Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Attraction of Fishing

My initial concept for this painting was to create a “floating room” as if it had just drifted onto the sand at the edge of the water. I have always loved the image/idea of mermaids and all the mythology and folklore that go along with them. I have done several other paintings with them, including the painting “Water Music” in which a mermaid is sleeping in a chair listening to a pianist. While I was working on that painting I did a drawing in which the mermaid was stretched out on the top of the piano and the shape of her body and tail and the long shape of the grand piano just seemed to fit together like the pieces to a puzzle.  In composing this painting I became intrigued by how the shape of the back of the mermaid also reflected the rhythm of the dunes in the landscape behind her.  The title comes from a quote I read from a filmmaker in which he said  “life can both be explained in the same way someone might explain the “attraction of fishing”. I interpret this as our desire to go forward in life is motivated by not really knowing exactly what we might catch if we keep casting our line.  In the painting there is a fisherman in a rowboat, fishing with his dog. There is an interchange of dreams here. It is possible that the fisherman is daydreaming that he may catch a mermaid, and the pianist is dreaming about fishing as he plays, and thus the mermaid has materialized on his piano. The dogs in the painting are not dreaming, but instead they are enjoying the simple bliss of a comfortable chair and the pleasure of being out in a boat in the water, unencumbered by the more complex dreams and desires of their human companions.  The heron in the foreground with the fish is frozen in the moment, one foot in the “real” world and one foot in the dream world of the “floating room”.  The painting is 30" x 42" oil on linen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rabbit Summer

"Rabbit Summer" is the third of my three moon paintings composed on a square. The moon in this one has just gone down and the sun is just rising. The woman gardener on the yellow striped sofa tried to stay awake to keep the intrepid rabbits from eating her vegetable garden. But she dozed off....not even her faithful dog knows how to handle the situation. The painting was inspired by my own gardening challenges this summer when a bumper crop of rabbits sprung up in our neighborhood and devoured all our lettuce, radicchio and green beans. Fortunately the tomatoes were spared.
"Rabbit Summer" is oil on linen, 48" x 48".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Goodnight Moon

This painting is titled "Goodnight Moon". It is oil on linen, 48"x48". It is the second in my summer series of moon paintings. ("Moon River" is in an earlier post)
 Many of the elements of the painting are inspired by the wonderful poem/children's book by Margaret Wise Brown that has lulled so many children to sleep.  It starts off:
"Goodnight Moon...
Goodnight room 
Goodnight moon 
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


This is a portrait I did late this spring. The people who own this beautiful dog, asked that he be painted from behind- that it suited his personality. They also sent me a snapshot of Plutarque in this pose and extra pictures of the California Coast. I had difficulty parting with the painting when I finished it, as I had become fascinated with the dog and who he really was. So I asked his family to please write his biography to go with the image on my blog. It is wonderful. The painting is 20" x 24" oil on panel.


After moving to California, I started looking for a new four-legged friend.  First place I looked at was the SPCA website.  The requirements were simple: a male small enough for me to carry if needed.
After entering these criteria on the website I saw his picture.  Because he is black and white, after being captured roaming the streets he was named Domino.  When I called the SPCA I was told that an adoption was in progress.  But a few days later he was still on the website.  I called again and got the same answer.  A week later, same thing, so we decided to make the trip to the SPCA.  It was Labor Day weekend 2000.  There he was, waiting to be adopted with only three days left before being euthanatized.  We were told that he had been rejected because he had kennel cough (easily treated), he was labeled aggressive (true toward men) and finally because of a lack of connection (when you meet a dog in a room where other animals have been brought in before, the dog is of course more interested in sniffing around than in “connecting” with you).  If not adopted that weekend, “Domino” would die the following week.  As I could carry him, he was young (not quite a year old) and healthy, the decision was easy.  We filled out the forms, gave him a new name and took him home.
The tradition in France is that the first letter of the name of a dog is different each year.  He was born in 1999 and that year the letter was P hence Plutarque, famous philosopher.  For a lot of people that name is difficult to pronounce and very quickly it was abbreviated into “Plu”.  When my Mom saw him she immediately called him “Plume” (meaning feather in French because of his tail) and the name stays.
Aside from being abused (we couldn’t touch him, especially the head, cuddle him) and left alone, Plume didn’t know much.  He spent the first few days running in the backyard, finding a way to escape (being very successful and us being very worried, but coming back home after a few hours), barking at himself when facing a mirror, forgetting to eat and literally falling asleep after hours of running, smelling, exploring, listening and hunting gophers.  We spent 3 months taking him to school to teach him some basic commands (the “Come” command never worked and still doesn’t), interact with other dogs and human beings and learn that not everybody wants to hurt him.  It helped him somewhat but it took quite a few more months before we could pet him without him being scared.  As he didn’t have a normal puppy life he had to be taught everything.  A couple of weeks were enough for him to enjoy going for a car ride.  One day I finally drove with him to a somewhat isolated beach.  We were on the bluff when he sat down and just looked.  Mesmerized, fascinated by the space, the smell, the noise, not one muscle moving.  That’s when I took the picture.  What was he thinking?  I will never know.  There was nobody, I let him free and he took off.  Running, on the beach or at the edge of the water, running while looking at the birds flying, running but keeping an eye on me, running until he was exhausted and came back to have a drink and let me put his leash back on.  He was happy.  He was free.  Every chance I had to let him free on the beach I did it.  And every time, I just watched him running free, happy, running until his legs couldn’t carry him and he comes back lying down beside me.
One day, Plutarque went in the guest bedroom.  On the bed there was an old teddy bear given years before by a friend.  It didn’t take him long to “steal”, carried him to the yard and “adopt” it as friend.  From that day on he carried it around, cleaned it, took it hunting with him and slept with it.  I patched the poor thing as many times and as long as I could but after more than 7 years I finally had to put it in the trash.  This teddy bear was the first of many other fluffy friends.  Mr. Plume is well known in the neighborhood for running and barking at passing by bikers or pedestrians with one of his toys in his mouth or having meeting with his toys around a gopher’s hole.
Plutarque adopted me and was very protective (sometimes too much) very quickly.  It took him longer to be the same with Mike, my husband, although he loved playing rough with him.  Months of patience and love were needed for him to trust us. 
Plutarque is different.  Too much abuse when he was a puppy has left indelible marks.  He is independent but needs to have his people around.  He needs space and fresh air and to run in the yard but he is able to spend hours by the door of my office, protecting me and ready to go wherever I go.  If I had to define him I would use words such as freedom, independence and solitude but also trust, protection/possession, need of human contact and unconditional love for his people.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Moon River

