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.



A Five Day Workshop of White Line Printmaking

Home Colors in process 2

Today I start setting up the studio at John C Campbell Folk School for a five day workshop in white line printmaking.  This is a fun class to teach because anyone can do it. All it takes is a board, simple carving tools and watercolors. Above are my small woodblocks carved with images from my yard and colored with the watercolors made from the local soils. These small prints were very satisfactory to pull away from the block. Each one is only slightly over two inches square.

Crow in process lo res

This is the other extreme which is the largest I have made….maybe seven inches by thirteen inches. The large colored areas take quite a bit of paint and lots of smoothing out of texture and tone.

Here is one that is fun to change the colors of the cloth each time I color the block.

lo res fruit bowl and board

And one I love of Australian landscape using only the colors made from the land of there.

Australia landscape

And another with the card it inspired.


fish card

By the end of the week we should have another nice show and tell for others to see. Here are some from classes taught there in the last few years.

last years class lo res

JCCFS white line June 2015 1 lo res

It seems there are more images than words in this blog entry. More to say next time.

A Very Large Thank You to Australia

thank yous 2

These are some of the “thank yous” I receive from students in Australia. They always come as a surprise at the end of a workshop because the students are so clever at keeping them hidden until a formal presentation on the last day. This does not happen to me here in this country but over the last nineteen years I have quite a collection of them from down under. I can’t read them at the time they are given. It’s the “good-bye” parts that I don’t do well with. But isn’t this a lovely thing to do?


thank yous 3

It was a wonderful trip and so much was done in the twenty-eight days. Beginning down in Tasmania and then traveling to Melbourne. From here friends took me to Baldessin Press to work on my own and teach a workshop. Along the way we always find microbreweries and this time added a gin distillery. All before lunch!

four pillars

four pillars gin tasting

four pillars vase

home at baldessin

Leaving Baldessin Press is not easy. I managed to get a terrific lesson in photo polymer plate printing and made several dry point etching prints. I taught a two day workshop in book bindings for the addition of prints and received cooking tips from Silvi. Here is what I made for my Art Group meeting last evening using her way of cooking “pies.”

Silvi's pies

She uses filo dough (I substituted puff pastry sheets), then mixes an egg with ricotta cheese, spreads it over the dough, adds whatever vegetables are handy and bakes for about 45-60 minutes on medium high temperature. It was delicious and so simple. I especially liked the beet, mushroom, spinach and onion one. A sprinkling of Parmesan on the top before baking also added some saltiness. Very good with a deep red wine.

flat white

I will miss the best coffee ever anywhere. In the airport in Los Angeles Friday I heard a man tell another that even in Italy the coffee can’t measure up to what you get anywhere in Melbourne. I think he is correct on that. Flat whites are what I ordered every time. Here are some other things I will miss about Australia.

Eucalyptus Pink

wallabys watching

emu curious

Halls Gap big eucalypt

It was a wonderful trip and I miss it already. Now I am planning on doing it all over again next year.


Off on Another Adventure

baldessin front door

I worked on this press all day today here at the Baldessin Studio. More printing of the photogravure plates I created yesterday. Here are the two larger ones.

photogravure print Anne's farm

photogravure print shearer's kitchen

Both are photos I took in Australia within the last few years. I rarely take pictures of people, just things and those wonderful Eucalyptus trees.

Before I had the one day course with Silvi Glattauer on the photogravure process of printing directly on the plate I spent two days giving a class here on book bindings that can accommodate the addition of prints. We also made pigments from the rocks we collected here on sight.

Baldessin pigments

Beautiful aren’t they? Lovely students as well. See them below grinding pigments and photographing the books made in class.

pigment grinding

silvi photoing books

We had a visiting kangaroo on the first day.

kangaroo peeking

Tomorrow I leave here for Melbourne then out to the class I am teaching in Halls Gap. I hope the weather is cooler there. Tonight it is more cold beer at a local pub in very good company and excellent conversations.

There are so many interesting people to listen to here in Australia. I collect their stories like small gifts to open later at home and share them with others. And when I do that, I am visiting them all over again, back in the pub without ever leaving home. I will write another blog entry when I can find enough time and internet.

More kangaroos for sure.