It's about the art

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Purkinje shift

I've been reading the book, "Vision and Art: the biology of seeing", and it's very interesting. The other day I had an "aha!" moment. It explained why one particular painting of mine looks very different in different lights. I noticed that depending on where I hung the painting, I would see more or less blue in the trunk of the main tree. And now, due to my reading, I know this is due to the Purkinje shift. It means that in low light levels, the relative brightness of blue and red can be reversed, because your rods, the cells that are responsible for night vision, are more sensitive to the blue end of the spectrum.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Another mushroom print

I've been busy the last few days working on the house, but I did manage to print this proof of the next mushroom linocut print. I have a little series of different mushroom species in mind. These mushrooms, Boletus edulis, commonly called Porcini or Ceps or King boletes, are one of my favorite edible mushrooms. They have much to recommend them, being rather large, firm and tasty. In my area, they come up in the fall under coastal pines, sometimes in large quantities, and I have many fond memories of hunting for them in the fog and damp.

I'll be putting it up for sale in my etsy store when I finish the edition sometime this week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Color and biology

I've started reading Margaret Livingstone's book, "Vision and Art: the biology of seeing". When I first picked it up, I thought I was in for a coffee-table book that skims the surface of this subject, without delving into the meat of perception of color and art. But I've been pleasantly surprised. As an artist, I know that I have to manipulate color and value to create the illusion of whatever it is I'm trying to depict or sugest. And as a science geek, I had a basic grasp of how the anatomy of our eyes determine that an artist can mix just about any color from the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue).

But it never occured to me that there are specific limitations to our color vision. I mean, yes, we can distinguish millions of colors. But we can't distinguish orange light that's spectral, meaning it's composed of light of all one wavelength, from orange light that's a mixture of red light and yellow light.

And I didn't realize that luminance, what an artist might call value, and what everyone else might call brightness or darkness, is processed in a very separate (and evolutionarily older) part of the brain than the color information.

OK, so what's the implication for the artist? I'm still not sure yet. I'm just into chapter three here. But I like a book that has me asking questions and mulling over new ideas.

The image above is a graph of the sensitivity to different wavelengths of light of the three classes of light-absorbing cells (cones) in the human eye, courtesy Mickey P. Rowe at UC Berkeley

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Another artist on Etsy, Beadoodle, posted a really nice quote in the Etsy forums about setting goals, and that got me thinking about the prints I sell. Most of my prints are the same size, and therefore about the same price. This is completely related to the previous post about framing. If I make art that's all the same size, I don't have to buy 13 different frame sizes.

I thought it would be interesting to try and develop a series of smaller prints. The picture at the top is a proof of a block print I started last night. It's the first of what I hope will be a series of botanical prints. I had mixed feelings about starting with such an iconic fungus, but part of why Amanita muscaria shows up in every storytale illustration is that it's so bold and graphic. And those qualities are excellent fodder for linocut.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Frame up

It must be in the air. Two artists, Anna Conti and Tracy Helgeson, whose blogs I read on a regular basis have talked about framing and cataloging and other un-glamorous aspects of being an artist in the last few weeks. As I was struggling with an enormous box of frames and what seemed like an unbelievable quantity of packing material on my front porch the other day, I couldn't help thinking this is not what people think of when they wish for a more artistic job. I spent most of an afternoon unpacking frames and trying to find a place for them in the house.

I ordered nearly 20 gold leaf frames recently for my paintings, even though I wasn't sure how they'd look with my art. I do paint rather traditional subjects, and these are very traditional frames. But I'm not really a traditional sort of person. But after framing a bunch of paintings, and then spending mother's day with my mom hanging them around the living room (she thought it was fun, really, and she put together a lovely bouquet of native flowers from my garden), I think the gold frames work well. Proof of the pudding will be at my shows later this summer.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hillside woodcuts

I finished the cows on a hillside woodcut print yesterday, and aside from some technical issues like stray spots and streaks, I'm pretty happy with both. It's interesting how different the hillside colors are, since I was working with rather transparent inks and one is printed over the blue. I listed "Hillside II", the print with the lower horizon and white sky for sale at Etsy this morning.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

two roads diverged

In a reduction print, you carve away at the block between colors, so that as you continue to develop the print, the block is slowly whittled away to nothing. That means that reduction prints are generally very carefully planned, because you can't go back to adjust a block. But I was working on this print, and decided to try an alternative vision of the image half way through the process. I carved up another block to adjust the height of the hill, and printed a couple of the second image. These are prints in progress, I still have a couple of colors to go, but I think I'm going to cut some more paper, and develop both images. Two roads diverged and I'm following both. Quantum printmaking.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fawn lily print

I'm still figuring out how to work with multiple blocks. I printed up a bunch of prints inspired by the Helen's Fawn Lilies I photographed on a visit to the Audubon Society's Mayacamas Sanctuary. I'm not entirely happy with how they turned out, although I did use them as an opportunity to play around with printing gradients. I certainly learned some lessons about how not to proof multiple colors. I've gone back and modified some of the prints by monoprinting or painting over them to adjust the colors. In the end, I carved away at what I was thinking of as my key block and printed it in black, and that image is closer to my original intention. It's interesting to me how the same block can produce such different images.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Upcoming shows

I've got two art festivals coming up at the end of June. The first is Cottonwood's Wild West Art & Wine Festival the weekend of June 24th and 25th in the town of, you guessed it, Cottonwood, just south of Redding in California. The following weekend, July 1st and 2nd, I'll be up in South Lake Tahoe for the Lake Tahoe Festival of Fine Arts. These are both new shows for me, so I'm excited and nervous. The last couple of days I've been busy unpacking an enormous order of frames and finding places to stash them around the house. Stop by and see some art in person!