and I’m happy to report that the paintings have arrived safely at The Granary Gallery and all who helped along that journey are also safe and sound. Bless you all.
The lightness and positive energy I am feeling now clues me in to just how anxious I had been. It’s always a pretty stressful time as a self-employed artist to pack up your entire year’s worth of work and haul it hundreds of miles…across land…and sea…but…throw in economic uncertainty, civil unrest, cultural upheaval, political warfare and top that all off with a PANDEMIC …well it’s been a stressful time for us all hasn’t it.
Which makes it all the more wonderful today and I’m going to celebrate the positives…
I’ve got one very special positive to share with you today…
Jack the Lad – 26 x 30
I give you Jack.. the Lad… and his pal Graham.
Let’s Zoom in a little…
There they are.
I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the Painter’s Notes…but after much anticipation on both our parts…Graham and Jack finally got to see their painting today…
It fills my heart to share the delightfully tender and upbeat energy those two souls exude.
Sure wish I could have been there for the unveiling Graham but this photo is all I need to see. May we all enjoy a bit of this happiness today.
Gallarista Adam pulled in to her driveway a few minutes ago where the plan is to load up both Mary’s work and mine into the Art Van to return to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for our upcoming summer shows. A big thank you to Chris Morse, owner of The Granary Gallery, for helping to arrange this Pandemic Pickup.
And tremendous thanks to Adam and Nathan for taking the risks involved to make that trip for we studio-bound artists.
It takes a village.
And that is a perfect segue to today’s new painting reveal…
A Fisher of Men – 36″ x 48″
This portrait of our dear friend Arthur walking in his calm powerful grace has been a comfort leaning against the wall in the studio lo these many weeks since it came off the easel. It has been hard not to be able to gather for our evenings of conversation and frivolity in the midst of the pandemic…when we could all desperately use that fellowship.
More on Arthur later…
The phone just beeped the good news that Nathan has arrived safely, Adam has almost finished loading Mary’s work and then we’re up.
My next deep breath won’t come until he pulls safely back into my studio driveway…so Pat is instructed to continue her novena a little bit longer.
Now I can move on to writing all those Painter’s Notes. Good inside work for these beastly hot days.
This year’s Granary rollout will be spread out over the next month. There are 8 paintings, now that I’ve finally finished the last one…is there a huge relief emoji out there ?
As I work to photograph and frame them all I’ll be writing the Painter’s Notes sporadically and am planning some sort of virtual presentation to accompany the paintings. So many ways things are changing and we here in the studio are ready to learn and experiment with new ways to share and promote art.
While we work behind the scenes to bring the new artwork to you please be safe, wear your masks, and enjoy the freshening summer breezes when you can.
The morning’s laundry is getting a second rinse cycle from the passing shower. Great gusts of wind blew through the holler a few minutes ago. And we have come to a sad conclusion.
We will not be making the trip to Martha’s Vineyard for my annual Granary Gallery Show.
Pat always counseled her Hospice patients that ambivalence is what eats you up…and there are no wrong decisions. So we made the call.
We still know so little about this virus, but the course of the pandemic appears relentless and we in this family trust science and revere scientists and health experts.
Chris reports that the gallery is making preparations to open when the governor and health inspectors give the all clear. As with all businesses large and small many modifications will need to be made for the safety of staff and patrons. It’s early days but we agreed that gatherings like show opening cocktail parties with dozens to hundreds of people are not possible. We are grateful that he and the stellar staff are willing to try and help keep their artists afloat and we know that in a crisis like this humans seek beauty.
There are also issues for those of us who call Martha’s Vineyard a spiritual home but do not…as yet…have keys to the place. Like many resort destinations, The Vineyard is challenged by so many residents and businesses relying on tourism for income, and like all of us the islanders are divided about how and when to allow that commerce to resume.
We straddle both camps but are choosing not to risk the health of our friends by possibly bringing more virus to their already limited health care system. And with highly vulnerable risk factors, we are choosing not to take the chances that days of travel and higher concentrations of humans would bring to our own health.
So, while we are not going to the island…
The PAINTINGS ARE !!!
And that is my challenge.
I am going to need help.
And more than a few miracles of supply chain timing…Julie get ready !
But the plan is now to have the paintings there at the gallery for whatever sort of viewing they can muster. There are plans for a Virtual Vernissage, I just made that up but it’s a good one. And I am beginning to ponder on what I can do from here that will enable me, or at least my virtual self, to be present as well.
If any of you have ideas throw them out. Like I said, I’ll need help.
So now it’s time to get back to work.
Feels like a good time to feature the place where I expect to be working hard for the next few months…
Stay extra frosty out there…we’ll get through this.
That’s how the light gets in – 2013
This painting began with the title, a line from the wonderful Leonard Cohen song, Anthem whose chorus goes like this…
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
And it was taped to my easel for over a year. Now, everything on, or pretty much near, my easel eventually becomes a wiping surface for my brushes. After that much time the tattered notation was almost completely obscured by paint. But still, it and all the other quotations that surround me there are doing their job.
