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

 

 

 


Father and Daugher Portraits

Working quite late in the studio tonight, but I’m at this computer rather than at the easel. There’s a lot of “business” stuff to this full time artist deal and it allows me to stretch some other creative muscles. Tonight, it’s writing.

No, not this blog, Painter’s Notes. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will have found your way to this logo,

notesLink

It appears at the bottom left of each of the large format image pages, which are found when you click on a thumbnail in the Portfolio section of my website. The logo takes you to the little journal writing that I do for each painting. Long story, written up somewhere in the archives here, but for now, let’s just say that once I got started…I wasn’t allowed to stop.

I am not a writer, and the “I have to do the Painter’s Notes” task does tend to be put off until it can wait no longer. Tonight is that night. At least for the five new paintings that are going out to Santa Fe. Well, they have already arrived, ahead of our flight next week out to the land of enchantment.

As I begin, it puts a smile on my face to see the images of The Bogcutter and The Smock side by side…

The Bogcutter 72

The Smock

Our son Jon, and his daughter Zoe.

Jon originally posed for this painting almost 5 years ago. Zoe is 4. She was just a twinkle in Papa’s eye when he hefted the bogcutter on his shoulders and let me sketch away. I’m so grateful now, for the reference photos I took way back then. Everybody changes over a five year time span, but I, unknowingly, caught him just before his life was to shift forever.

That painting sat on the back burner while I gathered up the courage to attempt an honest portrayal of someone I loved. Man it took guts, for me at least. The nudge of that AAC article was the extra shove I needed. That, and watching the passage of time move into warp speed.

The portrait of Zoe was a much more serendipitous affair. She simply wanted to paint next to her Mima. And when I got up to fetch her some clean water…it was all about the raking afternoon light. I wondered if a then 3 year old, would understand the concept of modeling. She loved trying out the new word and was so serious about her craft that the camera, clicking away behind her to capture the fleeting light in her hair, was no distraction. She was a natural at taking direction and held that dear little hand still so I could record the shadow on the dimple.

OK, now it’s later and I may not make it much longer tonight.
But, it’s a start. I’ll let you know when to click on that logo.


Tis the Season…

heuters

Yes, I am painting.
Most of the hours of most of the days.
But the apprentice has lately been insisting on beauty breaks…

the finn

And, after the winter of discontent that we all shivered through, I am taking deep breaths of every single blooming flower in my garden..

beach rose

My beloved Beach Rose and irises and even the daisy that always reminds me of J O’H

white iris daisy

and, with a cart full of color, and a pair of sturdy gloves
I am taking full advantage of every single space between the brushes
to get outside and work in the dirt.
in waiting

Herself chuckles and grins as she reminds me of the day,
sometime in mid-January,
when I hung my winter weary head
and swore I was not going to do ANY gardening this year.

Certainly no new plants, and definitely not the heavy lifting of the vegetable beds.
No, I was going to keep that head down low and focus focus focus on the paintings.
And right up until about March I was right on track with that dark pledge and doing fine.

Then some plague germs bullied their way into the studio and I spent the next few months crawling out of a very deep hole of un-health. (Spell check didn’t like that last hyphen and neither did I.) Which has thrown some curve balls of perspective at me.

BUT… the veil has lifted.
(Insert a choir of angels here please)
and all verdant bets are off…
Life is so damned short and…
you simply can’t keep a gardener’s soul from a wheelbarrow filled with marigolds…

marigolds
And then there are those newly revised beds that I dreamed of through the wintery gauze of tissues…

new beds

and the annex to the asparagus bed that wants to try growing some beans this year…

asparagus bed

Everywhere I look there are things growing…

nest
wild chives

And chairs that call to sit a spell…

chairs

or swing…

sky chair finn

And so yes, I am painting, but I am also living large in the tiny corner of the planet that we are taming. And, when the brushes begin to whine, I settle back into my chair at the easel with a tiny token of the garden wonders to temp the muses…

sir bernard and the rose

May your paths be filled with clover
and strewn with beach rose petals…
now go out there and grab a trowel.

 

 


Credit where credit is due…

We had a little helper here last week.

Zoe is now 2 and a half and is the sharpest crayon in the deck. She is also big enough to pull her own weight…as well as a wagon full of sticks…and Mima put her to work in the studio as my apprentice.

I had developed this painting up to the shadow stage and so Zoe mixed up some ultramarine violet and paynes grey … and got right down to it.

After a long day in the studio she retired to the log cabin to watch some flicks with Gran and Bear Bear…

and I somehow managed to finish the painting on my own…

but I do believe in giving credit where it is due…soooo…

if you look closely…there is a tiny little Z (she’s not got the hang of the umlaut yet) that will live forever on the signature of this painting. You made Mima proud you special little girl.


Finding Abstraction

The Current show at Gallery 1261 features this little play on the theme… Finding Abstraction

The set up for this was crazy. I wanted to use a real Jackson Pollock painting as reference and found one in my old college Art History text book which I scanned and printed out so I could enlarge it and make it look like a postcard with torn edges. Then Pat found me an old paint can from the stash in the garage and after I rigged them up I taped a canvas to an old fedex box and started to drip.

I remembered the scene in the movie Pollock where Ed Harris takes house paint and starts to drip it on the floor. Turns out there is a learning curve which involves refining the dilution of the paint and the movement of the brushwork. More of a slow dripline than a splatter. I was aiming for verisimilitude but my need for immediate gratification left me impatient with the process. Yes, I could fake it… but I eventually found the right consistency and made up four jars of color and then I dribbled one layer at a time with the panel flat on the floor and walked away while it dried (that was the hard part). Since I was using oil paint instead of acrylic, it had to dry completely between colors or else I ended up with an oily blooming mess.

Then there was the fun of trying to get the magnifying glass to stay on that teacup.

I was just about finished with the painting when, sitting at my easel, I felt everything start to shake. When you work with a Bernese Mt. Dog at your feet this occasionally happens so I yelled at Finn to stop. It kept on shaking so I turned around and yelled at her again…but she was asleep. Then my phone beeped and I read the breaking news that there was an earthquake in DC. Yep, that felt about right.

I looked around the studio and a couple of the paintings were hanging off kilter but the only real damage was to this still life… the postcard had fallen off of the brush that I had rigged to hold it up (I did fake that nail and tile background).

So there’s the rest of the story as they say… stop by if you’re in Denver and check it out.


If I’m framing…

and my favorite Diva,  Suede is singing in the background…

then the Granary Show can’t be far away !

A week from tomorrow we will be putting on our dress up artiste clothes and heading to the red barn for the opening night festivities.

But there is a LOT to do before we can let our hair down… and the apprentice is cracking her whip…

So I’ve got to get back to work…

stay tuned for the NEW PAINTINGS preview coming to your computers… soon !


The Garden is a good place…

to grieve.

It has been a little over a week since my father died and there seems to be an endless stream of logistics to attend to, paperwork to be filled out, emails to answer and to write, and thoughtful considerations to be made by a caring committee of siblings.

Woven through the long hours in the day has been a gossamer thin thread of sadness. It’s soft and shiny enough that I only catch glimpses of it through the haze and weariness of dealing with all the details of death. Living with a hospice nurse for twenty years means I recognize it as grief. But knowing that it is my father who holds its fragile and faraway end has a sharper edge about it than all the other times I’ve seen it.  This one is amber in color…with an Old Holland Red Gold Lake glaze…and has both a startling beauty and a staggering pain.

So, while I know it’s there and see that it’s trying to catch my attention, I am busy right now.

It’s been hard to concentrate at the easel. I’m finding just how much the creative act of painting draws from my deepest emotional pools. It doesn’t surprise me that now, when those emotions are so much closer to the surface, they have such a direct line from the heart to the brush.

So I’ve chosen to do some large muscle therapy.

