Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Author: Melissa (page 5 of 18)

Work in Progress: Martín Getsemany Sánchez García

On September 26, 2014, forty-three students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal School in Guerrero, Mexico, were loaded by police into unmarked vans and driven away. The students have not been seen since. Widespread searches have discovered many mass graves in the state of Guerrero, but only one body has been positively identified as that of a student.

The kidnapping of the students sparked mass protests throughout Mexico. It epitomized the corruption of the government and the use of money and resources from the so-called war on drugs against average citizens rather than against the drug lords.

As part of the protests, artists around the world created – and are still creating – portraits of the missing students. You can see some of the artwork here and here and here.

I’ve been working on a portrait of one of the students, Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, as part of the Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43 project.

My idea was to make a print that looked like a blackboard, to honor the chosen profession of these students. I made full-bleed monoprints that more or less look like slate with swipes of white to look like erased chalk.
Printing the chalkboard background

Martín is carved out of linoleum, but the image is based on a loose pencil sketch; I wanted him to look like a portrait drawn in chalk. I like the unintended consequence that he looks rather ghostly, or like a photo negative. I think it evokes the mystery still surrounding the whereabouts of the students.
Portrait of Martin

For his name, I also wanted it to look like somebody had written it on the blackboard. I didn’t want it to look like my handwriting, or even like any North American handwriting. We have a different style of script than most Europeans or South Americans use. So I wrote an email to my friend Jacques in France asking him to write out Martín’s name and send it to me – which he very kindly did, even though he thought the request a little bit odd. But he knows artists are eccentric types.
Martins name written out

I had meant to transfer Jacques’ writing as a trace monotype, but for white ink to show clearly enough against a dark background it needs to be applied heavily – which resulted in an illegible mess.
trace monotype failure

Now I am hurriedly carving a block to print Martín’s name.
Name reversed for carving

The first showing of some of the Ayotzinapa prints will be next Sunday, May 17, at the Guelaguetza festival in Santa Cruz.

Star Creek Adventure!

Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to hike in a remote property in the Pajaro Hills, thanks to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The Land Trust purchased Star Creek Ranch a couple of years ago, and because the way in is only a one-lane dirt road, largely privately owned, access is limited to only one or two days a year, and then just to members.

Driving in. Don’t worry; I stopped the car while taking the picture.
Driving in to Star Creek Ranch.

We were greeted with tents, maps, sunscreen in case we had forgotten (I had), water, and shuttle vans. There are some 15 miles of trails and fire roads on the property, so we had lots of choices.
The greeting area.

I decided to do a loop of the Black Canyon Trail, the (something) Cutoff Road, and High Point Road. Good signage helped me find the way.
Trail signs

The Black Canyon Trail descended into a redwood forest and followed a creek. It was cool and lovely on a hot day. On the way down I passed some dogwood blossoms.
Dogwood blossoms.

Old signs remained from previous owners and uses.
Old boundary sign.

There were quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and lots of hikers and mountain bikers on the trails. I had assumed that many people, like myself, would choose to take the more remote and wild paths, but I was wrong. I didn’t see anyone else on Black Canyon Trail, and only once saw a human footprint. But I did see a motion-activated camera attached to one of the redwoods.
Motion-activated camera.

Wait a minute… the Land Trust often posts photos of mountain lions that trigger the cameras on their land. Now which trail was it? Was it the one I was on? Oh yes. Here, from their website, is a photo of mountain lions in right about the same spot I was standing.
Mountain lions.

Alrighty then! I kept going, like Macbeth thinking I had gone so far already I might as well plunge ahead, but I made sure I sang and made noise and looked big and scary as I walked. And I nixed the plan I had to sit and draw during my hike. Sitting quietly while absorbed in a task didn’t sound like the best idea at this point.

But still, it was a lovely hike. Looking up through the canopy.
Looking up through the canopy.

After following the creek bed for quite a while, the trail ascended. Here is a clearing full of horsetails.
A lot of horsetails.

Lots of banana slugs in the damp areas. Here is one next to my foot for scale.
Banana slug.

A hillside full of columbines, which would not stand still for my picture.
Columbine along the trail.

The trail got really steep before hitting the cutoff road, and yet it got steeper still afterwards. (Caution! Extreme! said the signpost) I decided to be relatively sane and turned onto the cutoff, which proved to be utterly delightful.
A lovely trail.

Exposed roots make an interesting pattern.
Exposed roots.

Iris along the trail.

By now I had ascended quite a bit, and had gone from redwood forest to oak, with wide vistas visible between the trees.
Oak trees.

And more reminders of those who had used this property before. Yes, I tried the swing. It worked just fine. 🙂
A swing.

Up here in the more open and accessible areas there were more hikers.
Hikers at Star Creek Ranch.

I enjoyed lunch in this meadow.
Wildflowers in the meadow.

While I was sitting eating my lunch, I noticed a big fat bumblebee making its rounds from flower to flower, which made me happy – until I realized there was just one bee. One bee. In this whole meadow. One. A sad reminder that bees are in trouble. (And a nod to Emily Dickinson.)

TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

All in all, it was a fine outing, and I’m looking forward to returning next year for another Star Creek Ranch Adventure.

Leaving Star Creek Ranch.

