Monday, December 29, 2008

Grey December

Old Lyme. Oil on cradled panel, 12x12

Past Christmas and the color has gone out of the land. These days, the sky has been gray, the days oddly warm, but blown through by a damp and cutting wind.

Yesterday, I went to my favorite place in Old Lyme to paint - the boat ramp across from the Great Isle conservation area - but the wind was just too strong. So I trekked inland. I found a gorgeous town, Hamburg, one of the seemingly thousands of Connecticut towns I've never even heard of, despite the fact that I grew up here. And while it was lovely, there was no way to set up to view the site I wanted to paint. So I came back to the mouth of the river and found a sheltered place to set up. I made this painting, while travelers on I-95 whizzed by behind me and gulls flew, squawking, overhead. And the wind blew through it all.

Thanks for reading!

For more, see
Email me if you want to buy this piece, or any piece.
I'll get it up at my Etsy store, and you can use your credit card or paypal.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Seeing the light

Autumn, oil on canvas, 12x24, not for sale.

In November, my stepdaughter Erika and her significant other, Jon, helped move the last stuff out of our home in Cuddebackville. Even though it seemed that there was almost nothing left, there was. Take an outdoor wood- or charcoal-fired grill, add porch furniture, a couple of twin beds, a small bookcase, a rocking chair, a shelving unit and various cleaning, polishing and repairing goods, throw in a wheelbarrow, a canoe, some lamps and a whole slew of gardening tools and before you know it, you've got a truck load of stuff.

Erika and Jon did it all. They found it, collected it, organized it, took it out of the house and put it in the truck - and it was a big, big job. Afterwards, they came to the opening of "A Confession of Color," the show George Hayes and I had at the Wallkill River Gallery in Montgomery, N.Y. , where I'd been working all day.

There they were, strangers in a strange land, dressed to the nines, at their first opening - after spending the day sweating, loading furniture. What troupers!

It was a marvelous experience for me to see them at their first art show. They glowed with it. To see them take in the paintings, really see them, that was worth worlds. To see them with my New York friends, people whose lives revolve around art, it was a rich night for me.

The next day, before we headed home, we pulled in to O'Dell's to gas up. Across the road stood a line of trees, the last of autumn's brilliance. Erika and Jon saw it all. They saw the trees, the cornfield, the lawn, the light, the shadows, the mountain behind. They saw that it was beautiful, and then they saw that there was a painting in it. And I got to see them make this leap.

So, this one is not for sale. It's my Christmas present to them.

Little blind dog

Zoe, oil on canvas, 8x10. sold

Zoe is a little, ferocious, blind Lhasa apso. She's about 12, I think, and while she's often as sweet as she looks in this painting, she is probably the most aggressive watchdog of the whole lot.

One of our big dogs, Kaja - half German shepherd, half chow (we think) - used to watch for me to wake up every day, and as soon as I would open my eyes, she'd come wagging over to greet me.

Then Zoe came into our lives. And in short order, Zoe decided that this morning greeting constituted a threat to me. When Kaja would come over, Zoe, who sleeps on the floor by my side of the bed, would launch herself up, sort of like Alan Arkin in that horrifying scene from "Wait Until Dark," and bite Kaja on the nose.

Kaja, noble and resilient, continued to greet me this way for six or seven more years. Finally, she just couldn't take it any more. These days, I get a wag from across the room.

I haven't quite captured Zoe's fierceness in this painting, but I know where it is in her face, and next time, I'll get it.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. As always, thank you for reading!

For more, see

Monday, December 22, 2008


First snow, oil on cradled panel, 12x12. Sold.

So my first eBay auction is over. This painting (click on it! I think I've solved the size issue!) went to Steve Blust, a friend and another refugee from journalism. I very nearly worked with him, in the lovely town of Beaufort, South Carolina. In the end, it was just too far from home, though I could tell it would have been good. Steve was one of a very few potential employers interested in me after my job in New York was eliminated; I will be forever grateful to him for that - and for buying my first eBay auction effort.

Friends, you friends, many of you got out there and bid on my painting, and that's great. Thank you! And so, yes, the piece went for a song, but so what? It will have a good home, whether Steve keeps it or gives it away. And the point is, I started something that, for me, is new. A new market, a new challenge, a new set of tasks to be mastered.

How great is that?

See more paintings at

Ho-ho-holy smokes, it's cold!

December deck. Oil on panel, 4x8, $75

It snowed. It snowed, and it snowed and it snowed, and then it snowed more. It was like being in Maine! And it still looks like Maine. Very hard to place this big white yard as being in Connecticut.

Saturday morning, I was out in the yard at dawn, painting. I was dressed for it, too. I had my big old Maine snowboots on, the kind Mainers wear for snowmobiling. I had my flannel-lined jeans on. I had a T-shirt, a turtleneck sweater, a scarf and a parka. I had a hat and gloves.

Of course, within minutes, I was steaming and sweating. Off with the gloves! Off with the hat! Off with the scarf! I set up the easel, stuck my travel mug in the snow and began to paint.

And a bunch of things happened, nearly all at once. First, I realized that the panel I was painting on was covered, in places, by a thin, thin sheet of ice. The heat and moisture of the house had condensed and then frozen. I scraped the ice off with my fingernails and kept painting.

