Thursday, January 30, 2014

Linocut in Progress: No more mystery- Mostly

I admit it, I got a good chuckle out of responses to my linocut doggerel. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) the poetry muse has gone on walkabout today, so it's back to pointing out the obvious for me.

Step 2: A pale blue streak
Oh wait. Ha! The second step, post-rectangle, was NOT obvious. In fact it was barely discernable. In this shot of the left-hand side of the image you might barely be able to pick out a pale blue streak just above center. The entire image looks blotchy, but it's really not. I think it's a function of dodgy lighting and dodgier photography. But that was it, Step 2. I thought about not putting this step in at all, but what the heck. Can't hurt.

And now the third step. It's rather disappointing that so much is revealed at this point... you know how much I enjoy teasing you... but a second, warmer gray was appropriate to every aspect of the block, so on it went.

I hope that my shape-carving suggests the jizz (GISS) of our subject(s) well enough for some keen birders to name the species. That little chunk of pale, pale blue doesn't seem to be causing any problems and will hopefully contribute to the sense of depth I'm aiming for in this image.

Step 3: Bird species ID quiz will now commence.
And okay... I might as well bring you completely up to speed. I took the same gray, added a pinch of brown, and voila! The topmost rocks begin to come into view.

Step 4: Got that species sorted out yet?
The next steps will take me out of the gray realm for a bit, which I'm looking forward to. You can no doubt tell that our avian chums are standing on a big chunk of rock... but if I tell you the tide was low can you guess what color might be next?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Linocut in progress: Ode to a gray rectangle


Oh! Dear rectangle! Gray. Not square.
From here we might go anywhere.
A bird. A plane. A forest green.
A plan most vague, as always seems.

Your paper's curly nature vexes;
One of printmaking's most dread hexes.
The fault I fear is only mine,
For not unrolling sheets in time.

But on we go, down paths unknown.
Excitement, yes, and cheers and moans.
The secret is I've done some more 
than what shows here, but what a bore
to give it all away this date.
Oh, no. I think I'll make you wait.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rara Avis... the third!

"Rara Avis III," linocut, 4 x 6

You might (or you might not) recall that last fall I was commissioned to create a small linocut as a surprise gift for an unnamed museum's docent program. Now that the surprise has been delivered, I'm happy to share some more information!

Presentation of "Rara Avis" was made in December to the wonderful volunteer docents of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. The Woodson Museum is home to the fantastic and prestigious international exhibition Birds in Art and was the site of my unbelievably rewarding artist-in-residence experience last year. (You remember... the one that involved a steamroller!)

For reasons rather long to describe I ended up creating two slightly different editions for the folks at the Woodson, and for reasons less long to describe I now have a third edition available to the universe at large. "Rara Avis III" was printed on a warm white Fabriano paper in a dark brown ink. This edition is a "bleed print," with the image printed to all four edges of a 4" x 6" sheet. And it went up on my Etsy store, Rio Salida Art, this morning.

I was happy to be asked to create this image as a thank you for the valuable service of the museum's docents...and since I'm also happy to celebrate the readers of Brush and Baren, how about this: From now until February 16th you can use the code BRUSHBAREN20 at Rio Salida Art to take 20% off your minimum $20 purchase. Thank you all for reading, commenting, sharing, and laughing with me here! I appreciate you!

UPDATE: Apparently dopy me only listed one of the edition in my Etsy store, and it already found a new home. If you're one of the folks who went looking for it and were confused when it wasn't there... my bad. But it's fixed now!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the Guillemot

Guillemot linocut: Step 10
So here we are at the end of this image... and I have mixed feelings about its success. I think it's safe to say that most artists will tell you there are always things they would like to have done differently in a piece, so this should come as no surprise.

My goal was to express the striking contrast of a black bird in bright sunlight. I think the impression works better from a distance so go ahead and get up from your desk now and stand back. You need to get out of that chair for a bit anyway.

The funny thing is that when the image is viewed from a distance the light along the top of the head and bill look a bit clunky. The values run together and there appears to be a light "outline" around the bill.

So what to do? The advantage to the Almighty Photoshop is that I can mess around a bit and see if there might be a simple way to improve this with a little spot inking. It's not a horrible problem, I don't think, but it's worth exploring.

In the meantime, I'm going to turn my attention to a large(r) piece. The drawing of it is turning out to be more complex than I expected, but I'm feeling that twitchy excited feeling that comes with an idea that I'm anxious to tackle. I want to get that first ink color down NOW!

Have a great weekend, everyone... press on!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Linocut in progress: Not quite finished

Guillemot linocut: Step 9
Well, it appears we're going to need one more step on this guillemot linocut, so I won't be able to say I kept it to single digit passes this time. I did try a darker color at this point and it was just too drastic.

So the "real" last step to come will put darkest bits into the bird. A few dark spots will still be in the background, I think, but I don't want them to flatten everything out by being the same value as the bird's head. If the first print doesn't look right then I I'll take ALL the material out of the background and it will stay as it appears now. But you never know.

I printed this color two days ago and hoped to be able to print the last color today, but the ink is still a little too tacky. Maybe tomorrow afternoon or Saturday I'll be able to wrap this one up.

In the meantime, I've started drawing up a larger piece, 12" x 18." The color palette is very subdued, so I'm hoping that THIS one will stay under 10 passes.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Guillemot... getting close!

Guillemot linocut: Step 8
So now we arrive at the moment in which Sherrie's impatience could set us over the edge. This pass was a transparent brown/blue over the entire block, which is doing nice things to the background. I'm not at all convinced that the shape is what I want in the upper portion, but it's a little late for that now.

