Tag Archives: country living

Spring has finally arrived

I haven’t always had luck with tulips. They’re like candy to the deer. I planted these last fall right next to my studio. Mikey the dog will keep the critters at bay.

Spring has finally arrived in this part of Southern Indiana.  It’s so beautiful that it takes my breath away.  Remember that crayon you used to have in your box called Spring Green?  Well, it’s all over the place now. At this old homestead (over 130 years), there are many established flowers and trees.  Plus we’ve added many more in the three decades that we’ve lived here.

So I thought you’d just enjoy a walk in the country.  Some of these flowers and trees are already on the wain while others have yet to bloom, the redbuds and dogwoods are just coming out now.  Maybe another post about them later.

An in and out day with the scudding clouds chasing the sunshine. I love the spring greens.

Little pansies are so cheerful. These came from an early foray to the local garden center about a week ago. I couldn’t help myself.

A cheerful crab apple next to the garden. This is a start from the original which was a Mother’s Day present to me many years ago.

More tulips basking in the sunshine.

A friendly little toady emerging from the leftover leaves. He looks a little ragged. I expect he’d like a nice breakfast of some juicy bugs.

The east fields, still soggy from the night’s rain. More clouds and sun shadows.

Bluebells and narcissus. These have become naturalized in several spots of the yard and I have more plans to move some starts elsewhere this spring.

I love violets. They come in so many variations but these deep purple ones seem to be dominant.

Mixed Bouquet

Mixed Bouquet, original painting, 20 x 16, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Spring is finally ready to pop here in Southern Indiana.  The early daffodils and crocuses are out in force.  The tulips are up but not yet blooming.  I’m not sure if the narcissus will make it after the deep freeze  a week ago but the forsythias are ready to pop.

Meanwhile I’m still in the mood to paint flowers which finds me scouring my old photos.  This painting was based on a small bouquet of mixed zinnias from my garden.  I think the greens are sprigs of coriander with added bits of phlox and sweet peas.

Painting flowers is much more challenging than most people realize.  Some artists are so talented in painting every pistol and stamen but that is not my style. I prefer to capture the feel of the flower.  This is called impressionism.

As you can see if you view the detail photos, brush strokes are a mix of bold and soft.  It takes some practice to achieve this effect but all I can advise is to keep at it.  Or, wipe it off or paint over any less than desirable areas.

Mixed Bouquet, detail 1. Another closeup of the flowers. Loosely painted in impressionistic style.

Mixed Bouquet, detail 2. Notice the loose strokes and variegated painting.

Mixed Bouquet, original painting, Kit Miracle

This painting can be viewed on my Etsy shop here.

When you take a flower into your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.  Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.  I want them to see it, whether they want to or not. 

      Georgia O’Keeffe

Afternoon Shadows – another painting beyond the photograph

Afternoon Shadows, acrylic, original painting, 14 x 18, contemporary impressionism, Kit Miracle

I thought I’d post another painting created from a photograph for my class. This photo was taken of our patio and arbor with the fire pit on sunny autumn afternoon.  I like outdoor scenes with a human element.  This will often include at least some kind of man-made item whether a building, fence post, road or path.  In this case, the setting gives the feeling of comfort and ease.  The chairs, the smoke from the fire, the dappled sun and shade all contribute to the atmosphere.  The turtle sandbox adds a touch of whimsy.

When using a photo as inspiration for a painting, it’s important to remember that it is a tool and a road map.  Take inspiration but don’t be afraid to change things.

Afternoon Shadows, detail 1. Click and enlarge the photos to see the brush strokes. Notice the background tree is just painted with a few strokes. And the smoke is just a glaze on top of the background. See the indication of the sun and shadows on the chair.

In this painting, I was trying to capture the feel of the afternoon sun. The smoke and fire indicates that there could be a chill in the air with a slight breeze.  The location and setting are inviting; it looks as if someone has just left the area.

Afternoon Shadows, detail 2. Zoom in on the vines and leaves to see just how loosely they were painted. The sandbox turtle adds a note of whimsy.

My style is not photo-realist but contemporary impressionist which works well for conveying the feeling of this scene.  The chairs beckon the viewer to sit in the sun or warm themselves by the fire.  Will a child come walking into the area to play in the sandbox? I love paintings that tell a story.

