If you peer in closely through the blue doorway and into the pantry you will see shelves lined with artifacts.
Treasures unearthed and discovered behind walls an old clay pipe horseshoes and coins bottles and bricks.
What you won’t see that I can is Katie in there studying them.
She was the navigator on the day I first saw this place.
I mentioned before about our wild adventure on the bouncy bouncy dirt lane as we searched the wilderness getting closer and closer to the isolated homestead.
At one point I think it was seeing giant spider webs glistening with heavy dew under that medieval forest of low branching oaks at a moment when we were particularly lost that we both looked at each other to gauge the fear factor.
Yep it was creepy.
But, as ever with Katie, so much fun.
Her young strong legs climbed the stairs before me to test if they would hold and her brave confident self looked behind the darkest of dusty corners to spare my heart.
She’s the one who opened the lid on the oval roaster and found the shells then played apprentice moving them in and out of the crawling sunlight.
It’s going to be harder now to coordinate our Ted Trips because she went and grew all up and graduated and is going to step right on out into the big wide world any day now all by herself.
I have a feeling though that there will be a few more adventures a painted cormorant now and then a little bit of knitting together and listening and the occasional snapshot of that dimply smile.
The most exciting artifacts discovered in this house are on…and in…the walls.
Tucked into planking and stairwell are all kinds of hand carved symbols and signatures and…ships.
I knew that. Adam Moore had pointed out a few of them on his tour and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation site explores this in their literature…
Inside the house, one finds plastered walls and various kinds of decorations. The plaster was made from a mixture of crushed oyster shells and horse hair. Some walls,such as those in the Borning Room, are inscribed with intricate carvings of ships. Other walls, such as those in the attic, bear drawings of lotus-flowers, drawings which a child might have made with a compass. In the Pantry,old bottles and canning jars line the curving shelves. Some jars, still sealed after many years, contain perfectly preserved tomatoes and peaches.
And when I was working on this composition it was all about the pantry light for me. And the magnificent blue paint. And the way the newly shored up timbers had shifted the old baseboard to reveal the startlingly bright original color of that blue and a mystery slice of yellow.
After a bit of sketching and watching how the light was changing with the moving sun, I got up to stretch and moved the door, which had been opened wide against the wall, and this is what was hiding behind it…
I know. Under how many generations of paint, and at either a child’s height or a seated adult’s, was this little gem of a carving.
There were many ship’s captains who owned and occupied this house over its hundreds of years so they and the loved ones watching the horizon for their returns would have had a vivid understanding of ship design.
As does my pal Captain Morse so I queried him about the type of vessel we might have here. His best guess has become the title… mostly because I love the word itself.
There will be many many more Captains at the Granary Gallery opening for this show and I guarantee I’m gonna hear just as many theories as to what manner of ship this be.
I can only say that I have remained steadfastly true to the verisimilitude of this particular hand carved vessel…and leaned heavily on the more romantic essences of the rich and dreamy maritime for my title.
look out the front door and use your zoom lens you will see the barest sliver of Black Point Pond.
When I was working on this painting spring was in full bloom. The studio garden was soaking up the warming sun, with spinach, buttercrunch, land cress, hakuri turnips, cherry red radishes, and purple sprouting broccoli filling our salad bowls with life itself.
One fine day Miss Pat came over to fetch a bowlful of spring and poked her smiling face into the studio for a visit. She noticed a photo tucked into the shelf behind my easel and asked could she see it please.
It was a snap shot of the pond’s edge with a woman strolling along in a straw hat.
Oh, I LOVE this. Are you going to paint it next.
No, I said, that’s just something the camera caught while I was photographing the front yard through the door.
But I REALLY love this. It is such a soft Vineyard moment.
On the island of Martha’s Vineyard there is an organization, The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, which is dedicated to…”Conserving the natural, beautiful, rural landscape and the character of Martha’s Vineyard for present and future generations.”
