Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Accepting rejection

It's somehow reassuringly old fashioned to receive a rejection letter by mail instead of eletronically. Still sucks, but in a retro kind of way. For about the 16th time my application for the RI State Council on the Arts didn't get awarded a grant, or even runner up status. Oh well. The money ($5,000) would have been nice, but what I was kind of hoping for was the little uptick in status that grant recipients get. Not that I should care about status, but it also seems to get you invited to show.

A few days later the Maccoll Johnson Fellowship saw fit to reject my application. That money would have been more than nice, $25,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Not that I had a chance to decide to sneeze or not. That was one of those cutting-edge email rejections...damn.

Oh well, I bitched and moaned already about rejection in a previous post so will wipe the dust from my feet and think about spiders.

Monday, December 27, 2010


It nearly killed me to put the insulation up (see last post) but post-blizzard I'm glad I got it done. Believe it or not the studio is looking very inviting, and now that Christmas is over, I just might get in there.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pretty in pink

Somehow in the chaos of painting every first floor wall of my house and the usual holiday insanity I managed to find time to insulate my studio for the winter. I was lucky to get a relatively mild day off so opened the big garage door and proceeded to cover the screened wall with those big pink planks of insulation, the ones with the pink panther printed on one side. I did the neighbors a favor and put the printing on the inside, leaving a beautiful pepto-bismol hue facing the street. The panther smiled approvingly as I trimmed the pieces to fit and used lattice strapping to mount them snug against the screens. Hours later I finished, exhausted and relieved to finally be able to hit the switch, close the garage door and go inside for a nice cup of tea.

CLUNK!*. mmMerrMMaaMMmaahrMMm

That was the sound of the door hitting the panels and jamming the motor. I quickly shut if off. This door doesn't go back up till it goes all the way down, so I had to pry the panels loose to free the door. Not that I jumped right to it. I first had to fight the urge to say to hell with painting in the studio and decide to just draw in my house all winter. But it was getting dark outside and unless I wanted to try again on a frigid day in January—it was now or never.

Luckily I had another plan, or as I like to call it, my original plan, which was to mount smaller panels inside of the screen windows. Which was a great plan until I had the brilliant thought that it would be easier to mount the panels over the entire wall since there was PLENTY of clearance.

So after another few hours the panels were up again, I held my breath and closed the door. It cleared. And I hadn't burned the motor out. Now my studio is better insulated than it's ever been for the winter, and although it will still take a few hours to heat it from its winter temp in the low 30's to a workable 50's, it should hold the heat longer. I just wish I was able to hold the brush longer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Painting myself into a corner

OK, here's my excuse for not posting. I've been painting up a storm. Last night I started right after work and was up till 1am, brush in hand.

And I have to say, my walls look wonderful.

My studio, on the other hand, is dark and cold.

I know, my work is more important than my walls, but what's a painter to do when her house starts falling apart around her? I've been meaning to paint my interior walls since I moved in 10 years ago, and now they have started cracking and crazing and it's not a matter of cosmetics anymore. Since I'm the fix-up partner in my relationship (my husband is the brains of the operation) and with a lower tolerance of disrepair I decided that the few weeks before our big holiday family get-togethers is the perfect time to tear the house apart. Which explains the 1am.

Of course it would be sensible just to hire a house painter to do it, if sensible didn't cost so much money. I AM compromising and hiring a professional to do my kitchen, with its walls shedding flakes as thick as tortilla chips, so money will be spent, just no so much. And who needs a kitchen two weeks  before Christmas anyway? It's not like I have 10 people coming over Christmas Eve and 30 or so Christmas Day and a traditional English Christmas cake to make. Oh wait—it's EXACTLY like that.

