Back in August I joined the online group The Documented Life Project at Art5Academy. It is a free, year long art journaling project that gives you weekly challenges based on media, technique and subject. You upload your pages and get feedback from other members, and it seemed like a good "starter" idea to do in addition to my fairly large sized canvas paintings that I've been working on... for a while! I hope to get a show of them in a temporary gallery next door to me on Main Street so I need to finish them up. But sometimes I feel the need to take a break from them.
"Color Wheels" 8.5"x11", watercolor and pen
Of course the "DLP" project had been going on since January and I joined in August! They work in one of those large Dylusion sketchbooks and I'd recently bought one. I didn't necessarily intend to go back and do ALL the previous challenges, but left room in my book and have sort of been picking or choosing the older assignments as I go along. This challenge was from January and called The Color Wheel, but I saw most people hadn't done a literal color wheel, so I decided to take a cue from Sonia Delauney's work and the "Orphism" movement and did this piece above in watercolor. (I'm pretty sure Delauney did the piece below in guache)
Sonia Delaunay, Prismes électriques, 1913-1914
I'd also recently bought a set of Peerless Water Colors I'd seen around online. I know Jane Davenport uses them and has created her own palette of them. These were developed in 1885 by Charles Nicholson.They are 6"x2.5" pieces of paper - like blotter paper - imbibed with highly intense pigments. Touch them with a damp brush and you get an intense water color. The back of the papers show an approximation of the color and have the name stamped on, but the front pigmented side can look nothing like the resulting color at all! Viridian Green looks like iridescent purple!
I bought the basic color little booklet plus the Bonus pack totaling about 55 colors. What most people do is to cut a small square of each of the colors and glue them into a paper "travel palette", identifying the colors below - I can see why they do this because these things are dangerous! You get any dampness near them and they run - even touching them with your dry fingers ends up with colorful fingers! So I put the remains of the papers away in a waterproof pouch. When I run out of a color on my palette I can replace it with a new square.
You can see how "bleedy" they are! I decided to make a smaller accordion book - easier for travel. Each page has to be protected with a plastic sheet so when its folded up they don't touch each other. I'll have to say making the palette took forever! So... I thought it deserved a nice cover:
isn't it pretty? well... on the outside..
I keep it in a plastic sleeve and carry it with my smaller Moleskine journal and a Pentel Aquash water brush (these are great if you haven't tried them!). Trouble is all this has diverted me from my "real" paintings which I really do need to get back to!
As it is described on the CT State Parks website "In 1917, Miss Chase received from her father approximately 16 acres on Jefferson Hill in Litchfield. Here she built a substantial summer home in 1923. She hired noted architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr. to help her design and build the English Tudor style house which was completed in 1925."
I had never heard of this lovely place before until I did some research on nearby parks and trails where you can take dogs - poor Holly doesn't have a backyard now that we live on Main Street and I like to take her somewhere she can run and roll in the grass as often as I can.
dahlias in one of the gardens
It was a gorgeous autumn day - the views and the gardens were beautiful. The park is part of the Topsmead State Forest which I believe I read is over 500 acres - the GPS kept leading us to wooded places to park to hike the trails, but I really was not in a hiking mood - I wanted to get to the house and fields! Luckily I spotted a sign and entrance to the house area, which not surprisingly is a popular venue for weddings and photographs (just take a look at Google images and you'll see what I mean).
Now that I am back to painting "en plain air" I'll have to go back with my french easel - and a picnic! If you ever happen to be near Litchfield, CT you should visit this lovely place. There are tours of the house as well - but no dogs allowed inside! You can see more photos in my Beautiful Northwestern CT Flickr album.
I don't think I've had an active blog in over a year! And what a year it has been... We've moved from the woods of Redding, CT in Fairfield Co. to a top floor apartment in a late 19th four story century brick building on Main Street in Winsted CT, upper Litchfield Co.. It is called the Colt Building - we assumed it had something to do with the gun company - offices? After all Winsted is a part of Winchester so.. somehow that seemed to make sense! But I recently learned it was built as housing for the workers in the old, now derelict furniture company across the street from us on the Mad River.
Our building was completely renovated in 2012 with double insulated windows, wood floors, modern kitchens and bathrooms, and energy efficient heating. But the owners maintained the look and feel of the architecture: 10' ceilings, 6' high windows, the original molding and details.
This old postcard does not show our building, but it is very similar to the third on from the right, however the rest of the block towards the west is all three story building - shop fronts on the ground floor and apartments above - so we have a spectacular view to the northwest with hills and old houses and the most beautiful sunsets.
