Sisters and the Muse

This falls under Ted’s favorite category of “sorta fun”.

A while back, one of my master muses, John O’Hern, sent a query asking about the painting Sisters. He was writing an article about florals, and botanicals, and Albrecht Durer, and naturally…thought of moi. (She wrote with a grin)

The article came out in this month’s American Art Collector Magazine, which Pat brought in from the mailbox last night.

As I read through and found it today, I see that an image of Sisters did not make the editorial cut. I can see why as the others make a wonderful bouquet of floral still lifes, and my little garden painting is of the more humble vegetable variety.

But, here’s the fun part.
What John wrote about the painting Sisters is…in his most inimitably magical way…delightful.

And I quote,
“Heather Neill observes a helpful symbiotic relationship in her own garden between her tomato plants and a volunteer scarlet runner bean that self-seeded the year before. Sisters refers to the ancient practice of “sistering” or “growing companion plants to, in this case, literally, support one another”, she explains. “Native Americans would plant corn to support the beans, which would shade lower growing lettuces…all in the same patch.”

The subjects are shown after dusk plucked out of the dark by a porch light. Neill’s saturated color and hyperreal painting along with the dramatic light suggest a more sinister role for the vine when the light is extinguised.”

Only John would imagine such sinister designs, plucked after dusk by a porch light.

Brilliant, and ta.


New Paintings

I’ve been playing catch up after an extended time away from the easel, and have been hitting the brushes hard for the last few weeks. So, I am a bit behind with this blog, and a long list of other things…

There are two new paintings which are out there in the gallery world and I wanted to let you take a peek.

This first one, The Self Portrait, is a painting of Zoe when she visited camp Gran and Mima last summer. There are traces of this chalk portrait lingering on the studio porch, and it warms my cold winter heart every day.

It is currently on display at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery, in Santa Fe.

The second is a still life, Reeling, for which I have Alex to thank. He’s the one who got me excited about learning to fly fish, and gifted me with that lure, and a few hundred stories about his fishing adventures. I have my new rod, Sister Bean, at the ready by my kitchen door and on sunny days I practice my casting out in the yard. That may be as close as I get to hooking a fish, which would be fine because I mostly just enjoy the time spent with Alex. He’s a keeper.

Reeling is hanging in the current show at Gallery 1261, in Denver.

OK, now it’s back to work.

You all enjoy these lengthening days,
and play nice out there.

H


Granary Gallery Show

Swan Song an abstract Chilmark aria

It’s that time of year again and oh how those brushes have been flying !

The Granary Gallery Show is almost here…

The Opening is July 31, 5-7pm

I will be rolling out the new paintings here on the blog beginning next week, but the one featured above is a sneak peak at one of my favorites…

I’m calling this, Swan Song – An Abstract Chilmark Aria

I’ve gotten the approval of the dear diva herself, Skip Peterson, to show this now to the world. She modeled for me last October. Among her many talents and gifts, Skip is a painter, and among her many requests and suggestions for how I should capture her portrait, she thought it would be sorta fun to have an actual painting of hers in it.

Locating it some place in Chilmark was a must… as it is for her, like so many others, a treasured place held dearly in her soul…and when I took her to my sacred place, Camp Sunrise, she fell in love instantly.

We knew, when I painted this that the house was slated for demolition. And I had been meaning to capture it from this angle because the meadow in the foreground is where they were planning, and now have built, the new home. When, back in my mid-winter studio, I needed something to carry the energy of Skip’s song, I chose those wonderful swans which were soaring on their way to nearby Squibnocket pond.

But it wasn’t until a few months later, when someone sent me a photo of the empty horizon…when it became sadly real to me that the house was finally gone…that the title came to me.

It usually takes me a while to look back and see the workings of the muses.

With this painting, on so many levels, they have been leading me here for a lifetime.


Visions of Home

Hello…it’s me,

no not Adele,

but I may soon have to brush the paparazzi out of my hair…

because we have a movie premiere to attend…

film poster

Tonight I painted the last brushstroke on the last painting for this summer’s Granary Gallery Show. And while I have been working hard here in my studio, all the way across the country, the famed infamous artists/film production team of David and Barbarella Fokos have been in their San Diego studio creating a documentary about my artwork.

You can view David’s spectacular photographs on his site, click hereand explore Barbarella’s world of wonders on her site, click here.

I’ve been teasing you here along the way, and now they have created a teaser of their own, a trailer for the upcoming movie, Visions of Home.

Pat and I have been singing the background music all week.

And hang on to your chiffon and your boas everybody, there is going to be an actual PREMIERE. Yes. The MV Film Society has information on their site, click here.

