Friday, December 19, 2014

Eastern Grey Squirrels, not in my backyard.

How many opinions can one artist find acceptable or unacceptable as people react to my latest print project?
OK I must confess. I'm creating two, large linocuts (2'X3') of those furry, tree hugging, bird feeder raiding creatures called squirrels.

For me (I am a city dweller), these guys are tenaciously cute and to others: tenaciously repugnant.

I take daily walks with my Corgi, Bogart, to Lucy Park located between a canal and St. Anne's Church; a broad public area lined with benches and large oak trees. Just mention the word 'squirrel' to my Corgi and he is all pointy eared and wide-eyed (no bushy tail though).  As the squirrels busy themselves with work and play in this area, I quietly unleash my dog. He proceeds to tear up the turf chasing one or the scurries (a group of squirrels) up oak trees. Come down here! he barks.

Once a squirrel did fall from the tree onto his chest. Both animals were in a state of shock for a few milliseconds. The squirrel reacted first, bolting up the tree. Bogart looked at me and knew he missed his only life time chance to have squirrel stew.

I thought it would be great fun to create a print with squirrels poised in a variety of states looking down on us from an aerial position of superiority.  Now honestly... aren't they cute!

So here's my starting point: a lino diptych of a 'scurry' chased up an oak tree by a Corgi.
second state carving

first state print on second state linoleum
isolated and selective inking

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Upcoming Art Demonstrations and talks

On Thursday evening, September 11, I was invited by the Salem Art Association of New Hampshire to give a painting demonstration to kick off their new art year after a summer hiatus.  I started with a power point presentation, "Out in the Open", which I helped to create for high school art students interested in plein air painting. This presentation can be found at

Here's a appreciative note from the President of SAA:

 Hi Susan,

Sending a quick note of thanks for your demonstration at our art association on Thursday.

Everyone enjoyed your presentation and we were wowed by your demo....  amazing to see a composition put together so well, in so little time.

Also, your open attitude and composition tips were appreciated and very well received by our members.

Thanks again, it was a pleasure to have you and your demonstration at our meeting.

Best regards,

Margaret Moon Hames

On Wednesday evening, October 1 from 7-8:30, I'll be giving a talk and printmaking demo at the Melano Center in Melrose, MA. I've been asked to talk about my linoleum prints and the reductive relief technique.

In Newport, Rhode Island on Sunday November 2 from 1-3:30 fifteen member-artists of the Boston Printmakers (including me) will be giving talks and sharing their prepared special food recipes at the Newport Art Museum.  The Boston Printmakers members show, PALETE TO PLATE will be on view through January 4, 2015.  For more info concerning this BP exhibit as well as how to purchase the related exhibition book and recipes go to:

On a final note, The Concord Art Association, with sponsorship from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, selected my plein air painting, Egg Rock, for use in CAA 's 2015 calendar. Selected images were juried and had to depict the town of Concord with the theme of "Light and Space".

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Annual Print Show in Newburyport

Eleven years ago I formed a printmakers' group and every year since, there has been an annual print show, "Making an Impression".  The exhibit showcases many different talents of and techniques used by local printmakers while promoting the art of prints to the general art viewing public.

And so another show gets under way next week at the Newburyport Art Association on Water Street coordinated by this year's Chairperson, Kate Higley, a New Hampshire printmaker.

Please join us as we celebrate our creative endeavors with a reception and public viewing.

Here are two new linoleum prints I have created for the show: "Up and Over" and "Keep a Look Out".

Recently, I viewed the beautiful J M W Turner and the Sea exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.  The inventive renderings of the raging emotional personalities of the sea by so many accomplished painters gave me pause to reflect on how I went about rendering the agitated sea  in these two prints.

Here's my Turner favorite.
Just before exiting, in the last room,  John Singer Sargent depicts the raging Atlantic Ocean in this painting:
If you could only inquire of my painting friends if any of these images accurately reflects one ominous ferry ride to Monhegan Island. With our feet high up on the metal  railings watching with trepidation the whale like blow hole waters explosively entering through the boat's scuppers while we tried to weld our butts to anything that didn't slide, we pitched to and fro among the ocean's crests and troughs. We were quite relieved to have this ferry ride end and safely deposited on the wharf of Monhegan Island..  The sea can be so exhilarating!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Building Bridges with Art

This past week I taught printmaking to a group of Lowell  kids, ages 9-14 in a summer program called, "Art with Artists".  This children's art program was funded by a Parker Foundation grant written by my good painter friend, Meredith Fife Day, the program's coordinator.

