This one was a commission. I had it mostly done back in March when everything shut down but I did a couple of final tweaks recently and finally got to hand deliver it to the new owner. I was quite pleased with how it turned out – the setting and the dog’s expression were such a pleasure to paint. And I’m happy to say the new owner was delighted. In case you’re wondering, this beloved pup was part (mostly?) Irish wolfhound.
Tom wrote a touching poetic tribute to go with the painting.
There is a dog that moves the hearts of men, whose soulful eyes see further than our own: far into realms and regions past the ken of those of us whose spirits dare not roam beyond these castle walls of bone and flesh and into spaces where the angels fly unhampered by how gears of logic mesh to make this cold illusion where we die and are not swept into the heart of God where our absent friends are joyously awaiting us. Do not mistake a dog for one without a soul. At peace and free: where there is love, there still she is alive to greet us in the morning as we strive.
The feeling of the warmth and sleepy yet full vitality, of a summer afternoon – blackberry bushes alive with the sounds of bumblebees stocking up on pollen. This painting was finished just in time for my recent open studio and I was delighted at the reactions. The feeling I was trying to convey definitely made its way from eye to heart. That’s the best thing I, as an artist, can hope to achieve!
Maybe it’s the scale (the bees for example are about double life-sized) but the photo does not convey the feeling of the painting very well. That’s always a bit of a problem but for some reason, with this one there’s a bigger difference.
And here is Tom’s delightful poem which riffs on the notion of “the boys of summer”.
The bees of summer take the field
running ’round the diamond flowers
praying that the day will yield
a bounty worthy of their powers
to seek that sweet-spot in the sun
as from base to base they run
always heading back to home
to swing again and go alone
as fast as ever they can fly
gathering the crowd’s applause
who in winter’s frozen pause
will remember warmer skies.
The bees of summer never cease
while the score may still increase.
Even though I put the dimensions on the images of the paintings, it is hard to tell on the screen the impact the size has on the art. This one is a bit larger than I have been working recently and so the cat is larger than life-sized. Feeling bold, I used my largest brushes and painted it alla prima in one 3 hour session. The cat is loosely painted but definitely a portrait of a specific cat and the background – an abstraction of the view out the window beyond – has a pleasing Klimt-esque quality. Sometimes, while painting there’s a feeling of ease and “rightness” – this one had that for me.
Another charming poem from Tom for this piece!
A cat upon the windowsill
all done with years of wandering,
at last a place to warmly chill
while contemplating, pondering
the biggest question of her day:
is it best to sit or lay
oneself upon a a window ledge,
or prowl around and haunt the edge
of every room where there might be
a scrap of kibble, or a slice
of bacon dropped by raiding mice
no cat seems ever quite to see?
The choice is hard, but now it’s made
and in the sunshine she is laid!
This is a bit larger piece than most I’ve been doing lately. Linen is a lovely surface to work on and so although it went through a less lovely phase, I plowed on and think I brought it together. Unlike the smaller paintings, this was not done alla prima (in one session). I worked on it for three days. This scene makes me think of small towns where cats are apt to watch the people passing by while enjoying the sun.
Once again, Tom has tapped into the spirit of the painting with his poem!
On lazy summer Sunday afternoons
when bees are bumbling through the blooming flowers
and vines are climbing up the trees festooned
with squirrels all seeking shelter from the powers
of sun and heat, it’s time for cats to prowl
along the fences, greeting with a growl
any interlopers who might stray
into the yard from houses far away
for though those squirrels are out of reach just now
they’ll keep for later when they’re on the ground
and a cat has energy new found
as the sun prepares to take a bow.
For in high summer even hunting cats
will seek a shady spot and gently nap!
It was time for another portrait of one of my puss-cats. Ming is a gorgeous tortoiseshell who knows just how beautiful she is. It was fun to make this as close to a portrait as possible – it really looks like her from markings to personality which made me very happy! …and then I played around with some subtle pattern in the background to bring out the green of her eyes.
Tom’s lovely poem also shows her personality!
This is my portrait and I deign
to sit for you in calm and poise:
a monarch glowing with disdain
for all the rough and bustling noise
that humans seem to generate
as if they cannot contemplate
a life serene, unbound by care,
they crave the trumpet’s brassy blare
which doesn’t do them any good
despite their clashing awkward clatter
they miss the quiet times that matter
in the dark and silent woods
that surround this life of time
where truth is known to me and mine.
I have always loved peonies – those fragrant and generous blooms! This painting is on linen instead of the smooth gessoed panels I usually use. I do love the subtle texture of linen. Maybe that was why, but the painting came together more easily than usual.
Here is Tom’s evocative and powerful poem for these peonies.
Standing stems bear waving flags
of armies conquering the sky
with a joy that never sags
charging forth to do or die
in defense of beauty wild
against the mud that’s ranked and filed
upon the ugly battlefield
where the flowers will not yield
to cold order, hate’s command
that all that lives conform or lose,
bright peonies will dance and choose
to hold their ground and make their stand.
In all the universe so cold
It’s only this we have to hold.
This apparently grey and white cat is actually very colourful when you look closely! Maybe it’s all the flowers rubbing off. This was painted alla prima on linen inspired by an image seen in the online painting course I am taking.
Tom’s poem for this one is particularly playful and fun! 🙂
A cat acreep among the pots
searching for a little mouse
that scuttles through the grassy plot
returning to its hidden house
where on seeds it may just chew
or make a savoury lentil stew
for it may be a mouse-gourmand
who wants the best, in fact demands
tasty freshness in its food
and so it braves the creeping cat
who at some clatter glances back
and misses out! O such a mood
the kitty’s in on her return,
and too the mouse, whose stew has burned!
Although I have been posting ink and water colour pieces for more than a month, I have been oil painting as well. Here is an experiment from earlier this month – my first try painting on linen! It came with a clear gesso finish but using my technique which involves a transparent under-painting, I thought it would be better to have a regular white gesso base. So I applied and sanded three coats before starting to paint. It had a nice texture and a level of slickness that I really liked working on. Linen is a good bit more expensive than canvas, but it might just be worth it!
A few years ago, I tried a painting of orchids and wasn’t really satisfied with how it turned out. They are challenging! So although I had photos of some outrageously exotic orchids I took at a show a couple of years ago, I hadn’t dared paint any until recently. This type of orchid doesn’t look at all like a typical florists’ orchid but more like an extravagant “lady slipper”. I played around with the background since the flowers were against a concrete wall in the photo and I wanted some strong colour while still keeping the flowers as the star of the piece. Can’t you just imagine them deep in a jungle with the smell of humid earth all around?
Tom was inspired to write this haiku!
passing flowers drape
beauty on grey forest air