Friday, October 30, 2015

Linocut in Progress: TGIF(OF)*

*Thank Goodness It's Finished (On Friday).

As expected, a couple of days out of town and away from the studio brought everything to the "just right" stage of dryness. I rolled in last night and collapsed into bed, and this morning I rolled straight out of bed and over to the press for a session of "pajama printing." (That's printing which happens before I have breakfast or change out of my jammies.)

The final dark is subtle... one more reason why it was such a headache to get a decent photo of the image. The irony is that my phone camera did a better job with the blues than my "good" camera did, but I think after some tweaking I got it close.

"Shadowplay," reduction linocut, 18" x 18," ©Sherrie York

This piece is destined for the National Western Club Show, in conjunction with the Coors Western Art Show in January. It will be my first time exhibiting at this prestigious event, and I'm looking forward to connecting with artist friends new and old, as well as new collectors.

I need to get back to the "yellow" piece that I started last week, but first I need to take a little break and catch up with all the tasks that have been neglected while I tamed this particular beast. You know, things like bill-paying and grocery-buying and laundry-washing.

But maybe I'm first going to try nap-taking. I think I'm due.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Argh! Not quite done! and..... a celebration to come.

Let's start with the celebration, shall we?

This post... this one right here... is Brush and Baren's 1,000th post! Holy cow! Surely something must be done to celebrate, but at the moment I am besieged by deadlines and am not able to present a suitable party atmosphere. For now let's just say, "Rah!" and get back to work.

And dangit... there's still work to be done on this piece. I really thought I'd have it licked today, but it appears I need one more dark in a few places. But first...

Snow scene linocut, Step 13

At Step 13 I was reasonably satisfied with the greens. Now to resolve those darn tree trunks.

The trees on the right are in a bit more light than the ones on the left. Because they are getting a bit of direct sun the trunks on the right are also warmer in color temperature. Hm. Let's try this:

Snow scene linocut, Step 14

Two colors in one pass! They are strange colors, I will admit. I don't know if this idea will work or not, but I don't intend for much of either of these colors to show after the next pass, so my fingers are crossed.

The little bit of problem-solving that had to happen here was how to manage inking these two colors AND not destroy the previous colors in the lower part of the image during printing. The solution looked like this:

That's each color rolled separately and a strangely-shaped newsprint mask across the lower part of the block. The mask does a great job of protecting the lower part of the print when it all goes through the press.

At this point I probably should have stopped, since the inks were pretty wet. But I really wanted to finish today, so I marched on ahead with a brown.

Snow scene reduction linocut, Step 15

Ooh. So close... but not quite! And now everything is definitely too wet. (sigh)

The good news/bad news at this point is that I have to go away for a couple of days. The good news is that the inks will have time to dry. The bad news is that I'm leaving without the satisfaction of a finished print. Rats. That's two celebrations delayed, but maybe it will mean a doubly-fun party when I get back.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Back to the forest.... for the ugly duckling stage.

When we last left the snowy woods we had just barely dragged ourselves out of the blue mire. And by "we" I mean "me." I spent way too much time slogging through snow drifts trying to get to the right blues– but moving away from the harmony that is a monochromatic composition is always scary.

Just as a recap, the piece was at this stage, Step 8, when last I posted about it.

Snow scene linocut: Step 8

This gray will only appear in some highlights of the foreground trees, so it didn't take much carving before I was ready to print Step 9, a sort of brown-gray.

Snow scene linocut: Step 9

And now things get... iffy. It's time to tackle the background trees. In my reference photo the trees are pretty much just a mashed-up confusion of dark branches and needles with some almost black areas and some really light areas. Not a lot of definition. But of course I want to do something a little better with that.. or at least a little less visually confusing.

Snow scene linocut: Step 10

Wow. That's kind of a funky green. I wasn't sure what I thought about it, but printed it anyway. When I was finished I decided it was okay, but it wasn't the lightest green I needed. So a bit of mind-bending happened while I tried to carve for the "middle green" in advance of printing this: (Brace yourselves, it ain't pretty.)

Snow scene linocut: Step 11

Are you afraid now? I sure as heck am. In fact at this point I was bordering on panic. This is a straight-up white ink layer, but of course it looks like a light green. Which is what I wanted, but I was SO not sure that this was it.

The next layer of carving... well... I was pretty much just making everything up as I went along and hoping like mad that I'd be able to pull this one out.

Snow scene linocut: Step 12

It almost seems possible now... although dangit if I don't need one more green. Which I might print as a transparent brown, but I haven't decided yet. Ooph. Then it's tree trunks and rocks and hopefully that will be it. It's still looking a bit dodgy, but hopefulness has returned where once paranoia reigned.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Wait. What's that yellow thing?

