Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What's it All About Wednesday: Wave Runners

"Wave Runners," reduction linocut
16" x 12," edition of 12

Birders use the term “life bird” to describe their first encounter with a species that's new to them. (There are also year birds and state birds and county birds and yard birds and, well... you get the picture.)

My lifer northern gannets were spotted almost 20 years ago in the Firth of Forth, off the coast of Scotland. I was in a little crab boat, headed for the Isle of May Wildlife Sanctuary, five miles from the mainland. The weather was wet and windy; our boat crossing was a bit rambunctious and our landing particularly sketchy. But my strongest memory of that adventure was a sudden splash off the port side, which turned out to be not a compatriot tumbling overboard, but a diving gannet. Several more birds plummeted into the sea around us while I stood there gaping at the spectacle.

Not far from the Isle of May is the Bass Rock, breeding ground for 150,000 northern gannets. On this side of the Atlantic, the largest colony is at Bonaventure Island, Canada, but I've caught glimpses of one or two individuals in the Gulf of Maine. Thousands of gannets pass the Schoodic Peninsula near Acadia National Park in the autumn, headed to southern waters for the winter.

My own experience wasn't nearly as dramatic as this clip from Nature's Great Events with David Attenborough, but it was memorable nonetheless.  (The footage is spectacular, but be advised that it ends on a somber note.)

As subject matter for prints and drawings I find gannets extremely challenging. The shape of the head alone has given me hours of consternation. But when I think about gannets I think of the word wild: They are at home in wind and waves; they raise their young in huge breeding colonies on rocky cliffs. The surprising and strange aerodynamic shape of their wings, folded back for dives of heart-stopping intensity, seems otherworldly (and distinctly uncomfortable).  What better inspiration could there be for a linocut than the memory and mystery of these Wave Runners?

Monday, December 12, 2016

So... now what?

Linocuts at Ann Korologos Gallery

The journey to the other side of the mountain (literally) is complete.

And by "literally" I mean literally. Not figuratively, which is what many people mean when they say literally, a misuse which has somehow been legitimized by respected dictionaries. Argh.

But this is not a vocabulary blog, and I digress.

I went over the Continental Divide and came back again. I live in the Rockies. This is normal. (Literally.) The return trip was a wee bit more adventurous weather-wise than I prefer when traversing high mountain passes, but I'm home and it's all good.

The reception and "Rosebud" demo at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt went well; it's always fun to help people wrap their brains around the linocut process. And I don't think I've ever had a more festive arrangement for talking to visitors:

Stockings hung by the chimney with care. And above the mantel? A slideshow of work in the gallery, so everyone gets to be over the fireplace from time to time. (And yes, that's "Dinner Party" up there at the moment. What? Did you think I wouldn't wait until one of my own pieces came up?)

So far today I've been catching up with administrative tasks – bookkeeping (rah), correspondence (RAH!), packing work for shipping. I even managed a little bit of end-of-year paper purging, although there's waaaayyyy more to do.

It's time to head back to the studio and I'm faced with the question of questions: Now what?

Do I start right away with a new big piece? Or maybe produce a couple of small things? Do I want to work on another bird? Or a landscape? Or something for the "Underfoot" series? Or maybe none of those things. Sometimes the hardest part of the work is deciding which of the vague ideas wandering around inside my head needs to be tackled next!

So I'll go push around some sketches and sift through some photos, and see what happens. Because, as Picasso is reputed to have said, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rosebud, Part II: More Cuteness. Can't help it.

Little Rosebud is the devoted companion of a good friend who moved away this past summer. I miss both of their smiling faces around here, so it was delightful to work on this demonstration piece and think about them as I did so.

No demo would be complete without a scary "ugly duckling" stage, and while this isn't the worst one I've had to contend with, it was hard to give up work on Rosebud's face to put in a background color.

I briefly considered doing something flashy for the background... maybe a blended roll... maybe two. However, you and I both know that if I started down that path I ran the risk of making this too complicated and less effective as a clear example of reduction printing. Restraint was difficult, but I managed it. Somehow.

Rosebud reduction linocut, Step 5

Blue. Just plain old blue for the background. Step 5.

