It is such a pleasure to look out on this farm when I’m working. And this winter, for the first time since we turned the bungalow next door into my studio, we had a real winter. This was the morning after the first storm. Finnegan and I were the only ones out in the neighborhood… just as the birds were waking up. I spend most of my days, in this corner of Pennsylvania, painting corners of Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve waited for three years now to find a way into painting what is right outside my very own window. It was the warm golden light that glowed from within the stand of drying cornshalks in that morning’s sunrise that did it for me. I started with the treeline on the horizon and then the barn, that magnificent old dame and then the cornfield layering color after color in the foreground in preparation for toning it all down to create that field of white. Good thing as it turned out. Halfway through the painting I looked out and all of that lovely corn had been harvested. A moment’s beauty…fleeting but recorded now to remind me how to see.
And a fine good morning to you all from the studio. Yes, it’s been a while since I checked in here on the blog thingy…but it’s SPRING…and I’ve been working overtime both at the easel and…in the garden.
As this life flies by, I have been paying more attention to slowing down.
My vow to spend more time in the sky chair, which swung empty on its swivel hook for most of last year, and to spend more time with my wife, coming home in time for Jeopardy most of the winter, and to let the brushes flow at their own pace, surprising myself discovering new ways to say old truths… and grabbing all the spare minutes in between to play…in the garden.
We have survived the major tree removal project and the sky has opened up for sunshine to reach some areas of the garden for the first time in a hundred years. I am seeing some changes already, especially in the greenhouse corner of the studio yard. Here then is a tour of the very much “working” progress.
Got to start with a glam shot of my favorite day of every year…the opening blossoms of our Chilmark beach rose…with the extra shot of sunshine she will be receiving now we should be treated to quite a show.
Then, the welcome to my garden view…
Wood chips provided by those dead trees.
This corner is tremendously satisfying as the new bed is brimming with salad greens, and beets, carrots, onions and kale coming along. I confess that I have no idea what that tall green veg is…yes I labeled the seedlings but that label read Kale. It looks more like a broccoli thing. I’ll get a better pic and ask for ID help.
Then a few steps further along we have the splendid newly refurbished arbor bed. The traditional herb garden has now been annexed with the greenhouse bed which I planted yesterday with a whole bunch of seedlings that I actually managed to raise to more than the first two leaf stage.
Then we get serious, and very messy.
The spinach bed, planted way back in March, has been steadily producing but the cover came off pronto when it started to bolt way too early. That thin bed on the right had held a crop of winter carrots which I planted way too late. They were producing full heads of greens but the roots were being chomped by some creature so I yanked them. If I can find a space between raindrops today I’m going to add a layer of new compost and plant edamame there.
The bed beyond, with the two pea towers, is an overachiever. The garlic planted there last fall has been, and will remain, covered in the hopes of deterring the dreaded alium leaf miner. Everything else is shooting up. A local garden guru said this has been an old fashioned spring for us. I really feel that vibe. A gradual climbing in temps, increase in rainfall with some good days of sun and no deep frosts. We have turned that corner now and it is wonderful to put the ice trackers away.
Some big progress in the back forty…
We got this new bed, which I am dubbing the Very Large Array, almost finished. Not sure where I’m gonna find the dirt to fill her up but I can hear the carrots and parsnips whispering yes.
And now for Ruth…
This experiment may not look like much at the moment but it’s really fun. While waiting for warmer temps to attempt some planting inside this bed, I threw all sorts of things in the outside bales. Extra broccolini seedlings (I won’t grow that next year…lots of time and space taking flats for Zero return. (some seen here below)
The leeks, and the onions which I nurtured in February… are thrilled to have a home and are soldiering up the perimeter like they were born for the job. Some carrots, kale and extra sage are in there as well as sunflowers and climbers for the Ruth Stout Memorial Archway.
But Potato Row is the star.
All varieties are up now. You can see here how the back wall of hay bales is collapsing into the potatoes. They are on the uphill side of the sloping yard so they have to fight gravity as well as decomposition. I am going to let them do what they think is best and hope that the veg planted in them will overcome the drooping attitude.
There are some persistent weeds coming through the hay all over the bed. I will be using the mountain of wood chips to fill in some walking pathways in here and all over the rest of the yard. It can just be seen out there beyond the fence…which is part of the problem… I need Kory’s help for that but we’ll get her done.
Elsewhere on the estate…
The blueberry bed is thriving.
The much neglected far corner has received a facelift incorporating some Ruth Stout hay mulching with shredded hardwood to tamp down the thready weeds and help establish a new blackberry bed. I saved some Soloman Seal from beneath the pin oak which was taken down at the log cabin and it seems to be quite happy in it’s new home around the maple tree.
And then we swing back down to the easel window, along the rose bed…
A clever shot of the view which the birds and squirrels have of the artiste…from without…
and her view from within…
Some re-positioned birdhouses…
And David’s gazing ball…
and the apprentice telling me that’s enough…get back to work.
She’s right. It’s time to get back to my day job.
I’m having just as much fun inside…working on a new series of a very old house on the Vineyard. We will check in on that a bit later.
This morning my favorite mystery writer, Laurie R King had a post on her facebook page about the fiddleheads that she scored at a market in San Francisco and tried for the first time. It reminded me, among other things that I wanted to let readers know that her latest Mary Russell novel,
is a fantastic read. I usually save her novels to listen to when I paint especially complicated paintings because she is similarly in love with detail and I get swept away with her thoughtful prose. Makes the time fly at the easel and I always learn something new.
