Back to the Real

November 4, 2011

After my solo show of assemblages and mixed media works a year ago, I felt tired of the mess and bother, the glue and little bitsy pieces of stuff, and decided to return to painting and drawing, focusing on technique and simple subject matter.  The decision was aided by the fact that it was winter, and my “mess” studio, a closed-in garage, gets very cold…and is expensive to heat.  I set up a working space in my “clean” studio (which isn’t all that clean but at least doesn’t have paint on the floor) – the “family room” of my house.  And I started taking classes with Manhattan/Woodstock artist Chris Gallego, whose work I have greatly admired since first seeing it at his solo show at the WAAM.  (See his art at I painted still lifes, something I’ve never done before, and found it completely engrossing, especially under his expert tutelage.  After an arduous painting of a plastic bag, pencil and paper called to me and I’ve now started a series of drawings…below is the first one, the subject of which is a rack of old clothes in a vintage shop in Virginia.  I’m obsessed now, seeing drawings in everything.  This coming weekend I’ll be doing an intensive 2-day workshop in Chris’s Woodstock studio, and I can’t wait.  It’s always surprising to me how very much more there is to learn about even the “simplest” art techniques, and how much I don’t know.

A few of my new paintings follow the drawing. I’ve sold two, and one will be in NAWA’s “Vernissage des Femmes Artistes” show in Miami during Art Basel week.




I’m a sucker for kittens.

September 16, 2011

When 17-year-old Marley died last February, I missed him.  Of course.  But oh, how quickly I grew to love my cat-free life.  No litter box scooping!  No cascades of furballs!   I could take off overnight or for a week without finding a cat sitter!  No more litter carried all over the house by his water bowl-dipped paws!   Ah, the freedom.  I figured a cat would find me when I was ready, and hoped it wouldn’t be too soon…but they’re here.  Jerry’s next door neighbor/jerk acquired a young tabby but then fell in lust with a lady and took off, dumping the cat outside.  Meanwhile, my friend Joan was driving at night on Tinker Street in Woodstock and spotted a teeny tiny cat in the middle of the road.  And guess what…yep…they’re both living with me now, though technically I’m sharing ownership with Jerry.  He kept referring to the kitten he rescued as “my cat” so his name became “Mike”,  with the prefix “Big” because…well, he is.  He’s about 3-4 months old, and little Tinker, also a tabby with sprinklings of white, was just 4 weeks when found, and is now around 6 weeks.  They were quick to become friends and start pretending they’re a hurricane and tornado as they tear through the house.  But my house feels like a home again, and I wonder how I ever could  have been happy without purring pooping shedding felines to share it with.

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Good night, Irene…

August 31, 2011

The big storm has come and gone.  Over-hyped?  Yes and no.  It surprised everyone, as Mother Nature is wont to do; the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted, but the real damage occurred where we weren’t looking for it: the small villages and hamlets in the Catskills.  And it’s awful.  I’m always excited at the prospect of bad weather, thinking it will be like watching a great disaster movie, but when it’s real, and you see its results, it’s not fun at all.  There’s enough on the news and facebook, I don’t have to relate it, just wanted to post some of the pictures I took.  It wasn’t so bad in Saugerties, probably because most of the houses are built on the hills. Lower areas flooded, trees came down, many had no

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power, but mine didn’t go out, I just lost internet for a couple of days.  A plastic chair blew over.

Tough decision

July 7, 2011

I never thought I would turn down an opportunity for a gallery show, but after wrestling with my conscience and my reasoning, I just did that very thing.  I was offered a show this coming September, at the lovely Doghouse Gallery on Phillips Road, between Saugerties and Woodstock. Tom Wright does a wonderful job with this place…it’s an old barn behind the Wrights’ home, cozy and rustic, where summers offer a series of beautiful exhibits by local artists.  Back in March it seemed like an easy prospect, such a long time away.  Well, it’s not a long time away now, and the past few months have been so crowded with activities, travel, and obligations that I haven’t had the studio time I need.  I’m currently working on a series of small still lifes and trompe l’oeil paintings, and studying with Chris Gallego…I was worn out by the messiness of assemblages and collages, and felt a need to return to basics.  And there’s a lot I never learned in college or my MFA program about painting.  I’m not sure if I learned anything at all there, actually.  I’m enjoying the process, studying and learning and working slowly, but unless I speed up and “crank out” work, I won’t have enough new pieces for a show.  I could easily show some photos instead, or old work, or drawings…but that just doesn’t feel right to me.  It feels like cheating, like just throwing stuff on walls for the thrill and attention (and possibly sales) associated with having my name on a postcard and a flashy opening.  I feel like I’m learning more than just painting; I’m learning to focus, to let work develop as it wants to without my rushing it, and that there’s a time for showing…and a time for working.

The next show at the Doghouse will feature the work of painter and sculptor Fay Wood, opening July 30.  I just created her postcard (my little job for the Doghouse)…do see the show, it’s sure to be wonderful. 4-7 PM, 429 Phillips Road.

Here’s a little sampling of my new work….


June 16, 2011

On June 1, my daughter Jessica and I returned from our long-anticipated trip to Ireland, which neither of us had visited.  We had a wonderful time, and both fell in love with that magical island.  And it was so….Irish!  People had Irish accents!  They drank Guinness (it does taste better there) and played Irish tunes in the pubs!  The landscape was an unbelievable green, dotted with sheep and sprinkled with crumbling ruins.  We had purchased a travel package I found on Travelocity, which included air fare, car rental (well sorta, there were a bunch of extra charges when we got there) and luxury accommodations  (jeez, I just forgot how to spell that word)  for a really great price.  Jess treated me to the tickets and I bought the food…I got the better end of that stick.  We stayed near the little village of Portarlington in County Laois, about an hour southwest of Dublin (and near Moneygall, where Obama visited the day before we got there) in a fancy apartment at a spa resort.  We took day trips from there, including a day in Dublin, then had a night in fabulous Galway and a couple of nights in Limerick before heading home.  Jess drove, I navigated, and the car didn’t have a single scratch when we returned it, despite the anxiety of driving on the left.  Well, the passenger side mirror got its casing knocked off on a narrow street, but it popped right back on.

I’m still going through the zillions of photos we took because of course I have to fiddle with each one, but I’m going to start posting a few….more to come!  And YES it really was that green.  No photoshop saturation.

Studio Stuff Part 2

May 17, 2011

It was a very good idea to post my mess here and on FB…it kept me going when I really wanted to stop, and I got it all nice again.  Of course there’s a bunch of stuff that came out of the studio that hasn’t got where it’s going yet.  And the storage room….not even gonna think about that.  Here’s the after picture, and some little vignettes…as a sometimes assemblage maker, I accumulate lots of weird things, most of which come from well-meaning friends who are cleaning out their own stuff.  I have a couple of shelves that are too flimsy to support books or serious supplies, so I group them there in ever-changing arrangements.

