Monday, April 24, 2017

It's that time of year!

Ah, spring. Migrants are arriving. Grass is turning green. And warp speed must be engaged. 

April and May are The Crazy Months for me– a time when jury submissions are due and show notifications are received and the Colorado Governor's Show opens. I'm also getting together and delivering summer work for the galleries, especially since I'll be headed back to Maine at the beginning of June. Holy cow! That's not much more than a month away.

There hasn't been much happening in the studio in way of new linos, but it doesn't mean there hasn't been work going on. Quite the opposite, in fact!

First up was a commission piece for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, to honor a long-time staff member who is leaving the flock for another position. Jason has spent much of his time at BCR studying black swifts, a mysterious little species that nests behind waterfalls and whose insubstantial little feet oblige it to cling to rock walls instead of perching. 

"The Coolest Bird," hand-colored linocut ©Sherrie York (embiggenable with a click)

Their secretive nature and difficult-to-reach nests make it difficult for me to collect my own reference, so I'd like to give a big shout-out to photographer Bill Schmoker for his help there. I did see a black swift once. It was a black dot in the shade on wet rocks behind a waterfall. Not very helpful.

After the swifts were winging their way to their final destination I started work on an illustration project for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Long-time readers of Brush and Baren may remember that the early posts of this blog (ten years ago now!) had more paint than ink in them. Funny how times change, although it's nice to revisit watercolor once in a while. 

Illustrations in progress. Western meadowlark, great horned owl, dusky grouse.
(No, this isn't the rare subspecies of footless grouse. I just haven't gotten there yet!)

Tomorrow I'm off to Colorado Springs to present a demonstration for the Colorado Springs Art Guild, and then Friday it's back to Loveland for the opening of the Governor's Show. In between I'm hoping to get a new reduction lino ready to roll. But of course there's framing to do and... 

I'll freak myself out if I think about it too much, so it's back to work. If in the next couple of weeks you happen to see a short, blonde-ish woman running around in circles with a brush in one hand and a brayer in the other... well... say hello. It's probably me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Demo at Colorado Springs Art Guild

No rest for the weary around here! Next week I'll be delivering work to the Loveland Museum for the upcoming Governor's Show (more on this soon), but in between delivery and the opening of the exhibition I'll be giving a presentation and demonstration in another part of the state, at the Colorado Springs Art Guild's monthly gathering.

Click to embiggen

CSAG members and non-members are both welcome, non-members are asked to make a small donation to the program, so if you're in the neighborhood, please think about stopping by. The gathering starts at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, April 25th. Check out the Colorado Springs Art Guild website for more information.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Workshop Weekend Wonders

This past weekend an intrepid group joined me at Patti Vincent Studio here in Salida for two days of twisting their brains around linocuts and reduction printing. I had an ambitious schedule for them, but they rose to the challenge and, quite frankly, impressed the heck out of me. By Sunday afternoon I was joking that I felt a bit redundant because they were all hard at work doing great things and I was just hovering. 

Take a look!

Laurie even tackled rainbow rolls!
Gayle could have a future in surface design, don't you think? 
Fay explored a combination of reduction and masking to create wonderful
color studies. Patti's pooches-in-progress and Marjie's landscape share the wall.
No fear of color use here! Bold and beautiful!
Many thanks to Patti Vincent Studio for hosting us, and huge thanks to "my" students for their energy, enthusiasm, good humor, and inspiring work. You've all inspired me to get back in to my own studio and back to work as soon as possible!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Printmaker's Bookshelf: Gustave Baumann

I suppose it seems a little... disloyal, perhaps... to start off my bookshelf ponderings with a woodcut artist as opposed to linocut, but here in the southwestern United States Gustave Baumann's (1881-1971) work is regarded as iconic.

Baumann began his career in Chicago, working as an illustrator in a commercial arts studio. He took night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and briefly studied in Munich in 1905.

It was in Germany that he made his first woodcuts and when he returned to the United States he devoted himself mostly to idyllic scenes of the rural midwest, and made friends with other painters and printmakers on forays to New York and Provincetown.

In 1918 Baumann made his first trip to Taos, New Mexico– and ultimately spent the rest of his life there, more than 50 years. He focused on both the dramatic and pastoral landscapes of the southwest and the lives of native Puebloans.

As someone who has spent most of her life in the west and southwest, Gustave Baumann's work says "home" to me. His color palette is rich with the pine greens, cobalt blues, and adobe reds of the high desert. But it's his design sense that first catches my eye, and the wide variety of marks he carved to create an amazing array of textures.

