Night Watchman

Night Watchman  –  22 x 36

Vincent has returned…

But it started with this sketch drawn last summer
on the first night he showed up for duty…

Then came this “Study for Nightwatch”,
painted to keep the image fresh in my mind
and to play around with the light…

Once I got that worked out, I was ready to go…but…
You see I had to wait for the sunflower to grow up.

The back story of this bunny’s journey from early spring garden bed
to his position on studio night watch
was chronicled in the Painter’s Notes for the study.

I’ve copied them here for you to read…
but you already know the ending…

Painter’s Notes for Study for Nightwatch

You know that first warm sunny day
when you understand that winter has
at least one more round in her
but damnation you are going
to clean out a garden bed…any bed.

On just such a day last March
we both huddled in our warmest fleece,
Herself putting her boots up in the sky chair
and myself blowing the cobwebs off of my weeding bench,
we passed a lovely hour or two
warming old bones in the afternoon sun.

I was hoeing away happily
when I saw something odd.

Just under the drying stalks
of last year’s hyssop
was a layer of what looked like fur.

I often throw the leavings of Finn’s coat
after her weekly brushings
out into the garden
or on top of the nearest snowbank
during the coldest months

So that was my first guess.

Then the fur moved.

Ok yes,
I screamed.

Woke Herself up actually…
and then she screamed.

Not ten minutes before
while I had been weeding the adjoining bed
I had said to Pat…
Now I’m going to be really careful because this is where
those bunnies were nesting last year.

So…the synapses fired up…
and collided.

Approaching cautiously
and much calmer now
I moved aside the covering layer of dry grasses
and peeked under the grey and white blanket of fur…

and sure enough
tiny baby bunnies
nestled in a hollow
the size of a teacup.

Oh the tenders
and gawd…
I had been hacking away
had I nicked one before the discovery ?

I tried my best to restore order to the nest
but I had removed almost all of the weedy
canopy that had made this new spot seem promising.

So, I added some leaves to the top
and found a wide wicker basket
and laid it over the nest
and offered up a prayer to mother nature for their souls

For the next two mornings I stood over the nest
and looked for signs of life.
Both times I saw the slightest rise and fall of the leaves
and the next day Kory came.

He’s helping me with the yard work and
as far as I can tell…so far
he has no fears.
Ok a slight shimmy in his step when he happens upon
a large spider…
but otherwise he’s a rock solid go to guy for wild animal taming.

Kory lifted the basket
and the leaves
and the fur
and sure enough
there were three living breathing bunnies
curled up in their teacup.

As anyone who knows me well
will tell you
they all got names.

Seeing as they were born in my herb bed
I dubbed them, Hyssop and Thyme and Vincent.
The last just in the case I had, accidentally mind you,
nicked one with the ancient Japanese weeding tool.

A few days later they were gone.

A week after that two of them jumped out of the way
of the string trimmer I was just about to swing along
the stone edging of the hydrangea bed.

Then, every afternoon for a month,
all three showed up at my new bird feeders,
which I have moved right outside of my easel window.

One of them kept lingering
later and later into the dusk
after siblings and squirrels
finches and doves
had long since gotten into their jammies
and been tucked into their beds.

On this night
as I was waiting for him
the sunset sent extra long low rays
through the bottom of the fence
and shooting across the tops of the grass.

And like that
the bunny hopped into that shaft of light
and stood completely still
for hours
keeping me company
as if he were on guard.

Then one of his ears twitched
and caught the fading light
and I saw the notch.

Now I am waiting for my sunflowers
to grow tall enough to pose
as the source of those angling rays
in the big portrait I want to paint…

of Vincent.


Brushes Down…

Last night I put the very last brushstroke on the final painting for this years’ Granary Gallery show.

Whew. These last few weeks have been an artistic marathon.

Now it’s a sprint to the finish line.

The show opening is August 4th.

The trailer needs to be ready to roll out of here a few days before that,
and there is a slew of work that needs to happen before then.

