"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.

Mar 28, 2012

Easy Does It

I am easing back into the studio. This week I spent some time on a piece that I started last month. It is nowhere near finished, all I have really worked on is the barn. The background trees, sky and snow all need work. The photo below is very bad, took it with my ipad, but once it is finished I will post a better one. (Not sure why it is so fuzzy ...  on my computer it is crystal clear. Very low rez though.)

 This is a continuation of an ongoing theme of mine--- intermingled with my more and more abstract landscapes and seascapes are the far more realistic barns which I am continually drawn to in the Vermont landscape. And I worry that they are fast disappearing.
An American barn is such a manifestation of this cultural heritage. Each year as more barns up here are lost to fires,  falling down due to time and neglect and deterioration, vandalism and the elements, and torn down for real estate development. More recently, they knocked over and  sold for the rustic lumber to be used in upscale houses for floors and walls, or simply torn down for real estate development.  
So I am on my own little campaign to paint some of the remaining  barns. So many old barns are now gone from sight only to remain with us in photographs. And in paintings such as mine.
Most of my time this month has been spent on condo stuff. It has been somewhat of a nightmare. Currently we still do not have a closing date, but the contract is signed. I suspect if we are lucky we will get in in the end of June.
Meanwhile, I cannot commit to the floor folks or the painter, although Jen's cousin Courtney, an Interior Designer, and I have been pouring over paint colors. I find that a lot of fun, perhaps because I am so interested in color. I have decided on a basically blue color scheme, a 
first for me, who usually had white or off white walls, and a cranberry and ochre color scheme. In the condo, the entry and hall  will be in a kind of saturated dusky blue, see left, called Sapphire Ice, done in striped, alternating flat and gloss stripes about 4 inches across of the same color. Shiny high gloss white trim. 

The Guestroom/ Den will be Ben Moore's Sangria, top row right, after much vacillating, again with glossy white trim and glossy black accents, like the built in desk which I will paint, and black and white photos on the walls in black frames. It is a color similar to others I have used before, in the mudroom and man cave up here.

Our bedroom is going to be painted a marvelous Ben Moore blue that is aptly named Ocean Air, and I hope it makes me feel as if I am at the ocean, where I am always the happiest and most relaxed. The trim will be an off white called White Dove, I think. These colors will continue into the master bath which someday is going to be redone.

The living and dining rooms will both be done with wonderful Farrow and Ball emulsion, one called Yellow Ground, with either white trim, or a pale, pale version of the wall color. I cannot wait to see this FnB paint on the walls, because it is a highly pigmented English paint that is supposed to fairly glow. The fireplace wall, the laundry closet and one small kitchen wall will be this same color, but in a gloss. I am hoping it has a warm, almost Tuscan feel.

I am having my mother's small couch and matching chair -- which with the wood trim have a somewhat French Provincial look --reupholstered in large and small navy buffalo checks. There will be a fair amount of navy in those rooms, as well. Anyway, it has kept me busy, working with a very different kind of paint!

We have had some very bizarre weather --- within three days we had 81 degrees and sunny, and 27 degrees and hail and sleet and snow. Only in New England. And only in Vermont would you find, as the forsythia is close to bloom, that NO daffodils have emerged, but the red points of tulips are up everywhere in the herb gardens. Usually here, they bloom together.

We are off to Santa Fe in a week, for a week, which we are looking forward to mightily. I look forward to seeing Georgia O Keefe museum and home, the galleries, native American ruins and art, and the wonderful Pueblo architecture out there. I wonder if we can try not to read the papers or listen to the news while we are away, much of which is so disheartening to me, and causing so much angst and anger in this house.

Mar 1, 2012

I Feel As If I Were A Football ....

Lately, life has centered around "Not Vermont" and that is always a bit unsettling for me. It has been some month, with things moving so fast I feel as if I were a football being hurled through my life, much too fast!

But it has been very exciting.

We took some time off to go south to the New York Metropolitan Area for a variety of reasons--- to search for a condo closer to our kids than our current four hour drive; to help celebrate our granddaughter Lily turn seven; and to spend four days in Manhattan, getting our city fix.

The condo hunt, spurred on by me ever since we turned 70, became a reality. I know that someday we will need to move out of our wonderful Vermont retreat here on the hill, because a 11 room 5 bathroom house and 37 acres with a lot of non-low maint gardens is rapidly going to be too much for us to handle. I do plan to hire someone this summer to help me convert some garden areas to low maintenance spaces, and I do have 4 hours a week of cleaning help, but in five years, definitely 10 years, we will be in over our heads here. And, having lived two hours from Daddy when he was so sick, and almost five hours from John's Dad when he became so very needy, we know how difficult the distance can be for children of aging parents. Add to that it would be nice to have our own digs, our own bed, and a place we can bring the dogs whenever we go down to visit the family or go to New York AND the fact that interest rates and condo prices are very low, it seemed like the ideal time to consider this.

So in the course of two days, we saw about ten condos, and before we knew it, had an offer in. The ones we loved the most were not in developments, but in beautiful old buildings of their own, but were either too expensive, or had too many stairs (one had both those issues). We settled on an older one with a European feel inside and some interesting detail (curved arched doorways, Portuguese tiled kitchen, cathedral ceiling-ed living room) with a warm inviting feel and even a deck and back yard, in Heritage Hills, in Somers, NY. After the usual dickering back and forth we feel we got a very good deal, and as of this week we are under contract. No closing date yet, but I anticipate we will be there by mid April.This is the outside of our place:

We liked this because although it is one of about six condos built together around a courtyard, the only common wall we have is the end of the 2 car garage to the left of what you see. The other side is not connected to anything. And behind there is a view of nothing but trees and distant towns from the deck. We feel it will be quite private.

