Thursday, December 6, 2012

Into the Woods...

I've stepped away from the ocean for a bit and gone back to the woods.  I'm working on a series of drawing and paintings about the forest.   Think I'll keep the chat to a minimum and just post pictures of the work for a while.  However, I'm thrilled to say this charcoal of a dense stand of trees was picked by Howard Yezerski to be in a show...yay!   All work on my site is copyrighted so please do not copy etc.  Thanks.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Plein air mis-adventures #2

My dream plein air day is to go out and whip up a great bunch of paintings effortlessly to the oohs and ahs of passers-by, hand out my business cards, answer all their questions while tossing off one terrific painting after another.  It certainly wasn't going to happen today!  This morning I tried to channel an artist, Kelly Medford, who runs around Rome painting like mad.  Her energy and enthusiasm are inspirational and thought if I could latch onto that I could have a great painting day.  Every now and then I have a terrific day plein airing but it's been a while and I never know "when" it will be a good painting day in the field or when the paint will fight me.  It sure looked like it would be a successful day, light was right, supplies efficiently packed so easy to transport, I had scouted out the area the day before so off I went.  As I set up it still felt good but from then on it was all a mess.  The wind picked up so stuff went flying at every intermittent gust my disposable palette folded over on itself so the blue and orange merged along with other odd mixes until I got it all clipped down.  The gusts  eventually turned into a force 10 gale as the front moved in faster than predicted and clouds erased the light.  Right after I got all set up I realized I'd left a very important color back at the studio and my tube of yellow ochre was not going to open.  So a little frustrated I jabbed my palette knife into the side to make a hole for the paint to come out and it did and of course it got all over everything for the rest of the day.  Just as I finally settled in and got a good start one of those annoying yappy dogs, the small ones that women carry around like an accessory came around the corner but didn't see me so it was startled which sent it into a frenzy of high pitched barking and snarling.  Of course Ms Trendy had earphones in and just kept going with only a slight sneering back glance.  Shortly after this quiet little corner burst to life with joggers, more dogs being walked wanting to plant their noses in my wet palette, kids in strollers or on foot, mostly nice people, some commented most thankfully left me alone.  But they probably did so because they could see the train wreck of a painting I was doing and probably felt bad or quietly wished me luck.  Onward I went quietly painting while inside me I was yelling "Yes,  I can paint...really...I've been doing it for longer than most of you have been alive..I can do it, just not today".  I trucked along until this mornings mega dose of coffee kicked in as well as some other curious twinges that made it imperative I find a restroom.  Always one of the most important things when plein airing.  Reminds me of another less-than-successful outdoor painting moments in a park where I was sitting on the steps of a building and dozens of people came up to ask me if it was a bathroom.  At one point Mr. & Mrs.  65-70 yr old Midwest America came up to me in their matchy matchy outfits.  She asked if it was a restroom to which I, with sincere regret, said no it isn't.  So the woman says "Hon, just go in the bushes" and he did next to me just around the corner!  I packed up quickly (then and today) to go in search of a facility which of course was blocks away.  Turns out last night's left overs should have been left alone.

Good grief what happened?  It all started out so well!  I did get a couple hours of work done for which you will never see the result...if you can call it that.  Flumoxed I sat in the park for a while to ponder why does it work sometimes and not others.  The one revelation I had was the times I've done well are when I'm not in a high traffic area.  I read the fabulous Plein Air Magazine and see wonderful paintings of gorgeous places and fantasize that the artists just roll out of their studios and into the wild and come back with marvelous pieces.  My favorite stories are those who go out on horse back for days and days of camping and painting.  At least I have enough presence of mind to know I can't do that no matter how much I want's really the solitude I'm after.  First I can't even get on a horse, second I'd be wicked sore from riding and in all that solitude I'd probably be eaten by a mountain lion but at least I wouldn't have someone relieving himself in the bushes next to me or some ridiculous yappy dog to deal with!

