Fiddly Dee


It’s almost, almost that time of year again…

This morning my favorite mystery writer, Laurie R King had a post on her facebook page about the fiddleheads that she scored at a market in San Francisco and tried for the first time. It reminded me, among other things that I wanted to let readers know that her latest Mary Russell novel,


is a fantastic read. I usually save her novels to listen to when I paint especially complicated paintings because she is similarly in love with detail and I get swept away with her thoughtful prose. Makes the time fly at the easel and I always learn something new.

So run to your local bookstore and add this to that pile by your favorite chair. And then go take a walk in this fine spring air and hunt for fiddleheads. Warning, not all ferns are edible so do the research, or trust your local farmers market.

I am working too hard with the brushes to walk amongst the woods, but I am yours…

Dreaming of Fiddleheads

A closer look…

Maybe it’s because I’m listening to the new Mary Russell novel, The God of the Hive , which is rocketing up the Best Seller list – Congrats to LRK ! …. Another brilliantly written adventure with Sherlock Holmes and his irregulars…

and maybe it’s because this aging artist is constantly fighting her bifocals to see well enough to brush in the finest of details…

and maybe it’s because this massive undertaking of a painting, now three long hard months in the making, is straining and stretching the limits of said sickly artist…

but the other day I got to thinking about magnifying glasses…

and yesterday a new magnifying lamp arrived in a big brown truck.

It certainly does make it much easier to see the detail I am trying to render. Even though there is also an annoying shake that happens when I bump it with the other end of the brush…or the brim of my baseball hat…or Finnegan’s tail. But I’m learning its personal space limitations and loving the sharper focus. Especially on this painting with lobster traps that are half an inch long and seagulls that are the size of dimes. Wish I’d thought of this earlier…but there ya go… and here’s the view through my looking glass…

Links you might like…

I am in a blue February funk today and, as my dear departed friend Polly would say… it’s time to…

“shake yourself together !”

So I’m doing just that…I cleaned the studio office yesterday in preparation for getting taxes ready and I gathered up all the post-its which have been tossed about for months now. When I come across a web site or blog that interests me I jot down the link with the intention of sharing them with you all. Today’s the day.

The site that started me doing this is the Juniper Moon Farm blog (formerly the Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm). Susan Gibbs and her team of women are trying to make a go of raising goats and sheep to produce fine yarn and spinning fibers. They have the unique marketing concept of running their venture as a CSA (community sponsored agriculture … I think) so they sell shares in the fiber from each shearing. This way they pay for the caring and feeding of the flock as well as have  a ready market for the end product.

Decades ago my dream of doing just this very thing went astray …after shadowing a shepardess and seeing some of the not so pleasant sides of sheep caretaking…but I have been a lifelong knitter and spinner and have become hooked on this blog as I follow the many ups and downs along their journey. Susan is an avid blogger so there is something new everyday. Lots of photos of her flock and free giveaways, and she often has a feature called…something you might like…where she shares links to neat sites or products she has found on the web.

So, for all you knitters and spinners out there… if you don’t already know of this farm…you’re gonna love it !

And here begins this blog’s version of paying it forward…

Links you might like…

This is my bestest pal Peter Follansbee. He has made several appearences on this blog and even if you  are not a woodworker you will enjoy reading his… Peter Follansbee, joiner notes . We started our careers together in a tiny frameshop in a closet on the second floor of the Harvard Coop and now we are growing old together each doing the thing we love most to do in this world. In addition to being a devoted scholar, brilliant humorist, master craftsman, and all around brilliant human… Peter and his equally brilliant wife Maureen are raising two clones who have inherited and are surpassing their own spectacular qualities…. Rose and Daniel who make occasional guest appearances on Papa’s blog.

red bat photography Laurie R. King…can’t say enough about this author and her books. But she can and does in her blog . There is a countdown in progress for the latest in her Mary Russell novels…release date is 27 April. Get all the preview buzz complete with puzzles and artwork and lots of extras and give yourselves a treat and start the Kate Martinelli series. She’s gotten me through hundreds of listening hours at the easel.

Alison Shaw…famed photographer of all things Martha’s Vineyard and beyond. You have to see these images in person to fully appreciate the depth of their beauty but the website is a place to start until you can make the trek to the vineyard. This year we will be sharing the spotlight, together with Carol Maquire at the Granary Gallery summer show… 25 July… and I am honored to be in such fine company.

My all time favorite cookbook is one that Alison photographed and Tina Miller wrote…Vineyard Harvest . We love the lobster maki recipe !

And a shout out to our dear friend Vanessa Earl. She’s a dynamite artist and human who has a querky and compassionate love of artistic expression. She’s an artist to watch and though she doesn’t write on her blog often enough, it is a breath of fresh air when she does. Her photography seems to be taking a back seat to her fiber arts at the moment but anything V lends her hands to results in magic.

That’s just a start. I can throw a couple of those post-its away now. Stay tuned for more to come…

And I already feel better.

Great Women Artists ?

My favorite living female writer, Laurie R. King, is launching her upcoming book in the Mary Russell series, The God of the Hive. She has a twenty week build up planned and at the onset has posed a question on her blog and facebook site… Why are there no great women artists ?

Now, as many of you can imagine, I take great umbrage at this but she is referring in part to one of her first published books, A Grave Talent, in which she builds a character based on the query, “What would Rembrandt look like if he were a woman”.

Since you have recently seen that The Rembrandt Book takes pride of place on my studio kitchen table, I thought it might be interesting to bring her question over here for my readers to ponder. I know all you women of paint will have an opinion…and those of pen and pencils alike.

Here for your purusal …click on the painting here for a link to read her blog entry… and my comments are below.