Studio Stuff

May 13, 2011

Right now I’m taking a break from one of my least favorite chores, studio cleaning.  I have a 2-room studio; one room is the house’s family room, where I do computer work, drawing, and collage, and the other is an adjoining converted garage, where I do messy stuff. Between them is a good-sized storage room.  After my solo show at the WAAM in November, I was tired of the mess of assemblage work, and decided to simplify, spending my time painting and learning some techniques I never picked up in my non-education.  (I’m basically a self-taught artist with an MFA.) Nope, not going to digress, I’m procrastinating enough as is.  Thing is, the garage area gets really cold despite one small heat vent, and it’s expensive to heat it.  So I moved my paints and various accoutrements into the family room area, and all winter just flung (flang? flinged?) stuff into the garage studio.  Boxes from online shopping, plastic bags, dead animals, etc.  And now I’m moving back…it’s the decision-making part of organization that gets to me.    I want to put paints on a table which is covered with assemblage stuff.  Gotta move that, but where? Oh, that shelf would be good, but what do I do with the junk that’s on it now?  I could put that in a drawer…the drawer stuff in the storage room, the storage room stuff…where does it go?  On that clean table in the studio?  NO!  That’s where I started.  I keep going in circles till I’m dizzy.  And get all sidetracked by sorting out little beads and bones and rusty things. I spent half an hour with cicada wings, removing them from crumbling bodies. Once started, this job could take up the rest of my life.  Here’s what the studio looked like this morning (above), and what it looked like last year when I killed myself for the Artists’ Tour (below).  Posting the “before” should mortify me enough to get me back to work.

tattoos and masks

May 30, 2010

Yesterday I drove my friend Ann to the sweet little village of Phoenicia, where she got some new work done on the tattoo across her shoulders, at the Cosmic Art Studio.  I’ve always been fascinated by tattoos but haven’t yet gotten one of my own.  I may now, but not on my back after seeing Ann’s pain!  Next door was a magical shop where Wendy Drolma makes and sells her leather masks.

Then a bite to eat outdoors at the Alamo, surrounded by the bikers that love to ride the winding mountain roads, a visit to Lois Linet’s lovely show at Arts Upstairs, and some stops at yard sales. Nice day, but I got back too late and too tired to buy Marley’s special cat food or go to the art openings I’d planned to visit.

playing with CS5

May 23, 2010

FIrst experiment with the fake HDR feature….over the top but so much fun.

April 16, 2010


More Pages

April 9, 2010

…from my sketchbook.  Hospital waiting room, at St. Francis in Peoria:

These pages took awhile; it’s part of Jessica and Bill’s living room.  If you look really closely you’ll see that it’s night out of one window and daylight out of another.  That’s frost on the left windowpane.

Snyders Tavern

March 23, 2010

Drove past this on Sunday, on my way to hang a show at the Olive Free Library, for their Trail Mix Concert.  I thought it was abandoned, and was surprised to learn it’s still in business.  Now I have to visit the inside of the place. And more of the concert…I think there’s one every month, quite wonderful and worth checking out.This is not inside the tavern, it’s chairs at the library, waiting for the concert.

Sketchbook: Waiting room

March 22, 2010

It was my birthday, bitter cold and snowy in Illinois.  My daughter was in surgery at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, and her husband and I had some nervous hours of waiting to do.  Sketch models were abundant, so I passed the time scribbling away while he worked on his laptop.  Overheard while I was working on these pages: “…and there was so much blood on the floor, I thought, man, this boy is dead….almost cut his whole arm off…locked  her in the basement with the dog.”  Well, I’d love to know more about that story….

15 minutes…

March 20, 2010

…well, maybe 5 minutes, of fame…or, okay, not exactly fame, but they’re my minutes.  Grey Morris posted this little video of me working on a piece on his wonderful artists’ site, Hudson Valley Fine Art. If you’re an artist in this area, it would be well worth the trouble to sign on to his site, and if you’re an artist anywhere at all, check out Jonathan Talbot’s arts map and get your studio or gallery listed:  Grey’s blog is a real treat too:

Next pages in sketchbook: Son-in-law studying, with cat Solange….


March 19, 2010

Wow, I hadn’t realized how very LONG it’s been since I did anything here…I started a blog for the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum ( and when I got busy keeping up with that, I let this one languish.  And…I’ve never felt anyone was really that interested in my daily comings and goings.  My photographer friend Sue suggested I post pages from my sketchbooks, so I thought I’d go with that idea for awhile…sketching is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

I’ll start with pages, a pair every few days if I’m not too lazy or busy, from my current Moleskine book.  I love these sketchbooks, with their solid binding, smooth heavy creamy pages.  I use a ballpoint pen almost exclusively…love the way it flows across the paper, the variations in texture and line I can achieve without worrying about pencil sharpening and smudging.

The first group of pages are from a trip I took to Eureka Illinois, in January. My daughter teaches at Eureka College there, and had to undergo a small procedure to cauterize an errant nerve in her heart.  I had many subjects in the airports and waiting rooms where I spent hours, as well as in the home she shares with her husband, a professor of religion at the same school. This pair of pages was sketched at the Detroit Airport, waiting for my flight to Peoria. (My daughter is fine, by the way!)

more life drawing

October 18, 2009

I’ve been enjoying sketching this lovely model who’s been posing for a couple of drawing groups.  She is so elegant and graceful, and I’ve never known a model who could hold a pose so well.  I don’t know how to spell her name…Ilema? but I’ll have to find out.

Not much other news; it’s been a very busy week with lots of work to do for WAAM; mostly I’ve been working on creating a blog for the organization. WordPress makes it pretty easy, but there are still plenty of tricky bits to work out.  Here ’tis: .  Any suggestions are welcome.  The openings last night were great fun–lots of people showed up and the shows were much admired.  After, I wandered across the street to see Polly Law’s show at Oriole 9.  Her work, as always, looked spectacular.  I let Lenny Kislin convince me to show there next month…but I’m a bit nervous about it.  Some of the work will go directly from the Doghouse Gallery into the restaurant, because I don’t have time to make a lot of new pieces, but I hope the clientele is different so it doesn’t look like a rerun.  Whatever, it will be fun.  From Oriole 9 some friends and I went back to Saugerties to try out the new Fez restaurant, and were delighted with the food and ambience and prices.  The waitress (part owner maybe?) really had her hands full as the busboy didn’t show up, so it was just her and the chef–and the place was super-busy.  An odd closure to the evening: peeking into Dave’s Coffee House next door, we beheld something not often seen on Partition Street–a live lion cub!  Well, my companions saw it, but by the time I looked it was back in a covered cage…so they might  have been hallucinating….

One more note: I’ve put the entire Doghouse show (my work, not Mary Anne’s) here:

catching up

October 8, 2009

Well, this is weird.  I wrote and posted, and then saw that the entire first paragraph had disappeared…now, what was I saying?  That the Doghouse Gallery opening was last Saturday evening, and it was a terrific party.  Lots and lots of people came, lots of wine was drunk and cheese eaten.  Mary Anne and I both sold a couple of things, which was wonderful.  I would have liked to sell more, of course…had  hoped to pay for my framing costs…but I didn’t really expect to, and I’m delighted to have sold anything at all. Nice things were said about the work, and it was gratifying to have it seen, and to be in the company of so many dear friends…and some new friends.

These events are draining for the artists showing work…I am NOT complaining, mind you, not at all, and of course it was great fun…but after the stress of getting everything finished, framed, hung, polished, cards and invitations made and sent, and then the high of the opening itself where you try to talk to everyone and remember names and not spill wine on yourself, or drink too much of it…well, then there is a sort of crash.  It takes a few days for the adrenalin to depart, days in which all I want to do is sit and stare into space.  I’ve learned to accept this period and just go with it; I’m going to be unproductive anyway so I might as well enjoy the little island of calm.  I am managing to do some much overdue house-cleaning; I can’t seem to get work done in the studio AND keep the place tidy at the same time, it’s gotta be one or the other.  There’s more to do, but the bills are paid, the cobwebs brushed from the corners, the papers cleared off my desk.

And then there’s the reflection, the doubt…why do we artists keep doing this?  I think of all the hours spent making stuff, sometimes full of joy and sometimes anguish, the expense of framing, the hauling and hanging, only to bring home yet another pile of pictures no one wants and find a place to store it.  I can only say I do it because it’s what I do.  I don’t think I can say I love it, though often I do…do I “have” to do it, as many art-makers say?  Maybe.  I don’t know; I wonder if that’s just a romantic myth.  I do get grumpy if I go for very long without making something, that’s true.

