Every winter I try to take a snow day off from work and spend the morning finalizing my seed order to Fedco. There’s something very satisfying about glancing up from long, detailed descriptions of luscious tomatoes and tender green beans to see the snow pelting down outside. (Seeds for bush beans and alyssm “Carpet of Snow” are already on order, as they were in 2013 below.)
My seed order for the coming year will be an experiment; an acknowledgement of suspicions and assumptions that I’ve been resisting for several seasons. My new guidelines, In no particular order, are:
- I don’t need to grow boatloads of everything. That goes double for tomatoes
- I should grow more of what we actually eat, regardless of whether it appeals to my Yankee nature and stores well in the pantry or root cellar
- I love flowers, I paint flowers, and although we can’t eat flowers, I should step all over that Yankee nature and give serious consideration to creating a huge cutting garden.
And maybe give in to the occasional impulse buy that turns out to be really cool – like Dutch Butter popcorn!
Well, no, growing popcorn is an indulgence in space that we could be taking up by growing 9′ stalks of Silver Queen (the finest white sweet corn of all time), so popcorn didn’t make the 2014 list. I am easily swayed to excess when I’m reading seed catalogs but I think I managed to hold closely to my New Rules. FEDCO seeds just emailed me my order confirmation:
214 – Greencrop Bush Green Bean ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2510 – Space Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2555 – Giant Winter Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2766 – Australian Yellow Lettuce OG ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3222 – Tokyo Bekana ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3230 – Mizspoona Salad Selects Gene Pool OG ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3273 – Joi Choi Pac Choi ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3315 – Gypsy Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
3316 – Purple Peacock Gene Pool Broccoli OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
3322 – Arcadia Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
4441 – Aromato Basil OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4481 – Wild Bergamot OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5113 – Sunburst Heliopsis ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
5168 – Giant Imperial Mixed Larkspur ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5171 – Lavatera Mix ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5291 – Tall Climbing Mix Nasturtium ( A=4g ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5350 – Elka Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5351 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5731 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( B=2g ) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80
This order and what I’ve saved from previous years will probably still grow more that we can eat, but perhaps I won’t feel quite as compelled to spend the entire harvest season canning tomatoes. Perhaps. The baby in this photo is now 22 – obviously I have a long history of growing too much produce!
This having-a-studio thing is the best idea ever – why did it take us 20 years to get it done? Oh right: money, property, time, planning, coalescence of ideas. . .but now that we’re moved in and working all that effort is really paying off. Just off the easel today is a view of Four Seals in Somesville in the flat white light of early morning, 18 x 24, oil on board.
The new studio building enables my short attention span – I have a new personal best six pieces in the works. Of course, it helps to be able to tailor my activity to how much time I have available; some nights I can manage to get all the colors mixed and a dozen brushes dirty, some nights all I manage is a monochrome line. It doesn’t matter, painting is cumulative and that seems to be true for the skill as much as for the finished product.
White Vase with Five Apples, 24″x 18″, oil on panel.
I’ve begun to think of these drawings as maps, as a linear underlayment that details distance, emphasis, and locates key objects on the plane of what will eventually be a painting.
18 x 24, Four Seals in the Bright White Light of Morning
I hardly recognized my own (very recent) painting in this photo. My current theory, after many fruitless color and hue adjustments, is that the cold winter’s light this afternoon is not kind to the primary pigment here – Permanent Yellow Light. I’ve decided to post it as a record for myself and will document it again the next sunny day I’m home. Fair warning that, given the forecast, it may be March before that confluence of events happens again.
Crabapples and Teapot, 18 x 24 inches, oil on panel, heavy on the P. Yellow Lt.
I am unpacking boxes (again, some more) and came across this clipping of my high school art teacher, Dawson Shaw and I having a confab over a pen and ink drawing. He was a wonderful teacher, and was directly responsible for my application to college and eventually attending art school in Philadelphia. I know he passed away in the eighties but can’t find much about him on the ‘net. He was endlessly patient and kind, with high expectations for us and what we could do with our art. Maybe that’s enough.
Thank you, Mr. Shaw!
Working on a colored ground (a glaze of pigment over the otherwise white board) is helping me to keep my paint loose, my brushstrokes more fluid, and making it easier to concentrate on the form. I generally use a uniform gray, but after reading about the working habits of Giotto and van Eyck, I decided to try a selection of very bright primary colors. This is the first painting in this series:
18 x 24″, oil on board
The set-up is heavy on bright greens and dark red, balanced by the off-white muslin drapery and tarnished silver pieces. The yellow ground should brighten the darks and influence the lighter colors – we’ll see! Here is a detail of crabapples on the salver:
It’s minus 7F this morning, but I have off from my day job and a heated studio to paint in so I’m feeling particularly fortunate on this first day of the New Year. This morning I’ll start a new piece based on photos, drawings, and color swatches from this summer. Here’s the set-up – the hoop-house in the garden is a frozen refuge for field mice this morning, but on a sunny Saturday in late July it was glorious place to work.
Happy New Year everyone!
Our new studio space allows me to work on more that one piece at once. I like having drawings stacked against the wall, and the ability to switch pieces out to let the paint set up on one while mixing a whole new palette of colors for the next. It is immensely satisfying to have inventory! (I know I’m coming to this late, folks, really late.)
Right now I have a painting of a milk-glass vase with zinnias and asters in full swing, but I can also look at the previous oil sketch (same composition) and the charcoal and ink-wash drawing (slightly different viewpoint) for reference. AND, the painting is just so much easier having worked out my issues with aster construction in a previous piece. Not that the asters are smooth sailing even now – it’s rather too bad they grow so well in my garden because they are incredibly complicated.
This is the oil sketch: ivory black on tinted ground, 24 x 18 inches:
Here’s a detail. Asters are complicated!
And this is the wash drawing on Bristol paper, 20 x 17, slightly different view of the setup: