Category Archives: the neighborhood

Blackberry Branches – off the easel

Summer is a busy time. There have been weekends off-island (sometimes on another island), hours spent in the garden, long days spent at work, and lots and lots of holiday traffic. Somehow, I eked out enough studio time to complete the Blackberry Branches painting, and it’s probably my largest and most complex piece to date: 36 x 24 inches, oil on panel.

Blackberry branches with Ranier Cherries

And some details:

Detail of buds

Detail, Queen Ann cherriesNow, on to a landscape from a sketching trip down to Bernard, on the very tip of MDI. Looking forward to a little more focal length in this one!

 

The Social Capital Owl FAQ

hOWLaween

1. How long has this foolishness been going on?   About 15 years now.

2. What is Social Capital?   The Wikipedia article is pretty good. I find myself aligned with Francis Fukuyama as opposed to Bill Putnam, who wrote the most commonly accessed book on the subject, “Bowling Alone”, and who I feel is heavily influenced by a false sense of nostalgia for the white male nirvana of the 1950’s in the US. Fukuyama describes social capital as “shared norms or values that promote social cooperation, instantiated in actual social relationships”, which I feel describes the owl-community fairly well.

2. How did the SCO get its start/How can I start a SCO on my road?   One day I started cutting down a small spruce at the edge of the road and was interrupted (as one is with small children) before I chopped down the stripped trunk. A neighbor came by and plopped a yard-sale scare-owl on the convenient pole. Someone with a great imagination decided to dress it in a baby tee-shirt advertising the Common Ground Fair and here we are. I imagine you could start by setting a naked owl statue out by the side of the road and then quickly walking away –  the key seems to be allowing anonymity, at least to start. Don’t spy on the owl goings-on!

3. What’s your favorite owl outfit?   Someone added a mortar board (it might have been a party favor?) when our son graduated from high school. That was very sweet.

4. Do you ever dress the owl yourself?/What’s the easiest way to dress an owl (statue)?   Generally the owl just shows up in a new outfit based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Patriots games are a big inspiration, and so is Halloween. Baby clothes from a thrift shop or yard sale used to be the easiest costumes to use, but now I buy small dog outfits when I can find them cheaply. They come with velcro fittings and come in a frankly frightening array of holiday/sports/occasion choices.

5. The owl has been exposed to 15 years of road salt and blistering Maine summers; will you find another one when the plastic finally crumbles?   The owl is indeed faded and worn, and his/her eyes are not their original sparkling yellow. I think we’ll probably have a neighborhood wake and family burial in the back yard at some point, and then go looking for alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?

 

New work!

If you live on the island, you’ve noticed that the rocks at Compass Harbor are black basalt, bleached with salt-grime and truly spectacular in the late afternoon sun. If you also said to yourself, wow, I bet that view would be very difficult to paint, you would be correct. Here’s a first attempt:

View from Compass Harbor to the Porcupine Islands, late afternoon. 24 x 18 inches, oil on panel

Compass Harbor Porcupine Islands

Pysanka

pysanka with chicken

Connie T., who lives a half mile further down our road, has a flock of chickens which lay beautiful blue, tan, and stark white eggs. I know this because occasionally I come home to a box of these beauties on the doorstep – what a treat! She also makes Pysanky, the beautiful Easter eggs that that have been made in Russia and the Ukraine since prehistoric times. No actual eggshells from that time exist, but ceramic replicas have been found from all the way back to the 3rd millennium BC. Legend says that pysanky keep the Serpent at bay, and that as long as sufficient numbers are made each spring the horrible monster will stay chained to a cliff in the Underworld. Thanks, Connie, for making the world a safer place!

easter-egg-front easter-egg-border easter-egg-verso

Blizzard flag

There’s a blizzard warning up for our neighborhood come Sunday. I feel badly for R., who spent the day after a hospital stay plowing in blizzard conditions last weekend, and must be thinking about doing it again. He generally knows the storm is coming long before the rest of us. Here’s the broadcast transcript from the NWS:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CARIBOU ME
425 PM EST FRI FEB 15 2013