So what’s next? — a question that follows every such event. I’ll have a show in the next few months at Oriole 9 in Woodstock, and next November a solo show at WAAM, more reasons to keep on working.  Right now I need to shift my focus to figuring out ways to make an income; having recently been dropped by my longest and most faithful illustration client, my financial situation is on the verge of being dire, and my job skills are nil.  Well, there’s always Wal-Mart; they might need a greeter!

Opening, me with guests, and Tom, the gallery ownerwe drank a bit of door

it’s been awhile…

September 29, 2009

..since I’ve posted anything at all here.  I was just checking out some friends’ blogs and grumbling about how long it had been since they’d added anything new, then realized I was equally guilty.  Somehow Facebook has sort of taken the place of blogs in my internet life…it’s so quick and easy.

But in hopes that maybe somebody out there cares, I’m once more resolving to keep up with this thing.  I’m no longer in my Garden Rant mood…the wedding happened, all was well, the yard looked lovely.  My ex and his wife, my son and my sweetie all came the weekend before and got lots done.  I’d given up on a lot of the plants, so we stuck new colorful ones in the ground, put up lights, etc, and on the wedding day masses of white balloons and vases full of farm flowers brightened it up.  The wedding was glorious, and after it was over I crashed…and shut the door to the back yard.  All the flowers immediately slumped after their moment of glory was over.

After a couple of weeks of doing as little as possible, I revved up and started working on new art for a show I’m having with Mary Anne Erickson at the Doghouse Gallery, opening this coming weekend.  I was inspired by the techniques and ideas I learned in Meredith Rosier’s amazing workshop at the Woodstock School of Art, and created a batch of fun new drawings which I’m actually kind of excited about.  Now to find something edible in my fridge….

garden rant

July 24, 2009

Have I mentioned this before?  I HATE gardening.  I do like looking at, sitting in, pretty gardens.  And I’ve learned to really appreciate them, now that I know how much sweat and pain goes into making them pretty.  And there are real people, I’ve even met some, who claim to love time spent in the dirt.  They say it’s relaxing!  That’s the most incomprehensible thing I’ve ever heard.  More incomprehensible than liking Sarah Palin. This summer, readying my huge back yard for my daughter Jessica’s August wedding reception (of course I want it to be perfect for her) I have been waking every sunny morning with a sense of dread, and greeting the rainy days with joy, until I realize that rain is not only keeping me indoors (yum) but helping the weeds to grow (ugh).

I’m just now calling it quits from another day out there in the beautiful birdsong breezes, which I can’t enjoy because I’m in a state of rage and self-pity the entire time.  I’ve got this sacroiliac thing that literally paralyzes me with pain after only a few minutes of bending and stooping, so I have to stop and stop and stop to let the agony recede before I start again.  I can weed only by sitting there among the ants and spiders and mud, yanking out those tenacious roots.  I can’t kneel because my knee is still screwed up from a fall at a party in March, so I scoot around on my butt, sweat dripping in my eyes, poked by sharp sticks, a constant stream of swear words coming from my lips.  I slather myself in repellent, but the mosquitoes still find every little spot I’ve missed and merrily suck my blood.  (People LIKE this??)  And after hours of hard miserable labor, I step back to look at the results, and they’re barely noticeable, such a tiny percent of the vastness of the greenery.  The previous tenant put in at least a dozen circular plantings, so I have to pick around all those precious perennials–plants that I think must sense my loathing, as they turn black, shrivel, get chomped by bugs, and die while the weeds thrive.

Time to shower, pour some wine, sit out there and enjoy what’s left of the day, blurring my eyes so I won’t see all that needs to be done.  And pray for a rainy day tomorrow, so I can stay in and work on getting the house ready.  And maybe if I’m lucky find time to make some art.  But it is kind of pretty out there….


July 16, 2009

I came across this today; something I saved awhile back.  It’s good to reread it every once in awhile.

magnolia kneeling

Words to paint by (Irwin Greenberg)

1. Paint every day.
2. Paint until you feel physical strain- take a break and then paint some more.
3. Suggest.
4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters.
5. Buy the best materials you can afford.
6. Let your enthusiasm show.
7. Find the way to support yourself.
8. Be your own toughest critic.
9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself
10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.
11. Don’t settle for yourself at your mediocre level
12. Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by failure. Rembrandt had failures. Success grows from failure.
13. Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists.
14. Keep it simple.
15. Know your art equipment and take care of it.
16. Have a set of materials ready wherever you go.
17. Always be on time for work, class and appointments.
18. Meet deadlines. Be better than your word.
19. Find a mate who is really a mate.
20. Don’t be envious of anyone who is more talented than you. Be the best you can be.
21. Prizes are nice, but the real competition is with your performance yesterday.
22. Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve.
23. Go to sleep thinking about what you’re going to do first thing tomorrow.
24. Analyze the work of great painters. Study how they emphasize and subordinate.
25. Find out the fewest material things you need to live.
26. Remember: Michelangelo was once a helpless baby. Great works are the result of heroic struggle.
27. There are no worthwhile tricks in art; find the answer.
28. Throw yourself into each painting heart and soul.
29. Commit yourself to a life in art.
30. No struggle, no progress.
31. Do rather than don’t.
32. Don’t say “I haven’t the time.” You have as much time everyday as the great masters.
33. Read. Be conversant with the great ideas.
34. No matter what you do for a living, nurture your art.
35. Ask. Be hungry to learn.
36. You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.
37. Find the artists who are on your wavelength and constantly increase that list.
38. Take pride in your work.
39. Take pride in yourself.
40. No one is a better authority on your feelings than you are.
41. When painting, always keep in mind what your picture is about.
42. Be organized.
43. When you’re in trouble, study the lives of those who’ve done great things.
44. “Poor me” is no help at all.
45. Look for what you can learn from the great painters, not what’s wrong with them.
46. Look. Really look.
47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite.
48. Critics are painters who flunked out.
49. Stay away from put-down artists.
50. If you’re at a lost for what to do next, do a self-portrait.
51. Never say “I can’t.” It closes the door to potential development.
52. Be ingenious. Howard Pyle got his start in illustrating by illustrating his own stories.
53. All doors open to a hard push.
54. If art is hard, it’s because you’re struggling to go beyond what you know you can do.
55. Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.
56. There is art in any endeavor done well.
57. If you’ve been able to put a personal response into your work, others will feel it and they will be your audience.
58. Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about.
59. Spend less than you earn.
60. Be modest; be self-critical, but aim for the highest.
61. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share it.
62. Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.
63. Inspiration doesn’t come when you are idle. It comes when you have steeped yourself in work.
64. Habit is more powerful than will. If you get in the habit of painting every day, nothing will keep you from painting.
65. There are three ways to learn art: Study life, people and nature. Study the great painters. Paint.
66. Remember, Rembrandt wasn’t perfect. He had to fight mediocrity.
67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.
68. Be humble; learn from everybody.
69. Paintings that you work hardest at are the ones you learn the most from, and are often your favorites.
70. Read values relatively. Find the lightest light and compare all other light values to it. Do the same with the darks.
71. Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success.
72. Let your picture welcome the viewer.
73. Add new painters to your list of favorites all the time.
74. Study artists who are dealing with the same problems that you’re trying to solve.
75. Have a positive mind-set when showing your work to galleries.
76. Don’t look for gimmicks to give your work style. You might be stuck with them for life. Or, worse yet, you might have to change your “style” every few years.
77. If what you have to say is from your deepest feelings, you’ll find an audience that responds.
78. Try to end a day’s work on a picture knowing how to proceed the next day.
79. Don’t envy others success. Be generous-spirited and congratulate whole-heartedly.
80. Your own standards have to be higher and more scrupulous than those of critics.
81. Pyle said, “Throw your heart into a picture and jump in after it.”
82. Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.
83. Rembrandt is always clear about what is most important in a picture.
84. If, after study, the work of an artist remains obscure, the fault may not be yours.
85. Critics don’t matter. Who cares about Michelangelo’s critics?
86. Structure your day so you have time for painting, reading, exercising and resting.
87. Aim high, beyond your capacity.
88. Try not to finish too fast.
89. Take the theory of the “last inch” holds that as you approach the end of a painting, you must gather all your resources for the finish.
90. Build your painting solidly, working from big planes to small.
91. See the planes of light as shapes, the planes of shadows as shapes. Squint your eyes and find the big, fluent shapes.
92. Notice how, in a portrait, Rembrandt reduces the modeling of clothes to the essentials, emphasizing the head and the hands.
93. For all his artistic skills, what’s most important about Rembrandt is his deep compassion.
94. To emphasize something means that the other parts of a picture must be muted.
95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.
96. Composing a picture, do many thumbnails, rejecting the obvious ones.
97. Study how Rembrandt creates flow of tone.
98. If you teach, teach the individual. Find out when he or she is having trouble and help at that point.
99. Painting is a practical art, using real materials — paints, brushes, canvas, paper. Part of the practicality of it is earning a living in art.
100. Finally, don’t be an art snob. Most painters I know teach, do illustrations, or work in an art-related field. Survival is the game.

