musings from the studio and beyond ~
dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .
Back in September — because evidently planning to be away for a month on a 4000+-mile road-trip wasn’t time consuming enough — I decided to set a challenge for myself of creating 60 paintings in 30 days. Lots of artists do this sort of thing from time to time, although most artists are smarter and more reasonable than I am and therefore usually set the goal for a much saner (though still challenging) 30 paintings in 30 days.
I don’t know what I was thinking, if I was thinking at all. Maybe because I know how time-consuming planning for a roadtrip and getting my house, personal life and business life in order in anticipation of being absent for a month can be. I know that when undertaking such planning, my art production always takes a hit. So I wanted to keep creating until my departure, despite the distraction of an upcoming trip.
Also, I’ve done daily paintings before. Back in 2006 or so, I created a small 6″ x 6″ landscape oil painting every day in the month of February, and then offered each painting for auction on eBay. Talk about exciting!! Nearly every one of those paintings sold, and it was pretty cool watching some of those bids com in and then shipping dozens of paintings all across the country
And at other times I’ve dedicated whole years to daily paintings, though these we more like dairy entries. Like in 1999…. oh, but maybe I’ll save that story for another blog post…..
Anyhow. the parameters that I set for myself in September were to do a 30 quick little ‘traditional’ landscape paintings. But I also wanted to stretch myself with a bit of play. So I decided that after I completing each traditional landscape, I would use that as the source of inspiration or “jumping off point” for another painting, this one allowing for more “play” and experimentation. Sometimes this second painting was a clear take on the traditional landscape; other times the two bore little if any resemblance. All, though, were fun to create!
Also, September’s 60:30 project was to be more about quantity — getting 60 paintings done — than requiring myself to paint EVERY day. For I just know from past experience that life intervenes and sometimes it’s just impossible to get in the studio some days. In the end though, I did paint most days, though some days I painted more than two while other days I painted none.
And now I have stacks of small paintings taking up space in my studio!
So I’ve decided to make them available to anyone who’s interested, and have a little fun along the way, by putting them on eBay and starting the bidding super low. This means if no one else bids, someone could potentially grab a sweet little painting for a fraction of the usual price, as there will be no minimum reserve price beyond the starting bid.
If, after 24 hours, a painting receives no bids, it will be placed for sale in my online shop at the regular prices. The “buy now price” will be double the usual price, to to encourage people to join in the fun and excitement of bidding.
Here are more details:
Seller Name: taosdawndesigns
Dates: Every day through the month of November, 1 – 30, 2017.
Time of Auction: 7:00pm New Mexico time.
Items: 2 paintings each day: One “traditional landscape” and one “contemporary landscape”
Duration: 24 hours
If a painting receives no bids within the 24-hour auction, it will be placed for sale at the regular price on my online gallery store on Etsy.
30 TRADITIONAL LANDSCAPES
Medium: oil on panel
Size: 5” x 7” x 1/8”
Regular Price: $225
Starting Bid: $60.30* + $9 shipping/packaging
Buy now price: $450 (this is to encourage people to join in on the fun and excitement of the bidding!)
30 CONTEMPORARY LANDSCAPES
Medium: acrylic & mixed media on paper mounted on panel
Size: 4” x 6” paper mounted on 5” x 7” x 1/8” panel
Regular Price: $185
Starting Bid: $30.60 *+ $9 shipping/packaging
Buy now price: $370 (this is to encourage people to join in on the fun and excitement of the bidding!)
Here are the links for the current auctions (updated 11/10/17); these auctions will end at 7:00 this evening, when the next two auctions will begin. [Read below for how to get on a daily announcement list for the day’s paintings.]
Also, I’ve set it up so that if you’re interested in this project but worried that you might forget to check the auctions, you can receive a daily link to the day’s auction paintings:
Simply send an email to email@example.com
with “LET ME KNOW!” in the subject line.
I’ll shoot you a daily message (just through November) with the links for the day’s two auctions.