Then it started to snow. Just a flurry, mind you, but the snow got into the paint. And the paint, I realized, had, well, not frozen, exactly, but sort of frozen. It had thickened, coagulated until it was the consistency of mud, or thick cake batter. My paint had grown cold enough enough and viscous enough that, when the snow dropped into it, the flakes remained crystalline. The paint looked, for all the world, like it had sand in it.

Yikes! What to do? What to do? I'd been looking forward to this for weeks, to this painting with oils in the snow. Last winter, I stayed with pastels. This was all new!

And so I decided, the only thing to do was, well - paint.

I stayed out in the yard and made two paintings. It was incredibly beautiful out there. It was silent, the way it's only silent in a big, muffling snowstorm. There was no wind. The snow fell straight down, light as dust. Cardinals flashed onto the snow-lined tree limbs. Under the fir trees, the shadows turned blue.

I'd wanted to spend the day painting outside. But in the end, I couldn't. The longer I stayed, the more unruly the paint became. And honestly, after three hours, I got cold. So I came in, and painted one more piece - while I sat, warm and toasty, in the kitchen. It's the painting at the top of this blog, the porch furniture piled so incongruously with snow. And while I usually don't say this, the painting is far more interesting than my photo makes it appear. Just FYI.

A couple small notes... With an hour-plus left in the auction time, my snow painting on eBay has climbed to $38. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Murad Sayen, a friend and a wonderful painter from Maine (I bet he has two pairs of those boots), told me to be humble when I price my work. I've tried to be... I'm not sure I'm this humble, though!

Still, you have to start somewhere, especially on eBay. And so the experiment continues.

Second, I know my paintings in this blog get enormous when you click on them. I've resized today's and Friday's in photoshop, and they should fit easily on the screen (today's, I sized at 7 inches across) - but they don't. Anyone who can help me fix this problem, I'd sure appreciate it!

Many thanks for reading! And best wishes to you all.

For more paintings, see

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seeing anew

"Morning frost," oil on stretched canvas, 8x8. sold

It is snowing like crazy outside, and getting dark even now, at 3:30. I'd hoped to be able to paint out in the snowstorm, but it's coming down too hard. It's falling straight down, lining the branches of the trees, the twigs on the bushes, the stones on the wall outside my window. Canada geese flew over while Peter and I were outside earlier. Their honking sounded right somehow in the falling snow. The Samoyed romped and stomped and barked, thrilled at being in his element, and a lone cardinal looked like a Christmas decoration in our backyard pine grove.

I painted this small piece yesterday morning, early. The sun hadn't even made it above the trees, and everything in the field was covered with frost. It covered every blade of grass, every stalk and plant and bramble, covered each with a rime of white, with crystals that stuck out like whiskers and sparkled in the dawn.

You could see the red and the gold and the green beneath, in the places where, usually, shadows gather. And it occurred to me that many of the times of year that I love are times when what happens in nature changes the way everything usually works. In the fall, the colors of the leaves makes trees bright where in summer, they are dark. When snow falls, it outlines things that, in daylight, often blur into the visual equivalent of background noise.

Thank you to all who responded to my pleas and signed up to follow this blog! I really appreciate it. And thanks to Rand and Michelle, who've given me great feedback these past couple days. If something doesn't work for any of you, let me know. I will try to fix it.

If you like the blog, please tell your friends. And if you know anyone who needs a painting (and really, WHO DOESN'T?) send them my way.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A good day, indeed

"Snowy morning." Oil on cradled wood, 12x12. sold

Wednesday was a great day! A successful day in my crusade to sell a painting a day.

First off, it was just a lovely, pretty day. A wet snow had fallen overnight, and the day's warmth melted it, gradually, and I was able to paint this picture - from inside the house!

I know - what's the big deal?

Well, I just don't paint the outdoors when I am indoors. I make pet paintings. I finish and adjust plein-air stuff. From time to time I try abstract work. But this is the first outdoor painting I've made while warm and toasty and inside the house. A new experience for me.

I still prefer being IN the landscape. I like smelling the wind, breathing the air, hearing the sounds. But it was nice to be warm, I admit.

So the day started well, and went uphill from there. A stranger - a young woman from Ohio, I am told by Noah's Curator Trowbridge Cottrell - bought one of my paintings. Took it right off the wall of the restaurant and headed off with it, to the midwest!

And then, this: A friend emailed me about a painting he'd like to buy for friends of his. Well, that was surely exciting! This is what I've been all about, this Christmas season. Buy it from ME, instead of from Macy's. I mean, how much better is that for everybody? And if you've already bought your presents, speak up to anyone and everyone. The next time someone says: "I don't know what to get for ...," you say, "Hey! I know what you should get for him!"

Here was someone, doing exactly that. I was thrilled. So I wrote back, to let him know how excited I was, and also to tell him that I was willing to negotiate, if the $200 price on the painting was too steep.

No, he said, it wasn't too steep. In fact, it wasn't enough, he said. The painting was worth more than that. How about $300, he asked.

Now, how's that for a day?

So see more of my work, go to Also, check out my Etsy store at There are only two paintings on there now, but there will be more!

And thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting out there

LaMarche Creek, Wisdom, Montana. Oil on canvas, 6x6. Sold

A newfound friend, Geri Comicz, whom I met through this very blog, read yesterday's entry and sent me some ideas of other sites I should try. (By the way, Geri is a wonderful painter. See her lovely, haunting portraits, bird paintings and still-lifes at

One of the sites she mentioned, Daily Painters ( suggests that a painter asking to be juried into the site have several months' worth of paintings on his or her blog. While I already do have several months' worth, it occurred to me that some of you out there, or some who might visit in the future, might not know about my trip to Montana and the scores of paintings I made this summer. Also, I think, the jury at Daily Painters would want to see this work.

So here's my story: I quit my job in June, and drove to Wisdom, Montana. Peter and I had stumbled across Wisdom when we lived in Idaho, and went fishing at Kelly Creek, deep in the wilderness. We drove out a dirt road into Montana, and found ourselves in Wisdom.

Wisdom itself - just on the other side of Chief Joseph Pass on the Continental Divide - is a small, dusty town of friendly people, good restaurants and nonexistent cell-phone service. It stands on a high, flat grassland plain, ringed by hills and then, behind them, mountains. Through all this, the Big Hole River rambles, curving and curling across the plains, and leaving them shockingly luxuriant in a land that is so typically arid.

I had long remembered Wisdom as a beautiful, natural jewel. So, faced with an adventure needing a destination, I chose Wisdom. I drove out quickly, and then took my time driving home. Day by day, I painted, all in plein-air, in the throbbing, bug-infested heat of July, standing beside my car at the edges of roads, on farmers' field tracks, in truck stops and rest stops and strangers' driveways - wherever my sight and imagination took me.

For those of you who haven't seen my Wisdom Trip paintings, take a look. There are thumbnails here: - and from them, you can click through to see the paintings in a larger scale.

I kept an erratic blog on the way. It's erratic because I was hampered by my lack of knowledge and the uneven Internet connections of the hotels where I stayed. Still, it's a fun tour through a part of the country that's alien to many of us. You can find the blog here:

Some of the Wisdom trip paintings have sold. I will be posting Sold notices soon - in the meantime, if you're interested in buying one (or more than one!) let me know. Since I'm signed up with paypal, I can now accept that, and all sorts of credit cards. I have yet to figure out how this works, but I will!

To see more of my work - and Peter's - go to

And as always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rompin', stompin', sellin' art!

Woody. Oil on canvas, with a cool blue metallic frame

I have been painting, but I don't like the piece that's done, and the other just isn't finished. So this painting of Woodreau, well, it's an old one, but he's happy in it and and busy, and here, in real life, he just got yelled at for behaving very, very badly, and honestly, I'm feeling sorry for him. So I posted his painting - not that it will improve HIS day any, but will make me feel a little better.

I also posted it because I've been racing around since Sunday, much as anyone can race while sitting in a chair, working to find new ways to sell my paintings.

Here's where the rubber meets the road. If I'm going to be able to do this, if I'm going to make a living painting, I need to find a way to sell five paintings a week, at my current prices. If I can pull in about $400-$500 a week, I can keep painting. So all I have to do is figure out a way to do that.

I spent the entire day Sunday attempting to open a seller's account on eBay. This morning, I had to laugh - I received an email from eBay, telling me I could begin selling in three easy steps! Hah! In what universe? Surely not in the one that revolves around 109 Whalehead Road, Gales Ferry.

The details of my tortured day are probably unimportant. Let it suffice to say that for hours - hours! - I continued to end up on a PayPal page that demanded I add a credit or debit card. I only have the one. When I tried re-entering the info, thinking that maybe it hadn't taken the first time, I was told that I was duplicating information. Yup.

Tried it another way, and was told repeatedly that technical issues were preventing me from opening an account at this time. So-called experts at eBay (who have such bizarre grammatical problems that I began to think they were, perhaps, machines) first couldn't help, then told me it would take four hours to fix the technical issues. Four hours later, I was told it would take 24 hours. Twenty-four hours later, I was told that if I paid $5 to get "verified," the problems would all go away.

They did, I listed my little painting, sent an email out - and then found out, thanks in part to my friend and patron Diane Charles, that it would take 24 hours for my little painting to appear.

Well, it has, finally! You can search for Art, Direct from Artist, or "First Snow - plein-air oil painting by emerging artist," or I guess you can search for me, carriejacobson56 - though I must admit, I tried that and couldn't find myself.

This morning, Elissa Englund, another friend, suggested I open a store on something called, and so I have. It was about a million times easier - and friendlier - than eBay. The stuff won't show up for 24 hours, but I'll let folks know when it does.

I am a little uncomfortable with the selling part of all of this - but you know what? It's part of it. If I'm going to make a living at this, I have to sell my paintings! And I feel a little tense at sending emails about all this to my friends. But the truth is, if they - or someone they know - is going to spend $100 on a gift for themselves, or for a friend or family member, how much better is it to spend that $100 on a painting by someone you know, than to give it to, say, WalMart or Kohl's or Macy's?

In the end, it comes down to that, at least in my mind. And from there, it's simple. I'd rather spend my money on something that a friend of mine has made than on something a store has bought from a stranger, or an underpaid child-laborer in Indonesia, and then trucked halfway across the planet.

Once I reach that conclusion, all I need to do is find a way to get the paintings in front of people, and give them one little push. That's right, just wave that yellow towel in front of them, wag my little tail and romp on!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I can't stand the rain

My sister's house. Oil, 10x20.

