Tag Archives: kit miracle

Early signs of spring

Spring sketches page 1

I always eagerly anticipate the first signs of spring.  This year, I was surprised to see a dandelion in bloom on January 4th.  That is amazing to me.  Now I’ve eagerly started looking for signs.

So far, I’ve also spotted several bushes in bud. Rhododendron, azalea, magnolia. Sometimes I’ll catch a mixed up forsythia in bloom already but then, they often bloom in autumn, too.  However, they are easy to force if you just cut some branches and bring them inside. (Put them in water, of course.)

I have a lot of naturalized daffodils in the yard.  They are already coming up in several places.  Sometimes they’re too early.  One year I painted a group of daffodils blooming in the snow so it’s not inconceivable that I might see some soon.

One day last week, I saw three robins in a row in the front field.  Sometimes I’ve seen large flocks of them in early spring.  Only the males.

Rabbit in the headlights

And I caught this rabbit in my headlights as I was coming up the drive a few days ago.  The little devil was looking for something yummy in the garden but there’s nothing there yet except garlic.  A motion-detector solar-powered light is good to chase away night critters.

Nest

With the winds, I saw several of last season’s nests which have been blown down.  My kids used to bring them to me and I still love the engineering. 

These little sketches were done with some very old Osmiroid ink in sepia.  (It’s a collector’s item now.)  I haven’t worked with ink for awhile so it was fun to get back to an old friend.  I used a #4 quill which is also hard to come by these days.  There are a number of fine quality pens and inks made in Japan of which I would like to try more.  Stay tuned.

Spring sketches page 2

Fog

The east field. Frequently we see deer crossing here.

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.

Out front looking back at the house.

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.

The front yard. I saw some deer go across the end earlier.

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.

The north field. The fog is beginning to lift but it’s just above the tree tops.

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. 

A big maple in the side yard. The fog is already beginning to lift.

The Big Chill – Christmas

Blue sky and blue shadows. Beautiful but chilly.

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.

Best wishes for the season.

And then the cavalry arrived

The sticks ready to be processed.

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. 

The guys were experienced and jumped right into work.

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!

The crew. Such a wonderful bunch of guys and so hard working. (Husband is the guy in blue in the middle.)

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 final results. A whole lot of firewood to heat the house this winter.

The guys turned those logs into piles of wood ready to keep us toasty this winter.

Taking a well-deserved break after a couple of hours of real hard work

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.

Our son came by the following morning to move the wood into piles. This makes it easy to tarp the piles, keeping it dry before it is moved into the house.

Learn more about Project Warm here. https://www.saintmeinrad.org/news?story=13467

Hunter’s moon

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. 

The Hunter Moon rising, October 9th.

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.

Plein air painting with a friend down by the river earlier this week. It was so peaceful.
I’ve painted this scene several times, in many seasons. The tall maples and reddish dogwood set off the white house and the clear blue sky. So brilliant.
The dogwood backlit by the afternoon sun. My granddaughter says it looks like stained glass.

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.

Purple ironweed looks brilliant and healthy this late in the season. It contrasts nicely with the beanfield in the background. It was actually covered with straggler butterflies a week ago.
Surrounded by fall colors which seem to have changed overnight, at least the past two weeks.

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.

A beautiful sunrise over Lake Patoka. Photo courtesy of my friend Joan M. who lives nearby.

Water themes as a painting subject

Waterlilies at the Spillway, acrylic, 12 x 12

Many lists of the most popular painting subjects include landscapes and seascapes.  I must admit that I’ve painted quite a few pieces with these subjects.  Although I live in the Midwest, many of my landscapes include some water feature – streams, rivers, ponds, lakes.  And my travels have taken me to the ocean in various places.  There is something very primal and soothing about hearing ocean waves…most of the time.

Fishing at Patoka Lake, acrylic, 12 x 16

Recently I painted a couple of paintings based on the very large lake nearby.  Lake Patoka is 8,800 acres and is a major water and recreation source for the area.

Leaving the Cove, Cape Breton, NS, acrylic, 9 x 12

But I also cruised through old photos of places we have visited, particularly Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and New England.  Such beautiful scenery that it was difficult to choose.  Many more subjects for future paintings.

White Wharf, Rockport, MA, acrylic, 12 x 16
Fishing Shack (or Motif #1), Rockport, MA, acrylic, 8 x 10

And, of course, I did an entire series of beach paintings but those are mostly about people and children with the ocean being a common denominator for each painting.

Beach Readers, Intimate Spaces series, acrylic on linen, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle The whole attraction of this subject with the irony of the two young women who are reading and totally ignoring the beautiful day at the beach. I also love the way the red beach chairs draw the viewer’s eye into the scene.
Wet Reflections, acrylic, acrylic, 24 x 30

This is not to say that painting water features is the only subject that I tackle, but it is one of my favorites.  So many opportunities if I take my time to look for them.  

Ritter Creek, oil, 24 x 30
French Lick Creek, oil, 24 x 30

What are your favorite subjects to paint?

