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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Linocut in Progress: Sort of...

The best laid plans, and all that. It's September, and while one might hope that the end of summer would mean a slow down in the schedule, one would be engaging the aforementioned hope in vain.

I did get a fourth color pass printed on the current linocut in progress. It was, as I think I predicted, a fairly straightforward transparent blue.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 4 revealed!

Instagram followers saw this sneak peek on the press... I think last Thursday. And yes, it's been an entire week without additional printing, but guess what? The ink is still damp. (Hello, Maine.) It's okay to print, I've just been a bit preoccupied. First the print:

The color looks streaky, but it's not. Wet ink, uneven table surface, bad photography.
The trifecta of horribleness.

And now for the excuses.

Friday/Saturday: Midcoast Audubon Lobster Bake Fundraiser. One day to shop and make fish chowder and cream puffins for 75 people, the next day to cook and serve lobsters, clams, corn, and potatoes in addition to aforementioned chowdah and dessert. (I bet you aren't on a board of directors that requires this kind of duty.)

Mmm. Lobster, corn, and taters smoked and steamed in a bed of seaweed.

Sunday: Studio and home visitors.

Monday: Prep for upcoming presentations. Attempt to run errands but... oh. Holiday. How rude. Do a little carving (!!!!), but not enough to print. Continue to fight ants in the studio.

Tuesday: Run all the errands not accomplished Monday and meet with a collector in Rockland.

Today: Laundry, haircut, and packing... because it's time for..... BIRDS IN ART! Tomorrow I'm off to Wisconsin for the opening of the exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum.

A ducky confab at the suitcase means it's time for Birds in Art!

And there went the week. Next week isn't much better in terms of available studio time– More visitors, more meetings, and framing for a show that I will hang September 19 at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm Nature Center.

Honestly. When someone tells you how wonderful it must be to be an artist, able to sit around and make prints all day long, send them to me. I'll set them straight. All of these other activities (ok, ok... all except the lobster bake) are part of the job, they just don't involve making art.

Hopefully I'll be able to sneak in and get the next color printed before I have to take off again (next Thursday), keep your fingers crossed for me!

But first... I'm off to see if the last item of clothing is dry enough to put in the suitcase, and triple-check that I packed my toothbrush. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Linocut in Progress: A mask and muddle

Whew! I don't know about you, but hot weather just makes me move like I'm under water. I started this edition with 26 prints (I've already trashed one), but it seems like it takes forever to print each color pass. This morning I got through three NOVA programs on PBS before I finished printing, and that didn't include clean up.

But I'm ahead of myself.

Things continue to be a bit weird in the color department. If you've been following along you know that the first color pass was a transparent peachy color and the second was a transparent lavender. Which of course gave me a rosier peach. But I needed to start dragging this whole image back into the realm of blues, soooooooo... the third color pass was a transparent blue.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 3

Which is why everything now looks a bit gray. In good light with good photography you might be able to tell that it is blueish-gray... but in this case you'll just have to take my word for it.

And now the trouble. I seriously need the next color pass to look blue... AND I need it to be a rather pale blue, no darker than the current overall value of the image. What the heck am I gonna do?

Had I taken the time early on to cut a fussy mask and confined the peachy color to small areas, getting a light blue would be easy. But I traded the tedium of cutting masks for the anxiety of balancing opaque and transparent inks. I'm not sure that I did myself a favor either way.

ANYWAY. I got out the white. And my leftover bits of transparent blue from the previous color pass. And a little more blue ink. And just because I didn't have a large enough pile of ink, I got out some more transparent base, too.

The good news/bad news about using white is that it's opaque. Using it will help reduce the influence of the previous color passes on the new one. But it's also... opaque. (Have I mentioned that?) It's not as luminous as a transparent ink, so it's going to influence the quality of every single color that comes after it.


I decided to take a weird sort of middle-ground. I mixed leftover scraps of the previous transparent blue with a blob of white. This made a nice pale blue that was more opaque than not. It was also unpleasantly... chalky.

So I added more transparent base. This might seem counter-productive, since my purpose here is to put down a color that looks blue, but my hope was to reduce that icky flat quality of the white ink.

I also decided to keep the color entirely out of the body of the bird. (What? You didn't know there was going to be a bird? Clearly you have not been paying attention. Water + bird = typical Sherrie linocut.) This meant cutting a mask, but a much simpler one than I faced 'way back at the beginning. Here it is in place on the inked block:

And, boy. That block looks kinda opaque, doesn't it? (Did I mention that white ink is opaque?)

Fingers crossed, breath held, assorted printmaking gods invoked.... and....

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 4

It worked! The blue is perhaps not quite as pale as I might have liked (although it's lighter than it appears in the photo), but it is definitely blue and I can work with it. In fact I think the next layer is going to be back to another transparent blue, but this time I'll let it interact with the bird.

Naturally we've got two days of hot and humid ahead of us, so I don't expect to print before Thursday. But I'll get the carving done and maybe start playing around with another idea while these prints get to the correct stage of dryness.

