Sunday, July 13, 2014

Many Moons Have Passed

"Forest", watercolor, 11" x 15", VClaff 2014

Many moons have passed since last I wrote! I didn't wander off into the forest, 
never to be found again, or spirited away by faeries... no, I am here. I am 
quite well, in fact, better than I've been in a few years. My health is better, 
my grief is there, of course, but less on the surface now. I've been off on 
adventures since last I wrote, and found as the days turned into months 
since I've posted here, it felt harder and harder to know where to begin! I've 
not been visiting blogs much, nor spending as much time plugged in, but I 
imagine it might well be seasonal. 

I spent the early spring in the studio, determined to be in there regularly 
this summer. A few new pieces emerged that feel good to me. Not sure if 
the first two are finished, though they've been sitting for a long while now. 
In these photos, you might see that most are still wet.

"Forest Glow", watercolor, 11" x 15", VClaff 2014
"Hemlock", watercolor, 8"x10", VClaff 2014

"Hemlock Grove", watercolor, 8"x10", VClaff 2014
The winter invasion of mice after Pasha's passing has continued, though I'm getting 
it under control with a relocation program, new foam insulation under the house 
plugging up the mouse entryways, and peppermint oil packs in strategic places. I've 
had a number of small, adorable mice trap themselves in various buckets, this one 
greeted me one morning in the kitchen sink. At this age they are so adorable that 
relocating him or her outside alone was a bit challenging for me! 

Mid June found me in Vermont at the beatufiul farm of my dear college roommate, 
J'Amy. I had a wonderful visit with J'Amy and her family, and stayed with her mom, 
Sue at her little cottage surrounded by amazing gardens. Unfortunately when we 
went on the big garden tour, I didn't have my camera.

At the farm one evening, we were lucky to find a huge cecropia moth seen 
here with J'Amy's daughter, Leeya. We determined that this must have been 
the female as there were as many as 19 others flying around us, all interested 
in this one. It was magical!! 

Back in the forest, a new garden bed went in, and it has been a great year 
for moths, including the enchanting luna moths. 

A long overdue renovation project is underway thanks to a development grant 
I received from a local corporation. New siding to replace old, rotting shingles, 
a drain under the house so no pond forms in heavy rain, new entrance stairs, 
a new downstairs bamboo floor (!!!!) and varioius other wonderful gifts including 
a new gas cookstove and a backup heater so I might be able to go away in winter! 
One factor in my long absence from here has been the presence of workmen here 
every weekday and various projects I am undertaking alongside them. My usual quiet 
summer with the mosses has been overtaken by this project and LOTS of people 
here. It is well worth it, however, as my gratitude for the improvements is over-
flowing! With the completion of the bamboo floor downstairs this week, and a 
few details here and there, I believe the six weeks of work will be coming to an 
end. I am very ready for some quiet time with the mosses.

Once the new stairs went in, I suddenly HAD to paint the doors green... 
maybe I was influenced by the daily visits of the luna moths. 
I was lucky to capture a little video of two on the screen 
one evening. I find luna moths to be quite otherworldly.  


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Exploring Small Worlds

"Dark Forest", small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

I suppose I'm not too surprised by the dark and moody paintings that have come 
out of me since I began painting again. Its been a long, intense and challenging 
winter. I walked into the studio last Thursday, and began exploring small worlds. 

Small explorations, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I re-enter 
my creative process with multiple small pieces, exploring color, mood, and 
warming up my wash technique. The photo below gives a sense of scale, I 
hope, the smalles work in the lower left corner is just about 3" x5", about 
the size of the bottom left above. 

Though I haven't been in the studio working since December, I found a flow again immediately. This is not to say that I am satisfied with each piece, no, but with 
each, I learn something about where I am, what wants to be said on a large 
scale and what needs attention in my technique. I appreciate many of the small 
explorations in their own right, but enjoy the challenge of working larger and 
the visual impact the large forest paintings have on a space. When I get a few 
logistics worked out in the studio, I will begin a series of very large forests. 

