Dreams and Secrets

Feeling mournful on this morning,
I am finding the light I seek
in the wonders of a grandchild.

There are two new paintings
which I am packaging up today
to wing their way out to Santa Fe
to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery

May they bring you some peace.

Dreamcatcher  –  20 x 22

Not sure if it’s the finch or her perch
but this tender glancing gesture
reminds me of a little poem
by Micheal Longley…

 

A TOUCH

after the irish

she is the touch of pink
on crab apple blossoms
and hawthorn and she melts
frost flowers with her finger

 

AND…

“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”  –  16 x 20

Always willingly,
but quite unknowingly,
Zoe helped me tell a story
which I’d been wanting to tell
for many many years…

Shortly after his wife Polly died
my pal Ted brought down from the attic
tied together with one sturdy twined string
a pair of purple suede pumps,
saying Polly had wanted me to have these.

Then he told me the story
that, when on a trip to San Francisco,
they had bought this pair of shoes
for a special occasion
and Ted, being Ted,
had gussied them up with some sparkly silver painted swirls
and they, the Meinelts and their shoes
had danced the night away.

When it came time to pack for the trip home
the shoes wouldn’t fit in their suitcase.
So, Polly being Polly,
she slapped some shipping labels on the soles
tied them together with that twine
and dropped them in the closest US Mail box.

In gifting them to me
I understood that the torch of a challenge
had been passed.

Over the years
the sparkle paint has faded
but the purple of those pumps
has kept on popping that story
into my creative consciousness.

Along the way,
and true to form,
the Muses threw a title down like a gauntlet…

While listening to Alexander McCall Smith’s
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series,
a perennial studio favorite,
the character Mma Grace Makutsi,
she who graduated at 97% in her secretarial class,
utters the line..
“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”

The context is a bit complicated to explain
and if you’ve read this far in these painter’s notes
then you probably are already familiar
with the conversations Grace has with her shoes,
and if you aren’t then you are in for a treat
as I believe there are up to 19 books in that series now
and no, I cannot remember well enough to credit the exact
volume in which this line appears, apologies to Mr. Smith.

What is relevant for our story here
is that I stopped the flying brushes
and wrote that line down
on a scrap of paper
which has made the cut  on every list
in each sketchbook since
of what I want to paint next.

So…
when Zoe was visiting the studio last summer
and she had emptied the drawer of all the aprons
and had carefully tied each one of them on
one on top of the other,
and she asked if I had any shoes to go with her outfit…

well there ya go.

It wasn’t until she took a break from all that cooking
and collapsed with a hrrrumph
into the comfy easel chair
and propped up her exhausted and aching feet
and the muses veritably SCREAMED at me
that I…finally…had my way in.

I don’t know whether this train
will take her all the way to Botswana
but I know with all my heart
that in her dreams…
those shoes are dancing.


Panel Making Time

‘Tis that time again.

The studio stack of ready to roll panels is dwindling…

( Drawing credits to Daniel (top) and Rose (underneath) Follansbee )

And so it’s time to get out the magic 8 ball, no I don’t have one of those even as a prop, and try and guess what sizes of panels I might need for paintings that I haven’t even thought of doing yet.

I have a few big panels already made up, but I’m giving myself a wee break from working on those huge compositions…they take a physical toll as well as a mental one, and this old artiste needs some time to rebuild both body and soul before tackling the next one…or two.

So, I made a plan to carve out some small and medium sizes.

Kory helped me clear out the garage last week, what a mess, and this week he stepped into the roll of apprentice to give me a hand with stage one…cutting the panels out of 4′ x 8′ sheets of Dibond. We uncovered 5 full sheets and I decided to save one for that odd size which I don’t yet know I need.

I’ve written about the panel making process, and the use of Dibond, in three earlier blog posts, one all the way back to 2010. You can read them, if you’re interested, by entering Dibond in the search box…see it there at the top right of the website page ?

