Friday, December 27, 2019

Rainy Days and New Years, or, Let's Go 2020!

Studio window view on a rainy December day

One of the things about life in Maine that still puzzles me is the persistence of rain through the winter months. Back home in the Rockies winter precipitation came in the form of snow... maayybe sleet once in a while, but not rain. Rain was for summer afternoons, if we were lucky.

But here I am on a Friday afternoon at the end of December, watching the rain come down, and it's definitely NOT summer. I've got a fire going in the wood stove, a cup of tea at hand... and the 2020 calendar laid out in front of me. Holy cow, it's already getting full!

2019 has been a year full of making connections and finding my way in a community that is still new to me. I'm thankful for the support and camaraderie of collectors, students, colleagues, and friends across the United States and across the pond, and I hope I'll have the opportunity to spend time with all of you in the new year ahead... at exhibitions, workshops... or the local coffee shop.

My last completed linocut of 2019 was a pair of shirts for my grand-nephews, who will both turn two years old in March. "Let's Go!" seemed to be an appropriate theme for the lives of busy toddlers, but as I carved the lettering I thought perhaps it was also a good attitude to be embraced by their grand-auntie. I didn't make myself a shirt (yet)... but I've already got a photo of one of the little goobers wearing his... and I'm keeping it nearby to inspire me in the year ahead.

2020? Let's Go!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Linocut in Progress: The Semi-secret Project

As I type this we're getting ready for our first significant snowfall of the season here on the coast of Maine and I find I'm actually looking forward to it. I've got hot cocoa in the cupboard and wood piled next to the stove... and plenty to do in both the studio and the office. Staying in and getting work done sounds fabulous to me.

It's not quite time to reveal the ultimate goal of the project I'm working on at the moment, but I think it's okay to show you some work in progress. I've been carving, printing, and painting a dozen individual linocut birds. When finished they'll be part of a larger image with a potentially huge audience, so it's all rather exciting.

I'm printing the birds on Arches 140lb watercolor sheets, and I've found that it works best to use damp paper. That's different from my usual working method, but once I found the right level of dampness and the right press pressure the printing process has been amazingly smooth. Maybe it's the fact that I'm just printing one color that makes it seem so miraculously painless. No 15-color-pass headaches in this job.

Of course I'm on a deadline, so to expedite things I added some cobalt drier to the ink. This is something I typically try to avoid, for a number of reasons. I dislike the smell for one... and if used over multiple color passes I dislike how it changes the sheen of the ink. But what I really hate is that it is toxic stuff, and I have a solvent-free studio. But sometimes you've just gotta do what you've gotta do.

The whole project needs to be done before the end of the month, so there's no time for messing about. Stay tuned for the big reveal and announcement, probably right around Christmas.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Hundreds for November

Alrighty, then! Whew... I made it to a hundred little sketches for the month of November. This doesn't seem like such a big deal when one does the math: 100 sketches in a month is 3-4 per day. The trick is that if one somehow misses two days, then suddenly there are 10 sketches to do!

The hardest part for me is deciding what to draw. I want these sketches to be fast... responsive... interpretive... not careful pre-linocut drawings or long value studies. To that end I tried to stick to pen; if I used a pencil my inclination to go all crazy with subtle values would lead me down time-consuming paths.

I also want to work from life as much as possible, but it's November (now December). Daylight hours are short (especially up here in the north country) and there's rain and cold (and soon snow) to contend with and I am a wimp. So at the moment this means a lot of drawing indoors... interiors of coffee shops, my house, the laundromat. I did find one nice day to go to the Maine Wildlife Park before they closed for the season, and a couple of nice days for sketching landscapes near home.

To break things up I also worked from movies and a YouTube video described as Cat TV. (Footage of birds coming in and out of a feeder station.) I'd watch for an interesting frame, hit the pause button, and draw as fast as possible. The temptation to slow down and try to get a likeness on movie frames was huge, but I kept reminding myself my goal was to get the idea down quickly and move on.

It was a satisfying adventure, but rut ro! Now it's December. Here we go again!

In the meantime, here's a little flip through the sketchbook... I think I missed turning a couple of pages, but you get the idea. This month I'd like to be more deliberate about overall page composition, so we'll see how that goes. Onward!

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...