Front Porch Notes

I’m literally too lazy to get off the porch and onto the computer and am therefore doing this from my phone. It’s a fine spring evening here. No need to move except to reach for the wine glass now and then.

The other night was my birthday, plus we hosted a visiting professor. It was a dark and stormy night, with tornadoes to the north of us, and at the height of the storm an intrepid flock of students arrived, shaking off hailstones. They had to wade through a small lake at the back door to get to us. We handed out towels and drinks, in a that order, and a good time was had by all. A tornado party. Very Oklahoma.

That’s it from the porch. A few more unfinished paintings to display here. I’m going back to my wine and sunset.

Happy Friday.

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Painting from Plein Air Drawings, Part 2

The collection, so far. Left to right, chestnut sided warbler at Doyle's cellar; American redstart at Wing Spooner's malt mill, ovenbird at Spooner's mill, myrtle warbler at Nelson's cider mill, and Louisiana waterthrush at the cider mill. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels, 48" x 20" (except for the first one, at 12" x 30")

The collection, so far. Left to right, chestnut sided warbler at Doyle’s cellar; American redstart at Wing Spooner’s malt mill, ovenbird at Spooner’s mill, myrtle warbler at Nelson’s cider mill, and Louisiana waterthrush at the same cider mill. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels, 48″ x 20″ (except for the first one, at 12″ x 30″). Yes, that’s a sort of diptych over there, second and third panels on the left.

The routine: door closed, music cranked up, paint brush moves to the beat. Time flies agreeably as a painting takes shape. Yesterday’s soundtrack: Warren Zevon, Talking Heads and the ever-energetic Rolling Stones.

This one's almost done- the waterthrush is a little under-cooked, still. This is Nelson's cider mill (early 19th century ruin in central Massachusetts).

This one’s almost done- the waterthrush is still a little under-cooked. At Nelson’s cider mill (early 19th century ruin in central Massachusetts).

These are places of rich history. The beautiful ruin of an apple-cider mill on Nelson’s Brook, for example. In 1815 it operated not far downstream from Sanderson’s tannery, now a beautiful ruin, too. The water swept effluent away from the tanyard, then turned an apple-grinding apparatus less than three hundred yards away. Maybe not that much water went into making cider, but the recipe isn’t currently available. One can only guess at cross-contamination. I once visited living-history Sturbridge Village where a Red Devon ox named Henry turned a whole-birch-tree sweep in circles, grinding apples. Flecks of pulp spat out from between the wooden gears into a wasp-buzzed box. I listened to a docent in a stovepipe hat describe how early American cider-makers added secret ingredients for a harder kick. Dead mice are rumored. It’s not a stretch to imagine a cider-maker topping off the barrel with a bucket of brook water .

The cider mill at Sturbridge Village, a living history farm in central Massachusetts. Watercolor over pencil.

The cider mill at Sturbridge Village, a living history farm in central Massachusetts. Watercolor over pencil.

Somewhere before 1850 both the tannery and the cider mill on Nelson’s Brook went bust and the dams got dismantled. Now wood frogs and red efts inhabit the riffles and ruins, and warblers come and go undisturbed. The big wheels are gone. There’s lots of moss gathered on these rocks, and very, very few rolling stones.

Happy Friday.

American redstart at Wing Spooner's Malt Mill, 18th century ruin, Harvard Forest. Acrylic and graphite on wood panel, 20" x 48"

American redstart at Wing Spooner’s Malt Mill, a nice 18th/19th century ruin in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. Acrylic and graphite on wood panel, 20″ x 48″

 

Posted in archeology, architecture, Art Studio, bird art, Culture, Diversions, Environment, field sketching, Harvard Forest, history, landscapes, Music, natural history, Nature, New England, painting, Petersham, plein air, Pop culture references | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Studio Paintings from Plein Air Drawings

18th century mill dam in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. A cider mill, as a matter of fact.

18th century cider mill dam in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts.

One sees the prairie in layers: sky, grass, soil. And then there’s the forest, constructed from tall, thin strips: tree stems, stacked stones, waterfalls, a slice of sky at the top. One set of laminations lays out flat, the other stands on end.

