Two Lilas


I took Romeo to the other lake yesterday afternoon. This lake stays very shallow for quite a ways out so it is a wonderful playground for children and dogs. As I had hoped there were lots of children and a couple of dogs. One was a beautiful golden retriever, the other a black Portuguese Water Dog. The children came over to us and were entertained by and entertaining Romeo, now nine weeks old. Then the mothers and dogs came over. We exchanged names and pleasantries. To my surprise, the black Portie is named Lila, the same name as my last dog, also a Portie, also black. I’m glad they don’t live too near.

I’m introducing Romeo to as many new people and experiences as possible. I’ve read that it is good to have your puppy meet and be fondled by 100 people during weeks 8 to 12. Apparently this is a “fear period“ so it is helpful to expose him to as much as possible. He’s doing well with this, a little hesitant sometimes but then gets into it. We met the neighbors across the road this afternoon. They have a ten year old chocolate lab who played with and put up with Romeo’s puppies. Talking about variety of possibilities, in the photo above, Romeo is enjoying a venison popsicle! It was impossible to get a photo where he kept his head still; he was enjoying himself so much on a very hot day.

Sometimes I think about painting! I would really like to but know how fast this time passes and how important it is to start off right. I am working on crate training so I can have some time to paint, but I must admit, I’m really enjoying spending all my time with Romeo. I did get to tai chi class last night but only stayed an hour. Maybe the whole class next week. And more. Maybe even studio time!

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It’s that time of year

The Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts Studio Tour is on for the next three days. Studio Tour invitation. It’s from 10 am to 5 pm. My studio is somewhat clean with fresh paper on the floor and some new work finished or almost finished.

My attention for the past week has been on puppy care: getting ready, getting him, and the 24 hour attention a eight week old puppy needs. So, besides touring my studio and the artwork, do come by and play with Romeo!

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Here’s Romeo!


He’s an eight week old Portuguese Water Dog. I brought him back home last night after two days of travel to the other end of Cape Breton to get him. Spent the night in Baddeck where I will be giving a four-day workshop in September. Of course Romeo will go with me then! It was a wonderful stop-over and I look forward to going back.  Romeo was warmly welcomed by everyone there.

He’s as cute as they come! Very affectionate, lively, friendly and the first puppy I’ve had who can climb stairs at eight weeks! They called him Houdini at the breeders: he would climb over the playpen fence to go tousle with Lily, their one year old Portie. Last night He unlocked his kennel gate and lay on the floor.

He’s puppy number five for me and I still have lots to learn from him. It’s been two years since I had a dog. A hard time waiting, but, after the first few months,  I did get used to all that extra time to myself. Nevertheless I do prefer having the company of a dog and once I recover from the first few months, I hope to get back to a sensible schedule. This week, no painting! That’s hard but I knew what I was getting in to so that’s what it is.

In a way, it is hard not to compare him to my last dog who died at age eight two years ago. This one is more affectionate and hopefully easier and healthier. I loved her very deeply but love is not singular, and even though the two dogs are different in temperament, I will always love her. Now I am grateful he is as he is. It’s puppy love all over again!

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Got the blues


Lately, I’ve been struggling with blue. Again. I have several blue paintings on the go and each of them seems to have a different problem to solve.

My main issue with blue is that it can be too pretty and I don’t want that. But then, if I make it dark and brooding, sometimes there is just nothing to see. So I suppose I could say it’s how to put the spices in the mix. Not just struggling with blue, but what will make it more than blue.

I’ll take one more kick at it today.

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Living the toreador


I love a challenge. Keeps me on my toes. Of course, painting is that, always. As well, I’ve been having a great time lately teaching. I’ve had three different places around the Province where I am or did teach recently. Each group is so different.

The most recent group was eager to have homework. I suggested they take a painting (in this case, Manet’s The Dead Toreador), and use it as a takeoff for an abstract painting. The inspiration can come from the composition, the use of color, the essential drama of the painting.

That painting has a lot of resonance for me. I grew up near Washington, D.C. and used to go there on weekends when I was in High School and hang out with my favorite paintings. The Dead Toreador was one of my most favorites. It has so much strength in the silence of the way the dead body lies across the broad expanse of the painting. The strategic use of color, bold composition. I find Manet’s paintings very powerful. Very close to my heart.

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Suppose we do


Yesterday, when painting, I had a major insight about how to work with the color field. I have been working on some blue paintings, not my easiest color choice. But I like the challenge and when they work, at least in the past, they are very strong. These were giving me a hard time. I was about to throw in the towel.

I had been thinking I needed to limit the marks I make in order to get closer to the impact I created with the more limited palette (for the exhibit at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery). But then I realized I needed just the opposite, to make a more complex field. Instead of less scribbly marks, use more. Subtly of course. And it seems to be working. At least for a while.

It’s funny how these things just happen.

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Starting again (and again)


I’ve often heard it is hard to work when you have an exhibit on. I’ve not experienced that before now. Usually when I have work up in a gallery, I am very critical of what I have done, see what needs to be done next, where to go, and am directed by that.  This time, with the exhibit at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (up for one more week), I have had a very different experience. Possibly because I created most of the work specifically for this exhibit and was so focused on that for the past year, I now feel unexpected hesitation and questions.

Thinking about it now, I can see how keeping the main color range limited in this work actually increased the variety of marks and colors used in what I call the “image” of the painting. It’s a very different feeling from what I had been doing for quite a while. I think, but of course won’t really know until I have done it, I will continue mainly from here, not try and invent the wheel again. Just keep rolling along.

Note: Installation photos credit Steve Farmer

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