Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tis the Season

"Belle", 36 x 36 in. oil on canvas

The RISD Sale is nearly here...This Saturday, at the RI Convention Center. On Friday evening, I'll do my usual drive to the loading dock and schlep all the display panels and boxes into the convention hall, and on Saturday morning, will be the fun task of setting up the booth, and visiting with other vendors that have become familiar friendly faces. This Holiday sale is a joy, a far cry from the early days of the RISD holiday sale, when half the booths were in a freezing, leaky tent on the quad, and the rest were crowded into the upper refectory. The RI Convention center is spacious, and warm, with music to create the mood, and an easy loading in and out.
I'll have "Belle" there this year, as well as a bunch of new original animal paintings, prints and cards. I'll have signed copies of "For Horse Crazy Girls Only" available for sale, and I'll be bringing the bargain bin! All the originals in the bargain bin are $75., and some are even framed.

Despite the fact that November and December tend to be the busiest time of year, with holiday art sales and internet orders to fill, it also seems to be the time I can be most productive. It could be that I seem to thrive on deadlines, or simply that there is much more "indoor" time available. Early darkness means I'm not outside puttering in the yard, throwing a tennis ball for the dog, or plucking weeds from the flowerbeds. Leaves are all raked--the rest can just blow away.

I've mentioned before in this blog how important the annual holiday card is to me. In my mind, it isn't just a perfunctory greeting, it's a gift to an extensive list of family and friends who are far-flung, and who we may not communicate with at any other time of year. It's a way to say we still think about you. And as my husband and I are both artists, the design of the card is a personal statement. It's a fun annual design challenge.

This year, it almost didn't happen. Not that we would have abandoned the annual holiday card altogether, but "stuff" was getting in the way of our usual enthusiasm for the project. Not to mention a raging sinus infection through Thanksgiving that had me down for the count for a couple of weeks. I was resigned to just picking out a photo from our digital files, and doing a simple photo card at Walmart.

But I sat down at the computer and printed out a couple of possible photos, and I just couldn't do it. The card had to be more than this. So I dug back into my files and found a story of mine to share. An hour or so of fiddling around with text in Illustrator, and creating a cover photo for the story, (which I had printed at Walmart), and suddenly we had a card that is special. (and time-consuming to assemble!) The assembly becomes a family project, which has become a nice tradition to share with my son. So I am glad I didn't go the easy route.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's been a while...

I really did keep telling myself to finish the posts about our Southwest trip, and so and behold, it's suddenly November. No, I didn't get hit in the head and knocked out for six months, but well, life gets in the way. Painting, maintaining the garden, working, attending soccer games, helping out at cub scout meetings and helping out at one church supper after another all seem to take priority over blog posting. And honestly, this one is going to be short, because Thanksgiving is in five days, and there is a house to clean. The horse, the dog and the cats all ran out of food at the same time. And of course, it has to be purchased from three different places! Poor Cheerio, I used up the last of her food last night, and she had to accept dog biscuits for breakfast, until I could run out and buy dog food. She was rewarded for her wait by being there when the new bag was opened and poured into the plastic bin by her crate. She likes to stick her head under the pouring kibble, to grab as much as she can before the lid goes on. The result is that the kibble that hits the top of her head bounces off and gives her even more kibble to hoover up.

Maizy decided to sit in my fern today. This is a very fluffy soft fern that I have had for two decades, nearly killed last year, and brought back from the brink of death by putting it outside for the summer. The cats are what pretty much killed the fern in the first place. Pixel likes to eat it, and apparently Maizy likes to sit in it. So out to the studio it goes, where the watering schedule is a bit dicey. This is because there is no running water in the studio, so watering plants involves filling up a large plastic jug at the outdoor hydrant. I seem to do okay with outdoor plants and the garden, but indoor plants are not in good hands in my home.

Okay, I'm going to go clean something now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Southwest Trip-Part 4-North Rim

We arrived at the North Rim late in the day, so we had just enough time to hike the short trail out to Bright Angel Point and then catch the sunset from the outdoor patio at the lodge.
Our first impression of the North Rim was that it was crowded, because we had a tough time finding a parking place, but it was nothing like the crowds and the shuttle bus system of the South Rim. They had also decided to repave the area right in front of the lodge the days we were there, so we just couldn't seem to escape construction, even at the Grand Canyon.
The views from the North Rim were even more spectacular..perhaps the lighting was more interesting. Max was bored watching another sunset, so we again occupied ourselves with finding shapes in the rock shadows. Max found an alligator. I found Whistler's mother. Though I couldn't seem to really capture those shapes in a photo, so don't bother looking for them in these views.

