Early dark and I’m almost finished here in the studio…
Before I go, on this eve of gratitude, I wanted to thank all our galleries and the hard workers who have managed to keep the doors open during this difficult year allowing we artists to keep working and filling those walls. So…to the folks at Gallery 1261 in Denver, Michael and Christie at Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe, and Chris, Shiela and all our dear gallerista friends at The Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard…love and thanks from the bottom of my brushes.
And a special treat…A new video for a very special painting…Arthur’s Light…Available at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe (website is under construction and at the time of this writing Covid restrictions have closed business – I will update as soon as they are open but inquiries can be made via phone at (505) 820-0010 )
The first was from my Goddaughter Emily and her Wife Ashley who sent some snaps from Canada of their handsome son Oliver. We love getting to see photos of Ollie who is just the happiest little boy with a clever impish smile…can’t get enough of them. But this one was extra special.
First I have to take you back…way back…over 30 years ago… I was living with Peter Follansbee in the general store in Muddy Creek Forks, where we were studying our respective crafts. He was the more serious woodworker and I the wannabe painter but we overlapped in the chair and basket department.
Along comes a visit from Emily, a very young version of Herself, and as I had begun making children’s ladderbacks…this one had her name on it…
I just love the confidence and pride in here expression there. Such a love.
So now we fast forward to this …
And now I’m melting into a thousand puddles.
You go Ollie…I hope to show you how to make one of those chairs some day. But that bucket of crayons is also right up my alley and down my street…I can’t wait to see what you do with those !
So I’m all warm and nostalgic thinking of the journey that chair and the chairmaker has made and then I get some pics from Follansbee himself.
Here’s a sketch of my basement woodworking shop in our log cabin which I made for Peter back in ’97
Can you find the pipe ? The one on the door not on the top of the cabinet.
Yeah so he and I have differing memories, his story will appear later, but I cherished that as being one given to me by Peter and his mother Mary from his dad Mo’s collection. Peter says no, and I usually defer to his stellar skills in the memory department but I’ve held my ground long enough that he has capitulated…almost.
Long after I had made the move to fulfilling the dream of being a full time artist, our log cabin was caught in a massive flood. As we live 15 feet from the edge of a creek, it meant the entire basement was filled with water. Very little survived from that workshop but I took apart the tool chest and saved this door and carved a Mark Twain quote which was eminently applicable to Master Follansbee…
True to both our natures He took it one step further and then some…
He posted a blog that fleshes out the back story so I’ll copy it here and link it back to his website for those who want to read on.
But before I do it feels important to take stock of both of these milestones.
Reminders of that time in my life when my younger stronger body followed the whims of my woodnypmh muses are few and far between now. I made over 500 chairs. From Shaker style rockers, large and small, to dozens of children’s ladderbacks to full dining room sets of chairs complete with child sized highchairs.
It was always meant to be a way of making money so I could follow my true bliss and be an artist. Looking back, it certainly was a magical bridge. And now, I spend my days at the easel…making money so I can justify taking some time off to make spoons.
I’m content with all of it… because I learned well from the quote which was most often requested to be carved in the slats of those chairs…
“The End is Nothing, the Road is All.” Willa Cather
Now here’s Peter’s side of things…(stolen directly from his blog…)
A week or two ago I got to a project that has lingered here for ages. The small panel in this door was made by my friend Heather Neill, way back when. The Mark Twain quote she incorporated in this panel is from the Autobiography, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” When Heather & I met in 1982, I had just given up the notion of being a painter, and was concentrating on learning woodworking. She took up chairmaking after I showed her some of the steps involved. She probably made more chairs than me before she gave up chairmaking to concentrate on painting! https://heatherneill.com/
Hanging in my shop is a drawing Heather made for me in 1997; showing her chairmaking space when it was active. In this detail, note the cupboard door with the pipe door handle. (my camera was tilted, Heather’s chair is not squished…)
So for a long time, I’ve been thinking of how to incorporate her Twain-quote-panel in a new door. I have two cupboards near the back of the shop – one for axes, and the other for turning tools. I made the axe one first, and it got doors.
When I made the next one across the shop, I had run out of “extra” pine boards. So left it door-less til now. But now that I was going to all the trouble of making the door – I couldn’t leave it plain. In for a penny…
I made it with flush-fitting panels – because the Twain quote had no margin to speak of. Then decorated it.
I haven’t carved pine since I carved the timber frame of the shop. I decided to use something simple & quick. This braid is featured in the book I did with Lost Art Press – this time there’s no V-tool involved, just incised marks with different-sized gouges. The layout is done w two compasses.
In this example, the large circle is 2 1/2? wide, the smaller one 3/4? – I used a 1? wide #5 Swiss-made gouge, and a 3/8? wide #7 Stubai gouge. Then a nearly-flat tool to remove some chips.
This is the dramatic view down the line.
This sort of design is common all over the place. My photos from Sweden a few years ago include a few different versions of it. Notice on this arch the way the effect changes according to the relationship between the large & small circles.
One more – again in an arch, but this time with its columns also.
But in the end, I decided to hollow the circles – the scribed design was as prominent as the carved one – and I didn’t like it. I took a large gouge and worked along each band of the circles. This gives the whole thing more shadow.
My version is simpler, too much blank space between the elements. But it will do, although I can’t wait to try it again.
Oh, I forgot about the pipe – why is that there? Heather swears it was one of my father’s, that my mother & I gave to her, no doubt as painting & drawing props. I swear I don’t recognize it. But my father had lots of pipes…so I might as well believe it.
Here we are…it’s the morning of the Granary Gallery Show Opening
I want to personally thank all of you who have taken the time to read the string of Blog Posts which have lead up to today’s opening. You being with us for this ride and offering kind words of support and encouragement along the way has softened the edges of the rough parts and lightened the air here in the studio.
So…from our studio
To the red barn on Old County Road on the island of Martha’s Vineyard
And into the homes of all you friends and patrons…
These are the Glory sisters. They greeted me fully open to this stellar morning…even though I was later than usual.
1 – We can only watch two episodes of any given series at night. I can’t expect to get any painting OR gardening done if the first number my eyes see in the morning starts with a 9.
2 – I can work in the garden with absolutely no guilt, rationalities or apologies of any kind all morning.
3 – IF I agree to stop at noon.
4 – Where upon I will eat breakfast AND lunch in one meal.
5 – All other work, including blog posts, bill paying, business stuff, and random google searching will be ceased at 1pm.
6 – Where upon I will show up at the easel and begin to paint.
7 – Only two pieces of Easter Chocolate per day…Until Easter…writes the Atheist.
8 – I will put down the brushes by sunset…currently around 8pm.
9 – Going forward I will use only two olives in my Quarantini…s.
10 – This year I will break all records for time spent in the sky chair.
It is now 2:29. So the rest of this blog post will be a dump of photos showing progress on Rule # 2…
Yesterday was potting up day… The Dill got new digs…
I am figuring out a recipe for my own potting soil since this is the year of stay at home ingenuity…some sieving required…
A prescription for heartburn pills makes for the perfect tamper downer when seeding flats…
Teeeeeeny seeds…wedding ring for scale…
This morning’s glorious sunshine was perfect to plant parsnips…
Ruth welcomes all seeds…so the last two feet of this parsnip run will have carrots, those white dots are pelleted seeds, Ruth preferred scattering over rows and it was much easier to try that here. The ground was rich dark brown and amazingly…in this the wettest part of the yard…and after a torrential storm in the middle of the night…was well drained and easy to work. I did add a thin layer of peat moss to help keep the seeds under some cover, then added a thin fleece over that to keep the light peat from blowing away, and the netted tunnel over that to keep critters out.
On the other end of the RS garden I’ve got the squash tunnel set up.
And I was able to move two more straw bales to complete the entry gate…The bales will have flowers planted in them for the pollinators.
And now it is 2:54…
One of the changes in our lives with this stay at home deal is that we, who do not have a washing machine, are doing our laundry in the sink. The drying part is no problem because we have an umbrella line in the studio yard.
I noticed this morning that my new method of brush wiping…when using the tiny brushes they tend to hold more of the turpentine in the ferrule when I wash them out…which I do more often than usual when rigging boats…hint as to current subject matter…the ferrule is the silver part of the brush pictured below and the paper towels rest on my knee to wipe that excess off.
So this is how I noticed what I noticed…
I guess that my right elbow is resting on…all that excess wet paint.
My uniform wears her battle scars well don’t ya think?
So of course…today’s painting is…
Bringing in the Sheets – 2014
I know people, ok, two people,who hang their laundry out all year long. My laundress is not a fan of this.
In our next house there will be a washer and dryer. I have promised.
For now, and for the last quarter of a decade, that weekly chore has been done up to town, next to the local pizza joint.
Herself is on a therapists basis with the owner, and most of her best stories have originated between the spin cycles. The characters join her there, making entrances and exits worthy of the bard Himself, with the odd parrot or two on the shoulders of the jester stage left.
So, when it came time to pose for this painting,I actually had to search the studio for the clothespin. It’s Ted’s, and that elegant swan shaped clip at the end is the perfect balance of classic style and Yankee ingenuity… just like Ted.
