Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone,

I know I've been taking a bit of time lately, but will soon be back, I promise. I just wanted to wish all of you a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.

I have lots of news to share soon but for a preview, please visit my new Facebook page:

You can see my new exterior stickers and catch up on my latest shows. A website is soon to follow.

Let me know what you think.

And I promise, I will soon be back to posting on a regular basis. Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Little R & R

Dear Friends,
I have been working on some new ventures and find I need more time than I have in a day. So with regrets, I am going to take some time off from posting to try to catch up and put in the extra effort I need to do.
Thank you for being loyal readers and hopefully I'll be back before too long.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Simply the Best

The best of friends.
The best food.
The best location.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. During the busy season, I rarely take the time to just stop and let it all sink in. I get to do what I love for a living and I do it surrounded by a loving group of friends, a great community and in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

One of those close friends is leaving for the winter, not to return until the spring, breezing in with the Red-Winged Blackbirds and the first wave of tourists. So three of us got together to enjoy one last meal together before she takes flight on Monday. We have been friends for almost 18 years, since Susan and I first moved to this little island. I couldn't ask for anyone better.

The bistro sits on the edge of the sea, and while a gentle wind tossled our words back and forth, we watched a moonrise over the waves behind the swaying sea oats. We shared a glass, or maybe two, of wine and listened to some tunes from a talented musician from Nashville. Our laughter mixed with the tables nearby, everyone enjoying the beauty of the moment with no worries about yesterday or tomorrow, simple the best of the present moment.

We stayed until the moon became nestled in the night clouds. Marie and I made plans for next week but there was a gaping hole where Susan would have been. I am so grateful for nights like these and must remember to enjoy more of them. And thanks to both Susan and Marie for taking these pics.

So goodbye my friend. If the fates remain in our favor, we'll see each other in the spring.

from left to right: Marie, myself and Susan

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Quick Post

Well, my company is due in but I couldn't resist a little post. I spied this Carolina Mantis on the window screen so I took a quick pic of him. This is the first one I have seen all year and I welcomed him back to The Crooked Little House. He was a good size and bright-eyed, watching me closely. No sooner had I put the camera away, a male Cardinal flew up to the screen and snatched the mantis away. C'est la vie! Till next week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Touch, The Feel

It used to be that once you crossed the bridge to the mainland you were treated to visions of vast fields of cotton dotting the roadsides. If you traveled at just the right time in the fall, the cotton balls would be perched like still white doves on maroon stalks just waiting to be plucked. Grapevine tendrils now twine where the cotton fields used to grow; small vineyards claiming the land with a more profitable and trendy product. But further out on the mainland, cotton fields still spread along the highways and back roads.

Rising at 4:30 am yesterday morning, I made my last minute preparations for the day's show in Hertford, NC, a gorgeous little hamlet just past Elizabeth City. On the road by 6 o'clock, we were blinded by a heavy coastal fog, but as the sun pulled itself out of the east, the cotton that hadn't been harvested glowed through the leftover pockets of fog blanketing the fields. These photos are not the best and for that, I apologize, but it was the crack of dawn after all and I was in a moving vehicle having only had one cup of coffee. Many of you know I am NOT a morning person. These fields had already been "picked", not by human hands anymore but by gigantic roving beasts of steel. But you can still see the leftovers, those chunks of softness that saved themselves by growing near the edge of the field.

We crossed the bridge into Hertford, becoming part of a postcard image complete with a small boat and its passenger looking for his own "harvest" of a few fish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I will be spending this week washing my cotton sheets and sweeping Buddha hair from the corners in preparation for a much anticipated visit with my son and his wife and members of her family who are coming to The Crooked Little House for a three day vacation. They too will be driving by the cotton fields. So forgive me for taking next weekend off from blogging. I'll be back the following weekend.

