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!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Print Day in May

Since 2007, Monterey Peninsula College Printmakers (MPC) have devoted the first Saturday in May to fine art printmaking. Ten years later, what began as a local event in the greater Monterey Bay Area of California has become a worldwide celebration of printmaking. 

Yesterday (May 6) was this year's Print Day in May. Artists from 45 US states and 46 countries rolled out some ink and made prints wherever they were: home, studio, school or on the road. 

Since art-making (for me) is a generally solitary endeavor, it's nice to have a virtual printmaking atelier at least once a year. I didn't get much done that was exciting, but here's the quick rundown:

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 1 rollup

It's time to add another piece to the Underfoot series! After all the larger 18" x 18" squares I've been working on recently, this 12" x12" seems totally reasonable.

In addition to printing, I messed around with shooting some video with my phone/camera. This rollup image is a screen shot. Seems like I got the camera in the right place, eh?

The big reveal of Step 1

Aaaaaaaannnnnd... the big first step reveal was completely anti-climactic, since it was just a very pale transparent ochre. Just enough to tone down the white of the paper.

Step 1 printed

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Step 2 was much more fun. I took the remains of that transparent ochre and threw some nice yellow into it. Oooh... daffodil-ish!

Another dramatic reveal.... (Can you tell I worked into the evening? Natural light in the studio is now... not so natural.)

Step 2 reveal

There's still not a lot to show for the work, but I've been focusing on an illustration project lately and it's been several weeks since I've had something other than single-color prints drying in the rack. My world just seems better when the rack is full. 

I still have much work to do on the illustration commission, so it will be a bit of a dance in the studio to try to keep both things going simultaneously. Let's see how well I can keep up!

Step 2 printed

Monday, May 1, 2017

Field Sketching 101 with the Central Colorado Conservancy

Pretty much anything can happen with the weather in a Rocky Mountain spring. Twice last week I found myself making long drives in bad weather: wet, sloppy snow that thankfully didn't pile up much on the roads but which compromised visibility and gave me splitting headaches.

But I remain convinced that sparkling days are just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate outdoor adventures than with a field sketching workshop?

I've teamed up with the Central Colorado Conservancy to offer a half-day Field Sketching 101 class at the Boxcar Ranch in Chaffee County on Saturday, May 13. If you're in the area and interested in learning new skills or dusting off some old ones, I encourage you to grab a sketchbook and join us.

Registration can be made through the Conservancy, more information is available at the Central Colorado Conservancy website.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's that time of year!

Ah, spring. Migrants are arriving. Grass is turning green. And warp speed must be engaged. 

April and May are The Crazy Months for me– a time when jury submissions are due and show notifications are received and the Colorado Governor's Show opens. I'm also getting together and delivering summer work for the galleries, especially since I'll be headed back to Maine at the beginning of June. Holy cow! That's not much more than a month away.

There hasn't been much happening in the studio in way of new linos, but it doesn't mean there hasn't been work going on. Quite the opposite, in fact!

First up was a commission piece for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, to honor a long-time staff member who is leaving the flock for another position. Jason has spent much of his time at BCR studying black swifts, a mysterious little species that nests behind waterfalls and whose insubstantial little feet oblige it to cling to rock walls instead of perching. 

"The Coolest Bird," hand-colored linocut ©Sherrie York (embiggenable with a click)

Their secretive nature and difficult-to-reach nests make it difficult for me to collect my own reference, so I'd like to give a big shout-out to photographer Bill Schmoker for his help there. I did see a black swift once. It was a black dot in the shade on wet rocks behind a waterfall. Not very helpful.

After the swifts were winging their way to their final destination I started work on an illustration project for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Long-time readers of Brush and Baren may remember that the early posts of this blog (ten years ago now!) had more paint than ink in them. Funny how times change, although it's nice to revisit watercolor once in a while. 

Illustrations in progress. Western meadowlark, great horned owl, dusky grouse.
(No, this isn't the rare subspecies of footless grouse. I just haven't gotten there yet!)

Tomorrow I'm off to Colorado Springs to present a demonstration for the Colorado Springs Art Guild, and then Friday it's back to Loveland for the opening of the Governor's Show. In between I'm hoping to get a new reduction lino ready to roll. But of course there's framing to do and... 

