Dreams and Secrets

Feeling mournful on this morning,
I am finding the light I seek
in the wonders of a grandchild.

There are two new paintings
which I am packaging up today
to wing their way out to Santa Fe
to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery

May they bring you some peace.

Dreamcatcher  –  20 x 22

Not sure if it’s the finch or her perch
but this tender glancing gesture
reminds me of a little poem
by Micheal Longley…

 

A TOUCH

after the irish

she is the touch of pink
on crab apple blossoms
and hawthorn and she melts
frost flowers with her finger

 

AND…

“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”  –  16 x 20

Always willingly,
but quite unknowingly,
Zoe helped me tell a story
which I’d been wanting to tell
for many many years…

Shortly after his wife Polly died
my pal Ted brought down from the attic
tied together with one sturdy twined string
a pair of purple suede pumps,
saying Polly had wanted me to have these.

Then he told me the story
that, when on a trip to San Francisco,
they had bought this pair of shoes
for a special occasion
and Ted, being Ted,
had gussied them up with some sparkly silver painted swirls
and they, the Meinelts and their shoes
had danced the night away.

When it came time to pack for the trip home
the shoes wouldn’t fit in their suitcase.
So, Polly being Polly,
she slapped some shipping labels on the soles
tied them together with that twine
and dropped them in the closest US Mail box.

In gifting them to me
I understood that the torch of a challenge
had been passed.

Over the years
the sparkle paint has faded
but the purple of those pumps
has kept on popping that story
into my creative consciousness.

Along the way,
and true to form,
the Muses threw a title down like a gauntlet…

While listening to Alexander McCall Smith’s
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series,
a perennial studio favorite,
the character Mma Grace Makutsi,
she who graduated at 97% in her secretarial class,
utters the line..
“There are no secrets we keep from our shoes.”

The context is a bit complicated to explain
and if you’ve read this far in these painter’s notes
then you probably are already familiar
with the conversations Grace has with her shoes,
and if you aren’t then you are in for a treat
as I believe there are up to 19 books in that series now
and no, I cannot remember well enough to credit the exact
volume in which this line appears, apologies to Mr. Smith.

What is relevant for our story here
is that I stopped the flying brushes
and wrote that line down
on a scrap of paper
which has made the cut  on every list
in each sketchbook since
of what I want to paint next.

So…
when Zoe was visiting the studio last summer
and she had emptied the drawer of all the aprons
and had carefully tied each one of them on
one on top of the other,
and she asked if I had any shoes to go with her outfit…

well there ya go.

It wasn’t until she took a break from all that cooking
and collapsed with a hrrrumph
into the comfy easel chair
and propped up her exhausted and aching feet
and the muses veritably SCREAMED at me
that I…finally…had my way in.

I don’t know whether this train
will take her all the way to Botswana
but I know with all my heart
that in her dreams…
those shoes are dancing.


Enter the Muses

This is a good image to go with this morning…

While I sit here in the studio,
awaiting the plumber,
who will help me address the water
which is pouring out of a busted pipe
in the basement below my feet.

These unexpected pauses,
jolting the daily drive train of a creative workflow,
still unnerve me…
there are decidedly a scarce few things
which fill me with more dread
than having to go down to the basement.

But, with Pat’s steady backup,
I have conquered that stage of the drama
and the power has been cut off from the errant water pump
and, as I mentioned, the trusty plumber is on the way.

Which gives me that rare moment…
the unexpected pause
between crisis and resuming of normal play
and I am filling this one
by paying forward a gift.

Last night, after a long day,
a message popped up on my phone
from one among you who are followers
that I have never met, but whose name I recognize
from the occasional gift of a “like” response to a posting here or there.

She wrote that she follows my work
and she had read a poem which,
for some reason, made her think of me…
Pat looked at me from across the sofa and asked why I was crying…
I read the poem outloud,
and we were both in tears.

So this pause is by way of a thank you to K,
for stopping to share the gift of this gracefully moving beauty
and her own kind words,
and to remind myself
to take a deeper breath
and let the muses take the wheel today.

Beneath The Sweater And The Skin
A Poem by Jeannette Encinias

How many years of beauty do I have left?
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.

When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.

When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and your children come home
to find their own history
in your face.

When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.

When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.

Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?

This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far..

I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.


Wakeful and Onward

Good morning readers,

We here in the studio are sorting and packing and tweaking and altering as we get ready to roll northward for the Granary Gallery Show Opening on Sunday.

Humble appreciations for your patience as the website is being updated, our tech guru uses the word migrated which just sounds lovely. He has been our hero this week, rock solid and unflappable, as there are always some bumps in the road to progress and he is still answering my emails, even as the early bird catches her worms. ( I’m playing with the “migration” thing there…says the bleary eyed artiste…) Blessings upon you Ross.

Another HUGE, absolutely HUGE shout out of gratitude to pals Matt and Paul for not only offering, but actually showing up within minutes of my request for help. They came toting kayaks, as I had interrupted a float on the nearby lake, and swiftly and oh so carefully loaded the paintings into the trailer for us.

