Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Wyeth and Arabella...

There was a time--between my late teens and early twenties--when I knew, in absolute, who I was as a young woman, as an artist, as a human being. I was so utterly certain of my identity and the paths it would lead me to...nothing could make me believe otherwise. I had spent so much of my formative teen years doubting myself: my identity, my looks, my talent; that this newly birthed confidence was something I wasn't going to give up without a fight. My father told me he admired my 'fire'; he said that it would make me a better person and artist.
I was in Vermont this past weekend, visiting my son Wyeth at his college. Seeing him there I was struck by how 'in his element' he seemed. When we toured Champlain and Burlington last fall I had this moment where I knew-in my heart- that this was where he needed to be. I knew it was the right place for him to 'find' himself and his own way as a young man. My other son,Warren, is going to school in Philadelphia and I have the exact same feeling for him. It's where he needs to be. People have continuously asked us how it would be for the boys to be 'seperated' when they went away to school. I never had a clear answer, because how could I explain that I knew in my heart that this was what they needed and that they would be okay.
Spending the day with him Saturday, I could see that he is becoming more of himself as Wyeth and not just as half of 'the twins'. I can see the sprouts...the tiny shootlets of this man-to-be and I'm confident he will find his own surety and 'fire'. It took most of the day before he truly began sharing stories with me about his new life...but we poked about in an art supply store and I swear I could feel my dad with us, looking at all the nifty things. We strolled the pier on the lakefront watching the rain and wind move across the water and I could feel my mother with us, marvelling at the beauty of it. I wish my parents could share this with me here on earth and not just in spirit. It's such a marvel. I've often felt that my personality was a burr-in-the-side for my sons; something they had to work around and get away from. I can see now, that maybe it's something they'll grow into for themselves...the way I've grown into my parents personalities. It honors them when I can clearly see how I echo them in my life.
Wyeth is named for Andrew Wyeth. Both my parents were great Wyeth fans. My father saw himself as a kind of N.C. Wyeth figure and my mother loved the works of Andrew and his son, Jamie. Do you see where this rambley post is going? I went to Vermont with my sister to see my son....and I found this amazing thread that winds through generations and binds us in an amazing tapestry of life.
I came back home and sat down in my studio...and wondered where I'm taking myself creatively? Have I stayed true to that 19-20 year olds surety of who and what I am. Am I at another point in my life where I can truly express my heart and soul without having to mute it or couch it in sweeter phrases?
My 19-20 year old self was railing against all the people who'd told her that although she was talented, she wasn't talented enough. As a young mother, my creativity spread into my life in so many ways. Now, as my sons' fly away...I am finding myself rediscovering parts I'd thought were long gone from me. I don't know what to think. No.That's not right. I know that I shouldn't think about it too hard. I should just let my soul lead for a while and see where it takes me.

This is Arabella. I did her on the afternoon, still fresh from my Vermont journey. She began, in pencil, and then took shape in ink yesterday. I thought of my son, while I was working on, in some small way, she is tied to him. She is on the cusp of something, waiting and watching for the moment when she will truly be her own...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homemade Playdough...

I made a batch of homemade playdough a week or so ago...and Nephew Brian and I have been having lots of fun, sitting at the kitchen table in the mornings and afternoons making all sorts of things: animals, snowmen, trains, faces... The recipe is one I found online; very easy and makes alot of playdough. I coloured it with food colouring... they also reccomend colouring it with Kool-Aid which will give it a great smell..
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 cups water
1/2 cup cream of tartar OR 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup baking powder

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook and stir over low/medium heat until the dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. This took about 20-25 minutes for me.
Let the dough cool slightly before storing in either an airtight container or zip bags.

I made a 'portrait' of Brian. It looks exactly like him don't you think?
I am heading up to Burlington,Vermont this weekend to visit my son at college. I'm going to be traveling with my sister, Brian's mom. It's our first road trip together which should be interesting. We're planning some farm market and antique store stops and hoping for halfway decent weather.
Can't wait to see Wyeth and catch up...and tour Burlington too.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lovely Day

As much as I loved being snug inside my house this past weekend curled up with extra sweaters and blankets and many,many cups of tea watching Dark Shadows dvds while the cold wind and rain beat at my was so wonderful. Bright, kind of warm...just a lovely quiet sort of October day. I took my little poppets-in-progress outside. They fit just perfectly in the basket I'd picked my grapes in. All their little torsos and limbs... The first two to be sewn together, basking in the afternoon sunshine. Their naked for now...but don't tell. I have to sew up a batch of petticoats and maybe aprons. Their mismatched. All the fabrics came from a wonderful little fabric shop in Hyde Park; the fabrics are Civil War reproduction prints. My picture doesn't do them justice. The prints are so wonderful; you can immediately picture a ladies' or young girls' dress made from them. That's my story for these little poppet dolls; made from the leftovers after the new dresses are sewn. Sweet little rag dolls made with love. I think they may even carry tiny nosegays or sachets when they're done. I don't think I'll do faces though. I'm hoping to connect with a friend who has sheep and get some washed fleece for little wigs. And I'm going to 'gently' age and prim-ify them.
So I sat outside this afternoon with my dolls and my little dogs, enjoying the autumn day. I got alot of sewing done too; much more than I'd accomplished in the house over the weekend.

However, over the weekend I refined these sketches a little and right now I'm deciding exactly what to do with them. I want to do pen and ink, but also watercolour paintings and little canvases too. The beauty on the left is Ondine; the one on the right is Hester. They have sisters who are currently in progress.

While I adore Ondine...Hester is the belle of the season. I am hoping to finish her by early next week. She has a story, which slowly unfolds as I work on her and decide what medium suits her. I have written some of it out and when she's done I will post it with her.

So...this was my lovely peaceful October day. I'm glad I got to have it and that I was able to truly be inside it and enjoy it the way it deserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Little More Halloween-ish Decor...

Thank you so much for your wonderful comments on my last two posts. This will possibly be the last post of my Spooky Decor Tour. I really need to take decent pictures of the sketches and dolls and paintings I'm working on and post those. The Sundial Sisters (myself and Cindy of Vagabond Artistry) have a craft fair coming up in November and we're both burning alot of midnight oil trying to complete things and get ready.
This picture below is my kitchen door... I can't remember where I got the lacy witch panel and it seems like she's been there at least as long as we've been in the house. She welcomes friends and loved ones to come and sit a spell; and she warns off door-to-door salesmen. My happy jack-o-lantern cookie jar. Another wonderful Target holiday clearance. The wallpaper in my kitchen is this awesome 70s orange, brown and ochre pattern. I really love it. So all my accent pieces are orange and Happy Jack looks perfect there.
Yes, this is a vulture on a cow skull. It hangs in the hall next to my front door. I find it amusing and actually, so do most of my visitors and family. The vulture was Halloween decor that never left. I loved it too much. The cow skull...well, I used to live on a formerly very rural road, next to a small family farm. They kept a few cows, chickens and geese and a slew of barn cats. My husband and I loved to go hiking in the woods behind the farm... We found this skull and several other bones on one of our hikes. We actually have three cow skulls from that farm, but this one is the best. At the time that we found it, I was in what I call my 'Georgia O'Keefe period'. I was doing lots of paintings and pastel drawings of animal bones and skulls, so the cow skull was such a prize to me. Sometimes I think my hubby and I have such an odd romance about us. On the table beneath the skull is a bouquet of teasel that he brought me home from one of his trainspotting jaunts. He came in the door and presented it to me, saying: "Here you go Morticia." Much better than chocolates or roses.

Another romantic gesture: this display table was a Christmas gift from him so I could display my animal bones and skulls.(Please know that I haven't gone around killing little animals for their bones or anything gruesome. I find these things on hikes around the local woods. I consider them to be like gifts from nature for my art.) This little case sits in the library and recently, I found a companion for it at the local Habitat For Humanity ReStore. That one holds my shell collection...which is alot less spooky.

