Friday, December 7, 2018

Linocut in Progress: The subtle steps

It's been a frustrating week of bureaucratic headaches, so studio time has felt extra precious and restorative. All the "stuff" of life– particularly the stresses of a self-employed life– can really crank the volume on the self-doubt up to eleven. Going to the studio can sometimes feel futile or worse, frivolous.

But if I can push past all that and pick up my tools...  Well. Let's just say it's interesting how the frustration can dial back to the level of background noise.

Progress on the current linocut continues to be subtle, but that will change soon. Here's the second step, another transparent blue, just a bit darker.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 2

This seems pretty good overall, but you know me. I have to complicate things as least a little or it doesn't feel like I'm working hard enough. I decided a graduated blue, light to dark, top to bottom, would add more interest and allow me to do more subtle things with the shadows in the foreground.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 3

I am continually frustrated by trying to photograph blues, but hopefully you get the idea. Both of these images have been uploaded a little bit larger than they appear in the post, so if you click on them you can flip back and forth between them in a larger format and get a better idea. Or not.

The next step? Whew. Lots of carving. Almost all of the snow shadows have to come out now, including lots of small bits between tree branches. There are also a couple of surprises getting ready to emerge from the background, and I'll be trying to work out my next color choices. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Linocut in Progress: Oh, those happy beginning stages.

There are few things more satisfying than starting a new linocut. Well, I suppose there might be more or different things for other people, but this weekend starting a new linocut was the most satisfying thing for me. And since this is my blog... oh... whatever. Let's just get on with it.

Since this new image is..... (drum roll) a snow scene, there was a lot of carving to accomplish before ink could roll. And before the carving there was a lot of drawing. Did I mention I found this satisfying?

This morning ink did roll, the first color was printed, and the new linocut is officially in progress. Even though this first color pass was quite pale (in fact I beefed up the contrast for this photo so you could actually see something) it already defines a lot of what's going on.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 1

Fun, eh? What's even more fun is that there's a little surprise in this forest. I don't think it will be visible at the next color pass... maybe the one after that. But first... back to the carving table. Which is satis... oh, never mind. Just stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A blast from the past: Notecards now available!

"Longing" notecards

Just in time for the holidays... I've decided to release some notecards with images of linocuts, the original editions of which are sold out. (Well, okay... one of them isn't sold out... but what's not to love about a puffin card?)

Check them out in my Gift Gallery!

"Leaf Litter" notecards

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Coming up!

Look over there! Linocuts!

It's that time of year! Loads of holiday art cheer to be found. Here are a couple of events at which you will be able to find to work of a certain linocut printmaker you know:

Holiday Artisan Faire: Curated by Pine Tree Pop-up and hosted by the Woodman Museum, Dover, New Hampshire. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, November 23-December 23.

South Gallery, Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Rockland, Maine. Opening reception December 1, 11:00am-1:00pm. Show continues through February.

Home for the Holidays, Ann Korologos Gallery, Basalt, Colorado, November 24-January 8.

Also, Oh Be Joyful Gallery in Crested Butte, Colorado and Green Lion Gallery in Bath, Maine will be featuring seasonally inspiring work through the winter. Please stop in and check them out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Holiday Artisan Faire at the Woodman Museum (Dover, New Hampshire)

I am delighted to share that I will have work included in this show and sale of the work of New England artists and craftsmen, curated by Pine Tree Pop-Up and hosted by the Woodman Museum in Dover, New Hampshire. Weekends starting November 23 (right after Thanksgiving). Check it out if you're in the neighborhood!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Linocut in Progress: When to wave the white flag of surrender?

Ridiculous, that's what it's been. I have had my printmaking behind summarily kicked by what should have been a fairly straightforward image. But it's done now. (At least I hope it is.) And I can finally get on with the rest of my life. Such as it is.

It's the darn face, you see. My reference image is a photo I took a couple of years ago, when a spanky male long-tailed duck showed up on our small local lake in the Rockies and spent December wowing the locals.

I was obsessed with this bird and took a lot of really cruddy photos. His favorite place to hang out was, of course, the middle of the lake, so most of my images were poorly-lighted and blurry. I loved the idea of of the wave pushed ahead of the bird, but in my super-high-contrast reference one side of his face was completely "blown out" white, and the shadow side was almost black. But hey! I can figure out the face and make a lino out of that, right?


When last I checked in with you I had just created a second block to try to repair the problems of the first.

