Friday, November 27, 2015

Artists: Get organized for the new year!

For my friends on this side of the pond, I hope your Thanksgiving Day was a good one. Here in the Heart of the Rockies it was cold and windy all day, and today? Today we've got a couple of inches of snow on the ground and it's still coming down. My thankfulness extends today to my neighbor, who shoveled my walk before I was even out of bed this morning.

Cold and snowy weather is a great reason to stay home and get some of my nagging administrative tasks accomplished today. I'm a reasonably organized (some say a bit compulsive) person, especially in the studio, but can always use some pointers to be more efficient.

For those Brush and Baren readers who are also working artists, this seems like a great time to introduce you to Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach. Alyson offers many great courses for artists, both online and live, and including an end-of-the-year Organize Your Art Biz online workshop starting December 1. It's a busy time of year, but how great would it feel to start 2016 knowing you've got workable systems in place? (And it doesn't hurt that she's offering a discounted deal right now, too!)

I've taken courses from Alyson in the past and found them chock full of great tips and ideas. In fact, I'll be revisiting some of her materials in the next few weeks as I start my own planning for the new year. But in the meantime... seems like it's time to show my website some love. I've got recently-completed prints to upload!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Linocut in Progr... Hey! Where did THAT come from?

A finished lino? Where did that come from?
"Homeward Bound," 8" x 10" ©Sherrie York

Surprise! Somehow in the last five days I've managed to crank out an entire linocut, start to finish.

The image should look somewhat familiar to long-time readers because I made an attempt at something similar a year ago, not long after I got Presston (my press.) (You can see the start of it here.) In fact, it was almost EXACTLY a year ago. I finished last year's attempt the same day I started this year's. Didn't realize that until just now.

Anyway. The earlier piece had given me all sorts of palpitations, mostly technical problems because I wasn't adjusting the press correctly, but also some color problems. I decided to try a completely different approach this time– Paper masks.

Unfortunately I didn't take many photos. This darn piece tried to kick my [portion of anatomy upon which one sits] AGAIN(!!) and I was more focused on keeping my bruises down than on documentation thereof.

Second step

This was the second step, the first was a flat blue rectangle. The orange color was applied to the entire block (still uncut at this point) and then I placed a ridiculously complex newsprint mask over the top before running it through the press. Like this:

Newsprint mask

This was the mask for the third step. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but since I could only use a mask a couple of times before it broke down I had to cut several of them. Naturally they weren't exactly alike. And that little loose piece in the middle was hard to get in the exact same spot each time. It wasn't horrible, but it was trickier than I expected.

After the orange I printed the blended sky (Step 4) and then cut the overall shapes of clouds and foreground (Step 5). In this image you can see one of the prints in which I had accurate masking problems. Lots of little white bits showing where they shouldn't be. Ugh.

Step 5

In total I think there were 7 color passes... definitely lots of restraint shown in that regard, anyway!

For a few days I had very little sleep, but now my deadline has been met and I can take a short break. I need one. For the past two months I've just had to plow through images without having a lot of time to stop and think about where each piece was going or whether there might be another way to approach the subject. I think I did some good work, but I didn't have a whole lot of fun while I was doing it.

The good news is that I think I have an image in mind that will be more "fun" again. I've got time to work on it, it's going to be a different sort of color palette for me, and I've got time to think about it before I start. Seems like such a luxury after the last weeks.

Of course there are plenty of other things to do, too... like write blog posts and get ready to hang a show next week. But I think the first order of business will be a book in my lap and a nap in the sun!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Linocut in Progress: The end of the end

Sometimes the simplest things can give you the biggest problems in printmaking.

After spot-printing those funny shapes of lightest green I did a bit of carving and then printed a transparent mid-value green blended to a darker blue-green. The transparent nature of the colors meant they interacted in interesting ways with the odd color shapes below them.

There was one spot that I wasn't too excited about–it developed a harsh color line rather than a smooth transition. Also, I had masked the bird to keep the greens out of it and now it looked purple. I was happy with the variety of darks, though, and relatively sure I could fix the other issues with the next pass.

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 13.

Aaannnnnd... that next pass was a straightforward transparent green-brown made from scraps of previously-printed colors. Simple. (Ahem.)

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 14.

It looks fine here, but this "simple"color pass gave me a some trouble. I had to leave town for a couple of days in between this step and the previous one, which meant that the prints were too dry when I returned. As a result I didn't get good adhesion on this color pass. I ended up running the same color twice on all of the prints to get what I wanted. Ugh.

Tedious, but successful. The greens are now less bright, the hard edge I was worried about has gone away, and the bird has a little more color to it. (Not purple.)