"If there were no dust, housekeeping would be an art form."  John Thorne

Saturday, September 28, 2013


For me, part of the responsibility of being an artist, a human being, and member of a community, is to share what you can to make our place on the planet a better one. That doesn't necessarily mean giving large sums of money, and being a full-time artist, it's pretty much impossible anyways. But I have other valuable things I can contribute like donating a piece of artwork or giving some time to share my knowledge. Our local arts council has gone through some much needed revamping over the last two years, and we now have an executive director and gallery director that have instituted exciting new programs and have taken a poorly run organization and turned it into something we can all be proud of.
Our butterfly booth, filled with young artists.

One of our unadorned butterflies before being glittered.
So today, on a picture perfect fall beach day, the annual Artrageous event was held, a day long celebration of art activities geared towards children. This year, instead of just a publicity based event for the arts council, the day's activities highlighted various community organizations in an effort to inform and educate people of their existence and what programs and services they offer. The arts council asked artists to volunteer to develop an activity for children to create, and they were paired with one of the community groups, a unique and unselfish idea. I was happy to be asked to participate and work with a group called, Mommy and Me. We helped young artists create butterflies that were decorated with markers, crayons and glitter then worn on their fingers and "flown" about, wings flapping in the stiff breeze. I came up with this idea because this is the time of year I usually see the Cloudless Sulphur butterflies migrating along the beach, mile after mile of yellow dots, tirelessly flapping off to a faraway land for the winter.

A group devoted to protecting our nesting sea turtles.

  It was a joyful day full of children laughing, sunshine, music and beautiful creations. Just what an arts council is supposed to represent. Good job everyone!

"When childhood dies its corpses are called adults."            Brian Aldira

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Contented Sigh of Autumn

Webs cover the Yaupon bush.
This is the time of year when nature offers up a lovely vignette every single day; something to marvel at, inspire us and encourage us to want to learn more. It would appear at The Crooked Little House, nature is pushing Halloween. All my little arachnids are busy casting silk all over the Yaupon bushes and corners of the house. Even the skies begin to boil with wondrous storybook clouds that sometimes hang on through the darkest hours.

Tucked into the corner for an afternoon siesta.
The other night I noticed moonshine like a slick coating over the deck and fallen leaves on the walkway. I stepped outside and followed the light source to the almost full moon just to the east of the roof line and almost overhead. The sky was thick with gyrating cloud formations tinted in orange from the moonshine. The orb would appear from the clouds then disappear then reappear again, taunting me until I gave in and ran to gather my sketchbook and paints. I settled outside in the crisp air to do some color sketches. I later found out that a close friend of mine who is a photographer had run out of her house too in an effort to capture the same image.
One of the quick sketches en plein air.

I find it very tricky painting outside at night, especially under the moonlight. When viewed inside, the colors are never quite what I think I had laid down, yet the sketch usually ends up being full of depth and quite true color-wise. Plus it's just a lot of fun in a challenging kind of way. Autumn will offer me loads of vibrant cloud formations and magical nightscapes to paint. I can't wait till tonight!

"The love of form is a love of endings."
                                   Louise Gluck

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Night Moves

I do my morning Tai Chi workout at 5 in the afternoon. It makes perfect sense for me since I do my best work late at night and rarely leave the studio before one in the morning. While colors flow and blend on the paper, Bonnie Raitt croons my own emotions back to me or Jimmy Fallon tells me jokes. Around eight or nine in the evening, I actually begin to feel a current of creativity forming and I feel anything is possible, pushing me down the hall to my worktable.

I have never been a morning person. I'll rise early if I have to, and I'll admit to all of you morning people that there is definitely beauty to be found in those unfamiliar hours. But to me, nothing takes the place of a hush-filled night filled with brilliant stars and moonbeams. While the rest of the neighborhood is dreaming of sun and surf, my lights glow softly in the studio where two felines spread their indoor bulk across the worktable, leaving me about eight inches of space to bring my creatures to life. Eventually a spat will occur when one tail touches the other or a foot bumps a rear end. Then my big Buddha will thump to the floor and find his box to squeeze into, patiently waiting for signs that bedtime is near. And my children know that I am always awake in the wee hours, so while other parents panic at a phone ringing at one in the morning, I smile knowing that it's time for a loving chat with my favorite people in the whole world.