Something good had to come out of this effort so made my way to a fabulous Creperie and had a spectacular lunch, then headed home to the comfort of the studio, which was a wreck so I ended up cleaning!  Tomorrow should, I hope, be a much better day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Landscapes #1

Time to step away from the shoreline a bit and go into the woods.  Landscape is where it all started for me and is my first love.  I was a child of the woods having spent my formative years in the thick forests of Canada.  I had a simple but fabulous tree house, just a crude platform really, in an immense and embracing tree.  It was my tree of life and I'd sit on the platform for hours where I learned if you were quiet you'd see all sorts of life emerge in the forest:  deer, rabbits, an occasional bear headed for the berry patch.  I was surrounded by food...berries of every sort and there was a fresh water spring nearby that was so cold and sweet as it emerged from the rocks.  All my fondest memories have been of the forest and it's embrace but life is full of adventures. 

Jewel Weed   30 x 22"  watercolor

I also love the Sea and have been thinking of landscape & seascape in terms of concept...for me to look out over the ocean is about limitless space, the forest is the opposite.  For many the forest is even a fearful place.  I've been reading interesting articles about The Woods, first in "Letters From An American Farmer" by  J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur in 1782 ...all Europeans would rejoice with him in replacing "wild, woody, and uncultivated nature with fair cities, substantial villages..."  Where I live they certainly have done that in spades. Nature is either non-existant or beat into submissive tidy little parklets.  
October   30 x 22"  watercolor

In my landscape paintings and drawings I am exploring the question:  How do you face the forest?  Is it a wilderness, a blockade?  Would you create your own path or look for a way in?  

Saplings  26 x 20"  charcoal

Silver Birch   30 x 22"   watercolor

Thicket    26 x 20"  charcoal

Winter Woods   22 x 30"   watercolor

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Naming paintings...

Sail Until the White Day is Done  -  oil on canvas  -  34 x 46"


Painting gives me a way to combine all my loves: art, weather, poetry - the list could go on.  I just did a whole lot of paintings for an upcoming exhibit at my Provincetown gallery, the Lyman Eyer.  It opens next Friday until Aug 1, so stop by!  Crazy thing is it's easier for me to paint than it is to title my work which is when I turn to poetry.  

As I began work on the painting above I kept thinking of one of those deep summer days, hot, humid, sky stays milky but there's a breeze.  While I am a dismal failure of a sailor I do love sailboats, all boats actually. So while I painted this I pictured myself in a small sailboat floating around at the whim of the breeze, completely relaxed with no goal or agenda loving the experience and not wanting to head back to land until the day was done.  The title of the painting began to form, way back in my memory came a piece of a poem by Langston Hughes "Dream Variations", I love this it is:

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me. 
Langston Hughes

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Plein Airing!

Now that my new knee is working pretty well I'm out and about every chance I get and have been plein airing all over, here are some of the results.  The first paintings I do when I get out after being in the studio for too long are always horrible, I need to get my mojo working.

The first 3 are all from last weekend's outing to the FABULOUS Arnold Arboretum.  I could not survive city living without that park.  I started out with brushwork but it wasn't working so laid in some with brushes then went straight to palette knife.
The Culvert -  oil on board  -  8" x 10"

Footbridge - oil on board  -  10" x 8"

Along Willow Path - oil on paper  -   8" x 10"

Here's a piece from the weekend before along Boston Harbor.

Across the Harbor -  oil on paper - 15"  x 22"  

Next is one of my favorites.  I was waiting for the fast ferry and had literally less than 5 minutes before it took off but the light hit a portion of the docks that I could not resist.  I whipped out the watercolors and did the fastest sketch ever because I couldn't do too much it's crazy fresh, love it's little cubist tendency, adore the brightness, colors and looseness!
MacMillan Wharf Sketch  -  watercolor  -  7" x 10"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Every journey begins with a single step...

