Thursday, April 24, 2008

Transplant, New Painting

I moved this lilac from the back yard on Wilson St. where I had spared its life when I pruned the trees there last summer. Survival is questionable, but I have my fingers crossed. It would be nice to think that because of my tenancy here there will always be additional beauty. If this, and the rhododendron, both take root, I will eventually have a spectacular front yard.

The painting comes from a photograph David took at the boat show in Florida. He has given me three crowd pictures to paint. I did this yesterday at Sydney's after doing the drawing the day before. These paintings with so many people need a pretty extensive drawing in order to keep the watercolor under control enough to maintain the image.

I'm having fun.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Dod Eat Dog World

So much for my white tulips, at least for this year. Some hungry animal ate the leaves down to the earth, discarding any of the bulbs that happened to come up with them. I like to think it was deer, since I know they are in the neighborhood. The image of deer right in front of my living room windows is pleasing to me. I'll miss the tulips, but they went for a good cause. It's another example of nature doing its thing.

The latest painting is from Sabrina's photograph of some protesters in Hartford. I like the color shapes, and with my new interest in painting people, I enjoyed doing this a lot.
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Signs of Spring

I have been bringing plants from the Wilson St. house for my soon-to-be garden. I dug up the beautiful white tulips I had last year and am hoping they will bloom after the shock of being moved. The tulips I planted in the fall have come up, and I bought a rhododendron yesterday, along with some lily bulbs and poppy seeds. I've worked all day digging and raking, and even sweeping the walk. While I was at the old house I bailed the water out of my kayak and turned it upside down (which I should have done when I left it there). It seems none the worse for spending the winter full of ice, though, and when Toni next comes over, we'll take it over to her house, ready to go when the moment is right.
David and Thom got this celestial looking greenhouse for starting their plants. There's a light inside it and at night it looks like a flying saucer has landed in their yard. It is such a curiosity that strangers are walking down their driveway to investigate. I'm sure not many people can figure out what it is and it's probably the subject of many a conversation around town.
So, after the long, cold, snowy winter the earth has revolved back to spring again. We all emerge from our houses wearing T-shirts in 50 degree weather, carrying brooms and spades. We start picking up the trash along the street and making a tidy backdrop for the coming of the leaves and blossoms. We open our windows and doors to let out the stale air of those dark months we have survived. One can't help but have a feeling of renewal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Light and Shadow

One of the theme shows at the gallery this summer is going to be Light and Shadow. As I was going through my photos, I ran across a picture of me in Key West. I like it that the main figure (me) is in the dark shadow with the lighting in the background. I started this painting at Sydney's on Wednesday by doing the whole thing in black and white acrylic. Acrylic dries immediately so I could adjust the composition and values until they were right without messing up the paint. Then I went to work on it in oil. I realized that I didn't have any white oil paint, so I used white acrylic. The oils I use are water soluble, so I figured that would be all right. It did work, but the consistency of the acrylic was much wetter than the oil and created problems. Nevertheless, I perservered.

Today I found an almost empty tube of white oil paint under a pile of papers. I used that and all went well. I'm not finished with it yet, but I like how it's going.

I picked up the bodies of the chickens and put them in a trash bag last night. When I first found them on Thursday I couldn't face the task, though I did cover them with plastic and put them in the basement. I stupidly left the door open in my haste to get away from the scene, and when I went out to finish the job some animal had torn them apart. The whole incident washed over me again and I shed more tears as I packed them irreverently in the bag. I closed them in the cellar to await trash day, when I'll have to deal with them one more time.

With death on the one hand, there's life on the other. I transplanted some of my plants from Wilson St. to the front yard here. They are surviving so far despite a less than peaceful ride in the car, their roots hanging over their heads in the back seat. I didn't take very much, but it's a start.

My car needed four hundred dollars worth of work, which I couldn't pay. Jim let me pay half and write a post-dated check for the rest. One of the many blessings of living in a small town..........
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Friday, April 11, 2008


After priding myself on the new pen arrangement and anticipating the peacable kingdom, I came home to find the dogs out and the chickens dead. I haven't been able to find Demeter's body, though her feathers are everywhere. The other two were in plain sight, mutilated. Patrick and Lytton were slinking around the pen, looking guilty and not glad to see me. I have to believe that they knew I would not be happy about what they had done.

