Friday, November 22, 2013

The mighty mongoose and its brush with extinction

Dwarf mongoose Korkeasaari zoo
By Miika Silfverberg (MiikaS) from Vantaa, Finland (Flickr
Because I felt I didn't have enough brushes, this little guy's life hung in the balance. In my search to refresh my well worn collection of synthetic mongoose brushes (Monarch) (Princeton 6600).  It occurred to me that if I liked the synthetics so much, maybe the real thing would be even better. Natural, organic, traditional, like the old masters used in their ateliers, probably made in an ancient European workshop by a one of the last few craftspeople who know how to roll the hairs precisely into the ferrule. I looked them up and was surprised that they weren't much more expensive than synthetics, now losing their appeal. After all, synthetic just a fancy name for plastic–-artificial, factory made, so practical.

But then a thought burrowed into my conscience like a mongoose chasing a cobra. "How do you think they get the mongoose hair from the mongoose into your precious brushes?" So I did what anyone would do, I googled it. And found they were endangered, cruelly dispatched, and more in need of their fur than I was.

So, little mongoose, run free
it's synthetic mongoose for me,
Chase the cobra and the weasel,
I don't need the guilt when I stand at my easel.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two new paintings

View Point oil/canvas 30x20

Not sure how I got away with it, but I just spent three days in a row in my studio. Of course my house is mess, the yard is covered with leaves, I look like hell, and I haven't ventured beyond my property line to enjoy some beautiful warm November weather, but I did sign two paintings and begin two others. Tomorrow is back to the day job which might be a good thing only for the reason that it will prevent me from unsigning my two "finished" paintings and going back into them.

My new paintings are tauntingly full of promise, but I have no delusions that they will not torment me before  I give up the struggle and sign off on them. But they are of Alaska still, and it feels good to keep the continuity.

The painting on the left is from View Point where I helped the forest rangers weed dandelions during my Alaska residency. The painting below is not quite so literal or easy to explain, there are actually no Collard Lizards in Alaska, but there were plenty in the Petrified Forest, where I saw this colorful little guy.

Why did I put a Collard Lizard on an iceberg? I was afraid you'd ask...luckily I have this handy art statement generator  that came up with this gem of a statement that explains it as well as anything can.
"The flux creates, the chaos permeates. In the material reality, art objects are reproductions of the creations of the flux -- a flux that uses the chaos as an organism to represent ideas, patterns, and emotions."
I love the web.

Cold blooded  oil/linen 24x20

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Well, I'm back.

With a new outlook on my art, work.

Instead of being pulled in half a dozen directions (more paintings of Alaska! develop my Grand Canyon studies!  start a big five panel painting of the Petrified Forest! in fact, a series exploring the entire Colorado Plateau! and work in using Creatures in Landscape! work more in Egg Tempera! explore Insects under the microscope!) I've come to the realization that with the limited time I have to work in my studio I will be better off focusing on one area of interest at a time.


When I think back on my best work, it was done with a singular obsession (Churches, the Train Series, Russia, Shoemaker). Not that it doesn't hurt me to think of putting the other projects on hold, especially when I think of the impressions of my recent residencies starting to fade, but I do have a way of bringing back my memories, and that's to edit and illustrate the journals I kept.

Of course if I could restrain myself from applying to new residencies before finishing work from the previous I wouldn't have a backlog, but that's not going to happen, it's just too tempting to try for the chance to be AIR in those incredible landscapes.

So for now I am going to focus on Alaska, and work on images from my residency with the Forest Service in the Chugach. I have 3 paintings now in progress and am determined to finish my journal. Maybe it will bring me luck as I wait for the decision on my application to Denali!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Escaping the web

I've taken a break from website building long enough to get back in the studio for at least a few nights. Working on a painting that combines icebergs in Prince William Sound, with a Collard Lizard from the Petrified Forest, and hands from a Grunewald painting. Thus the clay appendages on my easel. Will it work? Perhaps not, but I'll probably post it anyway.

I'm in the process of migrating over to a new web host, which may mean it's down for a few days. Hopefully I can do it without losing my email for more than a day. If by any chance you want to get in touch with me and it's not working, you can always leave a message on my facebook page, or in the comments.