From their website… Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is the local land trust for the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We protect 2,900 acres of land across the island. We own 72 distinct preserves comprising 2,075 acres, and hold 42 conservation restrictions over an additional 825 acres. We own land in each of the six towns on Martha’s Vineyard.
On a small island, an organization like this makes it possible for those of us who love it but do not own property there to follow those trails to some of the planet’s most magical places. A well worn map of theirs lives in my car all year round. The HM house which sits on the plains of Quansoo in the town of Chilmark is part of a recent acquisition to the foundation.
There is a vigorous debate over in which century the house was built, added on to, and who may have lived in it and when. But early in this century the house and 150 acres of the farmland surrounding it was donated to the foundation by it’s last occupant, Florence B. “Flipper” Harris.
And ideas for a grand restoration began.
The first I heard of this was reading an article by, Mike Seccombe, in the Vineyard Gazette. I’ve been following their coverage of the progress of the restoration over the years as the historians, architects, archeologists and carpenters peeled away layers of wallpaper, clapboard, shingles and paint.
There are several places on the web which reference the process and the discoveries and I’ll link you to them in the upcoming notes.
There are seven paintings in this series and I want to start it off by letting you take in what the house looked like when I first walked in.
On one of our Ted trips, and after a wild and somewhat harrowing adventure of a ride, Katie and I drove out of the spiderwebbed Ichabod Crane like woods and into a wide open landscape. All sky and endless fields of grasses, a sliver of blue pond, and far in the distance a low line of sand dunes with the promise of an ocean beyond.
And sitting tucked along the wooded edge…a simple island house.
Adam Moore, is the Executive Director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and he met us there for an introductory tour. I could hear in his voice the excitement and devotion he has for this ongoing project. He explained that the goal is to bring the house into a stable and safe state but not to renovate for contemporary occupation. Rather, it will be restored to the architectural equivalent of somewhere in the middle of its 1700’s lifespan. And then offered to islanders, academics and interested others as a Study House.
In the coming days I’ll give you an in-depth look into each of the rooms and let them tell the stories of the builders, the ship captains and the generations of women and children who called it home.
None of them brought fancy modern inventions like electricity…or running water in to spoil her bones. So, like the richly weathered decking on the whale ship the Charles W. Morgan, there’s an honestly earned patina on every hewn surface.
And enough beauty in the sunlit robin’s egg blue reflections from the milk painted wall boards…to last…thanks to some supremely dedicated islanders… for centuries to come.
It has become a tradition to unroll the new paintings for the annual Granary Gallery show here on the blog. The work flow has evolved along with the technology and I now use the time spent focusing on each painting, loading them individually onto my website, as the time I also write their accompanying Painter’s Notes.
So, for the next fifteen days, picture me in the studio office, sitting in a comfy chair, this is my view…
And let me say right off the bat… the best part about this view… this week… is that it is air-conditioned.
I wrote in the last blog post about adding the photographing of each painting into that aforementioned work flow. After shooting, the files get brought here at the mothership to be processed in Photoshop. That tech part I am comfortable with and once I have an archivally satisfactory image stored on my hard drive I can begin getting them up on my website.
So, with no further ado…I give you…
Captain’s Log – 18 x 24
This painting is all about the mitten.
For the featured summer shows, the staff at the Granary Gallery do something a little extra to bring each artist’s work to life. They masterfully reflect the essence of the art work by arranging antiques, props, artifacts and flowers subtly positioned to add depth and often whimsy to enhance the patron’s experience.
They stay late on the Saturday night before the openings and make all the decisions about hanging and arranging with a keen collective eye to design. So it is always a fun surprise to walk into the show on Sunday afternoon and see, for the first time, what they have created.
On one such occasion, tucked amongst a pile of some wooly and maritime artifacts which were displayed under one of my paintings, I remebered it being one of the sheep but it may have been the spinning loft or quite possibly the black Irish horse Macy anyway on this occasion… I spied the mitten.
