Mercy,, Mercy, Mercy

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy  –  22 x 26

It was the 80’s.

I was working at the Harvard Coop which was then quite a hopping place. In the middle of Harvard Square was a tiny alley paved in colonial cobblestone called Palmer Street. At the top of that alley was a hole in the wall music cafe called Club Passim. If you are of a certain age and had a soul that craved folk music then you already knew that.

I went to their website just now to get my facts right and it would appear it first came on the scene the year I was born, 1958, in the form of Club 47. That’s sorta fun. In 1969 it was established as the Club Passim that I came to know and love. It boasted the likes of Baez and Dylan taking the postage stamp of a stage. In my era I saw Tom Rush, Suzanne (New York City) Vega, Shawn Colvin.

But I had a unique view of that musical mecca. Literally.

Just across the alley and up one floor was the closet of a frame room which I managed for most of that decade. And for the first part of that tenure it was a windowless workshop. Until…while on a muffin break, I came up the stairs from the basement club and looked up. Huh. I never really gave it much thought but there are windows up there…where my desk was…only I faced plywood when I framed.

There was always a big turnover in that frameroom…think young college students and musicians needing work to bridge the gap until the rest of their lives came calling. On that day I had a particularly crazy group of framers who actually did go on to become musicians. Look up Sluggo…I dare you. He is a founding member of The Grannies.

A band which I am too musically challenged to classify but I can attest to the fact that Dug, excuse me Sluggo, was and is one of the grandest humans in the land. Big big heart that guy. It gives my own heart tremendous pleasure to add that he now owns and operates FRAME, voted 2017 winner of best frame shop in San Francisco.

So, with all that burgeoning creative energy working around me, I hurried up the back stairs to the closet and started pulling things off the makeshift shelving in front of what I now knew was a window. We began with a drill. A very small hole. And the light poured in.

Over the course of what I remember as a few days we enlarged that hole and waited to see if anyone discovered us. Then we got out a saw. A very small saw. After which we had a  deck of card sized hole. Waited a bit more but at this point we could actually see the weather. The next phase brought us what I remember being a horizontal rectangle about the length of a pair of my reeboks at the time. And that’s where Club Passim re-enters the story.

I could now see the top of their steps.

Where I once saw Nanci Griffith ( big fan ) leaning against the brick wall with one elbow on her guitar case and the other one lifting a cigarette to her lips. We could watch the lines form for evening concerts and the occasional film crew that came through. One famous actor (Follansbee would remember his name, Gene Wilder and Sidney Poitier come to my mind) had to run through the alley carrying a dozen eggs which he bobbled and splattered on the cobblestones. They had to clean the whole mess up after every take of which I saw three.

And here’s were the painting comes in…

I could also look down from my peep hole perch and see…my saxophone goddess.

Her name I have forgotten but not her long curly red hair…and her chops.
She would throw her case open and lean into some sweet jazz that wafted on the salty Cambridge air straight up to our window and into my heart. When I saddled my nerve I tossed a quarter in her case and asked if she gave lessons.

In my brief career as a sax player I learned two songs. As Time Goes By from Casablanca, and Cannonball Adderly’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

The instrument has traveled with me lo these many decades since and somehow the muses found it this winter and brought it down from the old prop room as a dare.

As you see, I called their collective bluff, but it started, as many paintings do, with a simple gesture…

Our renegade window did eventually get spotted. Some big wig saw the light emanating from it as I worked late one night. I got all kinds of yelled at and we had to cover it back up, which may or may not have been a clandestinely removable patch.

In my dreams now it is open and I can see the stars above the chimneyed rooftops.

And I have told Herself
that if I go first
she will know
every time she hears a saxophone…
it’ll be me.

 

 


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…

 


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 !


Frame delivery…

Can you imagine a better frame shop than one which delivers ?

My pals at Artworks are the best. The very best. And this morning Julie hauled all the frames for this year’s show in the big van and delivered them right to the studio door.  Julie is one of the many young people it was my great pleasure to work with over the thirty years that  I made my living as a picture framer. I’m so proud of her evolution into a strong, confident mother, business manager, and all around decent human. Good on ya J.

So here we are again… a studio full of frames, most of which are still up at the photographer’s being shot, and less than three weeks before the trailer heads out of the driveway for the vineyard show.

I finished the very last of the paintings late yesterday afternoon. That one will be for the Vegetable portion of the Animal, Veg, Min. show …more on that later but the first show opens this sunday at the Field Gallery…more info here.

There’s a mountain of office work to do and bills to be paid and commission portraits to be started … and today Julie made that list a lot shorter by bringing the frames to me. Big thanks.

Now back to work…


Framing…take 2

It’s almost 4pm and I’m taking a break from the second go round of framing.

This is a profession I know well. I have been a picture framer off and on for thirty years and for most of that time I made a living doing it. Now it’s only once or twice a  year that the studio is transformed into a frame shop. The workspace will never never be as small and confined as the closet in which we worked at the Harvard Coop but it is crowded this week in here and Finnegan and I are stumbling all over each other…

which tool next

She has a very delicate way of maneuvering past tools and frames and original oil paintings and tiptoeing her way to find her favorite squeeky toy. She is quite the musician and I’m pretty sure she chooses among the three we have here according to their scales.  We’re currently reviewing our Frank and Julie party mix and she is partial to the Frankie Capp Orchestra swing section. (You think I’m kidding …)

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the still life table cum framing table…

still life table becomes framing table

Is that art imitating life … or …me imitating art ?

Anyway…16 days and counting…back to work.


Let the framing begin…

Already knee deep in July…or is that the corn being knee high by the 4th of July ?

Either way the framing has begun for the Granary Show and here’s a look at our morning excursion to fetch the frames and paintings. We arranged to have the largest paintings done at the same time which meant only one trip up with the trailer. Both the frameshop and the photographer’s studio are within 5 miles of one another and about 20 minutes drive from the studio.

My apprentice was concerned when we hooked up the trailer that she might not be needed for this trip…thus the batting of the big brown eyelashes…

please can I come along

How could I resist one so ready to work…

apprentice is ready

And off we go… this is the shop I worked at while saving and preparing to give painting my full time attentions.

framers workshop

They are the friendliest and most helpful folks around and make it a true pleasure to work with them…

donna and laura do their magic

laura patton

loaded and ready for the next stop

With the frames loaded it was on to see John…

john in his studio

John Corcoran, the king of the camera, is the man behind the magic that allows me to bring my work to the big and small screen. Every painting goes to him to be shot in multiple formats so that I have a permanent and accurate record of the image. Nothing gets by this detail guy and I am forever grateful for his stunning work, jovial good nature…and steamed dumplings ! You can check out some of his own creations at Sterling Commercial Photography.

loading the big one

He and Pat always have way too much fun…

pat and john yuck it up

But time’s a-wasting and we’ve gotta get this show back on the road and home to the studio which is beginning it’s annual pre-show craziness…

studio begins to get crowded

My apprentice and my Lackey have just come in to tell me to get off of this machine and get a move on…

stay tuned…

MV show opening 23 days and counting !