Thursday, December 31, 2009

Painting in the New Year


"Snow Lashes", photograph, 2009


I'm back in the studio at last, after a month of Christmas preparations, holiday concerts and gatherings, gift shopping and wrapping, and holiday baking.
Just days after Christmas was over, I was driving to Long Island to deliver paintings for a show in Oyster Bay, New York, home of Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Roosevelt Association. TR and the Horse is an exhibit featuring myself and four other equine artists. We will each be exhibiting 7-10 pieces of our own work, and a few drawings of Teddy Roosevelt's favorite horses. My contribution is an ink wash drawing of Manitou, his favorite hunting horse. The preview party will be January 9, and the show will run through the month of January.

Oyster Bay, as is turns out, is also home to quite a few Underhills, and there is an entire room full of archives and geneology on Underhills, maintained by the Underhill Society. Since I'm only an Underhill by marriage, I lack the knowledge of family names to do any real research into the family history, but it was fascinating to know that it was there.

My little trip to Oyster Bay was a perfect excuse to visit a friend in Manhattan, and so to avoid the scariness of driving into the city, left my car in Oyster Bay and took the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station. This made my return trip quite the ordeal, as it is an hour and a half train ride to Oyster Bay and then it was a four and a half hour drive home in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 95. Apparently New York City rush hour begins at 2 in the afternoon.

So now I am back in the studio, inspired to paint a few dogs. Kimberly Kelly Santini's book, Painting a Dog a Day, was a Christmas gift, and her wonderfully expressive paintings of dogs have inspired me to tackle a few myself, and revisit some of my reference photos of dogs I have encountered at various events.

Today, I ventured no farther than my own paddock to photograph Niqui and Keeper in the wet snow. The photograph above features Niqui and her beautiful long eyelashes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Max's Debut

Permit me a moment of parental pride, here. Max has been singing with the Fourth Grade Select chorus this year, "Fortezza", and really enjoying himself. We always thought he could sing in tune, but coming from a family of lousy singers, we're not always sure that we're the best judge of his vocal talents.

Today, with the help of our friend, Donna Lynch, and Brenda Rich-Pike on the piano, Max made his singing debut in church today during a very musical service of carols and Christmas readings. Despite the onset of a head cold, he was a trooper, and he impressed everyone with his singing voice. Way to go, Max!

Here is Max's duet with Donna, singing "There Was a Little Baby".


video

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Open Studio Weekends


The paintings are all hung, everything is arranged--stop by my studio this weekend or next Nov. 28-29, and Dec. 5-6th, from 10am to 5pm.

I am at the far northeast edge of the Artist Open Studios of Northeast CT. That means I may not get as many visitors as some of the artists. For me, though, it is a welcome opportunity to take stock of the inventory, and spend a whole weekend (or two) in the studio, catching up on projects.

In hanging work for this weekend, I am realizing that the inventory is quickly outgrowing my space! You'll have to come just to check out my bargain bin, an assortment of smaller paintings just waiting to find the right home. All the originals in the bargain bin are priced at just $75.

Windham Arts button wearers will get a free Horse Alphabet (or Cowman Numerals) poster for supporting Windham Arts.

The kitty up above is Pixel, of course. Lounging in a windowsill is his favorite summertime activity, and he likes to lie on his back or his side, and wiggle and squirm, showing off his furry chest and belly. This is an 11 x 14 oil on canvas.



"Bay with a Blaze" is an 8 x 10 oil on board. This horse was just shining in the evening sunlight of the Woodstock Fair. I like the shadow that his head casts on his neck.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Cheerio and the Chicken

video

I caught this moment on camera while grilling some juicy sirloin and vegetable kabobs. Ran in to get the camera while Cheerio and the chicken faced off. (And that trench in the background is for the conduit that is finally going to bring the internet to my studio!)

Also up this week is my online interview with The Equinest:
http://www.theequinest.com/alecia-underhill/
Since this interview tells all about me, I can keep this blog post short.

Getting ready for the Glastonbury Fine Art on the Green show, this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12-13, 10-5 rain or shine. (It better shine!)
It's going to be a busy fall, with shows ever other weekend until Columbus Day. I just agreed to do Artists in the Country in Woodstock, CT on Sept. 26-27.
Then there is the RISD Alumni Sale on Oct. 10.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Round 'em Up Cheerio!





