From the “Nature finds a way” division of the Ledge…
When, way back in January, or was that February, we, meaning Kory… with me directing from without, frantically threw everything in the studio kitchen out onto the studio porch after finding yet another round of rodential invasion…
the bench filled up with things that were destined to live in the garage… but needed to be sorted… so that never happened.
Herself has been wanting to clear it off so guests could have a place to sit.
But we don’t get many guests, and now…well… we have had to implement a staging area for decontamination of deliveries from the big bad world.
You may be able to imagine my surprise when upon reaching for the blue bag our resident wren flew up and at me and, with a powerful shrillness, bade me to step away from her nest.
Twice in the days since I have impulsively reached for that bag. And both times I swore at my forgetfulness… almost as solemnly as she swore at me.
So yesterday I decided a tactile barricade was needed.
Not for her, but for me.
A quarantine within the quarantine.
It takes a village. Take care of each other out there.
Here’s a very early piece, so early that I was still painting in my old studio… and it was Gulliver by my side.
A Dissembling Breeze – 2002
My studio is on stilts. Telephone polls really. Sixteen feet in the air. We live in a flood zone by this gently flowing creek. During hurricane Agnes in the early 70’s the entire cabin was under water. The single foot of it’s chimney remaining above water gaining mythological proportions. So when they rebuilt the washed away garage it had to be above the highest flood level.
The supporting beams and joists underneath my tree top studio are exposed. For the last two seasons an industrious couple of sparrows have been constructing a condo under there. Massive in scale I suspect them to be former hippies ever redesigning the commune. Celebrating diversity, they have woven in feathers from every visiting species and a generous helping of wool from Pat’s grandmother’s hooked rug which rests on the steps beneath.
The other day, on our fifty foot commute to work, Gully and I found the nest fallen to the pavement below. A treasure for me… at some cost to the dear ones.
For months thereafter we heard them busily knocking about below our painting feet. The subsequent structures lacked some vital element because they lasted only an average of a few days.
It has been a dry hot summer. I don’t expect them back until spring now. In the meantime I am collecting a pile of feathers and pine needles and dog hair at the base of the studio steps. We are not expecting rain.
The apprentice patiently awaits our next delivery…
I’m a bit behind. Been putting out insurance fires, medication issues, juggling tax documents, cooking perishables, and monitoring the stock market.
No, are you kidding I don’t know squat about the stock market but apparently I like to watch disasters in the making or the ticking I actually gave over dozens of minutes of my precious life to watching those numbers bounce around in free fall this week.
Mesmerizing, I was interested to learn about the internal brake thing which automatically stops trading. That stopped my heart when it happened in real time. And, because we have a tiny little bit of our savings tied up in those numbers some how…
I quickly took the advice of experts… and snapped right on out of that window.
And went outside. The distractions and emergency shut downs that have shaken our worlds have also put me a bit behind in the gardening department.
I keep a running journal to help me remember what to plant and when. Last year I dug deep, as it were, and invested, with Kory’s help, in building new beds and starting my Ruth Stout Garden, and now I have a journal full of useful information to be going on with.
As we saw in the first ledge post, there was good news to report about the soil under all that hay. Some pics from last season show how I used boxes filled with compost to provide some fertile growing medium while the ground beneath, which had been lawn, was slowly being converted, by the creatures within, to something more conducive to garden ready soil.
Made me happy in this lock downed moment to see all that green again…
At the end of the season we raked all of the remaining organic matter flatish, and made a footpath of wood chips then covered it all with a fresh foot or so of hay.
Where we had compost, roughly chopped up plant material and cardboard…the soil is now beautifully decomposed. There was one area in the back where I only had hay on top of last year’s soil and that is still anaerobic, sticky mud. We’ll see if the potatoes object because I planted some of them in that muck.
Yesterday Herself and Finn and myself enjoyed the ridiculously hot weather…76 degrees…and planted the Greens Bed.
This is what remained from the winter under cover. Beets in the back are probably not going to form but I’ll give them another week. Carrots are in great shape. Spinach which I’ve been enjoying all winter looks better after a heavy cleaning but I’ve got new seeds starting in other beds so this batch, which is very leggy, may be retired.
With 6 typed of lettuce seeds planted and some radishes as well, the whole thing got a blanket thrown over it.