I'll freak myself out if I think about it too much, so it's back to work. If in the next couple of weeks you happen to see a short, blonde-ish woman running around in circles with a brush in one hand and a brayer in the other... well... say hello. It's probably me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Demo at Colorado Springs Art Guild

No rest for the weary around here! Next week I'll be delivering work to the Loveland Museum for the upcoming Governor's Show (more on this soon), but in between delivery and the opening of the exhibition I'll be giving a presentation and demonstration in another part of the state, at the Colorado Springs Art Guild's monthly gathering.

Click to embiggen

CSAG members and non-members are both welcome, non-members are asked to make a small donation to the program, so if you're in the neighborhood, please think about stopping by. The gathering starts at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, April 25th. Check out the Colorado Springs Art Guild website for more information.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Workshop Weekend Wonders

This past weekend an intrepid group joined me at Patti Vincent Studio here in Salida for two days of twisting their brains around linocuts and reduction printing. I had an ambitious schedule for them, but they rose to the challenge and, quite frankly, impressed the heck out of me. By Sunday afternoon I was joking that I felt a bit redundant because they were all hard at work doing great things and I was just hovering. 

Take a look!

Laurie even tackled rainbow rolls!
Gayle could have a future in surface design, don't you think? 
Fay explored a combination of reduction and masking to create wonderful
color studies. Patti's pooches-in-progress and Marjie's landscape share the wall.
No fear of color use here! Bold and beautiful!
Many thanks to Patti Vincent Studio for hosting us, and huge thanks to "my" students for their energy, enthusiasm, good humor, and inspiring work. You've all inspired me to get back in to my own studio and back to work as soon as possible!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Printmaker's Bookshelf: Gustave Baumann

I suppose it seems a little... disloyal, perhaps... to start off my bookshelf ponderings with a woodcut artist as opposed to linocut, but here in the southwestern United States Gustave Baumann's (1881-1971) work is regarded as iconic.

Baumann began his career in Chicago, working as an illustrator in a commercial arts studio. He took night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and briefly studied in Munich in 1905.

It was in Germany that he made his first woodcuts and when he returned to the United States he devoted himself mostly to idyllic scenes of the rural midwest, and made friends with other painters and printmakers on forays to New York and Provincetown.

In 1918 Baumann made his first trip to Taos, New Mexico– and ultimately spent the rest of his life there, more than 50 years. He focused on both the dramatic and pastoral landscapes of the southwest and the lives of native Puebloans.

As someone who has spent most of her life in the west and southwest, Gustave Baumann's work says "home" to me. His color palette is rich with the pine greens, cobalt blues, and adobe reds of the high desert. But it's his design sense that first catches my eye, and the wide variety of marks he carved to create an amazing array of textures.

"Cholla and Sahuaro," woodcut, Gustave Baumann

Of course, when I paged through my books again this week that I realized Gustave Baumann was also fond of a square format. Sound like anyone you know?

Baumann was not a reduction printmaker. He used multiple blocks and experimented with color combinations. He was also a planner, a rather foreign concept to me. Most often he made complete paintings in gouache on toned paper, usually en plein air, on location. As if that weren't enough, he also ground his own inks.

"Piñon - Grand Canyon," gouache painting, Gustave Baumann
"Piñon - Grand Canyon," woodcut, Gustave Baumann

Baumann's southwestern works are all relatively small, no larger than 13" x 13," since he was limited to the capacity of his press, a Midget Reliance. (Printmaker note: From the "Piñon-Grand Canyon" example we can see he didn't worry about reversing his image before carving.)

Original Baumann prints are highly valued, ranging in price from about $1,500 for his older 2- or 3-color work to $20,000... and "Price on Request." For the budget inspiration-seeker, many of his images have been extensively reproduced as posters, calendars, and notecards. Which is just to say that if you come across a seller offering one of Baumann's southwest prints as a "signed original" for less than $5,000... you're either finding a screaming deal or a screaming scammer. Be careful out there.

I have three books about Gustave Baumann and his work on my shelf.

