Monday, November 30, 2009

How Now?

How Now?
Oil on stretched canvas, 24x48

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

I'm becoming increasingly interested in the question of when a painting is finished. I think that this painting could have been called "finished" at a certain point yesterday, when I had painted the cows and the mud, the far-off mountains and trees, and everything else was just sketched in.

No red barn, no red feeding cage, no big green bush. I'd sketched these in, just outlined them, but they weren't painted in.

I should have taken a photo of the painting at that point, but it was raining, and so, shooting a photograph would have meant stopping for the day. And while I had the idea that the painting could have been called "finished" at that point, I didn't have the courage to make that call.

Don't get me wrong - I love this painting the way it is. I never know how a painting will look on your computer, but in real life, this painting is rich with color and depth. The cows are luxuriously colorful, with blues and reds and purples. The wet ground shimmers with color and reflections, and the big old barn stands in deep red shambles behind the bovines.

But still - the point of the painting, for me, is the cows. And so the rest, while fun and rich and adding to the portraiture, is all secondary.

Next time, I'll stop at that point and at least take a photo. I'd like to know what you all think.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Heartening Fact

Islands in the Stream
Oil on canvas, 9x12, $100

The rain and the early dusk make it more difficult to photograph my paintings.

In fact, when you really think about it, the rain and the early dusk make everything more difficult. I guess I should be thankful that it's not snowing, though somehow, a cold rain feels colder than snow.

So, in the cold rain, I slip out and set my paintings down under trees with no leaves to shelter from the rain, or from the glare of the day, and I shoot quickly, and cross my fingers.

I'm working on some very big paintings, and there's just no taking them out in the rain to photograph them. I'm not willing to chance it.

But here is an interesting and cheery fact to contemplate. Sunset begins getting later much sooner than you might think. Here in Gales Ferry, Dec. 2 - just days from now - is the earliest sunset time. It will set at the same time for a week or so, then begin to set later.

Yes, the shortest day of the year is still Dec. 21 - but that's because the dawn continues to come later. Go here and put in your information, and you'll see.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

Swiftly Fly the Years
Oil on canvas panel


Today, we give thanks, for our families, for the harvest, for the past that brought us to this doorway to tomorrow.

Today, I give thanks for the parents who brought me into this world, and raised me to believe in the good in people, and the best in myself.

I give thanks for a mother who adored me without question or demand, and for a father and stepmother who still welcome me into their lives, with smiles and hugs and decades of loving me.

I give thanks for a brother and a sister who share the joys and the sorrows of this adventure, and who share their lives and their children with me.

I give thanks for a husband who cherishes me, and is willing to live this quiet, animal-filled life with me.

I give thanks for the friends who have walked with me all along the way, and shared their secrets and their strengths, their ideas and their hopes, their fears and their beliefs, and have helped form my own.

I give thanks for the fog and the snow, the sunshine and the wind, the forces of nature that color and spin and turn through this world of God-given beauty.

I give thanks for the eyes that let me see, the hands that let me paint, the heart that gives me the courage to try.

I give thanks for all of you, who have told me that you love my paintings, who have bought them, who have believed in me and helped me believe in myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Happiness to Come

Oil on canvas, 11x14, not for sale.

Erika has become my daughter, and I have become her mother. It took years for this to happen, and it was not an easy process or a smooth one. But now, it is one of the joys in my life.

Erika is getting married in May, to Jon Mowrey. He is a wonderful, solid, honest, delightful man, with a sweet daughter, Jenna. They are already family. Peter and I could not be happier. So when Erika asked me if I wanted to make a painting for the invitation, I was thrilled. This is my first attempt - it might, or might not, be my last. I have some time.

Kisses for Baci

Commission, oil on canvas, 12x12

Baci, according to the woman who hired me to make this painting, means "kisses" in Italian. And Baci gave and received, for years and years.

Baci is dead now, but lived a long and joyful life, according to Samantha. The big dog - an English mastiff - was always with Samantha, and when she and her husband had a child, Baci loved and guarded the baby, as well.

I know, when an animal enters my life, that chances are I will outlive it. I know that my welcome, my warming heart, my open door, let pain and loss in, along with all that love.

I would not trade one moment's awful grief for one moment's pure and loving joy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life, Unraveling

Unraveling Life
Oil on canvas, 8x10, $125

A friend caught me at the grocery store this afternoon, dropping sections of the New York Times all over the floor. One slid, then the next, then three more, then she said hello and I dropped the rest. No matter. The paper is not so big any more.

This week, my friend said, had been tough. Her mom has to move to assisted living, her mother-in-law took ill, and her cat died. My friend was philosophical. We all get old, she said, and our parents all get old, and our pets all die, and none of that matters. What does matter is raising our children.