"Cholla and Sahuaro," woodcut, Gustave Baumann

Of course, when I paged through my books again this week that I realized Gustave Baumann was also fond of a square format. Sound like anyone you know?

Baumann was not a reduction printmaker. He used multiple blocks and experimented with color combinations. He was also a planner, a rather foreign concept to me. Most often he made complete paintings in gouache on toned paper, usually en plein air, on location. As if that weren't enough, he also ground his own inks.

"Piñon - Grand Canyon," gouache painting, Gustave Baumann
"Piñon - Grand Canyon," woodcut, Gustave Baumann

Baumann's southwestern works are all relatively small, no larger than 13" x 13," since he was limited to the capacity of his press, a Midget Reliance. (Printmaker note: From the "Piñon-Grand Canyon" example we can see he didn't worry about reversing his image before carving.)

Original Baumann prints are highly valued, ranging in price from about $1,500 for his older 2- or 3-color work to $20,000... and "Price on Request." For the budget inspiration-seeker, many of his images have been extensively reproduced as posters, calendars, and notecards. Which is just to say that if you come across a seller offering one of Baumann's southwest prints as a "signed original" for less than $5,000... you're either finding a screaming deal or a screaming scammer. Be careful out there.

I have three books about Gustave Baumann and his work on my shelf.

"Hand of a Craftsman," by David Acton. Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996

"Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art," by Acton, Krause, and Yurtseven. Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993.

"Gustave Baumann's Southwest," by Joseph Traugott, New Mexico Museum of Art, 2007

Book junkies, you can thank me later. Be shrewd shoppers, because "Hand of a Craftsman" in particular seems to be fetching a wide range of prices in the book market, as well.

I'm going to go grab a cup of tea, peruse a few more pages, and then get back to work.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sunday Hacker

No, I'm not suggesting that I've taken up a life of techno-crime. Although there is a virus involved.

Mine is the sort of hacking that accompanies a horrible, deep, junky cough that I never saw coming, but which now has me locked in its nefarious grip. To say I'm unhappy about it would be an understatement. Who gets this sort of thing when it's almost April? And where did it come from? I would sincerely like to send it back.

Whilst I'm plotting revenge against all things germ-related, there are a few things that I continue to work on. Doing so distracts my viral overlords from the efforts of my personal rebel forces. (Yep, I'm watching more movies than usual right now.)

Secret unnamed commission project:
Which of course is not so secret now, except that I don't think anyone involved regularly reads Brush and Baren. There could be blog stalkers, I know. It's a risk I'm willing to take. I've become reckless under the influence of germs.

The commission is for either a watercolor or a linocut of black swifts, and honestly I'm still on the fence about how I want to approach it. They're cool little birds that nest behind waterfalls, but their shapes are unfamiliar and challenging to sort out because they're small. And black. And they hang out in shadowy places. Thankfully, preliminary sketches are doable whilst dressed in my battle uniform of bathrobe and slippers:

But wait, there's more!

June is coming up faster than you think, and our instructional team has been busy working on the schedule for our great week of sketching, painting, and photography on the island. We have a few spaces left, so please pass the word to anyone you know who might like to join us. (Yes, of COURSE you can come, too!)

I am indeed thinking a lot about Maine right now, and not just for camp. You may or may not know that I am the Coordinator for the island's Artist in Residence program, and the last few weeks have been filled with selecting, notifying, and then sending an avalanche of forms to our four Residents for 2017. General program information is on the Audubon Residency website, but info about our upcoming season is on the Residency's Facebook page.

I can make room for one more person to squeeze into the April 8-9 weekend of printastic fun. To my great surprise and delight I have participants coming from across Colorado and also Nevada and Michigan! I've also had a couple of recent queries for east coast workshops, so I'll be working on that for some future date. 

Sorting, sorting, sorting. Applying, applying, applying. 
To be followed by framing, framing, framing.
It's that time of year! I've been busy submitting work for exhibition juries, and getting organized for upcoming shows. First up is the Colorado Governor's Show at the Loveland Museum. Opening Gala is April 28, show runs through May 28.

Clearly this is no time to be functioning at half speed, so I'm off to send reinforcements and supplies to my valiant white blood cell troopers. I'll let you know when the victory celebration is scheduled. Dare I say it? It's gonna be yuge

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spring Fever Hits the Studio

Yep. I've got it BAD.

73 F. Today's temperature was 73 (count 'em) lovely degrees. Even better? No wind. I threw open a few windows and tried to focus on tasks at home this morning, but I. Just. Couldn't.

