Thursday, May 29, 2008

Open Studios weekend was created by the Vermont Crafts Council shortly before we moved here. It's a showcase for the state's craftspersons, from jewelers to potters, metal workers to furniture makers. A few years later those in the arts, painters and sculptors, were invited to open their studios as well. This year we decided to join in. We had converted our garage to a new studio last summer, more than doubling our work space, so we felt like we had a respectable place to show our work. Most of the week before the event was spent mailing flyers, handing out tour maps, waterproofing and posting road signs, cleaning and organizing, and hanging drawings, paintings and giclee prints in our two studios. Saturday morning started slowly but we had advertised that we would do a demonstration at 2 o'clock so we expected things to pick up later. I was going to do the demo and thought it would be fun for the visitors to watch as I prepared my canvas. I took out a couple of canvases that I had primed last year and began to restretch them. Rebecca chatted with me as I worked. Mike and Kathye wandered back and forth between the two studios trying to decide whether to buy my oil painting or Elizabeth's giclee print, they bought both. Bernice came by as I began to tone the canvases with rabbit skin glue and raw umber pigment. Now it was getting late so I quickly cut open a cantaloupe, grabbed a few grapes from the fruit basket and placed them in a stem bowl, tossed a kitchen towel and the knife on the cutting board, put on my smock and greeted those who were waiting to see me paint. For the next 2 hours I worked hard, painting with bold, broad brushwork, laying in masses of light and color, pushing the painting along much faster than my usual pace, all the while telling stories and answering questions. Some people stayed to the end, others left to continue the studio tour, new arrivals drifted in to watch or peruse the paintings on the walls. There was a lot going on, it was swirling around me but I was calm, happy, at peace...I was at my easel.....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Passing Storm
12 x 16 Oil on Panel

This is the original study for Sorrel's Knoll in the previous post. Well, not exactly. I kept that sketch around my studio for years thinking someday I'll rework it, give it some life. I would pull it out from time to time and set it on a shelf hoping it would speak to me. Well apparently it was quite angry with me because it just sat there and never said a word. I tried setting a mood with music, some Bach keyboard pieces, a Mozart serenade. Nothing. A Bartok string quartet came on the radio, but it wasn't interested in that either. Maybe it was time to put it back in the rack for awhile. I decided to take a walk. I went down the hill past my knoll then up the other side before turning and heading home. As I came back toward the knoll the wind picked up and storm clouds made a sudden appearance. They blew in fast and dark, I braced myself for a downpour. It was raining hard in the distance but I stayed dry. Then just as suddenly it was over, the sun came back out creating a magnificent rainbow over the valley. As I looked back to my knoll, a burst of sunlight splashed in front of the remaining storm clouds. Stunning. Gorgeous. Romantic. The knoll just laughed, "Schumann" it said softly. When I got back to the studio my sketch was ready, "Let's do it" it said. So we cheerfully spent the afternoon together listening to Schumann, the sketch getting a complete makeover.....

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Sorrel's Knoll
Oil on Linen
Image 20 x 24 - Framed 26 x 30

