Friday, December 28, 2012

New Toys

Sometimes the elusive magic key for unlocking your creativity is as simple as having all your 'stuff' at the handy

Holidays behind us, a new year ahead of us. 
Winter, the bare trees outside, the garden at rest, time for enjoying the warmth and comfort of  being inside. Time to discover quiet and inspiration, play with your toys,  whatever they are for you.

Was there anything better than that magical moment on Christmas morning when you first laid eyes on the treasures there? For me it was the days that followed Christmas morning,  days free of school and schedules, just me and my new “toys” together all day long.  Then there was calling your friends and sharing  the fun.  My daughter, now over 40, still gets a call every Christmas morning from her childhood playmate that begins with the question “What did you get for Christmas”. If only they still lived across the street from each other!

  Years passed and my "toys" started looking more like books,  new clothes, games, make up and perfumes. Playing became curling up on a winter morning with a new book, snuggling with a new robe or blanket, soaking in a tub enveloped by fragrant bubbles with a flawless bar of virgin soap in hand.

Currently my favorite toys are all about art, and I'm ready to  experiment (play actually ) with some different tools this year.

I purchased this very small Raphael travel pan years ago on a trip to Paris and did not use it until recently. It seemed too easy, too basic.  I cant name any of the colors for sure, but once I dipped the short handled brush into water and messed up the first pan of color I was on my way .

Having coffee at Cafe Flore, my first partnership with the little paint box produced a very "rough"  version of a travel sketch. Don't judge, keep in mind that it was early and I was still jet lagged.

Someone much better at this offered these examples of what can be accomplished with this very same box of limited colors.  Gives me hope for next time . . .

Feeling more confident, I visited Sennelier's historic Art Supply store and invested in a travel set with beautiful , vibrant colors,  ones I cant wait to use. In this metal box is the spirit of Paris and the promise of future painting adventures that will keep me inspired .  

Also exciting are three new tubes of neutrals . . . I didn't even know they existed! For years I have been mixing my grays from  blues and oranges and what ever else I could add, with the conviction that it was a sort of heresy to do it any other way. Good bye guilt, and hello to these new shades.  Just another option to play with.

A set of brand new, unopened liquid watercolors, they will be the first magic potions to fill the wells of my new ceramic palette  . . .more toys . . . .stay tuned  . . ..

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


One of the great dividends of darkness is increased sensitivity to the light

The skies are mostly gray,  the skeleton trees look flat and black against the horizon, and nature takes on her palette of new neutrals. Nowhere is this neutrality more intense than in the cities, where the pavements, walkways and even the stone buildings merge into a sepia- toned picture.  

Against this neutral backdrop, every  brush of  color emerges with an increased intensity , standing out like the bold stroke of a highlighter pen, saying “notice me”.  Here it is the red awning of a neighborhood cafe.

And notice I did recently in Paris, looking into every window and around every corner, searching for and finding color at every turn. Paris is a feast of colors, no matter what the season.


Rainbows of Candy

Rainbows of Flowers in the Street Markets . . .

. . . the Paint Pots at Sennelier Art Store 

Vintage Pottery at the Flea Market

Ballet Flats at the Repetto Store . . .
how's this for a Color Wheel?


Blue in A Bottle

Blue on the street

Blue in the River and Sky


Red in the Cafe

Red in the Bon Marche, there's those shoes again!


Yellow and Orange at the Morning Market

At the Cafe

On the Deli Storefront

And Finally, a pastel pile of meringues . . .

"Why do two colors , put next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. Just as one can never learn how to paint."  picasso

I do hope that's not true- as I still hold out hope that I CAN learn to paint if I keep trying . . . . I can only hope

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.
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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet and dramatist.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Playing House

by Rachel Field

This is the key to the playhouse
In the woods by the pebbly shore,
It's winter now: I wonder if
There's snow about the door?
I wonder if the flower-sprigged cups
And plates sit on their shelf
And if my little painted chair
Is rocking by itself

It doesn’t matter  how small or how big it is – I love to play house .  When I got my first playhouse I was over 50 -becoming a grandmother was the perfect excuse to make my dream finally come true!  But I couldn't have had more fun,  and with the help of some man-power from the men in my life – the dream became a reality.

Summer is nearly over and it is time to wash the teacups , tuck in the dolls and bunnies, and close the windows against the changing chilly winds.. .

