Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Paint?

Painting, as with any art form really, is a journey... a journey of self, of reflection, of emotion, of spirit, of soul, of imagination.

Here are some words I associate with my time in the studio...


Going to my studio is my chance to rid myself of all other goings-on; it is my time to let out what is inside of me, to be totally at one with color, with brushstroke, with my connection to the trees outside the studio, to the birdsong, to the music I may listen to, to the subject at hand. Sometimes my journey on the canvas is one that simply happens... I let the colors and brushes take me where they will. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to see in a finished product, and it may work itself out closely to what I have envisioned. But sometimes that vision never comes to fruition and something totally different takes its place.

Sometimes a canvas gets an early layer of paint with a faint image trying to emerge, and then I have to let it lie for a period of time before I can come back to it. I have two or three of these in the studio right now. One of my favorite paintings took place this way. I started with black and white, simply painting circles around and around... and then I had no idea what to do with that. So I set it aside for a couple years, actually forgetting all about it. When I came across it again, I knew exactly what to do with it... and this is what emerged.

Oftentimes a painting develops from a photograph I have taken, as is the case with my newest painting, which will be listed on Etsy this evening. The photo came about at dusk one evening when I saw a Wood Thrush (also the bird in the above painting) singing in the pear tree. I grabbed my camera, changed the settings, and this is what I got, after altering a bit in PhotoShop:

And from that photograph emerged Solstice Song:

While most of my paintings of late celebrate the good things in life, which is how I have been feeling, sometimes there are paintings of deep yearning, fear, and frustration. I think this is where I was when I painted the black and white circles, and it's definitely where I was when I painted this... Irrational Descent.

Painting allows me to celebrate life in all its stages and emotions. So why do you do art?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Musings... The Romantics

This morning I was up and out early, by 8:00, to do some mowing before the blistering 90+ degree North Carolina heat and humidity set in. Sometimes when I mow or garden or stack wood, I don't focus on anything except the job at hand. But sometimes I reflect on my life or the state of things in the world. Today I thought about The Romantics, a 19th century group of writers. The Romantics are my favorite group of writers for a variety of reasons, not the least being their connection with the natural world and the common folk. When I did my student teaching at a high school back in the early 1990s, this was the group of writers with whom I chose to begin, and my students loved that we went outside for class, under the trees, to read and discuss these writers and poets from 200 years ago. I guarantee they remember those classes still. It is the group of writers I always come back to when I need to get my bearings straight.

I suppose I thought of them because of a discussion on Friday night while we were visiting with our son. My son is a photographer and he often photographs furniture for companies and for the International Furniture Market held in nearby High Point every spring and fall. On Friday night he showed us the latest furniture brochure, the photos of which were his work. I was proud! Then he showed us a chair, a simple design with a woven wicker seat, comfortable too. The price tag? $15,000. I was aghast... "What? This isn't even curly maple, or rosewood, or walnut or anything special!" I cried. "It's pine!", I said, which was verified by my husband who knows his wood quite well, being a knifemaker who uses wood in the handles. My son said simply, "It's the designer." Good Lord... who can command that kind of money for such a simple thing that you plop your butt on for a short period of time? It's insane, in my mind. Just think what $15,000 could do if spent in other ways... say, for instance, to feed the homeless at a local shelter? Or to get a free medical clinic up and running?

When I came inside from mowing, out came my Brit Lit book and I opened to this poem, a favorite of mine... one that I was first introduced to as a teenager in British Literature class in my senior year of high school.

The World is Too Much with Us
William Wordsworth, 1807

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Those lines... "we have given our hearts away" and "we are out of tune" get me every time. They are so blaringly honest and true. They were true in the 1800s and they are true in 2010. What owns our hearts, really? For some, this may not be a pleasant question to answer. And in what ways are we out of tune and what are the consequences? Being out of tune in diet and exercise because we need fast and quick and cheap to enable our sedentary lifestyles affects our health, requiring larger medical costs and drugs; being out of tune with one another affects our relationships locally and internationally, resulting in so many poor people in our country and in other countries and in young women toiling in sweatshops across the globe so that others can have cheaper products; being out of tune with nature and the natural course of things affects our water, our forests, our oceans, our air, and wildlife.

I've never understood people who need to buy big and buy often. Why must we have big houses and expensive toys? Why do people go into debt, huge amounts of debt, just to have stuff? Why do we put more importance on money than on the people around us, on the forest regions, on health and well-being and peace, for ourselves as individuals and for the world? Why do people work so hard at money-making only to forget their surroundings, to lose contact with the natural world on a daily basis, to forget about their fellow man? I saw this attitude quite often in the college students I taught a few years ago. And of course, that attitude is definitely present in the business world too... shall we say we see it in big oil, down there in the Gulf? And we see it in ourselves... in the desire for cheaper gas at any cost so we can drive hither and yon, unfettered and free, on the smallest whim... not giving thought to the ultimate consequences of our gas consumption.

If you aren't familiar with these 19th century writers, give them a whirl... go check out a book from your library. Fix yourself a little drink, sit under a shade tree or among some flowers, breathe in the summer air, clear your mind, and meditate on the words of these wonderful poets who figured out what life was all about.

Tulip Gatherer by arlenefaye on Etsy

Friday, June 18, 2010

Treasury Challenge

Yesterday I got an email from RoughMagicCreations who informed me that my High Hope Hollow painting was part of her newest treasury... and it went on to talk about this new challenge. PipingHotPapers has issued a treasury challenge on Etsy... and I gave it a try this afternoon as a way to relax after spending some time in the painting studio (two canvases now have fresh paint).

Here's the way it works:
You pick a word, any word, and do a search on Etsy using that word. You choose your first item from the list of works that come up; then you choose one of the tags on that first item and do a search with it, picking your second item from that list... and so on until you have all 16 spaces filled. When you post your treasury, you tell what your first word was and what your last word was.

I started with the search word EAGLE.. and other tags included waterfall, elegant, CASTteam, circle, sunset, crane... and lots more I can't remember now, but the last search word was ROMANCE.

Here's my treasury and the link to it...

While I miss the old way of doing treasuries and am not terribly fond of Treasury East, I did enjoy this fun challenge, and I hope you'll enjoy the items I've included!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In the Good Ol' Summertime

It's rare these days that I spend much time on the computer; I've listed a few new wire-wrapped stones in my Etsy shop , but there is just too much life beyond this machine and I can't be contained here for long! There's gardening, weeding, planting, harvesting, baking, photography, tubing, and gathering with friends for great summertime meals and music-making.

Last Saturday, we enjoyed the annual First Fruits Festival just a few miles from here at the home of two very good friends. They've got a place on the river, and so on that very hot morning, a tubing trip down the river was in order. I hadn't done this in about three or four years, and I always forget just how wonderful an experience this is... so peaceful, so refreshing, so so enjoyable to float down the river, letting the current take you along, chatting and laughing with friends while enjoying the sky, the trees, the birds, and the rocky outcroppings leaning over the water. It was about a two hour trip, and I hated for it to end.

Perhaps later this summer, we'll take a longer, four-hour trip... and strap a cooler in an adjoining tube for drinks and snacks. Following the tubing trip, we enjoyed a potluck lunch including a giant stir fry of fresh garden veggies, with a few store-bought organic goodies too, cooked outside over an open flame, rice, salads, squash fritters, watermelon and so much more. Delicious!

On Monday morning before the sun got too high, I weeded an area that we are trying to contain in order to do some more manageable landscaping. I also planted some flowers that John brought home... in an effort to disguise our very large handmade composting container. While I did the weeding and planting, John picked a basket full of apples from our June apple tree so that I could start putting them to use.

On Monday night around 8:30, I was home alone, John having gone out for a meeting at church. I was at the table working on a song, with the dogs at my feet, when I heard my favorite bird, the Wood Thrush. It was loud and it was close, so I got the binoculars out and spotted it easily in the very top branches our our pear tree in the front yard. I was thrilled because we don't normally get to see the thrush since it prefers the depths of the woods to open fields. I watched for a minute or so as it sang its heart out, and then I decided I'd try to get a photo or two. Sure enough, by the time I'd rounded up my camera and got the settings adjusted for photos at dusk, the thrush was still there. So I managed three photos before it flew back into the woods where it usually stays. Because I'd adjusted the camera's settings, I didn't get a clear photo of the bird with its beautiful markings; instead I got a silhouette, but I'm happy with it anyways, and it will probably become the focus of my next painting... but I can't say when I'll get started on it.

This morning at 7:30, I began dicing apples and by the time 11:30 had rolled around, I'd made an Apple Harvest cake and two batches of fried apple pies and cleaned up the kitchen. Everything was made from scratch, and while these recipes have eggs in them, they could easily be made vegan. If you have never had a fried pie, that means you don't live in the South and haven't ever visited. It's high time you headed this way because these pies are to die for.