I have no animosity toward them, though. They did what dogs do. I knew, as I wrote earlier today, that they would kill the chickens if they could. The fault was in my fencing, and my failure to notice that the dogs weren't inside. There are always places where the dogs can get out when I first fix a place for them. It takes a few escapes before I get everything secure. I expected that, but I never expected to forget to put them inside when I wasn't going to be home.

I was overwhelmed with grief and guilt, but have since accepted that there is nothing I can do now. I feel terrible, but I still want chickens. They give me so much pleasure. I love to see them strutting around, clucking and pecking. It's discouraging to have this same thing happen over and over, and there's nothing that will make me feel okay about it. But, I know that most chickens live much worse lives than mine do, and their lives end pretty much in the same way.

There's nothing to do but keep going.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Since the chickens are outside now, I was forced to face the problem of peace between species. The dogs would kill the chickens if they could, so the arrangement had to keep the chickens out of sight. I remodeled the fence in the back yard to keep them confined beyond the bulkhead. Then I pounded in new posts along the side of the house from the shed to the front corner. The leftover wire from the back was enough to enclose that area for the dogs. I used their old gate at the front so humans could go in and out. It's a much smaller area than they had before and they were a little surprised, and a little irritated, when I let them out. They were somewhat pacified by their improved view of the street, however, and realized there were endless reasons to bark as they surveyed the neighborhood. These are not outdoor dogs, so I don't feel bad about reducing their space. Three minutes is about the maximum amount of time they like to stay outside.

Now I am waiting for one of the two carpenters I contacted to present me with estimates for building a chicken house. Thom, amazingly generous as he is, offered to pay to have the coop built. This will certainly upgrade the one I thought I would have to build myself. It seemed to be a necessity, and caused me many sleepless nights trying to conceive of something that would work but also accomodate my minimal carpentry skills and recycled materials. Thanks to Thom, my girls will live in style and hopefully keep him supplied with eggs out of grattitude.
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Monday, April 07, 2008

Garden, stage one, and another painting

Today it seemed like Spring is finally getting here. I took advantage of the warmth (high 40's) and sunshine to get going on my garden. With my tool that looks like a combination hoe and pitch fork I hacked at the hard-packed dirt in front of the house until it loosened up and would turn over. Considering what I expected, it was a relatively easy job. The ground is surprisingly easy to dig once the so-called sod is removed. My plan is to fill the space with flowers.

Yesterday I started this watercolor from a photo I took a few years ago of the people on the boat waiting to go to Summerkeys. I am now having fun doing these people pictures. The technique seems to suit me right now, fussing with small spaces using little square brushes. After I dug up the "lawn" I finished the painting. It's of indeterminate size, somewhere around 9x12. I am using scraps of paper I find in my stash of odds and ends, so the size of the scrap determines the size of the painting.

Actually I think the paper I used today might be printmaking paper.
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Friday, April 04, 2008

More Paintings

This top picture is done in colored pencil. It's little....just about three-four inches square. I wanted to prove to myself that I could still draw, and of course horses have always been a favorite. I found the picture as I was going through my old photos, and felt nostalgic for the days when horses were part of every day life. There are so many images of the kids and I at Marie's boarding place. I see Carrie standing on Peach's back, arms up over her head, or galloping Winnie around the ring. There's Jesse holding Winnie as she grazes. There's me swimming Peach across the stream, jumping BJ.

Three foals were born there during the years I was a horse owner. This one is a little part-Arabian filly born to Owaja, the gray mare. One was Callie, a bay with the sweetest diposition I've ever seen. Then there was the little colt born with deformed hind legs. He was Viki's baby, black and beautiful like she was. Marie had casts put on his legs and he did well for a long time. Eventually, though, his legs proved to be too big a problem and he had to be put down.......One of my few sad memories of that place.

The other picture is another watercolor from a picture I took of my fellow sculpture students getting ready to leave Montreal after a three day field trip. As I painted them I remembered them all very clearly. I was an adult with children older than some of them, but I saw them as contemporaries in many ways. Our devotion to art was what bonded us together. I admired them, respected them, and at times envied them. I wonder what has happened to them in the last ten years. Anyway, David encouraged me to paint more pictures of people, and I took his advice. I like to paint crowds of people in ordinary situations, like the bus stop painting. I like this one, too, and feel I am getting watercolor under control fairly well. I still have trouble with opacity, but I continue to work on it.
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