I was recently asked what is my favorite large painting that I’ve done over my career. Boy, that is a difficult question to answer, especially for someone with a career spanning over 35 years!
Just looking through files and folders of images spanning over three decades is a daunting task. First there were photographs, printed and filed. Then all the images collected on slides which was the only way we could apply for exhibits. This involved special film, tripods, 3200K lights, a whole set up which took hours to accomplish. And then I didn’t even know if I had captured the image correctly until the slides returned. Thank goodness those days are over.
Now, we take photos with a digital camera, the better the camera, the better the image. Of course, now every decent phone has a great camera. And I don’t bother with the lights anymore. I usually just hang the paintings on the outside of my studio on a cloudy day or on the north side. Photo imaging software can handle the rest.
My first couple of decades as an artist, I focused solely on watercolor or media on paper – pastel, charcoal, pen and ink. Watercolor paper is limiting by the size, standard sheet of 22 x 30. Although at times I have used rolled paper which can get very large, most paintings of this time were standard size or smaller.
The past few decades have been primarily devoted to oils and acrylics. Sizes vary here depending upon my design and are usually on canvas, canvas board, or even hard board.
Each painting has a story behind it. I remember what inspired me, where I was, even what music or recorded book I was listening to. These are just a few of my favorite large paintings from over the years. Certainly not all, but a few. As you can see, I am particularly attracted to stories with people. Although throughout the years, I ‘ve painted many still lifes and scenery of all kinds, I keep returning to the human element.
A few weeks ago I eagerly posted some preliminary photos of the new Jasper Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana. Well, they weren’t quite ready for release yet so I took the post down. However, even though they’re still not quite ready, some of the portions of the Cultural Center are now open. So I’m giving you a preview of those parts.
The three galleries in the center are open to the public. These are really awesome galleries, very large with clearstory windows. They are located in the arts section of the Cultural Center. The idea is to have staggered two-month exhibits featuring local, regional and national artists. The first exhibits this year are John Mellencamp, Gerry Wubben, and a group show featuring local and regional artists. Let me just say, everything looks wonderful in these galleries and Emily Colluci-Peak, the Visual Arts Coordinator, has done a marvelous job of hanging the exhibits. If you have some time, take a drive out to see the exhibits.
They’re still finalizing the classroom spaces. The atrium between the library and the arts section has no furniture yet but it looks ready to go. And the library is waiting for some shelving which is on back order. But the whole shebang will be open in another few weeks. I’ll be sure to post some more updates then.
If you’re feeling housebound these days and looking for a place to go for a drive, I highly recommend that you plan a trip to Jasper in southern Indiana. The new cultural center is at 100 Third Avenue right in downtown Jasper, near the river and many other interesting places to visit. Plenty of parking in the rear of the building (turn north on Mill Street, then east on Fourth Street). And many fine restaurants and shopping areas to visit. Admission is free.
Jasper is a small Midwestern town of only about 15,000. But the whole town came together to build this wonderful site…after many years of planning. Initiated by a major challenge grant from some significant local donors, local businesses and private donors jumped in to help. A decade-long community project has been finally realized.
If you are an artist looking to exhibit in such a fine space, contact Emily Colluci-Peak at Jasper Arts Center. The submission deadline for 2022 is February 12th of this year. Check out this link here. Click here to take a virtual tour of the three exhibits.
We had a little over an inch of snow last night. The sight that greeted us this morning was so pretty. Every branch and plant was covered. Actually, it seems as if we haven’t had a heavy snow of several inches for a few years. Even though winter has been relatively mild – so far, I am already sick of the season. News exhaustion, tired of restrictions, worried about COVID. Missing my family.
The past few weeks since the holiday crush, I have been concentrating on finishing up my Breaking Bread series of paintings. These are middling to large, 24 x 30 paintings expressing my thoughts and observations of people eating together, or not as the case may be. A few are humorous but most are thought-provoking. Scenes we see every day or used to at least. But they are also mentally or emotionally draining.
I decided to take a little respite this week and paint something lighter. Think spring. Back to some small watercolors with pen and ink, even colored pencil added. Some florals and landscapes. Promises of things to come in a few months.
The first one that I tackled was Spring Daffodils. This is a landscape of the naturalized daffodils in my yard. Sometimes they come up as early as mid-February but usually they’re not out in full force until March and April. It’s just such a peaceful scene with spring colors.