The drawing, made while standing on the mossy bank just downstream. Graphite and pastel on 22" x 15" Rives BFK tan paper.

The drawing, made while standing on the mossy bank just downstream. Graphite and pastel on 22″ x 15″ Rives BFK tan paper.

It’s a nice theme and a way to re-imagine a few of the plein air drawings from Harvard Forest : as tall thin sections sliced out of the originals (in Photoshop) and enlarged in paint. Into each goes a tiny wood warbler from sketchbooks of the same period and place. American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, chestnut sided warblers.

Preparing wood panels, 48" x 20", Baltic birch with buff titanium gesso, 4 coats, sanded between. My studio now covered with a fine dusting of gesso powder. Did I mention I have a new studio?

Preparing panels of Baltic birch with buff titanium gesso, 4 coats, sanded between. A fine dust of powdered gesso has settled throughout my new studio. New studio. Has this been previously mentioned?

Three up. To be continued.

Three up, ready for a sealer of matte medium.

Early 19th century malt mill with American Redstart. This is the first round of color wash over the pencil, mostly burnt umber mixed with ultramarine acrylic and a little glazing liquid. Big wide brush. Fun and fast.

Early 19th century malt mill with American redstart. The first round of color is wash over pencil, burnt umber with ultramarine acrylic and a little glazing liquid mixed in. Big wide short-handled brush. Fun and fast. 20″ x 48″ Baltic birch cradled wood panel.

And in the process, an interesting thing happens. Each painting recalls, for better or worse, thoughts, moods, and whatever was playing in my ears when I drew them in in the first place (podcasts, audio books, the annoyingly redundant song of an American redstart). Moving the pencil over the exact pathways of the original lines unleashes some vivid flashbacks. Do you also experience art-triggered sense memories? Is there a neurologist in the house?

Happy Friday.

Posted in Art, Art materials, Art Studio, bird art, birds, Drawing, field sketching, Harvard Forest, Nature, New England, painting, plein air | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hell Breaks Loose in Copenhagen

 Valkyrie, 1908 bronze sculpture by Stephen Sinding. Churchill Park, Copenhagen.

Valkyrie, 1908 bronze sculpture by Stephen Sinding. Churchill Park, Copenhagen.

Thinking of dear friends in Denmark, wishing for more peaceful times. My heart is with them and the victims of yesterday’s shootings. It’s all much too close to home.

Even from here, in Oklahoma.

Said Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux, “We are all Danish tonight”.

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Sketch of the Day: Young Love, Carved Stone

Idyll, marble sculpture by Stephan Sinding,

Idyll by Stephan Sinding, marble. Sketched at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the wonderful art museum in Copenhagen. So close to Tivoli Gardens you could hear the screams from the “The Golden Tower” through the marble walls. Pencil on Lana 1590 8 1/2″ x 11″ sketchbook.

Posted in Art, Artists, Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Drawing, figure drawing, Museum Sketching, Sculpture | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sketch of the Day: Sunrise on a Spanish Marsh

Doñana marsh at sunrise with red kite leaving its night roost for a day in the field. Below, European goldfinches, perched in the poplars at the edge of the marsh. Watercolor over pencil, Lana 1590 sketchbook, 8 1/2" x 11"

Spanish marsh at dawn, Doñana National Park. A grove of poplars served as a communal night roost and command center from which fifteen red kites launched into space that morning, one by one, to drift across the wetlands. A trio of European goldfinches were also just waking up, my cue to break for coffee. Watercolor over pencil, Lana 1590 sketchbook, 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Posted in Art, bird art, birding, birds, Environment, field sketching, landscapes, natural history, travel, Watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Friday Sketchbook: Hans Christian Andersen Slept Here

Attic room with alcove bed, a tiny corner stove, a window, two dormer skylights. Eight by ten feet of rough pine floor space, a window shelf for a writing desk. Andersen's garret for the year of 1827, when he was 22 years old, studying for school entrance exams, impoverished but optimistic. Pencil in Moleskine 5" x 8" sketchbook.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Magasin du Nord attic room with alcove bed, a tiny corner stove, a window, two dormer skylights. Eight by ten feet of rough pine floor space and a window ledge for a writing desk. It was Andersen’s garret for the year of 1827, when he was 22 years old, studying for school entrance exams, impoverished but wildly optimistic. Pencil in Moleskine 5″ x 8″ sketchbook.

