Sunday, July 29, 2018

A little of this and a little of that...

The loon linocuts are still drying on the rack... getting close, but we've been really humid here this week so the last ink layer is still a little bit tacky.

In the meantime I'm keeping plenty busy! This past week I gave a quick Intro to Linocut workshop at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge's headquarters in Rockland. The workshop was a nice wrap-up for my show there, which came down on Thursday.

The workshop was sponsored by the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands, a local non-profit that supports the Refuge's mission with education and outreach programs. 

We were sold out for the program, and the participants did such an amazing job creating small prints in a VERY short amount of time (about 90 minutes) that we're looking at scheduling another workshop this winter.

In the week ahead I'll be spending a lot of time up in Rockland, facilitating a week-long field sketching workshop through the Farnsworth Art Museum. If you've never visited the Farnsworth, you owe it to yourself to do so the next time you find yourself on the coast of Maine. The museum has an extensive collection of work by the Wyeth family and hosts spectacular visiting exhibitions as well. (Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals is there right now... I think we'll spend a little time drawing them at some point this week!)

Back in the studio I'll be working on small, temporarily secret linos for Project Postcard at the opening of Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum in early September. What to do, what to do?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Linocut in Progress: Wrapping up the Loon

Two weeks out of the studio when the loon linocut was so close to completion was quite a wrench. However, now that I live so close to Hog Island I was able to jump back in to the studio the day after we wrapped up our session and immediately bury myself in ink.

Of course the finish wasn't nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I struggled mightily to find the right balance of bird and reflection. I didn't take photos of all the different ways I tried to manage it... but here's the second-to-last stage:

reduction linocut in progress, Step 9

It came down to a question of "feel" for the reflection. The darker version might have been more true to my reference, but the lighter, murkier version seemed to make the birds the clearer focal point.

Rather overexposed, but you get the idea

I consulted a couple of friends and colleagues (thank you, interwebs) and their reactions were as mixed as mine. In the end I went with the lighter reflection.

embiggenable with a click

We're in the throes of gray and rainy weather this week, so it will be a few days before I can get a good photograph of the final stage. This one is okay, and if you embiggen the image (click on it) you can get a fair look at it. All that's lacking now is a title... and several days' drying time.

This piece has been in the back of my mind since December, when I first agreed to create something for the upcoming International Loon / Diver Symposium hosted by the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland. That it was another six months before I was able to get to work on it was an unexpected frustration, and it's been weighing heavily on my mind for a long time. To finally have a drying rack full of loons is immensely satisfying. And it lets me ponder my favorite question: What's next?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Time Out for Arts and Birding

Sketching in the flower garden, Hog Island Audubon Camp

The loon linocut sits waiting to be completed, and it will have to sit for one more week before I can get back in to the studio.

It has to be something pretty special to drag me away when a piece is as close to completion as the loon is, and Hog Island Audubon Camp is definitely special.

I've been traveling from Colorado to Maine to be an instructor at the camp since 2008. The commute is a lot shorter now that I live nearby, but that doesn't diminish the magic of island time.

This past week's session was Arts and Birding, and I was fortunate to team teach the drawing and painting track with the brilliant Jean Mackay. Campers spent a fun week practicing sketching and watercolor skills, working both in the field and in the lab. We hiked to beautiful locations and explored sea life in the intertidal zone, and of course we took a boat trip out to see puffins. Because what's Maine without puffins?

Tomorrow the campers arrive for Educator's Week, so there's more adventure to be had. But next weekend I'll be back in the studio and happily putting the last few passes on the loon. Stay tuned!

Drawing from the specimen collection (and, yes... they always looked this serious!)

Sharing work at nightly salon

Looking for sketching subjects at low tide

Obligatory puffin shot

Evening light at Hog Island

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What's It All About Wednesday: Here!

"Here," reduction linocut, 12" x 18"  © Sherrie York

If it's Wednesday I'm on a boat, headed out to see puffins at Eastern Egg Rock and then do some hiking and sketching on Harbor Island.

Visits "to" Eastern Egg Rock are generally boat trips around Eastern Egg Rock. During the breeding season the 7-acre island is off limits to all but researchers and the occasional supervised visitor. One can get some great looks at birds from the water, but there's really nothing to compare with the opportunity to set foot on the island and spend some time in an observation blind. Which, I'm delighted to say, I've been able to do a couple of times.

Sitting in an observation blind is sort of like being backstage in a theatre. Puffins in particular are largely facing the grand stage of the sea, and from the blind one sees a lot of backsides, as well as off-stage interactions as birds quickly come and go from rocky burrows.

To help keep track of breeding success, researchers have labeled burrows and given names to landmarks across the island that can be seen from an observation blind but not from the water. In this linocut you can see bits of those markings. A careful observer might also notice that this adult bird is wearing a small silver identification band around its left leg. It's probable that this bird was banded on Egg Rock as a chick and has returned here to breed. Here to breed.

