Mercy,, Mercy, Mercy

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy  –  22 x 26

It was the 80’s.

I was working at the Harvard Coop which was then quite a hopping place. In the middle of Harvard Square was a tiny alley paved in colonial cobblestone called Palmer Street. At the top of that alley was a hole in the wall music cafe called Club Passim. If you are of a certain age and had a soul that craved folk music then you already knew that.

I went to their website just now to get my facts right and it would appear it first came on the scene the year I was born, 1958, in the form of Club 47. That’s sorta fun. In 1969 it was established as the Club Passim that I came to know and love. It boasted the likes of Baez and Dylan taking the postage stamp of a stage. In my era I saw Tom Rush, Suzanne (New York City) Vega, Shawn Colvin.

But I had a unique view of that musical mecca. Literally.

Just across the alley and up one floor was the closet of a frame room which I managed for most of that decade. And for the first part of that tenure it was a windowless workshop. Until…while on a muffin break, I came up the stairs from the basement club and looked up. Huh. I never really gave it much thought but there are windows up there…where my desk was…only I faced plywood when I framed.

There was always a big turnover in that frameroom…think young college students and musicians needing work to bridge the gap until the rest of their lives came calling. On that day I had a particularly crazy group of framers who actually did go on to become musicians. Look up Sluggo…I dare you. He is a founding member of The Grannies.

A band which I am too musically challenged to classify but I can attest to the fact that Dug, excuse me Sluggo, was and is one of the grandest humans in the land. Big big heart that guy. It gives my own heart tremendous pleasure to add that he now owns and operates FRAME, voted 2017 winner of best frame shop in San Francisco.

So, with all that burgeoning creative energy working around me, I hurried up the back stairs to the closet and started pulling things off the makeshift shelving in front of what I now knew was a window. We began with a drill. A very small hole. And the light poured in.

Over the course of what I remember as a few days we enlarged that hole and waited to see if anyone discovered us. Then we got out a saw. A very small saw. After which we had a  deck of card sized hole. Waited a bit more but at this point we could actually see the weather. The next phase brought us what I remember being a horizontal rectangle about the length of a pair of my reeboks at the time. And that’s where Club Passim re-enters the story.

I could now see the top of their steps.

Where I once saw Nanci Griffith ( big fan ) leaning against the brick wall with one elbow on her guitar case and the other one lifting a cigarette to her lips. We could watch the lines form for evening concerts and the occasional film crew that came through. One famous actor (Follansbee would remember his name, Gene Wilder and Sidney Poitier come to my mind) had to run through the alley carrying a dozen eggs which he bobbled and splattered on the cobblestones. They had to clean the whole mess up after every take of which I saw three.

And here’s were the painting comes in…

I could also look down from my peep hole perch and see…my saxophone goddess.

Her name I have forgotten but not her long curly red hair…and her chops.
She would throw her case open and lean into some sweet jazz that wafted on the salty Cambridge air straight up to our window and into my heart. When I saddled my nerve I tossed a quarter in her case and asked if she gave lessons.

In my brief career as a sax player I learned two songs. As Time Goes By from Casablanca, and Cannonball Adderly’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

The instrument has traveled with me lo these many decades since and somehow the muses found it this winter and brought it down from the old prop room as a dare.

As you see, I called their collective bluff, but it started, as many paintings do, with a simple gesture…

Our renegade window did eventually get spotted. Some big wig saw the light emanating from it as I worked late one night. I got all kinds of yelled at and we had to cover it back up, which may or may not have been a clandestinely removable patch.

In my dreams now it is open and I can see the stars above the chimneyed rooftops.

And I have told Herself
that if I go first
she will know
every time she hears a saxophone…
it’ll be me.

 

 


A Little Night Knitting

A Little Night Knitting  –  18 x 18

On those long winter nights
alone on an island
pining for her captain

the rhythmic click click clicking
of the long metal needles is heard

as they catch the moon beams
dancing over waves

that somewhere
oceans away

have lapped along the starboard side
of a weathered wooden ship.

As she knits
and purls
and knits
and purls

the tips of those needles
wave a tiny patter of light

a private message
in a language of their own
sweet and sacred semaphore.


 

Ok,
now I see it.

