Wrapping It Up – For Now

I have set up the last of the 8 x 10 gessoed board’s subject matter. Sticking with the Nature theme, I just picked a selection of things from the large rock and stick bowl in the foyer.  More of the things that are just picked up and once in the hand, can not be put back.


I like the feel of these pieces. They came from New Zealand and Tasmania mostly. Very seldom are there things from “here” in that bowl. It must weigh at least thirty pounds. Each thing in it told a story that is now mostly forgotten. Sad in a way. I wish I knew that the only thing left in a few short years of slipping these things into my pockets would be the feel and not where I was exactly and who I was with and why it caught my eye in the first place. Maybe, just maybe I would have left it lie there in the sand by a pounding surf of some place so far from where it was going to end up. Maybe. Do children want their mother’s bowl of rocks? I think they have their own and would feel badly having to say, “No thank you.”  Someone should start a home for the collected things like these that meant so much to someone so eager to own them.

I wrote a poem about them, those rocks and will add it here.

Owning Stones


I take the stones to own.

There is no thought

given that they are

removed from their

home, their place.

Once in my hand they

are mine. And other

things I own

will be left behind

to accommodate

the stones’ passage

back to my home,

my place.

Here they are arranged

to my liking…sorted

stacked and circled.

Each stone offering to

be held again and

again as I make them

into my story.

Each bearing the

marks of memory

from their own.

 Here is the finished board behind a mat and a detail of just how badly these boards were gessoed.



See all those holes and rough spots. They look and feel more like plastered panels and are the most thirsty surface I have ever painted on.

I am tidying up some other unfinished work in the studio. These books whose covers are altered images of details of large paintings are printed on both sides and folded in such a way that the front cover is three layers of imagery. For some reason I stopped making these in the middle of the assembling and decided this past week to finish the bindings. It is just a simple two signature three hole binding with the addition of complementary beads. What I do with them now is anyone’s guess. But at least they are finished and packed into clear envelopes.


They are just plain blank journals and if it weren’t for the complexity of fitting the images together in the layout and printing and folding, I don’t think I would have bothered with them. But I like the look and feel of them. Probably the feel is nice because I waxed the covers.

A friend is coming down this week to work in the studio. We will do gelatin plates. Just playing really. And that is hard for me. To just do something because it might be fun. I need it to be more complicated than that. I need to be saying something or at the very least learning something. Maybe I can learn to just have fun, just expect nothing more from myself. But it is hard for me. I think I am still dogged by the two questions, “Am I doing enough?” and “Am I doing it right.?”

I remember spending so much time asking women artist my age and older if they asked themselves these questions. Every one of them said, “No.” And then once a friend and I asked a ouija board on the internet. It took a good long time to spell out the word, “maybe.” How silly is that? Not long after I asked a printmaker/artist in Kentucky and she looked at me closely and said that the answer to my questions was, “It doesn’t matter.” I was quite relieved at the time and thought it was all behind me. Now I am not so sure.

But I will have some fun this week with my friend and next week I will show pictures of what my fun in the studio looked like.




Finishing Up – well sort of – Down the Rabbit Hole

book on board shear

This blog is just a wrap up of how the book was put together.

After printing ten books worth of pages, twenty sheets per book and all but the three return sides of the covers and colophon required going through the printer.  Everything was laid out and saved in Microsoft Publisher so it was just a matter of bringing them up, making sure to check the right paper type and best photo options. Each page had to be loaded separately as most printers do not like being asked to do multiples of heavier paper and can get a bit off which is not a good thing.

My board shear was a tremendous help in the constant trimming of pages to the size of approximately 8.5 x 7 inches. The back cover is cut longer as it has to be the spine wrap as well.

using a straight edge

With twenty separate sheets per book there needed to be nineteen hinges made. I used a cotton office paper (white) cut into 7″ by 1/2″ strips and then carefully folded in the center. The book pages are stacked in the order they are to be pieced together in front of a metal yard stick that is weighted so as not to move. This allows me to align the sheets. A small glue plunger is the best for the very little amount of glue needed on each side of the folded hinge.

