Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plein air adventures...

watercolor sketch, Arnold Arboretum, 12 x 9

Ah some plein air adventures are just too good not to share.  Last Sunday I went up to Arnold Arboretum, a hugely favorite place of mine, to do quick watercolor sketches and check out places I want to spend more time at with my oils.  So I sat down on the stone wall and it was the perfect situation, a big flat wall, not too high.  The light and temperature was just right and NO bugs, a plein air painters dream.  Lots of people strolling, walking dogs, some peeked, most just kept sauntering by, many smiled.  Towards the end of my time there an elderly couple sat down right next to me so I figured they'd chat but no they didn't seem to notice me at all.  After a few minutes he took off his shoes and socks and began inspecting, with the help and  great interest of his wife, some oozing sore on his foot and his toe nails.  La la la la la....just keep painting, don't listen.  I have a toe nail phobia, don't really like feet in general and he was being very descriptive.  I started to hum lightly trying to block the chatter.  She gets up and leaves never once even glancing my way.  He puts on his shoes and socks (phew) sits for a few minutes, gets up, comes over, I look up and he's just staring at the painting (the one above) which was almost finished, then he looks at me and says "Dappled" then walks off.  I stared after him trying not to crack up.

Soon I was up and moving to the next spot.  Now we are in a real plein air painting situation, muddy, almost no place to put anything, exposed, no shade and LOTS of mosquitos - didn't bring the spray!  Finally got situated and this is a much more high traffic area but they can't get to me, no sane person would wander into this mash of bushes and bugs but it was the best view of what I wanted to paint.  Lots of people took pics of me working and think I'll end up on a bunch of Facebook pages.  But one time I looked up and an Asian man is filming me!  Ah my first art movie, wonder what I looked like.  I wasn't in this spot too long because sitting still I got devoured by mosquitos and it was pretty awful.  The painting got ruined because at one frustrating moment before the watercolor dried I swatted at a particularly thick collection of mosquitos on my leg and smeared the paint.  I wrapped up and moved to a more bug free area to enjoy lunch and the rest of the day.

I'm going back this weekend but will bring the bug dope and do my hair so I look better for more filming opportunities..just kidding.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 cured my fear of flying...

A Time of Change,  September 2001, watercolor  3" x 5"

On the MSNBC news last night Lester Holt did a segment on how 9/11 changed us.  For me it cured my intense crippling fear of flying, you’ll learn how in a moment but first here is my 9/11 story....everyone has one.

In September of 2001 I was doing an Artist-in-Residency at Corner Brook, NFLD.  I was taking a shower when the other artist in the residence came over from her apartment, pounded on my bathroom door to tell me about the planes.  Julie Tabrum, the other AIR, was from NZ and her mother lives in Quebec, she called Julie to tell her and then Julie ran over to tell me but we didn’t have a TV.  Already it was an international event! Then a neighbor we had befriended let us come up to watch her TV....I stayed for hours, I couldn’t get enough because I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I couldn’t sleep that night, couldn’t make any art at all, two weeks into my residency and pretty much all art making was done except for one little painting,....I just wanted to get home.  I began hearing about all the people stranded in NFLD when they grounded the planes and I wanted to rent a car to get back to Boston but they weren’t renting them.  Then I saw a car, a beat up wreck, for sale at a gas station for $500, I went to buy it but it was already sold.  I was going to be in NFLD till the end of the Residency, another 2 weeks.  Angela, the neighbor who let us watch her TV suggested we get away...a road trip.  All I really wanted to do was watch the TV but I’m glad she took us to Rose Blanche – Harbour le Cou for the day.  Along the way we stopped a number of times to check out the view or watch herds of Caribou that is where this little painting, my first plein air, (above) was born.  I was watching a herd of Caribou and looked out to the East over a vast unbroken landscape.  I knew there were no roads, no homes, no nothing for about 1,000 miles due East.  Only wilderness and wildness, the urge to step off the road and start walking was overwhelming, I wanted to walk off never to return just step out into the woods, explore, be with the animals when I noticed the spark of orange/yellow in the trees, started thinking about Fall, change and how everything had just changed forever.  This little painting is called “A Time of Change”, I will never sell it, I will never let it go it is my 9/11 tribute.

