Suze’s Art News March 2021

Coming Up in the Next Quarter…

Climacteric Confluence, at Columbia City Gallery, Seattle March 26-May 9. Together with Melissa KochAnna McKee and Juliette Ripley-Dunkelberger, this exhibit addresses aspects of our climate crisis. The first word means, “a critical period or event” or “having extreme and far-reaching implications or results; critical.” It will include five of my burned tree paintings and six artist books from the bark beetle series.

Photo of Suze Woolf painting of burned tree
Seamed, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 51.5” H x 9.5” W (shown rotated)
Bark Beetle Book Volume 33: Hyphae, 14”H x 6”W x 8”D, Half-round log, handmade and commercial papers, abaca fiber. Based on the idea that fungi mycelium provide access to nutrients from otherwise indigestible wood. Because they leave a bluish stain on the sapwood, the endpapers are blue.

Bugs Aplenty, at The Elisabeth Jones Art Center, Portland OR April 1 – May 23. They had so great a response to their call for insect-related art that they divided the show into two sections. Two of my bark beetle books will be in the second; the first is here.

Forest Decomposition (Volume XIII) Beetle-inscribed bark embedded in epoxy resin covers; laser-cut mat board pages with tea-dyed rice paper and pyrography; viscose endpapers, linen thread 9″H x 8″W x 4″D closed
Bark Beetle Book Vol. XIV Ars datum est (Volume XIV). Fir-engraver-inscribed log; laser-cut mat board; paint; linen thread. 16.5″H x 5″ diameter, closed. Each page is essentially a bar from a bar chart representing the areas affected in British Columbia and Alberta from 1999-2007.

I’m honored to be included in the National Watercolor Society’s annual members’ exhibit, which will be virtual May 1 – June 27. They chose Goodell Creek Cedar, which is proving to be one of my most popular burned tree portraits ever. This same painting received a first-place award at Ida Culver Broadview’s Earth, Wind and Fire exhibit last quarter.


I’ll also be in the Northwest Watercolor Society’s membership exhibit with the burned tree portrait below; it will be online at www.nwws.org, beginning with a virtual opening at 7 pm on April 22, and up through June 30.

This is the first painting in this long series that involved substantial mechanical engineering for its physical display: I had to figure out a way to include the free-standing fragile branches. A matching stiff backing for each bundle of branches was laser-cut from acrylic and attached to a backing plate that rests above the hanging cradle on back of the trunk’s mounting board.

I’m so pleased with how the branches look that my next tree painting, still in progress, will have hundreds of them!


Science Stories: A Collaboration of Book Artists and Scientists, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma WA, will be virtual until September 1, then physical in the Collins Memorial Library October 1, 2021 – January 15, 2022. My pieces, Obligate Mutualism and Resource Competition, have short videos about them linked from the site.

For the same effort I have also been acting as designer/book artist to a collaboration between Professor Daniel Burgard, a chemist working on environmental monitoring through wastewater sampling, and photographer James Oker, on Working Up Stream.


For June through early September, the San Francisco Center for the Book and the San Francisco Public Library are hosting an exhibit called “Reclamation.” Two of my beetle books, Survivorship and Beetle Graph, will be in it.

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXVII: Survivorship. Log (likely white bark pine) with mountain pine beetle galleries, laser-cut bamboo, offset-printed text with inked-in mountain pine beetle galleries, brass binding post. 9.5″ diameter, 6″ H. Based on a paper by Six et al.: ~7% of white bark pines in a research tract survived mass attack by mountain pine beetles. DNA analyses of the survivors showed they made fewer of certain volatile organic compounds that the beetles perceive. The interior pages of the book have been printed with “ASCII art” of the mRNA encoding for monoterpene synthase, one of those compounds. Like the trees that survived, the proportion of dark, low-contrast (“quiet”) to light, high-contrast (“noisy”) pages in the book is 7/100.
Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXI: Beetle Graph. Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, bronze rings. 86″H x 18″W x 3″D. Each branch is a bar from a bar graph of the most destructive bark beetles in Washington State from 2008-2018.

In October 2021 through January 2022, Tim Musso’s giant woodcuts about bark beetles and forests, Jim Frazier’s bas-relief glyphs based on their galleries, and my bark beetle books will be shown together in “Below the Bark, at the Missoula Art Museum in Missoula, MT.  Artist talks and student STEAM activities are being planned around the exhibit. I’ll have more to report more in my next mailing.


If the creek and the COVID don’t rise, I’m excited to be teaching a floating workshop to benefit Great Old Broads for Wilderness on a San Juan River rafting trip May 15-19. If you are interested there might be one or two spots left.

Cedar Mesa from Goosenecks State Park. Watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″ (sold)
If you turned around and looked down from here, you’d be looking down on the the San Juan River, and a canonical example of goose necks shown in many geology textbooks. This where the river trip and workshop will be.

And last but not least, I will once again be teaching a 2-day watercolor landscape class through Seattle’s Gage Academy June 12-13. It will likely be a few weeks before it is posted on their workshop calendar.