Another scene is of some of the purple irises out by the woodshed. I know that I planted these shortly after we moved here many years ago but can’t remember the name. It doesn’t really matter. I have many varieties of irises from light purple to deep purple, peach and white, and some more that I’ve forgotten. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see them explode in color in some out of the way place.
I’ll take another week “off” to paint some of these spring scenes. They have lightened my mood and inspired me during these dismal times. Then I’ll get back to the more serious series. I have four more paintings to complete before the big show in May and June.
I hope you have some activity to inspire you during these difficult times, too. Take care of yourselves.
It’s not quite the end of this dreadful year but we’re close enough that I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting. This is what I learned about myself.
I am happy to be a hermit.
I’m a sociable person and enjoy visiting with friends and family, but actually, I am happy spending time alone. Never lonely. Just alone. Quite a difference. I didn’t even notice this until my husband pointed out that I hadn’t left the property for over a week. And the problem with that is? Fortunately, he loves to do the grocery shopping (yes, really!) so I only have to venture out to the big box store about once a month for other supplies and necessities. And the post office and library.
I would rather eat Cheetos and drink wine than exercise.
I am not proud of this. I used to exercise every day and ride my bike about ten miles a day, in nearly any weather. This year, not so much. It’s just so easy to sit on the patio with a good book and some crunchy snacks and my favorite adult beverage. This will be remedied in 2021.
I love my libraries.
This is really not any news, but my local libraries have gone above and beyond the call in order to supply books to their patrons. I could order books online and they would be delivered to my tiny local library within a few days. This saved me about 50 miles round trip. Yes, books are this important in my life.
UPS delivers (and FedEx and USPS).
Except when they don’t. Isn’t it so nice to be able to order practically anything you want online and it will be delivered to your door? In this rural area, I see the same delivery people all the time. My mail carrier has a personal relationship with my “big scary dog.” These are really hardworking, conscientious people.
But…as an Etsy seller, I did have some trouble with deliveries this season. I would mail out the package – usually within a day – take it to the local post office. They would get it out the same day. And then….where did it go? Many of my shipments ended up in a great black hole. I was so embarrassed as I truly believe in providing good customer service. Fortunately, everyone was very understanding. All but two packages arrived before the holidays but it was still disappointing.
Where’s your mask?
Last spring when the pandemic started ramping up and masks were difficult to find, I dusted off the old old sewing machine and whipped up a few. Well, about 200. I sent them to friends and family. No charge, just be safe. I was even considering creating a fund raiser for local food banks but by that time everyone had jumped on the band wagon and masks were easy to find. That’s good. I decided that I didn’t want to spend all my time sewing. I mostly want to paint.
But…I can’t believe how mad I could get when I saw people who weren’t wearing masks. Either they flunked science or were sleeping in the back of health class. Didn’t they know that masks could prevent the spread of germs?! Grumble grumble grumble.
I’m really really tired of politics.
Not only did we have the challenge of the pandemic, job losses, no fun activities, no vacations, but we were inundated with political ads and pundits. It was totally crazy. But my husband and I decided to vote in person because it feels real. I even reregistered just so my signature would match the 35 year old signature on record when I first registered here.
I miss live performances.
After spending so many years as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center, I never realized just how much I would miss live performances. Where people are sitting shoulder to shoulder, enjoying some live music on stage. A real play or comedy routine. Even the Chinese acrobats! I can’t wait to get back to some live performance venues.
I miss my family and friends.
We’re used to hosting family and friends for major holidays or summer get togethers. Not this year. I haven’t seen my father who only lives about a hundred miles from me since 2019. And when I visit my son who just lives a few miles away, it’s usually outside and socially distanced. An elderly friend who’s been a guest at our table for over 35 years is staying home these days. But we have been taking meals to her when we can.
Living in the country is the best!
It has been such a bonus that we can get outdoors. We can go for a country drive. We can sit by the firepit and not see another soul. My heart aches for all the children who are stuck in apartments or in the city with no outdoor space. This is no way for humans to live.
I am so proud of all the people who are helping to make our lives better….or at least tolerable.
I am grateful for the food servers and grocery store workers. For the many medical field workers who put their lives on the line every day. For the public employees who still take care of the streets and water and sewers and the lights. I’m grateful for my postman and the people who are still driving trucks across the country to deliver the necessities to people in need.
