Sunday, March 30, 2008


How is it possible that I went to a contra-dance last night? Well, it really happened. Thom, fun-loving social butterfly that he is, wanted to go, but David was not quite so fun-loving, and declined. I was elected to be Thom's companion. I took the news with a laissez-faire attitude that surprised even me. Off we went, armed with Thom's home-made cookies and our cameras. I took this picture with my zoom lens from across the hall as the musicians were warming up. I sat on a bench as far away from the action as I could get, and settled in to watch the action.

When the crowd had assembled themselves into two lines for the first dance, they were one person short. The last three people , in need of a fourth, enticed me into joining them and the rest is history. I spent the rest of the evening twirling and clapping and skipping in an elderly imitation of my jounior high school self, forced to square dance in gym class.

At the end of the evening, Thom and I declared the experience as a "fun" time and went home to regale David with descriptions of the event. Even as I spoke the word, I realized that the word "fun" was quite a foreign concept to me. I'm not sure I know what the word actually means. It implies something other than "enjoy." Enjoy is more dignified, restrained. Fun seems to imply letting down one's inhibitions, preferably in the service of an otherwise meaningless activity. It is stepping outside normal life, even forgetting about it for a time, immersing oneself in something all-comsumingly frivilous. If that is the case, I wasn't having a totally fun time, since some observer piece of me was watching the whole experience with a smirk.

Today I went to a poetry reading at the Art Center of Oscar Wilde's work about his experience in prison. That same observer person relaxed and retreated, nodding approvingly.
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday's Painting

Believe me. It's not nearly as good as it looks....
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday's Painting

Looking at old photos to find subject matter for paintings, I came across this picture. I took it when I lived on Wilson St, at the top of a hill near the house. The shadow was the thing that attracted me, and the backlight.

I hate to take the time to cut up my roll of paper, and I used the last sheet on my block. I looked through my accumulated scraps and found this piece of 300 lb. Arches. I have rarely used such heavy paper, partly because of the expense and partly because I thought I didn't like it. I was amazed at the way it handled the paint. It is so absorbant that you can keep going back into the work without the dreaded over-worked appearance. It felt like cheating.

Nevertheless, how can I not love the colors in the shadow that came from wash after wash, one over the other. There's no way to put on too much paint. The one drawback is that you can't lift anything off. You really have to save those lights.

One thing's for sure. Whenever I see a painting in a magazine or book that was done on 300 lb paper, I'll know the artist didn't have to work very hard........
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shorn Dogs

Patrick and Benny both got major haircuts today. I have been meaning to do it for a long time, but always seems like such a hassle I put it off. Their hair was full of mats and various sticks and burrs picked up on their walks. Something had to be done. Both boys were as good as gold, though, and for a change I was worthy of their trust. I didn't knick either one of them. I am certainly no dog groomer, but after a week or two the dogs will look acceptable. I have a hard time making the hair even and they look very ragged until nature takes its course. Both of them look very cute, puppies. They seemed to feel good with their short hair and played with each other for quite awhile after the deed was done.

When I took this picture I interupted them at play. Such adorable babies...............
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paint and Ice

It was snowing again this morning. The roads were icy, and then slushy. As the day wore on, though, the sun came out. By the time I took the dogs out for their walk at five 0'clock, it looked like summer. There was a slight mist in front of the distant islands, the same way humidity sometimes makes them look in the summer. I tried to take it in as much as I could with the dogs yanking and pulling. I need to make sure I appreciate where I live every single day. None of it is to be taken for granted. After the dogs and I came back, I took a picture of the ice block I dumped out of my trash can. I plan to monitor its demise as the weather warms up.........tangible evidence of the change of seasons.