The rain woke me this morning. It pelted. It slammed against the house, against the windows. It smashed down, thrown by the wind, a brutal wind that whhirled treetops and trunks and limbs and flung branches and twigs to the ground. One blast of wind-driven rain hit the side of the house so hard, I thought a window had broken.

The dogs slept long past their regular waking time. They knew. Without looking, they knew. Of course, they could hear the gale, hear the rain bashing the windows, hear the trees cracking and breaking under the stress. They knew.

And I knew. I knew this rain today, but I've know worse. I've known the fragile hold of man and beast, of buildings and driveways and basements. I've known the terror of crossing a rain-swollen river, carrying a dog I love, while neighbors and firefighters and rescue personnel beckon, and tree trunks and barbecue grills and garbage cans fly past on the foaming, churning, thigh-high rush of current.

There's no longer a reason for me to be frightened by the rain. Our house in New York could wash away, yes, and that would be horrible - but it wouldn't take us with it. We are no longer in danger. Everything that hurt to lose has been lost already. And still, the pelting, drowning rain sends me to a place of terror, a place I can not seem to leave until the storm passes.

It's over now. The sky is blue, the sun is out, the wind is blowing the moisture from the earth. My fear is gone.

Until the next time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanks and thoughts

Snarling Jojo. Oil on canvas, 16x20, $150.
Not a new painting, but one of my favorites.

Hey! I asked friends to sign up to follow this blog, and you did! I really appreciate it.

Again, I don't begin to understand my need to know that people out there are reading it, but I feel that need, and knowing that there are six of you out there, following "The Accidental Artist" helps me know that I'm not writing simply to hear my own voice. Or, I guess, see my own words.

Most surprisingly, one of the followers is a total stranger. How cool is that!

So, thank you, all of you brave souls and wonderfully supportive people. I hope you read what I'm writing, and are moved by it - and comment on it. There's a place at the bottom of each post to add comments, to start a conversation. To engage.

Like it, hate it, love it, whatever - I track a lot of this back to my former boss and friend and mentor, the late Mike Levine, who pushed all of us at the Times Herald-Record to be engaging, to seek engagement with the audience, and to become engaged with our communities.

On that note, if you like what you read here, email it to your friends. There's a little button at the bottom of each post that lets you do that, too. Get them to participate, engage, write, comment, kibbitz, criticize, complain, whatever. I'm not looking for blue skies and rainbow only. I'm seeking honest writing, dialogue, opinions, spice.

I'm seeking what used to be the best part of working in newspapers, in a day and a mindset that, alas, is long, long gone.

These days, when it comes to newspapers, I see a general and appalling lack of engagement. All over the place, I see stories that are poorly conceived, badly written and thinly presented. No one reaches out to help readers who haven't followed the ins and outs of the tale, or to entice those who might - with the right invitation - become interested.

Writers and editors don't take the time - or, probably, simply can't take the time - to develop voice, tone, rhythm, internal tension, the sense of unfolding. Questions of impact and importance aren't even asked, let alone answered.

Right now, newspapers are doing precisely what they should not be doing, if they hope to stay in business and attract readership and advertising. They need to be more interesting, not more homogeneous. They need to have more edges, not fewer. They need to write better, shorter, more local stories. And they need to reach out more than they ever have.

That's my rant. The weather in New York sent me back to Connecticut with only the three paintings of the Black Dirt. I have plenty to do here. But I'm hoping to get back to New York soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Digging the Black Dirt

In the Black Dirt. Oil, 8x24

What a treat I'm giving myself! I'm in New York for most of the week, painting in the Black Dirt region. And having a ball.

Last week, when I came to take down my show at the Wallkill River Gallery in Montgomery, I found myself with a few hours to spare. I drove to the Black Dirt area to see if there was a painting there. I figured there wouldn't be, as it was winter, but what the heck, I'd look.

To my amazement, there were paintings galore! There's stuff growing out there, even now! Onions, mostly, is what I assume. And sod, also. But there are plenty of swaths of that gorgeous black dirt, as deep and rich and fertile as growing soil anywhere. According to the Internet, it's the richest farmland in New York state, and looking at it, one would be hard-pressed to argue.

The region was once a huge glacial lake, says the Hudson Valley Network, and over time, it drained until it became, in essence, a swamp. Layer upon layer of peat and silt built up there, and for a long time, farmers stayed away. The land flooded far too easily. But immigrants from Germany and Poland arrived, saw opportunity, and found a way to take advantage.

It's just a painter's paradise, especially now, with many of the fields empty.

But it is cold! Yesterday, I painted with Shawn Dell Joyce and Gene Bove, on the grounds of the Gurda onion farm. I wore a sweater, a jacket, a thermal shirt, flannel-lined jeans, a hat, gloves and a scarf and still, I was chilled to the bone by the time I got to our empty house in Cuddebackville. Today was warmer, but I made two paintings and am just starting to feel my fingers again.

I'm hoping to paint here for a few more days. It's feeding my hungry, hungry soul.

And more dirt

Top, Black Dirt I. Oil on canvas, 10x20
Botton, Black Dirt II. Oil on canvas, 10x20

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A leap

First snow II. Oil on panel 

This is a painting I've been hoping to make for a long, long time. It's the painting I've been heading toward for a long, long time. It came to me, and I painted it in a blur of energy and risk-taking. I leapt - and landed well.