So I gave up trying to be virtuous, grabbed my journal, and headed down to the river. I did walk there, a round trip of about 2.5 miles, so I told myself I scored at least a few points in the getting-some-exercise column.

There were a LOT of people down by the river this morning (clearly suffering from the same malady), so I tucked myself into a more-or-less hidden spot behind the bandshell and made a little drawing of the F Street bridge over the Arkansas River.

F Street bridge, downtown Salida

My semi-hidden spot behind the bandshell.

It felt quite nice to get out with my journal for a bit, especially since my practice has been sadly neglected through the winter months.

After my little field trip it was easier to work on projects in the studio, most importantly on a long-overdue birthday gift. It was great fun to carve some single-color linocuts, and then to play with the arrangement of the two separate blocks on different kinds of paper. (Full disclosure: the seated toad was carved a while back for another project. The leaping toad is a new block.)


I also pushed around a few ideas for new color linos, although I haven't committed to anything yet.

Tomorrow, however, I'll be back to indulging my restlessness with a trip to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. The trip to MVNWR, stopover site for several thousand sandhill cranes, is a spring ritual, but this year it's gotten a bit out of control. Tomorrow will be my third trip there in 10 days. Is it any wonder I'm not getting much work done?

How can I resist THIS, though?

Yes! All cranes!

See? Not my fault. Wildlife spectacle is not to be missed, and with (ahem) spectacular spectacle weather, it would be pretty much criminal not to take advantage of the opportunity. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking with it. Monday will be a perfectly good day to tackle the to-do list.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2-Day Linocut Workshop in Salida, Colorado

Hey, Coloradans! By popular demand, I've scheduled a 2-day reduction linocut workshop here in the Heart of the Rockies. Space is limited to 8 participants and we're over half full already, so if you're interested let me know ASAP!

(Details will be easier to read if you click on the image to embiggen it!)

Click to embiggen

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Printmaker's Bookshelf: Preface

The art and nature corner of my library

Let's talk about book addiction, shall we?

Even as a kid I was a book junkie. Where's Sherrie? Reading. On the bed. In the tree. On the roof. In the car. Who had the tallest stack of purchases when the Scholastic book orders arrived at school? Sherrie. Who maxed out her checkout limit at the library? Sherrie. Who had the most stars on her summer reading program card? Who spent her junior high years volunteering and her college summers working at libraries? Sherrie.

My personal library grew slowly until I started haunting used book stores. And then? The internet happened. The Natural History Book Service. Abe Books. Freakin' eBay.

For a while the (legitimate) excuse was work. As an illustrator I needed reference material, so I accumulated field guides and old coffee table books about birds and bugs and mushrooms. But just like mushrooms after rain my library kept growing. Art and natural history were the main themes, but there were plenty of other random topics, like cooking and languages and knitting. My circle of friends grew to include some great authors and my fiction shelves started bulging. I was a happy, happy book junkie.

And then came the horrible day when I was obliged to downsize, moving to an apartment barely 1/3 the size of my house. I'd arrived in the big house with almost 50 boxes of books, and my forced purge whittled it to just over 30. Bit-by-bit I sent 16 boxes-worth to our local library. Some books went to friends, a few I sold. Several bookcases went to new homes, too.

After the dust settled and I made the move I discovered I had precisely enough shelf space for my remaining library (with a couple of shelves reserved for treasures). I declared a moratorium on book buying and redoubled my efforts to boost the circulation numbers at the library.

Zero accumulation lasted about a year, but friends and colleagues kept producing new books, and my work appeared in a few more, and... well... you can see that things are going a bit cattywampus again.

Some of my printmaking books. A little bit of everything, including
a few recent linocut titles.

It's my guess that I'm not the only printmaker with bookish tendencies, being generally obsessed with ink and paper as we all are. So hey! Let's talk books once in a while, okay? I'll share some of my favorites for both information and inspiration and you can contribute to my literary delinquency by sharing some of yours.

While I'm putting together my thoughts for my first book offering ("review" seems so...cold), I'd like to introduce you to some friends with an even bigger book obsession than mine: Jeff Lee and Ann Marie Martin and their vision of the Rocky Mountain Land Library.

It's been my great fortune and pleasure to know and work with Ann and Jeff for almost 15 years. Long before we met they'd amassed a collection of books that dwarfs any of my aspirations: More than 30,000 volumes at last count.

