I am glad that I live in a climate that exhibits mercurial moods. The past month has been some wild ride. Record-setting heat for winter, up to the 70s. And a blizzard which scrubbed the land with high winds, followed by bone-chilling freezes. No two days were the same, it seemed. I think I would get bored if every day was sunny and warm, say like Florida or Arizona. But ask me about that next month towards the end of February.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that my own mood perks up on sunny days. Thus, I seem to prefer painting outdoor scenes depicting sunshine. So when I woke to a heavy fog a couple of weeks ago, I marched outside (yes, in my robe and rubber boots) to take some photos of the fog. The air was soft and the neighborhood was very quiet. It seemed shrouded in mystery if that isn’t too much of a cliché. One could almost imagine some settlers emerging from the heavy air or some knights on horseback in days of old. Yeah, too much reading with my granddaughter.
But as I was reviewing my photos, I got inspired to try some new subjects. The misty landscapes will probably appear sometime in the next few months. Just imagine the peace and soft footfalls.
Oh, by the way, happy new year. Or at least a better one if the past has been difficult for you. Find a still place to reflect, maybe enjoy the peace of some foggy weather.
Unless you were vacationing in some tropical paradise this past week, you probably are aware of the big arctic event that blasted through the center of the country this past week. After a relatively balmy fall season leading up to the holidays, this is what my little corner of the Midwest experienced this week.
The weather forecasters were urgently warning much of the nation to pay attention and take appropriate action. Which we did. The cellar was loaded with firewood in anticipation of the deep freeze. The fridge was full of the usual supplies. Our son and his girlfriend were rushed to Louisville on Thursday in anticipation of their very early flight back to the west coast on Friday. (Fortunately, they experienced only a small delay.) We made it home by early afternoon before the big blast and battened down the hatches in preparation.
By early evening, the temperatures began to drop, the misty rain turned to driving snow, and the wind cranked up the volume. It didn’t stop until today. The high here yesterday was zero. I didn’t even step foot outside the house until today when I went for a walk and to catch up on outdoor chores.
The sun was out and everything was sparkly. The bird feeder has been popular. We’ve gone through forty pounds of sunflower seeds in the past two weeks. I saw plenty of tracks here and there, especially around the mulch pile. I was looking for another visitor, too. I spotted a mink skulking about last week which was the first that I’ve seen around here. Haven’t seen any deer or turkeys but I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere. Leo the cat has been taking marathon naps and very quick trips to check the weather. The dog doesn’t care and is always ready to play with anyone who ventures outdoors.
We haven’t had a big freeze like this for many years so it’s been an adventure.
Anyway, I hope that wherever you are spending Christmas day that you’re warm and cozy and safe. Enjoy your families if you’re near, or your friends if you’re not. Or better yet, make your friends into a new family.
Let the warmth of your hearts extend to those in need. Stay safe.
As I have mentioned previously, we rely on wood heat to keep our house warm in the winter. Yes, we have a gas furnace but that has a price. The wood heat is free….mostly. Oh, there’s your labor involved and the wood requires a lot of handling. A lot.
Southern Indiana is hilly with plenty of hardwood forests. People often selectively timber their property. That is when individual trees are cut. The logger only takes the primary eight foot log (sometimes more than one per tree). He leaves the limbs and tops for the landowner. This is where our firewood mostly comes from. Saturday mornings are spent in the woods, cutting, dragging, chopping, splitting, moving the wood from one place to another. A lot of handling.
Last winter my husband bought some “sticks” from the neighboring logger. The wood was good but maybe it was twisted, the wrong type, whatever. They delivered it and it’s been sitting there awaiting attention. Unfortunately, as mentioned in an earlier blog, he had a serious health issue this year and can’t handle the wood as he was used to. Which led to plenty of fretting on his part.
So, as I was reading the paper a couple of weeks ago, I saw an article about the local seminary who was looking for families who heat with wood for their annual Project Warm. This is where the seminarians acquire wood from people who donate it off their property, maybe previously timbered, chop and deliver it to families in need. So I suggested to my husband that he give them a call and explain the situation. That he had the wood but just needed some help processing it.
After a few phone calls, they agreed that this would be a relatively easy project for them and came out this week. Wow, what a beehive of activity!
Since the guys were experienced in the process, they were able to go right to work. We have a log splitter and all the logs were staged in one area. They just had to saw the logs into the right stove lengths, then split them. Some used the splitter but most of the young men chopped the wood by hand with mauls. It was like a well-oiled machine. Some were sawyers cutting the wood, some were splitting the wood with mauls and one operated the machine splitter. It is easy to spot someone who has been swinging a maul for years as there is a certain rhythm to it. It’s not a chopping motion. And this was hard wood, almost all hickory, one of the heaviest and densest woods, but which provides the most warmth. At least two of the young men grew up on farms in New England where they were accustomed to handling wood for home heating.
