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.
We have returned to terra firma after an extended excursion to Martha’s Vineyard. We usually let the unpacking phase linger long enough to keep some sand between our toes… as a reminder of all those walks on the beach, but there are wonderful things about coming home too.
Somewhere in the mountain of mail we returned to, ( thank you Sue for sorting it all out for us ) , I found my November issue of American Art Collector Magazine, and was pleasantly surprised to see my pal Ted there…
Humble thanks to Master John O’Hern for his ever so kind words about my work, and my muse. The memory I have of the twinkle of humor and love in Ted’s eyes is almost matched by seeing that rakish draping of jeans over boot.
It is a grey soft day here as November creeps upon us. The apples have all been picked up, but the grass is well over the tops of my boots, and the leaves have only just begun to fall.
Inside the studio, the furnace has begun firing up for the season, and so too have the brushes. It’s a good opportunity to work on the stack of commissions that have been piling up. In this time, between working on major bodies of work for shows, I can give undivided attention to those special projects and, after a long hiatus from the easel, my creative energy is restored and ready to rock and roll.
In the days ahead, I plan to show up more often here on the blog with progress notes and ramblings on creativity and studio happenings.
Today it feel so good to be able to say…back to the easel for now.
I’ve spent this stormy day working on the Painter’s Notes for the new paintings. If you are of a mind to spend some time away from the news of the ongoing apocalypse, and would welcome some detours down the pathways of this artist’s musings, follow this sign…
On my website…https://heatherneill.com/ Under the menu tab…Portfolio You will find, sorted by year, all the paintings I’ve ever done.
When you click on a thumbnail there, you open up the larger format image for each painting.
There you will find info like size, and which gallery it is currently exhibiting the work. Down there, at the bottom of each of those pages, is that quill and teacup logo at the bottom left.
When you click on that…POOF ! It takes you to the Painter’s Notes.
I started writing them when I had my first solo show back in 2001. I had been a chairmaker for a decade or more, so I could make money, so I could paint. That was a whole lot of work, and scads more fun, but a creative reality check.
Turns out, 16 years later, it was a better bet to try this painting gig out, so I could carve spoons in my free time.
At that first show I wrote some journal like notes with each painting to help my chairmaking patrons understand that I was putting the handtools down and picking up brushes.
These notes have become an integral part of the painting process for the patrons who took that leap with me, and I offer them for anyone who might be curious about where my mind was wandering when I was at the easel.
We’ve got some new people checking in, hi there, so I thought a review was in order. For you well-seasoned followers… this is just to send a nod and a wink, and all the thanks in the world.
I’ve written the PNotes for all the new paintings I’ve launched so far.
Tomorrow I begin to document the last six of the new works. They are the beginning of a substantial body of work that has taken me full circle, back to the core of my artistic soul, from the very first brush strokes, and all the halting stages of creative adventures in between, to the cascading circles of how I’ve gotten to here… to the painter, who walks into the studio each day, wondering what does it mean to be a mature artist.
Who picks up the brushes, with aging hands, and trusts that the muses have her back.
Last year at this time, I was polishing up the tiara, and mirror ball, for the opening of …
Since then, the dynamic creative production duo of David and Barbarella Fokos, aka Salt and Sugar Productions have been dividing their time between studio work, filming and editing of new productions for TAO, The Artist’s Odyssey (check out their updated website), oh…AND enjoying awards ceremonies at International Film Festivals.
Yep, that’s me at the easel again…still painting that blue door !
So, as I am in final production for my next show, at the Granary Gallery in only a couple weeks, I have been given the opportunity to provide my readers and viewers with a special chance to see the movie, Visions of Home, in all it’s seaside glory, here from my website.
For anyone who might have missed it the first go round, or who may be new to this site because they saw it at some film festival without knowing beforehand who that old woman with the paint all over her shirt was, and for the rest of you who just simply cannot get enough of watching paint dry, and do not let me overlook Finnegan’s fan base…
Anyway, David has made a lovely page dedicated to the movie where you can see the trailer and watch the full film and get some backstory, with the wonderful blog post that Barbarella wrote about last years’ debut screening and some of the process behind their process, which alone is worth the read…and he’s included the article which The Vineyard Gazette published around the time of the opening in which they interviewed Barb and David about the making of the film.
So grab a bowl of popcorn, pull up your lawn chair by the kiddie pool, put a straw in some cool beverage, set your favorite viewing device to this link…
Have to take a break from rolling out the new paintings…to wish this amazing young human a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
Zoe turns 7 today !!!
