For most of the summer, I've had the pleasure of teaching Meghan, a neighbor who is starting high school on Wednesday.
Meghan is an excellent painter. She has an amazing natural touch, and honestly, I think some of her paintings are better than the ones I made, standing beside her.
But that's one of the great things about painting - or art of any kind - isn't it? Glee and vigor and experimentation, excitement and discovery and daring - these things can take a piece farther, at least at times, than education and training can.
Of course, there are limits. One thing I know from my own experience is that when I get in trouble, I have to botch things to get out of trouble. Someone with training could probably get out of trouble with much less effort. In fact, someone with training would probably not get in trouble in the first place!
At any rate, it was great to paint with Meghan this summer, and I will miss our weekly sessions.
A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Sue Jacobson, adopted a beautiful mixed-breed dog named Frankie. Frankie is a cross between a cocker spaniel and an Australian shepherd. She has a chestnut coat and lovely ice-blue eyes, and she's a sweetheart.
Frankie came from Texas, in a big, air-conditioned truck with other southern dogs being adopted by people in New England.
Brewster showed up during Sue's search for Frankie. His page on Adopt-A-Pet (http://www.adoptapet.com/pet4229680.html) says he's in Glastonbury, Conn., but I think he's another southern guy. He is part Wheaten terrier and part chow. He has a blue tongue, and in all his photos, that left ear comes forward over his face. In the past couple weeks, they've shaved him down. Wherever he is, Glastonbury or the South, it must be hot!
I am going to track him down and, as a part of the Art for Shelter Animals Project, donate this painting to his rescue group or to the person who eventually adopts him. I will let the rescue group make the decision. I'd love to adopt him, but we have too many dogs as it is.
A last note: Sue said that going to meet the truck was like going to meet family who had been away for years. She pulled up into the parking lot, and there were people and dogs and hugs and smiles and laughter, and she burst into tears, it was so moving and so full of love and life.
Port Dufferin, Nova Scotia, isn't much more than a wide place in the road. But for Heather and me, it was a quiet, lovely, serene stopover on our way home from Canada.
We stayed in the one hotel in Port Dufferin, and our room - with a tiny little balcony - looked out over the hotel lawn, a small roadway, and the harbor. We spent time in the evening on the hotel's covered dock. We watched guys fish, and we watched a harbor seal.
The morning dawned rainy and foggy, but we painted anyways, and created quite a stir. About a dozen people stopped to see what we were doing. Most were less than enthusiastic about either of our paintings, though they liked Heather's better than mine.
There's an interesting thing people do when they don't like your painting. They come up, ask if they can look, and then just don't say anything. Once in a while, someone will volunteer a comment. The brother of the guy who owns this lobster boat saw us painting, took a look and then went to get his brother. The brother's one comment was that I should come and paint his other boat.
At any rate, I wasn't happy with this piece when I finished it. Here's the original, side by each with the new one:
The original piece just felt a little prissy to me. It didn't have the feeling of a foggy, grey morning, and there was nothing cohesive about it. I think that between the rain and the people and the ongoing lack of comments, I just got a little lost. I like what I did to the painting yesterday, though, and I feel that it's a step on the path for me.
Two of my paintings sold at the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival this past weekend! Both were large, both were moody. One was a very wintry plein-air piece of the Wallkill River in January. The other was of a wave, breaking, at the edge of a storm, in Westerly, R.I.
I spent the weekend trying to greet visitors without hovering. I listened hard, tried to understand what they wanted, what they needed - whether it was time alone to look at my paintings, whether it was to talk about their dogs or their lives or their own art, whether it was a specific painting - specific in size, color or mood - to fill a spot in their homes. And then, once I understood that, seeing whether I had a piece for them, or could supply a piece for them, or could help them get that piece, whether it was by me, or by someone else.
This notion of sales person as service provider was broached to me on a disk my friend Bonnie Brankey (check out her beautiful paintings by clicking here). It makes sense to me, and it is something I can feel comfortable doing. I have miles to go before I am good at it, but I can learn!
Last Monday, I was weeding the garden when I dislodged the very edge of a yellow-jacket nest.
I pulled up the weed, a couple yellow jackets flew out (terrifyingly, they nest in the ground), and stung me on the wrist. It hurt like blazes. They're mean, vicious, and they don't die when they sting. They just keep on stinging. I flung off my gardening glove and leapt away from the garden, and escaped with two stings.
I ran my wrist under frigid water.
The next day, it started to swell. It swelled and swelled and swelled and swelled. An angry red streak began to develop in my arm, and the itching was unbearable.
Yes, I scratched.
By Wednesday, my hand was swollen, and the bulging was stretching my skin tight, nearly to my elbow. I couldn't type. I couldn't grasp. I couldn't paint. It was like having an alien inside my arm.
I went to a doctor. He told me I had poison ivy. I told him I didn't. He told me I did. I told him that yellow jackets had stung me. He told me I had poison ivy. Finally, I just shut up. I got the steroid cream he prescribed, and rubbed it on. I got the steroid pills he prescribed, and didn't take them.
The next day, the red streak - about 4 inches across - had reached nearly to my elbow. The swelling had torn the skin open where I'd scratched. My arm was the size of a pork loin. It made me think of the pictures of people with elephantiasis that my brother and I used to goggle over when we were children.
