Sunday, 4 July 2021

Fire Dream Series

 Hello Friends,

I imagine by now you've been wondering where I've been.  I used to be such a productive artist!  This blog will help you understand, I hope, what my journey has been.  

I had a dream in late March, 2021.  We'll call it the Fire Dream.  

"I am in the Pot Creek/Little Rio Grande Valley, at the Art Barn at Ft. Burgwin (SMU @ Taos).  I'm there with what feels like hundreds of people, all talking, wanting a piece of me, as I'm trying to think about which paintings I'm going to put into the Fall Arts Show or something like it; a big, juried exhibition though.  I meet a volunteer who introduces me to another volunteer who can help me with my computer problems.  This second volunteer is the artist Chris Morel (No I don't know him).  I ask him if he is the painter Morel and he says yes.  He hands me a piece of paper to sign into the show with, rather than the computer; but it still doesn't make it easy for me to find and choose what paintings I'm going to submit.  I ask him to give me a ride to the far end of the valley (in my mind, when I dream about Ft. Burgwin, the valley is always huge, as it would be to a 5 year old).  We get outside and can see a huge black cloud rising over the hills, and as we head that way, I realise it is smoke. We arrive and the air is hot, dried out, full of swirling ash, and the light is red and dark. It's so hot and dry, it's hard to breathe.  There are wranglers there, cutting the fences, herding horses that have been grazing there.  We leap onto horses and help get them organized and moving out across and down the highway, away from the fire. People are busy moving vehicles, animals, things important - evacuating.  I'm also trying to find a place where I can fill out the form Chris had given me, and manic, trying to figure out where paintings are, images, what I can put into the show, with no success or organization in my head.  It is pure chaos inside my skull. I ask for a ride back down to the fort - more indecision....the house, the fort? - not even aware of the landscape zooming past.  I ask him suddenly to stop and let me out.  I look up, and see what was once the Fort. The fire had split off around one of the hills and gone around us and swept thru the whole valley, taking everything in its wake.  And I see a dear friend, George, walking toward me from the ruins where he and other volunteers had been trying to save the fort.  The old apartments are still standing, with no logs around the outside, because the roof there never caught; but everything else is gone. There are piles of still burning logs, and corners of adobe buildings and a few hearths still standing. George catches me just as I collapse, crying at the destruction of all I hold dear from my childhood."

I woke there, feeling the devastation.  Then, the realization that those flames are incredibly cleansing, sweeping through all my comfort zones. I realized that I was looking at how I have been feeling for several years, trying to calm and center enough to return to focused painting, but completely unable to except for short bursts - especially during covid. But, I COULD work on the giant, living, breathing sculpture that is my house.  Since that big dream I have felt more at ease.  Being shown just what I have been going through has lifted a shadow over my heart.  Cleansing is hard, but I am so very grateful for the grace. 

I realized that as there were a few elements to the dream, I needed to paint them.  A small series of 6 paintings.  Chaos, frustration, heat and fire, and devastation and sorrow. I began sketching the images, and found the smaller sketchbooks too confining.  I graduated to my biggest sketchbook (about 18 x 24 in), and picked up my oil paint brushes, and started working with sweeping color, oil on paper without taking the time to gesso the paper or I'd never get them painted.  Those paintings are below.  The 4 colour sketches for now, as the two chaotic ones are done on small sketchbooks and don't feel as important here.  I wanted to express the futility of my art endeavors, while I'm enduring such cleansing.  I believe I have.  I'm hoping now to be able once again to paint the passion and beauty in front of me!  In my newsletter, you can see the final oil series.  Thank you for listening.





These are in order.  Oil on paper, 18 x 24 inches.  Unframed.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Painting Mysticism and Other Things!

I AM THE OCEAN, oil on canvas, 12 x 14 in., L1,250 ($2,000)

The Path Beneath My Feet, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in., L2,000 ($3,600)

As I have written about last Spring, (was it really that long ago?!) I have struggled to express the emotion that is swirling around me.  I have elected to throw myself into finishing my house - a living, breathing sculpture, if you will.  When I finished the final project for 2020, 4 flagstone patios, I sank into the depths of anxiety, depression, fear.....all those things that I had pushed aside for months of living in these uncertain times.  I knew better than to ignore them; I had to let them pass through me so that they would exit.  A very dear friend suggested that I paint what I was feeling when I told him that I was in an incredible thick bank of fog and cloud, and couldn't see the path beneath my feet.  I also said that I had to trust that my path was laid, and all I had to do was put my feet down, one foot at a time.  

