Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Artistic Inspiration Trumps Training

My training is so inconsistent lately that I have very little news to report, but here's a quick overview followed by something else I've been doing lately that I feel like blogging about.

On the injury-front, I've been working hard on healing my hamstring tendon and strengthening other muscle groups with the goal of no more hamstring problems. Ever. There's still a long way to go. My relentless pursuit of squats and bridges and planks is - I think - finally forcing my glutes to take the workload off my hamstrings. My latest revelation is that when I focus on good form while running, I can ward off the hamstring pain for a progressively-longer time. I managed 11 miles two weeks ago and 14 miles on Saturday without serious pain. I might be willing to celebrate when it gets up to 20.

January sent me onto the bike trainer where I've slowly worked my way up to 3:35. Riding long on the trainer is a bigger struggle this year than it has been in the past. One of the reasons may be that I'm trying to ride too hard. Sunday, I focused on keeping my heart rate low which seemed to alleviate some of the struggle. Swimming - although inconsistent - seems to be the one thing I'm NOT struggling with.

When I look at the big picture, the problem has been getting more than one workout a day. There are two main reasons. The first is that my [regular] job has me working late on weekdays and weekends. Not because I'm slow, but there's just a LOT to get done and only one programmer (me). We just hired another so I'm hoping it will help with the workload in the future.

The second reason is that I've recently been hit with inspiration to create new fine art prints. As an artist (or someone who wishes she could be a working artist), I have learned one thing: never f*ck with inspiration. If my art were a source of income, I'd probably suffer from debilitating artist's block 80% of the time. But when uninspired, all I do is flip the switch and running, biking, and swimming become my physical and mental outlet for stress. So, when the rare event of true inspiration happens, I must follow it. It's not like I even have a choice. And I have absolutely no control when and where it happens. All I know is I have to drop everything and "get it out" to avoid becoming agitated, edgy, and losing sleep.

My latest print was inspired by an iPhone photo I took of a bunch of snow-covered trees in University Circle - the "museum-university-hospital" area of Cleveland. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to take this particular photo from the fourth floor window of my workplace (the Cleveland Museum of Art). And then I felt compelled to turn part of the photo into a three-color block print. Strange that I didn't want to do it any other way - not as a painting or etching or drawing. The image just appeared in my mind as a three-color block print. This is usually how these things happen.

Early last year, I bought some new printmaking material called Clear Carve - it's "transparent" linoleum made by Richeson Art. It's billed as "easy to cut" and doesn't require the design to be transferred to the linoleum block because you can put the design underneath as it's see-through.

I cropped my photo to the size of my purchased linoleum block, played with colors in Photoshop, and got to work. Here's is a photographic progression of the process - how I carved the block and printed it. It was done using a "reduction" process - which basically means the same block is used for all the colors - each color is carved away and the next is printed on top of it. There are several layers of ink on the finished piece, but it has a very nice, almost embossed, relief quality to it. The paper I used is the best all-cotton machine-made paper you can find on the market these days - it's called Stonehenge and it's made by Legion Paper. I use it almost exclusively for all my printmaking projects.

Here is the original photo -- thanks to the Cleveland weather, it was pretty much a black and white scene (although taken with color). For the print, I chose and added my own colors to it:

The first color (actually the first two colors, the other one being white) was a light pastel orange, here is the linoleum block and the printed color:

The second color was a blue-green. To some, it looked finished at this point (because most of the tree shapes were carved) - I have always been very precise in carving linoleum, but this new Clear Carve stuff was a more difficult to work with because the "carved" pieces don't break away nicely, so I was expecting some major issues ("easy to carve" isn't how I would describe it, as I have several v-shaped scabs on my fingers after stabbing myself several times with linoleum cutters), but was happily surprized with the result after this color:

And the final color was an almost-black with violet added:

I made only ten prints. But I was very happy with the result, and I'm already working on another one with the other piece of Clear Carve that I bought.