Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy End of the Old Year!

Oh, beloved readers of Brush and Baren, my apologies for long silence this month. I've been down with The Crud for a couple of weeks, during which time I was also technically homeless. I'm still coughing but finally upright and returned to my temporary housing situation, so almost ready to return to adventures in printmaking.

Today I felt well enough for a little walk around my patch... which probably did more for my recovery than the assortment of meds I've been chugging.


While I was out I picked up a couple of little willow twigs to bring back and draw. It's been too, too long since I have drawn anything just for me, which seems clear when I regard my impatience with the process and my less-than-stellar results. But I did it, and that was good.



My plans for the remainder of this week include continued recovery (oh please oh please), some year-end administrative tasks, and some print time. It's safe to say that 2013 has been one of my least favorite years ever,* so I'm looking forward to putting this one on a shelf and getting a fresh start in the new year.

(As a friend said recently, "It's enough to make one triskaidekaphobic!" So one good thing that came out of this year: a legitimate excuse to use that word in a sentence!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the puffin

Things in puffinland have ended somewhat anti-anticlimactically. After more layers of gray than I care to think about, I started work on the background.

Puffin linocut: Step 10

After this grayer-to-brighter blue blend I had ambitions that involved waves and surf and assorted other intrigues. But I was never satisfied with the shapes I carved or the colors I mixed, so in the end I decided that simple was best. This image is only 5" x 7," after all. All that other stuff just made it too busy, so out it came.

One final blue-black and our lone puffin perches pensively on a chunk of rock in unknown seas.

Puffin linocut: Step 11

Well, they're known seas, actually. You might not have noticed before, but this particular bird is wearing some jewelry around its legs. A little research on my part will be required to understand if the double silver bands mean he (she?) was hatched at Eastern Egg Rock, off the coast of Maine,where we encountered each other. It's an important part of the story that I hope to tell when all of the work for next summer's exhibition is complete.

In the meantime...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Buena Vista Holiday Artwalk!

I'll be participating in this event for the first time this weekend. Look for me at the former Coggins building, the temporary home of the Chaffee County Arts Council, southeast corner at the traffic light in Buena Vista, Colorado.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Linocut in Progress: Back to the Puffin

For now the decision on the laughing gulls is no decision at all. Thankfully I have plenty of time before that particular piece is "due" for next summer's exhibition at the Puffin Project Visitor Center in Rockland, Maine. It's back to the little puffin.

The puffin is destined for Maine, too, of course... but it seemed like it would be a smaller and less complex piece to mess around with for a while. (BZZZT! Wrong! Well, right about the "smaller" bit, but not about the "less complex" bit.)

So let's see. After the "unifying" gray of Step 5 I added the gray to the bill. Just two tiny shapes, accomplished with a mask and spot inking.

Puffin linocut: Step 6
And then another, sort of mid-gray to bring some more detail to the rocks and some contrast to the puffin's head.

Puffin linocut: Step 7

And then I hemmed and hawed for a while. There are more grays to go into this piece, but in what order? I wanted to get something going in the background, which I tried... but then I decided it was too soon. I'm concerned about building up too many ink layers in the background, but I also don't want to build up too many in the bird. Finally the advantage of the way my friend and colleague Andrea Rich works is made apparent.

Andrea does reduction prints, but she typically reduces at least two blocks. One "foreground" and one "background." I've never tried this, but I'm sure that it keeps the buildup of ink layers to a minimum when applying dozens of colors (as I seem prone to lately). Methinks my next piece might head in that direction if it appears it's going to involve an excess of colors. The problem with this technique, in my mind, is that it does require planning and forethought... never one of my strong suits when it comes to printmaking. (Which those of you who know anything about my tendency to obsessive organization and planning in every other aspect of my life should find incredibly amusing. Or at least puzzling. I know I do.)

ANYWAY... back to the puffin in question and another gray.

