Monday, November 26, 2012

A Day in the Life...

"Siberian Iris" 11 x 14 oil on canvas
If you are wondering what a day in the life of an artist is list for today was pretty typical. The entire morning was spent at the theater. (Well, okay, I can't say it's typical for me--as I am fairly new to set painting.) Three hours later...faux bricks, faux timbers, cracks in faux plaster walls...By twelve I was famished and called it quits for the morning. Then home to eat a quick lunch and throw the makings of beef stew in the crock pot.
The afternoon in the studio went something like some online orders for printed materials to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals, cut mats for a watercolor house portrait (yes, that's house, not horse), and another watercolor. Put a coat of gesso on a new painting panel, scan a section of a painting that I am still tweaking, after I already scanned the whole thing in eight pieces and knitted it together in Photoshop. Now I was still not happy with one of the horse's eyes, and have reworked it again, only to have to wait for it to dry before re-scanning. Attempt to cut stencils for a faux stone wall on the theater set, only to decide that I'll be better off free-hand painting the stonework. Paint the edges of a deeply cradled gessoboard painting of a chick. Put wire hangers on a couple of finished framed pieces. Decide which pieces of art to take to the RISD Holiday Alumni Art Sale, which is just under two weeks away.
Last on the list is to update the blog. New work has been slow in coming with the theater set work taking up much of my time. Several new works in progress, including the horse with the troublesome eye are taking longer than usual to get to the digitization stage. The Siberian Iris, above, is one of those that sort of fell through the cracks lately. The piece was finished and framed a couple of months ago, when I realized I had never digitized it, and had to take it out of the frame to do so. This is another in the series of flower studies that I will be exhibiting in the spring. So work gets done, eventually, sometimes in fits and starts. Keep an eye out for the latest horse painting...I think I have finally fixed that eye.

Monday, November 05, 2012

"Columbian Wyandotte Hen", oil on 2" deep cradled gessoboard, 8 x 8 in. $200. Here is the little hen painting I wanted to post last week. She is one of the new flock of four Wyandotte hens we started this spring. She was supposed to be a silver-laced Wyandotte, but apparently some mix-up at the hatchery resulted in us being sent Columbian Wyandottes instead. Research revealed that this breed was named for the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the Chicago World's Fair. They have the patterning of a Brahma, without the leg feathers. This hen is either Georgia or Rosa, but since I honestly can't tell the two apart, we don't call them by their names.

The other two hens are Golden-laced Wyandottes, and I have yet to do a painting of one of those as an adult hen. The lacy feathers are beautiful, but will be a challenge to paint.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Star Magnolia", oil on cradled gessoboard, 8 x 10 in. $200. I hoped to post my latest oil of one of my hens this week, but realized I hadn't signed the piece yet, and now will have to wait until the signature is dry to varnish and scan it. Other projects are pulling me away from painting lately--at least this kind of painting.
Over the next month I will be busy painting some theater sets for a local production, still creative work, but not the type of work that I am used to, so this is an opportunity to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. I have already been painting some set walls for another theater group, experimenting with techniques for creating faux brick walls. Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc with my schedule, and although it has blessed me with two full days of being home, able to do studio work, I would really like nothing more than to get those brick walls finished!
Add to the mix Halloween, and my son's need for a costume. He decided to be Waldo, of Where's Waldo fame, and lacking a red and white hat, I said I could knit one up fairly quickly. I have managed to nearly complete a hat in two days, and I will easily finish it up tonight---I think I deserve mom points for this one!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Not for Sale Paintings

Liquid Refreshment, oil on board, 16 x 20 in. This is a special piece to me, my mare stopping for a drink during a long trail ride in the Arcadia Management area in Rhode Island. I have fond memories of long hours spent on those beautiful trails. Sometimes I rode alone, sometimes with friends, but together, Niqui and I explored every inch of that state forest. Niqui is 24 now, and our rides are much shorter. I will never have the opportunity to ride her in Arcadia again, but this painting hangs in my living room as a reminder of those good times. Niqui has been my muse for many of my paintings, most of which are for sale, or have sold.
Murphy, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in. My first dog, a loveable golden/collie mix, who chewed rocks, took off at the least opportunity and would only come back if I got in the car and drove down the road, yet was so sweet and mild-mannered.
"Cheerio, Run!" 18 x 36 in. oil on canvas My beautiful English Shepherd girl, chasing a ball in the spring sun. This one hangs on a wall of my bedroom, where I see it upon waking up in the morning. If you have an animal in your life that means the world to you, don't delay in commissioning a special portrait. Don't wait until it is too late. Photographs are lovely, but a painting can capture a quality in the animal that a photograph may not.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Through the Fence", 20 x 20 in. oil on canvas. I have been taking a bit of a break from chicks and flowers to go back to my first love of subject matter--the horses. Through the Fence is reminiscent of an earlier piece of mine, "Nosy". A horse on the other side of a fence...observable, yet just out of reach. They come to the fence expecting treats, pats on the nose, perhaps a scratch on the neck, but the fence is their protection, a barrier from unwanted touch, a window to all that goes on around them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Big" Things

