29 march 09

It doesn’t get any better than this…

Finnegan Loretta Neill


After weeks of lonely studio days and anxious worry about who we might find when at last we got a chance to choose our new pup… today the wait was over and every single one of my worries vanished in a heartbeat…when Belinda brought out two of the most beautiful Berners puppies I’ve ever seen.

the last two sisters


They are from that litter of 14 puppies which were born February 17 and are now five weeks old. What I never expected was how hard it would be to choose if both of them were perfect…but this little girl was so much like Gully but with a reputation for confidence and being ornary and a strapper for her fair share of what her brand new life has to offer… we knew we had found Finn.

Now that our search has come to an end we have lots of work to do in the next three weeks before we bring her home. But, at least for tonight, Jon and Pat and I will settle in to a much happier sunday eve and I’ll settle for these photos to remind me what it was like to feel her sweet kisses…

She’s supposed to meet 100 new people in the first three months…so get ready for your studio visit !

Don’t touch that dial…

28 march 09

Busy week but I managed to get some easel time in and am almost finished with the main shack and all those shingles !

Got another layer on the left hand window…next-layer-on-window1

And then the hard part…flipping the panel over…


Again…had to wait for my nurse’s assistance…but this easel is such a wonder that once a panel this size is on it I can move it with one finger. A full tour of the easel coming soon… meanwhile…


I learned, after much experimentation, that once I have the foundation layers in place for the shingles it is much easier to add the highlights by working upside down and taking a flat brush and pulling from what would be the bottom of the shingle downward. This gives the clean edge but you can adjust for the degree of “weathering” desired by choosing a correspondingly worn brush. So a new shingle gets a brand new brush…the ones here on this shack which are well weathered got an older brush.

I came over quite early to the studio this morning and heard some salty language and the tinny clanking of swordplay…only to find Sir Bernard of the Fauquembergues taking on the slings and arrows of the disadvantaged weathervane.  My hero.



Panel righted again…and ready for today’s glazing down and tightening up…


23 march 09

We took the weekend off … almost unheard of… traveled to Baltimore and were royally hosted by our friends Doug and Scott. Treated first to a cozy feast in their home and the luxury of an unhurried visit with their art collection…then a day of brunching and art hopping from museum to museum. Their generousity and genuine good natures and love of art is inspiring and always a much welcomed breath of fresh air…and the gift of time spent with them AND being able to study the paintings of 17th century masters …priceless.


Now, back again in the studio, I’m bouyed by the images still fresh in my mind and ready to kick my game up another couple of notches. One of the things that impressed me were the many miniatures in the collection at the Walters Art Musuem. Even though the current panel on my easel is almost 8 feet long, there are dozens of “miniature” paintings within this composition.

The windows in the primary fishing shack are two such sections that I began to work on last week. In real life they are only about 2 x 3 inches but they provide some much needed depth in a 2-D world and some middle distance interest in the overall design. Now I can seen the need to go back in and tighten up the initial work in there. I want  to give the viewer as much pleasure as I got from taking my glasses off and leaning all the way into the tiny portraits at the museum to see what those patiently applied brushstrokes had to reveal.




So today…I get out the OOOOO brushes !

On the easel…continued

20 March 09

Spent the morning framing and packing up a new painting which will be headed up to the Granary Gallery as soon as Herself gets back from her yoga class. So before I head back to the easel here are a few pics of the first weeks’ work on the big panel….

A swath of sky, then in for some long distance work and detailing, then over to the shack full of shingles… I have become quite familiar with the weathered cedar shingle and learned that there are no short cuts. Wet-in-wet seems to work well for the first layers. Then I come back in and crisp up the edges and add texture. Then go back and glaze it all down as a summer rain storm might…and back over that to bounce in some highlights where the appropriate sunlight…or shadow…would glance off the surfaces.

The first week then…







And now…

back to the brushes.

Happy First Day of Spring !

Spud Detour

19 March 09

So dark this morning…but the clouds are sprinkling the newly planted potatoes and all is right with the world….at least with the garden.

