Monday, February 27, 2006

Finding things

I have a friend who writes non-fiction books. He organizes his work in a very large room where he places numbered sheets on the wall for each page, adds post-it notes and memos right on the wall, stores chapter references and other odd materials in boxes underneath. Now I understand why!

My studio has imploded under stacks of small canvases waiting for paint to get me in the mood for the Southern French countryside, easels filled with large canvases for the Grandmother Narratives, stacks of references for writing the bio-gems and new stacks of books for the new writing project. I don't need a studio. I need a warehouse. I can't find my calendar. I feel like Andy Rooney.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pickles and Peppermint

Yesterday's blog got delayed because of a surprise visit by this little munchkin and her Mamma. Susan and I had planned lunch at our favorite barbecue spot, so Lucy got to come along. She sat in the big high chair and smiled at everybody. She made funny faces at Great-Grandmother LaLa, when I let her taste the pickles and peppermint candy which are part of that restaurant's experience. At just 6 months, she couldn't sing Happy Birthday to Susan, but she made lunch into a party.

After lunch, we tried on shoes and picked a daffodil!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Birthday Greetings!

It's "Sharing Celebrations" Friday, so you'll find Winslow Homer at the Current BioGem on my website. (link is also on sidebar)
While I was doing the research this week, I spotted this painting which Homer did in 1872 -- "Sunlight and Shadow" which is at Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian. My information says it is an oil on canvas -- I'm betting not. I think it's a watercolor. The size, palette and brushstrokes match quite a few other landscapes which he did in watercolor that year.

I thought it looked familiar. The girl in the hammock could easily be my daughter, Susan, whose birthday is also today! These are photos of our hammock at our summer house. It's rare to find the hammock empty of folks reading books or taking naps or both.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I know I cannot get side tracked right now, but I have been looking at St. Sernin in Toulouse -- THE premier example of Romanesque churches. I'd like to go there in April if I can find an organ concert -- maybe just a lunch-time 30 minutes. I'd like to get a CD of chants or music from their 1888 Cavaillé-Coll organ. I think it would make great music for the studio.

St Sernin is one of the stops on the old pilgrimage route to Spain during Medieval times. I have been to many of the 33 pilgrimage stops in Japan including the first one which has no number. There is something neat about going where millions of people over the centuries have traveled to honor their beliefs.

This is one of my favorite photos. I do not remember if this is a pilgrimage site or not, but it was a special day. Hum. . . . reminds me of something else. . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Into The Sun

Last night, my sister called to ask if I would send her some photos of "The Gates" and other New York sites. I told her she could still see the pictures on my website at the Flat Stanley Story.

After our conversation, I realized that this is the Anniversary of the Big Adventure. On Saturday in 2005, we left our homes; Gail said it best in her journal, "I will fly into the sun and participate in whatever happens."

Happen, it did! On Sunday, we were introduced to Central Park's The Gates in the February sunshine by our friend Anna West and, on Monday, we traveled through the snow to meet her for a visit to DIA: Beacon. The rest of the two weeks was filled with similar stuff that artists do - no marathon shopping, a show or two, but mostly art and conversations about art.

I am amazed that I forgot to mark the beginning of those two weeks when we traveled into the sun. They have affected all of my days since.

(This was the last of the days in the sun.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Between the Bars

I love reading Rob Brezny's Horoscopes at Free Will Astrology. He always know how to give his readers some 'thought food.'

This week, my horoscope says that right now I am like a trapeze artist who knows what to do, that I just need to turn loose of one bar and reach for the other. I feel like I am out there now!

It has been a busy week in this new venture. For a while I have let go of the painting bar and am reaching for the writing one. I hope there is a safety net.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Eccentric Passion

This week, I followed a funny link to the particularly lovely book village of Montlieu. There was an interesting photo, but the French paragraph did not seem to fit. I sent the link to those of us preparing to participate in the French residency in April. Karen translated it through Babelfish and it still doesn't fit the photo of several people floating down a river in a giant paper hat!