Important: you can always do a search on eBay for “Dawn Chandler” to find the current auction)
And — if I can get my act together! — I’ll be posting the auctions daily on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/DawnChandlerFineArt/
Also also on Instagram at www.instagram.com/taosdawn/ (where you can view all of the 60:30 paintings via a search for #dawnchandler60in30)
By the way, last night (Thursday November 2nd) concluded the first two auctions and some lucky person in the Southeast won FOR A STEAL these two sweet little paintings of/inspired by an early summer morning up in the “magic aspen forest” above Santa Fe. Basically she just got $500 worth of art for about $100. If you’ve been wanting an original painting of mine, then these November eBay auctions are your chance to score something really fine at a sweet, sweet deal.
Yep. Don’t know what I was thinking — if I was thinking at all…
Now to go ship off these paintings off to their new home in Georgia!
As I look out my window just now, I see nothing but a dark tangle of black lines, crisscrossing and knotting up with each other, their shapes carved out by the softest shade of morning, of first light. First this light was pale grey. Now at the base where earth turns to sky, there’s a hint of gold — of softest peach bleeding upward into palest blue. And there now, in the deepest patches of darkness, faint shapes of leaves are revealing. Were I attempting to capture this scene with paint just now rather than with words, I would be struggling with how to convey the color of those leaves — leaves which by day are brilliant gold and crimson, but now are pale ghosts of leaves.
This is why I came here: To be in and observe the Vermont woods again. To breathe in their shifting moods, sifting light. To smell birch bark and beech leaves and pine needles. And maple, of course. To be reminded of the vertical thrust of tree trunks, the tangles of branches, the music of mossy streams. The utter brilliance of sunlit jewel-leaves against shadowed forest.
I came here because for two years I’ve been dreaming of creating a series of paintings based on my long walk across Vermont — a series of semi-abstract paintings inspired by my long solo walk along Vermont’s Long Trail. These imagined paintings would need to be paintings about trees. For the Long Trail is nothing if not a passage through the trees.
So I needed to come back to the forest to remind myself of forest in order to conjure the forest.
But this time, rather than sleeping each night under a thin piece of fabric or on a rustic wood floor after mile upon mile of strenuous hiking, my shelter is a gracious friend’s tiny apartment, tucked on the edge of a gorgeous Vermont wood. Where, each morning, for two weeks, I have watched the woods outside mature and cast away its cloak of autumn to lie in wait of winter. Where, just a few miles from here, I can step onto the very trail that lead me for 274 miles through similar forests and so much more.
But this trip is not what I expected it would be. It’s not the trip I planned.
The fact of this expression revealed its truth just two hours into my 2,000+ mile road trip from New Mexico to Vermont, when things went horribly, horribly wrong.
For that’s when my travel companion — Wilson, my sweet 10-year old “Taos purebread” — a female mutt laced with a good bit of black lab — and I made our first pit-stop 150 miles into New Mexico’s eastern desolation.
As Wilson cheerfully hopped out of the back seat of the car, I noticed something wasn’t right: her muzzle looked swollen, with what appeared to be a rash developing across the long bridge of her snout.
By evening — in the middle of Oklahoma — the entire surface of her nose was a ghastly eruption of an open, bleeding wound, the bridge so swollen that the bend of it — the “stop” — between the eyes and top of the snout, which is normally a handsome Labrador profile, was puffed up so badly there was no bend in the bridge at all.
I could spend a couple of blog posts and thousands of words detailing the next 216 hours, as my dog’s beautiful face transformed into a horrifying grotesque and festering wound. How I reached out to friends and family and veterinarians across the country, wondering, ever wondering, if, with every mile eastward I should just turn around and head back to New Mexico.
How I drove for 2000 miles in silence in a perpetual state of anxiety.
How the road became a blur as I choked back sobs of concern wondering if I was doing the right thing by continuing on this trip.
I could spend pages telling of how friends and family and acquaintances threw their doors open to welcome us — my physically wounded pup and my emotionally wounded self.