But I have a tendency to create chaos on my way to order, which can lead to fascinating journeys in my studio, so I know that's where I should be spending my energy. The other morning, sitting at my kitchen table, flakes of paint flinging themselves off the walls, I saw an art magazine opened to a page with this quote circled. "Art is not what you do when everything else is done, everything else gets done after your art".  I won't say who circled it but it wasn't me. Because I don't know how you can put off everything till your art is done. Art is never done. And sometimes all those little life tasks join all their voices together and nag so annoyingly that it seems worth it just to lock up your studio and shut them up. And look forward to January.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Falling back

I don't know what it is about the fall that makes me want to organize my so called life, but I think it might be some instinctual feeling of making sure the nest is in order for the long interior months. So I'm spending some time sorting, cleaning and eliminating clutter. One advantage to that is that I'm finding things stashed away for years, like this oil crayon drawing I did back when the rivers were being moved in Providence. More work from that series can be seen HERE

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the studio of Louise Marianetti

June 16, 1939, the year she left the Art Student's League in NYC, 23-year old Louise Marianetti stretched four linen canvases. She coated them, along with several panels, with white lead gesso, preparing them for paintings that, in the next 70 years, never made it onto the canvases. Which is not to say she stopped painting, for according to Cathy Bert of the Bert Gallery, Marianetti returned to Providence in the early 40’s, reconnected with her RISD friends (she earned a degree from RISD in 1936), joined the Providence Art Club and continued to paint and exhibit.
Why this sudden interest in Marianetti? It's because I am fortunate to have "inherited" those canvases along with oil paints with ridiculously low price tags still attached, brushes and assorted tools from her studio. Louise Marianetti died last year and her family is working with the Bert Gallery on an exhibit focusing on the years when she stretched those canvases. They wanted to pass along her unused supplies to artists who would use them. I was thrilled to be one of those artists. 

The exhibit will take place early next year. She doesn't have much of a web presence, but I've seen two of her egg tempera paintings, unframed and protected by yellowed glassine paper. They were portraits of women that reminded me of Botticelli, that is, if Botticelli had moved to South America and become a surrealist. I'm looking forward to seeing more, in the meantime, I will have to paint something really special on those canvases.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Artists for Save The Bay

Every year Save the Bay holds an art exhibit of work inspired by Narragansett Bay. And every year I go in search for all the waterfront paintings I've done over the summer.  Since I live on a peninsula surrounded by saltmarshes, jetties and coves filled with swans, egrets and ducks and gorgeous sunsets there are endless subjects to paint and where the heck are all those paintings I did? Oh yeah, the same place my time to paint was—hard to find.  But I love being in the show and this year I did manage to submit two pieces and have them accepted. Yea! (click on the invite, and then my name, to see the work).

Unfortunately for us wine&cheese freeloaders, the reception is also a fundraiser for Save the Bay and tickets to the opening are $25. a pop. I found that out last year when I blithely headed to STB headquarters with friends in tow. Only after seeing the ticket booth at the door did I realize that the crowd was decidedly better dressed than the motley artists who usually gather around the cheese trays (by which I mean us). But it IS an excellent cause, so if $25. is in your budget, you can enjoy an evening of drinks, good munchies and some very engaging paintings. Not to mention a great night-time view down the bay through the expansive windows and a rare sight — people with their checkbooks out, buying art!

I get to go free this year since I have work in the show, but everyone can visit (minus wine&cheese and entry fee) from Nov. 19-Dec. 28, Mon. to Fri. 8:30 – 4:30 at the Save the Bay center. (directions)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It was a little hard to adjust to life back on the mainland after spending a weekend on Block Island for the BioBlitz show at Island Gallery, especially when we had Kira Stillwell from the Rhode Island Natural History Society (foreground),  Kim Gaffett of the Ocean View Foundation and Cindy Kelly of the Island Gallery  providing accommodations for ourselves and our artwork that were well beyond our expectations.

The show looked great, and as you can see, was well received, especially by Kira's daughter Brin. I've gotten compliments on my paintings at openings, but this was the first time someone felt moved to kiss one. (The lucky painting was not inspired by the BioBlitz, but a day trip to Mohegan Bluffs 17 years ago.)

The other painting I brought was of the trip I took with Captain Feather and his crew in the pouring rain off the north end of the island on the second day of BioBlitz.

The weekend got me psyched and now that we've practiced with the first exhibit, we're hatching plans for a longer and more publicized version for the next one. Stay tuned!

Photos from the weekend can be seen here and here.