I hung the line at sunrise, between the greenhouse and the grape arbor and waited. The first rays of sunlight caught the top of the sheet and I quickly called Pat over from the cabin to pose. In the initial sketches, done a few weeks before, the shirt was to be white, so I figured I could fake that part or pose her again later.
We played around with the angles and then I sketched and took some photos and went inside to work. When she called to let me know that Herself was headed up to the laundromat I walked outside to stretch my legs and whammo… a whole new light was cascading across that sheet. I made her run back and, in very short order, I had what would become the final composition.
You can see that the white shirt, which was still crumpled in the unwashed laundry bag, when the light changed for the better, stayed hidden there… and the striped shirt of the laundress which seemed to echo the uniforms of those hard scrubbing for-bearers… remained.
I believe fundamentally in paying homage to the women upon whose shoulders we rise and to the makers of clothespins.
A wonderful day book-ended with a spell in the sky chair. This sunset deepened and lasted for almost two hours. Ta very much nature goddesses.
And a heartfelt thank you to all who reached out to send birthday greetings. You all know what it means and it seems like one of the ways this crisis is impacting our worlds is that the tenor and quality of distance socializing feels genuinely kinder. So let’s keep paying that forward. Good on Ya humans !
We were told to expect clouds all day yesterday so, when the sunshine hung around and around I gave in and putzed in the garden.One ridiculous caper found us wetting ourselves after trying to move just one bale of straw. Now it was rain soaked so that added extra weight but I’m guessing close to 80 lbs. I can normally lift dry bales with some effort and, as you’ve read here, I used to be able to point a finger and rely on Kory to tote those bales.
Alas, the virus, so Pat and I tried…and collapsed after that first bale.
Lunch felt like a good idea so we retreated and treated ourselves to a viewing of …Fantastic Fungi. Wow. Our son Jon turned us on to this movie and movement. You can rent or buy it only from their website…click here. I highly recommend for every curious mind…especially for inquisitive youngsters. They are going to get to see and drive monumental changes in our planet in their lifetimes based on this science. Pick the biggest screen you have access to and get the room nice and dark…enjoy.
The rest of the day was peaceful…planting here and there and checking under the fleece…
The salad bed planted two weeks ago is coming along…slooooowly. Carrots and those beets on the left and spinach on the right had overwintered. I yanked most of the beets as the roots were gnarly. Carrots ok. Spinach ok too. Three lines of lettuce seeds had no germination so I replanted. Radishes are firing up. Side dressing of Dr. Earth’s organic fertilizer and a good soaking and back goes the fleece.
A mediocre supper of Ina’s roasted shrimp, (the shrimp had lots of freezer burn and it should have been 400 degrees in that oven) was lifted by a wonderful sauce of mayo, ketchup, mirin, touch of teriyaki, capers and curry. And we binged two more episodes of Ozark. Late comers we are only on season one. Whew the dreams I had after that…suffice it to say it was a relief to open my eyes this morning and see that the orange jump suit had been left in that nightmare.
These posts are getting long and are mostly just my own way of leaving breadcrumbs, but I will share this morning’s escapade as a PSA.
We had to go out into the world to take Finn to the vet.
It’s all good…don’t fret…Saren…she’s fine…
But part of our goal is to stay on top of a couple of issues that trouble the old gal and part of that regimen is regular shots and meds that we had run out of. In this state, Veterinary Hospitals are considered essential but they are asking to hold off on normal checkups and shots with the exception of Rabies vaccinations. Fortunately for Finn she was due for a rabies booster. And fortunately for us, eternal gratitude to Saren for all things dog here, our vet practice is bang on top of this new world order.
Hill Street Veterinary Hospital
…and a great shout out to Finn’s hero…Dr. Sara Alfano.
They have walk-in hours in the mornings, and a carefully orchestrated protocol for curbside care.
After hearing the tenor of the experts changing over the weekend, alerting that the coming couple of weeks would see the worst impact of this virus, we decided that a quick controlled visit now would be best for Finn.
The only exception to our own protocol was that Pat got to ride along. The poor dear hasn’t been in her car, Martha, for almost a month and that deprivation has been real for her.
Finn requires the aid of a very heavy ramp to help her into the back of the Volvo but we work well as a team and not being able to do HER absolute favorite thing…riding shotgun for her buddy in the car…is an even greater deprivation around here. So…the whole damn family loaded up.
Gloved and masked we drove up and parked. Called the office. They got things ready. Tech came out with mask and I got Finn out. They whisked her up the ramp and into the clinic. Dr. Sara called on my phone and we chatted about Finn’s treatment and meds and got to check in on her, Sara. As one of our special people…we worry. All good she says. The tech brought our girl back out with a bag of meds. We paid via phone. And Bob’s your uncle that was that.