This is the fireplace in the library. Library sounds so grand. But really this was a front parlour room or even the 'good' living room. When we moved in we just knew that it would be the room to house most of our books.Someday I will manage to take a decent picture of the shelves, but for is the fireplace. Obviously...the (self)portrait on the mantel is me, surrounded by candles and Jack and Sally votive holders and snowglobes. It's hard to see but, there are little glass Halloween ornaments strung through the leaves and a wonderful carved wooden bat too.
I think this might be my favourite spot in the house, but it's always so hard to choose.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Frightful Decor...

This "Jane Austen-esqe" bust was from Micheals Halloween aisle a few years back. I have her out year round,usually in the library on a pile of Austen books. This year, for Halloween, I let her wear my Professor McGonagle hat. She looks better in it than I do. The painting is a primitive Hudson Valley landscape that my father did. It's painted on two barn siding planks. This was one of his favourite views to paint...looking down the Hudson River towards Storm King and Breakneck Mountains.

These bony friends inhabit my CD shelf. The skeleton in the back was a clearance find in a funky import shop in Woodstock NY. He's missing half a leg; but I had to have him when I saw him. He looks like the Fluke creature from an early X Files episode--that was one of my favourites and that made me paranoid of port-a-potties forever. I love him. The skull on the wall is actually a mirror.

This is the back of my stove. I love this sign. The tiny cauldron on the stove is from Ireland; full of Irish coins. My parents brought it back from one of their many trips to the Emerald Isle. I collect salt and pepper shakers. I had an aunt who collected them and when I was little we would visit her house and I was always fascinated by all the sets she had. Hundreds. The devils are a salt and pepper set I found at a garage sale.

This isn't a great photo, but I love these gals and their chair. The chair I found in a corner of the attic of this house. I love it's sculptural- ness. I knew it was the perfect spot for these witch dollies.They sit in the upstairs hall. They can watch the comings and goings on the stairs, plus they have a lovely view out the back window. On a clear day, we can see to the Catskill Mountains. They like it there and have told me so many times. They don't even mind the dust.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Halloween Year Round

I love Halloween. I always have. As a child, in spite of having to dress up as either a hobo or a bag of garbage year after year 'because that's what we have for costumes for you'... I still loved it. I secretly dreamed of one day having the best witch costume ever. As a (so-called)grown up I've dressed up as Jessica Hahn(remember her? I won a prize for that one), Galadriel from Lord of the Rings, my version of a Corpse Bride, and--many many times over--as a witch. I technically only get to sport my costume once a year, but my house....well, that's a different story. My house wears her Halloween garb--inside at least--year round. It suits her. It suits me. I like to think that I'm living in my very own Munsters or Adams family house, here in this lovely corner of New York suburbia.

This was a view down the hallway towards the back of my house. I took this picture this morning. No Halloween decorations in sight, but views like this were how I knew my house was suited for Halloween year round
This Day of the Dead style skull was a post-holiday clearance aisle find at Target a few years back. I have four of them--2 orange, 2 white. They're out year round...not always in the front window or the front room. I find them kind of cheerful.

The doorway from my kitchen to the hall. This is a year round display. I especially love my "Witch Is In Casting Spells/Witch Is Out Being Wicked" sign.

I collect teapots. I have alot of them, including several gorgeous autumnal ones, plus a wee jack-o-lantern one from Cindy,my fellow Sundial Sister ( . This is a favourite. It's such a perfect pumpkin. It's sitting on one of my best garage sale finds ever: a silver cake plate that I got for 25 cents. Seriously. It's a little off kiltre; I think that's why it went so cheaply.

