Friday, November 12, 2010

I've been accused of ignoring my upland hunting heritage in regards to my artwork, and instead concentrating on that other diversion we use to kill time when the bird seasons are closed.

I've dabbled a bit, to be sure, but nothing real serious, or that get's me excited.

So I finally made it a point to make room for some hunting pieces this year. Here's the first one:

"Gray November Day" a/p

Ok, so it's a ditch parrot. Specifically, it's a friend of mine missing a ditch parrot. I wanted to start with a simple image, and this one seemed to fit the bill. A gray fall day, a bit of snow on the ground - not much color except the hunters jacket and the red patch on the pheasants eye. It's not printed the best yet ("a/p" stands for Artists Proof...) either.

Here's some images of the blocks used to print the piece:

I've got a pile more that I'll be working on this fall/winter.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Now Showing at the Mable Tainter Center for the Arts Main Gallery

Deb and I took most of Tuesday afternoon and set up a show of my work at the Mable Tainter Theater, wich will run through the rest of this month until the 22nd. It was a bit intimidating when we first walked into thew seemingly huge, cavernous room that serves as the Theaters main gallery, but thanks mostly to Deb's patient help, we were able to come up with a beautiful show.
The theater is hosting an artists reception on Friday, November 12th, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Whoever's reading this, is of course warmly invited!
Here's a sneak peak:

Entrance to the Gallery Room:

To the right:

To the left:

Monday, October 25, 2010

End of the Day fini

I didn't get down to my favorite trout stream this year;

not once, not at all.

Which, of course, is a shame. What ever pressing errand that stood in the way this summer, whatever seemingly important, dire event that took place, preventing a visit, is of course now forgotten.

My best days trout fishing have been spent here. A tiny little creek, flowing through an improbable valley of farms, lies like a dream on the edge of the landscape. Wading slowly up through it's crystal clear, icy cold water, ducking around and through the thick vegetation, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that just over there, with-in a stone's throw of where I'm wading, lies it's potential doom: industrial agriculture lies unchecked along her banks like a bullying thug, ready and willing to foul her waters with a vindictiveness that exceeds mere greed.

I finally finished this latest reduction woodcut. It's been a trial of patience, a battle of wills, a real SOB and PITA the moment I started on it. Looking back, I had problems with mixing the correct colors, and the block cracked not just once, but twice. I had almost completely given up on the print and wrote it off, but then I got the new press up and running, and decided to finish it off. It's not my favorite, by far, but I'm satisfied with it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Printing with the new Dikerson Combination Press

About a month ago, I got a call from my Printmaking Professor from UWRF, Mary Barret. I hadn't seen Mary in at least 20 years, so I was happy, if not a bit baffled, with the call. She indicated to me that she was shutting down her studio in downtown St. Paul, and if I was interested in her press, an electric Dikerson Combination Press. I of course said certainly, but at the same time silently wondered just how I was going to pay for something like a full sized printing press. Mary then explained that she was giving it to me, because she knew I'd put it to use.

Well, what can a person say to that, other than "Thank you!"?

So, in the spirit of putting the new-to-me Dikerson (it's actually as old as I am...) to good use, I took up where I had left off on my latest reduction print. Interesting enough, this print has given me nothing but fits of frustration ever since I started it, including a cracked block. This happened not once, but twice. I "solved" the problem by gluing another block onto the back (Thanks to my friend Vince), but now have a double-thick, double heavy printing block. I was seriously thinking about throwing the towel in on it completely.

The press has made the whole process a whole site easier, letting me concentrate my efforts on getting the colours I want and on carving the tiny details of the foliage surrounding the fisherman. here's a short video I shot this morning, showing the steps in printing:

Like I said, the press makes things sooo much easier. A couple more colour layers, and we'll be good to go. So far, so good:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We took delivery today of the first printing of Calenders;
the 2011 'Year at the Orchard' Calender can now
be purchased at the Trout Lily Studios Website.

Get them while they're hot!

Friday, August 13, 2010

September, October and November

Deb finished up coloring September, October and November this week.

September apple picking crew

October Songbirds

November woodcutting

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Reduction - "Black Stones on the Nam"

I haven't done a reduction print for a bit, so decided to pick up with an image I took last spring and run with it.

My good buddy Dan had called this last spring to see if I wanted to fish the Namegagon for trout. The 'Nam is noted to have some really large browns in it, but it's notoriously difficult to find them, as it's only fishable for trout early in the spring, and their whereabouts are erratic at best - one day you'll find them, the next they're gone.

So I met Danno in Hayward, and we headed out. Armed with info from our good friends Wendy and Larry, who own the flyshop in Hayward, we actually found some feeding fish, and had a fantastic day catching some nice trout. I also caught some nice images of Dan. I really like this one, of Dan casting, from straight above him on a bridge.

Here's the prints as I work my way through the colors:

First step - the block:

First colors:

A little darker - can you see him?

A couple more to go...

Almost done...

Fin! Time for a Beer!

I didn't get photos of the brown/grey runs, but you can get an idea of the progress.

I'm pretty pleased with this one. Interesting - there's enough of the block left that I could run B&W prints off it, if I wanted.