They will be glued by doing all foredges first. That means the mountain fold of the hinge is placed up and the left side is glued to the edge of the sheet to be on the left side. Here is the back cover and last piece to be paired and glued on the foredge.

foredge hinge

When gluing the right to the left on the hinge I brought them as close together as possible without overlapping them. Each pair of sheets is checked on both sides to make sure they are properly glued down.  Paper cuts along the edges of the sheets and hinges can easily happen. Just the smallest amount of blood can not be wiped away on the good papers that I used and once a sheet needed to be pulled away and a new one printed. After that I kept a paper towel between finger and paper edge.

paper towel handy

After the stack of ten double sheets are glued together it is time to adjoin them together using the hinge valley side up for the spine edge of the book. Here I did not butt them up close but left enough space for the pages to fold against each other without buckling the edges.

spine glueing valley fold hinge

I kept them aligned along the straight edge and folded the book together as each hinge is dried in place.

lining up pages for glueing

I used a bone folder with a thin edge to crease the cover in two places where it wraps around to become the spine of the book and glue to the underside of the cover.

spine gap before filler

To reinforce the spine I covered a piece of book board with lokta paper that fills the gap between the spine hinged pages and the creased cover spine.

spine filler being madespine filler glued down

Here is the finished book.

finished book open

As of right now there are only five books completely finished and five more printed. I am very happy that there will only be an edition of twenty of these. Now I am wondering what to do with all the cut offs from the pages. I might try to print on them using my etching press. Christmas cards is a possibility.

book page waste

It seems a waste not to use these somehow. There will be close to 400 when I get this edition finished. Next week I am taking a break and going to a friends in Asheville just to get out of the studio and have a good visit over a bit of single malt.




Telling a Story – Making the book titled Down the Rabbit Hole


In Search of Lost Time packaged

This week I am going to talk about the very, very tedious process of making a book. After I finished putting together a limited edition of Lost Time I wanted to return to the drawing into of existing marks. The pages were made from chemically rusted papers that create their own patterns as they are dipped and maneuvered before being allowed to dry. Much of page has is colored with soft golds and beiges. They are a perfect complement for graphite.

With the pages I had left in the pile, I pulled out the ones that seem to suggest and accommodate the narrative for my story about pursuits in life. There were to be no words like in the Lost Time book, just pictures. And it had to be larger – maybe 10″ x 8″. But what really determines the size of a book for me is what my printer will take in paper size. The larger Epson Photo Stylus R3000 has a daunting cost of nearly $300 to replace the multi colored cartridge. So I went back to the possibilities of what my Epson XP-600 could offer. This printer will only take 8.5 by 11″ papers and the cost of replacing ink cartridges is considerably less expensive.

But first the illustrations:

Down the Rabbit Hole Book layout

These are the papers laid out in how the colors flow together. There are no illustrations drawn in until I see if there is enough paper. Then I decide what each page should have drawn into it to carry the story forward. Remember there are no words – this is to be a picture book.

laying out sequencing colors

And sometimes a sheet is wasted due to having an idea that simply does not work.  See below.

big foot

This foot of the man stepping into the rabbit hole was heading in the wrong direction for one and when reversed in a photo program, it still was wrong. It was simply too big. The more I looked at it the more I did not like it. Best to put it away from the other blank pages. Rethink how to get him down there.

page3 lo res

Here he is stepping in just over the rabbit’s head and I get to introduce the rabbit in a very large way due to the way marks existed on the paper. I really like this rabbit. Keeping the story moving and the background colors continually flowing was a concern and some of the papers and even the illustrations moved about in the order I originally laid out.

page 6 lo res

Some pages were just so lovely on their own that very little drawing was needed. The rabbit continues to leave things for his hunter to enjoy more than the hunt itself.

When all the twelve illustrations and cover are finished, the fun part is pretty much over. The rest is work! Each one must be scanned into the computer. I prefer my HP Scanjet G4050 for this as it takes a larger size page and these originals are sized at 7.5″ x 11″. To get a proper color reading I prefer to put black paper behind my image so that the scanner does not make its own decision as to where the edges should be. I can do that in the scanning program before saving it. Of course each of them will be taken into a photo program (I use the free Fast Stone one) and be corrected if there is any tiny black along an edge that will show up later. Note the one above on the left side before it was corrected.

All of these images are scanned at the highest resolution possible for the scanner. I want all those subtle marks to show if possible.

After scanning and then the images being corrected in Fast Stone, they are adjusted in another free photo program I have come to count on called Paint.NET. There is lots I can do in this program and it is an easy one to figure out.

But regardless of what it looks like on the computer screen, you still have to see it in print. This is a bit painful as you watch your ink levels go down deciding on the correct size and how the pages will connect to one another.

Much as I hate to do it, the only way to get the picture book the size I want is to not only hinge the pages in the back but the foredge as well. This will be a pain to put together. The Lost Time book was small enough to have a folded foredge but I want Down the Rabbit Hole to be bigger. It is a picture book. There is not the intimacy of words carrying the story as well as the illustrations.