Norse Peak Burn from the Deep Creek Trail, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″

I’ve had some inspiring conversations with people who have reached out to me about the bark beetle books—artist and entomology professor Barrett Klein at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, poet and novelist-to-be Sean Petrie, and I’ve been reading Jody Gladding’s poetry in Translations from Bark Beetle. You never know where your artwork will take you!


Keep your chin up and stay safe!

Suze’s Art News December 2020

Since September…

In the past several months, I’ve given several virtual talks, one for Puget Sound Book Artists which covered my bark beetle books in last summer’s long empty and silent exhibit, “Gathered from the Field,” at Kittredge Gallery  ·  University of Puget Sound. Another was for Seattle Co-Arts which covered a range of my art projects and what motivates me.  I was deeply gratified by compliments such as “…[your work] would expand [students’] ideas of what a book is,” “Your exposition of the effect of eco-disruption is so creative and compelling,” and “[you are] a link for both scientists and artists to collaborate.”


(Above) West Point Lighthouse at Low Tide,
watercolor on paper, 11”x15”

(Below) Suze painting masked in Kubota Garden
(James McFarlane photo) 

A June-October activity that was surprisingly meaningful was coordinating plein air outings for our local Northwest Watercolor Society NWWS, together with Stephanie Twigg’s longtime group of summer painters. We visited 21 different locations; in such stressful times, the chance to paint together outside, even masked and socially distanced, was revitalizing. We had participants tell us it was the highlight of their weeks and downright life-saving.


The Magnitude of the Problem, panel 2. Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 39” x 47”

There are some advantages to this pandemic for exhibiting artists — NWWS’s International Open was virtual this year, which meant no packing, shipping, or delivery as well as no size limits. I was happy to have one panel of my huge, burned tree painting, The Magnitude of the Problem, in it. The total piece is 21.5 feet long or high, a format which doesn’t translate well to a small horizontal screen. Part of reacting to a work of art is a visceral response, feeling its scale in relation to your own body in space. (See Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree” ) for a longer essay about it.)


(Top) Ars datum est (Volume XIV). Fir-engraver-inscribed log; laser-cut mat board; paint; linen thread. 16.5″H x 5″ diameter, closed. Each page is essentially a bar from a bar chart representing the areas affected in British Columbia and Alberta from 1999-2007.

(Bottom) Beetle Graph (Volume XXXI). Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laserprint transfers, bronze rings. 86″H x 18″W x 3″D The top three species contributing totree mortality in Washington State from 2009-2018:  Dendroctonus ponderosae (~69%); Scolytus ventralis (~20%); Dendroctonus pseudotsugae (11%). Data from Aerial Detection Surveys summarized in WA DNR annual Forest Health reports

I was honored to receive the “Strongest Voice in Art” award from Lynn Hanson Gallery’s annual ICON Show. Juror Stephanie Hargrave gave the award for my bark beetle books shown above.


Goodell Creek Cedar, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52”H x 16”W and 52”H x 44”W

I thank June Sekiguchi, multi-talented artist and curator for featuring 6 of my burned tree portraits in her recent Earth, Wind and Fire exhibit at Ida Culver House Broadview. It is closed to the public but there is a video here:Earth Wind and Fire at Ida Culver House Broadview.


Party Platforms. Mixed media, ~15”W x 18”H x 10”D.

Somewhat frivolously, my longtime friend Cath Carine and I created a mixed media piece called Party Platforms – when will they learn to dance? As the election got closer it was harder to find any aspect as amusing as it seemed last February, when the original task was to develop shoe-based artwork for the Anacortes Art Festival’s fundraiser gallery. That event was postponed and then cancelled, but it was shown in Las Lagunas Gallery’s “Political Discord” virtual exhibit. Watch an animation here: Party Platforms animation 2 on Vimeo


What’s Yet to Come
(or, as this past year has taught us, at least what I have planned that might change…)

At the invitation of the Woodinville Arts Alliance, in October I installed 17 burned tree paintings and 4 burned-over landscape paintings at Patterson Cellars‘ tasting room at their Seattle location. They look great in this big space, but of course with our current pandemic closures, they’re again all by themselves. They are supposed to be up until sometime in March – I hope they can be seen before then!


Tentatively titled Zion Branches, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52”H x 22”

In March-May I will be part of an environmentally-themed exhibit at Columbia City Art Gallery in Seattle. I will have some new material there, such as this just-finished Zion National Park tree. I am experimenting with new ways to mount separate additional branches alongside the trunk of the tree. I found the branches so visually exciting it’s tempting to start a new series of just branches!


(Left) Forest Decomposition (Volume XIII) Beetle-inscribed bark embedded in epoxy resin covers; laser-cut mat board pages with tea-dyed rice paper and pyrography; viscose endpapers, linen thread 9″H x 8″W x 4″D closed

(Center and Right) Outbreak (Volume XXV) Log with beetle galleries, handmade Japanese paper, iron-oxide-dyed non-woven viscose 12″H x 6″ diam. Some of the sheets are chiri (“leftover”) kozo fiber which has many small bits of bark embedded in them. The frontispiece has leaf skeletons embedded in it. The increasing circular areas covered by rubbings taken from the same represent the proportion of tree mortality in the Quesnel Timber Supply Area of central British Columbia 1999 – 2016.

