Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Dog

The miracle of medicationPosted by Picasa

Monday, October 30, 2006

Portraits from the Workshop

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Portrait Workshop

The workshop I taught this week-end went very well and everyone enjoyed it. These are some of the paintings and drawings that were done, some in an unfinished state. I wandered around photographing things as they progressed, since every stage of the works are fascinating to me. As always, I was truly amazed at the accomplishments of the people who attended. They came with very little experience with painting portraits, afraid of trying to capture a likeness. Even worse, the thought of painting themselves intimidated them all the more. Many of them had not used charcoal at all, or very little. Even though they were all artists, this was all new territory for them. Bravely they dove in, with wonderful results, and left feeling accomplished and happy. Justifiably so. I had a good time, as well. There was a definite feeling of energy, camaraderie, and the common interest and endeavor that workshops provide for people of like mind. Hard work, exhilaration, defeat, pride, disappointment, trepidaton, laughter-- emotions run the gamut with everyone understanding what everyone else is feeling.

My own role is that of an orchestrator, a conductor of the symphony. I scan the room and look for the scowl, the furrowed brow, the sagging shoulders. I flit from one to the other, offering what I can to relieve the tension, to look for the good, to give the encouraging word. I watch the movements of arms and hands, I look at the size of brushes and piles of paint on palettes. It is timidity that I have to correct. Little brushes, little dabs of paint, small movements, tiny marks. Never have I had to say, "Don't be so exhuberant!", "Don't be so wild!"

It is amazing that so much of a teacher's job is to point out to people how good they are. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


This is today's addition to the series. Lisa came over and we worked together. I had made an appointment to take Lytton to the vet in Perry, but also called Dr. Cloutier. He is the one who took care of all the dogs when I lived in Bangor and in whom I have infinite trust. He called me back before my appointment in Perry and made a diagnosis, called in a prescription for an antibiotic, and it will be mailed to me by overnight mail. I should have done this a long time ago. I feel so much better, hopeful that all will soon be well. I didn't bother to go to the other vet, and though I tried to cancel by phone, no one answered. I hope there are no repercussions from that. Despite the fact that I don't trust them, I don't like to seem rude.

I am empty of thought now that my obsession with Lytton's health is at least temporarily gone. I feel as if I am floating. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Work

Toni and I were supposed to play the recorder today but she backed out, just as she did Saturday. I filled both days with working around the house and doing another Epping Road painting. I really like the one I did today, and yesterday's too, actually. I have actually trashed two of these paintings along the way, and one of them was another version of this one. I'm glad I decided to try it again. It's intriguing how the people clearing the fields pile the rocks on top of one another sometimes. The resulting scultptures look like religious icons of some lost civilization.

Thelma has asked me to trade the first Fall painting of the series with her for a painting she owns that I have always loved. I had thought I would keep the series in tact, but I can not refuse this particular offer. It flatters me that Thelma wants it, for one thing, when she is in the process of getting rid of so many things. It is a compliment that she wants to acquire something of mine. Also, I would do just about anything Thelma asked of me, no matter what it was. I think she knows that and it is enormously to her credit that she still offered me an exchange that is far more than compensatory. She is giving me a painting that I have loved since I first saw it so many years ago and never dreamed I would ever own. Plus she is returning to me two paintings that she once bought from me that I did at workshops that we attended together. Judy Rogers' painting has some kind of allure I can't really explain, but I am always struck by it anew whenever I visit Thelma. It will be like having a piece of all those visits here with me. Though it makes me sad to see Thelma changing things that have been so consistent in my life as well as hers, she is certainly an inspiration when it comes to accepting change and moving forward. There is nobody like her.

Also today I went back and worked a little bit on one of the paintings I did last week that I wasn't quite happy with. That's a first, too. I like it better now. The rest of them seem okay as they are, but that one bothered me because of the color green I used. I don't want to fuss with them once they are done. I want the sponaneity to be there. Amazingly, I am still enjoying every one as if it were the first. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Epping Road 18

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Three Boys

I have been worrying about Lytton lately because of his more or less chronic diarrhea (pardon me for bringing it up again). Cleaning up after him is bad enough, but that inconvenience is overshadowed by my fear that there is something seriously wrong with him. Last night I looked up his sympton on the internet and was terrified. Since he is happy and active, I shouldn't be unduly upset, so I was told. However, the frequency and duration of the episodes mean that it could be a systemic problem involving his liver, kidneys, pancreas, or intestines. He could have tumors. Of course I panicked, but continued to read various web sites until I was able to convince myself that perhaps the picture wasn't totally bleak.