She has been exploring her creativity as student, model and muse in her 7 years of visits to the studio, and her independence, gregariousness, and focused curiosity have left their mark on this artist/grandmother.
Here are a few other Zoe inspired paintings…she’ll be here in a few weeks and I can’t wait to see what she’s got up her sleeve next.
This falls under Ted’s favorite category of “sorta fun”.
A while back, one of my master muses, John O’Hern, sent a query asking about the painting Sisters. He was writing an article about florals, and botanicals, and Albrecht Durer, and naturally…thought of moi. (She wrote with a grin)
As I read through and found it today, I see that an image of Sisters did not make the editorial cut. I can see why as the others make a wonderful bouquet of floral still lifes, and my little garden painting is of the more humble vegetable variety.
But, here’s the fun part. What John wrote about the painting Sisters is…in his most inimitably magical way…delightful.
And I quote, “Heather Neill observes a helpful symbiotic relationship in her own garden between her tomato plants and a volunteer scarlet runner bean that self-seeded the year before. Sisters refers to the ancient practice of “sistering” or “growing companion plants to, in this case, literally, support one another”, she explains. “Native Americans would plant corn to support the beans, which would shade lower growing lettuces…all in the same patch.”
The subjects are shown after dusk plucked out of the dark by a porch light. Neill’s saturated color and hyperreal painting along with the dramatic light suggest a more sinister role for the vine when the light is extinguised.”
Only John would imagine such sinister designs, plucked after dusk by a porch light.
to spend at least 30% of the day in an upright position.
Which would triple the output of the last eleven days, wherein I crawled from daybed to nightbed, dragging boxes of tissues, bottles of medicine, and an increasingly bored bernese mt. dog.
I have managed the first 18% of that goal by throwing the contents of the kitchen and garden into a large pot, now simmering away with chicken soup. With a few breaks in between to sip some hot tea and cough up a lung, I am upright, sitting in the office chair, but basically upright, and catching up on the business that piled up while we were away in IRELAND !!!
The fairies were with us all the way, and they turned out to be the only two weeks since late July that I have been free of the plague. Brilliant !
I think the muses have grounded me upon my return so that I could linger in a foggy state and simply drift back to our time there and cement the whirlwind of images and experiences. It exceeded every single expectation, from the traveling companions, to the glorious weather that followed us, to the historical touchstones and meaningful connections, and on and on and on to the landscape and the people.
Here’s one of our favorites, An of Inis Oirr.
We spent a day on that smallest of the Aran Islands, with a bumpy wagon tour,a pint in the pub, a talk with Masie and Thomas, and Herself threw off her shoes and walked in the ocean. An, or Anya (I’m sure that spelling is not right) was the owner, waitress, chef at the little cafe at the top of the hill, just below the castle ruins. She fed us marvelous chowder and hot chocolate and smiled and laughed the afternoon away. Apparently Pat has wrangled a room in her B & B in exchange for light housework.
One of the bucket list items I got to cross off was buying a Bodhran, the Irish drum used in acoustic sessions, and it has just arrived here in grand shape from the little shop in Dingle. I did a bit of googling, and discovered that there is an annual Bodhran festival right there on the tiny island of Inis Oirr.
Already signed up to the mailing list. Bit of practice to do before I’m worthy of that group but we may take An up on her offer.
Be assured that this trip was a creative game changer and I’ll be sharing thoughts and images as they begin to move from the suitcase to the easel, but I am approaching that 30% threshold and I’ve got some paperwork to finish before this thing sits me back down.
Oh what a night it was. The house was packed, as they say, with eager friendly faces who came for the premiere and to support all of us who were captured by the magic of David and Barbarella’s brilliance.
Herself and I were blown away. They did such an amazing job. Our fifteen minutes of fame stretched a bit further, on into the weekend, where we had a super opening at the Granary Gallery.
There is much more to write and share, but along with the swollen ego that filled the car on the way home…I picked up some swollen glands…and the muses have sat me down firmly in order to heal this viral plague so I can get back to those brushes and fill up some of the empty wall spaces !
So, I’m going to sip on my chicken soup and dream back on all the glamor and love surrounding the week on MV.
Meanwhile….it’s your turn.
All you who were unable to make the premiere, and all of those who left the theater wanting to watch it all over again, and again…you can now just click on the link above and be magically transported to The Artist Odyssey website…grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch this movie on the screen of your choosing.
All manner of good things, and summer love, to you all…