Monday, January 31, 2011

Vacation in Crystal River

Crystal River Lagoon, watercolor, 10" x 5."

I never had a chance to post a single thing during our vacation--there was no internet connection at our rental house, and a few days later our laptop screen failed, so I am just catching up now with these postings from our vacation in Crystal River in Florida.

Herb and I drove off on the morning of Friday January the 14th and made good time on the road, but we didn't make it to Amelia Island where we had hoped to spend the night with friends. We had dinner in Savannah at a nice restaurant--the Sapphire Grill, and then found a hotel on the outskirts of the city off I-95. The next morning was pleasant--the frost that formed on the car overnight began to melt at about the time we got back on the road. The temperature rose to the 50's as we continued south.

We skipped lunch but stopped just outside Gainesville at a colorful fruit stand and bought some yummy-looking pomelos and Honeybell oranges to take to our rental house. We arrived in Crystal River in the late afternoon and managed to open the lock box as instructed, unloaded the car and went back out to find some groceries before settling in.

The house was not quite what I had expected--the view of the lagoon was wonderful but there were many houses around it, that illusion of wilderness I had hoped for was lacking. There was no back yard to speak of, only a somewhat deteriorated dock about 8' wide which faced north and got no sun at this time of the year. I had hoped to have a sunny spot where I could sit outside to paint, but since it was quite chilly at the time, that didn't seem very likely--maybe in a few days if it warmed up.

Spanish Moss, watercolor, 10" x 6."

The next morning I settled for painting from inside looking out the windows (it was really cold and windy). The first one is a small watercolor sketch of the view across the lagoon focusing on tiny section that looks wild. In the afternoon I tried another one, this time of the Spanish moss on the live oaks in front of the house. As the sun was going down I started to be tormented by no-see-ums or some other biting insect and realized I had forgotten to bring insect repellent, so I had to rush through this one to finish it. Anyway, here they are, for what they're worth.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recycling Your Art

Recycling old paintings

When inspiration flags during the post-holiday blahs, a good chore to undertake is recycling old paintings. I gathered up all those old paintings that weren't too successful to begin with, and sanded them with rough sandpaper to smooth down any built-up paint. I then gave 'em two coats of acrylic gesso and presto! New panels for new paintings.

I'm really looking forward to our vacation in Florida. We'll start the drive down next Friday morning, spend one night on the road, to arrive in Crystal River the next afternoon. I am hoping the weather will be nice and allow for plenty of outdoor painting for those two weeks. One feels so cooped up in the winter in northern latitudes, even in mild areas like our Mid-Atlantic, tempered by the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. A short mid-winter respite in warm weather can help one revive.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Look for a New Year

On a New Year's Eve walk with my friends.

I've never liked those end-of-the-year/new-year's lists; in fact, I find them unutterably depressing! To most of us over a certain age, the turning of the year ends up being just another day we struggle to make memorable just because it IS a New Year, and after all, we need some milestones to mark the passage of time.

We start off each January full of hope and resolutions which gradually lose momentum until they are tossed aside with a twinge of guilt--the flesh is weak, we rationalize, or the time wasn't right--somehow nature conspired against the change. If we're lucky, on rare years, we manage to keep one or two of those resolutions that end up changing our lives irrevocably, and look back at those with wonder and gratitude.

The past year has been an eventful one, though not always in the ways one had envisioned--rightly so--what would life be without some surprises? Sometimes one small change starts a chain reaction that sets a number of things in motion, like a loose stone setting off an avalanche. A car accident in September forced me to replace my twelve-year old car with a newer one, which in turn encouraged me to replace my ancient cell phone; the breaking down of an old TV prodded us into upgrading to a new flat-screen and Blu-Ray. A new job offer much closer to home was a daunting but welcome change in the last three weeks of the year. I'll miss having my Fridays off, as well as the week between Christmas and New Year's, but it's still a good trade-off for the 75-mile-a-day commute.

To ring out the old year, yesterday I went down to southern Maryland to visit my friends in Accokeek. I'd hoped that perhaps it might be possible to paint outdoors, since the temperature has been rising to the mid-forties in the past few days. I really wanted a new painting to post. But the wan winter sun was not warm enough for comfort, so instead we settled for taking a walk along the Potomac River by Colonial Farm.

The ice was still fairly solid over the beaver pond along the road, and there were big chunks at the river's edge. The grasses in the swamp below the boardwalk were studded with lovely pools of snow and ice. Watching the ice floes in the middle of the river floating upstream lent the scene a surreal air--it took a few seconds to realize the effect was caused by the incoming tide. Mount Vernon was clearly visible on the opposite bank. Walking back toward the farm, it was feeding time for the animals. Colonial Farm raises what they call heirloom breeds, and I managed to take a couple of shots of their enormous Red Devon bull and one of the Ossabaw pigs before my camera battery ran down.

I learn a lot from my friends (and try to share what I know). Back at the house we talked about our art projects, blogs, photos and plans while enjoying some wine by the fire, and I realized I had never made use of Flickr to share photos with friends or readers of my blog. So today, to follow my resolution to try to become more tech-savvy and better integrate all the tech toys at our disposal, I have uploaded my photos from our walk onto Flickr in this set: New Year's Eve Walk. While I was at it, I gave the Maza Studio blog a new look for the new year. Hope you like them both. Your comments would be appreciated--please feel free.

Happy New Year!