"A village of the book should be a country where one maintains the huts and restores the savour of the world, the memory of the moment and the discovery of slowness, the love of the beginnings and the losses of sights, where the liberation of the dwarves of gardens is a banal eccentric passion."

It may be a bizarre translation, but wouldn't you like to go there? I'll let you know what we find.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Painting with Attitude

Doing the BioGem research on Anders Zorn this week, I was pleased to get this post in my inbox from Elin Pendleton. I was intriqued by Zorn's attitude about his work; Elin's description is right on target.

"One of the criteria for current excellence in paintings (the work of Mian Situ comes to mind, as does Anders Zorn) is that if one isolates any smaller portion of these works, the color, brushwork and design holds up, even in those smaller spaces. Next time you are presented with one of these paintings, do some dividing and see if it ain't so."

However, I have to say that when thinking about color, brushwork and design, Elin also comes to mind.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Weed Vase

When my daughters were small, they often picked tiny blue wild flowers or yellow weeds or intersting grasses and presented them to me with pride. I placed them carefully in a small weed pot or glass vase in the kitchen window. There has been a weed vase in my kitchen now for almost 40 years. I hope younger daughter will continue the tradition as grandaughter Lucy toddles across the lawn this summer and says, "Here, Mommy, this bootiful flow'r is for you."

Today, I picked the first wild violets of the year and older daughter and I placed them carefully in two little antique bottles. The varigated whites and royal blues glowed in the sunshine.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Buying Tokens of Love

Yesterday's message was delayed because I couldn't seem to figure out how to get the pictures into the post. Do take a look at the pictures.

Tonight, Daughter and I had to make a kitty litter run to one of our local discount stores. The parking lot was filled but there were still lines of cars turning in. We commented that it looked like the day pre-Christmas lay-aways are put back on the shelves (always a good source for those must-have-sold-out items on your favorite child's list.)

Inside the store, Valentine balloons, dozens of roses, and an active greeting card aisle were the answer. There was a frenzy of people of all ages and 'styles' buying last-minute gifts for the ones they love. Wonder how they show it the other 364 days at year?

The message inside my litte Dove bar was "Make 'Someday' today."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Seasons Greetings

I love our house all dressed up for Christmas Holidays and absolutely refuse to pack things away until January 6th -- I like the 12 Days of Christmas. I finally figured out that I could spread it a little longer if I left snow things up through January. This year with record warm temperatures outside, the small snowman tree with a different snowman for each month, the snowflakes and even the snowman nativity stayed around to brighten the winter days.

Now it's February and time to put them away and the temperatures have plummeted. Do snowmen and Valentine hearts go together? (I hope so!)

My friends in the Northeastern states are snuggled under two feet of snow while some of us are making itinerary plans for April in the South of France! Karen mentioned a possible day trip to the Mediterranean, so I dug through some old photos and found these from my sketching trip in fall of 1996 -- one is a greeting to my daughters and the other is me painting on 'la plage.' (Gotta check that word.)

Hope these will warm you up!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hearing voices

It has been a long day. I have been asked to submit more writing and do a few other things for the proposal. I am waiting to hear, "No thank you. Just go away."

The more writing I do, the more I think I should quit. I am used to having my paintings judged and judging others' paintings. I know rejection is not a bad thing. I know that it is a way to evaluate and grow . . . "But this is new and different AND sca-a-ary!"

It is, however, like MAKING a painting: decide what you want to say, organize the elements, add a little color and, as Brenda says, "Just do it!"

Yeah, right. One of those voices is mine.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Shadow Play

I'm taking a break from working on my proposal. I don't know if I will get the project or not, but I have had major encouragement from my mentor and I will do my best.

I'm also finishing the BioGem for Ary Scheffer. He did his best -- traditional, classical work, but mostly just technically correct. Except for the hands and feet. They are so beautiful they seem to glow with an inner light.

My photo of the other studio cats has a play of light and shadow not unlike some of Scheffer's chiaroscuro. Did not want them to feel left out!
(Fred and Boomie - Chiaroscuro)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Perfect for the Task at Hand

About two weeks ago, I began to reread Thomas Hoving's, Tutankhamun - The Untold Story." Since then, this phrase has been on my mind. "Howard Carter was the perfect man for the job. . . .The very fact that his watercolors gave no hint of inner spirit, or demonstrated any sort of creative spark, made them perfect for the task at hand." p. 27. (Carter was hired to record paintings, reliefs and inscriptions found during excavations in Egypt.)

