I have settled in here at Baldessin Press Studio in St. Andrews. The Gite Cottage is complete, comfortable bed, Australian wines in the refrigerator or on the counter, fresh bread from the Saturday market, mushrooms and other produce ready and waiting to be tossed into a meal. But the best part has been the students for two days of making earthen pigments into watercolors and then using them in white line wood block prints. Kangaroos hop through the yard and birds of extraordinary color and sound move through the Eucalyptus trees. It is a bit of heaven here.
After a full week of teaching in Halls Gap by the Grampians Mountain Range with wonderful energetic and adventurous students, I have found it no different here. The Australian student is simply put – game for anything – and I come prepared to learn so much from them. I am forever feeling that I am in debt to those who want me to come back time after time. Thank you so much, Janet, Vanessa, Marion, Tess and all those who sign up for the classes they offer.
I have noticed that in all the sketchbooks made for documenting my experiences and impressions of being here in Australia, almost every single one begins with a drawing of an Eucalyptus leaf. To me it is the quintessential embodiment of the land down under. And they are so accessible. They are everywhere in all sizes and shapes. Those graceful lines that curve gently downward from such delicate stems that seem too thin to support them. Their colors range from the most dusty of grey greens to the palest of rose through all the shades of yellow ochres.
Some like these will have tiny dark spots ad some have perfect little round holes that pierce through the tough waxen leaf along either side of its center vein or on an edge looking like some small creature took a bite and said, “No, not this one.”
I would be happy doing nothing but spending my five weeks here just trying to capture their grace on the page. But there are students to meet and stories to hear and wine to drink. I will show you more drawings as I turn the pages and record the special things with pencil, brush and watercolors made from the land of here.
In one week I will be waking up in Australia. It will be the beginning of five week’s immersion into a land that, simply put, smiles back.
Since 1997 it has been a source of great joy to be asked back there to teach workshops. The students are so generous with each other and toward me. Very few of them over the years are in my classes to simply learn a technique. They seem more interested and receptive to another way of seeing, another way of doing. We are all paused in mid flight of our own directions and converge to gather up new ideas. In that classroom for just a few days we are reorganizing our points of departure and starting again. I am so very grateful for all the new beginnings they have given me. Thank you, Australia.
I will return to working more on my printmaking as illustration for poetry and essays in the near future. This monotype of the essence of the Outback was an attempt to say “Australia” in very few strokes using a relief ink made from processed soils.