The guys turned those logs into piles of wood ready to keep us toasty this winter.
Of course, we fed them as is our custom in this part of the world. Trays of homemade Italian pizza, pumpkin spice muffins, fruit, snacks and drinks. It was a pleasant afternoon for us as I hope it was for them. We so enjoyed visiting with these young men and learning more about their backgrounds and fellowship. What a wonderful day. The guys are from St. Meinrad Seminary, right down the road from us. Project Warm has been one of their community missions for over forty years. Although we just learned of the program this year, I can’t tell you how much we appreciated the help.
Last night I sat outside with the chill falling, enjoying the flames in the firepit. I think we had a frost but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference.
Tonight I stood outside for awhile to wait for the rise of the Hunter’s moon over the ridge. As dusk was falling and the dog and I were waiting, a soft shadow drifted into the bean field. A deer. One of many nearby. The dog, of course, took off. Just the love of the chase, I expect. I don’t know what he would do if he caught one but there’s really no danger of that. The deer glided across the field in leaping arcs. He’ll be back.
I try to get outdoors as much as I can this time of year. Took the grandkids to paint pumpkins at the local art fair yesterday. Went plein air painting down at the river with a friend earlier this week. But even a walk through the woods with the dog are pure pleasure. The squirrels sure aren’t leaving many hickory nuts and the walnut harvest is paltry compared to last year. Never mind. Plenty for all.
We had a bit of a drought earlier this summer but with some rain. Crops around here are abundant. The farmers are scurrying to get it all in before the next big rain but I think they’ll be alright. None predicted for awhile.
Anyway, I hope you can get outdoors to enjoy the crispy fall air. I’ve painted nearly everything in the area throughout the seasons, particularly autumn. But I guess that you’ll see more seasonal work as the months go by. It never bores me. I find the rhythms of the seasons comforting. I hope that you are able to enjoy some natural beauty in your area, too.
I have mentioned several times over the history of this blog how rural and sparsely populated this area is. In fact, until just last year, we were the only county in the state that didn’t even have a stoplight…and we were proud of it.
But times change.
This was brought home to me last week as I pulled out of our driveway and drove down our short road. I noticed a new house being built. Well, I knew it was being built; it’s a former neighbor who is moving back to the area. We’re happy as they were good neighbors.
This set me to thinking about all the new houses that have cropped up since we moved here over 35 years ago. At that time there were only six houses on the whole two and a half mile road. Now there are twelve. Yeah, I know, not many but still doubled.
This led me to reflect upon which house was the oldest house. And…it’s OURS!
When we bought this house at auction (that is a lot of money to spend at the drop of a hammer), it was in the position where it could have been rented out and run into the ground in about ten years, or someone could put some money into it and fix it up. We chose to do the latter. We had been looking for a place such as this for over a year. We could either find a house in the country with no property, or property with no house. Despite what the Hallmark channel would have you believe, it’s difficult to find a nice old home in the country. Still a desirable goal but increasingly scarce.
The road out front was gravel (since paved). We do have city water but it had only been in for about three months which is probably why there wasn’t too much competition for the home (few people knew about the city water which would have made the property more valuable.) It’s also only a few miles from the state’s largest natural recreation area, a desirable place. But it’s the setting that everyone always comments on as they drive up. The house sits in the middle of the property. We found a cornerstone that dates it to 1883 but I think it’s probably about forty years older. Probably an original land grant, several of which we saw when we were in the market.
The front of the house is log with layers of clapboard, insulation, and siding on the outside, and lath and plaster, new drywall inside. The walls are about a foot thick which makes for a very quiet home. I’ll regale you with all our adventures in remodeling a house this old some other time.
I’ve often reflected on why someone would build a house in the middle of the property rather than on the road with easier access. The road used to kick up lots of dust but this was before automobiles. Probably because the house site is flat with several close water sources – creeks, dug wells, springs, etc. I have also noticed over the years that we found many pottery shards and Indian artifacts, chips, etc. This may have been a dwelling site long before the country was settled. The attraction of water sources, abundant wildlife, a large river a few miles away would have been the same for native Americans as they were for settlers.
