Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Resolution

Just as I was pondering the annual opportunity to focus on some changes and improvements in me...and the approaching deadline for declaring these at least to myself I received a New Year's letter from one of the wise women. Kim of Summerhouse Grill in Montrose, PA included this quote in her email:

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. ~Barbara Bloom

This really struck a chord with me.

The movers were careful and the numerous trips were safe. Yet it seems that upon arrival in my Vermont studio, old patterns and methods are in need of some repair. My tiny Vermont studio's thermostat is not under my control it seems. It is sometimes hot and sometimes not, but it is well stocked with art supplies, quiet and calm and the rent is paid. The only thing largely missing has been me....the artist. So my resolution is to resume my pre-move-normal working hours in 2012 and see what happens. I have an opportunity to make some art (with history) this year. I'll use some gold.

Wishing you the same good luck and fulfilled intentions in 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Was My Mother a Pagan?

Happy Winter Solstice to all! This is my favorite holiday. Its meaning I can relate to; ending of the old, beginning of the new, more daylight - possibly sunshine - each day forth. My mother never missed informing her family that December 21 was a very important day and cause for joy. The daylight from then on will lengthen. In the midst of a hectic holiday season of baking, shopping, wrapping, sewing, cleaning house, care-taking and holding down a job she needed a star to pin her hopes on. As far as I know she never lit any fires on the lawn or practiced paganism or worshipped much. She taught us to treat others as we wished to be treated. She is an optimistic 93 year old and today I will have to inform her of the date, not the significance. That she will know.

As the above photo of my Vermont living room window shows, Solstice suits my holiday decorating skills. Wishing you many warm holiday memories filled with light.

There's a new state on

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The Butternut Gallery in Montrose, PA hosted a well-attended opening reception for an exhibit on a controversial subject; Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale and the influences the natural gas industry has inflicted on the rural, agricultural communities of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Michael Poster's photographs and Melissa Whalen Haertsch's intriguing essay shared the walls with my prints and assorted ephemera relating to the gas boom. The exhibit is the personal expressions of three people, two of whom have fled the region...of their own choice. Both Zoe Poster and Pete Comly have written work on display, also. It is a good setting to talk/think about your reactions, too.

The land and landscape are very important to me. It is crucial to my work and life. I could no longer find solace, inspiration or peace in my Pennsylvania home of 35 years. Maybe my new-found happiness in Vermont explains the jubilant expression on my face in this photograph of me. Or maybe it was the wine or the delightful photographer. You can see more of Richard Karp's photos and a summary of Melissa's essay at

The exhibit is open through the end of the year thanks to Betty Bryden and Tom Canouse, owners of the Butternut Gallery and Second Story Books. 570-278-4011. There is a great deal of beauty and happiness and holiday cheer there. Be sure to stop in.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Phyllis' Garden

On July 10th my friend invited a few plein air painters to her new home. It is an airy Pennsylvania hill-top site wedged between two defunct dairy farms. Being a sucker for garden views, I chose this veggie garden as seen from one of several elevated porches and balconies. I was attracted to the linear elements and the protective presence of the large maple tree. In my crazy season of packing and moving I forgot to post this. Now it is a nice reminder of a midsummer's afternoon painting with friends....and another of the Transitions series.

The Pond on Rice Farm Road

It was an exquisite fall day in my neighborhood two weeks ago...and the days here have been mostly soggy for months. I spent the afternoon painting this Vermont scene amidst the birds (?) rustling in the cattails next to me and quite a few leaf peepers driving by on the dirt road.

That was two weeks ago and Black Mountain, where I live, has turned into winter rather suddenly. This is another of the Transitions series. 12 x 16 pastels.

My new studio is growing on me. And some days I can actually find what I am looking for. (Yes, I did put the pliers in that drawer, but why?) It is quiet and warm and bright and near home....and thanks to the local Tru-Value housewares guy, it smells good now. So, I am settling in for a long winter's work.

