Friday, December 28, 2012

Carousel Horses, and Creativity

I've been resting quite a bit lately.  After all, it's the holiday season:  I like to use it as a time to relax with family, refresh my body and spirit, and think about my goals for the new year....We had a lovely and unexpected white Christmas, which allowed me the opportunity to take some pictures of the local landscape blanketed with snow. I feel good about my progress and, during the last few weeks, I've been working on a new topic:  carousel horses.  I want to play with textures here, and I still have a long way to go before this painting is complete and I've captured the hard and reflective quality of the horses, the softness of the feathers and the diffuse nature of the background.  I'll post more about this painting as it's completed.  Meanwhile, I'm attempting to remember to keep as much "irregularity" in my work here as I can:  I am attempting to develop as much irregularity as I can in  the shapes, the values, the colors, and in the lines.  I'm using granulating paints, too, which will add to the irregularity of value and color.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Value Sketches: Plan Your Design

I'm posting three little value sketches here of a barn up the road from me.  I walked up there earlier today to draw, and from the one drawing, I've used Adobe Photoshop to play with the scene. I'm moving things around to see what picture conveys the drama I'm feeling today...first, I've included the sketch of the entire seen as I saw it.  In the second picture, I cropped the bottom of the sketch,  and focused on the large sky and mountains; and my third scene is a simplified close up of the barn alone.
Each sketch has a slightly different mood......and, I can paint this as either a snow scene, or a late fall scene.  I have all the information I need.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paint From Your Heart

This painting is titled "Snow Bound" and it's now on display at ArtSquare in Leesburg, VA for the December 2012 sale and exhibit.  This house is down the road from me, and near my rural home.  It's called the Hessian House, because Hessian soldiers camped here during the Revolutionary War.  I walk my dog past this house every day, and I'm mesmerized by the many angles, the deep shadows, the decay, and those gnarly trees.  There were obviously many additions made as new families came in and out and growing needs were met.  There's also something very mysterious about the home site.  I'm painting from my heart here....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snow and Sheep - Sheep and Snow

Here it is December, 2012, so I've been busy painting scenes of snow, the rural countryside, the mountains and....sheep.  I have some sheep living along my rural country road, and I cannot stop looking at them and sketching them.

I've been painting sheep in the snow.....I'm using 140 lb hot press and 140 lb cold pressed rough papers, which are not my usual surfaces, but I'm having a wonderful time experimenting with techniques and papers.  Here is a picture of "Sheep in the Snow."

I've also been busily making deliveries of cards, prints and paintings to many locations around Virginia, Maryland, and beyond. Check out these locations for work by Catherine Hillis:  The Arts Center in Orange, VA; The Delaplaine Visual Arts and Education Center; The Loft in Culpeper, VA; Everyday Elegance in Purcellville, VA; ArtSquare in Leesburg, VA;  and The Pennello Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio.

Friday, November 23, 2012

New Watercolor Classes Begin in January

I'll be teaching watercolor classes in a new location, beginning in January of 2013.  Please join me for Friday classes at the Round Hill Arts Center in Round Hill, VA.  The details are listed here:

Fridays, 12:00pm - 3:00pm, January 11 to February 15, $185, ages 18 & up

The Hill High Orchards Building
35246 Harry Byrd Highway, Route 7
Round Hill, VA   20142

Meanwhile, I'll still be teaching at these other locations during the week:

Thursdays, 10 am until 1 pm, ArtSquare, Leesburg, VA,

Saturdays, 1 pm until 4 pm, ArtSpace, Herndon, VA,

Friday, November 2, 2012

St. Andrews 2012 Show

It looks like  a nice weekend in the Washington, D.C. area, so - if you're out and about, come to the:

2012 St. Andrews Watercolor Show
St. Andrews Episcopal Church
4000 Lorcom Lane
Arlington, VA

Saturday, November 3, 3 - 7 pm
Sunday, November 4, Noon - 4 pm

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Final Painting for My Solo Exhibit

Here's the final piece for my solo exhibit, coming up on November 9, 2012 at ArtSquare in Leesburg, VA.
This painting is titled "Pedals to Petals."

I'm really happy with this piece.  I framed it today.  It's a big one, so it took me a long time to cut the mat just right and clean the glass and be sure that everything was correct.

Meanwhile, I'm scheduling classes for 2012.  Since I'm unable to tweak my website at the moment, I can tell you that I will be teaching in Leesburg's ArtSquare on Thursdays; I'll be at the Round Hill Arts Center on Fridays, and I'll be at ArtSpace in Herndon, VA on Saturdays during January and February of 2012.

Check with the arts centers for dates and times.  I'll continue to post updates on my blog.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Life: It's Just Tough

So, I found out that my webmaster, Don Trenary, passed away on Sunday, October 21, 2012.  I'm so sad for his family.  He leaves behind a wife, a son, and his elderly mother.  It was quite a shock to find out about this; Don was in his mid 50's.  I send my deepest sympathy to Don and his family.

Meanwhile, I'm having trouble logging on to my website to make needed changes.  This is bad.  I hope I can figure it all out!  Folks, if you have trouble with my website, or don't see updates, there's a reason!

