Sunday, November 29, 2009

Please Pass the Cerulean...

Setting the stage for Art Night: idea-generating books, bright and diffuse light, plenty of art supplies and (off camera) tasty soup on the stove- spicy pumpkin stew with anadama bread...very inspirational!

For the last few years, PK and I have hosted a series of "Art Nights" as a way to encourage ourselves to paint more. It's been a great way to build enthusiasm for a project and to companionably share our artistic ideas with others. Some years we are more regular about it than others. Lately, we've had so many outside demands on our time that we haven't been having them as often as we like and the absence of shared creative time has been gnawing a hole in us ever since the summer ended.  We finally dusted off our brushes and organized our first 2009 Art Night over the holiday break.

PK and a friend in action...

We tend to hold more gatherings in the winter, mostly becuase our lives slow down a little when it's cold outside, and our thoughts tend to turn inwards, towards more contemplative and creative activities. The formula for a successful art night is simple: Invite people over, tell them to bring a current project, and throw some good, simple soup on the stove. These gatherings aren't really parties, they are working get togethers, and it's important to get that across right from the very beginning. When we first started having these, we ran into the "problem" that we have a lot of social friends who wanted to come over and hang out. This is a fabulous problem to have, but we had to be firm about the intent of the gatherings. By stressing that this is a great time to experiment with something new, and by emphasizing that our definition of creative activity is really broad, we have been able to stay  true to the focus of the evenings. We've had folks over doing all kinds of activities: Painting, drawing, writing, scrapbooking, fly tying, collage, photoshop and computer art and much much more.

PK painting ducks...his favorite...

I spent the evening doing watercolor exercises. Like my abs, those muscles have been left unused for far too long. I can't wait to break out the brushes again at the next art gathering...

Friday, November 13, 2009


Working on a return to updating this blog with regularity...
In the meantime, writing a novel in a month, teaching full time, painting the house...oh, the excuses are piling up!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slipping in and out of fog

Friday, July 17, 2009

Isles of Shoals

I'm going to call this my "island tour" summer, as I seem to be working my way around all the islands I can get to. In a few weeks I'll be heading out for a week of paddling on the Maine Island Trail, and can't wait for more time to inhale the sea air and draw inspiration from the rocks and birds and waves. The other day I went out to the Isles of Shoals on the border between NH and Maine, and had a great few hours of being stranded on the island and left to wander around the remnants of the old village.

Here is a portion of a poem by Celia Thaxter, who lived and wrote on the islands in the mid-late 1800s...


Across the narrow beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit,
-One little sandpiper and I.

Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud black and swift across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach,
-One little sandpiper and I.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The first tomato

Most of our garden is a scraggly mess right now, half ruined by too much rain and too little sun. BUT, deep inside one of the most scraggly looking plants of all, I found this little green gem...perhaps all is not lost...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Photo by SFD

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Greyday

A Grey Day by William Vaughn Moody

Grey drizzling mists the moorlands drape,
Rain whitens the dead sea,
From headland dim to sullen cape
Grey sails creep wearily.
I know not how that merchantman
Has found the heart; but 'tis her plan
Seaward her endless course to shape.

Unreal as insects that appall
A drunkard's peevish brain,
O'er the grey deep the dories crawl,
Four-legged, with rowers twain:
Midgets and minims of the earth,
Across old ocean's vasty girth
Toiling--heroic, comical!

I wonder how that merchant's crew
Have ever found the will!
I wonder what the fishers do
To keep them toiling still!
I wonder how the heart of man
Has patience to live out its span,
Or wait until its dreams come true.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Inspiration: The sea

The Amazing Flying Blennies by Susan Carlson

Lately, there's been a bit of an ocean theme around here. In part, that's probably because it's summer and I'm spending a lot of time on and in the water, and in part because I've always loved the sea. This summer it started innocently enough with a few kayak trips, and a few seafood dinners, and now has infiltrated all of my art projects as well. And now, the inspiration posts seem to overflow with saltiness and finned creatures. Which brings me to these intricate quilts by Susan Carlson. I'm not a fabric artist, but if I were, I'd want to quilt the sea like this...

Age of Aqua-Wrasse by Susan Carlson

Check out more of her quilts here.

Eider Twilight

Photo by SFD


The quiet stars came out, one after one;

The holy twilight fell upon the sea,

The summer day was done."

- Celia Thaxter

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Going Coastal

I'm lucky enough to live close to the ocean, though the shores near me tend to be wooded slopes and seaweed encrusted rock rather than sandy beaches. I went north today, lured by the bright sky and the thought of wide blue seas. Today, cold New England resembled something out of the tropics, with deep blue and turquoise waters that rushed and frothed at the opening to the channel. My mother and I walked along a sandy spit, right to the edges of the sea. But the water was tropical in color only; average water temps are still in the high 40s/low 50s.

I love the way these rocks get tumbled smooth by the waves. There is something comforting about holding a sun-warmed rock in my hand, and running my fingers around its edges, smooth and round as eggs.

These gorgeous quahog shells were all over the beach. This one was larger than my hand. We left it there for others to enjoy...