I used a variety of papers on this. I used Revere, which I think remains my favorite, but I also used Arches and UICB. I didn't like the Arches, but I am really liking the UICB (University of Iowa Center for the Book Arts - I believe I'm using the BHC paper) paper, and recommend it along with the Revere. Prints very clean off from the irregular wood block, and the Daniel Smith inks layer up cleanly and easily.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Well, we made our art fair debut at the Stockholm Art Fair this last Saturday, right on the calming shores of Lake Pepin.

This was our first art fair in over 20 years. Coincidence enough, Stockholm was the last art fair we had done. Boy, has it changed!

All for the better - the last time we showed work here (left over glass projects from college, some pottery, hand made paper) we were parked next to a guy selling crocheted beer-can hats and windmills made form beer cans. I try not to be snooty about this type of stuff, but.....

Anyway, the show has matured gracefully, is well ran and well attended.

Like I said, Lake Pepin was right out the back door:

So, even though it was 90+ that day, we were mostly in the shade and had nice breezes coming in off the lake.

We also had a hatch of huge mayflies:

Half my time was spent explaining the life-cycle of mayflies, and half explaining woodcuts and printmaking. I was the only printmaker out of 120+ artists.

Sales were OK (not great...) I put this down to the extream heat, plus the fact that we're brand new to "the circuit" - I've found with the fishing shows that these things have a way of picking up their own steam as they get going.

Deborah out-sold me, and sold first ( her maple sugar print went first...) proving once again who the better artist is. Another coincidence; she out sold me last time, too.....

Next month, Duluth and Eau Claire!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

January, March and August

Three more prints for the calendar project:

January: skiing by the light of a full moon

March is maple syrup season:

Grapes start to ripen in August:

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Deb finished adding color to a couple prints of the May block today. We were both wondering how the Akua Kolor was going to work on the Revere paper, as a friend had had trouble getting satisfying results with other water color on it. But the Akua Kolor works great:

One of the finished prints:

11 more to go! So far, we've got 12 final drawings, 7 blocks cut and proofed, 3 blocks final printed, and one block printed and colored. Cutting the final 5 blocks will take the most time, but I'm confident we can get this to press before our September deadline.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cottonwood Pool

Truth be told, I've never done very well at the old cotton wood pool. Oh, I know there's some good fish in there - real nice. We shocked a 28"-r years ago during a DNR survey that I helped out with - the first real 28" brown I'd ever seen with my own eyes. I'd caught plenty of 28" fish (northerns and the like) but I'd never seen one like that come out of this creek. I'd heard about them, but then I've told my share of fish stories, too.

Anyway, it's a nice place, regardless if the fish are cooperative, as in my friends case, or not (being my usual lot...) There's this huge cottonwood tree parked right on the corner - the river has been gnawing at the trees root ball for so many years now that it's almost fully eroded. Some day soon it's gonna fall. When it does, I 'd like to be there, because it's a going to be one hell of a show. And it would solve that stupid old question once and for all - you know: if a tree falls in the woods, yaddy yaddy yadda...

This is a Whiteline woodcut. An image is transferred to a maple block, the line then carefully traced with a small V-gouge. The resulting raised portions are individually inked with a tiny paintbrush, and the paper is burnished with a wooden block by hand. Printed with Akua Kolors on Revere Polar White Silk paper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Project: Orchard Calendar

Deb and I have been kicking this project around for about a year now. A calendar depicting the people, plants, animals and seasons of an orchard; we want it to show what is rarely seen by the public back at the shop or at the farmers market, but what is integral to the life of the place.

I at first figured I would produce the whole thing myself with woodcuts, but as projects piled up, it became obvious that it wasn't going to get done. And since Deb was the one closest to an actual orchard (being she works at Maple Leaf Orchard), she decided to jump in and get things started by presenting me with a set of thumbnail drawings.

So it was decided: Deb would do the drawings, I would transfer them to blocks and print them, and then Deb would take over and paint in the colors with water colors. Since we are working under a self imposed deadline of September 1st, I decided the quickest way to carve/print a dozen blocks would be to produce them on linoleum blocks.

A week later, 10 drawings are done, a stack of lino blocks is ready, and two proofs have been printed:

January cross-country skiing by moonlight

May apple blossoms pollinated by the orchard honey bees.

A New Press

Folks often ask me what I use for a press. They are always amazed to find out that I don't use a press, or at least a western-style wheel-and-rollers type of press we're all familiar with. Since I pick up block printing after a small hiatus back in 1995, I've used nothing more than either a wooden spoon or a simple barren, which translates to "hand press".

But circumstances change, and when Deb proposed this latest calendar project, I knew I wouldn't be able to hand-burnish a dozen 8x10 relief plates onto thick print-making paper without wearing out my shoulder. I knew I needed a press.

But printing presses are expensive. Real expensive. Prohibitively expensive on our tight budget ($$ available for a printing press = $0.00) What to do, what to do?

The internet to the rescue - I'd heard a lot of talk about a thing called a bottle jack press, about how it's easy to build yourself, about how people have been using them for years, about how great they work.