We were most excited to try a half-day mule trip into the Canyon. I attempted to book the trip when we first arrived, and yet we still found ourselves on standby for the afternoon ride the next day. As it happened, it worked out in our favor. Perhaps it is due to a bit of good luck acquired through rubbing Brighty's nose in the Grand Canyon Lodge. (There is a bronze statue of Brighty, with a very shiny, well rubbed nose.)
We were shuttled to the North Kaibab trailhead, and assigned to our mules. "Slim", "Big Mac" and "Gus". They divided us into groups of about eight per mule wrangler, and we headed down. It is a steep trail, and much more tiring to go down than up. I will never understand why people do this ride wearing shorts. None of us were particularly bothered by the mules' tendency to hug the edge of the trail. We trusted them to carry us safely down. At the stopping point, there is a water fountain, a restroom, and hitching posts for the mules, so everyone gets off to stretch their legs.
The red dust is everywhere. And by the time the ride is over, it is embedded into your boots, jeans and socks. We inhaled quite a bit of it, too.

The view between Slim's ears.
Michael looking relaxed in the saddle.
Try shooting straight when you're twisted around in the saddle, on a moving mule.

The next morning, we decided to explore a couple more points on the North Rim, which involved a 20 mile drive out to the end of the Walhalla plateau. From here we viewed Angel's window. Then we took our last look at the canyon before heading north to our next stop, Bryce Canyon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Southwest Trip - Part 3

Next we were on our way to Page, AZ, where the next morning, we were scheduled for a half-day smooth water float trip on the Colorado River. But to get there we would drive through some spectacular scenery. Driving through the Navajo Indian reservation, we had many opportunities to shop at the roadside stands for jewelry and pottery, and my husband's favorite--Buffalo jerky.
We saw the western edge of the painted desert, and a lot of desolate, barren country of red sandstone.
Driving through Antelope Pass was a treat, and we would have liked to explore Antelope Canyon while in Page, but time did not allow for a lengthy side trip. Page was an interesting little town, built because of the Glen Canyon Dam, and it was a place where all of the churches of different denominations were on the same street, all one after the other. We treated ourselves to a real dinner that night, at the Dam Bar and Grill and we were ready early the next morning for our raft trip. We met at the Colorado River Discovery headquarters at 7am to board a bus down to the river. To get to the bottom of the canyon, the bus goes through a 2 mile long dark tunnel which emerges right at the base of the dam. We had to don hard hats, because apparently people up above on the bridge like to toss pebbles over the edge, perhaps aiming for the river, but more often hitting the parking area where the rafts are docked.

The raft trip itself was a nice relaxing trip on the river. Our guide pointed out various things of interest, and talked about the geology of the canyon. At the halfway point, they docked the rafts, and we were able to get out for a short hike up to the petroglyphs. You could wade in the river here, but the water was numbingly cold.

The raft trip ended at Lee's Ferry, the starting point for the longer raft trips into the Grand Canyon. We watched them loading up several of the large boats with supplies. I have heard that the trips are spectacular, and it would be a fun adventure to try sometime in the future.

After taking the bus back to Page, we drove on towards the Grand Canyon North Rim. On the way, we stopped to admire Marble Canyon and the views of the Vermillion Cliffs, as we headed toward the Kaibab plateau.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Southwest Trip-Part 2

Day 2 (continued)
Grand Canyon, South Rim

We opted to stay at the Bright Angel Lodge in the park for one night, which gave us the opportunity to view a sunset from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As all the guidebooks warned..the South Rim was very crowded, and parking was a challenge. You can't park anywhere near the Bright Angel Lodge--you can pull up and unload, but then you have to park somewhere distant and either walk back or take a shuttle bus. If you're traveling light, it wouldn't be a big deal, but for a family of three, with three bags, a cooler, backpack, camera, and groceries, it was a bit of a pain. Perhaps we could have been organized enough to leave one or two bags in the car, but we're not that organized.

We spent the late afternoon exploring the area around the Bright Angel Lodge and cabins, including Lookout Studio and the Kolb Studio, where there was an exhibit of Grand Canyon artwork from the park's collection. The work was inspiring, and I wish I could have spent some time painting while there, but in reality, traveling with family doesn't allow any time for such pursuits.

The shuttle bus system in the park does work fairly well. The road out to the viewpoints on the western end, Hermit's Rest, is closed to most vehicles and you have to take the shuttle. You could walk the rim trail all the way out there, but it is miles long. After snacking out of the cooler for dinner, we hopped a shuttle out to Hopi Point, a popular spot to watch the sunset. Since watching the sunset is about as exciting to a ten-year-old boy as watching paint dry, we entertained ourselves with finding shapes in the shadows on the rocks. Much more fun than clouds...they stay put a little longer, yet they gradually change shape as the sun sets. This first shot is looking east from Hopi Point.