MEZ002-005-006-011-015>017-029>032-161015-
/O.COR.KCAR.BZ.A.0001.130217T1100Z-130218T0800Z/
NORTHEAST AROOSTOOK-NORTHERN PENOBSCOT-SOUTHEAST AROOSTOOK-
CENTRAL PENOBSCOT-SOUTHERN PENOBSCOT-INTERIOR HANCOCK-
CENTRAL WASHINGTON-COASTAL HANCOCK-COASTAL WASHINGTON-
SOUTHERN PISCATAQUIS-NORTHERN WASHINGTON-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...PRESQUE ISLE...CARIBOU...VAN BUREN...
MARS HILL...MILLINOCKET...EAST MILLINOCKET...PATTEN...MEDWAY...
HOULTON...HODGDON...SHERMAN...SMYRNA MILLS...LINCOLN...HOWLAND...
SPRINGFIELD...BANGOR...BREWER...ORONO...OLD TOWN...AMHERST...
AURORA...DEDHAM...EASTBROOK...GREAT POND...ORLAND...DEBLOIS...
GRAND LAKE STREAM...MEDDYBEMPS...PEMBROKE...PERRY...PRINCETON...
ELLSWORTH...BAR HARBOR...BLUE HILL...EASTPORT...MACHIAS...
CHERRYFIELD...DOVER-FOXCROFT...MILO...GUILFORD...DANFORTH...
VANCEBORO...TOPSFIELD
425 PM EST FRI FEB 15 2013

...BLIZZARD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE
SUNDAY NIGHT...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CARIBOU HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD
WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE
SUNDAY NIGHT.

* LOCATIONS...NORTHEAST...EAST CENTRAL AND DOWNEAST MAINE.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...POTENTIALLY RANGING FROM 4 INCHES OF SNOW OVER
  FAR NORTHEAST MAINE UPWARDS TO 10 INCHES OF SNOW ACROSS SOUTHEAST
  DOWNEAST MAINE.

* TIMING...SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH MOST OF SUNDAY NIGHT.

* TEMPERATURES...13 TO 26.

* WINDS...NORTH 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 40 TO 55 MPH...WITH
  THE STRONGER WINDS AND WIND GUSTS IN PROXIMITY TO THE DOWNEAST
  COAST.

* VISIBILITIES...ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES.

* IMPACTS...POTENTIALLY HIGH TO EXTREME...WITH SEVERE BLOWING AND
  DRIFTING SNOW POSING THE GREATEST HAZARD WITH THIS EVENT RATHER
  THAN HEAVY SNOW RATES AND VERY DEEP ACCUMULATION WITH FALLING
  SNOW. SNOW AND STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE VERY HAZARDOUS TRAVELING
  CONDITIONS. BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WILL LIKELY CAUSE FREQUENT
  WHITEOUT CONDITIONS WITH VISIBILITY NEAR ZERO.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A BLIZZARD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR FALLING AND/OR
BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND EXTREMELY POOR VISIBILITIES.
THIS CAN LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS AND MAKE TRAVEL VERY
DANGEROUS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR YOUR FAVORITE
SOURCE OF WEATHER INFORMATION FOR THE LATEST UPDATES. ADDITIONAL
DETAILS CAN ALSO BE FOUND AT WWW.WEATHER.GOV/CAR.

&&

Winter gardening

I only needed two pieces of equipment in the garden today, but I think these are the best of their kind: Deer Scram and studded Muck boots.

Deer Scram and Muck Boots

Muck boots come in lots of variations, but these have high, water proof, insulated uppers and metal studs all over the soles. Very punk-culture and very handy for navigating the packed-down, frozen paths on our hill.  I think I picked these up through the awesome folks at Sierra Trading Post a few years ago, but their inventory comes and goes – I don’t know if this particular model is still available. If you find them I can guarantee you’ll never slip on ice or snow again. You’ll have to take them off before you go back inside because they’re holy terror on floor boards, but it’s totally worth it.

Deer Scram is another great invention – powdered deer and rabbit repellent so you don’t have to use a sprayer in sub-freezing temps. This afternoon I followed deer tracks out of the woods and into the gardens to broadcast powder wherever it seemed I could head them off, paying special attention to particularly attractive targets like the cherry trees. It seems to discourage the deer establishing pathways where I don’t want them to go – and where they wouldn’t intrude if the electric fences were on.

Meanwhile, the structure of the garden becomes more evident in the snow – a good lesson for the gardener/designer. This is the start of a willow deer fence that should be fully trained by 2014,

Willow fence

and the withy holding back the south slope improves in size and density every year.

Willow withy retaining wall

 

New work

I’ve finished a 16″ x 20″ study of the front room at Thuya Lodge. There’s a lot going on in this small space and I think it’s a good choice for a larger painting – 32″ x 40″ would be very large for me.

Thuya Lodge study - The Rocking ChairWhen I finish a painting I often study enlarged random sections of the digital image. Do the individual brush strokes make sense of the shapes? Is the color pure and purposeful? Do the edges where colors meet perform well? I fall short of the mark of course, but it’s a helpful process on the long road to improvement. Below are the sections I chose to examine on this piece:

random detail ceiling

random detail lamp

random detail lamp 2