One of those days

Feeling fractalled.

Today started out just fine.

Beautiful December sunrise light bouncing all around us as Finn and I made our icy commute from log cabin to studio. She opted for an early morning nap while I sat at the kitchen table and clicked the knitting needles and gave the muses plenty of open space.

Last night I put the last touches on a portrait of my pal Peter. It was wonderful to come over these last few days knowing I would be spending it with him. But now, time to move on. Usually, and by that I mean 99% of the time, by the time I am winding down one painting there are at least two or three others competing for the easel. But by the time Herself came over mid-morning she found me roaming aimlessly around the studio…still pondering.

We sat together at the table and she listened as I rambled and a few ideas did start to pop. She reminded me to write them down, so I made some quick doodles, and the energy lifted. She left to do some shopping and I sat down at the computer and began playing with some of the thousands of photo references on file.

At sixty, I know that it takes more than a list of subjects, or a collection of still life objects to start working on a composition. In order to sustain the energy required to give my total attention, over the course of the days and weeks it takes to create a painting, I must feel the spark. My way in. It can be the challenge of a new subject, or the challenge of rendering a familiar subject in a new way, or a particular emotional connection, or the whimsy of finally telling the story behind a few words, which held the promise of a great title, and had been scribbled on a, now well worn and dog-eared, slip of paper taped to the easel.

I KNOW it when it clicks…
and so far today…
nada.

I keep telling those who ask, that being a mature artist means I know when to get out of my own way. After six hours of sitting here at the computer scanning for that spark, and sketching and re-working a new composition which I originally had thought was going to be a sure winner, one which would be easy to tweak and get to the panel quickly…I can see now how I fell right down the rabbit hole and into that old trap..quite firmly planted directly in my own way. If the muses don’t show up…there ain’t gonna be a ball game.

When Pat came home from her errands I was hopelessly lost. I explained what I thought the problem with that composition was and asked for her fresh eyes. Eh…no sparks on her end either. So, I threw in the towel and decided to pour my vapid thoughts all over this page.

What I’ve come up with, whilst writing, is that this current crisis of creativity is yesterday’s problem.

I’ll set the stage…

I had an hour to fill while I waited for Katie’s Women’s Study class to call me for a facetime thingy…something about which I was very nervous. They had been in the Granary Gallery last week using the artwork there as fodder for a discussion about gender in art.

Here’s a shot, which I believe one of the gallery associates took, of them studying my painting, Celeste envies Ruth.

 

After their sojourn, Katie thought it would be interesting to pose their questions and thoughts directly to the artist. I got a tutoring session on how to make the technology work and we scheduled a date.

So, while my nervous self was waiting for the phone to ring yesterday morning, I picked up a pencil…and BAM the Muses snuck up behind me, grabbed the pencil and in minutes they had fleshed out one of those old dog-eared notations-of-an-idea which had laid dormant, after several failed attempts to work out a solid composition, on other fractalled days like today when I had tried to show up for work without them.

You probably won’t see what I see here, but this is the sketch…

Five minutes later the phone rang, and I had a grand old time answering their questions and listening to their thoughts. I particularly loved them pondering which apron was Ruth and which Celeste, and their takes on why. They sure left me thinking, and that may have been why the Muses were exploring their own interpretations of gender roles in art.

Originally I had just a title, A Boston Marriage.

I’ll leave it there for now, it’s entire evolution won’t be complete until this fat lady sings…
but armed with this new sketch, and the lingering energy of the collective Woman’s Studies class, I was eager to get to work.

I already had my models in waiting…and waiting..and waiting…since I first approached them with this request over two years ago.  And we have plans to see them for dinner this weekend…but scheduling modeling time now that the Muses have arrived means postponing the fun of digging into this painting for potentially days or weeks.

And there you have it.
I needed a workaround.
Alas, I stepped all over the creative flow with today’s failed attempts to “fill in” the gap between that project, for which I have found the spark, with something equally compelling that will be the work of days rather than weeks.