Later this month I am showing some of my new work at the Butternut Gallery and Second Story Books, in Montrose, PA as part of a show called FRACTURED; an exhibit of photographs, pastel paintings and writing that explores the social ramifications of gas drilling in Susquehanna County, curated by Michael Poster and Melissa Whalen Haertsch. FRACTURED will be on display from November 25 - with an opening from 6-8pm, Friday - through December 31, closing at 3pm. Zoe Poster and Pete Comly, among others, will have work in the show, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sally Strand Workshop

Last week I was among the lucky 18 to spend the week with Sally Strand exploring her style of painting. The 5-day course was named The Color of Light and it was held at the beautiful and well-appointed Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester. There was a lovely display of color and light on the Green (looked purple-blue to me) Mountains touched with warm autumn foliage and sun. But this was not a landscape class.

We worked from still life and live costumed models all week. Sally made sure we left our comfort zones, so we could learn something new or at least re-enforce solid principles of value and the ways light affects and changes colors. It was a wake-up call for me; easy to fall back on one's old ways of working and not SEE the subtleties and beauty in familiar scenes. Sally's instruction will prod me to practice and increase my skills and abilities. Yes, I felt like going home at some point on Tuesday, but the week ended on a brighter note.

Thank you to gifted teachers, wherever you are. Thank you for forcing us to step outside our comfort zones.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I did a Marathon!

OK, stop laughing, it was a 12 hour life drawing marathon at the River Gallery School of Art in Brattleboro VT. I can't believe I finished it...totally surprised myself. At the end of the 12th hour there were only a handful still standing (slumping over my easel trying not to fall off my stool and fearing I wouldn't walk the next day) just me and some cute boys about one third my age, who must have shared some of their youthful energy.

Matt Peake, one of the instructors from the school, facilitated the event; coordinating models and setting up lights, backdrops, poses. There was no official instruction, but Matt was generous in helping participants achieve success with their drawings and paintings. I usually sketch in ink and I think I was the only one using it. Others used charcoal, pencil, conte, watercolor, acrylic and pastel. It was a great chance to experiment with medium or just to stick with one thing and really explore that for all poses....about 35, counting some very short warm-up poses. I hope they do it again so I can finally say at the end of a life drawing session, "I'm ready to stop drawing and go home." I am usually the one who does not want it to end. Apparently I am not alone. Why else would someone even think up a life drawing marathon?

BTW, if you are not a committed sketcher of the human figure, you may not understand the purpose life drawing has traditionally and still fulfills for an artist. Since the human form is complex and difficult to draw accurately it hones the observation skills of artists who practice it regularly, often frustrating and infuriating them, too. It is undertaken for the practice, not for the end product. That is why my life drawings can most often be viewed at Recycling.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Irene Storms by Us

Our home and two studios are safe and dry here in Brattleboro, VT. Others in our community have not been so fortunate. We are saddened by the loss of homes, gardens and livelihoods.

Let me know how Irene found you, your family and trees.

We are still in the midst of sorting out our possessions from the move from PA but I am drawing and planning new work and will post some soon.

In the meantime the Butternut Gallery in Montrose is exhibiting some of my paintings. Stop in to see Betty and Tom. They always have interesting shows and often Sunday events.

Friday, June 17, 2011


It still seems magical to me when the fireflies first appear. The other night on a late stroll around my dark garden I was surprised by bright lights - close. It was a real "what the heck ? kind off moment" until I realized what was happening; a lightning bug had gotten caught in my bangs. In trying to free itself it kept flashing and reflecting off my glasses. It was quite disorienting until I realized what it was....not a psychedelic flashback after all.

This painting is a scene I caught out of my side window driving back from town just past dusk; the neighbors' pond turned into a mirror and the fireflies are still low, in the grass.