Printmakers like process, that should be fairly obvious. Technical know-how dances with aesthetic interpretation and hopefully produces a lovely pas de deux.

But sometimes the process is less graceful. More slam dance than ballet, and you just have to step away. I printed another color on the snow scene on Friday, but it was a struggle. The existing layers were just too tacky, and I had to stop after every print to clean spots on the block that were pulling up ink. It was clear that a time-out was needed, but I have a looming exhibition deadline. I really wanted to get this piece finished before beginning another that I'm also trying to get together for the show, but I can't afford to do nothing for a couple of days while the snow scene dries.

Wait. What does a yellow rectangle have to do with a snow scene?

Sooooo..... I decided to go ahead and start a second piece. I try to avoid this partly because I don't like to have my attention divided, but mostly because I just don't have a lot of room to manage 40-50 large sheets of paper all at once. But desperate times and all that....

Fortunately the first step of this new piece (image size 12" x 18") was just a yellow rectangle. A ridiculously bright yellow rectangle. Not much of it remained for the next step, which was this:

Linocut in progress, Step 2

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this second ink during the rollup. It's too bad because this was a great example of the fun of transparent color. Believe it or not, this was a powder pink with a drop of violet in it and lots of transparent base. It looks ochre in the photo, which isn't bad... but in real life it's a bit more nebulous, which is what I wanted. Pinky-peachy-lavendery... because the next layer will be a tad more lavender. I think.

Which piece I work on next depends on whether the snow scene is dry enough to proceed. I hope everyone's brains can manage the jumping back and forth... especially mine!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Out of the shadows and into the woods


This piece is turning out to be quite the learning experience. Some of it is because I've been away from the press too long and some of it is because I haven't ever tried to do a snow scene WITH the press. I've gotten a wee bit carried away, just because I could. Witness Blue Pass #6:

Snow scene linocut: Step 6
With this step I FINALLY figured out what I should have been doing all along. Instead of a blended roll, I should have just stepped down the values as they came forward. Duh. At this stage I have removed all of the snow and shadow material in the upper third of the block. I could have done this two passes ago and saved myself a lot of agony, but I didn't. Unfortunately the shadows are now more solid-looking, less transparent and "glow-y" than I wanted, but I'm just going to have to go with it.

Next I removed all the shadow and snow material from the middle third of the block and inked only the lower third. Like this:

Because I don't want the dry upper portion of the block to pull up the existing ink layers on the prints, I cover that area with a newsprint mask before running it through the press. Like this:

And here's Blue Pass # 7. Also known as the overkill pass.

Snow scene linocut: Step 7

So now there's a subtle value change in the overall shadows from back to front. Which is what I thought I was doing all along, I was just making it harder on myself. As usual.

The temptation to stick one more blue in the foreground was strong, but I really needed to just stop and get on with the rest of the image. The entire thing needs to be done by the weekend and there are still at least 5 colors to go.

And just in case you're as sick of blue as I am... here's a gray. It's always a scary moment when I move away from the harmony of a single color and snap some values back in the other direction. But, hey... at least we're out of the shadows and into the trees.

Snow scene linocut: Step 8

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Innovation in Conservation Award Winner: Colorado Birding Trail

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled linocut adventures to bring you this fun bit of news from a couple of weeks ago.

Long-time readers are probably aware that from time to time I put down my carving tools and take on some design and illustration projects. Most of these projects involve my chief interests: natural history, wildlife, and conservation. At several points during the past few years I've been fortunate to contribute some illustration and design work to the development of the Colorado Birding Trail, which was recently honored for Innovation in Conservation at the Southern Colorado Conservation Awards.

The project's Fearless Leader, John Koshak, was unfortunately not able to join us at the awards ceremony, but to my great delight several of our team converged from points across the state, including longtime friends Scott and Erika Hutchings of Cry Baby Design, who are pictured here with me and the beautiful glass sculpture that was presented to the project.

The Colorado Birding Trail is a major nature tourism initiative to promote outdoor recreation, conservation of resources by private landowners, and a diversified income for rural economies. One of the most unique features of the trail is the private lands that have been opened to visitation only through their participation as sites on the trail.

It's a great project, and I am happy to have played a small part in bringing it to fruition. If you're a birder and you're headed to Colorado you should check out the website and get your hands on some of the free guidebooks.... and then hit the trail!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Still trying to master the blues

When I started this image I did so because I thought it would be fairly straightforward. I've done snow scenes before with reasonable success, and now that I have a press it seemed as though the whole process should go quickly, even with a big print.

I never remember to include my propensity for asking "what if I tweak this just a little more" in my time estimates. Sometimes I think I should try the method used by other successful printmakers: MAKE. A. PLAN.