It's a funny title for an image, "Here." But for me this look at a puffin stretching its wings represents time and place in a unique way. Puffins were extirpated from the coast of Maine, and efforts by Project Puffin researchers over the past 40+ years have helped them return to historic breeding grounds like Eastern Egg Rock. But decades of study have also taught us a lot about the lives of these amazing birds, and the scientific record shows us the effects of a changing environment.

That open-winged gesture is for me one of celebration and invocation. Here on this island is success and failure, possibility and opportunity, invitation and warning. Here be puffins.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Linocut in Progress: P-p-p-p-pochoir!

As I am typing this my over-full suitcase sits downstairs, ready for the long, exhausting twenty minute drive to the mainland dock for Hog Island Audubon Camp this afternoon. It's Arts and Birding week, so my bags include the usual sketching supplies, plus a few extras. When I say "a few" extras, I mean that I'm having to fight the temptation to keep throwing more stuff on the pile. It's the first time in ten years (read: ever) that I'm not having to consider air travel when packing for the island. I have to keep reminding myself that just because I can bring more stuff doesn't mean I should. I do, after all, have two big boxes of materials stashed in an island attic already. (Yes, I've been carving out a place for myself here in Maine, one pile of art supplies at a time, for the last decade.)

ANYWAY.... I had really hoped to get this linocut finished before I left, but of course this week we had record high heat and humidity. Not a great combination to facilitate working in the studio.

I did manage to get one more nice blended roll, brown to blue, printed late one night after the temperature and humidity levels fell. Sorry the photo is poor... photography happened late at night, too.

Loon, reduction linocut, Step 6

One of the most striking things about a loon, in addition to its graphic black-and-white plumage, is its lovely red eye. Of course that eye only covers about a quarter of an inch of the entire image, so what to do?

Yep, it's time to employ that century-old technique: pochoir.

Longtime readers of Brush and Baren have seen me employ pochoir before. I don't do it very often, but it comes in handy for tiny color areas like this. I could cut a mask, do some selective inking, and run everything through the press, but that's a lot of work with plenty of room for registration disasters. Pochoir allows me to apply the color directly to the prints by hand. (Thank you, French illustrators in the late 1800s.)

Mylar stencil for pochoir.

So. First I have to make the stencil. In this case I used clear acetate (mylar). I traced the major lines of the birds with a sharpie to give myself a reference point for lining things up. Then I cut out some holes. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of pouncing (pochoir) the eye, I might as well save myself a step by pouncing the beaks and breasts of the chicks, too.

Pochoir stencil placed over the print and in use.

I have a couple of stiff paint brushes with the bristles cut short that I use to apply the ink. I tap (pounce) the brush straight up and down in the ink and then on to the print through the stencil.

I try to use a light touch here, but if I get a little too much ink applied (which happened frequently with the red), I place a small piece of newsprint over the fresh ink and rub with my finger to strip off the excess.

Loon, reduction linocut, Step 7

Et voila! An eye and some beaks ready for the next darker application of ink color. I think I only have two steps to go now... a dark gray and an almost-black. Or maybe a full black... we'll see.

The bummer is that I won't be able to finish this until I'm done with my two weeks on the island! So close... and yet so far.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Linocut in Progress: So much blue and green!

Here on the coast of Maine it's been downright steamy for the last few days. The whole world seems green and blue and wet (not to mention hot), which has carried over into the studio, both literally and figuratively.

Step 4 ink roll out

Some of the fun of interpreting water in linocut is the excuse to use a lot of blended ink rolls. In this case the block I am working on is 12 x 12 inches in size, but my brayers and rollers jump in length from 8 to 18 inches. I haven't wanted to break out the big roller, so I've taken advantage of the natural division in the upper third of my composition to do a little faking. The 8" blended roll covers the bottom of the block, and a small 4" brayer takes care of the top.

Just as a reminder, here's a shot of steps 3 and 4 side-by-side.

Reduction linocut in progress, steps 3 and 4

And here's Step 4 all by itself.

Linocut in progress, Step 4

I was feeling pretty good about the water at this point... but the background foliage needs some more contrast, so of course that's going to have to make its way into the reflections. Another green-to-blue blended roll? Yippee.

Linocut in progress, Step 5

I think the water is just about finished except for the reflection of the birds, which will need to be toned down and warmed up. Well, maybe it's almost finished. You know me.

But here's the crazy part. I think I'm going to be able to wrap this whole edition up in under 10 color passes. What?!?!? That almost never happens, no matter how hard I try.

Of course just because I think this will be finished in a few more color passes doesn't mean it will be done soon. Why not? Because the day after tomorrow I'm off to Hog Island Audubon Camp and two weeks of workshop instruction.

Going to the island this year feels a little weird, since it now takes me only 20 minutes to get to the dock instead of the 20 hours that it sometimes took to get there from Colorado. But island magic is island magic no matter where on the mainland one starts from, so I'm looking forward to a little change in focus, even if the color palette stays much the same.

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...