I've been fairly productive these past few nights, playing the part of a mad hatter. Some of my bird images have already taken flight, winging their way to companies with a wing and a prayer that they might one day adorn their wares. Meanwhile, I am sure I hear another bird tweeting my name. We will formally meet this evening.

"Whatever light is, it seems to exist in a realm where there is no before and no after. There is only now."                                        Peter Russell

Saturday, September 7, 2013

No Business Like Show Business

Just this morning, someone was asking me what it takes to participate in a show. I used to do the big shows, hauling an elaborate tent and all the rigging, giant panels to display my paintings, driving great distances to compete with a zillion other talented artisans with a fortitude I no longer possess. Sitting outside in the heat, taking shelter from sudden rain storms and praying my panels wouldn't blow over with a strong southeast wind no longer appeals to me. But what I do enjoy is taking part in the smaller, local indoor shows. This gives me a chance to meet the public, talk about what I do and why I do it and be at one with my peers. Though on a smaller scale, these shows are still a lot of work, taking a fair amount of planning and set up if you want to have good sales, because the best art in the world can't sell itself. In a temporary retail space like this you must be creative and innovative if you want good sales.

This past week I did a two-day show which was a great success, not just for me but for many of the talented artists participating. One of them was my best friend, an emerging jeweler who listened to my advice and worked hard to create an appealing display drawing in new customers resulting in a fabulous show for her. But as beautiful as her work is, I'm not sure she would have been this successful without the gorgeous display she designed that truly highlighted her magnificent bracelets. It's not just about creating the items, it's about luring someone into the space instead of them passing you by and heading to the next booth with the eye catching displays and smiling artist that is eager to meet their customers. You must be engaging and welcoming whether they make a purchase or not. Thank them for taking the time to stop by. And you never know; they may purchase something at the next show or tell a friend about the cool work you do and the warm greeting they received.

After two days of smiling, being on my feet, talking and answering the same questions over and over, and restocking to keep the display looking fresh, I got to take the whole thing apart, lug it to the car, pack it just so, so that everything fits, drive home and unpack it all, luckily having much less than I started out with. So that's show season. Personally I love being with my peers, meeting new people, encouraging new artists and talking with patrons about why they enjoy my work and where it will end up. I can't imagine making a living without this being one of my outlets. Next up, Hertford, NC on October 5th. If you're in the area...

"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
                                                                                              Charles Simic

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Show Season

The Crooked Little House now sports yellowing leaves scattered across the deck from the trumpet vine even though my moon flower is still blooming each night, unaware of the approaching end to summer. More chickadees have been showing up at the feeder and the butterflies are dwindling down. The light has changed, and even though the temperatures are still in the mid 80s, you can feel the shift in the atmosphere as though the shimmering air molecules have donned lightweight sweaters. And my wardrobe is shifting from turquoise and green, to brown, burgundy and orange, one of my favorites.

With the end of frantic order-filling days of summer exiting through the back door, my front door is opening onto show season. Most tourists with children are returning to their homes and lives elsewhere to begin school and return to work. The usual weekly rentals will slowly switch to weekend occupancy with visits from those that live closer to the barrier islands and just want a weekend getaway. They will come to walk the trails, climb the lighthouses, sample our restaurants and of course shop for those things they don't have where they live.

So now I'm preparing for five shows I have scheduled this fall, four group ones and my usual appearance the day after Thanksgiving at Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head. But my first show is this coming Wednesday and Thursday. If any of you are visiting the island this coming week, stop by and say hello to me and the other fabulous artists that will be showing their work. For me, these shows are a chance to showcase some of the work I am most proud of that has been tucked away on the studio wall. So today I'm offering a sneak peak just for those of you that can't attend the show.

But for now, there is much to do before my first show of the season. So off to the studio I go.