They are just fine as painting models… but seem to be unsatisfied with the sunflower seeds I have been providing them all winter. They found the pea seeds which we had planted on St. Pat’s day and ripped that bed up. So…I threw more seeds in and put up the dreaded tunnel.
Hopefully they will get the message.
In October I noticed they were spending some time in the herb bed. I thought it was to bury nuts but no, they were eating the Chard. Since I had planted that for winter harvest I decided to cover it over. The plants didn’t produce much so I lifted the fleece and let the sun rain down.
The squirrels rejoiced and this is what is left. Eh, it’s time to start new plants anyway.
In that same bed, on the farside, is a magnificent crop of Cress.
It grew uncovered all through our mild winter-that-wasn’t and now it’s feisty and fiery flavor of pepper and spice is a brilliant addition to every dish. Somewhere I read it is one of the most densely vitamin and mineral rich plants. Double the benefits. This is a land cress variety which likes shade. It loves hanging out behind the grape arbor. I’ve got extra seeds if anyone wants to try some.
And so far, the squirrels don’t seem to have cottoned on to this delicacy.
Later on today we will start another flat of the seeds I need to catch up on and some of the hot weather lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
But as for my day job.
I guess it is appropriate to pay homage to some of my more squirrely Muses…
Stay frosty out there everyone…and be kind.
Squirreled Away – 2016
Last year it was the Cardinal, His Holiness Wolsey the basher of windows.
This winter, it was Sir Squirrel, the chomper of walnuts.
He who kept me company, through the snowy storms, perched on the air-conditioning unit, just outside my easel window, flaunting his propitious, hoarding prowess, and watching.
We watched each other actually. Watched out for each other may be more accurate.
When we got that Nor’easter, which dumped 4 feet of fresh snow, on the already whitened studio yard, it took me three days to dig out a path for Finnegan to get to her privy.
I noticed that Sir Sq. had been a no show and made a wee annex to Finn’s run from the arbor vitae to his window perch.
The mere work of a teaspoon, but it sufficed for him to re-surface and check back in to make sure I was ok, and able to lift those tiny brushes after all that shoveling.
Sitting there, sporting new pairs of both snow shoes and sunglasses, and chewing on a particularly prodigious nut, he must have noticed I was looking ever so slightly famished, because, after devouring a full three quarters thereof, he reached out to offer me a nibble…
See, that’s what I’m talking about…
it takes a village.
A Little Night Knitting – 2018
On those long winter nights alone on an island pining for her captain
the rhythmic click click clicking of the long metal needles is heard
as they catch the moon beams dancing over waves
that somewhere oceans away
have lapped along the starboard side of a weathered wooden ship.
As she knits and purls and knits and purls
the tips of those needles wave a tiny patter of light
a private message in a language of their own sweet and sacred semaphore.
As squalls of snow flurries surround the studio, the artist within is happily ensconced in her hermitage and the brushes are flying. Had a bookend of visits with Peter Follansbee last week so his painting gets the pride of place here today.
I’ve been away from this portal for so many months that there is a towering pile of posts waiting to be written. Look for me to promise a regular flow of entries, but I’d hedge those bets. My energies and attention span tends to be hyper focused at the easel when I return from weeks away.
While the weather freezed me out of the garden, and the darkness deepens into the solstice, the dust collects on every other corner of the studio except where I and my brushes are at work.
But I’ve taken a quick break to visit the office today because I need to give you a heads up about the prints offered here on my site.
Due to the increased costs of paper and ink the price of prints will be following suit.
Figure I would return the kindness of your years of support by giving you all a heads up…so I’ll wait another month or so and make the price changes take effect on January 31, 2020.
The small prints will go from $95 to $125 The large prints will go from $195 to $225 And I will be charging a flat shipping rate of $12 for all tubes, multiple prints can be shipped in one tube and will only be charged once.
The Menemsha Basin and Strider Prints will remain at their current prices for now.
OK, that’s done.
Now back to my snuggly spot by the heater in the corner with my Muses.
Stay frosty out there and thank you all for being there. H
It’s beginning to look a lot like fall around here. We have been home a month since our Vineyard visit and Granary Gallery show. A great time and very successful show was surrounded by a warm and positive energy which has been riding in my back pocket ever since.
