Flirting With the Sky

“Maybe we would be better as friends-with-benefits?”

—Ellyn Siftar (guest blog post)

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Guest Blog Post by Ellyn Siftar*

I’m a 45-year-old mother of four who has spent the past two decades of her life running a household, raising my kids, and trying to keep it all together.  I knew little of the contemporary artists and had no experience with artistic practices.  Tired of the repetitive nature of the work-home-work-home cycle, three years ago I quit my job and went back to school.  I felt old and stupid and overwhelmed by the workload.  The second semester I decided to “treat” myself to an art class as a way to combat the stress of my other classes. It was no cake walk.  In fact, I spent more time agonizing over my homework in that drawing class than any other class. 

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This summer, after realizing how intimidated I was by oil paints, I decided I was going to woo them into a loving relationship by making a daily rendezvous with them.  Each morning, afternoon, or evening, I selected a few colors and tried my hand at mixing a hue which seemed to match the sky at that moment.  In three colors or less, I painted with a brush or palette knife, on one small patch of canvas.  This color represented the spit of sky between the neighbors’ garages observable from my window. 

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By the end of the summer, I think my pursuit of paints has led me to regular trysts.  I wouldn’t say we are serious.  I think the world of her, but sometimes it feels like work trying to keep the passion hot. Maybe we would be better as friends-with-benefits?  

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*Author’s note: I’m grateful for the friend who clued me in to Byron Kim’s work, Sunday Painting,  (https://hyperallergic.com/421526/byron-kim-sunday-paintings-james-cohan-2018/

Ellyn is currently pursuing a major in Philosophy and minors in Art and Biology at Moravian College.

Morning Sketches

“A child’s attitude toward everything is an artist’s attitude.”

—Willa Cather

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This morning, my 8-year-old son Morgan called to me from the living room: “Mom, come quick and draw me! The cat is sleeping on my lap!” So I stopped washing dishes and came over. Here are two sketches!

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It’s fun to start the day with a quick sketch or two… Here is a recent sketch I did of my 11-year-old daughter, Nell, practicing the viola in the morning. I can’t believe she is in middle school now!!

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Recently we spent the weekend at my sister’s house, where we had a big family gathering. I did some more little sketches of my sister nursing her new baby.

 This is my sister Karen, nursing her new baby on Sunday morning. (More such sketches on my  Motherhood  blog post.)

This is my sister Karen, nursing her new baby on Sunday morning. (More such sketches on my Motherhood blog post.)

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So, that’s all for today. I have a lot on my plate right now with family and art and business, and I’m struggling to do all the things I need to do right now while also getting enough rest. So…. I’ve decided to lower my standards a little and let the blog take a back seat for awhile. I’ll try to continue to write blog posts fairly regularly, but I might not be doing it on a weekly basis. And sometimes, they will be short, sweet, and simple, like this one.

Give yourself permission to rest today!

I love you as you are.

"Do not work too hard, but work all the time."

--Ken Kewley

  "I love you as you are."   oil on board, 17x23"

"I love you as you are."  oil on board, 17x23"

My kids started school last week, and I'm slowly finding my way back into my natural creative rhythm.  I really  thrive on routine!  My ideal Studio Practice starts with some yoga in the morning, and maybe a walk or a little journaling, and then a juicy block of time in my studio from 10 am- 3 pm.  Afternoons, the kids are home and the activities and family obligations take over, and that is a beautiful thing, too!

I intend to work steadily in my studio, but in moderation.  "Do not work too hard, but work all the time," is something my artist friend Ken told me, and it's probably the best advice I've ever had.  I'm going to listen to my body's signs of stress and not overwork it, and hopefully avoid a return of the long-term pain I have had in the past.  (See "With a Light Heart.")

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So, I'm being gentle with myself as I get back into my studio.  I spend time puttering and organizing all my art supplies.  I indulge in some Intentional Loitering.  I lie on the floor of my studio and do some of the quiet breathing meditations that I learned from therapy.*

I tell myself:  "I love you as you are." 

I buy myself flowers...and...I PAINT!!

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*My infinite gratitude goes to Ixeeya Beacher and Dr. Valerie Turner, PT, DPT.  Both of these amazing women have helped me so much with the life-changing physical therapy they provided when I needed it.

Interview with Kristen Peyton

"I invite my viewer into my experience of awe and fullness of presence to something mundane and often missed. My hope is that my painted colors resonate and evoke a response of wonder."

--Kristen Peyton

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Note from Lauren:  I hope you enjoy this email interview I conducted with my friend, the artist Kristen Peyton.  Kristen's paintings will be on display this weekend at Lauren Kindle Studio.

  "Resonance" opening reception: Friday, July 27th, 6-9 pm

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Lauren Kindle (LK):  How did you decide to become a painter?  Describe your educational path and various experiences that have molded you as an artist.

 

Kristen Peyton (KP):  I began painting at a very young age. My childhood babysitter first had the inclination that I would be an artist. She told my parents she had never seen another child color the way I did, focused and devoted. Soon, weeks of Art Camp and extracurricular art classes filled my childhood summers and school years.

I continued my engagement with painting and drawing through high school and into college, receiving a Bachelor of Arts, from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in May of 2012. William and Mary provided a comprehensive studio art education built upon an extensive foundations study, focused on drawing, painting, and print-making from observation. My William and Mary professors were engaged, passionate, and practicing artists, who greatly enriched and deepened my understanding of and confidence in the visual arts. I am grateful for their lasting influence and continued encouragement and support. 

Although a dedicated painter from a young age and a student of art in college, I struggled after graduating to take charge of my own artistic development and find adequate time to paint. I spent the next three years working in non-art related fields, yet, with each profession I wrestled with dissatisfaction, discovering through trial and error that art was clamoring to become my life’s vocation. Thus, I began to intensify my focus.  In the summer of 2015, I attended the Mount Gretna School of Art in central Pennsylvania. MGSoA taught me how to be the agent of my own development as an artist. The following fall, I moved to New Hampshire to pursue a Master of Fine Art in Painting at the University of New Hampshire. I graduated in May of 2017. After earning my MFA, I attended the Jerusalem Studio School’s Masterclass in Civita Castellana, Italy, where I met Lauren and formed a lasting friendship with her and other dedicated painters.

I currently live in Richmond, Virginia, and work as the Director and Curator of the Flippo Gallery at Randolph-Macon College and adjunct instructor of studio art at Randolph-Macon and William and Mary.

 

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LK:  Describe your process of making a painting from beginning to end.

 

KP:  I am interested in small, unassuming scenes that present instances of visual tension created through the juxtaposition of opposing aesthetic elements. These simple moments amplify an intriguing phenomenon I seek to capture in my work—any given motif can be banal and yet, mysterious. Much of my work lacks figure or set-up, not because I do not enjoy painting these subjects, but rather, because I am attentive to what surrounds me. I am always on the lookout for intriguing color interactions and geometries by which I can make a painting. I am constantly composing paintings with my eye and mind before picking up brush and paint. Once I have spotted what it is I want to paint, I overcome the obstacles to set up and paint in front of what I’ve found. At times, this has meant driving two and half hours to return to a painting I composed in my head while driving and setting up to paint on the side of the road. Usually, this simply means that I drag my easel to the back yard or side street.

 

I begin painting by going after the geometries and color interactions that had originally caught my eye. I negotiate in tandem the picture’s color relationships and compositional structure. Color and composition relate to one another like sides of a Ribik’s Cube, as one decision impacts and dictates another. I mix paint with a palette knife to pursue a specify and clarity of color. I apply paint with both palette knife and brush and use little to no medium. The final and hardest part of my painting process is deciding to stop when the painting is done. The ability to pay close attention to my painting to know when to set down my palette knife and stop and when to keep painting is a skill in which I am still maturing.

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LK:  Who are some artists that have influenced you, both past and present?