12 x 16 - latest in the Transitions Series. This nocturne was painted on a red sheet of Art Spectrum pastel paper, using a surprisingly small number of soft pastels; some Giraults, Nupastels and Unison mostly - probably less than 15 colors total, plus the red of the paper. So few colors, but a precision choice nevertheless. To pick the right dozen colors all pastel artists know you need a thousand or so to choose from!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day Three

The art studio moving sale is proving to be a success. Thank you to everyone who came bearing gifts and those who left bearing gifts (for themselves and others). Thanks for wishing us well in our move to Vermont. Thanks for your hugs and tears. Thanks to those who found room on their walls and in their hearts for one more painting of mine. I am a very lucky artist.

But, we're not done yet. Two more days to go! Plenty of paintings, prints, photographs, clay sculptures and books are still looking for a home. Each morning I make the rounds with my red pen to see what could be discounted even more.

We are accepting offers on the kiln. The Framers Edge 650 matt cutter is in fine condition and retails new for over $600! MIne is now $225. The display rack is pine with oak slats and presents your work favorably. $200 today.

Stop by to say hello....or goodbye.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Art Studio Sale

Day 2 of the studio moving sale. We've found quite a bit more objets d'art. Sculptures, ceramics by Zoe Poster and photographs by Michael Poster as well as many books. Deeply discounted prints and paintings by Rodrica Tilley. Books, Art supplies, Mat Cutters and Display rack for itinerant artists/photographers. Come have a look. Each morning I will be further reducing prices. Kiln, books and much more. A whole library of dog training books...and the dogs to convince you it worked...dogs not for sale of course. Willing to consider all offers.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Studio Moving Sale

Everything is discounted - many deals.
Partial list (I'm still finding stuff) of what will be available May 27,28,29,30 from 11-5 at my studio near Montrose (681 McCollum RD) :
paintings - some hidden for decades in a darkened room
prints - current, giclees, mixed-bag, older, almost forgotten
books - art, garden, fiction, reference, non-fiction - coffee stained and 'like-new'
rack set - portable pine slotted racks for display of paintings
plein air gear - 2 umbrellas, stone bag
signed Keith Haring poster
large custom applique "open studio" flag
ceramics, sculptue, pots, kiln,
mat board,
mat cutter - Logan Model 650 Framers Edge
unframed pen and ink originals, your very own "hunk" in pastel,
original watercolor illustrations that appeared in Woman's Day & Horticulture magazines,
oak 4-drawer file cabinet,
materials for children's art projects,
papers - watercolor, pastel, drawinng, finger painting including 144" x 44" d'arches CP watercolor paper on roll
note cards, blank envelopes
ten 12" x 12" stretched, primed canvases - HD Masterwrap
2 sets of oil pastels
and much, much'll be suprised. I am!

Cinco de Mayo

Trying to ignore my chores, I set up my easel in the garden just before 10 am because it was a warm, clear day and we haven't had many of those here in the Northeast this spring. I wanted to capture some of the soft colors and a feeling of the garden bloom beginning it's seasonal progression. I was pretty sure the dandelions would still need weeding later as would the latest closet cleaning in the studio.

In this picture the lead role is taken by the aptly named Star Magnolia, a sweetly fragrant bush we love to sit near. The supporting cast is a diverse lot of conifers, hardwoods and two apple trees with an adorable guest appearance by the little coral species tulips.

About 10:15 the wind kicked up and my board threatened to take the whole easel for a sail across the garden. My trusty stone bag saved the day and I've included a photo of this fold away piece of indispensable gear I carry in the bottom of my backpack. Stones can be found in most places I paint, but in their absence I've scooped up hands full of sand or purchased a gallon of water. Whatever you use for ballast will stabilize your easel in a surprisingly stiff wind. It lowers the center of gravity, there by making painting actually possible.

Later when I did get around to cleaning out some drawers in the studio storeroom I found a brand new spare stone bag! I didn't even know I had two! That one will be included in my upcoming BIG STUDIO MOVING SALE May 27, 28, 29 & 30 along with an array of prints, paintings, art supplies and other unique items useful...or at least artists and collectors. There will be deals, trust me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dwarf Iris Rules the Earth

In early spring my garden has a riveting swath of intense blue slicing through it. Iris reticulata are small (4-6 inches tall), but they make a big statement. Their display is especially welcome set in the debris of my untended winter garden. They like good drainage, sun and can survive much colder temperatures than we get here in Zone 4/5. 100 of the bulbs will only cost you $30 and once planted you can pretty much sit back and watch your investment grow, doubling annually. They have been pest-proof for me for about a decade...and you don't have to stake them like their larger relatives with beards.

