It is a beautiful new year here at Twin Spruce; cold and clear and full of the promise of spring as the days get ever so slightly longer each day.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? I did. Paint more! Read more! Grow more food! Like everyone else I start off the new year with a great deal of enthusiasm for the year ahead and like (mostly) everyone else that enthusiasm starts to wane around February or so when winter stubbornly refuses to go away. And then March. And then April…Spring comes late up here and its easy to give up hope. But May eventually does come and this year I have so many reasons to stay enthused, because this summer looks to be an incredible one with our milk cow arriving, our vegetable production expanding, and my very first art show (details to come)! I can’t afford to slack off now or I wont be ready in time. I have paintings to paint, seeds to order, and a barn to plan and help build. So I guess I’ll just have to bundle up and get to it!
Misty Morning Tundra Swan (11×14 acrylic on canvas) is available to view or purchase at the Art Shop Gallery in Homer, Alaska, along with several of my other paintings and prints.
So much going on here at Twin Spruce! Along with buttoning up the cabin and putting the garden to bed for the winter, the new studio is coming along nicely and I have been painting like crazy. We are headed down to Northern California to visit with family for the holidays, but when I get back I will update with photos of studio progress and several more new paintings. For now…
Have a whale of a good time this holiday season! And I will see you in the new year!
I’ve been outside (Alaskan for the rest of the US) for a trip to visit this beauty:
This is Lily, the newest member of the Twin Spruce family! Lily is a purebred Jersey cow, 2.5 years old, gentle, and milking like a dream. Lily lives in Montana right now and we traveled down to meet her and learn more about keeping a family milk cow from her current family, who kindly (and patiently) shared their knowledge and wisdom with me.
Here I am trying to learn how to operate a single cow milking machine. Its not as easy as it looks with hands as small as mine. So many tubes and hoses and such to try to hold on to and simultaneously coordinate. (Coordination is not my strong suit.) But Lily (and her family) were very patient and kind and after a few tries I think I kinda sorta got the hang of it.
Which is good because come spring we are building a barn and bringing this beautiful creature home with us to Alaska. I am already dreaming of pure fresh, creamy Jersey milk (pure A2/A2 if you are interested) and all of the goodies I can make with it. Butter, yogurt, ice cream and cheese. Lots of cheese, which Lily’s family was also kind enough to teach me how to make. The generosity of people sometimes takes me by surprise. I only hope I can pay it forward once I become proficient enough myself.
I am pretty excited! Looks like I will finally have a dedicated studio space instead of making due with the kitchen table, corners of bedrooms and living rooms, and even, this summer, a little cargo trailer parked in the driveway as a studio.
We bought a 10 x20 shed and plopped it down next to the garden and will be remodeling it into a studio space where I can finally spread out and really get down to business making some art. With this much space I should have space not only to paint, but to do sculpture, fiber arts, and bookmaking, too- all things I enjoy getting creative with.
Right now, it’s like a blank canvas, and I can’t wait to see what it becomes. I look forward to updating our progress as we install windows, French doors, flooring, cabinets, etc, etc…
Although my paintings are inspired by what I see around me, usually nature-inspired, sometimes the subject matter for my paintings is not specifically Alaska-related. This is an example of a piece with a more universal theme.
This painting, titled Atmosphere, is a mixed media piece on a cradled wood panel. Lady Atmosphere is draped with clouds. The draping is actual fabric (coated in a clear acrylic varnish for protection) and highly textural. There are collage elements as well. Each of the spheres represent certain parts of our atmosphere: carbon (black), water molecules (blue), nitrogen (yellow), and sunshine (gold). You cant really tell from the photo (which is a little dark) but the sphere being held in Lady Atmosphere’s hand is shiny metallic gold.
Of course, you can feel free to interpret it any way you wish. That is one of the wonderful things about art. It speaks to each of us in a different way, according to our own senses and experiences.
I have the atmosphere on my mind lately because of all of the smoke from the many wildfires in Alaska right now, some of which are too close for comfort, though not close enough for our immediate concern. I’m hoping Lady Atmosphere will see fit to shed some rain upon us pretty soon. We sure could use it.
Atmosphere is 11×14, mixed media collage on cradled wood panel, and is available for sale for $300. Inquire via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I just can’t get enough of these amazing birds. They will be taking off by their hundreds and thousands, heading south soon in their raucous yearly migration. It’s quite a sight, but I hate to see it happen, not only because I love seeing them around, but because it means summer is at its end, and fall is here, with winter close on its heels.
The colts are just taking their first tentative flights, so I figure we have a few more weeks with these beauties yet, so I’m greedily drinking up all of the sightings I can. And then it’s only memories until next spring when they arrive en masse again.
The painting, Sandhill Crane Sunset, is 12×24 acrylic on canvas and is available for purchase. I haven’t decided yet if I will be making prints available for this title. If so I will post that info along with the picture info in the gallery.
In the quest for greater self sufficiency sometimes we come upon some interesting challenges. For instance, what do you do when these:
Produce way too many of these?
My daughter has been selling some of our excess eggs to earn money for buying a computer, but so far supply is far outpacing demand. And our family can only eat so many eggs fried, poached, boiled, deviled and scrambled. We’ve had our share of omelettes and quiche as well and are growing tired of these tried and true egg basics. So I’ve been giving my recipe books a workout to find more ways to use up eggs, including baked egg custards, home made mayonnaise, lots of quick breads (zucchini, banana, cranberry) bread pudding…and still we have eggs.
And then I thought of this:
Yeah, baby, six eggs per batch! This is going to put a serious dent in the egg population around here! I’ve been making batches of pasta by hand, but that is exhausting, so I just got pasta roller and pasta cutter attachments for my kitchen aide stand mixer so I can really crank out the noodles. I will never have to hit up the pasta aisle again!
So glad to be able to find a way to adequately use up the bounty our girls produce. I needed to get that sorted this year because next year we are getting a cow and I’m going to have gallons and gallons of milk and cream to find ways of using. The abundant blessings of farm life. Gotta love it.
Thought I’d share my latest work. This one is titled Raven Sings the Salmon Home.
Ravens are such fascinating birds. They are highly intelligent, with complex behaviors and social structures and I love watching them go about their busy lives. But when I was painting this picture I had in my mind not these real-life stories of ravens, but all of the various myths and legends surrounding ravens. There are so many from varied cultures worldwide, but I was mostly thinking of the Native American and Alaska Native versions–Raven as trickster, as creator, as bringer of fire among other things. And I thought, if I were to give Raven credit for something, my own little myth, I’d give him credit for starting the annual salmon migration by calling the fish from the sea back home to their natal streams to mate, die, and begin their life cycle anew. Such a vital task for this iconic bird. So I set about painting a picture to illustrate this “myth”. This painting is the result.
Raven Sings the Salmon Home is available for sale in the gallery. Prints will be available as soon as I can get it properly photographed.
I was in the greenhouse picking chamomile flowers for tea a few days ago, and silly me was being a little grumpy about how long it as taking to fill my basket with the tiny flowers. Each flower must be carefully, individually plucked by hand and it took me about an hour of constant plucking to get enough to feel like it was worth doing. Not nearly as instantly gratifying as scooping up an armful of kale, or lopping off heads of broccoli. Tedious, even.
But then I thought –“Who complains about having to spend an hour picking sweet-smelling flowers, of all things? And in my very own greenhouse, on my very own beautiful farm in Alaska?” Wow. How selfish of me.
I need to remember how lucky I am to be able to have the luxury of spending an our in this way, when people all over the world are spending their hours in much, much worse ways.
Consider my attitude adjusted. I’ll think about this lesson every time I drink a cup of chamomile tea this winter, and remember just how blessed I am.
This painting was inspired by all of the tiny fishing villages in coastal Alaska, with their homes all crowded along the narrow shoreline, tucked in between the mountains and the sea, sometimes spilling over into the bays, perched up on stilts. They are lovely to see as you pass them by when sailing along the inside passage or other narrow byways on the Alaska Marine Highway system. For some of these remote villages, the ferry is their main connection to the rest of the state, otherwise isolated except by float plane. I always wonder as I pass them by, who lives here? What are their lives like? What are their stories? And though I have visited some of them, there are so many I know I will never get the chance to experience. It is amazing to me that in a country so crowded, so connected, so busy, that there are still places like these. It certainly is a very different life than that of most Americans, or even most Alaskans. And yet here they sit. Mile after hundreds of miles of them, dotted along the edges of Alaska.
Painting is available for purchase. See details in the Gallery.