So run to your local bookstore and add this to that pile by your favorite chair. And then go take a walk in this fine spring air and hunt for fiddleheads. Warning, not all ferns are edible so do the research, or trust your local farmers market.
I am working too hard with the brushes to walk amongst the woods, but I am yours…
Yes, I am painting. Most of the hours of most of the days. But the apprentice has lately been insisting on beauty breaks…
And, after the winter of discontent that we all shivered through, I am taking deep breaths of every single blooming flower in my garden..
My beloved Beach Rose and irises and even the daisy that always reminds me of J O’H
and, with a cart full of color, and a pair of sturdy gloves I am taking full advantage of every single space between the brushes to get outside and work in the dirt.
Herself chuckles and grins as she reminds me of the day, sometime in mid-January, when I hung my winter weary head and swore I was not going to do ANY gardening this year.
Certainly no new plants, and definitely not the heavy lifting of the vegetable beds. No, I was going to keep that head down low and focus focus focus on the paintings. And right up until about March I was right on track with that dark pledge and doing fine.
Then some plague germs bullied their way into the studio and I spent the next few months crawling out of a very deep hole of un-health. (Spell check didn’t like that last hyphen and neither did I.) Which has thrown some curve balls of perspective at me.
BUT… the veil has lifted. (Insert a choir of angels here please) and all verdant bets are off… Life is so damned short and… you simply can’t keep a gardener’s soul from a wheelbarrow filled with marigolds…
And then there are those newly revised beds that I dreamed of through the wintery gauze of tissues…
and the annex to the asparagus bed that wants to try growing some beans this year…
Everywhere I look there are things growing…
And chairs that call to sit a spell…
And so yes, I am painting, but I am also living large in the tiny corner of the planet that we are taming. And, when the brushes begin to whine, I settle back into my chair at the easel with a tiny token of the garden wonders to temp the muses…
May your paths be filled with clover and strewn with beach rose petals… now go out there and grab a trowel.
OK that’s a bit lofty (and probably influenced by the book I am listening to about the French resistance), but I have reached my limit…
My webmaster called it a “brute force attack”, something to do with blacklists and hackers, alls I know is that for the last year I have been flooded with bogus blog comments. Seriously, daily dozens of ridiculously worded ersatz appreciations of everything from content to spelling of blog related matter in an effort to get me to “Approve” them and allow entry to the inner sanctum. And today… I have pulled the plug on those brutes.
If I unchecked the correct button, comments will no longer be allowed on my blog. Not really a big deal except for the handful of loyal readers, you KNOW who you are, and the two or three others who occasionally wish to be heard on a given matter. This shouldn’t affect any of you who look and lurk and generally like what you see here, and it won’t apply to all the facebook readers, but it hopefully will free up my emailbox for the countless other legitimate spam which tries to lodge there for my considered approval.
Meanwhile, life and creativity and many happy hours of painting continue on here in the studio. I’m working on a special commission which allows me to bring some blue skies and bright light into the last of these winter days. No sneak peaks since it is surprise !
But there is a whole lot of new work burgeoning on the spring horizon and the hint of an exciting new show to announce soon. Stay tuned and stay frosty out there…and…all you attackers…
keep your comments to yourself !
I feel better already.
Above painting, with flags at the ready, is Trinity and is currently waving it’s tri-colours over the hills of Santa Fe, at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery.
When I settle in to work on a big painting my focus narrows, the creative energy tightens, and all the weeks of slogging through pondering compositional elements and deciding what to keep in and what to leave out, of sketching and panel prepping, and of reworking those sketches and printing out piles of detail reference photos…it all reaches a crescendo and, like the stretching of a rubber band, it suddenly snaps ! …and the first brushes hit the canvas. So it was, all that creative momentum strung taut, when I began the large painting, Severe Clear, for this summer’s Granary Gallery show.
But now, some 300 easel hours later, I am looking back and see, on my camera’s photo stream, that there were some wonderful moments in the spaces between all those long days of lifting brushes. When I paid homage to my most favorite springtime rituals. When I literally stopped to smell the roses, and to enjoy the first of the fiddleheads, and the first grilled pizza of the season, the annual pilgrimage to the Sheep and Wool Festival, to sit of an afternoon in the studio garden with loving family, and to enjoy this wonderful life we have together.
I’ll be telling you about the rest of the project, of which this painting is a keystone work, in little bit, a series of paintings which feature a Marine Hospital on Martha’s Vineyard that is about to open a new chapter in its historic life, but in the meantime…here’s a sneak peak at the big one, Severe Clear, and some of the studio highlights experienced along the way…
The panel is up and ready
The first beach rose blooms
The sky and water begin to emerge
First Reesers of the seaon
Distant details begin
The fiddleheads arrive
Tiny tiny boats
A morning in the sky chair
Deciding to reposition the ferry
First grilled pizza of the season
Couldn’t see the forest for the photos
Flag day came and went
Gulliver’s roses kept me company at my easel window
At four weeks the palette was inches deep
Peg and Sir Sid sit a spell
My pal John delivers the frames
The garlic scapes, the garlic scapes !!!!
In the truck for Herself to take to my other pal John, the professional photographer