I know this place well. Only about 100 yards or so from my studio, I pass by every day as I check the mailbox at the end of the road or walk the dog. We have a very good relationship, I always stop to admire her beauty and she nods a limb or waggles some grass to acknowledge my presence. I've seen her at all times of the day and through all the seasons. Delightful in spring and summer, magnificent in her autumn outfit. Like any good Vermont scene she embraces the winter, welcomes the snow and is refreshed by the cold air. We've shared quite a few dewy mornings though I prefer to stop by in the late afternoon after I've finished my day's work. A fence went up recently and now a pair of chestnut mares nibble at her grass and gently massage her soil as they play in her fields. She likes to turn in early thanks to the hill to her left but never slips into sleep without watching the afterglow across the valley. One day she agreed to sit for a portrait and I arranged to bring my landscape easel out the next afternoon. She sat perfectly still and I dutifully copied what I saw. When I got home I was disappointed because what I like most about her is her lively personality, my study was quite correct and quite dull. So I got out a fresh canvas and painted her as I knew her, with a bit of a breeze and drifting clouds. I painted quickly using no more paint than I needed...fresh, lively, of my favorite pieces.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Sorrel's Knoll, which retails for $3600, is being made available for $2400 (includes shipping, VT residents add 6% sales tax). To purchase this piece contact me at Payment is by check only please, no credit cards. If you prefer you may make 3 monthly payments. This offer is currently available to my facebook friends.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It isn't always easy. Mozart dashed off the overture to Don Giovanni the night before the premier performance. Beethoven, on the other hand, reworked the overture to Fidelio again and again, he left us with four versions. It isn't always easy. Gulley Jimson saw feet, big feet, small feet, pretty feet, gnarly feet, enough feet to fill a wall. He put everything he had into it. Finally, exhausted, he looked at his great mural from across the room, "Not the vision I had" he muttered to himself. It isn't always easy. I barely had to lift a finger to create Peaches and the Great Pot in my previous post. Now I needed a Herculean effort to create this painting. Originally set up to challenge the best of my students, it sat in the studio for weeks before I could find the time to paint it myself. The first day I painted well but the composition wasn't satisfying so I wiped it out. On day two the composition was better but otherwise I painted badly, so I wiped out again. A few days later I faced the still blank canvas. I finally got the painting started only to be knocked off track time and again. Deliver paintings here, a family illness there, teaching here and there. I soldiered on and some lovely passages began to appear, then a few more. Soon I was able to float over the still life and pass into the landscape. I worked hard, I fought for my vision. It isn't always easy...but it's always exciting.....

Monday, May 5, 2008

Peaches and the Great Pot
20 x 25 Oil on Linen

A few times each year I get to sit back and watch myself paint. I saw this earthenware pot in a shop while looking for a wedding present for my niece. It was obviously not right for her yet I kept going back to it. Elizabeth asked if I had found a present yet, "No" I replied "but I found a great pot to paint." Needless to say we bought it and the name great pot stuck. When we got back to the studio I was very anxious to paint, quickly grabbed a few things from the kitchen and threw a still life together. I took a canvas from the rack and started to work with the paint left over from the day before. From the first stroke it all seemed quite magical. The paint had an excellent consistency, rich and thick, not at all gummy or runny. The canvas took the paint beautifully, not slippery or dry, just the right amount of grab. Even the brushes, which I curse daily, did everything I asked them to do. It was fabulous, effortless. I saw my hand moving back and forth from the palette to the painting, yet I felt like it was not me doing the painting. My every thought appeared instantly, my every whim a brushstroke. I sat on my stool and watched the painting materialize. The peaches deliciously colorful, the grapes luminous gems, the drapery loose and free as it drops over the front of the table, the perspective of the basket magnificent, the great pot lived up to its name, the background effortlessly set off the objects before it. What a splendid show...and I just sat by and watched it all happen...then I walked over and gave myself a pat on the back.....

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I knew nothing about drawing when I walked into Hale’s drawing and anatomy class at the League. I was hungry, no not hungry, starving to be taught something. “If you draw what you see, wait until you see what you draw” I remember from his first lecture. When the model took a back view I would sigh to myself and wonder what I was going to do for 20 minutes. I drew what I saw, a rather lumpy outline. There were no facial features to fuss over, no nipples or bellybuttons to adorn my flat figure, so I was rather lost. Then, lecture after lecture, I was introduced to the bones and muscles that made up that lumpy outline, I learned about their form and function. Amazing. All of a sudden there were the seventh cervical vertebrae and the eighth rib, the graceful trapezius and the powerful latissimus dorsi. I felt the hand of knowledge caressing me and my heart began to pound in my chest. I became aware of light and shade, front planes and side planes, my circles became spheres, my squares cubes. The figure now had rhythm, mass and dimension, she sat in space and projected a presence. The rib cage began to breathe, I could see the shoulder blades spread as the model wrapped her arms around the front of her torso, the spine gently twist as she turned her head, the muscles of the leg and buttocks flattening as they rested on the seat. That lumpy outline now has a beautiful flow that I am aching to express. When the model takes a back pose I no longer sigh with despair, I take a deep breath of excitement and my heart starts to race again…..