More Tiny Sketchbooks in the Works

I am using my previous sketchbooks done in Australia as the source for these tiny books. It is easy to get lost in the memory of each page. Some of these are from spending time with Barbara Rowe at her condominium in Melbourne. See that teal tea pot there? I sketched this pot every time I stayed with her. The color, the shape and that carved open spout.  She has had it for years and always fixed me tea in it. Another memory of her is that first one on the left. Barbara is an extraordinary master of placing things together. It could be her ikebana training or she is just a natural. Anyway that was the largest green glass pot that held just a couple of stems of grasses. The way the light caught in the glass and colored the things around it and the way the breeze rustled the grasses as it swept gently through from the balcony ten floors up was so beautiful and quiet. I loved staying with her because of the quiet and gentleness of her and her things. One time she took a tangerine and used a bit of hand twisted daylily leaf to tie it up like a gift. Then she placed it on a bit of dried hard green grass she rescued from someone’s mower on the street and placed this arrangement in the center of the table. It was beautiful and that tangerine is sketched onto one of these pages.

And some of these pages are from the garden between Janet DeBoer’s house and Gallery 159 out the back. Janet would be busy writing and organizing the Textile Fibre Forum magazine and I would have the quiet time in this space to pick up leaves and pods to record. I think that is called a shrimp plant that I also found in her yard. The pepper tree branch in the center of the picture is from the ride across Australia in 2001. I treated myself to a first class ticket on the Indian Pacific Railway and because I was a lone traveler, mealtimes found me filling in at tables made up to seat four. Luckily I was placed quite often with three sisters traveling together. When they saw my sketchbook they would pick bits of the bush whenever we stopped to look around. I do not think the peppers are edible but they were so delicate to draw with those lovely flowing little leaves along the thin branches. I had made a special book to take on this train ride for all the things I wanted to write about only, no sketching. I left it on the train and it was lost forever. But the sketchbook from that time brings some of it back. And you can not be down under without seeing and hearing a kookaburra.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns and then Melbourne and the work of John Davis seen in the most amazing exhibition of his life in art. All those fish made with muslin, sticks and asphalt. The catalog from that show is right up there with the one from Lee Bontecou’s retrospective in Chicago. Both heavy on earth tones. Both keeping you transfixed in place while you just look in wonder and appreciation that an artist can and did do this.

I wish there was more work like this. So much today is “showy”, colorful, and about being beautiful. It seems the materials used is what the work is about. And we can all look at it and say, “lovely”. And that is all there is to say.

We were having a talk the other day in the studio about this. If someone who makes lovely arrangements of Japanese bits and pieces into collages and then teaches a workshop in doing collage, I would guess that the students would bring to class all their bits and pieces similar to what the instructor uses.  And with a couple reminders from the instructor on good design basics, they would end up with pieces all looking alike. There would be bits of exposed Japanese writing, some beige paper, corrugated card board is often used, a bit of that rich dark red, but not too much, maybe an old piece of wood or an old paint brush, a smear of gesso, something tied down with raffia, you get the idea. And yes, some stitching somewhere.

But if just one person was different. What if the only thing she had that she loved and wanted to use was old plastic bread bag closures in various colors. They are not particularly pretty, so making something beautiful or “lovely” might be out of the question. But to me they seem so much more powerful because she has them for a reason. Some of them have expiration dates on them. Her work becomes about time, expiration, “daily bread” and says something about her as an artist. These little bits of plastic seem so much more powerful and important than the placing of pretty objects. And the work becomes quite likely unforgettable.

And once you see them in an artwork, you do not forget. I still remember a student in my class a good fifteen years ago whose husband told her earlier that month that he did not love her and was leaving after over forty years. He told her this after she had fixed his breakfast. She went to the kitchen and took off the bread bag closure that had that date on it. She used it in a book about her family life.

Anyway the conclusion of the discussion is that some of us look for meaning that simply is not there. Some do work that is just fun to make with pretty materials. And some of us can’t even pick up a bit of anything without the meaning being there first.

Okay enough. My foot is out of the boot. I am in crocs and art group is tomorrow.

Til later.


Back in the Studio

I am back in the studio…even sleeping down here now. Lee needed his own bed and one time on that couch I could see why. So for now things are going good.

