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NEWSLETTER May 2010
Greetings from the mountains of western Maine!
Spring came early this year, as much as two weeks ahead of schedule. I have been enjoying watching the annual parade of returning birds and spring flowers. By the end of May we looked like June, with the garden thriving and the blackflies at their most ferocious.
Most of May was spent on “invisible” artwork, the things that happen behind the scenes that you never see: going for long walks with my camera, collecting reference photos to work from, researching the things I find, chronicling the changing season in my journal, and combing through art supply catalogs for things like just the right color of ink. Here is a photo montage for you from my photo archives of the past two months.
You see (clockwise from the upper left corner) wild blueberry blossoms, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, trout lily (also called adder’s tongue or dog-toothed violet), ostrich fern fiddleheads, cinnamon fern fiddleheads, a single bloodroot bloom, and ostrich ferns again. All of these things will eventually appear in my study book and in my paintings.
For me, making paintings is more like growing pumpkins or apples than like building houses or cars. It has its seedtime and harvest, its fallow time and its growing time. Sometimes it is a long time before what you have planted shows above the ground, and even longer until it actually bears fruit.
Right now I am at the very beginning of the Swift River Treasures work, a project that I expect will take at least five to ten years. The final product will be a published book (culled from my study book and journal) and a collection of large oil paintings. What I am doing now is laying the foundation for the work. I want to take my time with this and lay it well. Reading my newsletter every month, you are getting a glimpse behind the scenes at the process as it happens.
For example, last month I showed you a small drawing from my study book, two ostrich fern fiddleheads. I have redrawn that same group of fiddleheads again and again this past month, each time with different media, until I was satisfied with the result. Black and white or color? Pencil or ink? Black ink or brown? Sienna brown or sepia? Hand-colored with colored pencils or watercolor? These are some of the questions I have been answering as I go. And when they are answered, the final and publishable version of the study book is ready to begin.
For example, I have done the drawings with black ink with colored pencil, sepia ink in a heavier line with colored pencil, and sepia ink with watercolor, left to right. Not all artists work this way. But I used to be a handweaver, remember, and the painstaking patience for thread-by-thread construction is part of my nature. We each have something to offer the world. Careful investigation and detailed presentation is my long suit, so I choose to make art that capitalizes on this strength. And if you like art that is grand, bold, and exuberant, this will not be your cup of tea!
Pennacook Art Center will be opening a new show this Friday, June 4th, at our gallery in the River Valley Technology Center in Rumford, with a reception from 5 to 7:00 p.m. My Swift River Treasures botanical collection is still hanging in the Mexico Public Library. And my work will be in the New England Christian Arts Council’s ninth annual “His Gifts and Presence” New England Arts Festival in Biddeford, Maine on June 26th. (This year’s conference headliners are Rita Springer and Margaret Becker.)
I must confess that one form of art that I have always enjoyed is coloring books. Now I can draw my own pictures to color! And I have attached a file in my original newsletter for you to color if you wish. It is the line drawing of the fiddleheads, just like I have colored in my study book. You can print it and color it, or do whatever you want with it.
For more information on “Swift River Treasures,” my artmaking process, or recent work, or to check out my blog, see my website at http://betsy-bell.artistwebsites.com/. Here you can order prints of my work, and have them matted and framed if you choose, courtesy of Fine Art America’s great print-on-demand service. I also offer greeting cards, either single or in packages.
I have now been writing this newsletter for a full year. Thanks for joining me in the journey. For this month’s quote, I am going to remind you of where we started: Souls who follow their hearts thrive. (Proverbs 13:19 in The Message, Peterson)
I hope that you enjoy looking at the art as much as I have enjoyed making it! I would love to hear from you, too, so please do reply with comments.