Reminded of another life…

Two messages on the same day.

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…)

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/

pine door w Heather’s Twain-quote panel

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.

The whole interlaced panel (& 2 rails) design is loosely based on one I’ve never seen, except in a photo. This photo below was one of a batch sent to me 10 years ago by Maurice Pommier, author of Grandpa’s Workshop – who is another whole story https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/10/18/meet-the-author-and-illustrator-maurice-pommier/

carved joined work, Brittany

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.

 


Postcards from the Ledge – 15

Big wind…

Big decision.

The morning’s laundry is getting a second rinse cycle from the passing shower.
Great gusts of wind blew through the holler a few minutes ago.
And we have come to a sad conclusion.

We will not be making the trip to Martha’s Vineyard for my annual Granary Gallery Show.

Pat always counseled her Hospice patients that ambivalence is what eats you up…and there are no wrong decisions. So we made the call.

We still know so little about this virus, but the course of the pandemic appears relentless and we in this family trust science and revere scientists and health experts.

Chris reports that the gallery is making preparations to open when the governor and health inspectors give the all clear. As with all businesses large and small many modifications will need to be made for the safety of staff and patrons. It’s early days but we agreed that gatherings like show opening cocktail parties with dozens to hundreds of people are not possible. We are grateful that he and the stellar staff are willing to try and help keep their artists afloat and we know that in a crisis like this humans seek beauty.

There are also issues for those of us who call Martha’s Vineyard a spiritual home but do not…as yet…have keys to the place. Like many resort destinations, The Vineyard is challenged by so many residents and businesses relying on tourism for income, and like all of us the islanders are divided about how and when to allow that commerce to resume.

We straddle both camps but are choosing not to risk the health of our friends by possibly bringing more virus to their already limited health care system. And with highly vulnerable risk factors, we are choosing not to take the chances that days of travel and higher concentrations of humans would bring to our own health.

So, while we are not going to the island…

The PAINTINGS ARE !!!

And that is my challenge.

I am going to need help.

And more than a few miracles of supply chain timing…Julie get ready !

But the plan is now to have the paintings there at the gallery for whatever sort of viewing they can muster. There are plans for a Virtual Vernissage, I just made that up but it’s a good one. And I am beginning to ponder on what I can do from here that will enable me, or at least my virtual self, to be present as well.

If any of you have ideas throw them out. Like I said, I’ll need help.

So now it’s time to get back to work.

Feels like a good time to feature the place where I expect to be working hard for the next few months…

Stay extra frosty out there…we’ll get through this.

That’s how the light gets in  –  2013

This painting began with the title, a line from the wonderful Leonard Cohen song, Anthem whose chorus goes like this…

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

And it was taped to my easel for over a year. Now, everything on, or pretty much near, my easel eventually becomes a wiping surface for my brushes. After that much time the tattered notation was almost completely obscured by paint. But still, it and all the other quotations that surround me there are doing their job.

They are there to nudge, and in some cases to shove, my fears and doubts and ego and shaky confidence all aside. There are notes of encouragement, interesting thoughts that I lifted from the books I listen to while working, reminders when to plant garlic, and, like this one, words or phrases that I thought would be good painting titles that need time to percolate.

In addition to the notes, I have a support system of talismans. Objects that are touchstones to people and memories that have had profound influences on my creative journey. The ones featured in this painting include the well worn denim shirt, on the back of which is embroidered the cartoon character of Ziggy hand sewn for me by my very first patron, Stephanie, whose never wavering support began in our high school days.

And there is the also well worn railroad hat from my beloved Pops, Fred Decker. There’s a great photo of him wearing that hat, which is taped to the shelf behind my easel chair, wherein he is sitting next to my grandmother Mima, on the sofa in Craley, being mischievous together before they became leaders in my pack of guardian angels .

The old niblick, wooden golf putter, has been re-serviced as my mahl stick, holding up my favorite teacup is the beach stone which was handed to me by Mr. Morse and which echoes the deep connection to those Vineyard shores… and, most importantly,  looking down from above is the photograph of Herself taken on the bluff in Chilmark where our hearts were joined.

The window to the left provides the light that I need to see the panels, but the true light, the authentic self which I am constantly seeking, shine back at me from these precious objects.


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


Garden Update – June

I don’t want to “bury the lead”…so…Let’s just start right off the bat with the stellar harvest of new potatoes. Yep, those babies are the first success in the new Ruth Stout bed. Be still my Irish heart.  I was watering early this morning and checking on the garden progress when I saw that most of the potato plants in the far corner were wilted and looking tired. So, I dug around.

This was the haul from the first six feet of the long 45 foot row which were the very first veg to be planted in all that hay. I’m thrilled to report that the soil there now is rich in organic matter, friable and loose. Last year at this time it was a mucky lawn.

