A sunny crisp winter morning greets me here in the studio after a long quiet month of healing days. Slow and steady progress finds me able to negotiate the short commute across the lane to the studio yard and to catch up on the piles of paperwork and take short naps in the warming sunshine.

Now that the new body parts are settling in it is time to rouse the sleeping muses. It is a somewhat disconcerting phenomenon that the creative energy levels have been slow to resurface and I’m just going to have to try and trick those atrophied muscles back into gear. Perhaps just sitting in my easel chair will spark something. Or maybe aroma therapy ? sniffing an open jar of turpentine ?

Well, while my muses have been on vacation… some of my favorite artist friends have been working hard and I wanted to pass along news of these spectacular shows that are must sees…

Robert Jackson
Bob’s crazy quirky humor is on display in a group of stunning new works at the Gallery Henoch in NYC. This show was delayed due to flooding in the Chelsea Art District after Hurricane Sandy and it is winding up now but well worth a look to see the fun that his boxes have gotten up to lately.

Scott Fraser
Oh the pleasures of viewing new works by Scott. In a few days, Dec. 15, his solo show will open at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in SF. Below is a photo of the invitation which was slightly bruised in transit by the US postal system but it will provide a link for you to see more of the current work.

Michael Allen and JD Wissler
A study in… studies. These two friends have been part of a group of plein air artists who have spent hours and indeed years together out in the wilds of central Pennsylvania capturing the atmospheres on canvas. Their work has been featured in an article in the current issue of Plein Air Magazine.

My idle brushes are lifted to them all and with a bit more

Mahl Sticks and Such

A rare snowy day this winter and I find myself at sixes and sevens bumbling around the studio…eager to get the next painting up on the easel but there are gremlins about. I have a stable full of panels that are prepped but stand awaiting their final coat of gesso…the good stuff. This means that, once I decide what I’m going to paint and find the appropriate sized panel, put that gesso on and let it dry, then do the final smoothing wetsand… I have at least a day if all goes well before I can start the next painting.

Today, there was little cooperation from the muses. After telling myself not to try to do this without a drop cloth, I dumped a full quart of gesso on my favorite handmade rug…after I told myself to put on a smock…there went the shirt and pants…etc. Even when it did dry and I started the wetsand there were troubling areas that seemed to wipe completely down to the canvas so I had to re-apply and wait for that to dry and then sand again…twice !

So, while I practice patience and wait for that hopefully last coat to dry… it’s time to get back into the blog world. Last week my friend Peter Follansbee had an entry on his blog about the painting he is doing on his groovy new toolchest.

I noticed that he was using a mahl stick..

The simplest of painting tools it is basically a stick used to rest your hand on to steady it and the brush. It’s especially helpful for fine detail.

The one I’ve been using for decades I made from a twisty branch I brought back from Tucson. I sharpened the end, put a superball on it and wrapped that with a piece of soft leather. Wrapped this way the ball provides a soft pivot point that won’t marr the painted surface as you rest that end on the panel.

This one is about two feet long but has it’s limitations.

Then I watched a video that Bob Jackson has out now in anticipation of his newly published book,

Click on his painting above, The Feast, to view it’s creation. It’s a crazy slideshow look into his work process and along the way I saw him using his mahl stick. Couldn’t really tell because of the speed of the video but it looked to be somehow attached or anchored at the top of the panel or on his easel. This gave him a nice pivot point which seemed sturdier than my floating version.

So…I looked around the studio and found… The Niblick.

It’s an old wooden golf club that was used as a prop in the painting, Tea Time…

and now it is reincarnated as painting tool. It has just the right flexibility from the thin wooden shaft, and the iron head provides a nice weight, and the hook of the wedge is perfect for catching the top of the panel, or cross pieces on my easel. Because that edge is sharp and hard, I softened it by tying a piece of leather on and also wrapped the handle with a chamois for extra comfort there.

It’s just the thing for those tiniest details…

The painting I just finished yesterday was quite a bit larger than the one featured above and when the stick was hooked over the top of that panel it did not reach low enough for me to work on the bottom half of the painting. So… I dug around in the golf bag and came up with a 5 Iron. Not as asthetically pleasing with it’s metal shaft but the sturdiness of the metal seems to be needed for the extra length. I do have to close the curtains when the sun rakes in though…it shines off the silver and casts wierd light onto the panel surface.

Well the sunset came on quickly and the snow covered branches are blue against the darkening sky. I’m going to go see if that panel is dry enough to sand and then work on tuning up the sketch. Then it’s home to the fireside with Herself and Finn…and the snowy walk home will make it all the warmer.

Gallery 1261 Show

The Reality Boost Show is running now until the end of November in Denver. It’s exciting for me to be a part of this exhibit and to be showing among such stellar painters. The gallery website has a show preview … and some nifty little red dots !

Kudos and Congrats go out to one of those stellar artists…Bob Jackson, who has just had a painting purchased by the Brandywine River Museum for their collection. A well deserved honor.

And further congrats to artist friend Steve Mills who was also part of that Brandywine River Museum show, Reality Check (show continues until November 18th).  Steve’s paintings have received nods from many of the reviewers and his recent show at Gallery Henoch showcases some outstanding new work.