KP:  I have been most impacted by artists whose works I have had the privilege to stand in front of and see. It is through an experience of awe with the physical presence of an artist’s work that I have been most influenced. I shared one such experience of awe with Lauren while looking at the work of Masolino and Masaccio in the Brancacci chapel in Florence last year. We both stood awestruck at Masaccio’s monumentality of form and vitality of color. This experience recalled a similar one a year prior in Arezzo of being enveloped and invited into the serene presence of Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle. Likewise, I hold with me the feelings of wonderment I felt in front of Degas’ experimental and poetic monotypes at the MOMA in 2016. Artist such as Diebenkorn, Matisse, and Cezanne have demanded my attention and instructed me in new ways of creating pictorial space and compositional structure. Vermeer, Morandi, Vuillard, and Bonnard have illuminated to me new possibilities of color sensibility. At other times as with the work of Arthur Dove, Bill Traylor, James Castle and Paul Klee the what of what it is I am learning is less obvious to me, but I find myself fascinated.

 

Yet, I imagine it is my friends and past teachers whose influences I carry most closely at hand. I have had the privilege to study under Susan Jane Walp, Gillian Pederson-Krag, Brian Rego, Catherine Drabkin, John LeeNicole Santiago, Elizabeth Mead, and Brian Kreydatus.  I have learned much from both their paintings and their presence.

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LK:  What do you find is your biggest challenge or block to your artist life?

 

KP:  I am at my worst when I become self-conscious and get trapped inside my own head, which I hate to confess does happen especially when I am preparing for a show. I find my work suffers most when I demand too much from it—wanting it to impress, hoping to win the affirmation of others or wishing my work to be sellable and monetarily sustaining. I have found an acute difference lies between striving and straining in painting.

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LK:  What advice would you give to artists just starting out, or to yourself ten years ago?

KP:  Seek to study under generous and good teachers and find places, whether through residencies, workshops, or organically, by which you can form and nurture painting friendships. It is your teachers and friends who will challenge you, inspire you, and advocate for your continued development. Cultivate an ability to learn from all things, even if it is simply what not to do. Take charge of your own learning and devote time for your continued development. You are your own best advocate. Set up studio visits, visit museums, buy paintings you like and can learn from if you can at all afford them, be disciplined and sincere in your work but don’t take yourself too seriously, you’re painting in 2018 after all!

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LK:  You have said “Color is what I’m after in my paintings.”  Can you elaborate?
 

KP:  Although color envelops us it is not easily named or pinned down. It is elusive, dynamic, and temporal, presenting a game of cat and mouse for the artist seeking its capture. Color and its incomparable ability to portray a sensation of light upon canvas is what I am after.   With each painting I respond to surprises of color discovered in my everyday surroundings and seek to paint its intrigue.

 

LK:  Your upcoming show in Easton PA is called “Resonance.”  Why did you choose that title?

KP:  Resonance evokes a musical fullness and variety of sound. Merriam-Webster describes it as “the intensification and enriching of a musical tone by supplementary vibration.” As with music, the rich and versatile identity of a color is revealed only in its relationships to supplementary or neighboring colors. Merriam-Webster adds to resonance, “a quality of evoking response.” To borrow the words of Euan Uglow, “I am painting an idea not an ideal”—a remembered impression rather than a meticulous rendering.

I compose structured paintings that aim at depicting a satisfying harmony of control and abandon, imbued with poetic emotion. I invent, omit, and simplify whenever necessary, intending to arrive at a pleasing balance between described observation and remembered impression.   I invite my viewer into my experience of awe and fullness of presence to something mundane and often missed. My hope is that my painted colors resonate and evoke a response of wonder.

 

LK:  How does teaching art inform your practice as a working artist?

 

KP:  Teaching creates a hunger within me to paint.  In my 2D Foundations class at William and Mary I spend a portion of the semester teaching students how to perceive and paint sensations of color. I have found that when I spend time opening my student’s eyes to new ways of seeing value and color, my eyes are subsequently primed and my sensibilities fine-tuned. For me, there has been great reciprocity in teaching and painting as one mutually nourishes the other.

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Casa Bella, Città Bella

"I will broaden the boundaries of my days to include that slow, Italian sense of time."

--my diary, the day after returning home, reflections of my time in Italy

 flowers at the  Easton Farmer's market , my first day back home from Italy

flowers at the Easton Farmer's market, my first day back home from Italy

This is my final blog post about Italy: reflections upon returning home.  This post also contains all my Italy-related posts, together, at the end, for your convenience.  Thank you for following my journey!

July 28th, 2017 (my diary)

I'm home.  I came home last night.  Ian picked me up at the airport yesterday.  We stopped for espresso on the way home. (I have developed a real liking for espresso!) I'm soooo tired today.  Happy.  I felt domestic, and I went for a long walk around town getting special treats to make a delicious dinner... I went up the hill and bought olives and sausage at the Italian deli.  I also went to the farmer's market and bought lettuce and tomatoes, veggies and peaches. 

 Peaches at the farmer's market.  They are saying: "Paint us!  Paint us!!"

Peaches at the farmer's market.  They are saying: "Paint us!  Paint us!!"

I went to visit a local artist friend and I talked exuberantly about my experience for two hours!

I'm pretty tired.  It will take me a long time to write about my adventures.  But for now, I'd like to say that I have a good feeling about doing art in a broader way.  Preparing, thinking, listening, looking: these more passive tasks are just as important as actually putting paint on canvas.  [I elaborated further on this in a blog post called "Intentional Loitering."]

I will broaden the boundaries of my days to include that slow, Italian sense of time.  I'll allow myself to enjoy cooking, singing, music, and all those simple, good things in life.

I'm going to have more fun and put more focus on my compositions.  I'll play around with colors and collage, and abstraction.  I'll try some still life paintings in the style of Susan Jane Walp.  (She was an artist I met in Italy.  See "Loveliest of What I Leave Behind.")

Life is so good.  I was also realizing, as I walked around my city today, that Easton is beautiful.  I thought maybe it would be depressing, coming back to the United States after having been in Italy, but it's so beautiful here!   I really see beauty everywhere: the alleys, the market, the streets, the river, the flowers...

 flowers in my garden

flowers in my garden

July 29, 2017 (my diary)

Up early in the morning, missing my espresso.  I have to settle for a small strong black of coffee in a small cup.  I ordered a macchinetta and two cute little espresso cups online yesterday.  I'm looking at an art book of Piero della Francesca paintings, and feeling nostaligc about my wonderful (and exhausting) field trip to Urbino, Arezzo, and Sensepolcro... wandering ancient streets with my artist friends, so wonderfully happy, so lost in a maze of cobbled alleys and vistas and rolling hills, talking about art until my heart expanded.  It must have doubled or tripled in size!

[Talking about art:  see Laura Vahlberg:  10 Tips on Painting, Lessons Learned in Civita Castellana, Italy]

 A little sketch I did in my apartment in Italy.  You can see I was greatly influenced by my new addiction to espresso, and what I learned from listening to  Susan Jane Walp , a resident art teacher there.

A little sketch I did in my apartment in Italy.  You can see I was greatly influenced by my new addiction to espresso, and what I learned from listening to Susan Jane Walp, a resident art teacher there.

August 22, 2017 (my diary)

I'm struggling with feeling badly about my output in Italy.  [My Paintings and Sketches from Italy.]  I was just so overwhelmed there.  It wasn't that kind of trip for me.  Someday I would like to do an artist residency where the focus is on production.  But this Italy trip was about something else.  I have to trust that I did the right thing, that my intuition led me on a true path.

Is it still inside of me?  Will it grow and bear fruit?  Or will I slowly lose it, as it fades in memory...?

August 23, 2017

Italy is over.  Two damn sad.

It feels just like a dream...

 "Playing Around" one of my first paintings upon my return home, a little espresso cup. 10x10.5"  I'm very much influenced by my encounter with Susan Jane Walp, who also frequently paints an "imperfect square."  Read:  " Loveliest of What I Leave Behind ."   

