Monday, April 28, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the terns

Just call me the Productivity Queen of the Western World. I spent the weekend working for a friend, walking, bookkeeping, cooking, cleaning, carving, printing... and as soon as I put on my jammies and make a cup of tea I'll manage to squeeze in some reading, too. (Yes, I'm prepping this post on Sunday night.)

Step 5 detail
The foremost goal for the weekend was to wrap up this tern linocut. Apparently I've been pretty mentally distracted, because I don't seem to have taken photos of all the steps. But I DID complete it in under 10 color passes, which is some kind of record in reverse for me.

After Step 4 I thought the birds' bellies could use another level of gray, so I popped one in there. Here's a little detail, although it's difficult to tell what's going on. Trust me, though. It made me happier.

After that it was time to get the drama going. I think I mentioned before that my reference images of these birds were all against a flat, deep blue sky and I wanted to try something a little more interesting.

Enter the blended roll. A sort of violet to pale blue.

Duet: Tern linocut, Step 6
Okay. Promising. But what the heck, let's try something a little crazy in that background. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of Step 7, but it involved a bunch of little carved marks and another blended roll.

Duet: Tern linocut, Step 8

Step 8 was the same thing. More little carve marks and another blended roll. I did worry that perhaps I'd gone too far and that the background was too busy, but nothing to do about it now! (The texture is hard to decipher in the lower part of this image from wet-ink reflections.)

Duet: Tern linocut, Step 9, final
All that was left to print today were the small black areas... which you might guess were kind of a pain. Ordinarily I don't like to leave such fussy printing to the end, but it was the most reasonable printing order.

I like the effect of this background, and I'm looking forward to trying it again on a future image when I'm not feeling the time crunch. I think with more time to consider color and the variety of mark-making this could have some really spectacular results.

While this print dries I have one last black-and-white image started... although I'm having second thoughts about it. Technically I'm beyond the point at which I should be trying to get anymore done for this show... but I can't help myself.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fieldwork Friday: Some museum sketches

I grew up in the Denver area, so there are long lists of people to see and errands to run and venues to visit whenever I make the long trip out of our little valley to The Big City, as I did this past week.  But I'm a small town girl these days, and find my energy sapped pretty quickly by the need to drive everywhere and contend with crowds and traffic and oblivious SUV-wielding Whole Foods princesses with cell phones permanently attached to their craniums.

Hm. Judging by the previous snark it appears I'm not fully recovered from this week's experience.

But no fear. I ALWAYS find a way to go either to the zoo or the natural history museum (in Denver these are conveniently located next to each other) to draw... even if it's just for an hour or two. Although I haven't lived in the Denver metro area for 14 years I still maintain memberships to both institutions so popping in and out is no big deal.

This trip I managed two visits to the museum. The first resulted in many pages of lousy drawings, the second fared a little better.

A page of bones: Stegosaurus leg, unspecified "duckbilled" dino limb,
and a fossil turtle skull because it was 10 minutes to closing time and I
wanted to squeeze in "just one more".
Herons. Black-crowned night-heron and great blue.
Geez. I can't believe I had the entire museum to choose from and
I drew seabirds. Brown noddy and Heerman's gull.

I had a birthday while I was in the city, and I have to say that the thing I least like about advancing middle-age is the compromises it has placed on my eyesight. Museum halls and displays are softly lit to protect collections, but DANGIT it's hard to see both my subject and my drawings. The drawings are sometimes a surprise when I finally get them in daylight.

But I'm home again in my little town and back to printing this weekend... Whew! Gotta finish the last of those seabirds!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Linocut in Progress: But not as much as I'd like

The best laid plans, and all that. Wednesday was to be a studio day, but a series of more administratively-related tasks unexpectedly popped up and well... things got stalled.

So the intended demo piece is not where I wanted it to be, and the next step is more complex than I want to deal with in a people-coming-and-going situation. Hm. I'll take it with me to talk about what's happening next, but I've drawn up another B&W block to work on during the day tomorrow.

Here's where we are, though:

Duet: reduction linocut, Step 4
Duet: reduction linocut, Step 4, detail
Except for the bits of black in heads, wings, tails, feet, the birds are (I think) finished at this point. Seems odd, but I do like the simplicity of them in just these few colors.

So now it's time to load up the car with half the universe. Honestly... is it possible I might some time go somewhere without my car loaded to the gills? Art to deliver, supplies for demo, even borrowed taxidermy to return to a museum. When I think about it... it's kind of funny! What might a future archaeologist make of the dig site that is my vehicle?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Upcoming Demo in Denver

I suppose I could say I'm relieved to report that I delivered 15 of what will ultimately be 17 or 18 seabird images to the framer yesterday. Thankfully she's just matting them for me... can you imagine trying to ship 18 pieces of framed artwork across the country? Yes, yes... I realize it's done all the time... but not by me.

That task accomplished, it was time to turn my attention to this weekend's demo at Abend Gallery in Denver. It's a very laid-back sort of demonstration event, with several artists working throughout the gallery. Printmaking isn't well understood by many visitors, so I like to have work in various stages available to share with people.

 Of course there isn't a lot of time between now and Saturday, so this new edition is small and the design is simple.

Terns, reduction linocut, Step 1

The problem with images that feature white birds is that they give themselves away so early in the game. Yep, two birds in flight.

The next step involved some amusing little areas of spot inking... If by amusing one means fiddly and not particularly dramatic or rewarding. Which I do.