Peter and I have no children of our own - well, no two-legged children - but Erika, Peter's daughter, has become my daughter, too. It's not been an easy road, but the rewards are sweeter than I'd ever anticipated. And they include grandchildren and a son-in-law-to-be and a sweet granddaughter-to-be, and so I am blessed. My brother and sister have children, too, and so there are the blessings of nieces and nephews, as well.

Holidays remind me always of the people I love who are no longer here. I must remind myself to be thankful for the ones who are.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Karen and Henry

Brown Field
Oil on canvas, 11x14

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

When I'm painting and it's going well, my mind goes blank. Songs run through it, phrases, and sometimes, near the end of a painting, phrases and words begin to form a title. Otherwise, I paint in a glory of unconscious action. I see, I move, I swirl colors, I put brush or knife to canvas, and when I look up, two hours have passed, and the temperature has changed, and the light has drained from the day.

I love this, this feeling of being and nothingness, as though my body, my brain, my hands were nothing but extensions of art, or of paint, or of God, or the song of the universe. I love that, for a while, I am less than corporeal, at least in my soul. And the best paintings come then.

As I pulled up to the surface near the end of this painting, I began thinking of a title. "Rhapsody in Brown" seemed pretentious. (Really?) "Meet the Browns," amused me, because of a silly TV show which I have never seen, though I have seen the commercials.

Then I thought of naming this painting "Karen & Henry," after the Browns, longtime friends of my parents and two of my favorite people of all time. She is six feet tall and always struck me as glamorous. He is shorter, with Mr. Spock-like ears and one of the driest senses of humor I've ever encountered.

It made me happy to think of them. I still might name this painting after them, but for the time being, it will be "Brown Field."

Friday, November 20, 2009


Oil on stretched canvas, 36x48, $800.

Since I started painting, people have asked me to make large paintings. I've made a couple, but have not felt comfortable working large until recently.

In the past month, I've been working on a number of large pieces, and this is one of them. I have to say that this piece has a power and a glory that the same painting, smaller, would not have had.

It's hard to work on these, though. Hard to get far enough from them to see them. Hard to know how thin a thin stroke should be, and how wide a wide stroke. Also, I go through a scary amount of paint!

I'm about to start some large animal paintings (some large paintings of small animals, that is, not large-animal paintings) for my February show in Groton. I can't wait to see what a cat's head looks like, 20 times life size.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Still Howling

Oil on canvas, 11x14

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

A friend is thinking of building a website for herself, and took some time lately to look through my blog and website.

I asked her what reaction she had to my new paintings.

Well, she said, she couldn't really remember any of them, except that there was glare on some of them.

"Howl" is one that I know had some glare, so I've reshot it, and am reposting it here. It's also a small reminder that if you want a pet painting by me for Christmas, you should get me your photos soon.

If any of you see photos of mine that have glare, or seem to be unclear, please let me know, and if it's possible, I'll repost them.


Georgia on My Mind

Summer Song
Oil on canvas, 15x30

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Yesterday, I had the great good fortune to go to the Whitney Museum in New York City and see, among other things, a collection of Georgia O'Keeffe's abstract paintings.

The pieces were fascinating, inspiring, evocative. It was exhilarating to think of these big ideas, these huge imaginings, coming from the small, hard-looking woman in Alfred Stieglitz's photos.

The paintings were not the absolute riot of color I'd thought they might be, though that brilliance presented itself in more than a few. Instead, I'd say the pieces were a song of control, hummed over a prayer of movement and the whisper, again and again, of color.

My favorite pieces were among the darkest, a trio of abstracts that transformed themselves for me into gray mountains, folds of the earth, thoughts of blindness, the lines and melding and pulling apart of marriage.

The show continues through Jan. 17. If you have the chance, go. It will feed your heart and your soul.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spring or Fall?

Outside Santa Fe
Oil on canvas, 6x12

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Now that fall is here, spring feels like more than a memory. It's an echo, a harmony, the second twin, the flash that you see at the edge of your eye, the thought that slips just out of reach.

I pulled this little painting out the other day, and worked it, and found that I like it better than when I painted it.

I was just west of Santa Fe, and spring had barely touched the land. Mornings dawned cold, afternoons rolled into warmth, and colors started - wanly - to appear.

The same thin rhythms pulse through these autumn days, and sometimes, if I'm thinking too hard or not thinking enough, I find myself wondering if it is spring or if it's fall.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting Busy

Swirl of Fall. Oil on canvas, 6x16, $85.

Some exciting things are happening here at the world headquarters of Jacobson Arts.

For starters, the Colby College alumni magazine, featuring - me! - is apparently in the hands of Colby College alumni.

Though I didn't graduate from Colby, the alumni office seems to treasure me, finding me - with no prompting on my part - everywhere we've ever lived. And so, it occurred to me that the alumni mag was probably finding everyone else, too, and perhaps might be interested in doing a story on an alumna launching a new career at the age of 53. Sure enough, it was.

