Monday, December 31, 2007

Crow sketches

I was fascinated by the crows in the scene below. Crows are purposeful creatures, and their movements are not random. They are fascinating in the way they move: almost lumbering but with an unexpected grace that suddenly emerges. So I began trying to capture some of that grace in quick sketches with a graphite pencil. (Very quick: they are constantly changing position.)

Though I knew there would be little detail in the painting, I wanted the attitude and relationships between the birds to be accurate. When I got home, I went online, and found a video showing a flock of birds interacting in a similar environment. It was lovely: I could pause the video and do a quick study of the patterns of movement. Here are a few of those sketches.

The thing that intrigued me most when I paused the video was that the images of flying birds became transparent-- I could see the background through them. This is not merely an artifact of the video-- it is actually how our brains perceive the images sent by the eye, and is the reason film and video work. Then our brain fills in the blanks, as it were, so that we think we perceive solid objects (because we are programmed to "know" they are solid).

We all experience what we think of as an ordinary transparency effect of fast motion (think of fans, or hummingbird wings). Yet we also experience other kinds of transparency, all the time. Birds flying suddenly by are good at this, and so on occasion are cats who are determined to be on that side of the door and not this. If we notice it, we think it is because it was so sudden that we weren't focusing. But that's not it. It was so sudden that the brain didn't have time to stitch it together in a seamless solid. (There are a few unfortunate people who experience this all the time, because the "stitching together" part of their brain doesn't work.)

But imagine what fun painters can have with this. If we let it happen, we can experience a lot of things this way. And paint them.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


After the Thaw: Incoming Storm

pastel on paper with pumice ground, 33x23cm (12.5x9 in)

Driving home from my daughter's late on Christmas day, I watched a snow storm moving in over the mountains, and a batch of crows feeding on something in an iced over wetland in the Otter Valley. It is amazing to me how many colors ice can have. I stopped and took some photos and did some sketches, and a day or so later made this painting.

The keepers of such things tell us that December was a record-breaker for snowiest December in a lot of the Northeast. It sure was here. It snowed every day but one. That day it rained, and rained hard. That day, of course, was the day before Christmas. The only reason we woke to a white Christmas was because there was so much snow to start with.

Christmas Day it snowed just enough to refresh the landscape. Then it all melted. Then it flooded. Then it snowed again. But we are used to that. We are now solidly in the January thaw, with snow predicted for tonight (the flood warning is still in effect).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Old Stage Road, framed

I framed this for my daughter, and hung it behind the Christmas tree for her to find. It is the painting I worked on as her father was dying of cancer a few months ago. When our children were young, we lived in the foothills of the Siskiyou mountains, and there was a special place along the Old Stage Road where we took our kids to picnic. Painting it was an intensely emotional experience, with layers upon layers of memories, so much so that I have absolutely no objective sense of the painting at all.

Framing and hanging it was an act of letting go for me, and at the same time a gift of memory to my daughter. It is where it is supposed to be.

The week before Christmas....

My Christmas plans got somewhat rearranged. The week before Christmas, the town plow pushed mounds of snow into my property (illegally). I was completely blocked in , with no way to get out, and unable to move the heavy, compacted snow. No shopping, no tree. no preparations for Christmas eve dinner. The town came and looked, but did nothing but make more promises.

Two days before Christmas I finally found someone who had the time to plow me out (the town will get the bill).

My daughter hosted Christmas eve dinner, and cooked the goose. I arrived bearing boxes filled with home-made dinner rolls, my own cranberry-orange relish, pumpkin pie made with almond milk for the lactose intolerant among us, fixings for dressing to go with the goose, and a large pan of my special oozy cinnamon walnut rolls to eat while opening presents the next day.

We have sort of an ecumenical family that includes a semi-lapsed Catholic, a pagan, a devout Wiccan, and a practicing Buddhist. Some of the others we are not sure about, but there they are. The nice thing about this holiday is that it truly is an trans-cultural holiday, whose original purpose kind of threads everything else together: the day that the sun lets us know it is returning northward, and that the cycle of life is beginning again. A time of sharing and community.