Puffin linocut: Step 8
Okay. The rocks are looking good and the bird is getting some volume, but I'm not happy with how much contrast there will be between this tone and what I imagine to be the ultimate black of the bird. More hemming and hawing. My options appear to be these:

a) Do I add another gray and THEN work on the background? This increases the amount of ink layers in the background and will affect the colors that go on top of it.

b) Do I add another gray and then spot ink the black and THEN work on the background? I don't like this idea because my spot ink shapes are never as precise as cut shapes, and the black bird shape is critical to the final piece.

c) Do I add another gray and then black over the ENTIRE block... and THEN work the background? Risky. What if the water ends up looking murky? Then again, what if it looks COOL?

d) Do I skip the gray, work the background for a while, then come back to add a gray and the black? This could be problematic if my background layers build up too much and interfere with the bird.

Ooph.

In the end I decided on one more gray (the first half of choices a, b, and c) but now I have to choose what comes next again. I think I'm headed to the background. Stay tuned.

Puffin linocut: Step 9

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back to the Laughing Gulls: To Sea or Not to Sea.... that is the question!

Work continues on the little puffin, but while I wait for ink to dry I decided to take another look at the laughing gull linocut.

In my original design I had these birds sharing a joke on a rock in the Gulf of Maine because that IS, after all, where they are. But as work continued on the piece I thought it might be getting too "busy," so I ignored that upper corner.

I had lots of technical problems with this piece, so I have plenty of rejects to play with before I give up on an edition. Today I pulled one of those rejects out and ran a bright blue just to see what it would look like.

To sea or not to sea? Click to embiggen and help me decide!

Hm. Okay. What do you think? If I DO use the blue, I would probably add a second, subtle tone just to keep it from being a flat shape. Too much? Or just what the jokesters ordered?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Linocut in Progress: I am thankful for ink! and tools! and paper! and blog readers! (That's you!)

It's Thanksgiving day here in the Heart of the Rockies, sunny and bright after last weekend's big storm. I'm taking advantage of the quiet day to get a little work done in the studio before joining friends for supper this evening.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I started a new little linocut before completely resolving the question of the laughing gull piece. This piece is just 5 x 7 inches, so it's kind of like doodling in the margins while trying to figure out a larger issue.

So. Here we go.
Puffin linocut: Step 1

The problem with puffins is that they are immediately identifiable even with just one color pass completed. Where's the fun in that?

And of course I'm again confronted with that ludicrous puffin bill. The yellows and red do not appear anywhere else in the image, so there's no point in inking up the entire block. I cut a mask from mylar and used it for selective inking of the next three steps.

Masking for spot inking
Spot ink in place, mask removed
Puffin linocut: Step 2
Puffin linocut: Step 3. Camera failed to capture the difference
between the first yellow and the second.
Puffin linocut: Step 4. I expanded the area of the face mask and
cut a second mask for the legs.
Things were looking spotty... which always makes me uncomfortable. The next step was to print a transparent gray over the entire block, both to add a level of tone and to tie everything back together.

Puffin linocut: Step 5.
It also added some shading to the lower part of the bird's bill without having to resort to printing another red. Here's a detail:


Fun, eh? There's some gray to go back into two areas of this bill. I could have cut those areas out earlier, but I want them to feel more opaque. It means one more little mask area, but I can live with that. Then it will be time to tackle rocks and water again. I'm already a little... um.... challenged... by the idea that a body of work about seabirds in Maine could involve a lot of the same sort of background habitat. I think my next piece will break out of that... at least a little. But for now... rocks and waves, here I come!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Introducing the Art•Full Gift Guide Artists! A Guest Post of Sorts....

Recently I was invited to join a group of my artist friends to celebrate and share each other's work through creation of an Art•Full Gift Guide. It's not a book or catalog, it's a network! How twenty-first century of us!

From now until Christmas we're sending weekly updates to our individual mailing lists (you can sign up for mine here), so I'd like to take some column inches to introduce my comrades-in-arts.

In their own words... here's what and why they create!


Vicki Bolen: Crane chains are made from Tyvek, a material more durable than paper. Chains are approximately 15 inches long and can also include beads and bailing wire.

ABOUT THE CRANES
The cranes will fly, without a cry
stay out in the rain, with this refrain:
we will not fade, of tyvek we are made
miracle plastic Vicki can fold
can stay outside, winter, snow, and cold
as symbols, know as beings of peace
like prayer flags flapping in the breeze......