When we moved in - last November - the shop next door, one of many antique and junk shops on Main Street, was going out of business. Everything was 75% off so I nabbed a bentwood and cane rocking chair (we had one when I was little and I've always wanted one again) for $20. I have it by the bedroom window and it became a relaxing ritual at the end of a workday to sit with a glass of wine and look out at the sunset and what passes for "our balcony" (the fire escape) where I had pots of flowers, a cherry tomato plant, lettuces and a potted zucchini. Unfortunately we were visited by a pesky squirrel and his cohorts that ate many of the cherry tomatoes and bit the blossoms right off the zucchini plant - so I haven't had much of a harvest...
What drew us to the area (well, primarily it was the low rent - half what we had been paying) is the growing arts community in town and in nearby Torrington. There are several old factories on the two rivers in town. One has been converted to art studios, one will be the permanent home of the American Mural Project and the old factory across the river will be converted to another art space with studios, galleries and meeting rooms for workshops and events - slotted to open in Spring 2016. I've already put in a bid for a 300 sq. ft. studio facing the river - and our house - so I'll just have to cross over Bridge Street to have a space of my own!
There is much more to share about life - my current artwork, the surrounding area, all that has gone on in the past year - and my plans for the future. Hopefully I'll become a regular blogger again - and regain all my followers and more!
Winsted seems big on parades (three since we moved here 6 months ago!). Yesyerday was The Rotary Club Pet Parade.
When we'd first seen the posters (hand drawn by school kids) around town we had ideas of joining, with our miniature dachshund Holly in tow. Not that she would have enjoyed it at all. Just a passing thought - we did not enter nor make note of the date, and then while cleaning the kitchen one Saturday morning I said to my husband "Do you hear a marching band? Or is that just in my head??"
We ran to look out the front windows - it was The Pet Parade!
One of the really fun things about living on Main Street is our birds-eye view of parades (reminiscent of my vague early childhood memories, living just off Fifth Avenue) - and other Main Street goings-on (i.e., fender benders, motorcycle clubs passing through, snowplows at 5 a.m...). Parade watching from the comfort of your own home is a good thing!
The parade was broken up into divisions (small pets, large pets, pets on floats... Here, presumably, is the Yellow Lab float which seems to feature a posse of bearded fishermen at rear (?).
Toward the end of the event was one of my favorites - Fairies on Horseback! I love how the horses have wings too - maybe they are horse flies??
My overall fav, however, has got to be this leaping pixie girl - more in the air than not! She and her sisters - followed by their mother (dressed as Farmer McGregor?) pulling a wagon containing flower pots and a large watering can modified to have a screen window through which "Peter Rabbit" could be seen. I'm guess the girls were Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail?
We did not travel to the parade end at the Town Green to watch the prizes being awarded, but I hope they got a prize!
<p>I have so many stories to tell, moments to share. Having to start somewhere I will start here at one of my favorite spots, one of our Sunday outings: the trail along the Norwalk river at the Ridgefield recreation center (just down the hill from our old house.)</p>
<p>One of the lovely things about this trail is that little bit of man made planning that created semi secluded spots just off the pathway with small weathered docks out to the river, now pea green with duck weed, spotted with purpling lily pads and the dramatic sun bleached fallen branches that one can't help at this time of year to see as witchy hands with boney fingers reaching down into the mucky brew for a toad or two. </p>
<p>There are (purple martin) houses situated here and there along the river and the quiet can be magically momentarily taken over by the huge slow motion swoop of a grey heron there right before you then gone. </p>
<p>On our "outings" Andrew is the photographer with travel tripod, filters and lenses, bracketing every shot so there is a bit of a high fashion shoot feel "beeju beeju beeju". I have trouble with landscapes I've come to realize. His are breathtaking, mine fail to satisfy my desire to capture what I see - the shapes and contours, the secret little depths. They feel too flat and the gentle atmospheric tints and hues are lost. </p>
<p>So I tend toward the small - a leaf, a fern, a branch of thorns or flowers. I'm so fascinated by the shapes in nature, the grace and stature in the natural tableau. The perfect imperfection. But I get "stuck" sometimes in some small vignette of leaves and branches and Andy has moved on and the dog, Holly - for these outings are ostensibly for her - pulls and tugs between us inevitably just as I am trying to keep steady for just one more close up shot</p>
<p>This trail has picnic tables too and I often bring along a little sketch kit (btw.. I have been designing - mentally - the perfect travel art and naturalist's kit... stay tuned.. One of these days I may actually make them! and I'm sure we all need them!) but I don't often get that much sketching done - I tend more to use my photos as reference later at home. </p>
<p>This day I drew a bit tho and decided for fun to leave a "random piece of art" for someone to find. I couldn't fit the entire quote, one of my favorites, but wonder if anyone who came across it knew what I meant. I left a clue of the authors initials. Do you know it?</p>
Between Redding, Wilton and Ridgefield is a little hamlet called Georgetown, CT. No one seems quite sure which town it "belongs" to. It is small, its borders are vague, it is an old town - most houses are colonial or cottage in style. The railroad tracks run through it. It exists, primarily due to a now defunt late 19th/early 20th century enterprise called the Georgetwown Wire Factory - a dramatic, somewhat forboding arrangement of big old brick factory buildings, and quaint outbuildings still bearing dated plaques. For years and years the state, who owns the old factory property, has been hearing proposals for repurposing the factory buildings into studio space, retail space, residential spaces - but nothing seems to come of it - except that a number of the surrounding houses, built for factory workers and management, have been bought up or abandoned, aging gracefully and are now slotted to be torn down.