May yours be as well.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

High Desert Mountains

I've been absent because I've been trying to learn to build a website using javascript to display popup images. My website builder is ancient and does not understand this language. Neither do I, though I do ok with just plain old html. New website builders that a visually inclined artist can use are expensive. So I've been muddling through trying to sort out CSS and javascript in text editors.

It is a slow process, as this is not something I am fitted for. Though I am gradually starting to "get" it, I may end up bailing and just doing my old thing of making thumbnails that are links to pages with the full images. But I so want those cool javascript popups that then just disappear when you click on them!

We'll see.

Somebody like me can only do that sort of thing for so long. I needed to get back to my easel. Some artist friends are having fun doing mini landscapes. So this is my entry: early spring in the basin and range country of the American west, from a photo I took long ago in another lifetime. I much prefer this pared down approach to painting landscape.

"High Desert Mountains" 10x10cm (4x4 in)
pastel on beige Tiziano, pumice ground added

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Refuge

Soft pastel on hot-pressed watercolor paper; pumice ground added.
30x23 cm (12x9 in)

Winter's coming-- yay. I think. Maybe it will actually snow this year and I'll get to use my snowshoes. The other day, after doing several fall paintings (I do live in New England, and it is almost obligatory to do fall color), I decided I really wanted to paint a winter scene. This is based on a photo I took a couple of winters ago (when it actually snowed the way it is supposed to in New England), at a wildlife refuge in the Taconic Mountains. The Taconics are a beautiful range which runs up the border of Massachussets, New York, and Vermont to the Champlain Valley. I used to make monthly trips to the Hudson Valley from my home in Vermont, and stumbled across this spot about midway, away from the main road. A lovely, peaceful place to snowshoe in the winter. I could get right down into the wetlands where it is normally too wet to hike.

In painting this, I was trying out some techniques, a bit of a deviation from my usual style. Overall, I am pleased with the results. I'll live with it a while now, to see how I feel about it before framing. Sometimes I make changes, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I keep it, sometimes I just throw it away.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Old Aspen Grove

When I lived in Colorado, I often drove along the spine of the Rockies on back roads, camping along the way. On one of those trips, off on a trail that led nowhere, I stumbled across a stand of the largest aspens I've ever seen. Some were huge: over 3 feet in diameter, a good size for any tree at that altitude. Entranced, I stayed there for several days, hiking, drawing, taking photos, and feeling suspended in time. Not even planes flew over. Recently, I found the photos I had taken (the sketchbook, of mostly botanical drawings, is long lost). One of them became the reference for this small painting of sunlight filtering through onto the massive trunks just feet from my tent.

Soft pastel on indigo Tiziano, pumice ground
14x18.5 cm (5.5x7.25 in.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More pears? Are you kidding?

Dancing 'til Dawn

Soft pastels on UART400, 24x16 cm (9.5x6.25 in)

I have no idea what the style I am developing might be called, so I am calling it "abstract realism". I think this is a stylistic trend that has been part of my art in all the media I've used. This is not impressionism, which is realism at its most literal: a rendering of what the artist's senses actually percieve in the most literal way, uninterpreted by the mind. In a sense, though, every painting, any art object is an abstraction, because the artist is selecting the information that conveys what he or she is perceiving.

A scene, a set of objects, a face, all are composed of many levels of information: color, shape, light and shadow, relationships between elements. The more the result resembles the expectations of the viewer, the more realistic we say the painting is. When it seems to resemble nothing objective at all, it is usually referred to as abstract-- though as long as I'm talking terminology here, I'd say that a painting (or other art object) that is not based on something objective isn't abstract at all, but expressionistic. It is not abstracted from the sensory perception of the artist, but expresses some interior process. There is likely some of both in abstract realism as I am using it. There is a real scene, a real object, a real person, but my tendency as an artist is to pare away as much as possible to some essence of my perception and experience of my subject.

I am experimenting with different surfaces for my paintings, and was given some good-sized samples of a sanded paper called UART. I dislike most sanded papers I've tried, because they eat pastels and are difficult to blend. But this one (which comes in several grit sizes) may have promise. This painting is done on the 400, which I swore would not work for my way of working. I'm still up in the air on that, but was pleasantly surprised at its responsiveness. Nice for this kind of loose, informal approach.

