Little Pilgrims

31 July

One of the best parts of this life is watching the Follansbee twins grow. They are two and then some now and learning the world around them at lightening speed. And learnin’ their parents as well. They, the adults, work at Plimoth Plantation and, as you may have read in other entries on this blog,                  Peter is the chief woodworker (his blog is a fascinating series of hands on lectures about 17th century joinery…http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/  )                                                                                    and Maureen is the curator of the Reproductions Collections and one of our favorite humans..    (Here is a link to an article she wrote for the museum http://www.plimoth.org/discover/behind/materialculture.php )

Anyway, their other day job is following Rose and Daniel around as they explore the planet. I just can’t get enough of their smiles and giggles and little sneakers. We stopped on our way home from the Vineyard last week to see them and here are some of the pics… I can still feel their soft tiny hands in mine.


The Opening

26 July

A week ago today we were opening up the trailer and unloading paintings for the Granary show. After a  whirlwind of a week on Martha’s Vineyard we are taking our time coming back down to earth. I wanted to share a few pictures with you here for those who could not make it to the island. Unfortunately, my new pocket camera was not working as hoped so we have only a couple pics from the actual opening. I managed to get more the next day and have included them.

We left a day early as our dear friend Polly was ailing. She had celebrated her 95th birthday the week before and we sadly got the news a few hours into our trip that she had died. We were grateful to be there that evening with her husband Ted and their son Terry and share some tears and some stories and begin to celebrate her wonderful life. (As a tribute, we all wore a necklace of Polly’s to the opening.)

Here she is on her birthday with Katie as they help sort strawberries for her traditional birthday shortcake.

Two of my favorite humans.

The rest of Day One

With the early morning start, we were first in line for the ferry by 4pm.

Day two …

I pine all year long for Chef Hesi’s sushi at the Net Result in Vineyard Haven. He is a master and a kind, creative soul. Dragon Rolls are his specialty and a must if you’re on the island. Stop in and tell him I said hello.

This trip we reconnected with our friend Marni and stayed at her wonderful B and B in Vineyard Haven. She had our tree top room ready for our late arrival complete with fresh flowers and her gentle hospitality. A couple days into the visit Sid and Peg arrived to share in the adventures. Here we sit on Marni’s porch with one of her magnificant breakfasts before us. She makes a loaf of fresh bread for each visitor every night and I can attest to the extra mile that she goes to which made us feel both comfortable and at peace.This link will take you to her web site, and maybe someday to her door…http://www.marnishouse.com/

Pat, Marni, Peg and Sir Sidney

It was such a grand treat to have three days with S and P. Their love and support has carried us through many decades and to get to play on the island with them was a rare gift.

We had a detour in our show week on Sunday morning as we drove out the long sandy road on the atlantic side of the island to meet up with Tappan Heher, a filmaker who contacted me about including some of my artwork in his current production, Mistover, a remake of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native…which was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ll be posting a separate entry on this project and some of Tappan’s other works but in the meantime here is a pic of Tappan and friends solving all the problems in the world.

The Opening

The parking lot was full when we drove up and the first great surprise was seeing my oldest friend Stephanie walking across it. Steph was my first supporter from our days in junior high school in Swarthmore, PA. Through the years she and her husband Tim and two growing gentleman sons have become among my top patrons and I can’t tell you what it was like to see her there…WITH her sister Julie, husband and son AND her mother, Mrs. IP ! Blew me away, and broke my heart when they had to leave early to make a ferry. I think Steph got some pics to prove their attendance which I will post here when they come but in the meantime here’s a pic of the Hunter family when they visited the studio last month…

Steph, James, Tim and Nick

It is always tense when an artist first walks into an opening. Will anyone show up ? Will anything sell ?  For this show there was a yes to both and the welcomed red dots took a back seat to the welcoming crowd. Since I don’t have but a couple pics to give you the feel, I’ll just add a thank you to all the friends who took the time to come out on that steamy summer night, and to all those whom I met for the first time who were gracious with their kind words and encouragement. Both Pat and I continue to be amazed by and humbled at the vineyard audiences who go out of their way to greet us and the work with such positive energy. Feeds this artist’s soul all winter.

Among this year’s audience was the Diva herself….Suede ! Another surprise, and I must say a very special one. Suede is a renowned performer and we have enjoyed her music for decades…As Pat told her, long before there was electricity !… She has a new album out with her Dangerous Big Band and it became a favorite when I was preparing for my show this year, as I turned up the volume and danced to her sultry jazzy blues while varnishing and framing. We had exchanged a few emails wherein I congratulated her and then, after seeing the new work on my website she congratulated me, and said she might come to the show. Well, as a fan, I thought …dream on.

