Last week I set a challenge for myself - to draw/paint birds only from direct observation and memory, not from photos. This is quite a challenge because, as you know, they don't stay still for long.
I've been watching birds at my feeder for a few years now. With my backyard bird guide I've learned to identify most common birds in our corner of Pennsylvania, I know a few bird songs, and with my new challenge I decided to study bird anatomy, especially their skeletal structure. I felt ready.
Then, a great gift fell from the sky. The day after I set this challenge, my family found a deceased blue jay on the sidewalk near my children's bus stop. I came home as soon as I could to get to work.
I learned so much from my time with this jay. I made this painting from direct observation. When I was done, I gave her a proper burial.
I figured out in the following days that she was one of the regular birds that came to our bird feeders because, sadly, now only one blue jay comes when there used to be two. While I am certainly not glad that this dear bird died, I am grateful for the time I had with her and it just seems so uncanny that she came to me just when I felt ready for her.
The last in a trio of vegetable paintings, I present "Farm Onions" I love how, unlike most onions that I buy, you can see the part of the plant that grows above the soil.
The painting challenge here is in the subtle study of white... for white objects are rarely actually white. I learned this from my hero John Singer Sargent. When I look at paintings like "Simplon Pass: Reading" done in the Alps in 1911, the multitude of greens, blues, yellows, and grays that create the white drapery stun me. Feast your eyes on it here.
Locally grown, organic vegetables inspire me. They feed me both physically and artistically. And, best of all, I know that I am supporting farmers who are on the front lines of improving our sustainability. *
I really enjoyed the range of greens in this painting, which are all mixed. The painting begins with a cobalt blue and winsor lemon, continues with a prussian blue and winsor lemon, then ends with Prussian blue and indian yellow. All relatively transparent mixtures.
Like several other vegetable paintings I've done in the past year, this head of lettuce came from the Pennypack Farm and Education Center last summer. I've recently prepared for the 2018 growing season by buying into the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op. I'm looking forward to the variety and quality of produce they grow and I plan to continue this series of paintings. :)
*Notably, organic farmers are supporting our declining bee populations by not using neonicotinoid pesticides, or seeds treated by this noxious chemical which has become too common in the conventional agricultural market. Organic veggies support bees, and who doesn't love bees?
Upon reflection, I see a great metaphor in this watercolor study. Not only are these beautiful potatoes a product of organic farming practices at Pennypack Farm and Education Center last season (so delicious!), they refer to a common phrase.
I first approach that phrase in my quest to simplify. It acts as a mantra to avoid letting the small stuff block my sight of what's really important along the lines of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. However, after finding a quote by Charles Dudley Warner who while gardening in 1870 wrote, "What small potatoes we all are, compared with what we might be!" I feel like my eyes have been opened. His view in this quote is that we often stunt our growth because we "don't plow deep enough." (Thank you Project Guttenberg, where I found Warner's book My Summer in the Garden.)
I am inspired by a new mandate to nurture my small potatoes into big potatoes by taking the time to dig deeper into the earth. Stay tuned for next year's crop!
Have I mentioned I love terrariums?
Something about the way they contain earth, air, light, water and plant life is so elemental. As a microcosm of an ecosystem, the relationship between entities reads like a metaphor for an environmental theory of well being. When I observe them, it is like they are talking to me. And yes, I've come into the habit of naming my terrariums.
This terrarium, I made three years ago. It is one that unfortunately didn't make it .
Old friend- I wish we had more time together. Thank you for all that you have taught me. I wish I had been better able to fit your needs. I am grateful that I made this painting of you during your prime as a way to remember you and to share the story of your brilliance with others.
It worked! Giving myself more time between posts helped me to work larger.. This image is a detail of a full-sheet, 30 by 22 inch painting that is nearly finished. Working larger certainly brings technical challenges, but I am excited about how the larger paintings will present themselves to in-person viewers at the Residency Exhibition in May.
My studio, a space allowed to me this year through the painting residency, is currently in a corner of the second floor of the George K. Heller School, commonly known as the Cheltenham Center for the Arts on Ashbourne Road. While this section of the building with its tall ceilings and massive windows was "recently" added in 1906, the original school on this site, named the Milltown School, opened its doors as the very first public school in Montgomery County in 1795. In 1883, the original one-story George K. Heller School was built to replace the Milltown School. It was expanded in 1893 and in 1906 to create the building that became the Cheltenham Art Center in 1953.
I have to say, it's pretty cool working in a space that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
The beating that I've been taking the last few days is bittersweet. My 9 year old son Dylan has not only a good dose of talent in chess, he also has more training than me thanks to the chess club at Meadowbrook, his old school. So even though I am clearly outmatched, I persist. (Isn't that the trend these days?)
Today was our second match this week. I was beaten badly. I made a few good moves, I made several dumb moves, and my pride wishes I could say that I lost on purpose.
I still hope I might win tomorrow. At the very least I will go down fighting!
This beloved hand tool came to my husband through his father, both woodworkers. Woodworking is a Rix tradition that goes back at least three generations. Maybe further? Were there woodworking Rix's back in Nebraska of the 1890s or in early 19th century Germany?
I love that this tool in particular is from a pre-computer age. It is very tactile, not virtual.
This painting is a gift for my hard working valentine. He's at the hospital overnight and might not see this post before I give it to him on our date tomorrow night. Happy Valentine's Day!
Meet the tea cup terrarium that stole my heart.
For the second year, I assembled several terrariums for the cozy holiday sale that my artists group (MamaCITA) organizes in the house of one lucky Elkins Park (sometimes Melrose Park) resident. Once I set eyes on this succulent little Black Prince Echeveria contrasting and harmonizing with the fine lines of the tea cup, I knew. This one was never going to make it to the sale.
Is it wrong to gain so much joy from looking at a terrarium? If that's true, then I don't want to be right!
An homage to my neighborhood ice cream parlor, Sprinkles...complete with what I feel is their signature wallpaper pattern.
I am so grateful that I can walk with my family to enhance our lives with a freshly scooped ice cream cone...ANY TIME OF YEAR! We have 3 winter birthdays in our house, so this is very important to us.
Dear Sprinkles, thank you for the joy you bring to my family. And, thank you for the lovely Valentine's Day display that, to me, really captures the feeling of this week.
Can you guess how many candy hearts are in the jar? At Sprinkles, this could win you a prize!