My exhibit for ArtSquare is complete, and I'm in the midst of framing the paintings now.  This group of paintings is, so far, my very best.  It's the culmination of months of work, and weeks of frustration, when many paintings just were not turning out.  So, I hope that customers, friends and fellow artists will enjoy the show and understand that a lot of work happens before an exhibit like this is hung.

Thanks to Don for his help throughout the years, and thanks to my students for their constant encouragement.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"It's Always Somethin..."

Yup, somethings always coming up, isn't it?

I'm still struggling to get those paintings completed for my upcoming solo exhibit, at ArtSquare in Leesburg, VA, coming up in four weeks.  I need to finish up and begin measuring for frames and ordering them, so that my framer has time to do his job.  I stayed up late last night working, but today I rewarded myself with some outdoor painting on site with the Sketch Club.  The weather was perfect; the light was lovely.

Next Monday, I'm scheduled to serve on  Jury Duty. 

I guess it will all work out as it's meant to.

Here's another painting that will be in the exhibit.  "Little Yellow Bedroom"

Saturday, September 22, 2012

She Spreads Her Wings

Last weekend, I worked at an outdoor art fair in Leesburg, VA.  On Monday, I delivered art work to a large group show, and on Tuesday, I drove 100 miles to deliver to a new little shop that asked for some work.  I'm busy framing prints for a nearby decorator shop that carries my work and I've ordered more prints for that particular shop.  I packaged and shipped an order to a customer.  In between those tasks, I'm trying to foucs on painting for my upcoming solo exhibit, which opens in November.  Not everything is turning out as well as it could.  I'm destroying any sub standard work, and starting over again, just breathing and trying to remember that every minute spent painting will improve my skills and help me to keep moving forward.  I'm also doing paperwork throughout the week, trying to book 2014 workshops and shows, and helping to organize a group exhibit for the Ratner Museum, coming up in February.  I taught three classes this week, and since I'm teaching figures, there's lots of prep work for the classes.  Whenever possible, I close the door to my studio, turn the music up, breathe, and try to focus on my artwork.  I've completed two paintings this week, and started two more.

Here's one of the paintings completed this week:  "She Spreads Her Wings."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Plein Aire Painting

I think that last week's plein aire event in Herndon, VA will probably be my last for 2012.  Next year, I hope to clear my calendar during the spring and summer so that I can participate in more plein aire competitions across the country.  I love participating in competitions, and I usually meet lots of interesting  people and learn so much about the history of the different areas I travel to. 

This has been my second year of participation in plein aire competitions.  My goal this year was to:  paint faster and (perhaps) win an award.  I've won two Honorable Mention awards this year, and I've gotten my painting time down to a little over two hours.  Who knows, perhaps next year I'll consider myself ready to paint in some "Quick Draw" competitions.  I've been practicing for speed and accuracy all summer,  and I  feel I've met my personal goals.  I am (for once, I admit it) satisfied with my growth.

I completed two paintings on Friday and I finished a town scene on Saturday.  I felt very satisfied to have produced three pieces in two days.

"Lil' Caboose," won an Honorable Mention in the Herndon, VA Labor Day contest.  I like this little piece.  It's loose and I was able to put in just enough to depict this well loved scene in Herndon.  I completed this painting in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The painting of the little white store is a scene from Frying Pan Park, Herndon, VA, which was a new location for me. It took 2 hours and 30 minutes to paint it.  I was tired by the afternoon.  I want to thank Shirley for suggesting this location.  It's a wonderful place, with lots of broad, red barns, old houses,  a lovely Quaker church, outbuildings, all sorts of animals and loads and loads of history.  Frying Pan Park Farm is a depression era homestead and it's an interesting look at society during the 30's.

I hope you enjoy these paintings from my last 2012 Plein Aire competition. And, hopefully, there's more to come next year!

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Saturday, I'm planning to paint in the  Paint Herndon! plein aire competition.  Where, oh, where, will you find me?  I could be downtown on Friday night, painting jazz musicians....I could be in Frying Pan Park on Saturday, painting old barns and  historic architecture, or I could be painting the bike paths and the historic Herndon caboose. 

Meanwhile, I've just delivered my painting, "Minor Adjustments," to the Black Rock Arts Center in Germantown, MD, for the Baltimore Watercolor Society's annual Mid Atlantic Regional Exhibit.  This is always a grand exhibit, showcasing marvelous watercolor  technique.  I'm grateful and excited whenever I have a painting accepted into this show.  For information on the BWS exhibit, see the Baltimore Watercolor Society's website.  Here's the information on Paint Herndon!:

Paint Herndon 2012  -  Celebrate the Arts!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

12noon – 5pm Fun Outdoor Activities and Art on the Lawn

5pm – 6pm Reception and Awards Ceremony

Saturday of Labor Day Weekend at ArtSpace in Herndon, VA

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Defines a Professional Artist?