For a creative theme, I presented lessons which looked critically at bridge design and construction. The students enjoyed creating bridges using a variety of printmaking techniques: roller printing, white line relief prints, & monoprints.

The kids looked at and talked about artwork created by the likes of Andy Warhol and his silk screened print, Brooklyn Bridge, Katsushika Hokusai's View of Mount Fuji Under a Bridge, The Pont du Gard Roman Aquaduct Over the Gard River, Avignon, France and Landscape with Bridge by Paul Schamberg.  I presented my plein air oil paintings of bridges as well.  

While sorting my own painting to prepare for class, I was surprised just how many bridge paintings were in my inventory.  I have always been attracted to the water's edge and boats of all kinds and so there should be no surprise to see a bridge crossing over streams, rivers and marshy areas where I have set up my easel.

Stone, wood or steel, each bridge is an engineering amazement: some are linear in design, others solid shape construction.  I must confess, I have never been attracted to Jersey Barrier bridges. Ugly! What a bane to the aesthetics of bridge design.  

The photos to the left are "Art with Artists" participants enjoying their 'printmaking' days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mt. Adoptmore

On this year's fourth of July, Hurricane Arthur did not dampen the start of Chelmsford's 47th Annual Independence Day Parade. Good news for the Lowell Humane Society's (LHS) float participants.

A while back a call for artist volunteers came through  my Western Avenue Studios Yahoo mail from Crystal Arnott, Director and children volunteer coordinator at LHS.  The kids were looking for artists who were willing to volunteer their time to construct large heads of a cat, dog, bird and rabbit for this year's float entry in a local parade.

Their float theme of "Mt. Adoptmore" was indeed clever and a creative choice. The cat, dog, rabbit and birds represented the animals offered for adoption at the shelter. These animals would replace the presidential heads of Mt. Rushmore.  Clever!

Of course I was interested but I was up to my eyeballs in work and commitments like so many of us.  So I waited two weeks and inquired of Crystal how things were going and hoped she had enough volunteers.  Sadly no one came forward. My heart tightened. I reasoned with myself... her call was two months in advance of the parade... no rush. They didn't want the heads yesterday (like most calls for volunteer work), so I gladly answered their request. I had a blast making these heads.

I used cardboard boxes from a local package store as well as an empty studio rag box. I formed the heads by using a few origami techniques such as scoring, folding, reversing folds with the additions of smaller sized boxes, foamcore and duck tape.  These materials would serve as a strong foundation when I cover the surfaces with multiple layers of gooey paper mache.

The heads took a couple of on and off work weeks. They look terrific for not having any set plans to form the heads from cardboard boxes.  I put a final coat of Kilz paint to seal the paper mache just in case of rain which could turn the masterpieces into a heap of floury mush.

I delivered the heads to the shelter and the kids were delighted with the results.  They quickly began work, dipping brushes into donated acrylic paints and turning the plain heads into colorful strokes and patterns. 

I couldn't stay long to watch the gals finish painting and sadly I couldn't watch the parade either but I'm sure everyone had a good time.

Here's my studio version of Mt. Adoptmore placed on the bed of my press before handing them over to Lowell Humane Society.    

Take a look at these faces and find a place in your heart for a sheltered animal.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Out in the Open

Sophie and Julie, Newburyport High School art students, painting at Maudsley State Park
 "Out in the Open", held on Thursday, May 29, 2014, was a wonderful opportunity for the Newburyport Ten (N-10) plein air painters to share their painters' skills and love of painting outdoors with the art students of Newburyport High School.

The program began with a 40 minute power point presentation at the Newburyport Art Association. I gave the historical overview of the art of plein painting and Susan Spellman explained the steps to painting a landscape out of doors. Then everyone hopped on a school bus to Maudsley State Park and were teamed up with members of the N-10 for a day of painting.  Participating N-10 members were: Cynthia Cooper, Dan Shaw, Margery Jennings, Janet Macleod, Joan Rademacher, Marjet Lesk, Susan Luca, Susan Spellman and myself. A beautiful day of painting Nature surrounded by Nature was enjoyed by all in attendance.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Print Club of New York

I was invited to give a talk at the 20th Annual Artists Showcase of the Print Club of New York held at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. My reduction linoleum was seen by the selection committee at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking's Annual CCP Members' Exhibition: 'Branching Out' exhibition in Norwalk, CT.