They are there to nudge, and in some cases to shove, my fears and doubts and ego and shaky confidence all aside. There are notes of encouragement, interesting thoughts that I lifted from the books I listen to while working, reminders when to plant garlic, and, like this one, words or phrases that I thought would be good painting titles that need time to percolate.
In addition to the notes, I have a support system of talismans. Objects that are touchstones to people and memories that have had profound influences on my creative journey. The ones featured in this painting include the well worn denim shirt, on the back of which is embroidered the cartoon character of Ziggy hand sewn for me by my very first patron, Stephanie, whose never wavering support began in our high school days.
And there is the also well worn railroad hat from my beloved Pops, Fred Decker. There’s a great photo of him wearing that hat, which is taped to the shelf behind my easel chair, wherein he is sitting next to my grandmother Mima, on the sofa in Craley, being mischievous together before they became leaders in my pack of guardian angels .
The old niblick, wooden golf putter, has been re-serviced as my mahl stick, holding up my favorite teacup is the beach stone which was handed to me by Mr. Morse and which echoes the deep connection to those Vineyard shores… and, most importantly, looking down from above is the photograph of Herself taken on the bluff in Chilmark where our hearts were joined.
The window to the left provides the light that I need to see the panels, but the true light, the authentic self which I am constantly seeking, shine back at me from these precious objects.
The first crop is harvesting this week and it has made all the difference.
We lost a couple plants… not to frost but to squirrels…so to have something fresh to eat from the garden is heartening.
This will be a short post…My friend Peter reports that most of his thousands of viewers who tune in to his online video tutorials last no more than 10 minutes. Their loss.
Short for me today because the sun in shining.
That elusive orb that so many of us have been sorely missing is blazing away here in the studio yard so it was time to try out our new wash set up.
I spent way too long yesterday in the garage building the wringer mentioned in the last blog post.
It is always fun for this former woodworker to pick up her tools and play. It got complicated yesterday as the workshop is full of a winter of discontent and my usual workbench was not accessible. I had to choose between the vice and the chop saw. The saw won so I cleared this spot out in the back…
This was a borrowed design from youtube which I had to modify. Quite a bit of modify as it turned out. The rolling pin on the bottom had to turn freely but the top one needed to be stationary. All I could find was one of my precious last chair posts…this one in walnut no less. I hated to cut that 48″ down to 15″ but needs must.
I loved climbing over the quarantine stations on the porch to sit for a spell on the shaving horse again…
I’m going to take Peter up on his offer to turn what parts I might need for this machine because I think the two rollers should be a pair of the same size. But that’ll be the upgraded version after I work out the current kinks.
With today’s sunshine…
we took the plunge…
I gotta say I’m a bit shocked that it actually works. I heard from many of you on FB after I posted a video of Herself trying this thing out that you remember vividly your grandmothers’ advice to keep your finger outta there…Even a story from Lodi about Aunt Imy remembering an incident with her mother and a tender body part.
Seeing as our motto here is Tit’s UP…I’ll just say that’ll be essential to remember on wash day.
With a bit of practice…and lordy we will be getting that…this part of our new world order might be manageable. And getting to spend time outside amongst the blooming lilacs…
That’ll do pig. That’ll do.
Today was supposed to be the first day of the Sheep and Wool Festival. They have concocted an online experience …
For which I applaud them. But I am personally glad that I found two fleece before this event. The virtual fleece sale online is just links to venders and I had hoped for good pics and details about each entry. Very confusing. I’m going to go outside now and open mine up and pick around to see what shape they are in.
I have ordered some carding combs. Think Edward Scissorhands. Extremely scary looking things. But it’s time to kick my spinning game up a notch and that’s just one lesson I’m taking from this crisis. If not now…when.
That’s it for now.
If anyone is still reading…here’s your bonus gift.
Be not afraid…
Noli Timere – 2016
Be not afraid.
I called her Scout.
Because, I knew I was going to be spending a lot of intimate hours with this sheep and she needed a name.
Because, on the day I started this painting, the news came across the airwaves that Harper Lee had died.
And because I wanted to be just like Atticus’ curious, strong, loyal and fiercely brave daughter Scout.
It was late in February when I began this painting. We were deep into a very rough winter of care-giving and hospice nursing for Pat’s elderly aunt and uncle.
His death in November left a wife of 72 years to grieve through the cobwebs of Alzheimers.
Two days after I began this painting, Aunt Mary died, in the dark hours between dusk and dawn, while Pat slept on the floor beside her bed.
The afternoon before, out of a deep state of rest, Mary sat up in bed and cried, Pat, help me, I’m so afraid.
Taking her hand Pat comforted Mary with the words that her room was full of angels, and all of them were there to take her to Bob.
Pat’s art is her compassion. She was born to be a hospice nurse. It is hard, meaningful work, that only someone strong, and fiercely brave can do.
Her courage runs fathoms deep.
The grief that followed Mary’s death, was interrupted by waves of peace.