My pals at Artworks, in Mechanicsburg have been busy getting the frames joined for me and we scheduled the delivery for later this week. That gives me a little time to clear some room for them.

So, varnishing, comes first.
And it’s summer. The middle of a very hot and humid…
and throw a few more humid-ers in there…summer.
A while back I invested in an industrial humidifier for the studio. This has been quite helpful for just these type of varnishing days. Controlling the heat and humidity in here means that the varnish dries quickly and evenly and I don’t have to wait for the weather to cooperate, which…being July…it won’t.

After that I can shoot them.

With a camera.

Our business, HN Artisan, Inc. is set up to own the copyrights to all of my work. For all the possible uses of said copyrighted images, now and in the future, which include prints and publications, I need to obtain the best possible reproductions for the archive. And that needs to happen before I send them out and into galleries.

I used to farm this part of the operation out, which was wonderful while it lasted, even though it meant many trips to lug the paintings up and back in stages over the course of several weeks, so that the entire group of paintings was never in one place until the very last few days.

With my dear photographer John Corcoran easing into retirement, I scrambled to work out another option. Technological advancements, and time invested in learning about them, has led me to pick up the photography ball myself.

I’ve had some months to study and experiment with a new camera, fancy lights and another round of tutorials to brush up my Photoshop creds, and so far so good.

But now it gets real.

This year I have done another 8 foot painting,
and I have to shoot it, and there is no place in my world big enough to do that easily.

You may remember that last year our pals Matt and Paul came over to attempt to shoot last year’s big panel.

While it was the start of a great friendship, but we had no success in coming up with an archive worthy file.

Over the winter I pondered this dilemma and decided to explore a tip which David Fokos gave me. Having been to my studio, he suggested rigging something up…to shoot down.

Laying the panel flat and suspending the camera above, then moving it in a grid like pattern across the entire panel and “stitching” it together in Photoshop.

Trick to that scenario is that the camera MUST be positioned at the exact same distance from the panel every time the camera shifts.

Long winding internet searches lead me to this…

A cool company, 80/20 makes erector sets for adults, and I got them to cut aluminum square tubing to my specs and then Kory and I assembled this frame. It was extremely difficult to figure out how to make this able to be DIS-assembled but we…ok he…muscled the plastic joints enough times that it can be done.

This has been set up in the garage for several weeks, remember that painting marathon ?, well now that is over and it’s time to step this photography game up.

I went with the aluminum rather than building this out of wood for the higher precision tolerance, that’s an artists’ rather than an engineers’ technical description, to keep the camera equidistant from the panel.

The top bars on this frame have a lip facing up. This was designed so that a small “sled” could ride inside those flanges and slide evenly along the top rails. Here’s a look at the sled and the clamping gear I bought to try and secure the camera to it…upside down.

I will work on that tomorrow morning when it is not 95 degrees out there.

Theoretically, the panel will be placed on the inside of that large frame laying horizontally.
The sheet suspended above is to capture insect droppings from the garage roof, no it’s not an ideal workspace for artwork, but it’s the only space I have where I might be able to control the variables which include lighting and distance.

When …IF …I can get this dialed in, then Paul and Matt have promised to assist with the lighting and shooting of said panel. I better throw some more beers in the fridge for that.

So there’s a behind the scenes peek into the studio and the progress towards the big show of the year.

I’ll leave you with some pics of this morning’s wonderfully peaceful garden adventure.

With those hot temps here to stay, it was time to clear out the early spring bed for some heat loving veggies. So down came the pea towers. You can just see Herself hidden beyond the wheelbarrow full of pea plants using her super powers to pluck all of the last pods…I LOVE it when she joins me out there.

The before…

and after…

AND…the greatest gift …

Turns out the garlic was spared the nasty allium leaf miner after all !!!!

Yes, 100% of the plants are bug free.

The bulbs were smaller than usual, but that may have been a result of the pea towers blocking a good bit of light from them, among other factors.