It's possible that only one pass remains to complete this linocut... which would mean a print accomplished in single-digit passes! Almost unheard of around here.

But there's a lot of carving to do before I commit to just one more color, AND I'm afraid there's a lot of waiting for ink to dry. Even after several days in my very warm studio the tan pass probably wasn't quite dry enough, but I was twitchy to print so I forged ahead. Now I absolutely must wait.

The good news is that I have a larger piece ready to go. Well. It will be ready to go as soon as I mount new lino and prep a stack of paper. Details, details! The next one will be more about the landscape than the birds. Time to look at the "big" picture for a while.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Linocut in progress: Guillemot. (And a flashback - Why not?)

Guillemot linocut: Step 7
After a fair amount of hemming and hawing and a couple of false starts I applied this lighter tan color to the lino block with some spot inking. Because this color had to be applied all the way across the center, the mask was in two parts:


It made for slowing inking/printing, since I had to hold the top mask in place with one hand and roll the ink on the top half of the plate... then hold the bottom mask in place and ink the bottom half. A second block would have been easier... I'm going to do that one of these days, I swear.

The advantage to working in oil-based inks on dry paper is that halfway through pulling this tedious pass I was able to take time out and have a Skype video visit with my good friend, French artist Denis Clavreul, without worrying about paper or inks getting too dry.

A quick bit of math (which we had to calculate more than once because we just couldn't believe it) told us we've been friends for 23 years. Wayyyy longer than this two-and-a-half-hour color run.

We shared a couple of old photos that made us laugh... and which will never make their way into the public arena. But I think I can get away with sharing these... evidence of one glorious 36-hour period in which four friends from across the globe inhabited the same geographic location. Never before, these four in one place, and so far not again. Great times.

Me and artist chums Tsunehiko Kuwabara and Denis Clavreul,
Brière, France, 1999.
Robin D'Arcy Shillcock behind the camera.


And this time it's Robin in front of the camera. Don't ask.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fieldwork Friday: Mesohippus. Because it's the Year of the Horse and this is as close as I'll get.


Enough with the seabirds, already. Let's look at something different for a bit. I know! How about ancient horse skeletons from somewhere in my sketchbooks? The Chinese new year, the Year of the Horse, begins at the end of January, after all.

Mesohippus barbouri, or "middle horse" turned up in North America around 32 mya, and boy, was it cute! At least I imagine it was cute. Larger than Eohippus, smaller than many dogs I know. (About 60cm tall, according to Wikipedia, which seems about right for the specimen I looked at.) According to my (almost legible) notes, this particular fossil came out of the White River formation in Nebraska. Cool.

I confess I've never tried to draw contemporary horses. I find them a wee bit intimidating. Something about trying to cram something so large onto a small sheet of paper that just doesn't work for me. But I could draw this horse nearly life size and at least get his head on the page. Or I could have done had I planned my page layout a little better. Cute, Sherrie. Real cute. Just like Mesohippus.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Linocut in Progress: more guillemot

Just a wee bit more progress on the guilly lino... WAYYYY too much to do right now after weeks of being sub-par. Some days I really wish I could afford an assistant to take care of all the administrative tasks that go with self-employment. Ooph.

The next pass was a transparent gray... adding texture to the rocks, providing a darker shade of green, and more tone to the upper dark all in one step!

It's time now to sit back and scratch my head about what the next step will be. I know that some of the rock and plant areas will be cleared, but what to do about that upper background?

Guillemot linocut: Step 6

Monday, January 6, 2014

Linocut in Progress: black guillemot

Yes, Stuart was correct... and so, I bet, was Ann... in their guesses about the identity of this linocut subject. It's black guillemot, a species known on both sides of the Atlantic pond. Far less flashy than its pesky puffin cousins, the guillemot claim to aesthetic fame is its fantastically red feet. (And if it opens its mouth to give you a piece of its mind, you'll find red there, too.) Licorice-green-black bird, white epaulets... red feet.
Guillemot linocut: Step 4
In this case we say red foot rather than feet, since one is all that's visible. A second bit of spot inking of a transparent blue throws a shadow across the foot and the rock and builds a little tone for the background.

Guillemot linocut: Step 5
The bird begins to emerge, although it's still very much a part of the background. I'm a wee bit nervous about allowing this much variety in color over the space where the bird will ultimately sit, but I'm hoping I can pull it off okay. I've made a risky compositional choice here... the area behind the (black) bird's head is destined to be quite dark... a suggestion of the burrow in the rocks outside which the guilly waits. We'll see how successful I am.

While we're waiting for ink to dry, be sure to mark your calendars for June 27, International Guillemot Appreciation Day!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back to work: New linocut in progress

Okay then. No more 2013. Goodbye and good riddance, I say. And welcome 2014! It's about time you got here.

Believe it or not I was still trying to get work done during the several weeks of transiency and illness. I needed some sanity! Of course, I'm not too sure if this linocut as it's unfolding so far can be counted as sane, but you know what I mean.

The first step was posted some time in the last few weeks, but let's just start over and make the process all tidy, shall we? You know how much I like tidy.

Step 1: Plain ol' blue. Know what it is yet?
Step 2: Blue to gray blend. How about now?
Step 3: A spot-inked chunk of red. Does it make sense now?

No, it probably doesn't make any sense yet. And to tell you the truth, I already have two more steps finished and it still doesn't make much sense. Either I have gone completely round the bend on this one or we're all suffering from a shared delusion that printmaking is a reasonable activity for grownups and people who need to make a living. Sounds like a great way to start a new year to me.