Lisa was here this afternoon to paint. I did this little watercolor and still couldn't manage to stop soon enough. It's all right, but not anything to jump for joy over. When will I learn to quit while the painting is still fresh?
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Bus Stop Paintings

These paintings are from a photo that Sabrina took in Hartford. I tried the oil first (on the bottom) and didn't like it much. It has been sitting in my studio for a couple of weeks, unloved. Then I decided to try it in watercolor. I cropped the picture to focus on the people. I did the watercolor the day before yesterday, considering it a failure also. Today I looked at them with new eyes and actually like them both. I doctored the watercolor with pastel, which livened it up a bit, and put it with the rest of my winter work on the wall. The oil still needs a little more work, but it is back in favor and will be allowed to live after all.
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Easter Dinner

This ham was the centerpiece for Easter dinner with David and Thom. It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful time. With the ham we had creamed lima beans with shallots, scalloped potatoes, salad with home-made dressing, and cheesecake for dessert. There's no doubt that we know how to enjoy good food and drink, and no holiday goes by without a great dinner.

The day was sunny and although it was cold, it felt like the season is definitely changing. Plans for gardening have entered our conversations. Envelopes of seeds are scattered here and there, bulbs sit in boxes waiting to be planted. Today I put the plastic numbers 235 over my door........a chore I had planned for good weather.....and when I turned over my trash can the huge chunk of ice that has made it impossible to move or use all winter flew out onto the ground. I will watch it melt as it turns warmer. In honor of the event, I picked up the frozen towels that were still in the driveway from my efforts to get traction under my car's tires, and moved the bed frame that has been buried under the snow beside the front door, a remnant of my move in November.
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Friday, March 21, 2008

Feeding Seagulls

I hope Thom doesn't mind that I lifted this picture from his blog to put it here. It's just such a wonderful photo, how could I not? There he is, in pajamas, in the snow, feeding the birds. The scarf around his neck is a great touch against his short-sleeved T-shirt.............

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Taste of Spring

Thom sent this picture with a comment that these must be the only blooming crocuses in Eastport. I wouldn't be surprised if that were true. They must receive just the right amount of warmth from the sun and possibly the foundation of the house to push Spring ahead a few weeks.
Otherwise it still looks like Winter. This morning there was a film of ice on all the trees and a fresh coat of light snow on the ground. It all melted as the day wore on, but the muddy snowbanks left by previous plowings are still clinging to the sides of the road. I suppose this is the ugliest time of year, but we who experience it year after year greet it happily. It can't be seen without attaching its true significance and therefore it has its own beauty. Winter has to die in its unpretty way before Spring can come. Our eyes are blinded to the present in anticipation of the future.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day at the Opera and Lytton's Nap

Yesterday afternoon Thom, David, and I went to the Art Center to hear some songs written by Beethoven sung by a new Eastport resident, a mezzo-soprano. She has had an impressive world-wide career. It never ceases to be a suprise to have such events here in little Eastport, despite the fact that they happen regularly. Greg Biss, our resident pianist and composer, also with an impressive background, accompanied the singer. After they had performed the songs, they talked about the history of the music. They handed out copies of the German text and discussed the music as they went through it again. The audience was encouraged to ask questions, and they responded enthusiastically. Greg explained how the piano and the voice related to one another. I was enthralled by the new information I was hearing. I know that as far as music is concerned I am of the "I don't know art but I know what I like" crowd. As is always the case when ignorance becomes understanding, even in the most miniscule example, I felt as if a something entirely new was opening up to me. It may be the only such experience I have with music, though I hope not. Even if it is, though, my appreciation is just a little bit enhanced and I know that if I chose to, I could enter a world I now know almost nothing about. What an exciting thought, and how relative to my earlier comments about there always being so much more to do, so much more to learn.
After the concert the three of us had coffee and cheesecake and took pictures of each other.
As I sat watching the last episode of "Six Feet Under" last night I noticed Lytton sleeping in the chair beside me. He had covered himself up so perfectly I snuck out of the room to get my camera. Since he can't hear much anymore, I was able to do it without disturbing him. His hair is growing out after being shorn at the vet's and looks like my adorable boy again.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008


I finally finished the puzzle I began a few weeks ago. I lost only four pieces out of 1000, which is a miracle considering the thing has been sitting on the kitchen table all this time. I have thrown groceries on it, rolled pie crust on it, prepared meals, folded laundry, and generally treated the table as I would if the puzzle weren't there. It's possible I will find the missing pieces on the floor, though I doubt it. The dogs probably chewed them up.