I am not posting any interior pictures until we have made some changes to it! It is owned by a 93 year old man who has lived there with his wife since it was built in 1975.

This has thrown me, the visual member of this household, into a tailspin. I am up to my ears in floor samples, paint colors, wallpaper samples, fabric samples, room schemes, and lists of what I have that can be used there, and what (few I hope) things we need to purchase (bed, TV, dining room hutch, lamps, inexpensive area rugs, etc) My husband is aghast, believing we can just move in there with a new bed, a TV, and take it from there. Not I. I need the old carpeting OUT and a new wood floor layed, and walls painted in yummy Farrow and Ball colors, some older furniture slipcovered or reupholstered. So I am busy on the computer all day searching out things.... EBay purchases, Pinterest for decor ideas and to start my own page of saved stuff, googling floors, paints, endless, endless. But I want this place to be done right, well, and beautifully. After all it is where I will live when I am really old, should I live long, and where I will likely die. I will not be able to do all this decorating then, so now is the time.

I will also be taking some of my paintings, and making new ones ... in a sense, commissioning MYSELF for some work.

Here is our Lily .

In the midst of all of that condo looking, we had the birthday party for Lily with all of the family. Always a treat, always lovely to be together. She is the cutest little girl, and so full of life, vitality and mischief, we just adore her. She is shown to left, just out of the pool with wet hair and a silly smile at her Hawaiian themed birthday party for her friends. 

On that Monday we drove into the city to our time share at The Manhattan Club. We just had time to change and go to dinner at Ed's Chowder House across from Lincoln Center, before going to see/hear Aida. Marvelous! It must be the third time I have seen it, and it doesn't get old. We especially liked Stephanie Blythe as Amneris. Being able to take a cab back to our place instead of driving for an hour to one of the kids' houses was wonderful!

It was a good few days. We went to the dog show at MSG, and oohed and ahhed even though we are not really into the dog show world. John left early because he had to go to the office where he consults.

One of the days we met at the Met (!!) Museum this time. In the new American Wing we saw so much that we liked... I was quite taken by John Singer Sargent's Three Sisters, the 
three beautiful daughters of the Hon. Percy Wyndham, a wealthy Londoner. I love the asymmetrical composition in the huge canvas, with the bright, bold whiteness of the sisters elegant, painterly gowns, the couch, the peonies, all appearing  toward the lower right as a counterpoint to the wonderfully suggestive dark background with wall portraits. Rather than conducting sittings at his studio, as he usually did around the turn of the century, Sargent painted the sisters in the drawing room of their family's residence on Belgrave Square. It makes me think of the Bellamys in Eaton Square from Upstairs Downstairs!  Displayed at the Royal Academy's annual exhibition in 1900, the portrait was hailed by the critics and dubbed "The Three Graces" by the Prince of Wales.

Willard Metcalf's "The North Country."
I also really liked Willard Metcalf's The North Country, painted in Perkinsville, VT, near Sprinjgfield. It actually reminds me of my own painting style when I am not being too abstract.
Metcalf took a long time to really bloom, but by 1905,  encouraged by his friend Childe Hassam, he began summering in Old Lyme, CT with "The Colony" working as both painter and teacher. He subsequently  held successful exhibitions in New York with his much lighter style and again at the St. Botolph Club. His expertly handled, subtle views of the New England landscape, such as this one of my home state, met with steady critical and financial success. To my mind he is not as good as George Inness though, one of my favorites!

I think James JeBusa Shannon was a superb portraitist, and I was totally charmed by "Jungle Tales" seen below. One of the things that really got me was the resemblance the little girl to the right has to my own daughter when she was young. A lot of his work is very Renoirish. 

John's favorite was Chess Master by Eakins, a painter we both admire. 

  It is a small oil on wood panel showing Eakins' father Benjamin observing a chess match. he actually wrote on the back of the panel that the painting was made for his father. The two players are Bertrand Gardel (at left), an elderly French teacher, and the somewhat younger George Holmes, a painter. The men are in a dark, wood-panelled Victorian parlour with a quality of light suggesting late afternoon. John thinks it is very Rembrandish.

And so many more we loved.

The Islamic Wing was given short shrift because we were tired, or I was, but it was a jewel of a place, and just marvelous! Very hushed and almost reverential, we tiptoed around admiring everything.  We especially liked the room of carpets, and The Damascus room, a nearly intact 18th-century reception chamber from a wealthy Syrian residence, which has been reassembled. The walls are inscribed with a sequence of verses inspired by the 13th-century Egyptian poet al-Busiri.

Contrasting all this culture was the gastronomic pleasures of the city, including a belated anniversary lunch at Le Bernadin on the 15th with dear old friends the Coopers, and fabulous Carnegie Deli Jewish sandwiches, just down the street from the Club, which we miss SO much in Vermont. We had these for two nights in our rooms, and one night our Strafford friends the Dycusses came over and had sandwiches and wine with us. The are buying a condo in the city, and were down for a month in the city in a rental to spend time with their kids. Condos to be with the kids seems to be the way to go.....

The football has come home to rest, and I think, I think we made a touchdown!