The muses are leading us into a story of their own making.
I stumbled upon that while writing the Painter’s Notes just now.

Apparently the captain has left his mitten back home
onshore, with her.

As she plys her own ribbing
by the light of an island moon,
I wonder for whom do they knit ?

And from where is that nuthatch pulling her strand ?

Above is the original sketch I found in a pile of sketches.

I never know where these ideas come from,
but I have learned to jot them down forthwith.

It’s interesting to see the twists and turns
that happen along the way
from a spark of idea
snatched out of the ether
and set aside to percolate.

I’m curious now…
The brushes and I are in for the ride.


Granary Gallery 2019

It has become a tradition to unroll the new paintings for the annual Granary Gallery show here on the blog. The work flow has evolved along with the technology and I now use the time spent focusing on each painting, loading them individually onto my website, as the time I also write their accompanying Painter’s Notes.

So, for the next fifteen days, picture me in the studio office, sitting in a comfy chair,
this is my view…

And let me say right off the bat…
the best part about this view…
this week…
is that it is air-conditioned.

I wrote in the last blog post about adding the photographing of each painting into that aforementioned work flow. After shooting, the files get brought here at the mothership to be processed in Photoshop. That tech part I am comfortable with and once I have an archivally satisfactory image stored on my hard drive I can begin getting them up on my website.

So, with no further ado…I give you…

GG 2019

Captain’s Log  –  18 x 24

This painting is all about the mitten.

For the featured summer shows, the staff at the Granary Gallery do something a little extra to bring each  artist’s work to life. They masterfully reflect the essence of the art work by arranging  antiques, props, artifacts and flowers subtly positioned to add depth and often whimsy to enhance the patron’s experience.

They stay late on the Saturday night before the openings and make all the decisions about hanging and arranging with a keen collective eye to design. So it is always a fun surprise to walk into the show on Sunday afternoon and see, for the first time, what they have created.

On one such occasion, tucked amongst a pile of some wooly and maritime artifacts which were displayed under one of my paintings,
I remebered it being one of the sheep
but it may have been the spinning loft
or quite possibly the black Irish horse Macy
anyway on this occasion…
I spied the mitten.

All of three inches, it was held to a tiny ball of yarn by four shiny steel needles thin enough to put inside the stem of a spring violet. I was in love. Honestly, to hold this gem in the palm of your hand and see the impossibly small stitches took this knitters’ breath clean away.

They said it had been found in an old sea captain’s chest. OK well there you go…I’m hooked. I begged to take it home to show the Muses and, now leaning against the window frame by my easel, it has become a powerful talisman. My imagination soars when I ponder who worked those triple ought sticks, who spun that finest of wool, for whom was it stitched, and on what fateful voyage.

Because it is what I do, I have begun to work some of these scenarios out… in paint.

There are two in this year’s show. So that probably means the Muses have a series in the cards.

The Captain’s Log let me play with some old favorites among the prop shelves. And I found some of my earliest homespun yarn which was almost as thin as that used by the captain…or was it his wife…or perhaps the harpooner…with which I tried a tiny ribbing stitch to get the feel of the needles.

Ouch. Those babies are surgically sharp. I had spent this last winter twiddling size one needles around while knitting socks, and my fingers had the callouses to prove it, but the Captain’s sticks are wicked barbed wee deevils. I have a new respect for the men and women of the Aran Islands shown in old black and white photos flying those same steel shafts around at high speed while simultaneously tending their flocks and seeing to supper and minding the bairns lo those centuries ago.

Ah…when idle hands…
and magical gallery moments
meet on the easel…

whatever will come next…

 

 


The big hay day

Well dear readers…

Today was the day.
After a couple read throughs of her books,


and heading down a few you tube rabbit holes…
and waiting for the weather to thaw…

Today Kory and I created our very own Ruth Stout garden bed.

Complete with a Ruth Stout memorial archway…

With the ground thoroughly frozen at the start of the day,
and mother nature shining a record breaking 65 degrees down upon us by mid-afternoon,
everyone was in high spirits to be spending a February day in t-shirts.

I laid out some cardboard and newspaper to define a border
and the stories in the Vineyard Gazette will be whispering to vegetables for years to come.