"Playing Around" one of my first paintings upon my return home, a little espresso cup. 10x10.5"

I'm very much influenced by my encounter with Susan Jane Walp, who also frequently paints an "imperfect square."  Read:  "Loveliest of What I Leave Behind."

 

My love-affair with my new Macchinetta Continues:

 "Macchinetta" oil on canvas, 9x12"

"Macchinetta" oil on canvas, 9x12"

 " Volevo Scriverte Lettere " oil on canvas, 11x14"  (Translation: I wanted to write you letters.)

"Volevo Scriverte Lettere" oil on canvas, 11x14"  (Translation: I wanted to write you letters.)

 "Caffè e fragole" oil on board 9x12" (Translation: coffee and strawberries.)

"Caffè e fragole" oil on board 9x12" (Translation: coffee and strawberries.)

 "Morning Alone" 3.5x4.75" collage with painted paper

"Morning Alone" 3.5x4.75" collage with painted paper

 "A Traveller in Italy" oil on board, 8x10"  There is a postcard of a  Piero della Franchesca fresco  as well as a little green business card with pink flowers, which belongs to an artist I met who greatly inspired me:  Christina Renfer Vogel .  You can see here, again, the influence of the artist  Susan Jane Walp , whom I met in Italy.

"A Traveller in Italy" oil on board, 8x10"  There is a postcard of a Piero della Franchesca fresco as well as a little green business card with pink flowers, which belongs to an artist I met who greatly inspired me: Christina Renfer Vogel.  You can see here, again, the influence of the artist Susan Jane Walp, whom I met in Italy.

Here are ALL of my Italy-related blog posts!

Dreaming of Italy (July 13, 2016)

I'm Going to Paint in Italy (June 20, 2017)

Agonia e Sogni (a cartoon series anticipating my trip to Italy)

Loveliest of What I Leave Behind (paintings by Susan Jane Walp, whom I met in Civita)

Laura Vahlberg: 10 Tips on Painting (another great artist I met in Italy)

Intentional Loitering (a new perspective on creativity, brought back from Italy)

Roman Moon (poems I wrote in Italy)

My Paintings and Sketches from Italy

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 1

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 2

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 3, Florence

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 4, Piero della Francesca

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 5

Alone in Florence (Italy Part 6)

Uffizi (Italy Part 7)

Palazzo Pitti (Italy Part 8)

 

also... coming next month:  my roommate from Italy, the amazing Kristen Peyton, will be having a solo show in my studio gallery!!!!  I'm thrilled and honored beyond words to be able to have her work in my gallery.

"Resonance"

a solo show of work by Kristen Peyton.

opening reception Friday, July 27th, 6-9 pm

 "Studio Visit" an oil painting by Kristen Peyton

"Studio Visit" an oil painting by Kristen Peyton

Lauren Kindle Studio and Gallery

7B North Bank Street, Easton PA

Open hours: Saturday July 28th 10-5 and Sunday July 29th 12-4 pm.

and by appointment 267-247-6364

see Events on my website

 Here I am (left) with my roommate Kristen (right), eating fantastic food at a little restaurant near our apartment in Civita Castellana, Italy.  Kristen was the best roommate I ever could have wished for, as well as being a wonderful, kind, supportive human being, and an incredibly inspiring and talented artist.  Come meet Kristen in person on July 27th!!!  

Here I am (left) with my roommate Kristen (right), eating fantastic food at a little restaurant near our apartment in Civita Castellana, Italy.  Kristen was the best roommate I ever could have wished for, as well as being a wonderful, kind, supportive human being, and an incredibly inspiring and talented artist.

Come meet Kristen in person on July 27th!!!  

Palazzo Pitti (Italy Part 8)

"I stumble about, dazed..."  -- a poem

 Ornate wallpaper and a vase in the Palazzo Pitti.

Ornate wallpaper and a vase in the Palazzo Pitti.

On my last day in Florence, I spent many hours wandering around the Palazzo Pitti, a Renaissance Palace which is now a museum filled with art.  (Also Read:  Story of My Trip to Italy: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven, and:  My Paintings and Sketches from Italy.)

 Outside the Palazzo Pitti are the Boboli Gardens.  I had  already spent some time in the gardens  on an earlier visit.

Outside the Palazzo Pitti are the Boboli Gardens.  I had already spent some time in the gardens on an earlier visit.

A passage from my diary on my last morning in Florence:

26 July 2017...

Morning again, a fresh new start.  Yesterday the Uffizi, today, the Pitti Palace... 

Lumi, the woman who runs this hostel, makes me an espresso, with some nutella and biscotti for breakfast.  Bells are ringing, the air is cool.  I will leave my luggage here in the hostel and wander around Florence.  Then I will come back at two and catch a train to Rome.

Last night I walked far down along the Arno River to a restaurant right on the river bank.  I watched a glorious sunset and ate good food.  I felt a little lonely; I think I might be ready to go home again.

 The sunset view while enjoying my last dinner in Florence.

The sunset view while enjoying my last dinner in Florence.

 My dessert, lit by the sunset.

My dessert, lit by the sunset.

Here are a few of the many photos I took inside the Palazzo Pitti:

 One of many grandiose hallways!

One of many grandiose hallways!

 Standing in that same hallway, looking up at the ceiling.  One of many, many ornate, painted ceilings.

Standing in that same hallway, looking up at the ceiling.  One of many, many ornate, painted ceilings.

 Walls and walls packed with gorgeous paintings.

Walls and walls packed with gorgeous paintings.

 A tender painting by  Artemisia Gentileschi .

A tender painting by Artemisia Gentileschi.

 I forget who painted this, but it's Venus checking Cupid's hair for lice!

I forget who painted this, but it's Venus checking Cupid's hair for lice!

 Detail of a Boticelli

Detail of a Boticelli

 This is a bathroom in the palace.

This is a bathroom in the palace.

 A statue in that same bathroom.

A statue in that same bathroom.

 More ornate ceilings....sigh...

More ornate ceilings....sigh...

 One of many, many rooms of similar opulence.

One of many, many rooms of similar opulence.

 Starting to miss my kids...I had never been away from them for so long before!

Starting to miss my kids...I had never been away from them for so long before!

 A famous Raphael painting.

A famous Raphael painting.

 Detail of a woman clutching her breast, perhaps overcome by emotion... like me!  

Detail of a woman clutching her breast, perhaps overcome by emotion... like me!  

Shattered Vessel

 

I stumble about, dazed,

ravished by sunlight…

My soul is a shattered vessel;

each day it breaks,

many times each day,

again and again it cracks open,

and is reformed, remade,

and filled again with beauty,

unbearable,

unendurable,

beauty.

---one of my Italy poems

 

 

Uffizi (Italy Part 7)

"There is room for infinity in my heart...
-- a poem

  Gherardo di Giovanni

Gherardo di Giovanni

Last summer I went to Italy for two and a half weeks.  (See Story of My Trip to Italy Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.)  I know it seems like that's all I ever blog about these days, but the whole experience had such an impact on me (it changed my life!) and I need to process it this way.  So, for two weeks, I had an artist residency in Civita Castellana.  Afterwards, I went to Florence for three days by myself.  My second day was a trip to the Uffizi Gallery, which deserves a blog post all of its own.  I'm sharing here some of my favorite photos that I took, but keep in mind they are a "drop in the ocean" of all the art within that incredible gallery.

  I'm unsure of this artist... does anyone know the meaning behind all the paintings of baby Jesus holding a bird?  There were a lot of these images around the museum.  This one is a little concerning.  It seems like he is too young to be holding that bird carefully... that's just my opinion.

I'm unsure of this artist... does anyone know the meaning behind all the paintings of baby Jesus holding a bird?  There were a lot of these images around the museum.  This one is a little concerning.  It seems like he is too young to be holding that bird carefully... that's just my opinion.

I wandered around the gallery in complete awe.  I had a lot of feelings.  I sat down on a bench and wrote poems.