The view to the west as the sun dropped into the horizon was a beautiful shade of blue, with a tiny metallic sliver of Colorado River showing.

Max and I were up early, and we headed out to see the early morning sun on the canyon.
We watched a California condor sitting on the rocks, stretching its wings, waiting for the warmth of the sun. I felt very lucky to see one of these birds as there are only about 73 of them in all of Arizona. Many of them are in the Grand Canyon, so it is one area that you are likely to see one.

This is looking west toward the Lookout Studio. Designed by Mary Colter, it is perfectly designed to blend into the landscape.

As Max and I walked toward the Bright Angel trailhead, we passed the mule corral, where they begin the famous mule trips to the bottom of the canyon. There were several pack mules in the corral, and we watched the wrangler lead them out, and a crew loaded them up--with DIRT! These mules were part of a trail work crew--carrying evenly balanced loads of dirt to replace an eroded section of trail. We watched the pack train descend a little ways, then two men unhitched the bottom of the bags, dumping the soil, and the mules were turned right around and returned to the top. It looked to be a lot of work to haul a small load of dirt, but it was done so efficently with these mules.

Now imagine making a u-turn with this string of mules on this trail! They did it.

We spent the morning checking out the rest of the viewpoints at the western end of the park, on the shuttle bus route to Hermit's Rest. Then we picked up the car and drove out the eastern end, stopping at a few more viewpoints along the way. The last stop is Desert View, where there is a watchtower, also designed by Mary Coulter, and although it was under renovation at the time, we could still go inside, and I managed to get a shot of the outside without the construction cranes in view.

Leaving Grand Canyon National Park, we drove east onto the Navajo Reservation, a barren, but beautiful landscape of red rock. This was our glimpse at the western edge of the Painted Desert. We also had a good view of the smoke from a wildfire burning out of control in the mountains just east of Flagstaff. We discovered later, that the day after we left Grand Canyon, they closed route 89 south of the park, and were re-routing traffic through G.C. National Park because of the smoke. We were lucky we didn't run into a lot of traffic.
I'll continue with our next adventure in the next post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Southwest Trip-Part 1

I have just returned from a vacation trip to the Southwest. We flew into Las Vegas, and drove all the way around the Grand Canyon, seeing the sights as we went. I am going to break down our adventure into several parts, as there is too much to talk about in one blog entry.

Day 1

We started our trip with a flight to Las Vegas, where the rental car agency upgraded us to a Toyota Prius. Based on how much driving we would be doing, we figured the gas savings would more than pay for the extra fee, and we were right. First on the agenda was to head to a supermarket and stock up on some food, a disposable styrofoam cooler, ice and cold drinks. We managed to find a Wal-mart that happened to be undergoing a big reorganization, and it was a challenge to find the coolers, but after a slight delay, we were on our way to Boulder City and the Hoover Dam.

The dam is certainly impressive, but the day was hot, and I was not prepared for the wind along the top of the dam. We didn't really have the energy for the full tour, but we paid a lower admission for access to the museum exhibits and the observation deck. As you walk in, they take your family picture against a green screen and later you can purchase a photo of yourselves in front of various settings--places in which you never actually set foot. We declined the pictures, and continued on our way to Kingman, AZ, our first stop on the way to the South Rim.

Day 2

We hit the road early after taking advantage of the hotel's continental breakfast, and drove east on Rt. 40 to the town of Williams, a major stop on the historic Route 66, and the starting point for the Grand Canyon railway. We stopped just long enough to poke around the souvenir shops and have a coffee break.

Soon we arrived at the Grand Canyon South Rim. We debated catching the National Geographic IMAX movie at the theatre outside the entrance, but we decided we would rather see the real thing. The most popular Mather Point viewpoint was closed off due to construction, so we parked near the Visitor's Center and walked a section of the Rim Trail, and easy, paved walkway along the top with many views of the canyon.

That's all I have time to post for now. To be continued...

Monday, June 14, 2010

And now for something completely different...

Peony Bud, oil on gessoboard, 8 x 8 in.
Available for purchase, $350.00

I have been photographing many things in the garden this spring, and I've been wanting to do a small series of paintings featuring simple flower elements. My goal is to bring something to the painting that I can't capture in a photograph, yet I want these to be luminous, detailed, with lots of contrast and stark, graphic shapes.

The first successful one of these is this white peony bud. Peonies are one of my favorite garden flowers, yet they are so short-lived. Cutting a few and putting them in a vase results in a shower of petals on the table a day or two later. I love the look of peony flowers just before they have opened up--the perfect roundness of the bud, it is such a solid shape, before it opens into a marvelously perfumed, delicate voluminous flower.

