For a while we have been working through the difficult decision to leave our beloved home and land on Nehalem Bay which has been such an inspiration to our lives and work for the past 14 years. Growing any older there did not seem possible given the amount of attention the land needed to stay healthy and the house to remain in its lovingly restored condition. It was time to turn it over to new custodians. In April Carl and I moved to a comfortable house in the Manzanita area and put Huckleberry Farm up for sale. Our new home has a great studio space and is close to the beach, forests and river that we love as well as still being in the community we have come to belong to.
I will continue to paint, and Carl will continue with projects that come his way. And we will keep the Huckleberry Farm Studios professional name as a reminder of the huge influence that place has had on us personally and artistically.
Our mailing address remains the same: PO Box 456, Manzanita, Oregon 97130
Slowly we’ll make changes to the website but for now Huckleberry Farm is still deep in our hearts and we have yet to discover what comes next!
In the last year or so I have been fortunate to receive a number of commissions, personal paintings for both patrons and colleagues. The request for a commission is not taken lightly from either side, the patron’s or mine. It typically requires a certain amount of vulnerability and openness in order to have a chance at success. A commission affords me an opportunity to stretch beyond my own vision and include that of another. But for that to happen the “other” needs to reveal a bit about themselves, often their loved ones too, and ask themselves questions they might never have. And I need to call upon skills that I sometimes doubt or, embarrassing to admit, are hidden from me. It becomes a collaboration of desire rather than advantage.
Early last year a couple who I’ve never met contacted me out of the blue with the request for this painting—“Mimo” 32” x 40” oil on wood 2020
It incorporates not only their fine and special cat Mimo, but a beloved magnolia and one of their collection of old, beautifully inlaid Hurdy Gurdys. From their home in Southern California they provided me with photographs and after a number of emails regarding the process we had a great phone conversation which gave us the opportunity to hear the nuanced thoughts and emotions that come with voices.
Another couple, who already owned two of my originals, requested a painting that might somehow represent and enshrine their beautiful and meaningful collection of personal objects which reminds them of their years spent in Europe, their family members, happy events, their love of sharing delicious food and of course their dear late cats. There was a space constraint on the dimensions of the piece since their existing collections take up almost every wall in their home!
“ The House of Hightower” 24” x 36” oil on wood 2020
Not wanting to leave out Popcorn, another beloved cat, they asked if I would paint his portrait in a pose similar to one of a previous painting of mine.
“Popcorn” 16” x 20” oil on wood 2020
Near the end of last summer a major collector of my work, slightly giddy with excitement, asked me to quietly paint a portrait of one of their departed pets as a surprise for his wife. Beauregard the budgerigar was a special and frequent drinking partner as well as all around good fellow by all accounts.
“Bird Behavior” 16” x 16” oil on wood 2020
I mentioned that some of the commissions were for colleagues, not necessarily patrons. These are friends to whom I am indebted for their expertise and support and who I can only repay with something from my heart.
I suppose I can never avoid a reputation as a painter of cats… this one is still alive and enjoying the best life with my friend, sleeping warm and cozy inside, as well as roaming alert and wildish in the woods when he goes outside their door.
“Oakley” 20” x 20” oil on wood 2020
When asked what she would like me to paint, my other friend reminded me of our shared love of telephone poles. Ah, yes. Born out of peripatetic childhoods, we both are fascinated by roadside poles of all kinds, the ones whizzing past the windows as we travelled in the backseat on highways to new cities or past empty stretches of mid-west horizons with our parents. She is a painter too, and I think somewhere in our nascent visual strongholds they were planted—lines, connectors, perspective-makers, definitions– growing smaller in the distance, unseeable up close in a glance. They linked the sky and the earth. They carried communication long distances and they held power.
“Friendship” 18” x 24” oil on wood 2021
Lastly, I made a gift for my grand daughter Larken, who turned ten this February. She’s playing the violin these days and gave us a concert in the front of our house on a sunny afternoon at Christmas. A rare moment in a child’s life, and in the life of a pandemic bound grandparent. This of course was not a commission, but an outpouring of delight.
“Larken Playing the Violin at Huckleberry Farm” 8″ x 8″ oil on masonite 2021
Usually in this first month of a given year, while filing the last year’s paperwork away, I’m planning shows, classes, proposing dates, thinking about how best to approach each event, spacing them out to take into consideration the busy summer months when our fields and gardens needs a lot of attention. This January begins like none before. It is difficult to make plans! We’re just waiting for our vaccine. Who could have imagined?!