life drawing

May 9, 2009

red nude

This is a 10-minute sketch I did at the life drawing session at WAAM on Thursday, when we had an amazing and beautiful model, a graceful young woman who could hold a pose without the slightest movement for a full 25 minutes.  The sessions are on alternate weeks, and I try not to miss a single one.  Life drawing is forgotten by many artists as soon as they leave art school, but I think it may be the single most important practice for an artist at any stage of his or her career.  It’s not about producing beautiful final works, it’s about seeing and training the hand to cooperate with the eye.  It’s about patience, and about speed…to catch something of the model during a one-minute pose is a challenge.  My greatest satisfaction comes when I feel that I have connected with the model, that I’ve captured something of her being…that doesn’t happen very often.  The practice itself is infinitely interesting to me…at first I try to match the media to the subject; some models need a light delicate pencil stroke, some demand great bold swaths of charcoal.  Good models bring themselves to the process; they care about what they’re doing, they’re into it, and it feels like there’s an energy transmitted between model and artist…when it’s going well my hand isn’t moving a pencil across paper, it’s in contact with the subject, following directly the line of a shoulder, the curve of fingers.  Hard to explain, but drawing from life is where I feel closest to pure Being, closest to meditation.

And it’s just fun, too, as are my pre-drawing lunches with Marcie and Annette…

PS–there’s a fabulous book about drawing, and many other aspects of art that I highly recommend: Undressed Art: Why We Draw

what, it’s May already?

May 4, 2009

And I didn’t post a single thing in April?  Damn.  I meant to.

What are there more of than stars in the sky, droplets in all the oceans?  Answer: pine needles in my back yard.  I’ve been raking them up for days and days, heaving huge heaps of them into the wagon my wonderful next-door neighbor Jim drives to the dump.  And still there are more, and more, and more. And leaves and twigs and branches.  Another dear friend, Steve, cleaned up my front yard for me for a reasonable price, but I really have to count pennies now so instead of hiring someone as I usually do, I picked up the rake and am going at it.  I don’t usually fret much about the yard, but there’s going to be my daughter Jessica’s wedding reception there in August, so it needs to look all clean and trim and spiffy and flowery, and I’d rather spend my yard budget on pretty things than raking. Can’t do too much at a time because my back starts screaming at me, but I have to admit it almost feels good to be doing physical work after the long sedentary winter.  I am SUCH a slug.

fading magnolia blossom

fading magnolia blossom

Now I’m about to take my sweaty self to the shower…blisters are stinging, and the tickling at the back of my nose is warning me of sneezing fits to come.  Off to deliver art to WAAM and Varga (if she’s around today) for this coming weekend’s shows.

blogging my butt

March 6, 2009

Yep, I finally did it, the dreaded colonoscopy.  I was scared shitless, but just as people told me, it was as easy as falling off a log, and in and out procedure.  Everything came out okay, and I’ve now repooperated.  bullcolonoscopy

To change the subject (please), I’ve just made some more ACEO’s and sent them off to Arts Upstairs.  I felt inspired by the antique paper collages of Cecil Touchon, loving the colors and textures of the papers and the simple and elegant way he placed them.

Of course I don’t want to copy him in any way, but I dug through my old family stuff and pulled out some lovely pieces: my grandfather’s diaries, a great-aunt’s autograph book, letters from my grandmother to my dad when he was in college, etc.  Now, it’s not easy to tear pages out of these precious relics, and I’m careful about how I do it, but I’m liking the results and the sense of history/mystery they give these tiny objects.  Here are the recent cards—not all use the old paper, there’s a mix here, but I never can stick to doing just one thing!

New ACEO's

New ACEO's

Exhibit in DC

February 26, 2009

If you’re in the DC area, don’t miss this show!
Kip Deeds, Angela White, and Tinam Valk
The Alasktic Print Series, Mappings, and Passages

Opening Reception
Saturday, March 7, 2009 5-8PM
Exhibition:  March 5- March 28, 2009

Three artists…three adventures.  From Alaska to Mexico, Europe, California and back…three artists merge together to display their journeys.  Using paper and canvas as their map, their journeys are drawn by means of relief print, screen print, encaustic, oil, acrylic, watercolor, modeling paste, charcoal and other mixed media.  Together they share three exhibitions:  The Alasktic Print Series, Mappings, and Passages.
Kip Deeds       Angela White

Tinam Valk
“The Alasktic Print Series” takes you on a journey from Mexico to Alaska through the eyes of Philadelphian artist, Kip Deeds.  This project was initially inspired by Utagawa Hiroshige’s 1834 print series, “53 Stations on the Tokaido,” which depicts scenes along the famous eastern sea road in Japan.  Deeds’ journey at times traces Lewis and Clark, depicts John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, and moves to the lyrics of Woody Guthrie.   A series of 15 relief and screen prints makes up “The Alasktic Series”.

Angela White’s “Mappings” fuses translucent layers of luminous and encaustic surfaces that creates visual depth and density in her work from trips to our west and east coasts.  White’s love of natural landscapes reflects a desire to show constant movement and natural rhythm.  The seascapes and landscapes are created using mixed media, oil paints, and are occasionally embedded with gold and silver leaf covered with iridescent oil paints.

Tinam Valk’s “Passages” through layers…layers of history, structures, statues, architecture.  Tinam has traveled extensively to Europe, East Africa, South America but retreats annually to Hunting Island, SC for a constant source of inspiration.  Painting’s fueled through memory or visits to old estates, Valk’s architecture-related paintings originate from modeling paste, acrylic, oils, charcoal, pencil, and pastel.

GALLERY HOURS: Thurs.-Fri. 11am-7pm, Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun. 11am-3pm
Gallery number 301-887-0080; 3311 Rhode Island Ave., Mt. Rainier, MD 20712

Art House Sketchbook Project

February 20, 2009

My tiny sketchbook will join 2700 others in touring museums and galleries around the country.  I had a lot of fun creating it, felt free to just play and do anything that came to mind.  Now I want to do more of these, just for myself…it’s a great exercise in loosening up.

