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 über-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!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reduction Linocut Workshop at the Museum of American Bird Art

We just wrapped up a great week of Arts & Birding here in Maine, but my adventures on the east coast are far from over. Next up: A weekend of reduction linocutting at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Massachusetts (Boston area), July 8-9. I'd love to see some eastern peeps come out for this event, so please pass the word to the lino-curious in your world. 

Perhaps the best thing about linocuts is that they can be created with the simplest of tools at your kitchen table, entirely by hand. So, yes, we'll be hand-printing! Workshop participants will take home a small edition of reduction prints and the knowledge and experience to create their own new works at home.

The 2-day workshop will cover:

• How to design an image for reduction printing

• How to transfer your design to the linoleum block

• Block cutting techniques

• Tips for effective inking

• Registration methods (how to line up each color so it prints in the right place!)

• Hand-printing techniques

We’ll also talk about papers, inks, tools, and the wide variety of applications for relief printmaking. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Maine Event - 2017

If you've been checking in with Brush and Baren for a while this won't be the first time you've encountered a post with photos from the coast of New England instead of the Rocky Mountains. I've been migrating east to be an oh-so-fortunate member of the instructional staff at Hog Island Audubon Camp since 2008, and coming to this chunk of Maine rock every year feels like coming home.

Arrival dock, Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine

This year I'm an instructor for two sessions, Arts & Birding (which starts tomorrow) and Educators Week (which is in July). In between I'm taking care of some tasks relative to the Audubon Artist Residency here on the island and presenting a 2-day Reduction Linocut workshop at the Museum of American Bird Art in Massachusetts. It's a busy summer... but aren't all summers busy?

The highlight of every Hog Island camp session is a boat trip to Eastern Egg Rock, home to a restored Atlantic Puffin colony that is the focus of research and education for Project Puffin. I tagged along on a trip last week and took advantage of the opportunity to be a participant instead of an instructor.

Many threatened bird species are colonial nesters, and biologists have successfully used decoys and other techniques (like vocal recordings) to attract birds to suitable habitat. It's a strategy called social attraction; you can think of it as "make it look and sound like a (tern, gannet, puffin, albatross, oystercatcher) party and they'll come."

Social attraction techniques require decoys of the focus species, but it's not like one can walk in to the local hunting outfitter and buy an Atlantic Puffin off the shelf. For many years the manufacture of seabird decoys for bird conservation was the province of Mad River Decoys in Vermont, but when the owners of the company decided to retire, Project Puffin moved the factory here to Maine.

Which is a long introduction to this photo:

A different kind of face painting

It's not a lino, but this blog is called Brush and Baren. That's me, painting face details on a Laysan Albatross decoy.

I did spend a little time this week with my journal, but starting tomorrow we'll be "all sketching - all the time" until next Friday. Hopefully I'll have a thing or two to share with you along the way.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Believe it or not

When we last left our printmaker, she was distracted from printmaking by an illustration project. It happens.

But I'm happy to report the illustration project is finished and there's been a little progress on the new linocut in the Underfoot series.

The previous post was all about masking, a time-consuming technique I employ from time to time. This post demonstrates how using the masking technique usually convinces me to keep my next few steps simple and straightforward.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 5. 

It's a little hard to believe that this is already Step 5, but it is! The color passes so far have been 1) very pale transparent beige, 2) light transparent yellow, 3) slightly darker transparent yellow, 4) red printed via masking method, and 5) this yummy yellow-green. (Also very transparent.)

The next step involved a good deal of carving and then the application of a blended ink roll, blue to green, top to bottom. The top ink of the blend was a mixture of straight cobalt and phthalo blues in a good-sized blob of transparent base, so the printed color still reads as green... just a cooler temperature.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6.

So far, so good. Unfortunately things are about to get really protracted in the development of this image because I am on the verge of my annual migration to the east coast. I might get one more color pass on here before I go, but even if I do I'm afraid we'll be waiting until August for the conclusion.