North American Handmade Papermakers’ “Materiality” exhibit will be online this year. It goes live on December 21 at https://www.northamericanhandpapermakers.orgI’m honored to have two of the bark beetle books that include handmade papers in the exhibit, where they are surrounded by amazing pieces. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mary Ashton, who taught me about making Japanese papermaking as well as Western, and to Bonnie Thompson Norman who helped offset-print some of those papers.


Just over Knapsack Pass, watercolor on paper, 11” x 15”

From January 6 to February 20 I will have small Northwest landscapes at Shore-Lake Art Gallery in Lake Forest Park, mostly from the many hikes I took this summer.

I’m happy to have a 2021 Shunpike Storefront exhibit exact date and location TBD, during which I will finally have a space large enough to be able to show “The Magnitude of the Problem” (see above). Likewise I will have an October storefront for the City of Auburn’s Art on Main program.

Bark Beetle Book Vol. 34: Resource Competition. Branch with beetle galleries; blue-stained dimensional lumber, laser-cut Baltic birch plywood, with laser-print transfers, Kevlar thread. 5″H x 12.75″W x 4″D. I interpolated a branch to dimensional lumber in both form and graphics, because both beetles and humans like to make their homes from trees; hence we are competing for the same resource.

I have been continuing to work on bark beetle books with my chief scientific mentor, Dr. Diana Six of the University of Montana. While we were already in this collaboration, together we will be part of an exhibit entitled “Science Stories” which matched book artists and scientists at the University of Puget Sound. It will be virtual from March – September 2021, with the hope that it will be installed and viewable in person in September.

For the same effort I have been acting as book artist/designer to a collaboration between Professor Daniel Burgard, a chemist working on environmental monitoring through wastewater sampling, and photographer James Oker.

Larches at Lake Ann, watercolor on paper, 11” x 15”

And last but not least, I will once again be teaching a 2-day online winter landscape painting class (is that an oxymoron!?) through Seattle’s Gage Academy. There’s still room.


Stay safe and keep those around you safe!

Plein air peut-être?

The Mona Lisa wearing a mask

Notes from an article originally written for the Northwest Watercolor Society’s June 2020 newsletter with tips that may be useful to others

Most likely you know that plein air means outdoors in French (literally “full air”). It refers to the tradition begun by the Impressionists of going outside to paint from life. It was the invention of small, ready-made, soft-metal, portable paint tubes that made it possible. Peut-être is French for “might be,” or “maybe.”

Little will bring more freshness – and challenge! – to your work quite as much as painting outdoors from life. From Thomas Moran to David Hockney, whenever I see an exhibit that pairs artists’ large studio paintings with their preparatory studies, I always love the studies. They may be smaller, less grandiose and less accurate—but they are so much more direct, personal and free.

I also find that it’s something I have to practice regularly; it’s more like a sport: you can’t expect to score a win if you don’t practice. For many years I have participated in an annual plein air competition in late fall, so I am highly motivated to “train” all summer.

And since this kind of painting is honestly one of the harder things to do, you have to be easy on yourself.

Just as last summer, a group of us are still planning to go outside to paint once a week.   Depending on the state and local orders in force at the time, it might have to be 6-feet-apart, masked and gloved. Or separate in our home gardens with a video meeting afterwards.

NWWS_PlienAir_060519_7607

Suze at Gasworks Park in 2019 (James McFarlane photo)

 

This year there is so much we can’t assume: the parking lots of some city parks are still off limits to parking. Restrooms may not be open. Restaurants, if open, may be only open for take-out. Besides the painting gear outlined below, add masks, gloves and hand-sanitizer to your kit.  We are planning to maintain a sign-in sheet should there be any need for future contact tracing (and will not be used for any other purpose).

Here are some of the tips and practices I have found helpful:

Painting gear:

  • Lightweight folding easel and several sheets of paper that fit on it. Some people bring lightweight folding chairs and paint on a board in their laps, but I like standing because my arm is freer. Some people work in small sketchbook; my preference is separate quarter-sheets.
  • Small closing palette that fits on my easel shelf, with my go-to landscape colors in it (always in the same order so I don’t have to hunt for a pigment)
  • Several favorite brushes – I can get away with only a 1-inch flat, two sizes of rounds and a rigger
  • A camera – I always take a photo between the end of my pencil sketch and starting to paint. Rarely do I ever refer back to it, but just taking the photo allows me to paint more freely knowing I have a backup if something unforeseen occurs. (Yes, there was that time they turned the sprinklers on me at Gasworks when I was only half-finished : – )
  • Water cups that fit on my easel
  • A filled water bottle with a carabiner on its handle; I can clip it and/or my backpack the easel for extra stability if it’s breezy.
  • A pencil case with pencil, pencil sharpener, white vinyl and kneaded erasers, clips to hold my paper to my easel’s board, a Swiss Army knife, pen, and a few business cards
  • A quick snack like some almonds, a piece of fruit or a granola bar. We may go for lunch afterwards if there’s a quorum and a convenient spot, but sometimes I need a boost before well before then.
  • Travel mug – that way you can’t stick your brush in your beverage.
  • Sun screen

And now:

  • Hand sanitizer, mask, gloves

Clothing:

  • Cathy Gill so rightly says, “First the artist must be comfortable.” Dress in layers you can put on or take off, depending on the weather. I always have a spare lightweight jacket and warm hat with me, as I get cold easily standing still whatever the temperature. Sometimes I’ll wear long underwear if it’s less than 60 degrees and breezy, as well as fingerless wool gloves.
  • Sun hat with a big brim that shades your eyes and covers the back of your neck. I don’t like to wear sunglasses because they distort my color perception, so that hat is really important. Picking a location where your board and paper are in the shade and not reflecting glare into your eyes helps too.
  • As it gets warmer, one of my layers is a big white long sleeved shirt, so I only have to put the sun-goo on my hands and face.