I try to keep focusing on the good things in our lives. On the opportunities, not the troubles. On the smart people who are working so hard to make the vaccines and medicines which will help us all.
This has been a trying year. Yet, despite our differences, we are able to find common ground. To still remember that we are all humans who are just trying to get by. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
But I really must work on eliminating those Cheetos.
Sorry, folks, I’ve been asked to put a hold on the sneak preview of the new Cultural Center. They’re not quite ready to roll everything out. But be assured, that I’ll post more about the whole shebang later when they are. Probably a few weeks. Anyway, for those of you who caught the sneak preview, keep that in mind. It’s still an awesome new arts venture in Jasper.
So how’s your holiday shopping going? Sending and receiving? Do things seem a little delayed this year?
I asked my Facebook friends if they’ve noticed any delays in deliveries this year. Well, guess that was a hot button. Everyone has a story or complaint.
Fortunately, I ordered my gifts online pretty early. And have actually been surprised by the speedy delivery of a couple that I’ve ordered to be sent directly.
But as an online retailer (very very small), I’ve noticed a considerable slow down of pieces that I’ve mailed. I usually ship the day after I receive an order but this year when I check the tracking, the packages seem to spend days in a regional center, and then….where did they go? I can only hope that they eventually show up at their destinations.
I spoke with my local post mistress who showed me a photo of the regional center. Total chaos! They are overwhelmed this year, as, I expect are all the other delivery companies. Everyone is doing the best they can.
I know that my UPS deliveries have been arriving after dark by a temporary seasonal employee. And my father said that his mail sometimes arrives at eleven p.m! Whoa!
Anyway, with so many people ordering online this year and the dramatic increase in volume of packages shipped, I resolve to try being a little more patient. I guess we all could practice that a bit more at this time of year.
Okay, I must have been living under a rock because I never heard of Giving Tuesday until recently. I can be somewhat forgiven since this global movement was only started in 2012. In the United States, it is designated as the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which means that it is December 1st this year.
I wonder if this date was selected to apply a little guilt after the splurges of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Whatever. I think this is just a nice time of year to expand our Grinchy hearts and open our wallets. Which is why all those Please Donate envelopes have started arriving in our mailboxes.
Frankly, I would rather have teeth pulled than beg for money which I used to have to do as part of my job as Arts Director. Even selling over-priced candy bars for the PTO was preferable than to actually asking people for money. But I love to donate money for the fuzzy warm feeling it gives me. I only wish I had more to donate.
So how do you decide which worthy cause should benefit by your generosity? I once watched an interview with a royal rich somebody who was asked the same question. He said that there are so many worthy causes, that you must just select a few and concentrate on those. So that is what I have done the past several years.
These are some of my favorite causes:
The arts, obviously. It’s been a really rough year for the arts with live performances canceled nearly everywhere. This has had a ripple effect. Not only are the performers out of work, but also their support staff, roadies, lighting and music technicians, costumers, etc. They all have families and mortgages and orthodontist bills, too. I give what I can to my local arts organization but extend it further by making donations in memory of people who have passed, instead of buying funeral flowers. It adds up.
I’m a big fan of libraries and make donations to a couple of them in my area. Libraries have been going above and beyond to entertain and supply patrons with services during this difficult time. And they always seem to be able to stretch a dollar so I’m happy to help.
My college receives my annual alumni donation. Again, not very big but I don’t want to end up on the deceased alumni list.
And some of my favorites are PBS television and radio stations in the area. I figure that I listen to their broadcasts nearly daily so I ought to kick in a little.
These are some of my favorite charities. Again, I don’t have much extra money but I feel that my contributions will be put to good use.
But what if you don’t have much to give? Maybe you’re on the receiving end this year. How can you help if you have no money?
Time is a big help to many charities. Help your local food bank organize and deliver food. Volunteer as a docent or free help for your favorite cause. Do you have a local animal shelter? They can always use dog walkers and pen cleaners. Not the most glamorous job but it needs to be done.
My husband is a big one for bringing people homecooked meals. Maybe they’ve been sick or injured. Maybe they’ve had a death in the family. This used to be a very common thing to do but has nearly disappeared since we’re all so busy with our lives these days. It’s still a thoughtful thing to do. Now one of our sons has begun to carry on this tradition which is so satisfying to see.