We took the long way home so we could see the flowers and our favorite trees and, since I got out of the car and was in contact with the bag and the harness Finn wears which they had touched, I performed the decon drill and gave Finn an extra treat and here we are.
A great big high five paw of a thank you to the staff and Docs who made that experience go so smoothly. It honestly felt very weird to leave the house, to see other humans, so little traffic, a small group of teenagers in the high school parking lot standing six feet apart and chatting. And I was hyper aware of the invisible villain lurking just beyond the closed windows of the car.
It feels good to have that addressed and done with and now, after a quick walk around the sunny garden, I can settle back in at the easel.
I think these three are a perfect fit for today…all were Saren’s dogs and all were Finn’s pals…but her Bestie was and always be… Tallie…
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.
‘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.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum opened the doors of their new home this week. Here’s a bird’s eye view nearing completion from their website…
DCIM100MEDIADJI_0292.JPG photo credit probably Denny Wortman but I’ll check.
It’s an exciting time for all who have supported the dream of transforming the old marine hospital into its newest reincarnation as home for the MV Museum and its collection of island history, artifacts and lore. The Museum, as a collective, is a living breathing vibrant organization which brings archived island history to life for each new generation.
Readers will remember that way back in 2013, can it be that long ago, I worked on a series of paintings, Reclamation, which explored the Marine Hospital building as it then stood, abandoned and restless, on the hill overlooking Vineyard Haven harbor.
The MV Museum had just purchased the property with the goal of converting it to their new headquarters. And, after five years of hard work and visionary grit, the board, staff, construction workers and volunteers have realized their dream.
As part of the opening exhibit in their space devoted to Island Art, “Lost and Found, The Marine Hospital”, the museum has curated examples of artwork inspired by the original building. They managed to round up, and have included, several of the paintings from my Reclamation Series, and Adam Smith sent me some photos of those paintings in situ from the show…
The 2008 painting of Strider’s Surrender, which was donated to the MV Museum by a supportive patron, has now found a home in its permanent collection. Chris Morse, owner of the Granary Gallery, sent me a photo of the crew installing the piece…
And Adam caught it again at the opening…hello from the studio to Phil Wallis, MV Museum’s Executive Director, down along the hallway there…
The Painter’s Notes for both the Reclamation Series and Strider’s Surrender fill in some of the inspiration and back story for these pieces and can be read by interested parties by clicking on their highlighted names in this sentence.
It is both personally and professionally kind of amazing to see these paintings hanging in the new museum.
As artists… we churn our days away at the easel challenged by the muses tossing paint around with tiny brushes grounded, as far as our left brains will allow, and working primarily in the present.
It is humbling to see one of those creations hanging in a museum which is grounded, as far as any good mission statement will allow, in the past.
In preserving the past.
I don’t often get to see where my paintings go after they are sold. If I’m brutally honest, it is sometimes so emotionally difficult to put so much of my self and soul into the creation of the artwork only to let it go and never be seen, by me, again that I have to compartmentalize that bit into a dusty corner of my heart.
If I had a gratitude journal… today’s entry would be this blog post.
I am grateful for all those whose support has given these paintings a new audience to tell their stories to…and I am looking forward to getting to see them again…in person soon.
My frantic mind had settled enough to let the sun come up without my help, which gave the overnight coating of sleet enough time to begin to melt, and sorting the box of newly arrived garden seeds was a most pleasurable task to begin with, then a walk to the compost pile turned into a bike ride in the greenhouse, which lead me to Ruth…
(photo credit Mother Earth News)
Ruth Stout. The other party to which I am late in coming today.
Arriving at this sixtieth decade I seem to be only just now stumbling across the paths of quite a few amazing humans. This week it is Ruth. Or was, as she left the planet after 96 years of living here, back in 1980.
I’ll bet that most of my hard core gardening friends are smirking as they read this having known of Ruth and her simple ways well before my stumble…Ruth Herself didn’t throw away her tillers and pesticides until she was 60…so there ya go.
The evolution of my own gardening life saw me give away a brand new tiller a few years ago after learning about building better soil by letting the critters do the work..and I know many of you followed along as I adopted Joel Karsten’s Strawbale method which I have been experimenting with for about 5 years now… and that has morphed more recently into my latest guru Charles Dowding’s No Dig compost only beds which Kory has been helping me build and tend.
Well move on over and pass the hay… it’s time to quit working so hard and strip down to the essentials.
I’ll let you enjoy this introductory video… for those who are not smirking, and you can google down this rabbit hole to your hearts’ content… because it’s time for me to lift some brushes… but before I go… here’s a little teaser of a nod to my favorite part… she gardens in the buff. Yes. Yes.