How people waved off my dog’s blood on their white carpets.
How “cat people” made their homes dog-friendly.
How even “dog haters” cooed at and petted my sweet girl, as she stumbled trying to navigate the world with a wide “cone of shame” around her head. How she leaned in and “hugged” everyone who looked kindly upon her, despite her revolting appearance.
The best veterinarians are good, good people, and we consulted with four across the country (including ours back home, via phone & email).
None had ever seen anything like Wilson’s rash. All were confounded. But all agreed that it was likely an extreme allergic reaction to something — quite possibly (probably?) her new tick medication. Something in the environment? A sign of underlying disease? The tick medication — which she had never had before and which we had applied a few days before our departure — just seemed the likely answer. But none of the vets felt certain about it. “This just isn’t presenting like a typical reaction to tick medication. And the timing of the reaction isn’t quite right… And yet it could be…” Yet what else could it be?
The mystery of it was as distressing as the wound itself.
Finally, after more than a week of concern over Wilson’s raging wound, frustration over the lack of answers, and inspired by a text from My Good Man — “could it be a bite of some sort?” — from my aunt’s kitchen in New Hampshire I did a web search.
If you’re really curious and you think you can stomach it, Google “spider bite on dog nose” and there you will find image after image of Wilson’s rash.
I feel 99% sure that Wilson was bit by a venomous spider on the morning of our departure. Likely by Loxosceler reclusa — a brown recluse.
Wilson now, is fine. Remarkably, extraordinarily fine. it’s really almost as if nothing happened at all.
But something did happen. And this unexpected happening just two-hours in to our 5-week journey upended my well-laid plans.
For what I imagined this trip to be and what this trip has become are completely different. When I imagined this journey, I imagined some part of each day — even the long driving days — would be spent making art. That at least once each day out on the road Wilson and I would pull over somewhere and I would spend a few minutes sketch or painting a bit of the landscapes we were driving through.
And that once in Vermont, I would spend some part of each day hiking among and communing with the forests and then an even larger part of each day painting and writing, inspired by and conjuring the forests. There would be only a little socializing, as most of my time would be spent in my “studio,” in blissful silence and solitude making art. The planned equation was rather simple:
Forest walks + time alone + deep reflection + quiet + no distractions + writing + painting + painting + painting + [hopefully, too (editing my Long Trail journal, + culling and editing my Long Trail photos)] = immense creative productivity.
But Wilson’s trauma threw me off. I had little energy or time for the kind of deep creative endeavors I originally intended to undertake .Instead the equation of my trip has evolved into this:
Pet needs + town walks + charming cafes + cool breweries + great bookstores + beautiful autumnal country roads + renewed knitting projects + good books + jigsaw puzzles + visits with veterinarians + visits with auto mechanics + conversations with baristas + conversations with barkeeps + conversations with young musicians + visits with dear elders + visits with Philmont friends + visits with childhood friends + visits with Long Trail friends + tea with Instagram friends + conversations with Wilson + conversations with the geese overhead + conversations with the crows overhead + the maple leaves + the birch bark + the river light and the forest light = little creative productivity.
The realization that, when I pack my car in a few days, there will be no sketchbook filled with drawings, no notebook filled with poems, no boxes bursting with plein air paintings…. That the huge sheets of primed painting papers will return home in their original packing…. That the stack of letters I intended to respond to will come home with me, still awaiting replies…. That my 90-page Long Trail Journal will remain unedited.. That the thousands of Vermont photos will remain, for now, largely unculled. And that my bank statements will reflect my weakness in the face of Vermont’s many sweet & savory & crafty temptations…. The realization of all of this — of not accomplishing most of what I had set out to do on this trip — has been gnawing at the back of my head, keeping me awake for some nights.
And yet, this morning, as Wilson and I walked Stowe’s serene river path, and I paused yet again to take yet another photo of the light through the birches…. and as I sit here in my temporary studio and watch gold leaves flit softly to the ground…. as I look over the few painting studies I HAVE done…. as I look through my hundreds of recent photos of the people and places I have connected with and have been enriched by, I realize this trip this autumn has indeed been about trees, about forests.
