Tag Archives: old house

Studio visit – where the magic happens!

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

I love to visit the studios of other artists, to nose around and see how they work, what materials they use, how they store materials and artwork.  Sometimes I get great ideas but it’s just wonderful to see what the other artists do.

So I’m inviting you to visit my studio.

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the corporate world and purchased a small farm in Southern Indiana.  This was always a dream of mine so he mostly came along for the ride.  If you are not familiar with this part of the country, it is totally beautiful with woods and fields, gently rolling hills, lakes and streams. And not too many people.  I like to say it’s like New England without the crowds.

We live in a 150 year old farm house with a large garden, a couple of orchards, and plenty of the aforementioned woods and fields and streams.  We raised two sons here and have enjoyed living in a county that doesn’t even have one stoplight…and we’re proud of it.

My studio is the old summer kitchen so my commute is about 30 feet from the back door.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, summer kitchens were popular in the days of wood-fired stoves to keep the heat out of the house…in the summer!  They are very common on old homesteads in the midwest and south.  And it’s very nice for me to have an area to keep my art separate both physically and mentally from the rest of the house.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Don’t forget to visit my art website at kgmiracle.com  or my Etsy shop.

My Blue Door Studio,the old summer kitchen is about 30 feet from my back door. The blue is Electric Blue, a lucky southwest color. Hey, why not?

View from the front door through the studio. It is a two-room space.

View from my artist chair to the front door of the studio.

A broader view of the front room of the studio. This used to be the dining room for the field hands during the summer.

It may looks a bit haphazard but I know where everything is…usually.

Broader view from the back room into the front room.

This large pantry in the back room of the studio is where I store many objects for still lifes. The old wood cook stove was back here, too. I can’t imagine how many meals were fixed here, as well as all the canning that was done.

Storage is always a premium for artists. Where does one PUT all this art?

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

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You Can’t Go Home Again…or Can you?

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again” but I think you can.  I had the opportunity to visit my hometown, Richmond, Indiana, last weekend on a plein air painting adventure with Indiana Plein Air Painters.  I hadn’t been back for at least 15 years and did not have high expectations due to some economic problems that I’d heard about.  I don’t know about that but the town sure looked pretty to me.

Richmond sits on the Indiana – Ohio border in the eastern center of the state.  It is an old town with lots of Quaker settlement as well as many other religions.  Since the late 1800s, they’ve embraced quite an art scene including one of the few in-school art museums at the local high school. I grew up thinking that everyone passed famous paintings on the way to class.  Little did I know.

Richmond known for it’s beautiful Glen Miller Park and Millionaire’s row, along with some of the most exquisite old houses and varied architectural styles.  I could find many subjects for painting there!

The pond at the beautiful Glen Miller park, adjacent to Millionaires Row

Typical houses in old Richmond, Indiana

The event was only one day so I decided to visit my old alma mater of Earlham College and paint Stout Meeting House.  The weather was perfect with a slight breeze and a very peaceful campus due to summer break.

Plein air painting at Stout Meeting House on the campus of Earlham College

Stout Meeting House, Earlham College, Watercolor/pen and ink, 11×14, Kit Miracle

Later I took some time to visit my great-grandma’s house, one of the oldest log cabins in Wayne County.  I was so pleased to see that it had been lovingly restored and looked better than when my great-grandmother lived there.  No one was home but I promised myself to stop by on my next visit.

Great grandma’s house, Richmond, Indiana

And I had forgotten how many beautiful churches Richmond boasts.  It seems as if there is another church on every corner.

Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Indiana

So, although you can’t go home again, you can visit it.  Your hometown just might surprise you.  I’ll be back soon and longer.

Felling a giant

Memory of a giant

Memory of a giant

Several years ago, I did a painting called “Saturday Morning.”  It basically depicted men working together on, yes, Saturday morning.  This is what people do here in the country.  You cannot do everything yourself so you pitch in and help the neighbor, or he you when you need it.

This morning we had to say goodbye to an old friend.  We have a giant elm which  was here since we bought the place over 25 years ago.  Everyone marveled at its beautiful shape and how it had magically escaped elm disease.  Unfortunately, it began dying last year and we had to take our old friend down today.  It was very close to the house and would have been a real danger during the next big storm.

Taking down the elm which was leaning one way while we wanted to fell it in another was challenging and not without risk.  Fortunately, these two guys have felled many trees but anything can happen.  I documented this not only for my old tree friend but to let you know of some of the dangers.  If you don’t know anything about taking down a tree, hire an expert.

