Saturday, January 30, 2010

Piece of My Heart

Piece of My Heart
Oil on canvas, 16x20, $300
It's hard to tell from this photograph, but this painting has a luminous quality that I can't seem to transmit on the computer, no matter how many times I photoshop it. Ah, well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't!

I've been painting dogs and cats and dogs like crazy these past few days. Painting so much that the absurd, Maine-like cold has barely touched me. Tomorrow I frame, and attach wires and do my best to catalog my paintings for the all-animal show at the Lighthouse Gallery in Groton. Tomorrow, too, I will get out and put up posters!

Last night, the full moon rose, yellow and clear and brilliant in the icy air. That moon shone on the snow and cast shadows, and seemed lighted from inside.  It was such a winter moon, it warmed and chilled me at the same time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Labradoodle I

Oil on canvas, 12x12. Commission

It feels like a lifetime since I've stood in a field, listened to the wind and painted the world before my eyes. And that's OK - but  the longing is building in me.

I've been painting dogs since before Christmas. I've been painting cows and dogs and cats since Christmas. I've been enjoying the absolute luxury of painting inside my beautiful studio. And I've been working, taking care of an older couple in West Hartford.

That job is down to a few days a week, as the couple's health improves. It is a lovely job, really. They are dear people, they need and appreciate me, and we have fun. I read somewhere that everyone should spend more time with people who are older than 70 and younger than 7, and I agree.

I've spent the past few days painting this labradoodle, my most recent commission. It's heading to DC when it dries!

And I am heading back out into the world, as soon as I can. I'm still painting for the "Pets & Places" show at the Lighthouse Gallery - but I will have to stop myself soon! The opening reception is Friday, Feb. 5, from 5-7 p.m. The gallery is on Long Hill Road in Groton, right next to Arrow Party & Paper - and you're all invited. Click here for information and directions.

One great thing about this little gallery is that commissions on anything I sell go to the Lighthouse Voc-Ed program.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 22, 2010


Oil on canvas, 24x36, $250

Puffy doesn't hold anything back.

When she's mad, she's mad, and she hauls off and pops whatever dog or cat happens to be nearby. 

When she likes you - which she does in rollicking, exuberant stretches, which last for weeks or months and then end, abruptly - she climbs on you, purring and rubbing and touching you with her paw. Then she forgets that you exist.

Puffy was born in the closet of the bathroom of our house in Maine. Her mother, Samantha, is a semi-wild adoptee who escaped before we could get her spayed. Puffy's dad is a scruffy Maine tomcat who lived for years on the streets and in the barns of Bolster's Mills.

Frank, our late chow, thought Puffy was about the most wonderful thing ever, and it was mutual. At first, we were convinced that Frank was going to eat Puffy, but instead, he nurtured her, snuggled with her, wagged his little chow tail with vigor and in the end, pretty much raised her.

So this is Puffy, looking mad about something.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Range Rovers

Range Rovers
Oil on canvas, 36x60
It was more than two years ago, in July, and I'd put myself on parole only weeks before.

I was driving home from Wisdom, Montana. I was as free as any human could be, alone in a car, with time and paint and canvases, and money in my pocket. The sky was huge and blue and endless, the prairie green and gold in the afternoon heat, and I felt like an explorer.

In Wyoming, I got off the highway at every exit, just to see what was there. And why not? Never had I had such freedom in a place that drew me so strongly.

On one exit, I turned up a dirt road and had to stop while this group of cows and steers crossed. Clearly, the road belonged to them. 

They were pretty mean-looking, so I did not get out, but took photographs through the windshield. I've painted them already, on a teeny canvas that sold way back. They continue to intrigue me, and so I've painted them again - and there are more paintings of these creatures coming.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Oil on canvas, 24x24, $300

It was a wet May day, and Jill Blanchette (a wonderful painter and old friend; see her work here) took me up on my invitation to go painting in the Kinney Azalea Garden in West Kingston, R.I.

Off we went, and painted the gorgeous garden, color-splashed and saturated to an even brighter pitch by the drizzly day. Afterwards, we drove through backwoods Rhode Island, and in time, came upon a farm where goats were stomping around in a field.