Maybe you’d rather spend your time outdoors. How about volunteering for a river clean up? Or Just take a bag with you on your next walk and pick up some trash. Some is better than none and very litter bit helps. (That’s a joke.)
Many of you have probably already volunteered for your PTO or youth leagues but those activities may have been canceled due to the pandemic. Maybe you could do some online tutoring. There is always someone who needs your help.
Finally, if you are home a lot more these days, now is a great time to clean out those closets, garages, basements, sheds, etc. Donate the good used items to charity resale shops who, in turn, help out people in your community.
These are just a few ideas for sharing in your community. The nice thing about donating your money or your time is that it makes you feel good. And it helps others. And don’t we all need more of that right now?
The photo above shows what happened when a tractor ran into the side of my car last week. Yes, driven by my husband, too. Bummer. I had run up to town to get a few books from the little library – none of them for me, by the way. I waved to my husband as I left. He was out on his old Allis Chalmers brush hogging the edges of the fields after the farmer had harvested earlier. He likes to get things tidied up before winter.
On my return, I saw him in the front field but he didn’t see me. As I was coming down the long drive, he took a sudden turn right into the side of my car. Ten seconds either way would have avoided the accident. I tried to turn out of the way but was blocked in by some trees and a telephone pole.
You know, it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you know what’s coming and you can’t do anything about it. But….I haven’t had an accident since I was sixteen the first time I drove on ice so I really can’t complain. It’s just the aggravation of taking care of everything that is so annoying.
So, I picked up the pieces of the crushed mirror and came on up to the house. Then I decided that I needed to do a little contemplation with an adult beverage on the patio. It was a sunny, balmy day and my dog Mikey kept me company in his chair.
It’s only a car. No one was hurt. We have insurance. It could have been a whole lot worse. (There wasn’t a scratch on the tractor.) As I sat looking up at the trees, I decided to count my blessings. This always helps me to put things into perspective.
Thankfully, no one in my immediate family has been brought down by the COVID. (Although I have lost a friend and had some other acquaintances who have had the illness.) We live in a place where we have plenty of freedom to get outside, work to do, books to read. We’re not rich but the bills are paid and we can sleep at night.
Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re so fortunate that we have plenty of food. Others are not so lucky. I usually have a big spread for the holiday with lots of friends and family. That is not happening this year. I haven’t seen my father since last Christmas and he lives less than a hundred miles from me. But…I am still fixing a big meal. We will be delivering it to my son’s family nearby and a friend across the county. She’s in her nineties and still lives on her own. She’s been a guest at our table for over thirty years. I love to send people home with care packages of another meal or two.
So, a little annoyance this past week. But I still have much to be grateful for. I expect you do, too. I hope so anyway. Be careful out there and count your blessings.
With the extra warm weather this fall – it was 80 degrees here two weeks ago – we have been enjoying our time outdoors. But this is the time of year for fall cleanup. Battening down the hatches, so to speak. The farmer who rents some of our fields picked the beans this week. Amazing how quickly they can move. Sometimes they’ve been out there until one or two in the morning but this time it was daylight.
The garden is plowed and ready for spring. Although we don’t plow every year, often just tilling, this year we decided to do a deep plow. The autumn leaves have been ground up to mulch. Although I still enjoy the meditative quality of raking, I must admit that just grinding the leaves up with the mower is much the easier work.
All the flowerpots are emptied and stowed away. The greenhouse is cleaned, mostly. I’m going to see if the lemon tree can make it through in there. We no longer heat the greenhouse in the winter but on a sunny day, the temps can get to the 80s. The lemon tree was started from seed and, to our surprise, it has thorns! Getting too large and spikey to bring back into the house.
I’ve deadheaded many of the perennials and saved the seeds to sprinkle around in spring. I discovered a patch of beebalm that I’d tossed along the road several years ago. The bees can always use more forage. And I’ve already dug some perennials and replanted them. More to go if I feel like it.
The flowerbeds could use a little more attention but when can’t they? I’ll get to them. Or not. The shop needs cleaning and I never did finish the attic. Oh, well. There’s always something to do here on the old place.
I finally installed the new printer that I purchased a couple of months ago. I’ve been printing out some notecards on it and it does a fine job. Put some of these on one of my Etsy shops and have them in a couple of local shops. Doing some holiday paintings for the local shops, too. But I’m really ready to get back to the bigger work. I have a solo show coming up next spring and still need a few more paintings.