"You want me to what?"

My English Shepherd dog...my intense, somewhat high-strung, bossy, territorial, prey-driven dog...is not chasing the chickens. She's not eating the chickens. Okay, she's not even herding the chickens.
When they were baby chicks in the brooder, she nearly put one in her mouth. I was convinced these chickens would be coop bound. No free-range chickens for us...we have a dog that goes at about 100 miles an hour after a squirrel. And though I have put a lot of time into obedience training, and her basic commands are well-mastered, I thought there was no way she was going to come to me when there was a chicken dinner strutting across the lawn.

So I invested a hundred bucks in an electronic training collar. There are a few behaviors other than chicken chasing that I needed to nip in the bud. Barking at the lawnmower, for instance...when you're in the driver's set of a roaring Cub Cadet, it's hard to train your dog. Chasing cars up the driveway is one, although she has gotten much better about that lately. Circling the inflatable pool and barking at us while we splashed around in it was another behavior that I figured I could zap away.
The lawnmower and the swimming pool barking each took two electronic corrections. She has not committed either one of these misdeads since. And she hasn't chased a car while I've had the training collar on, either.

So, now I thought I'd try it out with the chickens. The first day we let the hens out of the run a couple of hours before sunset, so they could explore and stay pretty close to the coop and want to go back in on their own. I kept Cheerio in the house, just to give the hens a easy introduction to the wide outdoors.

The second day, when it was time to put them back in the coop, I put on Cheerio's electronic collar, and her regular collar with a long lead--a horse lunge line, so that I could remain at a distance and see how she would do. She trotted right up and investigated the chickens, never barked, never chased. I asked her to help me "round 'em up" thinking, here now she finally has a chance to use those herding instincts. All that practice in trying to herd the family together on walks could now be put to use for an actual job. My dog is approaching three years old, and it's time for some gainful employment. I demonstrated to the best of my ability what I wanted her to do, but the blank look she gave me said it all. She ran in circles, but not in circles around the chickens.

A week later, the chickens are still fully enjoying the great outdoors, and Cheerio is a contented observer. Chicken wrangling just might not be her thing. They just may not be challenging enough. The horses, however, now there is an animal worth herding.
"I think I'll go bark at the horses" Cheerio says. "Hey, you there! You're not supposed to lie down. Get up right now! Right now, I say! Horses are not allowed to lie down around here!"

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Driving, Daisies and Dot


Gentleman's Turnout
oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in.

"Pulling Their Weight", the Horse in Fine Art Exhibition is up and running at the Mackinac Island Public Library. Gentleman's Turnout is one of my three entries. The show can be viewed online at the AAEA website. It looks to be a stunning selection of work. I am so honored to be a part of it.

Pulling Their Weight, The Horse in Fine Art


The whole horse pasture is just full of buttercups and daisies. I wish it were full of more edible grass for the horses, but I am hopeless at pasture management, and it has been made difficult this year with all the rain...it just grows and grows faster than the horses can eat it, and there is very little time to mow it. But on the bright side, the daisies make a beautiful, very long-lasting display in a lovely old mason jar.


Yellow Chick
oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.



And this is "Dot", my little yellow chick. She has grown into a beautiful cream-colored pullet with a bit of orange on the edges of some of her feathers. Here is a photo of her all grown up.

I am moving on from the baby chick paintings to hen paintings, and I will post as soon as one is finished and scanned.
The coop is nearly finished, just a few small details left to do, and the young ladies seem to be very happy in their home. They have all figured out the chicken ladder and go into the coop at night, safe from all the wily predators. And here is what I'm calling "The Egg Drop Inn", complete with window box.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mowing, Chickens, and Carriages




The riding lawnmower (the gas-powered one) spent a couple of days at the shop recently, and the bit of lawn that stretches behind the studio, around the blackberry patch and amongst the orchard grew tall and lush. As I started to mow it with our newly serviced piece of machinery, I had a revelation, to let the four-legged mowers at it. So with just two bits of wire fence strung, the horses now had access to the best bit of grazing to come along this spring. It is my least favorite piece of lawn to mow, and though we'll have to clean it up when the horses are done, at least the rocks will be more visible, and the grass will have provided nutrition and calories to the beasts.



The chickens are in their new coop as of this past weekend. They are not too keen about the great outdoors, however. They perch on the doorstep of the little chicken door, and peer down the ladder, and one chick made it down two steps before going back in. The next day, I shooed a couple of them out, but none of the others followed and those two birds huddled under the coop until dark, when we had to take apart the temporary board in the front to get them out. It's so chilly the last couple of days, I've put the heat lamp in the coop and today I didn't even open the chicken door.

The coop with outdoor run in progress.


I have finished one more chicken painting, which I cannot yet post, and have moved on to finish up a couple of horse paintings. I have been juried into the Glastonbury Fine Arts on the Green show the second week of September, and I will be spending the summer getting ready for that show. (In-between shuttling the 9-yr old to soccer camp, cub-scout camp, day camp, and doing other family things like biking and a trip to the amusement park, etc...)



Three of my driving themed paintings are going to Mackinac Island, Michigan, this summer for the AAEA sponsored show, "The Horse in Fine Art" at the Mackinac Public Library, July 1 - July 31st.
"Carriage Meet" is one of the pieces. Oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.
This is a bit of a rambling blog post, but there is a lot going on here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gentle Giant


Gentle Giant
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in.


Thought I would take a break from the chicks for a while to post this finished oil.
With these big gallerywrap canvases, sometimes it's hard to know when they're finished. This one has been put aside to dry for a while, and when I went to put a hanging wire on it, I realized the bottom edge never got painted. You can never paint all the edges at once, since it has to rest on one, so sometimes the bottom gets forgotten.

The latest horse on the easel is an appaloosa. And now I am cursing myself for taking this one on, but of course I was attracted to the image in the first place for the spot pattern. Now the spot pattern is driving me nuts...I have a feeling this one is going to take a while to finish.

A beautiful day like today makes it hard to confine oneself to the studio. The garden is calling, and the mowing is never-ending. And this morning, I prommised to take my son to the school track and run with him. He recently ran the mile for his physical fitness test and he is eager to do more running. I challenged myself to run a mile today, at a nice, slow steady pace, and I'm both shocked and pleased that I was able to do it! (It's been two knee surgeries and a long time since I've done any running, and it was never my favorite form of fitness.) I ran four laps of the quarter-mile track without stopping, and I felt like I could have run another lap. I must be in better shape than I thought! Must do this more often!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Painting Chicks


The Grumpy Chick
oil on canvas, 14 x 11 in.


Just a Couple of Chicks
oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

These chicks are already inspiring some paintings. Out of thousands of baby chicks that leave the hatcheries and get shipped all over the country, lucky are the ten chicks that came to live at Underhill Hollow. Three of the babies have already been immortalized on canvas, and more paintings are to follow. I have to admit a partiality to the yellow Americauna chicks. Never have I used so much cadmium yellow in a painting. These images are for sale as prints in my etsy store.

The chicks had their first outing in the yard on Sunday. They seemed to enjoy the beautiful summer-like day, pecking about in the grass, doing what chickens do, and climbing all over my son. Michael is making great progress on the coop, and the pressure is on to get the main part finished, as the chicks are already growing fast, and will soon outgrow the plastic brooder in the bathroom. The coop is designed with one side that will open up completely for easy cleaning. Still have a lot of details to finish such as the shingles and the outside run.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Chicks are here!