Only last week I was crying in my suds that for the first time in years I had to ask Pat to by garlic from the super market. It was terrible by the way.

And now…voila… mother nature has blessed our greenhouse with a drying stack of bulbs.

Oh my heart is smiling all over again just writing that.

Ok back to my day job.

Stay tuned…the GG Show drumroll has begun and the lineup of new paintings will hit this blog page any day now.

In the meantime you all stay frosty out there.

H


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.


Study for Nightwatch

Study for Nightwatch  –  12″ x 24″

ow that first warm sunny day
when you understand that winter has
at least one more round in her
but damnation you are going
to clean out a garden bed…any bed.

On just such a day last March
we both huddled in our warmest fleece,
Herself putting her boots up in the sky chair
and myself blowing the cobwebs off of my weeding bench,
we passed a lovely hour or two
warming old bones in the afternoon sun.

I was hoeing away happily
when I saw something odd.

Just under the drying stalks
of last year’s hyssop
was a layer of what looked like fur.

I often throw the leavings of Finn’s coat
after her weekly brushings
out into the garden
or on top of the nearest snowbank
during the coldest months

So that was my first guess.

Then the fur moved.

Ok yes,
I screamed.

Woke Herself up actually…
and then she screamed.

Not ten minutes before
while I had been weeding the adjoining bed
I had said to Pat…
Now I’m going to be really careful because this is where
those bunnies were nesting last year.

So…the synapses fired up…
and collided.

Approaching cautiously
and much calmer now
I moved aside the covering layer of dry grasses
and peeked under the grey and white blanket of fur…

and sure enough
tiny baby bunnies
nestled in a hollow
the size of a teacup.

Oh the tenders
and gawd…
I had been hacking away
had I nicked one before the discovery ?

I tried my best to restore order to the nest
but I had removed almost all of the weedy
canopy that had made this new spot seem promising.

So, I added some leaves to the top
and found a wide wicker basket
and laid it over the nest
and offered up a prayer to mother nature for their souls

For the next two mornings I stood over the nest
and looked for signs of life.
Both times I saw the slightest rise and fall of the leaves
and the next day Kory came.

He’s helping me with the yard work and
as far as I can tell…so far
he has no fears.
Ok a slight shimmy in his step when he happens upon
a large spider…
but otherwise he’s a rock solid go to guy for wild animal taming.

Kory lifted the basket
and the leaves
and the fur
and sure enough
there were three living breathing bunnies
curled up in their teacup.

As anyone who knows me well
will tell you
they all got names.

Seeing as they were born in my herb bed
I dubbed them, Hyssop and Thyme and Vincent.
The last just in the case I had, accidentally mind you,
nicked one with the ancient Japanese weeding tool.

A few days later they were gone.

A week after that two of them jumped out of the way
of the string trimmer I was just about to swing along
the stone edging of the hydrangea bed.

Then, every afternoon for a month,
all three showed up at my new bird feeders,
which I have moved right outside of my easel window.

One of them kept lingering
later and later into the dusk
after siblings and squirrels
finches and doves
had long since gotten into their jammies
and been tucked into their beds.

On this night
as I was waiting for him
the sunset sent extra long low rays
through the bottom of the fence
and shooting across the tops of the grass.

And like that
the bunny hopped into that shaft of light
and stood completely still
for hours
keeping me company
as if he were on guard.

Then one of his ears twitched
and caught the fading light
and I saw the notch.

Now I am waiting for my sunflowers
to grow tall enough to pose
as the source of those angling rays
in the big portrait I want to paint…

of Vincent.


My summer vacation…

This summer we enjoyed a staycation. We had a blast at the Granary Gallery Show at the end of July… here’s a few pics from that week of fun

Then we returned to this little corner of the world wherein we toil and play…here are just a dozen or so pics out of the hundreds I took this year of the studio garden…note I had a helper this year, Kory, who did most of the heavy lifting…yeah !