And we needed that to get through some stressful weeks with a string of those unwelcome but generally benign hiccups that lurch your well laid plans into a different gear…or reverse in this case. Extreme heat kept me out of the garden, silly germs kept us all sick and snotty for Zoe’s camp Gran and Mima, the blue screen of death on the studio computer meant a week of tech gurus replacing one motherboard after another, and then there is…( and here I will allude to, but not elaborate on because I have a strict “NO politics in the studio rule”… the mother of all shit storms that is the current state of the nation and the planet )…but worst of all our dear Finn has been plagued with one infection after another.
None of the usual anti-depressants were working.
Putting all the bags of yarn on the daybed to plan out the coming winter of knitting…didn’t help. Getting out all the spoon carving tools and making pile after pile of shavings on the porch…wasn’t helping. Planting flats of seedlings for the fall garden and weeding out the old for the new…was hampered by the summer’s sauna.
I just couldn’t shake the blues.
As of today, most of those bumps in the road have been worked out but they wore this artist down and sent some old dragons a’ knocking at the door.
Alas, I caught them on the whisper… and realized that in spite of all the things I was trying to do to pull myself up and out of that negative space…what I really needed to do was to get myself back to my day job.
The second I sat down at the easel I felt better…lighter…centered and safe.
I have come to understand that this work that I do, the art that I create, the focus that is demanded of the process of bringing a painting to life…it is all of me. It has become what I am not just what I do. And it has an intense and powerful connection to something that is much bigger and vitally more important than Mercury going retrograde and blowing up the schedule.
It is no longer quiet listening, but a fierce reckoning with truth, and finding where it lives at the core of my soul, and then looking hard for where it lives in others. The closest I’ve come to labeling it is that “common ground”. I catch glimpses of it now and then, like a pixie winking from behind a garden shed. And more often when I stand behind someone studying one of my paintings and watch as they step closer. The noise in the gallery shuts off, and they are pulled in to a very private place. Sometimes, when they step back and notice me, they will take me where they went. Sometimes there are no words. But the recognition is there, between us, that there is some common ground.
I can think of it as a portal. Through which there is a tapestry of threads, more like live wires, and we, the artist and the patron, have found one or two that we recognize as familiar, that are alive in our own paintings as it were, and we come to see that we are not alone.
Well that is starting to get a bit tingly…like I said…the universe..or is it those muses… is shifting things around here in a most unpredictable and frustrating way…which is when I know to step out of the stream and go to a safe place.
OK I’m back now. This started out as a quick peek at the burgeoning fall garden, which is plugging along all on its own tingly threads in spite of the heat and my profound neglect.
And since, I have already articulated that the best place for me to be right now…with a tiny brush in my hand…and not playing in the dirt…I shall simply throw out these pics of this morning’s garden.
Beginning with a before shot of the Ruth Stout Memorial Arch to compare with the opening photo of today’s vining mess. You will see that the black eyed susan vines are finally thriving but the morning glory (mostly on the right) are insane…with nary a blossom.
Here it is again…before
In general I am very pleased with the RS bed experiment so far. I will elaborate in future posts but here are some random updates…
WE HAVE A LUFFA !!!
Finally. You can see how showy this vine has become. It has smothered the tunnel and begun to invade the lower forty…
looking back it is on the right
Here it frames the now almost cleared potato run…as it waddles on over to make an annex out of the old pea trellis.
Back at the far end of the bed you get a whole lot of rotting tomatoes and a fair supply of peppers showered by Pat’s zinnias…
A row of bags and boxes are mostly cleared of the failed onions with some lingering leeks…
Walking outside and into the raised bed area it’s the sweet potatoes that have taken the lead…
Three bags full, they hold some promise but it will be a month or more before I peek. The second planting of cucumbers are fighting off the squash bugs and going strong…
The beans have only now begun to provide enough for a meal for two…
Underneath that tunnel are some newly planted carrots and broccoli …
And the brussel sprouts and parsnips are roaring in the back bed…
On the backside of this very large array is the sad state of the strawberry beds, I am flummoxed at the heavy invasion of grasses and weeds which have taken over every single bed. I’ve weeded this bed intensely 4 times this summer !!! and look at the mess.
Back in civilization…
the new herb beds are doing well…
and the salad bed is once again producing lettuces and spinach…
After taking this pic I pulled a couple of those radishes, and then I yanked them all because I found cabbage worms on each one and a heavy infestation of baby aphids. They all went to the bucket of death. Now Herself can come and pick her lunch in peace.
