Willapa Bay AiR wrap up

My time here at Willapa Bay AiR is winding down and I find myself with a mix of emotions.  This has been such a great experience for so many reasons.  One of the best things about this month has been getting to know the other residents. I believe some real friendships have been formed, and I am going to miss these people!  Late last week the goodbyes began.  Our poet in residence, Jim Bertolino, had to depart for a trip to Italy, (sigh).  Not only are those of us who remain very jealous we are also missing the nightly recitation of the poems Jim completed on any given day.  And last night we said goodbye to our chef and all around renaissance woman Jill Trenholm, (in addition to excellent culinary skills Jill is a singer/songwriter and artist.  How can one person possess so much talent?).  Conscientious person that she is, Jill left our refrigerator well stocked with healthy meals and scrumtrilenscent treats. 

 The Fortuitous Five, left to right: James Hurley, Christy George, Me, Jim Bertolino, David Nechak
Jill Trenholm and James Hurley performing at the Willapa Bay AiR open house.

A number of visitors stopped in last week as well.  My friends Pam and Sheryl, and Sheryl's dog Sully, paid me a visit on a very rainy day.  In spite of the inclement weather we were able to take a walk by the bay and along the ocean shore.  Pam and Sheryl also enjoyed some famous Oysterville oysters.
 Sully and Sheryl and moi standing by one of many lichen covered Oysterville fences.

 Pam and me on the porch of my cute cabin.

On Saturday Willapa Bay AiR hosted an open house.  The community was invited to roam the grounds, see what the artists have been up to and ask questions.  There were also readings and musical performances by residents and staff, (see photo above).  It was quite fun to meet the locals and see their enthusiasm for this new venture.

In the studio my self directed mokuhanga refresher course continued.  While I did carve blocks for another practice print, most of my attention was directed toward actual printing, (which has been the more challenging aspect for me).   I think I finally hit on the correct approach for dampening paper, (hallelujah!) and was able to reprint the Sitka print with a much better outcome.  In addition I spent some time printing the aforementioned practice print blocks. 
 A comparison of my second and third attempt at printing the Sitka.  Much better, no?

 The result of practice print #3, although...

I prefer the luminosity of the color before printing the key block.  
When I return home I'll be addressing this conundrum.  

Over the next few days I will be tending to the administrative duties associated with my 'job' as a Willapa Bay AiR beta tester.  The five of us were asked to write down each and every complaint and idea we have that might make this a better experience for when the program begins in 2014.  We all agree that it will be a short list.  From the philosophy and mission; to the facilities; to the administration; to the meals;  all has been well thought out. When I add in the lovely locale and the interesting and supportive Oysterville community I don't know how it can get any better.   I began this post by saying I have mixed emotions.   I know that nothing lasts forever and all good things must come to end, (blah, blah, blah).  And I DO look forward to being 'home,' and sleeping in my own bed with my cats curled at my feet, but I will be truly sad to leave this place.  My best and fondest wishes for success go to Cyndy Hayward and Nina Macheel, founder and executive director of WPA, although I believe their success is assured.  And I applaud the lucky 2014 residents, (whoever they may be!) and hope their experience will be as good as mine! 


Moku Hanga is hard!

I'm into my third week at the Willapa Bay AiR.  Tonight all of the residents were interviewed for the community paper by Sydney Stevens, local author, historian and the go-to gal for all things Oysterville, (her grandparents were the renowned H. A. Espys). (If you are interested in history and wonder what life in an historic village is all about, you should check out her blog.)  During our interview we were asked what has made this such a rich and wonderful experience and our answers included the following: the delicious and lovingly prepared meals, the cozy cabins, the peacefulness and beauty of this maritime landscape, the luxury of work time uninterrupted by the demands of daily life and the absolute coolness of sharing time, meals, stories, ideas and struggles with artists from a variety of disciplines.  Poets, writers, musicians and visual artists may produce different products and our approaches to the work we do may differ greatly, but we all know the frustration of hacking away at a creative obstacle.  In my time here I'm reminded that sometimes  the encouragement and/or inspiration needed for 'getting back at it,' comes simply from sitting down, breaking bread and sharing stories.  I am here with David NechakJames Hurley, James Bertolino and Christy George and all have shown me a thing or two about being an artist.  Goshdarnitall, I'm having a great time.

My little cabin

I needed a lot of the above mentioned encouragement and/or inspiration for my work in the studio this past week.  My project for the week was to complete a print requiring some precise registration.  I spent four days carving four blocks and then had a go at printing.  My registration was a bit off and, in a repeat of week one, I struggled mightily with printing.  This time I think the paper was too dry, (last time it was TOO wet) and again this time, I ended up tossing the first day's work.  The second attempt was only marginally better, but I think I learned a bit about the paint : nori ratio. 