By the way, the middle pear was breakfast yesterday, not long after I laid out the composition. The pear on the right is next.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Three Pears again

In the light this morning, I decided to add some highlights to the pastel version of the pears. Interesting to compare how this looks compared to the one I posted yesterday. I am really liking this technique, and want to try it on some other paintings. The pears are ripening and changing color, but are not yet soft, so they may get another chance yet at sitting for me before I eat them.

Lunch, then back to the framing room...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three Pears, version 1,772,394

At least. Hasn't every artist who has ever lived done pears at least once? But hey, pears are fun to paint. No two are shaped alike, they have wonderful shapes, and each variety has its own personality. Plus you get to eat them when you're done.

I promised someone a while back that when pears came in, I'd paint some. I got three lovely Bosc pears, so last evening, I used them for my quick watercolor sketch:

Canson watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 15x9 cm (6x3.6in)

Then this evening, I used them as subject of a quick little pastel painting, using a much looser style than I usually do.

Soft pastel on Tiziano, brown background under pumice ground, 11x11cm (4.25x4.25 in)

In a bit of a slump for a while, but getting going again. Only doing sketches until I finish getting some paintings framed and ready to hang for a gallery jurying. There are only two 2D slots open and stiff competition, but I'm still excited and pleased to have been invited. The small ones were easy to frame, but I am re-doing a larger one. Today I took it all apart and redid it, and like the way it looks much better. Tomorrow I will finish it up. I hope. The glass feels a bit long, and the only way to remove a small amount of glass safely is by grinding. And I only have hand tools...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Old Stage Road, 1965

For Rod. There is a little creek back in the trees where we used to take the kids to picnic. It is dusk now, time to go home. Farewell.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A study: Aunt Myrt at 88

I've been spending time getting some things framed, but today it is just too hot to work in the upstairs room I am using. So, a good day to paint. I decided to try an experimental study to prepare for a portrait I want to do of someone I don't know well. I can paint someone I know from a photo, because I have a visual sense of the whole head and how the face relates to it and to the neck and shoulders. So it is easy for my fingers to "feel" the dimensions. But with someone I don't know, that sense isn't there. In person, I'd be moving back and forth a little to develop a sense of that person, but in this case it won't be possible.

I decided to convert a photo to black and white, increase the contrast, and reduce the density. What is left are the dimensions and some of the "landmark" detail. Then print it directly onto the paper. For the experiment, I selected a photo of someone I do know, my beautiful Aunt Myrt, who is 90 years now. Because she lives on the other coast, I see her only rarely, which I consider deprivation, as I am extremely fond of her. This way, not only will I be able to see if the painting looks like the photo, but I will know if it looks like her, that essence that is more than just likeness. I hope that will inform the process when I do the other portrait.

This is a small study, done quickly, and is a bit rough. Actually, it is the second version-- I brushed out all but the face on the first and started over again. But I am pleased with the overall result, and now I think I'll also do a larger painting of my aunt!

Aunt Myrt at age 88
Soft pastel on paper, 12x12 cm (4.75x4.75 in)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

White on white

In the tradition of painting what I eat. Today I peeled two hard-cooked eggs with the intent of making deviled eggs for lunch. I was intrigued by the shadows and highlights of the eggs laying in a white bowl that I decided to try to paint them first. Here they are, quickly done because I was hungry:

watercolor on sketch paper, 15x7cm (6x3.5 in)

I missed posting a couple of my little watercolors earlier, so here are those, too. Um, food, of course....

This one from August 10:

Okay, so I ate the end of the loaf first. Wouldn't you?

And another from just a couple of days ago: a few things from my garden arranged on a plate with a slice from a more recent loaf of bread. I did this one very quickly because my matting supplies had just come and I was eager to get set up!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Windowsill: WIP

That's such an odd acronym. WIP. Work in progress. It sounds so industrial. Or office hysterical.

I'm still working out how to approach the work meant for the sanded indigo paper (the BIG piece of sanded indigo paper!). So I decided to do something in a more familiar zone to kind of loosen myself up. Ha. A nice piece of pearl (in this case, that means pale grey) Fabriano Tiziano, unsanded, about 9x12, horizontal. A photo of a simple scene: the windowsill in a kitchen I once had. I forgot that the simple ones are the hardest to do. (How did I forget something so fundamental?)