  Masaccio (more on my feelings about him in  Part 3, Florence )

Masaccio (more on my feelings about him in Part 3, Florence)

Writing Poems in the Uffizi

 

There is room for infinity in my heart.

 

I’m so hungry,

but not for you;

It’s this painful beauty I desire.

I’m writing poems in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence,

writhing on an old carved bench, grasped tightly

by the moment, and by my own anguish;

Will I endure this hell forever?

I can’t bear it, yet I can’t turn away.

I feel the greatness within me,

but not my own greatness;

inside my soul are ancient rooms,

and gilded hallways with painted ceilings,

and hanging on those ornate walls

are all the paintings I love,

and all the paintings yet waiting

for my trembling brush…

more of my Italy poems here

  Torso of a man.... I forgot to note the artist

Torso of a man.... I forgot to note the artist

  I forgot to write down the artist.  But man, I love the emotion in that smoldering face.  I have been there!  #feelings

I forgot to write down the artist.  But man, I love the emotion in that smoldering face.  I have been there!  #feelings

  Domenico Veneziano

Domenico Veneziano

  This is Botticelli, but I forget the title.  This woman was a minor character at the edge of the painting, but I felt really connected to her.  It looks like she has something interesting to say.  Or else she has some strong feelings she is holding in, or maybe just a very rich inner creative life...?  #feelings

This is Botticelli, but I forget the title.  This woman was a minor character at the edge of the painting, but I felt really connected to her.  It looks like she has something interesting to say.  Or else she has some strong feelings she is holding in, or maybe just a very rich inner creative life...?  #feelings

 Botticelli's "Primavera"... I wrote a short story about this painting two years ago:   "Botticelli's Weird Party."   It was cool to finally see it in real life.

Botticelli's "Primavera"... I wrote a short story about this painting two years ago:  "Botticelli's Weird Party."  It was cool to finally see it in real life.

 This is a detail of "Primavera," the feet of two of the Graces.

This is a detail of "Primavera," the feet of two of the Graces.

  Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", detail.  The photo isn't so great; I had trouble getting close.  She's very popular.

Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", detail.  The photo isn't so great; I had trouble getting close.  She's very popular.

  I forgot to write down this artist.  Does anyone know?

I forgot to write down this artist.  Does anyone know?

  Detail of the painting above.  I love these glimpses of dreamy mountain scenes you see through these windows in Renaissance paintings.  Also, the cypress trees aren't as fantastical as I used to think, they really are growing all over Italy.  In these paintings, reality and fantasy are interconnected.

Detail of the painting above.  I love these glimpses of dreamy mountain scenes you see through these windows in Renaissance paintings.  Also, the cypress trees aren't as fantastical as I used to think, they really are growing all over Italy.  In these paintings, reality and fantasy are interconnected.

  I don't remember this artist, either.  I love the emotion on Mary's face.  I looked at this one a long time!

I don't remember this artist, either.  I love the emotion on Mary's face.  I looked at this one a long time!

  The ceilings were all incredible paintings themselves.  Here is a sample: a painting that makes it look like a view of the sky through a trellis of birds and fruit and leaves.  

The ceilings were all incredible paintings themselves.  Here is a sample: a painting that makes it look like a view of the sky through a trellis of birds and fruit and leaves.  

  Lorenzo di credi, "Portrait of a Man."  He looks so pensive and beautiful.  #swoon

Lorenzo di credi, "Portrait of a Man."  He looks so pensive and beautiful.  #swoon

  Artemesia Gentileschi, "Judith Slaying Holofernes"  She's a badass.  If you don't know about her, go look her up right now! #feminist

Artemesia Gentileschi, "Judith Slaying Holofernes"  She's a badass.  If you don't know about her, go look her up right now! #feminist

  Detail of blood running down the bedsheets.... wow!

Detail of blood running down the bedsheets.... wow!

  Michelangelo (I'm pretty sure)

Michelangelo (I'm pretty sure)

  another ceiling photo... words can't describe

another ceiling photo... words can't describe

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"I really can't put into words how intense my feelings are,

like my soul has cracked open."


--a letter to my husband, written on the cafe terrace of the Uffizi Gallery...

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I want to leave myself here for awhile, drinking wine, writing a letter, and waiting for a thunderstorm to descend on the rooftops of Florence...

 

Sigh...

Painting with Scissors: Sunday School Art

"The essential thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer." 
--Henri Matisse

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My own art practice is a spiritual one; art-making is a wonderful way to feel close to God.  I believe this is a possibility open to everyone.  With this in mind, I lead a monthly art class for the kids' Sunday School at my church.  The results are always delightful! 

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In February, we tried "painting with scissors," as Matisse called it.  I showed the kids a lot of Matisse's paper cut-out collages from a big book I had, and then we started playing around.

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My understanding is that Matisse was not particularly religious.  As an adult, he identified more with Buddhism.  Later on, after his cancer and painful surgeries, near the end of his life, he may have had another rebirth of faith

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But regardless of whatever you want to call it, it seems clear to me that a joyful, creative, colorful spirit was present in his art throughout his entire life.

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You can't force feelings of a spiritual nature, but you can try to be open to the possibilities.  Making art is the best way I know how to open my heart, to let go of my ego, and give way to something even bigger than myself.

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"I have been no more than a medium, as it were."  -- Matisse

 Here is a piece by Matisse himself.  

Here is a piece by Matisse himself.  

Another blog post about Matisse:  "With a Light Heart"

Imperfection

"Don't try to make pretty pictures--paint for fun and for practice, not for exhibition. 

We are going to take home ability and knowledge, not finished canvases."

--Charles Hawthorne, Hawthorne on Painting

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By courting imperfection, I feel myself growing as an artist.  There seems to be a magical space at the edge of imperfection which is brimming full of potential for growing and learning.  This is only possible when risks are taken; within my failed attempts, I find the keys to open new doors.

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I spent a lot of time recently making very bad plein air paintings, and having a great time doing it!  I'm thinking about shapes and colors in an exciting new way.  I'm following my intuition and I'm bungling around, trying not to take myself so seriously!  I spend LOTS of time mixing new colors, and laying them side by side, seeing how they "talk" to each other (sometimes they sing!) and then...maybe scraping them off.  I usually end up with a complete mess.

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It's ok!  I don't really mind.  I feel like I have to make those bad paintings, I have to get them out of my system.  It's about this process of exploration, that's the important thing.  It doesn't matter what other people think.

What am I seeking?  I'm working hard to figure something out.... my way of painting, I suppose!  I'm exhausted, and it's a little discouraging to come home every day without something beautiful and finished to frame and sell... but I just have to let that go.  

The path of the artist requires an immense amount of faith.

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"I'm feeling so happy about painting... feeling like I'm on the right track, a dog on a scent... something exciting!  Possibilities of paint!...tomorrow I will not fill the whole canvas.  I will leave some open spaces..."  --my diary, May 2018

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Motherhood

"...parenthood is an unmatched opportunity for growing in beauty and creativity."

--Polly Berrien Berends, Whole Child/Whole Parent

 a sketch of my sister Karen and her new baby (2015)

a sketch of my sister Karen and her new baby (2015)

In honor of Mother's Day which happened a few days ago, I have decided to gather all my blog posts about motherhood together.  I will add any relevant future posts, so that they can always be found here.  Looking back over these posts from the past three years, I am surprised to read about the struggles and issues that had once seemed all-consuming, but now have passed away.  For example, my children are older now (ages 8 and 11) and they no longer need me as much.  They are coming into their own independence, and I realize this is a little sad for me.  I miss that stage of life when they were babies, although I am grateful and awe-filled by the wonderful way they are growing and blossoming into themselves. 

Also, I'm now quite immersed in a thriving art career which keeps me very busy, so now my struggle is more about making sure to set aside quality time with each child, and to prioritize these relationships no matter how busy I am.  The one constant theme I see here is the need to strive for balance.  A gracious acceptance of one's imperfections can't hurt either.  Being a mom is the most humbling and love-filled experience of my life!