Nothing much else to say, except I'm glad that the National Parks and Forests are back open. Hopefully it means my application to Denali National Park is back on the agenda. After all, the seventh attempt is the charm!

Monday, October 7, 2013

BETA, META, FETA - say cheese!

Ok, here's my excuse for lack of posts, I've been working obsessively (which is the only way you can work in HTML and CSS) on my new website design.  It's finally ready to go public, but still a work in progress. I'm not brave enough yet to migrate my .com address over, so I've created this new one on Eventually I will use the same design on and switch it to a faster (and cheaper) web host.

Hopefully this design will stay useful for a few years, since it's designed to work on desktop, tablet and smartphone. I refuse to design a version for google glass, or Apple watch, or the microchip that will be embedded in our brains in the next upgrade. Call me a luddite, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Let me know if you see anything wacky going on, unless you are using IE v6.0 or under, In that case I don't want to hear it. My hatred of IE is only tempered by the versions 8.0 and above, the point at which IE has grown up and started to behave. Sorry, that's just my cranky web designer persona talking.

Since this is wrapping up, I hope to get back to my Artist in Residence wordpress group site. Because what else am I going to do with my "free" time, paint?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two little Canyon Paintings

I've been working non-stop on my website redesign, but am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, it's a strange rectangular blue glow. Or is that just the light from my laptop?

Oh well, it WILL launch soon, and I can wean myself off lattes and coffee shops, and get back to the studio. I'll post a BETA version soon for all my loyal blog followers. In the meantime, here's a few more little paintings from the canyon.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to Reality

I'm back to living in real but scarce time after three wonderful weeks traveling through the layers of ancient worlds in Grand Canyon. They say our lives are a blink of an eye in the lifespan of this earth, and it sure feels like it. I did manage to post some photos...more to come, including, you know — paintings!

Photos from my residency on Flickr

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A weak signal from the Grand Canyon

Well, internet access from my cabin on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is not only iffy, but often non-existent, so looks like daily blogging is not going to happen. But I am keeping a journal of my residency and will post it before long. Meanwhile, I've been busy exploring, trying to process this overwhelming landscape, and struggling to breathe at 8500 feet.

Oh yeah, and struggling to capture the experience in paint. Failing miserably so far, but I'll keep trying!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Off to the Grand Canyon!

On Tuesday I'm off to the Grand Canyon for my 11th artist residency and 3 weeks in a little cabin on the north rim. I can't wait to get on that big red plane and head west, but for a few more days, life will continue in its hectic, scattered east coast way.  I've already shipped off a box of art supplies, but it's still challenging to decide what to bring for 3-weeks far from art supply and grocery stores.

And it will be HOT. Usually temperatures on the North Rim are in the 70s, but they've been reaching the 90s lately, and I don't even want to TALK about how hot it is at the bottom of the canyon.

OK, I do want to talk about it.

How's 115 sound to you? I really would love to hike to the bottom, which would probably not be too bad if we started early. But even after a night at Phantom Ranch to recoup, the hike up would be daunting at those temperatures. No water, no shade, 1 mile up and 14 miles long. Gee I hope I get to do it....

As happy as I am to get away from my day job for 3 weeks, it does have a little perk. While designing web sites for the newspaper, I can't help but learn a whole bunch of html, css, js, photoshop, etc.  Which may not be such a perk as it makes me feel the need to redesign my own site to keep up with all you crazy ipad, iphone, droid, and who-knows-what viewers. But my site was overdue for a redesign anyway, and god help me I do find it kind of interesting, so I've been spending way too much time after work at my computer... My last redesign only made it halfway through my site but I'm going to streamline this one, estimated launch date - August!

 I'm also designing a Wordpress blog which will hopefully serve as a forum for the community of Artists in Residence. It's so much fun to find other AIR's journals and blogs to read before applying or arriving, so I'd like to create a place for us all to post links and interact. But a community Wordpress is surprisingly tough to set up, so that may also have to wait till August to launch. If you've been an AIR, you may receive an email from me inviting you to join, or just check back, I'll be posting it's debut for sure!