I've always been drawn to this house.. Years ago it was rented out to... a bunch of "hippies", as a neighbor told me - I recall driving past it one summer day: the front door was open, the porch was hung with windchimes and a batik print cloth created an impromptu curtain. Houseplants sprouted from assorted containers reaching over the old porch edge to meet ivy and wildflowers growing up. I thought it was enchanting!
Pardon my not very good iPhone photos - but I just love the colors and texture of the old paint. It must have been beautiful in its day.
I recently came across the art of sally mankus photographer, sculptor, mixed media and installation artist, originally from georgia, she now lives in florida.
Her interest in and concentration on the discarded or decayed remnants of domestic life - simple, small town, thrifty, make-do, and depressed - intrigues me. Her artwork is so beautifully - delicately yet intensely - presented it imbuses objects or environments on the edge of being forgotten forever with an importance, a history and a pride that... why should they not deserve?
This tower of baking pans for example.. (part of an installation you can see more of and even hear a soundtrack, here). I have a few of these, and have discarded many (usually when moving) that just seem too ruined, greasy and burnt to bother with. They're never going to be the thing one wants to pour that rare, Martha or Julia or seasonal or farm fresh egg inspired batter into... just not photo ready. Yet you can replace them with new ones, fresh and non-stick (I know.... carcenegenic??) but give it a year and somehow they look like the faces in ads that need dark aging spot dramatic results. Subjectively, personally, they represent neglect. But objectively, found discarded they hint at a history - a female history, a domestic history, of hope or care or pride or trying...
And then these photos of - one? or many? - abandoned houses. Her approach - soft yet enamel-like in their richness of contrast - bring so many emotions and associations to mind: sadness, heartbreak, fright, reverence they are true beauty and art. She has honed her way of presenting the decayed/discarded/abandoned/creepy/disgusting? to a height of importance, existance that anyone - any woman trying to make a life, a home into something of substance and pride. Honoring the anonymous.
Anyway.. obviously I am really touched by her work. See her website to see more..
As the swallows return to Capistrano, the weather begins to warm, and the horsey folk around these parts start dropping off the first batches of horse blankets at Overhill Farm for laundering and repair. Spring has sprung!
This will be my third summer working for "The Blanket Lady", Jill Murphy and becomming a part of the "family compound" of Overhill Farm with the horses, chickens, dogs, multitudes of cats (house cats, barn cats, and the Tonkinese Jill breeds as a sideline), the extended family, residents and friends. What a lovely place to work! (Granted, cleaning horse blankets is not always lovely, by any means!) As many artists say, they prefer a day job that is not related to their artwork - but I could not stand working in an office, typical retail or corporate job.
The job is very task oriented - unlike my artwork - there is a simple feeling of accomplishment as the piles of (filthy, stinky) blankets become neat stacks of inventoried, laundered, repaired, neatly folded - I've come to take pride in my folding abilities! - bagged, labeled and stacked for pick-up.
I've met and come to know such interesting and kind people. I know much more about all the various types of equine wear than I ever had the slightest idea existed (I rode, as a child. I've lived on a horse farm, and in CT/NY horse country for much of my adult life, but never a part of the horsey set. I knew nothing of fly hoods and sursingles!) And being on the farm - reminicent of my golden childhood summers at my grandparents' beloved Westbrook, Connecticut farm - watching the seasons change, the beauty of it all nurishes my soul. The physical labor is often exhausting, but good for me. I feel a part of the family (we celebrated Spring on my first day back, ending the day with gin & tonics!) The hours are flexible - and the pay ain't bad either! Sometimes I wish I could move in!