Birthday Past

January 11, 2009

Well into the new year now, and with my birthday celebrated I finally feel like the holiday season is over and I’m settling back into working and routines: real life.  It’s always a relief to hit mid-January, with not much going on except watching weather reports and cancelling stuff because of the snow.  I’m a hibernator–hate being cold, but I’m happy to have an excuse to stay indoors with my books and music and projects.  For a couple of days anyway…then I get antsy.  Snow yesterday, antsy today, going out to do something…movie? music? tonight, to get the brain working again.

A couple of weeks ago, I did my third workshop with Christie Scheele’s daughter Tessa and her friends, Anna and Sonya. Christie worked with us too, this time…I hope they had as much fun as I did.  The 3 hours just zoomed by; I think I’ll add another hour next time we do it, if they’re up to that.  I’ve always been nervous about doing workshops…do I have anything to teach?  Can I transmit what I know so that it’s useful?  Do I go too fast, too slow, give too much info, too little?  I’ve worked with these kids and with a small group of artists, showing them collage techniques and getting feedback, so my confidence is gradually building.  I hope to one day (with better lighting in my studio!) give workshops and classes on a regular basis, both for the joy of sharing and for a little extra income.  With illustration work at an all-time low for me, I’m trying to add to my income with small projects.  I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, but it’s better than just whining. Here are a couple of photos of the last workshop–they all did fabulous work, making collaged accordian books.


My current project is making more little ACEO’s.  I know I can’t sell them for much, despite their complexity, and unless I get my process speeded up considerably, it won’t be worth the time involved to make them.  But I did set up an ETSY shop with four of these little gems, and I hope to put some at Arts Upstairs, in Phoenicia.  Check out my shop here…I’m kinda proud of myself for doing it! .  Any feedback would be much appreciated.

My friend Polly Law is offering a workshop in making ACEO’s, next Saturday (January 17).  It’s sure to be wonderful; she has such technical skill and originality, and she’s priced it quite reasonably; I surely encourage anyone in the area to sign up fast–give her a call.actsinvitea

Express yourself in just 8.65 square inches!
A workshop to explore the world of itty-bitty art made to trade with other artists or sell, your choice.
Artists Trading Cards are the art equivalent of baseball cards, 2.5″x3.5″ in size, materials and expression are open. They are as hot as pancakes right now- well, little tiny pancakes; but unlike flapjacks, they don’t pack on the pounds or raise your triglyceride levels.
Learn some new techniques, teach some new techniques, play with some new materials.
My studio can only acommodate 6 participants so please prepay with PayPal to reserve your space.
I will provide 5 blanks per person, fancy papers, magazines for collage elements, a printer, rubber stamp type, hole-punches, paints, Bill Wills and Django Reinhardt on the stereo, and assorted other bits and bobs.
Please bring any other materials you want to work with- think of it as an art-materials pot-luck- Elmer’s glue or Yes! paste, double-stickum tape (no glue sticks!!!), an exacto knife and blades, and your own brushes. (Catskill Art Supply is right down the block if needed.)

Caveats: My studio is a 3rd floor walk-up and there is a cat on the premises. Plenty of parking on Wall Street and 3 free lots on N. Front Street.

And now back to work…..!

Christmas Past

December 27, 2008

Read the rest of this entry »

pocket Buddha

December 13, 2008

This past week’s ice storm kept me indoors, so I heated up the studio and got to work.  We didn’t get many problems around here…it was very wet, but the streets didn’t freeze and the trees didn’t fall; it was another story on the other side of the river.  My eye exam got cancelled because the optometrist had a tree across her cul-de-sac, and my son and daughter-in-law just informed me they’ve been without power in Elizaville since Thursday night.  They’re coming over tonight with their cat Liam to warm up.

Back to the studio–with no biggish projects in mind, I busied myself working on some ACEO’s…(Artists’ Cards, Editions and Originals–same thing as ATC’s –artists’ trading cards–except they’re to sell rather than trade.) I want some for gifts, and I do hope to sell some.  With no illustration work, finances are tight, and I figure a bit of income here and there from little things might help keep me afloat for awhile.  And they’re so much fun.  I pulled up images and quotes from Buddha, and I’m making the cards with pockets, into which I insert a smaller card with an image on one side and a quote on the other.  Here’s the first completed one:


Now the studio’s heater is going, and pretty soon I’ll be able to head in there with scissors and glue.  Meanwhile, a word about some art hereabouts that’s worth checking out: I’m in a great little holiday show with about a dozen artists at Michael Nelson’s gallery on Partition Street here in Saugerties.  We had a great crowd at the opening, and it’s a lovely show.  My friend Patti Gibbons has work in a nice show at the Donskoj Gallery in Kingston–I haven’t been yet, but I know it’s worth seeing.  Last Saturday we went up to Hudson where my friend Anique Taylor is showing some of her recent gorgeous work at Deborah Davis Fine Art.  The gallery is beautiful, and Anique’s work is stunning.  Don’t miss it if you live around here!  img_55291

Another Saturday event was a crafts fair in Tivoli, where  my son Alex and his wife Faith displayed their wares: Faith’s wonderful ceramics, and Alex’s hand-built amps.  Here he is with a small sampling:

alex-craft-fairI was impressed by the sculptural beauty of the amps, and I continue to be amazed that he knows how to put these complicated things together.  Here’s the card he designed, just in case anybody out there needs an amp!

alex-card-finalOkay, that’s enough for today…back to my Buddha pockets!

Invasion update

December 3, 2008

I think I got ’em.  Cleared everything out of every cabinet and drawer…it took all day.  Vacuumed and scrubbed and did laundry.  Now the kitchen reeks of pennyroyal, and bay leaves are scattered in every cabinet.  Well, the kitchen needed a good cleaning, so the moths must just have been delivering that message from the universe.

They’re not entirely gone, but the flutters are fewer, and I haven’t seen any maggots for awhile.  Be warned: this could happen to YOU.

Here’s a bug story by my brother Gail, part of his memoirs, written about a time when he lived in Aden…if my bug tale didn’t gross you out, this one surely will:


At the east end of Ma’alla, where the roads to Sheikh Othman and Crater diverged, a two-storey block – with flats above and garages below – had been jerry-built against the cliffs. Our offices were in three of these flats, each accessible to the others only via an external balcony. They were cheap, they were convenient both to town and airport, and we could live in them until renovations to our staff-house in Khormaksar were finished. Across the road was the dhow harbour, where sailing vessels, bum-boats and lighters rode at anchor.

Starting just in front of our office, a rock-filled mole was being built. We had watched its construction from our first day. Truckload after painful truckload of rocks – only six or eight each day – reversed ever-increasing distances out along the mole to dump their loads of stone. A few lethargic labourers, leaning on their shovels between loads, would then shift just enough rocks to allow the next lorry access. Each day we would measure progress and wonder how long (in days) it would take and how long (in yards) it was meant to be. It took about six months to complete, and ended up about four hundred yards long. Finally, a few loads of soil were dumped along the top. They were leveled and tamped down to make a single-lane surface of beaten earth, and the thing was done.

We had, by now, got so involved watching the mole creep out into the harbour, we had a sort of proprietorial pride in it. “Our” mole was actually a pretty crappy piece of construction, and it began to disintegrate almost immediately. Slips gnawed away at the sides and lots of potholes appeared where the surface dirt sifted down between the rocks below. Curiously, we never saw any one use it. Although flocks of fat-tailed sheep came and went on the mole from time to time, and piles of boxes and crates appeared and disappeared, we never saw them arrive and we never saw what became of them. They were just there one day and gone the next. It occurred to us that loading and unloading might take place only at night, and fanciful visions of smuggling and piracy danced in our heads. But we knew skullduggery to be an unlikely explanation – after all, who would ever bother to smuggle fat-tailed sheep through a duty-free port like Aden?

