Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where is Appledore? FAQs Part 2

Appledore Evening, jigsaw reduction woodblock print, 6" x 8"

At the Annual Craftsmen's Fair at the beginning of August, my booth was full of seascapes. At least three of them were scenes from Appledore Island, including two of the biggest.

As people looked around, many of them turned to me and asked, "Where is Appledore?"

Growing up, my family's summer vacation was on the beach in Rye, NH and the silhouette of Appledore Island and the Isles of Shoals on the horizon shadowed us wherever we went. Since not everyone shares that familiarity with them, I guess it is time for an explanation.

The real and mythical histories of the Isles is long and fascinating and beyond the scope of a blog post, but here is a brief description to wet your appetite:

Appledore Island is one of the Isles of Shoals, a small group of islands off the coast of the border between Maine and New Hampshire. Even though they have a group moniker and share history, some of these islands are in Maine and the others are in New Hampshire. Appledore Island is on the Maine side. 

While most of the country has no clue what or where they are now, they have a rich history. Settlement on the Isles began in the early 1600's. The cod caught and salted there was world renowned in its heyday.

Later, Appledore Island became the home to Celia Thaxter whose father had built a hotel there during her childhood. As an adult, she hosted famous artists and writers on the island, including painter Childe Hassam. Hassam completed dozens of rocky seascapes and pictures of Celia's flower garden. Many of these paintings are in an exhibit this summer at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

Now Appledore Island is the home of the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) which hosts high school and college students every summer while they learn about marine biology, ecology, engineering and other ocean related sciences. 

Luckily for me, when the young scientists return to classes there is still enough summer left for SML to offer some adult programs. The art tradition is still alive on Appledore with the Landscapes and Seascapes class that begins this Thursday. I'm one of the three instructors, teaching printmaking, of course, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it all. 

After the class is over, I am staying a few extra days to paint the sea, as I did last year. This painting from last summer is the model for the print on the top of the post. Hopefully, I'll have a bunch of new, solid compositions to work from when I return home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions Part 1 - Annual Craftsmen's Fair

The Other Gold Swimming Phelps, oil on board, 2009, sold

Last week at the Annual Craftsmen’s Fair, my #1 FAQ was not about the artwork. It was about my name.

Specifically, am I related to that other Phelps. The really famous one who is winning even more gold medals in this Olympiad.

The answer is no. 

I did used to live in Baltimore, MD back when he was a baby swimmer and had just made his first Olympic team and only people in his hometown had heard anything about him. (So I completely understood this.) I knew recreational members of the Baltimore Aquatic Club, Michael's training ground, who said he was a very nice guy. Alas, I never met him myself.

But like almost everyone else in America, I’m a fan. His accomplishments are incredible and I feel lucky that I was able to enjoy watching him achieve the impossible time and again on TV.

The most memorable of my encounters with hopeful Michael Phelps fans was a little boy who saw the booth sign with my name printed across it in big letters. He stopped, his mouth formed a tight “O” and he sucked in an audible breath. 

Then he pointed at the sign and hissed to his father, “PHELPS! Is that....?!?!?!?”

His father chuckled, looked at me and shook his head, “Ah, no. Come on.”

“Michael?” I asked. “Yes,” Dad laughed back.

And he got my standard answer, “No relation, I’m afraid.”

We can only hope that some of these people will love hand-made craft and fine art as much as we all love our gold medalists. 

Honestly, though, as I rest up after my first Annual Craftsmen's Fair, I'm finding it hard to be upset about being upstaged by a living legend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finishing Up and Heading Out

What happens when one print edition is recently signed and numbered and two more are hanging out on the drying rack wearing their final layers?

Trips to the coast to paint on site, of course! I took this photo last Monday right at the end of my light. Eventually the sun sets even on the longest day of the year. 

The painting looks huge in this picture, but it is only 8"x8". I have settled into this size for outdoor painting (and its close relative, 8"x10") because they are large enough accommodate bold brushwork but small enough to finish an idea in less than an hour. Both sizes fit in my handy Raymar wet panel carrier, so I can carry 6 panels and have my choice of rectangles or squares. When the compositions turn into prints - if they are lucky enough to be exciting enough for that - they can grow as needed.

And future prints growing in size is the plan for the next few months. Large paper is on the way here and the E-24 at DM Penny Press can handle an entire 22"x30" sheet. I happen to have some plywood in the studio big enough to push these limits too. Why not?

There are actually a lot of reasons "why not" - big mistakes leading to wasting a lot of paper and ink and wood being the most obvious - but I don't want to focus on that. I just want to play and see what happens. The two most recent large prints, Turbulence on Appledore and Upright Wave, turned out great, so I'm going for it.

Lest we forget how fun little prints can be, though, here are two process pics of the latest ones. The finished version of this print is the one on the top left:

And the final version of this one is top right:

Hurry for finished prints of all sizes! 