There was a wonderful visit from Alex, who is probably banging on some drum at a band concert about now…

Kory and I built a new walkway, and he cleared us a beautiful view of our creek…

Zoe spent a week at Camp Gran and Mima, and was a terrific helper…

We taught her to play Clue…

Then we taught Arthur to play Clue…

We celebrated Andrew Wyeth’s 100th birthday with stamps and a trip to see his retrospective at the Brandywine River Museum…

We took in an O’s game with Doug and Scott…

I pretty much parked myself on the studio porch for weeks, and carved spoon after spoon and then got out the spinning wheel and spun my way through the last of the long locked lincoln fleece…

And we kept up the tradition…of opening and closing the season at Reeser’s…

I did a bit of commission painting somewhere in there, and a lot of wool gathering, in addition to the spinning…

Delayed by a hurricane or two, we have just finished packing the car…Finnegan’s followers will be just about as pleased as she was to know that her bed and bowls have been included… and tomorrow we head back to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

An extended autumn stay to allow the muses to take me down some new roads, and listen to new stories, and refresh my soul.

So this is just to say,
that we are well,
we are grateful,
and we want you all to stay safe out there.

I catch you on the other side of the leaves…

 


Celeste envies Ruth…

So, here’s the thing…

The way my brain scampers about these days,
I need to take notes.
Okay, I’m being generous with the “these days”,
I’ve always taken notes.
Journals full.

With scraps of paper and napkin corners
and dog-eared pages of old magazines,
I have jotted and doodled
hundreds and hundreds of ideas for paintings over the decades.

Sometimes just a few gestures,
often a phrase run across while reading,
or listening to music,
or watching a movie.

Two or three times a year,
I gather the sketchbooks and journals
and thumb-tacked notes,
and review.

So, there I was,
in review mode,
when I remembered that there were notes…
on my phone.

Been a long while since I was in a place without a pencil,
but there have been the odd times when I had to use my phone app to jot down an idea.
Some of those pencilless moments must have been in the middle of the night.

For the life of me, I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote…

Shackled and dilled
Walker
Jigsaw pieces
Exploding from the center
Tomatoes

Anway,
Two entries from the bottom was this sentence,

Celeste speaks well of Ruth but secretly envies her aprons

A perfect jewel,
which there is no way I thought of myself.
No reference, just that rarefied run-on of perfection.
I instantly ran to the teacups,
searched the studio for my two favorite aprons,
and got to work.

Here is where I must beg forbearance,
from whomever I am so shamelessly plagiarizing,
I thought enough of your playfully glorious words
to save them in my “Painting Ideas” folder,
though I have absolutely no idea where they first crossed my path.

The Muses made certain that the sentence stayed hidden
until the precise moment I was ready, or rather,
THEY knew I was ready.

So…
tag me for the steal,
and thank you from the bottom
of my Aunt Imy’s wedgewood,
and wait for it…
I may catch Celeste and Ruth
in some future,
dare I hope…compromising,
compositions.

 


New Paintings

I’ve been playing catch up after an extended time away from the easel, and have been hitting the brushes hard for the last few weeks. So, I am a bit behind with this blog, and a long list of other things…

There are two new paintings which are out there in the gallery world and I wanted to let you take a peek.

This first one, The Self Portrait, is a painting of Zoe when she visited camp Gran and Mima last summer. There are traces of this chalk portrait lingering on the studio porch, and it warms my cold winter heart every day.

It is currently on display at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery, in Santa Fe.

The second is a still life, Reeling, for which I have Alex to thank. He’s the one who got me excited about learning to fly fish, and gifted me with that lure, and a few hundred stories about his fishing adventures. I have my new rod, Sister Bean, at the ready by my kitchen door and on sunny days I practice my casting out in the yard. That may be as close as I get to hooking a fish, which would be fine because I mostly just enjoy the time spent with Alex. He’s a keeper.