So, what constitutes a professional artist?  I’d like to open up a discussion on this topic.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

To me, a professional is someone who is attempting to make a living from what they do, and they file with all government entities to that purpose.  In other words, the artist is working as a “business,” and not as a hobbyist.  Of course, I’m not even considering the “quality” of the professional’s work.  I’m just saying….if you’re filing with the government as a business, then …. are you a professional?

What do you think?

Here’s a painting that I’m working on.  I have a solo exhibit coming up at ArtSquare in Leesburg, VA in November…..I’ll post little “tastes” of what I’m doing, but I’d like to respectfully invite you to come to the exhibit to see how my paintings turn out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Demonstrations in the Classroom!

I really enjoy demonstrating watercolor painting when I'm teaching. Students wait expectantly, the paint is ready, the drawing is on the easel and there's just a feeling of ... tension.... in the room and it climaxes into happy sighs and those "oohs" and "aahs" that the instructor hears when things go well.  Of course, the demos don't always turn into good paintings.  I, personally, enjoy the pressure of being "in the spotlight."  I guess that's the theatre major in me; I love to be on, and I truly enjoy the drama of watercolor painting:  I like it when the water meets the paper, and then, the paint meets the water, and truly wonderful things can happen.

Here's a nice little painting that began as a demonstration.  Actually, I started it on site and "en plein aire," but I completed it in the classroom and, I think it's a nice little painting.  This piece is:  "Tree and Shadows, High Summer."

This painting is for sale, as are other originals and prints.  Please contact me if you're interested in adding a Catherine Hillis painting to your art collection!  And, thank you, out there, to all the collectors and art afficianados that I run across in my everyday life.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Clouds, Beaches, Ferries and Other Delightful Diversions

Thank you to everyone at the Dare County Arts Council, in Manteo, NC, for helping make my solo exhibit successful.  The show looks really beautiful in your new space! Friday night's reception was busy, and it was great fun to hear the band and meet all our guests.

Since I was at the beach anyway, I took a few days of vacation.  The sky was amazingly beautiful.  I took many photographs of the sky and landscapes with sky and I can hardly wait to paint some clouds AND present some sky and cloud demonstrations in my classes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Florals: Hydrangeas Galore!

Painting has slowed down a bit, allowing me to sit on the porch an extra minute (or two) every day, enjoying the birdsong and my gardens.

Everything is in full bloom during this end of July:  hydrangeas of every color, black eyed Susan's, dianthus, liatris, gladiolas, shastas, clematis, cleome', and coreopsis. Just as lovely are the wide ranging greens in the garden this year.  One of my apples serves as a model in this painting.  In the vegetable garden are squash, zucchini, tomatoes, chard, beans, cucumbers and potatoes. 

I'm thoughtfully painting more slowly, trying to get the compositions right, in order to do these beauties justice.  I always try to sneak in one of my grandmother Helen's blue Mason jars from long ago, in homage to her, and women like her everywhere, who put in so many hours canning good foods for their families.

So, here's to women everywhere who work hard:  on the job, in the home, in their gardens and with their families.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gratitude: I Paint, I Teach, I Conquer!

Gratitude is still my guiding thought.  I certainly hope this gratefulness continues.....

It's summer, and I'm still painting "en plein aire," and trying to figure out how to handle queries from inquiring minds while I'm in the midst of painting....I know a few artists who are rude to passers by....but I cannot be rude to folks, because I believe I'm an emissary of , not only my own work, but, of artists in general, when I'm painting in public.  But, there must be some sort of sign I can construct for my easel to gently nudge folks, in a humorous way, to ask a few questions of me, and then move on. 

I particularly enjoy being left alone to paint on my days off, when I'm not working, and when I'm participating with plein aire clubs - for fun.  I teach so much, and I'm on the road making so many deliveries, that I need this time to paint for ME.  I'd like to be a  little bit selfish (once in a while), so that I can go to that peaceful mental space where I love to go (and I arrive there through painting), so that I can re -charge those batteries and be ready to give again in the next class, or at the next reception, or to my family, or friends, or so on...and so forth.

I've been updating my website today, and I've decided that I've had a heck of a good year.  I've won some awards, I've been juried into plein aire competitions, and been selected for quite a few national/international watercolor shows. I "get" to teach to sold out classes,  and I "get" to teach in Italy and other exotic locations around the world. I "get" to work in a field that I love.  I'm grateful.

I caught Lyme's Disease during a plein aire paintout in Pennsylvania last year and was pretty sick for several months (and for the beginning of 2012);  my husband had a detached retina while we were in Italy - but, he's completely recovered ;  I have family members that make life difficult....but, still, I just have a really full heart.

I'm grateful to be able to paint and make a little money off of it; I'm grateful to share my gift through teaching; I'm grateful to be accomplishing quite a lot;  the only thing that I might change this year is...the economy....I'd like to ask folks out there to help artists a painting.  Sales of work is a bit down.  My paintings are created because something inside of me compels me to paint them....I never understand why...and it always seems that just the right person is out there waiting for that particular's meant for's meant to bring them something good.  So, please, folks, get out there!   There might be a piece of artwork that is meant entirely for you and your edification.

Here's a picture of "Buzz on 5th Avenue," which is en route to the San Diego International Watermedia Exhibit.