There's almost nothing in this painting. Bigger, and in person, you can see that it has a little more in it than it looks like it has here. The sky has some streaks in it, and bright spots. The snow has some depth and a little bit of color. The stone wall has an interesting snow-on-rock delicacy that seems to work.

It's hard for me to be so minimal. And yet, I find that, every time I manage to be minimal, the painting has strength - a kind of strength that wanes with each added brush stroke, each addition of paint.

I realized the other day that I've never explained the title of this blog. Anyone who knows me understands it, knows how I fell into painting at a time when I desperately needed it. But the title means more than that. It helps me remember my commitment to experiment, to try, to find ideas and opportunities by accident. I'm happiest painting, and I'm happiest painting when I'm trying something new.

First snow

First snow I. Oil on canvas, 11x14

As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I knew it had snowed. The air had that glow, cool and warm, soft and bright, all at the same time. And excitement ran through me just as it had when I was a kid, just as it has every winter, every time the first snow falls.

I wasn't the only one. Kaja, 12 years old, part chow, part German shepherd, raced out into the yard, flung herself on the ground and rolled, all four feet in the air, a huge smile on her face. Sam, a Samoyed, romped and ran, bouncing and loping, through the snow. Woodreau, a dingy bichon, raced like a bunny, hindquarters tucked under, running as hard and fast as he could, in circles, challenging Jojo - part border collie, part who knows what - to chase - and of course, she did.

It was a riot of canine glee, simple exuberance, sheer joy. How contagious! As soon as I brought the dogs in, I went out in that yard and painted. No need to go anywhere! This is the first of two paintings I did this morning - my first snow paintings in oil.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The arc at Noah's

Left, one of Peter's ice photographs. Above, the mountains outside of Wisdom, Montana.

Yesterday, Peter and I met Trowbridge Cottrell at Noah's in Stonington Borough. By afternoon, the show was shaping up.

We found that Trowbridge had a wonderful sense of our separate arts and how they worked together - a better sense, truly, than either of us has developed. Of course, my stuff has been on the walls and Peter's in the computer, so until yesterday, we really didn't have the chance to see our pieces side by side.

We'd said we believed they'd work together, but there had been a tiny worry in my head that they wouldn't. His photographs are so abstract, so black and white. My paintings are so colorful, so varied in tone and value and hue, I really didn't know.

But Trowbridge found remarkable similarities of composition and form, of rhythm and meaning and made them work.

We ended up with 30 pieces, 12 of Peter's and 18 of mine. This is far more than I'd imagined we would have. The walls are bigger, the lighting better and the whole process more involved than I had ever imagined.

There's no opening at Noah's, nothing formal. The three of us toasted, with sparkling cider. A few Stonington residents wandered in, looking for the first-Monday-of-the-month party. They were disappointed when we told them there wasn't one, but they looked at the art and oohed and aahed.

It's Trowbridge's final show at Noah's, and that's sort of sad. But we gave him work that made him happy, and priced it so it should sell.

He had the reaction to Peter's work that most people have had. In short, they are stunned by it. No one has ever seen anything like it. I think he's making something truly special, truly different. I think I have a future as a painter, yes. But I think he has a spectacular future awaiting him. I see his stuff in the big galleries in the big cities. I see him changing the face of photography. And I couldn't be happier. As long as I don't have to go back to journalism, as long as I get to paint, I don't care who makes the money, who makes it big.

For more, see

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A small goodbye

Black Dirt Region. Pastel, 8x10

I took down my half of "A Confession of Color" yesterday.

I stood in the Wallkill River School gallery and looked at the half-empty walls. George Hayes's paintings still hung. And several of mine, all sold, still hung, looking lonely next to all the empty spaces. I said goodbye to them, silently, of course. Said goodbye to the images that carried my memories so easily on their shoulders.

One painting was already gone. I found myself feeling as though a good friend had left my party before I'd had the chance to hug her. It was one of two paintings from my trip to Wisdom, Montana, that sold. That surprised me. I thought they'd go, all of them. They are such strong paintings, with such a voice. They are so imbued with discovery, adventure and emotion.

To me, they are evocative and powerful, far beyond any of the more local paintings. But I'm starting to understand that most people like representations of places that they know, not places they dream about.

The Wisdom Trip paintings were bought by good friends. One, of a partly mowed wheat field in Milan, Ohio, was bought by an artist. The wheat is planted on small, undulating hills, and my friend told me she liked the rhythm and the movement in the painting. That's what I like, too.

The other was bought by a friend who, like me, was kicked out of her job at the Times Herald-Record. This is the ultimate Wisdom Trip painting, of a wildflower-filled meadow backed by hills and mountains on the outskirts of Wisdom. It's really the only painting I've ever reworked substantially. I got it, finally, the night before the opening reception. When Beth bought it, it was still wet. I think it spoke to her as the scene I saw spoke to me - inviting new life, with a big, open sky and a horizon full of possibility.

But first, two shows! The exhibit at Noah's in Stonington Borough goes up tomorrow and opens Tuesday, with no reception. The show at the Emporium in Mystic goes up Wednesday; the opening reception is Thursday, from 6-8 p.m. It's an exciting time, indeed.

For more paintings, see

Friday, November 28, 2008

When it is finished?

Shelby, Iowa. Note the gap between the edge of the painting
and the edge of the image.