"Dance the orange."    - Rilke

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bird Brain

This week I've had birds on the brain; in my work, on my deck, in the field and even on the road with a sign paying homage to the local sea gulls and their fondness for fast food. My yard is vibrating with hummingbirds searching out the last of the trumpet vine blooms while a Great Horned Owl hoots nearby. I have six cardinals that visit the feeder, one bringing along an "adopted" cowbird, trailing her tail feathers and begging for food. She dutifully feeds it not realizing she has an ugly duckling on her wings. And each morning as I step outside, I am greeting by a crow, rasping out a jagged hello before flying off, laughing to himself.

I've noticed this week that like us humans, my winged visitors don't all have their feathers in a row. Birdland sports a bald headed Blue Jay and partially blind House Finch. I get up close to her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. She tolerates me until she looks around, and the sudden shock of the largeness of me sends her flying off. Even field sketching at Sandy Run Park I spot the resident Osprey, still screaming for who knows what and the geometric-headed Pileated Woodpecker. I was also treated to a glimpse of a Baltimore Oriole, a real surprise since I haven't seen one in years. And hidden in the Loblolly pines and Cypress trees, bird songs erupted that I didn't recognize.

Of course nature never fails to show me something new even when I think I've seen it all, at least in my own yard. But when my Brown Thrasher began visiting the pergola to partake of my offerings, I realized he had turned into quite a bully. He would hiss loudly like an angry feline, charging any other bird who got near him, puffing up his feathers as if they were fur, looking like Erb when he gets startled.

I have always believed that what comes into my life is a sign, offering hints and clues that I need to pay attention to. I know one thing that birds stand for is flexibility and extending one's vision into a wider area. So I have begun a series of bird images, in clothing of course since they enjoy fashion as much as I do. I'll be giving them their "wings" this fall, sending them off in new directions, hoping they'll find homes away from The Crooked Little House. And for those of you interested in birds, please give this book a read: The Life of the Skies, birding at the end of nature by Jonathan Rosen. It reads like a novel with a dash of poetry.

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?"
        Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz

Monday, August 19, 2013

Spiders? I think not!

Quick update: So my expert spider identification cable guy was wrong. What he told me was a mass gathering of Black Widow spiders turned out to be a Jiminy Cricket convention! All's well at The Crooked Little House after all!

Saturday, August 17, 2013


After I posted my entry today I decided to clean out some drawers in the studio. I found this little piece I had done a while back and thought it went well with this week's post!

Close Encounters of a Bad Kind

All my two-legged friends have returned to their own homes, and now this week I find myself inundated with a group of ladies I am not particularly fond of. They are all widowed and have taken up residence in the crawl space beneath The Crooked Little House. You guessed it - Black Widow Spiders - lots of them. Perhaps it's a convention or just daughters returning home to live with mom, but in any case, they've gotta go and soon.

Something had been chewing on my old cable wires underneath the house and that's how I learned about my unwanted guests. After emerging from the tight quarters, (we don't have basements here), the cable guy said he ran new lines and all looked well except for the enormous gathering of spiders along the west wall near the outside vent.

Black Widows are common here like Cottonmouth snakes so you just learn to be careful when reaching into and under things. I'm sure the spiders are also lurking behind all the cartons of crap belonging to my kids; stuff they don't want me to throw away yet they never manage to take home with them. Luckily I have a brave knight who is going to come send the ladies to spider heaven this coming week.

I've been seeing all kind of spiders lately: wolf spiders scampering along the flower beds, jumping spiders under the pergola and occasionally, teeny, weenie ones in the studio. And I love the big beauties that spin beautiful orb webs each evening. It is said that seeing spiders signifies creativity and weaving of fate, a symbol of creative powers. Sources say that if spiders come into your life you need to ask yourself if you are weaving your dreams into reality. I find this interesting since I've recently been exploring new areas with my work.