If you’re reading this and wondering about classes or new work, please contact me and ask to be put on my mailing list. When a plan becomes clear I’ll be sending out an announcement and you’ll be one of the first to know!
“Oakley” (private commission, not for sale) oil on wood 2020
Huckleberry Farm Studios, Carl and I are changing our mailing address January 1st 2021. If you ever entertain the thought of writing us a letter, or sending us something, before doing so please remove our old Wheeler address from your records and use our new address, which is:
PO Box 456 Manzanita, Oregon 97130
This is the big old Black Walnut tree that has inspired many paintings and photographs over the years. I see it from my studio windows in all seasons and lights. Today it is the quintessential symbol of change with its golden tresses in between with the wintery dark forest behind and the lingering green grass of a late summer stretching before it.
In these new paintings I’ve explored a lot of territory that interests me—how the process of painting leads to ideas and how ideas lead to meaning. The subject matter has grown out of my personal perception of the world around me which includes nature and the human mind and heart.
The entire show will be visible on this website in the White Bird 2020 section of the Paintings & Pastels page on August 15th. There will also be a short video in which I talk a little more about the work, what it means to me and the process through which I travel to make a painting come into being. It too will be viewable on August 15th. And you will be able to see both the video and the paintings on the White Bird Gallery website as well.
If you are interested in purchasing a painting, please contact White Bird Gallery. 503-436-2681.
I am writing on May 14th, 2020. Anyone who comes to this site after today will have experienced the unprecedented changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic thus far No one on earth has been spared and I take this opportunity to wish everyone who may find themselves reading this my best wishes and hopes for your health and safety now and in the forthcoming months during which we will undoubtedly continue to feel the effects of the virus. I have been blessed during this time to have work to do, at home, in my studio, for an exhibition that was scheduled six months ago for August of the this year at White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach, OR. Although much of the work was conceived and started before the middle of March, I cannot help but see much of my new painting’s content in light of the courrent situation. It has changed all ouf our perspectives. I am looking forward to sharing this work with you come August. It is yet to be revealed whether there will be a gallery showing or not, but certainly the work will be availble to view on line. More details will be available in a couple of months.
Thank you for visiting our website. Please email me with questions or if you wish to be on my mailing list
On August 10th at about noon the first students arrived in my studio to spend the next two weekends exploring the painting experience. Although a self-described “reluctant teacher” this spring after a few months of living with my new studio I realized I couldn’t keep this place to myself and offered a class entitled “A Somewhat Experimental Offering to Those of You Who Would Like to Journey into Image Development and Oil Technique Over a Two Weekend Period in a Beautiful Setting” . I think because I’ve taken but two or three art classes in my life I find teaching art to be a mystery that only those who have been taught to teach it can fathom. For me making art is a process of self-discovery and so in all the classes I’ve taught in the past, I have made that the central objective—to explore one’s personal point of view. That leaves subject matter in the hands of each student and translation in the hands of the teacher. Technique is merely a well-worn path one uses to find the perfect view.
Because of space limitations we could only accomodate six students, which turned out to be a good number—enough to spark discussion and provide diversity in experience but not so many that giving personal attention to everyone became difficult.
On day one we concentrated on image conception and development. “What do I want to paint”? When we faced our blank canvases or panels the next day we were armed with ideas that had begun to be realized on paper.
We did underpaintings, we got our sketches finalized.
Some people went home with their barely begun surfaces, worked on them during the week or just looked at them. Others left the colored panels behind and let their minds work without tools. The following weekend each person followed through with their vision and even though no one “finished” a painting—everyone was well on their way to developing a work of art that truly represented her mind and heart.
Thank you dear brave people who came to my first class at Huckleberry Farm Studios. You have given me courage to continue offering classes. I’m working on developing different class contents which I can offer once a season. My next class will likely be in the Winter and will depend on some more brave souls to come here to explore their personal points of view during the metallic dark of the Oregon Coast in February.
This piece, begun as a demonstration in this class, will always have the influences of those who witnessed its development between it’s layers.
