Solo show opening this week

I gave a little background behind the Breaking Bread series. I could only exhibit about six paintings in the series due to space limitations.

My solo show at the Harrison County Arts gallery opened yesterday. This is in downtown Corydon, Indiana, the first state capitol of Indiana. It’s a quaint little town and is about thirty miles west of Louisville, Kentucky. It gets a lot of visitors and many people work in the big city.

Harrison County Arts is a co-op of a group of volunteers who manage and present quality art and crafts of regional artists.

I dropped off my work the week before and the volunteers did the rest. They did a lovely job hanging the exhibit although the space is limited. My show is the last exhibit at this gallery. They’re moving across the street to another space which is several times larger.

This exhibit features a few paintings from my Breaking Bread series. The remainder are mainly focused on Southern Indiana scenes and locations. There are a variety of oils and acrylics with a few prints in a rack.

Despite being a chilly Friday night during a pandemic, the turnout was very decent. Many guests had interesting questions. As an artist, I always have something to spout on about my work. I didn’t see anyone’s eyes glazing over. And everyone wore masks!

The show runs through February 26th and there are pieces in all price ranges. The location is at 121 E Chestnut Street, Corydon IN 47112. Their hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 12 – 4, Friday 12 – 6, and Saturday 10 – 2.

If you’re looking for the gallery, this is the outside. It’s on Chestnut Street in Corydon next to Butt Drugs (yes, a real place).

Drawing trees

I’ve been busy since the holidays so haven’t spent much time in the studio. I have a show which opens later this week so much of my time has been spent sorting and rounding up artwork for the show. We’ve also had some pretty chilly weather with temps in the single digits but only a couple of inches of snow.

So I decided to take a break from new painting work to practicing drawing some trees. Winter is a great time to capture the skeletons of the trees as the leaves are long gone. I didn’t have to go far, actually just my own front yard.

The sketch of the hackberry tree is charcoal on pastel paper. Approximately 13.5 inches by 11.5. Winter is a great time to draw tree skeletons.

The first tree is a large hackberry. I had never heard of this tree before we moved here but it’s a very nicely shaped tree, tall with up-reaching branches, medium-size leaves (so no raking) and small dark berries which are popular with the birds. It also is distinguished by its incredibly knobby bark.

The hackberry has a striking limb structure with large limbs reaching for the sky.

The other tree that I recently drew is a giant sugar maple near our woodshed. It has been home to several treehouses over the years, supported by it’s wide-spreading branches. I just love the beautiful scarlet foliage in the autumn. We don’t sugar the tree but there is/was a whole double row of them when we moved here. Unfortunately, they tend to die off at about eighty years. This one has a large hollow on the other side but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Sugar Maple charcoal sketch, approximately 13.5 inches by 11.5. The late afternoon shadows emphasize the limb structure.
Sugar maple, detail. This poor old maple by the wood shed is huge and has been host to many tree houses. I’m not certain how many more years it has in it as there is a hollow on the other side, but we still enjoy the brilliant orangey-red foliage in autumn.

It’s nice to challenge myself with some drawing. I think drawing is great for building that important eye-hand coordination. I should do more of it, but brandishing a brush is even more alluring.

Hello 2022, good bye 2021.  A year in review.

I don’t know about you but the past year has certainly been a roller coaster ride, one of ups and downs, good and bad.  It seems as if we’re all in a bit of a daze and ready to say good riddance to 2021.

Way back in January, we were all just beginning to fall off the cliff into the realization of the seriousness of the pandemic.  Confusion reigned. Many countries were still locked down or were thinking about it. We were getting tired of being confined homebodies. But hope reigned with the news that a vaccine was on the horizon. Some of us were scrambling to make sure we could sign up as soon as possible.

On top of this, the nation looked on with alarm at the mess in the capitol before the inauguration.  Most of us had never lived through anything like this but there were some memories of the demonstrations back in the 60s and 70s.  Life repeats itself.

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is completed. It opened in January and is always hosting some activity or function, from classes, to weddings, to Santa’s reindeer.

Many good things also happened this past year.  For one thing, the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper opened.  I had a small part in working on that project for ten years before I retired.  Others picked up the ball and saw it to fruition.  So proud of the town and citizens. What a showplace!

Bread and Miriam. My friend is delighted to display her new painting. We had such a fun morning visiting, talking about books and life.

Remember when people were stockpiling toilet paper and bread was hard to get?  I reposted my Artesian Bread recipe.  My friend Miriam said that making bread was the highlight of her spring.  But I was also forced to buy 25 pounds of rye flour when I couldn’t find it in smaller packages.  My husband is a great bread maker.  Lucky me.