It’s beginning to work !!!

Looking back down that long row you can see that the rest of the plants are still thriving. They were planted 4-6 weeks after those first potatoes.

Looking the other direction, from the gate, today’s potato haul was from the far corner on the right, beyond the squash tunnel. It receives the most shade from a giant maple tree so I am pleased to see the plants are finding a way in spite of that light deprivation.

You can see that the squash are enjoying this spot too…

There were also some not so happy garden moments. Those pesky white cabbage moths have found the brussel sprouts.

Even the ones I covered with this net tunnel…

So I picked off all the tender green worms and sprayed some spinosad and covered them back up. Speaking of covers, the RABBITS decided that the beautiful row of edamame was just right and ate all the leaves they could reach…THROUGH…the rabbit fence. Then they somehow climbed up into the lettuce bed and chomped their way through that crop.

So I tested out a fleece wrapping ala Christo and it seems to have discouraged them…for now.

One fun little surprise was awaiting me in the adjoining bed.

The cucumbers haven’t looked like much was happening…until I looked closer…

I’ll admit that this progress is tiny but the parsnips are up…

The first tomatoes are fruiting and it may turn out to be a good thing that I got them in so late as the really hot weather is only now here in earnest.

Berries by the bowlful every day now…

And everywhere else there is color…

Even the sky chair gets in the act…

The gift of having this corner of the planet to play in of a morning makes for a peaceful start to the studio work day…

But it’s time to pick up those brushes and hunker down at the easel…I have less than a month to put the Granary Show together and the clock doth tick.

Sunflowers and bowls of Vichyssoise to you all…H

 

 


One of those days

Feeling fractalled.

Today started out just fine.

Beautiful December sunrise light bouncing all around us as Finn and I made our icy commute from log cabin to studio. She opted for an early morning nap while I sat at the kitchen table and clicked the knitting needles and gave the muses plenty of open space.

Last night I put the last touches on a portrait of my pal Peter. It was wonderful to come over these last few days knowing I would be spending it with him. But now, time to move on. Usually, and by that I mean 99% of the time, by the time I am winding down one painting there are at least two or three others competing for the easel. But by the time Herself came over mid-morning she found me roaming aimlessly around the studio…still pondering.

We sat together at the table and she listened as I rambled and a few ideas did start to pop. She reminded me to write them down, so I made some quick doodles, and the energy lifted. She left to do some shopping and I sat down at the computer and began playing with some of the thousands of photo references on file.

At sixty, I know that it takes more than a list of subjects, or a collection of still life objects to start working on a composition. In order to sustain the energy required to give my total attention, over the course of the days and weeks it takes to create a painting, I must feel the spark. My way in. It can be the challenge of a new subject, or the challenge of rendering a familiar subject in a new way, or a particular emotional connection, or the whimsy of finally telling the story behind a few words, which held the promise of a great title, and had been scribbled on a, now well worn and dog-eared, slip of paper taped to the easel.

I KNOW it when it clicks…
and so far today…
nada.

I keep telling those who ask, that being a mature artist means I know when to get out of my own way. After six hours of sitting here at the computer scanning for that spark, and sketching and re-working a new composition which I originally had thought was going to be a sure winner, one which would be easy to tweak and get to the panel quickly…I can see now how I fell right down the rabbit hole and into that old trap..quite firmly planted directly in my own way. If the muses don’t show up…there ain’t gonna be a ball game.

When Pat came home from her errands I was hopelessly lost. I explained what I thought the problem with that composition was and asked for her fresh eyes. Eh…no sparks on her end either. So, I threw in the towel and decided to pour my vapid thoughts all over this page.

What I’ve come up with, whilst writing, is that this current crisis of creativity is yesterday’s problem.

I’ll set the stage…

I had an hour to fill while I waited for Katie’s Women’s Study class to call me for a facetime thingy…something about which I was very nervous. They had been in the Granary Gallery last week using the artwork there as fodder for a discussion about gender in art.

Here’s a shot, which I believe one of the gallery associates took, of them studying my painting, Celeste envies Ruth.

 

After their sojourn, Katie thought it would be interesting to pose their questions and thoughts directly to the artist. I got a tutoring session on how to make the technology work and we scheduled a date.

So, while my nervous self was waiting for the phone to ring yesterday morning, I picked up a pencil…and BAM the Muses snuck up behind me, grabbed the pencil and in minutes they had fleshed out one of those old dog-eared notations-of-an-idea which had laid dormant, after several failed attempts to work out a solid composition, on other fractalled days like today when I had tried to show up for work without them.

You probably won’t see what I see here, but this is the sketch…

Five minutes later the phone rang, and I had a grand old time answering their questions and listening to their thoughts. I particularly loved them pondering which apron was Ruth and which Celeste, and their takes on why. They sure left me thinking, and that may have been why the Muses were exploring their own interpretations of gender roles in art.

Originally I had just a title, A Boston Marriage.

I’ll leave it there for now, it’s entire evolution won’t be complete until this fat lady sings…
but armed with this new sketch, and the lingering energy of the collective Woman’s Studies class, I was eager to get to work.

I already had my models in waiting…and waiting..and waiting…since I first approached them with this request over two years ago.  And we have plans to see them for dinner this weekend…but scheduling modeling time now that the Muses have arrived means postponing the fun of digging into this painting for potentially days or weeks.

And there you have it.
I needed a workaround.
Alas, I stepped all over the creative flow with today’s failed attempts to “fill in” the gap between that project, for which I have found the spark, with something equally compelling that will be the work of days rather than weeks.

Frustrating to waste one of these precious days when I have nothing but lifting brushes on the agenda. This month has far too many interruptions on the calendar to allow me to pull up the drawbridge. That will happen the minute the new year bells chime.

So, rather than call this day a complete wash, I have now used you dear readers to help me work through this…

And Herself,
who has just texted me this from her snuggly sofa in the cabin…

“What painting are you working on ? Asking for a friend (insert red heart emoji)”

My response… I’m writing a blog about NOT coming up with a painting idea.

Stay frosty out there…

H

 


News Flash…

for all the Wolsey fans out there, and I have heard from a surprisingly many of you…

 

Himself

 

The Wolseys have become new parents…

her nest

I discovered this nest, which is in a bush just outside the kitchen window, when we were watching the tree cutters taking down another of the dying Pin Oaks. When all the noisy machinery quited down…the tiny chirps alerted me to the source. You can imagine my surprise when Herself, THE Cardinal Wolsey, flew out of the middle of the bush. You can see that the nest is well hidden. I wasn’t able to get a shot of the babies…yet.

proud papa wolsey

Now, my theories of evolutional avian psychology are about to be tested…

Will the offspring of the ever tapping cardinal be taught that the woman behind the curtain, the one in the baseball hat, with the tiny paint brushes…is She Whose Cocentration Must Be Toyed With.

Instinctive behavior…
or Muse.

Stay Tuned…


Last brush stroke…

Finally !!!
It’s been a very long haul since I began painting for this summer’s season of shows. Way Way back…in November…the theme for this year’s work snuck up on me. I just looked back at a blog entry near the end of that month and it was full of feathers. And Wolsey. My pal, the ever tapping cardinal, who is out there now, right now, slamming into the big window over my shoulder.

No wonder my studio is now full of paintings of…birds. Many many birds. And feathers. And Eggs. I put the last brush stroke on the last of these paintings just an hour ago.

Thought I would jump right into framing because two of these have to make a very speedy path to Santa Fe, for the opening of a group show at Sugarman Peterson Gallery. But I’m too tired to do that tonight, and it feels good to sit in the comfy chair in the office, by the air conditioning vent.

Some of the bird paintings will make there way out to Santa Fe, and my garden has been wanting equal time. There is a nice little feature in American Art Collector Magazine this month about the SPG show, and they included my thoughts on the muses this year…

” Where the focus drifts, the muses follow, and they are encouraging me to dig around in the dirt and out in the greenhouse and among the weeds to find inspiration for painting ideas. So, I will be adding to my series Garden Graces and building on the figurative work that has been whispering over my shoulder…just as soon as I plant the tomatoes.”

I got them in… last week. But, as the new little “look how healthy you are…not” app reveals, the arc of my “steps taken each day” has flatlined for the last three weeks. No wonder, since it is exactly 50 steps from cabin to studio. Double that and then spend 12 -14 hours at the easel and you have…100 steps. I’ll make up for it now though. My garden beckons and I can hear the weeds singing my name.

Here’s a few pics of my straw bale gardening experiment.

Got the squash and watermelon planted in a baseball diamond pattern. Scott’s fault, Go O’s.

peas and squash

The Raspberry bed has a new annex now and the greens are happy.

raspberry patch

  Other side of the baseball field…new blueberry bed, in the distance, is being harvested now.

straw bale field

This is the view out behind the sky chair, where the potatoes are thriving.

behind my sky chair

And the way back bales, two similar beds of bales are two the right with strawberries in them and this one has a steady crop of chard and beets which I use daily now.

    out back bales

So…there’s that.

Then…inside the studio…the shift is on. Frames and paintings are now stacked in every room and the Corcoran shuffle keeps Pat jumping as she delivers and picks up paintings from John at his photography studio. My job. Frame ’em up. Then write painters notes and pack everything up for our trip to Martha’s Vineyard for the biggest show of the year at the Granary Gallery.