Finn has been getting me up with the first birdsongs well before the sun rises and we’ve been spending those first cooler hours of the day doing the heavy lifting of turning the compost into the garden soil and getting the beds ready for planting. To Finnegan’s great pleasure we have a plethera of plastic pots. The best dog toy in the world…for our Finn…is a black plastic plant bucket. She will amuse us all for hours with those treasures. I will not embarrass her by sharing my favorite pic of her with one of them on her head like the proverbial lightshade but you get the idea that my gardening obsession is feeding her playful spirit as well as brightening up our yard…

Here in this corner of the planet we are three weeks past the last frost date. Our most tender vegetables should be into their teens by now. I am catching up. I recycled the wood that the roofers left behind in December and have made 5 new raised beds. The greenhouse bed is now in it’s second planting since the ridiculous heatwave has bolted most of the greens…

The best neighbors in the world, Sue and daughter Zola, drove their tractor over this weekend and…while Zola minded the best friend pups, Jed and Finnegan…Sue and Pat and I hauled a huge pile of soil up to the top of the yard. The next day I framed it in with the roofing scraps and made a bed which will nourish some watermelons this summer and, in the fall, will be planted as our long awaited asparagus bed.

 

We’ve expanded the vegetable garden in some unusual ways…

These back beds are producing peas faster than we can eat them this week… and yesterday I planted bush beans, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and runner beans…

And then there’s the great potato bag experiment…went a bit overboard here… so I’m told…

And the roses, oh the roses, they are doing such a good job of lifting my spirits…

And the greatest gift of all… from Gulliver. I inherited this rose bush from the previous owner. For the last three years it has been eight inches tall and only bloomed once. One single flower. Until I put Gulliver’s wind chime there, just outside of my easel window. Now look at it. Gully likes it when I sit in this chair all by myself in the morning. She rings loud and long to let me know that she’s still got my back.

Finnegan is listening to her too…and learning from both her predecessors how to take good care of me.

So, you see…life is good.


Tough days ahead…

I’m headed to Florida tomorrow.

My father is in a coma after brain surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma sustained in a fall. There are so many layers to this but the way my family has come together is nothing short of miraculous. My brothers and step sister and brother have gently and immediately fallen into a strong and loving support system. Coupled with the dear friends my father has in Naples and a caring and supportive church family he has down there…my Dad has a winning team behind him.

The studio lights will be dark for the foreseeable future but my trusty apprentice will be guarding the paintings that are piling up for the summer shows.

Stay frosty out there my friends,

Heather


winter workshop relocation

We have had one day in the last two weeks with temperatures above freezing and I was able to get out to the garage and finish wrapping the rest of the panels working late into the last of that afternoon sunshine.

But, along with the rest of the country, we have been shivering ever since. In this part of the state the meteorologists use Harrisburg International Airport as the official temp. gauge. This morning I happened to be at HIA and could verify that it was indeed 1 degree outside. And since the little dribbles of water that we had left running from both of log cabin faucets decided …..to….stop…….dripping……..yesterday…………morning……………I can attest to the fact that it is too cold for those panels to be out in the unheated garage.

So I have brought them all, all 20 of them, inside and up the steep and narrow stairs to the library loft.

Last night I got  the first coat of gesso on the back sides. This is more easily done with a wide putty knife…unless the plastic one you bought for this purpose was used as a chew toy by your apprentice…

Today I will turn these all over, give the canvas a light sanding to remove stray bits of dried gel medium (which is the adhesive I use to attach it to the Dibond) and then …using the new putty knife…will start the first of several coats of the acrylic gesso. I find that I can use the scraper up to about the third coat before the streaks it leaves are too prominent. I’m going for the smoothest, weave-free look possible.

The final coat will be with the Art Board Gesso and probably brushed on. But I’m eager to see if working up in the loft, with it’s great source of light, will make any difference to how well I can apply the final layer.

This all will have to wait just a bit longer however…since the phone reception is poor up there…and I am monitoring a delayed flight due to mechanical troubles…and the computer has now become command central until my traveler is wheels up…and safely back down.

Stay tuned.