Great Spruce Head Island, 6/23 – 6/29/2012

Eight tubes of paint, five brushes (thanks, R!), stand oil and turp, paper towels, 5 boards (that’s way too many), 10 pieces of paper (ditto), a Mason jar of shellac and chip brushes, mosquito/tick repellant, sunscreen, hat, windbreaker, socks, running gear (hells yeah), 10 lbs of fresh herbs for Barney the Chef (not even kidding), a world of pencils, white plastic erasers, blue masking tape, Alleve and Absorbine Jr., 3 Kind bars, a Kindle Fire, a Tracfone, a pac of USB’s, camera, 2 memory cards for same, 2 Moleskine notebooks.  I think I’m ready.

Ready set go

TBC. . .

Reality check

I’m using a “Streetwise” map of Paris, and it’s wonderful. It has just enough detail to be useful without being overwhelming, it seems to be very accurate (we’ve only gotten lost by not consulting it), and it’s laminated which has come in handy more than once.


I was remarkably slow, however, in learning that when a building takes up two square inches on my little tiny map it means that building is huge. Gargantuan. The biggest pile of carved rocks you have ever imagined, times two. The Louvre? Is huge. We’ve spent the better part of two days there now and several docents have nodded graciously in recognition at seeing us in the French painting galleries multiple times, but we’ve only just begun to see what is enclosed in that space.

BoucherThis is the Lion Gate.

lion gate

I couldn’t get anything in the photo for scale because the lion is on a 10′ plinth. And he’s huge.

Old Master study: Brueghel

From time to time it’s instructive to do studies from the Old Masters. You don’t really know anything about a work of art until you’ve copied it.

The Blind Leading the Blind

Pieter Brughel the Elder painted The Parable of the Blind in tempera on canvas in 1568. The original hangs in The National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples (very pink – I’d love to go someday). My copy is 20″ x 28″, pastel on board.

Encaustic painting, Act 1, Scene 2

Last Monday I coated 4 Homasote and gesso panels with a thin coat of wax medium. On Thursday I had a chance to mix some colors and experiment with actual paint.

Thug life bird

My experience so far:

  • The base coat of wax medium should be thinner and less textured. It really is startling how quickly the wax hardens on the brush. I need to use shorter strokes and not try to “rebrush” into the hardened surface.
  • Fusing the wax medium to the board with a heat gun is efficient and makes a slick, hard painting surface. The process does not do as much as I thought it would to smooth out the bumps, however. You’d think the wax would melt flat to the surface, but no. Perhaps I’m not heating it long enough – time for another experiment.
  • Wow, the wax hardens quickly. I am learning to hold the brush in the small pot of pigment and wax (heated to molten on the griddle) until I am mentally ready to place that mark on the board. It’s a wonderful disciplinary exercise.
  • The painting is always dry – that is, the surface of the drawing is always ready for a new mark to be added. It was also very easy to scrape the wax away. This is a wet media with all the advantages of a dry media – cool.
  • Fusing the paint layers to each other is an additional, separate skill set. Too little and the layers stay dry and adjacent to each other. Too much and the pigmented wax blurs as it all slags together. Somewhere in the middle is a chance to overlap translucent layers with distinct edges to really show off the medium.
  • Blue jays are noisy thugs, but very entertaining to draw.


New work

Sometimes I have down time, and when I do I pick up a book by Andrew Loomis entitled Fun with a Pencil. Most of the book consists of page after page of looney, retro figures: cartoons, facial expressions, activity poses, and types of people: laborers, bikini babes, infants, and old men. Right about the time you just can’t stand to draw another fat man with a bulbous nose the middle of the book changes course to perspective drawings.

Loomis begins with the artificial horizon and pretty soon has it filled in with trees and houses set along curvy roads, and another bikini girl posed on a set of stairs. From there the book moves indoors and explains how to lay out a room in 2D.

And that’s how I came to spend the weekend drawing the front room.

Old work

We’re between snow storms on the island, with about 3′ on the ground and more coming Wednesday. The paths are shoveled and the birds are fed and the inside of the house is warm and bright so, cleaning! We’re planning to rearrange the first floor of the house now that The Boy is living in another city so cleaning in this sense means “cleaning out”.

I’ve surrounded myself with piles of old recipe cards from my mother and her sisters to be sent to one of my nieces, boxes of Irish crochet pieces to be assembled into something I can wear or given away, a satisfyingly large bag of trash, and some old paintings.

I gave up on oils nearly five years ago. The switch to dry media was driven by time and method considerations that haven’t changed so I won’t be going back any time soon, but it’s interesting (for me) to see what I was doing with a brush and liquid. This small painting of grapes in a bowl purchased with Morton salt coupons in the 40’s was done about 10 years ago.

Now, back to editing my life. We’ll see what else turns up. . .


The New Year is almost upon us – must be time to start a new daybook. I use the Exacompta “Space 24” weekly desk planner. At @ 6 x 9 inches it has plenty of space to record weather, appointments and lists day to day, a generous “notes” area, and the paper lends itself beautifully to drawings. Meetings, conference calls and on-line seminars are just doodles waiting to happen.

The Donut Dragons

The amount of stress relief available from a black pen on smooth, heavy, finely finished paper is amazing. The Exacompta books start with the month of December of the prior year, so I’ll be switching over to 2011 tomorrow after recording notes about the “Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010″ (15” of snow over two days here on the island) and what we had to eat on Christmas day in 2010. It’s always a wonderful feeling to start in on newly opened pages. Below is a small beastie from a short staff meeting in 2010 – Happy New Year!


Time for some navel-gazing. Below is a collection of search terms that brought readers to this blog over the past few months:

Raspberries (also razberry, raspberrys, rasberry), jam, pie, bush, growing

Still life (also still lives, stull life and still)

Hamburger stand inventory spread sheet. (Really?)

bad composition painting

bed construction (presumably garden beds)

Cinder blocks, cinder block construction, use cinder blocks, cement blocks – one of my biggest referral sites is a cinder block construction company in Arizona.

Blue mason jar

Screw down trivot photos

Amy Pollien, amy pollien, amy pollen, amy pollen bees

Time is but the stream

Poverty cake

Dumping bees into a hive at night time

George Dorr’s caretaker’s cottage

Yokkana seeds

Bonsai sisr

MDI Skate Park

Painting like Janet Fish (Thanks!)

New work

This is a study for a larger work that also features with roses, watermelon, green grapes and tiger lilies. I thought I ought to be familiar with some of the basic parts before I start on the larger chaos.

Tea Pot Study, 14" x 14", pastel on board