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