And off they go…

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for the kind words and support for each of the paintings in this year’s Granary Gallery Show.

Both Pat and I have enjoyed reading your comments and I greatly appreciate those of you who have shared the images forward.

In this day and age, so many of us are self-employed, and sharing your support on social media increases the opportunity for success exponentially. It means a lot to those of us creative hermit types.

There is always a crazy rush here in the studio on the eve of our departure, and this artiste is feeling her age. So, in amongst this last minute multi-tasking, I wanted to take a breath and give you a look at all 15 paintings together.

I won’t get to see them this way until Sunday, when they are up on the walls of the gallery.

Stay frosty out there my friends…

Yours in flying brushes,

Heather

Captain’s Log

A Little Night Knitting

Night Philosopher

Night Watchman

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Astride

Travelers

The Study House

A soft day on Black Point Pond

Brigantine

Rough Hewn

Artifacts

Map Room

New Rust

The Flock


The Flock

The Flock  –  48 x 92

And we have arrived at the end…
only to start at the beginning.

I owe everything Vineyard to my friend Lynn.
She brought me here for the first time.

We would throw a box of spaghetti and some brownie mix
into her car and drive from our shared apartment in Somerville
out to the ferry and over to her beloved island.

It was ten years or more before I even knew there were towns
other than Chilmark.

We drove straight from boat to bluff
and left only briefly for the annual lobster from Larsen’s
…and regular visits to Chilmark Chocolate.

Lynn had the biggest heart I’ve ever known
and its core and depths were chiseled out of those cliffs.

Her honest and joyful humor was wedged in between
every one of the giant stones she tended along her wall.

Her kindness and overflowing generosity
live on in the daffodils that now soak up her spring sunshine.

Her friendship and her family have given me
the closest thing to a home that I have ever known.

The monarch is for her.
Actually it may BE her.

For me
they always will be.

On the day I captured this light
there was a very short window
of this calm after the storm
just enough time
for the sheep to make their way
across the field to where I stood
and as the sun began to set
she flew behind me
and landed on this bend of grass
and stayed until I turned around.

Her smile was exactly as I remembered it
with that laughter and love
come to share the moment
which I had been searching for
all those years
as we had made a ritual of stopping
at this turnout each time we left her camp
to see if the sheep were there
and the muses might be too.

After four decades …
and with a wink and a nod
from one happy dancing angel
they did.

Thank you dear sweet soul.


New Rust

New Rust  –  24 x 37

This is the last painting in the Hancock Mitchell House series, and for me it pulls all seven of them together. My working title for this originally was Advent because all those openings and passages reminded me of an advent calendar.

As if you could open each one and step through and back in time and pick a different century in which to explore.

I personally imagine doing that as the woodworker I used to be. With hatchet in hand and shaving horse at the ready, I’d love to work alongside all of the builders of this house. Learning from the masters who cut the massive timbers and swung the hewing axes. Listening to stories of sea voyages as they wove the wattles and mixed the daub.

I can almost feel the ocean breeze lift across the grassy plain, come to softly cool the sweat on my shoulders and back as we share in the splitting of lath under a steamy solstice summer sun.

Above the cry of a pond diving gull, I can hear the rhythmic swish…pull…swish of the planes as they fashion the moulded edges along the wide cabinet boards.

Across the wind swept meadow, along the road from the beach, I can see a cloud of dust rising as a team of draft horses pulls a sled of ship-wrecked planks, washed ashore and gleaned to live now… a landlubbers life of pantry shelf, mantelpiece or sill.

And from just over the treetops, on the next island farm, catching a ride on the early morning breeze, the remnant of woodsmoke drifts from the forge where its fire burns and builds to harden her irons.

Away and alas…
here in this century
I have put down my hatchet
to pick up a brush…and quill…

From the depths of her shadows
in the company of her years
opens a new whitened door
holding fast and proud
to its first ever latch
poised now to witness
this next chapter of life
for a quiet old house
on a wild island plain
and so it begins
with a trickling thin line
reddening apace
of modest…new rust.


Map Room

Map Room  –  24 x 26

There’s a whole lot of maritime history to be witnessed in this little room

Hanging left and right are copies of centuries old nautical maps and charts which were discovered in the attic of the Hancock Mitchell House when the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation began its restoration.

