Sunday, January 28, 2007

Two More Paintings

As planned, I spent two days drawing with Diana. The results are these two winter scenes. They were done in reverse order from the way they are here, and I like the one I did today (top) better than yesterday's. Nevertheless, the other one is fine, too, and is a good addition to the series.

On Saturday night Diana, Jim, and I went to the International Supper at the art center. The place was decorated with flags form various countries hanging from the ceiling. Tables were set with table cloths and candles. People in the community had cooked dishes from various countries and the food was set up buffet style. I sampled as many different things as I could load on my plate, and every one was delicious. I contributed Greek Walnut Cake, and although it is really wonderful, it didn't get the attention it deserved from the diners. It was one of a very few desserts that was not completely gone within fifteen minutes of being offered. The cake doesn't look as impressive as most of the other things that were there, and that is how I explain its lack of popularity. I'm sure everyone who tried it loved it. Next time I will think to make a more impressive looking offering. I had eaten so much of it before I went to the dinner that I didn't need any dessert, and it was a good thing. The table was almost bare by the time I went to check it out. The social part of the evening was made very pleasant by Diana's husband, Jim, who sat beside me. We share an insatiable desire to talk about dogs and other animals, so I was able to chat happily without having to participate in less interesting conversations out of politeness.

It was a fine week-end.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No. 26

Lisa came over to paint this afternoon and I did this pastel. It was good to have some company. I have been alone so long that I felt I needed to take a bath before she got here, and comb my hair for the first time in days. I also put on some clean clothes for the occasion.

It wasn't quite as cold today as it has been, I noticed when I went out to take some food and water to the chickens. They are getting along fine despite their confinement. I haven't let them out for a week or more---not since it snowed the last time. If one can judge from outward appearances, they seem happy enough, but how could I tell if they weren't? When I went into the house, Hannah was on her perch as usual. She began to move around in preparation for flying down to the floor, as she always does. Normally she flies into the wall because she is so big and the space so small. I hate to see her do that, so I picked her up and placed her on the floor. She did not appreciate the help and squawked at me in her most irritable Hannah voice. The first time I saw her fly into the wall a few days ago it reminded me of why I put the smaller nesting house on the floor last winter instead of high on the table. Now that I know wht is happening, I'll want to fix the problem as soon as it's warm enough for me to work out there. I don't want her to break her neck. She's not able to figure out that if she goes into the house instead of sitting on the roof she could walk down the ramp I provided. Nor does she realize that she could jump onto the ramp from the roof and walk the rest of the way.

Hannah is a smart chicken, but not that smart.
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Sunday, January 21, 2007


Here's today's effort. I like it. So what else is new?
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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Winter Pastel no.2

I meant to go to the life drawing session at the Art Center today, but my car is barricaded in the driveway by several large frozen chunks of snow. So, I took the dogs for a walk and then went to work on my next Epping Road painting. I'm finding the snow scenes just as compelling as the earlier ones. The whole palette is different and the subject matter presents a new set of problems to solve. So much white is quite a challenge, not to mention so much blue. Adding a good range of color while still keeping the basic impression of blue and white is quite a challenge. I still love the bumpy paper, which gives all the pictures a unigue look and sets them apart from the "typical" landscape, if there is such a thing. I think it keeps them form looking banal, in any case.

I'm glad to have had the excuse to stay home today, since I am growing so accustomed to my solitary life. I had to push myself to get ready to go to the art center and was actually glad that I couldn't go. I felt I should go, in order to appear supportive of the idea of a drawing group, but I really hated to waste time and materials on artwork I didn't want to do. The camaraderie of the group is a slight draw, but it failed to convince me that it would be enjoyable enough. I preferred my own little studio with my little boys for company and my new work to do.