All of three inches, it was held to a tiny ball of yarn by four shiny steel needles thin enough to put inside the stem of a spring violet. I was in love. Honestly, to hold this gem in the palm of your hand and see the impossibly small stitches took this knitters’ breath clean away.
They said it had been found in an old sea captain’s chest. OK well there you go…I’m hooked. I begged to take it home to show the Muses and, now leaning against the window frame by my easel, it has become a powerful talisman. My imagination soars when I ponder who worked those triple ought sticks, who spun that finest of wool, for whom was it stitched, and on what fateful voyage.
Because it is what I do, I have begun to work some of these scenarios out… in paint.
There are two in this year’s show. So that probably means the Muses have a series in the cards.
The Captain’s Log let me play with some old favorites among the prop shelves. And I found some of my earliest homespun yarn which was almost as thin as that used by the captain…or was it his wife…or perhaps the harpooner…with which I tried a tiny ribbing stitch to get the feel of the needles.
Ouch. Those babies are surgically sharp. I had spent this last winter twiddling size one needles around while knitting socks, and my fingers had the callouses to prove it, but the Captain’s sticks are wicked barbed wee deevils. I have a new respect for the men and women of the Aran Islands shown in old black and white photos flying those same steel shafts around at high speed while simultaneously tending their flocks and seeing to supper and minding the bairns lo those centuries ago.
Ah…when idle hands… and magical gallery moments meet on the easel…
Last night I put the very last brushstroke on the final painting for this years’ Granary Gallery show.
Whew. These last few weeks have been an artistic marathon.
Now it’s a sprint to the finish line.
The show opening is August 4th.
The trailer needs to be ready to roll out of here a few days before that, and there is a slew of work that needs to happen before then.
My pals at Artworks, in Mechanicsburg have been busy getting the frames joined for me and we scheduled the delivery for later this week. That gives me a little time to clear some room for them.
So, varnishing, comes first. And it’s summer. The middle of a very hot and humid… and throw a few more humid-ers in there…summer. A while back I invested in an industrial humidifier for the studio. This has been quite helpful for just these type of varnishing days. Controlling the heat and humidity in here means that the varnish dries quickly and evenly and I don’t have to wait for the weather to cooperate, which…being July…it won’t.
After that I can shoot them.
With a camera.
Our business, HN Artisan, Inc. is set up to own the copyrights to all of my work. For all the possible uses of said copyrighted images, now and in the future, which include prints and publications, I need to obtain the best possible reproductions for the archive. And that needs to happen before I send them out and into galleries.
I used to farm this part of the operation out, which was wonderful while it lasted, even though it meant many trips to lug the paintings up and back in stages over the course of several weeks, so that the entire group of paintings was never in one place until the very last few days.
With my dear photographer John Corcoran easing into retirement, I scrambled to work out another option. Technological advancements, and time invested in learning about them, has led me to pick up the photography ball myself.
I’ve had some months to study and experiment with a new camera, fancy lights and another round of tutorials to brush up my Photoshop creds, and so far so good.
But now it gets real.
This year I have done another 8 foot painting, and I have to shoot it, and there is no place in my world big enough to do that easily.
You may remember that last year our pals Matt and Paul came over to attempt to shoot last year’s big panel.
While it was the start of a great friendship, but we had no success in coming up with an archive worthy file.
Over the winter I pondered this dilemma and decided to explore a tip which David Fokos gave me. Having been to my studio, he suggested rigging something up…to shoot down.
Laying the panel flat and suspending the camera above, then moving it in a grid like pattern across the entire panel and “stitching” it together in Photoshop.
Trick to that scenario is that the camera MUST be positioned at the exact same distance from the panel every time the camera shifts.
Long winding internet searches lead me to this…
A cool company, 80/20 makes erector sets for adults, and I got them to cut aluminum square tubing to my specs and then Kory and I assembled this frame. It was extremely difficult to figure out how to make this able to be DIS-assembled but we…ok he…muscled the plastic joints enough times that it can be done.
This has been set up in the garage for several weeks, remember that painting marathon ?, well now that is over and it’s time to step this photography game up.