And, I'm also including here a list of the national shows I've been accepted to this year.  It makes me feel really grand to have finally written it all down.
“My Perspective: The David” will be featured in the book SPLASH 14: Color and Light. The book is a collection of 100 top contemporary American watercolor paintings, and it’s released annually by North Light Publishing Company. The book comes out in June, 2013.
"Minor Adjustments" will be on exhibit at the Baltimore Watercolor Society's Mid-Atlantic Regional Show at Black Rock Arts Center, Germantown, MD, from September 16 (reception) - October 5, 2012.

"Buzz on 5th Avenue" was selected by juror Nicholas Simmons for the San Diego Watercolor Society's 32nd International Watercolor Exhibition at the SDWS Gallery in San Diego. The exhibit runs August - September, 2012.

"Burano Reflections" was selected by juror Carole Barnes for the September 14 - October 28, 2012 Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition at the Foothills Art Center, in Golden, CO.
Catherine was one of 30 artists selected to paint in the "Paint It, Ellicot" plein aire competition July 7 - 9, 2012.

"Round 'n Round" won an Award of Merit at the 2012 33rd Annual Virginia Watercolor Society jurored exhibition.

Catherine was one of 30 artists selected to paint in the June, 2012, "Mountain Maryland Plein Aire" event in Cumberland, MD. She was awarded an Honorable Mention by judge Stephen Dougherty for her painting "Off Route 40."

"Radda, en plein aire" was selected for exhibit for the “Il Chiostro: The Eyes Have It” exhibit at the 25CPW Gallery in NYC, from March 21 - end of April, 2012.

"Burano Reflections" was selected for the February, March, 2012 Rockies West National Exhibition in Grand Junction, CO.

"Morning in the City" was included in the Signature American Watercolor Show at the Fallbrook Arts Center in Fallbrook, CA, January of 2012.
Catherine Hillis has had paintings selected for the following regional and national exhibits/events:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paint It! Ellicott City, Maryland

July 5 - 9, 2012

The weather:  HOT

Ellicott City:  an APPROPRIATELY historic and desirable location

Juried Artists:  30

The temperature hovered around (and above) 100 degrees during the 2012 plein aire paint out in Ellicott City.

Working with the weather is always one of the primary factors in successful plein aire painting.  I viewed the weather forecast several times leading up to my date of departure.  The Washington D.C. area was stuck in an unusual heat wave of stifling temperatures and unhealthy air, and some households were still without electricity after an unusually violent derecho a week earlier. 

I decided that I'd work very early each morning and stay indoors during the hot afternoons for siesta, returning in the early evenings to work again.  This schedule worked well for me.  I woke up the first morning at 5 am, and light was breaking, so I ate breakfast, put on my sunblock and hat, and left for work.  This first painting of Ellicott City, MD was started at 6 am and completed by 10:30.  I sat right on Main Street and saw many of the artists as they arrived in town to paint.

I saw more unjuried artists during this event.  I guess the juried artists were staying out of the sun and in the shady nooks - which is a sign of experience.  Many of the unjuried artists had a habit of talking .... and talking......and talking.  I don't mind chatting, but it becomes difficult to concentrate and complete work when folks want to continue their conversations while perspiration is pouring down your back, your brain is heating up, and you'd rather nap than paint because of the extreme temperatures. 

Plein aire politeness rules  dictate that one can greet the artist, and make a comment or two - after that , though, remember...this artist is trying to complete a fine painting and is COMPETING for prizes.  Visitors, please respect the artist's space and concentration, and remember - this is their vocation, not their hobby.....thank you!

If you saw a surgeon working away on an appendix, how much chatting would you commit to...really???  The concentration required, and the final goals are fairly similar.  The artist is focusing on a complex set of circumstances and wants to leave with some well... constructed... handiwork.  Please keep this in mind.  I was particularly surprised at the lack of respect the unjuried artists demonstrated in the field.......experienced plein aire artists know not to linger and distract the working artist.

Heat always seems to bring out loquaciousness.  I can remember painting en plein aire is Rousillion, France, when it was 102 degrees and fellow tourists saw me painting, and  wanted to know where I was from....when they discovered I was an American, they insisted on beginning long discussions about George Bush, and how they hated him.......politics and heat...that was one difficult day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seriously Seeking Spiritual Food ... in Florence, Italy

Seriously Seeking Spiritual Food

June 20, 2012
My husband, John, was in a plane en route to America for emergency eye surgery.  It was 6:00 on Friday morning, and I was sitting in a cab in Florence, returning to my hotel from the airport,  preparing to teach 8 American women how to paint Italy in watercolors – eight lovely,  interesting women (each one with a story of their own),  who had spent a great deal of money to take a workshop and fly to Italy.  My heart was in one place; my body in another.

My anxiety level was through the roof; my husband and I have experienced enough drama in our lives during the past few years. This…. was too much.  Since the day I was conceived, my life has been one dramatic episode after another, and this latest jolt just exacerbated my feelings of belligerence and doubt towards the higher power.  What IS he or she thinking?  What kind of joke is this thing called my life to the omnipotent being?

