Monday, August 31, 2015


First day at Takodah I made a new friend. And she paints! I love camp!

This is the first painting I did after Takodah. At first I didn't feel at home with myself, or my brush, or my studio. No surprise there. Takodah so infuses me that it always takes a day or two before I get grounded back at home.

Here's where I went internally. I went back to the dock at the waterfront on the lake at Takodah, back to my first conversation with Jane, a conversation in which I was inquisitive, open, unedited, receptive, exploring, learning, laughing, having fun, spontaneous. And then I painted with that same mental set. Thanks, Jane!

Have I told you I love Takodah?

Camp Friends
6x6", acrylic on canvas board
[not for sale]

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stop and Go Traffic, Studio Style

I've talked about the stop and go part of my life in which I repeatedly stop to take photos for possible paintings.

Additionally, there's the stop and go that takes place in my studio.

Knowing when to stop can be hard.

Picking up a brush to keep going when going feels impossible is hard, but knowing when not to pick up a brush and go again is often the hardest.

Today I enjoyed a softness as I painted. In the middle of a very busy day, painting was a welcome harbor of timelessness. Brush strokes felt loose and easy. I lost myself happily in the gentle adventure. At a certain point I blinked awake, so to speak, and said out loud to myself, stop.

I put my brushes down, closed up my stay-wet palette, stepped back to look at my canvas one more time from a distance …

… and picked up a brush again.

Uh oh.

As I went to add a touch of increased brightness, I literally said aloud, This could wreck everything. But, happily, after a few quick satisfying flourishes I stopped. Again.

This time I got as far as photographing the painting and uploading it to my computer before I decided to add just one more little touch.

So risky.

Then I really did stop.

Crossroads Pond, Jonesport
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Taking Chances, Making Changes

Wanted to paint rather than purchase a card for Elise's wedding because it was with her mom Sylvia that I began painting last year.

Decided on a scene from Cantigny Park in Illinois where Elise and Dan will marry.

While holding the idea of a wedding card in mind for a couple of weeks, had been corresponding with Anne Wood whose paintings reach right out and touch the whole of me.

At Anne's encouragement, looked at tonal values before painting this scene. At her encouragement, started this painting by turning my reference photo other than right-side up and blocking in colors and tones before turning it rightways for refining.

Once I put away my paints and brushes, needed a title. Wanted something to go with the word Cantigny. Chose these words from a prayer offered at my own wedding: chances and changes.

Powerful words in my marriage (of 40 years in October!).

Powerful words for painting.

Totally awesome.

Chances, Changes, Cantigny
5x7", acrylic on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Places You'll Go

I woke up last night and couldn't return to sleep for way too long. Not great fun.

The fun, it turns out, came this afternoon while I painted the scene framed by the window in our June vacation home in Jonesport. My hangover fatigue lent itself delightfully to my being pretty loose and intuitive as I painted, and I found myself impulsively adding a quick burst of satisfying devil-may-care touches right at the end.

A year ago, I might have known at a cognitive level to bring any one color to all parts of a painting but I didn't know how and I'd subtly blend in what few hesitant touches I could muster up. A year ago, I might have looked at the area of the tree branches and said, There's no yellow ochre in the foliage there, or I might have looked at the grassy section and said to myself, There's no cerulean blue there—in fact there's barely any blue sky showing through behind the trees. I might have looked at the scene and thought, There's no path leading into the trees.

Today I said, There is now!

Jonesport Picture Window
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inside Out

Modern expressionism? Is that the name of the style of painting that keeps snagging my attention? Regardless of labels, I am fascinated by painting from within, from letting the inside out. I am captivated by the artistic principles that can play out in paintings that are completely nonrepresentational and yet have exquisite interplay of color, light, value, shape, and line. Amazing stuff. Amazing artists.

In my journeys online yesterday the colors and alignment in one abstract painting walked into my heart as did the gradations and evocativeness in an another, an expressionist/impressionist (?) landscape.

This morning I stilled myself enough to tap into what I carried in my heart with a brush and painting knife. Poking out from the inevitable intrusive parade of cerebral decisions, liminal moments of following my intuition and following the painting itself lit me up.