On October 1st I began an intense two week immersion into intaglio printmaking with master printer Julia D’Amario at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, tucked into ancient Sitka forests on the southern side of Cascade Head. Only 60 miles south of our home in Wheeler, it felt like a world apart. I had promised myself complete concentration on the experience which would unfold and reveal this unknown and technically complicated medium to me. Carl and I arrived with a few clothes, some simple food and little else to distract us from this pocket of time away from the details of our regular lives. After four solid months of unceasing construction on the studio we welcomed the opportunity to disappear into more creative endeavors, and to take a break from the physical and mental demands that the planning and execution of the major restoration of the house has required.
This opportunity for me came in the form of the Jordan Schnitzer Print Residency, an awarded resident program, endowed by Jordan Schnitzer and designed by Julia D’Amario and founder of Sitka, artist Frank Boyden. Its intention is to introduce the medium of etching to artists whose main medium is not printmaking. Julia D’Amario is a master printer who worked for Pace Editions for twenty years with artists the likes of Jim Dine and Chuck Close. Her knowledge, experience and technical sophistication is unmatched and I feel immensely fortunate to have been able to work under her tutelage. Two artists each fall spend two weeks each with Julia in the Smith Print Studio. There is no requirement to produce work, but as Julia says, everyone who she has worked with produces something they are pleased with. This work is then editioned by Julia the week following the residency, and Sitka receives half the edition, the artist the other half. Julia as archivist of the collection receives a printer’s proof and then Jordan Schnitzer, a major print collector and the Portland Art Museum also receive prints from the editions.
The first week was punctuated by sleepless nights brought on by my sheer panic in the face of a copper plate with tools and materials I was unfamiliar with. Julia eased me through all this and by the end of the middle of the second week we had finalized three etchings and I was well on my way to finishing the final plate.
marking proofs with their state
We spent eight hours of each weekday and a few hours of the weekend days in the studio, forgetting time. Julia did all the masterwork—laying down the asphaltum, biting the plates in the acid, applying aquatint, tearing paper, inking plates and pulling proofs and prints.
Julia applying hardground
wiping the plate
pulling a proof
I never got dirty other than scenting my hands and clothes with 3in1 oil as I learned the magic of burnishing.
At Julia’s suggestion I came with no preconceived ideas about what sort of imagery I might attempt, allowing the new medium to guide me instead. The weather when we arrived at Sitka was glorious-clear, dry, windy and leaves were falling, chattering and blowing everywhere. They, leaves, became a theme that entered each of the images I worked on. Julia helped me narrow down the repertoire of techniques that suited my hand and my vision and encouraged my own way of handling them by making it all seem effortless with her expert skills.
“Foot Print” 12″ x 16″ the first completed etching
Printmaking is truly a collaborative medium and the experience of working together with Julia to create something beautiful was a unique and inspiring experience for me. It will have its effect on me for a very long time, if not forever.
I am preoccupied with the contrasts of tame and wild, nature and mind, perception and reality and have been since my earliest explorations into image-making as a photographer. My photographs focused on changing light and its insubstantial but atmospheric influence on our perceptions. In many of my pastels I depicted subjects that contrasted our search for knowledge through language and thought with our connection to nature. And the subjects of my paintings tend to examine wildness and our struggling relationship with it. Ironically, for 25 years I lived in a fairly typical static suburban environment. Little ever changed. Lawns were cut when the grass grew imperceptibly higher than acceptable. The predominantly evergreen shrubbed landscapes never changed from season to season except perhaps for a brief flourish of exuberant bloom in spring or early summer. Streets were swept, concrete driveways power-washed, any untidiness or sign of aging done away with before it could bring into question the values of the neighborhood and its residents. I looked outside my immediate environment for the questions and the answers to the subjects of my interest, and then felt like an outsider, an observer and recorder of these contrasts rather than a participant.
Here, on this uncaged piece of land, once planted and managed by people, then left to its own tendencies for many years, the contrasts that I believe to be important components of human understanding are palpable. Daily buffeting by the weather, seasonal changes in vegetation and animal life, the mental adaptations and necessary tasks that cycle with the heat and cold, wet and dry, light and darkness—all this is very immediate with little but a pane of glass or a roof of wood between myself and these elements.
