Dry Point Etching Inspired by Another Artwork


This is a four foot square canvas I painted a few years ago. It is the only one of the original six that I still have in its previous form. Others have sold or been donated, or covered over. I wanted to use just part of the owl and the boat behind it to be the subject for a dry point etching on plexiglass.

Here is the cropped image and the etching in progress.

Dry point etching of owl and boat with tool

Dry point etching of owl detail

I managed to pull eleven prints from the plate so far and will do more after I closely examine them to see if more etching is necessary.  It is the same size as the tree one done earlier, about 5 x 7 inches.

Owl etchings on line

Owl etching

The next one I will work on is the emu. I photographed him outside our classroom in Halls Gap last March. They have such beautiful big brown eyes. I altered my photograph to look more like the marks that need to be etched to get the flow of his feathers.

Dry point etching plate of emu

I only have the one tool that seems able to scratch the surface of the plexiglass. It is a simple one that I bought in Melbourne at a art supply store just off Flinders Street and a short walk from my hotel. The metal etching tool from undergraduate school days needs to be sharpened to be of much use to me so I will do that down at the shop or on my belt sander in the studio.

Maybe a kangaroo for the final plate this size. For now I am taking a few days off to spend with company and just playing in the studio.


More on the Scrapbook – More on Life

It has been a very busy last ten days. Two resident students were here to do work in the studio. All my time is given to their needs. They each have something that needs to be fixed into a visual form. We first met in a workshop several years ago and have continued here to meet in a place where I can push just enough and do the mundane work of cutting, drilling, gluing while they make the work. I am exhausted by the end of the day. What they each are going through in their lives spills out into my personal place of making. Whatever I am working on simply goes on hold while I give whatever I can to see their plans realized. Sometimes I need to listen more closely, sometimes I need to step in and prod them to move ahead. And sometimes I just need to pour more wine. The seriousness of how much their work matters can be draining but I would not have it any other way. It is the least I can do in the face of what they are going through.

But, after they were gone and the studio and apartment put back in order, I went back to my own life and the scrapbook of decades.

Here are a few details of some of them.

scrapbook third decade detail 2

This is part of a page that represents my twentys. I am married with two children and am so much about family, friends and the small town we lived in

scrapbook fourth decade detail

And the thirties. It is all about experiencing “craft”. It was such a fun time and somehow at that age one thinks it will be like this forever. Just sit and weave, make baskets and put beads on everything.

And then the forties….a move to North Carolina, the children on their own. I am returning to college to finish an undergraduate degree and start on my MFA. Craftsmanship gives way to idea driven work and accountability as an artist. Tough times with so much more thinking, so much more passion. And no more decorative beading.

Scrapbook fifth decade lo res

I like stitching on these pages. They are very raw in a way. Picking the bits and pieces that capture the essence of who and what I was for that decade is challenging. I know when the page is complete. I know when I say, “Yes, that is how it was”.

I have enough of them now to see how it feels to turn the pages and see the marks of the previous decade influencing how I view the next one. They have made me think about life and how lucky I am to be living long enough to work on an eighth decade for this scrapbook.

I also took time to work on an etching. Again trying to channel Rembrandt and his lines to make a tree.

gum tree etching pages

It is a plexiglass plate about five by six and one half inches. I am trying out two inks, a dark umber and a black with a bit of umber to warm it. Only ten prints pulled. I colored two of them with watercolors and found that they then became “illustrations”. Something out of Winnie the Pooh book. Not sure I liked that. The print suddenly needed a context, a narrative and of course more illustrations. And the uncolored ones just need signed and framed. Funny how that happened with just a bit of watercolor. I have two more images ready to etch and I will see how it goes with them.


brown gum tree etching

dark gum tree etching

colored etching of gum tree

But definitely I am thinking, no color and the darker ink.

Recollections in Cloth, Paper and Thread

Scrapbook first decade stitched

I could just be my age. For something different to work on in the studio I decided to break down my life into decades. Now I am into my eighth, not by a lot, but enough to make some choices of how I see that decade unfolding. There are eight panels of cloth all close to 18″ square. They were selected as a background feel for that period of my life. Here is the first decade. I am a child in a rural community who spends an enormous amount of time outside in the woods and meadows. Old farmhouses in northern Michigan.

I am not a very accomplished stitcher. It takes a while just to get that needle threaded and knotted at the other end. Then it is poke in some place and come up in another.  All the added pieces of papers and cloth were fused into place with a fabric bonding film. Loose bits were tied into place until they could be caught with the stitches.

This piece is trying to capture how those years felt to me, the things that stayed with me. The constellations in a very dark and star filled sky, old wallpapers, some falling away, marked cloth, grandmothers’ influences, the dullness of winter and snow, using only two crayons to wander out of the lines of coloring books. But most of all was the freedom to come and go, come and go and be by myself.

Here are some details of this “page”.

scrapbook first decade grass

scrapbook first decade snow

And now I have finished stitching the second decade. Those teenage years. A move from the woods and privacy to the suburbs of St. Petersburg, Florida in 1955 was a unwelcome adjustment. But being a teenager is constant adjustments, constant changes.