Jeff and Ann (and those of us who know them) are getting closer to seeing their dream of a permanent home and residential library for this collection, but of course the limiting factor is always money! They have the location, Buffalo Peaks Ranch in the Colorado Rockies, but the historic buildings are in need of much restoration and repair.

They have a Kickstarter campaign underway for funds to complete restoration work on the Cook's House, and are about 1/4 of the way to their goal with less than a month until their campaign deadline. I encourage you to check out the Rocky Mountain Land Library's Kickstarter page, pledge if you can and share the information far and wide with all your book junkie friends. There are some great spaces for studios on the ranch, too, and part of the dream includes the day we'll all be able to gather over prints and books at this literary home on the range.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Looking ducky (AKA: Splashing to the finish)

So finally we get to the ducks. Because the colors of the birds do not appear anywhere else in the image, the next few steps involved a ridiculous and annoying amount of masking.

With the body tone established in Step 9, it was time to put in the beaks. I used pochoir, a stencil technique, to put these tiny bits into place by hand.

Linocut in Progress, Step 10: Tiny beaks via pochoir
Embiggenable with a click, as are most images in this post

Back to spot inking and masking now. I next rolled up a transparent brown for the background drakes and the female. The foreground male got another hit of gray.

Spot inking, two browns and a gray.

All this un-inked area of the block can wreak havoc with the previously-printed colors, especially if those colors are slightly tacky. A newsprint mask protects the prints and keeps the new color(s) confined to their respective areas.

Mask on the block, on the press

This mask has already been used once or twice, so you can see a little of the offset from the prints. In a case like this, where there's only a little new color applied to tiny areas, a mask can be reused. Typically I manage 3-5 passes out of a mask before the offset on the print side and the fresh ink on the block side get too built up. There are plenty of cases, though, where I have to use a new mask for every impression.

Step 11 printed

More spot inking, more masking for Steps 12 and 13, one of which I apparently neglected to photograph. There are a couple more browns and a green now:

Step 12... or maybe 13

After a couple of days of that fussy stuff it was finally time to hit the whole thing with what I thought was to be the last color. This was a transparent warm gray...

Step 14. Finished?

I finished working at a very late hour, so it was hard to really judge where things were. The next morning I decided it needed just a little more oomph to manage the drama I was looking for. I rolled the entire block with one more transparent gray, this one with a green tinge.

NOW it's finished. I think. Embiggenable with a click! 

Alrighty, then! As usual, I've had a heckuva time getting a photo that managed the blues correctly.

It's still not quite right because the bright blue diagonals read as far too bright and the dark is too dark, but if I dry to tone down the bright blue then all the rest of the color washes out. (sigh) I need someone with better photography and/or P-shop skills to help me figure it out.

Here's a little detail of the foreground mallard: (Still incorrect color.)

It also needs a title! Holly B. used the phrase "Mallard Armada," which is a fun description. My inspiration for the image was a group of mallards at a small lake not far from my home. If one stands still next to the water for too long, the mallards assume handouts are in the offing and they make a beeline (duckline) towards shore. This particular morning the sun hadn't quite made it over the ridge yet... so the reflected sky is pale and the contrast sharp.

"Did Someone Say Breakfast?" "Handout Armada"? "Like Cows to the Barn"? I don't know... I'll have to think about it for a while.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Although I'm probably the only one who can tell.

Believe it or not, there have been big things happening in the progress of the current linocut, but at this scale it will be almost impossible to tell. I'm going to try to show you anyway. (Any of the photos in this post can be slightly embiggened with a click, which might help a little. But not much.)

There's been some impatience among a few lurkers who want me to get on with the ducks, but a little more "faffing about" with the water still needed to happen. (Hi, John B.!)

After the previous step I rolled up the entire block with a transparent gray. (Step 7, not pictured.) I felt okay about how things were going until the next morning, when I decided that the blue printed in the diagonals was a little too bright.

Rats. Instead of moving ahead I was obliged to back up and hit some areas with an almost-white blue. Call it Step 7.5, I guess.

Linocut in Progress, Step 7.5 

Once I felt the blue was sufficiently toned-down it was time for another transparent gray, rolled over the entire block. Again, you can't really tell what's happening here, other than a slight increase in overall contrast, but this pass picked out a few details and set things up for....