I tracked down said press, and found building plans through printmaker Charles Morgan
The plans are free, easy to follow, and provided you can saw a 2x4 and cut some metal angle iron, you'll end up with something that looks like this:

I broke down and bought a new 6 ton bottle jack, hardware and a sheet of 3/4" MDF, all for under $50.00 (far cry from the $6,000.00 for a new combination relief/intaglio press...) I used salvaged oak 2x4s for the base and the upper and lower bars. I modified the recoil system to use heavy duty springs instead of bungee cords. This thing weighs about 70 lbs and is solid as a rock. I ran a test proof of an old wood block and the thing works great - I only need to add some press blankets.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Brace of Brookies

Some of you will recognize this image - this is the third print I've done of the two brookies next to a creel. I like the image - something timeless about it - and each time I print it, something new happens.

This is the finished AP, or Artists Proof. With a multiple block print, the printer prints each block as it's finished, checking registration as each block is carved. The finished print is often signed off as an "AP", or artists proof.

The process starts off by creating and printing a block line block, called the key block. This printed on as many sheets of proofing paper as the printer needs color blocks. The separate colors are then inked in to the separate sheets, one sheet per color:

Once done, the stacked sheets will look like this:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Plum Orchard" Artists Proof

I finished off a run of proofs from the blocks I've been cutting this week.

This woodblock printing thing confounds me... I get several colors down the run, and it looks like it's all falling apart fairly quickly. Just when I think seriously about throwing in the towel and start wondering just what it is I'm trying to accomplish, I finish printing the last color and viola! it all comes together.

I've got some work to do yet: get rid of some lines on the black block and maybe, maybe cut a pale yellow block to print amongst the "white" blossoms as flower centers, but I'm really, really happy with how this turned out.

New Print: "Plum Orchard"

It was "Bring Your Spouse to Work" day a couple weeks ago at Maple Leaf Orchard, were Deb works. Since she is the only employee right now, I was the only spouse to participate. I spent the morning wandering through the plum orchards, watching the morning light stream through the blossoming trees, while Deb and Mark went to work with the bees:

I later got the key-block carved. After a marathon day of carving tiny, tiny gouges, I now have a blister on the inside of my middle finger of one hand (where it rubs against the gouge handle) and a very deep, very "V" shaped cut on the end of the other one from when it slipped and jammed straight in. Stupid, stupid! Always use the bench hook! That's what it's there for!

But, four band aids later, I also got the block cut (ignore the blood stain...):

...and even ran some proofs:

next: the fun work starts of cutting and proofing the color blocks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Squaretail" White Line finished

I think I could spend the rest of my days fishing for, catching and printing brookies.

Spent the last couple hours tonight finishing up this print. It took about 10 hours from start of inking to finish, but at least half that time was hemming and hawwing about which color goes where. I won't have that problem with the next ones, as the block is as colorful as the print itself, and all the colors are now mixed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A few more colors added, and it's starting to take shape...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Progress steps

I finished up carving last night, and got the first few colors inked in:

Once the inking gets started, it goes pretty quickly:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brook Trout White Line Print

I started a new white line print, this time a brookie. I got the image from the last Great Waters Expo, from the folks at Three Rivers Lodge in Labrador. One of these days, I'll take my son, and together we'll fly up there and catch one of these beauty's. Until then, I'll have to make do with printing them...

I got the image transferred earlier:

now comes the tedious task of carving the lines:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cherry Tree

To go along with the botanical "theme" I've been working on this spring, I finished up an image of a cherry tree, to go along with the pear I pulled last week, and the plum I'll be doing soon.

I think a bright purple/blue plum is going to look good along side these cherries and next to the pear.

I've got some pretty good photos of our plum tree in all it's glory from the last couple years, but I can't find them. Gotta keep looking...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

follow up to "Something new from something old"...

I finished up the moku hanga print I started a couple weeks ago, after I printed a run of proofs off the the left over block from the reduction print "Brook Trout Yin Yang."

I like it. It's much simpler than the original (far fewer colors) and it's printed lighter, too, giving it a lighter, flowing feel.

And just in time for the Minneapolis Great Waters Expo, too!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

on to the Fruit...

As I mentioned before, as I get ready for the Flower and Garden show at the River Falls Library, the next series I want to work on is a triptic of fruit trees: pears, cherries and plums. First up, is the Pear.

a key block, some B&W proofs, and the first color block:

too green, but the registration is right on.

I carve the rest of the color blocks, proofing them as I go. I discover I need to carve and extra color block, to get the red/orange "blush" to the fruit.

The finished print:

More Flowers...

After the Poppy, my next flower was to be a Purple Iris, also called the "Blue Flag". I see these in the early summer up along the Apple River. A beautiful flower.

the first step, of course, is to produce the key block:

from this I print a shot series of black and white proofs. These proofs are what I use to create the color blocks from.

Starting with the blue:

Eventually, I'll have cut and printed a total of 5 blocks for the finished image:

I'm getting these prints ready for the flower and garden show coming up in May at the River Falls Library. I want to have three triptics done: one of garden flowers, one of fruit (pear, plum and cherry) and one of apples.