Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What's it All About Wednesday: Gaining Ground

With my studio and living space piled high with boxes, getting a new linocut finished... or even started... has become a far away dream.

But that just means it's time for another chapter of What's it All About Wednesday! Today's lino: Gaining Ground.

"Gaining Ground," reduction linocut, 9" x 6"
Edition of 20

Since I'm headed to Maine (in three weeks! ack!) it seemed natural to take a look at one of the most engaging bird species of the northern Atlantic coast: Puffins!

Long-time Brush and Baren readers will know that since 2008 I've spent part of each summer as an instructor and Artist-in-Residence program coordinator at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. Originally envisioned as a place for teachers to come and learn about nature, the camp opened in 1936 with such luminaries as Roger Tory Peterson heading up the staff.

Fast forward to 1969, when a young biologist named Stephen Kress joined the camp's instructional team. Surprised to learn that Maine's coastal islands had once been home to the nearly-extirpated Atlantic puffin, Steve wondered if there were a way to bring the birds back to their former breeding grounds. It was a question which led to the launch of Project Puffin in 1973 and subsequently to the development of seabird conservation techniques that today are employed around the world.

Project Puffin and Hog Island Audubon Camp remain closely connected, and one of the highlights of every camp session is a boat trip to Eastern Egg Rock to see puffins at the site of their first successful reintroduction.

The puffin in "Gaining Ground" is one of Egg Rock's current residents. The title refers both to this individual's waddle towards the highest point of rock, and to the slow but steady increase in the Maine puffin population overall.

While it's wonderful to celebrate the successful return of the species to its historic breeding grounds, we can't just wipe our hands, pat ourselves on the back, and walk away.

In 2012 the northeastern US experienced its warmest March on record, and temperatures remained high throughout the breeding season. The Gulf of Maine is heating up faster than almost any other marine environment on earth, and warmer waters mean changes in available food species. A water temperature rise of just 3 degrees meant puffin parents couldn't find enough small, slim, cold-water hake or herring to feed their chicks. Instead, they found warm water butterfish... which are too fat and round for chicks to swallow. Only 31% of Maine puffin chicks survived to fledging in 2012. The others starved to death with fish at their feet.

The long-term future of puffins in the Gulf of Maine remains uncertain. Good fisheries management has led to increases in the population of the once-endangered Acadian redfish... a good food source for puffins. But the continuing volatility of ocean temperatures can lead to disaster at any moment.

Perched at the border of the US and Canada, Machias Seal Island hosts the largest puffin breeding colony in the Gulf of Maine– 5,500 pairs. But locally warmer surface temperatures in 2016 again created a lack of sufficient food, resulting in almost complete nest failure across the colony.

Monitoring, protecting, and researching the lives of puffins and other seabirds helps us understand the larger changes in our environment, and I am proud of the efforts of my friends and colleagues at Project Puffin and other research projects across the globe. Of course puffins are fun subject matter for a linocut, but for me part of the joy of creating this piece was celebrating the hard work and dedication of biologists everywhere. Thank you all!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hey! Where have you been?

It's a valid question. It has been a couple of weeks since Brush and Baren has seen a post, so here's a quick catch-up.

Work! I had a small illustration project under a quick deadline, so had to put my head down and pencil to humming for about a week. Project complete? Check!

I was also doing prep work for the 4-week Drawing Essentials class that I'm leading at the Salida SteamPlant, which started yesterday. Class underway? Check!

I also had some out of town visitors and I've been checking in every day with a friend's business while she's away. Miscellaneous distractions? Check!

All of which brings me to the state of affairs today... which is this:

I am moving.

Not a little throw-it-in-your-friend's-pickup-and-haul-it-across-town sort of move. Nope. This is going to be a 2200+ mile, multi-day, cross-country endeavor. And not a start-slowly-work-your-way-up-to-it departure date. Oh, no. I'm leaving at the end of October, moving from Colorado to Maine.

I must be out of my mind.

I'm doing WHAT? WHEN?

The story of how I got to this point is long and somewhat convoluted, so let's just say it's a case of something that simmered for a long time without ever becoming a meal... and when I turned up the heat it just boiled over.

So here I am, trying to cull my belongings down to a moveable volume, figure out how to transport and store all my artwork inventory (and my press), and deal with a growing to-do list... in just four more weeks.

Somehow I also thought I'd do a new lino before I left, too, but I'm beginning to believe that's a tad too ambitious. We'll see. I have a big one on the drawing board... I might have to modify my goals.