How was I to find peace in this situation and prepare myself, body and soul, to teach these eight wonderful women, support my husband and still take care of myself in a good way?  In truth, my husband would be in the very capable hands of my adult son, David, and his surgeons, once he landed in Virginia.  My students had already assured me that they supported me.  I knew everything would be taken care of by the staff at San Fedele once we arrived.  So…..I decided to spend Friday trying to reconnect with the Omnipotent Being in the pursuit of personal peace.

I decided to spend the day getting lost in Florence, walking every step of it, and visiting every church I came across, so that I could light candles and pray for my husband’s recovery.  I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never lit a candle in a church before in my life…..but if ever there was a time for it, this was it!  I was in the process of “letting go….”  This was truly a situation where I had ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL.  Letting go and getting my head into a good place was absolutely necessary in order for me to perform the tasks ahead….

I guess there’s a church on every corner in Florence.  I walked just a few paces towards  the first church I saw, when….

a group of about 40 Italian men, all types, shapes and styles, in colorful regalia, spread themselves out along the steps and, following their wonderful conductor, burst into song.  I don’t know who this group was, but they appeared to be a professional men’s choir….and I enjoyed a free concert of Italian folk music and religious songs.  The masculine voices were…glorious.

After five songs, the men dispersed, seemingly to perform in their next location, and I entered the church to the sound of…..more music! 

There, in front of the altar, were a dozen nuns and priests, dressed in hooded white robes, chanting acapella.  It was beautiful …spiritual….strange…. and other worldly.  I sat there, spell bound by the intricate, woven patterns of monastic chant…..and there I remained for the entire service.

I was feeling very peaceful…and strange.  I left the chapel, and headed down the street, finding that I had walked in a giant circle around the city and there I was …. on the steps of the very church that I’d been in the day before, when John told me he needed to go to the hospital - immediately. 

I entered the church door and was jolted by a loud cacophony of full throttle, gloriously loud, fully loaded - organ music.  I was, once again, the recipient of a free concert, this time receiving the glory of Italian composers, performed in the woody tones of a centuries old cathedral sized organ.  It was marvelous.

At the end of this concert, I lit my final candle, feeling satiated and peaceful and ready to meet my challenges.  I could stop walking around Florence.  My head, and my heart, felt good.  I had made a sort of agreement with the omnipotent one. I would keep moving forward in this journey called life, and he/she would provide me with enough peace to continue….one…step….at…..a…..time.

I was seeking spiritual food and I found it, through three musical WORSHIP encounters.  I don’t know how or why these unexpected musical events happened, but I felt like they were planned just for me, and the music helped settle my head and spirit  and I found a little peace in Florence…..

Included in this blog are some photographs I took that day in Florence, Italy, June 8, 2012.  I hope this story brings YOU a little peace….

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Emergency in Italy....or, How We Spent Our Vacation

June 5, Tuesday evening: John and I have a truly memorable dinner at “Billy’s Trattoria,” at the top of the mountain in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy. We can see the Meditteranean twinkling below the beach and the town ….the sun is setting…the scene is magical….

June 6, Wednesday morning: We take two trains to Florence, and check into our hotel. John notes that he has something wrong with his right eye. He has a permanent blind spot in the other eye, so he’s concerned.

June 7, Thursday morning: John wakes up worrying about his vision, and by 10 am, he decides it’s an emergency and we go to see English General Practitioner, Dr. Stephen Kerr, who sends us to the Ocular Emergency Room near the university in Florence. The doctor doesn’t charge us for the visit, and tells us that Florence is a university town with wonderful teaching hospitals. He assures us that we’re in a good place for an emergency.

June 7, 10:30 am: We wait for five hours at the Ocular Emergency Room (an ocular hospital - what a fantastic idea!) to see the doctors. They are wonderful and do their best to explain things to us, but the language difference is definitely a problem. The diagnosis is a detached retina. We are told John should have the surgery on Saturday and he will have to stay in Italy for a minimum of one month, while he heals. We go into panic mode.

June 7, 4 pm until midnight: We return to our hotel and begin making frantic and long phone calls (what will the bill be?) to John’s American physicians and to American Express, to see if they can get John home quickly, within the next 24 hours. We’re now in a race against time, because it’s critical that John receives surgery as soon as possible in order to save his vision. Remember, he has a blind spot in the other eye, so he has no eyes left. I’m calling the company that’s hired me to teach to see what my options are to cancel the workshop or find a substitute instructor: my workshop begins in 36 hours. John needs surgery as soon as possible to save his sight. The American doctors aren’t returning our calls, so I finally get on the phone and discover the messages aren’t being passed along….thank God it’s six hours earlier in the US and we still have time. We finally get hold of John’s American ophthalmologist and he has a long discussion with her.

American Express helps us change John’s itinerary (it costs, folks), and he’s now slated to leave Italy the next morning at 6:30 am.

John’s ophthalmologist gives us the go ahead to fly John home to have his surgery; he does not want to stay in Italy. He tells me I must stay and do my work, while he heads for home.

I’ve contacted my son, David, in the US, to see if he can get from Philadelphia to Washington-Dulles airport. He’s on his way.