I'm letting the puzzle live overnight, and then will pull it apart and put it all back in its box. I ought to throw it away, since there are missing pieces, but I probably won't. It's hard to part with something you've spent so much time with, even though it has outlived its usefulness.

I have quite a few more puzzles that I bought at a second-hand store. Second hand ones are always an adventure because there are bound to be pieces missing. You never know if you can't find the piece or it just isn't there. It ads another element to the challenge, and sends one's mind struggling after metaphors for the process of living.

I don't hink I want to do another one right away, although I may feel lost without something to do while I wait for the coffee to drip, or my bread to toast..........
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Friday, March 14, 2008

No-knead Bread

I finally gathered the ingredients and necesary cookware to make this bread. The recipe was in Cook's Illustrated magazine and claimed to produce the kind of wonderful bread you get from a bakery. My friend Karen emailed me that she had made it and suggested alternatives to the instant yeast and cast iron Dutch oven I didn't have. The recipe uses beer, which I don't drink, and I almost gave up because I coundn't find a place that would sell just one beer. Thom solved that problem by donating a bottle to the cause.

For the Dutch oven I substituted a cast iron frying pan, a legacy from my mother, and an upside down pie plate. For instant yeast, I used quick-rising yeast left from my bread machine days. The dough was wet and had to rise for 18 hours, plus two more in the pan. What inconvenience that caused was made up for by the ease of mixing. It took less than ten minutes to put together and the rest is history. It is by far the best bread I have ever made, even though I left it in the oven too long without the cover. I followed the directions, but next time I'll watch it more closely. I have already eaten most of this loaf, which came out of the oven only an hour ago. Bakery bread is sometimes as good as this, but not often. It was two weeks in the making, and worth everything I had to do to get it.

I'm going to start another loaf.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cleaning Up

After yesterday's overkill, I forced myself to keep this painting fresh. It is much more an example of what makes watercolor as pretty as it can be........transparency. I seem to be doing another Epping Road series, which is fine. What is more beautiful than the blueberry fields?
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Winter Watercolor

I have several Epping Road photos that I didn't use when I did my pastel series, so I dug some of them out for watercolor practice. As usual, this looks better in the picture than in real life, but it's still pretty good. I think I got a little dark in the road. I tried to stop myself, but I kept working and working until I felt the darks were dark enough. Values are so important to me, I'm not satisfied until I've piled too much paint on the paper. Luckily I left the sky pretty much alone, which saves the painting.

It seemed appropriate to do a winter scene, even though we have set our clocks ahead this past week-end in a rush to Spring. I suppose it must be coming, but it is very cold despite the rain having washed away a lot of the snow. I dress and undress without taking all my clothes off at the same time, and wear several layers. I'm warmest when I'm ready for bed, wearing the fleece robe Toni passed on to me. I don't know why I feel I have to put clothes on every day, even if I'm not going anywhere. We have been taught that it is slothful to keep our nightclothes on and the habit is so ingrained that it has become doctrine. We follow the rules even if no one will ever know.

It reminds me of something I read by Stephen King. He said that in some experiment people were told to urinate in their pants and most of them couldn't do it....literally. I believe it.
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Painter

Here's another version of the first painting I did when I started to relearn watercolor. I like it better, though of course I carried it too far. Basically, though, it's pretty good and I'm thinking I'm about ready to try something bigger. All of these last paintings are 9x12. I remember all too well that it's a whole different story when you go bigger.