After months of playing hermit, my husband and I sneaked off for a quick trip to Florida.  We rented a house so we were still hermits, just with better weather. 

About 35 students attended my presentation. Great questions, too!

My big solo exhibit in May / June at the cultural center went off without a hitch.  It was so satisfying to see two years’ of work on the new gallery walls.  Loads of visitors, including friends from all over the state.  Thank you!

Spring threw some surprises at us.  We had some beautiful flowers but I held off planting.  Good thing as we had a very late snow on May 10th!  I covered up the things that I did plant and everything turned out well.

Slightly creepy feeling, this is what the cicadas look like when they first shed their brown shells. It will attach itself to something – twig, trees, side of house – while it pumps up it’s wings, then takes off to find a mate for a day. No mouths or stingers.

Then there was the cicada invasion.  Thousands of the little bugs, all singing their mating calls at 90 decibels.  Very annoying but it passed eventually.  The birds and toads were really happy.

Tomatoes, tops. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whopper, Goliath, Roma.

Our garden produce was heavy and bug-free this year.  We couldn’t even put up all that we grew and tried to give much of it away.  All this despite the late planting, and planting fewer plants.

We were very grateful to be living in the country where we could get outside, go for a drive, eat lunch by the river. 

I really love the variety of mini pumpkins and squashes.

September saw the requisite visit to the pumpkin farm.  Paintings in three shows.  And winding up for the holidays. Overall art sales tripled.  Time to set bigger goals.

I hope that as you take time to look back over the past year, that you have some good memories, too.  Let us all hope the coming year is much improved.

Introspection

I have an exhibit coming up in January and was recently asked by the gallery director what the title of my exhibit will be.  Duh?  You would think that a person who has spent most of her life in the creative field would be more imaginative in this respect.  Uh, my name?  The types of paintings I’ll exhibit?  I finally landed on the title:  Introspection. 

Alone. Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread series. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24. Kit Miracle

Introspection seems to represent what we do at the end of the year and the beginning of the new year.  How were things?  What did we learn?  What do we hope for the new year? 

Let’s face it.  It’s been a difficult year.  Most of us did not expect to still be dealing with a world pandemic.  Wild weather and climate change.  Economic and world political disputes. 

This led me to contemplate my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series of paintings.  I plan to include several of these pieces in the upcoming exhibit.  Many of them represent the theme of being alone. Eating alone or limited to a close group of friends and family. 

Sunday Dinner has taken a new meaning these days. A small family gathering at a restaurant.

Some people seem to have handled being alone better than others.  For an artist, this is a normal state to reach down deep to access my thoughts and determine how best to express them.  I enjoy the time with my thoughts and am not lonely, just alone. 

Other creative people – dancers, musicians, those who work in large studio groups – thrive on the lively input of many minds. What looks to me like chaos is their life blood.  With theaters shuttered and musical venues closed, I can only sympathize.

Dinner at Octave. One of our favorite restaurants. Very eclectic with all kinds of people.

For me, being alone whether spending time in the studio, reading, taking a walk in the woods, or even attending a movie or performance alone is an enjoyable experience.  It doesn’t really matter who I’m with or how many people are around me.

But being lonely is no fun for anyone.  And, yes, I’ve been there, too.  This is a much more nobody likes me emotional state.  You can be surrounded by  people and yet still feel hollow and disconnected.

Alone II, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. I saw this old guy having breakfast at a fast food place. I don’t know if he was widowed or, perhaps, an old veteran.

This has been a difficult couple of years for everyone and the holiday season is an especially emotional time.  Maybe you’ve been separated from your family and friends.  You’ve been working from home and don’t have any work buddies to pal around with.  Maybe you’ve moved and don’t have any friends in your new city.  I’m not a psychologist but I do know that people are not going to knock on your door.  As a friend told me a long time ago; there are always people like you (in the area); you just have to go out and find them. 

Even if you live in as unpopulated an area as I do (and it would be difficult to find many counties in the Eastern part of the United States with a more sparse population than mine), there are still some people like you out there.  Go to the library, join a club, start your own club.  What special interests do you have?  Hiking, biking, fishing, playing ball?  Maybe you like to volunteer at the animal shelter or help others.  Young people who are new to a city or area often reach out through online groups to plan activities.

Whoever you are out there, I hope that you can enjoy the holidays. That you’re not alone or lonely. Let us all hold higher aspirations for a new year. 

Arbor day in December

We’ve had some pretty warm days this past week so I thought it would be a great opportunity to plant some seeds that I’ve collected this past autumn.  I had the kids help me collect a five gallon bucket of black walnuts, and I harvested all my bee balm and redbud seeds.

