Creating gardens for pollinators and art

Fall is here with so many things to do.

My memories of Summer days spent digging in the dirt, planting seeds and watching my garden come to life are fading.  I loved all the bumblebees, swallowtails, pearl crescents, frittilaries, clearwing hummingbird moths, hummingbirds and wasps in varieties I hadn’t seen before tumble, crawl and fly around the garden.

A garden for pollinators, an artist and other wild visitors

A garden for pollinators, an artist and other wild visitors

Now my days are spent cutting back the Lobelia cardinalis flower stalks, finishing up the art that began in my sketchbook and cleaning up the studio and gardens for the Countryside Artisans Fall Studio Tour visitors.

I am enchanted by the seasonal changes, and love capturing some of it in my sketchbooks and then in that art hanging on the walls.

Hopefully all the many tasks associated with the upcoming Fall Studio Tour will still allow me to watch the Monarch Butterflies and other visitors to my garden.   Right now I am living in the moment, sunsets, fall color, and the good life as an artist in the agricultural reserve.

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Summer to Fall Transition

Summer to Fall Transition

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I have no problem being present in the fall: Being outside, listening to the wind rustling leaves in the trees; bike rides; apples from the orchard; colorful leaves falling; collecting acorns, nuts and samaras; long walks with my dog; and trying to capture some of this in my art.

This leaf rubbing was created in a Greek restaurant (on the paper placemat) after a hike at Boundary Bridge with my buddy Melanie last fall.  I was so excited by all the trees we saw on the hike, I couldn’t resist rubbing the freshly collected leaves with color sticks.

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The summer was great.   My days were filled with drawing and painting in my sketchbooks from the garden and from the car as i traveled south, north and to the midwest.  Taking walks and hikes, kayaking, working in the garden, and visiting with family and friends.

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mixed media sketch

Now is the time to prepare for the Fall Studio Tour in less than 4 weeks, I can’t believe it is already upon us.  That deadline helps me focus on finishing art that can be put in a frame and setting the studio up for customers.  It is easy to be consumed with  finishing art, photographing art, framing art, social media, cleanup work in the studio and garden tasks, and all the clerical work.

As  I finish these essential tasks, the fall season is rich in color for painting, the mountain is calliing me for a hike, the dog wants a walk, and my new bike is sitting inside waiting to be taken out on the road.  I am lucky to have this life in the country, just hope I can work that studio tour list..

A hummingbird just flew nearby to drink from a late blooming Lobelia cardinalis, life is good when I can be present in these moments outside in nature.

Art is almost done for the Countryside Artisan Spring Studio Tour

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Spring buds are bursting, the gardens are almost cleaned up, and the art is trying to move off the easel and into a frame.  I love this time of year outside, but I am inside many days trying to finish art for my open studio next week.  This drawing is a good example of how I spend my days.  He has been on the easel and then put away in my flat file before.  But this time I am determined to capture the view on West Harris Road, when you round a hill and there on the horizon is a beautiful horse peacefully eating the grass.

Art is a process I know, however I am just as impatient as I was when I started all those years ago.  I have several new pieces of art in process and they are destined to hang on my studio wall next weekend for the Spring Studio Tour.   Challenges are abundant when making art, and one of the hardest questions to answer: Is this art done?  Have I resolved the issues and found the spirit of this painting/drawing?

When one of my seasonal studio tours is upon me, the questions keep coming and it is difficult to know whether the work is done.   I try to slow my mind down and look closely, I move around the house and come upon the art by surprise to see what my reaction is to the drawing.  Sometimes this helps to focus my mind and ‘eye’.

Often the process is like the rest of life, when you want to be done and move on to something new, but a commitment is changing the experience.  Hoping to use this time to sign off on new art that has been on the easel for a while, even as I step back and question each piece.  Is it done?  Where is my eye led?  How do the colors and textures speak to each othe?

Making art most days, asking good questions, and hoping the art is speaking to me and my studio visitors next week.

Winter views of Sugarloaf and life

A reluctant writer, I hardly know when it is appropriate to share what’s going on as a mom, woman and an artist.  So this blog hardly ever gets updated.

Most days I am trying to capture the winter trees out my kitchen window, the changing colors of the mountain, and learning how to live with a son who is an Iraq veteran with PTSD.  Those sketches can take forever to finish, as the weather transforms my winter landscape.

winterTreeSugarloaf72dpiIt feels as if, it is the first time I have drawn this mountain view, every time I put pencil to paper.  Seasonal changes dramatically alter colors and forms, and that forces me to slow down and look.  Someday I will capture that feeling of being in this lively landscape.

Right now I am drawing this view as a meditative experience.  Getting lost in the purples and blue greys in winter trees, has a way of pulling my mind away from worrying about my Iraq Veteran son.  Grateful to have these compositional and drawing problems to solve, and wishing I could as easily help him heal his war wounds.

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Hiking Sugarloaf Mountain to my Persimmon tree

Hiking Sugarloaf Mountain to my Persimmon tree

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I am a midwesterner at heart- loving the seasonal changes in woodland forests.  Last week I led a group of women from Chevy Chase, MD on a hike to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.  We were enveloped in the fall colors against Sugarloaf’s quartzite rocks.  Her trees are in the early stages of the fall burst of color.  Tupelo, Black Birch, Tulip Tree, Red Maple and Persimmon were glorious shades gold, crimson, citron and tangerine.

These women get their hands dirty working with soil, they are attuned to plant diversity and microhabitats.  So I shared tree ID clues and various habitat preferences, knowing they would be interested in how these plants adapt to their specific part of the forest.  Every time I lead a hike I learn something new about the mountain.  This time I was struck by the number of persimmons on the summit, we all got a chance to see and taste those amazing berries.  And for many on the hike their previous experiece with persimmon was the cultivated varieties in the grocery store.  I encouraged them to taste the ripe fruit and I think I have a few more converts to my favorite tree.

It was a wonderful day to be on Sugarloaf with kindred spirits.  Maybe if I finish work on a deadline in time today I can get back on the trail to my Persimmon Tree.

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We are almost done spackling, painting, and cleaning up the Studio, after a big construction project.  These long awaited improvements have finally come to fruition.

A couple of years ago, an industrious groundhog tunneled his way into my studio, through the brick floor.  After cleaning up the mess, I knew the studio needed a solid, groundhog-proof floor.  Or as my brother describes it, I need an Animal Barrier.

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This summer I started planning a new floor and I realized the building had a lot more openings
for insects and moisture.  So we plugged and patched gaps in the outer walls, installed drain tile, and a gutter.  After a few more bids I realized my studio savings account would not cover all the different contractors required to fix this.  So I called my little brother Steve and asked him if he would fly up from St. Louis, to pour the concrete ‘Animal Barrier’ we talked about when the groundhog visited the studio.

Steve arrived, my sweet husband took a week off and we went to work.  Amazing how many trips to Lowes and how much work involved in this project.  My brother can do just about anything involved in building, so he and Jim were cutting drywall for my new walls and ceiling in the 10 x 20 side of the studio and we went through a 25 pound bucket of drywall mud!  Then the new light fixtures and fan arrived, Steve installed them.  The big day was the concrete truck arrival.

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Wheel barrows of heavy concrete passed from the driveway down the hill to the studio courtesy of Josh and J  and Steve was the finisher.  I had no idea concrete could be so complicated, after the initial pour and smoothing out, he waited and then very carefully created this beautiful smooth surface.

My little brother returned home and my husband and I are trying to finish the job before Studio Tour this Friday.  Artists dream about studio spaces, I have a dream work space thanks to my little brother Steve.

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