Working on a theme…

Last year I started a series of …well series paintings.

I wanted to work on themes and explore them across several different compositions. There were more ideas than I had time to create and I’ve learned that there is a time, and a season as it were, for each painting. So, as the crisp fall air brings the colors alive, I have been studying apples… anew.

The October before last  I spent a day with our friend Ted in the Tiasquam orchards in West Tisbury…

There are dozens of good painting ideas from that modeling session and I decided to elaborate on the “theme” of apple picking.  Though I started the series last year with some sketches …

and then this painting from my studio yard…

Like I said earlier… last year life took some wicked wild turns … but life ebbs and marches on…and I’m now reaching back and pulling on the thread that started the theme.

I don’t usually put photos of unvarnished paintings up on the web but the new iphone has a good enough camera to  give you a decent representation of what is fresh off the easel.

This painting was inspired by a quote from  NC Wyeth, “I have all this and more, yet how I would like to relax; to be content with a wheelbarrow, a rake, an apple basket, a pipe.” He wrote that in a letter dated September 19, 1910. A hundred years later and that sentiment still resonates.

And what to do with all those apples ?

Well that’s the next painting in the series… Skillet Apple Pie.

You won’t be able to get much out of this shot of the still life set up…because I decided to change it up a bit after moving to the easel…but here’s a peak into the early stages of the creative process…

I’ve gotten this far…

And yes, it’s all about the butter !

Stay tuned…


FINISHED !!!!!!!

Noon today… the big painting was signed and declared completed.

Three brutal months, 46 birds, 46 boats, thousands of shingles and one lone fisherman later…

Despite the congestion in the lungs and head, I am breathing a whole lot easier this afternoon. This is one huge weight (literally) lifted off my shoulders… and I’m on to the next ptg…my brushes have hit the ground running as the race to complete as many more paintings as I can in the next two months before the show.

Stay tuned for updates… in the meantime here are some detail shots…


A closer look…

Maybe it’s because I’m listening to the new Mary Russell novel, The God of the Hive , which is rocketing up the Best Seller list – Congrats to LRK ! …. Another brilliantly written adventure with Sherlock Holmes and his irregulars…

and maybe it’s because this aging artist is constantly fighting her bifocals to see well enough to brush in the finest of details…

and maybe it’s because this massive undertaking of a painting, now three long hard months in the making, is straining and stretching the limits of said sickly artist…

but the other day I got to thinking about magnifying glasses…

and yesterday a new magnifying lamp arrived in a big brown truck.

It certainly does make it much easier to see the detail I am trying to render. Even though there is also an annoying shake that happens when I bump it with the other end of the brush…or the brim of my baseball hat…or Finnegan’s tail. But I’m learning its personal space limitations and loving the sharper focus. Especially on this painting with lobster traps that are half an inch long and seagulls that are the size of dimes. Wish I’d thought of this earlier…but there ya go… and here’s the view through my looking glass…


No stopping it now…

Spring is here and the studio is hopping…

Week three and I finally got a decent nights’ sleep and the long slow climb out of pneumonia is trending upward…

Creeping out of that fog it feels like the world has spun into high gear and I am a bit dazed. After the long cold months of dreaming my way through the winter… every corner of the studio has a new project calling…in some cases screaming…at me.

The new printer has arrived and we are preparing to launch the sale of prints published in our own studio and sold exclusively on our website next week. Emails back and forth with Ross, the webmaster…and testing of the new machine…and producing an announcement to be mailed out have the office hopping…

Outside the next phase of construction is underway in the studio garden… we’re going greener with some new raised beds in which to plant veggies to replenish our weakened immune systems…

Back inside the easel has this year’s mega panel endeavor waiting patiently for my energy level to return to normal. The panel is ambitious and I can’t wait to tackle the intense detail…so far it’s been weeks of building up the ground work interrupted by weeks of crawling back to bed…today for the first time I feel that tide turning.

And then last week my share of the Jupiter Moon Farm fall shearing arrived… this time I ordered raw fleece rather than the processed yarn. It is glorious and I won’t have to wait now until the May Sheep and Wool Festival to sit and spin my cares away. I am going to try and use this as a great big carrot to lead me back to the easel and only after a good days work of painting…allow myself to sit at the spinning wheel and let the healing fibers fly.

Through it all,  right at my side, has been my little apprentice…

Finnegan is the healthiest of the bunch around here. She has both of her legs back under her now and is rehabbing nicely. She is more than ready to run with the big dogs again but it will be 6 more weeks or so of restricted exercise before she can really let loose.  While I was writing this blog she decided that box of fleece left on the floor in the bathroom should be rearranged… the trail leads through the kitchen, down the hall, and right to my easel chair…

I get the message…back to work !

Stay tuned for updates on all these projects and more… H


Digging out…

Valentines Day 2010

Sitting here in the studio looking at mountains of snow.

Three days of hard labor with the snow shovels and monster blower machine thingy and I am so grateful that all I have to lift today is a triple ought sable haired brush.

At the height of the blizzard I took this shot from the studio window…

And here’s a look at a painting that I worked on after our first snow storm back in December…almost the same view…just pan over to the right a bit more…

And a look at the labyrinth that I have to shovel out for Finn each time it snows so her mending legs have a better than fair chance out there in the tundra…

And the Apprentice Herself tucked into the snow fort that has melted some but was well over her head a day or so ago…

The good news is that we finally got Miss Pat out of the lane and up to town. Her cabin fever was approaching the red zone so even the laundromat was looking good !

Blueberry pancakes for both of my valentines this morning to fortify another day of winter survival adventures…and I shall be more than content to paint the day away and know that I am so well loved by my two sweeties.


