Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exploring Delaware back roads

Yesterday & Today, Delaware back roads

We explored the back roads of our new state for two days and what a grand time we had. We lunched at an out of the way tavern with newspaper for tablecloths, and met the fisherman having lunch with the owner, his boat still tied up outside after delivering the catch. You don‘t get a plate of flounder much fresher than that!
Completely deserted beaches with miles and miles of sand beckoned. We drove down roads marked ROAD CLOSED (well, it didn’t say DO NOT ENTER, okay?) and entered a wild, quiet area with a wealth of bird life - herons, cranes, egrets and more. We wandered around lonely marsh docks with old dilapidated fishing boats tied up alongside. Restored one-room school houses popped up in the middle of nowhere and falling down barns elegantly sat waiting for time to take it‘s ultimate toll.
We stood awed at marshes older than time with a thin strand of sand and trees protecting it from the ocean. And marveled how man can take these barrier strips of islands and turn them in to ugliness when surrounded by such beauty. Luckily Delaware has protected much of these areas and man is huddled in one corner. But I worry in time they’ll want more. They always do and then it’s ruined.
Little flat Delaware continues to impress us with it's big sky - and it certainly puts on a show with clouds and sparkle! It keep coming up when I paint it - and I just can't resist painting it!
We stumbled on a farm where they sell pork and veal direct to the public… “no preservatives, milk fed and humane slaughter” (is there such a thing?) Definitely must buy some with a group of friends as they sell either the entire pig or half pig. We bought direct from a farm in England and it was pork to stir good memories - tasting like pork we ate as children. I mean, it actually tasted like pork, not the stuff you get in mass supermarkets today.
A yummy Italian deli with charming staff and irresistible fare tempted us to spend far too much money on cheeses and salamis and wafer thin speck. We’ve savored two meals on the purchases already and can’t wait for the next one.
We never turned on our cell phones, didn’t touch a computer at all or listen to the news. We wanted to enjoy the time standing still and we did. Such bliss.
I’ve painted 2 of the scenes and have more still trying to jump out of my memory on to canvas. This one displayed is the painting of a strip of barrier island with the humans encroaching from the right. I’ve called it “Yesterday and Today.” I prefer the “yesterday” part, I don’t trust man to show any respect for the natural world. I also believe I am turning in to a cranky old fart as the years slip by!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red Farmhouse in Delaware

Red Farmhouse in Delaware

I decided to have a longer break from seascapes so I don’t get old on them, when I say that I mean, so I don’t get tired of them. Lack of enthusiasm shows right up there on top of any painting. You can’t hide it, at least, I can’t. Now the marsh scene I did recently was such a disaster I didn’t want to go there. Failure twice in a row would be too much. A while back I saw a lovely old red farmhouse nestled in the far end of a field - the crops went right up to the house it seemed. The farmers in Delaware do not waste an inch of land. I guess because there’s not much of it! And the scene has been at the back of my mind.
So I did a 16x20 study of it to see how it worked. For some silly reason I cut the canvas in half with sky and land, instead of thirds or more of one or the other. It looks wrong but at least it was on this small study and not a big canvas. I cheated and cropped it for a nicer effect in the photo. I like the feel of it though, so I think I will do it big. The wheat fields really turned out well in this one - lots of movement.
I’m not painting for a couple of days to get some rest, and get some writing I need to do done. Then Lee has a day off Monday, so we’re going to explore the back roads of our new state and I’ll take the camera along. And I’ll be back with lots of ideas and scenes to paint on Tuesday. It’ll be so nice to have the break!
Just hope this drizzly rain goes away, not that it matters that much but it would be nicer to visit the cool backroad bars on a sunny day!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Discovering Delaware ... or Canvasing Delaware

Fallow Field in Delaware
     The countryside around Delaware constantly reminds me of Holland - flat, tranquil and rural. Good biking country. And it’s lovely in its sparseness - it gets all moody with various marshes and wildlife reserves. There are fabulous beaches showing off big dunes and miles of sand, but some of the inland vistas are breathtaking for their sheer simplicity. This is a very small state but somehow, and unlike Holland,  it seems to have a big sky. I guess it’s the flatness. I think of big sky in Africa or Montana or Nevada. Not the East Coast - and here’s little Delaware with a BIG sky. Delaware is also changing the way I paint - and I just love it when that happens! A “new” always gets the creative juices flowing like nothing else - the sheer excitement of discovery.
     During my life as a professional artist, there’s been nothing subtle about my use of colour - tons of crimson, strong yellows, orange etc. Hardly any blending… just wham! Straight out of the jar. Now I suddenly find myself blending and lathering on layers of whites, soft blues, sweet greens, olive greens - only adding just a touch of red here and there. It just sort of happened, I didn’t think about it. And, strangest of all, it feels so right. Just as strong colour seemed to work before, now soft light is in.
     No doubt I’ll go back to strong colours every so often - I’m from Africa, it’s in my soul. Just like whenever I dance to African music, I wiggle my butt and yell “Ehh-yeh!” Just like whenever I hear a penny-whistle, my whole body starts to vibrate.
     I’ve decided the first show I have here is going to be called, “Canvasing Delaware,” (with thanks to my old New Orleans friend, Patrick Burke - wordsmith supreme - for suggesting titles.) The paintings will chronicle my introduction to my new state. I am so enjoying thinking of which scenes to paint, or seeing a scene and thinking “Well, if I leave that out ..” or “just use that section…” I have always enjoyed painting vignettes more than the whole, so this dear wee State’s topography suits me well. I was looking at a field and remarked to Lee, “I’ll just use that bit, make it smaller perhaps,” and Lee, typically American, replied, “Anne, you can’t make Delaware any smaller.” Sometimes I think there’s a bit of Texas in them all!
     There’s a field near here that’s lying fallow right now and there are a couple of scraggly old trees on the side. The small space is so sparse, open and inviting, it tricks you in to thinking it is huge and you could get lost in it. This is the 12x24 study I did for it, and I’m not sure I will do this one bigger. In it’s case, I think the small, long canvas captures the spirit of the place.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Puddles on the Path to the Beach