But mid-way through the evening, across a crowded room…there she was in the gallery, with some wonderful friends who flew in for the event ! Yep, a bit star struck was I, but very soon settled into feeling like old friends.  We got one blurry pic but the memories are crystal clear.

Pat, Leslie, Suede and friend

Pat, Leslie, Suede and friend

I encourage you all to check out the new music at her web site and buy several copies   www.suedewave.com

And now, here are the rest of the pics from the show. Our special thanks to all the staff at the Granary Gallery. They are so generous and professional and make the work shine.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

                                                                                                     

                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 I’ve got lots more to share but this is enough to give you the flavors and colors.

The show will hang along with the work of fellow artists, David Wallis and Ken Vincent,

David, Heather, Ken

David, Heather, Ken

for the rest of the summer at the Granary Gallery . You can also keep track of the new paintings and soon to be updated exhibitions schedule at my website www.heatherneill.com . Much more later, but for now…it’s back to the real world and the lawn that needs my attention.

Be safe, and stay cool… HN


Granary Gallery Show

The NEW paintings are up on the website….

Click on the image below to take you to the preview page… (Also…when you open the thumbnails to the large format images you can click on the quill pen in the bottom left corner to read the Painter’s Notes for that piece.)


Our Beecharmer

A moth-eaten old red uniform. Part of a collection of old Hollywood movie costumes I bought on Ebay years ago.

Burnished ebony wood and tarnished silver keyed clarinet. Also Ebay….

as is ….the beekeepers hat, now brittle with age, it has holes torn in the front screening large enough for a hummingbird to fly through.

The ancient oak tree that clings to the creek bank next to my old treetop studio…jagged remnant of the arm that broke off in a storm and crashed through the studio ceiling and pierced the center of my easel chair…missing the artist by eight and a half minutes.

Bee skep resting on the forest floor …drawn from research out here on the internet… and glowing with a light from within …drawn from memory.

Bees themselves …courtesy of the coneflowers, and the zinnias, and the sunflowers and the beebalm of course.

And my muse….Isaac…

This is another painting that was incubating for years …and all the while the tree was growing old, and the clarinet fell from its perch and chipped a tooth, Gully used the string on the beekeepers hat as dental floss, the shoulders on the red coat were hanging on the bathroom door gathering lint and lavender, and Isaac was growing tall.

From the time they were wee little ones, the grandkids have been my  muses. The magical way they weave through our lives works its way onto the canvas as illustrated in the painter’s notes for one of my very first Spirit Vessel paintings….Sister Fisher and the Holy Ghost  click here to read 

When it came time to bring this image to life I originally thought it would be Amanda who was the model. It was Christmas time and the family Barber was here for the annual Pictionary night and I remembered the coat and she tried it on…not a good fit, as my friend Polly would say, so Isaac gave it a try. He’s always been a natty dresser and a cool customer… even in his slippers. And he brought that uniform to life… with the powerful shoulders of an athlete, long limber legs and ruggedly handsome youth…I could see the man within, and, with the sprightly spark of humor and magic that has always been behind Isaac’s eyes…I watched as the Beecharmer himself winked back at me.

A few months later he and his Dad Peter came up for the modeling session. After too much chatting, we banished Pete and Pat to the studio kitchen and I and I worked. We were almost finished when he relaxed the pose and the shadow left his face and he looked directly into the camera…stopped me cold. I had intended to keep the figure anonymous. Features in heavy shadow. But the direct gaze from those eyes changed something. We reworked the lighting and tried again. This time allowing the muse of Isaac himself into the room. I’m learning to step out of my own way and catch those muses on the whisper.

In the end, when I picked up the brushes weeks later to begin, I chose to keep the intensity of his eyes but lower the gaze and keep the narrative focused on charming those bees… or is it on the light ?

Last night Isaac, his Mom Kara and his friend Justin made a special trip up to the studio so he could see this painting before it travels north next week. (In the last blog entry his sister Amanda did the same.) 

So now, you can see what’s behind those impish eyes for yourselves….

We love ya kiddo, HN


Muse Visits Studio

9 July – Passing Showers

Our grandaughter Amanda and her Mom Kara visited the studio today to take a look at the painting for which she modeled, before it gets packed in the trailer for the MV show next week.

Way, way back when Amanda was 16, I got the idea for this painting in my head. She was the perfect muse…young graceful gamin….patiently posing while I sketched and photographed…while her grandmother provided the reaching hand from her carpeted perch on the dining room floor.

This winter, some 5 years later, I came across the photos and sketches and it felt like the muse was tapping on my shoulder. It was time to explore the figurative work that has been nudging at my back door. Been a lot of water under all our bridges since then and Miss A is evolving into a remarkably strong, confident and elegant human. There are layers and layers of spirited meaning in this painting for Pat and me. What keeps rising to the surface is the power of reaching for that light, and trusting enough to let go and be led towards it.

Thanks for the gift of your heart’s smile today A.    Love ya,  HN


Early Start

 7July 7am

Gulliver and I tiptoed out of the log cabin in the thick fogbound morning and went through the back gate over to the studio.

Early July Morning

Cobwebs covering my glasses, I was ready for an early start to a long work day. Stopped in the kitchen to put a scoop of food in Gully’s bowl, grab a diet pepsi and head into the office to check email…

A message from Lynn popped up. Always a treat. This time there was a link to Tim O’Brien blog page…and there went the morning….

The short story is that the Langmuir family is beyond all things, generous. They have shared their island sanctuary with a few of us over the years and Lynn had the great foresight to keep a running journal of summer’s there which visitors are encouraged to comment in. (What we did before bolgging for all you new humans out there.) Our favorite entries have been the cartoon sketches which Tim does of his family’s annual visit in July. We’ve watched as his career took off, a master illustrator who is famous for his Time Mag. covers, as their adventurous pup rambled the meadows, as their son Cassius was born and learned his way around the island, and now….an introduction to Tim’s website, and this wonderful blog entry describing how he transformed a newly repaired ceiling board into a window on the vineyard sky. My brushes are bowed in respect for his genius !  There is lots more here, and for those of us who know every crack in that ceiling, and for those who appreciate humor and magic…this is a fun read.     http://www.drawger.com/tonka
Time to hitch the trailer up and make my way to the frame shop again. The frame that wouldn’t fit in the truck is coincidentally for a portrait of the garage on the Langmuir’s bluff. A view which Cassius would not be able to find, but Tim might appreciate….

The Temple of my Familiar

The Temple of my Familiar

T-minus 14 days and counting ’til the show. The summer is sizzlin’ by….  HN


Frame Carving Completed

Day after the 4th and the sleepless night of illegal fireworks being shot off next door for hours upon hours. Gully finally gave up her nervous vigil and went to sleep. Pat played freecell until the third finale seemed to end at round about 2 am, and, I tossed and turned for a fitful while but the ear plugs softened the concussions and I went dreamily to the deck of the Man ‘O War which Post Master Aubrey was beating to quarters, guns ready for battle….

Framed up the fishing pole today so I thought I would follow up on the finishing steps to its carved frame. It took about six hours to finish the carving and the hardest part was turning that sized frame around to get the proper purchase and angles with the knife and gouges. On a smaller frame or individual panel, like the chair slats I used to carve, I would turn and turn again for almost each cut. Not so with a frame as large as my office door.

Mid-Way

 

Close up of quote.

   Here it is with the carving finished and ready for the next step.

Carving Done

I used the garage workshop, which has more ventilation, as the staining station. Depends entirely on the frame and painting but I have experimented lately with traditional wood stains, milk paint, gold leaf and even spray paint to treat the surface. This one, as you can see, wanted to show off the wood grain so I used a Minwax English Chestnut stain followed by a coat of satin polyurethane which was rubbed on and left to dry for a couple days.

Stained Frame

The humidity is quite high this weekend so I brought it inside yesterday to give it a chance to dry out before completing the framing. There are three parts to this frame. A thin rabbeted frame holds the painting and is joined to the poplar carved panel with nails and screws as needed. Then the outside moulding is attached and all three are joined as one to support the painting panel. (More about the composition and preparation of these panels will appear in future posts.) 

Here is the final product…

  ” … a shortage of fishing poles” 

  Oil on Panel 72″ x 16″     (Outside frame dimension is 80″ x 24″)

The full quote is, ” If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles. ” Doug Larson

There will be one more carved frame for the upcoming Granary Gallery show which opens in two short weeks. All new work will be posted on my HN Website on Saturday July 12th.

The countdown continues…

Stay frosty my friends,  HN