"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Apr 20, 2011


I waved goodbye to my daughter and 5 year old grandson today. They came up for a few days to ease me into my 7th decade, a very hard job, but they sweetened the ordeal. One of the things we did was visit nearby Hogwash Farm, where John and I get our meat in a kind of CSA plan. As I expected, the Tamworths are having babies, and there were at least three litters of tiny piglings to watch. They were delightful, and it bothered me not just a little to know that some of those babies may end up as bacon on my table next year. But I do know that their lives will be good, and the end humane: does that help? Just a little. In any case, they are darling, and the three of us enjoyed visiting with them, and scratching the bristly heads of the mama sows. I took photos of some of them some years back (see above) before to doing a series of paintings of them, and I need to take my camera back there soon so I can paint some more. Two of these small paintings (5" x 5") were actually given to Nancy who runs the farm, in exchange for meat. I love bartering!

Tamworth I  oil on paper on canvas
Tamworth II oil on paper on canvas

Pig in Water  oil on paper on canvas
When I get back from Arizona (we are going for a week, also to help ease me into my 7th decade!) I will get busy in the studio with more forsythia and more pigs. Plus I am sure I shall bring back with me much inspiration from Sedona, and many sketches and photos to take to the studio. In the meantime, here's to the next decade. (Photo is me at my birthday dinner at Simon Pearce with a lovely Kir Royale.)

Apr 15, 2011

Unwrapping Bright Spring

Because it is so emblematic of early spring, and because it is joyfully everywhere this time of year, it is hard for me to believe that Forsythia is such a relatively recent arrival to the United States, coming only about 100 years ago. A native of eastern Asia, forsythia is part of the Oleaceae (olive) family. The genus in English is named after William Forsyth who oversaw the Kensington Palace gardens in the late 18th C. In Korea, where the shrub is known as goldenbells, there is a legend about the forsythia which has made it a symbol not only of the first sign of the return of spring but also of returning love. Legend has it that a married man went on a long journey and after being away for many years, he had begun to take his wife for granted. When he returned home, he found his wife waiting patiently for him in the garden, and he was struck by how beautiful she was. He wrote a poem which he sang to her that said while forsythias and apricot blossoms may bloom and fade, “in the bamboo shade of my mountain home forever abides my Love, my All.” 

With no forsythia in my landscape yet, I spent the week imagining, and painting them. This one, taken from a photo in my daughter's yard, is about finished. I tried to keep it loose and open, layering colors and texture. Hopefully the forsythia is singing out from the painting, with everything else fading into the background, as that was my intent. I have also included a few details of the painting which show the brushwork better.

"Unwrapping Bright Spring "  18"x18"    oil on canvas
Detail # 1

Detail # 2

I wish you all a very happy spring.


Apr 8, 2011


I wish winter and snow would just take a final bow and get off the stage. After the April Fool snowstorm, we had yet another day of the white wet stuff on April 5th. Fortunately, it was mixed off and on with rain, so the end result was probably less snow on the ground than when it started. This will make Amy Huyffer happy, who with her husband runs the organic creamery up here in Strafford. She says her cows (with the new calves coming in one by one) are longing to get out and eat some grass. I think there is more snow in our little village than anywhere else in the Upper Valley.

Across the street, which is south facing, I begin to see patches of bare ground dotting the hills, bigger every day. Not so for us, but the snow is starting to shrink away from the tree trunks and the pond egress, and the driveway is bare for the first time since before Christmas. The pile by the front door is down to about 6 feet high. Soon I will hear the waterfall which runs with runoff until mid summer. Being born and bred in New Jersey, traditionally April is when I expect to see crocus and daffodils, when lawns and gardens get raked out and fertilized, and color graces the yards with forsythia and other early blooming shrubs. Not so here. I wrote a poem for this time of year back in 2003 when we invaded Iraq, which is appropriate for this spring as well.

  March 20, 2003

The earth turns under winter-weary snow,
thrusts off its white, wind-carved quilts
and stretches
to the warmth of lengthened days.

Welcomed home
by still sleepy voices of brooks and ponds,
winter’s watery leftovers serpentine down
through snow on softened hills.

The season shifts,
as the world trembles,
and I stand in wonder
that at such a time
Spring can come again.

At least the discouraging weather (and my delightful lack of commitments this week) gives me lots of time to paint. I have three pieces going -- one is probably the last winter piece I will do this year, a  winter farm scene of hay bales in a barn, which I think is working out well. I am laying on layer after layer of color, and concentrating on composition and lights and darks. I wish it would dry faster--- if it did this is one I think I could have done alla prima, because I painted over an old painting, so there was a good base already there. This is an argument for switching to water-based oils, but the financial outlay in paints would be enormous. I cannot seem to get good photos of the work I am doing (for instance the snow is not flat white, but variated), but here it is, best as I can do.

Still Smelling of Dusty Summer   30 x 24  oil on canvas with tissue underlay 
I was also reworking a seascape, but it is still not working and may go to the paint over pile. And I started my first spring piece of the year-- forsythias!  If I can't see them here in April, I can at least paint them. I did a whole series of forsythia paintings some years back, such as this one which was framed later as a triptych. They have all sold except for one tiny one of which I have no photo.

