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Alaskan Artist, Rhonda Horton, Braves 30-Hour Flight to Come to Maureen’s Workshop

Rhonda and her husband, Rich, had been planning this trip, their first to Europe, for more than a year. For Rhonda it was more than a vacation. It was an opportunity to work  intensively–one on one–for two weeks with an Old World master printmaker and to collect some ideas for establishing her own printmaking studio at home. At the end of her time in Granada she hoped to have produced an exquisite artist’s book. And she did.

Rhonda had scrupulously prepared a full set of pencil drawings on paper as the basis to create an artist’s book on Alaskan sea birds. After admiring them Maureen said, “These are drawings are great but to achieve maximum image quality on solarplates they should be re-drawn in India ink on acetates.” She showed Rhonda how it was done and Rhonda spent her few first morning and afternoons preparing beautiful new drawings.

Then they decided on a format, adaptated to some elongated sheets of handmade Indian paper that Maureen had selected for Rhonda’s artist’s book, and burned the images on the plates. Maureen happened to have on hand some beautifully textured handmade paper acquired from the Paperki paper mill in Hondarribia, Spain, 30 years ago for the cover of the book. Rhonda loved some work that Maureen had done with chine collé and decided to incorporate that technique into her book project, as well.

Then it was just a question of printing up the images and assembling them meticulously into three artist’s books. Rhonda called it “Quiet Song” after a poem that occurred to her on awaking one morning in Maureen’s Gallinero artist’s cabin:

Quiet song, show me the morning
A shout before noon, show me the day
Birds of the shore, show me the night.

A special element in creating ambiente throughout the whole process was Rhonda’s husband, Rich, occasionally sitting quietly at the end of the studio playing his guitar and singing. The delicious atmosphere he achieved was like having a Rennaisance troubador providing live-music accompaniment in an artist’s studio.

Maureen attributes the success of their work together to the fact that Rhonda arrived with a clear project in mind with the images already worked out. The finished product is an exquisite piece of work that reflects the input of both Rhonda and Maureen. The effort expended by both over two weeks is evident in the proud, hard-working faces of both in the second and third photographs in the montage below.

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A Fun-and-Easy Show in Our Village This Summer

I’ve been invited to exhibit during the Semana Cultural (Cultural Week) runup to our  village’s summer fete. I’ll be showing a good friend from here, Inma López. We inaugurate the show on Sunday, the 29th of July and it’s on through the month of August. I haven’t exhibited in a long time but this time it’s like everything else in our pueblo, friendly, fun and easy. The town hall installed beautiful new lighting in the exhibition space and came up to the house with a truck to pick up my work.

Here are the pictures Mike made for my part the catalog, along with some of Inma and me after the hanging. She’s a great person to work with. More than 30 years ago, when I was giving outdoor painting classes to the kids in the village, she was one of the participants–at the age of 14.

See you there if you can make it. If not, Mike will make some pictures at the inauguration and post them here.

 

 

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by Mike Booth

Ever Been Poleaxed by Delight?

For many summers we’ve been driving up to the forest above a neighboring village to gather pine cones for starting fires. They’re ideal for the job, dry and resinous. We need them as the firewood we use—olive, almond and live oak—is hard to light and in wintertime all of our heating and most of our cooking is done on wood fires. Sometimes we take along a picnic. One time we were up there in a sunny clearing enjoying a potato omelette and some red wine while our two little terriers ran around chasing lizards and butterflies. When we finished lunch and rolled over on our backs on the blanket, staring aimlessly skyward, we discovered a pair of golden eagles circling quite a bit lower than usual. They were thinking about lunch, too.

Prohibition

A couple of years ago it occurred to the forestry authority to prohibit collecting anything in the natural park forests. But we still need pine cones, so I came up with a business plan. I would drive up there before dawn on a Sunday morning, while Smokey Bear was still in bed, and load the back of the car with big 100-liter black plastic garbage bags full of pine cones.

It’s a half-hour drive up there from our house and when I left last Sunday at 7:00 a.m. it was 19º down there and a bracing 13º up on the mountain. I turned off on a forestry trail, followed it for a kilometer and parked at the edge of the road. There were enough plump pine cones within a 30-meter radius to fill the four bags that would fit in the back of the car. After scurrying around filling two of them I sat down on a carpet of pine needles for a break. Then it struck me: the silence, the solitude, the pine-scented air… I should come up here more often.

Churros and Glee

Add to that the larcenous glee of stealing the pine cones and you have most of the makings of a perfect Sunday morning. All that was lacking was a double coffee and a plate of the fried batter rings the Spanish call “churros,” and I would see to that at the bar on the way down.