More on bioblitz from my blog, and the website.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Discovered artist #1 - Jan Mankes (1889-1920) Netherlands

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of work by artists I have just discovered. I found Jan Mankes courtesy of a great blog called  WEIMAR - Art and Modernity in Central Europe which I suspect will contribute many artists to my series. I recommend you bookmark it! He suggests you visit this website if you want to see more of Jan Mankes work, and who wouldn't? After all, Mankes loves owls, birds, bats and goats and surrealistically beautiful landscape.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Mass MOCA had a strange effect on me. But I think hiking in the Berkshires will stick with me longer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Blue crab claws

In a perfect world I could walk the beach every morning and pick up treasures like these to paint. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social studio

It's awfully nice to go into my studio and see evidence of a congenial gathering of artists. I had a nice group from Dartmouth, Warren and Fairbanks over for dessert, coffee and stories last evening. I wish it could happen more, but I guess it's my own fault if I don't invite anyone! It's just that old time thing, time in the studio is so limited, I'm always feeling I need to be putting paint on canvas.

But quiet studios do provide perfect environments for some very interesting critters, I may have to paint this one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


My blog still isn't updating on blogger's blog roll. I thought I had it working yesterday, but it didn't update my new post. Curse you blogger! In other words, this is a test.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My art history, Rhode Island Junior College. Reject!

When I wasn't sharing a bottle of Matteus after hours on the ramps, I could be found in the art department
It took me 3 different schools to earn my BFA.  The only college I could afford out of high school was  Rhode Island Junior College, known as Reject (RIJC) in the '70s.  Somehow school authorities didn't take to the nickname, and it was renamed Community College of RI (CCRI), or Cry, sometime after I graduated.  I loved it, it was so-o-o-o much better than high-school, and I immediately gravitated to the art department and became one of the dozen or so students that practically lived in the row of open studios that started with drawing and ended with sculpture. The teachers (Bob Judge, Sherrill Hunnibell and Don Gray) were great, and really went out of their way to help any student serious about their work.

So when I saw the notice that the Knight Campus Art Gallery is looking for art work for a show taking inspiration from the huge concrete monstrosity (and I mean that in a good way) that was the campus, I waxed nostalgic about the place. The ship-like hulk of the building was very intimidating to approach, not the least because access was gained from a long uphill road, or a massive parking lot on another slope. There was always a frigid wind roaring over the summit, but the hill came in handy since my '66 VW's starter was iffy and often I had to roll it and slip the clutch for a jump start.

Inside it was more friendly. We liked the fact that it was ringed with ramps with a big open space in the middle, kind of like the Guggenheim. The cafeteria was at the bottom, and it was fun to spot friends or crushes from our vantage point on the ramp.

Rhode Island Junior college art department, circa 1976

I found a slide of a painting I did while in the art department, back in the days when they actually let painters use oils. Now they're forced to use acrylics, but that's another story. I don't know if I still have this, but I'm tempted to go back to school and try the painting again to see how far I've come. The show's not till the spring, so maybe I'll come up with something by then.

If you're interested in participating, contact

Monday, September 20, 2010

Technical difficulties

Still working on getting my blog feed to behave. I think I've succeeded in getting the date stamp to update from "1 year ago"  to "4 months ago", so I'm making progress. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the lag, I know I'm not the most prolific blogger out there, but do update more often than my blog feed gives me credit for.

It seems to be a known issue with blogger, but last time I can find any promise to fix it was in 2009. If you're not seeing my updates, let me know. I'll figure it out somehow!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Battling Blogger

I'm fooling around with my blog template, as you can see. If you notice anything weird, or slow, or annoying, let me know. About the template I mean, not my posts.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What are YOU looking at?

Nothing says "What the hell are all these people doing?" better than this guy's expression. But all he could do was glower at us since he was tethered to his perch. Even if he wasn't, he can't fly. He was one of a group of birds who had been rescued after having been shot or hit by cars. Their lives were saved, but the vet had to break the news as gently as he could "You will never fly again".  They don't understand English though, so the Red Hawk made a break for it, getting loose from his tether and leading the Audubon handlers on a chase through the bushes.

I had a chance to photograph these birds relatively closely as part of "Raptor Weekend" at the Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge.
I went to get reference photos for my next series of paintings since I'm interested in owls, especially screech owls, which hang around my house. Screech owls always look to me like they just rolled out of bed, and the one they brought out was molting, so was even more disheveled looking than usual.