So...Happy Mother's Day! 

I want to say, I'm grateful for my mom, the most loving, selfless, and understanding woman in the world!  She has supported me in all of my dreams every step of the way.  Thank you Mom!

 a sketch of my son in the car seat, when he was an infant (2010)

a sketch of my son in the car seat, when he was an infant (2010)

Generous Permission September 4, 2015  my first blog post ever, my first attempt to integrate motherhood and art

Sharing Wonder: Looking at Art Books with My Daughter September 11, 2015  

Thoughts on Perfection and Motherhood September 18, 2015

Poems About Paintings Part 3 November 18, 2015  a poem about my son, and a portrait I painted of him

Mother-Daughter Trip to the Met December 23, 2015

 Sketches of my friend Meghan and her new baby (2018)

Sketches of my friend Meghan and her new baby (2018)

The Spiritual Quality of Beauty January 13, 2016  an essay I wrote about bringing aesthetic sensibilities to the art of mothering young children

Housewife on Fire March 9, 2016  how my passion for art was apparently at odds with my ability to be a good mother and wife, and how I worked through it

Finding Balance June 1, 2016  this is a constant quest, but noble and worthy

My Son Is Mad at Me Again June 8, 2016  struggling with motherhood, and using art to process it all

 A sketch of my daughter Nell when she was nine months old! (2007)

A sketch of my daughter Nell when she was nine months old! (2007)

A Room of One's Own September 14, 2016  when I realized I needed my own space, and got it!

Having an Artist Mom October 26, 2016   a guest blog post written by my daughter, age 10

Birth Day December 21, 2016  thoughts about the experience of giving birth

Baby Sketches April 26, 2017  sketches I did of my children when they were infants in my arms

Paintings of Mothers May 17, 2017   paintings by other artists

  "Mother and Child on a Winter Day"  4x6" gouache on paper (2018)

"Mother and Child on a Winter Day" 4x6" gouache on paper (2018)

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 5

"I've been completely saturated with Italy: color, food, culture, people, artists, and learning a new way of seeing."

--my diary in Italy, July 2018

 Shadows on a wall in Civita Castellana, the town where I stayed for two weeks!

Shadows on a wall in Civita Castellana, the town where I stayed for two weeks!

This is the next installment in the Story of My Trip to Italy series.  (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and part 4.  Also Part 6 and 7.)  This particular post is actually a few diary entries from the time I was in Civita, Castellana, Italy.

July 16th...

It's such a windy day!  The windows and doors are opening and slamming shut constantly...the days are FULL.  I've made good friends, Italian friends.  And I love speaking Italian, which I do constantly and shamelessly, and, honestly, quite successfully.  I can tell people appreciate that I am trying.  For example, I made friends with an older couple, Elvira and Antonio.  They have treated me with wonderful hospitality.  I have visited them and painted on their rooftop garden in the center of the city, and also they have invited me for dinner twice! 

 Rooftops in the evening, a view from the rooftop garden of my "new family."  [ more photos of them in part 2 ]

Rooftops in the evening, a view from the rooftop garden of my "new family."  [more photos of them in part 2]

Elvira gave me several gifts-- clothes she used to wear in her youth.  They are very cute outfits!  How could I have formed such a lovely friendship so fast?

 My new outfit from Elvira!    (Well, the hat was something I packed from home, as you see in this  cartoon .)

My new outfit from Elvira!   (Well, the hat was something I packed from home, as you see in this cartoon.)

I also met a local young man, Maurizio, who showed me his favorite restaurant.  Fantastic!

 A memorable lunch with Maurizio, a local, and his friends who were visiting from Norway!  Fantastic food!

A memorable lunch with Maurizio, a local, and his friends who were visiting from Norway!  Fantastic food!

 The pasta was made fresh every day!  So good!!  I forget what it was called, but the meat is boar.

The pasta was made fresh every day!  So good!!  I forget what it was called, but the meat is boar.

Also I made friends with Angelo and Giusy, a wonderful couple who runs "the Club," a little cafe in the plaza, and they are so so nice.  [See photo of them in this post.]  I broke my sunglasses a few days ago, and Angelo took me a few blocks to visit his friend, who opened up a little eyeglass-shop just for me.  (Shops are often closed in the afternoons, I'm learning.  Guys usually sit in front of them on benches, taking a break, just hanging out.  It's very laid-back.)  Anyway, this guy fixed my glasses for me, for free.  It was so sweet.  Everyone is so kind!!

 The Club, where I drank many espressos...

The Club, where I drank many espressos...

I've been getting a lot of good feedback from my peers. (Really, they are my superiors, even though many are so much younger than me!)  A woman named Marsal Nazary gave me a lot of good suggestions.  (See My Paintings and Sketches from Italy.)  Most fun was her idea of a "premier-coup," doing a quick, one-shot small painting of the same scene I had been working on (in a larger way) for a few days.  It was a lot of fun working fast and free:  a good balance.  One method informs the other!

I'm learning so much!  Honestly, the overwhelm can be intense.  I'm glad I'm taking some time to process and reflect.  Susan Jane Walp, the guest teacher, is giving a talk at 9 pm tonight!  I really like her, and I'm looking forward to going.  [note: I wrote about it here:  "Loveliest of What I Leave Behind."]

"You know in your heart of hearts what you love looking at."  -- Susan Jane Walp

 Best pizza ever!  I ate the whole thing!

Best pizza ever!  I ate the whole thing!

I'm eating a lot of amazing food, drinking wine, walking (a LOT, with my easel on my back!) and enjoying life FULLY.  I sat at a table with Antrese Wood (who has the Savvy Painter podcast) and we talked and talked.  It was so lovely and stimulating.  I'm so happy I got to meet her!

 A little car in a little alley!  I saw this sort of thing a lot, and I thought it was so funny!

A little car in a little alley!  I saw this sort of thing a lot, and I thought it was so funny!

 The laundry hanging everywhere in Civita was lovely!  If I could have stayed longer, I would have painted more laundry scenes.  As it happened, I only made one.   (See my painting "Laundry In Italy," in this  gallery  on my website; it's somewhere near the bottom.)

The laundry hanging everywhere in Civita was lovely!  If I could have stayed longer, I would have painted more laundry scenes.  As it happened, I only made one. 

(See my painting "Laundry In Italy," in this gallery on my website; it's somewhere near the bottom.)

 On my easel in Italy:  " View from the New Town ."

On my easel in Italy:  "View from the New Town."

"It's such a lovely feeling to know what I want to do with my life!!  PAINT!!!"

--July 21, 2018, my diary

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 4, Piero della Francesca

"In his youth, Piero applied himself to the study of mathematics, and even though by the age of fifteen he was on the way to becoming a painter, he never abandoned his studies."

--Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (1549-1550)

Last July, I went to Italy on a partial scholarship to paint for two weeks. 

(See "Story of My Trip to Italy: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

In the middle time in Italy, I went on a field trip with many of the other artists.  We planned to visit several towns where we could primarily experience work by the early Renaissance painter, Piero della Francesca

First stop: Arezzo.

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Walls and ceiling at the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo.

We left the Basilica and wandered to the Cattedrale, up on a little hill.  My favorite fresco was this Magdalena:

 Piero della Francesco's fresco of the  Magdalena  in the Cattedrale di Arezzo.  I loved her regal, self-confidant expression, so self-possessed and dignified. 

Piero della Francesco's fresco of the Magdalena in the Cattedrale di Arezzo.  I loved her regal, self-confidant expression, so self-possessed and dignified. 

Then we got back on the bus and rode to Sansepolcro, Piero della Francesca's birthplace.

Here is the Misercordia, in the Museo Civico in Sansepolcro.  It is a very large fresco; the figure of the Madonna is much greater than life-size, stretching up to the tall ceiling.  I liked her protective gesture, the way she holds her cloak out like an umbrella over her followers.  To me, she represents a divine goddess figure, offering comfort, mercy, and compassion.  

