Working intuitively

Posted on Sep 13, 2021 in General

I’m obligated, I suppose, to come up with a “statement” about these paintings, though hemming them in with words – and trying to be consistent – seems quite counterintuitive to the processes and experiences from which they came. Why was I so strongly attracted to icons decades ago, I don’t know, but it tied in very nicely with my interest in Matisse, who found icons quite exciting as well when he went to Moscow.  Taking some courses in traditional iconography was fascinating, and certainly informed my understanding of them, but following that very rigorous spiritual path was ultimately not for me, and I didn’t enjoy egg tempera one bit.  It’s very important to me to have a sensuous enjoyment of the materials.

I wanted to use already established compositions of historical icons (as orthodox icon painters do, working from patterns), yet feel free to alter them, combine them, or edit them. Layers of sheer colors with dry pigments dissolved in casein emulsion solution wouldn’t necessarily follow traditional color symbolism – unless I wanted them to. I could also add oils as a glaze, or as a scumbled layer.  As for religious narrative – it sometimes goes, sometimes stays. During this past difficult year, it has tended to stay more than not, even if only suggested.

What I particularly enjoy about this way of making paintings is that I honestly have no idea in advance what they will turn out to be. An element of composition in an icon or several icons catches my interest, or a juxtaposition of patterns and colors, or even a feeling – and off it goes until it seems like the painting’s done, or done enough. The painting has (I hope) a coherence in its visual relationships, and a beautiful surface (yes, a surface for the eyes to touch), and maybe a gestalt that can entice the viewer into a moment of stillness and contemplation.

I have no agenda other than to allow various visual influences in my life to play with me, and see what happens. If that turns out to speak to others in some way, that’s a nice thing.

Years ago I had a picture of myself as a painter: No figures. No narratives. Direct alla prima painting in oil from observation, trying to nail down the ephemeral character of light in nature. This current way of working couldn’t feel more different in many ways. I wonder if I’ll ever want to go outside and paint a tree again.



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2020 reflections

Posted on Nov 29, 2020 in General

This year, which has been challenging, anxiety-provoking, and sad in many ways, has also yielded unexpected gifts. I am grateful for the new way of working that I began with great trepidation in 2018. The process of making these icon-related paintings has required me to work much more slowly and patiently than ever before, the paint applied in many layers instead of a direct alla prima approach. Each one is a mystery when it begins, and there is no set outcome in advance or any predetermined process to bring it to a conclusion. I can’t rely totally on a skill set that will “deliver the goods.” And this is a good thing – sometimes very uncomfortable, but good, if remaining challenged by painting is the aim.

In fallow times, there are panels to prepare with hide glue, fabric, and layers of traditional gesso, and this is a relaxing activity (now that I’m finally doing it correctly).  I used to joke that it would be an ideal life to be a monk illuminating manuscripts in a monastery. This is as close to it as I am likely to get.

During the past two years of glorious Maine weather days, when I would normally be consumed with either painting landscapes outside or gnashing my teeth that so many possible paintings were eluding me due to time constraints, I’ve been able to (for the first time in twenty years) been able just to look at the landscape with a detached enjoyment. The duel with Nature is off, at least for the time being.

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The great circle

Posted on Jul 24, 2019 in General

It’s been slightly over a year since I posted about what I anticipated would be a big shift in my work, and today I’ve posted some of the paintings from the past year. A little scary, making such a big change? Yes, but scarier still was the prospect of becoming stale and simply executing new versions of what I had done before. No growth or change = stagnation. It’s been very exciting (except for the day I discovered that all the gessoed panels I had prepared had been done incorrectly and had cracked irreparably) and it is a joy to NOT know what to expect. It’s another chapter in four decades of painting and a revitalization of my energy. At this moment I am rather grateful that the absence of art-related economic and career pressures have left me free to play without anxiety over the consequences.



Casein and oil on panel

16 x 20 inches

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Posted on Apr 28, 2019 in General

For most of the past year, I’ve been engaged in an entirely new body of work that has absolutely nothing to do with Maine or the landscape, using different supports, a different kind of ground, applying various kinds of paint in a new way, combining elements of figuration, pattern, abstraction, etc. It might seem like a radical change, but I’m really just picking up on threads that I’ve followed on and off for over forty years – and stepping away from the landscape as a visual source. It is a response to last year’s trip to western Russia. The teacher comes when you are ready, as they say.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with new materials and dug up some old ones (fun, with some disasters along the way – not fun), and breaking many of the “rules” I held to for landscape painting (also fun). There are few things more invigorating than experimentation when you suspect you’re not bringing anything fresh to the work. Painting feels rather mysterious again, unpredictable, and exciting.

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Making a great circle

Posted on Jul 5, 2018 in General

Among the visual influences from my college years that were among the most powerful, and continue now forty years later, are the paintings of Matisse and Russian icons.  I’ve been fortunate to see some amazing Matisse exhibitions over the years, including the fabulous MOMA retrospective 1n 1992.  I’ve taken some classes in icon painting in egg tempera, seen the stray icon here and there in museums, and visited the wonderful Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA.

It took all this time to finally get to the mother lode itself, Russia. My husband and I took a trip this past May to Moscow, towns of the Golden Ring, and St. Petersburg, and I was intoxicated and inundated by the wealth of icons, frescoed churches, Matisses, folk art, medieval architecture,  the collections of French art at the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage, the Hermitage itself . . . for a painter who was looking for a visual jolt to shake her up, this was far more and better than I had imagined, though I’d been imagining this trip for decades.  It was Art Heaven, at least for this painter. I returned with my head stuffed with images.

Now – what to do with them? That is the mystery. I have to humbly allow myself to play, make mistakes, go down wrong roads, experience technical difficulties, have some moments that move me forward, and not have much of an idea what the end result may be.

But if you love art and have a chance to visit Russia, GO.

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“Paintings of Portland”

Posted on Jun 30, 2018 in Announcements

I’m very pleased to have my 2001 painting Portland still life included in Carl and David Little’s new book, “Paintings of Portland,” published by Down East Books. My first studio in Portland overlooked Congress and High Streets and had such an entirely different gestalt from my Chicago storefront studio, with its huge plate glass windows, western exposure, and dramatic shadows, that it took me a while to find a way in to incorporating this new space and its geometry into a painting.

Portland still life, 2001, oil on linen, 36 x 44 inches

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Following the thread

Posted on Jul 28, 2017 in General

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that I’ve become less attached to completing a painting on site. Now, it may be a matter of months until a painting seems resolved, and it takes much more work in the studio, away from the subject. I used to enjoy the challenge of going outdoors and saying what I had to say in one go, with perhaps only a few little tweaks afterwards – a fencing match with nature.  Now it feels more as if I must allow the painting time to tell me what it really wants.  It throws a little line to me, and I must catch it. The moment of closure is more open-ended, and frankly most of the time stopping and saying “it’s done” seems almost arbitrary and is usually because I just want to move on to something else. I have absolutely no idea whether this results in better paintings, but it feels more engaged to me. All of this has happened before over the forty years of my painting life. As I go on, I realize how much and how little I understand painting. Keeps things interesting, which is the point.

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