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.


Sky chair summer

After the big summer shows I usually come home and crash…
for a week…
then get right back to the easel.

Well, this year I’m taking it slooooow.
We have been blessed with a new studio apprentice, Alex.
Here he is with his Dad, splitting away the mountain of wood that arose
after the two great, but sadly decaying, pin oaks came down last month.

neighborly

Alex is one strong, enthusiastic, and smart worker, and he is making it possible for this old artist to cross off a long list of chores that have been put on hold…for a decade…while all focus has been on painting.
He has begun to learn the art of panel making and is teaching me a thing or two about snakes, and we’ve both enjoyed some spoon carving on the back porch after the mornings of hard work.
Pat and I feel like we have won the lottery as far as good neighbors go. Every which way we turn, we find kindness and generosity. Believe me it is appreciated.

And, after all that fun morning work…the garden beckons.
Those straw bales are producing, and though I have had an attack of storm trooper squash bugs, there has been progress…

albino zuke early harvest watermelon

Time to try the new slushy machine…

slushy

and of course… Reesers…with friends

reesers

and, at the end of these perfect summer days…

sky chair summer sky

Sending you love from the Sky Chair.


5am…enough light to see

That’s the note I found this morning, on the studio kitchen table, written on a scrap of cardboard, with a sharpie, found beneath the pile of framing tools, which were left untidied, after a long day of framing, and print making, and general mayhem making.

The Follansbee arrived just after I put out the lanterns last night, stopping for a pallet on the studio floor, as he made his way home from a week of teaching woody things down at Roy Underhill’s place in NC. So, the note was all we got to see of him this time, but we had a good visit on his way down south last weekend.

the master carvers tea

His hair is long enough now to tie in the back and a good bit whiter. But the sparkle is still there in those eyes. Gonna catch up with him and the family in the fall, so that’s ok then.

The day dawns, a little later for my own self than the master carver, and Herself has left to ship two new paintings out to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery. There is an opening for that show on July 3rd, in Santa Fe, so today you get the first peek at them…

All Her Eggs  – 16 x 20

All Her Eggs 

Scape  –  12 x 13

Scape

From the sharply pointed pen of Mark Twain…

“Put all your eggs in one basket. And watch that basket.”

Eggs courtesy of Dru and Homer, who farm a CSA just over the hill. They are as delicious to eat as they are to paint. The eggs.

And just out that window and a little to the right is the little wren. Always.
When Zoe is here, she relies on the wren’s first trill of the morning to signal that it is ok to get her giggly self out of bed and start her day.
In the early summer she has a different job.
This summer she has built her nest in the birdhouse just above the garlic bed.
I wait with lusty anticipation all year for the garlic to send forth those gorgeously delectable curly scapes, and this season, her babies hatched on the very same day they appeared.

She spends her busy days now bouncing from Ted and Polly’s wind chime, to dancing from scape to scape.
So, there ya go. Ted is having a blast, directing the muses every which way I turn around here.

Look for these two garden graces to be winging their way out west this week. And if you are in Santa Fe, please stop by to visit Michael and Christie Sugarman and say hey for me.

Now it’s on to more framing…
stay frosty out there.

 


Last brush stroke…

Finally !!!
It’s been a very long haul since I began painting for this summer’s season of shows. Way Way back…in November…the theme for this year’s work snuck up on me. I just looked back at a blog entry near the end of that month and it was full of feathers. And Wolsey. My pal, the ever tapping cardinal, who is out there now, right now, slamming into the big window over my shoulder.

No wonder my studio is now full of paintings of…birds. Many many birds. And feathers. And Eggs. I put the last brush stroke on the last of these paintings just an hour ago.

Thought I would jump right into framing because two of these have to make a very speedy path to Santa Fe, for the opening of a group show at Sugarman Peterson Gallery. But I’m too tired to do that tonight, and it feels good to sit in the comfy chair in the office, by the air conditioning vent.

Some of the bird paintings will make there way out to Santa Fe, and my garden has been wanting equal time. There is a nice little feature in American Art Collector Magazine this month about the SPG show, and they included my thoughts on the muses this year…

” Where the focus drifts, the muses follow, and they are encouraging me to dig around in the dirt and out in the greenhouse and among the weeds to find inspiration for painting ideas. So, I will be adding to my series Garden Graces and building on the figurative work that has been whispering over my shoulder…just as soon as I plant the tomatoes.”