Today, Mamma and I finished the eight hour Over-55-safe-driving course sponsored by AARP. This will give us a 10% discount on our car insurance for the next three years. The course and the instructor were perfect for the task at hand.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Conversation over the Cheese and Crab Spread

As we entered the grocery store, daughter and I spotted an old friend by the cheese counter. We had a short conversation -- just catching up. Then, thinking about this week's BioGem on Norman Rockwell, I asked THE question: "Who was editor when you were at Saturday Evening Post?" He calmly said, "I was." I babbled a bit about my little bios and Rockwell. He asked if I had the big Rockwell book. I said, "No."

We moved on and met up again at the crab spread. He asked if I knew that Rockwell and Pollock had had the same teacher. I said, "No. Oh, yes! At the Art Students League." He said, "You did do your research." I promised to mail a copy of my BioGem to him. He said, "You know, I was at his funeral."

I came home and did a search for this man whose mother was a friend of my husband's grandmother, whose father had been a town mayor, who owns one of the most wonderful houses in my neighborhood, who knows art and history and poetry, who writes books and reads from them around the country.

I learned a little more about my friend who I knew had worked at "The Saturday Evening Post", "Holiday" and other Curtis publications I learned that he worked with Thomas Buechner on The Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell Book. I learned that he wrote the foreword. Oh, my! Dare I send my funny little BioGem to him?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Recognizing the gift

Last week following the death of Coretta Scott King, I heard Maya Angelou speaking on public radio about their friendship. She talked about talent and choosing how to use it, referring first to Mrs. King's enormous musical ability and training, and then, to the path she took when she embraced the civil rights movement.

I was maneuvering in traffic and missed some of her words. Suddenly, I heard her say, "It takes courage to live with the talent God has given you." I pulled off the street to write it down.

Sometimes the greater talent given is not the obvious one nor the easy one. It is something to think about.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cherry Blossoms and Strawberries

My friend Robin is planning a quick trip to Washington, DC at the peak of cherry blossom time. Maybe there will be time for her to stop at the National Gallery of Art to see the Cézanne exhibit which is in celebration of his 100th birthday -- You know how I love 'sharing celebrations' with artists on their birthdays!

According to this article at -- -- this lovely recipe was served at the press event to open "Cézanne in Provence".

Strawberries in the pan with flower honey from Provence -- rinse and quarter lengthwise the most fragrant strawberries you can find, simmer some honey in a pan with 10 Szechwan pepper corns, add the strawberries and turn a few times before serving with a scoop of lime sorbet, drizzled with olive oil and decorated with fresh mint leaves!

This will give us something to snack on as we enjoy her report when she returns AND it will get me ready for the April residency in France.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Well, It's not 'The Burghers of Calais'

After 15 years of community activitsm, I have worked very hard at staying 'out of the paper' and in the studio. Sometimes I can't resist. This week, when our city officials decided that a sculpture of James Brown needed to be put on a pedestal, I just had to write to one of my favorite reporters. I have loved the statue of James since I saw it in the artist's studio (Dr. John Savage) along with the Mayor and James. Even before it was cast, it was special. When it was placed at street level in a little park on our Broad Street, the people began to come for pictures. Now some of the very ones who did not want the statue want it on a pedestal. Unveiling The Statue link to Augusta Chronicle photo.

Sylvia Cooper who writes 'City Ink' for the Augusta Chronicle included my email in her column.
JAMES BROWN, UP OR DOWN?: Artist Annette Bush found it interesting that some Augusta commissioners want to put James Brown's statue on a pedestal.

She said she made the motion at the Downtown Development Authority meeting for funds to be used for the statue.

"It was my understanding that Mr. Brown did not want a pedestal because he wanted to be where the people are," she said. "That is where he is in Augusta - not on a pedestal, but down with the people handing out toys and turkeys, giving words of encouragement, giving back. One of the things people love the most is that they can stand next to the statue for their photos.

