Monday, June 20, 2016

Ghost Ranch & Santa Fe June 17 - 20

This is going to be a mixed bag I am afraid but a good bag. How interesting things are. I consider myself fortunate to be able to experience the things I do, I am eternally grateful to many.

It is a wonderful thing to teach at all and share ones experiences & experiments but to come to the other side of the world to teach is indeed a precious thing. My classes are hard work yet enjoyable for all … I hope and my Ghost Ranch Versal class members put in a huge effort. Here is a taster of just some of the marvellous work but there are too many to post them all.


Pencils including graphite: Louise

Gouache & Graphite: Cindy

Our show and share was much loved by all and Suzanne & Sharon worked hard all evening writing out names for the local punters. I just stood about enjoying all the artworks.  Ghost Ranch was an experience I am so very glad I undertook and one I shall do again some day.  I will leave you with the following piece of work by Thelma my 88 year old class participant. This, done in graphite:


This for you my friends Barry Smith & Fiona Dempster ... it made a wonderful sound. It stands at the bottom of Kitchen Mesa.

Today Trish took me into Santa Fe for the day. It was a day full of fascination.  On our way we stopped in MADrid as I wanted to pick up some glass and clay beads I didn't buy yesterday. 
The paths in MADrid are alive with colourful glass.

 Trish was very patient as I wandered through the Georgia O'Keeffe museum enjoying many of O'Keeffe's original artworks. Very impressive.

On Canyon Road

Doorway, Canyon Road.

And now for something completely different.

Our visit to Meow Wolf - the House of Eternal Return a unique art enterprise was seriously great fun. A weird and exciting new attraction in town.  When Trish asked me to follow her into the refrigerator I must say I hesitated somewhat.

Here I am in the Dive Hall.

And here is Trish coming out of the refrigerator - seriously !@#$%$#@!

Coming up: this and that and a trip to North Carolina.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Washington Calligrpahers Guils & Ghost Ranch - LONG

June 4 - 11

How lovely to be greeted with beautiful mauve tulips from my hosts for the Washington Calligraphers Guild, Mary Louise O’Brien & Anton Strunze. They live in the suburb of Gaithersburg,
Maryland. We had the best time and though Mary Louise thought she was not able to do the workshop with me due to work commitments she was prepared to host me. How lovely.  As it turned out she could do four days of the workshop. We were very happy about that.

So our lead in day and a half before teaching was spent visiting Arlington Cemetery which was very moving. I was particularly moved by the masses of white stone gravesite of armed services personnel and of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The changing of the Old Guard on the hour every hour was an interesting and solemn ceremony to watch. I also enjoyed visiting Arlington House.

The workshop.

Such was the Washington, Maryland, Virginia traffic. Chris Tischer would drive about 45 minutes to pick me up from Mary Lou’s house in Maryland to drive a further one and a half, sometimes two hours through traffic build-up to get to the venue in Vienna, Virginia. Crazy, but at least pleasurable conversation. When Mary Lou could join us we all travelled such each day to and fro our calligraphic compulsion.  How reassuring it was to be greeted by 12 very enthusiastic participants each day some who had also battled travel woes. The subject was versals and the students had come from far and wide: New York, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, the Washington District and closer to hand.

Student work

The five days went quickly and I found it a joy to teach my lovely group. A good understanding of the forms was had and the outcomes were superb. By the last day we all departed good friends. That evening to celebrate a super workshop Mary Lou, Anton and myself attended CrabFest at a farm in the area. I said my goodbyes the next morning when Mary Lou dropped me to the airport for my flights to Albuquerque via Dallas Fort Worth.

Flying: i don’t mind flying but what I object to is having cash in my purse and being asked to use a credit card only to purchase anything from the menu. So with all my flights I only did this once. What I really got very annoyed about was having to use my credit card in the Admirals Club when I wanted to purchase lunch on my long stay over between flights in Dallas Fort Worth. No cash taken. When I explained I had an extremely poor exchange rate to deal with and a conversion fee for foreign currency my Caesar Salad ended up costing me much more that I would normally pay. Again I had plenty of American dollars in my pocket.  I know, it’s a first world problem but notwithstanding it is ridiculous!

Rant over.

June 11 - 16

I arrived in the desert town of Albuquerque to be met by my friend the delightful Margie Disque. Margie took me on a tour of the town and I was immediately struck by the unique picturesque features of the New Mexico landscape and townscape. All of a sudden the low-lying bull-nosed  houses were constructed of adobe clay, a cross between a terracotta colour and potters pink, a strong feature of desert townships. It was an amazing eyeopener for me as I had never been into US desert country before. I immediately become excited by the vistas.  I stayed over with Margie and her husband John who cooked us a magnificent salmon salad dinner.

The next day Margie and I drove to Santa Fe to stop off to check out the shopping and to have some lunch. Santa Fe in turn was a new adventure for me.  More of Santa Fe to come but that time we were on our way to Ghost Ranch via Abiqiui and the home of one of the most famous American abstract artists, Georgia O’Keeffe.  The road taken between the two towns was awe inspiring with spectacular landscapes I had only ever seen in photographs. The abundance of mesa (flat-topped mountains pronounced may-sa) and rocky outcrops with vista changes around every corner. Descriptive words do not do the landscape justice. My senses were aroused and I was excited to be there.  Anticipation was mounting. My friend of many years now and the person responsible for being there, Sharon Zeugin was the first to greet us.

To write about Ghost Ranch will take some time.  As I type this it is the evening of day four of my five day versal workshop. Our classroom is a standalone low-lying building deep in the terracotta-pink New Mexican desert. Colours of the surrounding mesa, hills and rocks change at a minutes notice. The days are hot and the nights have been cool bar last night and tonight.  Most of the students have been coming to Ghost Ranch to take calligraphy & allied arts classes for many years. This year Sharon has been the coordinator of Literally Letters and Suzanne Moore and I are the tutors. I am thrilled to bits to be working alongside Suzanne who is an amazing artist and woman and of course, Sharon.

The labyrinth & mesa just outside my classroom.

The structure of Ghost Ranch classes are different to other workshops and conferences. We are contracted to teach in the morning only but I, like all tutors find ourselves back in the classroom after lunch and sometime after dinner. It is great to all be here together, there is a lot to be said for residential workshops, you meet such wonderful people and make lifelong friends. So the week progresses.

Adobe clay in Santa Fe.

Chimney Rock just by the Welcome Centre.

Georgia O'Keeffe cottage made of ... adobe clay!

 My art classroom for Literally Letters.

I love this motif.

After class though on Tuesday and as a treat for Sharon’s birthday, six of us drove deeper into the desert to Ojo Caliente mineral springs (translates to hot hole), to take to the hot iron & soda springs and mud baths. Well, I was unsure of the mud baths but as we were traveling with three women over eighty, Bonnie, Marie, and Rita who were excited about the mud, who was I to quibble. I loved it of course. There is a photo out there somewhere taken by Bonnie which I hope never surfaces. I wasn’t game to take my camera out there, A wonderful experience all over.

More on my Ghost Ranch experience the it comes to a close in a couple of days.

The entire electronic trip so far has crazy. WiFi is dicey and dodgy and my service provider the Australian Telstra/BigPond has restrictions on my mac mail program sending emails. I would change telco’s if I thought I would have better service elsewhere. I can answer emails on my phone which is somewhat problematic particularly in sending files that are on my computer - I simply can’t send them.  I am really only annoyed that I can’t see messages of thanks to people who have helped me so far on my trip. Those not hooked up with messenger & FaceBook.  I would like my thanks to be a little more personal. But, other than that I really don’t mind being cut off for a few weeks, how refreshing.  :-)


June 17 -

Santa Fe … again. Watch this space.

I am missing home ...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gaithersburg, Virginia & Arlington Cemetery Washington DC

I can't believe how close all these State boarders are. One minute I am in Washington DC, then I am in Pennsylvania, then Virginia and now Maryland. My goodness!  Chris Tischer picked me up from Sheila's and drove me down from PA to the home of my lovely hosts Mary Lou and Anton in Maryland. Look what was in my bedroom as a welcome, so lovely:

Mary Lou, Anton and housemate James gave me such a warm welcome.