 

Let the deliveries begin…

After an early morning spent bearing witness for an immigration trial at the jail, my human rights hero, joined us to help supervise…

And one of the best parts of the day was watching how much fun Finn had playing in the hay. I didn’t get a good picture but she had such a big smile on her face…as if this fluffy soft bed was just a big gift for her.

 

Early on Kory could see that the ground was thawing rapidly so he made a lovely path…

By lunchtime we had almost two thirds completed.

Ruth recommended a good 8″ of mulch. She used spoiled hay because it was cheap since the farmers couldn’t feed it to their animals. After trying to find a ready source of that around here I decided, as you will recall from my last post, to use the regular bales available at our local supplier…thank you again Homer.

This chronicle is not meant as a how-to, interested gardeners will get much more pleasure out of reading Ruth’s own words of wisdom. I CAN report that there has already been much eyebrow raising, and not a little “mansplaining” from those who have heard of my plan.

Ruth had much to say about that…

“Naturally the neighboring farmers at first laughed at me; for a few years they doted on stopping in in the spring to ask if I didn’t want some plowing done. But, little by little, they were impressed by my results, and when they finally had to admit that the constantly rotting mulch of leaves and hay was marvelously enriching my soil, they didn’t tease me anymore. On the contrary, they would stop by to “have one more look” before finally deciding to give up plowing and spading and to mulch their own gardens.”

Originally I had planned to use straw bales as a border, which would provide some structure to run wire rabbit fencing all the way around and then available, directly upon disintegrating, to be tossed onto the mulching bed.

But we had much more hay than we needed to start out with so Kory used hay bales along the back edge and Him and Herself fetched another couple truckloads of straw to line the other sides. The straw is cheaper and won’t break down as fast as the hay, but all of it, as I repeat myself, will eventually be tossed onto the bed to provide the continuous mulching required to build the soil.

Fun fact…In the past years, when I was experimenting with strawbale gardening, it was quickly discovered that a fully grown studio rabbit is just the right height to reach up and nibble the tenders growing at the top of a bale.
A bit of wire fencing was enough to decide them that there were other delicacies requiring much less work elsewhere in my yard…and several of them have been quite happy enough with that arrangement to pose for me in between noshes…

Ahem…

Some tossing techniques…

It was simply a glorious day to be outside making those January dreams come alive..

Even though our entire yard is on a sloping angle, this section of the studio yard is full of underground springs and is a devil to mow because it’s a swamp on all but the driest days. One of the benefits of this mulching method is that there should no watering needed. Ruth described setting out a small lawn sprinkler only to give seeds a head start.

Time will tell if the mulch will be happy as happy as the rabbits with this arrangement.

By three o’clock we had finished the large bed, hay mulched a nearby flower bed as an experiment, put straw down between all the raised beds to make muddy spring passage a bit easier, in addition to Kory tackling all of the chores Miss Pat had on her to-do list.

The finished bed…

Kory replenished the firewood stack on the log cabin porch, and now we can sit back with our feet up in front of the fire and wait for winter to rain and snow on this creation and for all those lovely earthworms and critters to wiggle their way into Finn’s fluffy bed.

I figure we made a loosely consistent 18″ or so blanket of hay and built a 15 x 50 foot bed.

I also figure there are more of these warm weather breaks ahead, and I have a large pile of leaves which we can chop up a bit with the lawn mower and toss on the RS bed (that pile is frozen now). And from now on all of the garden waste and grass clippings will go on there as well.

I’ll still keep the compost piles going. We had great success last season sifting many wheel barrows of that home grown gold. The existing raised beds were put to bed with that gold in the fall so should welcome rotations of deeper root crops this year, and most of the leafy greens and such.

Our next project is to replace one of the first raised beds I built, the bottom boards are rotting away. So it will be just the place for a keyhole garden. Oh yes, I am. I’ve designed it to use the same galvanized corrugated aluminum which we used to repair the walls of the asparagus bed last year. With some tweaking and design updates I’m hoping to improve on our first attempts and make a more permanent structure that can double as a cold frame for winter greens. Stay tuned for more on that.

Expectations for the RS bed this year are low because of the time it will take to break all that hay down and begin to build a nutrient rich soil. Others who have tried this report it took a year or more to begin to have soil that would support deeper root crops. OK, so I will be planting potatoes. Ruth just pulls back her mulch and throws them directly on the ground and piles the hay back on top. Pretty much the way I’ve been growing them for a couple years so there ya go.