"Hand of a Craftsman," by David Acton. Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996

"Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art," by Acton, Krause, and Yurtseven. Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993.

"Gustave Baumann's Southwest," by Joseph Traugott, New Mexico Museum of Art, 2007

Book junkies, you can thank me later. Be shrewd shoppers, because "Hand of a Craftsman" in particular seems to be fetching a wide range of prices in the book market, as well.

I'm going to go grab a cup of tea, peruse a few more pages, and then get back to work.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sunday Hacker

No, I'm not suggesting that I've taken up a life of techno-crime. Although there is a virus involved.

Mine is the sort of hacking that accompanies a horrible, deep, junky cough that I never saw coming, but which now has me locked in its nefarious grip. To say I'm unhappy about it would be an understatement. Who gets this sort of thing when it's almost April? And where did it come from? I would sincerely like to send it back.

Whilst I'm plotting revenge against all things germ-related, there are a few things that I continue to work on. Doing so distracts my viral overlords from the efforts of my personal rebel forces. (Yep, I'm watching more movies than usual right now.)

Secret unnamed commission project:
Which of course is not so secret now, except that I don't think anyone involved regularly reads Brush and Baren. There could be blog stalkers, I know. It's a risk I'm willing to take. I've become reckless under the influence of germs.

The commission is for either a watercolor or a linocut of black swifts, and honestly I'm still on the fence about how I want to approach it. They're cool little birds that nest behind waterfalls, but their shapes are unfamiliar and challenging to sort out because they're small. And black. And they hang out in shadowy places. Thankfully, preliminary sketches are doable whilst dressed in my battle uniform of bathrobe and slippers:

But wait, there's more!

June is coming up faster than you think, and our instructional team has been busy working on the schedule for our great week of sketching, painting, and photography on the island. We have a few spaces left, so please pass the word to anyone you know who might like to join us. (Yes, of COURSE you can come, too!)

I am indeed thinking a lot about Maine right now, and not just for camp. You may or may not know that I am the Coordinator for the island's Artist in Residence program, and the last few weeks have been filled with selecting, notifying, and then sending an avalanche of forms to our four Residents for 2017. General program information is on the Audubon Residency website, but info about our upcoming season is on the Residency's Facebook page.

I can make room for one more person to squeeze into the April 8-9 weekend of printastic fun. To my great surprise and delight I have participants coming from across Colorado and also Nevada and Michigan! I've also had a couple of recent queries for east coast workshops, so I'll be working on that for some future date. 

Sorting, sorting, sorting. Applying, applying, applying. 
To be followed by framing, framing, framing.
It's that time of year! I've been busy submitting work for exhibition juries, and getting organized for upcoming shows. First up is the Colorado Governor's Show at the Loveland Museum. Opening Gala is April 28, show runs through May 28.

Clearly this is no time to be functioning at half speed, so I'm off to send reinforcements and supplies to my valiant white blood cell troopers. I'll let you know when the victory celebration is scheduled. Dare I say it? It's gonna be yuge

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spring Fever Hits the Studio

Yep. I've got it BAD.

73 F. Today's temperature was 73 (count 'em) lovely degrees. Even better? No wind. I threw open a few windows and tried to focus on tasks at home this morning, but I. Just. Couldn't.

So I gave up trying to be virtuous, grabbed my journal, and headed down to the river. I did walk there, a round trip of about 2.5 miles, so I told myself I scored at least a few points in the getting-some-exercise column.

There were a LOT of people down by the river this morning (clearly suffering from the same malady), so I tucked myself into a more-or-less hidden spot behind the bandshell and made a little drawing of the F Street bridge over the Arkansas River.

F Street bridge, downtown Salida

My semi-hidden spot behind the bandshell.

It felt quite nice to get out with my journal for a bit, especially since my practice has been sadly neglected through the winter months.

After my little field trip it was easier to work on projects in the studio, most importantly on a long-overdue birthday gift. It was great fun to carve some single-color linocuts, and then to play with the arrangement of the two separate blocks on different kinds of paper. (Full disclosure: the seated toad was carved a while back for another project. The leaping toad is a new block.)


I also pushed around a few ideas for new color linos, although I haven't committed to anything yet.