Any guesses about bird species yet? North American birders worth their waterfowling salt ought to be able to figure it out. The cool thing? It's a bird found in both Maine and Colorado in the winter. (Although when they do turn up in Colorado, everyone gets their birding knickers in a twist.)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Linocut in Progress (!!): Risky business

Hooray! I spent all day today in the studio. The second round of repairs to the press seems to be holding, the weather was cool and dry enough to work with the windows open and the ant infestation (about which I haven't even begun to rant) seemed under control... so I jumped on in.

Linocut in progress, Step 1

Well... actually... compared to how I usually jump in to these things, I did spend a fair amount of time thinking before I started. This image has an interesting (I hope) combination of warm and cool colors... a bit tricky to manage when one is using very transparent inks.

I decided to start with the warm color first... time will tell whether that was a good idea or not. Step 1 was a transparent peachy hue.

Step 2 was... lavender! My goal was to tone down the peachy color a bit and create an intermediate step before going to blues. Purple and yellow are complementary colors, so lavender seemed the best choice.

Linocut in progress, Step 2

These are quite lousy photos– I still haven't found a good setup for shooting work in progress– but you get the idea. It doesn't look at all lavender, but I didn't expect it to. It does have a nice sort of rosy tinge to it when you see it up close.

This particular image has some ink transfer from the Sharpie pen I used to draw the block, but I'm not worried about it. It will all be covered by subsequent color passes, and I rotate the prints with Sharpie transfer to the front of the printing queue, where they frequently end up as color testers anyway.

The next step will be a pale blue. I am debating the merits of making it a more opaque color by adding some white, but I'm also considering masking out some areas, too. I probably won't be able to print tomorrow, so I have a little time to think about it. That's not exactly the same as planning, but it's about as close as I ever get.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Workshops everywhere, and some linos, too!

Whew! July and August... what happened to them?

After two weeks of workshops on at Hog Island Audubon Camp and a short workshop at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge I immediately... led more workshops!

The first week of August I was joined by eleven fun and inspirational women for a week-long field sketching adventure, hosted by the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. Naturally it was a week of record heat and humidity, but we were fortunate that our class met mornings and we were able to avoid the worst of the oppressive afternoons. We spent time at Owls Head Light, the Rockland South Beach, and in the garden (complete with chickens!) of one of our group members.

Sketching at Owls Head Light

We spent the hottest morning inside the museum, first drawing from Ai Wei Wei's Circle of Animals gold zodiac heads, and then taking a close look at the preliminary drawings for a number of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. Fun!

Sketching in the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Farnsworth Art Museum

The group had such a great time that we've scheduled a "reunion" sketch date next week in Rockport Harbor. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again and filling a page or two of my own this time!

I thought I'd be getting back in the studio the following week, but I was called to sub for some workshop sessions back on Hog Island for Family Camp. This time I was sketching with kids and parents and grandparents...

Sketching in the gardens on Hog Island

Whew! All done now, right? Not quite! I had a pile of framing, packing and shipping to do for upcoming shows at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, Colorado and Oh Be Joyful Gallery in Crested Butte, Colorado. It was the first time I had to manage all that in my new place, so it took extra time to figure out new working systems. But I got it all done, and I know at least some of the work has already made it to its destination.

At long last I got into the studio last week, to work on two small linocuts for Project Postcard, coming up during the Birds in Art exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin. Carving went well, but the morning I set up to print... disaster!!!!

If you've been following along since my move you might know that Presston, my lovely 30 x 60 Takach press, came out of his 6-month storage adventure with a buckled laminate surface on the bed. After some panicked correspondence with the good folks at Takach I was just about to order a new press bed when my neighbor asked if he could take a look at it. 

He pronounced it fixable, and proceeded to help me pull up the loose portions of the laminate and re-adhere them. Hoorah! I got a couple of editions through the press in between the chaos of workshops and workshop prep and kept my fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, no doubt encouraged by our two weeks of record heat and humidity, the portions of the laminate that had been intact in June decided to pull up, creating a big bubble on half of the bed. There was enough flat space for me to print the two tiny (4 x 6) pieces I was working on, but once again I was dead in the water for anything else. 

This time when my neighbor came by we agreed that the best thing to do would be to remove the laminate across the entire press bed... including the areas we had fixed in June... and stick it all back down again. 

As you can imagine, this was a multi-hour, multi-day project. The old adhesive came up fairly easily, but the new stuff we put on in June? Ooph. We finally finished it yesterday. So far it all seems good... so tonight I tore down some paper and started to prep for a new, largeish lino! What a relief. No pun intended.

As for the little pieces created for Project Postcard, I'm afraid I can't show them to you. At least not in full until after the event. But I can make a silly warped image of them...

Assuming I don't run into any more press-related disasters I expect to have this new piece underway tomorrow, so hey! It looks like we might be getting back to our regularly scheduled... schedule. Stay tuned!