_______________________________________________________

Merry Cox: The use of the discarded and the found lends itself to a good story.

Approaching Merry Cox’s studio, the first thing you will notice are the piles stacked up on the porch: all junk (raw materials) waiting to become art.
Raw materials: Junk from the cast-offs of our society
Inspiration and influences: Nature recycles everything and is an extraordinary designer.
Recognizes: Nature bats last

Merry wants people to recognize the phenomenal abilities of nature. At first when she considered collaborating with other peoples’ used up and thrown out traces, she was overwhelmed with all the junk, all the stuff discarded. Actually she was amazed that all of this was coveted, purchased and thrown away.
While wandering aimlessly, exploring the edges of the rubbish piles, she came to see the piles as an immense amount of fabulous raw materials for her sculpture.
Who used this stuff?
The details of people's lives got dumped. While stories spin in her head of who they were, she wants to try and give new life to someone's old things, folding them into her ideas of the wild, the open and the uninhabited.

_______________________________________________________

“Colorful, thought provoking and humorous.”  Kay Cummins inspirits this phrase AND her work does too!

Growing up in a thrifty household, I was always determined to get the most out of something.  I started thinking “outside the Box” very early and my experience with Found Objects travels along this path, but with my trained artistic eye.
When pals join me on a search for Found Objects or “truly good Junk” they are amazed at the potential I see as I travel through piles chatting about this and that.  They often say things like “how did you come up with that idea” or “you’re really going to buy all of THAT”?  There is definitely something about my process that is innate, but I have to work hard at the technical skills needed to transform the “stuff” and the idea into the finished piece of jewelry.

What’s a Found Object?  Simply put, it is an item that is treasured by someone for its artistic value although it may not actually be precious.  Most of us acquire and keep things because we like them, a stone or shell from a vacation, a toy from childhood, etc.  Some of my current Found Objects are vintage billiard balls, game pieces, lunch boxes and tins, computer keys, cocktail glasses and more.

Ideas evolve from the found object.  I often ask myself “What can I do with this?”  I think about the possible theme, what I like about the item, what wordplay could work.  Sometimes this is immediate; other times it hangs out in my studio for months.  Ideas come all the time so I have a notebook and doodle so an idea isn’t lost! 

My goal? To make the world a little more colorful and put smiles on peoples faces.  I love being an artist!  No doubt it is hard work.  But I wouldn’t trade what I do with anyone.


 _______________________________________________________

Lynn VanDeWater DeCew: My love of embellishment, decoration, layers and pattern is fed by my mixed media style of painting.  I draw, stencil and block print on patterned paper which is applied  to stretched canvas. I then paint over this patterned base. I use gold leaf and iridescent paint, so each painting changes with the light and point of view. My images and inspirations are drawn from a wide range of traditions: Indian Saris, Japanese Kimono, Northern Renaissance still-lives, to name just a few.

My work is unusual and evocative of nature and history, and exotic places.  It is affordable for its quality size and originality.  I also welcome commissions.  I enjoy working with people and finding what art work they would love to live with.

Art work enhances our everyday lives, and our individual tastes and choices speak for us in this world of conformity. 


 _______________________________________________________

Karin Frye: "I've been amazed at the popularity of my sunwear and reading glasses!" Karin says. "Women of all ages are looking for eyewear that 'makes a statement'...and they love the way the bright colors enhance their coloring. And the 'forty plus' crowd finds that wearing reading glasses isn't quite as painful when the reaction from others is so positive."

Reacting to buyers' comments that "color on my face looks great," Frye devised her company's slogan of "art for the face."

Frye is a self-taught artist living in Colorado. She has an extensive background in designing home decorative furnishings and accessories. Karin has created whimsical, hand-painted chairs and dressers, canvas floor cloths and, her latest passion, impressionistic ceramic dish-ware. 

_______________________________________________________

Nicole and Harry Hansen, Sterling & Steel: “We both love the metal, the plasticity of it,” says Nicole Hansen, half of Sterling and Steel, a partnership of two metalsmiths.

