Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Cliff Island is the most remote inhabited island in Casco Bay and is eleven miles from the mainland.
The ferry ride takes an hour and a half and it's the last stop on the line. This gentleman, whose name is Billy O'Reilly, is one of only 65 hearty year 'round Cliff Islanders. He's a tall rugged lobsterman with a face that's been etched by a life of working on the sea. Billy's lineage traces back to one of the first families to settle the island more than two centuries ago and I have no doubt that he knows the waters around the island and bay as well as he knows the back of his hand. When the photos were taken for this painting it was a bitter cold December day, but the sun was so bright it lit up the dinghy like a red hot frying pan. Billy was hamming it up for the camera here.....hence the toothy grin just barely seen through his heavy beard. I love the simplicity of this image... just a man and his boat in the water.. but it's a bit surreal because they appear to be levitating over the deep blue.
Maybe he knows something we don't...
This is one of two paintings that were recently accepted into the Pastel Society of the West Coast's 21st International Exhibition, which runs May 8-June 2, at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center in Carmichael, CA .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Green Apples

One of my grand daughters, Sydney, is the thoughtful, tow-headed girl in this piece. The scenery is the view from the front yard of the house you see in my painting 'Summer House-Parker Head'. I wanted a more expansive landscape beyond her so I opened up the trees and removed rock formations that are actually across the marshy inlet. Also the apple tree is closest to the viewer and much larger in the photos I worked from. The shots were taken during a family picnic and the kids were having a ball playing around the tree and stuffing fallen apples into the crevice left by an old injury.
The bright green colors of the unripe apples and the halo of golden hair, hit just right by the sun, caught my eye......
I realized recently while looking at this image with a fresh perspective, how feminine the tree form is...an interesting revelation to me, since it wasn't intentional.
My grandchildren are so sweet and innocent at this young stage in life. They have so much to learn and experience...will they be tempted by the forbidden fruit?

Monday, March 19, 2007

The house in Parker Head

Summer House-Parker Head and My Favorite Room
This antique house sits in Parker Head, an area located in the quintessential coastal village of Phippsburg, Maine . Parker Head is a picturesque and peaceful hideaway that has yet to be spoiled by development and commercialization. Of historic note the first ship ever built in Maine came out of this region. The winding and twisty road that runs along the peninsula to this beautiful spot and on to Fort Popham(originally settled in 1607) passes small harbors, snug coves, and boat yards still owned by the locals. Lobster traps, buoys and lines, used for real, are stacked for storage around their homes. Cemeteries with gravestones dating back to pre Revolutionary War are scattered here and there between the moss covered ledges and pines. It's not hard to imagine why people chose this area to homestead so long ago.
The house was built in the late 1700's and one of our family members bought it to use as a summer place a few years ago. Aside from the inherent charm and beautiful location of the place, when inside, one is struck by the incredible views that can be seen from almost every window in the house. I was enchanted by a corner room whose northeast window, frames an inlet that curves back around to the open sea. The worn out walls and old metal beds reminded me of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. The house needed repair, but even so, the personality of it was so pervasive that it inspired a third painting called Green Apples that I will talk about in the next blog.
Summer House was accepted into the Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod National Show in 2005 and My Favorite Room is one of two paintings accepted into the Pastel Society of the
West Coast's 21st International Exhibition
at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, May 8-June 2.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Little Chair

The subject of this pastel painting is an antique children's chair that's been in my family for several generations. Many toddlers have climbed onto this pint sized seat including my own grandchildren, but now it's kept in the studio because of it's deteriorating condition. The arched piece that makes up the back rest is one solid piece of wood that's been steamed and bent into that U shape.
This was done on Terra Cotta colored Colourfix paper...some of it shows through in places. I used a spot light hung low to get the long interesting shadows reminiscent of evening light.
If this chair could talk what stories it could tell.... it reminds me of my grandmother. Her parents(my great grand parents) came from Vienna, Austria, and were very poor. Their first five children died before they came to America where they settled in Philadelphia. They were very hard working but the times were formidable for immigrants and they were destitute. There were long periods when the only food they had to eat were potatoes and milk.
It was difficult for my grandmother to talk about her childhood but she felt it was important for us to know about the family's past and where we came from.
By the way...my grandmother was born right after her parents arrived in the US. and she was the first of five siblings who all survived. This was her chair...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Don't Ask Me Now