I somehow knew I'd be out-cameraed by the "real photographers", and I certainly was with my little G9 point and shoot and no tripod. But I got some great photos anyway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oil spill, what oil spill?

oil/canvas  24"x30"  copyright 2010 Kathy Hodge

This painting, I swear, was well along BEFORE the BP oil spill, but now that it's done, the associations are inevitable. A premonition? I hope not, or I'm going to have to be careful what I paint. This is actually taken from the beach in Riverside during a blustery bronze sunset, the fish was found on the beach on the cape. It's part of a new series I'm working on placing creatures in uncomfortable environments.

But it raises an interesting question. If an "Artists Respond to the Gulf Oil Spill" exhibit takes place (and they have - here & here) could I enter it? I've already had people assume it's about the oil spill, so they could be right. Time for me to bow out on this one.

BP says the oil's all gone anyway, so nevermind.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Heading West

Here's a better picture of the painting I just sent out to the Great Sand Dunes. I did make the one year deadline, but not by much.  It's "in the mail" though, and should arrive at the park in a week.

The painting is of my favorite place in the park, the summit of the immense dunes on the east side of the dunefield, where they nestle against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in a more streamlined version of its peaks and valleys. It takes about an hour of exhausting climbing in the soft sand to get to the top but once up there, if you plan your route carefully, you can walk for a long distance across the broad summits and never see another person. Up there I found this little corpse of a Camel Cricket, an ironic sign of life half buried in the sand.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shepard Fairey, unedited!

It was fun playing reporter for the Providence Journal, but it stinks getting edited, even if it was (hopefully) just for length. Here's my self-edited and just a tiny bit longer version, which of course, I thought was perfect as submitted.  I'm glad my paintings don't get copy-edited . . . at least not out loud.

Johan Bjurman opens his email to find a digital file, a drawing by artist Shepard Fairey for a 40’x80’ mural in three colors. His mission—translate it to the wall of the Pell-Chafee Performance Center, on budget on and on time. The budget being small, time being 4 weeks.
Which is why AS220 turned to Johan, an artist in his own right and a professional billboard painter. A “walldog” to those in the trade. And it’s why Johan hired E.F. O’Donnell & Sons to make short work of the square footage. And it’s why he looked slightly amused when I pitched the idea of “helping” him. He was gracious enough, though, to let me hang around and watch how it’s done.
I meet Johan at the worn parking lot behind AS220. Two white clad painters, high on a cherry picker, dip rollers into 5 gallon buckets covering the side of the building with a white canvas of paint. Johan goes into a shed and pulls out the plan he has mounted on a 3ft board, the graphic on one side and a map of broad areas of color on the other. He has time now, while he waits for his canvas, to explain how he’s grided the drawing in sections to fit to together “like a swiss watch”.  
When I stop by the next day I see rolls of brown paper, tied with twine and chalked with numbers and arrows, leaning against the shed. Forty 4’x20’  pounces have been prepared in his studio by tracing a projected enlargement using an electrically charged “pencil” that burns tiny holes in the sturdy brown paper.
High above, Johan is silhouetted against the white expanse. Unfurling a roll, he hits it with a cloth bag of powdered charcoal, leaving a wide smudge of black dust which escapes though the holes and imprints on the wall.
By day 5 the painters, following Johan’s charcoal lines, are finishing up huge areas of black, red and cream, creating a lively abstraction. The outline of the Bank of America, better known as the “Superman Building” anchors the center.
Day 7. More pouncing is done, this time for detail. Now it’s up to Johan, alone on the lift, to pull the mural from the abstraction. 30 feet up he is both removed and on display. The mural is starting to attract attention and the occasional Shepard Fairey groupie wondering if it’s Fairey himself up on the lift. Johan keeps his concentration on the wall. Each section has been assigned a fixed numbers of days to complete, with only a few days grace for bad weather.  The unveiling is scheduled for AS200’s Foo Fest on August 14 and he’s right on schedule.
When people speak of this, and they will, they’ll refer to it as the mural artist Shepard Fairey painted. Although Johan often wields his brush as both the artist and the painter, for this project being just the painter is fine with him. It’s good work when you can get it, being a walldog.

 Thanks to Johan Bjurman for being such a good sport and letting me take up his time when he needed to be painting, check out his website when you get a chance.