Stitching did not work on these small folios because the stitches had to be too far apart to keep the paper from tearing. In other words it was a dumb idea. So I got out my Japanese hole punch and picked the proportionately right size to make tracking marks on every one of the one hundred ninety-two folios. I was careful to make sure that no holes were punched in the fold.

Here are just the red ones.

The coptic bound book will start with this top one as it goes through all the colors of Australian soils that I have made over the years.

I am hoping that when all bound, the book will be hard to hold in my hands…..much like the memories and strong feelings for my time spent in that country.  Sort of thinking impossible to hold and always showing me something else as it flips about.

It took a while to do each page and then get the colors flowing nicely as they change from one section to another.

I think this is the order that they will be stitched. Probably a white thread but a soft green waxed linen might work better to support and not tear at the folds. After each page was painted I gave it a coating to help keep it strong. It was only a Thai kozo paper that I love working with.

Here is the punch with the color dots that I could not part with.

So they ended up here for now.

I am finalizing the trip back to Australia next year. I like getting the details all taken care of well ahead of time. Starting in Newcastle doing a workshop for Timeless Textiles in early March, then onto a few days in a Melbourne hotel for sightseeing. Catch the train to Halls Gap, stay on with friends when the workshop finishes, back toward Melbourne and Baldessin Press for those special few days of printmaking and book arts before catching the train down to Geelong to do a final workshop there in white line printmaking. All of this will take just under a month and I am so looking forward to being back in the midst of good times with good friends and super students.

Sadie is glad to see me back in the studio. She stacked a few stones from Australia. The two largest ones were given to me by an artist I met while staying at Baldessin Press last March. She had read my book and thought I should have some from her. Kim Evans is her name and her fantasy type drawings/paintings are simply stunning. Some are part of an exhibition going on now in Seattle.

Here is Kim’s view from her studio. Very lucky girl!

A beautiful wild parrot, a crimson rosella I think, flies into an open window of her studio to watch her work. Amazing and I was thrilled to be invited for dinner with Kim, her husband and another artist working at Baldessin Press before she was taking off to walk the Camino in Spain. Good times, good company, good memories.

And here is Sadie.

I think I will start stitching the folios tomorrow. It is a holiday weekend through Monday and Tuesday the window washers and a tree man come in the morning. Too much green too close to the house feels oppressive… some thinning is needed.

Later today I will have a single malt and visit with a good friend. For now I will return to Jon Meachum’s new book on “The Soul of America.” We survived McCarthyism before and he feels we can do it again. This time we have so much to clean up. The mess is getting worse each day with the selfish incompetency in government.

I sold this small boat after it came home from exhibition. It is going to a very good home to someone who really loves it. Can’t ask for more.

Til later when I get something done.

The Reason for Writing “Kind Gestures”

I don’t have any pictures for this blog entry. If I did one would be the entrance to a diner, a diner in a small southern town. There would be blue chipped paint on the door and a sign hanging inside the window that said, “Open”. Then there would be a picture of the town taken from the top of hill looking down Main Street. And if you had a magnifying glass, you could make out the diner, Marty’s. You might also make out Veronica’s Boutique, a framing shop, the library, the corner gas station and the town park and cemetary. All the places that came to life as I attempted to tell a story whose action only takes place in one day.

I wrote almost all of this story about three years ago.

A friend pointed out, correctly, that I seemed a bit uncomfortable when in the company of a group of women. She was right. Groups of men are easier for me. There is something so familiar about them from my childhood. A comfort that drove me to write and do artwork about much later in graduate school.

She was not only right, but I was being unfair by staying away from women in groups. One on one I was fine. I thought of women as being more honest when singled out. In groups their personal stories changed to fit some desire to be “one of the girls.” Or so I thought.

I really needed to pay better attention. I needed to not be so sure that, “Being in a hardware store with the low rumble of men’s voices was so much better than being in a beauty parlor with the chattering of more than one woman.”

So I took my yellow dog pad of paper to a private place here on our property. I wrote down seven women’s names. Next to the names I wrote an age.

And one at a time I listened to what they had to say. I gave them one fictional day only for me to care about them. And even the ones that took on a less than favorable light, I gave second chances. I listened to each one and made a place for them in my story.

When I finished writing what was later to be titled, Kind Gestures, I realized that some of the women did not even like my company, let alone the company of others in the book. And I wonder what it was about them that made me put them in the background and on the periphery of what was happening that day in August.

