Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Year of Change and Adventure

The Midwest has been locked in a deep freeze for the past few days and will continue to be for the next several.  This is a good time to snuggle in the warmth of the house with a hot cup of tea and reflect on the changes and adventures of the past year.

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

The most dramatic change for me this year was my decision to retire last spring.  Leaving a job that I loved, my wonderful work family, and in the middle of an exciting new building project which had been on my wish list for a decade was difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision.  However, City Council approved the funding for our part of the building, the Library referendum passed, donors made huge commitments, and an energetic and intelligent young replacement was found.  I was able to walk out the door with a light heart knowing that Jasper Arts would be in good hands.

This left more time to pursue my own interests or get back to them.

First and foremost was my painting.  Although I’ve been a professional artist for over thirty years, job demands and time constraints meant there was less time for creative pursuits.  I never gave up my art but now I am able to devote as much time as I want to it, which is generally several hours every day.

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

My schedule is pretty much my own.  I can get up when I want but that’s usually pretty early. Hard to break that 5:30 a.m. habit.  Now I can linger over that second cup of tea and my commute is only 30 feet from the back door.

I have been catching up on ten years of projects (how often does one really need to clean out the attic?)  Satisfying but not usually on top of the To Do list.

Gardening is another passion.  This year I was able to get outside before the heat of the day instead of dealing with chores at the end of the day.  Very nice.

My bike is tuned up.  I used to ride 100 miles a week and hope to get up there again this coming year.

Reading, of course, is always high on my agenda and I have eclectic tastes.  No more business or fundraising books!  Yay!

A short nap after lunch is always a nice thing to insert into the middle of the day.  (Apologies to those of you who can’t take advantage of this.)

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

My husband and I took our first winter vacation in thirty years this year. Couldn’t do that when the kids were young and in school, then later when I was working because winter is the busy season for the performing arts.

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

Our charming granddaughter was also able to spend much of the summer with us.  She loves the beach (of beautiful Lake Patoka nearby), anything to do with nature or bugs or animals, painting and crafting with grandma, and is game for just about any adventure.

At the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh

We traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.  While there I took her to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh where she could see real dinosaur bones up close.  She was elated.

And my husband and I took a fall trip back to Massachusetts to visit relatives. We visited the iconic Rockport sea town and stopped off at Stockbridge on our way back.  We also took a detour to Niagara on our return.  It’s big…and loud!

Rockport, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls

There were family barbecues, day trips to interesting places, some plein air painting, and just time to kick back next to the fire pit and enjoy the day.  What could be better?

So, goodbye to 2017.  It was a good year.  Now I’m making plans for 2018.

Stay tuned.

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Cedar bench for the garden

Cedar bench featuring Southern Indiana cedar boards

Cedar trees are indigenous to southern Indiana and many parts of the Midwest.  An evergreen, they add color to the winter landscape.  They often grow on soil where other trees can’t seem to get a foothold, limestone, sandstone, and rocky.

This year my family surprised me with refinishing two cedar benches in the garden.  Although the benches were still serviceable, after 25 years, they needed an update.  This locally cut cedar was selected due to its resistance to insect damage and other wear.  I was told by the guys that even the old cedar boards were still in pretty good shape beneath the surface of lichen and weathered materials.

The iron bench supports were repainted and new boards were planed and sanded for this lovely look.  If you are not familiar with cedar, it has a wonderful smell which will fade in time as will the bright coloring to a silvery grey.

I’m looking forward to spending some time on these benches this coming year (whenever a gardener has time to rest).  They also are a reminder of my mother who owned the original benches so I guess they’re about 40 years old now. I remember many conversations we had on those benches over the years.

Christmas Mouse

Christmas Mouse, watercolor, pen and ink,6.5 x 4.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Not A Creature Was Stirring…Not Even A Mouse

Or maybe there was.

Here’s wishing all my friends, family and blog followers have a safe and happy holiday.  Whatever holiday you celebrate, try to find some common ground, set aside differences, enjoy your time together, share a meal and a laugh.

Peace and blessings to all.

Red Cabbage Still Life – A Challenge in Color and Shape

Red Cabbage Still Life, oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

This still life is a little larger and more complex than many of my other recent paintings.  I was inspired by a visit to the grocery.  I must have had my “artist’s eyes” on that day because I seemed to be dazzled by the beautiful colors and shapes of the vegetables.  Several of the more interesting vegetables came home with me that day.

Inspiration in the vegetable department at the grocery. I love these colors and interesting shapes.

Before I tackled the main still life, I first completed several smaller still lifes just to get a feel for the shapes and colors.

Red Cabbage, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

Surprisingly, the red cabbage was the most difficult to paint.  It has very subtle hues of purple, red and magenta.  It was a tight head so not much interest as far as shape until I peeled back a leaf or two.  I think a larger, leafier cabbage would be far more interesting.

Artichoke, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

The artichoke, with it’s pointy leaves and shapes, was very fun to paint.

Radishes in Green Bowl, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

The radishes are usually fun but their greens started to wilt quickly.  However, they later generated more new leaves so that was a big help.

The final big still life was painted on an 18 x 24 inch canvas which I had toned in variegated colors.  It seems to have a glow all its own.  I don’t quite know how that happened except that some of the under painting showed through.  Unfortunately, I didn’t’ take step-by-step photos of this painting.  I might tweak it a bit more but there’s always a risk of going too far.  Sometimes done is done.

These paintings will be for sale on my Etsy shop.  KitMiracleArt

Deer Cam – Spying on Nature

This is a large male bobcat. A really spectacular picture. Although the males are only about 30 pounds, I wouldn’t want to run into one. And my granddaughter and I had just walked down the drive earlier that morning! Yikes!