And that leaves the best part of the garden for last…
Miss Finnegan is starting to feel better. These cooler mornings are just the ticket for a Bernese Mt. Dog. She lays here on the shaded cement and supervises my ramblings while she waits for her buddy to come over and take her for a ride around the neighborhood. Her favorite thing is to turn left out of that gate and jump into the car.
As I write this she and her buddy are getting ready for the tennis finals. Finn lays in front of the TV and as soon as the ball is hit she follows it. She got bored with all those double faults in the match last night but has a special fondness for Nadal, so she’s looking forward to his forehand.
And there we have it. A winding look into the labyrinth that, for my sins, is my world this month.
Now I’m headed to the kitchen for some lunch, and then up for one more cone at Reeser’s, and then back to the easel…
Yours in brilliant blazes of Mexican sunflowers, hovering hummingbirds… and finally flying brushes,
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.
It has become a tradition to unroll the new paintings for the annual Granary Gallery show here on the blog. The work flow has evolved along with the technology and I now use the time spent focusing on each painting, loading them individually onto my website, as the time I also write their accompanying Painter’s Notes.
So, for the next fifteen days, picture me in the studio office, sitting in a comfy chair, this is my view…
And let me say right off the bat… the best part about this view… this week… is that it is air-conditioned.
I wrote in the last blog post about adding the photographing of each painting into that aforementioned work flow. After shooting, the files get brought here at the mothership to be processed in Photoshop. That tech part I am comfortable with and once I have an archivally satisfactory image stored on my hard drive I can begin getting them up on my website.
So, with no further ado…I give you…
Captain’s Log – 18 x 24
This painting is all about the mitten.
For the featured summer shows, the staff at the Granary Gallery do something a little extra to bring each artist’s work to life. They masterfully reflect the essence of the art work by arranging antiques, props, artifacts and flowers subtly positioned to add depth and often whimsy to enhance the patron’s experience.
They stay late on the Saturday night before the openings and make all the decisions about hanging and arranging with a keen collective eye to design. So it is always a fun surprise to walk into the show on Sunday afternoon and see, for the first time, what they have created.
On one such occasion, tucked amongst a pile of some wooly and maritime artifacts which were displayed under one of my paintings, I remebered it being one of the sheep but it may have been the spinning loft or quite possibly the black Irish horse Macy anyway on this occasion… I spied the mitten.
All of three inches, it was held to a tiny ball of yarn by four shiny steel needles thin enough to put inside the stem of a spring violet. I was in love. Honestly, to hold this gem in the palm of your hand and see the impossibly small stitches took this knitters’ breath clean away.
They said it had been found in an old sea captain’s chest. OK well there you go…I’m hooked. I begged to take it home to show the Muses and, now leaning against the window frame by my easel, it has become a powerful talisman. My imagination soars when I ponder who worked those triple ought sticks, who spun that finest of wool, for whom was it stitched, and on what fateful voyage.
Because it is what I do, I have begun to work some of these scenarios out… in paint.
There are two in this year’s show. So that probably means the Muses have a series in the cards.
The Captain’s Log let me play with some old favorites among the prop shelves. And I found some of my earliest homespun yarn which was almost as thin as that used by the captain…or was it his wife…or perhaps the harpooner…with which I tried a tiny ribbing stitch to get the feel of the needles.
Ouch. Those babies are surgically sharp. I had spent this last winter twiddling size one needles around while knitting socks, and my fingers had the callouses to prove it, but the Captain’s sticks are wicked barbed wee deevils. I have a new respect for the men and women of the Aran Islands shown in old black and white photos flying those same steel shafts around at high speed while simultaneously tending their flocks and seeing to supper and minding the bairns lo those centuries ago.
Ah…when idle hands… and magical gallery moments meet on the easel…
‘Twas a lovely surprise a few weeks back, to receive…by way of a thank you of sorts…a package from Matthew Stackpole. He, by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Mystic Connecticut, and a lifetime of service to both seafaring villages and museums and maritime history everywhere.
He had sent me a copy of the book, The Charles E. Morgan – The Last Wooden Whaleship, written by his father Edouard A. Stackpole. It’s a lively in depth history of the ship and her adventures published in 1967. I’m only part way through and it has me hooked. Great sky chair reading. Thank you so much Matthew.
Matthew and his brother had the run of the Morgan when their father was at the helm of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
So he had fond memories to share when looking at the paintings I had done from the museum and the ship for last years’ Granary Gallery Show.