It will be at the Capawok Theater, in Vineyard HavenFriday July 29th
6PM

The tickets will be free but they tell me anyone interested in coming will need to check in with the theater to reserve seats. After the film there will be a Q and A with, the artiste, the film makers, and the director of TAO, The Artist Odyssey, Chris Fessenden.

Please take an extra minute to visit their website, where you can view some of the other artist profiles that David and Barb have done. Wonderful.

Forgive me in advance as the promotion department will need to use all available media to get the work out, so you may experience inundation.

It has been a long winter of hibernation, and as tired as I am tonight…

my spirits are lifted by the excitement swirling around the studio…

and I’ll be bringing you all along for the ride.

Yours in straw bale gardens and steaming brushes,

H


Got a letter the other day…

Ex Libris

From the Follansbee…

telling me the website was dark.

Three days of inquiries later…she’s back up and running.

Apologies to anyone out there,
at least one of you is out there,in case you were looking to for some artwork to browse through while sipping that steaming mug of tea.

Another snowstorm is collecting energy in the wings and poised to bounce around the east coast for the next couple days. They want a blizzard on the Vineyard, already see that high tides have flooded major roads there so stay home you islanders !

Around here they want a modest 8+ inches which, as I look out of the studio windows now almost three weeks after our blizzard, would just about double what is currently left and clinging to our little patch of the planet.

The muses have been particularly pushy this week and, after fighting and fussing and generally whining Herself’s ears off…I have given in and changed course.

I threw out days of work and dozens of sketches and notes and am following their lead. They are tapping into a deeper place in my soul and, now that I’ve stopped fighting, I feel the energy shifting.

Did I need this website glitch right now ?
Maybe I just needed to check in with my external guides…you all.
So, the spinach pie has cooled while I’ve been writing,
and after a quick lunch,
and a check to see where the snow shovels ended up after the last storm,
I get to head back to work.

Happily,
but holding on tight.
Be safe out there my friends.


Shellfish wanted

Well, just the shells really.

Well, just scallop shells.

OK just small scallop shells.

Here’s the deal. I have made myself a vertical palette. This was inspired by David Kassan and all due credit will be given there when I have the time to do a more thorough post about his ideas. (He has developed and is currently selling his version of a vertical palette. I couldn’t wait for his production team so I experimented and made a couple of my own. The current one in use is pictured here…after two weeks of a particularly detailed painting.)

palette upright

Below is a detail of the tray with two medium receptacles.
Since I use such small amounts of liquin, fine detail and impasto, and since they dry out very quickly, I have found that the disposable cap lid is great for the heavier blob, and the refined scallop shell works great for the thinner stuff.
Most nights I remember to wipe out the shell and it is ready for the next morning’s dollop. But a lot of nights I forget and so it is a sticky mess the next day. After a few months of this the shell has built up a thick coating and today it was no longer able to function up.

I searched around and have a couple more shells, doesn’t the nice new clean one look spiffy here ?

shell

But I know it will not last the winter, I could probably use one a month…so…I’m throwing down a request to my island pals.

When next you take a walk on the beach, or along the shoals, or out behind Larsen’s,would you please pick up a few shells for me. I used to find the best stash at that turnout on the right at the entrance to Sengy pond,  just after Harthaven.
The maximum width is 2 1/8″ to fit in my trough.
I suppose a clam shell would work as well.

It’s such a blessing to have island friends when you live in a landlocked state.
It takes a village,

Yours in puddles of medium,

Heather

 


Finding my way

Marsh Watcher

What is the roll of creativity in an angry chaotic world.
To echo
to mirror
to distract
to remind
to transport
to speak truth
to provide haven

My response, when the tension tipping point is reached,
is to grab my cape, in a wild, Severus like fury,
and circle it as armor and take my soul to refuge in the studio,
there to tease apart the angers from the truths and sit with where they both intersect and where there might be something of meaning to be found.

I have a keen sense of the stairway that leads to that chamber of secrets in my artistic soul. It is a well traveled road and the passage way is woven deep into how I chose to live on the planet.  As I walk that path now, the intensity of the emotions informs the process, and there are familiar touchstones left on the stair treads as I wind my way down and deep.
I am not afraid to go there, only fearful I won’t go far enough.

In carrying along this dialogue I am having with myself, and a few other artists, about what it means to be a Mature Artist, I am pondering this part of the creative process, where we go to understand the profound tragedies in our world, in ourselves. How do we, as artists, make some sense of the pain and loss and fear and find the balancing beauty… both in that darkness, and in the light. And how, as artists who have been swirling their capes for half a century or more, do we recognize that pathway differently than we did when the brushes were new.

What you focus on expands, and for me, at least for now, the channels are wide open.