Having recently trodden my own path along the rugged Wild Atlantic Way, I am choosing the map of the West Coast of Ireland to feature in detail here…

Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and New Bedford were at the center of the whaling industry in the mid 1800’s. Several whaling ship captains came from this homestead in Quansoo. One of whom was West Mitchell…

I have lifted these lines from a 2017 article by Alex Elvin in The Vineyard Gazette, click here for direct link to read the entire piece…HERE.

Capt. West Mitchell, who once lived in the house, was among those who weathered the whaling disaster of 1871, when dozens of whaling ships from the region became stranded in the Arctic. He was captain of the barque Massachusetts, which now lies at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Mr. Mitchell’s name remains scratched into a wall in the Quansoo house, barely visible above the stairs leading to the attic.

Here indeed is that very mark…

I found more information on The Whaling Disaster of 1871 on Wikipedia…click here to read.

This one ticks all the boxes for me…
centuries of living on the island
talismans left for us to puzzle
maps to point the way
salt and brine soaked patina
on wood worked by hand
passages in
and passages out
and always and ever
our return…to the sea.


Artifacts

Artifacts  –  20 x 24

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.

Look out world
here comes a damned fine human

…love ya kiddo.

 


Rough Hewn

Rough Hewn  –  30 x 40

This is a wall of the oldest section of the Hancock Mitchell House
which is one of the oldest houses in this young country.

Hand hewn posts and beams whose gaps are filled with wattle and daub
to keep the rugged island weather out there on the plains.

From the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation –

Standing upon the sweeping outwash plain of Quansoo, the Hancock-Mitchell House is considered the second-oldest or the oldest house on Martha’s Vineyard. A classic, Cape Cod style home, the Hancock-Mitchell house is found on Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation’s Quansoo Farm property in Chilmark. The oldest portion of the house was built in the 17th Century. In this oldest section, the walls notably are made of wattle and daub –a mixture of mud and straw that is packed around wood-en rungs. The wattle and daub walls place the house among the very few such “first-period” structures still standing in the United States.

One reason the house still stands, even when faced with centuries of hurricanes and gales, is that the walls feature hurricane braces. The hurricane braces are boards that run diagonally across sections of the wall. The braces are mortised into studs and mortised into girts and rafter plates. In the oldest section of the house, the walls still contain wattle and daub. Inside the house, some of the timbers are exposed, while others are encased. Some timber edges bear “lamb’s tongue” chamfers, a decorative effect used in the 17th century and early 18th century.Some portions of the house contain pit-sawn boards.

Here’s a direct link to the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation site which has a complete layout of the house and more on the history of the people who owned and lived in the house during its over 300 years of occupation and notes about their restoration and plans for the future.

CLICK HERE


The Study House

Study House  –  26 x 36

This is the Hancock-Mitchell House.

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.

 

 


Travelers

Travelers  –  30 x 48

This painting started out with a shaft of light and the better part of a house…

I had been trying my damnedest to bring two elements into this composition which in the real world are hundreds of feet on either side of this little red pump. The old lamp and sign pole, and the old station owner’s house.

Along the way I was listening to “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles, when a phrase jumped out at me…”over the bar hung four studies of gas stations by Stuart Davis”. So off I go to look up said paintings. Which lead to a refresher course in early 20th century American art  and in particular his cubist-ic like paintings of the new elements of modern urban life.

My aim was a bit less wild but referencing the same era as I wanted to bring a corner of the iconic white New England clapboard house in to balance the tall slender light pole and play around with an Edward Hopper-like isolation of the lonely gas pump on an up country road. Standing now as a relic but hearkening back to a heyday when it and the cars it fed were shiny new and the light from the top of that pole would beckon wayfaring travelers.

But all the proportions were wrong. It wasn’t a problem to muscle my artistic license around and re-arrange some elements. The problem was the pump. Which is what I really wanted to shine. Think of an overall clad mechanic wiping grease off his hands before lifting the handle to fuel up the Ford, then folding a wing on the top of the pump and leaning in to say hey.

Right, the pump is actually…short…compared to the 20 foot pole and the porch of the house which sits up on that grassy yard behind the stone wall. To get them all in and have the pump large enough so that I could get out the tiny brushes and show you that the price was 49 and 1/10 cents…

well it would have meant an enormously large and dis-proportioned panel. Maybe someday I’ll revisit that. It’s still rambling around and every once in a while, like right now, the Muses kick that ball back onto the playing field.