"Why doesn't someone just ask James?"

What a novel idea.

My orginal email also included this info: Doncha' love it?

A little art history lesson which is neither here nor there: One of the most powerful statues in the world today is Rodin's "The Burghers of Calais." There was great objection when Rodin did not put them on a pedestal -- all other heroes before this were on pedestals. Rodin wanted them to be down with their people.
The Burghers of Calais

I'm not equating James Brown with the Burghers of Calais, except to say that a statue does not have to be on a pedestal to be significant.

Sometimes politicians need to stay out of the people's business. And I guess, sometimes artists need to stay in the studio.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sometimes A Mentor Finds You

This week has been an odd one. I began writing this blog. I asked about a mentor. I wrote about just learning something new. I wrote about unlikely connections. Things began to happen.

This week, zipping through cyberspace, a request came to my email artists' community for someone with art history knowledge. With the confidence which comes after kind words from friends, I blithely replied that I would be interested in knowing about the project. Several days passed and I thought little of it. Suddenly there was an email in ALL CAPS!!! and a couple of phone calls to 'check your mail!'

The opportunity is way beyond my imagination and it is a scary prospect. My friend, Brenda, said, "Just do it now! I'm in your corner; I'll help you." I could think of many reasons why I couldn't do it. I am in the middle of the series of large paintings called "The Grandmother Narratives." I am preparing for a month-long residency in France. Granddaughter Lucy sat alone today for the first time. The pansies need watering!

So I read my own blog, listened to the encouragement and support of my friends and to the sound of their fingers crossing and took the first step. Now I am waiting!

Oh! And I have a mentor!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell documented the changes in lives and culture of 20th C. Americans in hundreds of paintings which were published as magazine covers. He became America's artist and 'Saturday Evening Post' and 'Look' magazine became America's art gallery.

I wonder what Rockwell would have done with an assignment to show the newest technology in making copies.

I think my studio cats might be faster!

(If you are new to the BioGems: they are mostly weekly bios written to share birthday celebrations with unknown, well-known and 'who cares?' artists. I limit them to 400 words, so I look for unique things to say about each artist which will make the reader want to learn more or maybe just do more!)

(Pictured: Vinnie, Greene & Maggie on the Canon printer)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Transcending Illustration"

I have been researching Norman Rockwell for this week's biogem. I keep finding similar phrasing in descriptions of his work. I found that he used the same elements of design that the rest of us have. I could identify many of the principles of design which he applied gently or determinedly. My friend Daniel said once that he used an economy of brushstrokes that even Sargent would admire. Others have pointed out the beauty of his surfaces.

There is an excellent explanation of about a dozen of his works in this website,
Norman Rockwell Museum Eyeopeners. You might enjoy seeing how he used design elements; how he used rhythm with repeated shape, color, line; how he balanced the painting with big and little shapes; how he used contrast, defined shapes and posed characters carefully to add interest and drama. Things most of us can learn to do. What we cannot learn is how to make paintings which transcend illustration, paintings which sing. It's part of the reason his paintings are more than magazine covers.

Sometimes I get one which sings, but not often enough.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I'm always saying, I wish I had one more week.

On Sunday, I attended a concert by the Manhattan Piano Trio. Their first piece was a fantastic dance of the piano, violin and cello in three movements.* Fingers flew, bows dipped and butterfly notes swirled in the afternoon light of the stained glass. My friend who had booked them called them just three weeks earlier to ask if they knew this wonderful piece she had just heard on public radio. They didn't; but they learned it. I thought, "That's how you do it! You don't say, I don't know how or there's not enough time -- you just do it!"

Manhattan Piano Trio --
*Beethoven - Trio No 4 in B flat major, Op. 11 (Allegro Con Brio, Adagio, Tema: Pria Ch'io Pipegno)

Concerts with a Cause are sponsored by St. John United Methodist Church with donations to various local charities -- this month to Salvation Army. They were begun when the new Dobson organ was installed three years ago. Pictures of the organ and a concert schedule are here: