FINISHED !!!!!!!

Noon today… the big painting was signed and declared completed.

Three brutal months, 46 birds, 46 boats, thousands of shingles and one lone fisherman later…

Despite the congestion in the lungs and head, I am breathing a whole lot easier this afternoon. This is one huge weight (literally) lifted off my shoulders… and I’m on to the next ptg…my brushes have hit the ground running as the race to complete as many more paintings as I can in the next two months before the show.

Stay tuned for updates… in the meantime here are some detail shots…


It’s my birthday…

and I’m taking the whole day off… from painting that is…

the easel chair is empty…

The daffodils are in bloom…

Finnegan, Pat and I have taken the first walk in the park of the season…

and there is a stack of wood in the driveway that wants to become new garden beds…

and the promise of sushi when the sun begins to set…

a fine day to turn 52.


No stopping it now…

Spring is here and the studio is hopping…

Week three and I finally got a decent nights’ sleep and the long slow climb out of pneumonia is trending upward…

Creeping out of that fog it feels like the world has spun into high gear and I am a bit dazed. After the long cold months of dreaming my way through the winter… every corner of the studio has a new project calling…in some cases screaming…at me.

The new printer has arrived and we are preparing to launch the sale of prints published in our own studio and sold exclusively on our website next week. Emails back and forth with Ross, the webmaster…and testing of the new machine…and producing an announcement to be mailed out have the office hopping…

Outside the next phase of construction is underway in the studio garden… we’re going greener with some new raised beds in which to plant veggies to replenish our weakened immune systems…

Back inside the easel has this year’s mega panel endeavor waiting patiently for my energy level to return to normal. The panel is ambitious and I can’t wait to tackle the intense detail…so far it’s been weeks of building up the ground work interrupted by weeks of crawling back to bed…today for the first time I feel that tide turning.

And then last week my share of the Jupiter Moon Farm fall shearing arrived… this time I ordered raw fleece rather than the processed yarn. It is glorious and I won’t have to wait now until the May Sheep and Wool Festival to sit and spin my cares away. I am going to try and use this as a great big carrot to lead me back to the easel and only after a good days work of painting…allow myself to sit at the spinning wheel and let the healing fibers fly.

Through it all,  right at my side, has been my little apprentice…

Finnegan is the healthiest of the bunch around here. She has both of her legs back under her now and is rehabbing nicely. She is more than ready to run with the big dogs again but it will be 6 more weeks or so of restricted exercise before she can really let loose.  While I was writing this blog she decided that box of fleece left on the floor in the bathroom should be rearranged… the trail leads through the kitchen, down the hall, and right to my easel chair…

I get the message…back to work !

Stay tuned for updates on all these projects and more… H


Thinking ahead…

The call came in at 3:30am from the hard working vet that Finn was out of surgery and doing well. I had caved in at midnight so it was early this morning that I got the message. Now my flu ravaged body may still be weary but my spirits are high. By this time next week all members of my little family should be off of antibiotics and we can say good riddance to displaysed  elbows and rattling pneumonic lungs and maybe even to … snow ???

I’ve got to pass along our thanks to all of you who have been checking in and offering help and that all important compassionate ear of support… you will never know how those words and gestures of kindness reach in and lift us up.

One person who has done some heavy lifting in that department is our friend Saren. She has talked me down off of many a ledge especially with dear Finnegan’s trials. I was checking in with her early this morning and felt like a corner has been turned. The sun is shining, there is a definite warming in the air, and when I took the time to look I found the first signs of spring in the studio yard…

Can I get a witness ???

Through the darkest days of this long hard winter I’ve been taking myself to one of the happiest and most anticipated events of my year…the Sheep and Wool Festival !

The warm sunny first weekend in May when the Howard County Fairgrounds fill up with color and fiber and everything sheep. The crowd is full of my kind of people…old back to nature hippies who dress in sensible clothes and parade their knitted and woven creations and scour through the straw strewn farm shed stall to replenish their supplies of yarn and fleece and needles and sheep dip, etc.

There are many happy memories there for us and I’m so excitedly looking forward to making that trip this year…we may go both days !

My spinning wheel waits behind the snow shovel…

And I’ve got one great big panel up on the easel that needs to be finished before then…

But by golly I can feel it getting closer…I am dreaming now of coming home with a nice bag of fleece in the truck and oiling up the old wheel and sitting on the warm sunny porch with Finnegan stealing bits of wool and running down the walkway with it flying up over her shoulders in triumph…



Gesso Presto !