That is always a tricky part of this process, as the work of an entire year gets packed in a tiny aluminum box that needs to transport them safely over land and sea for their big reveal. It was shear bliss, in the hot and humid afternoon, to have two strong young men take on the hardest bits of that job. Their kindness and grace has cemented our friendship.

I’ve been instructed to scroll throughout the website and look for problems. Talk about asking for trouble. There are some glitches which we are addressing, again about the patience, but some unexpected feelings are popping up as well.

When sorting through 18 years of paintings, you are also reviewing the last 18 years of your life. Wasn’t expecting that, so I find myself swirling in emotional detours. Mostly pleasant, often happy, but with some pop-up grieving and twinges of longing mixed in.

Among many of the “missing” links we are scrambling to fix, I found a few golden oldies that tie in with some of this year’s paintings…

Lighthouse Wake – which shows the channel between Chappy and the Lighthouse.

In this year’s painting, Anchored in Autumn, I tweaked that a bit and moved the lighthouse just a few hundred yards to the left so I could get it in the composition. On the actual panel it was inches.

Then there was the year of the birds…
And one of my personal favorites,

The Gutting –

This is a working dockside view of the Edgartown Yacht Club. The Vose Boathouse sits out of this frame but off to the right.

And this…

Onward  –

Where we are looking directly at it sitting there all happy to be in the water  on a bright sunny day.

To be completely honest, there were many paintings
upon my wild reviewing this morning
that I had totally forgotten I had ever painted.

I’m sure it’s the stresses over the last few days…
as I am equally certain it is the slippage of my aging gears.

But it is interesting to take some measure
along the journey
from there to here
of my life behind the brushes.

Stay frosty out there my friends,
our little family is all the better for you being in the world.


Philosopher Fisherman

Philosopher Fisherman  –  18 x 18

“When you look at some faces, you can see the turbulence of the infinite
beginning to gather to the surface. This moment can open in a gaze from a stranger,
or in a conversation with someone you know well. Suddenly, without their intending it
or being conscious of it, their gaze lasts for only a second. In that slightest interim,
something more than the person looks out.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

My pal Alex, the philosopher fisherman, is a muse of the most mysterious kind.

He arrives unannounced, on silent feet, and rings the bell
hanging ourtside my studio door…once.
One clear ring.
And never when I am listening for it, so it’s always a gift.

He is never empty handed.
Most often a fishing pole is leaned against the porch,
with a bit of tackle,
or a turtle
or a golf ball
or the bottom shard of an old bottle…
and then we talk.

Picking up right where we left off,
even if it was a year ago,
the conversation flits about according to where his curious eyes land
or where my wandering mind does.

It can bounce around all day,
or sit solidly on something heavy for a while.
All topics are worthy of our examination
and his curiosity is contagious.

One day
during the summer he was 14
he came bearing a turtle.
“I thought you would like to paint this”
I wasn’t entirely sure,
but brought my camera out,
rather than the turtle in,
and he held it in the sunshine for me to see.

It was a beautiful creature
with patterns and colors that we studied
under the tutelage of his vast knowledge of local nature.
He and his subject were reverential
of each other and I was just there to record.

It was a while before I saw him again,
and in the interim I sorted through those photos
to see if anything connected with the brushes.

What snapped my heartstrings was his face.
The presence and the peace that was a young boy
just beginning to tip into adolescence.

I made some notes and put it aside.

The next time I saw Alex,
was a hot summer afternoon.
He had been fishing after a morning of chores
and was shirtless and sunburned with the creek
dripping off of his sneaks.

The muses struck…
What wasn’t working from that first photo shoot
was that he had been wearing very dark eyeglasses.
I asked him to pose again as now I could
clearly see all of his face.

So we found a turtle sized rock
and tried to recreate the scene.

And then another year went by.

I found myself reviewing the two sets of photos,
knowing it was time to work on this painting.
But what I had before me was a dramatic contrast.

Alex holding the turtle was clearly a young boy.
Alex holding the turtle stone was absolutely a young man.

I really labored over this one.
In the end I decided to do both,
eventually the turtle will surface.

But I had been reading the poetry of John O’Donohue,
the brilliant poet from Ireland,
and came across his writings On Beauty.
Just slayed me.

And centered me squarely on this gentle face.
The landscape of this young man
written across that brow
brimming with confidence
pale cheeked innocence fading
into those widening sunwashed shoulders.

Here is my handsome Muse
only last week
taming another wild creature
on my studio porch.

Drum on kind Sir.

 


Anna’s Woodshed

Anna’s Woodshed  –  18 x 21

Anna Kuerner and her husband Karl immigrated from their home in Germany
to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.

Together with their growing family, they farmed a hillside
which now is filled with buttercups in the spring.

I stood amongst those buttery yellow harbingers
on a warm afternoon in May
studying the wide stuccoed front porch
of their 19th century farmhouse
and noticed a break in the solid rectangular lines
of the main house.

Around back
when you first step into the kitchen
this doorway is to your left.

Through it you can see a passageway
from the kitchen
and then the window
and on into the room.

Karl built this woodshed
attached to the house
so that Anna,
who insisted on cooking with a wood fired oven,
would not have to go out in inclement weather
to fetch her fuel.

On this stormy
creek flooding
weather heavy day…

I’d say there’s a special kind of love
in that gesture.

PS- Pat requested a second blog post today. It’s been a tad stressful here and she says that these posts make her happy. So, here ya go Babe. Love, me.


Tashmoo Morning

Tashmoo Morning  –  30 x 48

Only last night
I got a text from Katie saying…
“Miss driving with you. And Ted”

Ted Meinelt was a very special person
for both of us.

So, to keep his memory alive
Katie and I began a tradition
of going on…Ted Drives.

There are no rules,
plenty of snacks,
sometimes bags of knitting,
and always an unexpected adventure.

We started out by honoring Ted’s unique
knowledge of the island and its’ history
by taking each other to places off the beaten tracks.

Katie took me on a walking tour of
the MV African-American Heritage Trail sites
in and around Oak Bluffs.

I took her into the creepy
corners of the old Marine Hospital
before it began the renovation
to become the home for the MV Museum.

Like Ted had done for us,
being both Muse and Mentor,
we were in search of subjects to paint
and island stories to learn.

We are both older
and braver now
and our explorations
have become a bit more challenging.

On one of our trips last October
we got out the map
and decided to head for a spot
on the northern shore.

It was a dark and stormy day.
One of those island days when
there is no space between the sky and the sea
and the clouds sit right down beside you on the road.

Our first destination was to find
the hidden coves of Lake Tashmoo.

Now the road out there is
a sandy trail of solid ruts
some of which could easily
have swallowed small children
and large volkswagons.

I’m talking 16 wheel drive.

Narrow enough in spots that
we were pulling our elbows in
even though the windows were closed.

This goes on for what feels like
three months or three hundred miles
but eventually you do come to a clearing
and then the backs of a scattering of houses
whose fronts face the ocean…

and then this.

From the town beach
looking back across the choppy lake
and deep into a thick bank of fog.

Though later in the day,
when we followed yet another very long
and spiderweb lined trail,
we were pleased to arrive at a
wide open grassy plain filled with sunshine…

the only bright spot on Lake Tashmoo beach
that morning
was the happy smile
of my navigator.

Next time Katie…
it’s your turn to drive.

 


All Politics Is Local

All Politics Is Local…Available at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe

It is always powerful
on this day each year
to listen to the journalists at NPR
read the Declaration of Independence

This year it gave me chills.


Artifacts…

The Granary Gallery has launched a new blog…Artifacts

https://artifactsmv.com/

I was interviewed early this spring by Libby Ellis and the Q and A session has been published for your reading pleasure…click on the painting below, grab a teacup of your choice and get a peek into my studio adventures…

heather neill :: yours in flying paint brushes


A Few New Prints

The studio inbox has recently received requests for some new prints to be offered…
and it gave me the opportunity to clean that page up a bit and add a few new ones.

You will find this logo at the top of the page after you click on Prints from the menu bar on my website…heatherneill.com

NEW to the site are…

So there ya go,
a little bit of whimsy for this season.

Back tot he easel for me…
you lot stay frosty out there !


Reminded of days gone by…

 
This photo popped up in my facebook stream today…

I had snapped the pic a few years ago, when I noticed that my former craft show sign was now a mitten holder. Made me a bit nostalgic for those days when I spent hours on a shaving horse in the yard, and countless trips over the basement stairs to my workshop, then loading the tiny truck with an entire booth’s worth of panels, tent, chairs and tools.

Seen here in the workshop with a young Master Hunter

We loved the camaraderie of our fellow crafters, liberal minded hippies like us. The common joke going around back then, in the early 90’s, was…”What would you do if you won the lottery ? I’d keep making chairs (or pots, or baskets) until the money runs out.”

They had a rule in the better craft circuits that the “makers” had to be the ones in the booth. You could not, say, run a sweat shop with a dozen elves and then have each one scatter on a given weekend to a dozen craft shows. I guess that kept them satisfied that these were “Individually”, and therefore “authentically” handcrafted goods.

It made it difficult for us full time artisans to find the time and expenses to both create and sell our wares, and, though none of us were adequately compensated for the actual hours spent in producing, let alone marketing, we enjoyed a bounty of good companionship and meaningful work.

The first painting I did, for the very first exhibition of my painting career, was this one…

In the Chairmaker’s Wake

I used to carve poems and quotes in the slats.

This one was a favorite, by Willa Cather,
“The end is nothing, the road is all.”

It’s held up pretty well, the saying as well as the chair, over these last few miles. It’s been almost 20 years since I put down the drawknife and picked up the brushes. I made over 500 chairs while the shavings were flying. I have over 300 paintings under my belt…so far.

My hands turn 60 in a few months.
Faithful companions.
They have been leading me the whole time…
down this marvelous road.