Three containers to plant. The blue bucket holds redbud seedpods, the coffee can holds bee balm seed heads, and the large white bucket is filled with black walnuts which are already losing their husks. I recommend wearing disposable gloves when handling them.

I took a walk up to the big woods to sow some redbud a couple of weeks ago.  This is a beautiful understory tree with pinkish-purple flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves the rest of the year.  You barely even notice the tree when it is not in bloom. It seems to grow well wherever dogwood will grow.  We have lots of dogwood but no redbud except in the yard.  I collected all the seed pods that I could (a two gallon bucket) and sowed half of them up in the big woods.

The beautiful redbud is an understory tree, totally hidden most of the year but adding a brilliant touch to the woods in the spring.

This week I sowed the remainder in the second-growth timber on the west side of the property.  I crushed the pods by hand and just scattered them as I walked through the trees.  I’m sure some will take eventually.

Also, this past fall, I collected all the bee balm seed heads that I could find.  I got a coffee can full.  I had noticed earlier this summer that the bee balm that I scattered along the road frontage few years ago had made a nice stand of flowers.  Our pollinators always need some more help so I thought this would be a good thing.  These seeds I scattered in the west second growth timber, along the lane and more road frontage.  We’ll see. 

Bee balm is in the mint family and is a favorite of pollinators. Easy to grow.

The walnuts are a different matter.  These are black walnuts and, as I reported earlier this fall, they can make quite a mess in the yard.  Highly desired by cooks and very expensive to buy in the store, the trees can be very prolific as they were this year.  We had walnuts everywhere.  The trees also emit a chemical called juglone which is often poisonous to other plants nearby.  Not counting the mess.  I thought if I could get some to grow elsewhere on the property, then we might remove the trees close to the house.  In past years, local youth groups would come and pick up the nuts and take them to the mill for money.  We were happy; it helped them and they helped us.

So earlier this week I took a walk carting a heavy bucket of black walnuts and a shovel.  I planted some and others I just tossed out.  The squirrels do a great job of planting the nuts.  An arborist friend said they do just as well to be scattered as actually planted.

So later this week, I took the remainder of the big bucket of nuts and scattered them in the woods to the north of our house.  We have some oak growing there but plenty of room for more trees.  We’ll see.

Looks like some cold weather moving in again so I won’t be planting any more bulbs or nuts or seeds this fall.  I would be happy if even ten percent of what I sowed this fall comes up.  That will make a difference.  And help in my fight against the invaders of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses, Russian olives and privet. 

It was nice to see that the Virginia pine trees that we planted over thirty years ago are now tall trees.  But most of the white pine were eaten by the deer.  Well, somebody benefits in the long run.

If you’d like to learn more about planting trees, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohleben.  I asked my local library to order this book last year.  They were a bit skeptical and thought it would have limited interest.  However, I was recently told that the book has been off the shelf ever since they got it in.  Now it is in audio format, too. 

Night Reaper

It is not unusual here in the Midwest to see farmers harvesting late into the night during the season.  Last year our renter harvested past one in the morning.  Only fatigue drives them inside.

Night Reaper. Acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14. Kit Miracle

Earlier this week, the farmer was rushing to get the corn in before the rain predicted the following day.  The giant combine looks like some eerie monster gobbling up the stalks, spitting the debris out the back.  The grain trucks meet the combine in the field to be filled and cart away the gold. 

I have always been fascinated by night activities such as these and I sneaked out to take a bunch of reference photos.  I don’t know why I have to sneak on my own property but I felt compelled to do so, hiding in the shadows and behind the trees.  With the low light conditions and the movement of the equipment, most of the photos were blurred but I managed to get some good shots, too.  I was just using my phone camera, not my good camera.

The clouds were scudding across the night sky, alternating blotting out the nearly full moon and then darkening everything.  The lights on the equipment were dazzling.  The dust kicked up by the harvest hung in the air like smoke, sometimes caught in the blue light of the moon.

I find night subjects to be interesting and compelling in a totally different way than daytime subjects.  I’ve sketched leaning up against buildings in Times Square and have painted the buildings of the city seen at night. Watching diners through the window of a restaurant can be fascinating.

What is going on in your neighborhood in the dark that is worth capturing in art?

Dreaming of colors

And the golden ones came, Dreamland Series. 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

My painting activities often insert themselves into my dreams.  That’s probably an occupational hazard from creating so much.  Reading about art, making art, visiting art.  It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I find that I have worked out a painting problem in my sleep. 

