Sunday, October 30, 2011

snow joke

This was a first for me (and maybe for the whole region), a late-October snowstorm when the leaves are still bright on the trees. Heavy and wet flakes, limbs bent to the ground. It was such a strange sight, beautiful, but I felt as though I'd lost track of time and slept for two months. Peering outside last night at the furiously whirling snow, shoveling and shivering. Followed by a sunny morning, the snow already melting, and the air smelling like fall again. People photographing their snow-topped pumpkins yet uncarved. The contrast of orange leaves and white-coated trees and wires, the mountain fading gold to white in a kind of reversed frost line, was an extraordinary thing to see. Losing power and heat, as well as all the trees that came down, not so attractive. A bit early in the season for all that. I'm going to optimistically posit that after this winter preview, we will resume our normally scheduled fall programming. Upcoming episodes include "Leaves falling" and "Thanksgiving dinner".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

texaco garage crew

Here's a new t-shirt design featuring a watercolor I did in 2008. It was based on an old photograph that a Beacon local had dug up for me after seeing another of my paintings, one that had been inspired by an old photo of a Main St gas station I'd found at the Beacon Historical Society. The faded black-and-white he presented me with portrayed this group of workmen posed in front of a Texaco truck. There used to be a Texaco research center in nearby Glenham.. and that's all I know about the image. It is one of my rare paintings with people in it. Naturally I liked the truck but I was also drawn to the men's expressions, their stances and their clothes.
I exhibited and sold the painting in a show that spring. I had a good-quality scan, and made one or two prints, but it seemed to have a rather specific appeal. Recently I was enthusiastically advised that it could be a strong image for my second t-shirt, the first being my Beacon dummy light shirt from a couple years ago. That icon had its own local and historical appeal and turned out to be a successful venture. I am not very politically-minded in my work, but I agreed that this image of blue-collar men and who/what they may represent- even though I don't know their story- is a subtle and affecting visual statement... at any rate, that is the idea. So I will start with an initial run, and see. The sample is sepia ink on an American-made ecru t-shirt.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

apples to apples

When I helped plant tomatoes at Better Farm back in June I did not think I would be back for the last of the harvest in October, but yesterday afternoon found me climbing around in the raised beds behind the house, gathering the dozens of bright little cherry tomatoes still clinging to the vines. I went up for a short visit and am glad I did, even with all the driving. Time stretches out. Going for a walk along the long curving quiet roads with the yellow and red leaves fluttering down. Knitting, watching the dogs play.
I wondered if one could make a satisfactory dish from the crabapples in the yard, so I pulled down a bunch and baked them into a tasty crisp with a generous amount of sugar. The same apples that I'd drawn in the summer. Here is the 36"x36" oil painting I made using that drawing and memory as reference. It was on the wall at my open studio along with a Post-It that said "work in progress.. maybe", as I wasn't sure if I was finished, I'm still not sure, but for now I am.
The other photo is from a pie party I attended last week. A plenitude of pies covered the table and this was taken right before digging in, while we were still gazing appreciatively upon them. Mine, a homely caramelized apple-pear with an almond crust, is in the middle.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

touchy wheely

As I noted in a recent facebook post, and am now expanding upon here, it is so difficult to find a decent wheelbarrow repair shop these days. Or, for that matter, any such service at all. That's what I get for owning an esoteric, practically vintage model, which I am rather attached to for its many fine features. Namely, that it comes apart and fits into the trunk of my car. If this wheelbarrow needed a spokesperson to speak glowingly of its attributes, I'd be on it. But apparently I'm the only one who needed such a product, for it was discontinued several years ago. What, nobody else needs a wheelbarrow that comes apart but is still big and strong enough to transport heavy loads of wood over uneven terrain?
As they say, behind every great wood stacker there is a great wheelbarrow. Over the years I have tried several kinds: hand trucks, carts, regular barrows for when I could throw one in the bed of the truck. But I'm not driving the truck these days, it's got some quirks and is not as fuel-efficient for all the miles I'm covering. Hence my consternation (a nice word for swearing loudly) when a key element broke today after being pushed to its limits for weeks by my constant use. If only I'd tried to reinforce with duct tape? My dad pointed out there might be a spare broken one we'd kept for parts somewhere in the woodyard, a donor barrow. He kept Camrys around for the same purpose; as one after another sputtered to its end and was replaced, it'd be pressed into service for its parts as its body crumbled to rust.
I usually much prefer to repair things rather than replace them, I think people discard stuff too easily these days, and many modern things aren't even meant to be repaired, so they must be thrown away to make room for the next. My friend Sarah's blog and project, Zero to Go, is part of her passionate efforts to educate and encourage people to reduce-reuse-recycle. It reminds me that I could be doing more in this department, but I do what I do and try to be mindful.
My fondness for old trucks doesn't obscure the fact that I know they're hard to maintain and service, and yet I'd still love to own one someday. Old appliances can be ornery but they keep on running. Shown here is a painting (6"x6") of a great fan, from a local antique store, that has blasted me with cool air for many summers. And most of my clothes I've had for years. I pull on a new pair of jeans with the utmost reluctance. Not that I don't like new objects and clothes, sometimes. A new paintbrush, tube of paint, pretty dress, yes. If I could find a new Stow-&-Go (formal name of the one-wheeled wonder) I'd snap it up, but no luck. I've got to get on this pronto, for this time of year, the piles of wood await.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Went on an outing this afternoon up the Taconic to Millbrook and the beautiful Innisfree, a 150-acre public garden reinterpreting Chinese landscape design. It was an overcast day with the drizzle holding off and the leaves brilliant against the gray sky. The garden meanders around a 40-acre lake, taking you on a walk along mossy waterfalls, stone terraces, lichen-covered rocks, and native plants. The colors were reflected in the water and it was all very quiet. Yesterday was similar weather and it felt good to work, but today I was happy to have a day to wander outside in the damp grass among the bright trees. In the village at the paint store I found some milk paint powders I'd been wanting to try. You mix them with water and they dry to a hard matte finish, and are these earthy vintage-type colors, the kind used on antique furniture, that I love. I bought three colors and I am looking forward to playing with them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

make every trip more enjoyable

We certainly might as well try. Today's little group of images: two painting/collages, Enjoyable Trip (3"x3") and Standard Fill-up (4"x4"), a photo of me on the job, which has been occupying most of my time lately, and of my booth at the art fair on the weekend.

I had a good day there. The weather was quite fine, they'd given me a plum spot, and I talked to a lot of people. Six hours of people. It was both tiring and stimulating, as that kind of thing always is, and that's why I do it. So I can find an ease with that level of near-constant interaction and not let it overwhelm me, but to get out of it what I need. Interesting & potentially fruitful connections, sales (of course), ideas and observations. In the different kinds of places where I've set up a table, I learn all sorts of things about people and how to talk to them. Or listen. Or get them to go away, sometimes, if they're being tiresome. Who do you want to drive away, and who do you want to entice back? I sold two framed watercolors, a bunch of prints, and some painted bottle-caps. One of the buyers has a house in Taos she'd rent cheaply to artists "with good energy." I beamed at her, "I have great energy! And you can see how inspired I was by my surroundings!" I'm sure I've got an "in" now. She was drawn in by a painting of a gas pump, it reminded her of something she'd seen out there. Many folks immediately recognized the New Mexico paintings just for their light and color, before I had mentioned the source of their inspiration, which was satisfying and made me feel I had captured something I'd hoped to. Then there are the men who pause dreamily and tell me about their cars or trucks.
Displaying my work at a table at a fair or in a park, in contrast with exhibiting it in a gallery, requires a real flexibility of mindset for me in observing and hearing how it is perceived by others. I sometimes find it difficult to shift my gears. There are positives and negatives to both means of 'getting the work out there' (as there are to the variety of other means I've explored). The way you market your work can definitely impact the way you think about making it.

Another note on energy. When I stack wood at a repeat customer's house I always remember when I was there last year and where my head was at. This happened the other day, a very specific memory came to mind, and I realized what I had managed to accomplish in the past year (personally, emotionally, artistically) and I felt happy with myself. I felt that I had climbed up out of something and found a clearer view. Fall is when a lot of people become more wistful and pensive, but since memory is elemental to my being, it feels like more of the same for me. Though maybe I'm getting a bit better at staying on top of it instead of losing myself to its grasp. I am interested too in seeing how this can affect my attraction to the things I paint and how I see them.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


October and it's nearly midnight and I haven't posted in a week, but now I need to go to sleep. This evening after attending a very nice awards event in Beacon to benefit our arts association, I went back to my studio to get things in order for the art fair I'm doing on Saturday in New Paltz. Nearly every day in the past two weeks I've been stacking wood, which doesn't, contrary to popular opinion, make for the most scintillating blog posts. I stack vast amounts and then I go to bed and sleep like a letter in an envelope, hardly moving for eight hours, waiting for the energy to return to my body. On Fri I treated myself to a wonderful, restorative professional massage, and now I want all my friends and family to get one and to have a weekly one myself, if only I could.
Saturday evening is also the closing party (5-8 pm, 137 Main St) and group show at Concrete Gallery in Cold Spring, where I exhibited in July. I will have several paintings up alongside work of the other artists who showed there this summer. One, I think, will be The Spot (posted recently), another will be a painting I did earlier this year and reworked, as I have begun to think about color in new ways. Color as a way of describing light without showing the direct effect of light. May revisit this when I am more awake. I remember a blog post from early summer at the farm which I titled "awake", when I was getting 5 hrs of sleep and feeling energized. Now we have moved into fall, the days are growing shorter, the light is changing and I seem to need more sleep. Speaking of which. zzz