Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dog Days - Summertime!

© Hannah Phelps
First Beach Day
oil on canvas, 6" x 8"

It is officially summer and time to head to the beach.

My Golden Retriever, Coast, is 18 months old now - this is a painting from his first day at the ocean over a year ago. I named him “Coast” partly because the seacoast is such an important part of my life and my art.

Also, his mother's name is Beach and his AKC registered name is Pine Run's Shore Thing. As I have said in a previous post, dog people like me can be funny about naming our puppies.

But the number one reason that I chose “Coast” as a name is because I hope he “coasts through life” and I want “the coast to be clear” whenever he endures a health check of some kind.

The painting above shows a puppy experiencing his first crashing waves, not afraid really, but cautious.

You can see a completely different Coast in the photo below - leaping across a rocky chasm to catch up with his big sister, Hatrick:

May he fly fearlessly for years to come.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making Art with Bears

© Hannah Phelps
Portrait of a Friend
white-line woodcut

Spring is a good time to learn something new. That is why I very recently traveled up to Lyme, NH for the three day "Introduction to Japanese Color Woodblock Printmaking" workshop with Matthew Brown at his studio.

If you want to learn about creating Japanese prints, this is the workshop to take. In three days, Matt helps all of the students create a small print and learn tips and tricks about materials, carving, pigments, printing, paper, process - just about everything. If you don't have time for the workshop, Matt's website has some great information and links along with pictures of his spectacular prints.

Eventually, I will explain how Japanese color prints inspired some artists in Provincetown, MA to develop their own style of color woodblock prints in the early 1900's.  Now known as white-line woodcuts or white-line relief, this is the method I have been using for the woodblock prints you have seen on this blog over the past couple of years. (To see more, click here.) I took Matt's workshop because I thought it was time to explore the origins of white-line woodcuts for myself.

Yes, you will be able to see some prints on this blog sometime soon. In the meantime, I'm going to tell you a story about something else spring is good for in NH - Black Bear Sightings.

On the first day of the workshop, Matt said that he found one of his honey buckets across the road from the barn, where he knew he had left them. 

Matt suspected a bear was the culprit. 

That afternoon, he went outside to see why his dog was barking. He came right back in and asked us if we wanted to see a bear. We all went outside and there she was - across the road looking back at us. We know it was a she because she had two tiny cubs with her. She didn't seem worried even though we were very close.  The cubs scrambled up and down the trees and she just kept an eye on us. After a few minutes, they all left and we went back to our printmaking.

I have seen bears before, but this was the best view I'd ever had of a mother and her cubs. I considered myself lucky to have seen the family relaxed and playing.

The next morning I went for a walk before breakfast. On my way back, I thought someone's dark, tailless dog was walking ahead of me, but I quickly realized that it was the bear. Then I saw the cubs sort of playing around her in the road. They were going in the same direction and I wasn't very close, so I thought I would be ok following from a distance and enjoying another baby bear show.

My plan worked until I kicked a stick accidentally and the noise spooked her. She looked back and saw me. The cubs climbed up some trees very noisily and that was the last I heard from them the whole time. They didn't make a peep up there. I stopped still and she lost track of me and started moving off the road. 

She ended up sitting with her face to the road, like a sentinel. I thought that if I stayed still, she would decide it was better to leave with the babies, but she didn't.

After quite a while of waiting, I tried walking slowly down the road to see if maybe she would be cool with me, like the day before (when we had been much closer) or at least see me and make an informed decision to head off into the woods. Nope. She started walking towards me. I stopped near a tree and she lost me again and went back to her sentry spot. 

I waited about 10 minutes. I was late for breakfast, I hadn't told anyone I was taking a walk and I was getting nervous that I could be stuck there for a while, so I finally decided to go into the woods and give her and the road a wide berth.  I couldn't see her from the woods and when I got back on to the road, she was still there, looking right at me. She didn't come after me, so I just quickly walked back to Matt's house, glad that I didn't try to wait her out.

I survived my bear encounter, but I think it changed me a little. The family of black bears and my new printmaking knowledge are tied together permanently. You will have to stay tuned to see what that might mean.