A new year brings a new linocut, though I have really been working on sketches for this one since November. Two summers ago I took a watercolor class in the San Juan Mountains with the Colorado Trail Foundation. One of our painting excursions took us into the spectacular American Basin. Even though it was already August, the wildflower display was stunning. They had bloomed late that year because it had been a harsh winter and the deep snows had taken so long to melt. As I nestled down into the lush jungle of larkspur and rosy paintbrush, I could barely see the other course participants because the wildflowers were towering over my head. There was a big storm blowing in, and I knew I could never capture all the beauty of the landscape with my paintbrush before the lightning and pouring rain started, so I snapped some reference photos for future use. My new linocut is based off one of those photos. Drawing the scene takes me right back to that day: the wonder of being immersed in the gorgeous flowers, the excitement of the impending storm, the anticipation of heading back to the cozy cabin to warm up and chat with my course mates. I love the ability of art to take me right back to a place in time. I can’t wait to see what other memories I recall as I begin to carve.
I do a lot of hikes that require rushing. I am often trying to make a summit before storms hit or hurrying to a backcountry campsite before daylight fades. But how I relish the slow meandering walks when I can take out my sketchbook journal and really explore a place by drawing the things around me. Last Sunday the weather was gorgeous, so Doug and I went on a leisurely hike in the Flatirons in nearby Boulder, CO, with some friends. While they read, napped and explored on our lunch break, I set out with my sketchbook. One of my favorite journaling techniques is to walk around, stopping to draw whatever catches my attention at a given moment. When I am done, I always feel like I have made a deeper, more memorable connection with a place.
My second big trip this summer was a 10-day canoe adventure in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. I spent my childhood wandering the forests and fields of Wisconsin, and it was fun to be up in the Northwoods again. Living in the Western United States for the past 15 years, I had forgotten what it felt like to swim in warm, non-alpine lakes and to fish for something other than trout (boy- can those smallies put up a fight)! The plant life was amazingly lush, and I loved falling asleep each night to the call of loons.
We were even able to take along Molly, our three-legged wonder dog, as she was able to spend most of the time in the canoe (though she really impressed us by galloping along on all the portages). We had a couple of terrifying days battling big waves and almost swamping, and worrying that our campsite might blow away in a couple of intense thunderstorms, but we made it through unscathed. Through all the adventure, I had a couple of opportunities to sketch. The above drawing is of my favorite campsite overlooking a spectacular cove with rock outcroppings all around.
I didn’t get much art done this summer, but did get to go on two long, amazing trips. One was a road trip to Banff National Park in Canada, with a side climbing trip to City of Rocks, Idaho. The other was a canoeing trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota which I will write about in another entry.
City of Rocks is an endless maze of blob-like granite outcroppings perfect for rock climbing. We spent 5 days there camping, scaling the rocks and savoring the gorgeous, sage-scented landscape. Though the beginning of the trip had us in every layer of clothing we brought, we were soon chasing the shade in 90-degree temperatures. One evening, I sketched a view of Elephant Rock, which we climbed just hours before.
Then it was on to Banff, Kootenai and Jasper National Parks, where we met up with my family and did some sightseeing. I soon realized the sheer size of these parks… it took all day just to drive from one park to the next. We enjoyed breathtaking scenery and walked up the shrinking Athabasca Glacier. The fact that the June sun rose before 5 a.m. and didn’t set until after 11 p.m. should have given me plenty of time to sketch, but alas, it didn’t. There were too many hikes to go on and sites to see.
It has been a gorgeous summer, which is great for hiking, gardening, climbing and traveling, but not so good for spending time in my art studio. I finally dusted off my hibernating printing press and added the last layer of ink on my Maroon Bells piece. Below is the final result… I hope to finish printing the edition in the next week and then it will be on to a new project.
Heidi ran in this year’s Sombrero Trail Run in Estes Park, Colo., under rain-threatening skies and surrounded by a mass of people. She finished the 4.5-mile jaunt in just under an hour–a great time for a first trail race. Pictured are Heidi and Molly warming up at the start line in the chilly air (though the dog stayed with the photographer during the run), and Heidi just after the post-race breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage and cowboy coffee.
I stayed up late last night and did a quick proof of my new multi-block Maroon Bells print. I used cheap newsprint paper which warped and didn’t take the ink very well, so the image is a bit lighter than the final version will be. I also need to fix a few registration mishaps, and I would like to adjust the colors of ink a bit, but so far I am satisfied with the results. I will begin working on the final prints this weekend.
The weather was gorgeous this weekend so I enjoyed a hike in the Eagles Nest Open Space near Fort Collins yesterday and a bike ride today. I also managed to finish my reduction cut of the apples. It was neat seeing the print develop as I added each new color. I was surprised by the final image because the apples didn’t really “pop out” until I added the final layer of black ink. Before that, I was wondering if I was on the right track with the print because it just looked like a bunch of nebulous blobs of color. This is a very fun technique, and I am looking forward to trying another reduction cut soon. However, it is time to get back to my multiple-plate Maroon Bells print for now, which is carved and ready to print. Stay tuned!
Here are some more step-by-step images of the apple print:
Sometimes, during a busy work-week, my art time is so limited that I feel I must make the most of it by only working on my serious projects. What a mistake. This limits my creativity and opportunity to try new things and learn, because I am afraid I might botch up a piece. Lately I have been striving to incorporate more time into my schedule to playfully experiment with my materials and techniques and to be okay with failing if it helps me improve.
This month, I found the perfect project to do this with. I take part in the printmaking forum on WetCanvas, an online artists’ community, and decided to take part in this month’s printmaking challenge by doing a reduction linocut of some apples. This project is challenging me in several of ways. First, the whole purpose of this project is to have fun–a sometimes difficult endeavor for me when I feel there is so much other work to be done. Second, I am used to doing works based on wildlife and landscapes and something as simple as fruit is a new subject for me. Third, and most important, I have never tried a reduction linocut before.
In a reduction linocut, the block is cut away as each new color is printed. Because the block is destroyed in the process, it is a very committing technique, and one that I have been afraid to try. What if I made a mistake and wasted all my time? Enter the apple project. This has given me a fun venue to try this style of linocut, and I like the technique so far. I am finding it is not as scary as I thought, and the cutting efficiency and perfect registration is a big advantage over using multiple blocks to add color. So far, I have done three colors and would like to add two more. Sure, I see things in my design that I would like to have done differently, but finally tackling a reduction print has been a invaluable learning experience. I can’t wait to try another one!