In the meantime, I've already scheduled my first Maine gig! I'll be a presenter at the Midcoast PechaKucha Night at the Camden Opera House on November 10. I'd not heard of the PechaKucha format, but it's pretty cool. I get 20 slides for 20 seconds each... so not quite seven minutes to tell my story and introduce myself to a new community. It turns out PechaKucha is a worldwide phenomenon, you can check it out on the PechaKucha website.

Before you go wandering off to watch PechaKucha videos, though, here's a linocut in honor of the autumn season. See if you can find the little hawk who's moving at the same speed I am at the moment.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, 12 x 18"
Embiggen it to find the little sharp-shinned hawk.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Drawing Workshop in Salida, Colorado

I'm delighted to announce a 4-session Drawing Essentials class at the SteamPlant in Salida, Colorado. Class will meet Tuesday mornings in October, and all materials are included in the $125 class fee. Such a deal!

Register at the SteamPlant in person or by phone: 719-530-0933.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Birds in Art and the big Project Postcard reveal

How was Birds in Art? It was great, of course! The opening weekend of the Woodson Art Museum's flagship show is always a highlight of the year. Let me show you!

The museum galleries were glowing when we arrived for a preview of the exhibition.  Take a look at one of the show galleries and see if you can find a linocut on the wall... (You can embiggen the photo by clicking on it.)

The quiet before the crush

The quiet time was short-lived, however. Check out the crowd at the Friday night opening reception! (And this is just one of the 5 galleries of the exhibition.)

Did you find the lino in the panorama photo at the top? Here's a hint in case you missed it:

That's a stunning relief engraving by Nicholas Wilson on the left
and the cut feather work of Chris Maynard on the right.
You'll have to figure out whose piece is in the middle all by yourself.

This year the Woodson Art Museum named Wisconsin sculptor Don Rambadt
the 2017 Master Wildlife Artist. 

A few weeks ago I teased Brush and Baren readers with a distorted image of two small prints I completed for this year's Project Postcard. Artists invited to exhibit at Birds in Art have the opportunity to donate one or two (or a dozen) 4 x 6" artworks, but asked not to sign them on the front of the image. The anonymous artworks are mounted in a "secret" room, and buyers are given just 60 seconds to enter the room and choose their prize. Proceeds from the project are used to purchase additional works from the exhibition for the museum's permanent collection.

I can reveal my offerings now that they've found new homes AND let you know that I've made these little hand-painted linos available on my website, so you can have one, too, if you like! The hummingbird is here, and the oriole is here. I have just a couple ready to go at the moment, but there will be more soon.

My Project Postcard entries.
Hey! I recognize that pelican!

There were delights outside the museum, too. (And not just in the amazing sculpture garden.) Look whose pelican linocut now graces the banners in the museum's parking area. Nifty, eh? I had seen a photo of them when they were installed last spring, but it was great to see them in person and prove to myself that they were real.

The warmth and fun of time spent at the Woodson with friends and colleagues will sustain me for a long time to come, which is a good thing because I have to get back to work!

UPDATE! This morning I received the great news that "Mooch Brigade," my piece in the exhibition, has been selected for the national tour! Look for it at these great venues in 2017-2019:

The Chicago Academy of Sciences, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 
(December 16, 2017 ­– February 4, 2018)
Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Stamford, Connecticut 
(February 24 – May 28, 2018)
Cumming Nature Center, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Naples, New York 
(June 16 – August 13, 2018)
Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York 
(September 4 – October 26, 2018)
Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, New Mexico 
(November 20, 2018 – January 14, 2019)

"Mooch Brigade," reduction linocut, 18" x 18"
© Sherrie York

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Winging Wisconsin-ward!


There's a suitcase on my bed and a mellow yellow fellow on the suitcase. It can only mean one thing. It's time for Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin!

Ducky and I will be up well before the other ducks and chickens tomorrow, since we've got a 2+ hour drive before our 6:30am flight. Ooph. But it will absolutely be worth it to spend the weekend with friends, colleagues, and fantastic bird art. (And a ducky or two.)

Sculptor Don Rambadt will be honored as this year's Master Artist, and I encourage you to check out his work and... hmmm..... have you ever come across a little nuthatch sculpture in an odd place? Could be you've been an unwitting participant in Don's "Magnetic Migration" project. Such a cool idea...


In studio news, I spent a good chunk of time this past week printing, hand-coloring, and matting a stack of Bitty Birds and getting them ready to pop into frames. The holiday season is coming soon! (Eek.) Unmounted these little guys are a perfect price for gift-giving, which is why it's a good thing I've got a Gift Gallery on my website, with original prints under $100. (Ahem. Was that subtle enough?) Just remember when you flock to the website that I won't be back to fill your orders until next week, so don't get your feathers ruffled.

