Experimenting with digital finger paintings (using the Brushes App for iPad) is risky, but fun. Each time I start one I wonder if I’ll be able to do it right. Will it work? Or will it be a waste of time? My latest - Harbor Fish Market - did indeed work, and it took me nearly as long as it does to complete an oil painting. I love detail, I love color, I had fun with this. You can find it in the Digital Finger Painting gallery on this website. Please see the Contact page if you’d like to order a print. By the way, Harbor Fish is a real place. It’s a local institution here in Portland - a happy, busy, messy place that sells the best fresh fish....
Do You See What I See?
When I moved to Portland in April of 2011, I fully expected to shift my gaze from the raw, rugged beauty of down east Maine to the activity of a thriving and charming city. But life and art don’t always follow our plans. After finishing my first Portland painting a few months ago I realized that I’m not done with Stonington, nor is Stonington done with me. It still takes my breath away. The answer? Winterness. You can find it in the Land & Sea gallery on this website.
The subject is an overgrown bed of lilies - adjacent to my Stonington house. But the painting is about much more. It speaks to me of peace and endurance, of tenderness and beauty. It’s also about exposure and fearlessness. Something magical happened with this one. Winterness is yet another gift from Stonington to my heart.
Close to Home
I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful old neighborhood in Portland. The houses, the gardens, they offer many stories.... sometimes a whisper, sometimes a shout. Red Fruit, which you will find in the City gallery on this website, called to me one day as I was walking by. The fine brick townhouse is just two blocks from my place. I loved the tomatoes, the old wood bread bowl, the bold lines of the white window trim on the dark gray brick, and the dappled shadows of the sunlight... and I knew I would paint it. The season when I saw it, however, was a little early for the best tomatoes... Were they red bell peppers? I painted them as tomatoes, but settled on the title Red Fruit - just in case.
Although I generally paint close to home, there are times when I travel and come across a compelling view. Such was the case in 2007 when my friend Mimi and I were driving along the highway between Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park and her home in Big Sky, Montana. “Mimi! Look! Stop the car!” It was just a roadside scene of some animals grazing near a stream, but the light on the forest made it magical, enchanting, dark and deep. The painting is a triptych, titled Home on the Range. It appears randomly on the Home page, and you can see it in the Land & Sea gallery on this website. The original now hangs in my friend Mimi’s home at Big Sky. All of this makes me very happy.
This New Year
When I was younger, the beginning of the school year always felt more like the New Year than January 1st. Perspective and sensibilities change over time, and I am happy to be starting this year with a nice mix of excitement, peace and energy. As I look out my window this snowy morning and reflect on the events that brought me to Portland, the past three years are revealed as a time with significant loss and adjustment. Such is life. It slowed down my painting, but also brought new appreciation and depth to my work, and I am grateful for that.
While the vistas in Stonington were broad, powerful and magical, I find many scenes of tenderness - an implied intimacy and a sense of dwelling - as I walk around my neighborhood here in Portland. These stories please me just as much as the epics of Stonington, and my first Portland painting is underway. For a preview of what's to come, please take a look at the City gallery on this website.
Bello Piccione is a pigeon I spied on an early morning walk in Italy seven years ago - although I waited until 2011 to paint him. I loved his colors and ownership of the crumbling window ledge. Painting him on wood panel felt right given the antiquity of the 14th century manse where he perched.
A bigger project over the past year is my second triptych. This one is of a place in Montana, where I traveled in 2007. The paintings are finished but I will not have digital images for the website until spring. However, they will be on exhibit at Chestnut Street Lofts here in Portland, for First Friday, February 3rd. I'll share the paintings' story when you can see them here too.
Last November my beloved Doc died.
Three weeks later my left retina detached (treatment successful, vision is fine), and a week after that I was in a head-on collision when my car skidded on ice near Stonington. 40 mph, airbags deployed, both drivers okay, both cars totaled. It was not my first collision last year, but soon led to the realization that it was time to stop driving.
The day after Doc died, I began a painting of a wonderful old barn near Penobscot. The barn leans to one side and does not look terribly safe to enter, but it is still standing: an image of endurance and dignity beneath the peeling paint. After the loss of Doc, the retina scare, and the car wreck I knew what the title would be: Peeling Paint. That is just how I felt. The life I had so carefully built in Stonington was falling apart.
Six months later I am settled in a wonderful little condo in the most beautiful historic neighborhood in Portland, Maine, and I am happy here. Beautiful gardens and fascinating architecture abound. Instead of breathing deeply of sea air on my daily walks, I enjoy the scent of mulch and warm earth, and I take many photos of these old buildings that fascinate me. I live near the Fore River and have strong light in my studio. What will I paint here? That remains to be seen, but I know this is a new chapter of my life and I will honor it with my work.