Since it's been a while, here's a reminder of where we were:

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 13

I had decided to create a second block because I felt the shadowed side of the bird needed to be darker (and bluer).

Second block, masked

And here's that second block, all inked up for what I thought would be the ONE color pass. The newsprint masks were used to protect the prints and keep any stray ink out of places it didn't belong... and it kept me from having to take the time to clear all the material from the background of Block 2.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 14

Okay. Better. Now I can go back to the first block, right? Well, sort of. The long-tailed duck has this great patch of a sort of ocher-y-greeny color on the side of its face. It's too light by a long shot. I should have fixed this before I did the new shadow, but I didn't. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of those times when my lack of planning came back to bite my printmaking behind.

I couldn't use Block 1 for this, because that area had been removed several steps back. But I had that second block, so I cleared out all but the face color and printed only that shape.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 15

It looks a bit frightening here, but value-wise it's closer to what I need. But now the dark shape just felt flat and boring. No problem. Some details of the eye on the shadow side and getting the rest of the dark portion of the beak in would fix that, right?

Of course this required going back to Block 1, because I had removed the eye area for the previous step on Block 2. (Are you confused yet? You should have seen ME.)

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 16

Hm. It's a little better... but not great. That side of the face still feels really flat. And the eye needs a darker ring around it. But what to do? I decided to make a small, slightly darker, shape around the eye. It took a ridiculous number of tries to get this shape and color right, but I think it helped. Can you see it?

Reduction linocut, Step 17.

Detail of blended area
I honestly don't remember which block I was on at this point, but I still wasn't satisfied with the flatness of the shadow side of the face. I decided to borrow a technique from Japanese moku hanga prints, "bokashi." Bokashi is used to add a blended or gradated color to a print. In my case I was working such a tiny area that I applied the ink with a brush rather than a brayer.( Moku hanga printmaker Annie Bissett uses bokashi to good effect in her work.)

This is getting really fussy, but I couldn't think of another way to resolve the problem. I suppose technically this is Step 18.  Well, 18 and 19 together, because this detail shot shows the last pass at the eye and bill as well. But the softer, sort of "smudgy" color around the eye felt better to me.

At long last I went back one more time to Block 1 to finish the eye and bill... and I went ahead and put some more color in the wave, too, because why not? Here's a shot of the finished piece.

Slightly embiggenable with a click, this image.
It needs a title, but so far all I'm coming up with is "Print That Should NOT Have
Taken This Long to Finish."

It's such a simple image that it seems ridiculous that it should have taken so much time and effort. There were several times when I thought I should just walk away from it and start over, but it's been a loooonnnnggggg time since I waved the white flag of surrender and gave up entirely.

But in the end I'm more or less satisfied. I do see one thing I'm tempted to change, but as that would require cutting a third block I have decided it's time to move on. What's next? No idea, but I bet it won't be a duck.

Or will it?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Coming up! Intro to Relief Printing workshop at the Museum of American Bird Art

Museum of American Bird Art
(No, it's not snowing there yet! This photo is from my visit there last spring.) 

Just because I woke up this morning to the prospect of a relatively easy-going week doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. In fact, if you're in the Boston area in early November and would like to get your printmaking feet wet with a relief printing workshop, have I got a deal for you!

Intro to Relief Printing
Saturday, November 10
Museum of American Bird Art at MassAudubon (Canton, MA)

Participants will design, carve, and print two small blocks inspired by natural forms: plants, animals, insects… anything! Armed with newly carved blocks, we will explore printing them singly and in combination… overlapping, turning, and repeating to discover new designs.

For more information and to register, check out the MassAudubon online program catalog here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Linocut in Progress: Problem solving. Which would be less necessary if I didn't create the problem in the first place, but I did.

For a variety of reasons, the progress of the current linocut has been a long, drawn-out slog. Slow drying times. Lots of travel that kept me out of the studio. And stalling. Yes. I've been stalling.

But before I give a full confession, let's catch up to where things stand now.

I finally felt that the blues and the green were on track, and thought perhaps I'd wrap up the water in one more color pass.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step... um... 12, I think.

Yeah. Got that wrong. It still needed a little more oomph in the darker shapes. But there's also the problem of the shadowed side of the bird being way too light. After much hemming and hawing and significant amounts of denial and stalling I finally conceded that I was just going to have to use a second block.

