Cardinal Smash

The Basket Weaver

Intermittent Reinforcement –
That would be akin to psychological torture and for an artist, in her studio, painting with tiny brushes, all day…
most, any … all distractions raise the blood pressure.
In the case of the smashing cardinal, radical measures had to be taken…


Earlier this spring, The Bird, started seeing her reflection in this window and set to hurling herself at it. Repeatedly. In five – ten minute intervals. Sun up. To sundown.
My easel is six feet to the left.Where, this spring, I was sitting…Sun up to Sundown and then some.
Years ago a naturalist friend explained the phenomenon to me and I have since forgotten all the lovely avian reasoning behind the need to defend…against oneself. And, though I have had oodles of time to ponder the psychological anomalies of seeing one’s own reflection as a threat…a constant threat…I long ago lost patience with the hurling distraction. Not to mention the self-mutilating brutality of what the poor misguided bird must be experiencing.

So, the sheet. Which neighborhood watch persons, Paul and Matt, saw on their daily bucolic commutes and wrote a scathing review of on social media. Insert smiley face emoticon.

This fix did work. It even survived for many weeks through storm and wind and hail. Last week, after I had left the easel behind for some quilting therapy, and needed more light, I took down the sheet.
Tap tap…smash. She was back.
Now, sitting directly in front of the action, I was able to see that, except for some drool and bother, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of residual bird parts left after the attacks. The beak alone was being used to make… her point. I had hoped that it was a nesting behavior and that all that mess would be over by now. But no. Or still. I’m not sure.

Either way, the sheet has gone back up. I have left the now dim corner of the quilting chair, and returned to the easel. And now, just for fun, I am privy to one or two tiny taps an hour. Seems that she is ever vigilant, but now only curious, and she flies up to the top of the sheet and perches and peers inside for a silent, blessedly silent, minute or two and then is off. You would have had a photo of this for confirmation, but she is camera shy.

I, of course, am curious my own self.
Trickster Goddess or Muse ?Painter or Seamstress.
Perhaps time will tell…
I know SHE won’t.



Last year at this time …


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.




The Article

Heather Neill.indd

John O’Hern has kindly sent me a PDF file of his article which can be opened and read by clicking on the highlighted name/link  below…

HeatherNeill Click HERE

Here’s to kindness
and the summer solstice
oceans waving
loafers leaning
and winding pathways to the beach


As in, my painting of The Captains, is on the Cover of this month’s American Art Collector Magazine…


Blog readers will remember the recent entry about my pals Ted and Pete leaving the planet this winter. Being left here without them was not an option, so I took a couple days off from the gallery work I was producing to do a painting of them, on the bluff, looking out over the ocean, on a distant afternoon, when we all shared some sweet simple time together.

Thanks to gallery owner Micheal Sugarman (Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe), the magazine tasked John O’Hern to write an article on my work. In talking with Micheal, and then John, interesting questions arose about what an artist paints “just for themselves”.

I have been working up to taking the challenge of figurative paintings, and when I looked around the studio it turns out that I have already begun that process. The ones which John features in the article are all very personal studies. My Captains leans just to the left of my easel where those two can continue to keep me on my toes.

My Captains The Muse

I’m still shaking my head at the certainty that Ted and Pete had everything to do with nudging the painting on to the cover. It’s a very big deal for any artist and I am completely humbled, but oh how I shake my head in wonder each time I walk by the mag (which I have perched on a weaver’s chair in front of the other painting I did of Ted, The Teacozy)…just shake my head and smile from ear to ear at the folly of those pals working their magic from beyond.

The magazine should hit the newsstands soon. Here’s a link to their website, AAC Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt of John’s writing for the piece,
Neill’s paintings of props, fishermen’s
shacks and the landscape are finely
rendered and often full of humor and
subtle associations that enrich the viewer’s
experience. She paint’s her emotional
response to her subjects.
Full figures and portraits, however, have
only appeared recently in paintings that
she painted “just for me,” paintings that are
“very personal and straight from the heart.”
Her partner Pat Lackey has been urging
her to show the paintings. When her Santa
Fe dealer Michael Sugarman asked her
about the paintings she is most proud of
she replied, “I have rarely taken the time to
do work that is just for me. It is interesting
because if I had to answer honestly, these
portraits are the ones I am most proud
of because they are all about love at the
deepest part of my soul.”
Aren’t we aging well is a carefully
composed double portrait of the artist and
her partner. They vacation on Martha’s
Vineyard every summer. The bluff
overlooking the ocean has always been
a favorite spot. It has eroded away but
remains significant in their memories.

John O’Hern

arent we aging well

We will be up there soon. And I know it won’t be the same. There are many friends from that island who have gone on to other shores of late. But holding them close is part of growing up and growing old and we are doing both.

Be well.

Big news coming…little news HERE !