I have yet to see the magazine, but I received a nice email from someone interested in one of my paintings. So I guess I'm in.

I know I'm in a December show at the Emporium in Mystic. Cindy, who runs the place, called the other day when her December artist fell out. I don't know who else is going to be in the show, but I will have at least a few pieces in, and I am thrilled. I'll let you know more when I know more.

I'm also going to have one framed piece and a number of unframed pieces in the Members Show at the Wallkill River School Gallery in December. The gallery is on Route 17K (Ward Street) in Montgomery. Click here for more information and directions. That show's reception is Dec. 5, from 5-8 p.m., and you're all invited.

In January, I've been invited to participate in the Members Show at the South County Art Association, near URI. February has me in a show at the Lighthouse Gallery in Groton. March, I'm showing with Shawn Dell Joyce at the Wallkill River School Gallery. Memorial Day weekend, I'm taking a big leap and setting up my tent and my wares at the Paradise City Art Festival in Northampton, Mass. I'm teaching workshops on pet painting and painting with a palette knife; those take place in February, March, April and May at the Wallkill River School; check their website for dates and times and info on how to sign up.

I will make sure everyone knows about all these openings as they grow nearer.

I've got some dog-portrait commissions going, and have work at Center Framing & Art in West Hartford, Conn., as well.

So I am busy, and I am thankful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Harpswell

Saltwater Farm, Harpswell
Oil on stretched canvas, 12x48,
I've been working on this painting since August, bit by bit, piece by piece, when I've had the time, and when I've had the right questions and some of the right answers.

I like to think that it's the best painting so far in my Big Field, Little House series. I know I joke about this, I do - but these are the paintings of my heart and my soul.

I'm starting to understand that this is how I see the world. We are a small piece of a large universe. We walk on the land, we till it, we balance on it, we cultivate it - and it surrounds us, in all its God-given glory and breathtaking beauty.

Some people see loneliness in these paintings, but I don't. I see evidence of humanity and of family. I see shelter and peace and privacy. I see a vast world, so rich it needs no decoration or construction. I see a world so filled with beauty and with wonder that it becomes, in itself, a companion.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ever Hopeful

By the River. Oil on stretched canvas, 6x10, $150.

I think I was too hopeful yesterday.

As the rain fell with increasing fervor today, my anxiety grew. And there's no reason for it - other than memory, and what I believe is post-traumatic stress disorder.

I spent this day in my attic studio, listening to the torrents hit the roof, and talking myself out of my river-borne fear. Over and over, I told myself there was no need to worry any more, no need to worry.

But fear is a strong emotion, one of the strongest, I think, and it runs through me as powerfully as that river used to run in our back yard.

I am ever hopeful - that this is a new day, with new opportunities. A new chance to paint. A chance to meet someone interesting. A chance to learn something, do something, see something new.

Every day, I believe that I will have a new chance.

So today gave me a new chance to master my fear. I have not been entirely successful, but I have made progress.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back on My Feet

Looks Like Loosey. Oil on canvas, 11x14. To be donated to the Middletown, N.Y., animal shelter, as part of the Art for Shelter Animals Project.

I've been down with something that thankfully was not the flu, but flattened me nonetheless. Now, Peter has it. I am hopeful that the people in my pet-painting workshop didn't catch it from me...

Today, the nor'easter working its way up the coast edged into our area. The sky felt low and gray, and the wind and rain snatched most of the remaining leaves from the trees.

At the beach, the waves crashed in a rhythmic muscle of foam and spray, flexing its way down the length of the sand. Surfers floated on top of the slate-gray swells, catching one and then another, intrepid and brave.

This is the first time in seven years that I've been able to enjoy a storm. All these years past, we've had our house on the riverbank in New York, our beautiful, dangerous house, where in the flash of a moment, we could be trapped, stranded, victims of the rising river.

It's been a pleasure today to enjoy the rain, to go to the beach, to drive through puddles, to remind myself that I'm in no danger. I no longer need to worry.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Blue-Eyed Boy. Oil on canvas, 16x20, $150.

I traveled to Montgomery, N.Y. (my first trip as a nonresident) and taught a pet-painting workshop on Saturday. It was fun and invigorating - and my students made amazing, wonderful paintings.

Of the seven in the group, three had never painted, three were new painters and one was returning to painting after a two-decade hiatus. They all made paintings that stirred my imagination and excited my soul.

They are all animal lovers, and that helps - there's very little wondering about the curve of the head or the set of the ear - they know what that head feels like under their fingers. They know where that ear is, and how it moves, too.

But they said they felt liberated - free to make blue dogs and yellow cats, and to use pink and purple instead of light brown and dark brown. This, after all, is part of what makes painting so wonderful - if you wish the sky were orange, well, it can be.