Some of those forests I’ve communed with this trip — just as I’d planned.
And even a few of those forests I’ve recalled from my long solo hike, and have begun to paint this trip — just as I’d planned.
But there’s a different kind of forest that has revealed itself to me — one that I hadn’t really set out to explore: The forest of friendships that link like branches across my journey’s and life’s map.
From the high desert of New Mexico, across the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas, to the green hills of western Missouri, the rolling farmland of the Finger Lakes, the steepled towns of Massachusetts, to the gold and crimson back roads of New England and Canada, boughs of friendship have reached out to my pup and me like a mighty embrace.
It turns out this journey has been about trees, after all. About a sacred forest filled with old and new growth, ever rooting, ever blooming, ever teaming with life and love.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. ~ John Muir
The final installment of my August painting trip in New Hampshire…
Of all the scenes in this small New Hampshire tract where I spent a few days in early August, none captivated me more than a little corner between my aunt’s tool shed and her guest house. Here, catching the forest-filtered light, are two metal chairs as old as I, maybe even older. They sit there as though conversing with each other under the tall pines. I think my aunt said she painted them with enamel paint some 40+ years ago, and still their color holds up. Every time I look at them I feel a little well of satisfaction at her artistic brilliance in deciding to paint one yellow and one blue. Their surprising jolt of color against the dark brown buildings and even darker backdrop of shadowy evergreens just make my eyes and heart sing.
Needless to say, I just had to try to capture them with paint. Because of that determination I finally pulled out my tube of Cadmium Yellow Medium — to get that yellow chair right — for the Lemon Yellow that I had been using for all my previous paintings is simply the wrong hue.
Funny thing is I don’t know that I’ve ever sat on these chairs. Rather, I’m content to look at them, and appreciate their quiet invitation: Come, sit among us. Enjoy the company of another, whoever they may be, whatever they believe. You are family. You are safe here.
Three lakeside paintings now tucked in my wet-painting-storage box and I was ready to continue on my journey…
The following morning brought rain to the lake region …and me to Vermont. For if I’m going to go to the trouble to travel from New Mexico to New Hampshire, then I may as well drive the couple hours west to the Green Mountain State and check in with that part of my soul that’s harbored there in the Les Monts Verts. Just a short visit though of two or three nights, staying in Stowe with my First Friend who is also the blessed owner of one of my favorite porches anywhere, ever.
And so it was there, from My Favorite Porch, on the second day of my visit, that I cranked out this little painting. All during my long walk across Vermont in 2015/16, my eye kept catching on the beautiful contrast of bright leaves against dark forest — especially when the leaves began to turn. (One of my countless art dreams is to do a series of paintings focusing on those very contrasts….) Here, from the porch, the brilliant sun-filled yellow flowers just seemed to sing against the darker backdrop of woodlands.
Alas, two days in Vermont is not nearly long enough, but I’m hoping to return for a longer spell later this year to really focus on painting (more about that sometime later….) For now, short and sweet would have to suffice, as I loaded my paints back into my sporty little rental car and made my way back to Exeter, for one last night.
My last August morning in New England involved two walks — the first, with my aunt (who, at 87, I can still barely keep up with) over to the cemetery to check in with our beloveds who are lain to rest there among the shading hardwoods. A beautiful sunny day to take in the quiet, pay our respects, and share memories.
My second morning walk was once again fueled with Me & Ollie’s coffee, as I ambled through the streets of Exeter on down to the river. The sun was higher than my first excursion there a week earlier, and shade was limited, but I finally found a cool seat at the opposite end of the river path. The best view here was looking back toward the Power House that I’d painted the week before. From this vantage, the Powder House was hidden, tucked as it was back behind the dark cloak of evergreens, but the flag pole was in view, as well as the roof of a nearby dwelling.