I am planning to blog daily from the Grand Canyon, but internet connections can be iffy, and my resolutions tend to be iffy as well. But I will try, so if  you want to come along, check back!

Friday, July 5, 2013

My studio is a star...

I'm madly getting ready for my AIR in the Grand Canyon, packing a box of art supplies to take to UPS tomorrow to arrive at the north rim ahead of me, but taking a break to post my thrill of the week, having my studio featured in Hyperallergic's "View from the Easel" series. If you've never visited Hyperallergic, I highly recommend it, it has interesting tidbits about the art world several times a day.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dontcha hate people who post about not posting?

[insert obligatory apology for not blogging here] but I vow to be back better than ever soon! I am working on a major redesign of my website which will also accomodate all of you tablet and smartphone users who refuse to be tethered to a desktop or even their own lap, and hoping to launch a wordpress blog (sorry Blogger) dedicated to AIR's in the national parks and forests. And I vow to finish my journals. And last but certainly not least [standard vow to update this blog more frequently]! So stay tuned!

One thing I will be sure to do is to write a journal from the Grand Canyon, where I will be in about two weeks!! Hope it cools down a bit before then...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A painting for Petrified

70 days till I leave for the Grand Canyon and I finally finished my painting from last year's residency at the Petrified National Park. I didn't quite make the 1 year deadline but hopefully will be forgiven. I'm still working on Alaska paintings so haven't really gotten ramped up on the PEFO work, but when I do I'd like to work big, maybe a wall sized 5-panel panorama of "The Most Beautiful Place in the World"

Other than that, I'm still struggling with trying to do too many things with too little time. Maybe I should make a list and see what I can eliminate. . .

(ok, I started the list but it got too overwhelming, so I will eliminate making a list, that's one thing crossed off anyway)

Sometimes I think I should give up blogging (and if I have any readers they are justified in thinking "I thought she DID give up blogging") but I can't quite do it yet. So I will try to update more often, because otherwise what's the point?  Which brings me to this post...  an excuse to upload my latest painting and do a little whining.

Stay tuned for a raccoon in a gold mine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giving it my best 10%

Sometimes what is supposed to be funny is what can really get under your skin. Which is why I had to laugh (so I wouldn't cry) over this story in the Newspaper of Record, The Onion. Find the thing you're most passionate about, then do it.  Funny, isn't it. >sob<

Ironically, read it just after I had gotten home from work, turned on my studio stove, made a pot of coffee, got out my painting clothes, sat down for a few minutes, turned off the heat in my studio, poured the coffee down the drain and put my clothes away, too exhausted to paint.

As I look over my last few entries, I get the sense that this artist is floundering a bit. Not from any lack of ideas and ambition, but maybe from too many directions I want to explore.

Well, if I can't straighten out my life, at least I can straighten out my brushes. I have an embarrassment of riches in the brush department, but can't seem to retire many of them. Just wish I held them in my hand more often.

But, looking on the bright side, only 112 more days till I leave for the Grand Canyon. I've been hitting the gym religiously for the last few months to get in shape for hiking, since, unlike the mostly  horizontal Petrified Forest, most of the GC hiking is up and down. It seems to be working, and in 112 days, I should be ready. I know I am mentally!

In my spare time, I've decided to start a blog that can be a meeting place for the many artists who have done residencies in the National Parks and Forests. I'm shielding the eyes of the Blogger logo as I type this, but I'm doing it on Wordpress, which is somewhat of a learning curve, but interesting. It's still in development, or as we geeks like to say, Beta. As soon as I work out the glitches I'll post the link, and if you have been an AIR, or are just interested in the program, I'd love to have you check it out!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I'm trying to finish some paintings that have been on my easel way too long. The above is the latest to get signed, although I still find my brush hovering over it. It's probably because I'm not really sure what direction this kind of work is taking me to. I am hoping that somehow my displaced creatures, entomological, microscope and taxidermy studies, Alaska paintings and yet to be tackled Petrified Forest NP paintings, diorama paintings (and anticipated Grand Canyon paintings) will all come together in a way that will be a sort of breakthrough for me. I feel like I'm due.

The only way to get there is to paint my way through it.