Puddles on the Path to South Bowers Beach

       When sage advice is given, I listen. I listened to my muse in the wine glass, as my friend and fabulous artist, Carol Lee Beckx, told me I should. 'Paint the sea,' it said. I drove out to discover a new beach, Bowers Beach. It’s just about 8 miles north of Milford. I headed to South Bowers beach, there’s a wee river runs through the town and you can‘t drive from one side to the other.
The drive out is lovely - rural and tranquil through farm country. And then you turn a corner and just know the sea is close. The atmosphere changes with a salty-ness about the air. I parked and walked up the path which was full of puddles from all the rain we’ve had lately. I’ve always loved skipping barefoot through puddles, age doesn’t seem to dim the pleasure. It’s an instant flashback to my happy childhood.
The beach appeared and it went on for ever - best of all, it was totally empty of people. In the distance was the vague white shapes of the houses of the village, and the first thought I had was, “Oh! how perfectly wonderful, another empty walking beach to enjoy!” Truly the Delaware coast is that way - whether its on the Atlantic or the Delaware Bay. There’s a bunch more I have to explore.
After Bowers I drove down to Big Stone Beach, thinking it might be just as lovely. The drive was just that - part of it wound through a wildlife reserve. I saw a golden eagle, a mother deer, 2 teenager deers alongside her, a hawk dived and lifted a mouse right off the side of the road. I stopped to watch - it was that quiet and without traffic, I could stop in the middle of the road. But, alas, the welcome was definitely not warm at the end of the road. Signs stated it was a private beach, a private road - no stopping, no standing. No anything it seems. There were only about 4-5 houses there, and it was vaguely creepy. So I dashed to the edge of the beach and took two photos and left. I’ll have to find out what the story is about the place.
I went straight back to the studio and this is the 18x24 study of “Puddles on the path to S Bowers Beach.”
It just felt right to be back painting the sea … although I am also eagerly, and with much excitement or trepidation, looking forward to my next big challenge when this local Delaware series is finished… my collaboration with the marvelous artists of the Amandwe Support Group in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. I work with them on The Bags of Hope project. Stay tuned, it should be interesting! Here's the Bag of Hope website :

Friday, September 02, 2011

What to do when it's not working...

Section of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE

THANK YOU to all for your good wishes during last weeks hurricane saga. I am so very happy to be here in my own home writing this weeks blog - last week I had visions of being blown to hell and gone, but Hurricane Irene was merciful to us. She blew over as a light Category 1 and then went her merry way. Some folks up North of us weren’t so lucky, I feel for them. So, now things have settled down, we find our eyes back on Tropical Waves, numbered storms threatening to build in to hurricanes. Let’s hope Katia, Lee, Maria, Ophelia, etc - all come to nothing. Although I’m not impressed about that name, Ophelia, who names a hurricane after some one who threw herself in to a river to drown?
I continue to build on inventory for my upcoming show, “Delmarva through New Eyes.” Since I’ve done 3 seascapes, I decided to go back to marsh painting. This is a section of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge … just on the other side of the road from Slaughter Beach, a place which is obviously my muse at the moment. This is an 18x24  study I did for a big canvas to make sure I‘m in the right zone. And, nope, apparently I’m not.  I can’t seem to get the greens right. Marshes are wonderfully messy places. But even though I’m a messy painter, I struggled with this one. Last night over a glass of wine I pondered on why it wasn’t working. A light bulb went off in my head and it occurred to me.. I love doing the sea, don’t change tack in mid-stride for once. Why not just keep doing seascapes?  This study is going to lurk in the corner and I shall ignore it. And happily go back to painting the sea until the marshes call me and I can paint them once again. When it’s not working, don’t try and force it. The marshes will return, but until then… whoopee, seascapes I’m baaaaack!