What size art do you like to collect or make?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Smooth Printing

© 2016 Hannah Phelps

The bottle jack press is cranking away on these little crashing waves! Maybe it missed our time together last summer when there was no big C-24 etching press for me to visit a few times a week.

Whatever the reason, layer two with its white on top of grey, green on top of light yellow, and middle lovely reddish brown on top of orangey-gold is working out quite well.

Economy is the buzz word for this print. Let's see how quickly and efficiently an elegant idea can emerge from piles of ink and plywood. 

That is always my goal, but a few prints have needed too much attention lately, so I am laser focused on it this time. Plus there are three prints in progress around here and I just want to finish something. 

Right now, this one and the other little seascape are behaving and I am having fun with them. One or two more layers on each and we might have TWO finished prints!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Old Problem Made New Again

 © 2016 Hannah Phelps

"I just like to start paintings - I like the big shapes and the clean colors and the loose brushwork." 

I was whining and I knew it, but I couldn't stop it in time.

"Then just keep doing that," my instructor supportively countered.

That was about ten years ago in my first outdoor plein air workshop with painter Stan Moeller. We were scattered around the grounds of the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, many of us attempting to paint the very old and extremely quirky bright yellow house. My composition included some blue water in the tidal bay and a little island. I had smeared colors in three large shapes on my canvas first - unabashed lemon, blue straight out of the ultramarine tube and vibrant purples. And I had really liked it. The composition was balanced and the whole picture had a liveliness about it that I didn't want to ruin. The start excited me so much that I had a hard time doing anything but dab at it for while.

That is when Stan offered me that great tidbit. It has helped me start and complete some great little paintings on site that feel fresh to me even after a couple of hours worth of hard work.

Lately, I realized I was whining again about the same thing. But this time, I keep it mostly to myself and the medium is printmaking.

I love the first layers:

Simple shapes with interesting color relationships. 

 They are full of so much promise.

I often rush to get the second layer going because the whole thing is so much fun. Usually, layer three is ok too.

But by layer four, I feel that I should be getting closer to finishing a piece and instead I find myself figuring out how to add more layers. Adding more layers that will complicate the energy between hues and become opportunities for prints to slide or have mysterious registration problems. Turning something that was just "not quite right" to all out ruined.

I'm afraid that the only way to stay loose and excited it to remember to stay loose and excited. Strangely, this is taking a lot of practice. Remembering my painting lesson helps. I am hoping that telling you all about it (whiny or not), will help too.

The little wave is working out so far. Layer two is pictured at the top of the post and layer three has been printed:

 (upper left + bottom = upper right)

We still have movement, nice colors and pleasing shapes. 

I have another opportunity to practice my positive attitude on my new little one too. That one gets more ink tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Return of the Bottle Jack Press

Clockwise from top left: woodblock with transferred drawing, plein air oil painting from Appledore Island last summer, tracing paper with line drawing, pencil drawing/value study with Sharpie outline

The DM Penny Press is still evolving into a bigger, better space. While it finishes this lovely transformation, the bottle jack press is helping in the home studio. Small things like a little 6"x8" are perfect for it, though, technically, it can handle something as big as 16"x16".

Anyway, the new little wave and the marsh scene must wait for the Conrad Mchine Press to be ready for us again, so I started this little one at home. Before the DM Penny Press opened, my homemade bottle jack press got me through about 10 prints (you can see some of them here), including some Collector Christmas cards. 

Yesterday, after a long day of printing, I finished layer 1:

Soon, I will be printing in a studio overlooking the Merrimack River. Last time, you saw a bright scene of New York. Yesterday, this was the less than inspiring view from the home studio (taken when it wasn't sleeting):

At least it wasn't tempting to play outside.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Travels and Working From Home

 New York City; photo taken from Williamsburg

There is so much going on around here that I don't really know where to start. 

At the beginning of April, I went to New York for a few days. Along with a nice visit with family, I saw the Degas Monotypes exhibit, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in her new home and ate lots of great food. 

I also paid a visit to Guerra Pigment and bought a little starter kit for myself. There will be more about  that adventure and my new toys at a later time. 

A trip to NYC is always enjoyable. A small break from printmaking was probably needed, but there is a lot going on here in NH. 

The biggest news is that the DM Penny Press is moving to a larger space within the Waumbec Building. Everything about the move is exciting - more space, better location for events, and three large windows overlooking the Merrimack River. 

However, I haven't been able to use any of the equipment for a few weeks. I don't know when I will have access again. We also had to host the first Trolley Tour of the year in the new space which isn't ready yet, but everyone who came was very understanding about it. 

Some folks visited us specifically because they had seen a nice article about the printmaking studio in the Hippo the week before! You can read it here.

Of course, I can't just stop printing because the studio is moving. I am getting some work done here, starting with a small change in the marsh scene. Instead of laying on the giant drying rack, they hang from the laundry lines in the studio.

This is just the beginning - there is lots more to share! First off, there is an opening reception this Friday from 5-7 pm at McGowan Fine Art for a printmaking exhibit - I hope to see you and catch up!
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