Now this is a subject that I can sit in front of the fireplace (or perhaps easel ) and really warm up to…and… since the biggest book among those which the muses have currently stacked on my studio kitchen table is Gary Schwartz’, The Rembrandt Book ( see blog entry for details… )… here are some new layers to ponder in respect to your premises. I would suggest that, at the core, it is the drive to create rather than the need to express a particular vision of the world that possesses the artist. Like an athletes’ adrenaline high, the act of creating is an intensely solitary pursuit which might contribute to the egomaniacal aspects. And the pursuit is one of beauty, and when and if that achieves common ground with the viewer…the elusive experience of the sublime. As an artist that is not my goal but a rare and precious byproduct of the journey.

Even as a female artist I might take a bit of offense at the tone of the “pathological” degree of self-importance…but my oh so patient and supportive partner Pat will vouch for the “sucking every scrap of energy in their vicinity” part of your description. Does this not also apply to the art of the writer ? What we focus on expands and if the goal is to constantly raise the bar, paint better, write better, I know for my own self that it is taking more effort and concentration, never less, to dig deeper with each brushstroke. And though the muses make regular appearances, the energy to meet those expectations has to come from within and as I grow older, as in all things, this requires a good deal more umph than it used to. My constant refrain and whining to Pat is how I just want to shut out the rest of the world so I can paint.

Innate talent does separate the cream from the milk but in Rembrandt’s day women were not allowed into the guilds so the formal aspects of training could not even give her the tools to begin to paint let alone rise to the level of “great artist”. A subjective category such as that takes generations to build and, since this last century did offer women the opportunity to be taught the trade, you are beginning to see, as Jacki pointed out with the NMWA, the history books recognizing … us. Even today I meet that boys club wall on a regular basis. Can’t imagine what Frieda and Georgia had to deal with.

And you’re right. To be a “great artist” or writer or musician or cpa is a full time job. The “practical applications of The Feminine” (if by that you mean housework, childrearing and laundry, etc. ) do cramp the creative drive. But I have come to see that this is no longer a gender crisis…just ask the three men in our art group on the vineyard who are parents and desperate to carve out blocks of time in their studios and oh so jealous of my gate keeper Pat.

So now you’ve gotten me going and I will carry this dialogue over to my blog and see what the readers there have to offer, and promote your new book in the wake of the conversation. And, you have made one more sale as I have gone to Audible and downloaded A Grave Talent to listen to again but now with the backstory. And, since this finds me FINALLY listening to the last Russell adventure…while I paint the snowy landscape outside of my studio window…I am going to get right on that Russellscape painting when it’s finished.

Oh the muses… yours in greatness… and humility.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts here and do take a minute to explore her website… the true spirit of Sherlock Holmes lives therein…as well as many others among my most beloved storybook characters.

All A-Buzzing

6 February 09

The mid-winter sunshine is melting away some of the sadness in the studio and work and life continues to push me forward.

We had a wonderfully healing visit from my pal Peter Follansbee this week on his way to and from giving a lecture at a furniture conference in Colonial Williamsburg.  Many of you know that Peter is THE world renowned expert in 17thCentury Joinery and I got to tag along with him on tuesday as he went to the nearby Winterthur Museum to take a look at a painted wooden box made in 1698. It was a blast to be his lackey and get a rare behind- the -scenes look at the museum and meet their  curator and top scientist. Peter has been hired by the MFA, Boston to reproduce the missing top half of a cabinet which is in their collection. The details to which his assembled team is investigating how the original might have been produced and decorated…and the microscopic analysis of the paint samples from the four existing examples of this furniture…are beyond amazing.  If you’re at all interested in woodworking you will find his blog entries to be a remarkable wealth of information both historical and practical.


This week also saw the launching of Laurie R. King’s Fifteen Weeks of Bees project. Regular readers of this blog will know that LRK is one of my favorite authors and that listening to her books in the studio has inspired many a painting. So, when she wrote to me a few months ago to invite me to participate in a fun project to help launch the newest installment in the Mary Russell Series…I couldn’t reply fast enough.

The idea is an old one … in the authors words…” Russellscape is an ‘endless landscape’ or myriorama—a series of panels with precisely the same colors at precisely the same places along their left and right edges. If all those edges match, then the individual panels, when laid side by side, form a continuous image…” 

In this case she was looking for the illustrations to relate in some way to the MR series characters, story lines or geographic locations in the books. My first thought was of the painting that I had finished last year… The Beecharmer. The idea for which had blossomed many years ago while I was reading the very first book in the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. It took  a few years of incubation and a larger studio to bring my composition to the panel … and it has taken the same number of years for LRK to return to the hive, so to speak, with her latest novel’s title…The Language of Bees  which hits the bookstores on 22 May 09.

So, with a little bit of help from Photoshop… and a lot of artistic license and latitude… here is the image I came up with …final-draft-jpg-web

and here’s where you can see how they integrated it into the Russellscape… (Scroll down to the bottom of her home page to see the slide show ) .

It was a lot of fun and a huge honor for this humble artist to be included, so many thanks Laurie.

You too can participate as she is encouraging other artists to add their own panels… so follow the links on her site to find the details. There will be a contest coming up to pick the favorite panel…so get to the library and bone up on your Mary Russell stories and have fun. ” The Games A-foot !”

And, one last plug…the original painting,  The Beecharmer  can be seen here on my website…and is available now at the Granary Gallery .

And Now… I weave my way from Ye Olde Cabinet Shoppes of the 17th century … through the back alleys of  19th century London… across the moors and back across the pond…to the dune swept seascapes of Martha’s Vineyard…and straight onto a movie set ?  

Next up on the easel… a painting commissioned for a movie currently wrapping up production by producer/director  Tappan Heher … “Mistover”.

Much more to come on this exciting project soon… but, for now, the muses are calling.

Be well,   HN