I've done this once before when I thought the shadow too pale... on a backlit image of a chipmunk. Fixing it was a pain in the neck, but it was also the right thing to do. I hate that.

But here I am again with the same problem, so I squared up a second piece of lino and got it ready. On the chipmunk piece I used a paper mask to avoid having to cut away aaallllllll the areas of the block that don't need to print... hm. I'm not sure that will work here, so I decided to do an offset transfer of the current block to the new surface. Let me see if I can explain it...

First I prepped a piece of clear acetate larger than my block, using the same pin and tab registration jig that I'm using for the print.

Clean acetate sheet ready for offset transfer

Then I inked up the current block... the one that's largely carved away... and put it in the jig. I placed the acetate over the top, just as I would a piece of print paper, and ran it through the press.

When I removed the sheet of acetate, it had the image of the cut block on it.

Image transferred to acetate

Are you with me so far? I removed block #1 from the jig and replaced it with the fresh, uncarved block #2. The now-image-inked acetate sheet went on top (lined up with the pins and tabs) and I ran everything through the press again.

Inked acetate over fresh block #2

Peel back the acetate and voila! The image is now transfered to the new block.

I've set the new block aside to dry (Oh dear... how long will THAT take?) and returned to the prints in progress. I printed one more sort of dark transparent blue-green-gray and I think I can finally walk away from the background water.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 13.

Now here's the kicker. Regular Brush and Baren readers will know that I always start with a few extra prints so I have room to experiment with color. Since somewhere around step 3 or 4 I've had a "tester" print at the front of the queue that was pulled out because the violet color was too bright. Horrifyingly bright. But guess what?

I kept it in the rotation and used all the same subsequent colors on it and now I like it better than the rest of the edition. The shadow tone in the bird is pretty good, and the color of the wave is richer. Oh, well. There's only one. But perhaps I can bring some of the things I like about it back in to the edition via the second block. Or not.

It's so close now. One "fixit" pass and then one... maybe two more... and it will be done. This one has been unexpectedly challenging, but I hope it will all turn out to be worth it in the end!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

58th Art & the Animal at the James Museum

Wheee! I'm just back from a quick trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Society of Animal Artists' 58th Art & the Animal exhibition, which debuted this year at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

Part of the beautiful installation at the James Museum

The James is a brand new museum and Art & the Animal is their first "special" exhibition beyond their permanent collection. They did a gorgeous job of hanging the show, and the staff and docents were a delight to work with. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone involved with putting the show and the weekend events together.

Find the linocut in great company. I'm surrounded by the work of fabulous
artists: Bill Alther, Cindy House, Chris Bacon, Sue AdairJames Coe.

I admit to some trepidation about making the journey to Florida. Two previous visits were less than stellar experiences (one qualified as absolutely wretched), and the weather forecast called for 90 degrees and humid.  But I'm happy to say that my misgivings quickly vanished, particularly since I was able to spend time with good friends and colleagues.. AND even meet a fellow printmaker I've "known" online for several years but never met in person. Ain't that grand?

One morning I was up well before daylight to join friends on a birding expedition. Bird artists gotta look at birds sometimes, right? But seriously. How are we going to find any birds in this?...

Um. I thought we were going birding "in the morning." How come it's
so dark out, guys?

The early departure was to travel to a location where it might be possible to spot the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Local information said dawn gave us our best possibility of success, so off we went in full darkness in hopes of arriving just at sunrise. We were successful in travel but not in woodpecker-finding. Still it was a great morning to be out in the Florida pines.

Birders in their natural habitat

At a second location we found a few more birds, but more importantly we found gators. Alligators, that is. We were standing on a bridge looking down a waterway when I realized with a start that there were alligators on the shoreline. D'oh! Florida. I forgot about them gators.

This photo can be embiggened a bit to find the gators. There are two.

I hadn't brought my "real" camera along on the trip, so unfortunately I don't have any pictures of birds! Ah, well. It's possible I'll be back down that way in December and next time I'll be fully outfitted for bird-finding expedition.

So what's up for the remainder of this week? I'm planning to be back in the studio tomorrow and Friday, and Saturday I'll be teaching a short field sketching workshop at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center near Portland. The workshop is sold out, but I do have an exhibition of over 20 linocuts installed at the Farm right now... so stop on by if you're in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Linocut in Progress: The blues. And a pink.

Hooray! A little bit more progress has been made on the current linocut in progress. Finally I'm seeing a little bit of acceleration of drying times. Not much. But a little.