And a fine good morning to you all from the studio. Yes, it’s been a while since I checked in here on the blog thingy…but it’s SPRING…and I’ve been working overtime both at the easel and…in the garden.
As this life flies by, I have been paying more attention to slowing down.
My vow to spend more time in the sky chair, which swung empty on its swivel hook for most of last year, and to spend more time with my wife, coming home in time for Jeopardy most of the winter, and to let the brushes flow at their own pace, surprising myself discovering new ways to say old truths… and grabbing all the spare minutes in between to play…in the garden.
We have survived the major tree removal project and the sky has opened up for sunshine to reach some areas of the garden for the first time in a hundred years. I am seeing some changes already, especially in the greenhouse corner of the studio yard. Here then is a tour of the very much “working” progress.
Got to start with a glam shot of my favorite day of every year…the opening blossoms of our Chilmark beach rose…with the extra shot of sunshine she will be receiving now we should be treated to quite a show.
Then, the welcome to my garden view…
Wood chips provided by those dead trees.
This corner is tremendously satisfying as the new bed is brimming with salad greens, and beets, carrots, onions and kale coming along. I confess that I have no idea what that tall green veg is…yes I labeled the seedlings but that label read Kale. It looks more like a broccoli thing. I’ll get a better pic and ask for ID help.
Then a few steps further along we have the splendid newly refurbished arbor bed. The traditional herb garden has now been annexed with the greenhouse bed which I planted yesterday with a whole bunch of seedlings that I actually managed to raise to more than the first two leaf stage.
Then we get serious, and very messy.
The spinach bed, planted way back in March, has been steadily producing but the cover came off pronto when it started to bolt way too early. That thin bed on the right had held a crop of winter carrots which I planted way too late. They were producing full heads of greens but the roots were being chomped by some creature so I yanked them. If I can find a space between raindrops today I’m going to add a layer of new compost and plant edamame there.
The bed beyond, with the two pea towers, is an overachiever. The garlic planted there last fall has been, and will remain, covered in the hopes of deterring the dreaded alium leaf miner. Everything else is shooting up. A local garden guru said this has been an old fashioned spring for us. I really feel that vibe. A gradual climbing in temps, increase in rainfall with some good days of sun and no deep frosts. We have turned that corner now and it is wonderful to put the ice trackers away.
Some big progress in the back forty…
We got this new bed, which I am dubbing the Very Large Array, almost finished. Not sure where I’m gonna find the dirt to fill her up but I can hear the carrots and parsnips whispering yes.
And now for Ruth…
This experiment may not look like much at the moment but it’s really fun. While waiting for warmer temps to attempt some planting inside this bed, I threw all sorts of things in the outside bales. Extra broccolini seedlings (I won’t grow that next year…lots of time and space taking flats for Zero return. (some seen here below)
The leeks, and the onions which I nurtured in February… are thrilled to have a home and are soldiering up the perimeter like they were born for the job. Some carrots, kale and extra sage are in there as well as sunflowers and climbers for the Ruth Stout Memorial Archway.
But Potato Row is the star.
All varieties are up now. You can see here how the back wall of hay bales is collapsing into the potatoes. They are on the uphill side of the sloping yard so they have to fight gravity as well as decomposition. I am going to let them do what they think is best and hope that the veg planted in them will overcome the drooping attitude.
There are some persistent weeds coming through the hay all over the bed. I will be using the mountain of wood chips to fill in some walking pathways in here and all over the rest of the yard. It can just be seen out there beyond the fence…which is part of the problem… I need Kory’s help for that but we’ll get her done.
Elsewhere on the estate…
The blueberry bed is thriving.
The much neglected far corner has received a facelift incorporating some Ruth Stout hay mulching with shredded hardwood to tamp down the thready weeds and help establish a new blackberry bed. I saved some Soloman Seal from beneath the pin oak which was taken down at the log cabin and it seems to be quite happy in it’s new home around the maple tree.
And then we swing back down to the easel window, along the rose bed…
A clever shot of the view which the birds and squirrels have of the artiste…from without…
and her view from within…
Some re-positioned birdhouses…
And David’s gazing ball…
and the apprentice telling me that’s enough…get back to work.
She’s right. It’s time to get back to my day job.
I’m having just as much fun inside…working on a new series of a very old house on the Vineyard. We will check in on that a bit later.