I actually miss them. I miss listening to them. They are so much more than I shared in this short novella.

Louise Penny who wrote the captivating stories about Three Pines, a small imagined town in Canada, said in one of later ones that while living with her husband’s dementia, Three Pines was a place she could go to. I think she went there because as a writer, there is a control that might just not be in our daily lives and we need to feel that something can happen by just our saying so.

Oliver, North Carolina might  be my very own Three Pines. I have wanted to go back there and see more of these women and the lives they live.

When I wrote the story I thought like most writers that I might try to get it published. First by some famous publishing house, then maybe even self-publishing. But I have lost interest in doing that. It takes time and one hell of a lot of self-promotion that is not anything I have time or interest in.

But I did feel that unless I let these women’s stories out, I could not go back to see how they are. My time with them in that one day might be all there was.

So here they all are in the story titled, Kind Gestures. By putting the story on my website, I can do just what they and I wanted….a place for them to be seen and heard.

It is just a story. The kind of story that if you had a series of Saturdays in a bar and a comfortable stool and just one person to listen, it would be enough. Saturdays and bar stools are far and few between for me at my age, so this will have to do.

Next blog comes with pictures!

I Am Back With More Randomness and Clarifications

But first! I was just notified that one of my entries to the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize was accepted. This is very exciting because there were four jurors involved in making selections. I have not had work accepted since 2011 in this extraordinary exhibition and the theme of integrating natural sciences with art fits so much of the work I do using pigments of Australia for commentary.

But otherwise, back to the original blog that I had a hold on until I talked with my web adviser.

The girls are back doing the weeding, putting down mulch, placing pine straw, resetting loose stepping stones, etc. I dug out my snake who sunk rather low this winter and put him in a new spot. Just looking at the yard work makes me tired so it is wonderful to have some enthusiastic help.

Now if I could just find someone to do the inside things like replace faucet washers, patch water damaged ceilings, tighten things down, etc, that would be really nice. It is the maintenance that is beyond us here, but “here” is what we know and it seems that here is where we will be.

I took this picture and the next one just sitting and watching the morning sun come through the window and fall on my New Zealand flax baskets. Each year when I went to Australia I would weave one of these. This last trip I did not. No NZ flax and even less time. So this wall full of them is likely to be all there will be.


Barbara Rowe, an Australian basket maker, inspired me to make these baskets. Hers were simple perfection in structure, technique and shapes. She would place them in her house, then apartment where the light created shadows and the slightest air movement shifted their positions and made them seem alive. I saw her this last visit and she has not changed one bit. Over eighty years of age, still weaving and still an inspiration.

Speaking of perfection, I visited Kerr Grabowski’s class this week at the Folk School. She and her students came over to see my studio. A very talented bunch doing what I think they call “de-constructed silk screen”. I could not resist buying this very long and beautifully patterned scarf from Kerr.

I liked this end detail of her cat supposedly dreaming of a fish.

Kerr’s work is so distinct and if you ever get a chance to take her workshop or buy her work, just do it. The next time she is in town we are hoping to work together here in my studio if at all possible. I like sharing space with others that are so passionately involved in their work. It creates a good atmosphere in the room where we both can just get on with it in our own spaces and then break for sustenance later in the day.

I was going to tell you about changes in the website.

Soon you will see a “https” in front of the That means that the website is safe. Without having this done, and paying the extra cost, there could be warnings saying something to the effect of “website not safe”. This would be a total off-putting message to see. So to understand more about that little change go to:

And next, very soon, due to new regulations and warnings, there will be a notification at the bottom of my website that there will be “cookies”. These are not as invasive as we used to think. Everyone who has a website will have to have this information posted in the next two to three months. To learn more about just what that means please go to this sight and read.

These are new compliances that are necessary if you have a website followed internationally. For me personally, I do not mind the “cookies”. They help me get to what I am looking for much quicker when using the internet.

I can not think if there is anything else to post this week. So just in case, I will put this post on hold for a day or so.

And while I was on hold, I started new work using even more of those watercolors from Australian soils. These small pages will be made into individual folios and then sorted by colors to be stitched together one after the other to shape into the contours of Australia.

So here is only 24 of the near to 300 watercolors to date.