The talented and renowned Mary Evelyn Whitehall accosted me about that issue last month as we were setting up the show at the Wallkill River School gallery. They're not finished, she insisted. The gap between the painting and the frame, especially if the frame is dark-colored and the canvas is a light color, is distracting, she insisted.

Take a look at the top of this post at "Shelby, Iowa." It's one of my favorite paintings, and has one of the largest gaps, one of the most unfinished looks.

I left it that way in part because during the Wisdom Trip, I fell into leaving it that way. It started one day when it was hot and windy and I was being bitten by bugs, and I thought, well, the very foreground isn't that interesting anyways, so I will leave it for later; finish it up in the hotel tonight.

But when I looked at it, I liked it. I really liked it. I liked the ragged quality of the unfinished edge. I like the sense it gave me, as a viewer, that someone - a human - had painted the piece. I liked the immediacy. And I liked the questions it raised, and the answers I was able to supply. And so, if it strikes me to leave the edge unfinished, I've been leaving the edge unfinished.

When there were still leaves on the trees, I started a painting of our back field. It was late October or early November, and as the sun set, it turned the field a golden pink. I painted a small piece, and didn't like it. So I painted a big one. But the sun set far too quickly, and for the very first time in my painting life, I didn't finish the piece.

It was about half painted. I'd gotten the far-off trees, and the closer bushes. I'd gotten the field grasses, and had sketched in some tall foreground grass. But the rest, nearly a third of the canvas, was white.

In time, I fell in love with the unfinished look of it. But just a couple days ago, I filled in some of the remaining space. I still like it. It's still unfinished-looking, but not as starkly so as it was, originally.

It's too gray a day to take a photo of it, but I will, as soon as I get back from New York. I'd like to hear what any of you think.

For more paintings, see

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving was one in a series of frenzied, art-filled days. And today, the day after, I've had a moment to sit and think and recognize how lucky and how thankful I am.

I'm most thankful to my mother, for supporting in me, for my entire life, the courage that has let me embark on this painting adventure. I'm thankful, too, for putting me in a position that has made this start-up possible.

I'm thankful to my husband, for his patience and support, and I'm thankful that he's an artist, too, and understands.

I'm thankful to my family, who encouraged me to try this, urged me on when I flagged, and gave me their confidence and optimism when my own failed me.

I'm thankful to my friends, who supported me in this from the first day. They've come to my openings, bought my paintings, commissioned work, read my blog, showered me with love and enthusiasm and helped me at every step.

In a strange and roundabout way, I'm grateful to the world of journalism, to the Times Herald-Record, which kicked me out of a life I'd thought was mine, and to the Kent County Daily Times, which showed me with such clarity that for me, the joy of journalism was gone.

I'm thankful to the painters of the Wallkill River School, who took me in when I felt so orphaned. They loved me, taught me, shared their skill and knowledge and hope with me, and told me, in every way possible, that I could, indeed, be a painter.

I'm thankful to the hundreds and hundreds of strangers who've reached out to me. The people who shared their lives and landscapes with me on my trip to Wisdom. The people who stop me every time I paint outdoors, and talk about my painting and their painting, and their hopes and dreams of life. And I am grateful to the strangers who bought my paintings even though they don't know me at all.

I'm especially grateful to my stepdaughter, Erika, the very first person to see my very first painting. She believed in me from that minute, with an unwavering positivity that has truly astounded me.

Indeed, I am a grateful, thankful painter this post-Thanksgiving Day. I am blessed. Thank you, each of you, all of you, thank you.

For more paintings, see

Friday, November 21, 2008

River's edge of night

Mystic River, Nov. 19. Oil, 10x20

Two friends told me things this week that set my mind spinning. One said she wanted to buy a painting of mine not only because she likes it, but also because she thinks I'll be famous one day, and so it's a good investment.

The other told me that she admires me because I care so little about people's opinions of me.

So here's a question: Can both assessments be true? Let's just say that most of my friends wouldn't be very happy living inside my head for any amount of time. It's a messy, hot place there, with too many dark corners and way too much stuff stored away in deteriorating boxes.

Meanwhile, where that head lives these days is one gorgeous place. I set out a couple days ago to make an afternoon painting, and ended up along the Mystic River, somewhere between new Mystic and Old Mystic.

It's pretty darn tough to find a place to park the car so you can paint. The people who own land on the western edge of the road also own the land between the road and the river, and have it blocked off with all sorts of stuff. Rocks, fences, big old telephone-sized logs, you name it.

I guess I see their point. After all, if people could park along there to soak in the beauty of the scene, they would. And that would probably wreck things for people whose living room windows face this gorgeous, golden river.

I found a spot, and painted quickly, but still, I wasn't fast enough. When the sun goes down these days, it's no leisurely matter. It starts heading down and wham, it's gone. Dusk passes in a heartbeat, here in late November.

For more paintings, see

Step by step

A house I know, Oil, 10x20, not for sale

It's an exciting time here at 109 Whalehead Road. In addition to my December show at the Emporium in Mystic, Peter and I are going to have a show together at Noah's in Stonington. And today, Shawn Dell Joyce tells me, "A Confession of Color," the show George Hayes and I have at the Wallkill River School Gallery, was reviewed in the weekend section of the Wallkill Valley Times,

Really, these things are happening as if by magic. My daughter Erika, grandson John and I spent Tuesday putting up posters and distributing postcards in Mystic and Stonington. We went to lunch at Noah's, and I asked about how I could get my art up on the walls there.

The next day, I emailed Trowbridge Cottrell, gave him our website and asked if we could show at Noah's. He said yes.

I cleared it with Cindy at the Emporium, whose refreshing attitude is "the more, the merrier." And we're off and running. I have a lot of framing to do in these next couple weeks, and Peter has printing, framing and a whole slew of interesting decisions to make about the presentation, size and pricing of his work.

I'm thrilled that we'll be showing together. I know that our work doesn't really go together, that the instant reaction is not: Wow, what coordination! But I do think that his black and whites and my brights (In fact, that might be the name of the show? Black and white and bright) do set each other off nicely.

And while I haven't yet seen the story by Matt Frey, Shawn says he liked the show, and the piece got plenty of room.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Doing the footwork

I spent the day doing guerrilla marketing with my daughter Erika and grandson John. I say "guerrilla," but times have changed since I lived in Boston and spent dangerous nights spray painting slogans on bridges and buildings, and pasting posters to walls and telephone poles.

Our day was fairly sedate, truly. We asked permission. The guy in the Green Marble coffeehouse, deep in downtown Mystic, was a little surprised at this. He figured we'd just put up our posters wherever we wanted to put up our posters.

"I'm 52," I said. "I've learned to ask permission."

What a statement that is, when I stand back and look at it. I guess I have learned to ask permission. I still do things without asking, but only when I'm pretty sure I either won't get caught or, if I do, it won't matter. I think I've realized that I only ask permission these days when I'm pretty sure it's going to be granted.

Of course, I suppose this means I miss out on opportunities. And it sure means I miss out on the fun of being yelled at, threatened, sworn at and chased by the cops. Oh, well.

It was a cold day to be stomping around the vastly empty downtown Mystic and the stunningly crowded downtown Stonington. But we were in and out of stores, and when the sun came out, it was warm enough. As we strode through the streets, it felt like we were on a mission, and I guess, in a way, we were. It was great fun to do this with Erika and John. This is the reason we came home, really, when you get all the way down to it. To put up posters with the kid and the grandkid.

I did make a painting yesterday, but I have a few details I want to address before I post it here. So tune in tomorrow. It's a good one!

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Before the line storm

Storm coming, oil, 10x20

One storm blew in off the ocean, while another blew in off the plains. They met over Long Island Sound, I think, creeping up on us with an odd, spring-like fog and humidity, thick with the fresh scent of wet earth.

I stood on the Old Pequot Trail as dusk pulled in early, 4 p.m. or so, and the cars passing me turned on their lights, and I struggled to see this color gray vs. that color gray, and just how bowed that barn's roofline is.

In the end, I was wet, not because it was raining, but because the mist was so heavy. I was wet, the painting was wet, the car was wet where I'd left the windows open.

So I packed up and drove to the Portugese Club in Stonington and picked up fish and chips for dinner. There was no one there, at 4:30 this Friday. Just the big men who do the cooking, and two older women eating. Our dinners were cooked in minutes, and I drove home with the good smell of the freshest fish filling the damp little front of the Miata.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Smacked in the face

Last night, Peter and I watched "The Wizard of Oz," and for me, as a painter, it was a revelation.

As I watched, it occurred to me that my entire artistic sensibility is contained in that movie.

My first thought was absolute and horrified dismay. What?! "The Wizard of Oz"? What kind of pathetic, untrained, dreaming fool has "The Wizard of Oz" as the backbone of her painterly vision?

But there's no denying it. Look at the trees in the dangerous forest. They're my trees. Look at the hills outside the Emerald City. They're my hills. Look at the colors in the entire movie. They're my colors!

I'm doomed! I should give up now! Just surrender. Hand Toto over, light a fire under the scarecrow and call it a day.

Who would ever want to look at a painting that was made by someone who, deep in her unconscious, seems to believe that "The Wizard of Oz" holds some sort of artistic meaning? Why couldn't I discover that my work was somehow subconsciously formed along the lines of Matisse, or Rembrandt or Edward Hopper? No, apparently, my entire painterly person owes its being to Oz director Victor Fleming and cinematographer Harold Rosson and unnamed set designers and scene painters.

The more I watched the movie, the clearer this all became. And for about an hour, I suffered.

Then, I thought, what the heck. There are worse things to have inside my soul. If the ancestral tree of my painting grows in the soil of "The Wizard of Oz," well, at least it's rich soil. At least it's a place where optimism lives, where hope and courage defeat peril and evil, and where, even when you're feeling really dumb, there's someone who loves you and believes you've got something good going on.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Lifetime of memories

Harkness Park, Nov. 12. Oil, 8x10, $50

There are places here at home where I go, again and again, to paint. Harkness is one of them.

Sure, I'm interested in the gardens and the house and the beach, but it's really the inlet and the marshy ground around it that fascinates me. I love the way the water sneaks in and curls around. I love the grassy lands that spring up around the Sound's incursion. I love the colors that the grass and the water pick up, especially as the sun goes down beyond them.

I paint this same scene over and over, and I don't tire of it. It compels me to experiment, to try new things, strive in new ways to capture this essence that so moves me.

Partly, I'm sure, I love this place because of the memories attached to it. How many times we picnicked here, as a family first, and then just Mom and us kids. How many times I ran here. How many times, as a teenager, I came here with friends and boyfriends, and alone, to walk and muse, and move toward growing up.