Betsy wins the challenge today…

and thanks to the many who chimed in to help as well…

I decided to bring the panel into the kitchen to provide better light and warmth and set up a spot light at a raking angle, then started with a thin sanding sponge. Some grit on one side and sponge only on the other. Dipped in a little water it quickly brought up a slurry of gesso and in seconds had repaired an imperfection. The key turned out to be starting with the grit side and water…just a little bit…and then wiping in a broader circle with the sponge side which quickly smoothed it back down.                                                                                                                              

The panel is 32″ x 48″ which is a lot of real estate when you are bending over and squinting and it took almost 2 hours of work to reach a satisfactory surface. I was apparently gloating for just a moment and when I took it outside so I could clean up the studio kitchen the wind knocked it over onto Finnegan’s water dish. UGH. Another 15 minutes of repairing those dings and it was back in shape.

Now safely returned to the warmth of the studio I am going to let it dry overnight before proceeding with the oil out that I do as the next step. It will be interesting to see if the surface is not too smooth or if this gesso will provide enough tooth. I’d hate to have to take an abrasive back to it.

 So thanks again Betsy, the sponge wins !


Gesso Messo

By far the most annoying part, for me, of being a painter is preparing the panels. Last fall, and then again this spring, I did a marathon panel prep and now have a trailer full of various sizes to choose from. All have five or six coats of gesso already on them but there is still a good deal of texture revealed from the portrait grade canvas that I use…and I do not like this.

On some paintings where I use lots of paint and deliberately rough up the surface, like roiling seas and wind blown landscapes, that texture is just fine and gets hidden quickly in favor of the brushstrokes.

For other works, like finely detailed still lifes and interiors, I want the texture to be of my design, not the canvases.

I have experimented and struggled for years now to produce a reliable and smooth gesso finish. And the first three or four coats which I apply with a wide putty knife go on great. But once that weave begins to fill in every single tiny speck of dust of dog hair or wooly caterpillar fluff gets caught in the sweep of the blade and drags a gully across the panel.  UGH !

I tried to get a photo of this to help illustrate the problem…but didn’t have the patience to light it right…here’s a shot of the gesso I have found to be the best for the final coats… Art Boards Gesso which I get from Dick Blick. (This is not a plug for them…just a reference since I had some difficulty finding it in the usual haunts. I have found it to be the best as far as pliability on a rigid surface as well as having just the right tooth for the oils I use.)

gesso

I’m eager to get to the easel to work on some of the new ideas I collected while on Martha’s Vineyard last month and I worked all day yesterday to get a sketch ready for the first one up. Last night I hauled out a panel and applied a final coat of the gesso to dry overnight. In the light of morning most of the gesso had smoothed out but there were dozens of those nasty streaks so I got out the sander and took it back down to a uniform level…which or course sanded off more gesso than I wanted so I decided to thin it down and re-apply with a brush.

Disaster. It dries too fast and the brushstrokes become clumpy and no amount of raking light can reveal all the imperfections. With nothing to lose I went back to the putty knife and had a little bit more success leveling out the hills and valleys. But not much.

I’ll have to let this dry and then give it a wet/sand finish which is very time consuming and a big mess…but it does work. You slowly build up a slurry by taking a wet-sandpaper of 400 or 500 grit and progress in small increments. The advantage is that you do not remove any gesso…just smooth it around but it’s tedious work and I am low on patience at the moment.

I’d welcome any thoughts and suggestions on how you other artists handle the gesso messo.

For now that’s enough whining !!! …as Pat says…everything happens for a reason so I must need the practice…and it’s a beautiful grey November day here in the studio yard…

autumn-09

take note if you will …that pole leaning on the lilac bush, circled in red, is the one that drove itself into my sinuses a couple days ago…quite a wake up call…doing just fine now …and the lingering soreness is all the reminder I need to get back to painting thank you !

 


The BEST Neighbors

The accounting department gave us the go ahead to make an equipment upgrade and install a roof vent on the trailer. One of the trickiest, and most nerve wracking parts of my job is the safe transportation of finished artwork. We are responsible for getting a years’ worth of paintings up to Massachussetts, over the bridge and onto the cape, over the ocean and onto the island, and into the gallery parking lot….in the middle of summer.