In the first one, much later, after the end of that wonderful relationship; I had a vision while I was doing my morning contemplations/meditation.  That I WAS the Ocean, that my own inner peace kept the waters calm. The turmoil below me untouching my waters as my lover chose to descend into the crevass below, unwilling to pull himself up by the golden thread between us.

It is a huge thing for me to put these images out for the public to see, even more to write about it all.  But my painting has needed these mystical paintings; these voyages into expressing what I'm feeling rather than seeing.  I hope this is the beginning of finding the focus that I lost when I left Scotland.  It has been a challenge.  But I can't complain - look what I've done!  I have a beautiful 270 year old house over my head!  That's where my focus has been...


Sunday, 28 June 2020

Covid 19 and painting a house

Here it is, the end of June!  As I said before, I'd probably not paint til June....I finished the house, the exterior of the studio (but not the interior of the studio), and it has passed FHA inspection.  There will always be work to be done on this 270 year old mud house, but for now, I'm resting.  Now comes the age old question for me, when will I begin to pick up the brushes and finish the little painting I had started late February.  I never finished it, I had to start on the house because FHA was coming to assess its' value.  I dropped everything and took care of a ceiling that needed work before it was inspected.  Then I headed to Dallas for a one night charity exhibition of Ceilidh! with the American Ireland Fund - Texas.  It finished March 7, and I headed home because of the problems starting with Covid 19.  The rest you know from my last post.  I just thought you'd all like to see the exterior results of my labours these past 4 months.  The white building is the studio building that you saw before.

Without the house to throw myself at, I'm discovering that I was definitely hiding my anxiety, grief and stress.  An artist can't hide from feelings for long, or she becomes tied in knots.  So here I am, going through what I forgot to see last month, and the month before that.  But I'm tired of not being able to paint - always a good sign.  I'll get going soon.  I feel it in my bones.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

An artist in the time of Covid 19

I see so many other artists filling their time with painting, blogging, videoing, teaching online, etc., etc.  I can't.  I can't paint with all the anxiety swirling around me (mostly not mine), with all the unknown things happening.  So I've been throwing myself at my house/studio walls... continuing to finish the outside of the building.  I've replaced rotted trim boards, screens, scraped walls, brushed walls with a wire brush, hammered nails into chicken wire to make it easier for my guys to plaster what needs fixing, etc., etc., until my hands hurt, I fall asleep over a tv program, and I don't feel the anxiety or sadly, the pain of loosing my beautiful husky, Jake.  I'll paint again.  Hopefully things will subside enough to just pick up the brushes and finish the little seascape on my easel that I was working on before I took Ceilidh! to be exhibited for a night at the Ireland Fund, TX, annual Emerald Ball.  Then covid 19 hit and I think most of the people I know and don't are trying to just get through the crisis in front of us.  Maybe I'll not paint til June, but my  house will be sparkling and finished.
This is a project I tackled in mid-November....putting a new roof on what will one day be my studio.  It had a 2' x 4' hole in the old covered in tin.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019


I hadn't realised how long it has really been since I wrote in here!  Since March, I've completed 2 more major commissions, and finished up enough work on my old house that I could finally get my permanent certificate of occupancy!  Then, it was a month in Europe - work and R&R - then back to New Mexico to finish two major outdoor projects on the house that had to be done before winter truly set in.  I managed to do enough, and am now sitting happily in my snug house, watching the snow blow, and resting from my exertions on behalf of the house.

Which gets me to what I actually decided I wanted to talk about!  I haven't painted since August, when I finished a few paintings to put into an annual Scottish Exhibition at Iona House Gallery in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  I had also to get my full c/o before I left for Scotland and the Cote d'Azur, because there were no more extensions on the building permit I had originally obtained in 2016.  I returned from Europe, rested and inspired to paint, but also knew I had to put it on hold until I could finish the outside work.  That hold came at a price....While working on my house is essentially a creative endeavor, a sculpture if you like, the projects I was working on weren't... it was sheer graft, rather than creativity.  I knew it, and knew I would have to struggle to make the shift from construction to creation.