Instead I went to another era of Art History and pulled my Albrecht Durer books off the shelf to study his “Great Piece of Turf”. A 16th century marvel that has always brought me to my knees. I played loose and free with the positioning of some of that vegetation but all of the passages of jungled vines do live nearby the pump…

and boy did they fight their way into becoming star players in this painting. No blending into the background sea of foliage for those gnarly twisters. They pushed aside that dappled light and danced.

So I whittled the composition down to its essence.

An old red pump
a deep woods county road
a tire rutted turnout
an ancient fieldstone wall
and a traveler.

There are treasures to be found
along every Vineyard road.

Mr. Morse sent me down this one
which was sorta fun.

 


Night Watchman

Night Watchman  –  22 x 36

Vincent has returned…

But it started with this sketch drawn last summer
on the first night he showed up for duty…

Then came this “Study for Nightwatch”,
painted to keep the image fresh in my mind
and to play around with the light…

Once I got that worked out, I was ready to go…but…
You see I had to wait for the sunflower to grow up.

The back story of this bunny’s journey from early spring garden bed
to his position on studio night watch
was chronicled in the Painter’s Notes for the study.

I’ve copied them here for you to read…
but you already know the ending…

Painter’s Notes for Study for Nightwatch

You know that first warm sunny day
when you understand that winter has
at least one more round in her
but damnation you are going
to clean out a garden bed…any bed.

On just such a day last March
we both huddled in our warmest fleece,
Herself putting her boots up in the sky chair
and myself blowing the cobwebs off of my weeding bench,
we passed a lovely hour or two
warming old bones in the afternoon sun.

I was hoeing away happily
when I saw something odd.

Just under the drying stalks
of last year’s hyssop
was a layer of what looked like fur.

I often throw the leavings of Finn’s coat
after her weekly brushings
out into the garden
or on top of the nearest snowbank
during the coldest months

So that was my first guess.

Then the fur moved.

Ok yes,
I screamed.

Woke Herself up actually…
and then she screamed.

Not ten minutes before
while I had been weeding the adjoining bed
I had said to Pat…
Now I’m going to be really careful because this is where
those bunnies were nesting last year.

So…the synapses fired up…
and collided.

Approaching cautiously
and much calmer now
I moved aside the covering layer of dry grasses
and peeked under the grey and white blanket of fur…

and sure enough
tiny baby bunnies
nestled in a hollow
the size of a teacup.

Oh the tenders
and gawd…
I had been hacking away
had I nicked one before the discovery ?

I tried my best to restore order to the nest
but I had removed almost all of the weedy
canopy that had made this new spot seem promising.

So, I added some leaves to the top
and found a wide wicker basket
and laid it over the nest
and offered up a prayer to mother nature for their souls

For the next two mornings I stood over the nest
and looked for signs of life.
Both times I saw the slightest rise and fall of the leaves
and the next day Kory came.

He’s helping me with the yard work and
as far as I can tell…so far
he has no fears.
Ok a slight shimmy in his step when he happens upon
a large spider…
but otherwise he’s a rock solid go to guy for wild animal taming.

Kory lifted the basket
and the leaves
and the fur
and sure enough
there were three living breathing bunnies
curled up in their teacup.

As anyone who knows me well
will tell you
they all got names.

Seeing as they were born in my herb bed
I dubbed them, Hyssop and Thyme and Vincent.
The last just in the case I had, accidentally mind you,
nicked one with the ancient Japanese weeding tool.

A few days later they were gone.

A week after that two of them jumped out of the way
of the string trimmer I was just about to swing along
the stone edging of the hydrangea bed.

Then, every afternoon for a month,
all three showed up at my new bird feeders,
which I have moved right outside of my easel window.

One of them kept lingering
later and later into the dusk
after siblings and squirrels
finches and doves
had long since gotten into their jammies
and been tucked into their beds.

On this night
as I was waiting for him
the sunset sent extra long low rays
through the bottom of the fence
and shooting across the tops of the grass.

And like that
the bunny hopped into that shaft of light
and stood completely still
for hours
keeping me company
as if he were on guard.

Then one of his ears twitched
and caught the fading light
and I saw the notch.

Now I am waiting for my sunflowers
to grow tall enough to pose
as the source of those angling rays
in the big portrait I want to paint…

of Vincent.