One evening Ivo and I, dressed only in shorts, tee-shirts and jandals, strolled out to the end of the mole in the relative cool of a winter’s evening to watch what promised to be a spectacular sunset – Aden had a lot of brilliant copper-coloured sunsets, some of which were almost worth visiting Aden to see. It was low tide, and mud flats glistened and stank at the foot of the mole. By the time we reached the end of the mole, the sun had already set behind a flotilla of dhows riding at anchor, their steeply-raked masts and high poops reflected with giddy inaccuracy in the gentle swells. The harbour, glassy calm, was swimming with light.

The cloudless sky glowed like a rainbow. In prismatic order colours poured down the bowl of sky to the horizon, then – in incandescent ripples – rolled back toward us across the surface of the sea. First molten gold, then bronze darkening to copper, then umber – they cast the anchored dhows in shimmering silhouette. As the sky darkened, the deep end of the spectrum – green, peacock blue, then indigo – flared, each colour in turn, then shrank to a single brilliant band of cyclamen along the horizon. Then the silhouettes dissolved into blackness, and lots of enormous stars came out. It was breathlessly silent. The little swells hissed and gulped softly amongst the rocks beneath us, dissolving into foam.

There was, I realised, another sound, too – a sort of furtive rustling. Something lightly brushed my ankle. I twitched it away. Again that light touch, then something skittered up to the top of my foot. I got out my pencil-torch, turned it on and looked down. Atop my bare foot was a giant cockroach, three or four inches long. Beside it, a huge centipede was investigating my toes with its feelers. Almost by reflex, I stamped my foot on the centipede – which burst in a shower of yellow goo – simultaneously dislodging the cockroach. But something else was tickling its way up my other leg. In the torchlight it looked like an enormous pale flea. Flicking it off, I shone my torch around my feet. Within the circle of torchlight the whole surface seemed alive and moving – a heaving mass of jointed carapaces and grotesquely articulated legs – enormous cockroaches, huge pale sea-lice, centipedes as long as my hand, and things I didn’t even have names for. I stamped frantically with both feet, crushing as many armoured things as possible. A cockroach raced up my leg. I managed to beat it off just as it reached the bottom of my shorts.

“Jesus God!” Ivo hissed. “What the hell’s on my legs? Quick!!” I flashed my torch over him. Half-a-dozen of the huge cockroaches were heading for his crutch. Flailing his arms wildly, he brushed the things off himself, stamping his feet to prevent others starting up. Legs and carapaces crackled and popped beneath his feet as huge insects shattered and burst. “What in God’s name,” I wondered, “Was happening?”

Then suddenly, I knew what was happening. The tide – fully out when we had arrived – was coming in. This meant that the rising water was filling the interstices between the boulders and bits of rubble from which the mole was built, thus forcing the inhabitants of those interstices to seek shelter atop the mole. Insects in uncountable numbers and of breath-taking size were fleeing the incoming tide. They were heading up, and we were the tallest things around!
Something else started up the back of one of my legs and I crushed it against my calf with the instep of my other foot. It burst, slime running down my leg. “Jesus Christ! Let’s get the Hell out of here!” It was Ivo. A huge flying cockroach had just landed on his cheek, “before we’re buried in the God damned things!” Some flying thing, large and angular, ricocheted off my nose. When I swatted at it, it disintegrated, spraying my face with slime. “Run!” He shouted.

I looked back toward the shore. The surface of the mole – dimly lit by the streetlights along the waterfront – heaved and shivered. The whole thing had come alive! Antennae waggling, claws scrabbling, and wings whirring, about ten zillion carapaced things – all with too many legs – jostled for purchase on the surface of the mole. Swarming up from the fringe of tidal froth below us, they scrambled one over another, sometimes several layers deep. In the silence of the night, the sound of their hard shells rasping against each other was as loud as the rustling ebb and flow of the sea amongst the rocks. Blindly scrabbling against us, these were the kinds of things that lived under the rocks of our nightmares – scaly and venomous, hugely drawn, and in numbers unimaginably large. And all of them were between me and home!

We ran. It was like running across a pavement of eggs. Every step crushed chitinous things underfoot – crackling and crunching, spurting slime – their innards squished between our toes. Something crunched between my foot and my jandal – instant slime! My foot began to slip and slide against the rubber of the jandal. I had to crimp my toes to keep the jandal from slipping off. Both jandals quickly grew snotty and slippery with bug entrails. Just keeping them on required more intense concentration than I really wanted to give. My toes cramped with the effort, and I had to run with a sort of mincing, poncy-looking gait that slowed me down a lot – but that didn’t matter. There was no way I was going to do this barefooted.

Once I stumbled and put down a hand to steady myself. Hard shells moved beneath my fingers, then something snapped and burst, spurting insect goo up my arm. Hardly pausing, I lurched back upright and kept going, flapping my hand violently to shake off the slime. The thought of actually falling down into this loathsome living carpet didn’t bear contemplation. Armoured legs scrabbled up our bare flesh, and winged things assaulted our faces and arms.

As we neared the shore, we began to outrun the tide – beyond a frill of foam, mudflats flanked the mole. Insect numbers gradually diminished, until mostly we were able to run among the bugs rather than on them. It was a wonderful relief! And then it was done – there weren’t any more insects. We could finally stop.

The whole thing probably lasted only about thirty seconds, but it seemed to have taken a lifetime. It was the longest quarter-mile I have ever had to run. Well, to be perfectly honest, it was the only quarter-mile I have ever had to run. But that’s beside the point.

Gasping for air, we leaned against a street-lamp. My chest was on fire, my legs were rubbery and heavy as lead. And I had cramp in my toes. Our legs were enameled in bug slime. Ivo had big bits of some sort of carapace stuck in his hair, and something gooey oozed down my cheek. Bits of legs and things stuck out between my foot and my jandal. Shuddering, I kicked my jandals off and rubbed the soles of my feet against the pavement. I did it so hard I took some skin off.
Sticky and squelching, we hurried across the road and up the stairs. We shucked our clothes at the door and dashed naked through the flat – ignoring the amazed looks of our flatmates. I won the race for the shower because I had longer legs. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. It took a long time to get clean. Well, actually, it didn’t. It just took a long time to feel clean – a longer time than I had. But I had to get out because Ivo was getting awfully impatient. Who could blame him? By then, Ivo had told our mates what had happened and they were roaring with laughter.

I, too, can laugh at it now, but it took a long time for me to see the humour of that dreadful few seconds. I still have a photograph of that damned mole. In the picture there are a few sheep and some wooden boxes on it, and it looks entirely innocent. But I know that eighty-four gazillion slimy, articulated creepy-crawlies with lots and lots of legs still live there, and they still come out at high-tide. And every time I look at the photo, the skin on my legs tingles and the hair at the nape of my neck stirs.


December 1, 2008

Warning to the weak of stomach:  Read no further if you are easily grossed out.

Let me say first that I am not a filthy person.  Nor am I a clean freak…but I do keep my house and self up to a standard that would pass health inspection.  I don’t dust the top of the refrigerator more often than about once a year (who looks??) and I’m not great about floor scrubbing.  I do find green stuff growing in the forgotten containers in the back of the fridge, but they’re removed before they start crawling out the door.