This being our entry into the keeping of chickens, we are so excited to have the little peepers home. I now have a chicken-bathroom. We set up a large plastic tote with a 100 watt lightbulb for heat. I'm using puppy pads for now, as I read somewhere that newspaper is too slippery for them. When I use up the puppy pads, I'll switch to shavings, but for now, this is so easy to keep clean. I have a layer of newspaper in the bottom, with two pads on top, and I can just roll them up and replace them without taking all the chicks out. There are four Americaunas, three Rhode Island Reds, and three Barred Plymouth Rock. Despite an earlier decision not to name them, the three RI Reds are tentatively called Prudence, Patience and Hope. (How original--I wonder how many RI Reds in Rhode Island have these names?) And I really want to name the four Americaunas after my aunts..Margie, Hallie, Beverly, and Dot.
The three Barred Plymouth Rocks are a bit up in the air, but Max suggested either Chelsea, Mindy and Laurie, (his girl cousins) or Jeannie, Sheri, and Amy (his aunts). We have no idea if they would appreciate having chickens named after them or not.
Of course, we look upon it as a thing of honor. After all, these hens are going to be beautiful and dignified hens. Of course, we also have no idea yet if any one of these is going to turn out to be a rooster!

This was a great weekend for coop-building, and Michael has made huge progress in getting the chicks permanent home constructed. The four walls and floor went up, the roof is on, and the siding is mostly in place. It's only three sided, still, as the fourth wall is going to be two big doors that will enable us to open it up for easy cleaning. I will post the coop pictures soon.

I think today was nearly a perfect day--it started with apple pancakes, and included some time in the garden, time with my son, and a lovely short trail ride in the afternoon. Except for a nagging cough and doing two loads of laundry, it would have ranked as perfect.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My new Etsy store


I finally spent a little time putting up an Etsy store. It seems to be a good place to list prints and small original works of art for sale. I like that the focus is on art and craft items, unlike ebay. I never felt comfortable listing art on ebay, which to me seems just like an online garage sale. The piece above, "Drive On!" is available as an 11 x 14 giclee print on watercolor paper. Matted size is 16 x 20.

So, if you are inclined, stop by the shop. www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=7175226

Thompson's Community Art Show has an opening reception tonight at the Thompson Public Library. I have "Star in the Mist", "Llama", and "Spotted Cow" on display. Opening is 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the Community Room.

Must get some eggs to color for Easter. We like to color lots!
Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Young Steer


Young Steer, 36 x 36 in. oil on gallerywrap canvas

This impressive creature captivated me with it's solemn look, the warm, soft wrinkles in its skin, and the afternoon light coming through the ear. The painting is bigger than life, 3 feet square, and will make a substantial statement on somebody's wall.

I have a bunch of new work, all in stages of completion...I'll introduce them one at a time here. In the early half of this year, I am concentrating on building my body of work, especially the larger paintings, and as a consequence I don't have much in the way of shows coming up in the near future. The Glastonbury Art Festival in September may be my next show, if I'm jured in. Then I'll be participating in the Artist Open Studios of Northeast Connecticut in November.

We are eagerly awaiting the shipment of baby chicks at the local farmer's coop, and the chicken coop is partway to being completed. I am reading up again on the care and feeding of baby chicks. The original plan was to raise the chicks out in the studio, away from the pets, in a large plastic tote, with a 100 watt lightbulb for heat. However, we've decided we need to be able to monitor the chicks more frequently, and there is no water source in the studio, so Plan B is to keep the brooder in our spare bathroom, door tightly closed at all times so they don't become lunch for the cats.

We have had nice surprise visitors recently to our little pond..a pair of mallard ducks. They have come a few times, and I'm hoping they'll stick around a bit and don't mind the dog.

Friday, March 06, 2009

More Piggies.


Piglets at the Fair, oil on board, 9 x 12 in.


Summer Drafts, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in.


A number of new horse paintings are in various stages of completion, and I have to wait until the weather complies to drag the easel and the tripod outside to photograph them, but I'll post these piggies for now, and a piece that I completed last fall--
"Summer Drafts". It all comes down to the light, and I loved the backlighting on these meaty draft horses that were being held, waiting to be hosed down on a sultry summer day. My reference had a person in there, holding the horses, but I edited the head out of the final painting..as well as the lead rope attached to the halter. I wanted this piece to have a peaceful simplicity, and the handler made the composition too busy.

I made a trip to New York City last weekend, to visit friends, show my son some of the city, and check out the big ArtExpo at the Javitts Center. Our friend, a phenomenal painter, Nick Paciorek, had his work there, and it was so nice to see his colorful city landscapes in person. I may be in a booth at this show myself next year...haven't decided yet whether or not to do it. It's a lot of work, and it's going to take some serious planning.

