Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Work: Ice Cream Social 1, 2 and 3

Ice Cream Social 1
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper

Ice Cream Social 2
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper

Ice Cream Social 3
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper
When I was a kid, we had a great ice cream shop that was just about a mile from my house. Duffy's was a true neighborhood/corner shop and a kid could walk there and have a great time selecting flavors. I have fond memories of their strawberry sherbet, banana, and mint chip ice creams. There was also blue colored bubblegum ice cream (actual bubble gum balls embedded in the ice cream), rocky road (my dad's favorite), and regular chocolate chip (not as good as the mint chip in my opinion!). Store bought ice cream was also an option. Neapolitan in a carton was a favorite as I recall. In those days, nobody thought twice about ice cream and it's delectable whole milk fat! Now, well, when is the last time I had straight up full fat anything? Not recently that is for sure.

Anyway, the above three pieces were inspired by my memories of going to Duffy's to get ice cream. It's a little ironic that my first steady paying job was at Baskin and Robbins. Maybe I have always had a thing for ice cream!

What's new with the above pieces is the mono prints. In the second piece, I did some "pressed paint" mono prints onto that pink paper. In the third piece, I actually made two collographs using cardboard, tinfoil and glue.  The glue produced some great results. It does need to be sealed with matte medium or something water resistant prior to pulling a print. (All collographs need to be sealed with something.)  I used some gesture sketches to create a design in glue on the sealed cardboard. Once the glue dried, I re sealed it with matte medium and then painted it with paint. I pressed my paper onto it and then used a brayer to strengthen the image. You can see the lines of the cardboard. That was an unexpected surprise. For the other squares, any variations in the paint are caused by the brush and the matte medium to paint ratio. 

In other news, I wrote a little blog post on hiking tips for beginners. It is published here, in Forest Living California online magazine/site. Please feel free to pass along the link provided to anyone who may be interested in hiking as well as others who may be interested in life in the foothills of California. John and Arlene have an excellent web presence and a "magazine" that offers lots of resources. 

OK, hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Take a Hike! Ten Tips For Absolute Beginners

Stanislaus Meadow
Highway 4, Ebbetts Pass California
So! You think you want to take a hike. Maybe, like me, you joined a hiking group. Perhaps your partner likes to hike and you really want to share the adventure but are unsure about tagging along. Or maybe you are curious about the activity but are a little embarrassed about starting. If you are new to this hobby, I have some tips gleaned from a year's worth of trial and error hiking or, as I like to call what I do, "hike-walking". Curious? Read on!

First off, I call what I do "hike-walking". I use this made up term because of two variables: distance and terrain. Shorter distances such as 2-3 miles on fairly level, even terrain can be considered as walking. The pace can be fast or slow depending on what you want. Longer distances such as 5-7+ miles over uneven terrain that has you traveling up and down hills or scrambling over rocks can be considered hiking. The pace slows down considerably as you ascend or descend and depends largely on the ground on which you are walking and how much you are carrying. Rocks slow you down (or at least they should slow you down) and weight slows you down too. I like a mixture of both types and so I call my hybridized outings "hike-walking".  

Over the course of the last year, I have racked up some mileage and learned some very basic things along the way. These are things I absolutely didn't consider or know about before I started. They are simple tips and ideas to keep in mind before you begin. (I will also include, at the end, some ideas about what to bring along to make things comfortable.) Here are the ideas in order of importance:

1. Equipment Needed: The most important piece of equipment is your body. Climbing up hills, walking over  boulders, crossing small creeks and traipsing over smaller trail rocks all day is taxing. It is all absolutely different than walking on paved, level ground. Carrying a backpack of any size and weight adds to the effort. Additionally, your physical fitness level will become obvious very quickly. No piece of store bought equipment, item of food or fancy bottle of water will help you to get up the hill. The only  thing that will get you up and over is your body. Period, end of story. That said, there is a level of hike-walking and enjoyment for everyone, at any fitness level. Keep that in mind when you start. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. 

2. Physical Conditions: This may seem obvious but if you start your hike with a headache it is unlikely to get any better. Hiking won't make it go away and in fact may make it worse. (Think dehydration.) Ditto for other mild conditions such as muscle strains/sprains, earaches, the cold or flu or any gastrointestinal distress. Your best bet is to take a pass on the outing and stay home until the condition passes. 

3. Dehydration/Staying Hydrated: One of the most frightening physical problems I encountered was a mess of my own doing. I started the day with a headache (see above), did not have enough water with me and became overheated. I also hiked farther than I should have. The combination of those things could have been a real problem. Luckily I made it and my hiking buddy gave me electrolytes. I can't stress enough the real need to carry enough water. For the style of hiking I do, I don't look for water sources such as creeks or fountains at the trail head. I now carry all of the water (and then some) that I think I will need.

4. Medical Conditions: People with medical conditions or who take medication should be able to manage those conditions while on the trail. I met one woman who had a heart condition who had a wrist monitor telling her about her heart rate. I myself frequently carry an extra dose of my daily pills just in case I forgot to take them the morning of my hike. (I also carry aspirin in case of a heart attack.)  Whatever the case may be, you absolutely need the OK from your doctor for whatever it is that you want to do. And then you need to be prepared to manage your condition while hiking. I have mixed feelings about this since I believe we are all responsible for one another to some extent but we are all adults. The reality is though, you want to take care of yourself no matter what activity you are doing.

5. Sleep: Here is another no brainer. Did you get enough sleep the night before? Be honest. Good, solid sleep is critical to being able to stay the course.

6. Meds., Recreational or Otherwise: I have never gone hike-walking with any recreational drugs on board so this admonition is hypothetical. (Nor do I use recreational drugs for that matter.) It would be a bad mistake. As obvious as it seems, an absolute awareness of your environment is a must. Looking for trail markers, finding your way and generally enjoying the scenery requires a clear head. Why bother otherwise?

7. Food: How much and what kind? These are questions I am still answering. My best advice here is to ask around and to observe. What are other people doing? My normal fare of a turkey and cheese sandwich was handy at first but way too heavy. My friends were eating fruits, nuts and some veggie/cracker/cheese combos. Those are good starts. In general, I look for things that carry a good mixture of carbohydrates and fats (for immediate energy use) and protein (for longevity and repair). Some of my recent favorites are nuts with some vegan chocolate, Kind Bars from Costco, apples (water and sugar), dehydrated snack mixture (peas, carrots, edamame, nuts, garbanzo beans) and lots of water. Lunch lately has been a chickpea spread in a pita pocket. (The verdict is out though on that.) On a recent hike, my hiking partner brought olives which I thought was brilliant. (Fats, carbs and some protein.) My point is though to ask around, check your hunger level throughout the day and make adjustments. You may end up eating things (like an energy bar) that you wouldn't normally eat. 

8. Overloaded Small Pack/Under-loaded Large Pack: I have had problems with both of these scenarios. There honestly is a sweet spot to getting it just right. This is a trial and error thing but I suggest working it out at home or in the store. Places like REI will fit you for a pack, load it up, and let you walk around the store with it. Be as specific as you can about what you will be doing. It will help the salesperson to pick the right pack for your activities. You want to get this right for you because either scenario will make your progress on the trail difficult. 

9. Planning: I didn't know at first how long things might take. Or where I was going exactly. In short, I really didn't know how the day was going to unfold. Luckily, I started going on day hikes with another experienced hiker. I learned from her about expected walking time/distances and lots of other things. Knowing when you start and end is important and is a piece of information that you want to convey to anyone back home who may be expecting you to show up at dinnertime! (And in this same vein, you should always let someone know where you are going and how long you will be gone.)

10. Weather: There is this really awesome thing now. It's called the weather forecast! Not only should you know what the weather forecast holds for the day (rain, showers, full sun, etc.) but you should have an idea about what happened in the days leading up to your hike. Lots of rain could mean very muddy conditions or higher than normal creeks to cross. On one hike that I took, there was a full on creek to cross which was a little unusual. We had a lot of rain over the Winter and Spring and even though things had been dry for awhile, there was still quite a bit of water in the creek. And kind of as an adjunct to checking the weather you should also come to know what kind of weather you want to hike in. I prefer some cooler days-clear or not. Storm clouds and a light drizzle don't bother me much anymore. Always be prepared with the appropriate layers.

The above ten ideas and tips are very basic and may seem like they should be intuitive. Probably to some people they are obvious points but to me, a newbie, they are things I honestly didn't know about or consider.

In addition to the basic points I mentioned above, there are also some things to consider taking along with you on your hike. Either purchase or scrounge around your home to see if you already have them. The Internet is full of professional lists on the hiking essentials. You should definitely check that out. The items I list below though, have been helpful for me. 

* Appropriate quantity of water and electrolytes.
* Shoes/boots suitable for the terrain and which will protect your feet and ankles from injury.
* Socks appropriate for the above foot gear (include a spare set in your pack).
* A packable floppy hat with a sun shielding wide brim and a chin strap.
* A warm cap, neck warmer, and appropriate gloves.
* Extra layers-wind and water proof are nice, sun shielding and bug repellent are good extras for the summer. Something with a collar to keep the sun off of your neck is helpful also. I like a synthetic button up shirt that can be worn winter and summer.
* Wrist watch.
*Smaller lightweight wallet that holds your license, some cash, trail permit and medication list along with name and number of doctor.
*Map and compass and trail directions. Consider too a small lightweight magnifying glass.
*Sun screen and bug repellent (your choice of brands). 
*For ladies, pantyliners, toilet paper (or bandanna) and a plastic baggie. Some people travel with a small lightweight spade for digging a cat hole.
*Two bandannas or thin cloth napkins. One is for nose blowing and the other is to make wet and wrap around your neck to keep cool. It can also double as a wet wipe to wipe your hands or face. 
*Whistle and pocket knife/tool set.
*Small toothbrush (cutoff)/toothpaste.
*Small mirror with duct tape wrapped around it. (For repairs)
*Extra shoelaces and safety pins.
*First aid kit. (Include aspirin for heart attack, band aids, tape, antiseptic wipes, insect bite wipes, gauze, etc.)
*Small towel.
*Plastic garbage bag. (You can sit on this and it is also rain/pack protection.) 
*Cell phone.
*Carabiners/zip ties/clothes pins/safety pins.
*Hiking pole adjusted for your height.
*Misc: matches, bear bells (attach to shoes), lightweight small flashlight and an ace bandage.

As I wrote above, there are many resources on the Internet and in books from professionals that deal with what to bring on a hike. All I can say is, the above items have made me comfortable and have given me peace of mind. When compiling your own list, consider where you are going, who you are going with and how long you will be out. My watchwords are care, comfort and protection.

I hope the above two lists are helpful. Please remember that I am a novice hike-walker and that there is much I don't know. I can, however, report on my own experiences and it is my desire to help others just like me. I hope the information will be useful (and maybe even entertaining!) to someone, somewhere. Happy hike-walking!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Remember These?

Does anyone remember seeing these? The images are now about 5 years old if you can believe that and the pieces are about 4" x 4". At the time, I was experimenting with painting and sanding the surface of the wood, trying to get the idea of an image without actually painting the person fully. People blending in and out of the landscape was the concept that I wanted. And while I don't know if that comes through or not, there has always been something very compelling for me about these pieces. I have been thinking about these again this morning and wondering if I want to go back to the idea.

I do have new work to show. It just needs to be photographed. Other things have gotten in the way of my studio duties.

Hope everyone is well. Let me know if the above images are familiar.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New Work: More Like Me

More Like Me 1
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper

More Like Me 2
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper

More Like Me 3
16" x 16" painted papers collage on paper
When I look around my house and see work that has been hanging on the walls for several years it tells me something about my tastes (and perhaps my level of laziness!). Early on I made a series of quilts utilizing basic squares and rectangles. Those pieces are simple and appealing. They have remained where they are and I enjoy them every day. A person can say a lot through geometry just by experimenting with hue, value, chroma and pattern. Those pieces have endured and I think are trying to tell me something. Other artwork that I have made has come and gone. These pieces have remained.

In the spirit of that constancy, I made the above pieces. I used existing painted papers (except for the monoprints which are new) and arranged the colors in a way that I thought was effective. I am calling these three pieces (there will probably be more too) More Like Me because of all the things I have done so far with painted papers, these three pieces feel the most Libby-like, the most comfortable and the most exciting. 

A friend of mine recently remarked that it seems like I am spending a lot of time outdoors. It's kind of true. I have been trying to take longer hikes about once a week. I walk nearly every day or even ride my bike. I have also had several appointments and days where I am just unmotivated to do much of anything. My focus in general has shifted and for a little while I was really floundering. Being disconnected creatively sucks. And it is hard to reconnect. I don't care what anyone says. It's tough. I have all the time in the world too so imagine what it must be like for someone, like a mom or dad, who is legitimately busy. Ack!

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Work: Aboard The Beagle

Aboard The Beagle
24" x 36" acrylic monoprints on paper affixed to board
This was finished a few days ago and was a complete surprise to me. Originally these mono prints were to be a kind of "under painting" with other layers placed on top. My idea was to add about 4 layers of different colors and then sand down to reveal whatever I thought was interesting.  I still like this idea and intend to pursue it but as I started to add each of these pieces I felt like I had something additional and didn't want to cover things up.

I assembled this piece in much the same way as I do my other pieces. I started with a grid design and added the predetermined papers. It is very much like quilting, literally. These are 6" blocks. I did decide to vary the spacing and so in the second row, I started with a half block and then proceeded to a full block. (I got this idea from a home improvement show that I watch where the guy was laying out roof tiles.)  I was able to see very quickly that even though these designs all seemed very similar, they are not. There are densities of tone to deal with, direction, pattern and value. Each mono print seemed to offer something different so I had to kind of corral similar things. I tried to vary what went where so that I would have a cohesive yet diversified patterning.  In the end, after each block was applied, I assessed things and added more white or more patterning as needed. It was very challenging because I didn't want to add too many details. I think the overall effect of differentiation would have been lost. It's curious and fun for me to note that although there is a lot of pattern here and strong contrast, I found myself making the exact same decisions as I would normally make when working with solid colors and not quite so much contrast. I seem to have internalized some basic design ideas which to me, is quite wonderful and a big advancement. 

As for the title, what can I say? The patterns that emerged on the mono prints seemed to have a botanical/prehistoric/animalistic type feel to them. I saw figures and plants and stars. I was reminded of some things that I have read about Charles Darwin and his voyage aboard the Beagle.  I also felt that the prints had a photographic or "x-ray" quality to them. I learned that there is indeed a style of photography called "photograms" which utilizes a kind of botanical x-ray. I really love what emerged from a little experimentation.

OK, hope everyone is having a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New work: Canicule 2

Canicule 2
16" x 16" painted papers collage on wc paper
It seems that I have been doing the last several pieces in pairs so here is the 2nd of two pieces for this series. For this one I relied on the "invert color" function in my Picasa photo editing program. I think what the thing does is turn darks to lights and lights to darks. I liked the design layout so kept that "as is" but switched up some of the values.

One of the things I struggled with, besides selecting the values I wanted, was the mix of prints. I have this idea that a variety of scale is important. So, I had to arrange things so that I had a good variety but also that I had the color and value that I thought was appropriate. I always have some idea too about color relationships and proportion. I know that making art can be spontaneous and emotional but the above "cerebral" things are what drive my initial efforts. I suppose really that it is the colors I select which contain the emotional components of art making.

In other news, we seem to have an abundance of critters on our property this summer. We have what can be either voles or gophers. I am leaning towards voles based on the pictures on the Internet and the fact that there was a dead one outside my studio window a few days ago. I got to see him sort of up close. Dead animals freak me out a little so I didn't look too carefully but I am fairly sure he was a vole. (I gave him a burial out by the oak tree at lunchtime.) We also have some coyotes possibly living/relaxing on our hillside. They are young and very yippy. There have also been a lot of quail this year. The little ones are as big as tennis balls and very cute. None of it can be helped. We live in the country, there was a lot of rain this year and I suspect that everyone multiplied accordingly. The good news though is that the wasps seem to be not as prevalent as they have been in years past. Thank God for small mercies!

OK, off to do some mono printing and prepping of surfaces for more collage. I have let up on my studio time as of late so things progress kind of slowly around here. Hope everyone is having a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

New Work: Canicule

16" x 16" painted papers collage on wc paper
This is the piece that I worked on this week. Several things make me pretty happy about the outcome.

When I first started making art, I tried lots of different things, including simple printmaking. The above printed papers incorporate some of what I learned. I used an acrylic medium on the blank paper to create some "resist" patterning. I then painted on and then wiped off some color. If you wipe carefully the places where the acrylic medium has dried, you can leave the color on the paper while exposing the marks made with the acrylic medium. 

As I was considering which colors and prints to use, I was concerned about too many prints making things too busy. One of the things about my "style" that I like is the simplicity/complexity factor. I like for things to be so simple that they are almost complex, if that makes sense. So, in my little pea brain, too many patterns would be too much and not complex in a simple way. (See what I mean?) Less is more in other words. I solved the problem by interspersing more solid paper with the prints. I thought it was an effective "fix".

The other thing that was a kind of breakthrough involved cutting out all of the shapes before gluing them down so I could "demo" the colors. It's just like doing a color mock up. Why I never did this before I don't know! It worked well. I shuffled some things around to get a good mix of values, patterns and solids. I will definitely be doing this from now on.

The title of the piece, Canicule, is a reference to what I had on my mind while making the piece. Guess what it was? The heat wave! We had a string of super hot days which kind of kept me inside. (I got out super early to take my walk but was otherwise kind of confined indoors.) 

OK, on to the next idea, hopefully. Hope everyone is having a good, safe weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.