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)
9:15am-12:35pm

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.