Water in the Hole

You’d think that living on an island would be a year-round water extravaganza but it isn’t necessarily so. The skin of soil over the rocks here is very thin and the lakes and ponds are seasonal, rising and falling with spring snow-melt and summer rain. This year’s winter didn’t bring much in the way of snow and July and August have so far been merciless in terms of heat and drought. The soil is rock hard, shifting to dust while the grass crinkles underfoot.

Enter the stand pipe, or dug well, or surface well, for irrigation. About three of our five acre plot is bog and in previous drought years I’ve looked at the small, deep pockets of stagnant water and wondered if there was any way to move that to the garden. Last Thursday a local construction crew came by with a small excavator, carved out an 8′ hole, stood a 10′ long 24″ culvert in it and backfilled with gravel.

Culvert set into a hole containing standing water, backfilled with peastone
Stand pipe, surface well, dug well

Ten years ago when I was looking for a solar pump for this (future) project the price was prohibitive for a small garden irrigation system; the cheapest model was $1,500.00. This winter I purchased a submersible pump, controller, and panel for under $200.00 and it’s more powerful than many of the pricier models on the market a decade ago. I did have to purchase a 12v battery but the set-up went smoothly and we were pumping water with the power of the sun only a few hours after the excavator left the site.

This is the view down the standing culvert to the water level. The pump is submerged at the end of the nylon rope and can be raised or lowered, power cable and exit hose are ziptied together on the left.

The construction happened last week and since then the water has cleared and the bottom of the well has receded as the silt settles. The drought has taken its toll on the fruit tree crops and potato yields, but this little well has probably saved the tomatoes and second crops of lettuces and brassicas. Job well done!

I also met a new friend who lives under a hollow stump behind the well. Meet Pancake.

American Bullfrog
American Bullfrog

New Work: American Bullfrogs with Cosmos and Zinnias

Another “creature feature” from the garden this summer. Bullfrogs are a member of Ranidae, or “true frogs” and fill an important niche in the garden and nearby bog. They’re not shy, at least around here, so are easily observed. All you need to do is sit by the edge of the water and let the chorus wash over you.

bullfrogs and swallowtails with bouquet
American Bullfrogs with Zinnias and Cosmos, 36 x 24, oil on panel, 2020

Productivity Alchemy podcast

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!

https://productivityalchemy.com/2019/12/26/episode-127-holiday-amy-pollien/

New work: Finches and Roses

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.

Goldfinches on a blue ground with a vase of pink roses and daisies.
Goldfinches with Roses, 24 x 18, oil on panel

New work: Dahlias with Rooster

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.

Red dahlias with a black Leghorn rooster, painting
Dahlias with Rooster, 36 x 24, oil on panel, 2019

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!

Detail of Dahlias with Rooster underpainting
Dahlias with Rooster, underpainting in progress, detail

New work – Eli Creek

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.

Eli Creek, Acadia National Park, Isle Au Haut, Maine
Eli Creek, Acadia National Park, Isle Au Haut, Maine

The August garden

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!

Garden panorama
August has been kind to the tomatoes.

New work: Bouquet With Botanical Print (Spaendonck)

Still life painting of bouquet with botanical print by Dutch artist Gerald Spaendonck in the background

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.

New work: The Strawberry Thief

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.

painting, stilllife, oilpainting

The Strawberry Thief, 24 x 18, oil on panel

 

 

New work – Halfway There

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

Oil on gessoed panel, 36 x 24, detail