Any interest in what I sound like speaking? Laughing? I’m familiar with what my voice sounds like through a recording but had never heard myself laugh until last month, when I had a wonderful time participating in the Productivity Alchemy podcast with host Kevin Sonney. We talked bees and art, gardens and dayjobs, and how those things fit together. I also had a chance to honor some of the people and philosophies that I love and aspire to. I can recommend the podcast as a well-produced window onto the lives of working people, and hey, here’s a link to December. Thank you, Kevin!
More wildlife in the garden – and in my paintings for 2020. Spinus tristis makes a tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call in flight as they bounce around the garden from seed stalk to thistle head. While the female is on the nest she calls to her returning mate with a soft continuous teeteeteeteete sound, which we hear a great deal during early summer. The roses in this painting are from an unidentified plant that was a gift from a friend in southern Maine. It blooms once, gloriously, in early summer and has proved hardy in its little untended corner of the lower garden for twenty years.
The working title for my series of paintings in 2020 is “In the Garden” and will highlight the many and varied creatures that live and visit the space outside my studio.
I’ve been working to improve habitats for creatures in and around the garden beds. Amphibians, reptiles, and songbirds are all at risk worldwide and I have the advantage of excellent raw material in two acres of freshwater marsh and a harsh climate that resists invasives and favors native species. I have compositions planned to include our three local frog species: grey, tree, and spring peeper, multiple woodpeckers, the ducks and geese that stop here on their way through the spring and fall migrations, and the domestics that wander through on a lovely summer morning, like my neighbor’s Black Leghorn rooster, below.
This piece started with an underpainting of large tonal areas – a new technique for me this year. The underlying structure allows more freedom in the top layer to depict the complicated surfaces and textures of the creatures that will join the flowers in future paintings. Onward to “Roses with Goldfinch” in the studio!
We recently spent a week out on Isle Au Haut, an island about twelve miles out from Stonington, Maine. Acadia National Park occupies half the 100 square mile area and maintains hiking trails, a five site campground, and rangers on site for the summer season. We stayed in staff housing; a hundred year old cabin with a spring-fed stream rushing through the front yard. No electricity or water, no visitors, nothing to do all day but hike over the rocky coast, draw or paint as the inspiration hit, and cook dinner over a propane burner as darkness came on. If there’d been a vegetable garden it would be my idea of paradise. We did see a few gardens on the “town” side of the island – fenced all four sides and over the top to keep out the hungry island deer.
This is Eli Creek viewed from the cabin – a lovely opportunity to paint the landscape “at home”. The panel is 24″ x 18″ and is a study for a larger format in progress.
I’ve been working to put a garden post together since June but honestly, WordPress, could you make your photo upload engine any more baroque? I have a dozen picture of (now dated) flowers and vegetables and I may figure out how to post that in the near future, meanwhile, have an August panorama!
Still life painting of bouquet with botanical print by Dutch artist Gerald van Spaendonck as background, 24 x 36 inches, oil on panel.
Spaendonck was a Flemish painter and engraver who brought the traditions of Flemish flower painting to Paris. Prior to this he had studied with studied under the decorative painter Guillaume-Jacques Herreyns in Antwerp in the 1760s. Studying his work has been very instructive in adding to my palette.
The definition of a pattern is a discernible regularity. I’m working out what that means in terms of petals around a central disc, stems in a vase, and natural forms stylized using mathematical models to repeat seamlessly, such as wallpapers and textiles.
William Morris created a way of life through pattern: in ornament, textiles, product design, writing, and political activism. I was interested in the rigorous complexity as a backdrop to the riot of random color of the flame azalea branches.
The Strawberry Thief, 24 x 18, oil on panel
I’m involved in a series of diptychs; an exploration of overlapping images with a contiguous background and subject matter. What that means in practice is that, while I draw up both panels together, one half is actually painted before the other is started. It’s great for my color discipline as the lighting and hue of both panels was originally the same but it might be a month before I start on the second image. Here’s the left side of the current set – the right panel is still in progress.
Teapot marked MIJ c 1928 with 4th Century Moorish textile, Museum no. IS. 96-1993, © Victoria and Albert Museum, detail
I recently spent some time on one of the hundreds of islands in Penobscot Bay. It was wonderful to have a chance to work on site in that beautiful landscape of rocks and water. Drawings are Coates brand vine charcoal and white Conte crayon on Ampersand pastelbord, and are all approximately 20 x 16 – big enough to encompass the view and small enough to securely carry over those rocks!
I’ve been experimenting with twin panels of overlapping arrangements. Diptychs are the art historian’s version of a chapter book, one view leading to another and sharing the overlap.
Here, alpine poppies, margarite daisies, cosmos, marigolds and woad spill out of 50’s vintage vases in morning light.
Poppies and Margarites, 36 x 48 on two panels, oil on archival board