Rearranging the Furniture

I realize I haven’t written a blog post in a long time – not because I haven’t been doing anything, but rather that I’ve been doing so much that I tire myself out and don’t have the energy to write.

But here’s a quick post!

It’s been about a year since I set up my studio in the new house. And now that I’ve been using it for a while, it’s time to do a bit of fine-tuning.

This week, I got rid of my orange shelves (actually just moved them to the bedroom) and put in large industrial shelving instead.

You can see the old orange shelves in the background of this picture of me at my press. They fit against a little jog in the wall, but still stick out a bit and make it a close fit to get around the press bed.
Me at my press, orange shelves in the background

Orange shelves, gone!
The shelves are gone

Industrial shelving, up!
New shelves in place

And now full of stuff!
Lots of stuff on my new shelves

Next project: all that stuff on the new shelves? Get it organized!
(It is currently entirely randomly placed, mainly to keep the cats off…)

Back Again!

I promised in my last post that I would return to hike more of the DeAnza trail, which is turning out to be one of my favorites. It reminds me a lot of Briones in the East Bay, with its cloud-brushing climbs and views of surrounding rolling hills.

For anyone planning on checking it out, here is what the trailhead looks like. It’s just outside of San Juan Bautista, and pretty easy to find.
DeAnza trailhead

A welcome sign, and there were brochures in a box just behind this. The DeAnza trail, as you can see, travels all the way from Mexico through Arizona and California, ending at San Francisco. Not all of it is hikeable, but there is a lot of interest in trying to make it so.
DeAnza welcome sign

It’s just a little over a month since my last visit, but there have been changes. Signs of spring abound!
New growth

A view up the valley. The dirt in the foreground is a corral, and a group of four cowboys was practicing calf roping. Later, a class was practicing turning their horses in tight circles. I should mention that at this point I’d only been hiking around 10 minutes, and had started out at about the same level as the ranch – yet it didn’t feel all that steep.
The view up the valley

It does get steeper here and there.
Up up and away

This is cattle country, and there are barbed wire fences on either side of the trail. I love the road in the background of this photo – it winds its way up and over the hills, and looks like it would be a blast to drive, and makes me wish I still had my motorcycle.
Fence and distant road

The way the road curved, and the green and roll of the hills, and the farm nestled in the valley, reminded me of paintings by Grant Wood. This one is titled Rural Scene.
Grant Wood Rural Scene

More barbed wire.
DeAnza trailhead

A gate, with distant cattle.
A gate leads to rolling hills

Downhill fence.
Downhill fence

This fence made me think of Maynard Dixon’s painting, No Place to Go.
Maynard Dixon No Place to Go

The shapes of the hills and trees against the sky! The lines created by the wire fence! The blue! The green!
Designs in nature

The trail is mostly open, but occasionally goes through stands of oak and pine.
Going in to the light

A tenacious tree.
Tenacious tree roots

This is the point at which the trail finally begins its downward course, and the point at which I turned around. In the distance, Watsonville and eventually the Pacific. Lessons learned: either don’t stop at home and pause to check email etc. before going on an afternoon hike, because you will suddenly lose an hour or two; or, don’t go for a hike on a day when you have dinner plans with friends. And especially don’t do both.
Towards Watsonville

On the way back to the car, I saw that the moon had been caught in a fence.
Moon in the fence

Winter Solstice 2014

Sarah-Hope is up in Napa helping her folks prepare for Christmas, so I decided to take a bit of a road trip on my solo Sunday. Which also happens to be the shortest day of the year – so it needs to be spent outdoors. Next stop: San Juan Bautista!

We were thrilled when we realized San Juan is closer to us than is Santa Cruz. I love love love the rolling California hills, with their textures and shapes and lonely oaks silhouetted against the sky. And San Juan is set in the middle of some of the prettiest rolling hills you’ll see.

Oak tree at the trailhead

First stop, a short hike on a bit of the De Anza trail. I only walked up to the first fence, having forgotten my water bottle and wanting to get back home to do some art. But it was a lovely climb, steep enough to feel it, not so steep that you think you’re going to die.

First, a field with cows. Well, on the other side of the trail there was a field. These two cows thought the trees offered better snacking.

Cows in the trees

This tree practically glowed, and the spiral cow paths surrounding it gave it a cosmic feel.

Cosmic tree

Looking behind me at the path I’ve climbed, with a view out over San Juan Bautista and the surrounding hills. As someone who grew up on the East Coast, it’s still odd to have bright green hills in the midst of winter, and dry brown hills in the summer.

Looking back down the trail

I reached a point where I could look out over the other side of the ridge, towards Hollister. At first I could only hear the breeze and the birds, but I soon realized there must be a rifle range on this side, and the rest of my walk was accompanied by the sounds of multiple shots ringing out. (Way too many for hunters, and including what must have been a semi-automatic gun. Ick.)

Looking out towards Hollister

Some laurel berries along the way.

California Laurel with berries

Some scenic views.

Oak trees and barbed wire fence

Oak tree and landscape

As I mentioned, I only hiked a portion of the trail; I will definitely be back to complete it! I hear there’s some interesting geological features, and even better views.

I followed my walk with brunch in San Juan Bautista, where I found a small Basque restaurant that serves Spanish-style tortillas with potatoes, followed by the lightest, tastiest flan ever. So good!

Basque restaurant in San Juan Bautista

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