Friday, March 29, 2013

What's next?

The first few days after the completion of a complex linocut are always strange for me. If I don't have another piece ready to begin I get a little lost. Certainly I have plenty of contract work to keep me from sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but it's just not the same around here without a block in progress. I lose focus and I get... ummmm.... a wee bit crabby.

Thankfully it's not a situation or mood that will last long. April looms, and it's no foolin' that I'll be headed to my residency at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin in just four weeks. In addition to wrapping my mind around the logistics of a steamroller printing event, I need to organize workshops for middle schoolers and prepare a couple of public presentations.

Read: printmaking demonstration. I need a demo piece.

I haven't decided on aforementioned demo piece yet, but I need to get something in progress pronto. I also want to have a piece ready for the steamroller adventure. The particpating students (120 of them!) are carving away on large woodblocks, but I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to try a lino, too. It doesn't seem like linoleum would hold up under that much pressure, but I've heard it can be done. Must. Try. It.

To that end I've started work on a piece of unmounted lino that's almost as big as my drawing table: 24" x 36". My tools seem so tiny....

I'd like to have most of it carved before I go, since my schedule on site is very full. Between this and a new demo piece, well... what the heck am I doing writing a blog post? I have work to do.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wood Duck linocut: The end game

Things got really out of control after step 16 of the wood duck piece. The changes were mostly small and subtle and probably not necessary to the overall image, but I felt compelled to try them. I think that's one of the joys (and potential disasters) of image-making: There's no way to know if an idea will succeed or fail unless one tries it.

So, in quick succession, the wood duck end game:

Step 17: The final darks on the male.
Final dark for the drake. My first attempts were too black and too high-contrast. It was appealing, but not consistent with the flatter value range I was after. In the end I hit on a transparent blue-black overall, slightly darker in the head.

Steps 18 and 19: Tone the reflections.
Here's one shot to represent steps 18 and 19 together. This was a completely obsessive move on my part and it's likely no one will ever notice but me. In flat light the reflections of the birds are hardly distinguishable from the reflection of the tree, but I wanted something to help them set into the water. I printed a transparent blue across the area below the male and a transparent brown below the female. It's barely visible, but I had to try it.

Step 20: Back to the female.
 At this point all that's left is to add some dimension to the female. Here a transparent brown.

Step 21: More tone to the female.
 And now another one.

Step 22: One little tweak to the male's face.
Since I was on an overkill roll, I decided to go ahead and add a tiny bit of orange to the male wood duck's bill. I tried to do this earlier, at the same time I gave the female her pink schnoz, but I couldn't get good adhesion of this miniscule area from the block. This orange "V" was added by hand with a size 5-ought brush. (You know, the kind with about 6 hairs.) Printmaking purists might call a foul (fowl?) here, but I am of the Whatever-It-Takes-To-Get-The-Image school.

Still not quite happy with the overall feel of the female I added one last run of brown in her face and head.

FINALLY! "Shower with a Friend"

I've struggled to photograph the steps of this piece... The effect of light variations in the studio throughout the day seem more pronounced on an image not as "contrasty" as my usual fare. I did finally get a better shot today, and for once I already have a title...

"Shower with a Friend," reduction linocut, 15" x 15" on natural white Awagami kozo.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fieldwork Friday: Fishes

We interrupt the tedium of the wood duck linocut to bring you this moment of aquatic wonder. A months-old sketch of assorted fishes from a zoo excursion. No such beasts roam in the wilds of Colorado, more's the pity.

I'm off to teach a workshop over the weekend, but I promise you'll see the final stages of the wood duck piece when I get back!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wood Duck linocut: Steps 13-16

It's back to that attention-hogging male wood duck for the next step of the linocut-in-progress. It's nice, however, that he's starting to feel like a solid being and not a disjointed collection of color shapes.

Step 13
The water is very flat, but I don't want to go too crazy with it. My tendency is to get lost in all the fun contrasting shapes, but this time I'm trying to keep everything in a slightly more subdued palette. It is raining, after all.

A transparent blended green was rolled onto the entire block at this stage, which I like to do in order to tie everything together. Sort of like a thin glaze in painting.

Step 14. Livening up the water. Blended green roll printed.

Step 15. A little more action in the water.
Looking pretty okay, but I wanted some more action without letting the overall background get too busy. One more solid green pass over the entire block brought everything around.

Step 16. Things get silly.
There are two tiny shapes of color in the bills of both the male and the female. Really ridiculous to put them in, so of course that's right where I went. I temporarily abandoned the color for the male's bill... I might try to put it in by hand later. But the female now looks a bit like Jimmy Durante, with a big pink schnoz.

Everything is very tacky-wet at this stage... a lesson in patience when the end seems so near. But then again, I think I see five more things that need to be done before it's finished. (sigh)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wood Duck linocut: Steps 9 - 12

The urge to just get ON with this linocut was strong after all those pesky little steps, so I took a deep breath and inked up the entire block with a transparent green.

Step 9: Some context
At last we have some context for these critters! If you're surprised that they are in the water then you either haven't been following this blog for long or you haven't been paying attention. It's a theme you can expect to see a lot of in the year ahead, as I prepare for an exhibition about seabirds in 2014. Not that wood ducks are seabirds, mind you. I just meant they were birds and they were in the water. Oh, nevermind.

Satisfaction with big progress was short-lived, unfortunately. We're back to that attention-demanding male again.

Step 10: Elvis has left the building.
Some bright green for His Drakenessship's handsome pate, and then some bright red for his wandering eye and smooth-talking bill. Yes, I've imagined him quite the Don Juan.

Step 11: Red eye and bill.
But really, it's time to start giving a little love to the female, don't you think? She's been quite patient up to this point.

Step 12: Enter the love interest.
It's all looking very awkward at this stage. I'd chew my nails, but they're already destroyed by a dozen rounds of inking and clean-up. And we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wood Duck linocut: Steps 5 - 8

So yes, indeed, the subject matter for this linocut is the flamboyant wood duck. Well, the male wood duck is flamboyant, anyway.

It's a strange critter to try to do in reduction because there are SO MANY colors on the silly thing. Probably a multi-block approach would have been more efficient, but since when has being a printmaker had the slightest thing to do with efficiency?

Step 5: Surprise! He's not alone.
So far we have the initial blue-gray pass, then two yellows and the rust. But here's a surprise... perhaps you hadn't noticed the small white marks below our handsome male-to-be! Looks like he's going to have a sidekick.

Step 6. Another yellow?
But the male is demanding more attention [insert your preferred commentary here], so it's back to his side for a third yellow. I suspect that as things progress I will find this was overkill, but I tend to err on the side of inefficiency, remember?

Step 7: A second rusty color.

By this point I'm starting to feel impatient with all these noodly little shapes, but it's not quite time to make a bold move yet. A bright blue provides some cheer, at least.

Step 8: Cheery blue

Friday, March 15, 2013

Here we go again: New linocut in progress

Today I turned the corner in the progress of this new linocut, so I've decided it's safe to start sharing it with you. It might be cruel to tell you I'm up to color 15 when I'm only going to share the first four steps right now... but be honest. You LIKE the suspense. And there's no way you'd want to wade through a single post of all the steps at once, anyway. Is there?

This is another large-ish piece: 15" x 15." And I think before too many steps go by you might detect a theme....

Step 1: Do you know what it is yet? There's actually enough information here,
if you can see it.

The strange thing about this piece is that I'm doing a bit of reduction-within-reduction. The first several steps were all inked through a mask and just a tiny portion of the block was removed after each color. (Full disclosure: I did a bit of rough Photoshopping on this image in an attempt to conceal the identity of the subject for at least half the post. Hi, Jacque!)

First mask, step 2
Step 2 printed
Step 3, a second yellow
Step 4. North American birders are probably on to me by now.

I think the tricky bit will be holding those thin white lines through all of the steps yet to come. Registration gods, please smile upon me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


The Sawatch Range from Frantz Lake, Salida

Why, yes. Yes, it has been very quiet here at Brush and Baren. There is plenty of work going on in the studio, but I'm not quite ready to share it. Perhaps by the end of this week.

In addition to burnishing my shoulders and wrists into oblivion I'm also wrapping up work on a project for the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, and getting two new contract projects underway. There are FOUR (count 'em) major exhibition jury deadlines coming up in April. AND I'm trying to wrap my brain around a week of linocut workshops and a steamroller printing event at the Woodson Art Museum at the beginning of May.

Maybe it's a (still-entirely-too-far-away) spring vibe. I'm spending an awful lot of energy putting an enormous number of things in motion– the benefits of which won't be reaped until the end of the summer.

This morning, however, I'd had quite enough of all of that and took myself out for a walk in "my patch." I've spent the last ten years cruising this same 3.5-mile loop, keeping erratic tabs on the comings and goings of plants and animals and fencelines. All the bird linocuts I've been making lately? Most have been inspired by adventures in my patch.

It's been a week since I stopped by Frantz Lake, during which time almost all the ice vanished. The surface of the lake has hosted ice skaters and fishermen and no birds for months, but this morning there was a feathered party going on! Ducks, geese, mergansers... a grebe. I spied this lone snow goose consorting with its Canada goose cousins... and immediately wondered if it might not be the same solitary snow goose that spent several weeks hanging out with its cousins last year at this time. No way to know.

The beavers did a number on the massive willow tree "on the corner" of the lake earlier this winter. When they cleaned out the damaged tree limbs property managers did a number on other vegetation there, too. It all looks pretty ratty at the moment, but I'm hopeful it will recover this summer. There's a western scrub jay loitering on this corner now– my first at this location. Red-winged blackbirds singing. Goldfinches. Last week there was even one of those pesky common redpolls that have been popping up all over the country and making birders twitchy.

The last ice on Frantz Lake. Methinks I smell a linocut here.
I don't have any sketches to show for today's adventure, but it was more than wonderful to  spend some time with my favorite subject outside the studio instead of in.

Back to work now.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gannet linocut: Really finished this time

Gannets, reduction linocut, 16" x 12"

It's a small fix, and I'm not completely satisfied with it, but at least I don't feel like I've left something undone now.

The top bird's lower wing.. the primary coverts were a single flat (too dark) color because I forgot to carve out the lighter bits WAY early on. After several (lousy) attempts I finally hit on a light color to add back and break up the solid shape without looking too clunky.

So... what's next? I'm not entirely sure... I have ducks and sparrows and a landscape in the queue.... Time to go shuffle images around and see what clamors loudest for my attention.

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...