That’s right…I know your calendars are marked… July 12th is the opening. Incredibly only three weeks from tomorrow. Geez…

So, I’m not sure if the whole reveal  thing will happen with the new works this year but I will unveil them as the files come in and you will get the sneak peeks that my readers have come to expect.

First up…way up… is

Updraft  –  12 x 16

updraft

Yep, that’s really how close the house is to the edge now…or at least “was” back when we stayed there last July. And just over those rocks is a 30 foot drop to the beach.

Ahhhh…the bluff.

On this, the 40th anniversary of JAWS…I think I’ll keep my toes out of the water and flying in the sky chair which is where I’m headed right now. This will be my view, for tonight at least…

night night studio

Night night studio.


Down to the wire…

I am not looking at the calendar.But, un-like the light bulb in the refrigerator which may or may not be on when the door is closed…I know that the days are definitely still being crossed off…and the march towards the summer shows has become a sprint.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, when the snow was still falling, the Granary Gallery show is two weeks earlier this year, JULY 12th. Seemed like a doable time frame back in December but whoa Nellie here we are and it’s almost J-J-J-J-June. And, just to keep the old heart ticking…the Sugarman Peterson Gallery has added a special group show for the first week in July out in that art mecca of Santa Fe. Nellie needs another gear !

You will be getting the details on those venues, as well as a block buster of a show at Gallery 1261 coming this fall, but in the meantime…I’ve got to double down on the brushwork.

The 20 or so finished pieces are now working their way through the production pipeline. Fully dried, they now can be varnished, then Herself hauls them up to John to photograph, then I order frames and the folks at Artworks join them up, then we haul them back here to the studio and I turn me on some Suede tunes and pop them into frames and wrap for transport to MV or SF and beyond.

Just to let you know that I have actually been pushing some paint around for the last few months, I’ll give you  a sneak peak at one of the new works.

The Citadel72

The Citadel – 60 x 30

Now back to the easel… and I mean it !!!


Now here’s a mystery…

Last night I started a painting.
And I replaced my crusty old palette box with a brand new one.
It is just a plastic box to hold the tablet of disposable paper palettes…and this new one comes with a lid… I misplaced the lid from the old one centuries ago.
But, in spite of my excitement over the prospect of being able to cover the paints every night, thereby keeping down the dust…and this week the pollen…which is coating EVERYTHING….
Well, it seems I forgot to cover it…and this is what I found this morning…

pal

If you look really closely, you will see tiny tiny tracks.
It would appear, she writes putting her pipe down next to her deerstalker hat, that some creature crash landed into the raw umber which always anchors that upper left corner, and then walked, or dragged, her fee,t or perhaps wing tips, over to the translucent yellow brown, then ambled down to inspect the greys. The ivory black seems to have held no interest and the path doubles back on itself then forks over to make a straight line review of the warms, ending in a flurry in the bottom right corner as she built up the strength to climb up and over the side, leaving tiny amber tracks on just a few of the brushes before disappearing into the studio night.

I am filing this under the category, “At work in the studio”.

At least someone was…

My palette pal.


I love a craze…

This is Phyllis’s fault.
One photo shared on social media and now look…

back bales

Straw bales upon raised beds begun

And then there’s this…

potatoes

Future site of Potato Farm

And this…

home base

If you build it…

Here’s the manual…

bk

And the link to do your own research…click HERE.

This all seemed like a good idea in February. And Pat is now best buds with the farmer over the hill who has loaded up every one of the 40 plus bales we absolutely needed.I have had great fun experimenting with fertilizer and have replaced over 40 washers on the old rugged hose. And, despite our efforts, things are starting to grow…

straws

beets

peas

Most of us on the east coast are experiencing the slow to warm up  spring which has been a good thing for us old lady gardeners who have day jobs to which they should be attending. But I’ve already made use of the wisps of straw which collected in the back of the truck  in two paintings…so…the bales are props !

There is new life in these old bones and the extra weeks of cooler weather has allowed this gardener to pace herself. I had time to add a new bed dedicated to blueberry bushes…

blueberry

and build a better lid for the cold frame and an annex to the raspberry bed…

frame

and …weed !

As of yesterday, all the bales are conditioned…read the book…and I’m ready to install the drip irrigation system. The back beds, with the strawberries, were started a month or more ago. There is good growth there and the row cover system allowed me to save the tenders from all three frosty nights.

We got a good rain last night, though it wasn’t enough to wash the poo off of the eagle cam…ugh. And Saturday is the SHEEP AND WOOL FESTIVAL …YEAH !!!!!!!!

So that means today I will have to knuckle down at the easel and limit my outdoor putterings. Seriously. I have a LOT of painting to do.

So, this is Phyllis Disher Fredericks fault !