I went to another doctor.
She took one look at my arm, prescribed antibiotics, and told me that if I'd waited another day, I'd have been in the hospital.
By Friday, the swelling was down. By Saturday, the redness was receding. By Sunday, I could twist the lid off a bottle, and I could hold a paintbrush.
I've never been so happy to be able to do such small things. I've never been so happy that I pulled one clump of weeds instead of another.
Her muzzle has grayed, and her legs are stiff. She sleeps a lot. But behind the bluish, cataracty film, her eyes are bright and interested. She greets me with a smile and a sparkle, and even, sometimes, a sprightly little trot across the yard.
The glory days are behind her now, but we both remember. We remember how she ran across the fields, strong and fleet and tireless. We remember how she chased deer, and how she roared and snarled at strangers, protecting me from all danger. We remember how she leapt, how she plowed through snowstorms and rolled in drifts, and shook off the cold as though it were nothing. She dreams these memories today; I hear her nails clicking against the floor as she runs and races in her sleep, young again and fierce and proud.
She follows me these days, with her eyes and with her body, too. Follows me and looks, sometimes, deep into me, into my eyes, into my heart, as if I have the answer for why she can no longer hear, no longer run. I can't run, either, I tell her. But I can walk, and you can walk, and we can walk together. And I can love, and you can love, and that will never end.
I've come to realize that I no longer listen when people give directions. After about the third turn, my brain just shuts off.
I was on the phone with my friend Joan, and she began telling me how to get to her house. It was pretty straightforward at first, and I wrote everything down as she spoke.
But when she got me off the highway and began telling me to take the second left and then the third left past Brunha Street, and look for the flagpole on the right, I realized that I'd stopped writing and almost stopped listening.
I was going to go to her house - but I have a GPS, and honestly, it's so much easier to use the GPS than to follow directions, that that's what I generally do.
I didn't realize until yesterday, though, that my whole approach to travel has changed irrevocably. And it's probably for the better.
Please email me for price and delivery information
OK, it's probably a little nuts to make a 48-inch by 60-inch painting of cows. But I loved painting it, and it's a really cool piece! It's very bright (there's a surprise, right?) and that brightness doesn't seem to show up on my screen here, though it did show up as I was working on it.
I could drive myself crazy with this stuff, and all to no avail. If I get it right for my screen, it still could be wrong for yours. But if you want to see this painting - and more - in full-blown color, come to the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival. It's Aug. 14 and 15 in downtown Mystic. I'll be on the corner of Willow Street and East Main, conveniently close to Tim Horton's.
And this is very good for me, for all sorts of reasons. My daughter worked for Tim Horton's for a few years. She worked hard for them, and did a great job, and in the end, they treated her very badly. So whenever I can, I go into a Tim Horton's, drop my trash in their trash cans, use their bathroom, and leave without buying anything. It's not that I never buy coffee from Tim Horton - I do - but I try to keep the ledger so that I use more than I put in. It's my little personal crusade.
When Heather and I were in Canada, we bathroomed and tossed our trash nearly exclusively at Tim Horton's. I feel that I made more progress in my crusade in those three weeks than I have in the past three years.
If you want to see this painting and you can't make it to Mystic, or you just don't want to deal with the insanity that is the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, drop me an email and come to the studio! I'll give you coffee and maybe even let you see the elephant.
It is absolutely amazing to me that if you put a bunch of old stuff out on a table, and sell it all at 50 cents or a dollar, you can end up with 200 bucks.
But that was our yard sale. We put up posters, and Peter wrote a very funny ad and placed it on Craigslist, and people came and took our old stuff home.
If you'd asked me, mid-afternoon, what we'd made, I'd have thought about the drawer full of silverware I sold for $3, and the meat slicer I sold for $5, and I'd have estimated our take at $40 or maybe $50.
In the end, I guess this is how it all works. Little bit by little bit by little bit, you build a life or a family or a relationship or a business or a career. You make a small decision here, take a tiny step there, and before you know it, you've got something that is much bigger - or much different - than you ever imagined.
All too often, I forget about miracles, and I shouldn't. I'm living one.
Here is the ad that Peter wrote:
YARD SALE - FREE ELEPHANT (Gales Ferry)
FUN YARD SALE!!!
All right, I lied about the elephant, but we've always taken great pride in accumulating some of the finest junk in Southeastern Connecticut. Your grandkids will be fighting over this stuff at the reading of your last will and testament. We've got a Fender Stratocaster, a microwave oven, a variety of decent books, pottery, new original art, (not junk - artists on premises) tin striper lures, fly tying lessons, and many, many, odds and ends that don't belong in a landfill (and a few that probably do). Lots of fun stuff. 20% discount for octogenarians - 50% buyer's premium for lawyers, insurance salesmen and convicted felons. Hard to go wrong. Free coffee for Red Sox fans. Bring lots of cash.
ATTENTION EARLY BIRDS AND BURGLARS: IF YOU CAN'T OUTRUN THESE GUYS, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!!! DOGS WILL NOT BE CAGED AND FED UNTIL 9 AM SHARP!