The biggest comfort I was able to glean out of all my research was that I haven't actually treated him correctly. Though I fed him a bland diet, it wasn't really as bland as it should have been, and I did give him some treats. Also I did not preceed the bland diet with a fast. Nor did I give him small portions, not wanting him to be hungry. Maybe if I am more conscientious, the treatment will work. One of the sites suggested oatmeal instead of rice, so today I cooked him a serving of Quaker Oats to mix with his boiled chicken (which I skinned first to remove the fat). I gave him a small portion for his second meal of the day. He gobbled it up, but he raced into the studio immediately and lost it all. I am sick about it, but hopeful that it was just that he wasn't used to the oatmeal. I will go back to rice tonight, though I will have to cook more since what I have was cooked in chicken broth made from my innocently boiling wings (full of fat).

Lytton is almost eleven years old. I have worried about losing him ever since he was a puppy and I realized that I would love him beyond any reasonable limits. I got him the day after Ben Joe died. Ben Joe, the first dog I ever loved, the dog I thought could never be replaced in my heart. He was eleven. Since then, I've lost Happy, age thirteen, and then Pebbles, age seventeen. I loved them and mourned them. I still mourn them. I have lost countless beloved cats and had to give up several horses. I loved them all. I cried buckets of tears over every one of them. Now I have Benny and Patrick, whom I love. But there has never been such an attachment as I have for Lytton. I have no idea where this comes from unless it stems from the time in my life when he came into it. My daughter gone, my son ready to leave. My divorce final, my baby dog dead. I was moved out of the house where I had lived for eighteen years. Life as I had known it had collapsed. In a flurry of activity on a Sunday afternoon my wonderful friend Elizabeth coaxed me out to comfort me. Over coffee at Border's, she suggested we look for a new puppy.

What a silly afternoon we had, borrowing a copy of Uncle Henry's Buy and Sell from the magazine counter at the Shop 'n Save and using her cell phone to call about the dogs listed for sale. We visited the local pet shops. We found nothing. Then I spotted an ad for Lhasa Apso puppies that was relatively old. I imagined they would all be gone, but decided to try anyway. There was one puppy left. Somebody had left a deposit but failed to come to pick him up. If I had $200., he was mine. We jumped in the car and drove to Prospect. I turned over all the money I had, supplemented by a $75. gift from Elizabeth, to Lytton's owner and off we went. What a fortuitous day.

I fell in love with Lytton the minute I saw him, but that love grew and grew in the days and weeks that followed. I took him to bed with me every night, woke up when he did, played with him until he fell into a deep puppy sleep, then slept again myself. When I left the apartment, I missed him fiercely and hurried back. The first time I left him for any length of time was to go to the movies with Elizabeth, and I remember telling her on the way home, "I think I have been away from my little Lytton just about long enough." That intense love affair has not diminished at all over the years. Perhaps it has even grown, if that is possible. I can't imagine life without him. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Painting, Time, and Chicken Life

Yesterday Lisa and I gave ourselves a version of Art Day even though Judy is in Hawaii and couldn't host us. We worked here and I took a vacation from portrait painting to get back to Epping Road again. This is another Fall picture, though not as dramatic as the last one. Lisa worked on a still life that she had started quite some time ago. I hadn't actually looked at it for awhile so took time to do so just before she left. I was actually amazed at how much her painting of still life has changed since I last noticed. She used to be my student, so I still have a certain teacherly interest in what she does despite our equal status as artists. I examined her brushwork and edges with growing enthusiam. The more I looked, the more excited I felt over the things that make painting worth looking at--the subtlety of brush marks and edges, the shorthand of paint that translates the world of objects into something far more beautiful than reality because of their selection, juxtaposition, and context, not to mention the unique language used to describe them. Still life is such a wonderful subject because the artist has to do all the work, or at least most of it. The subject matter can't really carry the painting by itself.

Anyway, my work is that of subject matter at the moment, but I think I am describing it in a way that has some originality and conveys my own view of a place and my relationship with it.

David has left for Florida and will not return until December, for the Christmas Holiday. How quickly the time goes. The seasons fly past. I consider bringing my chickens into the cellar for the winter. How can I make them stay out in that tiny cold house with nothing to break up their days but a minute-long visit from me, bearing food? They love to go outside, and I could at least give them a bigger area to explore in the cellar. I'm not convinced it is a good idea, because of the dark. How does one provide a chicken with the best quality of life? What makes a chicken happy? Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hard Work and Music

Though it doesn't look like I did much, I actually spent a lot of time on my studio today, trying to make more room to work. In the foreground of the picture is the beginning of the new portrait I've started of Joanne and her two dogs (the orange sliver), and Lois is still residing with me on the easel in the back. Lytton and Patrick are checking it out. I had to take a lot of stuff upstairs, like the ironing board, the sewing machine, Diana's keyboard, etc. Now I will need to find places for them. You would think that a house this big would be plenty big enough for one person, but I am always having trouble.

What actually took up a tremendous amount of time today was moving the printer from the right side of my desk to the left. It's the time of year when I want to make things look neat, possibly because I anticipate all the time I will be spending in the house during the winter ahead. I realized that if I moved the printer, it would be out of sight and give the dining room an emptier look. (To this end I have been clustering knick-knacks together lately on table tops.) Like many jobs, it should have taken about ten minutes, but it stretched into well over an hour, or perhaps more. I lost track. The tangle of wires under my desk are responsible for the problem. Everything had to be unplugged and plugged in again. In the process I found out I had two excess cords in my power strip that went to nothing and a cable left over from when I was hooked up to Pine Tree. The sound system to the computer, whose only job right now is to announce when the computer turns on or off and thump when I make a mistake playing Free Cell, is complicated enough to serve Carnegie Hall, provided the most challenge. Eventually I got everything separated and back in place, and I'm happy with my new arrangement. I probably could have achieved the same look simply by dusting off the top of the desk, which, truth be told, made the biggest difference of anything I did.

Toni came over this morning and we spent some time playing our recorders. Later, I played the keyboard that she loaned me again. I had returned it when we had our parting of the ways and asked for it back last Saturday. She had given it to somebody else temporarily, but he was finished with it, so we went to pick it up and now it is back with me. It's as if the rift between us had never happened. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some Thoughts

When I was taking pictures the other day I happened to notice my car sitting in the middle of the field as I trapsed back from a nice shot of a pile of rocks. It stuck me funny, somehow, like a collision of two worlds. That mechanical being seemed to have absolutely no relationship to the environment. It could have been dropped from outer space and not been any more alien. Homo sapiens has certainly had an impact on the earth that seems grotesque when you look at a picture like this one. There are acres and acres of beautiful land, as far as we can see in every direction, and all it takes is one Ford Tempo to visually ruin it all. How powerful we are. And how complicated the issue is, because those acres are not there to be visually beautiful. We, who ruin it, are the only species who appreciate its beauty, or even have a concept of beauty as far as we know. If we created beauty, certainly we ought to be able to destroy it. In so doing we hurt no one but ourselves, and even then not very much. I destroyed my own view when I parked my car there. But I didn't care. All I had to do was look the other way.

And if someone else eventually found Epping Road, as somebody did shortly after I took this picture, and he parked his black pick-up behind my car, more of my view would be ruined. Then the soft sounds of the fields would be covered by our voices exclaiming about the beauty around us (excluding our cars). Then we would ad the sound of rustling paper as the man opened a map to show me where I was, and I would know that Epping Road was only a short way from Pea Ridge Road, and if I followed Pea Ridge Road far enough I would be able to see the heath(which he pronounced "hayth"). Then I would know that where I was was not as spectacular as where I could be. And I would know that the traffic of route 1 was just beyond the hill, and the river was down below, prettier than Epping Road. Then, if I got caught up in this conversation, I would want to see these other places that were better and worse than Epping Road. And if we stood there thinking about these things long enough, somebody else might drive up and join us. He might be reminded of the southwest, the desert, which looks something like the blueberry barrens, and tell us about his travels. He might have a map, too, and rustle it above the sound of the breezes, and use it to shield our eyes from the sun. We might stand under a tent of maps, in the shade they made, looking for ourselves on the tiny lines, pointing with delight at the speck labeled Centerville. Other trucks and cars might appear, driving over the plants, and park, and clutter the field. When we looked up from the map, Epping Road might not be as I had thought. But I would still have my camera full of pictures and I would show them to all the people there in the little viewing window. I would take pictures of my new friends, too.

In reality, though, nobody came after the young man who showed me where to find the heath. I moved my car off to the side of the ruts that served as a road and he continued on his way, leaving me alone again. He smiled and waved, happy, I imagined, that I liked his place enough to be taking pictures of it. I had Epping Road to myself again. If a human being had to be intruding here, I was glad it was me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October on Epping Road

I took another ride through the blueberry fields last Friday to photograph them with the Fall colors. Although I have always found Autumn to be a little garrish, I must admit that its beauty was far from lost on me as I bounced along the dirt roads in my little Ford. In fact, ever since I was in Vermont during peak foliage season years ago, I have come to appreciate Maine's colors more. The evergreens break up the relentless yellows and reds so that one can actually see them rather than being overwhelmed by them. Although I am glad to have experienced Vermont and found it enchanting in its way, I have always thought I might as well have stood in front of a Mark Rothko painting for a week. The barrens, which I have come to think of as my own, did not disapoint me. I knew it would be wonderful, and it was. Every year I am amazed at the red of the blueberries, and even though I remember that I am amazed, I never remember how red they actually are.

