Seen in a little town in the mountains of Tuscany

Seen in a little town in the mountains of Tuscany

I remember once seeing a woman taking photos of a fire hydrant. I understand her. If you’ve ever spent any time with creative, artistic types, you might have observed them paying attention to something others would casually walk by, not noticing it. Perhaps they see things in a different way than others might. Something is inspired within these observers, a texture, a light, a color, a shape, even a sound, giving them something mentally that they need, like nourishment.

Once I was with a group of artists in Italy, up in an ancient little town in the mountains of Tuscany.  I recall several of us studied an old door, paint peeling off, fascinated.  It struck a chord inside our heads as a painting subject.  Maybe some people look at a tree and see a poem or a symphony.  

Now, at home, I looked through my photos looking for a particular toadstool photo I took at some point.  I needed it for a photomontage I’m compiling my photos for.  Searching my computer files wasn’t working.  So, when I took the dog outside and in the backyard, low an behold, there was just the toadstool growing that I needed!  So I was down in the yard on my hands and knees, clearing grass away and photographing the group of three toadstools.  Perfect!  Now it’s in my Alice in Wonderland montage.  

So if you see someone paying close to something like a fire hydrant, a toadstool or even a seemingly unassuming, time-worn door, wonder what they’ll create from that bit of inspiration.  You never know.

Trial and Error

DSC_0379Left — “Painter in the Old Fashioned Garden” 

I recently went to paint at Sonnenberg Gardens — got all the way back to the Japanese garden and set up my tripod, easel box, paints, etc….. I realized my brushes were way out in the car in the parking lot.  Scrounged around my supplies hoping I’d find one brush of some sort but only found one pallet knife.  So I thought – why not give it a try?  Since I’ve never tried just painting with a pallet knife, I considered it might be a good learning experience, at least one that would get me “outside the box” I usually paint in.  Loose was my only option. Well, I can’t say I loved my painting, but it was rather fun to do.  Sometimes we need to take a chance on a different way of doing things.  

While I never intend to show another living human being my palette knife creation, here’s a painting I did in my usual fashion – with brushes – of one of the competitors in the recent Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition and Festival.  It was great to meet the artists from all over who came to Canandaigua and got to enjoy our beautiful “Chosen Spot.”



I enjoy working with my photos to create a photomontage — practicing skills on the computer helps keep them fresh in my brain. Though I’m not a photographer, I enjoy taking photos, and some of them come to mind as inspiration when I start a composition. Going back through photo albums on the computer refreshes some great memories of places I’ve been and what I’ve seen there. For my Mime collage, I photographed her in Amsterdam, the background is from inside Blarney castle (yes, I kissed the stone there), the ram’s head sculpture was on a wall at a castle in Ireland. The little girl was a recent addition from a wedding I attended, with a butterfly wing photographed on a visit to the Strong’s butterfly garden. I was getting stuck (and frustrated) on a few techniques with the computer program but worked out the kinks.

Getting outside with the camera makes a great opportunity not only to get some interesting shots but to look at things in a different way, get some exercise and fresh air. The other day I tried to photograph a spider – but was having a hard time getting a good focus on the tiny thing on its web as it was suspended in midair. Reminds me sometimes we’re so busy looking at the “big picture” that we forget to notice the little things in life. Sometimes we are so distracted that we lose the now, the moment we’re in right now. Go out and breathe it all in, right down to the littlest spider, or a child laughing. You might be surprised how it can uplift your spirit.

Patience and Vermeer

I watched a movie documentary called “Tim’s Vermeer” – a fascinating lesson in patience.  Tim Jenison has an amazing level of curiosity  to figure out how to make things work, invent things, and his efforts have made him a fortune.  He is not an artist, but he wanted to figure out if Johannes Vermeer (my favorite artist) painted such detail and light in his paintings using some equipment, as has long been suspected.  Did Vermeer use a camera obscura, mirrors, some other means? Jenison sets out on an odyssey beginning in 2008 to create his own copy of “The Music Lesson” down to the last detail. Incredible.

So when I haven’t got the patience to complete a project, I can learn from Tim Jenison a thing or two.  I can do the best I can, and I should remember how Jenison so immersed himself in his quest.  He didn’t have to do it, could quit any time, but he didn’t.  He also was quite likely able to spend whatever money it cost him, so most of us have to be a bit more practical. Personally, I’d like to take my paintbox and camera and paint my way across Ireland, which isn’t like to happen.  But I can dream, and remember to be patient.




Organization – Taking the first step

Grandmother's picture

Grandmother’s picture

Tackled dismantling an old futon and getting it out of my office area of the house.  Need to get a big file cabinet and start organizing some of the paperwork I have to keep track of related to family business.  I feel more effective if I’m organized. Right now, am not organized, but clearing space is a first step.  And throwing out something occasionally can be very refreshing.  As the family historian and the one who has most of the old family photos and genealogies, lots of bits of things can be treasures to organize and save, information that puts history in perspective through the eyes of relatives before us.  Reading a diary from 1868 by a great-great-great-grandmother reminds me that once women did not have the choices we have today, and she noted meeting her future husband, my ancestor. She also was very religious and thought she was such a sinner that her faith didn’t appear to give her any joy and happiness (I find that sad). Reading my grandmother’s 1918 diary told how she, her brother and sister all had and survived the Spanish Influenza that killed millions of people worldwide — if she hadn’t survived, I wouldn’t be here now.  One genealogy even has a photo of ancestors who were born in the 1700’s but were still living in the early years of photography.  There are still mysteries about my Irish ancestors who lived in Canada, and I may never be able to find out where in Ireland they came from.  But my heartstrings are tugged every time I think about my visits to Ireland and knowing it was their land once upon a time.  So I organize, research, digitize, share my findings, hoping to tie one relative to another across the centuries.  And hopefully, some descendant of mine will carry the torch, so to speak.

