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