And tomorrow night we'll enjoy a small dinner party with friends, feasting on homemade potato salad, fresh steamed green beans with mushrooms, strawberries with sharp cheese, and for the meat-eaters (everyone but me), ham biscuits, courtesy of one of our dinner guests... and guess what we'll have for dessert? All that followed by some wonderful music-making on the deck as the sun goes down!

Don't you just love summer? Come join me... there's enough garden goodness and apples to go around!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday's Treasures: Some Favorite Etsians

I've had my shop on Etsy for almost 18 months now, and during that time I've discovered some wonderful artists, jewelers, sellers, and friends. So I thought that today I would share a few of these with you.

I simply love this artist who has two shops, one vintage and one jewelry. Her photography for her vintage items is just beautiful and truly showcases the treasures that she's found. As 5gardenias...

And her handmade jewelry shop, kathiroussel, is just stunning as well... a mix of sterling silver and enameled work.

Littlebugjewelry creates fabulous jewelry as well, and I especially like her stacking rings.

Then there is the lovely copper work of RoughMagicCreations, whose jewelry is very earthy and always unique. And she's such a great Etsian too... very helpful and supportive!

This Etsy artist, phofun, creates really cool items such as small journals and photo albums, and I love her designs.

LBArtworks makes the most beautiful bags, and of course they appeal to me because of the nature and bird themes that she uses. So so gorgeous!

And the last one I'll share today... pumphousestudios who works in ceramics... see why I like this artist?

Stay tuned... I'll show you more of my favorites as the summer moves along. And remember, buy handmade, shop Etsy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Good Things Grow in Gardens

This morning I took my camera and my coffee out to the yard to enjoy the morning air and birdsong and to take some photographs of what is happening in our colorful little garden plots. I'm sorry to say that the photographs just can't truly capture the beauty of the morning with the breeze blowing through the zillions of trees surrounding our home and the song of the Wood Thrush cheering me along, the pale blue morning sky and the sheer peace of it all. It simply made me sigh with a deep contentment not often known for far too many people in this world, and I felt truly blessed and at one with myself, my creator, and my little piece of the world.

Here's what I found in the flower garden, which has a few fruit and veggie plants mixed in.

Hydrangeas, which I planted shortly after we moved here, so they went in the ground about 5 years ago... and finally, finally, they are blooming and filling this space with glorious bursts of color. If there was nothing else, these beauties would be enough.

And she isn't much, but this little volunteer marigold is dressed in such beautiful rich jewel tones...

Next... the veggies...

A new star in the garden...

And the tomato forest... we went a bit overboard, but we had visions of salsa, fresh tomato sauce, canned tomatoes with garlic and onions and peppers, and of course, tomato sandwiches... a summertime favorite! At the far end of this forest are the pepper plants, and we're looking forward to several varieties including Poblanos which I use for Beer-battered Stuffed Peppers (with cheese only or occasionally with corn too)... scrumptious!

And these babes in the woods... I don't know what variety they are since we planted several kinds.

Purple Cherokees on their way... if you haven't had this kind of tomato, seek it out... they are the best!

And our Beanie Babies, newly planted from seeds just last week, alongside the remaining romaine lettuce.

On the deck, we have two volunteer yellow squash plants, and we also have some baby squash in the garden, a few of which took a beating when we had a pretty harsh rainstorm come through.

And blueberries galore on our two bushes next to my studio... they won't be ready for another month or 5 weeks, but when they are... oh my goodness, fresh blueberries with yogurt, blueberry streusel, blueberry muffins, pie, jelly, and several bags frozen to enjoy throughout the year. There are even blueberries on the bushes we planted for Bruschi just a couple months ago. I was sure they wouldn't produce this year, but I think the spirit world is looking out for dear Bruschi!

So anyone for dinner?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Birdsong & Blooms

Tonight is opening night! The paintings have been hung and I am ready. My solo exhibit will officially begin this evening at 7:00 as part of the First Friday Gallery Hop in downtown Winston-Salem, and I'm pretty excited about it! Fifteen pieces are in the show and are for sale... all small works, many 12 x 12s, some 8 x 10s and a couple 6 x 12s. And as the show's name suggests, each painting features a bird or flowers, as is appropriate for the dusky aqua blue walls of Imagine Flowers, a gorgeous little flower shop filled with fragrance, lovely vases, and all things pretty, related to flowers, of course. These pieces will hang for the month of June, and with luck, I'll make a sale or two; at least I sure am hoping so... fingers crossed.

Here's to a good show and to a sale or two... or more! Stay tuned!