Diana is planning to come to Eastport in another week and we will spend time working together. I look forward to that because we are very companionable as we pursue our own work. Somehow being with her is soothing and comforting. I am always able to produce good work when we are together, no matter what state of mind I might otherwise be in. I know she enjoys it, too, and we while away the hours in harmony.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

More Epping Road

I did my first painting from the winter photographs of Epping Road this afternoon. I am very happy despite my fear that I wouldn't do them justice. Before I began, I made myself finish the last Fall picture I had started several weeks ago. It was rather drab, but I managed to revive it and it looks fine. I worked on it while the paint dried on the prepared paper for the winter one. Instead of using red, I used blue in order to reinforce the feeling of coldness. I used three different blues, starting with Cerulean at the top, then Cobalt, then Ultramarine. I thought it might give a subtle sense of distance, but I'm not sure it did. Using blue was a good idea, I think, but I cover the paper so thoroughly with pastel I doubt the different colors made much difference. The appearance of distance comes from the use of perspective and the colors of the pastel. I did another piece of paper when I did this one, so the next one will have the same ground, but after that I'll try just one color and see if I can perceive a difference.
I was home all day again today with myself and the dogs my only company. My appointment in Harrington was canceled because Alice was sick, so I was left with a day I hadn't planned on. The weather was supposed to be stormy, but all it did was rain. It was warm and much of the snow we had melted. There's another snowstorm predicted for tomorrow, though, so it may not be gone for long. I went to the bank and to the grocery store, then filled the car with gas before coming back to the house. I felt strange out there in the world. I have spent so much time home alone that everything seemed foreign and a little hostile. I was glad to get inside and spend the afternoon with my painting, the smell of roast beef in the air. I splurged on a nice piece of meat, knowing that it would last me all week. When it was done and cold, I sliced off a thin piece to check for doneness and tasted it. It is delicious and I look forward to making it the mainstay of my diet for several days.

When I decided to cook the meat in the middle of the afternoon, it struck me that I have changed my habits drastically since I kept house as a wife and mother. Never would I have prepared a roast randomly in the afternoon and then cut into it before the meal. Somehow nothing could be touched until it was on a plate surrounded by companion foods. It was placed on a table with proper silverware. It was commented apon and relished. Eating was a ritual to be focused on and appreciated. Now I eat whenever I feel the urge, usually in front of the TV, often out of the same pan the food was cooked in. I use and enjoy my silver, but it is incongruously scraping against plastic storage dishes or microwave-safe packages from the store. I rarely make what I used to consider a "meal" with various healthful components. I plan to use the roast beef to make sandwiches. It's what I always liked best about having a roast, but then I called it leftovers. We get into patterns of thought and behavior that seem like the only way to do things.........and then we realize we can break out of them.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Epping Road Revisited

On the way back from Harrington yesterday I drove back to Epping Road to get some pictures of the area with snow on the ground. Since I want to represent all seasons in my pastel series, I have been waiting for winter to show itself and give me the opportunity to photograph the blueberry fields in the off-season. I am amazed at the pictures, they are so beautiful. It makes me wonder if I can do them justice when I paint them. It will of course be a different medium, and therefore a much different work of art, but never have I taken pictures that so enthralled me. I tried to print some of them, but the quality is not nearly as good as what I see on the computer screen. I expect that is due to the quality of the printer for the most part.

Looking at these photos just fills me with excitement. I stare at them over and over as I run all 38 of them in a slide show. I'm filled with the same joy I felt when I first visited Epping Road. It's pure magic to see those barren fields, to feel that icey cold, to experience that incredible lonely beauty. I hated to leave the place yesterday, but I find the pictures bring it back to me, at least for now.

A far less exhalted consequence of the below zero weather we are experiencing is that the water pipes froze in the cellar.
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Monday, January 15, 2007

Winter At Last

Lytton and Patrick weren't very happy about posing for this picture, but I wanted to make sure I documented the first real snowstorm of the winter. It looks as if there is plenty of snow to keep the ground covered for quite some time. Many hours have passed since I took the picture and it is still snowing.

This morning I had to drive to Perry to pick up dog food for Lytton. At that time the roads were snow-covered and the sand trucks had not done much to make them less slippery. When I returned home I tested the car again by driving up Adams Street and turning onto Mitchell, a maneuver which has to be the biggest challenge to cars in Eastport in snowy weather. The car performed flawlessly, without so much as a swerve or a spin. Since this is the first winter I've had it, I'm very happy to see what it will do. I don't have to worry about getting stuck. The only problem I encountered was ripping the windshield blade off when I started the car. It was frozen to the windshield and when I turned on the wipers, it tore. My first order of business was to drive to Jim Spinney's and get a replacement. It was a drive by feel more than sight, since I had to lean over to see out the passenger side, where the wiper remained intact. The driver's side was completely iced up with frozen washer fluid I had sprayed on it to clear the snow. Of course the streets were quite free of traffic and I made the trip without incident.

The rest of the day I spent lazily cooking and working on my puzzle. Both yesterday and today I have amused myself with this activity, so absorbing and frivolous. When I am finished, I will just pour it back into the box in a Zen-like ritual of honoring process instead of product. There is something unsettling to the western mind about destroying something you have spent weeks making, but I like the idea of it. It's an allegory of life if ever their was one.
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Thursday, January 11, 2007


I reached inside my brain for a visual picture of Persephone and came up with this. It seems quite acceptable to me. I never know what will happen when I just start drawing, without something to go by. This is Persephone reaching innocently for the flower that Hades placed in the meadow to tempt her. When she picks it, he grabs her and pulls her into the underworld to make her his wife, and Queen.

It means something to me, the idea of being victimized when you believe you are getting something wonderful. Being tricked is something I have always abhorred, and I hate practical jokes for that reason. The thought that a person should be able to "take a joke" and is judged by that characteristic in any way seems hateful and sadistic. I guess I identify with Persephone and enjoyed portraying her in her final moment of innocence. From then on, she would never be able to trust beauty purely and joyfully. She would always have to look behind surface appearances, suspicious. At that moment she was robbed of uncontested pleasure, her life diminished forever.

It is a fact of being human that we can never experience a pure emotion. We know too much to accept anything at face value. We look for hidden nuances, we assume deceit or hidden motives, we enjoy so many things only with relief, after we have analyzed them thoroughly and can allow ourselves to believe that they mean us no harm. We expect cruelty and are suprised by kindness. Homo sapiens.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Play Date

Toni has been bringing her dog, Toby, with her when she comes to play the recorder. It was hoped that the dogs would learn to like each other and have a good time. Today was the third visit, and after a short period of adjustment, all of the boys seem to enjoy each other's company. This picture of Toby and Benny looks as if they are ready to kill each other, but they are actually playing.

The first time Toby came through the door, all of my dogs attacked him ferociously. I put Benny, the instigator, outside until the other three had settled down. Then I let Toby outside with Benny, who lost all of his machismo without Patick and Lytton to back him up. He and Toby got along fine until I let them back in. Benny turned ugly again when he had his brothers by his side.The next thing was to separate Patrick and Lytton by putting them in the living room, where they could be seen but not interfere. That worked well and Toby and Benny became fast friends.

The next time we allowed all the dogs to socialize and things went pretty well. Patrick barked loudly when Benny and Toby got rambunctious, and Lytton stayed beside me and growled whenever anyone came close, but generally peace reigned. Today when Toni arrived, all four dogs got out through the front door before we could stop them. We had quite a time chasing them around the neighborhood. They visited all the dogs that were tied outside, but scampered out of reach every time we got close. After some frustrating time Toni finally grabbed Benny and Toby. Patrick scampered around happily, seemingly oblivious to the game but understanding that not being caught was the point of it all. He ran away from me, but followed Toni and the others to the house. Lytton appeared as well, and we all came inside. From that point on everyone relaxed and had fun. Patrick couldn't always control his excitement and occasionally barked hysterically, but otherwise all was well. Even Lytton ventured from my side and joined in a little. It makes me feel good to give the dogs something new and interesting to do. Sometimes I think they will die of boredom with no one in their lives but their sedentary old mother (me). I'm happy to provide them with some diversion.
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Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Cape

David took this picture of me wearing the new cape. It shows what it really looks like a lot better than the picture I took.
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Friday, January 05, 2007

Birthday no.62

Yesterday was my birthday, so I am posting a photo of myself at the age of sixty-two. I am wearing a cape that I got at the thrift shop, which David paid for along with another coat, as a birthday present. The shop was full of people, and Lynn was volunteering as saleslady. When she heard it was my birthday, she lead the other shoppers in a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday." Despite the fact that she was the only one who could sing my name (she was the only one who knew it), the song reverberated through and around the racks of donated used clothing in a very cheerful way. I found it quite uplifting. I spent a considerable length of time trying on clothes and modeling them for the other patrons, who offered their advice on what my shopping spree should include. I'm thinking that it was a kind of birthday party not many people have experienced. Later I went over to David's for a dinner of filet mignon with herbed butter, salad, and raspberries with whipped cream. It was a very nice meal and we had our usual good time.

Looking at the picture of me, which I took myself by holding the camera at arm's length, I see that I look quite unkempt and fat. Still, I do not look like the sixty-something year old women I remember as a child. From the vantage point of extreme youth, a person as old as that is quite elderly. It seems to me that when I was very young, people in their sixties WERE elderly. Today I look at my contemporaries and they all look and behave like younger people. Whether that is due to altered perception or the fact that people do stay younger longer now is not clear. In any case, life is a series of lives, each one lasting about ten or fifteen years. When I see pictures on the obituary page of the paper, I think it is strange to show the deceased as a younger person. A person who lives to be eighty years old has lead many lives and been many people. The one who exists at the time of physical death is not the one pictured in the paper. That person ceased to exist, albeit in another way, years before.

Many people appear to want themselves or their relatives to be remembered the way they were before they became elderly. It would be so much more reasonable to acknowledge every stage of life as different rather than better or worse. As we get older, we revert slowly back to the way were were as babies. We start as helpless beings without much control of our mental or physical selves, and many times end up the same way. In the beginning, we are constantly looking ahead to what we will be, and in the end we look back to what we were. Where is the optimum point of existence for any individual, I wonder? Nobody seems to recognize it when it happens.
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Drawing and New Year's Eve

I went to Diana's yesterday to draw and produced this picture. At one point in the myth of Demeter and Persephone, Demeter turns into a mare in order to avoid the amorous attention of Poseidon. She hides in a herd of other horses, hoping he won't recognize her. Since I love to draw horses, it seemed like the perfect project for me. I had a great time doing it, but time ran out before I was able to finish. I still want to fill the rest of the background with more horses and work a little more on the lighting and modeling of the forms.

After we spent the afternoon at her house with the woodstove for heat, Diana and I moved over to David's. I spent the evening there in their company before coming home to bed with the dogs. Diana left for home this morning and her departure signals the end of the holiday season. Things are now back to the usual routine. I felt like a transplant from outer space when I returned home after seeing Alice for the first time in two weeks. It was strange to step back into normal life so abruptly, and my unlit Christmas tree still standing in front of the window looked like an ancient relic from a time I barely remembered. The snow we had disappeared during the night, so even the earth seemed to have recovered the face it had before the holiday, adding to the feeling that the whole thing had been a dream.
I don't think I mentioned New Year's Eve, which was a less spontaneous version of last year's celebration. We had the same party at the gallery and watched the giant sardine edge down the side of the Tides Insitute building as the projected clock counted down toward midnight. Last year's rather modest, pinata-style sardine had been replaced by a much larger, more permanent and cultured fish whose picture had been in many newspapers. Even the Boston Globe had somehow unearthed quiet little Eastport's secret celebration and exposed it on its front page. It lost something in the translation, I thought. The idea had changed from the quite hilarious novelty it was last year to a spruced up version of itself that couldn't quite measure up. It was too soon to make the sardine a tradition. It's infancy was too short for the town to bond with it. It left home before we really made it ours.