In fairness, at least this sort of thing only requires a small batch of ink and cleanup is quick and easy.

Terns, reduction linocut, Step 2

Step three and we're already at the halfway point. I think. I haven't yet come to terms (terns?) with what to do with all that background. In my references the sky is just a flat, deep blue. Not terribly exciting.

Terns, reduction linocut, Step 3
But the next step is also a transparent gray. In fact I think it will be the same ink rolled a second time, since its purpose is to deepen some of the shadow areas in the birds.

In the meantime... I've just had a request from our local newspaper for some photos and info about area birds for an upcoming feature. After all these seabirds it will be nice to think about "my" critters for a little bit!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the eiders!

"Tandem" - reduction linocut - 8" x 10"
Shirtsleeves weather yesterday, rain and snow today... time to finish the eiders. There wasn't much left on the  lino block at this point, just the border and the wings, tail, and head of the male.

You'll see that there is a small portion of the female's body remaining. I did a little experiment with some extra dark in this area, and it was interesting, but the black was overbearing. I could have mixed a second, lighter color to print just in the female, but decided that some self restraint was in order. Have to draw the line somewhere.

While the eiders are drying I'm sorting and signing prints and organizing things for the trip to the framer tomorrow. And thinking about the demo I have scheduled at Abend Gallery in Denver next weekend.

And despite the fact that I am REALLY ready to move on to a new subject, I am drawing up one more seabird piece to use as my demo. Yesterday's sorting and prep work confirmed the niggling feeling that there just aren't enough birds in flight in this collection. I had hoped to create either puffin or guillemot flighted pieces, but all of my reference shots and sketches from my day on Eastern Egg Rock were of birds flying away from me. Compositions of bird butts can be amusing, but I just wasn't feeling it.

So a pair of terns it will be. Simple... maybe six color passes. No time for more than that! (Well, actually not even time for that many... but I'm going to do it anyway. ;-)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't try this at home

I'm still waiting for the ink to dry enough on the eiders, so yesterday decided to tackle one last (?) black and white linocut for the exhibition.

Things didn't start out very well. For what I think was the first time ever (in my personal experience, anyway) a Sharpie marker imploded as I was drawing up the block. Black permanent marker ink all over my hands, my drawing table, the block. Not pretty.

I scrubbed up as best I could, finished the drawing, and not 30 minutes later started carving.

"Hm," thought I. "This lino is quite cold. I probably should warm things up in here a bit."

Newbie linocutters, if you don't know this already: LINO DOES NOT CUT WELL WHEN IT IS COLD. Set it in a warm window, place it next to the heater, run an iron over it, sit on it. Anything. Just don't try to carve it cold.

And do as I say, not as I do, because of course I went ahead and carved cold lino and then had to stop for another clean up. This one involved bandages and considerably more swearing. I'd show you my finger, but it's the middle one on my left hand and that would be rude.

Ordinarily after a rough start like that I might put down the carving tools and work on something else, but all this happened before 9:00am and there's that @$%# exhibition deadline. In the end I carved all day and into the evening hours, and managed to get an entire 6" x 18" image ready for printing.

Which I did today. Not the entire edition, mind you. But enough to be ready for the framer on Monday.

"Got Your Back," linocut, 6" x 18"

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The eiders - So close and yet so far

Ooph. I don't know when I might learn to leave well enough alone. Probably never. I should stop pretending it's even a possibility.

I finally drummed up the courage to do some tweaking of the female eider, a decision I don't really regret except for the extra time and aggravation that ensued at a time when efficiency was preferred.

Eider linocut: Step 10
A lighter brown in her head and across her back. It looks like a lot more here, but we're facing some wet ink glare.

Eider linocut: Step 11
And then the birder in me decided that I should really give her the appropriate grayish beak and lighter tail feathers. Fine. Good. It looks scary, but the next color should make everything all better. A transparent gray over the entire block.

Hm. Too wet. That's okay, I'll do it tomorrow.

Hm. Too wet. I'll wait another day.

Hm. Still too wet. @#$% white ink added to lighter color must be slowing everything down. Wait some more.

I started and stopped the gray pass three times, but finally have accomplished it. Just the black to go now, but of course everything's too wet. Again.

Eider linocut: Step 12

We'll call the female finished at this stage. Overall the piece is okay as it is, but I think one more dark in the male will really finish it off. 

I think I have time to do just one more black and white piece and then we'll call the exhibition done. There are a dozen more ideas I'd like to pursue, but time is just about up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finished. No foolin'!

"Six Cormorants and a Duck"
Can you find the duck?

The biggest prank of my first day of April was meted out by this crazy single color linocut. I mean, really. It's taking HOW long to rub a decent print?

For today I pulled just seven prints on Awagami kozo and two on Arches hot press watercolor paper. (For hand-coloring experiments.) Between the recent carving and printing marathons my wrist is just too, too tired to do much more right now.. but that's the good thing about single color! I don't HAVE to print the entire edition at once. (Although going through all the cleanup knowing I have to do it again isn't very much fun.)

But, ooh.... when you look at this, can't you just imagine a series of blended rolls under all this line work? Yeah. Later.

For the next day or two I need to turn my attention to some contract projects, and then it will be time to take a deep breath and finish the eiders. I also need to start drawing up another single color image, because it would be silly to have only one in the exhibition.  I have about three weeks left to get everything done! Yikes!

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...