Working on Australia, Etc.

Australia is a beautiful country. I love how it looks from a low altitude.  The pilot who took me out there ten years ago still heads into the outback. Mike and Fay just sent me almost endless images of their recent excursion into the dry harsh land. It is inspiring to see the intrepidness of those two and their traveling companions.

Packing for precautions seems to be the most serious preparation. Towns are few and far between. Red sand must work its way into everything you put on your body or plan on eating. You have to be born with a desire to do this over and over again. When it was just Mike and I in his plane we found pubs/hotels to stay in and if I wanted to enjoy the magnificent night skies of Australia, I only had to step outside the door. They think it is better seen lying in your swag on the red, red dirt.

The reason they wanted me to have the pictures of their trip is because some of their destinations  were the same as Mike and mine. The Dig Tree still stands along the Cooper and reminds all who make their way into the area just how hard traveling across Australia can be.

I have a student in Australia who recorded her outback trek by keeping a pen on paper as they bounced over the track. She turned it into a long, long landscape book of just that line with marks of where stops were made for fuel, food and rest. It records the time, distance and difficulty of going into the outback with very few words.

I have been working on the map to go with the fourteen small bound journals and coptic stitched pigments pages.

I started with a large piece of kozo paper and a National Geographic map that a friend gave me.

After tracing around the country, I colored it in with watercolors made from the soils of Australia. Then I used a fusible bonding on the back to stiffen the paper and make it more durable.

Each state or territory was painted a different color. And when they dried lighter than in this image I wrote the name of each like they were on the original map. Then marked all the places I visited with a brown dot.


I did a bit more shading and made sure to color around the country with a blue paint so it would be obvious that Australia is an island.

Then I connected the brown dots with tiny white travel lines. I wanted to use my pigments from here in North Carolina to mark my travel lines but they were too similar to the Australia land colors.

There was not enough space to write the names of the places so I just stayed with the brown dots.

Then I waxed the entire sheet with paste wax and buffed it the following day.

Now I have the problem of how to back the map and fit it into something with the small journals and pigments pages. This piece of rusted fabric will likely be used to back the map and/or cover the satchel that holds all the pieces.

I am considering wetting this fabric and sticking it to the large glass door and slathering it with corn starch and sticking the map to it. The result might be too stiff to fold up, so maybe not. But I could sew it to the back like the one below was done. Just put right sides together, sew around three sides, pull right side out and hand stitch the last side. The map might be more flexible that way….without the added layer of paste.

What I think I would like is to fix the center back of the map on a bit of covered board and then fold the sides, top and bottom into a bundle holding the other components. I like how the fourteen small books just tumble into a pile some opened, some closed. And the pigments book looks interesting any way it falls.

I may have to think on that for a bit and for now concentrate on how to fold the map.

This week my new watercolors came and I added them to the paint box. No more watercolors for me. There is enough here to make any color I want.

I also have a whole new set of tiny brushes.

Anyway that is about enough for now. The other thing I wanted to talk about can wait til next week. Our son is coming to spend time with his dad and me and I am hoping to get away for a day and night in Asheville while he is here.

Til later.


Loose Threads

This morning at the dam watching geese swim into the fog. It is cooler. We can sense the fall approaching.

I am thinking that it is time to find something different to wear to the gym. Every Monday through Friday for the past few years I have put the same thing on. An old large black long sleeved tee shirt and some indestructible pants that were dyed with mollusk shells in Tasmania, then over dyed with rust. It is getting tattered and I think the others working out in their snazzy outfits wonder if I even own other clothes.

It makes me feel “Australian” to wear things til they tear and then mend them and wear them some more. But I think it is time to go through the closet and find something different for the gym workout. It won’t be new. It won’t be those workout tights that look a bit silly on a bulging older woman. It will be something that fits on the shelf in the closet where I reach in the dark at four in the morning. It has to fit in one hand while I hold the iphone to see where I am going. It has to be comfortable and has to have had a previous life as something I wore almost to death in a daily studio practice. But it can’t look messy. It is hard to be comfortable and not look homeless at my age.

I have gone a bit slack lately. I noticed when I wanted to put my earrings in that the right one wouldn’t go through. I suppose the ears close up if you don’t go somewhere with earrings hanging. But I shoved it in and decided to at least once a week, put earrings in to wear around the house. It seems like a small thing but making meals and cleaning up afterwards wearing earrings make me feel good. A practice I can hold onto.

I also decided to wear more necklaces….not for doing dishes….but just have them handy in case the neckline of a shirt exposes too much of a neck and chest that didn’t look the same just a few years ago. If I really worked at it I could be like that grey haired old model that shows up everywhere in her arm bangles, piled neck pieces and over-sized glasses. I bet she needs a person on each side of her just to get out of a chair. I don’t think she is vacuuming in those outfits either. Something about aging makes us just want to keep piling things on, cover things up.

I found this in an old jewelry box this morning and wore it to the brewery for lunch. There was no one there but us and the fellow who makes the beer and owns the place. His wife and he have politically conservative leanings. When we got there the fellow had Fox News channel on. Lee asked what was happening as he looked at the screen. I told him it was Fox and therefore could be anything but actual facts and the channel was switched to the national little league finals. I asked if there were any girls on the teams and was promptly told the teams were for “boys only.” To which I replied that I thought we were past that.

I left a large tip for putting up with me today and think I will keep opinions to myself from now on. It is good beer, a cozy place and we pretty much have it to ourselves at eleven in the morning on Thursdays.

And really, I worked out some of my political aggressions by making four anti-trump books this week. I posted them on facebook but will show them here as well.

The lies continue to run in and out of his mouth.

He drains himself in the swamp.

He watches himself on Fox (Fake) News and repeats everything he hears.

And his rallies have to attract some of the most non-thinking people ever!

Back to old clothes. About fifteen years ago I found some Egyptian cotton at a local barn sized place that carried factory remnants. I made some pajamas. Last month I had to throw out the bottoms and today I saw that the top not only had a large hole under the right arm (it was how I knew which way to put it on) but the sleeve had actually worn through. Just threads in one direction only. I can’t throw it out. It would make such good patches for something else.

Is it an age thing? Not being able to let go? Maybe it is just me.

I am going over to the studio across the hall and pick through old jewelry and carefully fold that old holey pj top up and put it with other old bits. I am going to put away all the red white and blue papers and think hard about what to do with the small leather journals.

Art group comes this weekend and I need something to show besides these anti trump books. They (the art group) are not as politically, socially, environmentally driven as my fellow students in undergraduate and graduate school. Maybe it is the times we live in….sort of a state of partial exhaustion. Little room for passions that demand attention and production.

Okay, I am off.

Til next time.

Making Changes – Easier Than I Thought

Just a quick note here at the beginning to say thank you to those who read this and contact me via my website or private message or facebook. It is a way for me to just talk to myself and articulate where and who I am at the moment. Nice to know that someone else is listening. Thank you.

This is not a change. It is a constant every day. Lee feeds the deer and they arrive for a feast on corn and bird seed. Every morning. The ever so slight change is that once in awhile now I have to remind him that they are waiting. Another small change.

We are cleaning house. Closets filled with things we have not seen in years. Only looked at long enough to see which closet to hide it in until….later. Now it is later and we wonder why it is still here. What is not thrown out or pawned off on friends and relatives goes to the trash or lady at the trash that is happy to receive goods for free. She is nice to Lee and we are happy she can find a way to use what we and others no longer want.

When we figure out her hours at the dump site we will be able to give her bits and pieces more often. Until then the boxes and bags ride around in Lee’s back seat of the truck. He can still drive, but only to the dump because it is such an automatic constant in his life. But each time he leaves without a phone (that he quit using months and months ago) I wait just a bit anxiously until he returns the truck to the garage.

The small journals for the likely last artwork about my times in Australia are all bound in leather.

I cut the covers and straps all the same size and then caught the coptic binding on the first and last sections of each journal (top and bottom) by going through four holes in the leather at the spine section. There is a square knot on the outside of the bottom spine. So from the back there is a stitched rectangle that holds the pages close to the leather and I do not lose the first and last image of each book. Here they are with the pigment pages coptic book.  And now all I have to do is figure out how to make the map that will fit with the journals and pigments into a satchel of sorts. Something that represents travel. I have put them aside until there is more time to think on this.

I have cleaned up my extremely messy watercolor box/palette and ordered more of the lovely Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors. They are very nice and “slur” across the page. Some are quite expensive but for small works like I do, they are fine and will last quite a while. It hurts to take a wet paper towel to the porcelain palette inside the paint box. I keep thinking that all those colors caught on the wet towel could have been used and am tempted to not clean them up. But actually they are all a bit muddy by the time I finish a session painting, so better they get tossed. More colors have been added since this picture and there will be only the blending section and one row of tiny wells not filled with paint by the time my new watercolors arrive.

My studio is getting cleaned out. The works done for one gallery show have been given to the John C Campbell Craft Shop for arrangement and sale in the near future. Here are some of them.

They are varying sizes and part of a series titled, “Mixed Messages”. I will probably not make this work any more. It is the framing that gets tedious because it must be framed and framed in deep frames with shaped back grounds to house the added elements. I love doing them but they end up in my studio waiting for some place else to go. And I am tidying up. When the burn pile gets going later this year, some will end up there. Others will be given away to good homes.

One of my favorite giveaways was this piece to a progressive school in South Carolina. Young students came into the class from summer recess a few years ago to find it on the wall. They were asked to write about what they thought the painting was “saying”.

The school also got the boat that is in the 48″ x 48″ painting. Their responses were wonderful and I hope the school continues to use this work to inspire thought and story telling.

And I suppose that is what my work is largely about – story telling. I remember many years ago when teaching at Arrowmont and having to give a talk about our work as images filled the screen. A fellow instructor asked to present before me because he said, “Sandy always has a good story with her pieces and my work is just the work.” His work was and is masterful wood turning – no story but tools, a great eye and beautiful design.

Bags of trash went out of the studio this week. Why do we think we are going to use this scrap of something some day. Most of us aren’t going to and should have given it away long ago when it might have done some good for somebody before it gets crammed in a corner and rendered unusable.

One thing I did find tacked to my wall is this enlargement of the only drawing I did on my iphone. I had turned it into postcards and mailed it along with the word “WRONG” to every Republican member of Congress when this pathetic man took office. I used it for a pattern to make pincushions that give great satisfaction to those of us who made them and keep them full of jabbing pins.

But now I look at this and think how I can use it in a book form. Maybe a flip book where he finally, FINALLY disappears. Maybe make his mouth blather on like he does….maybe the word, “lies” continually coming out of his mouth.  If the pincushion gives me so much relief from the pressure of having the despicable man in office, the artist book could be just as rewarding.

I suppose that does it for now. The dump lady has two boxes of books waiting in the studio for Lee’s next delivery. I have a box of weaving/textiles books for the folk school. Later this week I will cull through all the others and box them up as well. Why did I think that I needed to own these books? It was excusable when I was teaching, but not now as I pull away from the classroom teaching and work more with students who do not need the inspiration of others’ works.

Anyway, I will be back later.

Til then.

Another Week of Doing

I am still at the gym five days a week and love walking in and seeing the painting I gave them a few years ago. It is across from the blood pressure machine and gives me something to look at and remember while the pressure on the arm gets tighter.

I wish I could find more places to give work to.

Our mornings together start here at the dam. I am able to walk in comfort thanks to someone we meet here about the same time each day. I complimented her colorful shoes and she spent a good time telling me how comfortable they were and how to find them online. So I went there and the only color in the size I needed was the same as hers….a bit over the top since I was hoping for black or grey.

She was right. They are the best support and feel like walking on clouds. Hoka brand runners with hardly any weight. Nice. Patches took over the box right away.

The small Australian sketchbooks are almost complete. The fourteenth and last one is half filled with the help of Sadie.

The messy paintbox is a magnet for her hair. Here are many of the ones finished since last week.

And a nod to the wonderful hosts over the years and their baskets, pets, etc.

Jude Walker and Barbara Rowe always had the most interesting things to sketch in their houses and would get me to places for finding just the right tools.

Anne Newton’s cat Boris is even shown in part here. Such a tall tail.

Whenever I use this bottle opener I think of Mike, the pilot who took me into the outback for a splendid five days of pure Australia.

When I finish the books I would like to go through my leathers and find simple covers for each before housing them with the pigments pages book. I think I will make a map of Australia to complete the memory satchel that will hold them all. I think the pods are my favorites, pods and leaves seem to be what my sketchbooks are mostly filled with. Someone down under said years ago that I just painted dead things. I told her that those things stayed still long enough for me to get them down.

Sadie has made her choice for favorite.

It was a good week for us. The meals get easier. Lee makes his own breakfast. I make a smoothie. At lunch it is hot dogs (his favorite) or a turkey sandwich with fruit and a shared beer. Dinner is at a time when I feel a bit more stressed. Lee does too. So I like to make a meal that will last two nights. His favorite is spare ribs. I thaw Smithfield baby back ribs earlier in the day. At three o’clock they are covered tightly with foil and go into a low oven at 325 degrees. Two hours later they are unwrapped and BBQ sauce is put on his half and covered again for another hour. Easy, and lately served with fresh heirloom tomatoes from his garden. And with the oven on I can toss in a pan of asparagus and seasoned potato wedges. A glass of white wine each and we have a good meal.

Another meal that works for two dinners is taking four meaty chicken thighs and sear them on each side in a cast iron fry pan. Remove. Place a bit of olive oil in there with some chopped celery and onion. Saute a bit then pour in about 2 – 3 cups of Pepperidge Farm stuffing and about a cup or so of water that has had chicken base stirred in. Toss in some dried sage and mix together before placing the thighs on top (skin side up) and baking at 350 degrees for about an hour. I like serving this with broccoli and a bit of hollandaise sauce.

Usually once a week we will make our own pizza halves (using bought thin crusts) that rescue anything that needs to be used up from the refrigerator.

So there is the week. Not so bad. I will get back to finishing the small sketchbooks about memories from Australia and clean up the studio.

Til later.