Flower paintings aren't the only thing different about this summer. I'm calling this the year of trying new things...from participating in a local theater production, to doing the bicycling leg for a relay team in a sprint triathalon.

The horse paintings are not completely in the background. I currently have on the easel an 18 x 36 in. oil of some working draft horses. There is a lot of fussy harness work on this piece, and I have been picking away at it for a few months now.
There is probably another couple of weeks of fussing ahead of me. I really don't like it when paintings drag on for this long, and when they do, they either get abandoned or I finally reach the point where I just have to knuckle down and finish them. This one has far too much going for it to abandon. And now, there are some more brass rivets that need my attention.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Big Chicks and a lot of Bling

Big Chick, 40 x 30 in. oil on canvas
This big fluffy chick has been finished for a while, but it's always a challenge to photograph these large canvases, and the time and weather finally cooperated to get it shot outside. This little gal is much much larger than life, and she makes an impact on the wall.

Bling, 40 x 30 in. oil on canvas
Bling is another large canvas, and this one is nearly ready for hanging. Still awaiting a final varnish and hanging hardware. Shiny silver bits on halters and bridles are always a challenge, but so satisfying to finish up with those bright white highlight spots. A chain lead shank never looks right until the final highlights go in. I enjoyed the blue eye of this paint--it's not often I get to paint a blue eye.

Studio work has been a bit derailed lately, with all the work involved in putting in the garden, and running around to family events. This summer I will be trying something completely new to me---participating in a local community theater production of Oliver! My son and I both have ensemble roles, so we will have fun getting our feet wet in this new venture, without a huge time commitment of learning a lot of lines. It was so rewarding to challenge myself with something completely out of my element. I have no illusions of being a good singer...I guess I can hit the notes, but my voice is not pretty--I can blend in with the chorus just fine. But I have to admit to being a musical theater geek--I often paint to the music of the great Broadway soundtracks.
I know of many artists that have talent in both the visual and performing arts, and I have always been one who has the desire to do something musical, but do not have the gift to be able to play an instrument. So perhaps this is a sign of the desire breaking through. Hopefully I will not completely embarrass myself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Banded Mane

The Banded Mane, oil on board, 8 x 10 in.

I've been working on a series of small paintings on board, inspired by my photo references from a local horse show last fall. The evening light was glowing pink on the back of this pinto pony, and his banded mane looked so cool with the stripes of white in his mane. It's an unusual viewpoint, but there is beauty to be found in these odd angles, and if you only saw this pony from the front, you wouldn't be able to appreciate all of the hard work put into that mane!

Spring is a busy time around here. Gardening and other outdoor farm chores are taking away from studio time, and yet I am squeezing in a little work here and there.

If you are in Woodstock, Connecticut, check out the Artists' Collaborative, at the Artists in the Country site, County Road, West Woodstock. The barn is open from 11 - 5, Sat. and Sunday for the next two weekends in April. Several artists, including myself, have set up displays in the barn. There are paintings, photographs, jewelry, and some ceramics and glasswork. Beautiful art in a beautiful setting.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More Dogs!

Cheerio , oil on gessoboard, 8 x 8 in.

This week's painting is a study of Cheerio. I captured a moment of contemplation, as she lay on her bed in the living room, with winter sunlight pouring in. Her eyes, with the little brown eyebrow points have so much expression in them. I can hear her sighing in this one. She really wants to chase Pixel, but has decided to behave herself for the moment.

The Cell-Phone Dog , oil on gessoboard, 5 x 7 in. $75.

Also just off the easel is this little yellow lab study. This dog works for the state prison system, and is trained to sniff out cell-phones. She has that lovely, gentle lab face. This little painting is for sale. If you are interested in purchasing her, please contact me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Going to the Dogs

Pyrannes Pup 4 x 6 oil on canvasboard, $50.

Bulldog Study 5 x 7 oil on gessoboard, $75.

Little Collie Mix 11 x 14 oil on canvasboard, $125.

St. Bernard 4 x 6 oil on canvasboard, $50.

Hmmm, last year was the year of the chickens..I think this year might be the year of the dogs. At least it's starting out that way. I have been inspired as of late, to do a number of quick, small paintings featuring dogs that I have photographed in my travels. I usually find one or two to photograph at an outdoor art show, and there are also dogs at town events, parades, and soccer games. Since I tend to photograph these dogs on the sly, with a long zoom lens, I have no idea what their names are, or who their owners are, but something about them just called out to be captured in paint.

Since these are quick studies and unframed, I am offering them up for sale at very affordable prices. If you are interested in purchasing any of these--shoot me an e-mail.

More dogs to come...