Reeling is hanging in the current show at Gallery 1261, in Denver.

OK, now it’s back to work.

You all enjoy these lengthening days,
and play nice out there.

H


Now… available on a screen near you…

big poster72

The movie is HERE…

Oh what a night it was. The house was packed, as they say, with eager friendly faces who came for the premiere and to support all of us who were captured by the magic of David and Barbarella’s brilliance.

movie night

Herself and I were blown away. They did such an amazing job.
Our fifteen minutes of fame stretched a bit further, on into the weekend, where we had a super opening at the Granary Gallery.

There is much more to write and share, but along with the swollen ego that filled the car on the way home…I picked up some swollen glands…and the muses have sat me down firmly in order to heal this viral plague so I can get back to those brushes and fill up some of the empty wall spaces !

So, I’m going to sip on my chicken soup and dream back on all the glamor and love surrounding the week on MV.

Meanwhile….it’s your turn.

All you who were unable to make the premiere, and all of those who left the theater wanting to watch it all over again, and again…you can now just click on the link above and be magically transported to The Artist Odyssey website…grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch this movie on the screen of your choosing.

All manner of good things, and summer love, to you all…


Oversouth Willow

Oversouth Willow

As is true of so many of my paintings,
the muses pulled on some pretty wild threads
to bring this not-so-still-life together.

I’ll say it started with Jane,
because of the teacups,
hidden among the many other artifacts
which she and her sword fishing husband, Herb purveyed
in their antique shop in Menemsha.

This is Jane’s 40th year,
in that treasure shack, Oversouth Willow,
and the last season of her tenure behind the desk.

And that is where we found her, last summer,
the film crew and I,
when we were parading our cameras, and mikes,
around the island, and we stopped to visit with Jane.

The team of David and Barbarella Fokos,
renowned artists/writers/film makers/Emmy winners,
were setting out to make a documentary film
to add to their growing collection for the new website,

TAO – The Artist Odyssey.

The results of which are almost complete,
and Herself and I are picking out our gowns for the premeire !

(Check my blog for details)

While the crew set up and Pat and Jane chatted,
I searched around and found these three porcelain gems.
Jane told us the story of the “Blue Willow” pattern,
which I believe was captured on film,
but what I remember most clearly
was the sparkle in her eyes…and she in her element.

Fast forward a month or two and we are getting ready,
here in my Pennsylvania studio,
for the Fokos Team to arrive for another session of filming.
I needed to have a painting in progress so I brought out those blue vessels.
And then the muses stepped up.
They rifled through the linen prop drawer for something blue,
and the feather that Saren had brought me the day before
drifted down from the teacup shelf,
they fingered around in my back pocket
for the tiny shard of blue tile that I had found
in the pebbled lane the last time I walked up to Camp Sunrise,
and they sent me climbing up to the “old studio”,
the shed on stilts by the creek,
which is now the overflow prop room…
and I opened the door…

the blue door.

Bam, I’m in.

I had climbed those rickety stairs,
and opened that door every day for I don’t know how many years,
and inside was…my bliss.
My first real studio,
after 40 years of dreaming.
I remember when that paint was new.
Around here they were not sure how to mix Nantucket Blue.
There are a couple of paintings which feature the other side of this old door,
but if you stepped back far enough to get some perspective on the outside of it…
you would be swimming in the creek thirty feet below.

Opened to the inside,
with my hand on that wonderful doorknob,
and the light raking over the blue chips of paint…
well, that was interesting.
It was quick work to find something to use as a support,
and the red cover of the old faithful, “Iron Woman” book
was the perfect accent…think Jane.

When the Fokos’ arrived,
the painting was well underway,
but David wanted to recreate and film the set up part of the process.
You should have seen us cramming into the tiny space by that door
with cameras and crew…remember what I said about that one step backwards.

No one was harmed in the filming of this movie,
and now this painting has a great story to tell.

And I’ve got to go dye my eyes to match my gown.