Today marks the 4th month since I got a new and vastly improved knee.  This was an arduous journey to say the least and it made me think long and hard about the simple, precious act of walking - the first and  most basic means of travel.   If anyone reading this has a knee replacement in their future, it is scary, it is a very big deal and it is only successful if you do everything they tell you to do especially the most painful part...physical therapy, that was far more painful than the surgery but most important and necessary.  Grit your teeth and do it.  While I inched my way to recovery I read lots of things to stay motivated.  I re-read many parts of "Wanderlust", a terrific book by Rebecca Solnit and was blown away by "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.  Now I don't run, never did and never wanted to I am a tortoise in a world full of hares.  But McDougall's book is about much more than running.  It's a great window into a mysterious culture in the Copper Canyon's of Mexico.  It's also full of great philosophy, ideas about food and outrageous characters!  I had no idea there even was a community of ultra-marathon runners let alone barefoot runners!  One of my favorite lines in his book is a call to remember how it felt to run barefoot through the a grassy field when you were young.  It was such an easy and free feeling.  Of all the things that were revelatory about these books what struck me most is that no fancy, ultra expensive, high tech footware is involved.  In Solnit's book I was particularly fascinated by Wordsworth and his sister who regularly set out for extraordinary walks in all kinds of English weather to go visit someone who was maybe 25+/- miles away.  That's when I really got to thinking about what did they wear on their feet, it had to be simple handmade shoes.  Which is all anyone ever had for all of time up to about maybe 10 years ago.  That's what brings me to McDougall's book and his insight into footwear.  The reclusive Tarahumara Indians of the Copper Canyons of Mexico only use sandals mostly to protect their feet from ferocious cactus thorns as they run 60-100 miles regularly.  I needed these inspirational books to get me through the hard parts and they did.

If I had not gotten a new knee I would have been in a wheelchair by Summer, if not sooner.  I could barely walk a block, every step was excruciating.  I could not have gotten through any of it without my friends and I treasure them for being there for me.  I don't know yet whether or not I'll need my other knee done, it seems pretty strong and healthy now that it's not doing all the work.  But I know if it needs to be done, I'll do it and hope my friends will help me out again.

As I walked around the other day I thought about range of motion and distance...before surgery my world was rapidly shrinking one block at a time, now it's expanding - I don't see an end to it.  My artwork started to show the strain as well, the work got tighter and tighter, now I'm outside painting again and the work is beginning to be more relaxed.  As an artist one of the most important aspects of my work is  s-p-a-c-e  I need a lot of it in my work as well as my life and the last 8 months have felt like house arrest.  Now all I can see is space, it has helped me stay energized to do PT as all is not perfect yet.  But I see my world expanding and only possibility and adventure lays before me, what a wonderful feeling!  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Walking and sketching in Rome & Florence

I am not surprised but still heartbroken.  I did not get accepted to the Rome Prize this year.  To be honest I'll never get accepted but I will probably keep trying.  I touched on the reason why when I was in Rome last time and blogging because I DID get a Visiting Artist in Residency there in 2010 for which I remain thrilled and grateful for and will definitely go back for another VAR.   But in Rome there is a deep craving for all things new and I am a traditional artist, a realist.  Rome, all of Italy, much of Europe suffers from antiquity fatigue.  Poor Rome can't even build without running into layers of history.  One person told me that now they only stop building if they run into a body.  When I was there I was enthusiastically told to go see the new Zahia Hadid museum and the new Richard Meier church in Rome, both gorgeous and so unlike anything around which is thrilling to the Romans.  The Romans love their city but even I, a simple visitor, could see how exhausting it can be to live in a museum and be overcome by hoards of idiot tourists.  But I digress and sure don't want to get into what I think of most tourists my purpose is to share a number of street sketches I did while wandering Rome and Florence.  Some will have little notes and all are pen on paper about 8 x 10 inches.  Anytime I look at these they bring back the fondest memories and create a palpable longing to go back again.  I am in love with Italy, Rome, the Italian culture and Italians themselves....sigh.

View from my Villa

 A statue in the Uffizi, my poor knees were screaming from all the walking so I sat and drew this statue while resting

On a lightly rainy day in Florence I sat in a cafe, people watching then got interested in a  potential painting called "Pioggia e Fiorenze" so this is one of many sketches for that painting.  This is also typical of how my paintings all start.

 These next three are all from around the Roman Forum...

A little sketch from walking around Trastevere one day, this one became a fabulous little painting that has found a good home.

 These next two were drawn while I was having lunch at the Uffizi cafe, again my knees were screaming and I HAD to sit down for a while and since I needed a good long sit once lunch was done I started to sketch so I could justify staying there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Walking part 2...

