September 24, 2009

Autumn Color
9" x 12" oil on linen panel
(The residency is officially over but I can't resist the landscape.)
Tweddle Farm
24" x 30" oil on canvas
Gift to Park Service @ Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

My residency officially draws to a close today though we can stay in the house until Monday. The presentation at the Visitor Center drew a great crowd of 40 or more. It was fun to be speaking on the subject near and dear to my heart, but as it turns out, it was not unlike the talks at the old Unity-Midtown. They laughed; they cried. I presented the Tweddle Farm painting (image above) to the Park and another to Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear. Then about 20 people followed me over to the farm for the exhibit of my other work -- about 25 paintings in all. What can I say? It's been an amazing experience. I'm sure there'll be more to reflect on as the days unfold. As I was out this morning painting "Autumn Color" a woman I met on the dunes came by to make a purchase of the painting she fell in love with yesterday. It was a nice affirmation of my dune path. More later ....

Late Summer Port Oneida
20" x 24"

Treat Farm
24" x 20"

Burfiend Farm
16" x 20"

Today I painted up on the Pierce Stocking Drive for the final time of my residency. I wanted to go there to be with the people who contribute so much to the experience here -- tourists.
I got there early and was set up on the overlook boardwalk before anyone arrived. It reminded me of getting ready to do church years ago. Then folks started to come. I heard more than one person shush the people in her party. "There's someone painting," she'd say, and they'd approach with whispers or in silence. I would, of course, invite them in close for a look and explain what I was doing there. (Though, because of my "official" shirt and name badge and other NPS bling, it wasn't hard to figure out.)
Anyway, it was a lovely sunny morning. The views were stunning and easy to paint. The landscape here is now embedded in my consciousness to the extent I can feel as well as see it. It's more clear to me than ever after this three week immersion that an artist is painting his or her inner landscape as much as or more than the outer one.
It also strikes me that in the days when I was "doing" church as a Unity minister, I drew inspiration from life's possibilities -- the potential for creation in individuals and groups -- what might be. Now, as a painter, I am primarily inspired by reality -- what is, right in front of me. It's always only ever a matter of seeing. I'm reminded of Alice Walker's brilliant character Shug from The Color Purple, something she says along the lines of "I think it pisses God off if we walk by a field filled with the color purple and don't notice." I am intoxicated with the reality of Sleeping Bear and her coat of many colors. It's the best church I've ever found.
One mishap on the dune path this morning. An elderly lady fell in love with the piece I was painting. She asked how much I was selling it for and when I said nine-fifty, she said "Is that all?" I wondered if I was asking too little for my work. As we walk to my car to discuss the purchase (after my residency is up), I come to find out that she thought the price was $9.50 not $950 as I'd had in mind. I'd taken her for an affluent art collector who believed my prices to be extremely reasonable (as they are for this area) whereas she was actually a retiree living in a mobile home on a fixed income. After many apologies for the confusion I gave her a card with the image of one of my paintings and showed her how she could frame it and make a nice piece. I loved that she loved the work.
Putting a price on a painting is one of the most challenging parts of walking this art-spirit path. It seems that everyone who loves a painting should have it. Yet, I have significant expenses associated with my artwork as well as the need to make a living. What I do looks like such fun to casual observers, yet it is definitely work -- inner and well as outer work -- and somehow all of this wants to be compensated. My agreement with myself is to work with admirers who want to own a painting to see how we can both get what we need.
It's easier when there's someone else doing the wheeling and dealing so I'm on the lookout for a good gallery in the area. I want someone who appreciates the unique qualities of my work and will represent me enthusiastically. I think I've already found one that will work really well. I'll keep you posted with the details.
My presentation and exhibit are tomorrow. Will go "home" now to clean up and make ready. Come on down -- 2:00 p.m. at the Sleeping Bear Visitor Center -- in person or in spirit. We'll inspire each other!
Thanks for reading this blog!