But a while back I woke up with a most vivid image in my mind.  Very bright colors, semi-abstract, nothing like my usual subject matter or palette.  Fortunately, I was able to keep the image in mind (it was that strong) and later captured it in my studio.  This does not happen often. 

This led to several other paintings in a similar vein.  Bright colors, semi-abstract, nature themes of birds and flowers and trees.  A few recognizable subjects of water and ponds, bridges and houses.  Vivid skies and vegetation. 

Dawn at the Little Pond, Dreamland Series, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

I’m calling this my Dreamland series.  There are about seven paintings so far.  I’ve been distracted with some other work lately so I hope that I can get back to this idea or state of mind.  The bright colors just make me happy.

I don’t have these listed for sale yet as two of them are on exhibition right now.  But check back later in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt to see if they’ve been added.

Sometimes we just need to follow our intuition and have fun creating.  Or so I think.

What are you doing to break out of your routine?

Plein air painting in autumn

The Big Rock, East Fork White River. These large sandstone rocks line the river and bluffs. The autumn colors set off the scene. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16.

October started out pretty warm with temperatures in the 80s.  However, with November’s arrival, the past week or so, we’ve had some heavy frosts and night temps have dropped to the 20s.  Daytime still warms up to the 50s and 60s.  This is a perfect time to do some plein air painting.  The garden has been cleaned out and outdoor work has slowed.

Last Monday I picked up my friend Bill Whorrall to go out and do some work.  Southern Indiana is so beautiful this time of year with the fall colors and hilly terrain.  We decided to paint along the East Fork of the White River near Shoals.  We checked out several spots but eventually landed at the nature preserve Bluffs at Beaver Bend.  You can only drive a short way in, then hike along the path with the river on your right and the sandstone bluffs on your left.  So many picturesque scenes to paint. 

I decided to paint this big rock with the river behind it.  Bill traveled a little farther up the path to capture the sandstone cliffs in some ink sketches. We saw an eagle traveling along the river but unfortunately didn’t get any photos.

It was so peaceful there but not as isolated as we had thought it would be on a Monday morning.  Several groups of hikers including a few guys from Chicago.  They said they always try to get away together this time of year and go someplace within a day’s drive.

We worked for a few hours and then the wind picked up and we began to get chilled.  I got about 75% of my painting done and then finished it up at home.  I dropped Bill off at his house where his wife Karen had made a vegetable cheese soup, sandwiches and dessert for lunch.  I think we welcomed the warmth of the soup as much as the food.

Afterwards we toured Karen’s extensive garden which was still producing raspberries and some other goodies.

Then for a lovely ride home through the autumn colors.

A walk in the woods. This is the complete plein air painting that I showcased last week. Just some autumn trees and interesting shadows with a path leading up into the big woods. Acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14.
Charles House, Richmond, Indiana. Charles House is actually the building on the left side. This location is actually behind the beautiful rose garden on the edge of Glen Miller park in Richmond. I think the little cottage might have actually been a summer kitchen at one time. A very peaceful autumn scene. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16.

October roundup

The pumpkins on the porch are still making a nice display. They’ll end up as food for the chickens next month.

October has been so busy here on the homeplace.  The temperature was in the 80s at the beginning of the month.  Now it has dropped to 50s in the day with dips to the 30s at night.  Might have had a light frost (which I didn’t actually see) but will definitely have one later this week.

The garden has been picked clean.  All of the last peppers, beans, and tomatoes have been gathered.  It’s been mowed, tilled, and a winter wheat cover crop has been planted. This will get tilled under in the spring and helps provide needed body to the soil.  The flower pots are being emptied and cleaned out.  The spiders have been chased from their homes on the porch and all the summer shoes, boots and gardening tools have been rounded up and put away.

Persimmons. The animals love these fruits but I don’t particularly care for them. They’re a bit tart until after the first frost. Persimmon pulp is used in many recipes for cakes, muffins and puddings.
Walnuts. Walnuts. Walnuts. All the trees are bearing heavy crops this year.

We’ve had a bumper crop all summer with the fruit trees being loaded so much we couldn’t pick them all.  This trend is continuing into the autumn with an abundance of walnuts and persimmons.  You really don’t want to stand under a walnut tree on a windy day.  It sounds like gunfire.  I’ve picked a bucket of redbud seedpods and have scattered them in the woods.  They’re an understory tree so wherever the dogwoods grow, they’ll do fine, too.  And I picked another container of beebalm seed heads.  I’ll scatter those along the drive and edges of the fields.  There is a nice stand of this plant where I sowed the seeds a couple of years ago.

Lilacs blooming in October. Yes, here is proof.

With the warmer weather, some of the plants and bushes have been a bit mixed up.  I noticed that one of my lilacs was blooming.  That was a nice surprise in…er…October.  And the forsythia always seems to get a second autumn bloom.

