Still Unsettled

I am still floating out there with my fish. Touch of snow still clinging. I thought it would be gone today. When you get older never read too far into the weather forecast on your Iphone. I thought it was going to be in the 50s today….that is tomorrow. So still cold. Still cloudy. Still waiting for hoses to thaw.

And still waiting for inspiration on something to keep me occupied artistically until company comes for the holidays.

I finished the eight small pieces. I tried to not do them all at once, but never mind. I just kept going. All finished, framed and on the wall with the other pieces, all made for an April exhibit.

Here is one.

All in black specimen type frames.

I think I added a touch of something to this one after I photographed it. Funny how something comes to you after you think it is finished.

Anyway, those are on the wall. And then to something else that these prompted. Going back to drawing some of the bits of Nature in the studio.

I found a lovely moleskine type sketchbook that Inga Hunter from Australia gave me a while back. Then I blocked out a section and picked out three things that would fit. My first thought was that I would do watercolors in light layers to build up color. But once I got the new Graph Gear mechanical pencil with a .3 graphite lead, it became all about the drawing, the shading, the building up. It felt good to get out my drawing tools.

The new pencil.

The other tools because .3 is not going to give a whole lot of darks.

A private student had the Graph Gear pencil and this lovely mechanical eraser. I bought them both together on Amazon…my store of choice and necessity anymore. Rummaging through my pencil box is always fun. I like the sound of those graphite sticks bumping into each other. And this Australian pencil box bought at an airport on my way out of the country is wonderful to slide open to find other treasures. I bought this large soft brush somewhere because I just liked the look of it. But it is indispensable in brushing away eraser crumbs instead of using an already graphite-covered edge of my hand. And those gummy erasers that make nasty dark dirty marks simply disappear somewhere in their bellies, never to be seen again. Magic. And a great tension reliever.

So here is how that drawing ended up. I tried to take my time. But less than two hours later what more can I do?

I have three more things that I will arrange and draw next. Killing time. Trying to stay focused. Waiting for someone to visit. Thinking way too much about things that I probably shouldn’t be thinking about.  Sending letters and faxes to selfish, incompetent Congress members who seem totally focused on lining their donors’ pockets as well as their own. When did we get so politically pathetic? November 9th, 2016 is probably the correct answer to that. We just need a November, 2018 to start getting it right again.


I have one more week before company comes. I could easily fill Inga’s book by then. I just ordered more graphite leads for my new pencil. To make the order worthwhile, I tossed in a few colored inks for intaglios. After the holidays I will get back to the press and try to work with color. It seems most of what I like doing has very little color….earth tones at best. And it is not my gloomy mood or the gloomy weather. I just like dull colors and bright people.

Til next week.

Trying to Focus

I used to look out the window here in western North Carolina, see this, and think “lovely”.  Not so much now. It is cold. It brings electric outages. It limits access to an internet that all too many times I have become dependent on. It prohibits driving anywhere until it all melts off a sloped, curved asphalt driveway.

When did I not want to put on some mittens and go out to make a snowman? When did I start seeing only the icy patches where it would be easy to slip and fall?

So I stay in. Happy to have a gas stove to cook a lovely chowder on. Happy to have a generator that keeps the main necessities running. Happy I have an art practice to get back to when I can settle down and not let the weather control my mood. It should all be gone tomorrow. Good. Hopefully this was our winter and spring is just around the corner.

But the last few days I did ricochet off the walls looking for something to hold my interest long enough to see it through.

Like the chowder, it takes putting your hands on the ingredients. Then getting the right mix and your senses begin to stir and lift. How can you not smile when frying bacon bits, onions, celery, carrots, yellow peppers?  And then seasonings like smoked paprika, thyme, savory, sage added with cut red potatoes, corn and chicken stock. Finished off with a bit of flour paste and half and half and whatever cheeses can be rescued from the refrigerator. Just the right amount of everything can come together to pick a person up out of the doldrums. A single malt scotch late in the afternoon can also help. Especially when there is a sympathetic soul on the end of the line who understands your moods.

Things do get better. The holidays are coming. The gifts are wrapped. My cards are all made and sent out. Friends and family will be here for Christmas dinner. Some will replenish the scotch. And the sun is shining.

