Long ideas


I started work on a big project: two 3’ x 10’ paintings. It’s a shape I would never have imagined myself using. But a friend was selling the stretchers and I couldn’t resist the challenge. And it is a challenge. I am, and always have been, more comfortable with a vertical imagination. Lines, space, form always added up to a tall image. I want to avoid landscape references. In abstract painting, a landscape format is often used. So these very horizontal canvases are definitely unique for me.

To my surprise, the paintings are evolving much differently than I had expected when I first imagined this project.  I had thought I would be using horizontal lines and expanding the space by the way they moved variously across the canvases. But I am, still, using a more vertical image. The broad expanse feels tall.

I am keeping a running photo log of the process but don’t feel I can share it just yet. Maybe later. The above image is one of two 7″ x 5″ postcards I sent to the Old Lockup Gallery in Cromford, Derbyshire, UK for a fundraiser, September 1. Check it out if you are nearby!

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Alone with all of us


Last weekend, July 14, 15, 16 that is, I was part of the Peggy’s Cove Festival of the Arts. That meant I had Open Studio Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Long hours; lots of people passing through. The best part was my studio hadn’t been that clean since I moved in! It isn’t so clean anymore, but that’s fine. The visitors and the conversations and seeing my work in a more or less clean space was very inspiring. So my studio is getting messy again. And it feels good.

It did take me a few days to recover. I’m not used to talking to so many people over such a long span of time. It was a good weekend, seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while, seeing other artists, meeting new people, and getting positive feedback on my work. Of course, the people who didn’t like it, didn’t say anything. Three women came in, took a quick look, asked me to sign their page saying they had been here, and left. I said to them, that’s it? Other people stayed, asked question, enjoyed the visit.

Most of the time I have no idea what people are or will think of my paintings. I keep challenging myself to explore and sometimes I find I scare myself with what I dig up. Seems like I have many people inside my head, talking about what to do with my work. I don’t need friends or enemies. I’m busy with my own thoughts. It’s more, who, i.e., which thought, do I follow. Seems like the most bold are getting more attention these days. I will follow through with the discomfort, and listen, and just do it.

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When I was in NYC recently, my grandson, who is an extremely accomplished musician and composer, was asked if he worked with a plan in mind. His answer was the same as my way of working: he/we just start and see what happens. There is usually a germ of an idea, something that is pressing to be expressed. One thing leads to another, with constant choices along the way. Possibly that approach runs in the family.

Robert Rauschenberg, in his exhibit at MoMA. Among Friends, described his collaborative aesthetic: you get together some people and you just do it. With or without friends, you do just do it. As long as you do it, it happens.


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NYC – A bite of the big apple


After a week in NYC, I’m home to my own quiet jungle. New York was lovely. A strange word to use to label that city. But it felt very soft. Warm, sunny and safe with family and friends.

The main purpose was my grandson’s high school graduation. The ceremony itself was exceptional. Forty students each made a video expressing, more or less, their feelings about graduating. Mostly gratitude, some antics, some clever, all sincere. A very talented, intelligent group of students.

I also was fortunate to see the Rauschenberg retrospective exhibit at MoMA. I saw a lot of his work when I lived in Manhattan. There were videos in the exhibit of his set designs for Merce Cunningham’s dances. The show brought back so many memories of my days in New York, how accessible art was in those days. Just walking out the door was an easy trip to a museum or gallery. These days it is a big event that doesn’t happen often. I don’t mind, actually like my quiet life. But then, I have seen so much, and easily. I don’t really feel a need to chase down excitement. There is plenty, right here inside my mind and memories.

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Twiddle Dee & Twiddle Dum


So . . . I’ve been working on a new group of paintings, started in the last month or two. Because I had a three month hiatus, didn’t paint at all (rare for me), it feels like I could have a fresh start now, a new view. I’ve been asked a few times if these paintings are different and if so how. I can’t really answer that question. I don’t know. I’m continuing on, hoping that I am progressing, discovering, learning, growing. All of that. But I just don’t know.

I would like them to be more open, to be stronger. But at the same time, they must be subtle and suggestive. Again, I just don’t know if they are changing. Maybe I need an outside eye or probably, just to keep going. From experience, that works best. I have to trust myself and so painting more will tell me what I am doing.

One thing I am discovering is that I am finding the high contrast paintings, ones where the “field” is more muted, a pale color, come together more easily. I feel more “satisfied”. I am struggling mostly with the “beautiful” colors, the blues and the reds. But I keep going and I will get there. I don’t know how, but I will.

Because the high contrast ones are working so well, it makes what I usually do not work, not as satisfactory. It never ends!

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Constructing composition


Last week when I was walking in the woods with a neighbor and our dogs, I mentioned that I had been awake part of the night planning the exercise I was going to use in my painting class that morning. She wondered what it would be like to be “creative”. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine life otherwise, but just said it’s a twenty-four hour, non-stop way of being; it just is. Keeps me wondering how to approach all kinds of things. In this case, it’s the importance of composition in abstract painting.

A student once asked me what makes a good abstract painting. I had to think about it over the week, then came to the understanding it is how the work is organized, the composition. So I have been teaching a six week workshop on composition and will teach the same material, more or less again in Annapolis Royal in October. This current group is my set of guinea pigs. They actually are enjoying my experiments.

The project I worked with in the class last week revolved around using line to begin and or organize the work. Previously we had, among other things, used shapes. The challenge for me, as always, is how to communicate about a non-verbal process and awaken ideas in the students that they might not have had otherwise. Yes, creativity. It’s fascinating to me, developing ways to express ideas. Even on the way to the class I change the project, expand, revise it. In the end, the exercise was successful for everyone. And I slept well that night!

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Suppose We Do

The last exhibit I had at the Orange Gallery, I called Coincidentally. The current one is Suppose We Do. These phrases are born from the way I work. Not planned, just accidents, possibilities, suggestions, choices. If I did know what I was going to do, how the painting would become, it would lose what makes it vital. There is no certainty, just the search.

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