Useful practices:

  • I like to walk around a little and review possible subjects before I settle on a particular one. This is one reason it’s nice to have an easy way to carry your stuff: I use a backpack; some folks have rolling carriers.
  • If possible, orient your paper and board 90 degrees to the scene you’re painting. That way you’ll be reacting to your painting at least as much as to reality.
  • Especially early and late in the shoulder seasons, reverse the usual light-to-dark watercolor practice and paint the shadows first because they’ll be changing the fastest. You can also do a quick value sketch to fix the darks before they’re changed positions.
  • I always ask myself, “why is this going to be a painting and not a photograph,” another reminder that I need not be a slave to the reality in front of me. Or, as my colleague Spike Ress once said to me, “you can lie…”

I can’t tell you how much I hope to see you out there, because it means I’ll be able to get out there too!

Suze Woolf

Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree”

AnimationDay01-28It will not surprise you to hear I made myself a massive, hunker-down, shelter-in-place project, now nearly three-quarters completed.

In January I received the people’s choice award at a local juried show. One option for the award is an exhibit on a large wall above the checkout counter at a nearby public library. Before the lockdown went into effect, I made it over there to check out the space. One side of the wall is 24 feet wide, with about 6 feet of vertical space. There is also a smaller wall on the other side of a central doorway.

I’ve always meant to try one of my burned tree paintings on the lengthwise axis of a roll of watercolor paper — but been intimidated by the time commitment required. With my beloved wilderness off-limits, I knew I needed something demanding to do.

When completed it will be 22 feet long (not quite an entire roll  of 30 feet : -) Since I don’t have room to work on something that big in my studio, I’m doing it in sections that will hang abutted. I figure if John Grade’s immense Middle Fork sculpture was created in sections, I can do it, too.

I’ll mount them so they can be hung either vertically or horizontally, though I expect most venues will need it to be horizontal.

Panels 1-6 of 7 at home lo res

Panels 1-6: I don’t have enough floor space in the largest room I have to lay them out!

Two friends independently dubbed it “Water Lilies of the Anthropocene.” While it’s nowhere near the size of Monet’s largest water lily paintings, it’s the largest of my 12-year preoccupation with wildland fires, as their remains increase in frequency and severity in our warming climate. The library is excited about it and plans to do some programming around it. I’m excited because lots of people will see it — whenever we can visit libraries once again.

I’ve just starting panel 7 of 7, at ~18.5 feet now. Between that and varnishing and mounting, I think it will take another 3-4 weeks. The animation at the top of this post represents 28 painting days, with 7 panel prep days as well.

We have all had plans and dreams interrupted by the virus. I wish us all good health, an easing of the stresses and strictures, and a chance to show what we’ve been working on during this pandemic siege.

UPDATE May 1, 2020:

The painting portion is finally finished (there’s still varnishing, creating shaped boards to mount them on and mounting them to do).

My photos don’t quite do it justice — it is too large to lay out in any contiguous space in my studio, so each panel has been photographed separately and digitally composited. The color-matching across panels is more accurate in the painting than in these photos.

It’s fun to see it in its possible vertical orientation, too. One thing that surprised me: the panels also look surprisingly meaningful as separate side-by-side pieces.

Any suggestion for a title welcome!

Big Tree Final (4096x783)

The Big Tree,” Watercolor on torn paper, 49″ x 262″ (21’10”)

UPDATE October 1, 2020:

Panel 2 of what I finally decided to title The Magnitude of the Problem has been accepted into the Northwest Watercolor Society’s 80th Annual International Exhibit (online this pandemic year).  It will be viewable beginning the evening of October 27.

Suze’s Art Doings, March 2020

I am truly excited about Gathered from the field: Art provoked by climate research opening March 9 at the University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Art Gallery. Together with Anna McKee’s WAIS reliquary installation and other works, 30 of my bark beetle books will be on display there until April 18. There is a reception and “Art + Sci” salon March 26 at 4:30 pm, including my collaborators Dr. Diana Six of the University of Montana and poet Melinda Mueller. Afterwards, join us at one of the “Night Out” tours of UPS’ Slater Museum of Natural History.

Vol 30 half open detail 2 (1024x665)

Bark Beetle Book Volume XXX: Species Distribution.
Artist Book 3.5 in. diameter x 32.5 in. long closed, 3.5″ diameter x 19 feet open. Douglas fir branch, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, viscose and silk, Kevlar thread, wood beads. [The almost-tree-long book features galleries of the beetle species that chew on Douglas firs.]