So when I noticed a few little things fluttering around the kitchen, I wasn’t overly alarmed.  I’ve had these pantry moths before, from time to time…I bring in some nice organic rice or crackers and those little organic bugs hatch out and start partying.  I sigh and go through all my foodstuffs, toss everything that looks like it might possibly be a nice home for them, seal up the rest, and  that’s it.  But this time, I was too busy, kept putting it off…it’s not the most fun task and it takes a fair amount of time.

Fluttering wings over the kitchen table, flutters in front of the tv screen.  I swatted or brushed them away. A few days ago i saw something wiggling on the ceiling and Jerry knocked it down…we put it on the table and watched this cute little caterpillar hunching along, then carefully escorted it to the garbge can where it could happily munch.  The next day I saw a couple dangling on webs, and then I got out a skillet and one plopped into it. I had to face the fact that these were not charming visitors, these were pantry moth maggots!  The word maggot is nasty–I have a maggot story that I just can’t share here–so I could call them larvae, or caterpillars, but a maggot is a maggot.  These weren’t maggots bred on feces, and the pantry moths aren’t dirty like roaches or flies, after all, they’re harmless, and probably a good source of protein.

But then I checked my ceiling…oh my god…there were a couple dozen crawling across it. Vacuumed up pronto.  That was it.  I tore everything out of the pantry and all the cabinets that contained anything remotely food-like, scrubbed and sprayed….and still they gathered, with their adult counterparts, mostly in the corner above the fridge.  We cleared the top of it and found the source…a bag of cashews I’d tossed up there and forgotten about it.  Out it went, the fridge was pulled out, cleaned behind, and still they are gathering.

Today was warm, so instead of my coat I grabbed the jean jacket that was hanging on a hook next to the pantry.  Jerry started picking at my back…a maggot.  And another, and another. I ripped off my jacket and the inside of it was crawling with them!  Yeah, I got all girly and screamed.  And shuddered.  The jacket remains out in the rain, and now I have to go through EVERYthing in my kitchen, the linens in the drawers, the dishtowels, all of it…in hopes of eradicating these beasts.

Maggots are not bad.  They’re part of nature, they do a job.  Pantry moths must have a reason for being. Buddhists meditate on maggots.  I do not want to live with them.  I googled…seems they are almost impossible to get rid of.  They are called Indian Meal Moths. Read all about them here: I’ve found them nesting in my stores of expensive computer paper, they could be anywhere at all.  Pennyroyal and bay leaves are supposed to help…I’ll try that.

Meanwhile, my blog name, Drawing Flies, seems to have a whole new meaning….



November 28, 2008

I spent a lovely day with my son and his wife’s family in Germantown…first holiday in a long time with little kids.  They were adorable but my goodness, I’d forgotten how loud and how active they can be!

This is 3-year-old Brooke, who chose the natural look for the day:


And this is Faith with her brothers Rob and Ben…the tryptophan seems to have kicked in.  Guess which one is a vegetarian:


Edna, Emma, and Lois

November 25, 2008

This is the fifth of this series derived from my visit to my home state; the girls are my mom, on the left, and her sisters.  The scene is one we passed by, shot from the car window…an abandoned limestone farmhouse, and the other characters are scans of toys.  I’ve run out of the little 4 x 4 canvases, so this one stands alone, at 8 x 8 inches.  emmaednalois-copy-3

Another photo-collage

November 23, 2008

This one was particular agony…the first of the series just “happened,” seemingly without any effort on my part, the second one emerged with some struggle from my memories, the third…a lucky accident.  But this one…I guess I’m trying too hard now, wanting to have this little series and make a piece that matches the others, but I’m not sure if the four parts really work with each other.  I’m having a lot of trouble with my printers; neither one matches the richness and color I see on my screen.  Well, I’ll proceed with the thing tomorrow and try not to judge in until it’s in its little box, and on the wall.sunset-swing

Marley, and sculpture “Soft Horse” by Pete Felten

November 21, 2008


WAAM holiday show

November 19, 2008

The holiday show at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum will be opening next week; this is the piece I put in.  I helped sign people in, and there was a lot of good work at great prices…well worth a visit if you’re in the area.  This is a collage I did a few months ago.


On the road…

November 16, 2008

This may be the last in my little series of 4-panel pieces for now, not sure; I had a hell of a time getting my printer, papers, lazertran, etc. to cooperate on this one.  It’s also composed of pictures I took on the long drive to and from Kansas.  No memory pieces added this time…I tried to steer it in that direction, but it really wanted to remain simple, just the wide lonely spaces and the long road stretching through them.  I saw the beauty of the Great Plains on this trip, something I didn’t notice when I was a kid and just wanted to get out of there, get where things were happening.  Beautiful in its way, but I’m happy to be in the Catskills.


You can’t go home…

November 14, 2008

This is the second four-panel piece in the series I’m doing about my trip back to Kansas.  I’m trying to capture the sensation of returning to my childhood neighborhood…I see it as it is now, solid and physical and changed over the years, but superimposed on that are my memories, and it’s a strange feeling, like being in two places, or being two people, at the same time.  I can’t quite seem to reconcile then and now.  I took a photo of my old house, where I lived from the ages of two till twelve, copied it into the four panels, and then started messing with it, adding elements which arise from memories, including a photo of our family house as it was in about 1955.  It’s become completely run-down…peeling paint, overgrown with weeds, and it’s sad to remember how carefully and lovingly my parents tended it.


artwork progress

November 12, 2008

Upon returning from my trip to Kansas, I wanted to make some art about the feelings evoked by reconnecting with the place of my childhood, and leaving it behind.  I gathered some images; these are some old toy animals I found at a yard sale, which I scanned….animals

…an image of crows pulled from the internet (google image search)…

421626969_0d015b31f1_b…some shots taken on the road….kansas-backgrounds1And more.  I layered them, photoshopped them, and came up with this image:


I printed it onto Lazertran, a transfer paper, cut it into 4 4-inch images, and adhered them to small canvases.  Lesson learned: Paint the edges BEFORE applying.  It took forever to carefully paint the edges…!


When all were dried, I varnished them and glued them into the box I’d prepared by texturing with paper and medium, and this is the final product:


if you’re in the Washington DC area…

November 11, 2008

…be sure to check out what should be a wonderful show by my friend Angela White!



Kansas and Back, part 2

November 7, 2008

Okay, it’s taken me a bit longer to get back to this…I snapped so many photos that my hard drive filled up and I had to spend hours moving old stuff to make room to work on more.


Kansas limestone farmhouse


Kansas wind farm

On Tuesday morning, we headed west 250 miles to Hays, my home town. On the way we stopped in the little town of Lucas, famous for its Garden of Eden, the creation of an outsider artist, S.P. Dinsmore, who began building his house of limestone “logs” and filling his yard with concrete sculptures of Adam and Eve, statues illustrating his anti-trust political ideals, and the world’s only concrete flag.  He was a civil war vet who began his project at 64, and at 82 married a teenage bride and had a couple of kids with her.  His body is on exhibit behind glass in his concrete mausleum…he’s not looking so good these days.img_49631

Arbor, Garden of Eden, Lucas KS

Arbor, Garden of Eden, Lucas KS

Jessica and me in the doorway of her house in Eureka Illinois

Jessica and me in the doorway of her house in Eureka Illinois

Then it was on to Hays, and straight to Pete Felten’s Stone Gallery.  Pete and I have been friends since I was 12 and he was 25; curiosity drove me to the studio of the local “weird artist” and he became my art-encourager, source of information and a lifelong friend. Since I left Hays we’ve met up several times for adventures and travels.  He’s a wise and unpretentious man who spends most of his time carving stone, reading, collecting odd things that appeal to him, and studying old movies.  I hadn’t seen him for a few years, and it was really wonderful to have time with him.