I went with the aluminum rather than building this out of wood for the higher precision tolerance, that’s an artists’ rather than an engineers’ technical description, to keep the camera equidistant from the panel.
The top bars on this frame have a lip facing up. This was designed so that a small “sled” could ride inside those flanges and slide evenly along the top rails. Here’s a look at the sled and the clamping gear I bought to try and secure the camera to it…upside down.
I will work on that tomorrow morning when it is not 95 degrees out there.
Theoretically, the panel will be placed on the inside of that large frame laying horizontally. The sheet suspended above is to capture insect droppings from the garage roof, no it’s not an ideal workspace for artwork, but it’s the only space I have where I might be able to control the variables which include lighting and distance.
When …IF …I can get this dialed in, then Paul and Matt have promised to assist with the lighting and shooting of said panel. I better throw some more beers in the fridge for that.
So there’s a behind the scenes peek into the studio and the progress towards the big show of the year.
I’ll leave you with some pics of this morning’s wonderfully peaceful garden adventure.
With those hot temps here to stay, it was time to clear out the early spring bed for some heat loving veggies. So down came the pea towers. You can just see Herself hidden beyond the wheelbarrow full of pea plants using her super powers to pluck all of the last pods…I LOVE it when she joins me out there.
AND…the greatest gift …
Turns out the garlic was spared the nasty allium leaf miner after all !!!!
Yes, 100% of the plants are bug free.
The bulbs were smaller than usual, but that may have been a result of the pea towers blocking a good bit of light from them, among other factors.
Only last week I was crying in my suds that for the first time in years I had to ask Pat to by garlic from the super market. It was terrible by the way.
And now…voila… mother nature has blessed our greenhouse with a drying stack of bulbs.
Oh my heart is smiling all over again just writing that.
Ok back to my day job.
Stay tuned…the GG Show drumroll has begun and the lineup of new paintings will hit this blog page any day now.
I don’t want to “bury the lead”…so…Let’s just start right off the bat with the stellar harvest of new potatoes. Yep, those babies are the first success in the new Ruth Stout bed. Be still my Irish heart. I was watering early this morning and checking on the garden progress when I saw that most of the potato plants in the far corner were wilted and looking tired. So, I dug around.
This was the haul from the first six feet of the long 45 foot row which were the very first veg to be planted in all that hay. I’m thrilled to report that the soil there now is rich in organic matter, friable and loose. Last year at this time it was a mucky lawn.
It’s beginning to work !!!
Looking back down that long row you can see that the rest of the plants are still thriving. They were planted 4-6 weeks after those first potatoes.
Looking the other direction, from the gate, today’s potato haul was from the far corner on the right, beyond the squash tunnel. It receives the most shade from a giant maple tree so I am pleased to see the plants are finding a way in spite of that light deprivation.
You can see that the squash are enjoying this spot too…
There were also some not so happy garden moments. Those pesky white cabbage moths have found the brussel sprouts.
Even the ones I covered with this net tunnel…
So I picked off all the tender green worms and sprayed some spinosad and covered them back up. Speaking of covers, the RABBITS decided that the beautiful row of edamame was just right and ate all the leaves they could reach…THROUGH…the rabbit fence. Then they somehow climbed up into the lettuce bed and chomped their way through that crop.
So I tested out a fleece wrapping ala Christo and it seems to have discouraged them…for now.
One fun little surprise was awaiting me in the adjoining bed.
The cucumbers haven’t looked like much was happening…until I looked closer…
I’ll admit that this progress is tiny but the parsnips are up…
The first tomatoes are fruiting and it may turn out to be a good thing that I got them in so late as the really hot weather is only now here in earnest.
Berries by the bowlful every day now…
And everywhere else there is color…
Even the sky chair gets in the act…
The gift of having this corner of the planet to play in of a morning makes for a peaceful start to the studio work day…
But it’s time to pick up those brushes and hunker down at the easel…I have less than a month to put the Granary Show together and the clock doth tick.