It’s my pleasure to report that Goodell Creek Cedar, the 41st of my portraits of individual burned trees, won the People’s Choice award at Kirkland Art Center’s recent Threshold exhibit. The award is in the form of a future exhibit; and I am plotting something humongous!

Goodell Creek Cedar (1024x868)Goodell Creek Cedar
Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52 in. high x 44 in. wide.
[The Goodell Creek fire shut down transmission from Ross Dam in 2015. I am fascinated by how cedars seem to both rot and burn from the inside out.]

CoCA’s annual juried members’ exhibit, 20/20 Visions, opens March 5, during the Pioneer Square Art Walk. As in other years, I’m honored to be selected for the smaller gallery show. Come vote for your favorite!

Dendritic Rhyolite with Case (757x1024)

Dendritic Rhyolite
Artist Book and Case, 4.5 in. x 7.25 in. x 2.875 in. Stone, laser-cut and laser-etched mat board, modified Coptic-binding with linen thread. [The shapes of the rock covers, as well as the iron stains on them, are interpolated from front to back through the book.]

I’m also pleased to report I will be teaching a watercolor landscape workshop, not only at Gage Academy June 13-14 in Seattle as is typical for me, but on a 5-day 4-night May river trip on the San Juan for Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The trip is full; I’m looking forward to spring time on the water in canyon country.

BlacktailCanyon1 (726x1024)

Deep Time (sold)
Watercolor on paper 30 in. x 22 in.
[The Great Unconformity, 1.2-1.6 million missing years, is at the lower left of the painting.]

That’s all for now. I hope we can stay calm and productive in times of such tremendous stress and upheaval. I know that art can be both a goad and a balm.

SuzeFontSignature

 

Winter News 2020

Happy New Year!

First up, Threshold at Kirkland Arts Center. This juried exhibit will include the largest burned tree painting I’ve done yet — a cedar tree from the starting point of the North Cascades’ 2015 Goodell Creek Fire. I’m always struck by how cedars seem to rot or burn from the inside out. Many times the center is completely gone yet the tree still lives.

The exhibit is on display January 7 – February 15. The opening reception is January 10 from 6 – 8 pm and I will be there.


Goodell Creek Cedar, Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″ high by 44″ wide (2019)


Next, Gage Academy in Seattle is having its 30th anniversary exhibit at the Washington State Convention Center Phyllis Lamphere Gallery. I teach the occasional weekend workshop at Gage, so I’m happy to have three of my burned tree paintings up from January 9 – April 13, 2020. Update: The reception date has been changed from the evening of January 31st to February 9, 11-1pm; I still plan to be there.


Stehekin Sentinel, Jolie laide and De-Limbed; Varnished watercolor on torn paper,
all 52″ high by various widths, (2014, 2017 and 2014)


Several of my large landscapes are hanging at the Lynnwood Convention Center’s Northwest Landscapes exhibit, now through June 30. There will be a reception February 19, 6-8 pm, but I will be away and unable to attend.


Young and Old Alike, Watercolor on paper, 22″H x 30″W (2008)


Three of my artist books will be at Northern Arizona University’s Art Museum for a book arts exhibit, “May You Live in Interesting Times” February 4 – April 18, 2020.


 
Top: The Last Iceberg, laser cut mat board, rub-on type, acrylic paint, varnish, linen thread; acrylic mount. 17”H x 10”W x 2.5”D (2016). [Rotated]
Above left: Rockbound Book: Elephant Canyon Volume.
Book: Sandstone, laser-cut mat board, elastic thread binding;
Case: wood, laser-cut mat board, paint, polish. Case: 7″L x 6″W x 3.5″H (2015).
Above right: Rockbound Book: Snowline.
Book: sliced snowflake obsidian, mat board, non-woven viscose;
Case: wood, paper, cord, casein paint, shoe polish, hardware. Case  8″ x 5″ x 4″ (2015).


In March-April, Anna McKee and I will be showing our work in an Art+Sci exhibit entitled Gathered from the Field; art provoked by climate research at the University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge Art Gallery in Tacoma, WA. It will include her installation, WAIS Reliquary: 68,000 Years and I will have ~30 of my bark beetle books. There will be a reception March 26 6-8 pm. Not only will Anna and I attend, but our various scientific, literary, audio and other collaborators will be there as well. Update: The reception time has been changed to 4:30pm-6pm at the Kittredge Gallery.


Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXVII: Survivorship. Log (likely white bark pine) with mountain pine beetle galleries, laser-cut bamboo, offset-printed text with inked-in mountain pine beetle galleries, brass binding post. 9.5″ diameter, 6″ H.

Based on a paper by Six et al.: ~7% of white bark pines in a research tract survived mass attack by mountain pine beetles. DNA analyses of the survivors showed “quieter” encoding for certain VOCs that the beetles perceive. The interior pages of the book have been printed with “ASCII art” of the mRNA encoding for monoterpene synthase. The proportion of dark, low-contrast (“quiet”) to light, high-contrast (“noisy”) pages in the book is 7/100.*


On March 24 I’ll be the speaker/demonstrator at the Northwest Watercolor Society’s March meeting at Daniel Smith Art Materials, 4150 1st Ave S., Seattle, beginning at 6:45 pm. Here’s what I said I would talk about (from page two of their newsletter):

“Painting landscapes in watercolor, both in the studio and from life, has led her in many directions Some are fairly predictable, like artist residencies in national parks and coordinating last summer’s NWWS plein air outings.