Photo is of a trompe l’oeil I drew using a photo taken about 1900 of my Grandmother Alice Wheeler Clark and her sister Gertie, and other antique items.



Great experience yesterday with the LL Bean instructors, Don and Alex, intro to recreational kayaking.  We met by Lagoon Park side of Kershaw Park, got some instruction before getting in a “Calypso” kayak and trying out our paddling strokes. About a dozen of us headed under the bridge out into the lake.  Busy Sunday on the lake with motorboats, jet skis, etc.  We paddled our way across and around Squaw Island, back across the lake to the country club side. Alex and Don demonstrated how to roll, get back in the kayak with help or alone.  Thankfully we didn’t have to try those techniques but if one is going to be a serious kayaker, one should be able to do this.   I finally figured out how to get the waterproof camera to work and hope I got some shots out on the water of our group. Then back under the bridge and to figure out how to get out of the kayak without falling in the water. More instruction on land about carrying and storing kayaks.  Well done by all!  Learned something new yesterday!

Tried to sculpt head, hands and feet for this year’s Christmas angel card — using paper clay the way the fabulous Nancy Wiley does.  Definitely not getting it the way she can do it.  Thought “I’ve really screwed this up and have to throw it out” — but then a glimmer of hope came to me.  I’ll just try again tomorrow, learn from what I did wrong, make it better.  And instead of tossing out what I did, I’m going to use that to experiment with, maybe it can become some unusual creature like a brownie or pixie, maybe a goblin.  Something good can still come from it.  Not giving up yet.  Also floated some ideas around to further the angel concept I have sort of in my head.  Think the sculpting will help send me in the right direction.  Sorting out my studio space, I found some good fabrics to use.  And that was an accomplishment, too.  So it was a good day to NOT get mad and throw things!

Photographed the Eclipse Male Wood Duck at the city pier this morning.  He seems to be hanging out all alone, and he was close enough to get good photos of before he slipped behind some boats.  Photo edited out the dead fish floating around him in my best shots.  Another improvement made with skills I’ve learned.

So remember, don’t give up without an extra bit of effort sometimes.  (And a chilled glass of Simi chard at the end of the day doesn’t hurt either.)EclipseMaleWoodDuck

Enter Summer

Summer is officially here — beautiful day, luscious greens surround us.  All the snow we had over the winter seems to have faded into memory.  Trying something new later today — a four-hour recreational kayaking introductory class on Canandaigua Lake. Have wanted to try it for some time now, and today’s the day (sink or swim).  Hopefully I won’t have to swim in Lagoon Park.  No motors, just paddles touching the water sounds like a peaceful way to enjoy our lake.  Then, who knows where this new skill can take me?

Bark collage 2

In honor of the Summer Solstice, I created the collage piece above, as I did when Spring arrived.  Will have to seek out more interesting door knockers and bark before Autumn arrives.  Fun to see what photos I’ve taken to incorporate into an homage to the latest season.  Just knock on the “door” and enter a new time in Mother Earth’s gift of life to the earth.



In beginning my personal Blog, I hope to share observations, ideas, inspirations gleaned from my life experiences.  I’ll start with this week’s plein air workshop taught by Lori Putnam here in Canandaigua, NY. Lori is an acclaimed artist with wonderful talent in teaching plein air painting techniques, and she just judged the Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition, the third annual event, in Canandaigua.  Talented artists from all over came here, took their easels and paint brushes out into the fields, parks and Sonnenberg Gardens, Main Street, etc., creating many wonderful works of art. About 18 of us took Lori’s workshop, privileged to have her work with us on the Canandaigua City Pier, a local farm, and at friend Kathy’s home overlooking Canandaigua Lake.  The weather held quite nicely while our painting guests were here, giving them the opportunity to see how beautiful it is here in the Finger Lakes. While my own painting efforts were certainly not masterful, the challenge of learning, trying – no fear allowed – was enlightening.  Hopefully, I’ll remember and put into practice Lori’s advice.  Most of us can benefit from “stepping out of the box” and doing something we may not be able to do perfectly, but that gives us an experience we learn from.  Spending time with other like-minded people, whether they are artists or something else, is also a way we can learn the joys of whatever our heart beats for.

Whether I’m out creating art, photographing nature, getting an idea for a poem or story to write, traveling to a new place, whatever, I find a spiritual connection with what I’m focusing on.  If it’s a grain of sand or a diamond, a snail or a flower struggling to bloom between sidewalk cracks, I continue to be amazed. I hope you find this in your life as well.