This also led me to reflect on the house numbering system. (I had a lot of time to think on the drive that morning.) There are some places in Japan where the house numbering system is based on the age of the dwelling. The first house on the block is number 1, the second house on the block is number 2, etc. That is totally confusing for a person who was raised in the Midwest where roads are laid out in grids, usually of a mile. How does anyone find a house in the Japanese system? Do people go around and around the block until they spot the desired number?
I am not an historian but I do enjoy learning how a community or area got settled. It reminds me of Pete Hammill’s book Downtown: My Manhattan, Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland, and other similar stories. Who came first? What was it like then? Why was this area selected? I’m sure that your local library, county museum, or historical society can direct you to information on the settling of your own locale.
Anyway, these are some random thoughts I had on a little trip to town the other day.
There are many rules and ideas for composition. No one idea is perfect for all situations. You may have your favorites or you may like to try new ideas frequently. Today I’m going to discuss the idea of framing. I’m not talking about the frame of the painting but using framing as a composition device.
I most often use framing in landscapes, cityscapes, and sometimes interiors. This means that I’ll often place a large tree or bush near the front of the picture frame, usually on one side or another, with the main view in the middle distance. This leads the viewer’s eye into the painting and directs its focus.
Sometimes in cityscapes, the view might be between two buildings or down an alley.
In a recent couple of paintings of the same subject – a child flying a toy airplane at the park – I first explored just the child and the plane. In the second painting, I used the framing composition to lead the eye from the near subject matter, to the large tree on the left, to the child and plane in the background.
In another couple of paintings, I painted a straight view of a Grand Canyon vista. The second landscape shows the Grand Canyon framed by tree in the front.
Here is an interior view using compositional framing. The doorway, chair and plant, lead the eye through the doorway to the desk in the distance.
There are no hard rules on when to use compositional framing. It’s mostly a matter of what you feel comfortable with, what helps your painting. I’ll often do several thumbnails or even larger charcoal drawings to test the feel of the subject.
I wasn’t sure if spring would ever arrive this year. We’ve had weather ranging from sleet and snow and ice, to upper 70s and 80s two days later. Very unpredictable.
But I love the spring greens this time of year. It only lasts a few weeks before the heavy greens roll in, but that bright yellow-green just perks me up. Didn’t we used to have a crayon called “spring green?”
I have been driving around just gathering photos for future reference. One day, I even had my husband drive the little country roads while I took pictures. Have to capture the scenery while it’s here.
However, the beauty just in my own yard has been refreshing also. A cacophony of whites and yellows, blues and purples. The really exciting thing about the spring flowers is that they’re so fugitive. They don’t last for long and I know that I won’t see them for another year. And in most cases, they are pretty much maintenance-free.
Now the real work begins. Planting the garden, preparing flower beds, trimming the lane, picking up winter debris. It’s always something here on the farm. But I love it.
If you happen to get to the post office or a farm supply store this time of year, you will hear the peeping sound of baby chicks. They are SO cute! And it takes all kinds of willpower to NOT buy a bunch of each.
There are many varieties, but I particularly like the speckled ones and the ones with feathered feet. They look so fancy. We’ve had many kinds over the years. I also loved the bantams, the females, not the males which tend to be aggressive for their size. One year, one of my favorite dun-colored females disappeared. I was certain that she was the victim of a raccoon or hawk. But after about three weeks, she reappeared with about eighteen little bantam peeps following her. They were so tiny and cute. I don’t know where she hid but apparently it was a good hiding place.
This antique sponge bowl holds five fresh brown eggs. Do they taste different? That’s hard to tell but they sure are deep yellow when cracked open. Probably from all the extras that the hens get in their diet than those that are confined to chicken factory farms.
We’ve also had blue and green eggs, too. It is rumored that they are lower in cholesterol but I don’t know if that is true. They’re just so beautiful to look at.
The sponge bowl, by the way, gets its name from the decoration. The glaze was applied with a sea sponge. I have only seen these in blue. These stoneware bowls are very heavy for their size. I bought this at auction many many years ago and still use it for fruit and whatnot.
My last post earlier this month was about Snomagedden. The weather in the midwest has been all over the place – ice, sleet, fog, freezing rain. Later this week we are expecting temps up to the 60s. I’ll be watching for spring flowers as the daffodils are already up several inches.
My show at the Harrison County Arts in Corydon has been very successful. Last week I gave a gallery talk which was well-received. The reporter Judy Cato came out twice. Once to interview me and another time to bring her friend Lorraine, the photographer. And then this coming week I get to pick it up the show.
But I am already on to the next thing. I’ve decided to paint some bridges and started with some train trestles and tunnel bridges, graffiti and all. It’s been fun so far. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Stay tuned for the next thing. Happy spring until we meet again.
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.
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!