The first couple hours of the morning were cool and clear, the calm before this next wave of severe weather moves into our neck of the woods. They just issued another tornado watch.
These pansies were planted for Pat’s birthday in March by Daniel Follansbee. They were moved out of the main flower pots when the warmer weather kicked in…but tossing them in the shady side of the arbor beds has given them an extended life and they were a much welcomed bright spot knowing that I was facing the task of un-planting what the dreaded Allium leaf miner had destroyed.
Every single leek, onion and garlic…over 400 plants which I had so lovingly, and surprisingly successfully, raised from seed this winter have been attacked. They were planted in eight different beds. Even the ones which were grown in the strawbales, far from any of the soil which was infected with the creatures for the past two years. (see that last picture to show the wonderful root structure flourishing in the straw bale bunches in spite of the infested bulbs above) EVEN the ones that I kept under the cover of netting and fleece.
So I decided to yank them in the hopes that this batch may be considered a “catch” crop. The larvae were visible in 100% of the plants, some having reached pupae stage, but all still contained in the bulbs and stems of the plants. They are now corralled and sealed into a plastic trash bag. No way I could ever get them all, but maybe…maybe this will make a dent in the population.
I am going to try one more experiment. One of my garden websites was having a sale on the last of this year’s onion and leek seedlings. So I purchased someone elses’ successful germinating alliums and am going to try and plant them in virgin soil and keep them undercover for their entire growing season. This predator insect seems to have two cycles per year. Another wave is coming. Sounds like my zombie plant game.
In the pics below you can see a similar experiment begun in the RS bed.
The ground beneath all the hay I tossed here back in January was originally lawn. Now it is mud as the hay mulch has smothered the grass growth nicely and begun to decompose. But it will need years of organic matter decomposing to change the composition of that soil so I am testing a primitive solution to grow stuff now.
On either side of the new squash tunnel, ( netting goes over it next time Kory is here), I have placed boxes, open both at the bottom and the top on top of the ground and pulled away the hay to expose soil. Then I added store bought compost, around 6 inches, inside the boxes and am planting directly in these. Idea being that roots have access to the soil below but enough nutrients to assist in growth filtering down into that soil. Everything, cardboard and compost will breakdown over the season and begin to amend the topsoil, but hopefully provided enough fertility to get a crop this year.
I am not completely satisfied that my bunnies will be deterred by the fencing we put up so I threw the netted tunnels over the young plants for added protection.
The plan I am formulating for the new onion seedlings arriving soon is to make up a similar area in the RS bed with boxes and grow bags and compost and then keep them completely covered with netting and or fleece for the entire season. If the flying leaf miners cannot get inside to lay their larvae then…well…theoretically no damage.
If this works then I will be forearmed and have all winter to prepare for next season.
Until then, the little bags of color…
and the first snow pea pods arriving…
are keeping my happy place…happy.
Stay safe out there this week and please take the severe weather warnings seriously.
‘Twas a lovely surprise a few weeks back, to receive…by way of a thank you of sorts…a package from Matthew Stackpole. He, by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Mystic Connecticut, and a lifetime of service to both seafaring villages and museums and maritime history everywhere.
He had sent me a copy of the book, The Charles E. Morgan – The Last Wooden Whaleship, written by his father Edouard A. Stackpole. It’s a lively in depth history of the ship and her adventures published in 1967. I’m only part way through and it has me hooked. Great sky chair reading. Thank you so much Matthew.
Matthew and his brother had the run of the Morgan when their father was at the helm of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
So he had fond memories to share when looking at the paintings I had done from the museum and the ship for last years’ Granary Gallery Show.
And a fine good morning to you all from the studio. Yes, it’s been a while since I checked in here on the blog thingy…but it’s SPRING…and I’ve been working overtime both at the easel and…in the garden.
As this life flies by, I have been paying more attention to slowing down.
