A Frenzy of Packing…

I almost forgot to post today’s painting in the midst of all this packing. We have one more day to get all this together and I’m suddenly WAY behind schedule…

So, without further ado here ya go…

#15 – The Canoe Trip  24 x 36

Another look at James Pond
but this time from Gulliver’s perspective.

She was a wonderful dog.
Shy around some, she chose her humans carefully.

As Saren will tell you,
if you were lucky enough to have Gulliver trust you,
it was a rare gift of grace.

And Gully was loyal.
Beyond measure or equal.

So that when her best buddy Pat,
and pack members Jon and Tonya,
decided to take a sunset canoe trip on the pond…
those loyalties were surely tested.

Paddle alongside them to make sure their passage was safe…
or stay on shore guarding me,
the one who is mostly unsure of the water
and boats
and a reluctant swimmer.

You can see
that she chose to wait and watch
and I will forever be grateful to her
for that gift.

She watches over us all now and is ringing her chimes as I write.

Coming up Roses

Yesterday was one of those days when absolutely NOTHING worked as planned. I had at least fifteen meltdowns and that was before noon. The stalled storm front which dumped steady rain for three days was causing my vertigo to flare up, and watching the creek steadily rising in the background was like having one of those CNN crawls constantly going across the screen inside my eyeballs screaming flood warning. But even with all this anxiety raging there was absolutely NOTHING going on that was worthy of the whining energy I was giving my angst. At the end of the day, with a glass of wine in hand sitting on the porch swing, Pat was able to talk me down off the ledge and that, and a good night’s sleep, has this day dawning a whole lot brighter.

With the countdown looming for the summer show at the Granary, I decided to have some fun painting smaller pieces inspired by my gardens. And this week it’s all about the roses.

Don’t look at the weeding in progress beyond the foreground…but this is the view from my easel window. I have Gulliver’s windchime hanging just over my shoulder so she can keep an eye on me and the first summer after she died this rose bush began to bloom. It now climbs up the chime’s support and reaches out of the dark corner into her light. I noticed this morning that another branch is peeking up over the window sill. Leave it to Gully to know how to cheer me up.

Yesterday I brought this beach rose in and played all day with a still life set up. (Responsible for about half of the meltdowns it was.) This morning that flower is flat out and the studio smells wonderful.

And here’s the first pass which was done last night. With roses behind me and roses before me I am ready to face whatever this day has to offer.

With the promise of a bit of Shiraz and Herself waiting for me at the other end…I can manage anything !


29 march 09

It doesn’t get any better than this…

Finnegan Loretta Neill


After weeks of lonely studio days and anxious worry about who we might find when at last we got a chance to choose our new pup… today the wait was over and every single one of my worries vanished in a heartbeat…when Belinda brought out two of the most beautiful Berners puppies I’ve ever seen.

the last two sisters


They are from that litter of 14 puppies which were born February 17 and are now five weeks old. What I never expected was how hard it would be to choose if both of them were perfect…but this little girl was so much like Gully but with a reputation for confidence and being ornary and a strapper for her fair share of what her brand new life has to offer… we knew we had found Finn.

Now that our search has come to an end we have lots of work to do in the next three weeks before we bring her home. But, at least for tonight, Jon and Pat and I will settle in to a much happier sunday eve and I’ll settle for these photos to remind me what it was like to feel her sweet kisses…

She’s supposed to meet 100 new people in the first three months…so get ready for your studio visit !

‘Neath the Dregs of Winter…

21 February 09

Deep in the dregs of winter…

when one wants to shred the entire office on this, the third day of tax preparation…


And when the winter herb garden looks so dry and drab and grey…


A whole load of happiness came a callin’…

Make that a barrel full…

14 puppies arrived this week at our new breeder’s home…



Now I have grown superstitious in my old age… and hope with all my heart for the good health and heartiness of both mother and pups in such a large litter… and we don’t yet know if our new pup will be one among these…but we have put Gulliver in charge of finding just the right pup to take over her job…and it sure looks like she’s working overtime !

