Category Archives: country living

Studio visit – where the magic happens!

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

I love to visit the studios of other artists, to nose around and see how they work, what materials they use, how they store materials and artwork.  Sometimes I get great ideas but it’s just wonderful to see what the other artists do.

So I’m inviting you to visit my studio.

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the corporate world and purchased a small farm in Southern Indiana.  This was always a dream of mine so he mostly came along for the ride.  If you are not familiar with this part of the country, it is totally beautiful with woods and fields, gently rolling hills, lakes and streams. And not too many people.  I like to say it’s like New England without the crowds.

We live in a 150 year old farm house with a large garden, a couple of orchards, and plenty of the aforementioned woods and fields and streams.  We raised two sons here and have enjoyed living in a county that doesn’t even have one stoplight…and we’re proud of it.

My studio is the old summer kitchen so my commute is about 30 feet from the back door.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, summer kitchens were popular in the days of wood-fired stoves to keep the heat out of the house…in the summer!  They are very common on old homesteads in the midwest and south.  And it’s very nice for me to have an area to keep my art separate both physically and mentally from the rest of the house.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Don’t forget to visit my art website at kgmiracle.com  or my Etsy shop.

My Blue Door Studio,the old summer kitchen is about 30 feet from my back door. The blue is Electric Blue, a lucky southwest color. Hey, why not?

View from the front door through the studio. It is a two-room space.

View from my artist chair to the front door of the studio.

A broader view of the front room of the studio. This used to be the dining room for the field hands during the summer.

It may looks a bit haphazard but I know where everything is…usually.

Broader view from the back room into the front room.

This large pantry in the back room of the studio is where I store many objects for still lifes. The old wood cook stove was back here, too. I can’t imagine how many meals were fixed here, as well as all the canning that was done.

Storage is always a premium for artists. Where does one PUT all this art?

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

Yay! Spring is here!

Blue Bells and Narcissus

I think that people who live close to nature are generally more attuned to the seasons.  Every little bulb that pokes its nose up, the buds on the trees and bushes, and even the wrens making their nest on my front porch.

Hostas and bluebells in early spring

Here are just a few of this spring’s observations on My 90 Acres.  Missed posting the daffodils and forsythias but that is what happens.  Time and nature keep moving on.

A yard full of spring beauties

Close up of spring beauties and violets

Probably won’t be burning too much more wood in the wood stove.  It’s been a mild winter but we always feel like squirrels hoarding nuts when we have big piles of firewood.  It will keep until next winter.

End of winter firewood pile

Spring planting

One of the nicest things about living in the country is being able to grow our own food.  We like the fresh from garden to table taste as well as knowing what is (and isn’t) in our produce.  We’re not fanatics about it (at least I don’t think we are) as there are many things we’ve tried over the years but which just aren’t worth the trouble.  For instance, carrots and potatoes are cheaper to buy in the store or farmer’s market than grow ourselves.  Too labor intensive.

But one of the things we enjoy doing most is pushing the seasons.  We have a spring/fall garden area, separate from the main garden, with a cold frame and some area to plant cooler weather crops.  Here we grow kale, lettuce, asparagus, snow peas and onions.

Lettuce in cold frame – black seeded simpson, bibb, siberian kale, and mixed kale. Planted mid February.

What you see here are two kinds of lettuce and Siberian kale that we planted back in mid-February.  We should be eating this next week.  The cold frame is covered with screen, and in colder weather, a top with plastic, and sometime if we get a late snow or freeze, a blanket.  The lettuce and kale will keep coming until June.  Then we replant it in September to eat in November and early December.  No pesticides or sprays at all.

Sweet onions, planted early March

We’ve planted onions sporadically over the years but always had trouble keeping them.  We dried them on screens or put them in the shop refrigerator, but they still spoiled.  So last year I pointed out to my husband that since we mostly cook with them, why not just chop them all up and freeze them.  So that is what we did.  With the aid of the food processor, it didn’t take any time at all process them all.  It was so easy to just grab a few handfuls whenever we were making soups, stews, or other recipes which called for chopped onion.  This year we’re experimenting with several varieties but we really like the large sweet onions.