And the holidays are coming up. Well, as I said, it’s always something out here in the country. Hope you’re all staying safe and well. I always welcome your comments.
I have often posted my favorite things about living in a rural area. Although I tend to focus on the positive, living in the country is not for everyone.
A little background. My husband and I were living in the northern climes where we were faced with nine months of winter and three months of mosquitoes. Fighting three and a half million people to work every day. And leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. So after many long discussions, we decided to pack it all in and move to southern Indiana. A milder, four-season climate and definitely away from the rat race.
This was not a sudden relocation but was accomplished with much planning and research. Like driving up and down the Ohio River valley, checking out small towns here and there. We finally settled on our area when we drove into town and realized that it looked prosperous, neat and clean, and there were no boarded up buildings on the main square.
But these are some of the things you need to keep in mind if you are considering moving to a rural area. It isn’t perfect and there are challenges.
I remember asking my grandmother one time what was the greatest modern convenience she had seen in her lifetime. She didn’t hesitate at all but said, running water! Carrying water up the hill for a large family was a never-ending task. So one of the things you need to consider is what is the water source?
We were very fortunate that city water had just been installed along the road where we live about three months before we bought the place. Will you have city water? A well or cisterns? Or will you have to haul water in a big tank on the back of your truck? (You might get tired of that in a hurry.)
Also under utilities comes electricity. We’re fortunate to have a rural electric co-op and they’re very diligent about getting out to fix downed powerlines, no matter the weather or time of day.
Internet, telephone, TV. No cable out this far but we do have satellite internet and TV. Can’t really do streaming, though, so there are tradeoffs.
How will you heat your home? No natural gas lines out here. We have propane for the furnace, water heater, and stove. An alternate wood furnace, the beast in the basement, which provides toasty “free” heat. Not counting all the labor that goes into it.
Solar panels would work, too, but they’re probably not on our horizon. And it’s not consistently windy enough for a wind generator.
We didn’t have children at the time we moved but if you have kids, that would be a consideration. How far to the schools? Reputation, etc. Fortunately the schools around here are pretty good but you’re probably not going to get that new class in Japanese that you might want for your kids. And sports are always big everywhere, it seems.
Do you enjoy your own company or do you require a lot of contacts with your neighbors? Frankly, I’m really happy that I can sit outside and not see another house. But I know they’re there. Neighbors pull together and you will generally get to know your neighbors for a wide radius. But they’re usually not in your business either.
Well, it’s twenty-five miles to the nearest good grocery store, in a couple of directions. On rural roads, that’s twenty-five miles in twenty-five minutes. I remember living in the city when it used to take me twenty minutes to go two miles due to traffic. Of course, there’s the local dollar store for bread, milk, eggs and other items that you may have run out of. You learn to do better planning when you make the long trek. And nearly everyone has a deep freezer, too.
Shopping for other items – clothes, household, garden stuff – ensures that you plan better and bundle several errands together. For even bigger things – malls, department stores, book shops – we go to the city. That’s about fifty miles in one direction and about seventy-five in another. Again, you make a day of it. And you don’t buy as much.
And, of course, you can buy nearly anything over the internet these days and it will be delivered right to your door. Even an international airport is only about ninety minutes away.
Most services are available out here that you would find in a more urban area and the suppliers are used to the further distances. One of my particular favorites is the local and regional library system. If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you.
This is very important to some people. We are fortunate to have some great doctors and a hospital only a half hour away. It should be noted, however, that emergency care may be more difficult. Twice I’ve had to drive with my lights flashing to meet with an ambulance. They could have found our place but we were just saving time by meeting them. And there are always the bigger cities for more specialized care.
Frankly, most rural people I know have some kind of personal protection, probably firearms. (It may take a long time for an official to show up if you call.) This could be for racoons in the sweet corn, coyotes stalking the hens, or one time, a couple of feral hogs that were particularly unpleasant. A story for another time.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things. But I’ve had a tendency to paint a rosy picture of living in the country and that may be a little overblown for some. It suits me fine but this isn’t the life for everyone. There’s a lot of work involved in keeping up the garden and property. On the other hand, we can do it at our own pace and inclination. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about living in a rural area and I’ll try to answer.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!