It is my day job, my all consuming career, to push paint around on a panel until it sings. When I started this full time, 16 years ago, I was well into middle age, but I had been dabbling since high school and there are some scraps of drawings left to remind me of the innocence of those early strokes.

This week I have been looking back at the portfolio on my website, which begins in 2000. It surprises me how autobiographical the paintings have been. No viewer will ever see it, but I can remember when, and why each of those compositions were chosen, and, upon review, how much has evolved in the ensuing light years…both technically and personally.

With each painting I have insisted on raising the bar. Sometimes that is noticeable, sometimes I slid back in a heap. It was always a conscious decision to work harder at the craft of painting, but what strikes me today is the unconscious way that the depths of the narrative seemed to drag my wayward soul into a different place.

Some wise woman along the way said that, as we grow older, it was easier to recognize what one doesn’t want, or need, and after jettisoning that…there is more room for the mystery. I made that last part up, about the mystery, but, as the years creep up on me, I am so much better at letting go of the noise. I’m finding much more to satisfy my curiosity in the silent spaces. I crave silence. That is what I need of the swirling cape of escape now.

The subject came up this morning, Herself and I talked about the cliche of artists needing angst and turmoil to plum creative depths.She had read of some artists who go to great length to fabricate a self destructive atmosphere of a narrative in order to tap into their genius.

Now, this topic may have, in some way been tweaked into her consciousness after she had hurried across the icy path from cabin to studio…in her slippers… to see why I had not answered her phone calls, only to find me furiously wielding the vacuum in the kitchen seeking out and attacking the tiny evidence of a most unwanted creature who has chosen to do battle with me…now…in the middle of our already most challenging winter.
I was indeed awash in drama…albeit achingly justified.

But…

searching around to create some artificial angst…Not me.
Been there, got the T-shirt..s, and can tap into those dragons in a flash as needed.

But, as I was saying about the silence…that source is currently the cauldron of creative juices.

There now, I have gone on a ramble, again.
Among the slurry of emotions this season,
I’m working through my feelings about the loss of the Langmuir’s Camp Sunrise.
I received a photo taken from Squibnocket Beach, just a couple weeks ago, and the top of that dear sweet roof line no longer peeks above the horizon of cliffs.

Of course, I knew it was coming.
What I didn’t know is how the actuality of the void would choke my soul.

So, I’ve been reviewing my portfolio. Lining up all the paintings I have done of that camp. The count is well over fifty. Almost one for each of my “oh so mature” years.

My job now, the challenge I am setting before the easel, is to tell the last chapter of her story.
Sitting in the silence.
Listening,
for where the story of the life of that old chicken coop, intersects with the lives of her caretakers, and artist squatters, and with the island itself.

I know where to start…
now…
can I go deep enough.the-temple-of-my-familiar


A new year…

Looking out of the studio window on this, the first day of the new year, I am eager to let the last five months of challenging emotional detours fade into the history books…carrying the lessons forward that sustained us in the deep waters,  the rock solid humor that kept us sane, and the love that is at the core of our precious little family of three.

The work begins anew today and the muses are tingling with anticipation.

It’s time for the annual editing of the ideas. Pouring through the stacks of sketchbooks, the mountains of photo references, compiling all the notes and phrases and scribbled phrases that have been gathering in the corners of the studio…and my mind…for the last year, and putting them in some manner of order. Then teasing out the concepts and titles and compositions which scream the loudest to have their turn on the easel.

Acutely aware of time, and the energy that is required to push the boundaries further for each new painting, I can here Polly’s voice over my shoulder, telling me to “Shake yourself together”. She’s right. All the pressure I’m stressing out over, to chose the right images, to meet gallery expectations, to take on the harder subjects, to bring the work to a new level, and to clear away enough of the outside world to find that focus which is essential to make a space for the magic to happen… I do know better.

It just simply won’t happen unless I get out of my own way. Let all those “shoulds” go. Pull up what you can of the drawbridge. Bite the head off a tiny chocolate santa and dig in…

So today, I cast the net. A wide arc of review, in which the first wave of ideas, old and new, will be gathered into a new listing. There are no limits to the criteria… I’ve always wanted to work on that…I think I might be ready for this one now…I can’t wait to try my hand at that subject…oh yeah, I forgot about that light…on that boat…and look who wandered into that photo shoot…I still love that title…and this one makes me smile.

Time will do the weeding. For now, make the list. There are always one or two ideas that rise quickly to the top. Usually it’s something fun and light that practically paints itself. Just get the brushes flying and the muses will smooth out the rough patches.

What I need is a nice long walk on the beach…with my girls.

pf1 pf2 pf3 pf4 pf5