One of my favorite gadgets is our deer cam or trail cam.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure…and surprise of catching many critters on camera.  I’ve moved the camera around the property several times but it seems that the most active spot is a place on our driveway where it crosses a creek.  There are woods on either side with some fields nearby.  Although much of the animal traffic seems to be at night, I’ve captured some pretty spectacular daytime shots, too.

Coyote with pear. Taken in back orchard this summer. About 40 feet from the house.

Check out the photos and enjoy a brief visit to my part of the world.  I’m not including all the neighborhood cats, multiple pix of my dog (and some other dogs), the delivery people and other vehicles and tractors.

By the way, a trail cam makes a great present to the outdoor lover in your life.  We have two cameras but I’d love to have more.

Buck in velvet this summer

Heron strutting down the driveway.

A very large rooster strutting down the drive. Probably an escapee from my neighbor’s chicken house.

Mystery critter. I had moved the camera nearer the house and it was also near our security light. I kept seeing this creature pass in front of the lens. I finally concluded that it is a photo of a bat in action. What do you think?

Is this my best side? I get so many photos of deer (deer cam, right?). The light is infrared so they can’t see it, but I think they hear it click when it takes a picture.

Two raccoons heading up the drive for a midnight snack. Probably the culprits for the losses in my neighbor’s chicken house. They are NOT cute. They are mean and vicious and can destroy a garden in a night.

A large coyote with a bite mark. I’d hate to see what gave it to him.

Coyotes often travel in packs. While usually shy, they were nightly visitors to our orchards this year.

Wild turkeys are very crafty and great survivors in the woods. They actually can fly and manage to raise a brood every year.

Many possums in the area. I don’t particularly like them but they are reported to eat thousands of ticks each day. That is good. They will also break into a chicken house and eat the eggs and baby chicks. Not good.

Groundhog. Not a desirable creature as they tend to dig out building foundations and otherwise become pests.

A standoff between a crow and a squirrel. It appears that the crow is holding something in his beak.

Night visitor. This is the scariest of all of the photos I’ve captured. The intruder is coming up the drive in the very early morning on Easter Sunday. (And, no, it’s not the Easter bunny!) With his knapsack and large knife, I hope that he was planning to do some mushroom hunting in the woods. But, also, the neighbor’s house was broken into that morning. Kinda creepy. Our dog was locked up unfortunately.

Musicians and Artists – Keep Growing

Trombone Shorty

One thing that I’ve learned in life is that talent will only take you so far. You’ve got to keep growing.

Trombone Shorty

 

I was a little distracted this week and was thinking today what I might post on Sunday.  Tonight as I was painting in my studio, I was listening to American Roots on NPR.  They were talking with Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews) the fabulous musician from New Orleans.  He said something that really hit home.

He was talking about how he is sometimes criticized because he always wants to branch out and try new things.  “You’ve got to try new things so that others that follow you have something to build onto.”  That just made so much sense to me.

I’ve seen so many artists who do the same thing, year after year after year.  While sometimes their tenacity is admirable, most of the time I’m struck with the thought, “how boring.”  What does that feel like? To keep doing the same thing everyday? How are you improving and what are you leaving for the following generations?

I think Trombone Shorty was referring to taking what you have, the talent or skill, and building on that. Take your skills, twist them a bit, and see what happens.  Any artist who has tried this knows that sometimes it turns out like crap.  But other times, it’s magic.  THAT is what we’re after, right?  Some magic.

Try something new today.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Maybe it will be another piece for the garbage…but maybe, just maybe, it will be MAGIC!

Plein air painting, Brooks Bridge, Martin County, Indiana

Plein air painting of Brooks Bridge, oil on canvas board, Kit Miracle

I went plein air painting with my friend Bill Whorrall on Monday.  It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm December day with temps in the 60s.  However, the wind was brisk which posed some problems later.

Brooks Bridge across the East Fork of the White River in Martin County, Indiana

Bill lives in Martin County, Indiana which is lovely and boasts a variety of terrains – rivers, stone ledges, hills, woods.  We decided to paint this one lane bridge, Brooks Bridge, which spans the East Fork of the White River south of Shoals.  We had spotted this location before but the ground was too wet to drive on.

While we were painting, we saw about four vehicles, including a four wheeler; probably the farmer checking us out.  (It’s hunting season and there are lots of poachers.)  I just waved and he drove back.  The sparse traffic is probably why the bridge is only one lane.  Yeah, impossible for you city people to believe but they still exist.

Bill was working on some ink drawings that he created with sticks and twigs as drawing instruments.  You can see the results here.  Really neat.

Plein air painting along the East Fork of the White River south of Shoals. My friend Bill Whorrall is drawing with ink and sticks.

Painting half done

I decided to use a canvas panel toned with yellow paint.  It was pretty bright but where it shows through, it seems to add some magic.  I like it anyway.

Plein air painting of Brooks Bridge. The wind nearly took my easel right after I took this photo!

The only real problem was that the wind picked up throughout the morning.  A strong gust nearly knocked my easel into the river!

I tweaked the final painting in my studio, darkening the details and adding highlights.  It’s sometimes difficult to really see and judge colors and contrasts in the bright sunlight.  What do you think?

Yeah, it’s for sale at my Etsy shop.

Ladybug Teapot, a Whimsical Painting

Ladybug Teapot, oil on canvas, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This playful still life was inspired by the whimsical ladybug teapot that I found in my prop cupboard.  It’s actually a teapot and cup combination which I paired with some red apples and bright green fabric.  Check out the step-by-step of how this painting was created here.

The painting can also be found on my Etsy shop, KitMiracleArt.  A great gift for your favorite tea lover!