Yesterday I took a detour from the big painting and played outside. Following Richard’s directions we planted our potatoes under a bed of straw and leaves. Herself did all of the heavy lifting and we took our time…but it was wonderfully healing to be out working in the gardens again…and if the sunshine and spring rains don’t make these babies grow…the healthy dose of love and laughter we shared planting them certainly will !

Tomorrow an update on what’s on the easel.

Today…. a rainy day to paint.


Transfering the Sketch

The Ides of March 09

After over a week of drawing, reworking and fine tuning the composition …I finally finished getting the sketch for this mammoth painting on the panel yesterday. Since this is a Vineyard scene, and since my studio is in the almost landlocked state of Pennsylvania, I am relying on a bank of photographs and sketches done on scene for reference. The first shots were taken back in 2004 and I have supplemented those with over a thousand more…chronicling  a wide range of lighting, weather and seasonal elements in the intervening years.

Without revealing too much of the subject matter yet, I can say that the view of this part of the island can and does change hourly. A busy intersection of human, waterfowl and nautical activity, there is almost constant motion…so trying to capture that energy in a static and narrow two dimensions has been a challenge.

It was also interesting to see the changes in some of the “bones” of the scene over the 5 years or more of photos and drawings. Shingles damaged over harsh winters waited years to be repaired, and names painted on boats worn by salty seas were all the sudden bright again as I flipped from one year’s shots to the next.

I decided to let the verisimilitude go and concentrate on finding the essence of the place. The early composition has expanded from a relatively small panel to fill an almost 4 x 8 foot frame. The challenges of working on a painting that size are offset by the opportunity to portray the beauty in the simplest of details that would be lost in a smaller panel. And there are hundreds of them in this composition. So here we go.

Once again my nurse has insisted that I not lift this thing alone…so together we managed to move it from easel to kitchen table and back again. When I have the sketch completed I scan it into the computer and print it out sized for the panel. In this case it was such a huge file that I had to break it up into smaller sections. The printer spits it out in a tiled format so there’s lots of trimming and taping to get it back together. Then I line it up and trace it onto the panel using a graphite transfer paper.

This shot is towards the end and I’ve cut up some of the main sketch to be able to better see how the transfer lines are looking. Once in a while the graphite paper is of poor quality and I have been known to go on happily tracing lines for hours only to find they are not visible on the panel. Not fun.


I have very little patience for this part of my job…but somebody’s got to do it.



And now….with the panel back up on the easel and the counterbalancing adjusted…I can move it all by myself….

so it’s time to throw some paint around.

First sign of spring

10 March 09

It’s a grey morning and, as Russell used to say…they’ve been wanting rain for days now.

As I lumbered over to the studio this morning a flash of bright green caught my eye…


‘Neath the layer of winter wind blown leaves and frost heaved clamshells…


…the life affirming growth of the first baby chives.

This always catches me off guard…and is a delicious tonic which jump starts my soul…and my taste buds…


So what signs of spring are growing in your gardens my friends ?

Yours in compost,


Doctor’s Orders

8 March 09

I’m not supposed to lift anything heavier than a can of soup for 6 weeks.

And my nurse is watching me like a hawk.

So I had to come up with a fool proof plan to get this next, huge, panel up on the easel. Too heavy for Pat to carry in from the garage by herself, we recruited the old wagon made out of parts from an old radio flyer and together we inched it through the gate and across the lawn and up onto the porch and slid it into the studio…then we locked and secured the easel carriage and one giant heave was all it took and presto…. she’s up and ready to go…


I put the deck of cards there so you could get some idea of size… the panel is roughly 4 x 8 feet…


It reminded me of a quote my dear old Aunt Sal sent which is taped to the studio refrigerator…

“There is nothing, absolutely NOTHING !, that two women cannot accomplish together before noon.”

We managed that AND moving a 50 lb bag of bird seed….well before 11:30 !

Now the hard part…to fidget with the composition and get the sketch up on the panel…day two of sketching and reworking…and counting…