For me, the need to paint becomes visceral.  I can feel the channels in my body get stuffed up if I can't get it out.  But if I stop for awhile, for whatever reason, I go through this process I've become very familiar with, before I can actually look at photos I have for inspiration, sketch a study for a painting, much less pick up those brushes and put paint on the board or canvas. In the fog stage, I experience doubt, fear....doubt that I'll ever paint again; fear that if I do, it will be horrible or that people will discover what a fraud I am.  Yet, the fog and rising above it after enough time putting one foot in front of the other since I can't see anything, is an integral part of my creative process.  I must allow it, and move through it, not getting caught by the fear, in order to reach new levels in my work. So here I am, stuffed channels and all, beginning to talk about it after a fairly eventful year art wise. I hope in speaking about it, someone else out there can see how necessary this down time is for an artist.  The last fog period I had was this time last year, and and when I came out of it I began the first of three different commissions, a few other little paintings to take to Scotland, and managed to get my permanent occupancy permit on my little house.  No wonder I'm in the fog.  I tried to put all the work up, but it caused Blogger to freeze and loose half my here's the 2nd commision...

Gold Hill and Organ Pipe Cactus Blossoms, 30 x 50 in., oil on canvas, commissioned

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Finished Commission!

Cowboy Doctoring (about 1930), 18" x 24", oil on canvas, sold (commission)
Here is the finished commission!  It was delivered in mid-February.  I have been trying to finish another painting since, and until 2 days ago, couldn't even look at it much less pick up the brushes. I spent over a week, sitting with it, reading a book, listening to music, trying to let it keep coming forward.  As I tried to get comfortable with the inevitable wait until I could work again, I realised how much I had emotionally wrapped up in this particular commission.  The exhaustion when I left my friend's house after delivering the painting was incredible - from the emotional let down of a commission happily received.  

I have always been emotionally tied to my work - even finishing a giant painting would require that I not paint for 3 days or so after, and that was when I was painting nearly every day!  Actually, I've never been one of those artists who can just go in and work in my studio like I was going to a job.  And I believe this is because I'm so emotionally tied to my work.  

In order to even move forward on the NM Ceilidh painting on my easel (about 1/2 done now), I had to finally look at sketches from elsewhere and began a painting of Les Grande Dalles, not far from Honfleur on the Normandy coast.  I'm not sure what the problem is, painting NM subjects.  I have painted them before - yes, 30 years ago, but I have.  But all I can say is once I took the pressure off of finishing a NM painting, by starting something NOT of NM, then I could slowly start to put more paint on the NM Ceilidh painting, and see the journey I need to take with that painting as well.  I think, that it's all caught up in the emotional reality of living back in the USA after being gone for so long.  And more, in trying to focus and find myself in a different situation than I thought I'd be in. Ill get there.   

Monday, 14 January 2019


Omaha Beach, Summer (Normandy), 24 x 30 in., oil on canvas, £3,000 ($4,500)

Well, 2019 has begun with a positive bang!!  Not only did a commission come just before Christmas, but a new client fell in love with a Ceilidh! painting formerly on display in Scotland!  But I'm writing today about the process of commissions. 

I love a commission!  I get paid in advance (half) to create a painting.  I get to explore, generally, a completely new direction for my eye; and work closely with the client to make sure that what I produce is exactly what they were expecting (if not more!).  This particular commission is an offshoot of the roping piece I did in 2015.  My client saw that piece and thought about what I had done, then contacted me just before Christmas to hand me a very old photograph of cowboys, horses, children and the landscape around Hot Springs, South Dakota.  The client's instructions were to make a great painting of action/passion/light/color that also happens to document the fact that two family members (and now 3, as I looked closely at the image), were participants in a historic time and place near the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation.

I have spent days focused on creating an image that has presence, balance and character; making sure that even if the horses and people aren't really more than strokes of a charcoal pencil and later brush loaded with paint, that they have proportion that shows action and passion.  I now go back to the client with my sketches, and once approved, the painting is mine to produce.  This is where my soul's reaction to the image comes forth and all the light and movement come out.  I can hardly wait to show the piece. 

And as for finding the balance and focus I need to create this work of art, I've made huge leaps forward....just by devoting a week to the sketches.  And as you can see above, I did do the painting of Omaha Beach, finally!  It's always a relief to know that the images will come, no matter what I seem to do in my life that gets in the way!

Just wait for it!!