“The irony is that people don’t think of metal as something soft and transformative,” adds Harry Hansen, her partner in art and spouse of 20 years.

“There’s magic in starting with a flat piece of metal and transforming it into something useable,” says Nicole. “It makes my stomach feel tingly.”

 “It’s artwork with utility,” finishes Harry.

Their words twine like their work, sculptural housewares that blend steel--much of it recycled from objects found in scrap metal piles--with sterling. Harry, a farrier with a busy practice who trained on a horse ranch, is steel; Nicole, who majored in fine arts at Northern Arizona University, is sterling.

Their art goes back generations--you could say the Hansens were each born to their particular metal. Harry’s line worked with steel: his great-grandfather was a horse trainer of some renown in Nebraska, his grandfather, a steel-working shipbuilder, his dad a jack of all trades who was an ace welder.

Nicole’s Jewish forebears were smiths specializing in precious metals. Her mother, who went to Skidmore and Yale in Fine Arts, trained Nicole’s father in goldsmithing.

The two Hansens met in 1991 in Sedona, Arizona, where Harry worked on a horse ranch and Nicole visited her aunt and uncle the summer before college. They married in 1993 and began working together after they moved to rural south-central Colorado.

Two kids and building a house slowed their collaborative art for a while, but not their desire to work together to create hand-made objects that as Nicole says, “have a connection to the heart. Work that invites a relationship that, like the metal we forge, grows stronger over a lifetime and beyond.”

“The marriage of sterling and steel,” the two artists agree, “reflects our marriage, a collaboration drawn on the best parts of contrasting natures.”

_______________________________________________________

Jerry Scavezze, Goldsmith:  I think of my work more as sculpture than jewelry. People approach you from all different directions, why shouldn’t your jewelry look good from all sides as well?  My work is very 3 dimensional, lightweight and has a lot of movement inherent in the pieces.The reflection of light off of the curved surfaces contributes to the feeling of motion as does the physical movement of the piece on the body.

My current work is called done using a process called "Anticlastic Raising". The jewelry is all formed with polished hammers of varying shapes and sizes. No molds or castings are used. Each piece is individually made.

My art jewelry is literally hand raised from a flat sheet of gold into the strong, lightweight, elegant pieces that defines our unique contribution to metal-smithing. Stones, pearls, colored accents are sprinkled throughout our designs as punctuation marks and added drama to our already fluid forms.

_______________________________________________________

Toni Tischer, Tischer Studios:
Art Jewelry has been my passion for over eighteen years.
I am a dedicated goldsmith committed to exploring my own esthetic in connection with anticlastic and synclastic forms both in jewelry and other functional pieces. 

Anticlastic forming shows off well in larger sculpture. I however, have spent the last eighteen years playing with smaller more feminine ribbons. My hand-forged designs, which incorporate the use of stones and color in conjunction with different metals, give my work a unique look. My designs have long been incorporated into and been a part of a continuing relationship with Scavezze/Goldsmith.  Here I am able to offer my new work as Tischer Studios.
_______________________________________________________  

(I think you already know this one:)
Sherrie York:
Blame it all on chickens and a guy named Richard.

Nearly 30 years ago a drawing professor (that Richard fellow) took me and my classmates to his neighbor's yard to sketch chickens. Squabbling, running, jostling, chattering chickens. It was dusty and hot and chaotic, and the delight of the experience never left me.

In fact, that afternoon planted a seed that continues to grow– a twisty vine constantly searching for moments of windblown or river-soothed authenticity.

These days I work primarily as a relief printmaker, although I still paint watercolors from time to time and am never, ever far from a pencil and sketchbook.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Linocut in progress: Laughing gull end game. Or is it?

This computer-and-internet-only-at-the-studio thing is a little inconvenient! I fall behind on blog posts because at the end of a printing day I'm hungry and want to go home for supper. Like now. So don't expect insightful commentary– I have curry waiting.

Anyway. Where were we?