Frustrating to waste one of these precious days when I have nothing but lifting brushes on the agenda. This month has far too many interruptions on the calendar to allow me to pull up the drawbridge. That will happen the minute the new year bells chime.

So, rather than call this day a complete wash, I have now used you dear readers to help me work through this…

And Herself,
who has just texted me this from her snuggly sofa in the cabin…

“What painting are you working on ? Asking for a friend (insert red heart emoji)”

My response… I’m writing a blog about NOT coming up with a painting idea.

Stay frosty out there…

H

 


The Mystery Unravels…

Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

THIS JUST IN…

Remember this painting…

The Spinning Loft

And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground

Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.

I want to introduce you to Paula Marcoux…her delicious website is here…click.

PAULA

Marcoux

Writer
Speaker
Consultant
teacher

I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.

My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.

My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating. 

I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.

So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff.
I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.

From Peter then Paula,

PF -So the question is:
Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?

Who would know?

PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.

PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016

If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.

There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later

Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…

PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…

Then…

PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221) 

And again a day later…

PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824). 

Huge expansions came  by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9). 
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…

PM –

Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families. 

Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):

The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary

By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)

 

Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian

By William Thomas Davis

 

History of the Town of Plymouth

By James Thacher

Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.

And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.

If you want to learn more about such endeavors,
I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research,
and I’ll make it really easy for you…
Visit their website Plymouth Craft…by clicking here.

Good people
doing meaningful work

and teaching others
and passing it on.
It takes a village and I’m grateful to Paula for taking the time to provide us with some answers. When I get home, I’m going to follow the breadcrumbs she’s left.
Thanks to all of you for tuning in.
And thanks to  Liquid Web 
for making this blog work like lightening.
Now that this thing can keep up with me I will be posting more regularly.
Stay frosty out there and I’ll let you know when the brushes are once again…flying.

The Spinning Loft

The Spinning Loft  –  30 x 40

This one got personal.
I am a spinner.

We have one more stop to make in Mystic.
A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building

And this is the Spinning Loft,
below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about,
and you can read more of it’s history there as well.

But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space.
Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air,
the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces,
the sensuous flow of the carded fiber,
it positively sings history.

The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long,
and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company,
which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.

Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…

and the long walk back in technology…

And there’s a mystery…

As is so often the case,
when I returned from one of several visits to the museum
and reviewed the thousands of reference photos,
I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.

Those frisky muses.

Round about my birthday,
the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south,
and, being a carver of woody things,
I showed him this part of the painting,
whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.

I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it.
I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research,
but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.

These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving…
well…from my rendering of the carving.

That should be sorta fun.

For me,
it’s all about the peaceful art…
of spinning.

 

 

 


Follansbee for Sale

Taking a quick break from the easel to alert my readers to this flash sale…

Peter just put a whole bunch of spoons, furniture and even carved knives up for sale on his blog… Click Here To See

These are all one of a kind pieces from the Master Carver Himself…

And they won’t last long.. so if you are interested I encourage you to click on over to his blog asap.

You are most welcome.


All my bags are packed…

Oversouth Willow

I’m ready to go…

with a HUGE thanks to Alex for his help this morning,
and all summer,
the trailer is now packed with
the paintings for the Granary Show !

We head out before his Ma’s crows get wind of
tomorrow’s sunrise.

First stop, The Follansbees,
where we will get to see his new workshop
and enjoy some time with the family.

Then a hop skip and a jump over to Wood’s Hole
and all aboard we get on the ferry
to the little island of Martha’s Vineyard.

I want to thank you all for the many kinds words
of support and encouragement in response to
this year’s body of work.

I can’t tell you enough
what a difference it makes.

When our heads can fit back into the studio door,
I’ll check back in and let you know how the movie premere
went, and how goes the show.

Meanwhile,
you all stay frosty out there
and be safe.

Yours in heat exhaustion
and just a touch of butterflies.
H


Got a letter the other day…

Ex Libris

From the Follansbee…

telling me the website was dark.