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It's hard to see from my photo, but behind her the negative space shines completely of gold!

 Also in the Museo Civico, a detail of a Piero fresco of sleeping guys.

Also in the Museo Civico, a detail of a Piero fresco of sleeping guys.

 Some sleeping gals.... my artist-roommate  Kristen  and me snoozing on a long bus ride through Tuscany, oblivious to miles of gorgeous Italian landscapes rolling by outside our bus window.

Some sleeping gals.... my artist-roommate Kristen and me snoozing on a long bus ride through Tuscany, oblivious to miles of gorgeous Italian landscapes rolling by outside our bus window.

Then we arrived in Urbino, a medieval walled-city with a strong legacy from the Renaissance.

 Breathtaking city of Urbino!

Breathtaking city of Urbino!

 Getting in even closer... I can't believe people actually  live  here!!

Getting in even closer... I can't believe people actually live here!!

 Three artist friends outside the walls of Urbino.  Left to right : myself,  Christina , and  Kristen .  As a side note, Christina will be returning to Civita, Italy this summer, to teach a workshop:  "In Response to Place."   

Three artist friends outside the walls of Urbino.  Left to right : myself, Christina, and Kristen.

As a side note, Christina will be returning to Civita, Italy this summer, to teach a workshop: "In Response to Place."  

 I'm following Christina and Kristen up old cobbled streets in Urbino.

I'm following Christina and Kristen up old cobbled streets in Urbino.

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Getting distracted in a wonderful little Italian bookstore!

 Finally we arrived at the Palazzo Ducale!

Finally we arrived at the Palazzo Ducale!

 Detail of a Piero painting in the Palazzo Ducale, the  Madonna di Senigallia .  I was so attracted to the mysterious room behind the angel, and the way the sunlight falls through the windows on the left.

Detail of a Piero painting in the Palazzo Ducale, the Madonna di Senigallia.  I was so attracted to the mysterious room behind the angel, and the way the sunlight falls through the windows on the left.

 Here's the whole picture.

Here's the whole picture.

 This fresco was in the Palazzo, but it's not a Piero.  Nevertheless, I really liked it.  I could really relate to this one angel who wasn't paying attention.  Instead, she finds herself daydreaming... I wonder what is on her mind?

This fresco was in the Palazzo, but it's not a Piero.  Nevertheless, I really liked it.  I could really relate to this one angel who wasn't paying attention.  Instead, she finds herself daydreaming... I wonder what is on her mind?

 This fresco is by is another artist I don't remember (not Piero) but I just  love  the conspiratorial, private look passing between mother and son, as if they both understand each other quite well, and are about to smile!

This fresco is by is another artist I don't remember (not Piero) but I just love the conspiratorial, private look passing between mother and son, as if they both understand each other quite well, and are about to smile!

 After leaving the Duke's Palace, I met up with a couple of artist friends and we had a drink (my first negroni! quite memorable) and then we happily wandered up and down the old, twisting alleys.  I wrote a poem about the experience,  "Drunk in Urbino."  

After leaving the Duke's Palace, I met up with a couple of artist friends and we had a drink (my first negroni! quite memorable) and then we happily wandered up and down the old, twisting alleys.  I wrote a poem about the experience, "Drunk in Urbino." 

 Here's a photograph of one of my artist friends walking up the steep cobbled street.  Her name is  Theresa Morgan , and she is an incredible artist!

Here's a photograph of one of my artist friends walking up the steep cobbled street.  Her name is Theresa Morgan, and she is an incredible artist!

Just before leaving to find our bus to return to Civita, we reached a high point of the city, and there was this gorgeous overlook of rolling Italian hills in the evening light.

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Drunk in Urbino

To Christina

 

Women lost and laughing,

racing up and down the steep and cobbled streets

of ancient Urbino.

My heart is so full,

it bears the expansive unfolding of beauty,

the old bookshops and gelaterias,

the vistas opening up behind hidden alleyways…

I’m so full of poems, and art, and life,

a divine intoxication,

so perfectly drunk with you, my friend,

and that strong negroni, illuminated

by the evening light,

dark amber liquid, clear and strong,

pouring down the roof of the Duke’s palace.

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 3, Florence

"I painted, and my painting was equal to truth;

 I gave my figures poses, animation, motion

And emotion.  Buonarroti taught all the others

And learned from me alone."

--Annibale Caro, epitaph for Masaccio

found in Giorigio Vasari's "The Lives of the Artists"

   Ponte Vecchio , the famous bridge over the Arno River: one of my first sights when I got off the bus in Florence!

Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge over the Arno River: one of my first sights when I got off the bus in Florence!

Most people reading my blog know that I went to go paint in Italy last July.  It was such a rich, intense experience, that it has been taking me a long time to process it.  I've been doing it in stages (see: Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 1 and Part 2.  Now, in Part 3, I will tell you about my first visit to Florence, which was a field trip with the other artists in the JSS program in Civita.  First, I got off the bus and immediately found an amazing gelateria.  Gelato is like ice cream, but better.  Melone was my favorite flavor!

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After wandering a bit through the streets on my own, I met up with my roommate Kristen at the Brancacci Chapel.  This chapel is in the Santa Maria del Carmine church, sort of on the outskirts of my tourist map of Florence.  We spent a couple hours there (Kristen stayed even longer!) and I had a very intense experience looking at Masaccio's frescoes, especially the "Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden" (1424-27).  Looking at the despair on their faces brought me to tears.  (So I guess I'll need to update this old blog post: The Only Painting that Has Ever Made Me Cry.) 

I did a little pencil sketch of The Expulsion (below).

my diary in Italy, July 14, 2017...

Today I went to the Capella Brancacci in Firenze, and saw "The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden."  I cried.  Kristen, my wonderful roommate, who was sitting and sketching beside me, held my hand.  I confessed everything to her [things in my personal life causing me anguish.]  She comforted me; I felt better afterwards.  Later, I went to buy a postcard of "The Expulsion."  The man who sold postcards in the foyer must have guessed my sorrow.  We had a meaningful talk in Italian (can you believe I can do that!?) about the two Adam and Eve paintings, the one that had touched me so emotionally (Masaccio's) and also the other one by Masolino, which faced it across the chapel.  The man selling postcards told me that Masolino's painting was more hopeful, because it caught the moment before the couple had sinned, before it was too late, and therefore there was tranquility and beauty in the image.  He really wanted me understand this: he gave me the Masolino postcard for free, as a gift.  How did he know I was sad?  How did he know I needed that?

In the early fifteenth century, when they were commissioned to create frescoes for the chapel, Massolino was forty, and Masaccio was only twenty-two.  I wonder if Masaccio's art is more emotionally raw because he was so young?  Perhaps Masolino, in his maturity, had come to value equanimity and peace of mind over the passions and emotions of youth?  We will never know what sort of work Masaccio might have created later in life.  Unfortunately, he died at the young age of 26; some rumors suggest he was poisoned...

Anyway, my experience at the Brancacci Chapel really stuck with me.  When I returned home from Italy, I made these two still life paintings as a response. 

Now, back to Florence... So, I left Kristen at the Brancacci chapel and found a cute little restaurant where I had this amazing lunch of spaghetti bolognese and prosecco.  Mmmmmmm.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in the famous Boboli gardens.  I was so full of good pasta, and the sun was so hot, that I found a nice quiet place in the shade under the trees and I took a nap!

 pathway in the Boboli Gardens

pathway in the Boboli Gardens

 Can I Rest My Head on Your Shoulder... in the Boboli Gardens?

Can I Rest My Head on Your Shoulder... in the Boboli Gardens?

Below...more photographs from the dreamy Boboli Gardens.

I climbed to the top of the gardens and looked down at the rooftops of Florence:

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Finally, I realized it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus back to Civita.  I hurried out of the gardens and down the street, running into my artist friend Christina on the way.  Together, we stopped for one final gelato indulgence before we said farewell to Florence!