The Baron… and The Baroness

Every so often I rotate the stack of reference books in the stacks on my studio kitchen table and dip into old volumes to find new treasures. In that way I always find something that I’ve overlooked or was not ready to see before and a window is opened for the muses to shove me through.

Such was the case last month when I was paging through…

I came across a watercolor that my leaky memory has no memory of ever seeing before… Baron Philippe (1981)…

Something clicked and I began to sketch out an idea for a response….

I’ve been working on a series of studio still lifes and this gave me a chance to pull together some of the old props that have been living in the old studio (now renamed the POD ).

The oil lamp was Cousin Ed’s and one of the few treasures of his we were able to purchase back from the auction of his posessions. The empty wine bottle is courtesy of our holiday feast with D and S. The ladies handkerchief was one of Polly’s. The teacup is from Sue’s grandmother. The chair was from the old farmhouse across the road and is a very old shaker style ladderback that somewhere along the way had the rockers sawed off of so it is now a slipper chair. The little porcelain doll in her silky purple gown is a gift from Chris. The cane was a flea market find and has the whisper of a serpent carved in the handle.  The bottle was from an antique store purchased on the day we went to the Amish country to pick out Finnegan. The uniform has appeared in several other paintings and was an old hollywood costume found on Ebay years ago. The shell is from Sengy pond on the Vineyard. I don’t remember from whence the table came but the old wooden floor is the very foundation of my new studio. And the rest… is pure folly.

There are homages here to all three generations of Wyeths and I humbly submit my tribute to them… The Baroness.


Night Studio

It is deep cold winter now and when I leave the studio at night the furnace is turned low and I shut off every light except the string of tiny white lights that wind from the porch … along the picket fence…up over the garage … and down the path to light my way home.

When my eager apprentice wakes me in the early morning it is night black dark as we make our way to work and those lights are there to welcome us like hundreds of tiny muses.

This morning, like all the others, while waiting for me to get our breakfast ready, Finnegan went to get the paints out for the day’s palette … but she came running into the kitchen with a surprised look on her face.

…this is what she found…

Now I have always known that the muses have a keen sense of humor. And I have often come across evidence of “night play” in the studio. But this little tableaux shows some promise… and I may just see where this road takes us.

Stay tuned…. and stay warm.


early morning mist

It’s been stressful in the studio this week and I have been finding solace in my early morning walks with Finnegan.

Finn on our walk

It’s not safe to walk a pup on our street so I drive 10 minutes over to a local park and we walk for half an hour or so. The farms along the way are close to harvesting corn and sunflowers and the other morning, when we got a particularly early start…and just as we crested a small hill…the sun was a firey re/pink globe hovering over pockets of mist that hung in the valley of the fields below. I have driven that way every day since and the late August morning mist is there but not that spectacular sun.

Here’s a look at yesterday morning’s mist giving way to the sun…

walk in the park

I have a couple other paintings in the works which the Granary Gallery has requested but I am taking a small detour to work on the challenge of recording these peaceful early morning vistas while they are still fresh in my mind and before the snow flies.

As Polly would say…Shake yourself together !  and indeed I have.


Apprentice gets to work…

We’re in full tilt show-prep mode here in the studio and our young apprentice has been keeping a tight schedule.   I’m trying to make up for lost time and get a few more paintings finished and this next one has been rumbling around inside my head since it came to me in a dream last winter.  The stars aligned and the rain went away and the model was free so Finnegan gathered the boots and teacups and headed out for the pool early this morning .

apprentice snaps her paws

As prop assistant, she is in charge of making sure the set up is complete…

assistant approves props

I have been using her pool lately for everything but swimming…besides the mosquito factory, it is now a staging  pond for spoon blanks that I split a couple days ago and am carving up when there is an extra hour in the day… it’s all Follansbee’s fault… http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/ …but Finn’s  job is to keep me focused and to make any adjustments needed in the setup… like pushing the model a little to the right…

a little to the left

It’s exhausting work, and she’s nudging me off of this machine so she can take an afternoon nap.

I’ve got the panel oiled out and the sketch done so it’s time to lay down some paint… catch ya latah.


Painting Finished !!!… and Finnegan’s fence progresses

’tis DONE !!! … though I’m going to have to wait for the photographer to do his magic in order to get a good reproduction, here is proof that the panel is off the easel and I am moving on…

off the easel

The last few days involved cleaning up the detail on the remaining boats and making sure all the shadows were correct, then glazing in several more layers of water and reflections.  Varnish will make a huge difference with a painting with this much contrast. The van dyke brown and olive green dark dry with a dull matte sheen and all subtleties within those dark areas are lost until the varnish pops them out. Imagine a beach rock which is transformed from a dull grey when first you pick  it up on a hot and dry summer beach…and then comes alive with color as you let an ocean wave wash over it.

With that major project completed…and before I begin the whirlwind effort to paint the rest of the works for the July show…I treated myself to a rare morning of carving. In the midst of the pile of sticks, which Finnegan and I have been collecting each morning for her fence, I found a honeysuckle branch that decided it would rather be a walking stick. The wood is wonderful to work with. A slow growing hardwood that  has a beautiful heartwood of purples and reds.  Finn worked on removing the bark while I whittled away at the knot holes and we created a right fine pile of shavings…

walking stick break

It does my soul good to spend a morning listening to the birds, watching my sweet puppy play with her new bone, and working with wood.

We’re making good progress on the fence as well but were up too early to start hammering so here are some shots of yesterday’s work…we were running out of fallen branches so decided to get some fresh meat and trim out the honeysuckle and take down a couple saplings that were too close to the power lines.

the proud apprentice

along the back

three sides up

After all that work…it was time for a break…

well deserved break

and then over to the fence to say hello to Jed and make sure Zola doesn’t miss her school bus !

zola and her pals

Now… back to work !