Obviously I have rediscovered negative space, always one of my fortes. I remember the first time I got the concept. The painting was called "Celebration by the Garden Gate." I did it at Thuya Gardens with Connie Henderson. I was like a kid with a new toy, and I haven't lost my delight at creating it. It's always something to keep in mind, but with watercolor it's a real challenge, and the most fun you can have with a piece of paper.
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Today's WC

Here's today's watercolor effort. It's from a photo I took from the moving car as I was driving to Harrington. The clouds were so beautiful. I meant to just use the clouds as information for some other painting, so I didn't think about what else was in the picture. Still, since the subject doesn't really matter, I decided I could just do what was there. I have such a good time balancing color and shape....getting the illusion of aerial space on a flat surface. I like this one, and I narrowly escaped overdoing it
It's not that I have done nothing but paint for the last week. I just feel that my paintings aren't finished until I take a picture of them and post them. Yesterday I went to Machias with Toni and bought a new DVD player. I wrecked the one I had by blowing its mind with too many commands at once. Even though I have very little money left for the rest of the month, I felt I couldn't get by even one day without it. I used my one puny credit card to buy it and was rewarded with the next episode of "Six Feet Under." I am watching that TV series on discs from NetFlix and can't imagine life without it now. Every night I watch one or two episodes. I wonder what I will do when I have seen them all. Start over? Maybe.

Toni and I are playing the recorder together three times a week for an hour or so. You'd think we would be great musicians by now, but luckily we still have a very long way to go. There are a few things in life you can never finish, and learning some kind of art form is one of them. Or it's possible to create such a situation. I remember an old friend telling me that she never could bring herself to finish her housework because then there would be nothing left to do. She always left at least one task for later, I suppose to make sure there WAS a later. We spend so much of our lives looking forward it's hard to get out of the habit. After a certain age we have done all the significant life events we planned on, or not. Our future can't be depended on in the way it once was. The next big change is death.

Well, it's a different orientation.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Not So Good

I took this photo from the cabin that Lisa and Will were working on to sell. My first mistake was using watercolor pecil to draw in the sunject. It turned everything orange and I had a hard time irradicating it. Next, I chose a subject too big for my paper. Groups of houses need a lot of space when you painting style is as indelicate as mine.

Nevertheless, I learned some things..............and have put one more lousy painting behind me.
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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wednesday's Work

Going to Sydney's yesterday required a lot of determination. We had a terrible ice storm with high winds and freezing rain that turned to a torrential downpour. I couldn't scrape the ice off my windshield so trod back and forth with buckets of water to throw on it until a small area was clear. By that time I was literally soaked through to the underwear. I took off my boots and my socks squished when I walked. I changed my clothes, went back out to the car, and turned on the wipers. One of them was frozen to the windshield and the blade ripped off. I drove to the garage peering through the deluge, where Jim Spinney replaced the wiper, and then proceeded to Sydney's, clutching my painting supplies and a big bottle of wine.

Before I left I had found an old watercolor block, around 9x11. It still has several pieces of paper on it, so I have several more opportunities to do small paintings. The one I did yesterday, another Epping Road clone, was a lot of fun and came out fairly well. I'm getting it better, but I should have quit on this one about fifteen minutes before I did.

Nevertheless, I consider it a success and am looking forward to the next one.
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Another Try

Still on my quest, I went at my watercolor again. This time I used one of the Epping Road pictures as subject matter. I found a long narrow piece of paper left over from some former project.

I feel that I'm finally getting a handle on this. I was thinking about my conversation with Thelma the other day and remembered her mentioning using yellow ocre to put the "drawing" on the paper. I decide to try it and it made a big difference. It's what I used to teach my students to do, and it was a good idea. Lightly sketching in the values with paint got me started in the right direction. At this point pencil lines are making me forget value, which is at the heart of watercolor. Using the paper to make light values is essential, since there is no white paint. The degree of transparency is how values are established.

Stretching the original photo out to fit the paper was interesting. I like the reverse repeat in the shape of the tree line and the rock, the lines of the rolling hills heading toward the center of interest. It's composed almost like "The Last Supper." :-)

I am entertaining myself with this effort to restore my skill at watercolor. I like to have a project with a measurable goal to focus on. It doesn't matter that once I reach the goal I toss it asside and move on to something else.

It's good that I am process oriented, since Lytton won't wear his sweater. I enjoyed knitting it....
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