I’m in contact with the workshop company again; we decide it’s not possible to find a substitute at the last minute. I now plan to teach the workshop as contracted, and perhaps leave one or two days earlier than planned….

Friday, June 8, 4:00 am: John’s vision is greatly impaired. His left eye is useless, and now the right one is, too. I take him in a cab to the airport (22 euros each way) and we explain at the ticket counter that he’ll need a wheelchair and help at the transfer in Vienna, Austria. The flight leaves at 6:30 am.

Friday, June 8, 2:45 pm: John hasn’t slept since Wednesday night. His plane arrives in Washington, DC, from Florence, Italy; David picks him up, gets him on the “parking lot” bus at the airport, helps him find the car, drives and takes him straight to the doctor in Fairfax. The right eye has gotten much worse. John is having a lot of trouble seeing anything, except for large shapes. There’s been no sleep for either of us since Wednesday. The doctor in Fairfax cannot perform laser surgery, as we hoped for. John will have to have a more complicated surgery, and he’ll need to see a surgeon in Maryland….the next morning.

Friday, June 8, 7 pm: I receive a phone call telling me John will see a surgeon in Silver Spring, MD, early the next morning because they cannot do the surgery in Fairfax. John requires a more complex procedure. David and John finally return home around 8 pm and try to sleep; they must be in Maryland by 10:30 am the next morning.

Saturday, June 9, 10:30 am. The surgeon in Maryland agrees John must have surgery that day. He sends them on to Fair Oaks Hospital. Traffic is completely backed up on the beltway and they have to divert to the back roads, reaching the hospital by 2:30 pm.

The surgeon is late arriving, because he was backed up in traffic, too: John will be his third surgical patient on that day…..

Surgery doesn’t happen until 10 pm that night. Remember, John hasn’t slept since Wednesday, and has jet lag on top of that, and he hasn’t eaten all day because of the expected surgery! After surgery, he’s finally home by 2 am and must get up early again the next morning.

John must keep his head DOWN, parallel to the ground, for 75% of the time for the next week…..

Sunday, June 9, 8:00 am: No sleep again! John and David return to the doctor’s office in Fairfax for a post operative check. Everything looks good. Finally, they can sleep after they return home from the doctor’s visit. Elizabeth comes in that afternoon, and David trades the car with her at the airport and he leaves for Philadelphia, while Elizabeth drives to our home to care for her dad.

Meanwhile, I’m still in Italy. John has demanded that I stay behind and “do my job.” This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I didn’t sleep well, or relax, during the whole week. It’s too hard, thinking about someone you care about, suffering, when you cannot be with them.

I do my best to teach the workshop and perform in a professional manner. There’s not much cell phone service (I have to stand in one particular spot in a field), and I rarely have time to check internet…. and I can’t often receive a signal. Finally, after several days, I get my flight changed to an earlier departure…for thousands of dollars and after spending more than three hours on the phone with the folks at Travelocity (via India). Oh, well. I hope my travel insurance will cover this expense. I need to get home to help with John’s recuperation.

I must say that many folks in Italy went out of their way to be helpful to us: a tour guide sent us to the British Dr. Kerr, who saw my husband without charging us and sent us to the Ocular Emergency Room; kind Sylvia, at our hotel, bought us a 5 Euro phone card ( which had hours and hours of phone minutes on it) and refused payment for it; the cab driver who got us to the hospital; the wonderful doctors at the emergency room in Florence, who treated John and found an English speaking resident to explain things to us; the folks at San Fedele – at my workshop – who helped the entire week, reserving a train ticket for me, booking a hotel room in Venice, and, literally, putting me onto a bus for my long journey home; the wonderful, wonderful students, who were so concerned about me and wanted me to go home; and, to Michael, with Il’ Chiostro, who kept giving me big doses of “hugs,” which I really, really needed.

June 20, 2012: Today, John returned to work for the first time. His vision is beginning to return as the gas bubble is absorbed into his body. Fifteen days of patience, perseverance, positive thinking……..

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Antidote to Jet Lag

It’s , and I’m up after my return home from Italy, but my jet lag has been minimal.

The antidote to jet lag is:  have someone you care about have a medical emergency while you’re overseas and they’re flown back to the states for surgery and recuperation while you remain on site to fulfill a contractual obligation.

While I completed my work obligations during the day, at night, I paced my floor like a tiger, anxious to know what was happening at home.  I had limited internet time and connection and I could only receive Verizon’s phone signal at a specific spot in a field.

Now that I’m home, I’m so relieved and I’m finally sleeping.  I may be waking up, but I’m so glad to be where I need to be….home.  Physically, I feel very good.  Emotionally, there’s not much left.  It will take a while to evaluate all that has happened.

After my husband was diagnosed with a detached retina at the Ocular Hospital (a fantastic idea!) in Florence, he immediately decided he wanted to return home for treatment.  He demanded that I remain in Italy and “do my job.”  Of course, at that time, we both thought that he’d have laser surgery with a quick recovery.  We didn’t realize it could be weeks before his vision might return.