Afternoon shadows, detail 3. Zoom in on the posts and the background trees to see the brushstrokes.

As you can see by the detail images, I use loose strokes to indicate the branches and leaves.  From a distance, the painting appears to be much more detailed than it actually is.  It takes some practice and confidence to make just the right stroke to indicate a branch.  Or, if you make a mistake, just scrape it off and try again.

Afternoon Shadows, original photo. If you compare this photo to the painting, you can see areas that I have emphasized, changed or deemphasized.

Normally I would have painted a scene like this in plein air but I was busy that afternoon and only had time to capture the view with my camera.  That is one of the benefits of using photographs as inspiration.

Afternoon Shadows for sale

Peace is the beauty of life.  It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.  Menachem Begin

Spring cleanup

These cheery yellow crocuses are the first to bloom this year. They get extra warmth and shelter near this rock wall.

After what seems like weeks of rain, wind and generally yucky weather (yes, that is an actual meteorological description in the Midwest), we finally had a beautiful sunny and relatively warm day with temps in the 50s.  I couldn’t wait to get outside for a bit.  This is the time of year to clean up all the winter debris.  I know I raked those flower beds so where did all these leaves come from?

This is just a small portion of the area still covered by the chestnut seed hulls. I raked four wheelbarrow loads today and have as much again to rake tomorrow. They didn’t decompose much over the winter.

A big mess in the yard was our last chestnut which we cut down a week ago.  We had already cut down two companions previously.  The Chinese chestnut is a beautifully shaped tree with an umbrella-shaped top, large leaves, beautiful grayish bark and, of course, lots of chestnuts.  These trees were very prolific.  This would not normally be a problem as we have plenty of room – ninety acres, remember – and we have loads of other nut-bearing trees.  Oaks, walnuts, hickory, plus fruit trees.

Chestnut seed hulls remind me of spiny sea urchins. They are very painful to handle or step on. I only use leather gloves to work with them.

However, chestnuts have a seed hull which is very prickly, like a spiny sea urchin.  You can only handle them with leather gloves and they are very painful to step on.  They are also very prolific. When we cut down the first two chestnuts, we thought that we wouldn’t get any more seed pods without the pollinators.  That was a mistaken idea.  As you can see by the debris on the ground, there was still plenty to clean up.

I spent a couple of hours raking and gathered four wheelbarrow loads of hulls.  There is still as much again to do tomorrow.  What I couldn’t rake will eventually decompose but it will probably be a few years before anyone can go barefoot in that part of the yard.

Chestnut woodpile. All of this wood came from one tree.

Chestnut wood is beautiful with a grayish-green color and kind of stripey. It is also very dense and heavy.

It was a beautiful day.  The first crocuses were finally brave enough to pop out.  I even spotted a few spring beauties in bloom.  In about a month, they will carpet the lawn so it looks like snow.

One of my favorite wildflowers and early harbinger of spring. Spring beauties have a delicate pink stripe which can’t be seen in this photo. I’ll try for another shot later.

I sure was ready for lunch and a rest.  And our dog Mikey was ready, too.  Keeping me company and following me around was hard work.

You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel, if one can only get at it.  Love will make you show your heart someday, and then the rough burr will fall off.

Louisa May Alcott

Beeches – Painting Beyond the Photo

Beech Trees in Winter, snow scene, original painting, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Photographs are a wonderful tool for artists and have been used for well over a century.  I’m teaching a class on painting from photographs and wanted to create a demonstration of how a photo can best be used.

I would guess that most artists who paint in a realistic manner use photos at least some of the time.  I know that I have boxes of photos from years past when film was developed.  Now, with digital cameras and phones, we have thousands of images available to us.  Digital photos are also easy to use on a computer and crop or change as needed. I use an old laptop in my studio for this purpose.

For some reason, some artists seem to be ashamed of using photos but I consider them just another tool. I always paint still lifes from real life but might take some photos of flower bouquets to save for future reference.  And I love plein air painting so most of my landscapes are painted from life.  However, I take plenty travel photos for later use.  I also participate in life drawing studios which is great for building hand/eye coordination, but many figure paintings are from photos.  And it goes without saying that I only paint from my own photos; never from commercial or other pictures which could violate copyright laws.