See more paintings at my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt or my main website ContemporaryImpressionism

A month of art

August has been scorching here this summer.  Too hot for outdoor work.  So I spent much of the month in the studio just being an artist.  This was a great respite from all the other chaos of the summer. 

However, we did have a couple of days of lovely cool  temperatures, in the low 80s. Fling open the windows!  I took advantage of the cooler weather to clean out my studio.  This meant dragging nearly everything outdoors, rewrapping and packing many of the paintings, vacuuming, debris clean out.  Just making an inviting space to work again. 

Our garden was in name only this summer.  And I only gave cursory attention to the weeds and flowerbeds.  This meant that I had plenty of time to devote to creating some art.

I began with building up some inventory, especially of sunflowers, some of my favorites.  Although I usually grow several different varieties from the mammoth giants to the multi-stemmed, to all the colors that are available, this year I only had a few to work with.  I planted them but they just didn’t want to make an appearance.  So I used some of the many photographs that I’ve taken over the years. 

I did several sheets of minis.  I can get four 4 x 6 on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper.  Although I often repeat a theme, they never turn out the same.  I buy mats and backs in bulk so it’s pretty easy to prepare them for display or shipping. 

Four mini sunflower paintings on quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Although the top two are the same subject, they’re not exactly alike.

Then I did a few larger ones. After that, I created duplicates of two local scenes.  These are not standard sizes so I have to cut the mats to size for framing.  More time and money involved.

Two paintings of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center on quarter sheet of watercolor paper

Finally, the last half of the month, I was really missing our usual vacation.  This was probably prompted by selling some previous western scenes so I dove into that subject.  These paintings were larger and more complex, the smallest being 9 x 12 and up to 12 x 16.  I have some pretty extensive photo files from some of our western vacations so plenty of subject matter to choose from.  The most difficult part with these paintings is canvas prep.  And trying to come up with new titles.  Grand Canyon Vista #1, Grand Canyon Vista #2, etc.  But it’s so satisfying to just put on some music or recorded books and zone out.  Due to the many years of plein air painting, I can generally produce a painting a day, maybe two.  But I did discover that I had duplicated two scenes from previous years.  They came out similar but not exactly the same.

Overall production for the month of August was twenty-five.  Not all are shown in the multi-image above as several were duplicates.  And I didn’t work every day.  It’s very rewarding to spend time alone with my thoughts and just create.  To build inventory for online shops, the holidays, or local and regional shops. 

Most of these paintings will be up on my Etsy shops soon. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name or https://www.etsy.com/shop/My90Acres

Be prepared

Brutus, the old farm truck. A family member for over three decades.

I have been working all week on a couple of ideas for my Sunday blog post.  Although I don’t usually write it until the end of the week, I give some thought as to subject matter, finding or taking photos, etc.  This week’s post was going to be about books. 

However, life had other plans.

I was in my studio early this morning, packing a painting to ship today.  My husband and son were outside installing a new battery into old Brutus.  (See former posting here.)  It was a sunny and blessedly cool morning so I had the door to my studio open while I was working. 

Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced outside and saw a fire beneath old Brutus.  AAAAaaaggggghhhhh!  (And my car was parked right next to the truck.)

I shouted to my son who came running, handed him the fire extinguisher that I keep handy in the studio, and he ran off with it.  Well, two more extinguishers later, the fire was out. The outdoor faucets and hydrants are too far from where the truck was parked to have been any help.

We’re not sure yet what started the fire – maybe an electrical short, maybe a fuel leak, or even a mouse nest in the air cleaner.  We’ll have a mechanic friend stop by next week to give us an assessment. Fortunately we were prepared or it might have been a very different story. 

Although we live in a remote area which is our reasoning for having some home fire protection, I would urge everyone to have a few fire extinguishers on hand.  You just never know what kind of emergency you might encounter. 

I’m not qualified to advise what types of extinguishers to get but there are several varieties for the many kinds of possible fires – paper, wood, chemical, oil, grease, etc.   Check online or with your local dealer or hardware store to see what they advise. 

You don’t know when you will need one.  Or wish you had been prepared. 

The rest of the story

Here are some photos of poor Brutus after the fire incident. As I said, we don’t know what type of fire it was. This is the damage.

To outward appearances, Brutus still looks pretty good….for a 37 y/o truck.
On closer look, the hood is scorched. That white powder is from one of the fire extinguishers.
Ah, here’s the damage. What was burned and melted? We’ll find out this week.
One of the small fire extinguishers. This one is a C rating, meaning it will handle three kinds of fire/flames.

Series Paintings

Tire Swing, Park Series. Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30.

I have introduced several series of paintings over the years here on my blog.  It seems that I’ve started another one, the Park Series.  This will focus on, what else, scenes from the park.  A park.  Many parks.  Parks are usually filled with scenic landscapes and people doing activities, two of my favorite things.

Most of the series paintings are a little larger than some of my other pieces.  They also tend to concentrate on the same color palette.  In fact, I’ll often make a schematic of the colors I plan to use.  Using the same color family adds a cohesive theme to a series of paintings.