1: Basic layout of composition with first layer of color for wall under window. You can see a bit of my reference photo in the upper left.

Usually once I've worked out a painting, it takes me a day or so to do, and then I let myself live with it for a while so I can fine-tune it. Not this one.

2: Setting up the shadows on the old fashioned wide blinds, outlining the window ledge and frame, and building up the reflected light and shadows on the wall under the windowledge. I did not color correct this photo, which was taken in light that makes the painting seem just a bit more orangey than it actually was.

I worked on this one for 3 days. Not all the time, of course, but having to just walk away from it for long periods and not even look at it. Already I can feel something wrong, but I can't pin it down.

3. Finishing shading the shadows on the blind, giving the window sash some depth and a little shadow, and (finally) setting the tomato and peppers in place.

This is actually number 4. I didn't take a picture of number 3. For that, you have to imagine this with the orangey wall in number 2 above. I was too busy trying to capture the glowing highlights and shadows that so appealed to me to see the problem; I just knew something was off. This is always the worst part of doing a painting for me!

I normally go right to sleep, but last night, there the painting was, drifting across my mind. I kept meditating past it, and then there it would be again. I finally drifted off. When Mona the Magnificent woke me to crawl under the covers for her morning purr, what I needed to do was in my head.

I went straight to the easel in my nightgown, and got out one of my brand-new Terry Ludwig darks (chortle), in the same blue as the darkest in the blinds. I scumbled lightly over the orange, and run a dark band along the base of the window surround. I still have the warmth of the wall, but now the painting is unified by the shadow color.

Now the finetuning: I'll use some of those warm colors when I do the drawstrings, and a touch to warm up the cold looking outside shadows a bit too. Not so you'd notice, but enough so that the whole looks like it belongs together. Then I'll tape it the wall and live with it for a while until I am enough distant from it to know what else needs to be done.

Maybe then I'll be ready to work on that big piece of sanded indigo paper.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Anticipating Autumn

Pastel on indigo Tiziano, sanded ground added, 13.5x13.5 cm (5.3x5.3 in)

What was I thinking of? I have been planning a large pastel, and decided to use a dark paper with a sanded ground added. Because the ground will be heavier than I am used to, I decided to do a test piece using colors like those I probably will use in the larger piece, to feel the way the pastels handle on the surface and against the dark ground.

Rummaging through my photos, I came across one taken from my daughter's backyard of the hillside opposite, during a particularly colorful autumn. Perfect! Except that I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was using a 14x14 cm piece of paper. All those teeny, weeny strokes! But it worked well as a study, and I like the way all those bits of color express the New England fall. At least that one: it was one of our good ones, where the trees are like a tapestry.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bedside table, monochromish

Yesterday and today were cleaning up and organizing days, cleaning out cat and dog hair from behind and under furniture. Sorting out my paper and deciding which to use for my next pastel, which is taking shape in my mind. Getting one of the rooms upstairs ready to become my framing room. This meant moving the cats out and moving their "paraphernalia" to the utility room downstairs. The cats aren't banished for good: just until I get things set up and the mats stored so cat feet can't walk on them. After all, that room has the best sunning windows in the house. It would be cruelty to deny them access!

Between episodes with broom, vacuum, and mop, I took breaks pulling up the latest crop of weeds in the sadly neglected vegie garden. I may have a crop of lettuce and beets and basil after all.

And piled into bed without having done my little painting. I picked up my notebook and did a quick and calming ink outline of some of the objects on my bedside table, from the peculiar angle afforded by drawing with my head on my pillow and my notebook on my knees. My position, not the angle, accounts for the wonky clock dial. This morning I did the painting, in a morning frame of mind.