I got them in… last week. But, as the new little “look how healthy you are…not” app reveals, the arc of my “steps taken each day” has flatlined for the last three weeks. No wonder, since it is exactly 50 steps from cabin to studio. Double that and then spend 12 -14 hours at the easel and you have…100 steps. I’ll make up for it now though. My garden beckons and I can hear the weeds singing my name.

Here’s a few pics of my straw bale gardening experiment.

Got the squash and watermelon planted in a baseball diamond pattern. Scott’s fault, Go O’s.

peas and squash

The Raspberry bed has a new annex now and the greens are happy.

raspberry patch

  Other side of the baseball field…new blueberry bed, in the distance, is being harvested now.

straw bale field

This is the view out behind the sky chair, where the potatoes are thriving.

behind my sky chair

And the way back bales, two similar beds of bales are two the right with strawberries in them and this one has a steady crop of chard and beets which I use daily now.

    out back bales

So…there’s that.

Then…inside the studio…the shift is on. Frames and paintings are now stacked in every room and the Corcoran shuffle keeps Pat jumping as she delivers and picks up paintings from John at his photography studio. My job. Frame ’em up. Then write painters notes and pack everything up for our trip to Martha’s Vineyard for the biggest show of the year at the Granary Gallery.

That’s right…I know your calendars are marked… July 12th is the opening. Incredibly only three weeks from tomorrow. Geez…

So, I’m not sure if the whole reveal  thing will happen with the new works this year but I will unveil them as the files come in and you will get the sneak peeks that my readers have come to expect.

First up…way up… is

Updraft  –  12 x 16

updraft

Yep, that’s really how close the house is to the edge now…or at least “was” back when we stayed there last July. And just over those rocks is a 30 foot drop to the beach.

Ahhhh…the bluff.

On this, the 40th anniversary of JAWS…I think I’ll keep my toes out of the water and flying in the sky chair which is where I’m headed right now. This will be my view, for tonight at least…

night night studio

Night night studio.


I love a craze…

This is Phyllis’s fault.
One photo shared on social media and now look…

back bales

Straw bales upon raised beds begun

And then there’s this…

potatoes

Future site of Potato Farm

And this…

home base

If you build it…

Here’s the manual…

bk

And the link to do your own research…click HERE.

This all seemed like a good idea in February. And Pat is now best buds with the farmer over the hill who has loaded up every one of the 40 plus bales we absolutely needed.I have had great fun experimenting with fertilizer and have replaced over 40 washers on the old rugged hose. And, despite our efforts, things are starting to grow…

straws

beets

peas

Most of us on the east coast are experiencing the slow to warm up  spring which has been a good thing for us old lady gardeners who have day jobs to which they should be attending. But I’ve already made use of the wisps of straw which collected in the back of the truck  in two paintings…so…the bales are props !

There is new life in these old bones and the extra weeks of cooler weather has allowed this gardener to pace herself. I had time to add a new bed dedicated to blueberry bushes…

blueberry

and build a better lid for the cold frame and an annex to the raspberry bed…

frame

and …weed !

As of yesterday, all the bales are conditioned…read the book…and I’m ready to install the drip irrigation system. The back beds, with the strawberries, were started a month or more ago. There is good growth there and the row cover system allowed me to save the tenders from all three frosty nights.

We got a good rain last night, though it wasn’t enough to wash the poo off of the eagle cam…ugh. And Saturday is the SHEEP AND WOOL FESTIVAL …YEAH !!!!!!!!

So that means today I will have to knuckle down at the easel and limit my outdoor putterings. Seriously. I have a LOT of painting to do.

So, this is Phyllis Disher Fredericks fault !

 


Last year at this time …

Reclamation

I was framing up the paintings from the Reclamation Series .

Sailing Camp Shadows

There was a catalog to get to the printers, a flurry to ship a piece or two up to the Museum for their annual fundraiser, and, as I recall…a general air of that flurry, nay panic, about getting everything done in time to make our ferry reservations.

This year…I somehow went from being a month behind schedule in May…to being waaay ahead of that same schedule here in the month of June.