Some of the series paintings I’ve created over the years include Westerns, particularly The Grand Canyon, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series, The Food We Eat, Lucky Red and Alley Views.

I might have an idea for a series of paintings at the beginning but more often I just cruise through my extensive batch of snapshots until something catches my attention.  I’ll write about using photos as an art subject in a future post. 

I’ve created a step-by-step page for the painting above, Tire Swing for those who are interested.  Click here for more detailed information.

Meeting famous people

It’s been five years since I retired as Director of Jasper Community Arts Commission.  JCAC is the only city-owned arts department in the state and one of the few in the country.  It was started by a group of private citizens in the small town, then later turned over to the city.  Although initially it was just a performing arts venue, eventually it came to encompass visual arts, arts in education, special events and so much more.  Now, of course, they’ve expanded to the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center which is way beyond anything anyone envisioned at the time the performing arts center was created.

The performing arts are still a major focus of the arts department.  With an auditorium which seats 675, we’ve hosted a number of performances over the years.  During my tenure as Director, we presented about a dozen performances a year so I had the great pleasure of meeting a variety of entertainers over the years.

I’ve often been asked who was my favorite which is truly an impossible question to answer.  We presented singers and musicians, dancers and comedians, actors, jugglers, and acrobats.  It was all good.  Well, mostly. But we won’t talk about that.  Obviously, a small Midwest performing arts center cannot afford top Vegas headliners. But we had a wonderful variety of quality entertainers.

So, I thought you might like to hear about a few of my favorites.  Not all, by any means, but there were still some memorable performances.

The first one was Marie Osmond.  This was right after I was promoted to Director.  Tickets had just gone on sale and the phones were ringing off the hook.  Marie was just starting to revive her career.  On the day of the performance, the tour bus showed up and everyone disembarked.  I don’t remember very much about the actual performance since much of my time was behind the scenes.  Marie did two shows for us that day which was our way of doubling our capacity.  She was not feeling well at all and had a very bad cold.  But like the real trouper that she was, she went on stage and gave the audience a show to remember for years.  She sang a mix of her pop standards, but then she gave us a variety of Broadway tunes.  It was perfect.  The audience was blown away.  Such a nice person and so professional.

Another favorite performance was Always…Patsy Cline.  We were having trouble right down to the wire of determining if the show was going to go or not as the Broadway management hadn’t returned the final contract.  Fortunately, through the perseverance of the wonderful agent I worked with, the show went on.  I cannot remember the name of the actor who played Patsy in this performance but she was super talented.  She was a little, tiny thing but belted out over 25 songs during the performance.  But one of the memorable moments is that Louise, the woman who was Patsy’s pen pal, was played by Sally Struthers.  So nice and down to earth.  Quick to laugh and just had a kind word for everyone. 

As an aside, I quickly learned that the biggest stars were often the best to work with.  Undemanding, kind, thoughtful of the staff and crew.  The performers that we had the most trouble with were those who were just getting started with their careers and kept trying to impress us with their star status.  We were not impressed.

Due to our location in south central Indiana, we are on the way to or from many major cities in the Midwest.  We are only about three hours from Nashville so we were able to present quite a number of county music stars.  Many enjoyed the smaller venue, plus they could sleep in their own beds at the end of the evening.  Some names you might recognize are Clint Black, Ronnie Milsap, Kathy Mattea, Lee Greenwood, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Sandi Patty and so many more.

One of my favorites was the Time Jumpers with Vince Gill.  This group is comprised of a bunch of Nashville musicians who get together for weekly jams.  Vince often sat in on the jam sessions (he has since left the group).  He was very conscious about not making the performance all about him, and all of the other musicians were extremely talented, too.  When we were negotiating the contract, I asked what they wanted to eat.  They said just some beans and hamburgers would be fine.  I replied that we could do better than that.  We ended up serving fried catfish and creek fries.  They loved it!  So happy not to have to worry about leftovers. Vince was kind enough to pose for this photo with one of my staff members and me.  We usually avoided putting performers on the spot since they were here doing a job, so this was an exception.

Vince Gill posing with staff member Emily Colucci-Peake and me, Kit Miracle

Speaking of food.  I quickly learned that all the dance and acrobat troupes ate like linebackers.  Usually after the performances, not before.  They expend so much energy during their performances and are such terrific athletes.  We presented the Russian National Ballet twice.  I wasn’t sure how our town would respond to Swan Lake but it was a sold-out house and you could have heard a pin drop.  We could count on every scrap of food disappearing at the end of the evening.

There were so many other wonderful performances that bring a smile to my face when I think about them.  The Blues Brothers, Under the Streetlamp, Women of Ireland, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Diamonds and Glenn Miller Orchestra, Richie Havens, Leon Redbone, The Ahn Trio, The Texas Tenors, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Tommy Emmanuel, Jim Brickman and more. 

Over 132 performances during my time there.  I was so very lucky to have this experience.  I have truly missed live performances during the pandemic shutdown but I think we’re all ready to come out of our nests.  If you have a performance venue nearby, I hope you can get out and enjoy the experience. 

Jasper Community Arts