After exploring the rest of the estuary, we headed home. Now, I'm back in my study, refreshed and ready to work on some more drawings. I have a lot of photos that will make great material for paintings and sketches, and I'm feeling energized by my exposure to the sea. Sometimes I think I have a bit of mermaid, or more likely selkie, in me. I'm never as happy as when I have salt on my skin and sand beneath my fingernails. I managed both today, and am ready to bring it to life on paper...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Inspiration: Derek Hare

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse by Derek Hare

I've been enjoying these works by English painter Derek Hare, primarily because I like the gauzy light, and the way the seascapes are viewed through a delicate lens of mist and fog. My favorite mornings on the islands are when the world drifts in and out of a light mist, especially when it curls in gentle tendrils off a glassy surface so calm you can see down thirty feet to the rockweed covered floor. Hare's paintings are in oil, but I want to try to use my watercolors to mimic this kind of haze. I'll post successful results when I have them...but it may be a while!
More of his work can be found here.

Sanna Bay by Derek Hale

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Photo by SFD

All through the woods the fiddleheads were sprouting up through the dry leaves. Their tender shoots, covered with pale fuzz, symbolize spring to me in a way that few other plants do. Something about the unfurling leaves, perhaps. I always imagine them uncurling, slow and graceful, like a soft ballet set to the music of the dawn chorus of birdsong.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Photo by SFD

PK and I went deep into the mountains this past weekend, in search of new-to-us trails to high peaks, and for a chance to enjoy some isolation, surrounded by wildflowers and the sounds of running water. One of the beautiful things about the mountains this time of year is that the higher you go, the more it seems as though you have travelled back in time to an earlier spring. The trout lilies that were long dried up at the trail head were just about to bloom at the tent site. Trillium and violets were sprinkled across the higher hillsides, and near the summits the leaves were just barely unfurling from their buds.

When you hike with a photographer, the trip takes a lot longer, but you find yourself noticing the smallest details. Squint your eyes and look at a tree, and notice the spaces between the leaves. Watch a flower in the sunlight and then again in shadow, and see the changes in the way the light glints off tiny hairs on the stem. All the parts add up to make the whole, though each is a poem all on its own.

Photo by SFD

Photo by SFD

Photo by SFD

When you hike with a dog, some of that unrestrained exuberance is bound to rub off...

snails skyrocketing in price...

I've always loved this painting by Jerry Garcia. I first saw it on a tag for "Jerry Garcia Art Ties" back in the day when I sold menswear in a department store as I worked my way through college. I always thought there was something appealing about the brightly colored snail tucked in among the washed out colors of the garden behind it. A few years ago, I went to an exhibit of his work. It was an odd experience-the exhibit wasn't in a regular gallery, but in a function room tucked way in the back of a U-Haul facility. The artwork was laid out on white cloth-covered tables. Only one of the pieces was an original watercolor- the others were prints, like the one above. The whole setup was random, sketchy and a little unreal. I turned down the chance to buy a copy of my favorite piece for only $900. At the time, it seemed like a prudent move not to buy art when I should be buying things like rent and gas.

Or so I thought....

I randomly came across a gallery selling Jerry Garcia prints like the one above for $7900 each. Hmm...I wonder if anyone is buying in these tough times?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fading Lilacs...

Today the temperatures climbed into the high 80s, and the air in the garden was thick with the scents of sea salt and lilacs. The purple flowers are all open now, and some are browning around the edges. We're heading into the mountains for the weekend, hiking in two days what we could hike in one, just to slow ourselves down and enjoy the silence of the woods (although perhaps the black flies will speed us up a bit, and then we'll just luxuriate in our tent and read). I'm hoping the lilacs last a little while longer and won't all be gone when we return after the long weekend.

I finished the semester in a flurry of writing, late nights and early mornings spent whacking away at papers and paperwork. Now, I have three long months until I'm back in the classroom again, this time gainfully employed-hurrah! In the midst of all I've been thinking a lot about writing and journals. I struggled with papers this semester, mostly because I was just tired of writing papers for other people on topics that weren't my own, and because I seriously overloaded my schedule in order to finish my certification work. I made it, but I haven't had time to do much writing of my own in the last few months. I've been playing around with different journal types, such as my layered journal , and with the idea of writing a "brain dump" first thing in the morning, what artist Julia Cameron calls "morning pages." The idea of these pages is to clear the mind and get ideas flowing without the requirement of a finished product, and early enough in the day that you aren't distracted by the usual chaos of life. I find that they do bring clarity to my work, and am hoping to do them more regularly now that I don't have to be at work at 7am, or wake up early to get a few pages of paper written. I'll write some more about these journals and the process, because I think it is a really interesting way to explore your own mind a bit. I'm working on some ideas about combining my morning yoga practice with my journaling, since the two have so many parallels in purpose...

And many thanks to folks who have been leaving lovely comments on my garden photos-I'm looking forward to visiting all your sites and catching up on what's been happening in the last few months.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Only 2 days and 14 pages of writing standing between me and summer break! I'm looking forward to actually being able to blog, paint, play and write as much as I want again. In the meantime, here's what's happening in the garden...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hens and Chicks Bits

Saturday, May 2, 2009

johnny jump-up: not just an innocent flower...