Tonight I am simply going to bed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mortar and pestle in blue

Here is last evening's little ink and watercolor piece, again 15x9 cm:

I've never explained the "rules" I set out for myself in doing these simple sketches. The rules are simply a way to provide a simple structure within which to work, and have no particular significance:

I focus on something in my immediate surroundings, and keep it intimate: what I can take in at a glance. I allow myself to arrange things, as the main focus is always composition, both space and color, but not to fuss over it. I keep the time to under half an hour, and often find I spend less than that. But above all, I enjoy doing them. These are not a test, or an exercise so much as they are a way for me to bring my mind and my eye to the present moment. It is a peaceful way to end the day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Crabapple branch on the table

India ink and watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 9x14.5cm (3.5x5.75 in)

Doing these little ink and watercolor sketches are fun. Even if they are simple little things, I learn something from them, and it is a great way to relax in the evening. Especially after realizing that now I will be dedicating yet more space in my house to art: the matting and framing area.

I joked to a fellow artist that I live in a studio with a sitting area in one corner, and an attached kitchen, bath, and sleeping room.

All of which desperately need refurbishing. Which is a polite way of putting it. I can't bring myself to order plasterboard and skimcoat, but I can spend the same amount of money on art supplies. Ah, priorities. But winter is coming and it would be nice to have real walls instead of lath in my bedroom, and real cupboards in the kitchen.

Instead, I am planning my next large painting, and waiting for my framing supplies...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mystery fruit

In the past two weeks, in the time I've had, I have been working on a fairly complex large pastel painting, and playing around a bit with little watercolors in my notebook. Most were explorations I don't think I want anyone to look at.

This one started as a simple little watercolor sketch of some crabapples on a hot pad. Then it got out of control. At one point I nearly ripped it out of the notebook to throw in the trash. But I figured since it was a goner, I might as well go for broke and began playing with all kinds of things. This is the end result. I decided it was more interesting than what I'd started out to do. I can't say these are crabapples anymore, though they do still have a passing resemblance. I think.

watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 15x9cm (6x3.5 in)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Getting framed

Ok, figuring out what equipment and supplies I need to do my framing was pretty straight-forward. But then came the hard decisions- the dang little details. I hate those. Regular matboard or archival? Regular foamcore or acid-free? What colors of mat for which painting. Don't want bright white-- warm white, cool white, cream, grey, colored mat? Separate back-mount? Tape-seal edges? What kind of wire hangers? How many of what do I get now? What size frames for which paintings?

This sort of thing wears me out and ends up paralyzing me. I finally decided to keep things simple, prioritize, and to let the details wait. Decide which to frame first, get what I need to get them in frames. Then deal with the rest. So (deep breath)... here I go. Order going in tomorrow.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Prayerflag for Misty

Two years ago, I adopted Misty. I was looking for a small dog, about 4 or 5 years old. Instead, I ended up with an oversize 11 year old beagle with a heart condition. I knew no one would adopt an elderly beagle with a heart condition. So I did. Misty turned out to have an outsize personality to fit her outsize body, and a sweet, gentle disposition, and her presence filled my house. I fell in love with her.

For nearly two years, Misty's heart condition (and a near total deafness) did not slow her down (I can't imagine what she was like as a puppy!). And even this summer, as she gradually began to show her age, her love of life never flagged.

Late in the afternoon on August 4th, Misty died, her head cradled in my arms. My daughter helped me bury her in her favorite spot behind the barn, which had the richest repertoire of smells. The next day, I made a very rustic little prayerflag, writing the story of Misty in my life, to put on the side of the barn.

I learned so much from you, Misty. Thank you for coming into my life to teach me.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Double coneflower

Yes, there is such a thing! They start out looking like regular pink coneflowers, and then suddenly they sprout another "flower" on top. The new flower is, of course, simply another set of modified leaves masquerading as petals. The flower often ends up looking like a pompom with a skirt. This one was just getting started when it ended up posing in a glass of water on my table as the subject for a watercolor sketch.

Since this is a sketch, it does not have a background: the grey shading is due to the fact that I took the photo as a thunderstorm began to move in, changing the character of the light. Bah. But perhaps it will cool down, and I did get two new roses planted. One to go.

Watercolor on heavyweight archival sketch paper, 20x30 cm (approx. 9x12 in)

I suspect this blog will undergo some changes in the near future. Right now I am spending time (and money, yikes) getting ready to frame some of my work in preparation for shows. "From day to day..." will morph into more of what it's been: a means of exploration, a sort of on-line journal of art and musings. I will be posting more of the, um, "experiments" here, too, and probably works in progress. I'll try not to let it get more irregular than it is now, honest.