Meanwhile, I have another draft horse on the easel now, and the horse colors project--my grid of 80 individual horse paintings is getting closer to the finish line.
I have about 20 horse heads left to paint, then the final adjustments.

The 10 inches of snow that got dumped on us Monday has really been a bit depressing. I am anxious to be able to get out in the woods to walk the dog, and ride! The horse's winter shoes come off in a couple of weeks--all the snow better be gone by then!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Star in the Mist


Star in the Mist, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in.

It's been a good week of painting. Mainly because I decided to upgrade my computer. What does one have to do with the other, you might ask? Well, to make a really long story short, in the course of upgrading, I lost my internet connection in my studio. So the other day, I had a day of just painting...without any electronic distractions. And it's amazing how much you can get done without the computer.
However, online work must be done, so I have carted the computer into the house, to download necessary software updates, etc... I will have to get the internet problem solved, but in the meantime, I think I'll leave it in the house for a few more days.
Several new paintings are in progress, however, all have yet to be scanned or photographed, so I'll post some December paintings that have joined the inventory.
Star is a 25 year old Standardbred gelding that joined our barn last summer. He has a mane to envy--long flowing orange locks that hang below his neck, and a forelock to match. I photographed him behind the other horse on a misty summer morning. I loved the softness of the light. I'm not entirely satisfied with the way it photographed..I haven't been able to capture the true color in this painting with the digital camera yet.


Spotted Cow, oil on board, 11 x 14 in.

This second painting, "Spotted Cow" is an attempt to capture that beautiful afternoon sunlight that bathes the cows in the barn at the Brooklyn Fair. It lights up the pink in their ears, and and straw bedding just glows with warmth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Great Chicken Adventure


It has been decided at Underhill Hollow that we will raise a few chickens. Now I have said for a while that I wouldn't mind raising a few hens for the eggs. Yet, it is only recently that my husband is on board with the plan. He has visited some folks who have chicken coops, and is now sold on the idea that this would be a fun thing to try. Of course, our reasons for wanting chickens vary greatly--I think chickens are beautiful birds, and of course, fresh eggs are the main goal. My husband wants to build a cool-looking coop, and be able to watch them free-ranging around the yard. Realistically, we have a herding dog who may not agree with the free-ranging idea. We also have a healthy population of hawks around. So we will build a coop with a roofed, fenced outdoor run, and hopefully be able to let them free range a little bit.
My other motivation is artistic, of course. I am envisioning a whole series of chicken paintings. So we'll be raising breeds that will be good egg layers, are docile in nature, and are colorful and inspiring to paint.
This little painting above is of a chicken at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. 5 x 7 oil on board.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Johnny Come Lately


Johnny Come Lately oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in. Private commission.

Johnny is a big bay half-morgan, half Appendix Quarterhorse. I thought he was a warmblood when I first saw him back in October, his glossy dark bay coat just starting to get the winter fuzzies. What had to be captured in his portrait was his kind eye. His owner had seen some of my newer work, the big close-up head images, and she wanted something similar for her portrait of Johnny. I experimented with various croppings, with and without halter, until we came to an agreement about this pose. I usually like to do commissioned portraits with halters or bridles, unless the horse has really interesting markings, or a really well-sculpted head, the tack usually adds a bit of interest and helps define the bone structure a bit. In this case, the halter gave me an opportunity to personalize the portrait by putting his name on the brass halterplate.

Now that Johnny is completed and delivered, my New Year's tasks are to finish up some previously begun projects, and start some new big paintings. With spring commissions and potential freelance work around the corner, I need to seize this opportunity to paint for myself. Christmas vacation was supposed to be the start of some studio productivity, but all of the holiday socializing and entertaining, then the clean-up and putting away of all the Christmas stuff sort of drained my energy.

Then there is the distraction of the Wii. Since the Wii is brand-new to our family, we are still in the honeymoon phase of enjoying all the basic Wii Sports, and creating lots of Mii's for the plaza.

So, now that the work week has started, I have checked off task number two on my studio list, which was, "Create a new blog entry!" Now, on to number three, which is "Paint!"