I took too many photos for just one post so, over the next few weeks, til Halloween I'll post them here and there. I really love this time of year.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jelly Making

Last Wednesday I took my little nephew Brian (the cheeky character in the knit hat, one post down...) to a local orchard to pick apples and 'punkins'. It was a blustery, chilly kind of gray day, but we made the most of it. He led me over hill and dale (literally) picking apples, peppers, pumpkins and 10 pounds of concord grapes. We had so much fun, but once I got home I thought "Oh no. Ten pounds of grapes?"I had it in my head that 20 something years ago, in the early, halcyon days of married life, I'd made a tiny batch of wild grape jelly that actually turned out great. Well, Friday I searched through my cookbooks and found an 'easy' recipe for grape jelly. After a quick trip to the store for extra jars and pectin I set to work. Brian helped, as only 2 year old boys can, by questioning what I was doing at every opportunity and by watching Thomas DVDs to give me the time I needed for the jelly.
This is the pot of boiling jelly...after I'd sorted the grapes to weed out the yucky ones, mashed them a bit and cooked them to release their natural pectin. They then had to be pressed through a sieve to remove seeds and most of their peels. Then 4 1/2 cups of sugar, a dash of lemon juice and a box of powdered pectin and voila! I had to improvise a canning bath, so I used my largest turkey roasting pan, with a cookie cooling rack in it to set the jars of jelly on...filled it with water and used 2 baking sheets for cover. It worked like a charm.
I love the colour of the jelly. It was the most vivid and amazing shade of red-violet. My bamboo spoon is now permanently dyed. I had to take this picture of the jelly pot so I could remember that colour. The smell was pretty incredible too. It just made your mouth water.

And here are the 'fruits' of my labour... 24 4oz jars of jelly. "Mama KK's Great Grape Mess" Jelly.
It's delicious. Esp. on marble rye toast with butter.

So, I think this is how I'm dealing with being an 'empty- nester'. Later this week I'm sending off care-packages to my sons...I'll definitely include at least one jar of jelly for each of them. The rest I'll keep on the counter for a while, to I actually made jelly. And it's good.

Monday, October 5, 2009

O, October......

It's October...the first glorious, beautiful, chill days of October. Why do I love this month so much? All the good things that have come to me as a woman--my marriage, my sons--came to me in the month of September. But October and I have had a kinship that goes way back... Maybe--being a redhead--it's the way that Nature finally adopts my own hues; maybe its the chill of the air and the luxury of cooking and eating squash and apples and pumpkin; maybe it's the most favourite of all my favourite holidays...Halloween: a time of fun and mystery, laughter and a bit of fright; Could it be that the Celtic half of me remembers the ancient celebration of Samhain and still 'sees' this as the New Year? Or is it that I feel most of all, at this time of year, the touch of those loved ones who have passed beyond this earthly life? I feel an urge to set extra places at the dinner table and offer an extra cup of coffee to the Autumn mornings in honor and love to those I miss most. I want to welcome this month when the veil between the worlds in thin; I want them to know they are still welcome in my heart and in my home. I want them to feel the joy I have in this beautiful colourful glorious mysterious month and know that it came from them.
It's October...and I feel on fire creatively. I have so many ideas and inspirations; there is no way I can tend to them all. Everything excites me; it's so beautiful... all of it; the smells, the colours; the chill air; the sky in the daytime; the sky at night; leaves; harvest; pumpkins; gourds; candy; apples; cider;skeletons; ghosts; witches; haunted houses;creepy graveyards;trick or treaters, the fall of leaves ;the fade of the summer colours and flowers...everything. I stop at farmstands and local pick-your-own orchards and pumpkin patches and I want to have as many of the apples and pumpkins and gourds as I can. I can't get enough of them. The pumpkins are always my favourites. I love them; their moony roundness; whether perfect or not; their colour; the feel of them under fingertips or in hand the weight of them. I feel sorry for the ones that get left behind ; passed over because of some 'imperfection'. I want them all. And apples...I can't pick enough apples;make enough sauce; bake enough pies...such a simple and perfect thing.
I'm endeavouring to capture all of this; this feeling and get it onto paper, canvas, fabric, whatever...while it's fresh and full of energy.
It's always been the transition seasons that have held my heart; Spring and Autumn... Summer and Winter are lovely, but there's something about Spring and Autumn. Especially Autumn....especially October...