I'll be homing in on the home studio again early next week... planning to get a new lino on the press before the week is out. Keep watching this space!

Bitty Birds, hand-colored linocuts, 3 x 5"
(They fit great in an 8 x 10 frame. Just saying.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Linocut in Progress: It's Done! I think.

Alright. Let's just wrap up this current linocut, shall we? It's time to start thinking about a new piece.

Step 11: I hit the whole block with another transparent blue-to-brown blend.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 11

It seemed close to finished at this stage, but I didn't like that the background color seemed to divide straight across the horizontal center of the image. It felt... ungraceful. And I wanted just a wee bit more dark.

Much hemming and hawing ensued, and then much carving, and then.... much color mixing.

The final color. Finally.

Some days I can hit the right combination of hue and transparency quickly and everything moves ahead smoothly. SOME days, however, are like today. It probably took me close to an hour to get this color right. I started with scraps of the previous blues and browns and made what I thought was the perfect sort of licorice green. (LOTR fans: the color of Aragorn's coat.)

Nope. Too transparent.

I added some blue. Too blue! I added some black and then printed. Too dark! I took part of the too-dark color and added it to transparent base. Close, but too black. More green. More blue. Print. Tweak the color again. Argh!

Eventually I hit on this rich blue-green-black color and just the right amount of transparency. Unfortunately that big blob in the foreground of the photo is the wrong color... and I've got a lot of it. But perhaps I'll find a place for it in another print.

In the meantime... finished.

Step 12, final. As-yet-untitled reduction linocut, 12" x 12"

Of course, I'm discovering that greens are just as annoying to photograph as blues, but this shot is fairly close. Embiggenable with a click, and ready to find a title. Whew!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Backwards and forwards

It's been nearly a week since the debacle of too-wet ink forced me to abandon work on the current lino. Every day since then I have checked the status of the ink and found to my frustration that the problem continued– but only on one side of the print! The previous color pass was a blended roll of transparent blue to brown, and for reasons I can't quite figure out the brown dried much faster than the blue!

I've not run in to such an extreme case of uneven drying time before, but I decided today that I'd had enough! The upper half of the image was still very tacky, but the lower half was dry. Fine. Time to move ahead no matter what.

Spot inking, pale yellow

I mixed a pale yellow ink (mostly white with a little Hansa yellow medium) and spot-inked the flower centers. I covered the block with a newsprint mask as before, then printed.

Mask clinging to the print after a trip through the press

The mask often clings to the print after it's been run through the press. Sometimes it's just static electricity, others it's a slight tack left in the previous layers of ink. This time....

You can see that the mask isn't sticking at all to the lower half of the image, but it is still stripping ink from the top half! Crazy. But I decided to just go with it.

Linocut in progress, Step 9

Here are the lighter flower centers, the intact darker green on the bottom, and the stripped upper color. Yep. The upper half of the image took a step backward and the lower half went forward. Fine. I'll just work from this.

Linocut in progress, Step 10 (this image is embiggenable with a click)

After some more carving I put together another transparent blue-to-brown blended roll. Printing went smoothly, and I feel like everything is more or less back on track now.

I'm envisioning two more color passes before it's finished, with a good bit of carving to do before I'm back to the press. I'm a little nervous that the last color pass might involve another mask... but hopefully between now and then either the ink will dry or I'll come up with a better solution. Onward through the fog! Er... foliage.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Technical difficulties, please stand by

The best laid plans... and all that.

After Step 7 I plowed on ahead with another blended color pass on the current lino in progress. This pass was a transparent blue-to-brown, but of course it all still looks rather green. I do like the more olive-y tones that the brown created, however.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 8

The layers of value in the leaves are looking good, but at this point I realized I had forgotten the step that I meant to do when I first returned to this piece after a long time away. Dangit.

The flower centers had all become too dark too fast, and I meant to address this before moving on by doing a bit of spot inking. Well, more than a bit of spot inking-- there are a lot of flower centers in this image! I suspect I blocked it from my memory because I knew what a pain it would be to cut a mask.

Spot inking, step 9

With no small amount of grumbling I cut the mask(s) and spot inked all the flower centers with white. (Knowing that the end color won't look white because of the colors below it.)

Here's the mask in place on the inked block, ready to receive the print.

Mask in place

The prints on the drying rack all seemed tackier than I expected after sitting for a few days, but I pulled out one of the "tester" prints and ran it through the press.


See the extent of the disaster by embiggening this image with a click.

The print on the left is where the image stood at the end of Step 8. The print on the right is one that had spot inking and the mask applied. Sure, the lighter centers came out okay, but the mask pulled up almost all of the previous color pass!