In time, I will also have a web gallery-- you'll be the first to know!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Golden beets

And they are. They don't shimmer, but they are a lovely red-gold color, small and well-shaped. Cooked and skinned, they are like little jewels. Here they are in the raw, though. They are much more interesting that way. I'd already cut and cooked the tops, which left the roots exposed for me to enjoy-- so of course I had to make a painting of them in my little sketchbook. This was actually last night, but close enough to today to count.

Canson watercolors and india ink on heavyweight sketch paper, 9x11 cm (3.5x5.5 in.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The old barn on a sunny day in spring

Pastel on Tiziano with lightly sanded ground, 35x35 cm (c. 14x14 in)

I am proud to introduce my barn. A small old carriage house, actually, still outfitted with the horse stall, saddle block, tack hooks, and even a space for chickens to share space with the horse. A loft for hay, still with shreds of hay drooping from the spaces in the floor boards. Sadly, I have no chickens, nor a horse.

It pleases me no end to own such a barn, though. And to run a clothesline from the barn to the house on hooks that clearly were meant for that purpose.

I am not sure I am finished with this yet. But it is close. I have been working on it a little at a time over the last two weeks: time to let it out.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Queen Anne's Lace with Astilbe

I am working on a large (for me) pastel painting, but it is going slowly. For the past two weeks I've been listening to the abrupt whine of a chop saw next door as my neighbor puts new siding on his house. In the meantime, the town is installing new water mains, and it seems that every moment of every day someone is running a loud mowing machine nearby. I have a headache. I am used to living in the boonies. I find even normal town noice difficult. Ah, but soldiering on while I plot to escape.

The tiny little watercolor sketches that I've been doing in the evening help ease the frustration of dealing with the noise. As casual as the little paintings are, I feel as if I've accomplished something. And, I have. I go to bed reminded of the small beauties I am surrounded with. This one, an informal bouquet from my garden, in an old olive oil jar on my table.

Canson watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 9x15 cm (3.5x6 in)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pabs' beets

The other day, a delightful English artist who goes by the name "Pabs" posted a photograph on an artist's forum of a box of fresh beets, taken at a farmer's market. I couldn't resist painting those beets, so here they are, in all their rotund glory.

Soft pastel on Tiziano with sanded ground, 15x20 cm (6x8 in.)

I am doing a lot of quick small paintings right now, as I work out a larger painting with a lot of detail. The little paintings give my creative juices both a break and inspiration, since I get to make things without any particular end.

I haven't been posting lately, though, as we've had one thunderstorm after another, one of which also resulted in some scrambled files on my computer needing repair work. Lovely weather again, so I'll be catching up on some of those posts today too!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Raspberry shortcake with ice cream and journal

Here's another of those little sketchbook paintings. Now, you didn't think I painted this from life, did you? The bowl was empty when I drew it, which might account for the fact that it is somewhat lopsided. I was making allowance for the space formerly taken up by the shortcake, which I'd already eaten. However, I did have some raspberries handy for reference. I ate those too. The journal is my word journal, which wanders around with me.

Canson watercolor and india ink on 93# sketchbook paper, 14.5x7 cm. (5.5x2.75 in.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kitchen rack

On my dining room table I keep a little sketch book and my field kit. Often while working on something more involved, or in the evening to relax, I sit down and do one or two quick ink and watercolor sketches of whatever catches my eye. It's fun doing these informal, sometimes whimsical little studies. And fun to share an occasional one, too. Do I label these? Oh, I suppose...

Canson watercolor and india ink on heavy sketchbook paper, 9x15 cm. (3.5x6 in.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Two easy pieces

The light has been lousy today, changing from bright sun to overcast to dark and stormy within moments. I'd intended to do the setup for a large piece I'd been planning. But I need steady, even light to do that. So I played again at doing little studies. This is actually good for me, besides being fun. Here are two: a small pastel, and an ink and watercolor in my littlest sketchbook. They are actually almost the same size.

The pastel: Flower Jumble, an impression of the flowers just outside my painting bay. Very very quick, in the ten minute period between sun and downpour. Daisies, bluebells, beebalm, celosia, daylilies, hosta, coneflower. Yes, all blooming at once. Vermont's season tends to compress everything together.

