art, Blog

Describing Art for Those Unable to See

The description that follows is the result of a writing prompt I explained in this post. It was an interesting challenge and one I should consider more frequently.

”You have been asked to write a description of one of your favorite paintings for a blind audience.”

The painting is bathed in cool blues and richly textured greens. The ambient light from the room transforms the scene from daylight to dusk right before your eyes. We are never sure if it is early morning or late afternoon melting into dusk. The heavy blue clouds block the color of the sun, allowing only coolness to illuminate the bright green grass. The trees, fully leaved, cast long shadows claiming their portion of the scene. The porch is the star of the painting as if the huge house sitting just off the canvas is but a useless appendage. You get the sense this porch is where life is lived – the sharing of morning coffee or the slow sips of an evening glass of wine. The small vine-covered fence is dwarfed by the trees and you know immediately its purpose is to frame the scene. There are no barriers here other than the trees that disappear into the distance. It is easy to imagine children running barefoot in the grass full of laughter or a couple holding hands talking of times past or the urging of dreams yet realized. There is a sense of peace, of solitude, of familiarity, of belonging. This place is home, only borrowed by the viewer to lose themselves for a while.

This pastel painting is the work of Florida artist Gary Rupp. I fell in love with it because of the porch. When I grew up, the porch – front or back – was a place of gathering. It was perhaps the most valuable school room of my life. Did you get a different sense of the painting? I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Pastel Painting by Gary Rupp – Morning Light


Pastel Painting by Gary Rupp – Late Afternoon Light
art, Blog

Pastel Painting – A New Venture

Today I ventured out with my friend Lisa to take an art class. The class was a still life class using pastels. It was a stretch for me, but the idea of doing art and spending the day with a friend made the risk worthwhile. We started out having coffee together and just catching up which was a great way to start the day.

Why do we consider something new a risk? Perhaps it is simply the act of being seen. Or perhaps it is fear of judgement from either ourselves or others. It is such an important part of our humanity and mankind has been expressing themselves through art from the beginning.

We were asked to bring meaningful objects to use in composing our still life. I choose a cobalt blue glass pitcher given to me by my mother-in-law shortly before she passed away, a heart-shaped locket given to me by my niece to commemorate my sister’s life and a simple wool scarf given to me by my husband.

The conditions were not ideal. Too many light sources from multiple overhead lights and reflections from other still life setups around the room. It is problematic to have multiple sources of light because it makes it more challenging to determine highlights and shadows. We were all in the same boat. I also think only one person had ever used pastels before today — at least not in recent times.

Quick thumbnail sketches were done to determine composition. Those first strokes on paper are encumbered by our inner critic and the awkwardness of the fine motor skills necessary to complete the task at hand. Once the first few strokes are behind you, it is easier to move forward.

By lunch time, one student had already given up and left the class. We were all feeling a bit frustrated, but learning something new expands us. Art speaks things we cannot articulate.

Lisa and I ate our packed lunch out in the sunshine. It was a gorgeous day and the conversation was wonderful. What a lovely break!

After lunch, we started doing more layering with a softer pastel. This is when your objects start to come to life. I did not finish my piece, but that is okay. I consider it a study and perhaps I will buy some pastels and finish it. I learned so much and it was so nice to be creating something surrounded by like-minded people.

I took some photos. The piece needs more intense colors, but I am happy with what I managed to accomplish with this new medium. I am glad I stuck it out.


art, Blog, jewelry, Lapidary, music

My Relationship with Art

Image Courtesy of Pixabay (altered)

Day 359

Throughout my life I have dabbled in all types of art. When I was in first grade, I was home sick one day lying on the couch watching “Topper” on TV. A commercial came on for a poster contest. I chose a topic — Know Your Policeman. I sketched a stick figure scene of a child shaking a policeman’s hand in front of a jail. All on notebook paper. I am not sure if my grandfather mailed it for me or just how it got into the mail, but my parents did not know. Long story short, my parents received a letter stating I had won second prize in an FBI poster contest and it was signed by J. Edgar Hoover. I got to go to Asheville to be on TV and was interviewed and had my picture in the local paper. I won a doll, but I was secretly so envious of the older kids who received cameras. This was my introduction to the art world.

In second grade, I realized I could draw differently from the other kids. We had to draw a picture of our home and I remember drawing our stove and made it three dimensional. I can remember kids asking me how I did that and I wasn’t sure what they meant.

I took art classes in school anytime they were offered. Those classes were magical to me and the place where I always felt the most like myself.