Yep. Everything is far too wet to go on.

I was surprised by this, but probably shouldn't have been. Our weather has been unusually cool and damp, which slows down the drying time... but I think the problem is deeper than that. Remember I was worried about ink rejection because Steps 1-6 were so dry? I'm just guessing, but I think the ├╝ber-dry first steps have created a sort of "seal" on the paper, a barrier that's keeping air from these new layers and not allowing them to dry.

So. I'm afraid my goal of finishing this piece in the next week will have to be adjusted. Possibly a lot. It's too late to add any cobalt drier to the inks... and I hate to do that, anyway. Cobalt drier is nasty stuff, a known carcinogen, plus I hate what it does to the sheen of the ink. So I'm just going to have to wait for the prints to be ready in their own time.

Rather than come to a complete standstill, I spent the afternoon working through some ideas for another print to start. Nothing is leaping up to say "pick me, pick me" just yet, but it will. And doing something... anything... is better than sitting around and watching ink dry!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Coming Up! Birds in Art and Project Postcard...

In just about a month I'll be winging my way to Wausau, Wisconsin and the annual festivities for Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum. This show is the highlight of every year, both for the high caliber of work in the exhibition and the high caliber of work undertaken by the museum staff to make the opening weekend fantastic.

One of the most fun aspects of the event is Project Postcard. Birds in Art artists donate original artwork in a small 4" x 6" format. These postcard-sized pieces are mounted in a "secret" room, and for a $50 donation exhibition attendees can queue up to enter the room and choose a little artwork for their very own. Adding to the fun? None of the work is signed on the front, and the buyer only gets one minute to make their choice!

My linocut contributions for 2017 will fly out in the post tomorrow. I'd love to show them to you, but they're a SECRET! Still.... I thought it might be fun to give you a hint.

(And when else do I get an opportunity to use the crazy "liquefy" feature in Photoshop?)

Whaddaya think? ;-)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Picking up where I left off

My two months in New England zoomed by at the speed of light, but this week I returned home to my studio and zoomed right back to work on the linocut that was in progress before I left.

Just as a reminder, here's where the print was at the end of May:

When we last left our hero: Step 6

Settling back down to carve for the next color pass was relatively straightforward, but I did have a little trepidation when it came time to print again. After hanging on the rack for two months the prints were VERY dry, which could have caused some issues. Paper shrinkage, and therefore registration problems, and poor adhesion of new ink layers were two possibilities that sprang immediately to mind.

At the end of my last print session (in May) I folded leftover ink into wax paper and tucked it away. I was pleasantly surprised to find both little packets still viable, so the colors from Step 6 became the base for the next pass.

Wheeeeeeee! Rainbow roll!

This green-to-blue-to-green blended roll looks quite dramatic on the block, but both colors were very transparent. Thankfully I had absolutely no issues with ink or registration, and subtle complexities of foliage started to develop.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 7

It's all looking rather alarmingly green now, so it's time to sit back and assess what needs to happen next. My inclination is to try to moderate some of the brightness, so maybe I'll try something crazy like a transparent red layer over the entire block! Or not.

It feels good to be back to work... and I'm even happy to have a little ink under my fingernails. Onward!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hog Island Audubon Camp and the Audubon Artist Residency

It's hard to believe that I've been in Maine for almost two months now. That familiar dichotomy of just arrived/been here forever has taken hold and I find myself conflicted, as always, about the approaching transition back to the west.

Here at Hog Island Audubon Camp we just wrapped up another action-packed Educators Week. Fifty teacher-naturalists from across the educational spectrum gathered on the island and spent 5 days learning about the natural history of Maine and sharing ideas about how to bring their enthusiasm for the natural world back to their communities.

It's hands-on for camp participants and their subjects

My friend Trudy finds a mini-island in the middle of the trail and
uses it to explain natural succession

Sing it with me now:
The forest is a wonderful place
A place to find frogs and snakes
I wanna see a salamander's face
The forest is a wonderful place

Journal-building! Stab-bound books are always fun.

There are a zillion images to share about the Hog Island experience, but I don't want miss an opportunity to share our Artist-in-Residence program. Full disclosure: I am the program coordinator, so my excitement about it is sort of a given, but it's the unexpected results of sharing the island with campers and artists simultaneously that really gets me going.

We've had three Artists-in-Residence so far this year, writer Rachel Dickinson, painter Michael Boardman, and photographer Daniel Grenier. Watercolorist Judy Boyd will join us in August.