I've been working on a beastiary, highlighting the animals that visit TCLH. Beastiaries were popular a long time ago and were written to encourage people to live a proper life, each entry adding a moral at the end of the story. My tales are a bit different. I'll share one with you today. From TCLH Beastiary:

The Late for Dinner Spider

As dusk descends, orb weaver spiders begin anchoring their webs. One runs her silk from the ligustrum near the front door to the rosemary bush, and the other starts at the wild cherry tree and ties off at the trumpet vines on the pergola. The space near the blue chair where the third spider usually sets up remains vacant.
Sixteen legs work hastily, pulling silk this way and that. Darkness now cloaks the yard and the spiders are at their ready, waiting for the appetizers to appear.
After a quick wrap, the second course flutters into the webs, and if spiders had lips, these two would be smacking them. The third course brings two bulbous, green-winged beetles. Yet the tardy spider is still nowhere to be seen.
The fourth course floats in, a palate cleansing in the form of two lacewings, along with the arrival of the third spider. She yawns and stretches all eight before beginning her web. The fifth course snags itself in the others' webs while the sleepy spider checks the tension in her lines.The sixth course appears to the first two spiders as fat, juicy moths, while the last arachnid completes her web.
Time now for the seventh course, dessert, eagerly anticipated by all. But only one serving blunders by, and it flies right into the Late for Dinner Spider's web.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes, dessert is all you need.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sea Monsters on Parade

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
I feel an important part of being an artist is sharing what you do with others, not just by showing your creations in galleries, but by taking the time to meet and speak with people about what inspires you and how you do it. And working alone in the studio day after day makes one eager for contact with others of the same species. Though this picture of me makes me appear dour, I assure you I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

This week I was honored to be asked to spend some time at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, NC sharing my newly released reproductions of sea monsters and talking with visitors about living on the Outer Banks and what it's like making my living as an artist here. Living in a tourist area, I am fortunate to be able to meet people from all over the world; wonderful artists, would-be artists and people who just love art. This time I met map lovers and sea monster fans who I think enjoyed seeing my new Outer Banks Sea Monsters. Do they really exist? All I'll say is this: I have seen many things while looking out over the ocean that defy explanation. And isn't it more fun to have a little magic in your life?

I was lucky enough to have a close friend visiting this week so he accompanied me on the trip. On the way home we stopped at Buxton Village Books, owned by a wonderful friend I only get to see during the off season when our schedules let up a bit. If you are ever visiting Hatteras Island, take a few minutes to go to Frisco and visit Gee Gee's bookshop. What a delight, chock full of magic is the only way I can describe it.

Being out in public and meeting people is a real treat for me, but it can be tiring just the same. Coming home to Buddha and Erb is always a welcome finish to the day. And I was rewarded with the first-of-the-season moonflower bloom that evening.

"The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea."

                                              Isak Dinesen

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Color My World

Writing about color is almost as difficult for me as trying to replicate it with paint. So I'll mention a couple of musings about color from one of my favorite books, Color, A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. She says her first challenge in writing a book about colors was that they (colors) don't really exist, or rather they do but only because we see them as interpretations of vibrations that are happening. In other words, she explains how our brains translate wavelengths telling us that the tomato sitting on the kitchen counter is "red". Finlay goes on to say that if you open an artist's paint box, you will find stories of secrecy and myth, sacredness, profit and loss, poison, cruelty and greed among other things. I'm telling you, this book is fascinating whether you are an artist or not. We all have intimate relationships with color. Give it a read.

I have a friend who brings me the best presents each time he visits me, sometimes even mailing them to me if he can't make the trip down. They are not precious jewels or candy or silk scarves. He knows me better than to bring those things. Instead he offers me nature's most colorful creatures, ones that I can't ever do justice with paint and paper. Maybe that's his idea of a little joke.

This week he arrived bearing a tin that was chock full of Blue Mud Dauber wasps (deceased of course), an insect I have never seen at The Crooked Little House. I am not a huge fan of wasps but my friend knew I would love the coloration of these insects, glistening with iridescent blues and violets that shimmered in the palm of my hand under the studio lamp. And of course I had to at least try to sketch them. But my efforts failed miserably, my hands unable to reproduce what my eyes so keenly observed.