Inside Out
5x7", acrylic on gessobord
abstract landscape

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Situ

Anne from Lincoln, MA, forwards some photos. Ann from Lincolnshire, England, teaches me to turn photos upside down to 'confuse' my brain into seeing shapes, darks, and lights while blocking in color. So there I am in my studio with a photo of place I haven't visited, holding in mind the words of someone I've never met, and off I go. Craziness! Awesome craziness!

I am awestruck again and again by where I go. This morning, I could feel the fog on my skin, could walk right up to spy the exquisite purple centers of the Queen Anne's Lace, could hear the floorboards creak as I trod barefoot in the wooden building at water's edge, could smell the tidal gurry.

This painting was really fun to paint. I did start with my canvas upside down. I mixed my colors as I went, I grabbed whatever brush called out to me. No sketch. Just shapes and colors. A short while later I turned my canvas rightways and just as quickly added depth and a few detailing lines. Done.

Bifocal Morning in Maine
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Soaking my Head

My friend Nicky, far hardier than I, swims in the Atlantic at Singing Beach regularly in the summer. She refers to it as soaking her head, and she relishes the refreshment and clearing.

I'm soaking my head in a different way of late, mindfully immersing my whole self in a scene before painting it.

To fully dunk myself before picking up my brush today I dove back into a recent walk at Singing Beach, mentally re-perceiving the colors and textures and air. I swam in the photo I took, too, and I further plunged into an abstract painting that caught my eye.

As I walked into my studio—refreshed and clear—I left behind everything except the feeling in my body. No photographs to reference, nothing but what I held inside me that sought expression.

And then I painted.

Soaking my Head at Singing
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Monday, August 24, 2015

Scoping Scapes

I lose myself online looking at paintings far more often and for far longer than … than what? Than I ever would have imagined!

I take note of the paintings that pull me in. Recently: landscapes. Scenes from nature.

What is highly compelling right now is expressive near-abstraction, if that's the correct term, i.e. those renderings that evoke the natural world with a few strokes of suggestion. I can feel my heart open. I can feel exquisitely what a TED speaker referred to, in a different context, as the compelling intersection of clarity and mystery.

I'd like to learn more about how to create expressive/abstract landscapes. How to see what might make a good painting. How to make a good painting from what I see.

On a recent walk back from Singing Beach, the merging of reflected foliage and actual grasses in an inlet caught my attention as the low sun created a spotlight. I snapped a photo.

Then went home to crop the photo until I'd squared off a snippet that appealed to me.

Painted it. Evoked the natural world with a few strokes of suggestion.

Late Afternoon Razzle-Dazzle
6x6", acrylic on gessobord
nature / abstract

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Palette Cleanser

Needed to refresh my stay-wet palette. Hated to throw away leftover paint.

Playground rules:
• 6x6" gessoboard
• one brush
• one palette knife
• only the leftover paint on my palette
• 30 minutes

Muddied Waters
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roughin' It

A terrific week roughin' it at Takodah. Tuckin' in to a sleeping bag on a bunk at night. Chipmunks and bats sharing our cabin. Toilets in a separate building. Holes in screens. Awkwardnesses in my makeshift studio. A textured retreat into rough and rustic.

Yesterday, found myself roughin' it even more than usual as I painted. Had to hurry so as not to miss the fun of cheering participants in the family camp canoe/run/swim triathlon. Painted up a sketch with rough strokes. Liked the quick decisions, experiments, unexpected discoveries.

Paddled my paint, ran my ideas, stroked my brush, and crossed my own toilet-paper finish line, a little short of breath but pleased to be contending.

Claire's Not-Clutter, Office Porch
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Friday, August 21, 2015

Family Camp and Painting

Family camp is a painting—Takodah itself the canvas; the people and activities the paint; and each of us here an artist creating something that didn't exist before but now does.

I am so blessed
to be here
to be now
in this place
with these people.

From the Judy Steps
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

My studio today:

Grube studio shelf
Grube easel setup

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Takodah is a taproot in my life, a central core running deep. A gift beyond measure.

Here I am, infusing myself with all it has to offer which, this summer, includes painting. This morning my improvisational studio was even more makeshift than usual. Early skies were temporarily cloud-filled and there were no working lights on the enclosed porch in Grube, leaving me in poor lighting. I moved my easel to a chair so as to catch as much window light as possible and sat myself on a footstool so the easel was at a workable height. Kinda crazy. Completely wonderful.