One of my favorite books! First of all the title is great, so positive.  When the author was a young man with a huge wandering spirit and took off across Europe to Constantinople.  I love his writing style.  Once I finished it I put it right on top of my books-to-read again pile.  I am nostalgic for walks like set out, sleeping in nature or shelter provided by kindly people.  In fact it is remarkable how many kind people he came across who were so willing to offer a meal and a place to sleep and to write ahead to friends so that he could have future places to stay.  I'm sorry to say that I do not think this kind of journey could be done today....anywhere.  I hope I'm wrong, would hate to think I've become that much of a cynic.  But when I think of what he did I sadly can't imagine doing it at all in the U.S. 

Patrick also seems like a jolly hail fellow well met kinda guy.  Wide open to meeting people where they are and learning about them which I think makes any endeavor like his journey much more successful.  

He set out in any kind of weather, some of the worst one can imagine and without complaint.  One snowflake and I'd stay in bed with as many blankets as I could find and probably whine the entire time too.  But he had this goal of so many miles a day no matter what and never to be assisted except in extreme situations by hitching a ride.  Now remember his journey took place without fancy shoes, the latest hiking gear or high tech winter clothes.  Patrick's journey also took him through a major change in world history and the book ends before he reaches his goal but the next book takes up where he left off and is next on my reading list.

Walking is all on my mind these days as I learn how to use my new knee and suffer through punishing PT.  I dream of a great journey that is slow and savoring in a way that only walking can offer.  We are all in such a rush and it's not clear what the goal is it all, just mad dashing hither & thither.   While I am truly nostalgic for a journey like Patrick's the other harsh reality is that as a woman it would not be possible.  So while I heal I dream and read about great journey's and hope to take up one of my own.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


My dear little blog will take a turn for a while as I focus on an important aspect of life and source of energy for my art...walking.  Before I launch into this I want to say a BIG thanks to neighbor & extraordinary artist Maggie Connors for letting me use one of her paintings to start this off with.  Look at the woman in the painting walking so confidently & easily, fantastic!  Thanks Maggie...

I walk for exercise of course but it is also my main source for deep thinking & problem solving.  As I get older I want life to slow down with hopes of absorbing every second of every day and the pace of walking suits that nicely plus there is so much more to see when walking.  Sometimes it can feel as if I'm moving in slow motion as people jog, speed walk, bike or just scamper past in that type-A brisk busy walk which requires twice as many little snippy steps as any normal walk.  I've certainly done all those but much prefer a good old fashioned stroll.  Italians have it right with la passeggiata (a gentle slow stroll) in the evenings after one of their exquisite meals.
So why am I so focused on walking?  It has become a big issue in my life due to advanced osteoarthritis, every step hurts and journies are only short distances for which I pay a painful price with screaming knees and sleepless nights.  Actually it feels like I'm under house arrest lately!  I will be getting new knees soon and the first thing I'm going to do with them is take a good long walk.  Science has made great strides (ba da boom) with joint replacement so I'm confident for the future and getting back to being an action figure.  These days I think of people like Renoir who suffered enormous pain and deformity with RA.  In fact when I was a young artist I remember seeing and being horrified (in sympathy not disgust) over a photo of Renoir whose hands were completely distorted by the disease.  He had to wedge paint brushes between his fingers then tape it all together.  What incredible suffering he endured!  His most famous quote is "The pain passes, but the beauty remains"  when he was asked how he could continue to paint while in agony from the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.   Renoir also said to one of his dealers who was watching him paint "you see you don't even need a hand to paint".  That's because as all good artists know you paint from your heart.  Other great painters who suffered with arthritis were:  Raoul Dufy, Matisse, Grandma Moses, Paul Klee, Peter-Paul Rubens, Antoni Gaudi, etc...but they kept right on creating. 

I have been doing a ton of reading, specifically, Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit (terrific book!) and am particularly drawn to her writing about Wordsworth and how he and his sister would go on enormous walks.  So for a little while I will be focused on Walking and all the art it inspires and will keep painting as well.  This will be a great project to keep me going until I can get back to walking...