A Passage through the Fluttering Fires of Autumn

I was contacted to submit a power point presentation. Five printmakers, MICHAEL EADE,
KIRSTEN FLAHERTYCARY HULBERT. SUSAN JAWORSKI-STRANC, BRUCE WALDMAN were selected and invited to talk and show their portfolios to the members.

This event was heaven sent... I was surrounded by people who were knowledgeable and loved prints... they were print collectors! Now my linoleum prints are in a select number of members' collections. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Painting on the North Shore with N10 friends

So starts another painting season with my long time painting friends of Newburyport Ten.  We are off to a warm April day start at Milestone Farm in Newbury.  Acres of hay fields are beginning to green along the edges of water-logged swathes. I particularly liked the zig-zag pattern cutting through this scene as well as the reflective patterns of distant trees.

Another day we painted at the end of Plum Island. There are hills of grassy sand dunes, an old coast guard station and lighthouse, and the Merrimack River emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.  There are plenty of goofy, friendly dogs running about kicking up sand for everyone's enjoyment too. Their care free romps will end soon due to summer beach regulations.

And then the following week, three of us painted Rowley's Jewel Mill complete with a dammed spillway and pond, rushing streams and the antique mill.

Dan Shaw under wraps, paints along side the rushing stream

Margery Jennings finds a warm sunny spot to set up her easel.

Nothing's better than spring painting in New England says my friend of 35 years, Terry. 
After a few days of painting in 40 degree weather which included an uncomfortable day of gusty, cold winds, and a few sprinkles, my friend flew back to Maryland with a few paintings to jump start another season in the fields. While trees refuse to unfurl their tender green leaves and chipmunks were still slumbering underground, two faithful friends shared the love of outdoors by painting side by side.

High on an old railroad bed in Westford, I painted a marsh scene.  While painting, I heard some noises in the woods and step away from the easel.  There on the side of the hill I saw the Fischer cat, standing vertically against the side of a tree.  Our eyes locked for a rare moment of awareness and then he scampered away.

and an unfinished painting of moss and lichen covered granite boulders located behind my Westford cottage.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Well Preserved

I painted for a few hours at the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead in Haverhill.

Although area temperatures were warming and the greening has commenced, my shod feet felt like 2 laid out 'catch of the day' in a bucket of ice after a few hours of standing in snow drifts along a hedge row.

This well cared for rural New England farm of 69 acres with trails, farm buildings and farmhouse.  The site is a wonderful museum established in 1892 after Whittier's , Snow-Bound, a lengthy poem became very popular and well liked during Victorian times. The poem narrates stories told by a family sitting around the fireplace, buttoned up in the farm house during a three day raging New England blizzard.

So I spent some time painting the brightly colored and well preserved barns surrounded by thick grey woods and melting snows.  When I returned home, I couldn't help but reference my very own canned peaches and tomatoes hidden away in my dark pantry to those two buildings.  Taking two jars out of storage and placing them on the table, who wouldn't enjoy their well preserved color and freshness after a good day of painting in late winter.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snow Shoes and Paint Box

After two suffering falls while ice skating a few weeks ago, I have turned in my skates for a pair of snowshoes. Ice is such an unforgiving surface for old bones to scatter itself about on.

This past Saturday I tramped down my own path inside Old Calf Pasture in Concord , MA and headed for a snowy riverside path along the Sudbury River.   My winter walk begins with donning a painter's balaclava and a philosophy of although having limited knowledge of what lies ahead I'm confident I'll know it when I see it.  My divots in the snow displayed a frightening variety; nothing like the delicate tracks left behind by the meanderings of deer, otters or rabbits. I continued to scrutinize the frozen waterway banks lined with ancient willows for the right combination of form and line.  Not satisfied I kept on, leaning forward emitting steam driven breathes and a brow heavy with sweat until I came to the confluence of three rivers: the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord. There along the opposite bank was a bump of sorts; a snow covered bit of rocky ledge in the marsh flatland.   Now that looks interesting!

My first "Selfie'!

Because the snow drifts were deep, I kept my show shoes on while painting at the easel.  That's my blue denim painting apron and not a skirt!  Could have used gaiters to keep the snow out of my boots as well.

After returning home, I was curious about a man and his dog who came over that bit of ledge... was there a foot trail on the other side of the river?  After some online research, I discovered the 'bump' had a name. It is called Egg Rock and has historical and cultural importance in Concord. An inscription is carved into the rock which reads:
On the hill Nashawtuck
at the meeting of the rivers
and along the banks
lived the Indian owners of
before the white men came.