Now I am moving toward growing old. There's no denying it. And still, this same place calls me, with its big sky and its warm fields and its lifetime of memories.

For more paintings, see


Salem, Conn., Nov. 11. Oil, 10x20

I've always had a thing about the number "11."

It's been my favorite number, all these years.

So often, when I look at the clock, it's 11:11. I don't go looking for 11:11 - I just glance at the clock, and there it is.

A friend of mine even wrote a song, "11:11," about me and the number.

And so, every year on Nov. 11, I expect big things. Since I'm such a pollyanna, I always start out expecting something wonderful to happen. This will be the day I'm discovered by ... well, when I was a kid, it was a movie director. Later, a book publisher. Later, my husband-to-be. Later, a newspaper publisher. These days, a major gallery.

As the day wears on, and the wonderfully momentous thing doesn't happen, I inevitably begin to get paranoid. If something wonderful isn't going to happen, then surely something horrible is out there waiting for me. I will die in a car wreck, find I have cancer, run over someone's dog.

This year, as with so many 11-11's past, nothing much happened, one way or another. I set out to paint (believing, of course, that I was destined to paint the greatest painting I've ever painted). I headed to Salem, where there's a row of New England white municipal buildings I've been itching to paint. Turns out the time to get them is afternoon, not morning.

So I drove around, looking and looking. In the end, I saw a field with a cool tree, and a safe place to pull off the road. It was a cold, cold, cold morning in the shade and the wind, and I wasn't dressed for it. But I painted, 11-11, waiting for a miracle.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Showing up at the show

Dolsontown Road, Middletown, NY. Oil, 12x12

Saturday evening was the opening reception fr "A Confession of Color," my first show. Not a one-man show, but a two-fer, which I shared with George Hayes.

This was a lucky pairing, I think. He's also starting out, he also loves color, and his work and mine looked good together. And he's a kind, sweet and patient man, the sort of person you want to share this kind of nervous time with, if possible.

And people came. Friends from the Times Herald-Record showed up in droves, full of love and the warmest support. Painter friends showed up, with all enthusiasm and hope, many with an ongoing sense of me as a painter. My daughter, Erika, and her good-guy boyfriend John showed up, too, dressed to the nines and full of the best sort of excitement.

I am still overwhelmed by the numbers of people, by the way they swelled my heart and warmed my soul. And I am overwhelmed, too, that they bought my paintings. And even better, they loved my paintings. I had the sublime opportunity of watching a number of them fall for paintings, and that was better than most things in life.

When I stand back and look at what I'm doing, it's terrifying. A smarter person would be putting off painting, searching for work, saving money for old age, saying there's no way on earth that it's possible to make it as a painter.

But when I watched people make contact with my art, the better person stood heads above the smarter person. The better person, that's the me who is driven, creative, willing to take risks. That's the one I like more. And I suspect that's the one those people at the opening befriended.

And so, in the end, though I might cry and wail in my tent on the riverbank, an old, impoverished and befuddled person, I will know that in my life, I listened to my heart, and I had the great good fortune to try something that old heart told me to try.

For more paintings, see

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finding the color

Field, Woodstock, Conn., Oil, 10x20

Out west, it’s a breeze to find a place to paint. The shoulders of the roads are wide and flat. You encounter drainage ditches only rarely. Everywhere you turn, there is accessible land.

Not so in New England. Foliage charts showed northeastern Connecticut as the nearest place to find bright colors. And I found them - but often couldn’t find a place where I could set up to paint them.

On a back road, I saw what looked like an abandoned farm house, fronting a tangled field backed by a line of fiery maples. A couple was walking on the road, and I slowed, the shark-like plein-air painter stalking its prey. The couple turned and looked quizzically at me.

“I’m not a weirdo,” I said, “I’m just a painter.”

They assured me that the house was indeed abandoned. I pulled into the overgrown path, pulled my sweatshirt tight around me, and began to paint.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Color in the cove

Route 1, Mystic, Conn.
Oil, 12x12

I spent much of October driving north to find the brilliant color I’d been expecting October to bring. I found some, but, of course, as the month progressed, the color passed. Wind tore the leaves from the trees around Woodstock, Brooklyn and Canterbury, Conn. And still the color didn’t come to the coast.

Then, I began to see it - but only in places where I couldn’t paint! Private lands; edges of busy roadways; fields with angles right for painting in morning light, but where the color would only show in the afternoon.

Finally, on Route 1, a road I’d driven a million times, I saw this little cove. I could pull over, get off the road, and the trees that I could see caught the light of the setting sun.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bronze morning

Route 82 field
Near Leffingwell, Conn.
Oil, 10 x 20

It was late October, and the color had seeped from the trees in northern Connecticut. It had barely arrived in southern Connecticut before it began to fade. Our trees grew bronze instead of golden, cinnamon instead of scarlet. Lovely, yes. Passionate, no.

The brightest spot in this landscape was the little hillside along the roadway behind the field. Here, the fallen leaves seemed to glow.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fire on the water

Woodstock, Conn.
Oil, 16x20. sold

Honest, it looked like this. The trees on the opposite bank were so bright, I nearly drove off the road when I saw them. Half a dozen cars stopped while I painted to take pictures of these fiery trees.