The watch 2014

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in search of things to fill this time. There are small craft warning options, and bags of tools, and tempting books, in piles in every single room in both studio and log cabin. But for the first time in a decade I am, shall we say, relaxing into these early summer days.

Entire pots of coffee are slowly consumed in the morning sky chair. Weeds, which are historically allowed to cycle into full tilt trees, are being yanked in their youth. Many small, and a couple of large, projects have been crossed off the home improvement list. Parts of the studio can actually be called cleaned up. Ok small parts but hey.

And I have spent hours at a time, with tiny needle in hand, in a different corner of the studio, peacefully quilting.

My working theory is the brutal winter. It shifted something. Hard to the left. Can’t even write about it except to say that warm sun and blue skies are to be bathed in.

So, finding myself with this breath of extra time I am actually going back to the easel. The large panel, which was the last ptg finished for the Granary show, had to remain on the easel until it was time to varnish and then haul up to the photographers. We hooked up the trailer and I took it up to John Corcoran yesterday so it feels like a dance hall in here.

John recently confessed that he, like myself and so many other artists, is often anxious after a hiatus from the work. The ever present doubts that we’ve still “got it” sometimes make it hard to pick up a brush, or camera in his case, and crawl out on that creative limb again. The break which happens every year at this time, between pre and post MV show, always throws me that curve ball.

But today, in my newly granted, and oh so profoundly appreciated, stay of anxiety…I’ve got an idea for a teacup composition that has been teasing the muses and I’m going to squeeze out some fresh paint and open the windows and let the solstice inspired breezes play with the brushes.

How fun is that.

 

 

 


Tis the Season…

heuters

Yes, I am painting.
Most of the hours of most of the days.
But the apprentice has lately been insisting on beauty breaks…

the finn

And, after the winter of discontent that we all shivered through, I am taking deep breaths of every single blooming flower in my garden..

beach rose

My beloved Beach Rose and irises and even the daisy that always reminds me of J O’H

white iris daisy

and, with a cart full of color, and a pair of sturdy gloves
I am taking full advantage of every single space between the brushes
to get outside and work in the dirt.
in waiting

Herself chuckles and grins as she reminds me of the day,
sometime in mid-January,
when I hung my winter weary head
and swore I was not going to do ANY gardening this year.

Certainly no new plants, and definitely not the heavy lifting of the vegetable beds.
No, I was going to keep that head down low and focus focus focus on the paintings.
And right up until about March I was right on track with that dark pledge and doing fine.

Then some plague germs bullied their way into the studio and I spent the next few months crawling out of a very deep hole of un-health. (Spell check didn’t like that last hyphen and neither did I.) Which has thrown some curve balls of perspective at me.

BUT… the veil has lifted.
(Insert a choir of angels here please)
and all verdant bets are off…
Life is so damned short and…
you simply can’t keep a gardener’s soul from a wheelbarrow filled with marigolds…

marigolds
And then there are those newly revised beds that I dreamed of through the wintery gauze of tissues…

new beds

and the annex to the asparagus bed that wants to try growing some beans this year…

asparagus bed

Everywhere I look there are things growing…

nest
wild chives

And chairs that call to sit a spell…

chairs

or swing…

sky chair finn

And so yes, I am painting, but I am also living large in the tiny corner of the planet that we are taming. And, when the brushes begin to whine, I settle back into my chair at the easel with a tiny token of the garden wonders to temp the muses…

sir bernard and the rose

May your paths be filled with clover
and strewn with beach rose petals…
now go out there and grab a trowel.

 

 


Spam spam spam spam…

Trinity

wave the flags of freedom…

OK that’s a bit lofty (and probably influenced by the book I am listening to about the French resistance), but I have reached my limit…

My webmaster called it a “brute force attack”,  something to do with blacklists and hackers, alls I know is that for the last year I have been flooded with bogus blog comments.
Seriously, daily dozens of ridiculously worded ersatz appreciations of everything from content to spelling of blog related matter in an effort to get me to “Approve” them and allow entry to the inner sanctum.
And today…
I have pulled the plug on those brutes.

If I unchecked the correct button, comments will no longer be allowed on my blog.
Not really a big deal except for the handful of loyal readers, you KNOW who you are, and the two or three others who occasionally wish to be heard on a given matter.
This shouldn’t affect any of you who look and lurk and generally like what you see here, and it won’t apply to all the facebook readers, but it hopefully will free up my emailbox for the countless other legitimate spam which tries to lodge there for my considered approval.