This is a pastel painting of 'Bear' a Clydesdale gelding owned by my long time friend Ansley. Bear's acquisition came about largely because of Ansley's experiences with his gentle predecessor, a Clydesdale stallion by the name of 'Springdale's Benedictine Prince' .
I remember when Prince arrived at the farm.
He was a rescue... and was headed for the slaughterhouse. He'd been passed from one owner to the next and was at least three hundred pounds underweight... and very smelly....you couldn't stand down wind of him. The source of the odor was soon discovered. Clydesdales and some other draft horse breeds have very long thick leg hair called feathers and sometimes, especially in unsanitary and humid conditions, a skin fungus can develop in those areas. If left untreated, tumor type growths develop and they in turn can interfere with tendons in the legs and cause a serious infection..you get the idea...No one wanted to deal with his problem.
Prince was a beautiful horse, gentle and easy to work around even though he was a stallion, but he needed immediate attention health wise. He was cleaned up, put on a diet to fatten him up (he had no neck and you could see every bone in his body) and then the focus turned to treating his legs. They were shaved, then a regimen of scrubbing the affected area daily with disinfectant was started. This treatment continued until Ansley and her vet realized it wasn't enough... so surgery was discussed and then scheduled. The decision to operate wasn't taken lightly by any of the parties involved. There were a lot of growths to remove on each leg and he would be sedated for a long time. Any kind of surgery for an animal that weighs about a ton is tricky. There was no guarantee that he would recover...but he did..with flying colors I might add.
Prince turned into a big handsome boy with a powerful neck and a thick long mane and forelock. Ansley trained him to drive and rode him occasionally too. He enjoyed viewing the mares on the farm ..a little too much perhaps, so he was gelded..also a very dicey procedure for an older horse.... but he came through that too.
Prince lived a contented and comfortable life for many years after...until something unthinkable happened. One day when Ansley had invited friends for a drive with him.... he collapsed on the way home... and died in his traces.
There was a big hole to fill in Ansley's heart.....his name is Bear..
This painting was accepted into the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine's 20th International Exhibition called, 'Animals in Art'.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Portrait of Taite

This young lady, who was 8 years old at the time of the portrait in charcoal pencil, is brilliant....to put it bluntly, and definitely cut from the same cloth as her enterprising and independent mother. Taite's curiosity and intelligence haven't gone unnoticed at school where she's very popular with fellow students and enrolled in a curriculum for gifted children. Aside from her pretty face and engaging smile, it was very important to me, to capture as much of that effervescent personality as I could. This was quite a challenge...(you have to do the bad drawings and paintings to get to the good ones).. The process took about two weeks of head scratching, hand wringing and three attempts. This is the final one.
Her funny 'Alice in Wonderland' hat actually had a bright leopard pattern on it but the shape alone was so charming that I left it this way.
I really like working with charcoal pencil...It cuts to the chase...no colors to interfere....just rich dark lines and soft tone values used to express my impressions of a subject.
There's no doubt that great things lay ahead for Taite and I'm very excited for her....You go girl!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The name hasn't been changed to protect the innocent

Cousin Harold

"Is this guy really your cousin?" I'm asked that all the time at shows and actually he's my husband's cousin. If the family ever took a vote on the Black Sheep of the family, Harold would get the nod...in a landslide.
If you didn't know him and accidentally bumped into him, you'd run...in the opposite direction... ..fast. Harold's appearance and unconventional life style were the topic of many lively family discussions. He had a pretty rough childhood and was the oldest of seven kids. Harold was always on his best behavior when he showed up in Maine for a visit and we enjoyed his wild stories..even though he cleaned them up for us.
This is pastel over watercolor on a very heavy cotton rag paper called Khadi that's handmade in India. Originally the background was blocked in with dark watercolor washes for trees and deep woods. It was too distracting so I scrubbed it out and changed it to the desolate landscape and troubling sky you see here. I wondered if the paper would hold out as I reworked the background and his eyes over and over again in pastel...it did.
This image has more red in it than the real painting...bad lighting.
As for Harold..He now sits in a Florida prison, maybe for the rest of his life. You know what they say, "The ones who are the hardest to love, are the ones who need it the most".
This painting won a Merit Award in the Pastel Painters of Maine International Show at the River Tree Center for the Arts, Kennebunk. Me., several years ago.