We stopped, and I took photos, and in time, a woman came out and introduced us to some of the goats. They are odd creatures! I've always liked them, with their soft noses and strange eyes. I had fun painting this guy.

On another note, Robert Parker has died, the television news said this morning. A prolific mystery writer, Parker was a teacher at Northeastern University when I was there. I took a creative writing class from him. It consisted of us going in on the first day and meeting the already famous writer. He told us to write at least 40 pages, and show up at the end of the semester with it. If we wanted help, we could check with him during office hours, though he probably wouldn't be there.

He smoked the whole time. We all did.

I wrote him a novella. He gave me an A+, said I was the best writer he'd ever had, and eventually introduced me (briefly) to Stephen King. I'd bet money that that A+ and the accolade were not rare gifts from him.

He was a tough, gruff, likable man. I've loved reading his novels and his nonfiction. It's a poorer world without him.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Oil on canvas, 36x42
Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting
Niobe was a good cat. No, she was a great cat.

I was about to start college at Northeastern University in Boston, and I was living in a city for the first time, and living alone for the first time. I was lonely and I was scared, and I went to the local animal shelter to get a cat, but came away with a dog.

Her name was October, and she was a beautiful cross of a German shepherd and maybe an Australian shepherd. That first day, we walked around the city for the whole day. Eight or nine hours, we walked, and at the end of it, she wanted to walk more. We walked the entire day the next day, and still, I hadn't dented her energy level.

What had started as a well-founded doubt now became a clear and unavoidable problem: I would not be able to take my day-school courses, and my night-school courses (I was going to cooking school at night), and have this dog.

So in tears, I brought her back to the shelter.

I left, and walked home. I made it as far as the lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts, which was next to my apartment building, and I sat down and I wept. I wept for October, I wept for myself, I wept for all the dogs in shelters, and all the dogs abandoned and unloved, and then I heard someone say my name.

It was one of my neighbors in the apartment building. He wanted to know where the dog was. I told him my story, crying the whole time.

"You brought her back to the shelter?" he asked.

"Yes," I wailed, feeling like the worst person on the face of the earth.

"Angell Memorial?" he asked.

I nodded.

"I'm going to get her," he said. "Right now. I'm moving to the country tomorrow, to a farm, with, like, 20 acres. I love that dog. I'm going to go get her."

And off he went.

The next day, he and October moved, and I went back to the shelter. There was another wrinkle in this story, for another time, but in the end, I came home with Niobe, a pure white cat, who was probably a year old.

She was an amazing cat, and a funny one, too. Her fur was so thick, and her body so round, she always looked a little like a stuffed cat. Throughout her life, she spent good amounts of time staring at nothing. Staring into corners, staring into space, just watching the air. Also, she was a klutz. She misjudged distances,  and would fall off things she was clearly hoping to jump onto.

She was a food hound, and for years, I fought with her over my food. If I had muffins, she would find them and eat them, including jumping up onto the refrigerator, one day, and tearing open a bag and eating nearly an entire corn muffin.

I'd end up using cereal boxes to make walls around my breakfast, because I couldn't keep her off the table or away from my bowl. When I moved in with Peter, he set out to keep Niobe on the floor. He'd find her on the dining room table, and she'd stick her head under a newspaper or magazine, figuring that if she couldn't see him, he couldn't see her.

If I went away for any length of time, I'd leave Niobe with Mom. Always, when I retrieved her, she'd be mad, and sit with her back to me for days.

But she slept on top of the covers, between my knees, nearly every night for all those years. She greeted me at the dog, dog-like, every day. She put up with other cats, other dogs, boyfriends and eventually a husband, though the first time she met Peter, she bit him.

I had her for 21 years, longer than half my life. She died while we were living in Maryland, and I buried her beneath a forsythia bush on a sunny hillside in our backyard. 