September 21, 2009

A rainy day at last! Non-stop painting (or desire to paint) now can cease for a day. We had a great paint-out at Tweddle Farm on Saturday with fifteen artists present to take advantage of the lovely weather and location. It was great to see the Park open and welcome to artists. I started envisioning many ways to partner with Sleeping Bear in the future. I feel such a strong connection with this land, I cannot help but think there is more I will be able to contribute here (beyond the painting I will donate at the end of this week).
Speaking of which, I am in the home stretch of my residency. I'm preparing for my presentation at the Visitor Center on Friday at 2:00 p.m. as well as for a "wet painting" show with food to follow at Tweddle Farm at 3:30. Then it will be time to pack up and head out for my next destination -- Frankfort? Atlanta? ????
I don't really have words to describe my gratitude for all this opportunity has brought me. Imagine waking in the morning with only one imperative -- to listen for the instruction, inspiration and encouragement of the Muse. Oh yes, and to feed Spotty who has, by the way, been an invaluable aid to my sleep in the form of aggressive mousing. I've been productive yet not too obsessive, pleased with my work but not so enamored of it I haven't been willing to learn from mistakes. I've struggled with issues to do with getting the work out into the world -- where are the throngs that want to buy my paintings? -- but have reconciled with the reality that all such things have their own timing, and that this is not a time to be concerned with sales. I am immersed in a process of creativity that seems life-changing to say the very least.
I appreciate your reading my reflections. I'll be posting more photos of the work as I get them finished.

September 17, 2009

North Bar Breakthrough
24" x 30" oil on canvas

Getting into a rhythm of working in my "studio" in the mornings which gives me time to warm up for an afternoon session whilst improving paintings that need it. I am astounded by how much I learn from day to day. Sitting with the previous days' work, I see what could be and should be different. Then I must decide whether to go back in and work on a piece or go back to the site and try again. Some paintings seem to demand tweaking and I comply. Others, if I'm too attached to risk altering the work, require me to suffer the charm of my ignorance.
(How did that big blob end up as the foreground of this otherwise beautiful landscape?)

I seem to have a problem with foreground, offering the viewer a way in to the scene. Having identified this weakness, I have an idea of what to work with in my next painting. For now, I am choosing to let be the painting above. I may go back to North Bar Lake and have another go at it.

Thanks for checking in!

September 16, 2009

On location: North Bar Overlook.
Photo by Geroge Hunyadi.

Dune Plain
12" x 16"
oil on linen panel

Treat Farm Early Evening
16" x 20" oil on canvas

Here's couple of pieces from the past week. I've loved being out on this land. It makes such a difference to be in "residence" here. I wake up in the moring immersed in the light and the landscape. The painting places reveal themselves as I fall in love with yet another spot. I'm learning to take my time choosing the place I will paint, resting sufficiently between painting sessions to be clear from one to the other. My new favorite place in Sleeping Bear is North Bar Lake. Stay tuned for images of the paintings I've been in and around there in the past two days.

Yesterday was treated to some lovely contacts with people at the North Bar Lake Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Drive. One couple, Geroge and Joy Kunyadi, were particularly engaging. George was carrying a major piece of photograhic equipment and asked me to take time out to pose with my painting. I couldn't resist. The photo is above.
Today marks a shift in the weather pattern that's brought impeccable weather for the past ten days. I can use a bit of time to do some studio work. Still, it's supposed to clear this afternoon and the land beckons ....

September 14, 2009

One of the challenges of doing technology and painting is that the painting mind is not geared to the technological one, except as it relates to getting the paint out of the tube and onto the canvas. I'm writing this with no photo attached because the camera is somewhere in all my painting stuff and not with my laptop. That said, the painting is going well today. I painted at North Bar Lake this morning -- a crystalline blue green lake with woods on one side and dunes on the other. The painting features the point where a small outlet from the lake breaks through to Lake Michigan. Quite loose and colorful and filled with light. Now back to the same area for an afternoon session.

Sleeping better for having Spotty my cat around. He's keeping the house critters at bay. The outdoor wildlife -- a huge porcupine who comes to eat the fallen pears near the farmhouse -- is probably more than he could take on. He's really a house cat, never caught anything bigger than a large roach. I doubt he'll do anything more than scare the mouse, the way Mr. P. Pine scares him.

With twelve or more paintings more or less completed, I'm taking this week to paint in one or two places I've really fallen for. Away from the homestead, out into the wild world of the dunes. Thanks for following this blog! Send me an email if you'd like!