Grab a cup of coffee, I’m on my third, this one is a catch up long in coming…

After a week of storms, and a Friday the 13th wherein another storm featured prominently…especially, but not exclusively, the part wherein Anita, the wonderful helper at Snyder’s Sew and Vac, exclaimed that the torrential deluge, which we were all marveling at through the shop window, was POURING in to some poor fools’ open truck windows…yep, that’d be me…

anyway back to the point of entry…the stormy week…

has passed and this morning dawns cool and clear and absolutely blissful. An early walk around the garden reveals that the infant veggies have pulled off their raincoats and are quite ready to get back to the business of growing. Snow peas didn’t need no stinking slickers…they just kept right on and the first real batch was plucked into my t-shirt.

Then I walked under the arbor and was thrilled to see that we actually, after five or six years of waiting, have something resembling a real concord grape ! You will notice the avian anti-theft devices twirling in the background which seem to work just dandy to have kept the hungry spring beaks from plucking away the all important, and yes probably tasty, buds. Look hard, there are grapes there, dozens of clusters.


But seriously, the main event, for which I interrupted Herself’s bowl of cereal to insist she run to see…

cherry picked

MIMA’s Sour Cherry tree,  “Sweet Lorraine”, has…or make that had…the first crop of sour cherries to bless this garden. Last time I had looked, there were some tiny green bobbles and the other tree, which was loaded with blossoms had none…so I wasn’t keeping close watch. I love those kind of surprises and they happen every day here in June.

So…if my garden is producing ripe cherries, the orchard just over the hill should ? Some Ritz ready made and rolled pie crusts were added to Pat’s grocery list…just in case. And a very tiny scrap of dough will be ceremonially wrapped around the tinier handful of Mima’s sour cherries for the inaugural bake. Maybe I’ll freeze them so Zoe can taste. These trees are for her after all.

OK – do you remember me mentioning Anita ? I’ll swing back around to her in a minute.

First, if we can focus on the day job…painting…

The long season of longer days and well into the late nights, as I worked to put together the paintings for the Granary Gallery Show…which opens July 20th…was wrapped up this week with the last brush strokes, on the last painting. It felt like months of straight on brush lifting but when I looked back in my daily journal it was exactly one month to the day, of 12-16 hour daily sessions, begun on May 9th and completed on the 9th of June.

Just a couple glimpses here as I wait for Mr. Corcoran to do his photographic magic for the big reveal…

silly me close quarters details

The curve balls which were hurled at the studio over the winter do have me running about three weeks behind where I would like to be coming into the show season, and I have added an exciting adventure to the schedule …a real live show out in Santa Fe in October complete with the artiste in residence for the opening. More on that later…but keep your head up…that’s just the beginning.

The resulting creative intensity has correspondingly been escalating around here. And I have promised Herself and Myself to slow down enough to enjoy each other and every garden grace, and all the other mischief that my hands enjoy getting up to while they still can.
After watching the latest episode of PBS’s Craft in America, speaking of treasures, I have been studying the quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend.( Here’s quick link, Quilts of Gee’s Bend but you can all do your own googling and I encourage you to dip away.) They are glorious, spectacular, and humbling works of art and the works by Joe Cunningham, who was featured on the show…mind blowing.

Like that…I have to quilt. No, I didn’t drag out any of the three or four projects “in progress”. Those bags are for later. I am too suggestible and, after seeing a tiny photo of some new fabric which Kaffe Fassett has produced, I ordered a fat bundle. You can see it in the background here but stop and smell my garden roses along the way.
gees bend

Quick trip to Intercourse…no, the village in Amish country north of Lancaster, to the quilt mecca shop, somewhat disappointing as they had none of the notions I was there to collect. It’s just not the same when you have to order a tiny thimble online…but nothing, not even those storms…can stand in the way of this, my latest, obsession, which was held frothing in the starting gates until…the last brush stroke…AND my beloved and I had a wonderful day together, which is after all at the top of the list.

As Joe C. describes in the show, most of the time he has no idea where his quilt compositions will end up. That artistic license is essential to the creative process and it was important, for me, to be reminded of that. Seeing  the free form quilts that he and the ladies have sewn, has passed down the “permission” to let loose.

No need for tedious marking and measuring and fussing over precision corners. The stitches should come from the heart. The color should pour from the soul.

My studio loft is the perfect nest for fiber arts and I was happily flying through the piecing stage..


until…the machine froze up.

And this brings us back…again…to Anita ! And Edith !

anita and edith

My newest angels, who are standing behind the fancy new machine which I went home with …in the middle of that storm. I googled “help my sewing machine is broken” and found Snyder’s Sew and Vac.

They all provided me with the best shopping experience I’ve had in this town in years, complete with plastic bags to cover those soaking truck seats (thank you John for that and all your good advice !).  I love working with humans who know their stuff and when you thrown kindness and a good sense of humor in the mix…customer for life !

Now a new morning has dawned. The gremlins who taunted me yesterday are dismissed. The skies are clear, the cherries are ripe, the paint is drying, I’m one lucky woman and…your coffee is probably cold.

It’s time to get to work and every which way I turn there is something fun to get my hands into. I hope that is true for you as well.

And that big news… yep it’s coming. Stay tuned, stay frosty and live it large.