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Epilogue:  It wasn't my last visit to Florence!  I returned alone, at the end of my art residency, to spend a few magical days in that beautiful city.  See Alone in Florence (Italy Part 6)!

 

Further reading: 

My Paintings and Sketches from Italy

Roman Moon: poems from Italy

Shapes

a poem by Lauren Kindle

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You aren't a poem-person,

you said,

but how can you resist

this poem?

I wrote it just for you,

about a rectangle as red as jam on toast,

leaning against a funny blue shape,

blue the way the sky is, sometimes...

and both these wonderful shapes, surrounded

by small, imperfect circles,

dark purplish-black,

sweet as a handful 

of ripe blackberries...

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More poems can be found at the bottom of my Creative Writing section of my website.

Lisa Bonforte Harmuth

This is my "Artist Profile" for the Easton Irregular Newspaper, April 2018 issue.

   "Wren on Peonies" 12x12"

  "Wren on Peonies" 12x12"

The paintings of New Jersey artist Lisa Bonforte Harmuth are instantly recognizable by their sweet tenderness and attention to detail. It’s not a contrived sweetness, but rather an authentic expression of Lisa’s spirit and her deep love of nature. In particular, the oil paintings depict the beauty of animals in natural settings. She renders wild and domesticated creatures with a respectful and delicate touch. Her paintings radiate a quiet dignity; the colors seem to glow softly, with reverence.

Even as a child, Lisa always liked to draw, animals in particular. When she was young, she even drew on the walls of the house! However, although her parents preferred she use paper rather than walls, they were always highly supportive of her talents and encouraged her artistic inclinations. After high school, Lisa went to the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, where she met her future husband, the artist Will Harmuth. (See the “Artist Profile” in last month’s edition of The Irregular, in which Will was featured.)

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In school, Lisa studied illustration, a field which then became a successful career for her for 25 years. During this period, she illustrated over 200 books, including sticker books and coloring books for children. 50 Favorite Birds, a Dover Nature Coloring Book, is still popular today. After graduation, Lisa and Will worked side by side for years in the illustration and commercial arts businesses. They helped each other in many ways, offering support and feedback on each other’s work, despite significant differences in their styles. Eventually they had a daughter, and Lisa was able to find a good balance between work and family responsibilities while they raised her.

 "The Sicilian" 11x14"

"The Sicilian" 11x14"

At a certain point, however, the deadlines and stress of working as an illustrator began to take their toll, and Lisa felt burnt out. After 9/11, when their daughter was in middle school, a lot of changes happened in the art world. At that time, many galleries went out of business, and Will’s own commercial art business died out. It was a stressful time for the couple. Fortunately, they used this setback as an opportunity to try something new: going to outdoor art shows and fairs. Thanks to a lot of hard work and perseverance, they were able to make a living this way for a while, selling their artwork at many outdoor events.

Eventually, Lisa realized she didn’t want to return to the illustration business. She wanted to try painting for herself, instead. She didn’t want to have to work under tight, oppressive deadlines. So she entered a new chapter in her art career. She painted for her own enjoyment, and she started doing pet portraits on commission. Since she was her own boss, she no longer had to feel pressured by outside deadlines; she could work at her own pace.

 "Summer Gold Rush" 6x11 5/8"

"Summer Gold Rush" 6x11 5/8"

A few years ago, Lisa decided to try something a little different: human portraits! Currently, she has been spending time creating these portraits of family and friends, and she is eager and curious about trying something new, although she still continues to paint animal portraits. Recently, Lisa was commissioned to do the painting, “Rusty”, a portrait of a comfort-dog who helped people who were traumatized after the 9/11 attacks. In this painting, Lisa painted the dog’s portrait, and Will did the background, including the flag. One of the benefits of having a spouse who is also an artist is the ability to collaborate on occasion!

 "Rusty"  24x30"

"Rusty"  24x30"

Lisa now enjoys the freedom of doing what she wants to do, and taking as long as she needs. She doesn’t adhere to strict studio hours, but just works when it suits her. Although she describes herself as “not driven”, she nevertheless produces delightful paintings with regularity. In this way, she is able to avoid the burn-out of earlier years.

For Lisa, painting has always been a way of life, and on a deeper level, it’s how she makes the world a better place. Her love and compassion for animals is apparent in her work, and she regularly donates pet portraits to fundraisers for Common Sense for Animals, a local no-kill animal shelter in Warren County, New Jersey. Through her paintings, Lisa manifests the calming effects of beauty and nature, and ultimately, that is her real gift to the world.

 

 "A Word from the Wise" 11x14"

"A Word from the Wise" 11x14"

More of Lisa’s work can be seen on her website: lisabonforte.com. Lisa is represented by two galleries in New Jersey: Clinton Falls Gallery, Clinton and Decoys and Wildlife, Frenchtown

 Here is a painting of  me!   While I was interviewing Lisa in my studio, she snapped a few photos of me, and surprised me not long after that with this lovely portrait!  What an honor!  Thank you, Lisa.

Here is a painting of me!  While I was interviewing Lisa in my studio, she snapped a few photos of me, and surprised me not long after that with this lovely portrait!  What an honor!  Thank you, Lisa.

A Farewell Note: 

This is my last "Artist Profile" for the Easton Irregular.  A year ago I was offered a position as staff writer and I learned so much from the experience.  It was truly a pleasure to have this job, and a great way to meet other local artists.  It happens that my studio work has become more time consuming, and I now am too busy with commissions to continue writing for the paper regularly.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity, and I am very happy to introduce the next staff writer: Dawn Ouellette Nixon.   elucidatormag@aol.com

A Year of Writing for the Newspaper:

Writing and Art (my thoughts after being offered this position)

Published!  Introducing Myself as a Writer  April 2017

Chawne Kimber: May 2017

Devyn Leonor-Briggs:  June 2017

Charles Stonewall:  July/August 2017

James Gloria:  September 2017

Nancy Bossert:  October 2017

Kenneth Browne:  November/December 2017

Jessica Bastidas:  February 2018

Will Harmuth:  March 2018

Lisa Bonforte Harmuth: April 2018 (this is it)

 

 

Lemons

"..bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold. 
We open
the halves
of a miracle.."

--Pablo Neruda, "Lemons"

 "Peg's Lemons" oil on board, 4x5"

"Peg's Lemons" oil on board, 4x5"

A Lemon

a poem by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
essences, 
sodden with fragrance, 
the lemon tree's yellow
emerges, 
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

 "Barbarous gold" 4x5" oil on board.   for sale

"Barbarous gold" 4x5" oil on board.  for sale

Delicate merchandise! 
The harbors are big with it- 
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold. 
We open
the halves
of a miracle, 
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions: 
creation's
original juices, 
irreducible, changeless, 
alive: 
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon, 
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind, 
the proportions, arcane and acerb. 

 "Marisa's Lemons" 5x7" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

"Marisa's Lemons" 5x7" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018


Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral: 
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets, 
altars, 
aromatic facades. 

 "Juicy Lemons" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

"Juicy Lemons" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon, 
half a world
on a trencher, 
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch: 
a cup yellow
with miracles, 
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth; 
a flashing made fruitage, 
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 "Lemon Wedge" 4x5" oil on board, 2018

"Lemon Wedge" 4x5" oil on board, 2018

 "Helena's Teapot" oil on board, 8x10" 2017

"Helena's Teapot" oil on board, 8x10" 2017

  "So sweet is their flesh..."  oil on board, 8x10" 2017

"So sweet is their flesh..." oil on board, 8x10" 2017

Response to Arundel

"A force is only visible in its effect, and it is the split second in which this effect becomes just barely visible that haunts me.  The turns of life are secret."