Laughing gull linocut: Step 13

Oh right. I followed the questionable yellow with an equally questionable green.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 14
And then a second, slightly less questionable but still not quite what I wanted green.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 15
Finally, a pass of transparent gray to push the bottoms of the plants down behind the rocks. Better.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 16
And then the final black in the birds. I really wanted to fuss with the greens some more, but at this point the ink is on too thick for me to have much success hand-rubbing. I could call this done.... except....

In my original design there's a triangle of blue in the upper left of the image. The sea! These birds are telling jokes on an island in the Gulf of Maine, after all. But I've been afraid of that corner and ignored it all this time. I have three or four known rejects in the edition... bad register or a tear in the paper... so I'll pull those out and mess around with the idea.

But until my courage returns I can't sit around twiddling my thumbs, so I started a new little piece today. My drying rack is happily full of laughing gulls and a seabird-to-be-named-later! Time for curry!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Linocut in Progress: Laughing gulls continue

Well... THAT week got away from me. I had a little "studio warming" party here yesterday and everything just sort of built to that end. But progress continues on the laughing gulls.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 10
Here our mirthful pair started to find themselves in a habitat. This pass was an ochre-to-brown blended roll. I'm struggling with some ink rejection here... a function, I think, of mis-judged drying times in the new space.

It's REALLY warm in here. The building has radiant in-floor heat and is kept at a constant temperature which exceeds that of my former home studio. (In fact, it exceeds the temperature of any place I've lived or worked EVER. I am a cheapskate when it comes to the thermostat.) In addition, my lovely studio window faces south, which in the High Rockies winter means acute passive solar gain.

I'm accustomed to things really slowing down once I get past 3 or 4 color passes and I wanted to move this piece along, so I did something I don't usually do. I added a little cobalt drier to my inks.

Bad move, I think. The next day everything was TOO dry.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 11

So. The blue ink that followed for the shadow contained a judicious amount of Setswell compound to loosen the ink and help even out the coverage. Better. But it took a LOT of spoon-rubbing. And I had to keep my window open to keep myself from over-heating.

Laughing gull linocut: Step 12

Hm. Not too sure about this yellow. It makes the shadow blue look REALLY blue. But most of it will get covered up in subsequent passes, so I'm hopeful that it will all work out. Experiment and learning is the name of the game, after all... especially when trying to understand a new work space! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Linocut in Progress: Laughing gulls smirking

Laughing gull linocut: Step 8

Well, I couldn't take much of that bad-lipstick look, so I did a little spot inking and put a layer of transparent black on the birds' heads. Easy enough to do because all of the material in the area around the heads has now been removed from the block.

Spot-inking the birds' heads.

It's not the final black, but it's enough to keep me from being distracted by the ungraceful red shapes.


Oh look. Another gray. This one with some blue to it.

You might have noticed that my application of ink seems ragged and uneven. That's partially intentional and partially not. I'm experiencing some technical difficulties in my new space, I think mostly having to do with temperature regulation and drying times. But I also find a certain charm in allowing the texture of the paper to take precedence, so I'm doing a little experimenting. I hope it doesn't come back to bite me. Smirk, perhaps. But not bite.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Linocut in Progress: Laughing gulls

Many thanks to fellow printmakers who commiserated with the minor geographic inconvenience of a studio away from the house. It's good to know one isn't alone in one's 'druthers, and I quite liked being the clearinghouse for "guilty" studio habit secrets. ;-)

I'm finding weekends to be my best times in this new space, mostly because I have the building more or less to myself. During the week other offices have folks coming and going, which I find unsettling. Yes, another studio quirk: I like to have as much control over my soundscape as possible. You know how important it is to have quiet when one is playing Star Trek episodes as background company for the umpty-bazillionth time.

Slowly but surely the birds have begun to emerge in this linocut-in-progress.

Laughing gull linocut, Step 5
Given their postures you probably won't be at all surprised to learn that I'm working on a species called "laughing gull." Of course seabird researchers will tell you that their incessant calling is not the least bit funny when you're sharing an island with them for weeks on end.