Starting seeds in greenhouse. The mousetraps are because the mice kept digging up the seeds!

The garlic has been another challenge.  We planted two kinds last fall.  One made it and one totally died.  My husband did the planting and didn’t mark which was which, pointing out the necessity of keeping good records.  We all have faulty memories and it’s often difficult to recall when and what we planted after the passage of several months.

Sure am looking forward to that lettuce, though!

Studio Work

Like many artists in winter, I don’t have much time to get outdoors to paint. By the time I get home from work, it’s usually dark. However, I paint every week, often several evenings. These are some recent paintings from photos that I took this autumn.  One is from a trip to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.

As a contemporary impressionist, I try to capture the “feel” of the scene rather than every little detail.  It is often difficult to restrain myself.  I think in this day and age, with the benefit of photos, many artists often fall prey to the tendency of painting every detail which has been captured by the camera.  But that is not actually the way we see.  We see what is directly in front of us but the peripheral edges are often lost. The advent of modern photography continues to tempt us.  But that is not why we are artists. Anyone can take a photo but only the few can interpret their feelings in an artistic medium.

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This first painting is from a trip that we made to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.  Surprising enough, this national park is set on the shore of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana.  It seems to have been carved from an industrial landscape but if you spend some quiet time here, you can imagine what the shore was like 100 years ago.  I wish I had painted this with a little warmer tones but that is in hindsight.  Love the sketchiness of the trees and the ever-moving sand.

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

This next painting is from a photo I took on a walk along my country road this autumn.  It is difficult to not go overboard with the bright colors which could lean to garishness.  I had to make a great effort to push back the far trees to add some atmosphere which enhanced the foreground trees and the lovely green of the cattle pasture to the right.

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

The final painting is just a glance out my bathroom window one frosty morning.  Love the early morning light catching the pine tree with the colorful woods behind.  Not so successful capturing the feeling of frost.  It looks more like a river or lake but there you have it.  As any experienced artist knows, not every painting turns out as we wish.  But we always learn something, even from our failures.

Clouds

A.J.'s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

A.J.’s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

Occasionally here in the Midwest we get some pretty fabulous cloud formations.  They’re probably not any different than anywhere else, it’s just that we actually have the space to see them.  This painting is from a photo that my son shared with me of some dramatic cumulonimbus clouds in August. Interestingly enough, I was taking photos of the same clouds from two miles away as was another friend who lives about 30 miles away.  That’s how impressive the formations were.  I decided to turn it into a painting for my son for Christmas. I don’t think he follows my blog or otherwise, this won’t be a surprise for him.

Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

The value of temporary art

I spent today, Mother’s Day, gardening.  Last weekend I planted our considerable vegetable garden with the help of my granddaughter.  Today, I concentrated on flowerbeds, planters and hanging baskets.  The humidity was equal to the temperature so it was a hot, sticky day here in southern Indiana.

As I was dividing some ferns for the hanging baskets, it suddenly struck me how fugitive all my efforts were.  Why am I doing this? I asked myself.  Just because I love the results.  I felt as if I were channeling my mother and both grandmothers, who were all great gardeners.  A nice sentiment on Mother’s Day.

This led along a winding path of thinking about temporary art.  Many artists have made their reputations with creating artwork which isn’t meant to last.  Being the practical person that I am, I have always been a little skeptical.  But just as Christo’s art events to swathe bridges and canyons in fabric, and Gonzales-Torez’s piles of candy in museums are temporary art, so is planting flowers.  We do it for the sheer enjoyment and beauty.

My flowers will bring me great joy this summer until they are gone with the frosty fall.  That’s enough.  Isn’t it?