This crazy duck has a pink-and-black bill, and of course I don't need the pink anywhere else, so as soon as the prints were dry enough to work around the bird's face I decided it needed a little pochoir. I've talked about this technique before... basically it's an old hand-coloring technique that I occasionally employ when I need a little bit of a color in one small area.

So, voila! The bird has his pink bill.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 10.

I am really starting to despair about the value of the colors on the shadowed side of the bird. I think I'm going to have to resort to some drastic measures before this thing is finished. But making that judgment is just going to have to wait a bit longer.

I'm challenged by this water, too. Despite using light-to-dark blended rolls I feel like the water is just a bit flat. In the photo everything looks a bit gray, but in real life I felt it was too bright, so I mixed up some gray-blues and did a top-to-bottom, light-to-dark blended roll over the entire block.

Well. Almost the entire block. Since I'm concerned about the face, I went ahead and masked that out so I wouldn't complicate things any further.

Do we dare call that a facemask?

If the prints are dry enough when using a mask, the mask will stay stuck to the block when the print is peeled back. If they are too tacky, sometimes the mask will stick to the print... and getting it off can be a nail-biting experience. Luckily, these were, as Goldilocks once said, juuuuust right.

Here. I can prove it to you.

And here's where we are now:

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 11

The green is finally just right, too, so the next step will be to leave a little bit of that luscious color and then darken the rest of the wave. Somehow. I haven't quite figured that out yet.

I have a little bit of time to think about it, because tomorrow morning I'm off to Florida (what?) for the Society of Animal Artists' annual exhibition and members' meeting. The 58th Art & the Animal exhibition is currently on view at the brand new James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg and continues through October 28. There's an artist "meet and greet" reception on Friday evening, so if you're in the area, I'd love to say hello. The Friday night event requires a ticket, so check out the museum's website for more information.

I'll be back in the studio next Tuesday, hopefully with dry prints and a fresh idea about how to wrap this thing up. Oh, and if you haven't been following me on Instagram, you might have missed this little up-and-coming project.

What's it going to be? Heck if I know. But it's going to be... something.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Linocut in Progress: The Glarin' o' the Green

I continue to limp gamely forward in the progress of this current linocut. I've been a bit derailed by horribly slow drying times, which have caused me to change my approach and will no doubt insure later hair-pulling and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I had hoped to turn my attention to the bird, but one foiled attempt at spot-inking caused immediate retreat. More water work it is.

And there's plenty o' work to be done. That green needs taming for one thing. And some gradation to the water. Fine. Let's do that.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 8

In what was probably the most straightforward color pass of the entire effort so far, a light-to-darkish blue blended roll went over the entire block, bird and all. The transparent blue went over that garish green and knocked in down a peg. Still too bright, but I'm not afraid. Not much, anyway.

I'm beginning to doubt that I got the shadow side of the bird dark enough, but addressing that problem will have to wait. If I do need to darken the value, well... it's going to take a second block, I think. I don't like to think it. But I do.

No way to know without continuing the rest of it. So here's a second light-to-darkish blue color pass with more gray added to the blues. This time I masked out the bird's face, which stripped some of the too-wet color off the prints. No problem. I thought it wasn't quite right, anyway.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 9

The green is finally approaching what I need, and I think I can get it there with one more all-over blended blue pass. If I'm lucky that will be the end of the overall water and I'll just have the wave and the duck to deal with. But of course we're already at Step 9, so my hopes of finishing in another two passes have been dashed. Four, maybe? One overall water, one wave, one or two duck? There's a spot inking of pink that needs to happen on the bird's beak, but as I mentioned before, trying to do it when everything around it is still so wet is a disaster waiting to happen. Patience. I must practice patience. Not one of my best skills.

We're supposed to get a couple of days of good weather here, so I'm hoping to fling the studio windows open wide and get some drying action going. Cross your fingers! I would love to finish this piece before I have to go out of town AGAIN! Sheesh.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Linocut in Progress: Yes, really

Alrighty, then. Pressing on. (Get it?)

When we last left our linocut hero, she had just wrapped up the fourth color pass on the current print in progress. As a reminder, here's what it looked like:

Reduction lino in progress: Step 4

Looking okay so far... but what the heck... let's put another blue pass on here, just because we can.

