it "Lino-coot," but I suppose that's a bit obscure for those not in the printmaking "know." I'll have to think of something else. 

It's nice to have a drying rack full of freshly-pulled linocuts for the holiday... especially since this 8" x 10" image was practice for something coming up. Here's a hint: I ordered 36-inch-wide (!!) unmounted lino this morning. Merry Christmas to me!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It begins with a coot

So here we are in the first day of a new cycle. Several new cycles, in fact. Here in Salida the winter solstice occurred just ten hours ago, and it's time to set things in motion for the year ahead.

But, hm. I have a bit of unfinished business from the previous cycle. This silly ol' coot linocut.

When we last left our chubby buddy, he had just received his red eye and forehead shield, some shadows and some green reflections in which to swim.

A day or two later he got his final application of dark and looked like a full-fledged adult bird. By golly.

And now indecision has crept in. The inspiration for this image comes from a blurry photo I took some time ago. In it, the green reflections are rich, dark, and pine-y. So I tried that.

Hm. Not quite what I hoped. The dark reflection seems to compete too much with the bird. Not to worry... if you look at the right-hand edge of the darker print you'll see that it's torn. The tear happened early on, so this particular one has been a "tester" throughout the entire process. I only pulled this one dark version, and all the rest of the prints still look like the one above it.

But I've been stalled here for a couple of days. I think the darker green is too dark, but I have this nagging feeling that the green reflection is just too bright and flat. I think I'm going to try a blend that has a little more oomph at the top edge of the image and lightens towards the bottom. I did aim to do that with the dark green test, but the gradient wasn't pronounced enough, I don't think. I have another "tester" print in reserve, so I'll see what I can come up with.

What do you think?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Red eyes and transparent ink magic

This morning I mounted some larger lino blocks, still psyching myself up for a couple of more ambitious pieces. I've got water-loving birds on the brain...

In the meantime, things continue to creep forward on the coot linocut.

Though you can rarely see this feature in the field, adult American coots sport a reddish eye and forehead "shield." They are tiny little things and not visible at a distance in either the field or on the print, but I wanted them anyway. It's a job for a little stencil and a stiff brush.

It's a bit more challenging to see what's happening here because I had clear rather than matte acetate at hand. If you look at the corner where the overhead lamp is reflected in the acetate, you can get an idea of what's happening. The clear acetate sheet has two small holes cut in it... one for the eye and one for the shield. I "pounced" the color directly onto each print with a stiff brush and a light touch.

And here is the result with the stencil removed. Get it? Got it. Good.

And now for the magic.

It's time to get some countering dark values into the water, and maybe a little more subtle shading into the bird. The dark values I need to add in the water are green, reflecting a pine tree, but I don't want the bird to start looking "pine-y." Enter our pre-school color theory education.

I mixed up this fabulous blue color. Rather bright and garish, don't you think? Suitable for perhaps balloons or clown costumes.

But I have this wonderful, fresh tub of transparent base, remember... and transparent base is a marvelous, magical thing. There's a healthy scoop of it in this blue. I inked the entire block with this transparent blue, which you can see on the left-hand side of the photo.

Here it is, all printed up! A little too subtle for the camera to show what's happening in the coot, but his shadows remain blue and the water reflection sure enough is green. I love magic, don't you?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More progress on the coot linocut

Things are moving ahead in the studio this week.... a little erratically, perhaps, but they are moving.

A recap of where we were a few days ago:

The third pass on this reduction linocut gave the water ripples more variety, but I decided it wasn't quite enough. I did some more carving and then applied another ochre-to-green pass on the right side of the imge.

More interesting, don't you think?

So now it's time, as I suggested before, to spend a little time with our buddy the coot. It's a funny sort of business here because he's mostly backlit. In case you're not familiar with the American coot, it's a dark gray bird with a black head. I find it challenging to hit the right value in cases like this... There are still some very dark reflections intended in the water and I don't want the bird to either stand out too much or get lost in the dark-to-come. Hm.

This first gray seemed a little wishy-washy, but I tried not to worry about it too much. Hardly any of it will remain in the final image.

Today I added a darker gray, and I flip-flop between thinking it's good and thinking it's too dark. Subsequent passes will decide whether I do, indeed, flip or flop.

Everything's a bit wet now, so there will be a pause of a couple of days before much more happens with this piece.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shows are up, ink is down!

It's good to be home after a wild couple of days on the Front Range, especially since we are finally getting our first real snowfall of the year today. Even though these flakes are not particularly moisture-laden, we appreciate every one of them here in our drought-stricken state. The local ski area, which typically opens the third week in November, has had to lay off all its workers (including management) for lack of snow. Fingers crossed that they get a boost today.

Friday night's opening at Abend Gallery was packed with art-lovers (and some buyers, too, by golly). Thanks to everyone who came out for the opening and for yesterday's demo session. So fun to see some friends I hadn't seen in ages... including Joseph, who I think I last saw 30 years ago! Amazing.

It was all so busy that I of course forgot to take any photos until just before I cleaned up my demo area. Not very interesting to look at, eh?

The show is up through December 29, so catch it if you can.

With all the yakking that went on with friends old and new I almost lost my voice, and I ran out of time to do any printing during my demo! It was so fun to explain the process and to let people handle blocks and tools and samples that time just evaporated.

I did, however, get all the carving done for the next step in the current linocut, so this snowy morning was perfect for a little ink-slinging.

This step added some color to the left side of the block (right side of the print). Here you see the block inked with a blended green-to-yellow-ochre.

And here we have the printed pass side-by-side with the previous stage of the piece.

This image is 8" x 10"– more than twice the size of the magpie – but I think it will be finished more quickly. (Not as many color passes planned.) I've been mentally incubating a larger piece and I'm getting ready to jump in soon. A trip to the lumber yard for a big piece of MDF on which to mount some lino is in order!

Three passes for four colors.
Until then, it's back to the carving table. I believe it's time to start showing some love to the little coot. (Coot. That's his species, not a comment on his personality.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Yellow. And a demo-to-be...

Only the second color and already the jig is up on this linocut. Yeah. Another bird on the water. I just can't seem to help myself. The water patterns are so fun to carve!

Tickled pink (yellow?) am I that yellow-over-blue ink still reads yellow. I've done it the other way 'round (blue over yellow), but this time the blue needed to be the lighter value. Seemed risky, but it worked. Whew!

And guess what! If you're in the Denver area you can be among the first to see what the next color pass looks like because I'll be working on this piece during the free public demonstration session at Abend Gallery this Saturday, December 8. Fourteen artists will be on hand to share their working methods, but I can just about guarantee that I'll be the lone printmaker in a sea of painters. I'd love to see some smiling faces showing some printmaker love, so come on down!

If you can't make it this weekend, demonstrations are scheduled at the gallery every Saturday in December, in conjunction with Abend's 22nd Annual Holiday Miniatures Show. I'll only be in attendance on the 8th, but that shouldn't keep you from checking out what everyone else is up to. And there will be some fine work to ogle, too. I can think of six little linocuts, for example....

22nd Annual Holiday Miniatures Show
Abend Gallery, 2260 E. Colfax Ave, Denver
303-355-0950 | 800-288-3726
Demonstrations: December Saturdays, 11am-3pm

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New lino on the bench

Doesn't look like much yet, does it?

I'm using Awagami Kozo paper, which is a lot more translucent than the old-standby-gone-bad Hosho. But it seems to take ink quite nicely and– really– what more could you ask? (Okay, okay, I know... plenty.)

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...