Small houses have been a delightful part of childhood for generations. There is magic in having a space that
"just fits", and there is no better place to take tea with cookies.

Tiny tea parties call for very small treats

Tea parties are for everyone – boys and girls, tiny tots and big shots.

 Tea with the Twins

Cousins get cozy

Its never too soon to practice proper manners

Small houses are fun for the small boys also

This little guy liked sweeping the porch better than anything

Who invited the kittens? They must have heard about the cream!

Some of life is ever-changing, but thankfully some things never change – little ones grow up but the playhouse stands at the ready for the next curious child – always  ready for tea in the afternoon after a morning of planting seeds in the little garden that surrounds the house. 

The little garden offers a place to experiment, pick miniature bouquets, and snip fresh herbs for tea.

But oh! We loved the Little House
A thousand -ten times moré!
We loved the tiny window-panes
The funny swinging door.

The Little House by Abbie F Brown  1908

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Change Of Heart

Listen! The wind is rising and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!
-humbert wolfe

I'm not sure how or why it happened, but somewhere, somehow,  I lost the connection to my garden this summer.  It wasn't just the physical connection, more so the emotional connection. Nature threw some tough curves with the drought and the heat, so I could blame it on unforseen and  uncontrollable forces at work against me, but that seems like a bit of a cop out. I just couldn't care any more.  

The gardening year went by, and I mostly cowered in the house on those 100 plus days. I often gazed out the windows, hoping to fell an urge to go outside and DO something.  I tried  at first to  keep up with watering by hand, but soon gave that up.  I felt guilty at first, then overwhelmed , and  finally just resigned to the situation.
But Autumn brings with it another chance, a newly formed hope fueled by the refreshing cooler temperatures and welcome soaking rains.  The color green returned, and a walkabout on a cool September morning revealed some astonishing discoveries, some good, some not so much.

BEFORE PICTURE  - The front of the perennial bed has been invaded and mostly taken over by a crop of invasive sea oats that has infiltrated the roses and peonies. The situation struck me as hopeless at first as I considered the prospect of digging all the peonies up, removing the grass and then replanting the peonies. And all this has to be accomplished in one short week as peonies can only be transplanted in the fall. 

AFTER PICTURE - Then I began the job of cutting everything down so I could see the situation more clearly, and decided I might just be able to leave the peonies and rid the soil of the invading grass all around them, its worth a try after all. Things are looking up  . . . .

Filled with a new energy, I began to see even more positive places, and in the short space of one day I actually began to feel the old enthusiasm return. The basil, marjoram and parsley in the little garden were still thriving.

 The Nasturtiums never looked happier

 The Anemones were luxurious

 The Hydrangea were handsome in all their fall finery

The Asters were rosy and glowing

The Perennial Ageratum were resplendent in blue

Good news and good feelings returned as mysteriously as they had disappeared, and the changing season brought with it a new optimism. It felt good.  One of the best lessons of the garden returned to me,  the promise of another year is always present.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What's Your palette?

Messes are the artist's true friend - we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here -

While browsing in a vintage shop
recently, my friend and fellow shopper commented  "That's perfect for you, its your palette". That led to an interesting discussion of how each of us has our own unique set of color preferences, and we are indeed drawn to those colors or combinations of colors over and over again, almost unconsciously. An awareness of this has remained with me ever since, and sure enough - just look around you , in your closet, in your bedroom, in your garden.  You might discover a layer of your own personality that is uniquely you, your palette

From an artist's point of view, what ends up on the canvas or the paper starts here - on the palette.  Its the place where the painter has the most fun and faces the most challenges .  Here are the mixes, the choices, the happy accidents and the struggles to achieve just the right shade.  The loaded and well-used palette itself  is art of a unique kind, to be appreciated by anyone with a love of color and an understanding of just how sensitive and magic color can be.

A palette can be an  expensive ceramic piece

Or a simple plastic model

A metal folding model is perfect for the Plein Air painter

The glorious mess that happens on a palette has a story to tell

Inspiration for fashion and photography

Vintage palettes are a rare and special find 
This little vintage metal watercolor palette has found new life as a display /magnet board for miniature watercolors. I like to imagine that it must have been someone's traveling companion years ago. Clean now of paint, except for a few stains, I wonder what lovely washes were mixed long ago, and what paintings might have resulted.

  You don't have to be an artist to relish colors , they are all around us every day, just waiting to be noticed and marveled at .  What's your palette?