Painting Main Street

Main Street House #1, oil on canvas, 12x16, Kit Miracle

Main Street House #1, oil on canvas, 12×16, Kit Miracle

I went out painting this past Sunday morning in town.  Sundays are usually pretty quiet if you’re painting an urban setting.  There is a row of old houses on Main Street which have been renovated and provide some pretty interesting subject matter.  The first house, with all the gingerbread and roses is almost too saccharine but I thought I’d give it a stab.  I was actually planning to paint it from the other side (south) but since I arrived pretty early, I caught this morning light on the north side. There are some who would like to see every little detail but I believe that you should let the viewer’s eye fill in some of the details.  If I tried to paint a photo-realist painting…what IS the point, eh? …then I think the painting would have lost a lot.

Main Street House #1 en plein air, Kit Miracle

Main Street House #1 en plein air, Kit Miracle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main Street House #2, oil on canvas, 12x16, Kit Miracle

Main Street House #2, oil on canvas, 12×16, Kit Miracle

A friend went with me this morning but she had other obligations and had to leave.  I wasn’t ready to pack up so I turned around and then painted the neighboring house.  I really like the light in both of them.  I could probably find subject matter for several paintings in a few blocks of Main Street, especially if I come back at different times of day.

What does YOUR Main Street look like?

Main Street House #2, en plein air

Main Street House #2, en plein air

A birdseye view

My apologies for not posting much recently. I’ve been traveling for three out of the past four weeks. But…have much material for painting so that is encouraging.

As I was flying home from Austin, TX last weekend, my plane happened to go over my own house! This is the first time that has happened. Living here in rural southern Indiana, it was a real treat to see the area from the air…and humbling. Lake Patoka looks so small…and it’s over 9,000 acres! I’ve circled our farm on here. We all look so small from that altitude. And it makes me think that our petty squabbles are small, too.

View of our farm from the air

View of our farm from the air

Night visitors

Living out in the near wilderness, we are often beset with furry critters set on eating our produce. Our 90 acres is more like a big park than a real farm. We don’t mind sharing but…there’s plenty for the animals to eat without invading the garden and orchards.

Recently we noticed that something was munching on the fallen apples. So we set up the deer cam in the orchard. My goodness, but there is a LOT of activity out there. Plenty of deer, lots of raccoons (and babies), and one slinky coyote. This isn’t counting all the rabbits and squirrels that set off the camera.

And for those of you who think raccoons are cute little masked bandits, think again. They are vicious creatures who just enjoy the pleasure of killing a whole flock of chickens in a single night.

Anyway, we’re really trying to capture a photo of a bobcat or mountain lion rumored to be living in these parts. We’ll move the deer cam into the woods soon and see what we will see.

Day visitors - a whole herd of deer munching on peaches  8:45 a.m.

Day visitors – a whole herd of deer munching on peaches 8:45 a.m.

Big buck 10:15 p.m.

Big buck 10:15 p.m.

Raccoon stealing bait from trap 5:08 a.m.

Raccoon stealing bait from trap 5:08 a.m.

Wylie Coyote 1:43 a.m.

Wylie Coyote 1:43 p.m.

Evening muncher 6:45 p.m.

Evening muncher 6:45 p.m.

Distractions

As an artist, I have many distractions.  Don’t we all?  With a large yard and garden, this time of year finds me outdoors most evenings and weekends.  Yes, I’d rather be painting but sometimes I have to do some other stuff.  Work for one.  Gardening.

Swifts in corner of my studio porch

Swifts in corner of my studio porch

But this spring, as the past three springs, a family of swifts have taken up residence on the porch of my summer-kitchen studio.  I don’t know why they choose this particular corner as there are plenty of other good spots – woodshed, shop, eves, …yes, even birdhouses.  So they get touchy as I go in and out of my studio which puts a bit of a damper on my painting activities, especially at night.  I even covered the window with a black drape so I wouldn’t scare them.  Sometimes I go into the studio by the side entrance although mostly I forget to unlock that door.

Also, I love to garden.  Well, I love the results of gardening…not particularly the labor that goes into making it happen.  But it beats my hours at a desk so who should complain?  My husband plants a little spring garden – lettuces, kale, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, basil.  And I plant the big garden, about a quarter of an acre.  Tomatoes, peppers, beans (those durn rabbits), peas, squashes, corn, sweet potatoes, more basil…and loads of sunflowers.  In the winter when I’m having a nice vegetable soup or some homemade salsa, I think of all the sunshine that has been captured in my vegetables.  Maybe monetarily it isn’t worth the work, but it is to the spirit and soul.

View from the patio towards the big garden

View from the patio towards the big garden

House in springtime, plein air

House in spring, final, oil on canvas 18 x 24

House in spring, final, oil on canvas 18 x 24

Plein air painting in the spring sunshine is one of my favorite things to do.  I love the fresh colors.  Check out my step-by-step page for a how to demonstration.  https://my90acres.com/artwork/plein-air-painting-in-spring-time/

Country living, the good and the bad

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I live in a 130+ year old

Seckle Pears, also called sugar pears

farmhouse in a county that doesn’t even have a single stoplight (and they’re proud of it.)  This is a big change from the megalopolis that I lived in 25 years ago where I had to fight three and a half million people to work every day.  Yippee for rush hour!  Now my drive is about 25 minutes of beautiful rolling countryside.  Yeah, the weather can affect that which is why I have 4 wheel drive.  It’s a necessity out here.