Laughing gull linocut, Step 6
There is at least one more gray to go, but at this point I was getting pretty darn tired of the same inks over and over so I decided to do some spot printing in the birds' bills. I think here that they look like either old ladies or two-year-olds with questionable lipstick application skills.

Laughing gull linocut, Step 7
And then back to gray. Obviously Steps 6 and 7 were shot at two different times of day... Step 6 is entirely too dark overall. That would have been a night shot. Many are the times I've found myself wandering out of here after dark– not a huge stretch since it's dark by 5:30 pm. Thank goodness the winter solstice is only what? Six weeks away? Five? But who's counting?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Linocut in progress: Finding a rhythm

Studio F up and running
Slowly but surely I'm developing a new daily routine. My studio space is, according to the GPS on my phone, 6/10 of a mile from where I'm living. This is the furthest my work space has been from my living space... ever... so it's taking a bit of adjustment.

No more printing in my pajamas, for example. I am obliged to get dressed before arriving in the studio, especially since it is my intention to walk between home and work each day and winter is approaching. My jammies are cozy, but they're not weatherproof.

If I intend to spend the day here, as I did today, I also need to bring a lunch unless I want to start a bad fast food habit. No more tripping off to the kitchen when the mood strikes. This could be a good thing.

The studio is also the only place where I have internet, which puts a damper on my evening working AND surfing habits. It has been fairly typical that I don't settle down to work until late afternoon and then work into the evening when I have contract assignments... but no more! At least for now. And no more compulsive checking of Facebook when I'm not sure what else to do with myself. (Thank goodness.)

So far I find I like the focus. I've been coming into the studio in the morning, spending an hour or two catching up on long-neglected administrative tasks, and then turning my attention to the print bench. Lovely.

Two new passes have been accomplished on the linocut-in-progress since Saturday's check-in.

Laughing gull linocut - Step 3
 Step 3 involved a blend of the previous two inks, made slightly lighter and more opaque with the addition of white. Light ink over a darker tone might seem counter-intuitive, but can really be striking in some instances. This particular application is subtle and early in the game, so not really any big deal.

Laughing gull linocut - Step 4
Step 4 involved a false start. Initially I tried another blended roll of the previous two colors darkened with a brown. Eh. Not effective and not really necessary, so I cleaned the block and the ink slab and instead printed a solid but transparent darker gray-blue. Better.

The next step involves some rather tedious delicate carving of bird feathers and rocks. Fun times.

Tomorrow, however, my schedule includes several appointments elsewhere so I'm not likely to get to the studio. EEK! This is where the new setup becomes challenging. What do you mean I can't at least wander through the studio and rearrange my tools before I go to bed?

Ah, well. I might throw the block and my tools in my backpack and take them with me when I leave this evening. I can always go back to making lino crumbs at the kitchen table, just as I did in my early printmaking days. :-)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Linocut in progress: Hooray!

Ahhhhhhh.........
Back to work!


Three simultaneous moves are finally completed! I'm more or less settled for now, so took advantage of the first opportunity in weeks to spend all day in the studio. I caught up with a contract project that needed a small change, took care of some administrative tasks, and happily started work on a new linocut.


The first two colors made it to the page... a pale blue for some shadows and a pale tan for some background rocks. I haven't given a whole lot of thought to what happens next... I was just so anxious to be slinging ink that I dove right in. Now that I've started I can slow down and consider my path.


It's sunny and warm enough up here today that I've got the window wide open, but all that is supposed to change next week. Snow in the forecast for Monday into Tuesday. I'm ready to hunker down and get work done, so bring it on!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Drive-by Posting

Lacawac Sanctuary, PA

Hi everyone.... It's going to be a few more days before I can regale you with a proper post. Tomorrow will be the "final" push to move my stuff into storage... then I have until next Thursday to unload an entire room full of discards and get myself schlepped to temp digs. Argh.

I stopped in to the studio today for the first time in more than a week and it was all I could do to make myself walk back out again to come home and finish packing. Want to print. Now.

As a peace offering I share with you two photos from last week's exploratory trip to northeastern Pennsylvania. More on this later.

Yay! A day of canoeing and visiting with a buddy on the Perkiomen.