The house was primitive but hinted at a simple elegance beneath its crust of age and dirt. We’ve changed its life a lot. We now live in cozy comfort where once bushy-tailed wood rats ran freely through the walls, making their tinsel nests and hoarding odd rodent sized knick-knacks and treasures and cobwebs were the only decoration. The dark and dank overgrowth on the land is slowly being cleared, revealing the sky and allowing the sun to warm places that haven’t seen the light for many years. Recently the changes have accumulated to the point where we wake up some days and feel like we’re in a completely different place than we purchased two and a half years ago.
Wresting order from the wildness is delicate work. It demands patience, thoughtfulness and awareness of the impact one is making. The balance we strive for was tipped long ago on this piece of property. As long as we live here we will continue to change the natural environment with consequences we cannot anticipate, no matter how good our intentions. We’ll remove the ivy, the holly, the bamboo, the happily persistent noxious weeds as best we can. At times it seems like a Sisyphean attempt, the strong nature of these invasives being far more powerful than us. But ultimately our presence is all that it takes to alter this place from its natural course. It is human nature to defy nature, either consciously or unconsciously.
At the end of May we began building the studio, a place in which to create. We have to clear and demolish before we can design and reconstruct, so earth is moved, walls torn down and old foundations shattered.
We work at ground level, the old house hanging above us, propping up the beauties of old age with the strength of new concrete. The work will be done in calculated phases so that we do not ask more of the integrity of this old structure than it can manage and hopefully by the end of the summer we’ll have a closed in basement ready for finishing. This change to the house is elemental, and its character will grow.
Carl and our friend Phil, and myself, are doing all the work, one day at a time. Meanwhile the grass keeps growing and this place lives its own life in many ways undisturbed by us and our dreams and realities. The land and sky are perpetually creating and at times it seems silly to be building a place in which to create when there is so much of that happening around us without our efforts.
Winter has held its ground. Just yesterday there were still patches of snow lacing the mountain tops around the river valley. It seems late in the year for that sort of alpine scenery but it is spring according to the calendar. When we meet people around town they say, “Well, you’ve made it through your first winter…” It is a compliment and a kindred embrace in this coastal environment of storms and heavy rain that often drives people back to the valley after a time. One finds that the day truly comes from the sky. Sometimes the sky radiates sunshine, sometimes it makes clouds, often it pours rain and more regularly than one might imagine the wind hurtles at great velocity from the southwestern horizon transparent in the sky’s color. So we watch the sky.
The higher sun has moved above the Sitka forest to the south of our property and brought heat and light to that side of our house. In the warmth lady bugs have infested our rafters and gathered around all our south facing windows, inside. At first we felt like the recipients of abundant good luck. At night they would sometimes drop from the sloped ceiling of our bedroom and crawl about on our pillows or walk across our cheeks. There was something intimate about their familiarity.
Our welcoming attitude soon turned to patient tolerance and then to annoyance. They are tough little creatures. Apparently they don’t eat anything but instead wander aimlessly back and forth, up and down, like automatons on a pane of glass. Randomly they bump into one another, back up and then go on in different directions. They huddle in large red colonies, looking like a shiny beaded handbag stuck in the corner of window. Sometimes they fall into the kitchen sink and swim doggedly for as long as they need to, stroking through soap bubbles until rescued and then they continue uninterrupted, pacing on whatever dry surface they land. We began vacuuming them up and releasing them outside from the vacuum bag. Their numbers grew and grew until we were vacuuming several times a day to keep up with their migration into the house. Finally we stopped releasing them and sadly the ones we vacuumed were quietly entombed in the bag. It is one of the phenomenon of a sunny day at the coast. Where they are when it rains is still a question.
Detail from “Days at Huckleberry Farm” for May exhibit at Waterstone Gallery
In the last week or so, we’ve brought out the tools of spring, which for us are shovels and posthole diggers. One of the ironies of our move here has been the lack of a vegetable garden. So much land, so little tilled soil. We’re starting from scratch—an apt phrase as we scrape and tear away dense brambles and thick grasses to reach the soil.
Our big garden needs a serious deer fence and we’ve started that construction, but we have space for a small kitchen garden at the east side of the house in which we hope to actually plant something this spring. It needs a retaining wall and also a fence to keep the deer from browsing our plantings, but it’s of a manageable size so when the sun comes out we leave our indoor work to dig between rain showers.
It’s right outside the studio, a temptation I resist as the deadline for my show draws near and I have unfinished paintings calling for my attention.