Tomorrow, however, I'll be back to indulging my restlessness with a trip to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. The trip to MVNWR, stopover site for several thousand sandhill cranes, is a spring ritual, but this year it's gotten a bit out of control. Tomorrow will be my third trip there in 10 days. Is it any wonder I'm not getting much work done?

How can I resist THIS, though?

Yes! All cranes!

See? Not my fault. Wildlife spectacle is not to be missed, and with (ahem) spectacular spectacle weather, it would be pretty much criminal not to take advantage of the opportunity. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking with it. Monday will be a perfectly good day to tackle the to-do list.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2-Day Linocut Workshop in Salida, Colorado

Hey, Coloradans! By popular demand, I've scheduled a 2-day reduction linocut workshop here in the Heart of the Rockies. Space is limited to 8 participants and we're over half full already, so if you're interested let me know ASAP!

(Details will be easier to read if you click on the image to embiggen it!)

Click to embiggen

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Printmaker's Bookshelf: Preface

The art and nature corner of my library

Let's talk about book addiction, shall we?

Even as a kid I was a book junkie. Where's Sherrie? Reading. On the bed. In the tree. On the roof. In the car. Who had the tallest stack of purchases when the Scholastic book orders arrived at school? Sherrie. Who maxed out her checkout limit at the library? Sherrie. Who had the most stars on her summer reading program card? Who spent her junior high years volunteering and her college summers working at libraries? Sherrie.

My personal library grew slowly until I started haunting used book stores. And then? The internet happened. The Natural History Book Service. Abe Books. Freakin' eBay.

For a while the (legitimate) excuse was work. As an illustrator I needed reference material, so I accumulated field guides and old coffee table books about birds and bugs and mushrooms. But just like mushrooms after rain my library kept growing. Art and natural history were the main themes, but there were plenty of other random topics, like cooking and languages and knitting. My circle of friends grew to include some great authors and my fiction shelves started bulging. I was a happy, happy book junkie.

And then came the horrible day when I was obliged to downsize, moving to an apartment barely 1/3 the size of my house. I'd arrived in the big house with almost 50 boxes of books, and my forced purge whittled it to just over 30. Bit-by-bit I sent 16 boxes-worth to our local library. Some books went to friends, a few I sold. Several bookcases went to new homes, too.

After the dust settled and I made the move I discovered I had precisely enough shelf space for my remaining library (with a couple of shelves reserved for treasures). I declared a moratorium on book buying and redoubled my efforts to boost the circulation numbers at the library.

Zero accumulation lasted about a year, but friends and colleagues kept producing new books, and my work appeared in a few more, and... well... you can see that things are going a bit cattywampus again.

Some of my printmaking books. A little bit of everything, including
a few recent linocut titles.

It's my guess that I'm not the only printmaker with bookish tendencies, being generally obsessed with ink and paper as we all are. So hey! Let's talk books once in a while, okay? I'll share some of my favorites for both information and inspiration and you can contribute to my literary delinquency by sharing some of yours.

While I'm putting together my thoughts for my first book offering ("review" seems so...cold), I'd like to introduce you to some friends with an even bigger book obsession than mine: Jeff Lee and Ann Marie Martin and their vision of the Rocky Mountain Land Library.

It's been my great fortune and pleasure to know and work with Ann and Jeff for almost 15 years. Long before we met they'd amassed a collection of books that dwarfs any of my aspirations: More than 30,000 volumes at last count.

Jeff and Ann (and those of us who know them) are getting closer to seeing their dream of a permanent home and residential library for this collection, but of course the limiting factor is always money! They have the location, Buffalo Peaks Ranch in the Colorado Rockies, but the historic buildings are in need of much restoration and repair.

They have a Kickstarter campaign underway for funds to complete restoration work on the Cook's House, and are about 1/4 of the way to their goal with less than a month until their campaign deadline. I encourage you to check out the Rocky Mountain Land Library's Kickstarter page, pledge if you can and share the information far and wide with all your book junkie friends. There are some great spaces for studios on the ranch, too, and part of the dream includes the day we'll all be able to gather over prints and books at this literary home on the range.