Reminded of days gone by…

 
This photo popped up in my facebook stream today…

I had snapped the pic a few years ago, when I noticed that my former craft show sign was now a mitten holder. Made me a bit nostalgic for those days when I spent hours on a shaving horse in the yard, and countless trips over the basement stairs to my workshop, then loading the tiny truck with an entire booth’s worth of panels, tent, chairs and tools.

Seen here in the workshop with a young Master Hunter

We loved the camaraderie of our fellow crafters, liberal minded hippies like us. The common joke going around back then, in the early 90’s, was…”What would you do if you won the lottery ? I’d keep making chairs (or pots, or baskets) until the money runs out.”

They had a rule in the better craft circuits that the “makers” had to be the ones in the booth. You could not, say, run a sweat shop with a dozen elves and then have each one scatter on a given weekend to a dozen craft shows. I guess that kept them satisfied that these were “Individually”, and therefore “authentically” handcrafted goods.

It made it difficult for us full time artisans to find the time and expenses to both create and sell our wares, and, though none of us were adequately compensated for the actual hours spent in producing, let alone marketing, we enjoyed a bounty of good companionship and meaningful work.

The first painting I did, for the very first exhibition of my painting career, was this one…

In the Chairmaker’s Wake

I used to carve poems and quotes in the slats.

This one was a favorite, by Willa Cather,
“The end is nothing, the road is all.”

It’s held up pretty well, the saying as well as the chair, over these last few miles. It’s been almost 20 years since I put down the drawknife and picked up the brushes. I made over 500 chairs while the shavings were flying. I have over 300 paintings under my belt…so far.

My hands turn 60 in a few months.
Faithful companions.
They have been leading me the whole time…
down this marvelous road.


Autumn in the Studio

We have returned to terra firma after an extended excursion to Martha’s Vineyard. We usually let the unpacking phase linger long enough to keep some sand between our toes… as a reminder of all those walks on the beach, but there are wonderful things about coming home too.

Somewhere in the mountain of mail we returned to, ( thank you Sue for sorting it all out for us ) , I found my November issue of American Art Collector Magazine, and was pleasantly surprised to see my pal Ted there…

 

 

Humble thanks to Master John O’Hern for his ever so kind words about my work, and my muse. The memory I have of the twinkle of humor and love in Ted’s eyes is almost matched by seeing that rakish draping of jeans over boot.

It is a grey soft day here as November creeps upon us. The apples have all been picked up, but the grass is well over the tops of my boots, and the leaves have only just begun to fall.

Inside the studio, the furnace has begun firing up for the season, and so too have the brushes. It’s a good opportunity to work on the stack of commissions that have been piling up. In this time, between working on major bodies of work for shows, I can give undivided attention to those special projects and, after a long hiatus from the easel, my creative energy is restored and ready to rock and roll.

In the days ahead, I plan to show up more often here on the blog with progress notes and ramblings on creativity and studio happenings.

Today it feel so good to be able to say…back to the easel for now.

 


My summer vacation…

This summer we enjoyed a staycation. We had a blast at the Granary Gallery Show at the end of July… here’s a few pics from that week of fun

Then we returned to this little corner of the world wherein we toil and play…here are just a dozen or so pics out of the hundreds I took this year of the studio garden…note I had a helper this year, Kory, who did most of the heavy lifting…yeah !

There was a wonderful visit from Alex, who is probably banging on some drum at a band concert about now…

Kory and I built a new walkway, and he cleared us a beautiful view of our creek…

Zoe spent a week at Camp Gran and Mima, and was a terrific helper…

We taught her to play Clue…

Then we taught Arthur to play Clue…

We celebrated Andrew Wyeth’s 100th birthday with stamps and a trip to see his retrospective at the Brandywine River Museum…

We took in an O’s game with Doug and Scott…

I pretty much parked myself on the studio porch for weeks, and carved spoon after spoon and then got out the spinning wheel and spun my way through the last of the long locked lincoln fleece…

And we kept up the tradition…of opening and closing the season at Reeser’s…

I did a bit of commission painting somewhere in there, and a lot of wool gathering, in addition to the spinning…

Delayed by a hurricane or two, we have just finished packing the car…Finnegan’s followers will be just about as pleased as she was to know that her bed and bowls have been included… and tomorrow we head back to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

An extended autumn stay to allow the muses to take me down some new roads, and listen to new stories, and refresh my soul.

So this is just to say,
that we are well,
we are grateful,
and we want you all to stay safe out there.

I catch you on the other side of the leaves…

 


Painter’s Notes

I’ve spent this stormy day working on the Painter’s Notes for the new paintings.
If you are of a mind to spend some time away from the news of the ongoing apocalypse,
and would welcome some detours down the pathways of this artist’s musings,
follow this sign…

On my website…http://heatherneill.com/
Under the menu tab…Portfolio
You will find, sorted by year,
all the paintings I’ve ever done.

As I have been loading the new works onto the website,
Small thumbnails appear when you open the window for 2017…
http://heatherneill.com/portfolio/year/2017/

When you click on a thumbnail there,
you open up the larger format image for each painting.

There you will find info like size, and which gallery it is currently exhibiting the work.
Down there, at the bottom of each of those pages, is that quill and teacup logo at the bottom left.

When you click on that…POOF !
It takes you to the Painter’s Notes.

I started writing them when I had my first solo show back in 2001.
I had been a chairmaker for a decade or more,
so I could make money,
so I could paint.
That was a whole lot of work,
and scads more fun,
but a creative reality check.

Turns out, 16 years later,
it was a better bet to try this painting gig out,
so I could carve spoons in my free time.

At that first show I wrote some journal like notes with each painting to help my chairmaking patrons understand that I was putting the handtools down and picking up brushes.

These notes have become an integral part of the painting process for the patrons who took that leap with me, and I offer them for anyone who might be curious about where my mind was wandering when I was at the easel.

We’ve got some new people checking in, hi there,
so I thought a review was in order.
For you well-seasoned followers…
this is just to send a nod and a wink,
and all the thanks in the world.

I’ve written the PNotes for all the new paintings I’ve launched so far.

Tomorrow I begin to document the last six of the new works.
They are the beginning of a substantial body of work that has taken me full circle,
back to the core of my artistic soul,
from the very first brush strokes,
and all the halting stages of creative adventures in between,
to the cascading circles of how I’ve gotten to here…
to the painter, who walks into the studio each day,
wondering what does it mean to be a mature artist.

Who picks up the brushes,
with aging hands,
and trusts that the muses have her back.

Stay tuned.

 


Celeste envies Ruth…

So, here’s the thing…

The way my brain scampers about these days,
I need to take notes.
Okay, I’m being generous with the “these days”,
I’ve always taken notes.
Journals full.

With scraps of paper and napkin corners
and dog-eared pages of old magazines,
I have jotted and doodled
hundreds and hundreds of ideas for paintings over the decades.

Sometimes just a few gestures,
often a phrase run across while reading,
or listening to music,
or watching a movie.

Two or three times a year,
I gather the sketchbooks and journals
and thumb-tacked notes,
and review.

So, there I was,
in review mode,
when I remembered that there were notes…
on my phone.

Been a long while since I was in a place without a pencil,
but there have been the odd times when I had to use my phone app to jot down an idea.
Some of those pencilless moments must have been in the middle of the night.

For the life of me, I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote…

Shackled and dilled
Walker
Jigsaw pieces
Exploding from the center
Tomatoes

Anway,
Two entries from the bottom was this sentence,

Celeste speaks well of Ruth but secretly envies her aprons

A perfect jewel,
which there is no way I thought of myself.
No reference, just that rarefied run-on of perfection.
I instantly ran to the teacups,
searched the studio for my two favorite aprons,
and got to work.

Here is where I must beg forbearance,
from whomever I am so shamelessly plagiarizing,
I thought enough of your playfully glorious words
to save them in my “Painting Ideas” folder,
though I have absolutely no idea where they first crossed my path.

The Muses made certain that the sentence stayed hidden
until the precise moment I was ready, or rather,
THEY knew I was ready.

So…
tag me for the steal,
and thank you from the bottom
of my Aunt Imy’s wedgewood,
and wait for it…
I may catch Celeste and Ruth
in some future,
dare I hope…compromising,
compositions.

 


Sankaty Sails

After a loooooonnnng day of firing up the old framing muscles,
and after an arduous winter, lifting tiny brushes,
and bowing to hard driving muses,
it is sooooooooo nice to look at this painting,
the ferry docks at Wood’s Hole,
and know that in just a little over one week,
we will be right there.

With a car full
of freshly framed oil paintings,
two tired but happy old women,
on board a great iron vessel,
steaming for home.