Beeches, original photo. It was too wide for the format I planned to use so I cropped it to a more pleasing composition.

We haven’t had much snow here yet this winter but we had a couple of inches a few weeks ago.  I took the dog for a walk in the woods and the snow made the beeches really stand out.  Beech trees are native to this part of the country but we don’t have many on our property.  They make pretty good firewood and were chopped down long ago (before our time).  However, we’ve noticed a resurgence of beech trees since we moved here over thirty years ago.  They hold their leaves over the winter so the orangey color contrasts nicely with the snow.

Beeches cropped photo.

As you can,  my original photo was wider than the format I chose (16 x 20) so I cropped it to a more interesting composition.  I divided my canvas into thirds each way (nine squares) and drew directly on canvas with a brush loaded with a darkish color.  The canvas had been primed in red.

I usually start with the darks and then add the midtones and then the lights, starting at the top of the canvas.  As I was painting, I realized that the painting was a bit drab with the overcast sky and muted shadows.  Although the beech trees gave it some color, I want to put more oomph into it.

Therefore, I decided to make it a sunny day and added some sunlight streaking in from the right, with a brighter sky and some clouds behind the distant trees.  This defined the path through the woods much better.  I added some sunlight on a few of the trees to bring them out more.  Ah, it’s great to be an artist and to change the world to suit myself!

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 1. This is the road through the woods. I probably made the snow look deeper. And I’ve learned over time that white will often look brighter with a little yellow thrown in than just plain white. It certainly catches that sunlit feel.

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 2

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 3, notice the clouds in the blue sky behind the distant trees

The point here gets back to what I said at the beginning of the post.  A photograph is a tool.  It’s the artist’s job to use what we can, to add more or to change whatever we want.  I certainly think the sunlit painting has much more appeal than the original photo.  What do you think?

Baby it’s cold outside. Let’s make soup!

Homemade beef vegetable soup and homemade bread slathered with butter. Perfect meal for a chilly day.

A nasty weather front barreled down on us yesterday.  Rain for several hours.  Then a drastic drop in temperatures, the winds picked up and came at us from the northeast, and all that rain turned to ice and snow.  What to do?

Let’s make soup!

It should be no great secret that in this house with two cooks, we make a lot of soup.  It was my turn today and I decided to make a hearty beef vegetable soup.  There is a big difference between soups and stews.  Stews are thicker with larger pieces and fewer vegetable varieties.  Minestrone soup is a whole different thing; usually two kinds of meats, different vegetables, and cooked in a different manner.

Today’s beef vegetable soup started with a shopping trip to the freezer,  We plant a large garden and put up a quantity of vegetables.  This trip netted diced tomatoes, green beans, ground beef and homemade beef broth.

Shopping basket from the freezer. Ground beef, homemade beef broth, diced tomatoes, green beans.

Homemade vegetable soup can have many varieties and even mine are not exactly the same each time.; it depends upon what I have on hand. I usually chop the vegetables pretty small so they are similar in size and will cook the same.  I used a six quart pot but we often use a very large soup pot, 10 -12 quarts. This is what I put in today’s special.

  • Ground beef, 1 ½ pounds
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped carrots (five)
  • Beef broth
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • A couple handfuls each of quinoa, lentils, and orzo pasta. I would have used alphabet pasta but was out.  Any kind of tiny pasta or even broken spaghetti or noodles will work.
  • Corn, one can
  • Potatoes, three
  • Finely chopped kale (I was out of cabbage)
  • Spices and seasonings – salt, coarse ground pepper, garlic powder, beef cubes

Step 1:  Brown the beef in a couple of tablespoons of oil, breaking it up as you go.  Then drain any fat off.

Step 1:  Add the chopped onions and carrots.  Carrots take a long time to cook so they get added near the beginning.  Stir until softened.

Step two. (Step one is just browning the beef in a couple of tablespoons of oil. Drain any fat off after the beef is cooked.) Carrots and onions are added at the beginning as they take longer to cook.

Step 3:  Add the beef broth and beef cubes.  Add diced tomatoes, bring to simmer.

Step 4:  Add a few handfuls of lentils, quinoa, and tiny pasta.  Don’t use larger beans unless they’re canned or pre-cooked.  They won’t cook in time and no one likes crunchy beans.

Step 5:  Simmer and stir.

Step 6:  Add green beans and corn.  Cabbage or in this case, kale.  Bring back to simmer.

Step three. After the diced tomatoes and handsful of dried goods (lentils, quinoa, tiny pasta) have come to a boil and simmered, then add the chopped green beans, corn and finally the potatoes. Let it all simmer until done.

Step 7:  Add chopped potatoes and then let simmer until all the vegetables are done.

Serve with some homemade bread.  Yummm!

Beef vegetable soup, final. It is thick but not thickened like stew. Very hearty!

This freezes well but I don’t think we’ll have much left over.  And I’ll have to keep my husband from giving it all away as he is apt to do. He’s a very generous person.

We’re hunkered down and holding our own against the storm.

What’s on your menu these days?

The Studio Sale

The front of my blue door studio. This is an old summer kitchen and my commute is only 30 feet from my back door.

It was a beautiful weekend for my studio sale.  The weather was sunny and temperatures were in the 60s.  Fall colors are starting to appear on the trees.  Saturday was a bit breezy but Sunday was perfect.

I love to introduce people to my place of work and creativity.  It’s just my escape, a place to play and contemplate.

Initial set up in the front room during my studio sale. This lineup changed over the weekend as paintings were sold.

Initial set up in the back room.

Although setting up for the sale is a major endeavor, it looked really great by the time I was done.  Mostly from clearing out all the boxes which were moved to the greenhouse.

The wider view. Paintings on nearly every surface, bins of unframed paintings, more and more and more.

As I was pulling work from storage, bins and flat files, I came across many pieces that I’d totally forgotten about.

Good food and drink are always attractions. Homemade minestrone soup, herbed bread, cookies and biscotti, and plenty of other goodies. No one went home hungry.

And my many friends and supporters got some great deals, too.  All in all, I think everyone had a good time.

The fire pit. A perfect place to congregate on a beautiful fall day.

I’m still even getting some inquiries from the photos I posted on social media.  But, it will all be put away by the end of the week.

Time to make more paintings!  Until next year!

Look for the pink signs, I kept touting on social media.

Busy busy busy – part 2

Fall decorations on the farm. My husband’s old 1952 Allis-Chalmers tractor all gussied up for the studio sale this weekend. He even washed it! And this was his idea entirely.

I recently posted about all the arts activities I have going on lately so this is just a quick update.

My solo show at Oakland City University closed last Friday.  It was extended two more weeks which was fine with me.  We picked it up on Saturday.

Will Read and Sing for Food event. I expected about 15 people to show up on a Thursday night but they had about 60 people there!

Last week I was asked to exhibit some of my work at a Will Read and Sing for Food event.  This is a local group of volunteers who raise money for worthy causes and organizations.  This time they raised $650 for Mentors For Youth.  Singers, musicians, poets, and writers all donate their time and talent to the community.  How neat is that?!

Flower painting class. Students practicing making shades of green. Much more difficult than they thought.

Then I wrapped up my flower painting class on Monday this week.  I think everyone enjoyed it.  I haven’t taught a class for a long time so it was good to try that again.

And now I’m working hard to prepare for my Open Studio Sale this weekend.  This consists of inviting people out to my studio for a couple of fun days of art, food and friends.  I haven’t had a sale for four years and, boy, do I have a lot of work!.  Some of the paintings are at fire-sale prices.  In addition to cleaning out the studio and setting up the displays and artwork, my husband and I feed everyone.  Homemade minestrone soup, homemade herbed breadsticks, biscotti and other refreshments, including some adult beverages.

So, next week I’ll need a rest, for sure.  And to get back to painting.  The 90 degree temps are gone, the fall colors are out, and it’s a beautiful time of year to get outside.

Gardening news, odds and ends

Fresh picked basil, destemmed, washed and ready to be made into pesto.

We use a lot of basil in our cooking so I always plant plenty.  Instead of planting it in pots, I just sow the tiny seeds directly into the garden.  They’re about as big a specks of pepper but are very easy to grow.  If you’re diligent about weeding them when they’re just emerging, then you’ll have a big healthy crop.

Today was a drizzly, rainy overcast day.  Perfect for indoor work so I decided to make pesto.  I picked a huge bunch (overly ambitious) and set to work.  This is the pile of basil leaves after destemming and culling.  I ended up making six batches of pesto and then froze the rest of the leaves for other use.  I froze the pesto in my silicon muffin pan (they slipped out nicely when frozen) and an ice cube tray (not so much.) This will be so yummy in winter in a sauce or directly on pasta.  Yummm.

Squash plants with rag mulch. Still going strong.

The second item I want to report is an experiment I tried this year with my summer squash and zucchini.  I always plant a good row of these vegetables but it seems they die off halfway through the summer, mostly due to squash vine borer I’m guessing.  This year I decided to mulch the vines with some rags (old sheets and jeans).  I did this primarily to keep the squash from coming into contact with the soil as they tend to rot quickly.  But I had heard that there’s some connection between the squash vine borer bug and the soil so, why not?

The row of squash and zucchini. Notice the difference in growth. The zucchini (nearest) is nearly gone while the summer squash (rear) is still thriving.

One of two zucchini plants with a rag mulch. Still thriving, also.

Well, I’ll let you be the judge.  Most of the rags were placed under the summer squash plants which are still producing heavily.  I only had enough rags to place under two zucchini plants.  Result:  All of the summer squash plants are still blooming and producing, as are the two zucchini plants.  The rest of the zucchini plants have died.  So, this will definitely be on the list of experiments to try again next year.

The rags allow the soil to breathe and lets the water in while keeping down weeds.  I might try this with cardboard next year, too.  And I do rotate the crops in the garden every year.  Certainly worth trying again.

Finally, as Facebook is changing its rules, where I used to have my blog posts automatically repost to my personal Facebook profile, it will now be directed to my Facebook page KitMiracleArt.  You can follow me there.  Otherwise, I’ll try to remember to repost this to my personal profile.  I usually post on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Thanks again for stopping by.  I always love to hear from you.

Mid-July garden update

A pretty little sunflower playing peek-a-boo. I love the patterns of the seeds.

Outdoor activities have been limited lately due to the extreme heat and humidity. Plus ozone alerts.  Who would think that in a county which is heavily forested and has such low population that we don’t even have a traffic light, we would have trouble with air quality?  It’s the Ohio River Valley influence again.

Any work that must be done outdoors is usually in the early morning.  However, some relief is in sight with cooler weather predicted for the next few weeks.

Garden in July. Still looking pretty good. The corn in the far right of the photo has been harvested. We’ll take the used stalks to the neighbor for his cattle. Squash vines dying. Plenty of basil and cilantro which should be harvested soon. Now is when the real work begins.

The garden is still looking pretty good but doesn’t seem to be producing as much as most years.  We are usually overwhelmed with zucchini and summer squash this time of year but not this year.  Also, green beans that we generally pick by the bucket seem sparse.  The first crop of corn has been harvested and put up.  Thanks to Mikey the guard dog for keeping the raccoons out of the corn patch. And it looks as if the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will be plentiful.  Just not yet.

Garden in July. Flowers for cutting. Peppers coming on. Squash vines dying.

One of my great pleasures is planting flowers for cutting in the garden.  I love to bring in big bouquets for the house.  The varieties change from year to year but I always have a row or two of sunflowers, especially the mammoth and the multi-stemmed varieties.  Zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, are usually sown, but I add other varieties, such as baby’s breath.

The many containers with flowers seem to be holding up well, probably due to better watering and care.  This is one reason to plant in pots.  The flower beds could use a good weeding and some more mulch but that will have to wait until the cooler weather next week.

Living in the country makes one cognizant of the cycles of nature, whether it’s the heat of summer or the cold of winter. I think it’s easy to lose sight of man’s connection to his environment if you don’t experience some contact with nature every day.  Just my humble opinion.

I hope that you get some time outdoors this summer.

In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.  John Muir