We discussed some ideas for today's Washington DC sightseeing and it was unanimous that we would visit Arlington National Cemetery. When Anton discovered my curiosity with the Kennedy family it was an obvious choice. I had been to Dealey Plaza in Dallas recently with good friend Carl and it seemed natural to "bookend" my Kennedy intrigue by visiting this grave site. I am so glad we did. Hot and humid as it was the day was reflective and though provoking. 

The cemetery and monuments are awe inspiring.

The resting place of John Fitzgerald Kennedy & Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with the eternal flame.

It was a reflective moment with Mary Lou.
In the background is Arlington House the home of Robert E Lee and formally designated
the Custis Lee Mansion. Such an historic site, neither of us could smile. 

I learned much today.

This is a shot of the stage of a delightful little open air amphitheatre.
The Latin motto on the stage stone is:


Out of many, one.

We watched the Changing of the Guard of the Old Guard, here at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
A solemn procession and affair. 

And here, the very place the President stands to address the people in this amazing open air theatre at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The place is full of doric and ionic columns. Awesome.

I learnt even more today.


Tomorrow, the work begins.

June 2 - 5 Fairfield, Pennsylvania with Sheila Waters

Julian (Sheila's son) met me at the end of the metros red line out of DC, Shady Grove, to then meet up with Cathy (Julian's wife) for the car trip up to Pennsylvania. As we were all calligraphers, of course, the car trip was full of calligraphic conversation. We arrived at Shelia's as the light was slipping into twilight, a beautiful time of the day. This still gave me plenty of time to see the property in a warm and subtle light.

I didn't take many photos at Sheila's home, wishing to keep her private life private yet she would have allowed me to take many more had I asked. It was just the two of us for the following three days. We busied ourselves about the house & studio with Sheila prepping for her upcoming masterclass and me, helping wherever she want to put me to good use.  We talked a lot, late into the evening as we have a good deal of common calligraphic ground.  We planted a garden of vegetables at the front of the house and enjoyed the studio treasures in the cool of the evening. Sheila cooked for me everyday and once we drove into town and enjoyed the delights of the one dollar shop where we purchased bits and bobs of fun things.

Here we are relaxing behind the poppies. Clearly we had a good time in each others company, picking out books and brains. We could still be there chatting.

Plus, I also planted a hundred tomatoes along the front of the house
so Sheila can feed the local community once they fruit!  

One of the absolute delights of being welcomed into the home of the respected and highly regarded Doyen of Calligraphy was to be able to see so many of the original works I have only ever seen reproduced in books. To go through map drawers, to pull books off shelves and to view some of the most technically amazing and beautiful books that both Sheila and her husband Peter Waters (eminent bookbinder) worked on.

This, the Roundel of the Seasons, one of her most pivotal works hangs proudly in the studio for all her student of calligraphy to study.

And, the inspirational view
which changes light and colour as the day progresses is right outside the window. 

Next stop, Gaithersburg Maryland!

Wednesday June 1, 2016 USA Teaching Tour: Day One, Washington DC

My first day started with a spitting headache which is customary for me with the onset of jet-lag. The only way to deal with it is to fight it and fight hard. Dose up on tablets, drink a lot of safe water and get out into the fresh air and try and stay awake as long as possible. By day three of this procedure I am pretty much on the correct time.

Here are some of today's highlights. Day one proved to be a lot of fun with my friend Lydia.  It was hot and muggy but nothing a l'il old lass from Australia couldn't handle. We walked, walked and walked some more and ended up in the Wicked Waffle shop for a very late lunch.

Lydia an I met in Canberra when she was working with the US Embassy. We, along with a couple of close friends formed a friendship group back then, the Ya Ya's ... now known as the Ga Ga's because we have gone a bit ga ga. The beautiful Lydia who lives not too far from my hotel, managed successfully to keep me awake and my jet-lag at bay.

