Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thinking About Beauty

Summer solstice was a warm, sunny day. A small group gathered here for a fire to 
celebrate the longest day and witness it fade into night. The frogs and bird songs 
were particularly beautiful, seeming always to punctuate moments when deep truths  
were spoken and prayers given to the fire with handfuls of fragrant herbs. I thought 
about having my camera with me, but being present in the moment always takes 
precedence over recording our ritual. The following day brought back the heavy
rains, feeling more like autumn than summer. My sister and niece came for an 
overnight and we tucked into the house for cozy reading and tea. We did have one 
outside adventure to the gorge - a very wet walk along the cliffs. An unsteady 
moment while taking the photo above captures the day much better than any 
of the others I think!

I felt the power of the rushing, swollen r
iver as it poured through the narrow passage and the air smelled fresh and alive with the movement. A run of many days of rain, then a few of sunshine has taken hold, keeping the gardens well watered and not yet drowning. Amidst the mists and dripping sounds, the mountain laurel has burst into bloom throughout the forest. 
A surprise to find a turned leaf already. The color captivated me 
and the little eye near the top got me wondering....

Being quite sensitive to the mold spores that have blossomed in this wet, 
I had a slow day of rest and listening and found myself thinking a lot about 
beauty. I'm often shocked when a colleague at the university makes a statement 
about a piece of student work " It lacks depth - its just too pretty". I understand 
what is meant, but what shocks me is that often this criticism is given to work 
that is intuitive and mysterious and to my eyes, beautiful. It seems that in 
the university, beauty is not okay anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. 
I find myself out on a limb, fighting for the work of a student who has delved into 
an authentic dance with beauty, and it seems only a few others recognize the 

I think being an artist is about pollinating the world with beauty, 
and what comes of walking in the world with the senses wide open is 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spiral Spinoff & A Month of Luna Moths

Spiral #1 - detail

A quick post to announce the winners of the sprial spin-off!
I hope to be back with another post sometime soon...

Spiral #2 - detail

Today I took all the names for the spiral drawing giveaway and put them in 
my crystal singing bowl. I had the grand idea that maybe I could vibrate the 
papers and two would magically turn over to reveal the winners.... well, that 
didn't quite work, so I stirred the stew of names in the crystal cauldron with 
the mallet, deciding that if a bunch of names turned over, I'd just have to close 
my eyes and draw two out. When I looked inside, however, two names were 
visible and a third tucked just underneath. 

Spiral Drawing #1 - will go to Barbara/Stille LindeSpiral Drawing #2 will go to Stephanie/Faerie Finder over at owl in the dark, and because obviously something
had to be done about the third name, a mystery package will be sent to Christina 
from A Mermaid in the Attic. Winners please email me with your mailing addresses,
you'll find my email on my profile page. I like that the spirals will be going over seas 
to Britain and Europe, and the mystery package all the way to Australia... and kinda 
fun that I won a giveaway a few months ago from Christina, nice to be able to 
reciprocate with a surprise! 

Out and about in the garden, the heavy rains of late have made the moss hill
very happy. Having a new window in the living room is wonderful as now I 
look out to this amazing moss view. I was inspired to put in a woodland garden 
out back, and now I have my breakfast in the rocking chair and watch the ferns 
shift in the morning breeze. If I'm lucky, the wood thrushes sing to me while I 
sip coffee and a chipmunk perches on a stump and watches me.   

It has been a magical month of luna moths, I see them almost daily, clinging to
tree trunks or the side of the house. They are favorite food of something in the 
night, maybe bats, as I find their delicate wings on the grass after someone's 
nighttime feast. Today, as I was heading out to do errands,I spotted one on the 
woodshed. See it right on the bottom corner?  

There is something so ethereal about luna moths, the amazing green 
color with spots of purple details - such a great combination! 

And just in case you can't quite get the scale...

My garden just wouldn't be complete without 
tangerine gem marigolds. The delicate, edible flowers 
taste like citrus, I love them in salads. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Misty Forests, Spiral Giveways, A Spin in the Air

"Golden Mists", watercolor 

The puddles from last month's rains have finally dried up, but our weather has been 
swinging from hot to cold. Last night I lit a fire in the wood stove to take the chill 
out, and awoke to warm sunshine in long, angular rays of forest morning light. 
As most of the garden tasks are finished (the big spring projects, that is..) I finally 
forced myself back into the studio to paint. It took a bit to find myself again... it 
always does after a break but I seem to think I should be able to walk right in, pick 
up a brush and have satisfactory images emerge effortlessly. I leave after the first 
day back knowing for sure that this time I've totally lost it, never will I paint well 
again. I could have easily flowed back into work if I hadn't decided to work on misty 
forest paintings instead of the high ridge views I'd done last. But the forest called 
to me as I had stored much visual inspiration from my wet spring walks. 

