Celebrating the return of images

with new work. This is “Watermelon and Pears”, pastel, 24 x 18 inches on board.

I have one more drawing planned from my set-ups in the hoop house over the summer. The light in there is diffuse and very white. I plan to start the 2010 flower season by  constructing a table-top  in the house to take advantage of a large south facing window for compositions with bright slanting planes of lights and shadows, yellow highlights and winking green glass bowls. I’m looking for an abrupt transition from Renoir to somewhere past Janet Fish – can’t wait!

Technical difficulties. . .

This blog is broken, sadly. The only problem is with uploading images, but of course I’m all about the images. We’ll be taking down the site later  today and putting something back up and quite possibly no one will be the wiser. On the other hand, this might be a new and unrecognizable entity by Monday and it’s only fair to leave a message.

I memorize a poem each season, using the time I spend commuting to work and the conference calls and meetings to which I go, but am not expected to contribute past putting out the occasional fire.  My choice for Winter 2010 seems strangely appropriate, so I’m leaving it here as a placeholder. “You, if any open this writing. . .”

Epistle to be Left in the Earth

…It is colder now
there are many stars
we are drifting
North by the Great Bear
the leaves are falling
The water is stone in the scooped rock
to southward
Red sun grey air
the crows are
Slow on their crooked wings
the jays have left us

Long since we passed the flares of Orion
Each man believes in his heart he will die
Many have written last thoughts and last letters
None know if our deaths are now or forever
None know if this wandering earth will be found

We lie down and the snow covers our garments
I pray you
you (if any open this writing)
Make in your mouths the words that were our names
I will tell you all we have learned
I will tell you everything

The earth is round
there are springs under the orchards
The loam cuts with a blunt knife
beware of
Elms in thunder
the lights in the sky are stars
We think they do not see
we think also
The trees do not know nor the leaves of the grasses hear us
The birds too are ignorant
do not listen
Do not stand at dark in the open windows
We before you have heard this
they are voices
They are not words at all but the wind rising
Also noone among us has seen God
(… We have thought often
the flaws of sun in the late and driving weather
pointed to one tree but it was not so.)
As for the nights I warn you the nights are dangerous
The wind changes at night and the dreams come

It is very cold
there are strange stars near Arcturus
Voices are crying an unknown name in the sky

Archibald MacLeish

Jerusalem Airlift

Jerusalem is an adjective in my family; it denotes a similarity in a New World object to something from the Old. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) isn’t even remotely related to an artichoke, but the taste is similar. Jerusalem Cherry, (olanum pseudocapsicum), is a member of the nightshade family with poisonous fruit – small, round, bright red fruit that look something like cherries. The Old World names were good enough, but the distinction had to be made lest you make a fatal pie out of New World cherries.

My family wrote hundreds of letters when I went away to college. Going away to college was new, but they’d had experience with going away to war and that’s how they approached it. Hundreds of letters about food. About their lives back home, actually – but I’d never realized that food was so much the overarching motif of those lives. I’m working the letters up into a collection. The Old World sent food, but the New sent a facsimile – a Jerusalem Airlift.

Mary came back to the Firehouse after, and we arranged platters of meats, breads and salads for 100. They gave us much more and also sent a beautiful whole ham for Mother and Ben. Dad cut it in chunks last night with the big knife so it could be divided easily. Mother froze the bone for soup later on. PS Thought I’d send nuts – maybe you can use a hammer and something for a pick.

It is supposed to snow this afternoon 2 – 8″ stopping around midnight. I am working overtime tomorrow, then on Sunday we are having your father’s birthday party. He wants that coconut pineapple cake of Doris Watkins’. It always falls apart, but he always asks for it.

I have plenty of excerpts to work with, and hope to begin setting up material to draw as illustrations. (I’m going to skip the ham.) A perfect frontspiece for the book, I think, will be a picture of me standing ghostly in the back yard, holding a layer cake.

The ones that got away. . .

This another post about a lost painting. Parts of it are quite lovely, but the situation has been lost and “the center cannot hold”. For some odd reason I feel better about these failed efforts if they can make one last blog post on their way out. I grow zinnias, french marigolds and cosmos every summer; perhaps I’ll even find the green globe vase and try again.

bad painting

The one that got away, part 2

dawn iris 2006Land O’ Lakes Iris and Sunflowers 18 x 24 pastel 2006

The “one that got away” series is all about work on its way to the dumpster. I have one more chance to record the remains, and this is it. “Land O’ Lakes” was my first pastel after a long period of working in oils. My schedule does not allow long stretches of time to set aside for painting and I was continually grousing about dry paint, dry canvases and ruined brushes. My husband, and fellow painter, suggested I try a medium that was dry to start with and eliminate the problem at the root. I love living with another painter – it would have taken me another year to figure that out.

“Land O’ Lakes” was  named for its resemblance to the actual lakes and not the butter. I have another yellow iris called “Evening Sky” – it’s very confusing. That pale blue translucence makes a beautiful flower but a very difficult drawing. And there are other problems: the composition is large and sprawling, the figures  complex and the color range much too close for my inexperience. Also pastel is very fragile, even on the very forgiving surface of the Ampersand board. You’ll notice the turquoise vase is looks flat and unconvincing because I added layers of chalk to get it right. Doesn’t work, does it?

Another day, another drawing to Strawberry Hill.

New work

Plums on a Blue Willow Plate

Fortunately, I live with someone who can code, heck, someone who speaks DOS. Not that he needed much of his expertise to show me how to link the small image above to a larger version. It was actually pretty easy with WordPress. Go ahead, try it out – this little 9″ x 12″ drawing can be seen almost full size, with all it’s marks and faults in evidence.  Yikes.

Still life painting is a wonderful way to interact with objects. The fruit, or flowers, or dead birds and whatnot are certainly vital – a way of demonstrating the passage of time and fleeting nature of existence. The vase, the plate and the Mason jar represent the inert – rocks and earth – and provide contrast to petals and feathers.  I use old things; dishes with chips and huge antique sugar bowls with brown spots and worn handles, slumped glass and pewter. The willoware plate in this drawing is so old the decals have flowed together to mute the edges of the pattern. It has endured a century of casual use and outlived all its set-mates to end up in a painting – fragile yet enduring.

One of many that got away.

bad painting

I produce about 24 drawings a year. They don’t all turn out well, which is neither surprising nor heartbreaking. This piece is a dud. The composition was dramatic with beautiful color and familiar material – I’ve drawn a lot of nasturtiums over the years – but the final product failed the “can this leave the house?” test, so it went to the Strawberry Hill Transfer Station rather than the gallery.

In order to pass the test, the painting must be entirely “meant”. van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” passes the test – every passage is approached with the same degree of confidence and finish. The viewer doesn’t doubt the wall behind or the surface (a table?) beneath the vase and flowers. The painter didn’t piddle off in the corner, where he wasn’t sure how to indicate a further room. A great painting might be drawn badly (Velasquez drives me nuts) but the passage is carried through like a knife though water – we are unfazed by any discrepancy.

Tonight I have a small crystal bowl full of huge purple blackberries to start on; we’ll see where it ends up.