In the wake of that chapter in our lives, I was drawn into a profound intensity of focus, as I tried to shine some light on the emotions that were trying their best to hide.
Scout and I spent those weeks together, weaving our way through her pasture of grasses, and catching the sunset in the fibers of her fleece.
I had been listening to Louis Penny’s wonderful Three Pines Mystery series, and was so happy to be among the old friends her characters have become. They are real, and honest, loyal and brave. Spiked with just enough wit and humor to keep my pencils sharp.
At some point, most likely when I was struggling with refracting the rainbow of light through one of those four hundred million locks, I caught a new word, and paused the book to go back and listen again.
She was describing the words that Seamus Heaney had written to his wife, on his deathbed…
I put down the brushes. Scout smiled.
As I am writing this now, in this troubled world, with so much to fear, I am sitting next to Scout, framed in her quiet island pasture, searching my soul for the courage… to listen.
These are the Glory sisters. They greeted me fully open to this stellar morning…even though I was later than usual.
1 – We can only watch two episodes of any given series at night. I can’t expect to get any painting OR gardening done if the first number my eyes see in the morning starts with a 9.
2 – I can work in the garden with absolutely no guilt, rationalities or apologies of any kind all morning.
3 – IF I agree to stop at noon.
4 – Where upon I will eat breakfast AND lunch in one meal.
5 – All other work, including blog posts, bill paying, business stuff, and random google searching will be ceased at 1pm.
6 – Where upon I will show up at the easel and begin to paint.
7 – Only two pieces of Easter Chocolate per day…Until Easter…writes the Atheist.
8 – I will put down the brushes by sunset…currently around 8pm.
9 – Going forward I will use only two olives in my Quarantini…s.
10 – This year I will break all records for time spent in the sky chair.
It is now 2:29. So the rest of this blog post will be a dump of photos showing progress on Rule # 2…
Yesterday was potting up day… The Dill got new digs…
I am figuring out a recipe for my own potting soil since this is the year of stay at home ingenuity…some sieving required…
A prescription for heartburn pills makes for the perfect tamper downer when seeding flats…
Teeeeeeny seeds…wedding ring for scale…
This morning’s glorious sunshine was perfect to plant parsnips…
Ruth welcomes all seeds…so the last two feet of this parsnip run will have carrots, those white dots are pelleted seeds, Ruth preferred scattering over rows and it was much easier to try that here. The ground was rich dark brown and amazingly…in this the wettest part of the yard…and after a torrential storm in the middle of the night…was well drained and easy to work. I did add a thin layer of peat moss to help keep the seeds under some cover, then added a thin fleece over that to keep the light peat from blowing away, and the netted tunnel over that to keep critters out.
On the other end of the RS garden I’ve got the squash tunnel set up.
And I was able to move two more straw bales to complete the entry gate…The bales will have flowers planted in them for the pollinators.
And now it is 2:54…
One of the changes in our lives with this stay at home deal is that we, who do not have a washing machine, are doing our laundry in the sink. The drying part is no problem because we have an umbrella line in the studio yard.
I noticed this morning that my new method of brush wiping…when using the tiny brushes they tend to hold more of the turpentine in the ferrule when I wash them out…which I do more often than usual when rigging boats…hint as to current subject matter…the ferrule is the silver part of the brush pictured below and the paper towels rest on my knee to wipe that excess off.
So this is how I noticed what I noticed…
I guess that my right elbow is resting on…all that excess wet paint.
My uniform wears her battle scars well don’t ya think?
So of course…today’s painting is…
Bringing in the Sheets – 2014
I know people, ok, two people,who hang their laundry out all year long. My laundress is not a fan of this.
In our next house there will be a washer and dryer. I have promised.
For now, and for the last quarter of a decade, that weekly chore has been done up to town, next to the local pizza joint.
Herself is on a therapists basis with the owner, and most of her best stories have originated between the spin cycles. The characters join her there, making entrances and exits worthy of the bard Himself, with the odd parrot or two on the shoulders of the jester stage left.
So, when it came time to pose for this painting,I actually had to search the studio for the clothespin. It’s Ted’s, and that elegant swan shaped clip at the end is the perfect balance of classic style and Yankee ingenuity… just like Ted.
I hung the line at sunrise, between the greenhouse and the grape arbor and waited. The first rays of sunlight caught the top of the sheet and I quickly called Pat over from the cabin to pose. In the initial sketches, done a few weeks before, the shirt was to be white, so I figured I could fake that part or pose her again later.
We played around with the angles and then I sketched and took some photos and went inside to work. When she called to let me know that Herself was headed up to the laundromat I walked outside to stretch my legs and whammo… a whole new light was cascading across that sheet. I made her run back and, in very short order, I had what would become the final composition.
You can see that the white shirt, which was still crumpled in the unwashed laundry bag, when the light changed for the better, stayed hidden there… and the striped shirt of the laundress which seemed to echo the uniforms of those hard scrubbing for-bearers… remained.
I believe fundamentally in paying homage to the women upon whose shoulders we rise and to the makers of clothespins.
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.