All that was left (I thought) was the final dark for the marks on the tree trunks and some of the branches. Not quite a straight black, but close.

Unfortunately the near-black that was good for the trees was bad for the bird, so I wiped that color away from the bird before printing.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 15.

Of course now the bird felt a little bit too light. I wanted it to remain subtle... a sort of surprise for the viewer who comes close and discovers he or she is not alone in the forest... but at this stage it looked too insubstantial. So I mixed a more transparent blue-gray and tried to print only the bird by masking out the rest of the block and running it through the press.

Usually this works fine, but since the blackish color had been printed mere minutes before, the mask intended to protect the prints instead stripped the black off. (sigh) I expected some stripping*...  but not quite as much as I got. Again, so much for "simple."

(*Stripping: If you want to remove excess ink from prints, place a sheet of clean newsprint on your block, place your print face-down on the newsprint, and run the whole stack through the press. You can do this with hand-rubbed prints, too, and you don't necessarily need to include the block.)

In the end I ran the over-stripped prints back through the press to fix the dark and then carefully hand-rubbed the bird's final color on every print. Ooph.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 15.5... and final.

The difference in the bird is probably too subtle to see in a web image, although I think all of the steps on this post are embiggenable, so you might be able to tell if you click on them and view them larger.

Whew! Glad this one is finished, as it's due for a big exhibition. As is often the case, it doesn't look much like what I envisioned, but I'm still pleased with it. It was the dense tangle of many tree trunks that motivated me to chase after this image... but it was the intricacies of the background that were the most challenging.

And speaking of challenge... I just received in the post a small wooden, silver-painted block on which to create an image for Abend Gallery's 25th Anniversary Holiday Miniatures show. I'm going to try to print on it... somehow. But first I have to decide what the image is! And of course it needs to be back in Denver next week... dry enough to ship and hang. Guess what I'll be doing the next few days. No rest for the wicked weary.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Linocut in Progress: The beginning of the end

To be honest, I have reached the end, but I have delayed writing about it until now. There were a couple of stages in the development of this reduction linocut at which I thought everything might come apart. Now that I know it has been accomplished I am more comfortable with making a public spectacle of it (and myself).

"Fleeting" linocut, Step 10

So here we are at Step 10. It seems so long ago now that I barely remember what happened here, although clearly it was the darker brown. I think I used that same transparent olive green ink again... possibly with a little more brown added to it.

I do that a lot: build a new color from the leftovers of the color before. I find it gives a cohesiveness to the overall color palette and it saves me from wasting too much ink. Sometimes when I'm trying to find the right color I end up with a much bigger pile of ink than I need. Usually I'll scrape that extra ink on to a sheet of wax paper and fold it up for reuse later. Oil-based inks will last a surprisingly long time this way, sometimes even a couple of weeks, depending on the pigment and what modifiers I've used.

But I digress. Step 11 was so quick as to almost not count. Remember that I mentioned there is a surprise in this image? Here it is:

Surprise! It's a bird! Step 11 detail

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's really a bird. Zipping through our aspen grove is a little hawk. Don't blink, you might miss it.

The gray ink was applied with a small roller, and I carefully wiped the excess from around it. I could have used a stencil here, but it wasn't too much effort to just keep the area clean by hand.

And here's where things got dodgy. The image is very "flat" at this stage and I wanted to suggest a little bit of light. I also wanted to suggest that this grove sits in front of evergreen trees. Sounded like some green was in order. But I didn't want to put a light green over everything, so I inked some selected areas and applied a mask before printing. Like this:

What this doesn't show is that I realized partway through that there was another area that needed some of this green, so had to recut the masks. But this gives you the idea. The newsprint mask protects the print from the un-inked areas of the block, which can pull up previous ink layers or cause other sorts of mayhem as the block goes through the press.

And here was the result, also before I realized I needed a little green elsewhere:

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 12
 Kind of scary-looking, isn't it? Which is why it seems like a good place to stop for today!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Linocut in Progress: The vagaries of transparent color

I've mentioned a few times that I've been using a transparent lilac ink in this piece... which might seem odd, given that there's not really any lilac showing. For the next step I took the leftover lilac ink from the previous print pass, added some blue and some black to make it darker and cooler, and printed this:

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 8

It still looked decidedly pink, although if you isolate some of the background you can see that it does have a violet tinge.


I wanted some of these trunks to "read" purple-y, and I wasn't sure that I had it right. But I was also starting to worry that everything was getting a little too dark too fast to risk another pass of the lavender ink. Enter blind faith. I decided to leave it as it was and move on.