We’ll keep you posted !

Brushes in the wind

17 January 2009

In the wake of yesterday’s news of the death of Andrew Wyeth it has been somber in the studio. The view outside my window, of a weathered Pennsylvania stone barn and raw umber fields of stubbled winter cornshalks, echoes his own corner of farm land not far from here … and it settles my soul.

Many of you know our tradition of hanging wind chimes in the gardens in honor of loved ones who have died…and you won’t be surprised that this one will need to be special. I’ve decided to make it out of my old brushes.

In my studio, brushes live their lives in stages. I buy in bulk and on sale and only when I’m desparate and the new ones live in a state of reverence in the best of the old jars and mugs until I absolutely have to have that pristine spring and flow. The “working new” then get prime real estate on the table alongside my easel. Separated carefully from the grunts and wiped with the softest rags before being put up at night.

Try as I might, it doesn’t take long before they blend into the rest of the crew and their sabled edges begin to fray and the glossy sheen of their nickel plated ferrules no longer brags. I wean them out every other day or so …the hardest worn, stiffest bristled get tossed into an empty liquin box. When that is full, and the pile has spilled over onto the table, and Gully’s tail has knocked four or five of them on the floor and under the air purifier…then I gather them all up for a serious cleaning.

Last night I threw this bunch into a coffee can with about half an inch of Windsor Newton Brush Restorer  in the bottom. I learned the hard way that this stuff will melt the finish off of the wood, seeing as it is paint !, so I try to make sure it stays only on the bristles. They hang about in that overnight and then I settle in for the tedious second stage which is to scrub them in the tub of Masters Brush Cleaner. Then the big rinse and they’re laid out to dry.

Clean Up

The best of that batch are returned to their staging areas …

Ready to Go

 and the stragglers who refused to come clean are relegated to the graveyard…a box under my workbench…


which, until today, had been the final resting place.

But now I’ve got a better use for them. I’ll let you know when I’ve got Andy’s windchime up.

In the meantime… I’m curious … where do your old brushes go ?

Muse Returns to Studio

8 January 2009

A cold sunny morning … and after a couple of dark and scary days it is most welcome.

Winter is rough on old dogs. But for Bernese Mt. Dogs, of any age… it is also heaven…IF… it snows. Which… it has not…here…so far.

Our stalwart guardian Gulliver has been struggling lately with her ageing mountain climbing legs refusing to cooperate. We have wall to wall non-slip carpets in both studio and cabin … which has been a boon for her ageing human charges as well. So, in anticipation of the ice storm predicted earlier this week, Gully and I took some extra laps around the yard to soak up the rays and limber the joints…and took one step too many and her front leg snapped. I can hardly bear to write that sentence…just breaks your heart to see a big dog come up lame…and this seemed to be a re-injuring of a fracture she received two years ago when negotiating another winter of ice storms.

With the lessons learned from that experience, and a ramp that Saren loaned us, we hunkered down for complete rest and managed to get through the next two days of ice and freezing rain and I found a harness on line, Web Master Harness , (which was originally designed for search and rescue dogs but is now being used for rehabilitation and assisting ailing pups)… and we watched and waited.

Gulliver’s job is to be my shadow, my guardian, my taskmaster, my muse. She keeps me focused, which is a huge job these days, and never lets me out of her sight. So it was hard for her to have to stay home when I walked over to the studio. OK, Harder for me.

Yesterday, when the new harness arrived she slipped into it with no hesitation, was patient while I fumbled to get the right fit, and has worn it proudly ever since. It is a wonder. Has lots of padding, a handle that allows me to lift her easily and without adding to her pain. And, with both back legs wobbly, and one front one clipped, I can take some of the strain off of the remaining solid peg. So with that little bit of extra help…she is back at her post behind my easel.

Gully will turn 10 in March.  There have been lots of bumps along her road to strengthen her character and soften my rough edges. We may limp through the rest of her days but I’ll be right beside her holding on tight.


Today is a good day.

Now we’ve got to get to work.