But as Jennifer at Fuzzy Dragons recently pointed out, it wouldn't be my work without a lot of wandering about trying to decide what's next, so on we go.;-)

Snow scene reduction linocut in progress: Step 4

Oh, look. It's another blue. I think the overall value is getting close, but I still want to suggest some deeper shadows-within-shadows in the foreground. Time to trot out that blended roll that I've been thinking about.

Snow scene linocut in progress: Not exactly what I wanted.

Hmm. Not precisely what I was after. It's a nice blend, but the foreground color is too dark.. too contrast-y. Harsh. Insert mild swear words.

So it was back to yet another solid blue....

Snow scene linocut in progress: Step 5

Okay. This is better. But I still feel like I want to do a little something more in the bottom third. I think what needs to happen now is that I need to take out all the shadow material above the slope that falls from upper left to lower right. THEN I'm going to try a subtle little blend just in the lower third and see what happens. I'm hopeful that once I get all this shadow stuff sorted out the rest of it will go quickly. Might just be wishful thinking, but that's what passes for a plan in these parts.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Feeling Blue - or at least Printing Blue

Even after almost four months away from printing I can see that some work habits will never change. Let's see if you can guess which habits I'm talking about.

The first layer that I printed was intended as a kind of "underpainting," (underprinting?) since I thought I would quickly be moving to a blended color roll. Experience has shown me that, at least at my current skill level, trying to print a blended roll on the first pass can be an exercise in frustration.

So... with that first "underprinting" of pale blue accomplished, it was time for carving and printing of the second blue. Also not a blended roll. There were some small subtleties I wanted to chase after first.

Step 2: snow scene reduction linocut

Any contrast between first and second blue is difficult to see in this small format (slightly embiggenable with a click). But it's there. Trust me.

With two colors down I thought it might be time for that blended roll... but to my surprise I found myself losing interest in the idea. Or at least not ready for it yet. The blues are not yet rich enough to hold up to the contrast I think I want in a blended roll. Again, a wee bit of carving and another blue. This blue has a little bit of purple mixed in, although the camera has ignored that.

Step 3: snow scene reduction linocut

This is getting closer, but I'm still not convinced that it's time to try a blended roll... and in fact I am no longer sure that I will want one at all. My original thought was to suggest distance by rolling a darker, more violet, shade towards the top and blending it to a lighter blue, as I did with a piece titled "Longing."

"Longing," reduction linocut, 12" x 16" Edition of 10, sold out

But for this new piece I have an idea that maybe the deeper, richer color is toward the foreground. In the current piece the view is longer and wider, where "Longing" was a close-up, more intimate one. With "Longing" I wanted to suggest the viewer and the foreground elements were in the sun, that maybe the tangled shrub was at the edge of an open area.

I'd like the new piece to have the sense of a deeper, darker wood. I think you can tell that there will be many tree trunks and some greenery along the top edge... but no sky. Just dense tree canopy. There are no big expanses of snow exposed to the light, instead the ground is mostly in shadow, with sun coming through where it can.

In my reference image all the snow shadows are the same flat gray-blue... but I don't think that's what I want. Perhaps the answer will be to change the brilliance of the color from background to foreground, rather than the hue. I'm going to have to think about it for a little bit.

As for those questionable work habits... It should be obvious that "failure to plan ahead" and "tendency to wander off and make things more complicated than they need to be" are at the top of that list. If you've noticed others, feel free to point them out. I'm always happy to serve as an example of what NOT to do. It's one of my best skills!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Linocut in Progress (!): Getting reacquainted with Presston

Linocut in progress: Do you think it might be a snow scene?

I spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with my press (Presston), but first I spent the morning doing everything I could do to avoid getting reacquainted with my press.

It sounds completely ridiculous, I know. I am a printmaker. I want to make prints. I've been losing sleep over not printing for several months. So WHY did it take all morning to psych myself up to get to work?

Plain and simple fear.  After so long away, would I make a complete and frustrating mess of things? Would I lose hours of time and many dollars of paper trying to find my way? And, scariest of all, would the ongoing trouble with my elbow and wrist prove too painful to even work?

As with most obsessive worrying, it thankfully turned out to be largely overblown. The inking of the first print was uneven, but that is usually the case. I did have a small problem with transfer of my Sharpie drawing from block to print because I forgot to sand and wipe it down before I started, but in general it went surprisingly smoothly. I had to take a lot of breaks to keep my elbow happy, but I have 22 prints hanging from the rack and I feel like myself again.

So now it's back to carving... and obsessing about whether or not I got the lino block aligned correctly for upcoming registration tasks.  Because, you know, obsessive behavior is what printmakers are all about.

Linocut in Progress: The Finish and the Rescue

 In the first post about the process of this linocut I mentioned that I was distracted and unfocused during the time I worked on it... whic...