Saturday, February 25, 2012

Speaking of Trees...

Hickory Ridge Oak-one of my favorite trees
...which I often am; I wanted to let you know about a wonderful book. It was introduced to me by a participant in my Experimenting with Watercolor and Pastel class at the Lexington Art Academy, which affirms once again the notion that teachers learn as much as their students in class.  Deborah brought in a book simply titled: Oak.  The subtitle is: One Tree, Three Years, Fifty Paintings. Artist Stephen Taylor found himself lost after losing both parents and an important love. He was not sure where to turn next in his life and work when some friends invited him to paint at their farm in Essex where he discovered his oak. As the subtitle suggests, Taylor spent three years studying and painting the tree in all kinds of weather, day and night (there are some wonderful night time paintings.) He found his way again simply by observing closely a single spot on earth.

        This rings true for me. Trees physically link heaven and earth with their tall stature. This is true in paintings as well as life. They also link us with eternity as they often live to be hundreds of years old. Stephen Taylor's tree, for example, "was already home to skylarks and starlings when Jane Austen was a baby and George III the ruler of the American colonies" (from the foreword by Alain de Botton.)  The chinquapin oak at Floracliff is thought to be over 400 years old. So in a time of rapid change and loss, trees can be of great comfort. They are naturally beautiful and provide shade and shelter as well as paper and wood.  I highly recommend this book:  Oak: One Tree, Three Years, Fifty Paintings, by Stephen Taylor, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, New York, 2012. Thanks, Deborah!

   p.s. There are two Experimenting with Watercolor & Pastel classes coming up at the Lexington Art Academy.  Please go to: for more information and registration.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Jour de Noel, Strasbourg
Last month, I posted the underpainting of my painting of my favorite tree in Strasbourg, France. (Please see, Underpinnings, January 24, 2012.) Now I have added the layers of pastel and more watercolor and more pastel. It was a bit of work to do justice to this beautiful tree. It is a sycamore or plane tree. They are a favorite tree used to line the streets in Europe, as they are here. But in Europe they have a method of pruning the trees, called pollarding, so that they have knobby and massive limbs with willowy shoots.

    I had not been in Europe in December since my first trip to Europe (34 years ago.) I was quite taken with the beautiful quality of the afternoon sky, which seemed to be both cool and warm at the same time. Although it rained almost every day we were in France, Christmas Day the sun shone with this lovely light. This light was also a challenge; it was diffuse, but illuminating.

    Are you interesting in trying out this combination of mediums? There are two opportunities coming up. I will be teaching Experimenting with Watercolor & Pastel at the Lexington Art Academy. The next class begins March 1st, on Thursdays form 7 - 9 pm, four sessions.  There is an afternoon session, beginning Tuesday, April 3rd, 1:30 - 3:30 pm.  Please check out all the courses available on:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Sanctuary of Limits

At the recommendation of my doctor, I am spending time downstairs on the BodyTrac Glider. A small window provides the view. Outside are the River Birch, Contorted Filbert (Harry Lauder's Walking Stick), Euonymus and ivy. Several seasons of leaves had collected in the screen and more than a few seasons of life were deposited on the window. Spring is coming and I was moved to actually clean the window and clear the screen of the bounty of oak leaves. What a satisfying bit of action! I can feel and see Spring coming on as I row away.

       Simultaneously, at my church, we are in the process of planning a refurbishment of the Parish Hall. As we move from the dream phase to the reality of making everyone sort of happy, limits are superimposed on the project. I had a couple of ideas that I illustrated and presented to parishioners. Since there was something visible to react to, people did, including myself! Other design ideas were brought forth as well. All this made me think about the project with new possibilities, because of the limits that were constructed. Now, new possibilities are coming to mind. It is the limitations and the need to consider others' ideas that are making it so exciting.  I am dreaming of a sunny corner for coffee and greeting...

     This week, I attended an art event called Sanctuary at the Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center, University of Kentucky. It was a collaboration between a visual artist and a vocal artist (who also happened to be a clothing artist.) The visual artist's approach to a work was to begin and see where the work was telling her to go, without judgment. She used all kinds of materials as well. The one I was most taken with was the walnut ink she made herself by collecting walnuts all over town. The possibilities seemed limitless. Afterward, Meg showed me her display of Kentucky artist books. She had some artist books out for a class as well and one in particular impressed her and she took me through it (that is how it felt.) It was a dizzying new world of possibilities.

     The truth is that the world is full of endless possibilities, good and bad. Fortunately, we are mortals and have natural limits. I believe this is a positive thing. As I approach Spring this year, I am going to take a fresh look at what my limited possibilities are and how I might use them. Some years ago, a woman made a statement that has stayed with me all this time. In fact, it is becoming truer and truer. She said, "I spent the first half of my life gathering things and I'm spending the second half trying to get rid of them." So gather the leaves and clean the windows! See what is there.