About Power Lines
Why paint something? Sometimes simply because I like it. Other times because it means something to me personally. When I bought my house in Stonington in 1998, people said, “oh too bad that phone pole is in your view.” I kept quiet. Before long I began to find the phone pole and connecting lines quite interesting. A few years later I began to include it in paintings of my view. With each successive painting in this small series the phone pole and lines became more prominent. By 2008 I knew why. As I wrote to my doctors in Boston that year, when I sent them an email with A Softened Sound, “It is no coincidence that a woman whose central nervous system has been damaged finds beauty in a phone pole and power lines.”
So, as mental preparation for yet another neurosurgery later that year I began a painting of the phone pole. I wanted to show the strength of the pole (my spinal cord) and the energy flowing through the lines (my nerves). I was certain the surgery would go smoothly and I would be okay. But the unthinkable happened. I woke up from the surgery with a paralyzed right leg. Wasn’t supposed to happen. It was a difficult time and I did not have the heart to return to the painting until 2010. Finishing it gave me emotional recovery from what happened to me.
Today, although I cannot walk as well as I used to, I can walk. Power Lines hangs in my living room...with its message about healing and the human body's amazing, miraculous powers of recovery.
About Wilson Ridge
Creating a painting is about much more than visualizing an image and applying it to canvas. It is also about love and memory. Wilson Ridge began with my friendship with Boo, going back 20+ years. She and her husband bought the then-dilapidated cabin, located in Virginia's Blue Ridge foothills, and did most of the renovation work themselves. My first visit to the cabin was circa 1996, and I've spent many enjoyable times there since then.
In early 2009 Boo asked me to paint this special place for her. We went there one weekend that spring. Since it is difficult for me to walk on uneven ground, I stood on the porch while she took photos at my direction. The morning was foggy, so quiet and peaceful.
I worked on the painting last winter while in western North Carolina for a few months. Boo drove down with me and stayed for a week. We had fun shopping at Poppies, a little gourmet deli nearby and enjoyed lunch there one day. There are no poppies growing at Wilson Ridge, but I "borrowed" them from a previous painting as I wanted the color. Nodding to a local source of sustenance while in NC added to the fun. The fog as you see it in the painting is actually a Maine fog, where the light is brilliant and subtle in ways I've never seen elsewhere.... Places and people I love, and treasured memories.
It is with a sigh of relief and gratitude that I add Stonington in January to my website. I’ve never worked as hard and long (over a year) on a painting. That time was filled with personal challenges and sorrow, but all is okay now. There is a passage from Robert Henri’s fine book, The Art Spirit, first published in 1923, that seems to fit.
“He who has contemplated and has met with himself, is in a state to see the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.”
I cannot say what was in each brush stroke in this painting, but I do know that it was about effort.... and ultimately about finding a place of peace.
A Couple of Stories
While working on a large painting, which will appear on this website when it is done, I'd like to use this interval to share the stories behind 2 earlier paintings (both of which appear in the Garden gallery on this website).
The first one is Sunshine. I spied this bright little house on Monhegan Island, where I traveled in 1997 to paint alone. Most of the houses on Monhegan have blue shutters. I came across this place on a morning walk and loved the yellow shutters with the daffodils and tall grasses, the old metal handrail with glint of blue paint. The painting title comes from a line in the Penelope chapter of James Joyce’s "Ulysses" - "and the sun shines for you today yes".
The second is Ex Libris. This intriguing little building used to be the blacksmith shop here in Stonington. Now it is the summer home and studio of a retried college professor and his wife, who is a watercolorist and makes bookmarks. I had already decided on the painting’s title when I noticed that many of the books in the window still have library tags on their spines. Ex Libris indeed! With this painting I wanted to put the back of the canvas to work too, so I listed my favorite books on a sheet of parchment paper in a wrap-line format and attached that to the back. The idea was that most of the books should not be best sellers.
Late August, 2008
Summer here in Stonington is winding down. The air is cool at night and there’s a hint of fall in the air. None of that has anything to do with the two new paintings on this website (Doc’s Expression and Boatyard) other than to comment on the relatively slow pace of life here, which makes for a fertile ground for creative expression.
The boatyard is located in E. Boothbay, Maine, a few hours southwest of here. I was there a few years ago, alone and exploring one day -- had a nice lunch across the water from the boatyard, looked out, saw the reflection and was fascinated. Who would think such an ordinary building could make such an intriguing painting subject? Maine is full of such treasures.
And Doc… my darling dog… I’ve settled on one painting per year of him at this point. He’s now eleven and a half; I may have to pick up the pace as he becomes even more tender, wise and loving with age.
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon on Labor Day as I type this update. The sun is still bright and warm out my studio windows; soon it will segue into the golden light of sunset. Isle au Haut rests pale lavender on the horizon, and there is a feeling of peacefulness in the air. Driving our winding, hilly roads here on Deer Isle one sees red leaves already starting to peek through the heavy green canopy on the trees. Summer is coming to a close here on the coast of Maine. It’s been a good summer in Stonington and I’m pleased to share two new paintings: Doc at Rest – the third in my “Doc @” series, and Summer Flowers – another scene from a trip to Ireland two years ago. I have more paintings underway and will happily share them with you soon.