I have learned the hard way that nothing, absolutely NOTHING, must touch the surface of a painting especially in transit. The slightest jarring can cause abrasions and the heat that builds up inside of a truck or the trailer can be wicked. Packing day is usually as close as we come to divorce around here but if we take it nice and slowly and mother nature cooperates we do find great humor in the efforts we go to to keep the paintings safe.

I found a solar powered roof vent which claims to be weatherproof and our super neighbor Sue saw me up on the ladder and came right over to help. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to let her lab pup Jed come over and finally meet Finnegan up close and personal. They have been fence buddies since Finn’s arrival but she needed to bulk up before playing with the big boys. They were terrific and are best buds now…

Finnegan and Jed finally meet on the same side of the fence

Jed wants a better look

Then Zola came home from her fishing trip and the whole family got into the act …

all smiles

Sue installing the vent

Zola and Jed

As my Aunt Sallie says… “There is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, that two women cannot do before noon ” !

Many thanks to my pit crew…

Two weeks from today we’ll be on our way to the opening !


Framing…take 2

It’s almost 4pm and I’m taking a break from the second go round of framing.

This is a profession I know well. I have been a picture framer off and on for thirty years and for most of that time I made a living doing it. Now it’s only once or twice a  year that the studio is transformed into a frame shop. The workspace will never never be as small and confined as the closet in which we worked at the Harvard Coop but it is crowded this week in here and Finnegan and I are stumbling all over each other…

which tool next

She has a very delicate way of maneuvering past tools and frames and original oil paintings and tiptoeing her way to find her favorite squeeky toy. She is quite the musician and I’m pretty sure she chooses among the three we have here according to their scales.  We’re currently reviewing our Frank and Julie party mix and she is partial to the Frankie Capp Orchestra swing section. (You think I’m kidding …)

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the still life table cum framing table…

still life table becomes framing table

Is that art imitating life … or …me imitating art ?

Anyway…16 days and counting…back to work.


Let the framing begin…

Already knee deep in July…or is that the corn being knee high by the 4th of July ?

Either way the framing has begun for the Granary Show and here’s a look at our morning excursion to fetch the frames and paintings. We arranged to have the largest paintings done at the same time which meant only one trip up with the trailer. Both the frameshop and the photographer’s studio are within 5 miles of one another and about 20 minutes drive from the studio.

My apprentice was concerned when we hooked up the trailer that she might not be needed for this trip…thus the batting of the big brown eyelashes…

please can I come along

How could I resist one so ready to work…

apprentice is ready

And off we go… this is the shop I worked at while saving and preparing to give painting my full time attentions.

framers workshop

They are the friendliest and most helpful folks around and make it a true pleasure to work with them…

donna and laura do their magic

laura patton

loaded and ready for the next stop

With the frames loaded it was on to see John…

john in his studio

John Corcoran, the king of the camera, is the man behind the magic that allows me to bring my work to the big and small screen. Every painting goes to him to be shot in multiple formats so that I have a permanent and accurate record of the image. Nothing gets by this detail guy and I am forever grateful for his stunning work, jovial good nature…and steamed dumplings ! You can check out some of his own creations at Sterling Commercial Photography.

loading the big one

He and Pat always have way too much fun…

pat and john yuck it up

But time’s a-wasting and we’ve gotta get this show back on the road and home to the studio which is beginning it’s annual pre-show craziness…

studio begins to get crowded

My apprentice and my Lackey have just come in to tell me to get off of this machine and get a move on…

stay tuned…

MV show opening 23 days and counting !


Apprentice gets to work…

We’re in full tilt show-prep mode here in the studio and our young apprentice has been keeping a tight schedule.   I’m trying to make up for lost time and get a few more paintings finished and this next one has been rumbling around inside my head since it came to me in a dream last winter.  The stars aligned and the rain went away and the model was free so Finnegan gathered the boots and teacups and headed out for the pool early this morning .

apprentice snaps her paws

As prop assistant, she is in charge of making sure the set up is complete…

assistant approves props

I have been using her pool lately for everything but swimming…besides the mosquito factory, it is now a staging  pond for spoon blanks that I split a couple days ago and am carving up when there is an extra hour in the day… it’s all Follansbee’s fault… http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/ …but Finn’s  job is to keep me focused and to make any adjustments needed in the setup… like pushing the model a little to the right…

a little to the left

It’s exhausting work, and she’s nudging me off of this machine so she can take an afternoon nap.

I’ve got the panel oiled out and the sketch done so it’s time to lay down some paint… catch ya latah.