Progress Report…flora

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.

Thanks for slowing down with me for a bit today.

Now go get your hands dirty.

H

 

 

 


MV Museum Opens

Reclamation…

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…

Escape…

Here are images of the rest of the series…

Marine Castaway…

Vineyard Porcelain…

Transom…

Sailing Camp Shadows…

Memorial Day…

Maplines…

Island Passages…

Severe Clear…

 

And for the bonus round…

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.


Ten Year Challenge

Today this sweet loyal generous companion bodyguard and all around champion of our hearts…is 10 years old !!!

That is a VERY special birthday for a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Our little Finnegan is a giver of love.
To everyone she meets.

A wise soul
a beautiful presence
part healer
come jester
my rugged apprentice
our tender minder
and bestest of pals.

Dear Dear Finn…we love you too.

I’ll take this ten year challenge and then some…


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.


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.


All Politics Is Local

All Politics Is Local…Available at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe

It is always powerful
on this day each year
to listen to the journalists at NPR
read the Declaration of Independence

This year it gave me chills.


Artifacts…

The Granary Gallery has launched a new blog…Artifacts

https://artifactsmv.com/

I was interviewed early this spring by Libby Ellis and the Q and A session has been published for your reading pleasure…click on the painting below, grab a teacup of your choice and get a peek into my studio adventures…

heather neill :: yours in flying paint brushes


E…scape

It’s that time of year again…

Garlic Scape Time

This year’s challenge was to minimize the effects of the Allium Leaf Miner pest which had completely decimated last year’s crop. I can’t even bring myself to revisit the pictures from that devastation, so google it yourselves if you are scientifically motivated.

The local Ag agents suggested covering the crop in the early spring before the creatures emerge. I tried three versions of that. In the cold frame bed featured below, I had the doors closed until mid-April.

In this back bed I used fleece to cover the plants, which the wind and weather rearranged frequently, so there were gaps in time when there would have been access. Image below shows windblown exposure.

In the third bed, (it’s starting to sound like the three little pigs here…) I used a screened tunnel. See garlic growing tall under that screen.

I harvested scapes from all three beds over the last three weeks or so. The bed shown above was curiously the last to form scapes. Possibly the full time cover slowed growth ?

Some test pulling of the plants showed those gnarly wee beasties had indeed begun their invasion. As was the case last year, the leaves were browning early and the bulbs were not forming, or were becoming deformed.

So, this week I yanked them all.

In bed one, 100% infestation. No bulbs were saveable.

In bed two, 60% infestation.

In bed three, the one with the 24/7 tunnel, almost all of the bulbs were untouched.

Out of about 200 plants, I now have close to 60 curing in the greenhouse. If there are some critters lurking within I may lose some of those, but it’s not a total loss.

On the principle of being given lemons… I decided to make lemonade.

Well…garlic scape butter.

I saved all the scapes, which were untouched by the bugs, and yesterday I got out the cuisinart !

The recipe is quite simple. Grind up the scapes, mix them into softened butter, put that into a ziploc bag and spread it thinly to force air out, then freeze. Then it’s easy to break off what you need as you go. It is especially nice to soften and use as the spread for Garlic Bread.

I had enough leftover minced scapes to add some lemon and olive oil and also freeze for later use in sauces and such.

Bonus tip, which I learned from an old blogger whose name I apologize for forgetting, you take the butter wrappers and stack and bag them up and also put in freezer to use as ready made greasers for pre-baking pans.

So, I started this blog yesterday, only to find that my website was down…again. A long frustrating day of dealing with my server resolved the problem late in the evening. When I sat down to write this entry today…down again.

They tell me it is fixed now, for good.

If you are reading this, then at least for now…it is.

You will be hearing more often from me now as we near the big opening for the Granary Gallery Show…This year that date will be August 5.

I’ve been working full tilt at the easel, almost non-stop since last November, and you’ll see the results very soon.

In the meantime, I hope your gardens are glorious, your souls are finding peace, and there is laughter in the air around you.

Stay tuned and stay frosty out there,

Heather

 

 

 


A Few New Prints

The studio inbox has recently received requests for some new prints to be offered…
and it gave me the opportunity to clean that page up a bit and add a few new ones.

You will find this logo at the top of the page after you click on Prints from the menu bar on my website…heatherneill.com

NEW to the site are…

So there ya go,
a little bit of whimsy for this season.

Back tot he easel for me…
you lot stay frosty out there !


Reminded of days gone by…

 
This photo popped up in my facebook stream today…

I had snapped the pic a few years ago, when I noticed that my former craft show sign was now a mitten holder. Made me a bit nostalgic for those days when I spent hours on a shaving horse in the yard, and countless trips over the basement stairs to my workshop, then loading the tiny truck with an entire booth’s worth of panels, tent, chairs and tools.

Seen here in the workshop with a young Master Hunter

We loved the camaraderie of our fellow crafters, liberal minded hippies like us. The common joke going around back then, in the early 90’s, was…”What would you do if you won the lottery ? I’d keep making chairs (or pots, or baskets) until the money runs out.”

They had a rule in the better craft circuits that the “makers” had to be the ones in the booth. You could not, say, run a sweat shop with a dozen elves and then have each one scatter on a given weekend to a dozen craft shows. I guess that kept them satisfied that these were “Individually”, and therefore “authentically” handcrafted goods.

It made it difficult for us full time artisans to find the time and expenses to both create and sell our wares, and, though none of us were adequately compensated for the actual hours spent in producing, let alone marketing, we enjoyed a bounty of good companionship and meaningful work.

The first painting I did, for the very first exhibition of my painting career, was this one…

In the Chairmaker’s Wake

I used to carve poems and quotes in the slats.

This one was a favorite, by Willa Cather,
“The end is nothing, the road is all.”

It’s held up pretty well, the saying as well as the chair, over these last few miles. It’s been almost 20 years since I put down the drawknife and picked up the brushes. I made over 500 chairs while the shavings were flying. I have over 300 paintings under my belt…so far.

My hands turn 60 in a few months.
Faithful companions.
They have been leading me the whole time…
down this marvelous road.