I was headed due south on the dirt trail when I burst out of the woods and found myself on the rim of a great bowl, looking down into a vast valley full of valleys crosslit from the east by the morning sun. Then, as I lifted my gaze I was confronted by one of our old friends, the eagles, soaring low in the distance beneath seven layers of mountain ridges receding into the haze of the upper reaches of Sierra Nevada.

Self Help

I was almost down to the level of the Río Quentar at the bottom of the valley, only half listening to a Spanish self-help guru on Sunday-morning radio discussing the healing effects of nature when a “cabra montesa” (Spanish ibex) appeared in front of me, like a traffic warden, securing the road for her half-grown kid from last spring’s brood, who trotted out of the bushes behind her. Maybe I’ll go back again next Sunday.
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Homenaje a Maureen

Somos Pineros

Homenaje a Maureen.
Hom

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Nikki Braunton, on holiday in Órgiva at the foot of the Sierra Alpujarra (the seaward slope of our Sierra Nevada) with her husband, John Chase and their two girls, came for a visit the other morning. We had only known Nikki through Facebook, so it was lovely when they showed up en persona. I made a chocolate cherry cake–which was still warm from the oven, but they didn’t seem to mind–and we had coffee and tea on Mike’s new table out under the grapevines.

Nikki and John wanted to see my studio so we spent some time down there. John and Mike are both photographers, so they got on like a house afire. The two girls, ages 8 and 12. seemed interested in everything–studio, prints, cats, Cuca–and withstood the boring conversations of older people admirably.

Both John and Nikki work at the Museum of London, he as a photographer, she in the photo archives. “I only do three days a week,” Nikki says, “so it leaves me time for printmaking.” She works at the Greenwich Printmakers open studio. Nikki and John have fallen for Órgiva and have spend their last few summer holidays there.  So, we hope to see them back here next year. Happy printmaking, Nikki.

 

 

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Most of the Butterflies Were in My Stomach

Miguel Ángel Castillo phoned the other day asking if I wanted to play a small part of a veteran butterfly activist in his latest film. I said sure. Could they shoot in my studio? Sure. Ever since I worked with Juan Carlos Romera on ¡Bive! seven or eight years ago I have been entranced with movie making. (Juan Carlos also made my printmaking tutorial videos.)

Miguel Ángel is a retired science professor who is full of the kind of creative energy the Spanish call “inquietudes.” He is a butterfly activist with his own mariposarium at home, he makes short films and he takes excellent care of his friends. Asked what got him into film making he says, “I always wanted to try it, and when I did I loved the process. Also it’s an opportunity to be in contact with bright, talented young people. I find that very enriching.” Don’t be tempted to think that his film is one of those boring ecological treatises. It actually has an assassination in it. though it lacks a helicopter.

So, Miguel Ángel and his crew of seven technicians and actors showed up yesterday morning and started running cables and setting up lights and the camera. It was a hot day and it took us till 3:00 p.m. to shoot what was was essentially three scenes, so we were thirsty, worn out and starving when we finished.

Miguel Ángel was right on cue. “Where’s the nearest place to get a nice lunch?” he said. “I’m inviting.” Mike suggested Casa Guillermo, just down the hill in our village. The food is good there and we could sit at the tables on the river’s edge. The meal which lasted from three until five, included a wonderful selection of Andalusian soul food: jamon serrano, pipirrana salad, grilled morcilla and alonganiza, churrasco steak, chicken and ham croquetas, pitchers of beer and assorted soft drinks; one fundamentalist actually drank water, with ice cream and kinky little cylindrical cakes for dessert) lasted from three until five.

One of the best dishes was papas a lo pobre, (“poor man’s potatoes) sliced potatoes with green peppers stewed in quite a lot of olive oil. Jordi, the sound man from Valencia, wrinkling his nose disapprovingly, asked, “What’s that puddle under the potatoes, oil?” “Yes,” I said, handing him a slice of bread. “Here, dip some bread in it,” and I showed him how it was done. Jordi became an instant devotee of papas a lo pobre and an expert olive oil soaker upper. (Don’t try this at home with just any old olive oil. Ideally it should be the silky golden aceite de oliva virgen extra from our village, Pinos Genil.)

The crew had a two-hour drive back to Almería, but Mike and I were home in less than five minutes, stripped off as we were descending the garden stairs, showered in the hose, dried off and hopped into bed, where we stayed for hottest three and a half hours of a 39ºC (102.2F) day. There’s nothing wrong with a day in which you get up from your siesta (just a bit groggy) at 9:00 p.m.

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In recent months a couple of my galleries in Granada have been asking, “Could you make us some miniature prints?” These are my first proofs.

 

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