For me they have been an elusive subject for camera or easel, until this year. I finally have a pastel painting of them I like. Dwarf Iris with Lichen is part of the Transitions Series.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Perigee Moon Set

Huge moon setting behind my garden...worth getting up early for! This is another of the 12 x 16 Transitions Series. It is done with soft pastels on a grey Art Spectrum paper.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hint of Spring?

This is Silver Creek which I have painted many times. For some reason it does have a shimmery silver color to it many days...more so than other nearby brooks. It is a good day for ducks...and artists who like to look for the subtleties in color that are hidden from our view on a bright day. It is painted with a variety of brands of soft pastels on art spectrum gold paper. It is one of the 12 x 16s from the Transitions Series.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ragged Ends

A February evening in my neighborhood looks peaceful and quiet. I am certainly taking advantage of this exceptionally snowy winter in both Pennsylvania & Vermont. Often I don't get more than one or two snow scenes done per winter because I have a habit of trying to avoid February and March by traveling to warmer climes. This is another 12 x 16 from the Transitions series.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wood Road and Snowdrops!

Yesterday turned into a very special day. After returning from the painful & mundane (physical therapy and grocery shopping), I decided to seize the 60+ degree afternoon for my first plein air painting of the year. The light was rather flat, but I liked the way the sky matched the earth in value and hue and subtle pattern. I grabbed my gear and drove a couple miles outside of Montrose to a favorite wetland area. The usually soggy and precipitous road shoulder was still frozen which made setting up the portable studio (Prius and half box french easel) a snap. Look,ma,no gloves! During the hour and a half I was there only three vehicles passed me and one was a good friend that I hardly ever get to see.

I used a sheet of UArt #500 and a jumbled up box of soft pastel bits. This image shows my work for the day. I think the foreground needs some strokes to complete it and as soon as I am inspired to see what those are and where they should go I'll finish it and add it to the growing Transitions series.

As if that was not a wonderful enough afternoon, I spot the welcome sight of spring bulbs along my front walk. Galanthus nivalis. They are called snowdrops for good reason. They are weeks earlier than crocus. They are cheap to buy and clump quickly. They only come in white. I know there are hundreds more under the snowbanks waiting for more melting. Alas, this morning they have disappeared under a fresh coating. They'll be back...they have the toough alpine spirit except they can even tolerate frozen puddles of poor drainage. Get some. Have HOPE at a time when we in the frozen tundra need it most.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lewis Road

Yellow is a color that is found seldom in the background of a landscape. It disappears as it recedes into the distance. Most painters have struggled with trying to make a distant sunlit hillside of yellow fall foliage behave and take its place in the background. There are several ways to deal with the problem. In this painting I have used diminishing parallels (the lines in and on the side of the road) to tell the viewer that those trees catching the warm afternoon rays are the farthest object away from us on the land in this picture. That the moon and clouds are further away is something we all know and don't need convincing of, even if they are sometimes yellow. This is one of the paintings in the Transitions series.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ground Hog Day in Vermont

No woodchuck saw his shadow this year...and many of us in the NE are ready for a hint of spring. So we are reassured that spring will come early. I spent the day looking out on two of my garden trees....sort of an incongruous, artless pairing. They are of a similar size; a black cherry and a paper birch. They appear to be growing away from each other like the north poles of magnets...likes repel. The day was full of heavy snowfall, but we did not get the 30" predicted...around 12", I think, which makes over 36" on the ground in southern Vermont. It was tough shoveling to stock the bird feeders. The snow blower is in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Birds in the Bush

This is a familiar view to me and to many of you as well; out the east window of my studio in Pennsylvania. The slate-colored juncos are the early risers here. They spend winter nights in the protection of dense shrubbery so at first light they are up and looking to see what I've sprinkled on the snow for them to eat.

