Non-Acceptance Letters aka “Rejection” Notices

Fatal Shore leaves close up

To use the word “rejection” seems a bit harsh, so we will call them non-acceptance letters. This week I received three. One was from an artist book exhibit here in the states that I could not remember entering and the other two were from major exhibitions in Australia. Like the other several hundred recipients of the same letters, I was sorry to receive a turn down of what seemed perfect entries for that country; especially the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. I only entered one of the three relating Robert Hughes’ book, Fatal Shore, to the effects of global warming on that country. From several pages of the text I cut Eucalyptus leaf shapes, colored them with the watercolors made from the soils of Australia, and then burned them. I filled a dust bin made using museum board and placed it on a pedestal of the same material (both covered with Nepalese hand made paper).

Like most pieces I make using the hand-made watercolors, the memories of place and time return with every brush stroke. There is a good deal of emotional investment in these works because of a deep fondness for the country. Here is a view of the entire piece which stands about 20″ tall and is perhaps 13″ at its widest point. I must say that touching the leaves, running my fingers through them is, simply put, a wonderful experience. I am touching the land and the words that best describe a country and its origins. Here is the full view of the piece.

Fatal Shore Dustbin lo res

Using the same book I made two more pieces. These were entered into the Stanthorpe Regional Art Festival exhibit and neither made the cut. The one below started with shaping a section of the book into the exact shape of a wooden boat that I found at an antique shop. This was done on a band saw. Then it was sanded and the pages manipulated to expose the title page of the book and simulate waves. Finally it was burned all over using a burning tool, a slow tedious process getting the “scorched” look that I was after.

Fatal Shore boat side view


Fatal Shore Boat lo res

And finally the third in the series; and actually the one I made first. Here I removed the dust jacket of the book and glued the cover section to the exact size wooden book cover I made with pine boards. I had to use a torch to get the look I wanted but still not burn it up in the process. I wanted the “book” to be slightly open so that another band saw section could be seen inside manipulated into the shape of a wave.

Fatal Shore full view lo res

Fatal Shore back view lo res

Fatal Shore front detail lo res

Above the wave is an illustration of Norfolk Island taken from Hughes’ book and pasted to the inside back cover. Outside the book are burned wave-like pieces of wood, a rusted padlock (for the convicts, of course), an old pitted piece of metal and a very old rowlock attached to the back of the book. All of this is anchored down with screws and adhesives to a raft-like piece of burned pine. This “raft” is screwed to a wooden wave, also burned, underneath.

Needless to say there is very little of this book left. Mostly it is just the illustrations I removed from the center of the book before sawing into it. And naturally, I can’t seem to just toss them into the bin. Someday I might use them.

But what I have learned is that I need to stop making these pieces about Australia while living in the States. There are no homes for them here and when I do find a place for them in Australia, it is costly to send them over. I am very grateful that so much of this work is in National and State libraries and museums there and now these pieces need a home as well.

Any suggestions are most welcome.

New Work for New Classes

Songline and Land Marks

These are the cover views of two new books that include textiles, stitch, woven shifu and white line printmaking. They also have been colored with some of my watercolors made from the soils of Australia. The one on the left has one of my favorite colors, Burke and Wills Track Gold Ochre. Here are some views of their pages.

Songline open

This one is called Songline and the one below is Land Marks.

Land Marks detail Land Marks open to page

There are envelopes placed next to stitched in prints in this book. Here it is holding a bit of shifu made from a thai kozo paper that I clean up the glass sheet and muller with after processing watercolors.

I am planning on returning to Australia to teach another six day masters class and then a intensive textile and pigments class for three days. To those I will add another class at the Baldessin Press Studio where I go to relax and surround myself with printmaking and interesting people. Hopefully this time I will be able to spend some extra time with favorite students that have returned to my classes over and over again. We would just like to share space while we work together.  No teaching and no expectations other than what we place on ourselves. Forays out for flat whites and an occasional dinner would be also be in order. I will start looking for a good place to meet up. It is not too early to start planning.

There are very interesting fellow teachers along the way at the conferences but I have always preferred to spend my time with the students. After all they are why I am there in the first place. Many students can name the teacher who has inspired them the most but for me it is the students, So we are going to make a plan and see if it can work out for all of us.