I'm pleased to share two new oil paintings, A Light from the East and Lloyd’s Old House. Both are winter scenes close to home, so close they are a matter of yards from my studio. It’s July now and cold weather seems remote, but the mixture of drama and peacefulness here in winter is worthy of witness. I hope you’ll enjoy looking at these paintings as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Sometimes something magical happens, something that didn’t seem to come from me but that I had the pleasure of being the messenger. Sometimes I know where it came from, other times not. In this case I know exactly where it came from. And it’s who rather than where. Last year I did two small paintings of my hearing service dog, Doc, as studies for a larger painting for Richard, a good friend who loves Doc as much as I do. I was so happy with the small paintings that I put Doc up on the stool in front of my easel so that he too could see how fine he looked, and I snapped a photo of him sitting there looking at one of the studies and out the window nearby. A few days later, I E-mailed photos of the studies to Richard, suggesting that if he liked one of them I could expand on it to do a larger painting for him, and I included the photo of Doc at my easel – as a joke....
....That evening Richard sent his response: Paint THAT. My reaction: Oh no! I can’t do that. It just wouldn’t work. That’s too complicated. Okay, I won’t worry about it. I’ll just go to sleep and tomorrow Richard will come to his senses about this.
The next morning there were three more E-mails from Richard, telling me why I should paint this. He was persuasive, and I am so very grateful to him because I had a marvelous time painting my dog, my view, my studio - all objects of my love - for a dear friend who encouraged me to reach beyond myself with this new painting, Considering the View. That’s collaboration of the best kind.
New Year Focus
So a new year begins… this one with happy anticipation and plans for new paintings. I signed Robinson Point Light (of the lighthouse on Isle Au Haut) a few weeks ago, and will soon post a new painting of Doc – considerably more ambitious than last year’s studies of him. Next up: a couple of winter scenes here in town, a couple of paintings from a trip to Italy in 2005, a new addition to the Doc series, and paintings of places within a stone’s throw of my studio (if you have a good pitching arm). As my college Economics professor used to say, “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you're never going to find it.” This year I have a sure sense of direction, perhaps more than ever before.
Since moving to Maine in 2000, I’ve become especially interested in the effects of light. It is a constant reminder of the magnificence of the sun and the earth. On a more local level, I’ve always enjoyed walking outdoors in the early evening, when the sun starts to go down and the interior lights are brighter than the natural light outside. It’s not dark enough to close the curtains yet, but an outsider can see inside clearly and be comforted by the warmth and safety implied by the incandescent glow. While visiting in New York last November, I was moved by the beautiful light – both natural and man-made – as I looked out a 28th floor window over Manhattan one evening and saw all those little beacons of hope. This past summer and into early fall, I put it on canvas in Nightlines.
A New Body of Work… the body being a dog
It’s time. "Doc", my hearing service dog, is 9 years old and going strong, but it’s time for me to test my skills at capturing his personality on canvas. So a series of small paintings has begun. The first two are Doc at Home and Doc at Sea. Painting him is just plain fun. And continuing my love affair with Maine, you’ll also find a new landscape painting, Sunrise from Russ Hill - the morning counterpart to Nautical Twilight.
March already? Apart from one memorable day a month or more ago when the wind howled across the harbor at 66 mph, winter was relatively mild this year on the coast of Maine. Here in my studio on the coldest days, I was able to imagine springtime as I put the finishing touches on Nora’s Garden. The setting is a beautiful, free-spirited garden a block up the street. But it is much more than just a pretty garden to me; it is the home and labor of love to two dear friends, who include me in their lives. I’ve had too many good times at their house to count, and I walk my dog by their garden daily. Painting is personal. When I can paint a place that I love for people I love, it is new way to experience something that is already known. My paintings are not memory paintings in the traditional use of the term. But memory and reflection and thoughts of appreciation meander through my mind as I paint. It’s a nice feeling.
Musings on a January Day
Wintertime is mercifully quiet here on the coast of Maine. Looking out my studio window at the bare trees, the gray harbor – almost empty of the lobster boats that crowd it in the summer, the tiny islands beyond, and Isle Au Haut etched sharply against a cold, pale sky, is a time of appreciation and reflection. It leads to a nice state of mind for painting. The season may be slow socially and in terms of activity, but the solitude is welcome and rich with thoughts about paintings underway and ideas for new works.
I don’t talk much about being a deaf artist as I certainly don’t want to be labeled as a “Deaf Artist”. I’m an artist. If my work speaks to you, it doesn’t matter if I'm deaf, hearing, short, tall, male, female, etc. Yet - because I am deaf - my art is the most important communication tool I've got. It’s not so much about what I want to say as it’s about the ability to receive. When others respond to my work, and especially when I am there to see their reactions – the change in their breathing, the expressions on their faces, the smiles of recognition or looks of a happy discovery – that is the finest communication I could ask for.