Here's the version of the video and story that projo ran, maybe it's better and I'm just a jerk!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Like sand through the hourglass...

Finally, the Great Dunes painting is signed. Now it just needs to be sealed and delivered out to Colorado and Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

A little varnish, a simple frame, a custom built box and a trip to UPS should do it! I'll post a better pic when I get one.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Off the wall

It looks is going to run my story on Johan Bjurman painting the Shepard Fairey mural, and probably the video I shot, which ended up being more fun. Look for it around Aug. 8th if all goes well.  I was scooped though, by the Providence Pheonix's story this week, but that's ok, it's a good story and Johan deserves all the publicity he gets.

I'll post links soon and also a pic of my Great Sand Dunes painting, when I get a good photo of it.

In the meantime, here's a link to a beautifully written post on a blog I just discovered. Her work's not too shabby either.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shepard Fairey, with a little help from Johan Bjurman

I've spent the last few weeks stalking this project going on downtown, and friend and mural painter extraordinaire Johan Bjurman, as he turns a mural concept by Shepard Fairey into reality on the side of the Pell-Chafee Performance Center.  I'll be writing a short piece about the process which I hope will be published in August. I'm also creating a video documenting how the heck you get a mural from a digital file to an eighty by forty foot wall. Links to come.

Now, to the studio to work on my Sand Dunes painting!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oil painting

My kitten post didn't send my web stats through the roof like I thought (feared) it would. And here I thought everyone loved kittens! Maybe baby squirrels? No. . .  I'll have to think of another way to increase my stats, and go back to posting paintings.

The World Prodigy -  o/c
While we wait for the BP oil well to be finally plugged, I'll offer an older painting of The World Prodigy which ran aground in 1989, spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into Narraganset Bay and polluting a stretch of the RI coast.  At the time I wasn't trying to make an environmental statement with the choice of subject, but in 1989 I was painting the working waterfront and the tankers and ships which unloaded at the Providence docks. I think I just wanted to capture the drama of the island of light and activity in the dark sea.

Luckily for R.I. the coastline has recovered. Not all victims of spills are as lucky. The impact of another spill which took place 20 years ago, the Exxon Valdez, is still felt and remembered by Alaskan artists.  I fear that will be the case for the people of the Gulf as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


It's not that I don't have more substantive things to blog about, but no time to actually compose a rational blog entry. So when all else fails — kittens! (No, they're not mine, though I was tempted to kitten-nap them.)

I'm heading into a couple of week's vacation from the day-job though, so I hope to post news of some real progress in the studio, and I don't mean cleaning.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Getting there

I've spent about a week and a half making boxes for my paintings and stashing them away in the rack (at right). To box some of the paintings I had to buy some even bigger pieces of corrugated at RISD Metcalf store. At 7 bucks a sheet it was kind of pricey, but I was informed that they were The-Only-People-Who-Had-Them. I remember, though, buying large sheets years ago from a warehouse in Pawtucket for considerably less, but I couldn't remember exactly where, and had no time, so I hauled 7 sheets across North Main Street and barely fit them in back of my pickup. Thank goodness it wasn't a windy day.

So my studio is getting a little bit more organized, and I no longer have to maneuver a narrow path like some hoarder with 25 cats. Not that I'm not guilty of the "but I might need it someday" syndrome , but I only have one cat, so that disqualifies me.

I've also been working on my Great Sand Dunes painting, there on the easel. I changed the composition, which put me back a few weeks, but it's a better painting for it.

With all my cleaning and moving I've made the acquaintance of dozens of spiders, including one "dead" spider that I found crushed between sheets of cardboard. So as not to damage the limp little corpse, I picked him up with tweezers and added him to my dead bug collection (I am NOT a hoarder—I just might need dead bugs someday). An hour later I noticed he wasn't so flat. If I didn't know he was dead, I'd say he was standing on his feet. After another hour passed, he seemed to move slightly, then suddenly started making a mad dash around his container. I let him go, far from the studio, since he looked like he had potential to be a biter. Unlike this elegant long legged beauty I found in the garden this morning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Overgrown Studio

Not sure I should post this pic, it's kind of embarrassing. But this was the state of my studio right now, BEFORE I retrieved over a dozen paintings from Roger Williams University on Tuesday.  Somehow my old studio in Warren, though tiny in comparison to my "two-car garage" space, seems spacious when compared to all this clutter. Things have reached a critical stage, and a major gutting and purging of the studio is necessary, so I'm looking forward to organizing this weekend, the first days I've been able to have any studio time in WEEKS.