Small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Gold Afternoon", VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Through the Hemlocks", VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Late Afternoon Light", small exploration VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Clearing", small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Dusk", small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Old One", small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

"Spring", small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

Small exploration, VClaff, watercolor on paper 2014

The painting below was started as a demonstration of my painting process for my 
open studio in December. It is a larger piece - half a sheet of watercolor paper. 
(not quite this orange, I don't think) It was just the first wash layer until today, 
when I worked most of the afternoon on the trees. It may still need one small tree 
on the right side, but we'll see. 

In progress, VClaff, watercolor on paper, 15" x 22" 2014 

Now that school is over until late August, I am settling into a new routine - having 
coffee and breakfast in the moss garden if the weather allows, and doing small 
chores before beginning work in the studio. Yesterday, I sat and watched the 
first bloodroot bloom of the season open before my eyes. I could not detect 
any movement, but bit by bit, it opened. Magical!

April was a very cold month, and now May is not warming up as much as it might,
either. My chore before the studio this morning, was to bring in a hefty load of 
firewood to warm the chilly nights ahead!! I'll leave you with images from my 
travels around town in April, and the tree around the corner which I have 
photographed over and over as it always has such a wonderful dialogue with the 
powerlines and clouds. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tending to Stillness

the owl and me, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

The wild ones must be sensing my need for creature companions as I have almost
nightly visits from the owl and a pair of raccoons who pick through the fallen birdseed
for treats. I quietly open the back door and step out onto the stones to greet the 
owl. I stay for just a moment, look into her eyes and thank her for trusting me. 

owl, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

One evening, a pre-teen mouse kept me company in the living room. Darting 
here and there and seemingly not able to find his way back from where he had 
come. Without a cat around, the mice have become quite bold, but this sweet 
little one was a bit too bold. I caught him and decided I would just bring him 
outside, thinking that for sure he would come right back in with the rest of the 
family after the evening forage. I put him down on the snow, expecting him to 
bolt away, but he stood frozen there, looking up at me. It crossed my mind that 
he might not have been the smartest mouse around, when, in turning to go inside, 
I noticed the owl on her perch. Hmmmm. A moment of decision, wondering if I 
should move the mouse. I like mice - all creatures, really - but I'm also clear that 
life eats life. My moment of hesitation was enough, and I turned to see the owl 
swoop down from her perch and whisk the mouse away into the trees just steps from where I stood. It was both heartwrenching and amazing...  life. 

creature behind a tree, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

I have been tending to the stillness calling me, and listening to the deepest, 
darkest parts of myself, in this coldest of winters. On days when I am not 
teaching, my mornings are long and slow and spent writing and reflecting in 
my journal, listening to the cracks and pops of the fire. The word that best 
describes my state is frozen, like the land, waiting for some new cycle to 
warm me and inspire a flow. In my journal, quick drawings emerge along 
with the writing - all the art I have been able to make. There have been 
moments of despair, but also moments of deep presence, and I have become 
good at trusting the dark over the years, knowing the gifts that come from 
sitting still and listening. 

a face, journal drawing, VClaff 2014
I have drawn people since I was a small child, but it has been many years since 
people have made it into my paintings. They find their way into drawings, like 
the root people drawings - but not into other work. I think because I imagine the landscapes paint to be what I am walking inside, and want to wander only in 
the wildest of places on the edge of mystery. 

a grandmother, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

raven woman, journal drawing, VClaff 2014

As I write, the rain is pouring down, a shift from the endless frozenness of these 
last months. Spring Equinox was a day of ice, rain, sun and then snow as if the 
spring was determined to get a word in edgewise with this bully of a winter. 

A moment in the sunshine to welcome spring. 

Today is warm, and was dry until the end of my walk 
up the road, but then the branching reflections in the 
puddles were a great distraction. 

My night friends who, really, have been quite polite as 
they do not disturb the feeders with all that seed hanging 
right above their heads.