Feathered

It’s a wonderfully dreary start to the day before Thanksgiving in central Pennsylvania, the perfect weather for painting.

We, like so many in this land, have a large plucked bird in the fridge and are planning to roast it with most of the trimmings and be thankful. And I am, for many things. But today, I thought I’d concentrated on…the birds.

Watching them, feeding them, learning about them, painting them, and most of all the delight of coming upon the treasured gift of their feathers.

window

The studio is full of them. Collected over the years, their beauty astounds. With my new bionic knees I am back out on the trails, and the muses are back as well…

pheasant

After finding this beauty, I decided it was time to get serious about identification so I got this book…

book

Which I highly recommend. I’ve been pouring over it for days now. And the first one I spied was this one which recently made a supporting role appearance in this painting you might remember…

the master carvers tea

if you zoom in on the Jorgesen, that would be the clamp for you non-woodworkers, you will see the feather, which…every single one of the avian enthusiasts mis-identified. I have four of them which have been floating around here for years. But right there on page 91…

chukar

we see that it belonged to a Chukar !
Further research, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reveals that the Chukar is…
chukar web

A native of southern Eurasia, the Chukar was introduced into the United States from Pakistan to be a game bird. It lives in arid, rocky terrain across the western United States and southern Canada.
And then it hit me…I already knew that. Insert fading memory comments here as you will, but it all came back to me. Years ago, I’ll say 4, I found one perched on my studio garage roof. As you can see, it is a stunner of a bird so it caught my attention, but it is also not a local gal. I also seem to remember that, when first I googled this creature, there was mention of raising these smallish sized birds to release for hunters to take down with big guns, ( picture me here shaking my head in dismay).

The memory of finding the feathers is lost but, when I decided to take the leap to add that little bit of whimsy to Peter’s painting, it was after all a painting of Peter, the birdman of Plymouth, I didn’t have to look far to find the perfect candidate as these four feathers have been tucked into a little blue teacup behind my easel for lo those, I’ll say four, years now.

Above that easel is this display of painting and sketch and original model…

studio

vineyard-vanitas

And yes, the muses are right there over my shoulder of late…

peering

Cardinal Wolsey. The ever present window slammer of a bird, is still with me. I now believe she is more than just a disturbed bird. Pat and Finn met a woman at the park last week who, after hearing the story of the intrepid one, immediately suggested that she was someone who I had known who had “passed on” and did I know anyone in the clergy. Well I sat back in my chair at that one. Seriously, my father, the Presbyterian minister, returned as the slammer ?

woolsey

Possibly ?
I’m still pondering that one.
But this bird is definitely trying to tell me something. She now follows me from window to window and watches me all day long. Hurling Herself at the panes seems to diminish when I settle in at the easel. Then she just flies up and stares at me…the rubbernecker.

Well, ok, that part could be Ted. He is definitely nudging me to focus on painting…probably as I write this…which is taking time away from what I began this blog with…

that perfect painting day.

Well, the dreary rain has turned to our first snowfall of the season. The promise of a winter wonderland, a bird in the oven, one at the window, and two dozen at the feeders…that’s all I need of Thanksgiving.

And, this…to all my friends and patrons, whose support allows me to do the work that is so meaningful to my soul…

Thank you.

 

 

 


The Return

Ah dear readers, I am back.
The month of honeymooning was grand. The outpouring of kindness, generosity and celebratory enthusiasm stunned us both. It will take a month of sundays to write all the thank you notes and we are humbled and still smiling with the fun of it all.

Along with all the festivities, came a much welcomed block of time in which to creatively…rest.

There have been lots of times in my life, when I have been forced to take time off from the easel. There were years of interruptions and detours until I stepped off the “I’m going to be and artist” track and began to lift the brushes full time. Since the end of 2001 I have been going full tilt with the aim of making a living out of those brushes and as every self employed person understands, your success is measured in direct proportion to your willingness to show up.

There is, of course, a hell of a lot more than a good attendance record to making a living as an artist, and the balance of persistence, talent and sheer luck is best left to the muses to manage. The support of fantastic gallery owners, the investment of patrons, and a healthy dose of shameless self promotion help to keep the paints and canvas in stock, but what about the creative factor.

I get asked a lot at shows, “How do you come up with ideas to paint ?”
My usual answer is that I have more ideas than I have days left in which to work, and yep that is definitely true. I have never experienced the artist’s equivalent of a “writer’s block”…(insert painting just for the fun of it here )

Writers-Blocks

But, after a decade plus of intense focus with short controlled bursts of weeding and one or two actual days “off”, I found myself, at the end of this summer, in an entirely new place…sheer creative exhaustion. It sounds bloody narcissistic, and it definitely feels that way. Polly would have sharply admonished me to, “shake yourself together !”. Boy howdie did I try that…right up until the wheels of the plane lifted and we were airborne and headed to Albuquerque.

The ensuing month off, far away from the studio, provided a slow unpeeling of layers. Bathing in the  breathtaking kindness of true friends, bathing in an actual hot tub, bathing in beauty…hard core color and light…surrounded by new vistas and familiar landmarks, my eyes eventually eased.

It took more time than I imagined, to crawl up and out of that groove, but long about the three week mark the light bulb grew brighter. I remember the morning, when the amber light of the vineyard sunrise angled its way through the pall. I could actually breathe more easily. That crisp October air cleaned out the last of the cobwebs. Finn saddled up in the back of the car. Herself put the camera in her lap. I sharpened the pencil and readied the sketchbook, and off we went…

When I have been away from the studio, on one or another of those “detours”, there has always come a moment, a jolting grip at the core, a stunning urgency in which I simply can’t wait to get back.

Today, after I get home from taking Finn to see her doc about some clean teeth, there is nothing, for miles and miles, between me and the easel. The first panel is up, sketch is on, I laid the fresh paint on the panel minutes ago, audiobook fired up, thermos of hot tea next to the cup…and I am ready.

I’ll keep you posted as the winter progresses but know that, for now, I’m back.