Pastel on Tiziano sage, 12x9 cm. (4.75x3.5 in.)

The watercolor: Summer window. An informal ink sketch of my southeast-facing dining room window, with impressionistic watercolor washes. Yes, it sort of looks like this. Sort of. The window looks out at a tangle of overgrown lilac bush, giving the room a delightfully mysterious feel.

Mixed media on 93# sketch paper, 9x15 cm. (3.5x6 in.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Back to pastels. A quick little sketch of me this time, loosely based on a photo taken by a friend. I'm getting ready to do a portrait of my friend and her husband, so this just seemed fair. Just for fun, I decided to mess with the colors to see what would happen. Only four colors, loose strokes, rough edges. Some mistakes along the way, but I found I like working this way. I might use it as a study for a larger work later on.

Pastels and colored pencils on Tiziano cream, 11x11 cm. (4.25x4.25 in.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Little cove at Bayview Park

Watercolor on Arches 300 gsm, 16.5x24 cm (6.5x9.5 in.)

For the last week the weather here in New England has been hot and horridly humid, with thunderstorms and heavy downpours every day. I sorted through the photos my sister-and-law and I had taken during my visit to the NW in May, and a photo of this rocky outcrop caught my eye. This is at Bayview Park, west of the Anacortes ferry landing. When I lived in Washington, this was a favorite place of mine.

Though the painting is a conventional landscape, I like the peaceful feeling and memories it carries. Painting it gave me a chance to work at retrieving some lost skills and practice a few new ones, while pretending I was still there, with a cool ocean breeze in my face.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rhubarb pie

On a sort-of challenge by a fellow artist who also has a penchant for drawing what he eats, I did this little pastel of a rhubarb pie I baked during a too brief one-day period of coolness earlier this week. Knowing the pie wouldn't last long enough to paint "live", I took photos while it was still intact. Nothing is left now but the pan. But here's the evidence.

Soft pastel on Tiziano cream, 10x12 cm (4x4.75 in)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The other side of the hill

This little piece started out with the title, which just popped into my head. I know why: there's a personal symbolism at work here. But then I had to come up with something visual to express it. It's a lovely day today, sunny and just warm enough to be comfortable. And I live in Vermont. So here is a Vermont hillside in the early morning sun. On the other side of the hill, far far away, is home.

pastel on Tiziano sage, 10x10 cm. (4x4 in)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sometime in October

watercolor on Arches 300, 25x25 cm. (10x10 in)

The last couple of days have been downright cold. I woke up to temps in the 40s. A bit of a shock after the hot humid weather of the last couple of weeks. I even had the furnace on! Perhaps that is what inspired this watercolor, which started out to be a summer rain... instead it is a misty autumn rain with late afternoon sunlight breaking through the clouds. Ah, symbolic: the seasons confused, and so am I.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Red potato

Shopping early this morning: fixings for potato salad. Here is one red potato. It will soon be joined by more potatoes, celery, onion, eggs, and my special home-made boiled salad dressing. But first it posed for me, a tiny vegetable portrait.

Pastel on Tiziano grey, 7.5x7.5 cm. (3x3 in.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sunflower bud

Pastel and colored pencil on Tiziano sage, 10x10 cm (4x4 in)

Almost a mandala. It is amazing to watch a sunflower open up. Other flowers seem to unfold or to emerge from the bud. A sunflower literally turns itself inside out as the flowerets enlarge from the outside rim inward to the center. This one is just starting to open, the "petals" starting to take on a yellow tinge. I found it more of a challenge to paint than I expected.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Light and dark

I am struck by how the light plays against Juliet's features. So in this tiny portrait, I pushed the contrast to extremes. I am delighted to discover that somehow it enhances the sweetness of her smile. I am entranced by her smile anyway, since she is my grand-daughter!

Pastel on Tiziano pearl, 8x11 cm (3x3.4 in)

Friday, June 22, 2007


It's been cool all day, and late this afternoon, the sun came out long enough to play the greens next to the brick path leading to my front door, and highlight the newly blooming evening primrose. A quick glance out the window by my easel-- and another of my tiny pieces.