So I test out each page after making the decision on paper weight, borders and size. Luckily very few of these had to go back into a photo program to be adjusted. Each of these are saved after making sure that “best photo” is checked and the proper paper type logged in.

Finally there is the question of what font to use for the title page and colophon and then laying those two pages out in my Microsoft Publisher program. Every page and front and back covers are now saved in Publisher. I am hopelessly schooled in PC and have no way of changing to a likely more artist-friendly Mac. I need to work with what I have.

For now I think the book will be soft covered like Lost Time. I have increased their sizes to accommodate the minute addition of double hinging and I might want the back cover to wrap around to make the spine. This book will look similar to Lost Time only it will be about twice the size all round.

The one thing I do know about this whole process is that you just have to love your own ideas enough to see them through. An edition of only twenty will be just about enough to exhaust that love.


Just Thinking / Wondering What To Do Next

an autobiography by Sandy Webster

I am thinking about what it is I am supposed to be doing now. All the parts of me above were documented in this autobiographical drawing done a few years ago. It is far from a complete picture. But right now it is like I am drifting through things. Not settled in a direction. I tried explaining it to a friend this way, “Suppose you have your right shoe on and the laces are all tied up tight and even. Then you notice the left shoe is nowhere in sight, let alone tied, straight or otherwise. You were so careful to get the things just so in what you already have done, and now you are not even sure you need to wear shoes. Do you understand what I am saying here? Is it age? Is it a mood that will pass? I hope so because there are things that need doing. I need, really need, to find that missing shoe.”

But last week I did go back and redo a white line wood block. Before it was just the nest and about the third white line I ever attempted. I thought it looked good. I was wrong. It was just a nest floating there in space and took a whole lot of time painting and transferring the color of all those little twigs and leaves. I don’t know what I was thinking back then. Just go ahead and do it, I suppose. Don’t think, just carve, just paint.

Well to stay out of my students hair I decided to redo the block and put the nest in an environment. I did the same with the rufous-sided towhee birds – gave them leaves and ground. Here is the nest as of this morning. Both of the new images make for a good lesson to myself and to students. The lesson is: You can always do better.

Nest redone

And sometimes there is just bad stuff with good intentions. Here is a detail of a piece I made for an exhibit in Tasmania many, many years ago. The theme was something about island and we could interpret it any way we wanted I think. I chose how alone and subject to acceptance the new queen bee must feel when she arrives in a new hive of judgmental female companions. Do you know that if they don’t like her, they just kill her? But in the meantime they do help her escape her cage by gnawing through the sweet plug that seals her in. At least that part is rather nice. Anyway I made this many layers of glass framed with her delivery cage and a tin bee inside of it. Each layer of glass had some buzzing text and images of honeybees gathered around her.

She is Not Like Us 2

The whole thing is about 12″ x 8″ x 4″. And to get it in the mail in a hurry, I painted the metal frame with a gold paint (honey gold, of course) and wrapped it in plastic bubble wrap three times over and popped it into the box. Note: All the wax is well inside between layers of glass.

Anyway it arrived and so did a note from the curator that when they opened the box, the smell was so bad they feared for other pieces in the exhibit, so it was quickly wrapped back up and was waiting for me to advise them as to what to do with it next. A friend picked it up for me, kept it until I arrived on another trip down under and then we mailed it back home. I have not unwrapped it but still have it. Why? It was not that good a piece in the first place, but it was fun to make and I liked the new bee’s fate in the stingers of the sisterhood. I am sure the paint needed to be left to cure longer than the likely half hour I gave it but these details of the piece are fun to look at. So perhaps the documentation of the making is more important than the end product. There were lots of things besides “Buzzzzz”. I remember another thing the bees said was, “Will she look like us?” I am sure they would have killed her had she made her way out. She was a shiny, glossy tin bee and they were pretty plain and ordinary looking – for bees.

And that brings me to the pieces I recently entered into more Australian exhibitions coming up soon. All three are using Robert Hughes’ book titled, Fatal Shore. I am going to not do this again. Making work for exhibition in Australia is so much fun for me to do because I love the country and find it endlessly inspiring but then there is the cost of shipping pieces over there whether they are accepted or not. And the work should be there. No one here would be all that interested. But I will show them here on my blog because they have all been entered and I certainly hope are accepted. But if not they will still need to find a home there.

They are combining the book and it’s title with the effects of global warming in Australia. A new burning tool was essential to do the works….that and a blow torch. Each also includes the use of watercolors made from the soils of Australia.

Fatal Shore Raft lo resFatal Shore Boat lo resFatal Shore Dustbin lo res

By next week I will have found that shoe or be back into writing the novel….I really have no idea.