"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 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! 


  1. Couldn't figure out how to use the comment box so I'll just send you what I wrote and then couldn't figure out how to publish.

    Wow, how exciting to have a place so close to the City and your children. I am exceedingly envious of you. 

    I love Metcalf's paintings. The Hood had a special exhibition of his winter
    paintings about 12 years ago or so. I can't remember whether  the Hood had a
    booklet made up of his paintings or whether they just offered slides of his work
    to teachers whose  4th and 5th grade students were part of the Images program.
    Which ever it was there were a series of beautiful images from that show that I
    had access to (and no longer do but wish I did). Many of the winter paintings
    were from Meridan NH and there were people who knew exactly where those spots he painted were today. I think when I saw those beautiful paintings was
    when I realized for the first time how gorgeous winter in in NH and VT..... even in my back yard


  2. Just read the blog entry.  Can't figure out how to shove the illustration below into the comment box (I believe it's impossible.) So let this pass for a sort of a comment. This is one of my (many) favorite asymmetrical paintings:

    It's Ellen Day Hale's brilliant, striking, mysterious, wonderful self portrait.  It's at the MFA.  I remember being gobsmacked by it in a show of Women Artists a couple years ago. It was the featured piece in the show and why not! 

    What struck me first was the nifty, off-kilter massing of the elements in the composition.  It hit you in the eyes as you walked into the show.  Then when you got closer, the artist's confidence poured out of the thing.  A wonder.

    If we haven't told you the story before…. 

    Her family's house in RI was recently turned into a 19th C. house museum.  The backer of the restoration got interested in the family of artists -- the Hales -- who lived there.  So he started collecting Hales, father son, daughter and, I think, a cousin or two.  As he collected, he heard that a house they had moved to in Rockport, MA, was being sold.  His adviser said we've got to go up there and buy anything that isn't nailed down.  In a trunk they bought, they found Ellen  Hale's sketch book.  A treasure, of course. In it was a pencil sketch for the portrait.  If you can't have the painting, it's delicious to have the sketch that set this powerhouse  painting in motion.