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.

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...