Doing a little plein air painting up in the woods. The fall colors are just approaching peak.

Fall break meant the grandkids got to come out and spend some country time.  A walk in the woods is always fun.  We never see any wildlife (due to the dog running ahead) but we spotted a great variety of mushrooms and other fungi.  I took the granddaughter to see an especially lovely exhibit of paintings by Louisville artist Joyce Garner.

Visiting the Joyce Garner exhibit at the Thyen-Clark cultural center.

And I was particularly busy doing arty things.  Driving one way to drop off paintings for a show, and the other way to pick up some work.  Often in the same day!  Recorded books make the time go by quicker.

And finally, went to my class reunion.  Who are all these old people?!  It had been postponed from last year due to COVID, but it was nice to reconnect with some old friends.  It’s a lot of hard work so kudos to the committee who tirelessly kept prodding everyone to sign up, and actually show up.  Another long drive accompanied by recorded books.  And some beautiful fall scenery.

On this last day of October, celebrate a little. Go out and beat the drums and howl at the moon.  Or maybe snitch a piece or two of candy from any little people who may live with you.  Or buy an extra bag for yourself.  Happy Halloween!

Useful art tools

Five useful art tools. 1, Composition aid. 2. Proportion scale. 3. Red gel. 4. View catcher. 5 Painting bridges.

It seems hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a catalogue or an e-mail trying to sell me art supplies and gadgets.  Oh, look, newer, better, scientific!  You’ve got to have this latest gizmo!  This will ensure your success and you’ll be the best in your field.

This is true not only for artists, but golfers, automobile enthusiasts, bikers, campers, what have you.  It seems as if the only people getting rich are the ones who keep trying to sell you things. 

But as an artist, I always like the challenge of trying to do things myself.  I guess that’s why I’m in a creative field. Here are five very simple tools that I use in my studio or outside.  Three I made myself and the other two can be purchased for less than ten dollars each.

1. The first tool is a simple composition aid made from a small 4 x 6 frame with the glass taped in.  On the back side, I’ve divided it into nine sections with a permanent marker.  I got the idea from an old drawing (Durer) of an artist who had created a standing frame divided into squares by threads.  He then divided his paper into squares, and then transferred what he saw in each square as he was viewing an object, into the respective square on his paper.  This same technique is used today for blowing up drawings. 

Woodcut of Durer’s perspective drawing tool.

In this case, I take the little frame and hold it up in front of a landscape, and draw with a felt pen on the front side.  This can be used for still lifes, figurative works, street scenes, whatever.  The trick is to keep the frame and my eye at the same level for the few minutes that I need to sketch on the glass.  Then I transfer the image to my paper or canvas.  Sometimes it’s amazing how different the actual drawing looks from the way my eye wanted to read it.  I’ve used this technique in teaching third graders up to adults.  Now, of course, you can buy a similar ready-made frame but these were not available when I first made mine.

Proportion Scale with several 20 x 16 equivalents marked by red arrows.

2. Proportion scale.  I’ve had this little plastic tool for so many years that I forgot where I bought it.  It is so easy to use for both reducing and increasing sizes proportionally.  Just line up the numbers of say, a 20 x 16 and then everything else on the scale will be proportional to that, 10 x 8, 5 x 4, 40 x 32, 80 x 64 and everything in between.  Or maybe you have a canvas of a certain size but you need to make adjustments in your drawing to fit; the proportion scale can help you do this.  Less than $10 online.

3. Red gel sheet.  I used to have access to colored gels (used for lights) when I worked in the theatre business.  These scraps are useful, particularly this red gel.  Hold it up in front of a green landscape, and it immediately grays everything out so you’re only left with values.  Commercial products are available now but you can probably get gel scraps from your local theatre or playhouse for free. See previous post here.

4.  The View Catcher has been around for a long time.  Made of grey plastic, the little slide opens the window to a variety of sizes from square to rectangles.  Marks on the plastic indicate the scale of the window (8 x 10, 11 x 14, etc.)  Less than $10.  We used to use old film slide windows but no one knows what those are anymore. 

5.  Painting bridges.  When I painted a lot of watercolor, particularly architectural images, it was helpful to have a steady hand when drawing the lines.  I made these two bridges from some wood scraps.  They kept my hand off the paper and from smearing the paint or ink.  Also, they were very helpful for guiding my pen when drawing lines.  My cost was nothing but now you can buy plastic ones for about $35.  I like free.

I hope these useful art tools will inspire you in your quest to be more creative.  And don’t be afraid to make something of your own invention, too.