Mondays & Tuesdays are my Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Feederwatch days, so no matter what I'm doing in th
e studio I have one eye on the birds. These are the birds I've seen Monday & Tuesday so far;
mourning dove, cardinal, blue jay, tree sparrow, common redpoll, house finch, goldfinch, tufted titmouse, white breasted nuthatch, black capped chickadee, goldfinch,red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, crow, starling and the dark-eyed (formerly slate-colored) junco. These are the regular customers in winter. If I am in Vermont on Mondays and Tuesdays I count there and I get pretty much the same birds with the red-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper and pileated woodpecker being more frequently seen than here at my particular PA location. I have not seen the Carolina wren this year and I would like to. Nor have I seen an owl or a hawk on count days, but I have seen evidence in the snow of their presence.

Juncos at Sunrise 12 x 16

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fields of Snow

Very pretty around here...lately. Amazing what a good whitewashing does for the place.

Fresh back in the studio from a late afternoon drive around my PA neighborhood I choose this subject photographed across the fields above Williams Pond. I use one of my favorite pastel papers; salmon-colored Sabretooth. It has a deep, open tooth, which means that the color of the paper will show through a bit in the finished painting. I started with a light wash of some purple/red pastel and turps and then worked 5 or 6 layers of very soft pastels into the tooth. I love the depth and complexity this paper gives; you can see into looking through layers.

My snow scenes are popular; probably because they are hue.

Fields of Snow 12 x 16...I cropped it poorly when I photographed it...there is a bit more sky than seen here.

Gone is my PC world. So using my new Mac and my same old lousy camera skills makes everything take longer so I hesitate to photograph it again for the fourth time right now. I am loving the Mac, though... knew I would.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Easel Mania

I admit to having a deep and enduring interest in easels. This new David Sorg Easel is my largest (and heaviest!) so far. I've just started using it today to work on a snow scene and so far I like it very much. It is counterbalanced so that the painting can be raised or lowered effortlessly. It is on wheels (2 of which lock) so it can easily be moved around. And the paint tray and brush shelf are generous enough to stop dropped pastel sticks from going all the way to the floor and shattering. I can see that this easel will be even more useful when I am working on large scale paintings. It is a little congested in this area of my studio, but this is a temporary location. If my Vermont studio is even half as spacious as I imagine it will be, there will be plenty of room for the Sorg and all it's smaller companions.

How many easels can you find in this partial view of my studio? There are more in the closet including the folding one my grandparents gave me for my 11th birthday. It is too flimsy for working, but perfect for dragging out to a demo to display small finished work on...and 54 years later it is a symbol of my grandparents' interest in and love for me.

One can never have too many easels.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Return to Autumn

Some of you may recognize this to be the plein air painting demo I started in the garden on October 12, 2010 during the Artists' Open House Weekend. The time was right today to finally finish it...something about January makes me want to clean up leftover business. I'm glad I had this one hanging around.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


For the last few months my husband and I have been traveling back and forth between southern Vermont and our home of 35 years in Pennsylvania. We bought a house with 5 acres on Black Mountain near Brattleboro and are preparing to move there full time this summer. The frequent 5 hour trips back and forth, although providing a great chance for landscape viewing, often leave me feeling disoriented.

I think I'm going to go with the flow and make some paintings of two similar landscapes that may blend together in unknown ways. I'll be working on 12 x 16 boards with a plein air easel in VT and a new studio easel here in PA. The location of these pieces will be nebulous; somewhere between southern VT and northeastern PA; someplace between plein air & studio work. But the size and subject and medium will give me a sorely needed continuity right now. I may not know what clothes are in which closet in which state, but I'll be able to find my winter north woods color palette.

This is the first of the transitional pictures, as well as being the first painting of the year for me.

Transition #1 12 x 16 pastel

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