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.

White Line Printmaking December Class

This morning I finished teaching seven students how to make white line prints. It was only a total of two and one half days but they accomplished quite a bit. Here is some of it on the show and tell table.

Andy’s work above. And some details from the class.

Amy’s work. I think I have a convert here and we really loved her designs.

Carol’s little carved bird was a sweet image. Jill borrowed the pattern for her own carvings.

Pam’s first landscape. And below her candle cards and trees.

And then snow added to her trees in the woods. Lovely!

Pamela’s holly leaves.

Susan’s poinsettia block and print. She made several of this beauty.

And then her lovely still life.

I tried to get more of my Christmas cards pulled from the block. And now am working on a tiny scene of a pine in the snow with a small present and bow. More of that later. In the meantime I came home from class to find a happy face in the foyer.

Til later.

That Time of Year

Starting now the bucks are staying close to the house and corn. They nudge the little ones out of the way and follow the girls into the bushes. We have one old matriarch who has raised several fawns over the years. She does not hesitate to push back and run these big boys off if they get bothersome. Males can be a bother to some of us older females.

We are finishing up the Thanksgiving weekend with projects around the house. Our son comes down this time of year and helps out. He is making wine glasses out of the tops of the wine bottles that his dad cut to make drinks glasses from the bottoms. He spent several hours making the turned bases from scraps of wood for the bases. Lee and I now have a set he made for us. We will test them out in a couple of hours.

This one was made with a bit of charred wormy chestnut left over from Lee’s large dining room table he made several years ago. Most of our guests enjoyed drinking from these as well as learning how Patrick made them.

Besides the wine selection there is always the Thanksgiving feast of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, green beans (haricot verts). Followed up with a wonderful pumpkin ginger cheese cake and pumpkin pie with additional wines.

All these Thanksgiving meals look the same. Someone missed the gravy on this one. Lots of filling our plates and stomachs and then groaning about it afterwards. More of the tradition. There is always such good conversations going on. Mostly politics and art. Politics because we have no guests that can possibly ignore the abominable situation our country finds itself in this past year, and art because we all love it. Below is what sits on the chest by the new Christmas tree this year. My sculptures based on Robert Hughes’ book titled, Fatal Shore, about the convict settlement of Australia.

Last year Patrick and I decided that we would do a 19 Crimes themed tree. All I needed to do was save nineteen empty bottles of the wine with the convicts pictured on the labels and presenting corks depicting one of those crimes that got them deported down under. The wine is good and fairly inexpensive. Lately the nineteenth crime was released and I found mine just in time to make the deadline for an opportunity to go to a party in Alcatraz. Not my idea of a night out but I have collected an embarrassingly amount of corks, visited their distributor in Melbourne and feel I need to carry through with whatever is offered by the makers of such good stuff.

Recently they came out with an app for the Iphone that makes the character on the label come to life to give you three short statements about their plight. Their heads turn, eyes blink, mouth moves….all terribly clever. All making sure that you have a complete selection to show your guests how amazing it all is. The company deserves having a themed Christmas tree for all their efforts and added amusements in my life. So here it is. Using the same large beams that we assemble each year and configure to fit our theme.  Remember the Cow Story from two years ago?

Very un-Christmas-like and then last years Oil Can Collection tree?

Well here we are now!

There are all nineteen crimes represented on nineteen bottles that include the warden. Wine red ribbons flow from upturned bottles into wine glasses down below. The grape clusters are made from stained corks grouped together. My friend, Moe, gave me iron rats a few years ago and they scurry in and out of the stashed bottles. The Amazon-ordered grape leaves arrived just in time. We arranged the beams to give us the maximum of “serving” areas. When it gets darker and we open another bottle, I will photograph it with all the remote controlled lights glowing. We love it.

Here are some details.

The two cab savs sit side by side here. The one on the left was the convict whose descendants objected to his being put on the label and his replacement on the right. The quality stayed the same.


And the Hard Chard lady convict who carried the nineteenth crime to me. I particularly like her sad tale.


At the top of the tree perched on a barrel are the first and latest reds.  The newest one (laying down) is called “the uprising” and has been aged for thirty days in rum barrels. His label has scorched edges and seems the only one with a sense of humor.

And more details of spilling wine and cork grape clusters. I will get back to this later….the sun is about to set and I need to find the cork screw.

Okay, it is darker and here are some more with the lighted candles.

Finishing with the warden. This was great fun. Boggles the mind what Patrick and I will do next year to top this one!

Til later….