Other impacts have been more unexpected – learning to use tools such as pyrography (drawing by burning), paper making and casting (sculptural paper pulp), technology (software interpolation, laser cutting, digital printing on fabric), bookbinding and woodworking.

Another surprise has been deep creative collaborations with scientists, writers and poets. By spending time outdoors painting and living in remote parks and art colonies, she becomes aware of the issues affecting the landscapes she finds so inspiring.”


In other news, my State of the Forest installation continues to travel with Environmental Impact Sequel, opening in Asheville, North Carolina’s Arboretum in February-April. Update: owing to an unforeseen conflict on their part, I will NOT be visiting to give a short talk in late April.

I hope that the commencing decade is productive and joyful to all of us — I hope to catch up during one or more of these events!


*My colleague Iskra Johnson informs me this brief description is difficult to understand. Here is a more expansive attempt:

The beetles sense and take advantage of some of the tree’s own defenses. Some of those defenses are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that it makes – semi-toxic gases, really – that the beetles re-synthesize as aggregating pheromones to call all their friends. Remember turpentine comes from tree resin. So the messenger RNA for the gene for monoterpene synthase, one of those VOCs, turns on its manufacture by the tree, but ironically, strong monoterpene synthase is something the beetles sense and use. 93% of the white bark pines made enough of it that they got attacked. 7% didn’t, they were less “visible” to the beetles.

C-A-T-G (cytosine, adenine, thymine and guanine) are literally the base pair components of DNA and RNA. I made the “ASCII” art from the c-a-t-g sequence for monoterpene synthase. You might remember in the early days of computer graphics people made illustrations out of text fields:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII_art

I used an “ASCII art converter” to make the base pair text field have beetle trails running through it. I printed the pages in both positive contrast-y, color-on-white, “noisy” versions in the same proportions (the 93%)   as the trees that were killed, and negative/low contrast, white-on-black “quiet” pages —  the 7% that survived.

 

 

Eating my Vegetables

It began in one of the workshops I’ve been teaching at Gage Academy in Seattle. It’s a big jump to go from learning about the paints to doing a landscape, even from a photo, so I’m always looking for ways to bridge that gap. One day I brought in a few items out of my fridge. I asked each person to pick one, place it on a white sheet of paper and point a small desk lamp at it. Then I gave a demo:

Class kale (674x1024)

Class kale, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 7.5″

There’s something humble and unassuming about some leaves of kale.

I’m fond of saying that often people draw the Platonic “class” of an object instead of the “instance” that is there in front of them.

Or, as fellow vegetable-loving painter/instructor Lisa Goren says, “I always use chard for my teaching. I use it because, unlike flowers, [students] don’t have as fixed an idea of what it looks like in their heads. So I think they look more carefully and are more focused on the task rather than the outcome.”

Chard (1024x759)

Swiss chard, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Our correspondence about this shared pedagogy made me think hard about why I am finding painting vegetables so liberating.

There are relatively few examples of “Great Vegetable Works from Art History”—whereas try to paint sunflowers and a whole famous field’s worth is glaring at you!

Red Leaf (753x1034)

Red leaf lettuce, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11

It’s hard to get to over-invested in painting a vegetable—compared to, say, a beautiful landscape you’re sentimental about. Since you don’t have so many hopes and expectations attached to it, you paint more freely and the results are fresh. (Mind you, they still require careful observation!)

Long radishes (1024x767)

Long radishes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Or maybe it’s a jolie laide or underdog thing? Even in the foodie world they’re usually not the star of the meal…

Artichokes (1024x757)

Artichokes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Perhaps it’s also my own semi-conscious interest in getting people to look at what isn’t conventionally considered “art worthy.”

Plus I get to eat them afterwards… Or at least most of them:

Lungwort Lichen (1024x751)

Pulmonaria lobarium, watercolor on paper, 11″ x15″. Lungwort lichen is a vegetable to the deer and moose that browse on it!

Update: this page on my website has more of the series.

[Note: a number of these small paintings were in a solo exhibit at the Food Art Collection opening July 14, 2019. Rather than traditional framing and glazing–which just didn’t feel right when I hope they end up in people’s kitchens–they are mounted on panels and coated with epoxy–so the spatters from frying up those potatoes can be wiped off!]

 

 

Suze’s Art News June 2019

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Hello, it’s been a while.
This is an overdue update of everything happening now and a look back at events past. 2018-2019 has been a whirlwind and I am excited to share that with all of you. Thanks for your interest!