My vow to spend more time in the sky chair, which swung empty on its swivel hook for most of last year, and to spend more time with my wife, coming home in time for Jeopardy most of the winter, and to let the brushes flow at their own pace, surprising myself discovering new ways to say old truths… and grabbing all the spare minutes in between to play…in the garden.
We have survived the major tree removal project and the sky has opened up for sunshine to reach some areas of the garden for the first time in a hundred years. I am seeing some changes already, especially in the greenhouse corner of the studio yard. Here then is a tour of the very much “working” progress.
Got to start with a glam shot of my favorite day of every year…the opening blossoms of our Chilmark beach rose…with the extra shot of sunshine she will be receiving now we should be treated to quite a show.
Then, the welcome to my garden view…
Wood chips provided by those dead trees.
This corner is tremendously satisfying as the new bed is brimming with salad greens, and beets, carrots, onions and kale coming along. I confess that I have no idea what that tall green veg is…yes I labeled the seedlings but that label read Kale. It looks more like a broccoli thing. I’ll get a better pic and ask for ID help.
Then a few steps further along we have the splendid newly refurbished arbor bed. The traditional herb garden has now been annexed with the greenhouse bed which I planted yesterday with a whole bunch of seedlings that I actually managed to raise to more than the first two leaf stage.
Then we get serious, and very messy.
The spinach bed, planted way back in March, has been steadily producing but the cover came off pronto when it started to bolt way too early. That thin bed on the right had held a crop of winter carrots which I planted way too late. They were producing full heads of greens but the roots were being chomped by some creature so I yanked them. If I can find a space between raindrops today I’m going to add a layer of new compost and plant edamame there.
The bed beyond, with the two pea towers, is an overachiever. The garlic planted there last fall has been, and will remain, covered in the hopes of deterring the dreaded alium leaf miner. Everything else is shooting up. A local garden guru said this has been an old fashioned spring for us. I really feel that vibe. A gradual climbing in temps, increase in rainfall with some good days of sun and no deep frosts. We have turned that corner now and it is wonderful to put the ice trackers away.
Some big progress in the back forty…
We got this new bed, which I am dubbing the Very Large Array, almost finished. Not sure where I’m gonna find the dirt to fill her up but I can hear the carrots and parsnips whispering yes.
And now for Ruth…
This experiment may not look like much at the moment but it’s really fun. While waiting for warmer temps to attempt some planting inside this bed, I threw all sorts of things in the outside bales. Extra broccolini seedlings (I won’t grow that next year…lots of time and space taking flats for Zero return. (some seen here below)
The leeks, and the onions which I nurtured in February… are thrilled to have a home and are soldiering up the perimeter like they were born for the job. Some carrots, kale and extra sage are in there as well as sunflowers and climbers for the Ruth Stout Memorial Archway.
But Potato Row is the star.
All varieties are up now. You can see here how the back wall of hay bales is collapsing into the potatoes. They are on the uphill side of the sloping yard so they have to fight gravity as well as decomposition. I am going to let them do what they think is best and hope that the veg planted in them will overcome the drooping attitude.
There are some persistent weeds coming through the hay all over the bed. I will be using the mountain of wood chips to fill in some walking pathways in here and all over the rest of the yard. It can just be seen out there beyond the fence…which is part of the problem… I need Kory’s help for that but we’ll get her done.
Elsewhere on the estate…
The blueberry bed is thriving.
The much neglected far corner has received a facelift incorporating some Ruth Stout hay mulching with shredded hardwood to tamp down the thready weeds and help establish a new blackberry bed. I saved some Soloman Seal from beneath the pin oak which was taken down at the log cabin and it seems to be quite happy in it’s new home around the maple tree.
And then we swing back down to the easel window, along the rose bed…
A clever shot of the view which the birds and squirrels have of the artiste…from without…
and her view from within…
Some re-positioned birdhouses…
And David’s gazing ball…
and the apprentice telling me that’s enough…get back to work.
She’s right. It’s time to get back to my day job.
I’m having just as much fun inside…working on a new series of a very old house on the Vineyard. We will check in on that a bit later.