A note on my last blog. The novella is now in the hands of an editor. When I hear from her I can start to either begin again with another story or just see where her comments lead me.

Tomorrow I take some large canvases off to a new gallery. They have been hanging in the studio since their first outing two years ago.  The blank walls are going to follow the blank book shelves as I begin to rid myself of the “unnecessary”.

I might just have to print up and bind the last five of the Circus Diner Books. My collector has disappeared, our waitress is heading off to  a new career at the casino and I have finished the Dog series. Now I will spend Sunday mornings working on “Napkin Wrapper Occupations.” It is doubtful there are many more books that I will produce in limited editions. Other book artists can get over $200 per book and I am lucky to get the cost of ink and paper and a fraction of my time at $20 each on an edition of only twenty.  “Occupations” might be just too hard for me to resist. Since I will be the new collector, I can see them all gathered at the end of the series at a jobs market or meeting up in a diner. Some of them could even go on dates. All these thoughts and I haven’t even starting tearing the paper. Which by the way has returned to the old maroon and white. More later.

That’s it for the week.

A Novella

A novella has a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000 words. I have got mine to between 25 and 26,000. Less and I am giving into my tendency for brevity, more and it felt like I was trying to just get wordy. So I quit writing. I like it more than I thought I would when I started. It is an interesting story with interesting characters.

As an artist the word “interesting” is not something we are happy to hear our work called, but as a commentary on a book/story it seems better than acceptable. Anyway that is my reaction to the words I put on the ninety-two pages.

It all started a few years ago when I was trying to find out why spending time in a group of women is not really all that comfortable for me. Men, fine. Women and I can get twitchy. Book club is where I lasted the longest but then that was only once a month, an easy endurance. So knowing I was not being really fair to whatever the joys of sisterhood are, I decided to write a story that only had women characters. If I got to know them individually, than maybe putting them together and keeping company with them would be a big step forward for me. It sort of worked but not totally.

What happened is I simply wrote down seven women’s names with their ages next to them. Then I went off with paper in hand and let each of them sort of “talk” about who and what they were. I pretty much stayed out of it. Giving them an age made it easier. Giving them a town to live in got even more interesting. Some were new comers and some lived there their whole lives.

When I read the prologue in a writing class a few months ago one listener and writer of plays said she thought I walked a tight line between insult and praise – not an easy thing to do according to her. So I took that as encouragement to just finish off the book. My first thoughts with what I had put together then was to turn it into a full length novel. Since the whole story takes place in twelve hours of one day, that would be hard to do without a whole lot of backstory and recollections. Frankly I don’t know these women well enough to give them more memories than needed for this story, so I decided to just let them be for now and then return to the town of Oliver, North Carolina and pick up some of their lives later with another novella. Why not?

The total number of women grew from seven to ten and I did throw in some men because I thought they were needed – when aren’t they?

One of the characters is Lydia an artist, divorced and living alone. I got into her head on how she paints, how she approaches the canvas and engages with the lone figure she places there. I thought I would give it a try. My canvas is only three foot square and not the four to five she uses, but close enough to get the idea of how to do what she talks about. It is not finished. I have scraped it down several times and sanded the daylights out of what I had painted. The hardest part is yet to come – that section where she encapsulates a feeling in a tight photo realistic space on the figure’s body. I may not ever finish it but if Lydia can do it and I made her up after all, I should really give it a try.

Lydias painting startedLydias painting revised

So for now it just hangs in the studio while I try to avoid it. I am wondering if bold black lines wouldn’t be a bad idea. Anything to avoid that small untouched, except for a penciled in drawing of subject matter section, located near the center of the canvas.

Here is an excerpt from how Lydia works…..”And there he is; standing so close that more than half his legs are below the edge of the canvas. At arm’s length she crosses his in front. Strange, but this arrangement of his arms seems to stop him from getting closer….the give and take of artist and subject begins.”

For now I am letting some people read the story. Hopefully I can get someone else to do an edit and then I am not sure where to go next. I avoid writing conferences and groups probably because there are so many women at them. Self publishing seems self-indulgent but my age is a consideration. How old does one want to be before they see some covers on their story? More on all that later. Back to the studio to work I do have some control over. Too bad I did not make Lydia a print maker……