Workshops
“Watercolor on the Move: Practical Plein Air”
Gage Academy Workshops
July 20-21
Saturday-Sunday 9:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
For those in the Seattle area, I will be teaching watercolor once again at Gage Academy. Sign up for the workshop if you’d like to learn more about how I go about doing plein air — painting outdoors from life.
Top: Zion Light, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold);
Bottom:
The Three Little Pigs (Gasworks) watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Above the Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint (1024x754)
Gasworks
Upcoming Shows
Davenport Cellars, Woodinville WA
June 5 – early September 2019
The theme is “beautiful and disturbing landscapes,” scenic views of the public lands contrasted with burned-over landscapes.
Top: Frisco Again, watercolor on paper 11″ x 15″
Bottom:
The Landscape of Fire (rotated) 52″ x 15″
Frisco Again (1024x760)
TheLandscapeofFireRotated
Puget Sound Book Arts (PSBA) Annual Member Exhibit 
June 6- July 31, 2019
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA Collins Library
Two of my bark beetle books are on display.
Top, Volume XXIV: What the Beetles Wrote
Bottom
: Volume XXI: The Curve of Loss
vol xxiv composite (764x1024)
VolXXIcomposite
Food Art Collection, Seattle
The quiet existentialism of discrete fruits and vegetables
July 14th, 2019 Opening 1-3 P.M.
In July I will be showcasing something new, a series of vegetable paintings. I began them as class demonstrations and soon realized that the process of trying to free up my students’ work was freeing up mine. Apropos to none of my other work, but enjoyable and satisfying. Come see what we serve up at the opening! (See this meditation on why here.)
Top: Swiss Chard, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″
Bottom: Long radishes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold)
Chard (1024x759)
Long radishes (1024x767)
Anacortes Arts Festival 
July 27 – August 4th, 2019
Opening July 27
The annual juried exhibit; this year Joanna Sykes is the juror. Three of my bark beetle books will be on display. (Recipient of the T Bailey Corporate Award)
Top: Bark Beetle Book Volume XXV: Outbreak
Bottom: Bark Beetle Book Volume X: Encyclopedia Beetletainia
Vol XXV Composite 3 (1024x458)
Vol X Encyclopedia Beetletania composite
State of the Forest Installation in Environmental Impact Sequel
James Museum, St Petersburg, FL
August – November 2019
This is the first stop on a touring exhibit that focuses on the environmental impact of climate change. Thirty of my burned tree portraits will be suspended, in floating fabric media to evoke the fragility of forests. Fourteen of them have Lorena Williams‘ fire stories printed on the back layer of the set. I look forward to presenting my work in this way.
Top: State of the Forest, 10 of a 30 tree installation. Bottom: Detail of the three layers for each tree, black, solid print and transparent print (Jonathan T. Bishop photos)
State of the Forest 10 trees-2 (1024x683)
Tauromachia fabric detail (1024x683)
Slash & Burn
Seattle City Hall
September 5 – November 5, 2019
If you missed this repeat exhibit at Green River College earlier in the year, “Slash & Burn” will be presented again at Seattle City Hall. I’ve contributed several burned tree portraits and bark beetle books.
Top: Okanagan Iridescence, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 20″ (rotated)
Bottom: Bark beetle book Volume XII: Buprestid Katakana
Okanagan Irridescence rotated
Buprestid Katakana 2 (1024x785)
Columbia City Gallery 20th Anniversary Book Arts Exhibit:
The Book as Art: The Page and Beyond
Seattle, WA
September – November, 2019
This show will focus on finely crafted books that explore a variety of structures and books that can challenge traditional notions of a book and page.
Columbia City Gallery logo
All Stitched Up
University of Puget Sound Collins Library
Tacoma, WA
September 3 – December 11, 2019
A recent bark beetle book will be exhibited.
Volume XXII, Scolytid Lifecycle
Vol22detail

 

Willowtail Residency
Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve
Mancos, Colorado
In late October I make my way back to Mancos, Colorado, for my fourth return to Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve. I’ll have an opportunity to work with author Lorena Williams on the stories that accompany the State of the Forest installation above.Zion Centennial “100 Objects – 100 Images”
Zion Plein Air Invitational
Zion National Park, Utah
November 6-10, 2019
I am honored to be invited out for my 8th season during the Centennial of Zion National Park and Zion Plein Air Invitational. The Centennial will be celebrated through the art and history of this magical place via the exhibition “100 Objects – 100 Images”, beginning September 15th, continuing through and during the traditional plein air week. I look forward to sharing more as the year goes by so stay tuned for more details.“Word | Image | Object”
July 2019 – January 2020
An artist book exhibit organized by Abcedarian Gallery in the main Denver Public Library. My small beetle-chewed branch books contain Melinda Mueller poetry about bark beetles.
Bark beetle book Volume XIX: Poetry Sticks
VolXIXcomposite
A Long Overdue Recap of 2018 and Previous Events

booksaboutbarkbeetles
Thank you, friends and followers, for seeing me through another year, and I hope to catch you at home and out in my travels.
SuzeFontSignature

Capitol Reef Residency

During October I had the privilege of living and working inside the smallest – at least in terms of visitation – of Utah’s five national parks, Capitol Reef. This was my third visit to the Park. I stopped in a snowstorm on my way home from a similar residency in Zion National Park in 2012 and in May of 2017 served as the outside juror for the Utah Watercolor Society’s annual plein air week there.

