What’s Next?

My art is narrative, a story retold with paints, pencil, collage and collections. Each work is a personal expression of time, place and thought. It is what I call “evidence of experience” garnered from my writings, sketchbooks and the things I gather that have meaning beyond their intended purpose.

Those words wrapped around the walls of David’s Fine Art Gallery several years ago when I had a solo show there. The gallery was long and narrow and just the other side of these arches. In fact the arches as indentations in the wall gave places to delineate bodies of work.

Now it has doubled in size by incorporating the bakery next door and become a lovely place to have something to eat. It was a surprise to sit in a booth, look over and realize where I was and what once happened there.

And now I wonder what to do next. What is a person who always made things based on content supposed to do when there is often times little interest in working on something that matters? The politics of our country and for that matter the world, are ripe for art works. But as I have said before, few of my artist friends choose to address this. It is exhausting enough just to follow the news on a daily basis, so the studio beckons to just come down and make something.

“Just make something” seems a bit like wading in shallow waters. I could keep myself busy, amused but certainly not that interested, that compelled to start something let alone finish it. I am at a cross road.

What’s next?

I do not want to make things just to pile them up. The time and energy for doing that would be better spent cleaning house, throwing things out, not adding more.

But I have thought of something. Words. Words on paper. Small papers.

Write another small book and not even bother to think about editioning it. But start by taking an image of a favorite piece of artwork done by my hands from before. Something that had content, had meaning and had to be completed in a visual form of expression.

Then reacting verbally to that image whether the words are about the intention of the work or completely unrelated except by what it may trigger now. How does it make me feel now? What does the color, the line, the form make me see. And how do I respond to that in words.

So this week after a private student has come and gone, I will start thinking and writing. Some of it I will share here in the almost only place I have to talk about art and how it matters.

Here are a few images of old work that has the capacity to provoke further thought.

These seem a good place to start. It is only a beginning.

I will leave with this for now……written at another time when I needed to just listen.

 

The Sigh

I like the quiet of myself.

There are no unnecessary noises.

Just the scratch

of pen on paper.

 

And of course the occasional sigh.

 

Is it fatigue or exasperation?

More often I think it is a longing.

But for what I do not know.

 

The sigh is a noise the heart makes.

A cry in a way that says,

“I am here….

 and I want something.”

 

And all I want is quiet

So I can figure out

What

What is mattering to the heart today.

 

Sandy Webster

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.

Something With Pictures

I saw one of these on someone else’s blog. They are made from Lake Michigan rocks and encased in vellum. How could I not want to buy the last two available from Shanna Leino. She is an extraordinary book artist and tool maker. Now my responsibility is to keep them clean. Do not sit them onto painted, smeary, muddy, gluey surfaces. They are between 3.5 and 4.5 inches and quite heavy. Perfect for holding things in place….clean things.

This week in the studio I painted 192 small 2″ x 4″ sheets of kozo paper with 153 watercolors made from the soils of Australia.

When they were dry I sealed the color in on both sides. Sorting them according to colors so that they move through the country by color was a bit of a challenge. I am fairly satisfied now.

Even the very pale sheets have some color clinging to their edges. Here you can see that they go from the greys to creams to light terre vertes to pale yellows and then on to more intense colors. Deeper yellow ochres through the browns to reds and finishing with a nice caput mortuum…deep brownish red….old blood.

My intention with these is to stitch on each sheet before it is folded into a folio and then coptic stitched to the next one in line. I want the long book to flow like the endless landscape of Australia. I want to roll it back and forth between my hands. At least that is the plan.

The thread will be something I bought over there. A cream or beige or Eucalyptus leaf green. Not sure about that yet. Maybe all three?

I have been dipping into these watercolors for several projects.

This one now housed in the South Australia Museum.

This one now in Australia’s National Library.

The Lake Mungo book housed in Queensland State Library.

There were many, many hand pulled prints colored with these same watercolors.

Another thing I did this week was take all of my pop up book collection to Western Carolina University where I received my BFA in 1997. There were over ninety titles. So many were gifts and so many more I just found irresistible. Many came from museum gift shops and were extremely complex in their movements.  They were very happy to receive this collection and told me that the artist book collection I gave them late last year is now housed in their museum. I like that students can have access to these books. Much better than having them in boxes here.

Here is the only pop up book I kept, the one I made myself….Art History Pops Up.

This one was so much fun to make. Ten iconic art images throughout history. We do not have access to the shiny slick papers that make pop ups work so well. It is tedious and very wearing on the movable parts to make one. At least that was my experience so far. I have been asked to work on another with someone knowledgeable on the history of the book. I hope I can live up to his expectations. More on that project later in the year.

Meanwhile that is it for now. But one more thing, the novella, Kind Gestures, is now on my website, offered in spaced out chapters.

Til next week.

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 sandywebster.com. 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:

https://security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/about-cookies

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.