Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter outdoor shows — Florida style.

I just did my local art show last week in downtown Palm Harbor — literally, just down the street from my house. My first outdoor art show in over a year, so it was a low-key way to ease back in. My artist friends Joyce Curvin and Lorraine Potocki were my next-door booth neighbors, which made the 6am Saturday morning set-up bearable. And smoothly efficient; we were all able to help each other out in the dark. Bob came down with me and helped with my monster Trimline canopy set-up; between the two of us, we could get that steel-framed beast up fast enough so that I could get everything hung and organized before the official opening at 10am.

Once I was ready, well… things were quiet. I made *just* enough in the way of sales by the end of the weekend, but the PH show is more about showing the hometown flag and making contacts. I did sell one of my first new framed Ebb Tide prints, the first time I've shown them, and I was very pleased about that. All in all, great weather (maybe too great — everyone went to the beach!) and a nice weekend.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

New/old work in the works.

In between doing the MOSI freelance behemoth, I've been converting the Future Faerie Tales of Florida ink drawings into the etchings they were originally intended. Second on deck is The Frigatebird beckoned Asu and the Prince to follow her. (The matted ink drawing is at the top.) The 5"x7" copper plate is in the process of being scribed; you can see the copper lines revealed through the dark hard ground resist. I draw those with a steel stylus, with about the same pressure as I normally pencil a drawing, but it is harder to create a variable line; I have to go back and forth to shape it the way I want; styli just give you a very light line otherwise.

Next to it is a pencil drawing on tracing vellum (with blue ball point pen ink on one side); originally it was used to transfer the pencil sketch for the ink drawing and now doing double-duty as the flipped trace for the etching plate. (Note that I have to work backwards for etching; the lettering on the plate has to be inscribed in mirror image to print correctly.)

Below is the somewhat botched-up etching for Owl-Winged Dawn finds the Sturgeon Lord from when I managed to under-etch the plate back in January. (That was a Very Bad Day, after ruining twenty hours of work...)

As I'd mentioned before, the solution was too weak and most of the lines were too shallow or didn't etch at all after almost twenty minutes in the tank; fifteen to eighteen minutes is normal for me with ferric chloride. So, after punting in order to meet a jury deadline by drawing my four concepts in crow quill pen and ink, I then re-scribed this same entire plate a month later. Not my favorite way to deal with it, and woman's face is, frankly, terrible. Normally, I'd rather start from scratch all over again and there are a lot of nasty overbite marks on the plate I'm having trouble burnishing out, especially in the upper right of the print from the original bad etch. But, meh; I'm chalking it up to One of Those Things In Art as in Life and I'm moving on the next three. Plus working on more Future Faerie Tale drawings, coming soon.

Addenda: June is the first month since my hand surgery where I no longer notice my hands while I work. They're still a bit stiff at night and I continue to do stretching, but right about the second week of June I realized I'd been drawing MOSI stuff for four straight hours and never noticed my hands once. Big milestone; so glad it's all done.

MOSI job completed.

At last, in between a couple of websites, logos and the etchings I'm working on, I finished a big illustration job for the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry. These are for some signage in their Historic Tree Grove, where each tree growing in this part of MOSI's garden area is a scion or seedling of a tree associated with a historic person or event. Twenty-nine illustrations total, all drawn and painted in Photoshop.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Future Faerie Tales of Florida

It's great to be back! I can draw again! ;-)

Though still continuing with hand therapy, I'm finally past some important milestones after my surgeries and back to work.

I felt that I could start again by mid-January, but it still hurt a bit. (I still couldn't even open a jar of spaghetti sauce by that point.) Had some starts and stops (and lots of icing down of my hands every few hours...) but I got back in the saddle and promptly started in on the March 1st Roycroft re-jury deadline hanging over my head until yesterday.

Normally, I submit linocut and intaglio prints to the jury, but after a plate I'd spent almost twenty hours scribing failed to etch properly due to a weak ferric solution, I had to punt — speed up — and go back to my old favorite, pen and ink.

I definitely have to regain my confidence with this medium again; I can tell from the wonky faces & eyes that I need to practice more — and my close vision has certainly deteriorated over the years. I spent half the time either without my glasses or with a magnifier headset on to be able to focus. I also couldn't afford to screw up; no "undo" button here or use of white gouache for correction, as all of these have to go under glass and frame for exhibitions. But I see gradual improvement over the three weeks it took me to do these four drawings.

From my Artist's Statement notes typed up yesterday for the jury:

The four drawings I have submitted are explorations for a new etching series: Future Faery Tales of Florida. These tales are fairy tales that don’t exist, and are a very deliberate homage on the exceptional early 20th c. black & white ink illustrations for children’s books by artists such as Walter Crane, H.J. Ford, Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Inspired specifically by the B&W pen and ink work that Henry Justice Ford did for Andrew Lang’s “Color” Fairy Books, I wanted to create a series of illustrations that avoided the usual medieval fantasy and Orientalism of most fairy tale books of the turn of the 2oth century. This is the imagery which I love and grew up on and have drawn all of my life, but I wanted to explore something fresh in order to create a new series of etchings that had more mythic imagery than the bird life than I’d been producing up to this point.The imagery incorporates ancient Florida natural history, paleoindian art and design and the modern flora and fauna and sites that I’ve been acquainted with all of my life in Florida as a sailor, diver, hiker, birder and hobby-naturalist. Each drawing is inspired by and hand-lettered with a line taken from a tale that hasn’t actually been written, much as H.J. Ford used a line from a story in Lang’s Fairy Book’s as a scene to illustrate.
An example of Ford's work for the Color Fairy Books can be seen here: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/the%20orange%20fairy%20book

So, here they are. All are 5"x7", drawn with India ink and a crow quill #102 dip pen (with a 00 Rapidograph used for the box frames and lettering) on Strathmore #300 Bristol. (Which I will never, ever use again as it's become vastly inferior as a drawing surface these days...) By the way, I'll be etching all of this as part of a series, with more to come.

1. “Owl-Winged Dawn Greets the Sturgeon Lord” (2013) 5”x7”: A forest spirit, the winged woman finds an enchanted Gulf sturgeon to guide her. Because what’s a fairy tale without an enchanted sturgeon...? This drawing incorporates straightforward palmettos and pines around a north Florida spring. This is the first one I inked in early Feb., and also the one that was the failed etching.

2. “The Escape From the Tower on Iron Mountain” (2013) 5”x7”: A standard theme in fairy tales is to escape from an evil presence holding one captive in a tower, but in this case, the Bok “Singing” Tower may be familiar to Arts & Crafts Movement fans, and the hill it sits on is really called “Iron Mountain”, a geologic oddity made of hematite. The young man’s mount is a fantasy-sized Mesohippus, a precursor to modern horses found in Florida around 28 million years ago.

3. “At last, the Airship from Port Lucaya arrived.” (2013) 5”x7”: A pampered South Florida (South Beach?) Faerie Queen awaits her ride from the Bahamas, accompanied by her tiny assistant, a small overnight chest and a saltwater croc. As one does...

4. “The Frigatebird beckoned Asu and the Prince to follow her.” (2013) 5”x7”: Very likely there are damsels in distress to be rescued on that island, the question is: which one is Asu (meaning “sunset” in ancient Taino) and which one’s the Prince of his People? At the very least, there’s a sentient Atlantic Spotted dolphin and Magnificent Frigatebird in the story.

The attached sketch shows some of my process: on this and on another sheet of vellum that was on the left, where I worked out the geometry of a standing lug rig sail in order to place the rigging and the mainsheet properly. The canoe was actually an 80 yr. old scale model of a birchbark canoe that my great aunt Antoinette Bird made that I photographed propped up at an angle on an kneaded eraser.