The story behind The Straw Ride

The Straw Ride

This is a 9 x 11 casein study of a very large oil painting by British artist Lucy Kemp-Welch, (1869-1958). In my version the colors are punched up a bit more than the original….its just my way… I also get a sense of urgency and feel the fires burning in the bellies of the galloping horses.
Caseins don’t necessarily have to be framed under glass but this one is and it looks like a watercolor because of the transparent washes used.
Obviously I have strong feelings about this painting by Welch. She’s captured th
e excitement and high spirits of a training scene in which women break horses to be used by the British Army during World War I. Women weren’t allowed to go into battle in those days so they supported troops and contributed to the war effort by performing many tough jobs at home that were typically done by men. The relaxed demeanor of the woman rider Welch depicted demonstrates that she is calm and in complete control of her mount and the one she’s ponying beside her. I’ve had my own horses and believe me this isn't easy. The young woman looks like she’s enjoying the ride. It’s a great tribute to these unsung heroes of that war.
I’ve often thought this image may be a powerful allegory for Welch’s life and those of other talented women artists of that day. She was a gifted and extremely accomplished painter…way ahead of her time. Her technical skills far surpassed many of the men who were members of the Royal Academy of Art and although she exhibited there, she was never accepted into the fold, even as an associate member….
It must have been a bitter blow…. but it never stopped her from doing what she loved. She went on to become a member of the prestigious Pastel Society of Great Britain and the first president of the Society of Animal Painters. She was awarded the Bronze medal at the Paris Salon in 1921 and the Silver medal the following year.
Yep...this one’s for Lucy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Portrait of Ada

Last year I participated in a Terry Ludwig Portrait Workshop sponsored by the Pastel Painters of Maine.
Our model for the workshop was a lovely older woman named Ada who had worked as a professional model when she was younger. Terry started the workshop with a talk about his working methods then gave a demo that took 45 minutes and after that we all jumped in.
The materials list for this workshop included Kitty Wallis paper which is a heavy paper covered with a fine grit surface and lots of tooth, meaning it can grab heavy layers of pastel and hold on to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any before the class so I brought Colourfix which is very similar but comes in different colors. I chose a warm Terra Cotta that I use mostly for my landscapes because it makes the colors vibrate and really sing. It also seems virtually indestructible and can be used for oil paintings, and all water mediums. I decided to bring some inexpensive pastel paper to try, the name of which escapes me, that had little tooth and holding power.
Ada-1 was done on the Colourfix Terra Cotta. I started by lightly sketching the arabesque, just a faint outline of her head, profile, hair and neck. After some scrutiny of Ada’s facial features and the light effects, I started blocking in large shapes such as her nose, cheek, ear and eye areas. Placement for these features is really important…just a small degree off and suddenly you have someone else staring back at you! Terry’s pastels were great for this…they’re rectangular, not round as most brands, so you can use the flat side for blocking in large areas and they won’t roll away when put down.
When the big shapes are in and properly placed the fun begins…This is where the real personality startes to emerge. Large areas are gradually broken into smaller and smaller areas using different tones, and varying strokes. The finish is in the eye and getting the placement of light reflected on the eyeball is really important. Terry’s help here was invaluable.
This version of Ada makes her look very strong and severe. I was trying too hard I think. Ada-2 was done on the cheap pastel paper, and though I didn’t enjoy working on it, the finished portrait is much more accurate in portraying Ada’s delicate features and sensitive expression. The paper’s poor surface wouldn’t allow for a heavy handed method so I had to use restraint and a lighter touch…not my usual style…I got two lessons for the price of one!