We managed to get most of them cut…before noticing that some of the lines and edges were skewing. This happens no matter how carefully I measure and clamp and hold the jigsaw. My professional picture framing experience has made me a master of the art of measurement, alas, even with cutting guides, stronger clamps and an even stronger set of assisting arms, my set up isn’t ideal for perfection.

And, at this stage especially, perfectly squared corners is a must. Further down the road, once these panels hit the easel, and I start figuring out perspective, on something like this composition for example…

I’ve got to trust that at least one corner is true so that when I use a T-square to draw the sketch on the panel,  I can get all these horizontals and verticals to line up with each other in a convincing enough way that you, the viewer, forget about them. I want you to trust that these beams are as solid and sturdy as the original joiners intended, so that you can feel safe enough to walk around in that workshop and study what I really wanted you to experience…the light on those beautiful fibers.

So, if you are aiming for perfection, and you find some fatal flaws in the production, it is best to stop and fix them then and there. I am personally blaming, in no small part, the nine thousand percent humidity that drained our batteries pretty quickly in that stuffy garage. Years ago I stole the line from the yayasisters movie…”I’m puddlin’ here”…this was more like a tsunami.

After re-squaring up a stack, I realized tomorrow’s another day Scarlet, and availed myself of the air conditioning here in the studio office to set about cooling down and restocking my supply of canvas, which is needed for stage 2.

Years ago I did an exhaustive search for the best canvas on the market. Every artist has an individual preference for a painting surface and mine was the smoothest possible. I wanted the durability and flexibility of a richly gessoed canvas without the bounce and weave. The Dibond gave me the best man made substructure, and I settled on Joe Allen’s Portrait grade 10oz Army Duck (see roll in photo above) to wrap around it.

Unprimed, and smooth as silk, this canvas is sturdy and pliable, it wraps beautifully with just enough bulk to avoid fear of tearing, and it comes in manageable 60″ rolls. I order a couple rolls at a time to save on freight and when I did the calculations and I figured that I would be dipping into my last roll I knew it was time to reorder. But when I went to place my order on line there was a glitch. So, I called, got a recording and sent an email inquiry.

This morning I got a response explaining the quirky website glitch was just that and one more click would get me sorted. But there was also the sad news that Joe had died just a few weeks ago from a fast moving cancer. His wife Jacqui said that she and their son Justin, who she notes is “now the artist in the family”, will be attempting to keep the Canvas supply business running.

I never met Joe in person, but remember him as most accommodating, and pleasant to do business with and that kept me coming back over the years. He went out of his way to help keep the costs down as these heavy rolls have to be trucked all the way from Texas.

Jacqui has just written back to confirm the order, and in keeping with that tradition of kindness, has offered some alternatives to help save me some money on current shipping costs.

I wish them all the best as they navigate the business and their lives in the coming years.

If you are in the market for a superb quality product, fine salesmanship, need to restock your studio shelves, or want to try out something new…give Allen’s Canvas a shout. They are even having a sale right now.

Meanwhile, back here in the studio, there actually seems to be a patch of blue sky out there. Maybe that will drive away some of the humidity, maybe not. I’m giving the garage a pass today let my lungs clear out and give my flaring knuckles a rest…I’m going to play with the tiny brushes and watch the birds outside at the feeder.

I’ll try and chronicle the next step of the panel making process so you can see how that goes…in the mean time stay frosty out there.


Enter the Muses

This is a good image to go with this morning…

While I sit here in the studio,
awaiting the plumber,
who will help me address the water
which is pouring out of a busted pipe
in the basement below my feet.

These unexpected pauses,
jolting the daily drive train of a creative workflow,
still unnerve me…
there are decidedly a scarce few things
which fill me with more dread
than having to go down to the basement.

But, with Pat’s steady backup,
I have conquered that stage of the drama
and the power has been cut off from the errant water pump
and, as I mentioned, the trusty plumber is on the way.

Which gives me that rare moment…
the unexpected pause
between crisis and resuming of normal play
and I am filling this one
by paying forward a gift.

Last night, after a long day,
a message popped up on my phone
from one among you who are followers
that I have never met, but whose name I recognize
from the occasional gift of a “like” response to a posting here or there.