I printed only three of the four blocks; used three colors and made six passes.  Oh, how I wished I had a sensei at the ready to tell me what I was doing wrong!  
Yesterday I stepped away from my tools and paints  and spent the day drawing.  I ended the day with a number of ideas for work to do when I return home. Today I was back to carving blocks for another go at moku hanga.  Again this week I will be working on a four block print and hoping for better results.
On Saturday the Willapa Bay AiR is holding an open studio/open house.  Folks from the community are invited to roam the grounds, meet the artists, see what's going on in the art studios and listen to live  performances by the residents.  Saturday, September 21, 3:00 - 5:00p



Willapa Bay AiR - week one

I suspect the Willapa Bay Artist in Residence program will soon be a highly sought after residency opportunity for artists of all kinds.  I happen to be one of the fortuitous-five who were asked to beta-test this program by attending for one month and then providing feedback to the founder and director.  Here I sit in spectacularly beautiful corner of Washington state (a pristine bay on one side and the mighty Pacific Ocean to the other) with four other artists, (two writers, one musician and another visual artist), in my own little cabin,  a private studio just steps away,  a fully stocked kitchen with two meals a day prepared for me and treasure of treasures, an entire month to work.  How did I ever get this lucky?!?
My goal for this month is to reacquaint myself with the printmaking technique I learned in Japan, several years ago, called moku hanga.  Simply translated moku hanga means, wood print.  This technique differs from western woodblock printmaking in that water based pigments are used instead of oil based inks, and the blocks are printed by hand and not with a printing press.  It is a very wet process; the wood block must be wet, as must the paper, and this area, with water all around, has the perfect climate. 
To begin my re-acquaintance with this beautiful but challenging technique, I brought along the blocks I carved in Japan, to re-print, along with all my notes which made perfect sense four years ago but have become cryptic and completely inadequate since then.   After four days of struggle, head scratching, starting over, and a few ah-ha moments I was able to finish my practice round.  It took a while but I managed to remember a lot of what I had forgotten.
Moku hanga practice session, day one. Definitely a learning day.

Moku hanga practice session day two. In progress prints are resting in their damp book comprised of damp blotters and newspaper sandwiched between plastic.  I learned the hard way that there is damp and then there is TOO damp.

 Moku hanga practice, complete.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

My initial idea was to reprint the entire triptych, but I think that will wait for another day.  I am anxious to do some new work inspired by this lush area. My next challenge is attempting some detailed registration.

It hasn't been all work this past week.  On Saturday we donned our rubber boots and went on a clam dig. We roamed the tide flats of Willapa Bay and collected a bucket of little clams that were to be prepared for our dinner on Sunday evening.  Unfortunately, novice clam diggers that we all are, most of our bounty had to be returned to the sea for they weren't worth eating.  Still we had a wonderful morning, and last night, a delicious meal of linguine with clam sauce.  Yum. Wish I'd taken a picture of that but I was too busy slurping it down.

 Willapa Bay at low tide.
Clam diggers extraordinaire.

 Our wholly inadequate haul.


Daily Doodles

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  Here are my work-a-day, idle moments recorded on paper.   Don't tell my boss.


My goodness...

...where has the time gone?  Are we really sitting smack-dab in the middle of August?  My head is hung in shame for my inattention to this blog.  As I've written many times before, I've been busy.  Really.  Just not busy in my studio.  Errgh.  Here's how I've spent my summer vacation, so far...
  • June: cleaning, sorting, culling, boxing, installing, spreading, painting, washing, staining. 
  • July: driving, dancing, visiting, eating, drinking, cycling, flying, sliding.
  • August: cooking, more visiting, pet sitting, skinny dipping, more drinking, more dancing, reading, more cycling.
Did you notice?  There is no mention of drawing, sketching, doodling or printmaking in the above list.  Sigh.  Fortunately, there are 17 days left in August, therefore, I still have time to amend the list.  Here's a sketch (from May) to get you by.


One block reduction workshop

Last weekend I led a workshop on one-block reduction woodcut printing at the Schack Art Center in Everett, Washington.  For twelve hours, over two days, the nine participants carved and printed, carved and printed, carved and printed.  For some it was their very first time wielding a Japanese wood carving tool, an ink-loaded brayer or a paper stencil made sticky with ink and tape. Printmaking, and in particular reduction printmaking, can be a frustrating exercise in thinking backwards; so I commend them all on their stick-to-it-ness.  Take a look below at the participants hard at work and at their finished or in-progress one-block reduction woodcuts.


Almost done.