But all that aside, I worked in the studio yesterday on small framed pieces using bits and pieces that I love handling. Like the chowder, this handling of ingredients has been very uplifting.

it is the blending of tiny pieces of cloth, specimens in bottles, leaves, prints and stitches. Remember how we used to buy specimens of butterflies or large bugs in deep black frames? That is what these new small works remind me of. Each item placed just so to become a collection of evocative thought. Of course an isolated phrase from that old cut up romance novel is there to act as an identification of sorts. I offers a direction for the mind to go when viewing the small bits mounted and encased. As I hang them on the wall, I carefully move from one to the other and wonder what in the world I will do after all eight are finished. What can I do with all those bits and pieces left over?

One of my favorite things is the loosely woven cloth that was just a scrap dyed in a vat with other botanical contact prints made in Australia.

It is only about four inches wide and eighteen inches long and I love every square inch of it. Tiny bits get cut away and frayed and stitched into place. Or in one of the new pieces I put a tiny, very tiny, scrap into a very small cork stopped glass bottle.

I will work on more today. With the power back on it is also laundry day. There was no trip to the diner this morning due to the possibility of ice on roads. But there is always tomorrow for that. Folding laundry, ironing, putting everything away and having the last of that scrumptious chowder is on next.

Then back to the studio and finding just the right phrase in that browned and tattered romance novel. Making it relevant to the scattered bits of other things from different times and places.

Til later.

Alone in the Studio

Sadie is looking for the students we had in the studio last week. All she could find was the local turkey family. It is just a week before the Thanksgiving holiday and the leaves are leaving rather quickly.

I am busy in the studio working on pieces for the exhibit next April when I return from Australia. Here is one of the work tables with all the pieces (actually just about half) needed to make decisions on placement, arrangement and commitment. I am combining papers, prints, cloth and bits of Nature onto boards.

I like lining up lines that relate to the overall “landscape” of the piece.

And I am just showing the detail shots of some of the four finished pieces.

Some like the one above include a wood engraving I did a few years back on a paper purchased in China.

Some are a bit narrative using several cropped wood block relief prints about my yard and fish pond.

Here is one that I thought was finished but decided to add just a bit of an etching done in Australia.

These details are feeding into plans for extra small and more intimate pieces.

While in Japan we would walk very early in the mornings, often in the mist. I carved a wood engraving of the small stacked rice stems in the fields along the road just the other side of small bamboo fences. The “outtakes” of these prints are coming in handy now for the new work.

This afternoon I will take all the built spacers that have to fit in between the glass and the collage and cover them with black paper before the tedious job of fitting them into the frame.  I should just buy black foam core material for this, but hate to waste the scraps of museum board so cut and layer up the thicknesses I need. If I paid for professional framing, the cost would be so much more and I rather like the challenge of doing it.

Last night we went over to a neighbors for a bit of refreshment. This is what greeted us in the front yard.

Isn’t that lit tree sweet? It just sits there in the woods as a reminder that more than Thanksgiving is coming. I am not all that ready for any of it. The year went too fast. And I was reminded last night by another neighbor that I used to be more social with taking turns hosting gatherings of neighbors and their friends. Then, he reminded me, I declared that I no longer wanted to do it, so take me off the list. It did not take very long before it was more strangers than friends that gathered around the table….but even some of the “friends” I realized I did not care to spend an evening with, much less feed them.

Once you become part of a community there are expectations of performance.  And I am simply too much beyond having the willingness to participate. It was a lovely evening with good food and very good company. Lots of catching up with some of the neighbors I do enjoy and we could come home not feeling we had to host the next one. I think there can be rewards for being just a touch ornery. Age with a sense of limited time can do that to a person.

Now I should be thinking about the menu for Thanksgiving….something to feed nine people I very much look forward to feeding and spending time with. I can already hear the conversations of art and politics…..opinions on both are easy to share over good food and wine.

Hopefully some of them will compose a letter for the Trump bowl made by one of the students last week to be mailed to the White House soon.

*And if any of you want to contribute to the bowl, I will send you the address to have your letter added.

And just for fun here is some of the art that showed up at Art Group last Sunday. I am proud to contribute dryer lint to my fellow artist so he can add to the mystique of these pieces. The one in the foreground is a “Fake News Detector.”

We could not get it to work in my house….too much National Public Radio.

Til the holiday next week is over.

Sharing Studio Space with Students

Perfect view from the studio doors this past week. Wonderful work being done just this side of the view.

I met two fellow students in a paper making class this summer and offered them an opportunity to come to the studio and work for a week on the things that mattered to them. They stayed in the apartment and arrived daily at 8:30 am, went back for an hour lunch break and then back to the work in the studio. All three of us learned so much about not only what matters to each of us but how can we express it through processes and materials.

One of them brought the most astoundingly beautifully marked papers. For me it was overwhelming on how it would be possible to know where to start with such a selection. She is recognized for teaching mark making which is not exactly calligraphy but shares a suredness in the way of handling a tool in such a way as to literally “flow” over a surface to make the most appealing marks.

Here are some of the materials and compositions in progress.

She ended up giving me the grey piece in the upper left of this image as I saw so much in it, so much of what seemed to matter to her in observations of Nature simply came alive in this bit of a sketch for her. I am pleased to have it hanging in the studio for inspiration. And here are more of her materials.

I taught her how to spin clothing patterns and thai kozo into threads to add to her work which is all about “excavation”  and seeing what is in front of her steps and what lies below the surface. Her sense of design and careful manipulation of pieces until it is “just right” has been a good influence on my hurried pace in the studio. I will look to her gift of the small piece hanging in the studio to keep me focused on slowing down a bit.

The other student came prepared to make a container to send our present and pathetic president a message, in fact several messages. We chose my pilates bowl to use as a container form after thinking her already blown up balloons were simply not adequate for the message she wanted to send to the white house.

She wrote her own messages on the papers used to make the form. And it was no easy task removing the bowl from the ball.

Lots of shellac on the inside helped keep the form sturdy. I added the first message to the bowl.

This student is looking to get the bowl filled with letters to the president and mailed by the end of the year or at the very latest January 21st marking his first year in office. If you would like to contribute simply contact me and I will send her name and address so you can send it on to her. For me personally, it felt plenty good to put my two cents in.

While waiting for layers of papers to dry on the bowl, she also learned how to do collographs that will go into long concertina books about her and two companions’ travels along the Camino Trail in Spain. I am quite sure she will be getting a small press and continue printing images. Here are the ones for the books she plans. I really liked her use of simple symbolic forms to represent the Camino.

I am so glad that I made the offer to these two. The five days were filled with passions about work, emotions that were hard to keep in check and a generosity that enhanced the week for all of us. Their enthusiasm for talking about art in general and theirs in particular was nothing short of enriching for myself and my husband as well when it came to wine time and trips out for pizza.

Tomorrow is the monthly Art Group meeting and I will talk about how good this week was and how they wanted my sheets on how to form an art group and questions to ask yourself about being an artist. And I do have to say that another good thing, very good thing, about the week is that a short stop by the grocery store on our way to the pizza brewery I found the latest 19 Crimes wine stopped up with my second 19th crime cork. I love that it was aged for just 30 days in rum barrels…no more, no less.

We served it to friends who know their reds and were leaving to return home to Canada. It passed inspection.  Just a small gathering of very good friends to say good bye to them over good food, wine and spirits.

I also wanted my Canadian friend to see the results of his lesson on using my earth pigments to make an oil paint to surface design papers. This would be a very early marbling technique and was quite addictive for me using up the last of his bath of a more traditional solution and solvent.

And then my adaptation here in my own studio using corn starch, mineral spirits and feathers to flip the colors around on the surface.

So now I have more materials, more inspiration, more new friends who hopefully will return to make us all think and laugh. I know where to keep the friends and the inspiration but stuffing more papers in drawers to use later is not such a good idea when I am looking to downsize here in the studio. But it is a technique I can teach in Collaboration with Nature classes.

It is down to just Lee and I now. One has returned to Asheville, two back to Charlotte and the friends from Canada will return tomorrow, right about the time I am showing the Art Group what good company I kept this week.

Til next week when hopefully I make something with all this inspiration.