Sunday, July 19, 2020

Rollercoaster love affair

As much as I love trees, (being in them, under them, and surrounded by them), I have found my desire to draw them meets constant resistance.

This started in 2nd grade. I had just finished painting the Christmas tree for the class holiday mural and stepped back to assess it with my beloved teacher. She leaned in and said, "you really don't know how to paint trees, do you?" I had, in my defense, been turning the brush this way and that for texture, but I guess it did not translate.
The shock of that exchange has lived inside me for all these years. When students ask me to demonstrate a tree in paint, I can do it, but often there is an echo inside my head that wonders if they will catch on and see that I "really don't know how to paint trees."

It's hard not to paint or draw trees when you do a landscape, or create a place. Being a fictionalist, my paintings often illustrate a real setting and trees often sneak into the frame. My trees grow out of small gestures, blurred as if my reading glasses had failed me in clarifying the languages of limbs and leaves.

Then in college, my professor declared that I must eliminate green from my palette. Apparently green paintings are unsuccessful and never sell. So my greens come in shades of purple and ochre and pyrollian orange.

So I am starting this project of painting close to 100 small paintings of trees at the ripe age of 59 in order to move through the critics, the ghosts, the self-talk, and the comparisons. I hope to explore different ways to convey the importance of trees and I know it might take close to 100 times get it right.

I hope you can join me when I present my tree stories going forward. Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Why Trees?

Baby Leaves
It goes back to my childhood.

I've been working on a new series and it never seems like the right time to talk about it. 
So much is going on in the world. There are pressing issues, and my inquiry about trees doesn't have the importance or presence to be vigorously promoted. 
But here, my friends, is a little introduction. 
I am squireling away at paintings in the barn. 

They are drawings and panel paintings that celebrate trees as companions.
All winter, on my daily walks, I came to appreciate some sentinels in the forest and hedges. These majestic, broken trees held stories. They resonated inside me. I crawled over and under maple lines in the spring. During the silence of the NY Covid isolation mandate, the trees inspired me with both their stillness and their moving. Just as they started leafing up, 
I got a large board of birch ply and cut 92 oval panels in order to dissect and discover what is behind the power and fascination of what some would call "nature bathing".

Baby Leaves is inspired by one of my earliest memories. I was about 4 years old and living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On my walks to and from pre-school we must have crossed through a jungle because there was a carpet under my feet of diversely shaped and colored leaves that were so beautiful I often froze. I had to be practically dragged by my Amah across them. I still recall the vision, the variety, the richness, the smell and the beauty. It was heaven, and still is for me. 
I would not mind if that same vision was my last memory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Spring Arrived Anyway

(continuing the Daily Drawing During a Quarantine)
Predator Paranoia/ April 29

Spring arrived anyway...which seemed a little weird, as if it had not gotten the memo that the world had changed.
Our chicks arrived in the mail and we raised them first in the tub and then in a new coop we built at the edge of the yard. (click on link to see video of their arrival!)
Chicks in the Tub/ April 16
I feel like the May snow storm was especially cruel. On May 10th I drew an inventory of every article I wore on my body. It was a far cry from the last 9 years in Miami, broiling under the sun!

The weather tried to keep us indoors and I found moments of gloom taking over me.
Wistful/ May 6
The bed seemed the safest place to be, even though my heart was done with hibernating.
Bed day/ April 15

Monday, June 1, 2020

Moving While Staying Still

Looking Up/ March30

(continuing series of Covid19 journal daily drawings)

There are parts of the isolation that feel surreal and stressful, and then there are other parts that feel almost blissful in silences. We are getting to know our neighbors and have found gifts on the doorstep a couple of times. Reciprocating, I made large batches of ramp pesto to leave at the doorsteps, and of course, left bottles of dad's maple syrup.
Trip to Town/ April 20
Putting on a mask and grabbing a handful of gloves is "the new normal" before any endeavor. In fact on our morning walks, we keep a mask in the pocket just in case, though we rarely run into another human. All of our interaction with colleagues is through the computer.
My Peeps/ April 23
I love the daily walks, sometimes in the early morning mist, and others in the waning dusk of the day. The countryside is alive with critters. Without the usual distractions, I am able to pay attention. I almost have a relationship with the one-eared rabbit, the romancing wood ducks, the tousled teenage red tailed hawk, the near-exhausted-from-parenting house wrens and the scampering chipmunks in the stone walls.
Walking/ May 18
When night falls we have fallen prey to the offerings of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Our roster of films and TV shows betrays a new obsessive interest in Scottish history. The doorway was through the TV series Outlander. The key was finding both Michael and I are descended from families who immigrated to the America's from Scotland. The fun is finding how far back we can go (1430!) and then watching historical films of the era.
TV Family Tree/ May 14

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Making the Best of It

Practices/ April 21

(Continuing the Daily Drawing During Quarantine)

Michael and I grow stronger. We take daily walks, laugh and share more of ourselves with the other.
We dance, we sing karaoke, we bake, we read to each other. 

Performance/ March 17

Connecting/ April 19
My friend Leesah hosts one of the first online virtual performances for St Patty’s Day. We join Wassaic community in online Bingo. We swap gifts with neighbors and find offerings at our door.
Gifts/ April 10
And every meal we eat together. And we trust when it comes time for the quarantine haircut, we will be there for each other.

Every meal/ April 18

Haircut/ April 27

Friday, May 29, 2020


(continued Daily Drawings during the Covid Pandemic)
Nightmares/ April 24

A month into the national quarantine and numbers of deaths silently continue to rise. Unemployment increases are shouted about in the news. Congress tries to print more money. Alternative stations start floating conspiracy theories. The president encourages protesters to ignore the science, suggests injesting bleach, and screams hysterical over trying to find someone to blame.  No one I know will talk politics, because it is too exhausting and unbelievable. What outrages us one day is overshadowed the next. I feel like I am holding my breath and waiting.
The city, two hours away, empties out and soon all the empty houses on our country road are filled with city people. The stores seem ransacked. There is still no toilet paper to be had. Or whole wheat flour. The trash thrown along the road reflects a higher economic shopper. Maybe we are all high, panting thru stifled homemade masks.
Mask Making/ April 11

I attend church on line, and the local hospital erects a tent in the parking lot to handle the expected rise in patients.  I can’t sleep and worry about my job as a school teacher.

Easter Sunday/ April 12

Hospital Tent/ April 13

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The New Normal

(Continuing the Daily Drawings During Quarantine)

Pajamas/ March 27

Feeling wiped out by stress, insecurity, the moon’s position, or imagination, I beat myself up for being weak and dull.  
Wipe Out/ March 21

 Astrological influences aside, we make efforts to dance to the radio, support local restaurants with take-out, sit on the deck at sunset. The calendar loses all its power to define life. Days run into each other, melt, and stop altogether. 
TakeOut/ March 22
I wear my pajamas all day, for days on end, and nobody notices.
Calendar/ March 25

Time for Worry/ March 26
(Self portrait in the hour glass)