She wrote that she follows my work
and she had read a poem which,
for some reason, made her think of me…
Pat looked at me from across the sofa and asked why I was crying…
I read the poem outloud,
and we were both in tears.

So this pause is by way of a thank you to K,
for stopping to share the gift of this gracefully moving beauty
and her own kind words,
and to remind myself
to take a deeper breath
and let the muses take the wheel today.

Beneath The Sweater And The Skin
A Poem by Jeannette Encinias

How many years of beauty do I have left?
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.

When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.

When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and your children come home
to find their own history
in your face.

When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.

When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.

Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?

This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far..

I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.


Derby Season…about to begin

The lines will soon be casting like crazy up there on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard…for Bluefish…as the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby opens in a few short days.

The Vineyard Gazette had a photo, which I can no longer find, of someone hanging the sign on the Derby Headquarters along the Edgartown Harbor. That photo, which I still can not find even on line, reminded me of the day I spent this winter painting a teeny tiny replica of that very sign.

I was able to find a replacement photo for you, courtesy of the MV Times files, which was attributed as…Derby weigh master Roy Langley rings in the Derby in 2015. — MV Times file photo..sorry I can’t credit the photographer.

I also found a reference to Mr. Langley in the 2017 Derby Souvenir Booklet which is available to read on line…click here. There is a nice tribute to him, written by Ed Jerome, on page 96 as Roy was retiring his morning weigh in duties, which mentions that, “at the age of 89, he (Roy) will no longer place contestant’s fish on the scale to be weighed. However, he will continue to gather morning baked goods for volunteers and coordinate the disbursement of the fish to the Senior Citizen Filet Program.”

Everything I love about the Vineyard is in that sentence.
So, back to that painting…
You remember this one ?
Here’s a pic of me working on that derby sign…
Let’s zoom in a bit…
Keep your eyes on the left hand side …
Closer…
Closer…
It’s a bit tricky to read, which is why I hunted for that stock photo, but here’s the closest I can get you…without standing in front of the painting with a magnifying glass…
My sign is about a quarter inch wide.
The door is closed between morning and evening weigh-ins, but the rods were reeling away at the public wharf…a little further over to the right…
This painting, Anchored in Autumn has found a new home this week. Reports are that it may even be able to catch its own glimpse of the harbor from the new resting place.
We are making plans to return to the island soon, and I’m looking forward to finding a spot on the bench alongside the Derby Headquarters and parking there with my sketchbook to collect some notes as the winning contenders are brought in to be recorded.
Let the season begin…

Contemporary Realism at Gallery 1261

Back in the studio, and my how those brushes have flown…

Island Indigo  – 10″ x 12″

The Flying Lesson  –  13.5″ x 12.5″

I am pleased to post these two new paintings which will be winging their way to Denver next week, for the opening of …

Contemporary Realism at Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado

They have a powerhouse collection of artists featured in this show and you can preview the work by clicking on this link…Click Here.

As we settle back home, after a whirlwind week at the Granary Gallery show, the studio has a bit more room to move around in and the muses are taking full advantage. No rest for the artiste…I am being given short spurts of time off to harvest the tomatoes, and pluck the odd green bean or two…then it is right back to the easel.

So watch this space…

Now that this new website is blazingly fast, it will be a pleasure to send out blog posts in a more regular and timely fashion. Thanks as ever, for coming along on this ride.

H

 


The Mystery Unravels…

Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

THIS JUST IN…

Remember this painting…

The Spinning Loft

And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground

Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.

I want to introduce you to Paula Marcoux…her delicious website is here…click.

PAULA

Marcoux

Writer
Speaker
Consultant
teacher

I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.

My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.

My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating. 

I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.

So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff.
I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.

From Peter then Paula,

PF -So the question is:
Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?

Who would know?

PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.

PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016

If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.

There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later

Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…

PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…

Then…

PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221) 

And again a day later…

PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824). 

Huge expansions came  by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9). 
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…

PM –

Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families. 

Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):

The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary

By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)

 

Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian

By William Thomas Davis

 

History of the Town of Plymouth

By James Thacher

Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.

And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.

If you want to learn more about such endeavors,
I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research,
and I’ll make it really easy for you…
Visit their website Plymouth Craft…by clicking here.

Good people
doing meaningful work

and teaching others
and passing it on.
It takes a village and I’m grateful to Paula for taking the time to provide us with some answers. When I get home, I’m going to follow the breadcrumbs she’s left.
Thanks to all of you for tuning in.
And thanks to  Liquid Web 
for making this blog work like lightening.
Now that this thing can keep up with me I will be posting more regularly.
Stay frosty out there and I’ll let you know when the brushes are once again…flying.

Wakeful and Onward

Good morning readers,

We here in the studio are sorting and packing and tweaking and altering as we get ready to roll northward for the Granary Gallery Show Opening on Sunday.

Humble appreciations for your patience as the website is being updated, our tech guru uses the word migrated which just sounds lovely. He has been our hero this week, rock solid and unflappable, as there are always some bumps in the road to progress and he is still answering my emails, even as the early bird catches her worms. ( I’m playing with the “migration” thing there…says the bleary eyed artiste…) Blessings upon you Ross.

Another HUGE, absolutely HUGE shout out of gratitude to pals Matt and Paul for not only offering, but actually showing up within minutes of my request for help. They came toting kayaks, as I had interrupted a float on the nearby lake, and swiftly and oh so carefully loaded the paintings into the trailer for us.

That is always a tricky part of this process, as the work of an entire year gets packed in a tiny aluminum box that needs to transport them safely over land and sea for their big reveal. It was shear bliss, in the hot and humid afternoon, to have two strong young men take on the hardest bits of that job. Their kindness and grace has cemented our friendship.

I’ve been instructed to scroll throughout the website and look for problems. Talk about asking for trouble. There are some glitches which we are addressing, again about the patience, but some unexpected feelings are popping up as well.

When sorting through 18 years of paintings, you are also reviewing the last 18 years of your life. Wasn’t expecting that, so I find myself swirling in emotional detours. Mostly pleasant, often happy, but with some pop-up grieving and twinges of longing mixed in.

Among many of the “missing” links we are scrambling to fix, I found a few golden oldies that tie in with some of this year’s paintings…

Lighthouse Wake – which shows the channel between Chappy and the Lighthouse.

In this year’s painting, Anchored in Autumn, I tweaked that a bit and moved the lighthouse just a few hundred yards to the left so I could get it in the composition. On the actual panel it was inches.

Then there was the year of the birds…
And one of my personal favorites,

The Gutting –

This is a working dockside view of the Edgartown Yacht Club. The Vose Boathouse sits out of this frame but off to the right.

And this…

Onward  –

Where we are looking directly at it sitting there all happy to be in the water  on a bright sunny day.

To be completely honest, there were many paintings
upon my wild reviewing this morning
that I had totally forgotten I had ever painted.

I’m sure it’s the stresses over the last few days…
as I am equally certain it is the slippage of my aging gears.

But it is interesting to take some measure
along the journey
from there to here
of my life behind the brushes.

Stay frosty out there my friends,
our little family is all the better for you being in the world.


Anchored in Autumn

Anchored in Autumn  –  74 x 48

Step out with me
onto this majestic wooden porch
and into the glorious autumn air
on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

What stretches out before you
is Edgartown Harbor
on a morning when only the stalwart
working fisherman are plowing the waters
sending out gently lapping waves in their wake.

I’ve been trying to find a way in
to paint this harbor’s horizon line for years.
When Anne Vose invited me to this boathouse
last October, and I stepped out onto this porch
I had found it.

In order to get the widest view of this historic waterfront,
the perspective is a huge component in the composition.
Long expanse of two and three story buildings
means a wide panel with a thin line of tiny houses
and a whole lot of sea and sky.

So to have the boathouse act as a frame
and the boats in harbor to help provide a swing of direction for the eye
it was possible for me to tell a richer story.
One that connects the generations of an island family
with the vibrant history and culture of an active island town.

I’ve given you an idea of some of the cobblestones
on the road that lead me here.

Now I want to let you zoom in and see
some of the brushstrokes that occupied
the 80 days and 80 nights I spent at the easel
to complete the journey…

 

 

…and I leave you with my personally favorite part of this painting…


The Boathouse

The Boathouse  –  34 x 28

After climbing down those long steep steps from the bluff
and peeking around inside the room below
we have climbed up again
to the top floor of the boathouse.

Last fall I was invited by Anne Vose to join her on the porch
and take an artistic measure of the historic structure.

While she and Pat sat in rockers outside
solving all the problems of the world
I explored the world of wonders within.

I talked, in The Changing Room painters notes,
about the way the water reflects the sunlight back up
into the room and bounces off the differing surfaces.

Up here, another level above the ocean,
the angles are longer and sharper
so they jut straight up into the corners
of the veridian stained rafters
and then ease down to those luscious wooden walls
to nestle softly on the antique weavings of carpet and chintz.

And that light engages with every one
of the deep rich colors inhabiting this chamber.

Those stairs rippling through the old glass in the back window
are echoed in the black and white photo framed alongside.
The robin’s egg blue that was once the only color
on the glider’s frame repeats on the inside window frames
then fades into a pale sage green on the mouldings’ exteriors.

The deep red of the oriental carpet
is straight out of my Barok Red tube of Old Holland Paint,
and the hunter green might as well have a fox running out ahead.

And then there are the faces…
the teasing visages of the man carved in the table
and the pastel of the flirtatious flapper.

Like the shiny dots of sunlight
around the edges of the porcelain
there was a glisten in the corner of her eye
when Anne recounted the day the pilings were
being repaired and one whole side of the boathouse
collapsed into the harbor.

Not only can you trace the depth of the family’s roots
through the objects in this room
but you can understand the core feelings
of love for this vintage island treasure
in the emotional telling of that tale…

right up until she gets to the part
where she chuckles and says…

not…
one…
single…
plate…
nor cream pitcher…
or teacup…

was so much as nicked by the calamity.

That’s what I call a
prevailingly powerful karma.


The Changing Room

The Changing Room  —  20 x 24

Come along with me
as we go back in time

to a boathouse in a harbor
in what they call the shoulder season,
those weeks between the chaos of summer
with traffic and tourists and hot muggy sunburns,
and the first frosts of the winter to come.

You arrive at the top of a very high bluff
with a vast harbor spread out before you.
Then you climb down
and down
and down
two very long flights of white washed steps
then across the wooden planked dock …

To he Vose Boathouse
an historic architectural wonder
built directly in the Edgartown Harbor.
The family received a letter of approval from the war department
in 1899 (it hangs on the wall today) for it to be built there
and nothing says Vintage Vineyard like this space.

We will begin our painterly tour
with a peak into that first door you come to
just through the dock gate
on the bottom floor
into what I have called
the changing room

The lovingly maintained wooden doors,
with their inlayed repairs for repurposed hardware,
line two walls with small locker rooms
that each have windows framing
expansive views of the harbor
and out across to the tiny island of Chappaquiddick.

The light bounces softly across the water
and lays like a butterfly on the kid glove surfaces
of that weathered wood
then sparkles off of the lacquered canoes
and the worn ochre of an oar.

But my favorite part
is that there are spaces in between each floorboard
through which you can see the iridescent sea beneath.

As the sun slants in the October morning light
the colors below are breathtaking.

From the classic canoe
to the sweeping parsons bench
there is something solidly New England here.

It was so quiet when I was working there
that the only sounds were the gulls cawing overhead
and the gentle lapping of the wakes as the working fisherman
motored their way out past the boathouse out to sea.

I can picture it now…
in a family filled summer
with the noises of
children wriggling into swimsuits
and parents toting wicker baskets
which the grandparents have stuffed
with picnics and rainhats…

and through the years
and all of that chaos
and glee
I can feel the boathouse
enfolding them all
like a great big
cedar wrapped hug.