I don't have a finished painting to post this week (although there are a few in progress)...all because of "Big". (The musical, that is...based on the 1988 Tom Hanks movie.)
The backstory: Two years ago, my son was encouraged by his music teacher to try out for a local community theater production of "Oliver". While at the audition, another parent talked me into participating as well. So I swallowed my fear, and the knowledge that I cannot sing, and belted out "It's a Fine Life" for my son's music teacher and a few strangers. I figured that if I was going to be driving him back and forth from rehearsals, I may as well take part too. And here's the thing...I love musical theater. I'm one of those people that will sing along with Broadway my car, or in my studio, away from other folks' ears. At least I can sing in tune, most of the time. And after listening to other auditions, I didn't think I would completely embarrass myself. Now I have "Oliver" and "Sweeney Todd" behind me, and this year's production is "Big" the Musical.
Now a new challenge--new theater directors, new music director...people I didn't know, who didn't know me--who didn't know that I can't sing! I didn't want to audition in front of strangers. But I screwed up my courage, picked an easy song, "My Favorite Things", and at least I knew three out of the four other people in my audition group. Now there was a new wrinkle...this one would involve dancing, as well. So here we were, mid May, a cast of people who don't have any experience with the dancing part, and a show that is chock full of unfamiliar music. The dance choreographer, who is young enough to be my daughter, is so unbelievably patient. I am cast in the adult ensemble, (which is all the part I really need or want), and we all show up for the first cast meeting where we are given a book with the libretto, and a folder full of complicated charts listing our parts and the scenes we are in. I am a parent, a detective, a junior executive and a partygoer. Later, I am added in as a beanbag toss lady at the carnival. I have a total of three speaking lines, and four songs to learn.
Three weeks into rehearsals, some adults have dropped out, and the dance numbers have to be rearranged to accommodate this. The show is so full of set pieces and props, the scene changes are each taking ten minutes. We have rehearsed music and dance separately, and now we try combining them. Okay, singing and dancing looks easy, but you get out of breath! But I love the dancing part--this is what musical theater is supposed to be!
I ordered my first pair of character shoes for dancing, and went shopping at the Salvation Army for costume items. Some things are provided, some things you have to find for yourself. I spent a grand total of 19 dollars which included three new (okay-gently used) pairs of capri pants that were not for the show. "Ka-ching!"
Finally we hit Tech Week, when we rehearse with an orchestra, and all the microphones are assigned and tested. (I have yet to be assigned a mic for a show, thank-goodness!) The scenery was still being built and painted, and the lighting was worked out. The day before the final dress rehearsal, we finally ran the whole show beginning to end, and it was three hours long. Songs are cut, the scene changes are tightened up, and they get the show into about 2.5 hours. We have it all down. We know the lyrics, the dance steps and the lines. Someone misses a line, and someone covers for them.
For the ensemble actors, much of our time onstage is spent in pantomime. We junior executives have earnest silent discussions in the background about the stress of coming up with a new Christmas toy. In my detective scene, I am scribbling notes on a pad and silently questioning a distraught mom. Between scenes, we are rushing through costume changes, and getting to know everyone backstage. A tight-knit family is formed. The first weekend of shows is behind us. After next weekend, it will all be over for another year. Some of the cast will audition for the next show in the schedule. I will be absent until next spring. One show a year is all the time I can commit to this, and the end will be bittersweet. I need to get my evenings back. I need to clean my studio. I need to create some new artwork. But I will miss my once-a-year theater family. The hours spent at the theater is an escape from the day to day grind of housework and errands, and somehow things still get done. I feel so lucky to be able to take part in something like this, and work alongside so many really talented people. It has given me a new appreciation for what goes into a theater production. And a whole new set of songs to be stuck in my head.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Friday in Putnam

Chick with Attitude
oil on canvas, 11 x 14, $500.

Stop by my booth this Friday evening in Putnam, CT, during the June First Friday event, 5 - 8 pm. I'll have a few paintings, posters, prints and cards, and a few copies of For Horse Crazy Girls Only, if you'd like a signed copy. This little brown chick was started as a demo piece for the Northeast Connecticut Art Guild. I never know what I'm going to end up with when I start a demo piece. My working style does not lend itself to finishing a painting in one sitting. However, this little chick came together nicely. She's a Golden-laced Wyandotte, now a young pullet, and when she matures fully, she'll have beautiful golden feathers outlined with black.