Musketaquid is the Native American word for the Concord River meaning Meadow River.

And... I found in my research that there is indeed a foot trail on which the man and his dog traveled to reach Egg Rock.  It is off the Reformatory Branch Trail and parking can be found at the Simon Willard Woods.

And painter's philosophy was once again tested and proven true..."I'll know it when I see it".

Sunday, February 9, 2014

but what can stand against God Almighty's white?

My, how beautiful the earth is dressed today with a new garment of fresh snow.

If you drive east on Route 133 through the old common of North Andover, there is an iconic New England greeter; a beautiful, white-crowned with multiple spires U U church and to her right, clusters of small independent businesses in colonial attire.  I admire this quaint grouping every time I circle around the rotary pass on my way to somewhere over the hill.

With temperatures in the 20's and a brilliant sun, I gathered my gear yesterday and headed to this particular site.  Typically, it is a complex composition with its myriad forms and dark details but today it is reduced to a white layout of simplicity; easy shapes and forms.   The landscape, soft in white woolen layers, warm smoke swirling from chimneys has a dark backdrop of winter y woods on hill: a lovely contrast I think to myself.

Selecting my spot from which to paint, I stand weighted down with insulated boots, two layers of mittens, black woolen hat, bulky sweaters. I study the radiant light reflecting off glistening snow drifts and man made mounds.    The sun's brightness and warmth reaches my eyes and facial skin as I stand there contemplating.  The quickness of my heart moves inner heat to the far reaches of my toes and fingers. Is this ecstasy?

Creative Spirit blind me with your radiant love, allow me although with clumsy hands, set such wonder and beauty upon my empty canvas.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Concord Art Association
Concord, MA

Members Juried I Show
Painting and Sculpture
Juried by Larry Powers of Powers Gallery in Acton, MA

through February 17 
Reception photo of Marsh Willows, 12x16, oil on linen panel. Painted at the Artichoke Reservoir.

Zeitgeist Gallery
167 Market Street
Lowell, MA

"Garden of Unearthly Delights"
A GMO Garden Party

January 29-February 22, 2014

Photo of entry for GMO show called The Plant Athlete, able to leap in a single bound to escape chewing insects.

link to a short introduction by curator

Now showing at Centro Restaurant & Bar, Lowell

ah it's warm outside so let's paint

Here are a few paintings from my recent plein air paint outings.

The first painting was painted at Strawbery Banke. Strawbery Banks is an outdoor history museum located in the South End historic district of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   It is the oldest neighborhood in New Hampshire to be settled by Europeans, and the earliest neighborhood remaining in the present-day city of Portsmouth.  The neighborhood's history traces back to 1630, when Captain Walter Neal chose the area to build a settlement, naming it after the wild berries growing along the Piscataqua River. At this time of year, there is plenty of parking and no crowds of tourists.

On Sunday, my husband and I drove to Boylston to one of our favorite places to visit in central MA: Tower Hill Botanical Gardens  . Dropping me off and Bogart along with my painting gear in a large, snowy field, Ken continued up and around to park the car and to hike solo on the trails for a spectacular view of Mount Wachusett and Reservoir.  I painted one of the many heirloom apple orchards on the property.  The sun felt wonderful on the face and there were a few honey bees flying about while I painted.  I believe visitors really enjoy seeing a painter set up in the fields. They tooted often as they drove by.  I obliged with a wave.  After painting for one and half hours, the sky turned cloudy and the anticipated rains began to fall. A quick call on the cell and my ride arrived shorty thereafter.  We had a yummy lunch at the Tower Hill's Twigs Cafe; complete with great views and a warm, glowing fireplace.

I have bought a new pochade box called Strada   in anticipation of hiking in and painting deeper into the woods as oppose to setting up my painting gear near the car along the roadside. My Soltek is a sturdy piece of equipment and I am quite satisfied with how it functions but it is too heavy to be transporting it deep into the fields and woods.  I often romanticize how more adventurous my painting travels would be if I could only hike a mile or two and set up my easel.   The Strada is similar in design to my old wood Monarch box I purchase many years ago along with an ultra-light tripod called SLIK made with super titanium alloy with a quick release head for attaching the pochade box. The Monarch no longer functions i.e. is it has disintegrated from use. My new easel had its trial runs with the above two paintings. The only complaint I have is the Strada's panel support is a little to bouncy when applying paint too briskly. Otherwise it weighs only two pounds and fits perfectly into my back pack.

Happy Painting Trails!