As I sat there with the river in front of me, a large raft of ducks slowly swam toward me, and then turned around directly in front of me and swam back down the river. Really, it was almost as if they were trying to get my attention, “strutting their stuff.” That, or they were checking me out. Either way, it delighted me — as did every moment of this trip.
But the moment that delighted me most of all on this trip, was when my aunt said to me — as did my cousin, in her own words later — that my painting her surroundings made her see her surroundings differently. ‘Caused her to notice color and light in a way she hadn’t really noticed color and light before. “I’ll never see this place the same again,” they each confessed to me, with tones of appreciation.
Getting people to see the world differently — to notice the small, quiet, beautiful passages of the world around them.. This might be my greatest source of joy in being a painter.
This noticing. It takes time to notice the world around you. To pause, take a deep breath, and, in silence, look.
I can’t think of a better use of one’s time.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, one which I’ve memorized by heart. I’ll close this post here, with her beautiful words. as you read it, consider well those last four lines.
by Mary Oliver
Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.
Links to Dawn Chandler’s posts about her New Hampshire plein air painting trip below
Thank you for reading
I promised a few weeks ago to share with you the several little plein air paintings I did while traveling New Hampshire last month. I’ve fallen behind with that. The truth is I’ve had a hard time turning my thoughts back to New England when my heart is breaking in Texas… It feels in a way disrespectful to all who are suffering such staggering hardship to focus my attention on something as “light” as Art.
But as my aunt said to me in the midst of the financial and housing crisis of 2008, “these may be the times when people need art the most.” I do know that in dealing with my own hardships — admittedly nothing as traumatizing and life-altering as the people of the Gulf Coast are dealing with — that it was art that helped me more than anything work through my grief.
And so, I shall continue sharing my creations.
The morning of our first full day together at The Lake, I rose early and joined my aunt in the kitchen. As tea water heated, I sat across from her (at what has become maybe my favorite kitchen table anywhere) while we each shuffled our own deck of cards, and commenced with dueling games of Solitaire. After watching her win three games in a row (OK — I’ll fess up: she does NOT cheat, damnit) and me losing three games in a row (which would be the case even if I DID cheat!) I finally had enough and decided to go down to the dock to paint. For I’d noticed that a great distant cloud in the sky over the lake seemed undecided about whether it wanted to be the softest shade of gold or the softest shade of pink. Regardless of which color it settled on, I figured the intensity of the hue was only going to get better. So I grabbed my paints and mug of tea and descended down the steps to the water’s edge.
What really delighted me when I looked out on this scene was how the evergreen line of Stamp Act Island was dark, but the distant shore beyond it was illuminated with sunshine.
The main cloud which initially caught my eye just radiated its pink and gold confusion across the lake. The point that I ultimately captured was when the water just below the island was golden, while gentle waves near me were picking up hues of pink.
Just as I was finishing up my painting, my aunt came down from the house, “I just had to see what you were doing!” She then admitted, “when you first went down, to paint, I looked out to the water and thought ‘now what on earth is she going to paint? There’s nothing of interest going on out there….’ And then I watched as that cloud — and the water — turned pink and gold! I’ve never seen anything like it! I’m so glad you got it!”
I’m glad, too.
Much of the rest of that morning I spent on a long walk through pine forests, exploring the rail trail into the town of Wolfboro. Although I brought my paints with me, there wasn’t time for me to pull them out that during my walk, so instead I took a lot of photos, eventually turning to them back in New Mexico, as I did a couple weeks ago when I recreated this inviting shady scene from the trail, just below Wolfboro.
Later in the afternoon (post nap & swim, but before the late-afternoon jigsaw puzzling session lubricated with sherry) I returned to the lakeside, this time at the other of my aunt’s docks, to observe the late afternoon sun on my cousin’s boat. Boats and buoys are intimidating, as they have such perfect geometry, (as does the square dock in the mid-distance of this scene). I struggled for a bit trying to get the boat and buoy the correct brightness (I kept making them too dark), but eventually got them at least pretty close.
What I would have given to ship this boat off to Texas last week…..
Links to Dawn Chandler’s posts about her New Hampshire plein air painting trip below
Thank you for reading
Walk for maybe ten minutes from my aunt’s front door, across the academy yards, past the post office, past the Congregational Church (with a wave down the lane to the Unitarians), past the town hall and bandstand, and make a quick right turn into Me & Ollie’s for a coffee-to-go (resisting, if you possibly can, the small snack packages of crack-like addictive granola), cross Water Street, walk past the couple of dozen pretty little shops with flowers in their windows, cut down through an urban canyon of red brick, and find yourself, coffee in hand, at the Exeter River. Here you’ll find a little paved path, dotted with occasional park benches and lovely shade trees, coursing along the waterway.
It was from one of these inviting seats that I decided to create my first New England plein air oil painting. I wanted a seat in the shade, so as to minimize glare on my painting and palette (glare, as you might imagine, makes it much harder to see what I’m doing), and found one near the town-end of the river. My gaze took me across the river to the far bank, where, under a tall dark stand of pine trees sits all alone a little square brick one-story building, with an American flag out front.
I remember the first time I really noticed that little building. It was 1976 (I was 12) when my grandmother and I were driving along the Swasey Parkway and she pointed it out to me across the river. A group of women were teaming up that year to sew a Bicentennial quilt for the town of Exeter, with fabric squares of historic scenes from around town, and my grandmother’s square was to be of that little house. “That is the Powder House and was built in 1771 to store gunpowder, which is very explosive. It’s out there all by itself so that, if the gunpowder blew up, no one would be hurt.” Since that day I’ve always thought of the Powder House as belonging to my grandmother and me.
This early morning though, the Powder House was barely discernible against the shaded forest, though toward the end of my painting session, the flag was just catching the light. The hardest challenge of the morning was getting the shade of the distance trees right — not too dark and not too light. Also not too bright, as more distant colors tend to fade, though here the difference in contrast between the foliage of the mid-ground to that of the background was hardly contrasted at all. Also I needed to get used to these water-mixable oil paints, as they are slicker in texture than regular oil paints, and therefore handle a little differently.
The other big challenge was painting that flag pole. I had not brought a fine detail brush with me, and so attempted to capture that white line with the flat edge of one of my regular brushes — which is a bit like trying to do fine embroidery with a toothpick. Amazed to have pulled it off as well as I did! I find it’s this tiny detail that adds charm and interest to an otherwise rather boring painting.
Later that afternoon found me an hour north of the Exeter River and just a few yards from the shore of Lake Wentworth, in the shadow of my aunt’s summer house. I don’t know when the house was built, but she’s had it since the 1950s, and has kept it more or less the same these 60 some years. Yes, it has wifi, but blessedly no television (If you want to keep track of the Red Sox, you need to tune in to the radio). During my brief visits to The Lake, my primary occupations are, in no particular order of importance: swimming, reading, jigsaw puzzles, card games, conversation, naps, walks, knitting, kayaking, letter-writing, eating, sipping, and — most recently — painting.
And so my first painting at The Lake was of my aunt’s tool shed — mainly because, when I found a seat in the shade, the tool shed sat right in front of me. Though the day had been quite temperate, about the time I sat down to paint, the wind shifted and plunked down a stiffing mass of heat and humidity. Eventually it would shift again as I was painting, and bring with it a lovely cooling breeze and, eventually, a few rain drops.
What really drew me to this unusual view though was the light shining through the windows of the tool shed, and spilling onto the floor and work bench.
Of the seven paintings I created on my New Hampshire sojourn, THIS is the one my aunt (87!) chose to keep for herself (for I let her pick one — a small token of my deep appreciation for her letting me invade her lake sanctuary). In selecting it, she said, “I like this one, for I’m particularly proud of my tools!” As another woman who is also proud of her tools, I can relate!
Links to Dawn Chandler’s posts about her New Hampshire plein air painting trip below
Thank you for reading