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Fall Bird and Spring Gardening

Each fall, the Cedar waxwings come to feast on the crabapple trees in the yard. Sometimes they are only around for a day, on their way to someplace else. I love the sleek look of these birds with their little black masks. Painting wild birds is a bit of a departure for me, because I am not much of a wildlife photographer, but sometimes I get lucky. There has to be some pretty enticing food available for the birds for them to let me get close enough for a good shot. I have been looking for the orioles that usually make an appearance in the spring when the apple trees bloom, but I have not seen any this year. Perhaps the unusually warm spring and the early blooming of everything has messed with their travel schedule!

I am so pleased with the new cold frame that my husband built for me. This is the first year I have started seedlings with some grow lights, and I have been able to harden off the plants before putting them in the ground. I only left the broccoli plants in the frame for a few days, since broccoli doesn't seem to mind cool temps anyway. It was a lovely day for gardening yesterday--the beans and carrots are planted, the pea trellis is constructed. So--let the growing season begin!

Notice my dense row of lettuce seedlings in front of the cold frame. One thing I have learned--when you plant seeds in a starter tray indoors, only some of them may germinate. When you plant a row of lettuce seeds in the garden, every single seed germinates, requiring meticulous thinning--a chore akin to weeding in my opinion!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Sometimes it's the simple things that inspire a new painting. These oranges and the pear came out of just a couple of evening painting sessions. I like to use simple organic objects for teaching drawing, and I was using the pear to introduce a young art student to watercolors. I fiddled around with some watercolors of these fruits myself, but I really wanted to get the full brilliance of the orange color with oils. So I pulled from my pile of prepped and toned little gessoboards, and aimed my lamp, and went to town. Finding the cool colors in the shadows of the orange is more of a challenge than you might think. I am used to painting the earthy colors of horses and other animals, and it is so fun to approach a subject with bright color.

The pear is a simple study of light and shadow, and an attempt to convey the texture and volume of the pear. I love the shape of pears as a still life object. They have much more personality than an apple. I think this merits another trip to the grocery store produce aisle.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicks and Flowers

Blue Hydrangea, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

Lots of new work coming out of the studio this month. Actually, much of it will be staying in the studio for the time being, as I prepare for a show at the Audubon Society in Pomfret, scheduled for next spring. With flowers bursting forth so early this spring, (or is it summer already?) there is a lot of inspiration for nature subjects in my very own yard and garden. Since my work tends to concentrate on the domestic animals--I need to beef up my inventory of nature and wildlife subjects.

It's a good thing I have been so productive lately, as the glorious weather wants to pull me outside. A new layer of mulch is still intact on the perennial beds--the hens have not scattered it and dug holes in it just yet.
We have a new resident muskrat on the pond--he can be spotted swimming around, or climbing out on the rocks surrounding the pond. He isn't very big, probably just a youngster, and he seems to co-exist quite happily with the ducks.

The latest farm residents are four new baby chicks--just arrived yesterday. Two Silver-Laced Wyandottes, and two Golden-Laced Wyandottes. The babies are so fluffy and adorable, and they will grow into beautiful hens. We have not told the other four hens yet that they will soon have to make room on the roosts for four new roommates. We need to figure out a way to break the news gently. We hope that when the new chicks are full grown and equal to the old girls in size that there will be a minimum of squabbling.
This morning I set up a photo shoot of the new chicks, and this little gal was busy checking out a chick of a different sort.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rainy Day Treat

Rainy Day Treat, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

Rainy Day Treat is my response to the theme of this year's Thompson Community Art Show. The theme is "Weather", and though the them could apply to many of my works in terms of a sunny day, I chose to go with a form of weather that is not commonly depicted in paintings. For reference, I drew from a series of photos I shot at this year's Ride for the Cure, a miserable, rainy day for a ride, and I challenged myself to capture that grey, wet atmosphere of the day. I participate in this show every year--it's a huge collection of work by professional, amateur and student artists, all jammed together on the walls of our local library community center. The opening reception truly brings the community together, and gives everyone a chance to display their creations in a public place.

"Clouds over Cayuga Lake" is my second entry, a little 8 x 10 oil on canvas study of a sky full of clouds. It was a chilly day in August when we visited this area on New York's Finger Lakes, and the wind coming off the water was ferocious. I am glad to have two works in the show that embrace the theme. The show will be open for the month of April.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CT Artists Show

I am so thrilled that both of my pieces entered, "Spanish Grey" and "Teamwork", were accepted into the 68th annual CT Artists Juried Show at the Slater Memorial Museum at Norwich Free Academy in CT. The opening reception is Sunday, Feb. 26th, 1 - 3 pm, and the show is up until March 30th, so if you are in the area, be sure to check it out.
This is my first time entering this show, only recently becoming aware of it, and I'm excited to see the exhibit myself.

The Slater Memorial Museum is an absolutely beautiful 19th century academic building with turrets and wonderful decorative brickwork.