First things first ... up around the corner from the hotel is the White House. Not as big a home as one expects.  It was interesting to be able to see clearly the snipers on the roof, one of whom was well and truly focusing on his job. Nevertheless, I turned to have my touristy photograph taken ... thanks Lydia.

Then we went up to see "the big guy" as I overheard an American call him.

A B R A H A M    L I N C O L N

The Lincoln memorial was a cool refuge on our hot day of walking but notwithstanding the mood in the marbled hall was moving, sombre and reflective. I was of course interested in the carved statue as well as the carved letter-forms. The lettering on the columns of writing was poorly spaced yet somehow still beautiful to see.
 There were a lot of people there.

I am indebted to Lydia for a beautiful day and seeing me safely onto the metro
to travel north to Pennsylvania.

Enjoy these photos and I'll be back with more of days two, three & four at Sheila Waters' home.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Interim AUS - USA

ONCE UPON A TIME flying used to be an exciting adventure and there was always a build up of excitement. These days the excitement is certainly less so but the adventure, a curious thing, is something that we still wish to endure.

I am glad to say my flights were uneventful and with a delay of only two and a half hours due to wild and wet weather in Dallas Forthworth, I managed to crawl into bed in my Washington DC hotel just before midnight.

Feeling a little jet lag queezy this morning, I am off to meet up with my good friend Lydia and explore the locale around my hotel ... um that would be the White House!  Check back later for Day One's activities.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tour U. S. 2016 - the night before

My bags are packed and I shall be on my way to the airport at 4.45am tomorrow morning.  This is the start of my four week trip away to the US.  Fingers crossed all goes well and that the travel is boring and uneventful leaving me plenty of time to … ahhhhh … read. Apart from lettering, reading is my greatest pleasure.

I will have wifi pretty much everywhere I go so please feel free to drop me a line with updates.  I hope to keep this weblog a happening thing, so you can travel with me (if you like) and enjoy the calligraphic encounters and adventures.  I am really looking forward to my workshops in the US starting out in Washington with a few days of R&R with Shelia Waters. We plan to delve into all this Shelia and Peter Waters and I look forward to reading the newly published book Waters Rising. It is the story of Peter Waters' program to save the manuscripts after the 1966 Florence floods. Can't wait!

In brief, I stay in Washington for the coming week running a full-on versal workshop for the Washington Calligraphers Guild.  Then I head to New Mexico to run another workshop of contemporary versals at Ghost Ranch.  Here I plan to delve into all things Georgia O'Keeffe and enjoy the wonderful ambience of being out in the desert with the special atmosphere that is only know as Ghost Ranch.  To finish up this short tour, as opposed to the Grand Tour of 2015, I jump across to North Carolina to run a program on the beauty & elegance of the Italian hand of Bennardino Cataneo for the lettering arts conference A Show of Hands.

So for now, it is dinner out with the Oboe Player then an early night's sleep.

Go well friends ...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Grampians Brushes ...

...   just a little advertising!

is an extraordinary opportunity to work with wonderful leading Australian Tutors in a range of mediums including watercolour, oils, acrylic, pastel, print making, and mixed media."

I am delighted to be included in the faculty for this fabulous
get away from it all creative fusion
Here are some samples of the types of experimenting and colour and gold,
participants will be experiencing in my classes.

If you would like some further information just ask.
I am more than happy to answer all your questions. 

 Just some of the tools to be used ... let's take a closer look ...

Yes, that is an oboe reed ... oh and yes that is a hypodermic needle!

Experimental ... as well as colour!


 Experimental tools class.

 Experimental tools class.

 Experimental tools class.

 Gold works! An in-class sample.

Participant Jenny's work in Colour & Gold.

The colour & gold class, participant Karina's work.

Visit my website too!

Visit my website too!
In-class illumination demonstration

Something about Gemma

My photo
Blackmans Bay, Tasmania, Australia
I am an Australian, a letter designer & calligrapher. I enjoy working with letters and grounds, teaching and mixing with like-minded people.


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