We were in Florence when all of this happened.  I had eight students, who paid around $5,000.00 pp for their flights and registration, waiting in Florence for pick up to our workshop in Tuscany.  Our American driver/host/interpreter had just flown over from the US; he was also waiting pickup in Florence. The staff at the hotel where we’d be going was ready to go.   I’d been in contact with my employer to see if they could find a substitute instructor.  Imagine how that works:  find an English speaking watercolor instructor to come to Tuscany at the very last minute.  Since finding a substitute teacher at the last minute seemed NOT to be possible, my employer and I finally resolved that I would teach until Thursday morning, getting in all of my lessons, and then I would  leave Thursday night, returning home 5 days earlier than I’d originally planned.

Here are some pictures from the trip:  the Tuscan landscape from the walls of Volterra; our classroom at San Fedele, a 1000 year old chapel; a window in Volterra AND the wonderful Roman ruins of the amphitheatre there, which was an amazing archaeological find; and, finally, Tuscan poppies.  My final paragraph is below these pictures.....

I did my best to provide an orderly,  professional atmosphere of learning to my students, but I do apologize that I was not in my best form during this 2012 workshop.  I hope each and every student learned a lot, was pleased with their work, had a wonderful time in a peaceful location,  and that they understand that I did my very best.  I thank everyone for their patience, compassion and understanding.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Italy 2012, and My Unexpected Visit With the Italian Health Care System

I taught my annual workshop for Il' Chiostro,  in San Fedele, Tuscany, Italy, June 8 - 15, 2012.  My husband, John, accompanied me the week preceding the workshop and we spent our first few days in my favorite place in Italy, the Cinque Terre, along the Meditteranean. 

We stayed in Manarola, but we spent a lot of time in Vernazza, which was flooded last year.  There's still a lot of damage in Vernazza, and there are construction workers everywhere.  We were astounded by the amount of destruction still apparent in Vernazza,  but many people are involved in reconstructing the village and re-opening it for the residents and the tourists.  Please go to Vernazza if you are in Italy and spend some money there to help this beautiful town.

Here are some pictures of Manarolo, where John and I stayed along the water.  We had our most memorable meal at "Billy's Trattoria" at the very top of the cliffs.... the most deliciously prepared fish, succulent, flaky, fresh and tender.

The day we were leaving Manarola for Florence, my husband began thinking he had a detached retina.  We took the train to Florence, and he rested overnight.  The next morning, we decided we had an emergency on our hands.  Thus began a sage of stress, waiting, long phone calls to the states and some life altering decision making.....

Friday, June 1, 2012

Imagine my surpise on Thursday morning, when I saw my picture on the front page of the Cumberland Times News, painting away on an urban scene of Cumberland, MD.  I had spoken to a lovely reporter/photographer the day before.  What an honor to be representing (pictorially speaking) artists who are working so hard in the 2012 Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Competition.  I had a lot of fun painting in the event and my main problem was that there was SO much to paint.  If you're interested in entering Mountain Maryland, your painting opportunities include both Garrett and Allegany Counties.

Tip for the day:  Think before you paint.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Competition May 30 & 31, 2012

During my first day painting in the Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Event, I decided to paint on Washington Street, up on a hill looking down at the town, the railroad tracks, the historic buildings, the local newspaper office, and the churches.    The weather was perfect, although a little hot, and I stayed out all day working.  The painting of the town "Washington Street," turned out very well, I think.

After finishing the urban scene, I decided to switch to a rural situation and I found a gorgeous little red barn along 220 South.  The barn had some lovely swinging lines, but my favorite thing about the scene had to be the little holes in the planks where you can see through to the other side.  Light was popping through those cracks, and I just had to paint it.

While I was in Cumberland, I was interviewed by a photographer and...I woke up this morning to my picture on the front page of the Cumberland Times-News.  What fun plein aire painting is!

I discovered that there's a lot to paint in Allegany and Garrett Counties.  I could work for several years before I'd feel satiated.

Tip for the day:  Be sure to set yourself up for comfort when you decide where to paint.  Find shade, bring food and water, and set up where you can easily find bathroom facilities or anything else you might need.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Event

Catch me this week painting in a plein aire competition called "Mountain Maryland Plein Aire," in Cumberland, MD.

Here's a plein aire tip:  I'll be walking through the streets of Cumberland first, taking pictures, smelling the breezes, and talking with people, to find scenes that I think will capture the spirit of this historic town.  Walking around and taking time to think (who does that anymore?) is the very first thing you might want to do before deciding what location you'll paint from.

Who knows where you might find me?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Congratulations to my daughter, Elizabeth, on her graduation from Smith College on May 20, 2012.
I'm so proud of you, Elizabeth, and I wish you great success in the future.  The video above is Jane Lynch's commencement speech: funny and witty and on the power of saying "Yes, and...".


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Painting in Italy

So much to do, so much to prepare for, and lots on my mind as I prepare to head for Italy and teach a workshop to a group of really wonderful painters, who happen to be wonderful people, too.