Magasin du Nord in Copenhagen is Denmark’s oldest department store, founded in 1870. They have the best scarf selection in town (my opinion), their housewares floor is a near-museum of Danish design, and their basement’s a wonderland of fancy foodstuffs. But 144 years ago, Magasin du Nord was Hotel du Nord, and there’s a secret literary museum concealed in Housewares, Third Floor. It’s tucked back behind the Miele vacuum cleaners and Bodum coffee pots, just past Gift Wrap Services.

Bodum coffee press pots and tea strainers. Nice colors.

Coffee press pots and tea strainers. Nice colors. They’re only there to deflect attention from Magasin du Nord’s mysterious Hans Christian Andersen Room.

That’s how you find the Hans Christian Andersen Room- by going through Gift Wrap. Make a sharp right at Blenders and follow the green carpet through a small door. Bypass the busy wrappers on your left and enter the hallway. It’s the first door on your right.

Flatware as art.

Flatware IS art.

In 1838, established writer Hans Christian Andersen could afford two comfortable rooms at Hotel du Nord, but when he was an impoverished, dreamy, lonely 22 year-old in 1827, he lived here in this spare attic room. It must have been a tight fit. There is hardly space for the 6′ 1″ Andersen to stand up: the ceiling slopes inward along the length of one wall, and he would have had to really watch his head. A short narrow bed fits into the low alcove at one end of the room; it’s heaped with a feather mattress covered in green-striped ticking (perhaps from Magasin du Nord’s housewares department?). A small iron stove and a box of firewood stand in another corner. There’s one earthenware pitcher, two rickety chairs, and on the window ledge, a set of writer’s tools: goose-feather quill pen, bottle of ink, sheaf of paper, and a candle in a brass candlestick.

The light from the one window illuminates a (photocopied) manuscript, a bottle of ink and a quill pen. A candle provided light after sundown, which, right now, is before 4 pm.

The window sheds light on a (photocopied) manuscript, and the 19th Century equivalent of a laptop. Pencil on Moleskine 5″ x 8″ sketchbook.

Andersen's room, north end.

Andersen’s room, north end. It’s possible, by the way, that that isn’t a pitcher.

There are not a lot of bells and whistles in this little museum/shrine to young Hans Christian Andersen. But you get a sympathetic picture of the tall awkward boy dipping his goose-quill pen in the ink bottle, banging his head on the ceiling, and scribbling poems in fading light from the casement window. He might have then lit the stove and candle and studied his Latin lessons before folding up his long stork legs in the alcove bed for the night.

At the south end, eight feet away, Andersen's bed.

At the south end, just ten feet away, Andersen’s bed. From this window he would have had a view of farm fields and windmills beyond Copenhagen’s then-city limitsToday it looks out on a less-poetic parking garage.

The little room exudes a Dickensian poignancy, more Oliver Twist than A Christmas Carol, and while I was there the sensation was further enhanced (or depending on the song, demolished) by piped-in Christmas music. When I walked in, the heart-tugger “Little Drummer Boy” was playing. The rustle of gift-wrappers at work in the next room could have been the sound of starving orphans weaving brooms from straw.

What was most surreal, though, was stepping from the dim light of the Andersen Room into Magasin du Nord’s fluorescent holiday brilliance. On my way out I walked past lines of shoppers teetering under bags and boxes, waiting for gift wrap services.  Hans Christian Andersen, in my opinion, would have loved what Hotel du Nord has become. The older, more successful writer was dressed to the nines at all times, and he’d surely enjoy the selection in Fine Menswear, Second Floor. In fact, he’d be right at home.

Happy Friday.

Stelton coffee carafes.

Stelton coffee carafes. Must have.

 

Posted in Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Diversions, Drawing, Exhibits, history, literature, museums, Shopping!, Sketching, travel, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments