Below Stairs

As I was watching Downton Abbey this week I was reminded of this painting and the research required to get the bells correct. The only elements which I had before me were the set up with the ironing table in the foreground, and my trusty model Pat who posed with the white shirt and vest. The floor and background were all imagined but I relied on photos from the internet to accurately portray the essential summoning bells.

I don’t remember which episode of DA it was when… from our perches on the sofa, Pat and I turned to each other as we watched the butler ironing the newspaper…and smiled. Ah yes, we would certainly have been more comfortable… “Below Stairs”.

Below Stairs – Oil on Panel  24″ x 36″  Available at the Granary Gallery

A fine morning to carve…

As the heatwave nestles into the valley I was disuaded from my early morning weeding by the ever watchful apprentice who decided that we should heed the air quality warnings and head inside to the cooler chambers of the studio.

So I’m getting an early start on the frame carving…

It’s been a while since I have done one of these and I’m loving the chance to get out the woodworking tools and make some tiny shavings. I mentioned earlier that the first painting, “All this and more”…

was based on an NC Wyeth quote and so that’s what is being carved into its frame. I spent all day yesterday getting the words onto the wood. Years ago I created a digital alphabet by first drawing out each letter on graph paper and then scanning it into Publisher and then laboriously cutting and pasting separate files for each letter. That allowed me to open a new file and cut and paste the letters as needed to form the words in each quote. Then I size them to the frame, print out and transfer with graphite paper to the wood itself.

A large part of the morning yesterday was spent trying to FIND that file which was buried on my old harddrive. Ugh. But once I got it on the new computer it worked like a breeze. Still laborious but way easier than the way I did it before, drawing it all out by hand several times until I got the spacing right. Difference of hours vs. days.

But I have to back up a step…the frame really starts with a trip to the local lumber yard…where my trusty assistant volunteered to let the poplar boards rest on her lap rather than on top of the roof for the ride home.

I didn’t get a photo of him but the next step is hauling the boards up to the frame shop, Artworks in Mechanicsburg, PA,( my heros),  and back to John Weist, my super hero. He chops the moulding and the poplar boards at the same time and then joins them seperately so I can work on it assembled which makes it much easier to design.

What I end up with is this…

Then I cut out the words, lay them out on the boards, tape them down and use the graphite paper to transfer lines to the boards.

Clean up the lines…

and break out the tools…

Raking light is essential to see where the cuts need to be trimmed and refined…

and then it’s all about the fun and challenge of removing the wood that doesn’t want to be there.

I’m headed back to the tools now… but first…

for those who are here to see today’s painting…

a happy little number and one of my favorites…

#5- Beach Rose  14″ x 20″ 

Stay cool out there now…



This year’s show at the Granary Gallery will mark 10 years of representation there for me. I can still remember walking out of the gallery after Chris had said, “Yes, we’ll take all the paintings you’ve got.”…and being shell shocked and unable to speak until we got to the Black Dog and sat down and my heart stopped pounding.

It has been a dream come true of a decade and I am grateful every single day for the chance they took on this wannabe artist. Because they are so good at doing their jobs…I get to paint for my living and that still takes my breath away.

Though I have grown comfortable walking through the red barn doors and being welcomed by hugs of friendship, it is not because I am one in their stable of artists… this is the way that they treat everyone. It’s a gift and it flows from the top down which I attribute to Chris and Shiela Morse’s spirit of character and community. It’s a family affair and we are honored to be a small part.

The show is now a little over two weeks away, opening is July 15th, and I thought I’d do something different this year by rolling out the new paintings one at a time. This year there are 18 which will be making their debuts in the annual summer show so that will take us right up until the day we pack the trailer and haul them up the eastern coast…island bound.

I’ve continued the “theme” idea begun last year and there are a few overlapping ones this year… Apples is the big one, Seagulls get to play politics, Garden Graces make an appearance, and the first of many planned paintings of a special and seldom glimpsed corner of the Vineyard, James Pond, make the scene.

I hope it will be fun to follow along and see what each new day has to offer as I work in the background getting the frames put together and the painter’s notes written…in between harvesting and weeding the burgeoning garden !

So here we go…

#1 – All this and More…   28″ x 36″

This painting was inspired by a quote from NC Wyeth, “I have all this and more, yet how I would like to relax; to be content with a wheelbarrow, a rake, an apple basket, a pipe.” From his letters, September 19, 1910.

I’ll be picking up the wood for the frame tomorrow and I’m going to carve that quote around it. And yes, I’ll be content with my carving knife, a pile of shavings…and maybe even a slice of apple.



Contemporary American Realism: Ft. Wayne Museum of Art 2008 Biennial

10 September

This coming Saturday, 13 September 2008, the Ft. Wayne Museum of Art will preview their Biennial Realism Show. I was honored to have two paintings chosen to be included, Where There’s Smoke, and Just A Spoon Full.



Below is the invitation and a link to their website. They will be publishing a catalogue of the show which is available there, as well as information on a Symposium: American Realism Explored, on Saturday October 11, 2008 at the museum.



Frame Carving Completed

Day after the 4th and the sleepless night of illegal fireworks being shot off next door for hours upon hours. Gully finally gave up her nervous vigil and went to sleep. Pat played freecell until the third finale seemed to end at round about 2 am, and, I tossed and turned for a fitful while but the ear plugs softened the concussions and I went dreamily to the deck of the Man ‘O War which Post Master Aubrey was beating to quarters, guns ready for battle….

Framed up the fishing pole today so I thought I would follow up on the finishing steps to its carved frame. It took about six hours to finish the carving and the hardest part was turning that sized frame around to get the proper purchase and angles with the knife and gouges. On a smaller frame or individual panel, like the chair slats I used to carve, I would turn and turn again for almost each cut. Not so with a frame as large as my office door.



Close up of quote.

   Here it is with the carving finished and ready for the next step.

Carving Done

I used the garage workshop, which has more ventilation, as the staining station. Depends entirely on the frame and painting but I have experimented lately with traditional wood stains, milk paint, gold leaf and even spray paint to treat the surface. This one, as you can see, wanted to show off the wood grain so I used a Minwax English Chestnut stain followed by a coat of satin polyurethane which was rubbed on and left to dry for a couple days.

Stained Frame

The humidity is quite high this weekend so I brought it inside yesterday to give it a chance to dry out before completing the framing. There are three parts to this frame. A thin rabbeted frame holds the painting and is joined to the poplar carved panel with nails and screws as needed. Then the outside moulding is attached and all three are joined as one to support the painting panel. (More about the composition and preparation of these panels will appear in future posts.) 

Here is the final product…

  ” … a shortage of fishing poles” 

  Oil on Panel 72″ x 16″     (Outside frame dimension is 80″ x 24″)

The full quote is, ” If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles. ” Doug Larson

There will be one more carved frame for the upcoming Granary Gallery show which opens in two short weeks. All new work will be posted on my HN Website on Saturday July 12th.

The countdown continues…

Stay frosty my friends,  HN

Frame Carving Day One

It’s a hot sultry day outside…thought I would give you a peek inside at the frame carving I am starting today. One of the new paintings for the Granary show is a horizontal of a life-sized fishing pole. It’s going inside this frame onto which I am preparing to carve a quote.

Step one is on the computer. I drew out an alphabet and scanned it into the computer. Then painstakingly separated and sized each letter. (Did this a while back so now all I have to do is copy and paste the letters needed, one at a time, and drag them into a blank graph page which I previously  mocked up in Publisher. I use poplar finished boards in two sizes depending on the size of the painting. When the words are aligned, I lay them out in a separate file which has a mock-up of the actual frame size. This saves hours of what used to be hit or miss drawing of the letters directly onto the boards…erasing for spacing errors…and spelling errors, etc. When it all looks good and I have triple checked the spelling … I have Pat come and check it again. Check twice, carve once !

                   Laying it out.                       My supervisor


 Then I tape the lines of words to the board and use a graphite carbon paper to trace them on. You can see my helper is at my feet every step of the way ! Out come the carving tools and a strong light at a raking angle to better see the edges…and away I go. Today I’m listening to Patrick O’Brian’s Post Captain and hearing about salty sailors rigging ships…great for hardy hand tool work.





                         Carving.              Close up of me carving.

 So, now it’s 7pm and I’ve been at this since 8 this morning. Pat has just come over to call me home for supper. The hard part is done and when I started this blog page it was 5 and I expected to go back to carving…had some glitches and ….well there ya go.

As chance would have it, a magazine arrived today from my woodworking pal Peter,

Plimoth Life (he and his wife Maureen both work at Plimoth Plantation and are wicked cool humans to boot, if you haven’t checked it out already, you can link to his web site here . It looks like they are both featured in a couple of articles which will make for good lunchtime reading tomorrow. I’ll post more of the carving as it progresses. Time for some shrimp pasta. What’s on your supper table tonight ?

Be well,