Tufted Titmouse

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When I first heard this name, it struck me as sort of odd or a bit funny. My sister Jeanette mentioned this bird when I just finished my Chickadee painting last year. She said, “You should paint a Tufted Titmouse; they are so cute.” To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen this bird in the wild -have any of you?  I looked up a picture and these birds are indeed adorable with their tuft of hair at the top of their head and their chubby body – similar to the Chickadee which they are related to. Well, I kept this suggestion in mind and recently felt inspired to paint the Tufted Titmouse, the second bird in my bird series. (See the Chickadee at http://www.mjnicole.com).  I learned that the Tufted Titmouse has a call that sounds like “Peter, Peter” and I painted the words on my painting.  I again selected one of the many past holiday cards I have kept over the years and used it to make a few of the wild red berries capped with snow, a tail feather, and also parts of the arched branch. When you see this painting up close, I like how the card paper gives the scene depth. I hope this winter, I will see one in my backyard and call “Peter, Peter” to it.

Real Thing

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No, I am not going to talk about Coca-Cola :)

A few months ago I visited the National Gallery of Art in D.C. and got to view a few of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings like the one pictured here (I was allowed to take a photo without flash).  I enjoy seeing his work and am inspired by his colors, movement, and vibrancy in his work.  You are probably very familiar with Van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers” -probably his most well known painting. Years ago, I would see “Sunflowers” everywhere  mostly as posters and it became a bit trite to me, until I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and went into a room of his paintings and there was the real, original Sunflowers!  What an amazing painting, the oranges and yellows were so brilliant and textured.  I stood in front of it as long as I could looking at the swirling brush strokes and waves of paint; this painting quickly became of my favorites right next to his “Starry Night.” I now seek out Van Gogh’s paintings.  This same experience happened to me with the artist Georgia O’Keefe – again I had seen many of her posters of her flowers and was unimpressed until I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico http://www.okeeffemuseum.org. All of a sudden, seeing her actual paintings up close brought a whole new appreciation of her work. How glad I am that I viewed the real paintings in person.

I don’t own any Van Gogh’s or O’Keefe’s paintings, but I am fortunate to have in my home several original real paintings (not just my own!) that I have garnered throughout the years. I know prints have been instrumental in sharing art with the masses, but even the best print will never match seeing the real art.

There is nothing like the real thing!

The holiday time is a great time to purchase a real thing – I am trying out being a vendor at my first fair/festival at the Handmade Holiday Festival. For those of you in the Berkshires, please stop by and say hi! It is held on December 6 and 7th at Berkshire Community College’s Paterson Field House.

 

Field of Goldenrod

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I have been out bicycling more this fall now that my children are back in school and as I bike around the Berkshires I have noticed that the goldenrod seems more bountiful than other years; or perhaps I just wasn’t looking! Everywhere there are large fields of this yellow native flower.  I was looking for the perfect goldenrod scene to take a picture and to paint from the photo.  I wasn’t finding quite what I had in mind and the days were going by quickly.  Then while I was driving past the local Pittsfield airport, tucked between a row of trees, I noticed a dirt road that I had not seen before.  The entrance to the dirt road was closed with a big metal farm gate, however I parked my car and walked closer. The view was beautiful; a huge field of goldenrod with blue spruce trees sprinkled in between.  The dirt road curved to the right and the sky! What a blue, blue sky with these amazing billowing clouds all tilted upward as they were saluting!  Another great day in the Berkshires. See more painted scenes of the Berkshires at http://www.mjnicole.com!

Do-it-yourself

Do-It-Yourself

As I put away my hand sander and washed my various paint brushes, I thought about what a huge Do-It-Yourself project of painting my house has been.  I started two years ago in late May of 21013 and I worked on it on the days when the weather forecast was dry weather and while my children were in school or between summer trips.  I started on the north side of the house and tackled the full height of the house, then moved to the front (pictured here) and again had a new challenge with the dormer windows and shutters that demanded attention to their small slats of wood.  Several of our windows are still the original 1950s models and so I learned how to scrape, paint, glaze, and paint again the thin wood holding the panes of glasses in the windows.  The north side of the garage gave me a bit of trouble. After painting it, it started to bubble in a weird angled line.  I figured out that in the fall, the sun is lower and it reflected off my neighbor’s metal stove pipe and produced a laser like stream of heat that bubbled the paint as the sun moved through the sky (or more correctly as the earth turned!). I waited till this year to re-scrape and repaint the garage and then continued on the south side and finished up in the back on the east side.  This is a major check mark on my To-Do-List.  Woo- Who!!! It is finished!!! It has been fun to have the neighbors watch the progress – some would drive by and yell out their car window “Looks good!” when I was up on the 24 foot ladder and the walkers who watched intently and would offer words of encouragement.  With such an all encompassing project complete, I am looking forward to picking up my other paint brushes and painting more scenes of the Berkshires.

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.

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