But no worries, I shall endeavor to keep us all occupied with other print-related amusements and intrigue. Take, for example, this wonderful video about The British Museum's efforts to conserve Albrecht Dürer's "Triumphal Arch," one of the largest relief prints ever created. (About 3 x 4 meters.) And you thought printmakers were obsessive... take a look at what the print conservator's job entails:

The British Museum also has an exhibition of Hokusai prints on now through August. (Why oh why am I not headed to London? Maine is at least halfway there from here, isn't it?) The clever staff have created another intriguing video to promote the exhibit, check out this beautiful animation of some of Hokusai's work.

Will my next blog post be uploaded from Colorado or Maine? Stay tuned to find out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Masking unmasked

Ah, May. The month of preparing for east coast adventures and the time of year when the to-do list gets longer instead of shorter each day closer to departure.

Today I choose to be amused by the dance I'm trying to master, the one that swoops semi-gracefully from illustration project to framing to gallery delivery trips to workshop prep to packing (or at least piling up stuff in the corner)... and once in a while to the studio.

There's a fair bit of improvising involved in this particular cha cha. Yesterday I was to make the journey to deliver work to Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, but was thwarted by snow over much of the state– particularly on the high mountain passes I am obliged to cross to get from this side of the Continental Divide to that side.

So instead I made a cuppa and shuffled to the studio in my slippers and got to work.

The morning's task was straightforward: A nice, somewhat darker yellow over the entire block:

Step 3 printed (embiggenable with a click)

Of course there's no chance that things will ever stay straightforward when I'm lino-ing. From this point my next step should either be a light green most everywhere OR a deep red in many small areas.

I want both the green and the red to be "pristine," clear hues, but printing either one over the other will certainly muddy things up. It's that whole complementary color issue, in which colors opposite each other on the color wheel (i.e. red and green) will gray each other out. I could resort to using very opaque inks, but they would still be influenced by the already-printed yellow and they'd wreak havoc with subsequent color passes. And besides, I want my colors to stay luminous, not flat and chalky.

This is one of those times when cutting a separate block for each each color pass might be more efficient than reduction printing, but reduction's what I do, so....

It's clear that masking is required... and whether I cut one mask to cover the green or many small masks to cover the red I am in for a tedious few hours. But, hey. It's not like I'm going anywhere today.

Shapes traced onto mylar sheet

Masking, Step 1: I placed a clear mylar (acetate) sheet over the lino block and traced all the little areas where I want red. See what I mean about tedious? No matter how I approach this mask I will still have to cut out all these little bits. Multiple times. Not my favorite thing, but it's no one's fault but my own. Xacto knife, here I come.

Homemade confetti, anyone?

Masking, Step 2: Once I cut all the little shapes out of the mylar sheet I used it as a template to trace those shapes back on to newsprint. And then... (wait for it).... I cut out the shapes AGAIN. Fortunately I could clip a couple of sheets of newsprint together to cut more than one mask at a time. But let me tell you, I was heartily sick of these things by the time I finished.

Spot-inked block

Masking, Step 3: Inking. Finally. Because I'd be using the mask I could do some rather sloppy spot-inking, and I was very happy to be sloppy at this point.

Mask in place over inked block

Masking, Step 4: I put the block in place on the press and positioned the newsprint mask on top of it. Each print-in-progress is then placed image-side-down over this whole conflagration and printed.

Mask "stuck" to print, but only slightly

Masking, Step 5: Because the previously-printed yellow ink was damp, the newsprint mask stuck to the print each time. It wasn't a problem because the yellow ink was thinly applied and didn't "grab" the mask very much. A little yellow was "stripped" from the prints when I peeled off the masks, but not enough to matter. The best thing I can think of to describe the level of "stuckness" is like static electricity... if that makes sense.

Color pass 4 completed. (Embiggenable with a click)

Here's the print once I peeled away the mask. Masking can be very tedious, but in the long run it's worth the effort. Of course now I have to cut all those little shapes AGAIN, this time from the block itself, but it shouldn't take too long and the next color pass should be a satisfying overall green. At least that's the plan at the moment!