Meanwhile, life and creativity and many happy hours of painting continue on here in the studio. I’m working on a special commission which allows me to bring some blue skies and bright light into the last of these winter days. No sneak peaks since it is surprise !

But there is a whole lot of new work burgeoning on the spring horizon and the hint of an exciting new show to announce soon. Stay tuned and stay frosty out there…and…all you attackers…

keep your comments to yourself !

I feel better already.

Above painting, with flags at the ready, is Trinity and is currently waving it’s tri-colours over the hills of Santa Fe, at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery.


Reverie…

It’s a colorful day here in the studio and new work has been sent flying, like autumn leaves, to a gallery near you (That would be the Granary Gallery if you happen to be taking a walk on Martha’s Vineyard )… Here’s a sneak peak with Painter’s Notes to read so pull up a chair and a cup of tea…

The Reverie – 12 x 16

The Reverie72

I have been sitting here in the studio office for over four hours now,
basically avoiding the task of writing Painter’s Notes.

Yes, I have been distracted by important things…
like the glorious clear November sky,
screaming its glaze of King’s Blue Deep,
overtop of which the tapestry of fall oaks and maples are positively on fire with peak season color.

Or the twenty minutes I just spent editing the photo I had to take of the praying mantis,
who I discovered sunning herself on the air-conditioning unit outside of my easel window,
when I walked over there to get a piece of gum.

And in between I have listened to two radio interviews by Krista Tippett,
whose conversations with modern day Clerics, Mystics and Buddhist monks
often stop me in my atheist tracks
and shine a light on my own particularly flawed humanity.

So, ok focus…and I am looking, once again, at this painting…and remembering.
It was a hot summer day and the bed of zinnias which I had planted for Pat was full of flowers.
It was late enough in the season for them to have to make way for the Black Eyed Susans,
and for the garden rake to be covered over with cornflowers.

I remember that I had noticed, the day before I started the painting, that the swallowtails were spending the early morning dancing in that bed, and that the first rays of light climbing over the hill made them seem like stained glass windows.
So I had taken some quick photos before I sat with the sketchbook.
As so often happens this was serendipitous because when I came over the next morning,
and sat waiting…and waiting…for the sun to replicate those shafts of cathedral light,
the one butterfly, which I had fancied and chosen as model, returned with a broken wing.

I didn’t see it until just now,
but the colors are the same, in the summer butterfly and the autumn leaves,
and both just as brilliantly alive
with the spirit…
procrastination or reverence ?

Her Smalls – 24 x 23

Her Smalls72

I believe the origin is British
but that doesn’t matter.
Smalls…it’s just a matter of undergarments.
And the dearness of intimacy.
And the gift of props.
Like the hat box which belonged to John’s grandmother.
The tiny gloves that I wore to the White House.
The delicates which used to live on the shelves in the Muddy Creek General Store.
The leather purse and traveling iron which used to live on the shelf in Jane’s shop.
The coin silver spoon that Ted gave.
The teacup that Sue had to remind me was from her grandmother.
And that whimsical handkerchief of Polly’s which I pulled from the drawer
because of it’s red stripe, and only discovered half way through setting up the still life,
that it’s little girl was, Herself, doing the ironing.

Some of my most favorite paintings come from a single word.
And the gathering round of favorite things.
And the gift of quiet leisure in which to cherish them both.

 

 


Disappearing Purple

green bean tea

The other day I was talking with my friend Katie and we got to comparing our gardens this year. She was excited to be growing purple beans but disappointed to discover that they turned green after being cooked….hmmmmm ?

At the time, my beans were just beginning to grow…

beans beginning

so I had to wait…and wait…

beans 1

This week they are ready to pick !
And Zoe is here to help,

zoe and beans

funny zoe and beans

So we filled up the blue box,
with purple and green beans,

picked beans

and threw them in the boiling water with the pasta…
(which I forgot to take a picture of …)
and YES, the purple ones DID turn green.
But not to worry, Zoe reports that they both taste the same and she should know because the entire box went into her belly.

It’s been wonderful to have an assistant in the garden and we have lots more to do before she leaves so I’ll sign off now…

Yours in red wagons and gummy bears…

wagon