I finished "Moon River" this week. It is the first time I have done a painting on a square canvas. I am  oriented toward horizontal rectangles, so it was interesting composing on a square. I decided to  work off the symmetry and  put the vanishing point in the center of the canvas, creating a kind of vortex around which to compose. The river recedes beyond the vanishing point and the other diagonals in the interior recede to two other vanishing points on the same horizon line outside of the picture plane. The song "Moon River" has many associations for me. The earliest is of my mother playing it on the piano when I was a small girl. As I got older I came to imagine that as she played it, she dreamed about a more romantic period of her life, when she didn't have four little kids running around her. I loved to sit next to her and watch her face, while she played, with her eyes softly closed.  I can remember reading the title and lyrics over and over again. I was always mystified by the words "Dream maker, you heartbreaker, wherever you're going I'm going your way." "Moon River" is oil on linen, 48" x 48"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Moon River beginnings

This is the underpainting for the painting I am currently working on. It is another "floating room"interior. The title is "Moon River".  It is oil on linen, 48" x 48".

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The First Mate

I finished this painting last Friday.
In August we spent a week, or almost a week because of Hurricane Irene, on a lake in the Berkshires. It was a very quiet lake with only a few canoes or kayaks gliding in and out of the coves. A man lived in the cabin next to ours. Every couple of hours he would come out of his cabin and get in his canoe with his dog. The dog would move gracefully to the front of the canoe and stand looking straight out with his legs up on the bow like a proud masthead. The man would then paddle him the full length of the lake and into the marshes beyond. One day we were out in our kayaks and paddled close to the dog in the canoe and the man told us his story. He had adopted the dog from a very rough urban kill shelter. The dog had been returned previously by three foster homes because he was aggressive. He had a number of scars from the fights and abuse he had suffered. The man adopted him and brought him to his home on the lake where he could live quietly and unthreatened. The canoe outings soon became the focus of the dog's (and the man's) day. The dog waited at the door of the cabin patiently until the man made a move as if it was time for a paddle. Then he would run to the dock and take his place. A magical relationship had formed for both of them. It was hard to imagine him as an aggressive dog, as we saw him gliding calmly, smoothly, elegantly across the lake, in his canoe with his man paddling soundlessly behind him.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Water Music-A Mermaid's Lullaby

I just finished this painting and it left today in a truck to Studio E Gallery in Palm Beach Gardens. My studio is very empty now. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to paint larger and wonderful to know that someone has space in their lives for a big painting. It feels like suddenly being able to take a deep breath of fresh air. Like my last painting, "Blues for Dogs", "Water Music" involves an interior/exterior space with one merging into the other. The idea of a "floating room" has intrigued me for some time, and I have done sketches considering this concept, but this is the first painting where I have actually explored it fully. I plan to do more with it. The title "Water Music" comes from the suites composed by Handel which were first played by musicians on a barge on the River Thames for King George I and his close friends. The story goes that the barge moved along with the tide, and the King liked the music so much he asked the musicians to play it three times. In this "Water Music" the sound coming from the piano is so beautiful it is drawing creatures from the sea to come and listen. For the mermaid, it is a lullaby.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Studio this Afternoon

The late afternoon light in my studio today, glancing off the paintings that are ready for the show. All the little figures are waiting patiently. Some are reading, some are sipping tea. Others sleep as if they don't have a care in the world.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blues for Dogs

Here are two images of a painting I just finished. The first one is in process and the second image is the finished painting.

It is titled "Blues for Dogs" and is oil on linen, 36" x 48". It will be in my upcoming show at the Marin-Price Galleries in Bethesda, Maryland. The show will be comprised of landscapes with figures, inspired by Block Island, as well as interiors with single female figures. "Blues for Dogs" is sort of the linking painting between these two groups.

The painting was inspired by a Piero della Francesco fresco- a reproduction of which, has been pinned to my studio wall since 1983.

And yes that is my dog, Rembrandt, sitting in the first archway on the left.

The show opens March 3rd.