The first thing I have to do is find a way of fitting 10 pounds of paintings into a 5 pound rack, so to speak. I have no room to build another rack, so I bit the bullet and bought 30 sheets of big corrugated cardboard to use to create custom boxes for my paintings, which should save some space. Right now they're lucky to get a poorly-fitting recycled box scavanged from the Utrecht dumpster, with the accumulation of half a dozen painting titles and yards of ragged tape.

I'm keeping a corner in painting mode though, to keep working on my Great Sand Dunes Painting which is getting perilously close to using up its year's deadline.  It will feel great to slap some paint on canvas for a change.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Torrential rain drumming on taut nylon is actually louder than thunder, in case you were wondering. I, on the other hand, was wondering if the tent was as waterproof as advertised. And if lightening were to hit a nearby tree, would it travel through the ground and if so, would an air mattress be any insulation. Also I was wondering if the storm would ever pass. After what seemed like two hours of wave after wave of downpour, it tapered off to an occasional splatter of drips when the wind jostled the tree above us.

Maybe now I could drift off....until, a half hour later (repeat the first paragraph).

After the second storm passed I spent about 15 minutes trying to convince myself that I didn't have to visit the outhouse, but bladders never listen. I slipped out of the tent and was surprised to find we were not underwater, just wet. On the trail to the outhouse I met a fellow bioblitzer who asked me cheerfully if I was coming to check for specimens on the the shore. It was pitch black. The hour was ungodly. That's when I knew I was surrounded by insane people. Of the best kind.

I was finally able to catch a few hours sleep before my ipod alarm went off at 6:30. The night before I had arranged to abandon the frog hunt and instead tag along on a small fishing boat to find bio-stuff off the shore to add to our species count. I volunteered to deliver the crew (Mary and Grace, left)
to Captain Feather's boat. I dressed as quietly as possible, trying to avoid stepping on the floor, which had turned into a rectangular water balloon (first lesson in tent camping, set up your tarp so the water stays on the earth side, not the tent side) and headed down the ClayheadTrail to my truck, then drove back to Science Central for coffee and excellent bagels before heading for New Harbor. There we met Christian and his 11 year old daughter Stephanie, and after another coffee run to make sure our crew was fully caffeinated, we boarded Captain Feather's boat.
That's not to imply that the rain had stopped, but it looked really pretty on the swells.

I spent the next few hours trying to stay out of the way of the crew, fishing rods, flying fish hooks, crabby pinchers, sharks (ok, a little dogfish) and ferocious saber toothed bluefish. I also tried some sketching, but you know what? It doesn't take long for a drawing pad to become fully saturated on a boat in the rain.

Everybody on the boat was excellent at catching stuff, except me, who just watched. Some of the catch would be taken back to the Blitz, some was set free, and some, I fear, was bound to end up on someone's dinner table.

After catching sea bass, dogfish, bluefish and a skate, Feather then took us on a roller coaster ride at 20-knots over the swells and back into New Harbor where they checked traps, chucking dozens of ugly spider crabs back into the ocean. The 2 lobsters were allowed to stay on board.

Back in the harbor we picked a few more passengers, because there was plenty of room for 2 little girls and me in the cab and four adults, a big dog and equipment in the back, for the trip over the bumpy dirt road back to the Blitz.

The 12 noon closing bell had already sounded, so it was time to pack up our wet tent and head into town to wait for the ferry. I'll leave reporting of the results of the 2010 Bioblitz to the scientists, but I had a great time. With all the rain and hunting for specimins, there wasn't much time to do any artwork, but something will probably develop back in the studio, when I catch up on sleep!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Although I haven't yet caught up on sleep, I've at least dried out after a weekend of thunderstorms, ponds and boating on Block Island as part of the 2010 Bioblitz. About 200 people ferried over to document as many species as could be found on the northern half of the island.  And what a half it was.  Below is the field (click to enlarge photos) where we were to pitch our tent, as soon as Mr. Lapham — part of the family that acquired the property in the 50s and 60s then donated most of it to the Nature Conservancy — kindly finished mowing it for the anticipated tent city.