My sister and I took ceramic classes from a woman who had a small studio in Alaska. We glazed poured ceramic pieces and she fired them in her kiln. We became good friends with her and eventually helped her poor ceramics in exchange for free classes. It was a great time in my relationship with my sister. One I will never forget.

While in Alaska I took oil painting classes from a woman who painted gold pans to sell to tourists. She was very talented and so much fun to be around. She made enough money selling gold pans that she bought a house and an airplane and paid cash for both. It was not a formal class, but it was at a time when I needed some creative time away from a very chaotic home life.

When I lived in Maine, I took drawing classes from a woman who had a beautiful studio with amazing natural light. She was an accomplished portrait artist and I managed to hone my portrait skills under her tutelage. My children were in junior high and still young enough that I could coax them to sit for me. I wish I had kept all those sketches of my children at that age, but they disappeared somewhere along the way.

I also bought my first 35mm camera while living in Maine. A Pentax K1000. It was inexpensive and all that I could afford. I found a local photographer that helped me learn about black and white photography. He rented me his darkroom for $5 an hour. It was there I learned how to process black and white film and print photos on graded paper. He also gave me my first lesson in handcoloring photographs.

I took piano classes twice in my life — once in Alaska from an amazing concert pianist and once in Maine from a leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding young concert pianist. That was the first and only time I ever got to play a Steinway baby grand piano. I never became an accomplished piano player, but I enjoyed this time very much.

After moving to Florida, I took classes continuously. Stained glass for a while, then photography, life drawing, mosaics, portraiture, painting and eventually my first foray into jewelry-making. It was then my daughter and soon to be daughter-in-law asked me to make their engagement rings — a post for another day.

I taught art to at-risk teen moms for five years. It was a hard job, but the most satisfying job I think I ever had. Art and teaching and children all together was a dream come true.

Once in North Carolina, I took my first lapidary classes — another dream I held for a long time. I have also taken more jewelry classes and love making jewelry so much. I found a wonderful teacher in Molly Sharp and have learned so much from her. Now if I could just get hubby to build me a small studio.

For me, art has been a major factor in my life. Making art to sell was never my motivation. Creating is what I enjoy. It’s the ability to get totally lost in something that feeds my soul.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 
Thomas Merton

art, Blog, friends

My Eclectic Weekend Capsule

Day 252

The weekend has slipped by rather quickly which has me sitting back and remembering all that has transpired over the last couple of days. It’s funny how our days can be so full, but how easy it can be to forget it all so quickly! Maybe that’s my age, I’m not sure.

Yesterday we drove up to Burnsville, NC for the Toe River Art Council artist studio tours. It was a nice day and the drive further into the mountains gave us a nice break from the heat. We always talk about how perhaps we made a mistake not moving a little further north — that is until I remember how much worse the winters can be in the mountains.

The studio tours encompassed the towns of Burnsville, Celo, Penland, Spruce Pine, and Bakersville — all in North Carolina. We started by having lunch at a local deli/antique store where I snapped a few photos of signs about life in the mountains. It was a cute little hole-in-the-wall place to have lunch. We then visited about 15 different artists in their studios. Everything from metalwork to jewelry to painting to woodturning to glass to clay and on to mixed media. It was inspiring and the countryside was just beautiful. I discovered a few pieces I would love to own, but alas, the affordable pieces were already sold and the others were well beyond my available budget for such things.

On the way home, we stopped by the farmer’s market and picked up fresh tomatoes. We came home late, enjoyed a glass of wine and decided on tomato sandwiches for dinner. I am so fortunate to be married to a man who can just roll with the punches. I would have been a disappointment for anyone who expected 3 meals on the table every day of the week from me. Thankfully, we are both amenable to relaxed dining and spur of the moment changes.

This morning was an enjoyable morning of coffee and bagels and just enjoying the birds. A few days ago, I constructed a place for the bees and butterflies to drink. It consists of a little pie-pan (mine was made of aluminum foil) with marbles halfway filled with water. The marbles give the bees and the butterflies a place to land and drink. Of course, the squirrels and the chipmunks found delight in drinking there as well. Sometime Saturday evening, a raccoon drug it off. We found it the next morning, with tooth marks in the side and marbles spilled out all over the ground. Hubby picked it up and put it on the patio table. This afternoon we found a squirrel taking the marbles out, one-by-one and licking them. There was no water left, so I’m not sure what the little guy was getting off the marbles.

We received word that my daughter-in-law was coming home from the hospital today. After 11 days in the hospital, she had some major improvement over the weekend and they released her. We were all feeling so thankful. It has been a hard road for her. After 11 days of testing, still no answers, but all the tests have not yet come back. Thanks to all those who held good thoughts and those who extended prayer for her. I appreciate it so much.

Our Grand-Dog Lucy

We have a new “grand-dog”. We drove down to our daughter’s today and met her for the first time. She is a tiny little Boykin Spaniel and as cute as can be. The older dog does not know what to do with this little fur ball and so far is steering clear of her. It’s so funny to watch.

Hubby fixed a wonderful grilled salmon and we had sliced fresh tomatoes and a pasta salad. It is one of our favorite meals. We top the salmon with a honey chipotle seasoning that we purchased in Salem, MA a number of years ago. It is a perfect combination of heat and sweet which is lovely on the salmon. We have ordered it continuously since we first purchased it in Salem.

My evening ended with an online chat with two of my dearest friends. It’s our Sunday routine which is always a pleasant way to close out the weekend before the start of a new day.

It has been a truly lovely weekend. I hope yours was as well.


art, Blog, Lapidary, Mountains, travel

In the Midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Part 1

Day 207

Yesterday was not only a cup half-full day it was a cup-runneth-over day. We were exhausted when we got home but it was the best kind of exhaustion!

We had a fairly leisurely morning with coffee and a bagel for breakfast then we headed up toward Spruce Pine for their annual Fire On The Mountain blacksmith festival. This is the third year we have attended. It is the perfect venue if you love moving metal with fire and seeing men in kilts!

On our way, we stopped at our same little road-side vegetable stand and bought a bunch of ramps to tuck away in the cooler. Ramps are a mountain delicacy that grows in moist higher elevations. They are a cross between an onion and garlic — very pungent but delicious. Ramps were one of the early vegetables that native Americans looked forward to after a long winter. There are ramp festivals throughout the mountains this time of year.

We headed on up to Spruce Pine to check out the festival. We always enjoy the youth blacksmithing competition. I love seeing young adults interested in learning these old-school crafts. The ‘try your hand at blacksmithing’ is always popular as are the demonstrations by the master blacksmiths. Hubby found a used Peter Wright anvil he wanted.


We met one member of a talented husband and wife team who combines metal, class, and enamel to create some beautiful pieces of art. I fell in love with the gates they make. We were invited to attend their studio tour in early June. Now if I only had a place to install one of those gates.

After we enjoyed our picnic on the tailgate of the car and a trip to the ATM, the 109-pound anvil was loaded into the car and we were on our way.

Since we were so close to Little Switzerland, we decided to check it out. It is a small village just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It boasts Swiss mountain lodges, gift shops, and a few places to eat. There are also some hiking trails, a book store, and some shops to enjoy. We were not interested in the touristy things so we just rode through and then drove over to check out The Emerald Mine of Little Switzerland. I am a novice lapidary enthusiast, so I am always on the hunt.

We were greeted at the sluice building by the caretaker Barbara. If I were to guess her age I would guess early 70’s. She was a rough-around-the-edges kind of gal. I had to continually ask her questions because she was not forthcoming with information. I discovered she bought the mine as a retirement venture and opened it to the public in 2004. Unfortunately, according to the website, her husband passed away so it may just be her running the place now.

They, like many other gem ‘mines’ in this area, offer buckets you can buy and sluice to find the hidden gems. I asked her if the buckets were salted — a term used to describe mixing foreign materials into the buckets of minerals not found natively in the area. She gave me that incredulous look and said “Of course they are salted. You can’t find that stuff here.”

We looked through the gift shop in an old cabin above the sluicing building. I was surprised to see a sign that listed prices for faceting gems found at the mine. Looking around the place, I could not imagine where this could happen. I turned and asked our host who she gets to facet the stones. She replied, “I do.” It seems. Barbara moved here from Washington, D. C. and faceting was something she had done prior to buying the mine.

We left with the promise to come back at a later time to actually go down and do some digging around the mine (the original mine shaft was closed years ago). She just nodded with the warning to call before we came. We chuckled at our interactions and wondered how tourists ‘from away’ might react to her. Her exterior was as hard as the rocks she sold, but I sensed a sweet soul under the rough exterior.

From there we decided to take the leisurely way home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It probably increased our drive time an hour or so, but it was well worth the time.

For photos and details of our drive, look for part 2 later today.