But when I think of the one color nature offers that truly makes me awestruck each year it has to be the color the berries on the American Beauty Berry Bush. Come late summer, these clusters of berries that have been forming in clumps along the branches suddenly take on a reddish, purplish, pinkish hue that cannot be copied with paint no matter how many times I try. Right now, the berries are small yet prevalent on my three bushes. There is no hint as yet of the color to come, but when it does, it will once again cause me to stare in wonder. I of course will once again try to capture the image knowing that I will inevitably fail. But I just can't turn my back and walk away.

"There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun."
                                                                Pablo Picasso

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shadow Play

Around four o'clock each afternoon I find Buddha settled onto the spine of the sofa pondering bird shadows against the drawn drapes. He began keeping vigil when the afternoons became so hot I started closing the drapes in an effort to keep some of the heat out of the living area. Confusion fills his dilated eyes and his feline brain as he watches varying degrees of darkness flit across the sun-drenched windows. And then a lunge, a futile effort to capture the elusive bird he is so sure is there, almost like a birder with a life list.

I am finding that as the years pass I too try to capture shadows, only mine are from the past; the dreams that didn't quite come true, the places I never ended up going to see and the memories of pleasant times I want to experience again. I don't find these "shadows" to be sad, more like an interesting vision to explore and rework, to learn from and perhaps cast anew.

There is beauty in shadows as well as occasional confusion and complexity. The trick is to decipher them, learn to see through them, realize they are transparent , just a thin veil of softness, not an opague mass. When learning to paint shadows you begin to see the surrounding colors being reflected like a memory, not good or bad, just another way of looking at things. Maybe shadows are a call for us to wake up and push through the gossamer; see what's really there in all its clarity, maybe begin to live a true life. Might it be time to reshape and cast some new shadows to fit who we are today instead of chasing what we used to be?

But for now, there is too much heat and humidity to go out sketching the interplay of light in the marshes and on the beach. So I'll just hide out in the coolness of the shadows with Buddha.

"How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole."      C.G. Jung

Saturday, July 20, 2013

For Hailey

Dostoevsky wrote, "Love animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble their joy, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their happiness, do not work against God's intent. Man, do not pride yourself on your superiority to animals; they are without sin."

I received a letter this morning from a friend that broke my heart causing me to spill tears of understanding. Her dear companion, Hailey, the one who has shared her life for so many years has passed on. This loyal being was not human but "just a dog", as she has been told by many people. Just a dog. Those three words are what broke my heart.

My Kizzie
My friend had to make a responsible pet owner's most difficult decision, to put her dog to sleep. She did all she could to make things right and I hope in time she will realize that. Sometimes, no more can be done. So my friend performed the kindest act possible. And now she is left with an emptiness that can never be filled. Those of us that truly share our lives with animals know that they are part of our family, our life and our love.

I have lost pets as a child but as an adult I have mourned the loss of two cats; one I spent too much time with to let go, and one, not enough time. Kizzie lived on the street and was quite old, spending years stealing food from the pit bull's dish up the street and spending hurricanes tucked under the rental house next door. One day he wandered up my driveway and we became fast friends. He eventually worked his way into my house to spend his last years free from hunger and fear. I only had his company for three years, much too short a time for me and not enough for him to be loved as he should have been from the start. He deserved more.

Zoomy however, lived until the age of 18 until she could no longer keep food down, starving herself because of an inoperable tumor. I had to make that awful decision to put her to sleep, a terrible phrase since she wasn't going to wake up. The night before we went to the vet, she curled up in my arms, trusting me to do the right thing. And I feel I did. Zoomy and my boys grew up together. She got us through hard, hard times and loved us through all of them. I needed her. Whether a natural death or one we had a part of, losing a pet is an enormous loss. A part of my heart was torn out with each passing, never to regrow. And yes, I still have guilt and cry at times over what I had to do.

from Zoomy's book
Zoomy's book
In tribute, I have put Kizzie into many of my paintings, a favorite one being, "Missing You". And I created a book of Zoomy's life.

last page
So shame on anyone who utters the words, "just a dog".  Rest in peace Hailey.