Fall was a wonderful time to be in residence – golden cottonwoods along the Fremont River, temperate days and cool nights, low insect populations and possibly a bit quieter – though every time I was in the Visitor Center it was bustling. Fortunately for the flora and fauna, the preceding drought was easing, but unfortunately for the outdoor painter, there were a lot of wet days. 

Doubleoverthe Reef Lo Res

A gorgeous double-rainbow over historic Fruita, from my studio window — but of course this means it was raining….

Rain comes to the Henrys (1024x7610

Rain Comes to the Henrys Watercolor on paper 11″ x 15″

I spent a lot more time getting to know the east side of the Reef, enjoying extensive views of the country’s longest monocline, the colors of the uplifted layers, the slots that drain the angled spine, all presided over by enough snow in the Henry Mountains east of the Park to be skiable (at least by backcountry skiers’ measures).

My stay wasn’t long enough, so I was a bit frenetic about trying to get everywhere, see everything and produce as much work as I could, at the expense of getting to know staff or the nearby town of Torrey. I have six months to continue the work I began there before presenting a portfolio of choices for the Park’s collection. Here are some of my favorites (all watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″).

 

   

 

2- and 3-D technology in service of an organic artist book – persistence required

Some people may already know that I have a not-so-secret life as a book artist, as well as a painter. One body of my work as a painter is large portraits of individual burned trees. (See the Burnscape section of my website.) Spending recreational time in the wilderness all over the American West has brought me in close contact with large burned-over areas. I also began to notice the number of dead trees in forests that otherwise seemed fine. I saw what seemed like writing or hieroglyphics on the inner bark of dying trees.

It turns out there are thousands of species of bark beetles, most of which are happily decomposing already-dead wood. But a few species that attack living trees en masse have become epidemic thanks to climate change: warmer winters don’t kill off the larvae and warmer, longer summers allow them more reproduction cycles. And drought- or heat-stressed trees are more vulnerable. Working with two entomologists and a forester, I’ve created a series of artist books on the topic.

Vol XIV composite (1024x514)

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XIV Ars datum est
16.5”H x 4.5” diam.
Log with fir-engraver galleries*, laser-cut and engraved mat board pages,
laser-transfers, paint, linen thread

For example, Volume XIV, Ars datum est above, is made from an actual Eastern Washington log, with laser-cut pages bound into its center. Each page is essentially a bar from a bar chart representing areas of British Columbia and Alberta affected by mountain pine beetle from 1999-2007 – so the book is art and data, too.

My most recent  bark beetle book was definitely the most technically ambitious one I’ve tried yet, and I learned quite a bit in the process.

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XVIII
27” x 3.5” diam.
Maple branch covers, laser-cut and engraved bamboo pages, tea-dyed wool felt, linen thread

I collected a branch with many beetle galleries on it, interesting to me because, with rot, the larval galleries were dark-on-light instead of the more typical light-on-dark. It suggests intra-tree spread: the number of engraved galleries* on the pages increases from bottom to top as you page through the book.

The branch was somewhat curved and also twisted along the axis of its split. I thought the best way to create pages for such a irregular, non-rectangular shape might be to obtain a 3D model of each half, create the solid between them and then slice it in software. Unable to find a local service bureau for 3D scanning, a mechanical engineering friend created a seat-of-the-pants XYZ data capture system composed of 2 rulers, a radial arm saw and digital calipers.

DSC07922 (2)

It took me an entire day to take (4) XYZ measurements at 1-centimeter intervals along one half of the branch. And I now realize this is just too coarse, I missed some key features in the shape.

After a lot of work trying to understand how to import an XYZ data cloud Fusion360, we eventually succeeded in making the data points operable, creating the solid volume between to the 2 branch half models, adding binding holes and slicing it. I also traced the actual ragged fore-edge, imported that line and created a second solid to chomp into fore-edge of the book page solid, so that it would have some of the nicks and craters of the beetle galleries where they cross the edges from front edge to back edge. Slicer, a Fusion360 app, at least made the slicing easy and generated flat cutting patterns. Then I traced some of the beetle galleries onto the cutting patterns for engraving.

wireframe editedSlicer Screen Shot5 thumbnail

Binding the book was equally challenging because:

  • not all the page pieces met along the spine edge,
  • some were too small to put binding holes in,
  • and despite choosing the straightest edge as the binding side, there was enough of a curve that even with elastic thread I couldn’t bind across that big a gap.

So it’s “differentially” bound; that is, sewn where spine-side page edges met best.  Some of the tiny and/or non-spine side slices were glued to the branch wood before binding. I used pieces of tea-dyed felt as end-papers to soften the stair-stepped edges of the glued-in pieces and to hide the ends of the binding threads.

About 9 weeks…. Phew!


Many, many thanks to Jon Cluts and Rafael Machado de Lima Silva at UW Bothell’s Maker Space; Tom Stone, who made the data capture system and helped me work out how to get the data usable in Fusion360; also to Per Steenstrup and his brother on the latter task; to the support folks at ponoko who helped troubleshoot my cutting/engraving files. And Steve, who likes to be away from home so he can’t hear the cursing when I can’t get something to work : – )


*Galleries is the term most often used to describe the complex patterns that the larvae chew between the bark and the sap wood. I’ve also seen them called larval mines.