"Woodland Mystery", watercolor

"Green Light", watercolor

It seems the mystery behind the red door must be revealed... as several folks 
wondered what was hidden in there. Yes, it is my studio, warm and cozy in 
winter, but not so inviting in warm weather when dragonflies dart by the open 
door and Pasha cat comes in between wanderings to entice me to walk in the 
forest with him. In winter, he cries at the door and comes in for some heat 
and a nap. In summer, he just doesn't know why on earth I am sitting inside 
a dark room with lights on....

Inside, my table is piled with the new work, just untaped from boards. Some are
now listed in my Etsy shop, and some will stay stranded in limbo, not quite making 
the cut. 

My tools - If you've never bought good watercolor & brushes, you might not know 
that the shot below represents probably close to a thousand dollars. Can you believe 
that? I see one recently purchased brush that cost over $60, luckily, I got it half off. 
One advantage of teaching is getting to know the folks at the student art-kit supply 
store who let me know when good things are happening. As my work and technique 
develop, I've learned what brushes will give me a desired effect, so finding this 
large, flat, great quality brush that holds just the right amount of liquid was a find. 
There's nothing more frustrating to me than not having the right tools for the job.
I remember a chalk board in my father's workshop from my childhood that had the 
same thing written on it for years - "NEVER USE CHEAP VARNISH" - or was it brushes, 
I can't quite remember, but I completely agree either way!

As I look around the studio, I see two paintings from years ago that seem related 
to these new pieces - forest layers, dark tree silhouettes and mysterious light. 

Resting quietly on a pile of painted stones are two small spiral drawings.... 
they whispered to me that they want to go live with two of you in appreciation
for all the inspiration, community, wonderful comments and reflections you give. 
Way back in March, just before my trip to Florida, I noticed that I had almost one 
hundred followers. I decided I would do a giveaway, but somehow March went by 
and the milestone one hundredth mark was made and now it is June and there 
are a few short of two hundred of you readers...! So, I say, it really IS time for 
a giveaway!! (not to mention that I have now been the recipient of two 
blog giveaways - one lovely print from Christina at A Mermaid in the Attic and 
just now a cool autumn leaf from Barry over at Rustnstuff

So if you would like to participate, please leave a comment on this 
post by Monday and I will announce the winners next week. 

Out in the garden today, the happily grinning frog perched on his stones
 amongst the sweet woodruff and oregano caught my attention. 

 And the Jack-in-the-pulpit:

The little white geranium showed me she is 
not really all white, 

and just around the herb bed, a triplet of Irises. 

Pasha cat can usually be found on his bench for afternoon naps. I spotted 
him while photographing the queen of the garden, the Angelica, 
who is just about to bloom!

On closer inspection of napping cat, I noticed that one eye was surely peeking at me.
After a series of change-of-position circlings and resettling, the angle of one rear paw didn't quite make sense to me.... (I figured out after looking at this photo again 
thatwhat I THOUGHT was a rear paw is a front paw - that makes much more sense)

Later in the evening, when Pasha was tucked inside to meet his pre-dusk curfew, 
I wandered down the road in the last moments of sunlight. The fern glades are 
particularly enchanting right now, fresh green fronds all heading in the same 

A lovely flash of sunset hit me straight on when I emerged from the forest. The
neighbor's little barn driveway sparkled with color. 

I was reminded of this strange photo I took of the sky on June 1st. Maybe it
doesn't look strange, but it was a strange sky day. Intense thunderstorms turned 
into deadly tornados that hit not twenty miles south of here. We had hail the size 
of cumquats and high winds. I thought my windshield would break from the hail... 
Its rare for us to have tornados. I've since learned that every twenty years or so 
we get them, but this time they hit several cities and towns and did terrible 
damage and three dead. Thanks to those of you who emailed to find out if I 
was ok. The green-ish afternoon sky suddenly turned this pink-orange color, 

then into lavender-pink. There was definitely a "spin" in the air.....