Cass Pond called to me again as a painting subject. The soft light of early morning reflected the blue, green, and white I so love here, and the soft scene embodied the morning grace we sing at camp—God has created a new day, silver and green and gold, live that the sunset may find you worthy His gifts to hold.

God Has Created a New Day
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Another Camp Sketch

My makeshift Takodah studio is essence of what makes camp camp.

Simple. In the moment. Improvisational. Basic.

Did a paint sketch of evening light falling on trees across Cass Pond and reflecting.

A meditation.

Night is Drawing Nigh
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I'm at family camp at Takodah. Best place on earth! But not a place where I've ever painted before—except maybe to paint and varnish a stenciled butterfly on a cutting board at Hobby Nook.

Painting at family camp presents a whole new set of decisions and challenges. First of all, am I going to paint? And, if so, where? And when?

Suddenly, partway through the morning, I hefted my basket of painting stuff on my hip and headed to Grube, a tiny little bare bones cabin where I knew no one else was likely to be found on a magnificent August morning. Sure enough, empty.

OK, but there's not even a table. I improvised by setting my tabletop easel on a low shelf flanking a bank of windows through which sunlight poured directly into my face, pulled up a chair, and made do.

Takodah is all about simplicity and basics. I painted simply. And happily, capturing the ripples and reflections of Cass Pond.

'Tis a Gift to be Simple
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dressing Up

Story of honoring Meg and Michael's tenth wedding anniversary:

Wondered with Dave, Will we get a gift? Did anyone give us a gift at ten years? Are Meg and Michael themselves celebrating with a splash? What's the traditional theme for ten years? The modern theme?

Eventually decided, after brainstorming with no success, If a gift idea comes to mind and lights us up, we'll run with it.  If not, we'll send a card.

No gift idea grabbed us. OK, a card, but I'll paint it—can't buy a commercial card.

So, to my studio. Painted Shenandoah Valley Vows.

Independently of each other, Dave and I both thought, Let's frame it! And that felt just right.

At the frame shop, told the above story to the framer. Explained by way of summary, We want a frame somewhere in between doing nothing for an anniversary and going over the top.

Good listener, that framer: I have a ready-made frame that will complement your painting, and we'll cut a custom matte to fit.

Thanks, Universe!

Plus, pretty exciting to see the first bona fide framing of any of my paintings. Looks pretty good all dressed up!

Shenandoah Valley Vows, framed
5x7" art, 11x14 frame
[not for sale]

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Everything in Good Time

Turns out I was heading to an internal invention instead of full abstraction.

When I think of Camp Takodah, which I've been thinking about often because I'm spending a week there starting in a few hours (yay!), I think blue, green, and white.

Blue skies, green trees, white clouds.

Blue lake, green grass, white birches.

Blue camp jackets, green cabins, white candles.

I had that cherished place, and those colors, in mind the last two times I went to my studio. I also had in mind a wish to paint abstractly. As at Blue-and-White Day at Takodah, I could feel strong pulls in opposing directions; sure enough, the tug-of-war played out on my canvas. White won, by the way, in the form of gesso!

Then I felt a loosening, a letting go, a release from needing to play by the rules—in this case, self-imposed rules, for Pete's sake! And setting aside the rules turned out to be enough for me to find my painting voice again.

As one Takodah song goes, We've got the blue and white, and that's enough, rah rah rah!

Abstraction will come in its own good time, and the misfires of my earlier studies will be the campfire fuel for moving in that direction.

We've Got the Blue and White
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

In a Tangle with my Brain

Gessoed over my earlier study.

Started again.


Could feel myself getting cerebral, could see the mess in front of me.

Knew enough to stop.

Grabbed the gesso again.

Good thing!

untitled study

For the Record

Not for nothing is an artist's workspace/playground called a studio. Studio and study come from the same root. For sure, my studio is a place of investigation and inquiry, a place of experimentation and learning.

Takeaways from this quick study:
• Didn't catch on till after the fact that I was attempting to roll out two related but separate concepts simultaneously. Note to self—not a great idea.
• Had moments of flow and pleasure while applying paint; also had moments of barreling along knowing I was unfocused and rushed vs. intuitive and quick.
• I'm chomping at the bit to return to my studio, grab some gesso, and continue studying.

It's taking an inner push to post this study as is but I've chosen painting as a way to embrace being imperfect and enough.

Here I am!

untitled study
[not for sale]

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Flying by the Seat of my Pants

I'm keeping my wings flapping because I'd rather be flying than earthbound.

But this flying? It's by the seat of my pants, I tell ya.

I played again with the scene in the photo from Bo. A photo of a place I've never been, that probably barely does justice to the scene as viewed in person, and that isn't an easy reference for me because the darks, lights, textures, and composition don't lend themselves to an eye-popping painting—meaning the eye-popping part has to come from me!

Two days ago I painted with Bo in mind, which led me—without being conscious of what I was doing—to paint the scene so she'd recognize it. Porch Perspective was a reasonable replica that was fun to paint but didn't make me sing. One lesson: I want to paint more deeply from within.

The next day I approached the scene with a more expressionist mindset and more attention to color and contrast. I relied more on my internal compass than the photo. Feet Up on the Porch Railing got me humming a little but still not singing. Repeat discovery: I have so much to learn.

Well, nothing for it but to keep painting and learning.

Today, before painting, I selected the first abstract landscape that caught my eye online and sat with it. Let my eyes move in every direction. Breathed in the colors, the surprises, the lines, the darks and lights, the texture of the knife work. Kept sitting with it.

Then I went to my studio. I used a paint knife to apply 98% of the paint. I used a dry brush in some areas to scrub the applied paint. As soon as I felt a first ping of satisfaction, I closed up shop. I'm singing a little song. Awareness: I know so little, and the not knowing presents captivating problems to solve, engaging decisions to make.

I'm gonna keep flapping my wings.

Porch Peregrinations
5x7", acrylic on unstretched canvas
abstract landscape

Friday, August 14, 2015

Who Keeps Snapping on a Leash!

I pored over expressive/abstract landscapes online. I took deep breaths so as to inhale the essence of the photo I'd paint from, albeit one given to me so therefore not of a scene I'd experienced myself.

I unsnapped my realism leash and said, Run!

This is the same scene I'd painted the day before, and I did romp around a little more freely.

But someone kept snapping on a leash!

I'm thinking I'll sneak back out to play again tomorrow and see if I can stay unfettered.

Feet Up on the Porch Railing
5x7", acrylic on unstretched canvas

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Point of View

My friend Bo's summer has been other than expected way more than once already.

Disrupted … or enhanced?

Refreshingly rearranged … or discombobulated?

Jarring … or sweetly surprising?

Depends on your point of view. Bo turns her eye to the gifts.

When my painting efforts veer towards other than expected—and I veer towards other than pleased—I am grateful for Bo's lens.

Bo sent me a photo from one of her unexpected summer twists. I painted from it. Thanks, Bo!

Porch Perspective
5x7", acrylic on gessobord

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

'Fraidy Cat

Venturing. That's what today's playing in my studio was about.

Had admired roses on summer neighborhood walks for weeks. Kept putting off painting them, afraid to try.

Finally looked one in the eye, said You don't scare me!, picked up a brush.

Painted a first rose.

Up close, it looks like amateurish paint on canvas, which it is.

From a distance of about six feet, propped on my easel, it looks like a stunning velvet-petaled rose, which it also is.

I'm good with both.

6x6", acrylic on canvas board
[not for sale]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the Light of a New Day

Covered over yesterday's coneflower painting with a mulch of gesso and worked it all into the garden of my mind. Gave it a little hypnagogic water in the night. Woke to the light of a new day with new energy.

Sure enough, those coneflowers had much more liveliness than my brush accorded them yesterday!

• I was able to be 'precious'—using up scraps of watercolor paper squirreled away from other projects—while also being playful and loose and open, painting quickly and freely.
• The only painting class I ever took—and I didn't even know it involved painting when I signed up—was a collage class about fifteen years ago. Hated it. Jumped ship. Yet, what was my great pleasure today? Using paint to create a collage!

Very enjoyable. Especially loved being able to give my cobalt blue vase a nod.

Coneflower Caper
6x6", acrylic on gessobord and watercolor paper

Monday, August 10, 2015


I suppose these coneflowers could look more boring, but they're already doing a pretty good job of it! Not sure if I'll go back in to play with this painting on a different day, gesso over it to make way for something new, or pitch it—it's already got a previous painting under a layer of gesso.