I'll soon be teaching in Tuscany, Italy, and I'm currently researching some of the towns we might see and paint in.  It's great to have a variety of locations:  colorful markets, wineries, mountainous towns and little villages.  I'm coming to the end of my usually scheduled weekly classes, exhibits and plein aire competitions and publication contests, so that I can focus on this plein aire adventure.

I'll be participating in a plein aire competition just before I leave for Europe.  While it's extra pressure to compete just before leaving the country, it's also good practice and will hep me to keep my skills honed, fast and ready to go.

So, for you plein aire painters out there, I think practice is about the best way to prepare for painting outdoors.  Just like any other skill, the more you work, the better you become.  Learning to select a location that will translate into a beautiful painting is, of course, the first thing on the agenda when the artist is outdoors.  After that, drawing a nice thumbnail sketch is a must; why waste good paper?  By designing your thoughts carefully in a sketch pad, you can instantly discern whether the composition you have in mind will work.

So, happy painting.  A.lot of art and observation everything else...practice.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I was so excited to go to New York City a few weeks ago.  I saw the American Watercolor Society show and I took hundreds of photographs.  I'm also using Adobe Photoshop to make changes to my pictures before I paint from them.

Here's my latest painting, based on photographic references from New York.
The iris have been in bloom for the past several weeks. Now that they're fading, I'm working fast to try and capture these beauties in watercolor paint.  I think that a series of iris botanicals will make nice prints..everyone likes the iris. 

I have just two weeks before I participate in the "Plein Aire Mountain Maryland" competition in Cumberland, MD.  I LOVE competition:  I welcome it and thrive in this sort of environment.  Deadlines and pressure are two things I understand and enjoy.  The judge for the Cumberland event is Steven Dougherty, who was once editor of American Artist Magazine and he selected my work for publication in 2006.  I'm so pleased that he's selected me for this plein aire competition. I hope to do well.  I only began competing in plein aire events last year, although I've been competing in watercolor competitions for decades.  This is different.  Plein aire takes quick thinking, drawing, designing and painting. 

So, I'll paint iris for a few more days, but I'm going outdoors to practice every chance I get.

Tip for the day:  "Don't let reality ruin a good painting."  My weekly classes have been focusing on this theory.  It's quite amazing to see how many times an artist will dislike their work because it doesn't look exactly like their photograph, or they're unable to let go and let the watercolor paint move and flex like the fluid matter it is.  So, forget about details and making everything "look like the picture."  If you allow the paint to work, you may be in for some fortunate surprises.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Today, I finally got out there and started painting en plein aire again, and I plan to go out again this weekend.  Since I had Lyme's Disease last September, it's been a bit worrisome to go out.  But, it's no good to be fearful.  This is what I'm meant to do, so I'll be staying out of weeds, wearing insect repellant,  and staying on sidewalks.  I've happy to announce that I've been accepted into the Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Event, which takes place in Cumberland, MD, the end of May. Come and see me work!

And, here's the website for the Virginia State Show.  I'm so honored to have won an Award of Merit.  Here's the show:

My solo exhibit opens at the Delaplaine Visual Arts and Education Center in Frederick, MD, with a reception on Saturday, May 6, 2012, from 3 until 5 pm.

Now, back to work.  I'm painting a series of Italian scenes and here's a picture for your enjoyment...."From the Top, Florence."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Virginia Watercolor Society Award April 2012

My favorite watercolor teacher from long ago, Judy Wengrovitz, called to tell me I'd won a cash award at the state show awards dinner last Saturday! How exciting, and what an honor to be one of my state's winners.

Also, I'm one of 29 artists selected to paint"en plein aire," in the Mountain Maryland Plein Aire Event in late May in the Cumberland, MD area. I have not participated in this event before; I look forward to it.

I'm currently working on a series of "From the Top" paintings of Italy. All of these works have strong dramatic lighting and are landscapes with a different perspective. Here's an early look at "Minor Adjustments;" a landscape of the Cinque Terre region in Italy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SPLASH 14 and Vienna Arts Society Exhibit

Thank you, Vienna Arts Society, for honoring me and asking me to judge your beautiful show "Art in Bloom." The winners have now been selected and I just want the members in Vienna to know: Great Work! It's an honor to view your paintings, but it's difficult to know I cannot give everyone a ribbon. I hope that the folks in your community will come by the gallery in great crowds and see what wonderful talent they're privy to. I'm looking forward to presenting a workshop at the VAS this spring.

On another note, I opened my email tonite to find that my painting "My Viewpoint" has been selected for the book, SPLASH 14, to be published in 2013. This is my second time to be included in the book in three years and I am overjoyed, honored and so happy to be recognized for my hard work.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Artist's Reception at The Bridge Gallery, Shepherdstown, WV

Please come to the reception for my solo exhibit, from 5:30 until 7:30, at The Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown, WV, this Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Shepherdstown is a quaint little village, nestled in the foothills of the mountains just above Harpers Ferry. There are many shops with unique gifts, fine dining, and, of course, my solo exhibit which is featuring my newest work.....I'll be there, and I'd love to speak with you. I've been exploring how to build light, by layering watercolor paint in every way possible: glazing, pouring, atomizing..... I use whatever tecniques I can to accomplish my purpose.