This painting is from a picture of Niobe, staring off into nothingness at my mother's house.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rain Coming

 Rain Coming
Oil on canvas, 30x48,

I woke today feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. I had the whole day to paint - and the whole day tomorrow, too. No work, no errands, no demands on my time - just painting, to get ready for the all-animal show (February) and even to begin pieces for my show with Shawn Dell Joyce in March.

Of course, the day didn't work out precisely as planned, but close enough - there were a couple of errands, and a few demands on my time - but I had the extra added bonus of a day warm enough to melt some of the snow, and keep me toasty in my attic studio.

So here's the big cow painting I've been working on recently. I like it very much. I like the cows themselves, their arrangement, their colors, and I like their flower-strewn field. I had fun with this one!

Throughout this day, this happy day in safe, sunny Connecticut, my thoughts turned to Haiti and the horrors there. I have had trouble watching the news stories, at least watching them in their entirety. I've had to turn away after a while. It is too heartbreaking. I am too powerless.

The one thing I can do is donate money. For anyone else who might want to donate, here are links to some of the organizations that Peter and I trust. All of them already have people on the ground in Haiti, with the possible exception of the Clinton-Bush fund.
(This is the Catholic Relief Fund)

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

I spent yesterday painting in the studio. I turned on the little oil radiator at 6 a.m., and at 8, when I began painting, it was 34 degrees in there. Yes, the paint was thick and slow - and so was I, but we both warmed up.

By mid-afternoon, the studio felt balmy, at 42 degrees. By 5:30, it was 44 degrees in there, and I was bone-weary and bone-chilled.

But what a day of painting I had! I finished a lovely painting of cows in a field full of flowers, and almost finished a painting of my old cat, Niobe, staring (as she so often did) at something off in the middle distance. The paintings are too wet to move right now, but I should be able to shoot them and post them tomorrow. They are big, and rich in color, and they both make me smile. What an excellent day!

I am going to try a few things to see if I can clear up the problem of the art being jammed into the text when my posts are emailed to you. Please let me know whether this IS a problem, whether it continues to be a problem - and if any of you have ideas about how to solve it, I'd love to hear them. I laughed out loud when one friend wrote that yes, the art was jammed into the copy, but she thought that it was me, being enigmatic.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010



Here are a couple photos of my new/old studio. You can see that it's been finished, with plywood all around. I love this. It was cheaper than most of the alternatives, but still gave me wood. I love the feel of it, the smell of it. I love seeing the grain of the wood, too.

You might not notice that there are lights in the studio now... and you probably wouldn't notice that there are plugs in the walls, but for me, this is a big deal. No more extension cords, no more quitting painting when the day's light fades.

Right now, I only have the one oil-filled radiator, and believe me, it's cold out there. Even though I ran the radiator for an hour before I started painting yesterday, the temperature in the studio only reached 37 degrees. Painting for an hour or so in the freezing cold is one thing; painting for four or five hours in 37 degree temperatures is entirely another thing.

But I will get heat up there, and, more to the point, it won't be this cold forever!

In the spring, when it's warm and sunny, I will have an open studio day, and you'll all be invited.

Meantime, a friend who receives these blogs by email tells me that recently, the pictures are intruding into the writing, especially if she sends me a response to the painting. Is anyone else finding this? Please let me know!

Thank you for reading.

The Edge of the Dark

The Edge of the Dark
Oil on canvas, 20x60, $1,200

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting
I drove along the reservoir near dusk the other night. The water had not quite frozen over, though it was close. The land, in fingers of blue and purple, crept back into a haze on the far horizon. Wind blew over the ice and it seemed that the land might never be warm again.

I've showed this painting to three people whose opinions I trust. One said it made her feel cold and sad. One liked it - but, given the chance to try it at home, declined. The other loved it, and is thinking of buying it, but has not committed yet.

It is a big painting, and it is stark, but it has colors and hope, too. Here's a detail of the bluff on the right of the painting:

I get tired of winter, I do. And as I grow older, I get tired of it more quickly. But I will never tire of the way the big, broad swaths of snow magnify reactions and response and emotions. A glorious sunrise seems ever more glorious over a snow-covered field, a desolate dusk even more lonely over a frozen reservoir.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Oil on canvas, 30x30, $850

As January spins on, I find myself in a flurry of painting. And this is good - and thrilling - but something to reckon with.