I never tire of that 45 minute trip.
Even the passages which I have spent deep in the bowels,
catching a few last zzzzz’s on the 7am boat,
before the long drive back to Pennsylvania,
or the one’s where I chose to shelter
from the raging winter storms,
and look out over the freight boat’s rail,
while knitting those fisherman’s patterns,
in the warm and cozy cab of the truck.

For those, and all those other trips,
when the summer sun was shining,
or the October fog blanketed the sound,
when the passengers played with the following gulls,
and the benches left our shorts wet from the waves,
and my camera caught
just the right raking light
on a rigging of canvas sail
that was carrying some other sailor
home from the sea…

I owe all of that magic,
all of those memories,
all that the vineyard has become in our lives,
to that very first voyage,
can it be so close to 40 years ago…
with my friend Lynn.

Sail on silver girl.


Visions revisited…

Last year at this time,
I was polishing up the tiara,
and mirror ball,
for the opening of …

Since then, the dynamic creative production duo of David and Barbarella Fokos,
aka Salt and Sugar Productions
have been dividing their time between studio work, filming and editing of new productions for TAO, The Artist’s Odyssey (check out their updated website),
oh…AND enjoying awards ceremonies at International Film Festivals.

Indeed, news that Visions of Home
was an official selection of NOVA Fest — the Northern Virginia International Film & Music Festival (http://www.novafilmfest.com), came across the airwaves back in March.

Then comes news this week, that TWO of their films will be included in the
Oceanside International Film Festival 2017, next month !!!

Yep, that’s me at the easel again…still painting that blue door !

So, as I am in final production for my next show, at the Granary Gallery in only a couple weeks, I have been given the opportunity to provide my readers and viewers with a special chance to see the movie, Visions of Home, in all it’s seaside glory, here from my website.

For anyone who might have missed it the first go round,
or who may be new to this site because they saw it at some film festival without knowing beforehand who that old woman with the paint all over her shirt was,
and for the rest of you who just simply cannot get enough of watching paint dry,
and do not let me overlook Finnegan’s fan base…

Anyway, David has made a lovely page dedicated to the movie where you can see the trailer and watch the full film and get some backstory, with the wonderful blog post that Barbarella wrote about last years’ debut screening and some of the process behind their process, which alone is worth the read…and he’s included the article which The Vineyard Gazette published around the time of the opening in which they interviewed Barb and David about the making of the film.

So grab a bowl of popcorn,
pull up your lawn chair by the kiddie pool,
put a straw in some cool beverage,
set your favorite viewing device to this link…

Visions of Home

and Herself and I will welcome you into our lives…
and our hearts.

 


Betsy’s Gift

In honor of the 42nd anniversary of the opening of the movie Jaws…
I give you Betsy’s Gift.

These dear lads had spent a glorious afternoon fishing up and down the dock in Menemsha. I sat outside of Larsen’s eating my steamers and enjoyed their serious minded focus and the simple pleasures of the day.

At one point the blue shirted boy came running out of the back door with that blue bin
and brought it over for the others to inspect…”Look what Betsy gave me !”

The boys were excited and immediately set to work cutting up the bait fish.
If you had been there, I think you would have smiled along with me.

And then you could look to your left,
just there around the basin of fishing shacks,
no more than a hundred yards
from where these young fisherman are standing,
and…using your imagination,
and a healthy dose of nerves,
you could see where Steven Speilberg himself
directed, from the dock out back of the Galley,
lo those 42 years ago,
as they filmed that epic sea drama.

I’m heading home now,
the pizza has just arrived,
and it’s time for the annual viewing.

Yes, we are going to need a bigger boat.


7 Years Young

Have to take a break from rolling out the new paintings…to wish this amazing young human a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Zoe turns 7 today !!!

She has been exploring her creativity as student, model and muse in her 7 years of visits to the studio, and her independence, gregariousness, and focused curiosity have left their mark on this artist/grandmother.

Here are a few other Zoe inspired paintings…she’ll be here in a few weeks and I can’t wait to see what she’s got up her sleeve next.

Happy Birthday Zoe.


Ana of Inisoirr

At the top of the craggy hill,
inside of the stone walled gate,
is a small patch of Irish green,
a few wooden picnic tables,
with heavy stones in their centers
to keep the ever blowing wind
from sailing the menus up and across the burren
and out over the wild Atlantic sea,
and blue aproned Ana,
who serves the best fish chowder
Herself has ever tasted.