I don't know how many of the fifty or so pictures I took I will actually paint. Despite its beauty, the landscape is, as I have said, so intense that I can't imagine it will take many versions of October to make the point. There is very little sublety, or if there is, it is hard to find it. I suppose it is like putting red pepper in a delicately seasoned sauce. The other seasonings may be there, but all you can taste is the hotness of the red pepper.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lois' Portrait

At last I have finished the portrait of Thom's mother that he and David commissioned me to do so long ago. I have been working steadily but getting nowhere, discarding one image after another. I wasn't quite sure what Thom wanted for one thing, and I couldn't seem to get an idea of my own. I looked at the pictures I had of her over and over. I listened to Thom and David talk about her, but nothing worked. Her likeness elluded me, as well as any feeling for her as a person.

Finally on Friday night the painting sprang into my head, not the details but the concept. As soon as I got up Saturday morning I started to work on it and stayed at it almost constantly for two days. It was very absorbing, since I had no product planned. I put down whatever came to mind and then reacted to it, compositionally and emotionally. All the information in my head came together so that it pulled itself together into a cohesive statement. I had fun.

I was very happy with the product, but almost immediately I began to worry about it's unconventionality. Lois is not the kind of person to go for modern art, at least as I imagine her. I also worried about David and Thom's reaction. The other portraits I have done for them have been, well, I was going to say more what one would expect. Now that I think of it, though, I guess not. Anyway, I mentioned my concern to Thom and he said his mother would not expect anything conventional from him or from any of his friends. That made me feel more comfortable and I am relaxed enough about it now to enjoy it.

This painting has taken up a lot of my mental energy for weeks. I'm glad it's done, and very relieved that in the end it was a success. Right up to the last few days I almost lost faith that I would pull it off. Portraits are a special kind of painting for me. It sounds like so much artsy crap to say that I have to really feel that I know the person. I almost have to learn to love them in a way. But no matter how it sounds, it is nevertheless true for me. I can't copy a face.

Some of the stuff about artists that people think is just so much bull is actually real.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Pair of Socks

I finally finished the socks I started knitting last winter. The one and a half socks, the ball of yarn, the needles, and the open instruction book have sat on the coffee table in a basket since I can't remember when, looking like a prop for a photo in "Ladies Home Journal." The whole decor of the living room will change now that the arrangement is gone.

I await its replacement with a spirit of adventure. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 02, 2006

Emma's Return

Yes, it has been a long time since I've written. I have been feeling somewhat down in the dumps, and since Emma is never down in the dumps, she did not even open her blog. Nevertheless, I awoke this morning feeling slightly cheerful despite the cold and rain, so here I am, back in business. Below is the latest Epping Road addition. The fields are just beginning to turn red, although elsewhere in Maine the foliage is much farther along. The coast is last with this phenomenon. We are lagging behind with every season, and this time of year it is to our advantage.

I have spent some time getting the chicken house ready for winter, cleaning it out and changing the wood shavings. I will put plastic at the windows later, when it gets colder. Temperatures in the daytime are still in the fifties and sixties---something a hardy chicken can not complain about. They are still outside every day, and at night they snuggle together on top of their little house. It's a good chicken life.

A few days ago I went downtown to the antique store to retrieve my bed, where I left it for sale when I decided to move my bed downstairs. Now, two bedrooms later, I decided to bring it back and re-install it, brave and masochistic person that I am. I was determined to do it right this time, so bought enough correct hardware to do the job. I will say that it did help, but I still had a lot of trouble. I dropped the heavy iron parts on my feet many times, bent my precious new bolts when the headboard collapsed, and couldn't figure out how to work some of the parts. The screw holes in one section were mysteriously stripped, necessitating major duct tape work, and I also ended up putting the headboard on backwards. I slept in the bed Saturday night in its unsatisfactory state, then tackled it again yesterday, dismantling the entire thing again and beginning over. How determined I can be when I get something in my mind. This time I corrected most of the mistakes I made the first (and every other) time I assembled the bed. Now it is as solid as the proverbial rock, and the headboard is correctly facing front. I changed the sheets to my prettiest ones, took a bath and washed my hair, and anxiously awaited bedtime. It was not a disappointment. I kept waking up all night, smug and satisfied, looking around me from a higher perspective than before, feeling the firmness beneath me, smelling the cleanliness. The dogs slept comfortably all around me. Nothing like a hard job well done. Posted by Picasa