The rest of the residency passed as if I was in a fog, our kindly neighbor took us to other places and I’m so grateful for her attempts at diversion.  Newfoundland and it’s people are really extraordinary and I’d love to go back.  They should be remembered today as well when the world landed on their doorstep and they came out and took us in.

Finally time to go back to Boston and my normal, utterly crippling fear of flying is now so amped up that the only thing I can focus on is getting home and stop puking up my guts.  Up till this time I’d only gone outside the US once in my entire 53 years, only flown a handful of times when I absolutely could not get there anyway else.  I had a truly intense fear of flying or even getting near a plane.  And, by the way, it’s important to note here that I almost cancelled my trip to Newfoundland when I was at the airport that morning...for this trip my fear was off the scale...why it was so much worse I am not sure.  Now it’s time to get back on the plane so I did.  It was a prop plane, seats about 50 and looked like it was a restored WW1 antique.  Then I notice I’m one of two women, all the rest were men, dressed in camoflage.  Huh?  The guy next to me was dressed normal so I make a joke (I get super goofy when nervous) about the Newfy Army is coming to our aid...lots of people cracked up over that.   But my plane neighbor said “oh we’ve all been hunting for the last 2 weeks up in the remotest parts of NFLD”.  Curious.  I look out the window and see wrapped antlers and only boxes stamped MOOSE or CARIBOU being suitcases. So I turn to the guy next to me and ask if the rent the “things” they shoot with (gun is a bad word on a plane now)  He said “no all the guns, amo are on board”  then he returned to reading his hunting magazine and the article was about the best kill shot with diagrams!  Stunned I started putting it all together....I’m sitting in a plane full of men who have spent the last 2 weeks (starting from 9/11) in the woods killing things, next to a guy studying kill shots, I’m sitting on top of their guns, amo and dead animals.  I started to laugh...till my belly hurt & the tears came, it was a good, long deep laugh I couldn’t was cathartic.  They all thought I'd gone mad but in fact I'd been freed.  God has a seriously twisted sense of humor.  I got to Nova Scotia and before transferring to my next flight went right to the bar, ordered back-to-back super stiff drinks, got on the plane and went home.

After 5 decades of airplane terror it was completely gone, after all that happened I couldn’t even imagine what more there was to be afraid of...IF the Shenksville heros can sacrifice themselves as they did, IF we can survive and grow from 9/11, IF I can get on a plane full of dead animals & guns and get was all a sign.  Don’t get me wrong flying is still not my most favorite thing but the absolute terror I used to feel is all gone.  I’ve since flown many times to Europe, in the US and it still makes me nervous but nothing like it used to be, not even close.   God bless all those we lost on 9/11.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Fog, 48 x 44", oil on canvas

Throughout the years many people have asked if it is difficult to sell a painting.   Usually it isn't for a couple reasons:  First, I don't want to grow old surrounded by all my work.  Second, I love the look on people's faces when they see a piece they love and can afford - then I know it's going to a good home.  Third, I make my work affordable as I believe it's all wildly overpriced these days.  But my beloved Fog was really hard to part with.  This painting came from where most of my sea paintings come from - boat rides to Provincetown on Bay State's fast ferry.   Up until the fast ferry started the seascapes came from the time I've spent in the Dune Shacks.  On this trip we were socked in the whole way over, the water had a slight chop, outside on deck it was warm and moist.  I hung out on the stern just loving the fog then decided it should be a painting.  As usual when we got close to land the fog cleared and it was a lovely day.  The minute I woke up the next day I started painting this painting and it only took me a few hours, then had to wait a few days to let it dry before finishing it up.  I almost always work alla prima (first stroke) and this one was truly a gift from the Art Gods.  People have been lusting over it for years and I could have sold it 10 times over, but none of the prospective buyers wanted to pay full price for this stunning original and none of them seemed like the "right" fit.  Then the perfect person came along, she has bought a lot of my work and is a true supporter.  After not hearing from her for a year (since she bought the last painting!) she emailed asking if I still had "that grey painting" she couldn't stop thinking about all that time... so Fog now has a new home and a really good home.  There is a giant hole where it hung for years and I miss it terribly but now more people will see it, plus it is in a home by the sea where she first came from and I'm busy making more paintings.  I love all my work even the duds but Fog was truly a special painting, a real gift.  With all my heart I hope the Art Gods smile upon me like that again, they have been so very good to me so far!