Friday, October 14, 2011

Out of clutter; find simplicity...

Albert Einstein

My mind has been on that lately....Focus, focus, focus...simplify, simplify, simplify. Something I try to remember for life AND painting. 

As I take this time to organize my physical environment, it also spills over and seeps in. I'm trying the concepts out to a greater degree in my painting lately, as you saw in my last post on my 'egg phase' at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center.

But focus and simplicity REALLY is a challenge in plein air painting, since that one is such an 'intense sport' with so much visual stimuli to orchestrate onto a canvas - quickly.

How much can I simplify - where's too much? Keep focused on your priorities and eliminate the unnecessary details...

Am I speaking about life or art? For me, they are one and the same. So I've been plein air painting lately with these concepts in the forefront of my mind.

This recent painting I'm putting out there as my effort to focus and simplify - strip away the unnecessary and find the beauty that remains. No, I don't consider it totally successful, but an honest effort in that direction. Am I going in a good direction, or do I need to 'scrap those ideas' and move on? Too soon to tell, but that's part of the process...

9" x 12" plein air oil
 For me, it's important that what I choose to do, I do well. And that involves a lot of practice - or in painter terms... covering a lot of canvas! Trying out new ideas, putting out the effort, covering that canvas, keeps me pushing my limits, keeps me hiking up that learning curve.

The good thing about painting, is if you keep up the effort, you'll never need to worry about sliding down the other side of the learning curve! There will always be new hills to climb - if you choose to take that challenge. And THAT'S a personality thing, that we'll save for another day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting my eggs in a row....

So this time of year, I regroup. I know, most people do that in January. But for me fall feels right. Our little town of Gardiner, REALLY becomes little this time of year. As the human population shrinks, the wildlife population swells. Change is in the air. The mountain peaks are white now and the kids are back to their school routine. A slower pace presides. I find myself paring down, sorting, simplifying, getting things in order, appreciating what I have – and so my ‘egg phase’….

At the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, I’ve been painting small, simple egg portraits. The variety of eggs in their collection is astounding – and not something you often get to see. Taking the time to look closely at an egg...the colors, the shapes, the differences among them. It’s my way of appreciating the small, simple things – and finding beauty there.

(3) 6" x 6" oil on linen
all eggs are in the collection of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
Left to right:
#1 - robin egg, crow egg, red tail hawk egg (from the 1920's and 30's)
#2 - a trumpeter swan egg from 1959
#3 - 3 grouse eggs.

Time has a wonderful way of weeding out the trivial.
Richard Ben Sapir

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Our building "hobby"...

We designed and built our own house – ourselves - along with our studio and gallery, which is attached. (In our 'spare time', since we don't watch TV.)

This isn’t the first time. During the process, I don’t recommend it, but upon completion, ‘life is good’. The fruits of your labor are particularly sweet - and you get to live within them, enjoying them each day.

All this ecstasy may be coming from just knowing we survived it, again. But whatever that ecstasy comes from, we’re getting close. We can almost taste that fruit!

We’ve done a few things along the way that particularly make 'life good', and we wanted to spread the word…

For maximum solar gain, we designed our home, studio and gallery long and narrow with a southern orientation. From our property, Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone River are due south. Great for solar design - AND awesome views and wildlife watching, too.

We use solar water panels to heat our hot water and tied that system into our radiant floor heating, to heat the house. (We unplugged our on-demand water heater in May and have all the hot water we could use, thanks to the sun.)

Our new heater from the kitchen/dining room side. The top door is for the brick oven.

In our last house, we had a masonry heater – an efficient , comfortable and attractive way to heat your home with wood. The inner core was built by Albie Barden of Maine Wood to be swept away to their web site  - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! And just like the last time around, we did the exterior stone work ourselves. After enjoying our last one for many years, that was something we knew we could not live without. So we did it again.
View from the living room side.

Our heater has a see through fire box, so the fire can be enjoyed from both the dining room / kitchen and living room sides. On the living room side, there is a heated bench. The lintel stone on this side, we hand picked - the depressions have fossils in them!


Mass being a key to comfortable passive solar living, (retaining the heat AND the coolness), the heater fit into the plan perfectly. We faced it up with local Montana stone - and while we were at it, used some on the interior walls and some countertops too. Another ‘bonus feature’ of the heater is the hot water coils within it – also feeding into our solar hot water tank. And if that’s not enough accolades for our masonry heater, there’s also a heated bench and brick pizza oven in there, too!

So, yes, we’re getting a little ‘heady’ around here, as we finish up and live within our creation – enjoying our Yellowstone views and eating our homemade brick oven pizza – while the sun keeps life cozy inside.