Linocut in progress: Step 5

Here I must again apologize for poor photography. I just haven't found a good spot in which to take in-progress shots in the new space. Natural light through the large sliding door leaves a sort of greenish tinge, and through the windows the light is really inconsistent. And under artificial light there's too much glare from the wet ink. I'll figure it out one of these days.

In the meantime, the Step 4 photo is really too dark. Step 5 is a little closer to true.

At this point I felt it was time to focus a bit on the bird. There's one more transparent blue layer to go over the entire piece, but not before a little gray-green in the bird's face. So what does this mean, boys and girls? Another mask, of course. But this time instead of masking out the bird, I masked out everything else:

Step 6 mask in place

The color change in the face is subtle, but perhaps you can tell:

Step 6 printed


I'm not really convinced that I'm going to be able to pull this face off the way I'd like, but there's nothing else to do at this point but keep plowing forward. (Which, coincidentally, is what this duck is doing. Plowing forward. Through the water. Oh, nevermind.)

Up to this point we've been dealing with Subtle This and Subtle That. Nice, but a bit boring. And you know what happens when Sherrie gets bored. Things tend to get... well... ridiculous.

Like this.


That there, my friends, is an awfully bright green. It verges on obnoxious. But here's the thing. That little wave being pushed forward by the bird has a rich green undertone that I would love to replicate. I didn't want to mix the exact green at this stage, because the value change would be too extreme. At the same time I didn't want to wait to put down the green, because too many other ink layers below it would interfere with both the translucency and richness.

It's a scary color. Even now when I look at the prints hanging on the rack I wonder if it's too much, but, hey. As a friend said to me long ago: If you're not falling down, you're not trying hard enough. He was talking about skiing, but whatever.

Here's the ink rolled up on the block. I neglected to take a photo of the masks in place, but yes, I masked most of the background, since I absolutely didn't need to be putting this crazy green all over the entire image.

Ink rollup before mask

And here (gulp) is what I have now.

Linocut in progress: Step 7

Hm. Yeah.

The next color pass will be another transparent blue, which will theoretically tone down that craziness and re-harmonize the overall piece. Note that I said theoretically. Stay tuned to see if I can pull an inky rabbit out of my well-chewed hat.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Three crazy weeks, and then back to the studio

Alright... where the heck were we before I started running all over the universe again?

Yes. Duck linocut in progress. Hm. Howzabout I share a little about where I've been the last couple of weeks, and then we'll get back to work, okay?

First: Birds in Art!!!! This is not just a legitimate excuse for being out of the studio, it's the best reason of the year for packing a bag and a rubber duck* and heading for Wisconsin.

My linocut, "Watching + Waiting," hanging in august company at
Birds in Art. (Yes, that's a Robert Bateman oil on the wall to the left.)

If you've never been to the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, all I can say is that you've been missing out on some of the most inspiring exhibitions and community-minded events to be found. Anywhere. Trust me. Just go there.

And if you go in the autumn you will find the walls filled with their flagship exhibition, Birds in Art. It's one of the most prestigious wildlife art shows in the world, and it's always an honor to have work juried in to this exhibition. And, wow! I was surprised and touched to have work included in two other exhibits currently on view there: Regal Bearing: Bird Portraiture (from the museum's permanent collection), and a fun little collection of pages from the museum's guest books... including two I created during my residencies in 2018 and 2013.

I was barely home from Birds in Art when I turned around and headed downeast to Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park and the Wendell Gilley Museum. The Gilley is a tiny gem of a museum, centered around a large collection of Wendell Gilley's bird carvings, but which also presents exhibitions of related work in paint, print, and sculpture.

I visited the Gilley to open conversations about upcoming collaborations... I'm excited to share what we're cooking up, but that will have to wait just a bit.

The day after I returned from the Gilley Museum I was up to my elbows in framing for another show, which I installed yesterday at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth, Maine. It's a challenging space to photograph... a long, narrow gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall, so you'll just have to go there to see it for yourself. Show runs through October 28.

Whew! This morning I was finally back in the studio slinging ink, so you can expect an update from there in the next day or two.

*Oh. I suppose the rubber duck reference deserves an explanation. A few years ago the Woodson Museum staff gave Birds in Art artists a rubber duck and asked us to include it in social media posts. My ducky still travels... in fact this year our unfortunate travel delays enroute to Wausau had a silver lining: Ducky met our airline captain and got his Junior Pilot wings. You just never know where he'll turn up next. Kinda like a certain printmaker.  #birdsinartducky