-- Anne Truitt in Daybook, on her Arundel series 

 Here is a view of the sculptures on display in the  National Gallery of Art , a special  Anne Truitt  exhibition called  "In the Tower."   On the far wall you can see the Arundel painting, but it's difficult to appreciate how  large  it is (73.5x73.5"!) and it's impossible to really experience the intensity of the painting from a photo, without being in front of it in person.  In this blog post I have attempted to convey my encounter using words.

Here is a view of the sculptures on display in the National Gallery of Art, a special Anne Truitt exhibition called "In the Tower."  On the far wall you can see the Arundel painting, but it's difficult to appreciate how large it is (73.5x73.5"!) and it's impossible to really experience the intensity of the painting from a photo, without being in front of it in person.  In this blog post I have attempted to convey my encounter using words.

 Arundel XI 73.5x73.5" graphite and acrylic paint on canvas

Arundel XI 73.5x73.5" graphite and acrylic paint on canvas

Looking at the large white Arundel painting, I felt emotional.  How could she make something so large and so exposed?  The whiteness struck me as a raw vulnerability.  It was a large canvas, large enough for me to lose myself in, physically.  At first it seemed entirely white.  Standing quietly before it, I could slowly perceive a slender column of barely differentiated white, slightly lighter, on the left, with a pale graphite vertical line encased within it.  So subtle, without artifice, without "showiness."  I wondered at her strength. 

Do we have the right to reveal ourselves like this?  Do we have the right to take up this much space?

And yet it was humble, almost ephemeral, a tender touching-of-light, a "oneness" with something vast, something not for sale, something beyond description, classification, and ego.

It appeals to no one.  She appeals to no one.  She does not please, excite, seduce, or entertain.  She is not "pretty."  She just opens herself to us.  "Here I am," she says.

And it's a mirror.  I look within, and I tremble.

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Will Harmuth

“Painting should be a great joy. It should be joyful…

When people look at my painting, I want them to see that it’s alive.”

-Will Harmuth

 

  “Another Day”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“Another Day”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“I like to imagine that he just plows through a thick rainforest-of-canvases, wielding his paintbrush like a machete, gracefully knocking them out with ease…”

 I wrote those words about the artist Will Harmuth two years ago, commenting on an art blog (linesandcolors.com), and it’s still true today. It’s clear Harmuth deeply enjoys his work, much of which celebrates the scenery around him, for example, the bucolic landscapes of rural New Jersey, where he lives, and the urban architecture of Easton, PA. He manages to paint these subjects without sentimentality or triteness. Rather, they proclaim an exuberant strength, an authenticity true to his inner vision.

Harmuth has both facility and confidence in his ability, and for good reason: he has devoted the last 45 years of his life to painting. He began his career with a strong foundation in art education, learning the craft from skilled teachers and mentors at the Art Students League and the Graduate Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts. After putting time into learning and mastering the rules of painting, he feels quite joyful about breaking them!

  “Purple Passion”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“Purple Passion”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

Harmuth sees himself as part of a lineage going back to the Ashcan School of American Realism. Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a leading teacher and painter in this movement. He wrote the wonderful book, The Art Spirit, which Harmuth highly recommends. This book is immensely helpful to artists; it gives a mixture of practical “how-to” advice, as well as a glimpse into the deeper philosophical meaning behind the artist’s vocation. Henri writes:

 

“The most vital things in the look of a landscape endure only for a moment. Work should be done from memory; memory of that vital moment.”

 

Capturing the moment is what it’s all about, according to Harmuth. It’s something only the artist can do. “Whatever resonates with you, the artist: that’s your moment,” Harmuth tells me, on a recent visit to my studio. “Only you can express that moment. When people buy a painting, they are buying a moment.”

  “A View of Easton”, 24”x24”, acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

“A View of Easton”, 24”x24”, acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

In addition to Henri, Harmuth finds inspiration in the work of Edward Willis Redfield and Walter Baum (both local artists who painted in the first half of the 20th century) and the contemporary painter and sculptor, Marta Whistler (who was an Easton resident for many years).

Harmuth is married to the artist Lisa Bonforte. They met in art school, and the couple has been together 42 years. They assist each other with both the creative and business sides of their art careers. When Will is blocked, he explains humorously, Lisa helpfully tells him to “get over it.” She provides some common-sense motivation, keeping him grounded. Sometimes the two artists work together on a painting, as they did recently with “Rusty”, a painting of a heroic rescue dog.

Although husband and wife do collaborate at times, the two artists are committed to giving each other space. They both work out of their home, but have separate studios and work schedules. A typical day for Will Harmuth goes like this: wake up early and paint, breakfast, computer/commercial art work, nap, dinner, and more painting. He advocates a regular studio practice: “If you paint every day, you will get better.”

  good morning sunday 24x24

good morning sunday 24x24

Will Harmuth manages Williams and Philips Graphic Design. This sort of commercial art work is how Harmuth has supported his wife and their daughter (now grown) for decades. Of course, a career as an artist has its financial ups and down. After 9/11, the commercial work dried up. Harmuth had the idea to do a whole bunch of small paintings (5”x7” and 6”x8”) to sell relatively cheaply. The idea was a hit, and for a time the family paid their bills, living off of those small paintings.

Harmuth currently finds himself in a stage of his career where he can devote more energy to the fine art side of things, which is his passion. He reveals his enthusiasm for painting with every bold, vigorous mark and in his prolific output of strong, vibrant compositions. He advises artists who are starting out:

“Don’t paint the life out of it. Paint the life in it.

 

  “A Winter’s Evening”    16”x20”oil on canvas

“A Winter’s Evening”

16”x20”oil on canvas

This article can also be found on Willl Harmuth's website and in the March edition of the Easton Irregular newspaper:  "The Artist Profile" column.

Will Harmuth is an active member of the Easton art community. He is currently represented by Connexions Gallery in Easton, PA, Clinton Falls Gallery in Clinton, NJ, and Weiler House Fine Art Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas. View Will’s work online at www.willharmuth.com.

   Here is a portrait of me!    Wil l painted this after our interview together.  It was such a delightful surprise to see myself through his eyes, sitting in my studio with my paintings hanging on the wall behind me!  

Here is a portrait of me!  Will painted this after our interview together.  It was such a delightful surprise to see myself through his eyes, sitting in my studio with my paintings hanging on the wall behind me!  

With a Light Heart

“People must live. And bear their burdens with a light heart.”

--Matisse

 Still Life with Anemones, 1924 (oil on canvas), Henri Matisse

Still Life with Anemones, 1924 (oil on canvas), Henri Matisse

Matisse suffered from ill health in his old age, which prevented him from standing up at his easel.  He didn't stop making art, though, he just changed his method of working. 

Here's a picture of him cutting out paper shapes in bed!

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The limitations of his illness forced Matisse to experiment with new methods of art-making, resulting in his fabulous colorful paper cutouts.

 "The Fall of Icarus" a paper cutout by Matisse

"The Fall of Icarus" a paper cutout by Matisse

I feel comforted looking at these photos of Matisse making art in bed, probably because I've had to be in bed a lot myself, lately.    For the past six weeks or so, I've been in a lot of pain, unable to walk or stand for very long.  I have an old injury in my body that was caused by childbirth, and although I have lived with it for eight years, it has recently taken an unbearable turn for the worse.  

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I feel grateful that, despite my pain, I can still do lots of wonderful things: I can hold my kids on my lap and read to them, I can play the piano, and I can sketch and paint (as long as I am sitting down.)  So, I'll look to Matisse for a positive role model, and I'll try not to get depressed.  I have a few doctor appointments scheduled in the coming weeks, and hopefully things will improve.

"Hope springs eternal!"

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Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

--Alexander Pope, an Essay on Man

April 9, 2018 UPDATE:  It's been about a month since I wrote this blog post, and I'm very grateful to report that, after some physical therapy*, my intense pain has subsided, and I can do some of the activities I used to love, like walking to my studio, for example.  I am still healing, and so I am "taking it easy."  I emerge with a newfound respect and appreciation for my body; it's the only one I have!

*Women's Tent and Dr. Valerie Turner, PT.