Wanting to paint flowers. That's where I am right now. And so I painted flowers, without knowing what style I might want. I'll see what evolves as I feel my way into this new subject. Certainly have countless flowers in our gardens that'd be happy to have their portraits painted.

Coneflowers in Cobalt Blue
6x6", acrylic on gessobord
[not for sale]

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Series! Seriously!

Thought I was done with spacious skies for now.  But, no.

Had yet another sky clamoring for self-expression.

Went in and out of flow as I painted.

In flow:  got bolder with color, more generous with paint; let undertones show through.

Out of flow:  got fussy, went back in a few times when I knew better.


I didn't set out to do a series.  But, guess what:  a series!

Painting skies again and again—so much to experience, so much to learn.

Painted my spacious skies almost entirely from internal landscapes rather than external visual references. New for me. Exciting!

Cotton Candy, Crane Beach
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Thanks, Jay!

Love that I have satellite sky observers working on my behalf. Thanks for sending a photo, Jay!

Painting up this summer sky was pure delight on a summer afternoon that was already pure delight.

Eye on the Sky
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Friday, August 7, 2015

In that Place

Time, in fact, 
is the whole point and purpose of summer, 
time by the armful, 
time heaped up and overflowing, 
the way it was when we were younger 
and schools closed down in June, 
revealing an expanse of time 
in front of us 
like a tree-lined allĂ©e 
into forever. 
And it takes time 
just to get used to time, 
to adjust our rhythms. 
Slow the pulse. 
Summer is cumulative 
and needs to pile up, 
attain a certain mass, 
at which point 
the days stop being days 
and melt together to become a place, 
a self-contained, 
motionless country 
wholly set apart from time 
and containing within its boundaries 
all summers past and future.

-Barbara Holland, Endangered Pleasures 

Rosy-Fingered, Englishman Bay
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lighting Up the Circuit Board

Nothin' like an electrical storm to recharge the batteries.

Energy surging out of my brush, lighting up the circuit board of cones and rods in my eyes.

Conomo Cauldron
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Yesteryear, Today

What did I do two summers ago when I hadn't yet taken up painting? Couldn't tell ya.

Do remember yesteryears from way back when I spent timeless days at West Beach with my three little ducklings.

Today, an internal landscape again. Didn't put my brush away the first time my inner voice said, stop.

But did stop just a few brushstrokes later!

Tide ebbing and flowing.

Paint ebbing and flowing.

West Beach Ebb Flow
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Took myself back to Camp Takodah via paintbrush.

Walked over to Davis Field.

Dallied a few times on the trail when I might have done better to keep walking.

Returned in the afternoon, covered a bunch of my morning tracks, kept a quick pace.

Felt great.

Walking to Davis Field
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Monday, August 3, 2015

Stick, Goop, Magic

Paraphrasing Carol Marine, I take a stick with little hairs on it, rub goop around with it, and create a 2-dimensional illusion of a 3-dimensional world. Magic!

In this case, a magical view of Cass Pond at Camp Takodah.

This painting appeals to me for its frank awkwardnesses.

As I painted, in my mind I was at Cass Pond in Richmond, NH, my world consisting of the trees encircling the water and the vast sky above.

When I stepped out of my reverie and stood back afterwards to take stock, I saw what I think of as a Grandma-Moses-ish lack of perspective.

Makes me smile.

Richmond Riches
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Midsummer Haiku

Always confronting
the next thing I don't know. A
ceaseless beginner.


Started bold and loose, pushing paint around like clay, enjoying process and product.

Bumped into my inexperience with color values.


Noticed fussing and tightening and things not working. Walked away.

Went to yoga class.

Gessoed over part of my painting.

Moved into other parts of my day.

Returned. Got knocked around a bit.

Favorite part? Reaching the point of laughing—this is a disaster!—and then just painting without a care.

Conomo without a Care
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Weather and Walking

Once I'd got my bearings again and reset my intention to paint quickly and loosely, I gessoed over my Conomo Point painting from the previous day. Phew!

By road, Crane Beach is around ten miles away from Conomo Point.  As the crow flies, about two and half. In my mind, a split second. I took the shortest route and grabbed my paint brush.

I painted with a weather-and-walking mindset. I know weather always passes. I know when I walk the scene in front of me passes. I painted quickly. Didn't fuss.

Kept on walking. Walked away.

Walking Crane Beach
6x6", acrylic on canvas board