The Article

Heather Neill.indd

John O’Hern has kindly sent me a PDF file of his article which can be opened and read by clicking on the highlighted name/link  below…

HeatherNeill Click HERE

Here’s to kindness
and the summer solstice
oceans waving
loafers leaning
and winding pathways to the beach



I have a lot of things to say about this man…but right now the words are twisted up in my heart.

Last Tuesday, just about the exact time our electricity surged and vanished, so too did his heart.

The ensuing days in the cold and dark were made for the stalwart steadfast Yankee spirited New Englanders, like him. And the distractions of simple survival were just that, distractions.

Only now, as power has been restored and the outside world has followed the newly spliced cables into my studio space,
and the furnace has begun to restore my frozen digits,
and the breath is beginning to return to my soul…
only today am I able to return to the easel,
across from which is this painting,
which I am so glad I didn’t sell when someone pressured me a while back,
because I need him there,
since he is no longer sitting in his Chilmark wingback,
answering my phone call,
and directing the brushes from afar.

Ted Meinelt,
it’s all right then.

Gay Head Lily

Here’s a fun one…

#12- Gay Head Lily  26 x 19

This is another that was inspired…insisted upon is more like it…by Ted.

He asked me three years ago if I had ever seen the Gay Head Lily and wasn’t satisfied with my answer so he took me on an adventure one afternoon over to a field out back of a friends house where they were blooming by the acre.

He found the perfect specimen…

And insisted on holding it so I could see all sides…

We chat once or twice a week, more when I’m on island, and every single time he has asked me if I have painted that lily yet. I was originally going to paint him holding it pretty much just as you see above. But it wasn’t working for me until I decided to turn it on its trompe l’oueille head. I wanted to tie it into the other paintings this year which feature those beach stones and you get the idea.

It was fun to paint but not as much fun as the phone call telling him it was finally finished. We’ll see you in less than a week now Ted…the show opening is on his 96th birthday. Now that’s sorta fun.



We are welcoming 2012 here in the studio by painting apples.

Yes I’m still….painting….apples !

Try as I might, this final work – the seminal, keystone, massively fundamental focus of the apple themed series –  is just simply spanking my artistic self. And it’s all Chris’s fault. Back in 2010, when picking apples at the Tiasquin Orchard on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and visiting with it’s farmers, the Magnusens, my beloved gallery owner Mr. Morse had a vision. Wouldn’t it be sorta fun for someone to do a painting from the bottom of the hill looking up through the trees at a person picking apples ?

Simple idea, lovely idea…who better to do this painting than the woman whom Patricia Neal dubbed, “the artist who paints people without their heads “… Heather Neill.

OK she says and rounds up her favorite Vineyard model, Mr. Theodore Meinelt who happens to live just down the road from the orchard, and off we trot to pose among the heavily laden limbs.
Now viewing this photo you will see one of the biggest challenges I faced in composition. These are ancient trees and, like so many of the island specimens which are battered by ocean storms, they are small. Wonderful for picking, and probably pruned to their diminutive height for just that reason…but when you put a human next to them he ends up looking like a giant.

One other challenge was that, good for Debbie tough for me…it was a bumper crop. Thousands and thousands of apples. I knew that in order to do this idea justice, again Mr. Morse must be thanked, it would need to be a panel large enough to let the viewer have the same panoramic feel that originally inspired my muse. And I knew that my ridiculously high standards would not let me take a pass on rendering every one of those apples (forgive me) right down to their core.

I debated, fussed, dripped with procrastinating angst…(Pat has been driven to longer and longer walks with Finn as each stressful day of whining passed) … and finally decided to use the 60″ panel thereby committing to what I knew would be weeks of work.

I started out taking daily shots of the progress with the idea of sharing the journey with you all. But I was so frustrated with the slow pace and the overwhelming amount of detail that I bagged on that early on. But now, as I am nearing the end…she says oh so hopefully… I have decided to show you the abbreviated “process” shots. I’ve been putting detail shots up on facebook  as I complete small sections and now seem to have a small but dedicated group of followers with whom I have been teasingly withholding the ” big reveal” of seeing the whole finished work.

There was a great amount of artistic license in play in an effort to wrangle the tree and background, concept and balance, in the pursuit of the “essence” of the orchard. Here is one of the dozens of photos that I used as reference…the closest to the finished comp…

The initial sketch…

First pass…
 Some sky…

Needs to say more about the island… so how about a water view ?

Flash forward…weeks forward…to the first detail shots…

And  now…I’m off to the easel to finish this baby. Have about two square feet of apples, leaves and branches to tighten up and one long branch to snap into shape. Might be two days of work since I have squandered this morning writing this entry…and allowing the tylenol to take effect…since the steady hours of resting my pinky on the panel to work the tiny brushes is taking a toll on my own limbs.

But I’ll get back to you just as soon as it’s done. I promise you will be able to hear the huge sigh of relief in the furthermost corners of your own apple orchards.

Working on a theme…

Last year I started a series of …well series paintings.

I wanted to work on themes and explore them across several different compositions. There were more ideas than I had time to create and I’ve learned that there is a time, and a season as it were, for each painting. So, as the crisp fall air brings the colors alive, I have been studying apples… anew.

The October before last  I spent a day with our friend Ted in the Tiasquam orchards in West Tisbury…

There are dozens of good painting ideas from that modeling session and I decided to elaborate on the “theme” of apple picking.  Though I started the series last year with some sketches …

and then this painting from my studio yard…

Like I said earlier… last year life took some wicked wild turns … but life ebbs and marches on…and I’m now reaching back and pulling on the thread that started the theme.

I don’t usually put photos of unvarnished paintings up on the web but the new iphone has a good enough camera to  give you a decent representation of what is fresh off the easel.

This painting was inspired by a quote from  NC Wyeth, “I have all this and more, yet how I would like to relax; to be content with a wheelbarrow, a rake, an apple basket, a pipe.” He wrote that in a letter dated September 19, 1910. A hundred years later and that sentiment still resonates.

And what to do with all those apples ?

Well that’s the next painting in the series… Skillet Apple Pie.

You won’t be able to get much out of this shot of the still life set up…because I decided to change it up a bit after moving to the easel…but here’s a peak into the early stages of the creative process…

I’ve gotten this far…

And yes, it’s all about the butter !

Stay tuned…