These pages will be bound into a very large scrapbook like we used to have many years ago. The kind we pasted in all our plans for the future. Now it will be pages of how things actually were or at least how I recall them to be. As the pages turn, there will be the marks of the previous decade shown to the left of the new decade. The viewer can see the marks of influence more or less of what is happening next. I think that this is where being a lousy stitcher is an advantage. Those threads and how they travel around on the back of the previous decade’s page is very narrative in its own way. Here is how a section of the two pages will be seen where they intersect.

scrapbook second decade pairing lo res

Wandering in the woods no longer possible with sandspurs everywhere. A red tide that came often enough to make the beach un-navigable. And finding it hard to fit into a predetermined system. I managed like we all do and actually found this a fun page to work on.  See below.

scrapbook second decade stitched lo res

I was now making my own clothes and still maintained my freedom for most of the time. Some details of the page.

scrapbook second decade if you alter

scrapbook second decade detail of shell lo res

I may go back into both of the pages. More is bound to develop in thought and manipulation. And some of these details I really liked and took them into a photo program to play with. I see possibilities for etchings using my press or maybe even collographs. Maybe drawings.

What I do like is finding the marks that are possible with needle and thread that capture my thinking. Better stitching may come as I work on each page. Before I show you the altered image of a detail from my first decade, take a look at how much my eighth decade shares a similar palette. Interesting I think because those other pages get pretty colorful with marriage, family, entering the craft world, then graduate school and travel. Interesting.

Here is the roughed in eighth decade that will take some time to get to as I must do them in order.

scrapbook 8th decade lo res

And the altered image of my first decade detail.

scrapbook first decade detail adjusted 2

I will show more as they develop.

Another Time – Lost in Customs

Graceland Under African Skies lo res

This is a digital image from a scanned slide. Earlier this week Richard Norman, a book binder who moved from the UK to France several years ago posted two entries on facebook of Paul Simon performing in Africa in the late eighties. They both were songs from his still inspiring album, Graceland. Besides having me humming along as I listened, they reminded me of the Graceland coats I made shortly after the album was released.

I bought the music, came home put it on the player and found out just how easy it can be to be caught up in his lyrics and rhythms. I promptly went to the closest fabric shop and decided to find cloth that could work for the scenes he describes in the music. Primarily two pieces, Under African Skies and Boy in the Bubble (which may have a different title, but that is what I called it).

I asked the sales clerk if she had cloth that felt like an elephant, a Masai warrior or could be a lion, it had to say Africa! After buying bits of each cloth that I thought would work and several yards of off white osnaberg cloth which is like a muslin, I came home only to realize that I had no pattern for what I wanted to do, no coat pattern.

So I folded the cloth in half, selvages on each side and laid down in the center with my shoulders on the fold. With the right hand I pinned along where I thought a sleeve should be by keeping my left arm extended. Then a couple of pins a ways out from my hip. The rest of the length could be figured out after I got back up. Once that side was cut out (both layers for front and back) I folded over that side to make a pattern to cut the other side. Flattened it back to where it was and cut up the top layer to make the opening and scooped out a bit of neck. I repeated this again with a small striped muslin for the liner of the coat.

All I had to do next was place the outer coat on the mannequin, turn up the music, lay out some National Geographics and start cutting and pinning. It was the most fun afternoon. Shortly afterwards I heated up some blue dye in a pot on the stove, shoved the shoulder area in to give myself the “African Sky”. Later I embroidered the “stars of the southern hemisphere.”

Once the outer layer met my expectations (which I kept pretty simple) I matched it up with the lining and added a layer of filler between. To finish it took just edging the front opening and hemming up the cuffs and bottom.

Then I made another:

Graceland Boy in the Bubble 1988 lo res

More dyed shoulders for the Boy in the Bubble. Had to have a place for that “distant constellation.” And doing the bomb in the baby carriage was interesting to say the least. It was one of the last pieces that my mother helped me stitch on before she died. I think she thought I was nuts. I loved these pieces.

I even wore one to a national quilt conference in Houston, Texas of all places. I just wanted to be in the audience with it on. It was swelteringly hot!

I was also active at basket making conferences at this time and some of us who taught had to do a talk to the attendees. I took my boom box so I could play the two pieces of music when I showed the slides. Not only that but I had shaped little rounds of black paper into fortune cookies with a curled quote about art making sticking out. The audience was to help themselves to one of these from my African basket on the way out. In all honesty I did receive some strange looks but I loved what I was doing and just wanted to share the enthusiasm.

Later on after moving myself and my coats to North Carolina, I decided to mail some of my art to wear on to Australia. There they were more likely to wear it than in my more conservative crowd. The first box arrived fine and donned the chairs in the dining room for years there in that most hospitable house.

The next box that contained these coats among other costumes did not fair so well. I received word that I had insured them too high and they were being held hostage in customs for a fee, $65, I think. I emailed customs there and apologized for my error and begged them to please release them. And I actually thought it worked.

After two stays at their home I realized that the coats I had sent a few years before were not there. They only could have went the way of the unclaimed at customs and met some sort of demise. But I would like to think that somewhere over there a customs inspector’s spouse puts them on when she plays Paul Simon’s Graceland album and dances around with all the pleasure I put into them.