I intended for the next color to read as a soft brown, but my first attempt was frightening. Straight transparent brown over the lilac just read as... red! Not what I wanted. I tried adding a little black. Better, but still not right. Ack!

And then I calmed down and engaged some basic color theory. The current color layers are all warm– building slowly from yellow to orange to the lilac. Which means that every pass is gaining a bit more red (even though I haven't touched any red ink.) How does one "gray down" red? By adding the complement, which, for those of you who haven't thought about color mixing since kindergarten, is the color opposite red on the color wheel. Green!

So I added green to my existing ink color until I got this lovely olive tone, still very transparent.

 No, really. It's lovely!

Fingers crossed, I pulled another print... and, voila!

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 9

 It's brown! AND, even better, the trunks that were intended to read as purple, DO! This particular shot is embiggenable, so I encourage you to click on it and see what I mean.

From here the temptation is to just barrel on ahead and get those background darks placed, but there's a secret little surprise in this image that's going to require me to digress for a few steps. It's going to increase my ink count, but only in a tiny portion of the print. Curious? Me, too. Fingers crossed I can make it work.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Can't see the forest for the... um.. incompleteness?

Slowly, slowly the aspen forest emerges.

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 5

There are many more tree trunks in this image, but this is reduction printing and I have to think not only about color but also about transparency. I really want the leaves to hold most of the brightness, so it was time for a medium yellow.

But of course I want some luminosity in the trunks, also, so it's a bit of a dance.

Some of the leaves are in shadow, so a darker gold came next.

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 6

Okay. That's fairly satisfying, but now it's time to go back to the trunks. There are some in the distance which are more brown, and others that are more lavender. Time to spread some more of Jennifer's favorite council house lilac around. ;-)

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 7

It looks rather pink here, but I think (I hope) that when I put the next color down I'll be able to swing it a little more purple-y. I don't hate this color, in fact I think it will work for the lighter bits of the more brown tree trunks, so that's what I will carve for next.

The block itself is getting visually confusing. It's hard to remember where I'm headed next.

I don't think there's a lot of carving for this next stage, so hoping to get at least two more colors down this weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Back to the yellow rectangle

There's no resting on laurels (or snow shadows) around here! I took the weekend to catch up with exciting things like bookkeeping and bill paying and long-neglected emails, but Monday morning it was back to work on that yellow rectangle.

I printed the third pass of this linocut during a pause in the progress of "Shadowplay," but didn't post it because there wasn't much to show. Really. Not much to look at here:

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 3

If you squint you might be able to tell that there are now two yellow-y colors and a peach-y one. The ink in this third pass was again a transparent lavender-pink.

After some more carving I pushed the ink color even more towards lilac, but kept it very transparent.

It's a lovely color, but of course being transparent it looks completely different on the print.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 4

With this step I think the cat is out of the bag in terms of subject matter. Or maybe it's more accurate to say the tree is out of the forest.

This is a large-ish piece, 12" x 18" (30 x 46 cm), and I have a LOT of carving to do now. Many, many tree trunks crossing in front and back of each other make for some confusing moments with the carving tools! But I'm having fun so far, especially since I'm working with an entirely different color palette from the previous piece. (There is not ONE bit of blue in this print. Not. One.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Proof Press for Sale: Rehoming Presszilla

Ah, Presszilla. You might remember when she came in to my sphere, or you might not. It WAS four years ago, after all. You can see her arrival here.

Sadly, Presszilla and I have never been able to develop a relationship. When she arrived I had no space for her so she went into storage. Some time later life got complicated and I no longer even had a space for myself, so she moved from one storage location to another. Once Presston came on the scene it became clear that I wouldn't have time or space for her for a long while... so reluctantly I need to find her a new home.

As a hand-operated press she's perfectly functional, although a bit dusty from a long time in storage. I do have the inking assembly and motor for her, although they were disconnected long ago and at present the rollers are missing. Turning her back in to a production letter press machine will take a little bit of elbow grease, and possibly the machining of new rollers if her old ones don't turn up. (Someone local had them at one time, and I'm trying to track them down.)

She's here in Salida, Colorado at present, so probably not a candidate for international relocation. But if you've always wanted a proof press... and maybe a project... and little road trip to south central Colorado...send me an email (sy (AT) and we can chat.

Challenge Proof Press - Series K, front view

Paper hood, inking roller assembly, and motor

Inking roller assembly and motor, from the top

Press, back view

Linocut in Progress: (Lucky 13th) Final Step

 I am off next week to head up the Arts & Birding session at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine , so I have been feeling the pressure to w...