Since Mary and I had taken the earliest ferry (not that we were too anxious to get there or anything) we were the first to claim our spot. Then, since I was the only one who could manage the standard transmission of the ancient Dodge pickup, I was drafted to drive it into town to pick up two loads of folding chairs from the Abrams farm, home of llamas, emus, goats and even a camel. After navigating the boxy, creaky truck over the bumpy gravel access-road to the Clay Head trail, loading and unloading 80 chairs, we felt we had earned a reward with lunch and beer at the Oar in New Harbor.

Then it was back to our spot to pitch our tent. By then others were arriving and setting up. A surprising number had also just purchased their tents for this event, so I didn't feel like such a newbie and was able to check out other brands I had looked at online. I decided I was very happy with the one I picked, isn't it pretty?

Then it was off to explore a bit and check out the view from the bluff trail. We met up with Roberto Bessin, sculptor of beautiful, monumental and ethereal bird sculptures and we all hopped on a shuttle heading for dinner in town before the scheduled lecture by Providence Journal environmental writer Peter Lord, who wrote the Journal's award-winning report on how open space was preserved on Block Island. (Full disclosure: I worked with Peter on putting this piece together for the web.)

By the time we took the shuttle back to the campground everyone seemed ready to turn in, so after checking out the amazing stars from the bluff, we zipped up the tent and tried to get some sleep.

We woke to an overcast day. Mary went on the geology walk, but I decided to take a trail down to a pond and set up my easel. The disappointing result of 2 hours of painting might have survived to be judged back in the studio, but there were just too many witnesses who might ask to see it, so I wiped it off.  It was nice to spend some time on the quiet trail though, just me and the birds.

Back at Science Central we spent some time talking with the other artists until noon. None of us seemed to know exactly what we were going to do but all were excited to be the first artists take part. When the noon siren signaled the start of the 24-hour Bioblitz, it was off to look for frogs. The Lapham property is dotted with kettleholes, surrounded by dense vegetation, which seemed the perfect environment for the little guys. The dense vegetation proved not so perfect for us though, since there were few spots where we could access the mucky shore. But we managed to find a frog in Monument Pond, which our team leader Mandy swabbed as part of a project documenting frog diseases. By now persistent drizzle was falling, so after checking out a few more ponds where we heard bullfrogs, smugly out of reach, we headed back to Science Central. 

There we found that someone else had more luck. We were greeted by container filled with these funny faces. If they look like little kids, it's because they still have their tadpole tails.

By now the rain was coming down hard, but cleared in time for us to stand in line for some great food, socializing, and checking out specimens. The 20 or so artists gathered around a table to share our backgrounds and a bottle of wine, after which we climbed a small hill to check out the bat trap. No bats fell for it, but I was happy to find I could still catch fireflies.

Although cozy on my air mattress, I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, so I was looking forward to a good night's sleep in my little green tent. It was not to be.... (to be cont.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Although I'm not doing a National Park residency this summer, I do have an opportunity to do a 3 day "residency" on Block Island as part of the Artist Team for the 2010 BioBlitz. My good friend Mary Grady, who's into all manner of environmental projects, initiated the idea of asking artists to join the team this year, and so invited me along with around a dozen artist in all media.  In her own words she wrote "I thought we communicate and promote the work of the Bioblitz science teams, and at the same team provide an opportunity for local artists to be inspired by the work of the scientists and the beauty and diversity of the wild places in our own back yard."

So tomorrow I'll be leaving the mainland to pitch a tent on the beautiful Laptham Farm near the Clayhead bluffs. I'll have to remember to take the price tag off the tent so those around me won't know that I just bought it especially for this event and I dont' know what the heck I'm doing.  How hard can it be though, especially surrounded by dozens of environmental types? I'm also bringing my French Easel and oils, maybe some acrylics, and drawing materials. I was asked to pick a team to be on, so picked amphibians. You can't go wrong with amphibians.

Above, with sand is still embedded in the paint, is a sketch I did a few summers ago in the dunes of Block Island.  I'll post what I come up with on this trip when I get back.
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