September 9, 2009

Tweddle Farm Sept. 6
24" x 30"
Norconk Meadow
24" x 30"
Two works in progress. I've been progressively increasing the size of my paintings in preparation for doing a 30" x 40" plein air (outdoor) dune painting. I wrestle with my ability to knock out a painting quickly (a somewhat daunting task on a bigger canvas) and my desire to paint from a relaxed space. The ambitious "paintiac" takes over all too often. It seems to be a matter of aspiring to paint large without being compelled to do so for the wrong reasons.
I'm also choosing to see all these paintings as works in progress. It's so macho to believe that only paintings completed in one sitting are true plein air pieces. If I am in service to Beauty, does it matter how long the painting takes? Today I worked on a 24" x 30" farmyard scene for more than 3 hours. I took it as far as I could in one day. Tomorrow's another day and I hope for sun that will allow me to develop the painting outside. If not, I can reference my photos of the scene. Beauty is generous; it's not trusting the abundance that has me greedy to get it all down as quickly as possible. Such a metaphor ....
I've also realized that coming out of the painting space to blog on my computer (which requires sitting in this coffee shop) is very distracting. I have to physically leave my "residency" and I wonder if it's worth it. Is anyone really following this? If so, I'd appreciate it if you would please send me an email at to let me know.
Yesterday was an admin day. I formally became a Volunteer of the National Park Service, received an official nametag and shirt (great for painting). It's the most connected to the federal government I've ever been. I feel sorry, though, for the employees at Sleeping Bear. They sit in florescent lit cubicles all day while the dunes they manage bask in the sun. Very helpful staff, though, and I remain grateful for this unexpected opportunity as well as the shirt.
(For some reason I'm unable to get paragraph breaks on this blog -- sorry for the run-on text.)

September 6, 2009

Tweddle Farm
oil on canvas
20" x 20"
It took me about an hour to move my stuff into the house at Tweddle Farm. Basic government issue furnishings but with the paintings I brought up from Frankfort, it soon looks like my usual home/gallery. Once installed, I headed out for a paint session -- ten yards from the door. Last night the just waning moon kept me awake. Lots of fog in the meadows reflecting the light. Up early this morning and back at it. Nice folk stop by to visit and view on the way to their morning hike. Now at Gemma's, the local wi-fi connection, where the loud rock contrasts mightily with the peaceful farm.

September 2, 2009

Sleeping Bear Path
11" x 14" oil on linen panel
Here's part of the path I'll be trying to walk these upcoming weeks. Literally and figuratively, it's a steep way to go. The challenge is about staying true to my intention to follow an Art-Spirit path. What does this mean? I'll have three weeks to begin to find out starting this Saturday. Thanks for checking in!

September 1, 2009

Apple Tree
9" x 12" oil on linen

I fell in love with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as soon as I lay eyes on the Park last August. I knew I had to come back to paint those amazing dunes. In October I returned for a few chilly and wet days in nearby Frankfort, MI. I painted on the dunes the one day it was sunny (and 45 degrees). Meanwhile, next door to the place I was staying, a foreclosure sign went in the ground of an old Victorian fixer-upper; within 4 hours, my husband and I had made an offer. We got the house even though responsibilities in Atlanta wouldn't allow us to move any time soon. During a quick visit in November to show Roo what we'd gotten ourselves into, the snow started to fall and we headed south again.

I applied for the Artist in Residence program in January. In early May I learned I'd not been selected. A photographer and filmmaker were chosen this year, but would I be willing to be the first alternate? My 96 year old mother had just fallen and broken her hip. I wasn't sure what the future held for me, her primary caretaker. But I agreed to be on stand-by in case someone was unable to serve. Then mom's condition quickly deteriorated. When she died less than a week later, my world seemed to have fallen apart. Yet, in the midst of terrible grief, it slowly dawned that nothing was keeping us from returning to beautiful Michigan. I would have a summer to paint even though I would be at Sleeping Bear.
By the first week or so in July I managed my grief sufficiently to resume painting. I headed up to a meadow across from Old Indian Trail in the Park. I found myself walking around what turned out to be an abandoned orchard and there made my first painting at Sleeping Bear. Something about that old apple tree spoke to me. Perhaps it reminded me of my mother in her last days -- largely worn out but still producing a few juicy apples. In any case, the painting signalled a day of new beginnings. (As I write this I'm reminded to go back out tomorrow and check to see if the apples are ripe.) I'll keep you posted.
BTW, I did get a call from the Sleeping Bear Park, just a couple of weeks ago. It turns out I will be an Artist in Residence there. In fact, I head up (20 miles north of Frankfort) to begin this Saturday. I've decided to blog my way through the 3 week sojourn there. I'll post my work and tell how it's going. I hope you'll come along for the viewing or maybe even to get out and paint.