Dan Grenier was with us these last two weeks, working on a project connecting people who work behind the scenes for the environment to place. He made thoughtful portraits of campers and staff, but not just digital snapshots. Oh, no no no! Check this out:

Photographer-in-Residence Dan Grenier and his large format Linhof camera

We're excited to see the end results of his work, but of course we'll all have to wait... Dan included! I like to think of Hog Island and the Audubon Artist Residency as a bit of a throwback to slower, more thoughtful times, and Dan's project as well as his antique cameras and generous energy were a perfect fit. (Thanks for a great two weeks!)

The application period for the Summer 2018 Residency season will open in mid-October. Check out the information for yourself or someone you know, we'd love to welcome you to the island next year!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Print fun in Massachusetts!

It's my first morning back in Maine after almost a week at the Museum of American Bird Art (MABA) in Canton, Massachusetts. This past weekend ten inspired and inspiring participants joined me on a journey into reduction linocut; we had a great time and they did some great work!

Before that workshop began, however, I got to spend a little time working with students at MABA's Wild at Art Summer Camp, a program for kids age 4-13. They had been using pollinators as their creative inspiration, so butterflies, bees, bats, and birds were the theme for collagraph prints.

The following morning the over-18 set arrived for an intense two days of linocutting. Most had never tried linoleum block prints, and those who had done block prints before had generally not picked up a tool since high school. (Except for one who hadn't picked up their tools since they worked with me last year. Ahem. JP, I'm looking at you. ;-))

We spent a half day getting acquainted with tools, carving, inking, and printing by creating some linocut "samplers."

These were great fun, and it was fascinating to see the variety of marks and textures everyone achieved.

Armed with a little experience and some new ideas we jumped on in to reduction printing. It pleased me to watch the smoke coming out of my students' ears as they wrestled their brain cells into the world of inside-out-and-backwards that is relief printing.

The only disappointment to the weekend was that the instructor (ahem) did a lousy job of photographing everyone's work! But here are a few images that show the range of approaches, from geometric abstracts to intricately textured seascapes.

Many thanks again to the staff at the Museum of American Bird Art for hosting the workshop and to the fun and enthusiastic participants. I hope to see you again next year!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Still on the road... or on the sea... or in the woods...

Picture a window seat long enough to sleep on, one that looks out into the thick and richly textured green of the Maine woods. Now picture me, cozy under a puffin-themed quilt, laptop perched across my legs. Rough life, ain't it?

Ah, but it gets worse.

Atlantic puffin on Eastern Egg Rock, Muscongus Bay, Maine

We've been on break this week at Hog Island Audubon Camp, so I've been spending some time with my friend Sue, who is the Assistant Manager of the research islands maintained by Project Puffin. Some of our time has been spent picking up, dropping off, and provisioning researchers, who spend two weeks at a time living and working on one of seven small islands where seabird conservation projects are underway.

Eastern Egg Rock on a calmer, sunnier day

On one of these days we made the logistics run to Eastern Egg Rock, home to the southwest-most Atlantic Puffin colony in the US, and site of Project Puffin's first restoration success. The way it usually works is that we pile people and supplies into a motorboat, make our way out about 9 miles to the Rock. There is no dock and no way to get a large boat close to the island, so we pick up a mooring and someone from the island rows out to us in a small rubber boat. Personnel and supplies are shuttled back and forth, then we drop the mooring and head back to the mainland.

On this day, however, the island personnel had reported a problem with their electrical/solar system, so we were going ashore. Their problem became my gift, as I got to spend about an hour in an observation blind while they worked on the system.

The trip out had been a wet and wild adventure. The seas were very choppy and we were surrounded by rain squalls. We arrived at Eastern Egg Rock soaking wet and very cold... but who cared? We were surrounded by nesting terns, puffins, guillemots, and gulls!

Another rain squall approaches Eastern Egg Rock.

Panorama from my perch in the west observation blind, click to embiggen

Common Tern eggs

Tern chicks demanding a meal

Adult tern responding to the call for food

Laughing gull pair

Black guillemot showing off its bright red feet.

Speaking of guillemots.... this past week we also celebrated International Guillemot Appreciation Day! The endearing faces of puffins attract a lot of attention and adoration, but what about its equally important and intriguing cousin? Mark your calendars and join us next June 27 by donning your black, red, and white attire and whipping some some treats like this 7-Layer Guillie Dip.

Check out that stunning beak interior! Guillemots are something to shout about!

Up Nest... I mean Next.
Some of this seabird ogling will have to stop soon, but other adventures will soon appear. I'm off to Massachusetts on Wednesday, gearing up to present a 2-Day Reduction Linocut workshop at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, and then it's back to Hog Island for Educator's Week. Wheeeeeee!