Monday, December 22, 2008

The Great White North

After a week of snow and ice we got...even more snow! I spent the day outside with the kids and the camera. One of the best and prettiest days I can think of...ever! This is the sidewalk beside my house.

We haven't lost many branches but this magnolia couldn't stand up to the weight of the snow. Cross country skiers have been enjoying the snowy roads. It feels like someone has cast a spell and banished cars, leaving the streets to people with their skis and sleds. I saw one intrepid jogger wearing snow shoes.

My house in the snow looking toward the Sound.

I guess I should have brought the furniture in from the studio roof deck.

The beautiful Queen Anne walkway, designed with Moorish inspired arches.

Henry and I prepare to race down a snowy street on our cookie sheets. Fast Fast Fast! It was great.

Isobel takes the cookie sheet down the Counterbalance, the main street on the hill. Dozens of people slid down the hill on snow boards, skis, laundry baskets, garbage bags and inflatable pool toys. Even a green vinyl couch cushion picked up some speed.

Henry spent the day eating slabs of ice that had crusted on the top of the powder. His new blue hair looks wonderful against the snowy branches.

My New Zealand Flax looks very funny.

Swirling grasses make a cave in the snow.

This geranium survived the winter last year. I don't think it will be so lucky this year.

More beauty berries! I love them.

Does Dolly Parton live here?

Even Santa (who live across the street) is snowed in. Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Summer in Winter

Though there is snow outside I have been painting these summery images lately as a commission. Painting the clivia in particular was like taking a tropical vacation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Snow!

We are not used to this in Seattle. The temperature has been below freezing for six days and isn't forecast to warm up for a few more days. Schools are closed and won't open until after the Christmas break. Henry and I walked up to the Ave to buy milk and admire how pretty everything was.

I love this bush and have been meaning to find out what it is called. I saw a house last winter with one of these in the front garden and a front door painted exactly the same purple. It was wonderful. The example in these photos is here on Queen Anne hill and the lovely houses in the background are typical of the Queen Anne style the hill was named for.

I want to paint snow! But for now I will charge my camera's battery and take a lot of reference pics. I hope that all the little creatures outside are hunkered down out of the wind. How do the hummingbirds survive? I hope that all the people living on the streets of Seattle are finding warm places tonight. The children and I were down at the shelter last night and were told there was still plenty of room which is a comfort, I suppose.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I painted this image a few weeks ago before the weather got cold and tried to imagine my Cardoon artichoke covered in snow. The arctic hare is sitting in the "forest" of giant plants looking very much alone.

I wanted to express a feeling I remember from being alone in the dark woods of New Brunswick in the middle of winter. The snow absorbed sound making the forest strangly quiet and soft and I have never felt so alone with my thoughts as in this kind of setting. The hare may be a picture of me alone in the woods, or an embodiment of my thoughts. Or, if I am feeling more whimsical, the hare is my own soul, staring back at me, which feels almost possible in the surreal atmosphere of silent snowy woods.

I called the painting "Miles to Go Before I Sleep" after a favourite Robert Frost poem. It is oil on canvas and measures 9"x12". You can click on it to see it larger.


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I took some photos in the garden on Sunday. Much of the snow had melted during the night leaving strangely eroded snowballs stuck to plants. It looked sort of like I had imagined in my painting. The weather is well below freezing and will stay this way for a few days, so I will enjoy how wonderful everything looks for a while longer.

A zinnia seed head looking like a hedgehog in a bubble bath.

Snowberries in the snow.

Opal plays in the snow and decides it tastes kind of funny.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good Morning

I will hang this painting today at the old Macrina Bakery in Queen Anne as part of my show there. Some of the paintings from my last show will be moved over to the Queen Anne location.

I love how this painting turned out. It has captured the feeling that I get waking up on a summer morning with my ideas staring at me, waiting for me to look after them. Some of them are ideas for paintings, waiting to be created. Some are responsibilities that must be looked after. The painting is two feet wide and is oil on panel. You can see how it looked when I started painting it if you check my post on November 27.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last Day of November

Yesterday's weather was strangely warm and foggy. I had a wonderful walk through the neigborhood looking at the dripping plants and the soft focus of fog. I never thought November could be so luscious.

Is this a persimmon tree in my neighbor's garden?

