Unsettled in the Studio


About ten days ago I decided to pull out several of these poorly gessoed boards, each about 8″ x 10″. I did them in a hurry quite a while back just to use up some newly mixed gesso made from rabbit skin glue and french chalk. I was thinking I could sand them to perfection later and then use them for the intended purpose of egg tempera painting. But in all honesty they were pitiful and look more like plaster boards or scraps of drywall with the paper peeled away.

I thought of a student in Australia who made the most lovely watercolor on a plaster board. It was an image of herself as a child and would fit into a memory alter that she was making in my workshop. I will post the image I have of it below with apologies for the blurriness.


Beautiful isn’t it? Anyway the first one I attempted was the busy strokes of silver point. I was just drawing out of my head…trees are always a place to start for me. Something about the woods. Then the magical door going to who knows where. Maybe secret places.

In sanding the gessoed board with 400 grit sand paper before I started making the drawing, there appeared a weak spot right in the center of the panel. And the more I drew over it the more it chipped away. Then I put it away, but only for a few days. The above beautiful image made me think about watercoloring on the next panel.

I gathered bits and pieces from the studio and laid them out on my work table.


Then with watercolors and caran d’ ache crayons I made this painting. It was so soothing to be back doing something botanical in feel. I wanted to frame it in an 11″ x 14″ frame and mounted in into a box shape covered in what I thought was a nice background paper.


It took a day to get this all put together and then I did not like it, not at all. So cut a mat of off white that just covers over those rough edges and it looks so much better. I will do more like this one. It was too satisfying not to. You know how it is, the careful bleeding of colors that is immediately soaked up by the dry plaster like finish. I could have been a fresco painter in an earlier life.

Then I looked at the silver point forest and thought why not? I covered it in watercolors, then a bit of caran d’ ache to smooth out the color. Of course the silver all washed away but I just kept on adding and wiping. What I ended up with after painting, rubbing, painting and finally sanding is this.


There is something about this. The hole in the middle of the panel went all the way down to the board with all the “rough” treatment and the water mediums just washing it out bigger and bigger. I like how it is next to the window of the magic door. But I especially like how it feels like faded memories. The things that come back to us in a vague undefinable way. Those things as we age that become less clear but there somewhere. I like the image of this better than the piece itself.

And now I will pick out another of those boards that were covered with cloth and rabbit skin glue and then copious coats of hand made gesso in such a sloppy fashion. The surface is so dry and thirsty that it sucks the paint from the brush before I have much time to think. For now that is a good thing.

A Bit More for Taking Down Under


Something a bit different here in the studio this week. I opened my Australian watercolors made from the soils of there. I selected four from a location, state, territory or specific place. Then taking a printmaking paper cut to 5″ x 7″, I taped off the margins I wanted to have a small 4.5″ x 3″ section to receive the washes of paint with a white space between each. Then in those spaces I took watercolors made from soils in my driveway, I placed three different colors in dot form to represent my travels through that area.

Originally I was going to make small collographs to superimpose on the washes but after two days of making them and then testing them, they simply did not work. Too small, not enough detail and they looked too much like stamping images. Those small collographs might become part of something bigger another time as it is hard to just toss out two days work.

But I do like using the watercolors of home plus those of different places in Australia. I also like how they look in a row. Together they have the look of long travels. Take a look here at some of them.


They also remind me of my white line printmaking with that negative white space between colors. The class I am doing at Halls Gap is a masters class using the white line technique to make prints that are stitchable into books or onto cloth. I can see the students doing something like this with their watercolors and then perhaps french knots in those white spaces.

After that workshop is over, some of favorite students over the past twenty years are renting a large house for several days just to be able to work together, share meals, ideas and time. I am thinking that since I will have my carving tools and blocks with me, all I need is to take the pigments of home and there to make a book of my travels throughout the land of Australia. In the meantime I think I need to make a larger painting in this style and perhaps change up the mark making. My brain is buzzing with this and all the possibilities.

More later.

Dry Point Etchings Heading in New Directions

owl and several emus

I reworked the owl and boat etching to get the blacks blacker and ran about six more prints. With the emu etching I stayed a bit loose and found that the one emu was enough. The smaller one in the background of the photo just added confusion. But and this is a big “but”, I cannot get rid of the edge of these plexi-glass plates. It shows in the print no matter how well I wipe it off. The saw and then the sander create a texture that just soaks up the ink and will not release it. And of course it is never evenly colored. Blotchy at best. So I was thinking this morning, “what happens if I cut off the border and use the emu another way?”

owl and emu

AND I wanted to color in his beautiful large brown eyes with watercolor paint. Once those eyes got the color it changed him into something more animated, something more lively. So I decided to take him back to Australia by way of using the paper tea bags from tea drunk down under and shifu threads I had made using the soils of Australia to color them. I like the result below.

emu stitched

This piece is signed by the colors of Australia on the left and my name and color from my driveway on the right. It is on an 11 x 14 paper and will be matted in cream with an eight by ten opening. When I finished that one, I went to the gum tree from two weeks ago and chose an artist proof done in an umber ink. I matched it with some tea bags and more shifu threads stitched into the piece. Again it is signed by Australia and myself.

gum tree stitched

They are reminiscent of the altered wood block prints that I scanned into my computer a few years back and then added the cloth and other bits from Australia. I sold out of most of those while in Australia in 2014.  Here is an image of one of those.


I like the new ones better. Something about using the limited edition of prints made with dry point etching on plexi-glass. Only so many can be printed and then the burr of the line gets pushed down and does not hold the ink as well.

It has been an interesting process getting the details using this type of printmaking technique. There is still a whole lot of daylight between Rembrandt’s etchings and mine….but I feel better about my own the more I do.

As far as the stitching into them goes, it seems a natural influence of the scrapbook pages I have also been working on. Here is the fifth decade.

Scrapbook fifth decade lo res