From Jan. 21 to Feb. 13, I'll have work in the Members Invitational show at South County Art Association in West Kingston, R.I. (For anyone in the area, the opening reception is Thursday, Jan. 21, from 7-9 p.m.). From Feb. 1 to Feb 28, I'll have animal paintings, including this one of Sam, in a show with the wonderfully talented Carden Holland at the Lighthouse Gallery in Groton.

The show at the Emporium Gallery, 15 Water St., Mystic, Conn., is up through Jan. 18. The Represented Artists show is up at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, N.Y., through Jan. 21, and my show there, with the superb pastelist Shawn Dell Joyce, starts March 1.

Weaving through all this is a series of juried shows I'd like to enter; the work I send to be juried has to be available to hang, should I get in.

So I have work hanging, work owed, work due and work to enter. It's a little like a puzzle, figuring out how to get the freshest paintings, the newest paintings, in the best venues. I don't want people to come to a show and see work they've already seen! But I don't want to keep work out of, say, the Lighthouse Gallery show because I want to enter it into the Art Show at the Dog Show show for jurying. For starters, it might not get in there - and even if it does, it might or might not sell at the Lighthouse Gallery, so this might - or might not - end up being an issue.

All I can say is - what a GREAT problem to have. Some days, I shake my head in wonder at all of this, and how amazingly lucky I am.

Thanks for reading! And thank you, too, for all your good help, good hopes and support.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pug No. 3

Pug No. 3
Oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

I must say, I love this painting. The pug had such a top-dog attitude in the photos I had, and yet, he seemed worried and about to run - all at the same time. I had fun with his expression. I bet he's a corker of a pup.

Snowing again this morning, a beautiful, straight-falling snow that began as the sun came up. Puffy, our mean and always-dirty cat, is sitting at the back door, watching little birds peck seeds on the back deck. For her, it must be like watching TV - food TV, probably.

Puffy, watching.

The studio is almost finished! The electricians are coming back today, a door and a banister are going in, and that's it. I will post photos when it's all done.

Before the work could be done, we had to move nearly everything out of the studio. I had not realized how much junk I'd already brought in there until the place was empty - and it was then that I realized how much I like it - and need it - nearly empty. So the challenge now will be to take the right stuff back up there, and find a place for everything else.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pug No. 2

Pug No. 2
Oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

Thanks, everyone, for your good wishes. The sun is shining, the day is a temperate 36 degrees, I left Chez Jacobson for the first time in a week, and I am feeling better.

Sherry Svec, a friend from New York, read my posting about the crows and shared a story of her own with me. It was so vivid and lovely, I asked if I could post it here on the blog, and she agreed.

Here's her story:

"I don't know whether you remember the hordes of crows that settle in on mIddletown somewhere around October and stay through the winter. They create a noise like rustling silk in the cold as they roost in the trees behind our house. They're like a sudden re-clothing of the maple trees, but in black rather than spring green or fall golden-red. 

"They are very smart, eerily so. They watch me as I walk with Rose through Hillside Cemetery, and I wonder what they are thinking. Mimi (a mutual friend) loves them, I remember her saying they were her favorite birds because they were so clever. 

"My best memory of them was when I was leaving my house to go see the New Year's Eve fireworks at midnight downtown. ... They used to set off the first volley as the clock struck midnight.  (They discontinued this practice after setting fire to the roof of City Hall one year).
"I was, as usual, slightly late, and when the first rocket went off I thought I missed it, but I was actually in the perfect position to find myself in the midst of hundreds of startled crows, they had been totally taken by surprise and were flowing around me like a black river.  It was amazing."
Thanks, Sherry! And thank you all for reading. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pug No. 1

Pug No. 1
Oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

I've been absolutely flattened by some virus now for what feels like an eternity, and I've come to a few realizations.

The first is that I almost never get any small illnesses. Little things - sore throats, upset stomachs, headaches - these just don't happen to me. When I do get sick, it's sleep-the-clock-around, sure-I'm-never-getting-better kind of sick.