Soft pastel on Tiziano pearl, 7.5x7.5cm (3x3 in)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Soft pastels on Tiziano paper, 23x30 cm (9x12 in)

A quick sketch of my sister-in-law, in a rare moment of repose (I swear she never stops moving!). I am not sure I will work on this one much more-- I like how the rawness of it seems to capture Bobbi's moment of quiet. So I may just clean it up a bit and let it be. We'll see.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Tulip seed cases

After several weeks visiting relatives (LOTS of relatives) on the other coast, and taking the red eye flight back east, followed by a two hour drive home, you'd think the first thing I'd do is hit the sack, but no. Might as well stay up; easier to get back on eastern time that way.

The tulips were in full bloom when I left, and I should have just clipped them. By the time I got back I had nearly mature seed cases. Not good for the bulbs, but they are intriguing and interesting against the later flowers, so I decided to try capturing their beauty. At least that's what this started as, and they are still there, in a different way.

Soft pastel on sage Tiziano with pumice ground
14x14cm (5.5x5.5 in)

The first try looked muddy, so I scumbled it a bit, tried again, realized that the vision I had in mind was not going to happen, so I just went for the color. It was fun and spontaneous, and I think somehow caught a little more of the feeling of the seed pods than the refined version I had in mind. This is more how I experience the seeing of things. Guess being mentally fried made me cut through all the conventions that usually take me a while to let go of.

A friend of mine saw it and had a hard time putting it down. So now it's hers. And I have a beautiful monoprint of hers hanging next to my computer where I can see it every day.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Signs of restlessness...

Tomorrow I catch a very early plane to the Pacific Northwest to visit relatives I haven't seen in a long time. I should be sleeping. But I'm restless, so I take out the little sketch kit I am taking with me. Just something quick to relax: my bag and the book on the bedside table. There. A simple sketch with a few colored pencils, but now I am unwound enough to sleep.

Colored pencil in archival sketch pad, 9x12 cm. (3.5x5 in)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Buddha dreaming

This one was a bit of a surprise to me. I let something loose, and then followed my instincts. Isn't this the way of art? Or, at least, of artists. Whatever it is, it's done: this is what it is. This is a loose pastel drawing on a pastel ground that has been scrubbed, washed, coated with pumice gel. I like the visual texture of all this.

Pastel on Tiziano, 11x11cm (4.25x4.25 in)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Vermont spring sunrise

Up early this morning, let the dog out. Just a glimpse of the hills to the west with a bit of mist laying in the hollow reflecting the rose of the rising sun. A peaceful Sunday morning for an hour or two, until the weekend warriors came out with their machines to wrestle vegetation into submission. I prefer the untamed vegetation of the hills and meadows, the quiet of dawn.

Watercolor on Arches 300 gr cold-pressed, 11x12cm (4.25x4.75in)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Clock with basket

Nearly a month without art, except my almost daily ink scribblings. Serious withdrawal. You remember that aphorism "Time is Nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once"? Well, like the universe, time is also not evenly distributed, and sometimes things come in clumps. I just had one of those clumps. No, you don't get the details. Oh, ok, some of them: Insane political organizing for legislative day- on phone or internet for 10 days straight. Next: Ugly storm. Car assaulted by telephone pole while it sat innocently in my driveway. No heat, phone, or electricity for a week. There's more, but never mind, you get the idea.

I put paper on my easel, and just sat and looked at it, as if that part of my brain had disconnected. And it had. The first thing I did was so awful I destroyed it. Then I put a tiny piece of paper up, and did the first thing I saw, just to make my hands and eyes and brain engage. Then I went outside. The daffodils are blooming, at last. Yellow!

Soft pastel on Arches white, 300gsm, 10x10cm (4x4 in)

Saturday, March 10, 2007


A pastel study of two year old Ophelia. Doesn't she have the look of an angel? Don't you believe it. She is a fireball, always finding something interesting to, um, explore. Another grandchild who lives too far away to pose-- as if that were actually a possibility even if she were here! This is from a photo I took of her when she was two, a rare moment when she wasn't a blur.

pastel on Tiziano cream, 13x18cm (5x7 in.)