Make hay while the sun shines

Make hay while the sun shines

I believe my children are getting tired of me saying “Make hay when the sun shines.” I think I first read this quote in one of the books in the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/. I think Laura’s Pa probably said this to his children when it was haying time. I had to explain this quote to my children to have them understand that when the sun is shining I must paint. Not paint a painting, but paint my 1940s house that has original cedar wood siding. Thanks to YouTube, I studied the way to paint a house and purchased all of the necessary equipment. You can bet I received a few comments as I left Home Depot with a 24ft ladder and $1,000 worth of paint. I started this DIY project last summer with a bit of fear – fear of the 24 foot ladder I had to climb to reach the peaks and fear of tackling such a huge project by myself. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Well, on the first day of painting, I was scared and scared when I look at the huge expanse to scrape. However, now in the second season I am no longer scared. I scrape the old paint by hand, spackle, caulk, glaze the windows, sand, wash, and paint – up to five layers to obtain a consistent deep red color! Last summer I completed half of the house and this summer I am determined to complete the last half. So for the last two months, this endeavor has not left any time for me to add new paintings to my website http://www.mjnicole.com. However, I am rounding the corner to the back of the house since we have been fortunate to have quite a few sunny days. Now, please excuse me while I go and paint while the sun shines!

Monarch butterfly treasure box

Monarch butterfly treasure box

Two summers ago we spent a wonderful week in the Adirondack Mountains at Fourth Lake http://www.viistadirondacks.com. Besides keeping busy with swimming, tubing, fishing and boating, my youngest sister Jeanette created a treasure hunt for her nieces and nephew. They all had fun following the clues to the final treasure box. My sister had purchased four different cigar boxes at antique shops and my mom painted an Adirondack scene on each one. Inside the treasure boxes the kids found special items including a teddy bear the size of a quarter! My children still keep their treasure boxes on the top of their desks and they will always remember their Adirondack treasure hunt.
Inspired by these boxes, I recently ran across a cigar box at an antique shop and decided to put my artistic skills to use creating a treasure box. I selected a Monarch butterfly to adorn the top because not only are they a beautiful butterfly with their vibrant orange color, but it seems like they keep on popping up – I just saw a cluster of wooden Monarch butterflies in the window display at Anthropology http://www.anthropologie.com in NYC this weekend. While creating this treasure box I incorporated the original cigar box label as the background for the butterfly, and I mimicked the bold white dots on the Monarch’s wings on two black designs that wrap around the box. What treasure can you imagine being stored in this treasure box? It is my latest addition to http://www.mjnicole.com

Front Door Beauty

Front Door Beauty

For the past several years, my husband and I have been admiring the front doors of houses that are natural wood; we like how the wood brings a nice warmth and character to the outside of a house. Our front door is probably original to our 1940s house; it is solid wood and the white paint had crackled so it was time to do something about it. My husband and I tackled this project together and in the fall, we seriously started to remove the paint from the door. Anyone who has removed paint knows this is a time consuming task and especially when there are about six layers of paint and the fifth layer is particularly ornery! However, scrape we did (for several months) and with a recent spell of good weather, we took it off the hinges and brought it outside to sand and stain. The pecan colored stain coaxed out the different grains in the wood and it reminds me of a topography map with contour lines widening and narrowing throughout the panels. A bit of the old white paint highlights the decorative inserts and gives it a wonderful character. We just returned it back to its hinges last evening and I think you might agree, it is a front door beauty.

Goodbye snow

DSCN1211

At the start of winter, (or even at the end of fall!) I greet the delicate, white, falling snowflakes with joy and often do a happy dance celebrating the start of a new season.  Part of enjoying winter is to make sure you enjoy doing something outdoors such as ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, sledding. My family likes doing all of these activities and we are fortunate enough to be just twenty minutes away from a really great ski resort Jiminy Peak http://www.jiminypeak.com where we can go skiing and snowboarding.  A shortcut we take to get there is Bailey Road and along the way we pass this little yellow farm.  I took the photo on a typical grey winter day, with snow covering the ground and the roof of the barns, house, and silo.  The farm has sat empty for a time and is for sale so perhaps the landscape will change a bit once there are new owners. It is somewhat unusual to see a yellow farm and it is a welcome bright spot on trip.  So I post this painting as a goodbye to our snow and I will do a happy dance when I see the daffodils and crocuses poking thru the earth!

Meandering

Meandering

My blog is called “Journey of an Artist” and sometimes that journey meanders a bit! My latest meander is teaching an after-school art class at my son’s elementary school. It is a six week class for second graders and one of the projects I had the children do was making a paper silhouette. Ever see folk art paper-cut silhouettes? (I saw a few recently on http://www.ebay.com) To do the project, I took a profile picture of each child and printed out the picture, taped it to a sheet of black paper and then the children carefully cut around the profile (some of the noses ended up a bit square!). They selected a colorful background, put it in a black frame and took it home for a Valentines present for their parents. This picture shows the silhouette of my daughter we made for the class example. I especially love the silhouettes that capture a ponytail, braid, or a cowlick of hair. As we were doing this art project, I was reminded of the artist Kara Walker http://learn.walkerart.org/karawalker who creates artwork using silhouettes for the content. I first saw her work about twenty years ago in the Baltimore Museum of Art http://www.artbma.org in Maryland and was captivated by the stories her art told. It is great to meander a bit; where have your meanderings taken you?

Chickadee, sing me a song

Chickadee, sing me a song

Last week I bundled up to walk my dog and luckily it was a warmer winter day. Birds were out and about and I walked by three old apple trees that still had many dried up red apples on the top branches. A group of chickadees were flying around these trees and singing their Chick-a-dee song for me. I stood for several minutes just watching these joyful birds hang upside down on the branches, peck at the apples, and then flit away to another nearby tree. It really made my day to see these Chickadees having so much fun! It inspired me to paint my latest “Chickadee, Sing me a song.” It is also my first mixed media piece at http://www.mjnicole.com. I have saved every single card I have ever gotten and have been thinking about how to incorporate the cards into my art. A part of the card is what the Chickadee is perched on and if you look closely the words “Sing me a song” are from the card. Let me know what you think!

Thinking warm and sunny thoughts

Thinking warm and sunny thoughts

As many of us are putting on layer after layer to keep warm during these single digit days, I decided to look through some photos of warmer days to give me hope! I thought I would share with you art my daughter made while we were visiting Block Island, Rhode Island (www.blockislandinfo.com) this past summer. Four of us pedaled bicycles up the hilly island to arrive (a bit out of breath) at Mohegan Bluffs. Mohegan Bluffs has beautiful, dramatic cliffs and a rather steep wooden staircase that clings to the bluffs providing access to the beach. The ocean was quite chilly (even for August) and my daughter drew this swirly flower in the sand and edged it with different colored rocks that were all around the beach. It turned out quite beautiful and it caught the attention of many other beach walkers who expressed their compliments and also kindly walked around it as well! Sometimes art is temporary (think of The Gates by Christo christojeanneclaude.net), yet an experience you will never forget. Stay warm!

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