It's easy to forget this, in life and in painting. But it's also easy to remember it again.

I made this painting as a demonstration piece. It's from a card my friend Heather sent me from Maine. The dog looks completely nuts - and like he knows all about fun.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Tamed and the Wild

When Worlds Collide. Oil on canvas, 8x24

Close readers of this blog will recognize this as the same spot where I painted On Golden Field back in September. It's just an open field at the side of Route 184 - but it is lovely and ever-changing.

It must be marshy. One day last year, I drove by, and there were about 30 cows standing knee-deep in the field, mooing and having themselves a fine time.

I could hear them today, but I never saw them, so they must have been over the crest of the hill.

In this painting, I really like the way the tamed and the wild come together. The lawn to the left of the painting could not be greener or more cultivated. The field is wild and chaotic and free. And the two meet, and coexist, like so much of the best in life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Confessions and Ideas

Field No. 2
Oil on canvas, 8x24

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

OK, confessions first.

In the middle of the night, when I am roaming the house, looking for sleep, I have come very, very close to ordering Sham Wow, a sponge that holds 12 times its weight in liquid.

When my arthritis is acting up, I find myself wondering how handicapped you have to be to get a handicapped tag for the car.

Prompted by television commercials, I have worried that I might have peripheral artery disease, chronic dry eye, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome and an overactive bladder. I can barely wait to see what I worry about when I hit 60.

Here are some ideas: If I had a landscaping company, I would call it "Lawn Order."

If I had a crane company, well, "Ichabod Crane."

The world would be a better place if we had a device that helped locate car keys. You know, there's that button you can press on the base of the cordless phone that tells you where your husband has left the receiver? I need one of those for the car keys. Also, maybe there should be an alarm that sounds if you get too far from the car keys. (I have mislaid a set of car keys, and have torn the house apart looking for it).

Have I written all this before? It seems so familiar, but then, of course, these ideas have been kicking around in my head for years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Field of Memories

Field of Memories. Oil on stretched canvas, 16x20, $150

Eric Bryson was my first true love. We met, I believe, in the choir at the Second Congregational Church. We became friends and we dated and remained friends even after we stopped dating.

We had, and still have, a rich and complex relationship. Eric became a friend of my family in general, and my mother in particular. The two of them had similar senses of humor, and similar senses of the absurd. They argued well, too. I became close with Eric's parents, too, and for years, we were in and out of each other's homes, and pretty much always in each other's lives.

We've seen each other fairly regularly since Peter and I moved back. Some of these visits, sadly, have been occasioned by deaths. But this one wasn't. Eric came over to the house, said hi to Peter and the dogs and saw my studio ("Gee, Carrie, at the age of 53, you finally have a clubhouse," he said.)

We drove to a field on Route 2, just past the casino. I painted and Eric let me talk him into sketching. I gave him some charcoal and a pad of Wallis paper. This is a grayish brown paper, very thick, with a heavily sanded finish for picking up charcoal or pastel marks.

I started painting and we began talking and laughing and reminiscing, and after an hour or so, I asked if I could look at his drawing. Sure, he said. And when I went over to the back of the car, where he'd laid the paper down to draw, I realized that he was drawing on the back of the sheet.

Well, he said, he was drawing on the white side.

Honestly, the two of us laughed and laughed. And I had to think of my mother. She'd have howled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Ancient Voice

The Dying of the Light
Oil on canvas, 8x24

It's November, and I am hungry all the time. I'm dieting, but that's not the reason. This hunger is something more primal, something ancient and deep and unconnected to today or tomorrow or what I had for lunch.

This hunger is about caves, and the thick skins of animals. It's about nestling, curled with my brothers and sisters in the curve of our mother's belly. It's about hot breath catching in clouds in the frigid night, and about the whipcrack of trees as the frozen sap breaks in the winter wind.

This hunger feeds on fear and darkness and the sense that nothing will ever grow again. This hunger knows no satiety. It grows from the gnawing knowledge that snow will cover the plains and keep the herds from roaming, and unless this hunger is met now, it will consume us all in the deep of winter.

It's November and I am hungry all the time. I listen in the night as the coyotes howl and I know they are hungry, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time for Time

Early Evening. Oil on canvas, 8x24, or 24x8, $150

The first days of the time change always leave me feeling pressed and pulled and somehow watery. Nothing in my soul has caught up. Even my eyes are working wrong.

Though these days end early, they start early, too, and for those of us who roam, sleepless in the night, this is a welcome change.

These lonely dawns have a special edge. The solitary vision of the insomniac, the single focus of the troubled sleeper, the unmet hope of the exhausted, all these are softened by a sunrise that seems to offer itself to you alone.

All too soon, this light of early dawn will drain away. And so, unsettled though I am by time's erratic passing, I will greet the day with quiet joy, and listen as my heart sings the song of morning.