It has been years since I lived in chilly Canada but I am still amazed and delighted to have flowers in my garden in the winter.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Morning Muses

Today I am giving thanks for having a full day by myself in the studio. I am working on a painting that has turned into a portrait of my thoughts when I wake up in the morning. It is the moment before I have fully opened my eyes but my mind is starting to work and I know that ideas have been waiting for me. Sometimes they are ideas for paintings. Sometimes they are responsibilities that need to be looked after in the day ahead. I get the feeling that they are all quietly demanding my attention, staring at me. Sort of like my little grey cat who sits patiently by my head for me to open my eyes in the morning.

I have painted my bedroom as though it is a Venetian palace because... well why not. I love Venice. I want to include some plants, as though there is a garden outside the window but haven't decided what sort of garden it will be. You can click on any of these images to see them bigger. The painting is two feet wide.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Careless Glee

I found this deer dancing on a ceramic container at the Seattle Art Museum and was struck by the strength of its shape and jauntiness of its pose. It looks like an embodiment of glee. There is also a suggestion that she is looking at the viewer to make sure that her dance is noticed - a very human trait. I gave her an orchard of fruit to dance in and she is carelessly knocking some berries to the ground. Is it ok to be so happy if we are careless with the people and environment surrounding us? I really don't know the answer.

You can see the inspiration for this painting at the SAM in the wonderful little Italian paneled room. I think it is an apothecary jar shaped like a segment of bamboo and comes from Asia somewhere. I will try to find out where.

Carmen Explores

This painting came so easily and quickly. Carmen, my stuffed armadillo, shares my desire to explore an exotic sunny word. She looks determined, if a little wary. Just like me when faced with new experiences. I gave her tropical plants that don't survive outside in a Seattle winter. This isn't a comfy image. But it is a happy and exciting one.
The plant is kalanchoe thyrsifolia or "paddle plant" which is native to South Africa.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Very Good Day

My kids partying. 4 November 2008

What a very good day it is today. Though I live on a rather quiet street people burst out of their doors last night when the election was called for Obama, screaming, shouting, whooping and crying. One of the neighbors set off fireworks. The world needed a party. Congratulations everyone.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting Ready for the Show

I am still tinkering with this one. The tree is nice and misty but the rabbit's expressions need some reworking maybe. Anyway, I needed to move on and think about something else for a while so I started a fun little painting of my stuffed armadillo, Carmen. I found Carmen in Playa del Carmen, down in the Yucatan. I love her strong shape and unexpected color. As I am painting it I feel that I want her to be exploring a jungle of plants. Maybe I feel like exploring my own world a little these days. Our upcoming change of government has me in a mood to look around and look forward. Maybe we can poke our little noses out of our hiding places now and face the world again. Go Carmen go!

I will work hard on this little painting and hope to have it ready for the show, on 6 November.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seize the Daylily

This is a painting I am working on called "Seize the Daylily".

I have been fortunate in my life so far to have had very little experience with death and the loss of people I am close to but this year I lost two family members. They were both in their eighties so their deaths were not out of the blue, but this didn't lesson the enormity of the loss. I was also struck by my inability to comprehend what had happened. Death is too huge to put into the context of my daily life. I can't get my mind around the fact that one day our lives are full of details -eating, sleeping, loving, laughing, worrying, weeding the garden, doing the dishes - and the next day we can be dead. It sounds puerile to point out that mortality is a profound concept but it is a concept that I have been thinking about lately. And so I decided to paint a memento mori.
Memento mori was a subject popular in the European art world a few hundred years ago in which the figure of a skull or a skeleton reminded us that our time on earth was briefer and less important than our time in heaven. When they took the form of a still life these paintings were called "vanitas".

I chose to paint a huge tree looming over creatures who are too small to understand the enormity of the object behind them. As I painted though I realized that the rabbit-like creatures were wise to ignore their own mortality. What else could they do but live their tiny brief lives to the fullest, reveling in the wonderful details of life rather than moping around focussed on death. I realized I was painting a "carpe diem", not a memento mori. Carpe diem is usually translated from Latin as "Seize the Day" which is all we can do when faced with the incomprehensible enormity mortality.

I want to make the tree more misty and mysterious. And I am still debating whether there should be the one rabbit creature having a serious thought or if I should cheer her up. There is also something wrong with her paws that I will fix.