I often have people say to me, How can you stand to be so far away from everything?  Don’t you miss the services in the big city?  What about shopping?  I just give them one of those are you kidding me? looks.  So…I have satellite TV.  I have satellite internet which is faster than my high speed internet at work.  And, well, UPS delivers.  I’m only about an hour from an international airport but I live in the middle of my 90 acres.  Taxes are low.  I can’t see even a single neighbor from my house.  And those neighbors that I have, I actually know.  As an aside, did you ever realize that when you are packed in like sardines in the city, that you often don’t even know your next door neighbor?  How sad is that? 

My mailman will actually bring a package to my door and, if I’m not home, just stick it in my studio.  My husband exchanges recipes with the UPS guy.  If you need help, you just call someone.  People actually show up!  And much of the payment for services might be a basket of pears or some fresh eggs.  Or an I’ll catch you later

In case you’re looking for your own place in the country, I can tell you that property is usually much cheaper.  My 90 acres isn’t in the heart of NYC or LA.  It’s not actually enough to make a living on unless you’re doing some intensive farming, but it’s a nice place.  In Texas this would just be a big back yard.

So, what are the disadvantages of country life?  Well, you know those friendly neighbors?  They really do want to know all your business, or at least seem to.  I’ve always contended that it would be easier to hide in a city with a million people than it would to be in a place with a million acres.  People out here notice things.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but if your cow is out, they’ll stop and tell you.  Or bring you a pie when you are sick. 

There is also that shopping thing.  When I run out of that essential ingredient for a recipe, it’s a long way to town if the local mom and pop store doesn’t carry it. (You learn to improvise a lot.)  And restaurants tend to be a little more countryfied.  You probably won’t find that goat cheese pizza at Sally’s Truck Stop.  The wine offerings at Wal-Mart are certainly limited and the clothes down at the J.C.Penny….well, let’s just stick to basics.  On the other hand, think of how much money I can save from impulse buys! 

A trip to the city usually involves a good part of a day and lots of stops.  I find myself saving up all my shopping for a single trip.  Also, there is a constant list on the fridge of what I need to buy next time I go to the big city.  But art supplies, books, even tractor parts can now be purchased on line at often cheaper prices than at the stores so what is wrong with that? I’m saving money on two fronts, i.e., not shopping as much and doing more internet shopping.

One really big advantage of living in the country is the stars!  I just love to stand out in the dark gaze at all that magnificence.  And just wait for a meteor shower!  Wow!  There are also the critters, for better or worse.  Possums and skunks, rabbits (there go my new expensive perennials), squirrels, and chipmunks.  Deer are pretty but very dangerous to vehicular traffic.  We’ve had run-ins with seven of those rats with antlers, one resulting in totalling a brand new car.  Coyotes running the creek beds on a frosty night will send shivers up your spine and make you snuggle deeper under the covers with their howls and yips.  Whipoorwills are nocturnal and blasted persistent if one happens to take up residence in a tree outside the bedroom window.  And very occasionally a bobcat which sounds like a woman screaming.  OOOOooooooo.  

But overall, the country life is the life for me.  I love the peace.  The decompression on the way home at night.  I love the change of the seasons which seem so intense. I love picking fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from my orchards.  Yep, green acres is the place for me.  (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Handmade bricks

New - old sidewalk

New sidewalk from very old brick

This old house is at least 130 years old that we know of and, we think, about 30 years older.  The front half is log, yeah, the REAL old logs, and we think it was part of an original land grant in these parts. 

Even though we’ve lived here for over 25 years, we are always uncovering surprises.  This summer, my son who was home from college, decided to replace the brick sidewalk we had in front.  (All without any prompting from mom.  Thank you, Ben!)  A few years back we had the old metal roofs replaced (subject for another post).  In the process, it was more expedient to take off the old chimneys which were no longer used.  That pile of bricks was behind my studio.  So…my son took it upon himself to clean off all the century-old grout from the bricks.  Upon examining them closely, we realized that they were all handmade.  And if we looked really closely, we could even see the fingerprints of the maker.  That person is long gone but his legacy lives on. 

This is why I often feel the history of the old place.  Many times we get caught up in our own little immediate problems but they don’t seem so big when put in the perspective of looking back over a 150 years of births, deaths, droughts, storms, wars, and all manner of other “immediate” problems.  Makes ya think, doesn’t it?