Of course I wanted to jazz things up at least a little, so for Step 6....

Rosebud, Step 6

I left a border, but let Rosebud break up the boundary with her lovely doggy shoulders and some of her tousled, furry head. Subject-breaking-a-border is a design element that I've always liked for adding a little more dimension and presence to a simple piece.

Almost finished now. One more dark. I think.

Rosebud, Step 7

Geez, is that cute, or what?

I thought about calling it finished at this point, but decided that a little touch of color would be fun.

Rosebud, Step 8. Finished?

There was, however, a minor complication to this decision. I couldn't carve anything more out of the block, because Step 7 is the one I'm going to print at the demonstration*. (I pulled out one print at Step 6 to save for this purpose.)

The most logical thing to do would be to wait until after the demo, when I could carve away all the material around the collar shape and have a nice, straightforward print step. But, nooooooooo. Impatient Sherrie wanted to put this color on all of the other prints in the edition now.

Of course this means using a mask, but the shape is too small and fussy to make an accurate one. Instead I cut one that was only "approximate" to protect the rest of the image and spent time carefully wiping extraneous color out of areas of the block that the mask didn't cover.

The funny thing is that once the red was printed I was no longer sure that the Step 7 dark was dark enough. But, again, I have to leave the block at Step 7 until after the demo, so this decision will have to wait until next week.

I had so much fun with Rosebud that I'm thinking about doing a few more furry pets in a small format like this. There's a big, complex image in my not-too-distant future, but it could be a nice change of pace to make a few more prints like this one.

Until then, I've left one little Rosebud print pinned to the studio wall, where her silly cuteness makes me smile every time I look at her.

* Artist Talk and demo: Saturday, December 10 at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, Colorado.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Can a demo be cute?

Darn right it can. This one will be.

I've been preparing for my Artist Talk and demo at Ann Korologos Gallery this coming Saturday.

To help visitors understand the reduction linocut process, I like to have a print mostly finished before I arrive at a hands-on presentation like this. For these destined-to-be-a-demo pieces I also pull out one print at each color pass so people can actually handle them and compare the changes.

For a demo it can be helpful to present a simple image, maybe 4 or 5 colors, but you know me. The fact that I've kept it under 10 is some sort of minor miracle.

The final reveal will, of course, be saved for another post, but here are the first steps of "Rosebud." (It's not what you think.)

Rosebud linocut, Step 1

This is a very small piece, just 5 x 6.5 inches, so it went very quickly. Not quite three days, start to finish. Well, finished enough. Here we have a nice light blue and some odd white shapes for the first step. Any guesses yet?

Don't worry, it will actually be fairly obvious by Step 2:

Rosebud, Step 2

Something furry with a button nose, apparently. This ink was a transparent gray.

Rosebud, Step 3

And another transparent gray for Step 3. At this point, however, I decided I wanted to lighten things in the hairs of our subject's chinny chin chin. It's as good a reason as any to have an example of selective inking and masking to show visitors, right?

Rosebud, Step 4

I masked the area below the mouth and printed a slightly warmer white. It looks clunky, but a lot of it will be covered up by subsequent color passes.

At this point the strangest thing started to happen. I started giggling as I worked. A small piece, a small edition, no pressure? After the last few intense months it was a joy to just play around, and who can't smile at this subject? (And believe it or not, it's already half finished at this point.)

Stay tuned for Rosebud, Part II.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Coming up! Collectors' Holiday at Ann Korologos Gallery

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

Lest you think it's all red wine and bon bons around here, now that I've met that end-of-November deadline....

I am delighted to announce the Artists' Reception for "Collectors' Holiday - Works on Paper" at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, Colorado.

Please join us next Friday, December 9th, from 5-7pm and then visit other area arts venues that will be open for ARTB2F, ArtWalk Basalt's Second Friday event.

And that's not all! I'll be presenting a talk and reduction linocut demo at the gallery on Saturday, December 10, from 10:00-11:00 am. (And, yes, I did make another new print this week as part of that demonstration, but you'll just have to wait to see it.)

Come on out and discover for yourself why the best gallery in Aspen... is in Basalt!

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...