"Forsythia x Three"  18 1/2 x 6  framed, oil on canvas with tissue underlay 

Now that I am painting regularly again, I decided I better get working on having a show or two. I just contracted to have another show at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center Rubin Glass Hallway, my most favorite alternative place to show up here. The woman in charge dispensed with the application since I was already vetted when I had a show there back in 2006, right after my mother died. I do not know when it will be, probably not until 2013. I would like to get something else lined up for early next year if possible, but not sure where yet.  

Apr 2, 2011

Strafford ARTWORKS Show

I have been busy organizing the Strafford ARTWORKS show at the Ledyard Gallery at Howe Library in Hanover, NH. We have 14 of our members in the group show, "Recent Work in Mixed Media." My job was and always is, publicity, and this is the release I sent out, which explains what Strafford ARTWORKS is, for those of you who do not know.

Strafford, VT---  The Howe Library Ledyard Gallery is celebrating the artistic diversity of visual artists from Strafford Vermont with a group exhibit featuring over 35 works.  The 12 eclectic artists from Strafford ARTWORKS have mounted a large show, “Recent Works in Mixed Media,” at the gallery on the mezzanine floor at 135 Main Street in Hanover, Hew Hampshire. The show runs from April 1 through the 27th., with the library gallery open Mondays through Thursday from 10-8, Friday from 10-6, and Saturday from 10-5..The artists will welcome visitors to the Opening Reception on Saturday April 2 from 2 PM to 4PM.  Artist members with work in this exhibition are Jennifer Brown, Marcia Bushnell, Micki Colbeck, Andrea Doughtie, Nancy Gerlach, Tracy Gillespie, Nat Hemenway, Janet Farley, Cecily Herzig, Kate More, Jason Okai,  Mary Louise Pierson, Anni Praetorius and Deborah Frankel Reese. The current show has been curated by Dick Ridgeway and member artists Micki Colbeck, Nancy Gerlach and Anni Praetorious.

Strafford ARTWORKS is an eclectic group of professional artists working in varied mediums including pastel, watercolor, ink, acrylic and oil paints, block prints, monoprints and photography. The broad mix of artists and disciplines has attracted an equally broad demographic of audience members. Individuals from the group are represented by galleries in the Upper Valley, in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as in Canada, England, France, Spain and Macau. 

According to Deborah Frankel Reese, one of the founding members of Strafford ARTWORKS, "When we first decided to exhibit as a group about eight years ago, we wondered how our collective work would look together: would our varied artistic visions form a cohesive whole? We were surprised at how well the different media and styles worked together, and it has only improved over the years. When walking around the current show at the Howe, each piece will lead you to the next, as in conversation: Traditional oils -- including exacting still lifes and landscapes by Andrea Doughtie, the colorful Tuscan landscapes of Kate More, the plein air Vermont vistas of Nancy Gerlach, and Jennifer Brown's bright watercolors blend well with the flinty, more contemporary work from the creative inner visions of Janet Farley, Cecily Herzig, Jason Okai, Mary Louise Pierson and Anni Praetorious. Large paintings by Marcia Bushnell and Deborah Frankel Reese containing strong colors and powerful compositions transition seamlessly to the smaller, purposefully-limited palette pieces of Micki Cobeck’s stunning Delft series. Block prints by Tracey Gillespie provide graphic counterpoints, as do the strong photographs of  Nat Hemenway.

"Baby Spiders Are sleeping Under Your Bed"  Cecily Herzig
"Col di Val d"esta" (Tuscany) oil by Kate More
"Delft in Blue" oil, Micki Colbeck

 StraffordARTWORKS was formed nine years ago
by a group of Strafford artists with a shared commitment to studio practice and exhibitions of their work. Representing a mix of mediums, backgroundss, experience, and ages, the diverse and vibrant community of artists meet on an informal basis to critique current work, discuss contemporary art, plan shows, hold workshops and provide a supportive artistic community, especially for those artists who produce their art in isolation. As well as in ARTWORKS group exhibits, such as this one, held at least once a year, in shows held by individual members and in the galleries which represent them, examples of the work by Strafford ARTWORK members can be seen on Open Museum at http://www.openmuseum.org/museum/show/29, a virtual on-line museum spotlighting the work of artists.  If you join the site, you can go to the Strafford ARTWORKS "Museum" and vote for the work that you like, a helpful tool for artists who too often work in a vacuum. Information about the organization can be found on Open Museum’s website. For more information, please contact Deborah Frankel Reese at BYBYNJ@gmail.com

The show was expertly hung by a pro Dick Ridgeway and two of our artists Friday --  somehow we managed to get the 35 pieces there in spite of the snowstorm. The Opening Reception on Saturday went well: we had a good turnout, good reactions, and so far three pieces have been sold. Some of the work in the show is shown above. Below are a few shots of the reception, the only ones that I can get off of my iphone so far.

My work in the show

Work by Janet Farley

Work by Micki Colbeck, left, and Marcia Bushnell, right.

Person viewing work by Nancy Gerlach and Jennifer Brown.

Person viewing work by Anni Praetorius.