Three days of inquiries later…she’s back up and running.

Apologies to anyone out there,
at least one of you is out there,in case you were looking to for some artwork to browse through while sipping that steaming mug of tea.

Another snowstorm is collecting energy in the wings and poised to bounce around the east coast for the next couple days. They want a blizzard on the Vineyard, already see that high tides have flooded major roads there so stay home you islanders !

Around here they want a modest 8+ inches which, as I look out of the studio windows now almost three weeks after our blizzard, would just about double what is currently left and clinging to our little patch of the planet.

The muses have been particularly pushy this week and, after fighting and fussing and generally whining Herself’s ears off…I have given in and changed course.

I threw out days of work and dozens of sketches and notes and am following their lead. They are tapping into a deeper place in my soul and, now that I’ve stopped fighting, I feel the energy shifting.

Did I need this website glitch right now ?
Maybe I just needed to check in with my external guides…you all.
So, the spinach pie has cooled while I’ve been writing,
and after a quick lunch,
and a check to see where the snow shovels ended up after the last storm,
I get to head back to work.

Happily,
but holding on tight.
Be safe out there my friends.


5am…enough light to see

That’s the note I found this morning, on the studio kitchen table, written on a scrap of cardboard, with a sharpie, found beneath the pile of framing tools, which were left untidied, after a long day of framing, and print making, and general mayhem making.

The Follansbee arrived just after I put out the lanterns last night, stopping for a pallet on the studio floor, as he made his way home from a week of teaching woody things down at Roy Underhill’s place in NC. So, the note was all we got to see of him this time, but we had a good visit on his way down south last weekend.

the master carvers tea

His hair is long enough now to tie in the back and a good bit whiter. But the sparkle is still there in those eyes. Gonna catch up with him and the family in the fall, so that’s ok then.

The day dawns, a little later for my own self than the master carver, and Herself has left to ship two new paintings out to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery. There is an opening for that show on July 3rd, in Santa Fe, so today you get the first peek at them…

All Her Eggs  – 16 x 20

All Her Eggs 

Scape  –  12 x 13

Scape

From the sharply pointed pen of Mark Twain…

“Put all your eggs in one basket. And watch that basket.”

Eggs courtesy of Dru and Homer, who farm a CSA just over the hill. They are as delicious to eat as they are to paint. The eggs.

And just out that window and a little to the right is the little wren. Always.
When Zoe is here, she relies on the wren’s first trill of the morning to signal that it is ok to get her giggly self out of bed and start her day.
In the early summer she has a different job.
This summer she has built her nest in the birdhouse just above the garlic bed.
I wait with lusty anticipation all year for the garlic to send forth those gorgeously delectable curly scapes, and this season, her babies hatched on the very same day they appeared.

She spends her busy days now bouncing from Ted and Polly’s wind chime, to dancing from scape to scape.
So, there ya go. Ted is having a blast, directing the muses every which way I turn around here.

Look for these two garden graces to be winging their way out west this week. And if you are in Santa Fe, please stop by to visit Michael and Christie Sugarman and say hey for me.

Now it’s on to more framing…
stay frosty out there.

 


Can’t wait, can’t wait …

Peter’s new video is out…

I’d much rather be sitting next to him on a bench carving spoons, but this promises to be a classic tutorial and I know he’s been practicing so mine’s in the mail.

Here’s the link to his website where there is a video preview. Click Here

Be prepared…if you go down this road you will have more fun than a human ought to have and you will never need another session of therapy or artificial mood enhancer.

While you are on his site, which he has just updated, there are tons of other Follansbee items of interest including other videos, his workshop schedule and some of his very own spoons and other woodworking projects for sale.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Please share with your friends, woodworking pals and otherwise.

Happy carving !!!!


In a light filled stable kinda mind…

Stable Light

Immersing myself in the world of Bill Copperthwaite with the arrival of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s new book, A Man Apart.

Picture

The earth is shifting below my studio feet…
and I suspect it will be life altering.

More to come…