The second is that, if I ever get some sort of terminal illness, it would be in Peter's best interest to just leave me. Clearly, I will be unable to keep myself from whining and complaining. If I am this abysmal with the flu, I will be unbearable with a fatal illness.

I'd be best off just walking into the desert, or finding an ice floe and setting myself adrift.

Honestly, if I could leave my own self, I would.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Oil on canvas, 12x12, commission

It's safe to post all the Christmas commissions now. I don't think any giftees were looking at the site, but you never know. Don't want to spoil any surprises!

I really enjoyed this series of Christmas commissions. It was a lot of work to do in a short time, 11 paintings in a couple weeks, but I am often at my best - in painting, writing, speaking, cooking - when I work quickly, in a whirl, without doing a lot of thinking.

I noticed decades ago, working as a reporter, that when I came in from an event and sat down and wrote a story on deadline, handed it off to an editor and walked away, those stories were inevitably the ones that got the most response - and the most positive response - from readers.

The same goes with paintings, I am finding.

The ones that I think about, and mull, the ones I plan and push at, the ones that seem to call for detail and rethinking and redoing, these are the ones people don't buy. They elicit no response on the blog. While I might like them, and value them for a technique I was trying or an idea I was working on, collectors tend not to respond.

I've always believed that when I am doing my best work, I am merely a conduit. "I" vanish. My hands continue to work, to paint or write or cook. My eyes keep working. But my brain seems to go away, and take my hearing with it, along with my sense of my corporeal self.

When I surface, in an hour or two or three, I find that time has gone, too.

The piece I've made - a painting, a story, a dish - is as much a surprise to me as it is to the viewer, the reader, the diner. And so it is a thing of wonder, a thing not of myself, but through myself, a connection with nature, a higher power, God, whatever terminology you'd like to use to describe the thing that is greater than us all.

"Golden" was like this. It's one of the best of the Christmas commissions I made, I think. I started to paint, and then in a while I looked up, and there was this painting, whole, expressive, shining. A little miracle. A golden little miracle.


Oil on canvas, 30x30,  special online price $500
A cloud of black birds has been visiting our feeders these past few days, and I do not like them. I do not like their numbers, or their voracity, or their deep, bleak blackness.

Because of the studio renovation (it's going well), I am writing and doing my computer work at the kitchen table, looking out over the snowy yard. I like watching the little birds come to the feeders. I like the mundane ones, the chickadees and titmice and wrens. I like the way they puff their tiny selves up on these frigid days, and scratch in the snow for seeds, and flit through the gray mornings.

I like the cardinals, too, and the bluejays, and the way their colors flash against the snow. Goldfinches are coming by, too, and though they're not at their brightest now, they give a hint of yellow.

But these black birds, starlings and crows and grackles, hundreds of them show up together, a nasty, mean mass of birds. They darken the branches of the trees, and descend en masse to the feeders, and strip them clean. They chase the little birds away, and while I know the black birds have to eat, it is like a gang of teenagers terrorizing a group of kindergarteners. Like having marauders in the yard. Like having death itself come visiting.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne
Oil on canvas, 20x20, $450

And here is the new year, fresh and untrodden as the new snow -

Until, that is, I couldn't manage to stay awake, and kept falling back to sleep.

Until I spilled the first cup of coffee all over my clean turtleneck.

Until Jojo escaped and we had to race all over the neighborhood, hunting for her.

Until I got paint all over my sleeve, while moving a piece to photograph it, and then smeared my sleeve all over the computer, and the counter and the icebox and the edge of the sink, and even later in the day, my hat...

This morning, the new year, like the new snow, lay fresh and untrammeled and unmarred - until the day began.

And that's really how it should be, I think. Dogs should track up the snow, and roll in it and decorate it. Humans should shovel it and toss it at each other and slip in it and knock it off branches and stomp it in through the house. We should live this life, make it messy, kick it up, spill things in it, get it all over us - and relish it, in the living.

So, happy new year! I wish you all fine mornings, hearty lunches, messy afternoons, and health, prosperity and good luck.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your  support.