Holymoly it was difficult to stay indoors this weekend, with the sunshine and warm temperatures and all.  I managed to stay studio-focused long enough to do some serious block carving and one more run through the press.  With a bit more tweaking I believe this one will be done.


All in a day's work

Hooray, it's the weekend!   I hit the studio early this morning and spent the day working on my spider print.  Four additions and now it's time for both the print, and me, to take a break.  I'm putting my feet up and enjoying a glass of wine while my edition of prints are resting on the drying rack.  They need a few days of repose before I smush them through the press again.


Day jobs are necessary, but why do they have to take up so much time?

I'm working an extra day at church each week and while the extra money is appreciated, the reshuffling of my weekly schedule has taken some time to get used to.  Fortunately, over the past weekend I was able to eek out some much needed studio time.  In addition to washing, drying and folding several loads of laundry;  purchasing cat food for three hungry felines; making an excellent pot of minestrone, (really, I out-did myself); and delivering some artwork for an upcoming group exhibit;  I also found time to completely fatigue my right arm carving spider web patterns into plywood and get two colors on my latest print.  I like how it looks at this point and am now entering into the phase where I'm convinced I will (and just might) ruin the whole thing.


Catalog Shopping

 As long as I can remember I have loved looking at catalogs.  When we were little, my sisters and I would shriek with delight when the five pound J.C. Penney catalog would arrive, usually sometime during the sweltering month of July, or the frigidly cold month of February.  We'd find a blanket, sit on top of it or, (depending on the season) snuggle up under it, and carefully tear off the brown, kraft paper, band that held the thick publication together while in transit. Then, we'd turn the pages, inhaling fresh ink and compiling a list of all the clothes we wanted for the next season's wardrobe. (We also played a silly game called, I-Like-Her, which regularly resulted in six fists of fury and drove my mother nuts.)  Those one-thousand page tomes are no longer produced as far as I can tell, nevertheless, a dozen or so bantam weight catalogs arrive in my mailbox each week; office supplies, home goods, sporting goods and yes, fashions for the upcoming season. In my world it is currently, Summer Clothing Catalog Season.  Each day when I open the mailbox I am greeted by glossy catalogs from Nordstrom, J. Crew, and Boden, to name a few.  But alas, nothing stays the same. My sisters now live thousands of miles away and we can no longer gather on a blanket turning the pages together; we no longer have spirited games of I-Like-Her ending with mom snatching the catalog from our raging fists.  Just as disappointing, also gone are the days when I can imagine myself in such flirty, seasonal attire;  the skirts are too short, the bathing suits too revealing, my skin is too loose, my pocketbook too empty.  Still, I peruse the pages, sighing wistfully as I look at cute clothes I'll never wear.   To assuage my woebegone nostalgia, I now turn the pages of my summer fashion catalogs looking for figures and images that inspire me to pick up my sketchbook.
after the Boden Spring Catalog

after the Antrhopologie Spring Catalog


Happy Lunar New Year

Happy Year of the Sssssssnake!


An admission

Perhaps it was the result of my recent repeated viewings of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, (you know, the one with Colin Firth as the perfectly brooding Mr. Darcy) or maybe it was due to my great anticipation of season three of Downton Abbey.  Then again, it could simply be the influence of dozens of shiny items, viewed at numerous gift shops, during my searches for a perfect gift in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Whatever the inducement, it is time for me to admit that in recent days I have been captivated by the genteel pastime of decoupage.  What?  Oh, dear reader, not the variety of decoupage attempted in my youth, that which amounted to magazine pictures pasted onto wooden paddles; no, the technique that has intrigued and enchanted me is reverse decoupage on glass plates. According to Wikipedia, the art of decoupage probably originated in 12th century Sibera, traveled to China, then on to Europe, where in the 18th century, the activity was favored by ladies of the court. Now a couple of centuries later this art form of cultivated ladies has made its way to my tiny studio in the Pacific Northwest.
In my six weeks of ardent practice with paper, glue and glass I have learned that reverse decoupage requires a bit of dexterity and a fair amount of patience, as having all the elements come together in a pleasing manner can be quite vexing at times. Then again, I found the periodic visits to my studio to monitor the progress of my plates or to perchance apply one of several required coats of paint, a calming retreat from the holiday chaos and revelry.  It is to say, I, like so many proper ladies before me, delighted in this creative exercise and I am not ashamed to admit, some of my attempts pleased me indeed.  As such, I am inclined to share a few here.


Happy Wednesday

Enjoy this interesting and fun explanation of various printmaking processes I happened upon during some Wednesday interweb wandering.  Oh, you've seen it before?  Why am I always the last to know?


Here's to 2013!

In with the new!  May all good things come your way in 2013! xo