My favorite flowers have arrived in the gardens...

I stumbled across this tune while innocently trolling the webs for seed packets. Good fun...

Johnny Jump-Up

I'll tell you a story that happened to me
One day as I went down to Cork by the sea
The sun it was hot and the day it was warm,
Says I a quiet pint wouldn't do me no harm

I went in and I called for a bottle of stout
Says the barman, I'm sorry, all the beer is sold out
Try whiskey or paddy, ten years in the wood
Says I, I'll try cider, I've heard it was good.

Oh never, Oh never, Oh never again
If I live to be a hundred or a hundred and ten
I fell to the ground and I couldn't get up
After drinking a quart of the Johnny Jump Up

After downing the third I went out to the yard
Where I bumped into Brody, the big civic guard
Come here to me boy, don't you know I'm the law?
Well, I up with me fist and I shattered his jaw

He fell to the ground with his knees doubled up
But it wasn't I hit him, 'twas Johnny Jump Up
The next thing I remember down in Cork by the sea
Was a cripple on crutches and says he to me

I'm afraid of me life I'll be hit by a car
Won't you help me across to the Celtic Knot Bar?
After downing a quart of that cider so sweet
He threw down his crutches and danced on his feet

I went up the lee road, a friend for to see
They call it the madhouse in Cork by the Sea
But when I got there, sure the truth I will tell,
They had this poor bugger locked up in a cell

Said the guard, testing him, say these words if you can,"Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran
"Tell him I'm not crazy, tell him I'm not mad
It was only a sip of the bottle I had

Well, a man died in the mines by the name of McNabb
They washed him and laid him outside on the slab
And after the parlors measurements did take
His wife brought him home to a bloody fine wake

Twas about 12 o'clock and the beer was high
The corpse sits up and says with a sigh
I can't get to heaven, they won't let me up
Til I bring them a quart of the Johnny Jump Up

So if ever you go down to Cork by the sea
Stay out of the ale house and take it from me
If you want to stay sane don't you dare take a sup
Of that devil drink cider called Johnny Jump Up

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still Life with Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plant by SFD

PK took this beautiful photo of a pitcher plant on our foray up into the mountains last week. We hiked up a long trail to a series of bogs and ponds that nestled in a valley between two hulking peaks. While I leaned against a tree and contemplated the way it was both sunny and snowing at the same time, PK waded out into the middle of the bog and discovered a big patch of these vividly colored carnivorous plants. What always amazes me is how the plants that grow together in the wild always complement each other well- not only in function, but aesthetically, both form and color. I love how the moss highlights and echoes the reds in the pitcher plant, and how the whole formation brings to mind an underwater scene, rather than an overwater one. I would have liked to spend some time drawing at the bog, but alas, the snow fell and the wind blew, and we had to move on before our digits solidified.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Inspiration: Aleta Gudelski

Relections, Lamoile River, Vt by Aleta Gudelski
I love the colors in this piece by Vermont artist Aleta Gudelski. So often I'll be out hiking in the woods and come across a scene like this, where the sunlight hits the water just right, and crisp colors flash across the surfaces of rock, water, and trees. When I paint I struggle with colors -so often they swirl and muddy together until all sensation of light in the painting is lost. But even though she focuses more on the impression of a place than a realistic portrait, Gudelski's work so perfectly captures the moment that I swear I just saw a brook trout diving into the shadowy depths. Check out more of her work here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

nearly there...

The first asparagus of the season has arrived!

I am very excited that I am a mere few weeks away from a long relaxing summer in which I can finally get back to working on my many artistic projects. I have successfully conquered the job market, and am very happy with where I'll be teaching next year. Hurrah! Two more weeks of frantic papers and grading and my time will be my own again, if only for a little while.

Right now I'm fighting the urge to ignore all my papers and do watercolor paintings of asparagus spears. I may be developing a problematic asparagus obsession...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another fine day in the mountains...

I escaped again this past weekend. A few hours of driving and once again I was roaming the hills, though still through knee deep snow. I stumbled across this bog with a view, and had to stop for a moment to admire the deep blue mountain. This was definitely worth having to stay up really late last night to finish grading papers and hem my interview suit...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

a little more snowmelt...

Regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly as my job hunt heads towards a (successful) end and April vacation begins! In the meantime, here's a little photo of a rushing torrent of snow melt from a nearby mountain...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

soft spring light

The other night I came home from work and took a little nap before heading out on the town. It had rained all day, thick sheets of water that blew sideways with the wind, and as I started to drift off I heard the soft rumble of distant thunder, a sure sign of the end of winter. This morning the sun bloomed bright, and the waters stilled. I've thrown open the windows and let the warm spring air come in and freshen everything up-which was badly needed in both the rooms of the house and in my winterstale brain.

Posting has been light here as of late, and will probably be slow for a few more weeks as I wrap up a frenzied job search and an overloaded semester. I've got a few things brewing though, and can't wait to catch up on what everyone else out there has been up to...