(from Zoomy's book)
"I know the night is near at hand:
The mists lie low on hill and bay,
The Autumn sheaves are dewless, dry;
But I have had the day.

Yes, I have had, dear Lord, the day;
When at Thy call I have the night'
Brief be the twilight as I pass
From light to dark, from dark to light."

                          - Silas Weir Mitchell

Saturday, July 13, 2013

You Get What You Pay For (or do you?)

edge of a canal done with graphite pencil
We have all been told that we get what we pay for. You have to spend money to get a quality product. And sometimes that is true. A good brush makes painting details easier because it will hold a fair amount of paint and keep its point. A piece of handmade watercolor paper is a joy to work on, producing images you've only dared dream about. But sometimes it's just about the process and expensive is not always the best choice. This week I learned a valuable lesson from some very talented students.

When I began teaching field sketching, I wanted to provide my students with the best possible drawing tools I could afford to put into their drawing kits. So I included good drawing pencils along with the pad of drawing paper and other tools for working in the field. I personally use an inexpensive mechanical pencil, not because of the price but because I like the fact that it is always sharp and I can get a wide variation of shades from it. But for my students, I wanted the best.
sketched with water soluble graphite pencil

Part of my class involves sharing my personal sketching tools. I like to let students try different things so they'll know if they like the effects and if they want to invest in the items. One of the pencils I share is an inexpensive, water soluble, graphite pencil, my all time favorite sketching utensil for field work. And time and time again, each and every one of my students latches onto this pencil, falling in love with the softness of the lead and the richness of the tone it produces. The professional drawing pencils I have included in their kits are quickly put aside.

 I have stopped ordering drawing pencils and am now including a mechanical pencil like the one I use and a water soluble graphite pencil, along with an eight count pack of crayons, yes crayons. They're fun to use and produce gorgeous layers of color. Lesson learned. Thank you students.

"If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable."
                        Rainer Maria Rilke

working with the water soluble graphite pencil

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Singing in the Rain

A squirrel dangles from the feeder.
Mimosa loaded with blooms.
The moon flower vine finally emerges.
Mid-summer has brought drenching rains and humidity almost every day, making one feel sluggish and water-logged, longing for sunshine and sea breezes. But there is still cheer at The Crooked Little House with birdsong and signs of new nests being constructed in the birdhouses by those late-in-the-game birds. And squirrels dangle from the lone feeder, happy to perform acrobatic feats for the reward of an easy meal. Everything is lush from the rain, smelling of uncontrolled growth and excess.

But for me, mid-summer means endless days of filling orders, doing demonstrations, supplying galleries with original work and making deliveries on tourist-clogged roads. Mind you, I am NOT complaining. I am grateful every day that my work is appreciated, but I so miss the free time of the off season when I could explore my favorite haunts to my heart's desire with no thought of time. Recently, at the end of a class, my students and I were treated to a rare sighting of an otter, his flat head bobbing up and down and his back like a sea serpent as he played in the small pond where we had been working. I was once again reminded of the gifts I receive when I get out of the studio. So please excuse the lack of field sketches throughout the summer. I'll have lots more to share when fall returns, but for now we can enjoy the sanctuary of
The Crooked Little House.
Mary, Mary, how is your garden growing?

The trumpet vine drips with blossoms.
Mermaids and sea monsters continue to creep into the studio each night, keeping me company and taking up space on the worktable. They are expanding, infiltrating my dreams and days, pushing their way into my thoughts. So I am giving in and devoting more time to painting my versions of what sailors imagined were snaking through the waves and under their ships or singing on the beach under a Carolina moon. I like to think they still do. If anyone is going to be on the island on the 18th, stop by Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head. I'll be demonstrating from 5 to 8 pm. Here's a peek at one of the pieces I'll be working on.

"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."
                                                                                             - Alvin Toffler