Gonna also try onions and leeks, brussel sprouts and kale, shell peas and edamame, and a big section of squash. I sow all the seeds I can fit in the studio and the greenhouse so I may start most of the RS bed plants by pulling back the mulch and adding a couple of inches of composted manure and peat before planting the seedlings.

And don’t forget that strawbale border can be planted in as well. Maybe with marigolds and nasturtiums with onions and turnips in between.
And a cascade of morning glories for the memorial arch.

Ahhh, what an absolute bliss of a gift this day was.

Thank you Kory for all that you do for us.
These two old ladies are so grateful.

Prowell Lawn Services at the ready…

And lest you think I have retired from my day job…

the greater irony of spending an entire day throwing hay around…

is that I have spent the last month doing my best to paint it.

No no, you will have to wait for those pics.

Suffice it to say,
I got PLENTY of up close and personal reference material today.

Now go and make your own dreams come true.

 

 

 


Contemporary Realism at Gallery 1261

Back in the studio, and my how those brushes have flown…

Island Indigo  – 10″ x 12″

The Flying Lesson  –  13.5″ x 12.5″

I am pleased to post these two new paintings which will be winging their way to Denver next week, for the opening of …

Contemporary Realism at Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado

They have a powerhouse collection of artists featured in this show and you can preview the work by clicking on this link…Click Here.

As we settle back home, after a whirlwind week at the Granary Gallery show, the studio has a bit more room to move around in and the muses are taking full advantage. No rest for the artiste…I am being given short spurts of time off to harvest the tomatoes, and pluck the odd green bean or two…then it is right back to the easel.

So watch this space…

Now that this new website is blazingly fast, it will be a pleasure to send out blog posts in a more regular and timely fashion. Thanks as ever, for coming along on this ride.

H

 


All Politics Is Local

All Politics Is Local…Available at the Sugarman Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe

It is always powerful
on this day each year
to listen to the journalists at NPR
read the Declaration of Independence

This year it gave me chills.


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.


Artifacts…

The Granary Gallery has launched a new blog…Artifacts

https://artifactsmv.com/

I was interviewed early this spring by Libby Ellis and the Q and A session has been published for your reading pleasure…click on the painting below, grab a teacup of your choice and get a peek into my studio adventures…

heather neill :: yours in flying paint brushes


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.

 


Visions revisited…

Last year at this time,
I was polishing up the tiara,
and mirror ball,
for the opening of …

Since then, the dynamic creative production duo of David and Barbarella Fokos,
aka Salt and Sugar Productions
have been dividing their time between studio work, filming and editing of new productions for TAO, The Artist’s Odyssey (check out their updated website),
oh…AND enjoying awards ceremonies at International Film Festivals.

Indeed, news that Visions of Home
was an official selection of NOVA Fest — the Northern Virginia International Film & Music Festival (http://www.novafilmfest.com), came across the airwaves back in March.

Then comes news this week, that TWO of their films will be included in the
Oceanside International Film Festival 2017, next month !!!

Yep, that’s me at the easel again…still painting that blue door !

So, as I am in final production for my next show, at the Granary Gallery in only a couple weeks, I have been given the opportunity to provide my readers and viewers with a special chance to see the movie, Visions of Home, in all it’s seaside glory, here from my website.

For anyone who might have missed it the first go round,
or who may be new to this site because they saw it at some film festival without knowing beforehand who that old woman with the paint all over her shirt was,
and for the rest of you who just simply cannot get enough of watching paint dry,
and do not let me overlook Finnegan’s fan base…

Anyway, David has made a lovely page dedicated to the movie where you can see the trailer and watch the full film and get some backstory, with the wonderful blog post that Barbarella wrote about last years’ debut screening and some of the process behind their process, which alone is worth the read…and he’s included the article which The Vineyard Gazette published around the time of the opening in which they interviewed Barb and David about the making of the film.

So grab a bowl of popcorn,
pull up your lawn chair by the kiddie pool,
put a straw in some cool beverage,
set your favorite viewing device to this link…

Visions of Home

and Herself and I will welcome you into our lives…
and our hearts.