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.
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.
for all the Wolsey fans out there, and I have heard from a surprisingly many of you…
The Wolseys have become new parents…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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…
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”.
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…
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…
and build a better lid for the cold frame and an annex to the raspberry bed…
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.
It’s not quite this white outside my studio window, but the valley is peaceful and the tracks are there, we just can’t see them right now.
New paintings are varnished and Herself delivered them to the amazing John Corcoran, he won’t mind me showing off his new website… click here . He will do his magic, as he does with every one of my paintings, and make a digital record before it heads back here for framing and then off to the designated gallery, or patron.
The early morning studio delivery wagon has just pulled out of the drive with the final tubes and boxes from our winter workshop.
The teakettle is rattling on its way to boil for the first thermos of darjeeling of the day.
A brand new panel is up on the easel, with sketch ready to transfer. Palette ready for some fresh new paints. Curtain pulled back and the view in the painting above is what I have beside me, and all I need is before me.
An email has just come in from Peggy, her thought for today for the artiste,
“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” Paul Klee
It certainly feels like a holiday here, the spirits of solstice are sparkling and the view is open to change.
It’s a wonderfully dreary start to the day before Thanksgiving in central Pennsylvania, the perfect weather for painting.
We, like so many in this land, have a large plucked bird in the fridge and are planning to roast it with most of the trimmings and be thankful. And I am, for many things. But today, I thought I’d concentrated on…the birds.
Watching them, feeding them, learning about them, painting them, and most of all the delight of coming upon the treasured gift of their feathers.
The studio is full of them. Collected over the years, their beauty astounds. With my new bionic knees I am back out on the trails, and the muses are back as well…
After finding this beauty, I decided it was time to get serious about identification so I got this book…
Which I highly recommend. I’ve been pouring over it for days now. And the first one I spied was this one which recently made a supporting role appearance in this painting you might remember…
if you zoom in on the Jorgesen, that would be the clamp for you non-woodworkers, you will see the feather, which…every single one of the avian enthusiasts mis-identified. I have four of them which have been floating around here for years. But right there on page 91…
we see that it belonged to a Chukar ! Further research, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reveals that the Chukar is…
A native of southern Eurasia, the Chukar was introduced into the United States from Pakistan to be a game bird. It lives in arid, rocky terrain across the western United States and southern Canada. And then it hit me…I already knew that. Insert fading memory comments here as you will, but it all came back to me. Years ago, I’ll say 4, I found one perched on my studio garage roof. As you can see, it is a stunner of a bird so it caught my attention, but it is also not a local gal. I also seem to remember that, when first I googled this creature, there was mention of raising these smallish sized birds to release for hunters to take down with big guns, ( picture me here shaking my head in dismay).
The memory of finding the feathers is lost but, when I decided to take the leap to add that little bit of whimsy to Peter’s painting, it was after all a painting of Peter, the birdman of Plymouth, I didn’t have to look far to find the perfect candidate as these four feathers have been tucked into a little blue teacup behind my easel for lo those, I’ll say four, years now.
Above that easel is this display of painting and sketch and original model…
And yes, the muses are right there over my shoulder of late…
Cardinal Wolsey. The ever present window slammer of a bird, is still with me. I now believe she is more than just a disturbed bird. Pat and Finn met a woman at the park last week who, after hearing the story of the intrepid one, immediately suggested that she was someone who I had known who had “passed on” and did I know anyone in the clergy. Well I sat back in my chair at that one. Seriously, my father, the Presbyterian minister, returned as the slammer ?
Possibly ? I’m still pondering that one. But this bird is definitely trying to tell me something. She now follows me from window to window and watches me all day long. Hurling Herself at the panes seems to diminish when I settle in at the easel. Then she just flies up and stares at me…the rubbernecker.
Well, ok, that part could be Ted. He is definitely nudging me to focus on painting…probably as I write this…which is taking time away from what I began this blog with…
that perfect painting day.
Well, the dreary rain has turned to our first snowfall of the season. The promise of a winter wonderland, a bird in the oven, one at the window, and two dozen at the feeders…that’s all I need of Thanksgiving.
And, this…to all my friends and patrons, whose support allows me to do the work that is so meaningful to my soul…
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,
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…
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.