Step 8

The ducks! Finally. There are four mallards swimming towards us, three males and one female. The previous transparent ink layers have made the foreground bird a little too blue, and the female needs to have brown undertones, so I did some spot inking and masking of the "duck blobs":

Step 9

There are lots of little color bits to add to the birds now, and once that's done I think there will be one more color pass. With luck I'll get the whole thing finished this weekend, which means in the back of my head I should be thinking about the next piece. Right?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Predictable Working Stages (PWS)

There are some things about reduction printing that I find more or less predictable, given that I so often employ the Seat-of-Your-Pants Method of image development.

My Predictable Working Stages (PWS) usually unfold like this:

  1. The first few steps and color passes are cohesive and enthusiasm is high. 
  2. Four or five steps along I am obliged to print a color that upsets that cohesiveness.
  3. Doubt and anxiety rise, avoidance behavior begins.
  4. I find a way to print some OTHER color first.
  5. See Stage 3.
  6. I finally find my spine and print the scary color.
  7. I remain scared until the entire thing resolves at the end.

This image proceeded happily along Predictable Working Stage 1 until I finished the previous color pass and abruptly collided with Predictable Working Stage 2. PWS 2 gave way immediately to PWS 3: Avoidance behavior.

I did the laundry. I washed the dishes. I finally took the overflowing recycling to the drop-off center. I took some long walks, and voila! I found my way to Predictable Working Stage 4: Avoid the problem by printing something else.

Many carving hours later I printed a straight-up transparent gray:

Linocut in progress, Step 5

Satisfying. Everything was still cohesive and I had a better sense of the overall rhythm of the image.

And then I was on to Predictable Working Stage 5, which is essentially Stage 3 all over again. Avoidance.

I did some online research for another project. I went to the grocery store. I checked on the dog of a friend who is away for a couple of days.

The question at this point was whether to start work on the ducks, which are suggested by three blobs right now, or to cut some complicated paper masks and print a scary color.

I finally made it to Predictable Working Stage 6: Find a spine and print the scary color.

A collection of masks for Color Pass 6

But first I had to cut a lot of masks. The little ones will protect the "duck blobs" from the scary color, the others will protect large portions of the rest of the print.

Ink rollup for Color Pass 6

Naturally the rollup wasn't entirely straightforward. I decided the tone along the bottom of the print was too dark, so I rolled up some white. Scary bright blue selectively inked elsewhere.

Masks in place on the block

Block is inked, masks are in place. Time to print.

Masks stuck to the print. Do not panic.

Most of the time when I use masks they lift away from the block and stay attached to the print after I run it through the press. This is no big deal, it's just the damp ink holding it in place, but it looks like a mess. The little bits over the "duck blobs" can be tricky to remove without smudging ink, but a delicately applied Xacto knife helps me lift a corner to get them started.

Carefully lifting the masks from the print.

Seven masks to put in place and remove for every print really slows things down, but in the end it's worth it. The scary color is where it belongs and the rest of the print has been protected through the process.

Linocut in progress, Color Pass 6 completed

A lot of this bright blue will be moderated by the next color, but it's still quite scary to see these up on the wall. Yep. I've reached Predictable Working Stage 7:

Remain scared until the whole thing is finished.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Slightly less vague?

When we last left our printmaker, she had spent several days creating print stages that were contenders for the "Most Boring Photo Ever Posted to a Blog" award.

I'm not sure we've fared much better in the photography department since then, although a lot has been happening.

Step 3 doesn't look very exciting from an image-development standpoint, but it does represent an interesting experiment. (Interesting to me, anyway.) I was ready to add a blue over the previous transparent pink and gray color passes, but I wanted the lower part of the image more blue than the upper part.

Linocut in progress, Step 3

I thought the solution might be to create a blended roll that changed opacity, rather than color. (In other words, ink that was more transparent at the top of the block and more opaque at the bottom.) It was a good idea, but after the first couple of pulls I decided the lower portion of the image had become TOO opaque. I ended up adding more transparent base to the lower color of the blend, which made the transition much more subtle but kept the water feeling luminous. The result looks like a subtle gray-to-blue blend, but it's really just one blue.

After that I "enjoyed" several days of rather confusing carving. For Step 4 I did use a transparent gray-to-blue blend, to keep the less intense color towards the top.

Linocut in progress, Step 4. (This photo you can embiggen with a click.)

Here's a detail of part of the right-hand side of the print after Step 4. This one is also embiggenable with a click.

Linocut in progress, Step 4 detail

So now I'm back to carving again. The good news is that this stage should go a little bit faster, as there are some larger sections to remove and not as many noodly shapes. I might turn my attention to the birds for the next few steps, and then the final darks should come along quickly. And hopefully the photography will get more interesting, too.