And although I don't know what the heck I'm doing painting wise, I do know a little about the Artist in Residence Program in the US Parks and Forests. I'll be giving a talk and Q&A about the programs as part of the Art League of RI Associate Member's Exhibition. If you've ever thought you might like to apply for one of these incredible opportunities, I'll be happy to answer your questions and give advice on applying.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shrimp on ice

My studio was encrusted in snow and ice last weekend, but after running my little propane stove for a few hours I did manage to get the temp up to 50, which is a fine temperature for painting. It was also warmer than my house was all day Saturday, after the blizzard wiped out our power. Fortunately the heroic linemen of National Grid brought the power was back by Sunday to give me enough light to finish my painting, The Shrimp Net.

While we tooled around Prince William Sound on the Dora Keen during my Alaska residency the rangers dipped a shrimp pot into the fiord. "Dipped" being about 500 feet. That's a lot of cerulean blue rope. But 10 minutes of hoisting it back onto the deck rewarded us with dozens of these lovely creatures. As fascinated as I was by their glowing orange bodies and endless legs, equally fascinating was their disembodied heads, eyes no longer waving on their stems, and turning from ruby to black. I was not able to watch the part in between. Barbara and Tim popped off their heads as quickly as respectfully as the doomed shrimps could hope for, and put them on ice for a delicious dinner. Here's to you, little shrimpies.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oystercatchers and Ice

Study for the Oystercatcher, by Kathy Hodge, Chugach NF aritst in Residence

I'm constantly conflicted, when I can steal some studio time, over whether to do studies for new paintings or to work on oils in progress. But the cold weather sometimes makes my decision easier, as the room I draw in is in my home, and my oil painting studio is in the cold garage. So even though I've divided the garage space in half with curtains to keep my little stove's meager heat from escaping, on really cold days I spare the propane and work on studies. These two are part of my developing series from my residency in Alaska. The top one is an Oystercatcher at Pakenham Point. I never got this close to them, but they would run ahead of me on the beach with a silly little giggle. Now I realize it was probably a nervous giggle, since they may have been trying to distract me from the eggs they may have had just sitting there in the rocks. Anyway, the Natural History Museum has a taxidermied eastern oystercatcher so I spent a few hours drawing him and he didn't move a muscle.

This one is an iceberg study, looking toward Surprise Glacier.
So studies are in the works, and I was very happy to have the chance to exhibit one of my few finished oils in the Newport Art Museum's Member's show (Up until May 19). And happy to win an honorable mention.

Under the Shore by Kathy Hodge, Chugach NF aritst in Residence And even more happy in the placement of my piece, right smack as soon as you come in, under the color coordinated wall sign.  Thank you, NAM!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Meet the beetle

Click for larger

Here's the latest specimen from my entomological illustration class, a Japanese Beetle. Who knew they had little white furry patches on their sides? Not me, till I looked at them through a great little microscope very generously donated to me. It's a little shopworn but does the job of revealing a world that was not really meant to be seen by humans, what with our big clunky eyes and all. And now it seems the lowly Dung Beetle, greatly underestimated it seems, not only probably already checked out the pretty white fur on the Japanese Beetle, but also navigates by the Milky Way, which I usually can't see either! (ok, I'll blame light polution for that one). So, he eats dung—it's probably delicious. Shows how much we know!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A new start

As much as I respect Lucy, I really hope it's not so. I do feel rather hopeful somehow, not that anything out of my control is going to straighten out, but I'm thinking what is in my control (me) might. In order to do that, I need to simplify and focus. Cleaning my studio always helps, but I also need to get rid of the physical clutter around me. So one new year's resolution is to get rid of (at least) one object a day, so by the end of the year I will be down 365 objects I can live without. I'm still working on making my list of other resolutions, one of which won't be to stop procrastinating, but one will probably be to blog more consistently.

And once I wrap up my studio cleaning and organizing, I'll wrap my painting area in plastic to keep the heat in and put brush to canvas for a change! 

Subjects I plan to pursue in 2013

MACRO: The most beautiful place in the contiguous United States
MICRO: An ancient fly in amber, a life cut tragically short

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