Keeping At It

This morning on our walk at the dam. I love how the mist stays low and hugs the ground as the sky tries to pull it up.

And here is last night outside the dining room window.

The light is at a nice angle as we approach fall and things in the yard just get more interesting.

I wanted another large leaved plant for the bog garden below the kitchen window. Where I usually shop for plants in the Asheville area I was told this one would be interesting with its white marks. So I bought it. It is no where near the size of the purplish/green one from the past few years. It took its sweet time showing the “white” and hardly grew much larger than when I bought it. But I do like the watercolorish look of the color panels through the center.

Two days ago at least six fawns showed up with their mothers. Here are four of them outside the dining room window.  Another sign of fall is the changing color of the deer….back to a taupe tone.

This week I carved a small linoleum block. A magpie, gum nuts and leaves. I wanted to try color on them. First the watercolors made from Australian soils, then other watercolors and then gauche. It was very hard to get any even-ness to the color washes.

But then I decided to just go with fewer colors and like it better. It seems my way of working is pile it on, then take it off. Why can’t I just see the obvious in the first place?! I go through a lot of erasers.

I made nine usable prints on plain white printmaking paper. The non-usable became the test prints for adding color, but still ended up in the waste bin.

Then something I have been wanting to do….print the image on pages from a book. Here they are printed on pages from the Australian book, Songlines. The book is frankly a tedious read. Lots of conversation and not so much the description of landscape that one would expect from its reputation. But an interesting backdrop for the image….and an interesting title for the series.

I have two more linoleum blocks this size to use up. The next will be the head of an emu with a banksia pod and leaves. And the other a sulfur crested cockatoo with a pink gum blossom.  I will show you those when I get them designed and printed.

The ones without the Songlines background text I will turn into sets of cards to take down under in March. With the original prints and cards I should be able to pick up some spending money for my time there. I canceled my first teaching venue as it is on the east coast and few if any sign ups this early. I did it because I know the other classes are filled or likely to be and I really want to control more of my time and who I spend it with while in Australia this time. I am cutting down on any stress whatsoever and going for pure enjoyment.

It is tempting to just say “yes” when asked to teach a workshop. The pay is fun to spend in the country while finding interesting things to bring back to the studio to use or just buy gifts that can only come from there. I love buying from fellow artists/craftsmen and at the airport shops where just one more silly souvenir is irresistible.  And whatever I buy as a gift is so appreciated by those who will only know Australia from those wonderful travel images of outback and empty endless beaches.

On another subject altogether. A friend told me about a woman who is making books in black and white photography to jog memories and conversations with those having forms of dementia. In my vast amount of saved pictures I am collecting images that should be familiar to Lee. Adjusting them to black and white and resizing them for a picture book, I will make a book for Lee to have. Or more likely those visiting him can show to him and perhaps start a conversation or a smile to cross his face. We are no where near that now, but I know it is coming.

Some days it is like the tangling of these small trees on another walk we take closer to home so we can get back here before the cleaning lady shows up at eight am.

I like this image and how dense the growth is. I think Lee’s mind must get like this as he struggles to find the word and often gives up. I know him well enough to just fill in. But for others that haven’t spent over fifty years listening to what matters to him, it can be hard to understand what he is trying to say. The best of them will just fill in a blank or change the subject. Just saying, “A lovely bird went by the window”, or “How’s your sandwich?” is such an easy way to distract his anxiety.

Now he is out using his new battery operated weed eater and leaf blower. The ones that took gas and a hard pull to start have been removed from sight. The batteries only last an hour or so and then he has to quit and come in and rest….a good thing.

I think this will be the cover for the book I am making him. Inside will be pictures of house construction, his cats, deer, rabbits, trees, birds, gardens, food…..lots of things that are in there somewhere.

Til next time.

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.

Coping – Doing Our Best

Light flickers a bit more for Lee now. Some times he can find the word, sometimes not. Confusion in why he went to a room, “What was I getting?” Instruction or ideas must come one at a time. I can not speak in paragraphs. A thing that would have been absolutely impossible for Marcel Proust, and I find hard to keep in mind. I get things done by doing more than one thing at a time and I get my ideas thought out by speaking them one after the other.

The one thing he does know for sure is that this thing is happening to his mind. And the one thing that I have come to realize is that it is something only we can deal with. When I read that there is a dementia support group meeting on Tuesday afternoons, I think, “And how does that happen?” Do you drag him along so he can listen to what we both are painfully aware of? No. That is not going to happen.  We stay to a routine that is familiar to him.

I have learned to accept the fact that I can no longer count on him to fix something. And it is a difficult conversation when he believes he can.  I have learned how few people there are to count on. It is me and will be me until we need to call on professionals who know what is needed and when. Until then we take it one day at a time. We find something to laugh about. We talk of what to have for dinner and what to buy from the grocery store. We try to get a walk in at the dam. We watch the news until we can’t take it any more and put in a Netflix cd of British mysteries and escape. We treat ourselves to a few pieces of Australian Darrel Lea Soft Licorice that we found we can buy by the case at a tractor supply store. And we talk. We change the subject if we get sad. We cope.

And one thing we did this week was leave the house for exactly twenty-three hours. We spent the night in Asheville at a friend’s house. Lee is familiar with them and their house. He loves their cat.

And while he napped there, I went shopping at three of my favorite clothing stores. Retail therapy they call it and I could very well have overdosed. It was great. We left their place well before dawn the following morning and were home before 8 am.  My new clothes are put away. We are back in the routine of being slower and more careful.

I have avoided reading the book titled, “The 36 Hour Day”. A friend thought it would help. If it helps, it will be later. Not now. Now I am just keeping things “normal”. I do not want to read other peoples’ experiences. We are busy living our own and keeping the cd movies, licorice and a cool glass of white wine close by. Cat videos on Facebook are something so silly and yet so good to brighten a mood. He likes those and soon forgets the ones he has seen so they can be seen over and over. I think our, or I should say my favorite is the cat in a shark suit riding a rumba machine around and around the kitchen. I identify with that cat in a lot of ways, not least of which is her shark suit.

There is still time in the day to work on those little books. Now I have only three of the fourteen left to fill with memories of all things Australian.

We have had our weekly breakfast out this morning. Lee is going in out the door upstairs, so I will need to see if he needs something. Maybe we will just sit on the porch for a while and talk about things. He will ask a question. I will answer. And he will ask it again. I will answer again and again until I change the subject to something else.

What would he like for dinner? That is a good place to start.

Til next time.