Pete works and shows his sculpture in an old limestone building; here are some pictures of the outside and interior:img_4979img_4998

Below is a series he’s been working on for a few years, the Walking Women.  The sculpture on the far right, in the window, is a mahogany piece which I’ve loved for ages, and I bought it!


Below is the gallery’s bathroom, an ongoing project created of tiles he’s gathered:img_49911

Pete knows every nook and cranny of Hays, and showed us all the changes that have occurred in the 17 years since I’ve been there. A couple of local spots haven’t changed at all: The Brass Rail, watering hole for Ft Hays University students for about 50 years, where I had my first date with my ex-husband Bill (note grain elevators in the background), and Al’s Chickenette, which has served up its “special recipe” since 1946.  We had lunch there (chicken livers, an old favorite of mine which just is not seen on menus east of Missouri) and I think they were still using the same grease.

the Brass Rail, Hays KS


It was a busy couple of days.  We visited Old Fort Hays, built to protect the railroad workers from attacking Indians (they never attacked) and the new Sternberg Museum.  The museum used to be housed on the college campus, next to my dad’s science building, and it was my playground when I was little.  I knew all the bones and rocks and stuffed animals. It’s moved to the eastern edge of town now, all gussied up, and it’s been quite a popular tourist spot (if there really are any Kansas tourists) but I miss the old staid version.

I am having a hell of a time getting the photos to go where I want them to, to type where I want to type. Stuff keeps moving around and disappearing with a will of its own.  Sooo…I’m just going to write the rest of this and TRY to insert all the rest of the pictures at the end, because I’m getting really really tired of diddling with it.

We saw Pete’s 1961 statue, The Monarch of the Plains, a buffalo gazing over the prairies.  We made a pilgrimage to my old childhood home, next to my elementary school, and it was sad seeing the place so run-down and ruined when my parents had tended it so lovingly.  Hays has been improved, I suppose…they’ve rebricked Main Street, remodelled the library, and some trendy cafes and shops have moved into the downtown spaces, but it’s not a lovely town.  It was good to revisit my roots, but I had had enough by the time we departed and started the long drive back east.  I managed to squeeze in a brief chat with old friend John Bird, who has been the Democratic Chairman of Kansas (YES, there ARE some Democrats in the reddest of states!) We stopped in Kansas City overnight and I dropped off samples of my work at a couple of galleries, then drove on to Eureka Illinois, where my daughter Jessica teaches at Ronald Reagan’s alma mater.  She treated us to a delicious vegetarian dinner–all local and organic food–and then we just plowed on back to New York with an overnight stop at Kent, Ohio.  And that’s my story.  It will probably be a long long time before I visit Kansas again, but it was good to see those vast skies and breathe its wonderful air.  And here are the pictures I gave up on putting where I wanted them. Actually, not.  I’m just going to make a new post and hope the pictures show up there…I entered them and they’re not showing up.  Sigh.

Grain elevators, Hays KS

Pete's looks like a mess, but it's really a very organized collection of books and plastic action figures

Pete's home...looks like a mess but is a highly organized collection of books and toys

Grain elevators, Hays KS
Monarch of the Plains, statue by Pete Felten

Monarch of the Plains, statue by Pete Felten


Fish within a Fish...the most famous piece in the museum, one of only 2 or 3 such specimens in existence.

T-Rex skeleton

To Kansas and Back

November 4, 2008

Today I stopped at the carwash on my way to vote, and got 3,000-plus miles’ worth of dirt rinsed off my new Subaru.  I cleared out all the trip-trash, washed the mats, vacuumed and polished it, and it’s ready for its second oil change in 2 weeks.  Jerry and I returned from our road trip last evening; I deposited him and his stuff after a celebratory dinner at La Florentina, then came home to my very happy cat, who purred and rubbed against me all night.  It’s nice to be missed.  I spent much of the night in a half-awake state wondering which motel I was in…my house and life always feel strange to me after time away, and it takes awhile to settle back into my routines.  This morning I was dumping hundreds of junk emails when there was a pounding on my door; I opened it to a police officer asking me if anything was missing from my car.  It seems that at about 2-3 AM some teenagers from Middletown ransacked all the cars on Boxwood Court and many more in the neighborhood, stealing Ipods and GPS devices.  He had looked into my car (how embarrassing, with all the junk strewn everywhere!) and we checked…GPS and Ipod were safe and sound, and I don’t know why I was the lucky one on the street–usually I do lock the car, but I was tired and left it open to greedy hands.  Maybe the thieves were grossed out by the mess, or maybe the light that goes on automatically in my studio when the door is opened came on, if they came near the house–I don’t know, but I’ll keep the thing locked–and clean–from now on.


It was a great trip.  We set the Garmin to the address of my old friends John and Elaine Brewer, in Lawrence, KS, and adjusted it to find out-of-the way eating spots and motels.  How easy that thing makes travel. img_4713We got a late start on Wednesday, and stopped in Lock Haven PA that night, Carrolton Kentucky the second night…a grim dark town where we were lucky to find a pizza place open after passing on the local dive, where desultory youths tossed darts, slurped Bud, and chewed on greasy unidentifiable substances.  img_4738Boonville MO was our third stopover, a rather pretty place where we dined in a high-ceilinged old hotel, and on Saturday we landed in Lawrence which was mobbed with football fans, a party at every house. (KU lost the game badly but the celebrants were having a grand time anyway.)  Elaine has created a very beautiful living space in their large, graceful Arts and Crafts house, full of elegant furniture, plants, and art, a grand piano and two harps.  She’s a harpist and a Rolfer, and Jerry and I each got treated to an hour of body work. John is the primary cook, and he dished up fabulous Indian dishes for us.  John and I have known each other literally since birth–his father delivered me–and I’ve known Elaine since she and John were dating in graduate school.  HIghlights: the evening I sat back and just listened to Jerry and John deep in conversation while playing with John’s Soma Cubes and Elaine and a friend practiced harp and flute pieces.  img_4839The Doggy Halloween party at a local jazz place, all wiggly tails and silly costumes, ballerina dogs, skunk dogs, clown dogs. img_4830 Being guests of honor at John’s weekly “salon” session with his good friends Sally and Christy, both delightfully eccentric women.  img_4872Revisiting spots I knew during my first grade year spent there, when my dad had a Sabbatical at KU and my brother was a student.  Food.  Lots of food.  Art shows.  Watching Chris Brewer dance wildly with his DDR thing–a computer game activated by elaborate dance steps. The Spencer Art Museum at KU, where the fire alarm went off and we were hustled out an exit and had to wait till the firetrucks left before I could retrieve my coffee mug, which was left at the front desk.  (Maybe they thought it was a bomb??) Elaine’s garden–what a massive and gorgeous piece of work, an oasis of stone walls and paths, ponds and waterfalls.  We left on Tuesday morning, to head on west to Hays, my hometown, where one of my oldest and dearest friends, Pete Felten, stone sculptor, lives.  But this is enough for now; I’ll add some photos (I took hundreds, mostly out of the car windows) and continue the rest of my travel tale tomorrow.img_4736

Kim’s Studio

October 20, 2008

Friday night we visited Kim Alderman’s studio; she was part of the Woodstock Artists’ Studios Tour, and had a little preview party.  Her studio is nestled in the woods behind her house, and we crunched through the fallen leaves to find a group gathered around the fire pit outside the door.  The idea was to form something from clay, representing something good we wanted to happen, toss it in the fire, and watch it dry and explode, while sipping wine and nibbling Brie and Halvah.  Kim’s work is deep and beautiful, but the pictures can speak for themselves.  I’ve taken a couple of her classes, which I found transforming, and she’s about to start up a new series…I can’t wait!