Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rhu Bear Comes to the Forest

One morning (actually, Wednesday, August 13) a neighbor rang the windbell on 
the porch and said "I have this little guy and I want you to see him." I thought 
while walking outside - there is a perfectly respectable marmelade cat in her car 
and I will have a nice little kitty visit and say the kitty isn't mine. I told the universe - 
and everyone else that was suggesting I go in search of a cat - that I was NOT looking 
for a cat, but that if a little Maine Coon showed up on my doorstep, I would take 
it as a sign that this was my next kitty. So when I looked into the cat carrier 
in the car, just steps away from my doorstep, and saw this little mini Pasha cat 
looking sweetly out at me... well, that was that. 

Five days later, after I returned from a mini Maine getaway, Rhu Bear came to 
live with me. He is very sweet and affectionate and at first I thought rather mellow. 
Once he was a little more comfortable, the full-on kitten energy was revealed! He's 
been here ten days and has eased into life very gently. Except when crazed kitty 
comes out, he is very well behaved. I am well stocked with little balls, string, 
felted mice, balled up pieces of paper, and a ridiculous plastic thingie (a material 
seldom buy) with a ball trapped inside that he bats around and around the 
interior track. All fine, except that I didn't know the ball makes chirping sounds 
when it moves, so this toy goes to bed when I do. Rhu does, too, and sleeps all 
night curled into me, until I make the mistake of rolling over at 6 am... and the 
little guy begins his morning yoga and I know sleeping time is over. 

Because I took everything off the walls downstairs when the floor was going in, I 
decided it was the perfect opportunity to frame a few of my newer pieces and live 
with them. I'm enjoying the fern lamp with my fern drawing behind it, and in the 
photo below, one of my most recent forest paintings and an older spiral drawing 
above the chest. 

It seems important to live with new work, to get a deeper sense of the story being 
told and to look, daily, at where things might go. 

The month of August was a self-imposed resting time after so many house projects 
along with the renovations. What a gift to sit in the garden and read a book long 
after my morning coffee was gone, and to stretch on the mosses in the warm sunshine
while the dragonflies feasted on mosquitoes. I also had a lovely time getting used to 
cooking on my new, fancy stove. Wheeee, what have I been missing!

Outside, the gardens are overflowing with bees and flowers and the front door 
hosts a wonderful collection of moths. Much to Rhu Bears delight, the moths 
flit around the windows at night providing much entertainment. 

I am back teaching now, which means little Rhu is alone quite a lot at the start 
of the work week, but this ensures that when I return home in the evenings, 
I definitely do not have a cold neck.  

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.