Life happens

For those of you who follow this blog and may have wondered where I’ve been, I apologize for the scarcity of recent postings.  Life happens.

Amid all the end of the year activities – holidays, performances, painting events, etc. – we had a family emergency.  My husband had a second (and more severe) heart attack. In this case, it was a pretty scary situation to live in such a remote area.  We actually drove 15 miles to meet the ambulance rather than trying to direct them to our house. He is doing well, thank you for asking, but as you may imagine, this event turned the household on end.  He’s sticking with a strict vegan diet as touted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.  (Highly recommended, btw.)  A total change to vegan has not been a huge issue since we grow and eat lots of vegetables.  However, now there’s no meat or fish, no dairy, no eggs, no added fats.  But the results have been rewarding.  He’s lost 25+ pounds in the first six weeks and feels great.  Anyway, a new way of eating for the family.

And my day job as director of a multi-discipline arts center has been busy but rewarding.  Several performances, conferences to attend, booking for next season, and work on building expansion.  But I still manage to find time to paint or draw.

The bone-chilling cold of the winter in the midwest and north east has driven me to find relief in perusing gardening books (and ordering more, of course).  Before this most recent bout of snow and ice, I actually spotted the daffodils and crocuses poking up.  Can’t wait for spring.

Meanwhile, life is returning to normal…somewhat.  Back in the studio painting, reading, and…well…country living.

Life happens.

Bobcat – Making a comeback

As I have mentioned in a previous post, we have great fun observing the wildlife in this rural area.  Our house sits in the middle of 90 acres (thus, My90Acres), and is a good mix of fields, streams and woods.  The county I live in is very rural and has an abundance of wildlife.

We move our deer cam around and I check the SD card every couple of weeks.  It’s always great fun to see what we’ve “caught.”  Its latest location is near our drive where it crosses a creek on a culvert.  Animals are a little lazy and will take the easy path across the culvert rather than wade through the creek so this location gets them going both across the creek and along the creek.  The cam is triggered automatically and records both day and night with the infrared part.  The animals can’t see it flash at night but they can hear the camera click.  Some of them come right up to the camera and I’m as likely to get a closeup of a deer nose as a flock of birds in the day.

This past month the camera recorded all kinds of deer, foxes, two cats I’ve never seen in daylight, turkeys, squirrels, coyotes, rabbits, possums,  birds of all kinds, my dog, and cars entering and leaving the property.  To my delight, I also recorded this large male bobcat this month.  I haven’t seen him since last year so was glad to observe him again. Based on comparing him to the size of my dog, I guess he’s about 30-34 pounds which is about tops for a male.  Bobcats have been protected in Indiana for a while now but they may come off the protected list soon as their population has grown.  They eat rabbits, possums, rats, and other small animals.  Oh, and chickens.  Not so good.  Nevertheless, it’s so nice to know nature is thriving in the not quite wilderness.  On the other hand, I really don’t want to record a mountain lion or bear in this area – as has been reported.  That would be a little too scary for my taste.

Bobcat in southern Indiana

Bobcat in southern Indiana

Bobcat - arrow points to stubby tail

Bobcat – arrow points to stubby tail

Third photo of Bobcat

Third photo of Bobcat

Simplify your backgrounds

Often, when we venture into the great outdoors to paint, we are assaulted with visual overload.  There’s just too much out there!  I find that a good way to approach the problem of too much is to simplify my backgrounds.  In this recent plein air painting of June lilies, I could have added a lot of trees and stuff in the background but decided to emphasize the flowers instead.  I chose to do this by painting the background with a muted variety of purples and blues.  As you can see, this really makes the flowers pop.  By the way, the orange day lilies grow wild in great masses along the country roads this time of year.

June Day Lilies, oil on canvas, 12x16, Kit Miracle

June Day Lilies, oil on canvas, 12×16, Kit Miracle

The original area with a busy background.

The original area with a busy background.