Monday, May 27, 2013

Linocut in progress: Columbine Part 2

Carrying on with the blue columbine reduction linocut. Not a lot to show in terms of steps, but plenty of drama...

Step 4
Difficult to tell here, but this was a third purple-blue color. And then? Whoosh! Big change!

Step 5

It took a few tries to hit the right tone with this step... a blended blue-green to yellow-green. I'm still a little worried that it might have been too much dark too soon, but I'm hoping it's okay. We'll find out on the next pass.

The surprise here is that I'm doing a big (for me) edition. I'm starting with 50+ prints, a far cry from my usual 15-20. It's a small image, just 5x7-inches, but fifty is a lot for me to print with a baren.

It IS awfully fun to see them all lined up (back-to-back, even!) on a full drying rack, though.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Linocut in progress: Columbine

There's been a bit of steamroller postpartum here at Brush and Baren. I've been looking through sketchbooks and photos on a quest for a new, strong linocut image and coming up short. It all seems so... pedestrian.

When I'm feeling a little "stuck" like this it sometimes helps to work on something smaller, less intimidating. Something I can experiment with and stumble around with until I get my groove back.

Enter the columbine, in 5 x 7 format.

Step 1

The blue columbine (Aquilegia coerulea) is Colorado's state flower and the namesake for everything from bike shops and dental offices to a high school and its tragedy. I hadn't considered that when I started this piece, but given that it's Memorial Day weekend here in the US perhaps it's appropriate for more than just a creative jumpstart.

Step 2
Step 3

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Where were we? Oh, right. Magpie linocut demo.

So 'way back in April... almost exactly a month ago, in fact... I started a demonstration piece to work on during my residency at the Woodson Art Museum. Do you remember it? Magpie? Fencepost? Swoopy background?

You can go back and look at the steps in the April 22 post if you like, or you can be satisfied with this "steps-up-to-the-point-at-which-it-went-in-a-box-and-got-shipped" photo.

Remember it now?

All that was left was the final color, which for reasons of practicality I decided would be plain ol' black. Fortunately it worked out to pull a couple of prints during the demos, but I still had the rest of the edition to finish when I returned home.

Here's the completed piece. I didn't really have any expectations for it, since I threw it together rather quickly, but I like the way it turned out. A bit "designier" than I've been doing lately, and only seven colors! (What?)

"Magpie Waits," reduction linocut, 6" x 9"
 I may go back and mess around with the gerenuk demo piece some more now, or I may just put it aside and start something new (more likely). It will be good to get back into a working rhythm again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fieldwork Friday: Mesa Verde road trip

The view from Park Point, Mesa Verde National Park

Summer almost always escapes before I get a chance to appreciate it. Exhibitions, workshops, and contract projects fill the calendar May through September, and when October arrives I feel like a kid who spent their summer vacation with a fever and only got better when school started.

Thank goodness, then, that we managed to squeak in a quick camping trip earlier this week. Mesa Verde National Park is about 4.5 hours from Salida, and centuries away from my busy daily life. I hadn't been there in at least 15 years, so it was time to get acquainted again.


Spring has been slow to arrive there, too, although leaf-out and bloom seemed to accelerate through the three days we were in the park. I love Mesa Verde for its dramatic landscape and wildlife (we saw snakes and lizards and bats, lots of birds, and heard coyotes) and for the opportunity to contemplate the long history of our continent's native peoples.

Cliff Palace. Guided tours take visitors through the remains of this
spectacular construction. Let's just say one begins the tour on the mesa top
on the left side, climbs down to explore the ruins, and climbs out via
ladders and narrow stone steps on the right. How do I always end up
in places that challenge my discomfort with heights?

Centuries before Europeans arrived in North America, the ancestors of today's pueblo peoples settled in the Four Corners region, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet. Around 550 CE the Ancestral Puebloans lived and farmed on the area's mesa tops, eventually moving into the alcoves of the canyon walls below around 1200. By 1300 they had abandoned all of it and the area was deserted. Why they moved from the mesas to the cliffs and then dispersed is a matter of mystery, study, and speculation.

Coming into Cliff Palace.
Exploring the site.

I enjoy turning puzzles like this around in my head, coming away with questions rather than answers, and with a renewed sense of awe. A few days of watching and wondering are my kind of reality check.

Of course really good sunsets help, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exhibition News!

In all the excitement of my Woodson Art Museum residency and just-completed camping trip to Mesa Verde National Park (more on this later), I have neglected to announce the equally exciting news of my acceptance in three significant juried exhibitions.

I'll have two pieces, "Lurking" and "Falling" at the National Small Print Show in Creede, Colorado. Show opens May 25 at the Creede Repertory Theatre. "Falling" will also be included in the traveling exhbition, which heads to the Evergreen Center for the Arts, Evergreen, Colorado, on July 15.

The Society of Animal Artists' 53rd Annual Exhibition, Art and the Animal, will run August 31-October 31 at The Bennington Center for the Arts in Vermont, and my linocut "Wave Runners" will be among the accepted pieces.

Last, but most certainly not least, I am delighted to share that "Coot du Jour" was juried into the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's prestigious Birds in Art exhibition. Birds in Art opens in Wausau, Wisconsin September 7 and runs through November 10.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Im-pressive Week Rolled By!

What an adventure!

I returned late last night from my week-long residency at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, tired-but-wired after a fantastic experience. Today has been spent in the usual post-trip tasks– plodding through mail and hundreds of emails, filing receipts, paying some bills... dumping the contents of my suitcase next to the washing machine.

So it seems like it's time to take a little break from all that and share with you some highlights from my week.  I took paltry few photos myself, but the good folks at the Woodson are on the ball. All the images here are courtesy of the museum.

Putting the final color on the magpie demonstration piece.

In the week preceding the steamroller event I worked with about 200 middle and high school students to create small relief prints in lino and foam, and shared a "slide" show and print demonstration with adult visitors. Wisconsin State Representative Mandy Wright came to class one morning and tried her hand at a little printing, too.

Good technique, Mandy!

But the Big Event loomed large in our thoughts. Fortunately "our" steamroller had been delivered right before I arrived in Wausau, so Wednesday afternoon the staff and I gathered in the parking lot for a test run.

That's Dave in the orange shirt. Great job, Dave!

Museum facilities staffer Dave Jones carved an image inspired by a sculpture by Charlotte Darling-Diehl. We inked up his block, fired up the equipment and voila! Our first steamroller print! 

We also ran a test of the 24 x 36-inch lino I carved here in my studio. Compared to the 36 x 48 blocks the students would bring it suddenly seemed a bit wimpy! 

View from the driver's seat.
But hey! It turns out one can print lino with a steamroller. It held up just fine under pressure.

Suddenly it all became real. We were going to do this! (And it was going to work!) Wednesday night I was a happy camper and couldn't wait for Saturday.

And then came Thursday. 
Cloudy... rainy... cold Thursday. Snow in the forecast for parts of Wisconsin which might or might not include Wausau. I tried not to worry too much.

And then came Friday. At noon on Friday the trees on the museum grounds wore a blanket of ice. Freezing rain slicked the grass. I adjusted my expectations from "good weather" to "not horrible weather."

It took me a good 20 minutes to find the courage to lift the curtain and look outside Saturday morning. Not raining... Good. Not windy... excellent. And dare I imagine it? The clouds seem to be thinning. All systems go!

By noon the sun was out and we were off and running. I mean rolling. Over 100 area high school students had worked in teams to carve the 3x4-foot woodblocks, and we had 19 to put under the steamroller. 

Inking begins!
Moving the inked block into place
Placing the fabric
Pulling a print!
Wall of wonderfulness. Eventually we had prints all the way down the block! Click to embiggen.

After we pulled two prints each, the teen artists inked up their blocks again and we had great fun making steamroller t-shirts. Several observers asked if we had shirts for sale, which we hadn't considered... but who knows? Maybe next time!

Once the prints have had a little time to dry, they will be put on display at the museum... dates TBD.

In the meantime, check out the art blog of D.C. Everest High School, whose students were among those who participated in the project. Pop on over to WJFW TV-12 to see yours truly try to explain just what the heck all this is about in a video report here. AND.... there are hordes of photos on the museum's Facebook page here.

There is no way I can sufficiently express my gratitude to the staff and volunteers of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for their support of this project and for making a random conversation into an amazing week. I'm pretty sure that if you look up the word "excellence" in the dictionary, you'll find all of their faces smiling back at you.

Thanks also to the funders: The Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. And let's not forget the food-ers! Thanks, Urban Street Bistro for firing up the grill for the event. Next time I want to eat one of everything. Except the cupcakes. I want two of those.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Warming up for the big event

We hit the ground running this week in Wausau. In the first two days of class visits we've already introduced almost 70 students to relief printing, and tomorrow we'll see that many all in one day!
I haven't had a minute to take any photos yet, but Education Curator Jayna Hintz has posted some great shots on the Woodson Museum blog so check them out.
This afternoon we fired up the steamroller and did a few test prints... Can't WAIT for Saturday!

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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...