Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rowan-- My Gentle Boy

As I mentioned in my last post, Rowan often seems more human than dog. His gaze is both intense and soft at the same time and holds much wisdom.

Rowan knows me so well and can always seem to tell when something is amiss with me. He alerts me to when my blood sugar drops before I realize it; he'll sit nearby and snort at me to get my attention. If that doesn't work he'll bark at me until I respond.

I'm not always sure what Rowan is trying to tell me, but I ask him questions and he "answers" me in a way he's figured out to communicate with me. First I usually ask if he wants to go out. If yes, he perks up his ears and trots to the door. If no, he turns his head aside or crouches low. Then I ask if Petra wants to go out, since he'll often let me know (since she doesn't usually let me know and just crosses her legs). If yes, he perks his ears up and take a few steps toward the door, then stops when she runs past him. If no, he'll avert his head.

Next I ask if he needs water. If yes, he perks up his ears and trots to the dish. If no, he averts his head. Then I ask if I need to eat. If yes, he trots to the kitchen and lies down as soon as I start to get myself some food. He is such an awesome dog!

If I'm asleep when my blood sugar drops, he'll jump up and paw and sniff me to wake me up (normally I can't get him to jump up to put his paws on the bed). Sometimes I'm so sleepy I ignore him; at those times he gives me a minute, then comes back more strongly, insisting I get up. As soon as I get up and head for food, he curls up and goes back to sleep. Such a fabulous dog!

Even more than all of that, though, what I love about Rowan is how connected we are. He loves to be with me; I love to be with him. He doesn't ask for a lot of attention and he almost never pushes for affection when the other dogs are around, but I know I'm always in his awareness. All I have to do is quietly say, "Rowan, I need you," and he comes running. I love this dog so much!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Painting the bond

I've been home for over a month now recovering from bronchitis (almost better now), and my dogs have been my constant companions, rarely leaving my side, following me from room to room, warming my lap, making me smile and laugh.

Milo dances gleefully, wags his tail wildly, and bobs his head with unmitigated joy. Petra slips up silently to gently rest her muzzle on my leg, then gazes up with such loving eyes she instantly melts me and any concerns on my mind. Rowan's been watching me, clearly concerned that I haven't been my normal healthy self, and I often look up to see him staring at me from across the room. I do wonder what's going through his mind; he often seems more human than dog.

While I've been enjoying my dogs so much, I've been painting dogs, both mine and others. In each painting I try to capture something of the essence of the bond that dog has with someone. The person might not be in the painting, but hopefully they are inferred by the look in the dog's eyes, by the happy doggy smile, or by the intense focus as the dog is obviously giving his or her attention to someone. Our dogs are in so many ways an integral part of our lives, and we are also an integral part of their lives. Each of us needs the other in the unique and special connection we have.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Musings and Doodlings While Sick with Swine Flu

Well, this really is a nasty bug, and it has knocked me down for a spell. I'm on the mend now, though, and getting up for brief periods of mild activity in the house in between rest times on the couch. I've canceled nearly everything on my calendar and I'm focusing on getting a few things done that I can do quietly at home. I've also had lots of time to read, which is always a treat.

I'm taking an online artist journaling class, which has especially been a boon while I've been under the weather. The class is fun, inspiring, and freeing. Cathy Johnson, the instructor, is very encouraging and inspiring. She opens the door to possibility, something that is so important to art, and she's showing us how to use journaling to explore possibilities, ideas, and daily life. My journal is becoming a place to record memories, to explore ideas and thoughts, and to hone my skills, all without pressure. A pretty ideal companion for an artist, and one that makes what could otherwise be humdrum hours and days full of interest.

Here are some of the pages I've done in the past few days:

Despite being sick, I also got a bunch of paintings together for two exhibits that both opened last Saturday. One is at White Birch Fine Art Gallery in NH and is an exhibit of just ACEO's (Artist Cards, Editions and Originals. ACEO's are little paintings that are always 2.3 by 3.5 inches and can be any medium.

I painted some as ACEO's and others I cut from larger paintings. I loved doing these and hope to do many more. I've always tended to paint small, and it's thrilling for me to find there's a place for small art works. These are the ACEO's I sent in:

I also have two paintings and a pen & ink drawing in the Holiday Boutique at Duck Pond Gallery. I didn't think I'd be able to get them there, but a friend drove an hour each way to pick them up and deliver them for me. Thank you! I'm excited about exhibiting in this gallery because I'm also going to have my first solo exhibition there sometime in 2011.

It's very encouraging to me to have these paintings in exhibitions and has certainly lifted my spirits while I haven't been feeling well. It also gets me thinking and planning for more paintings that I want to do. One of the things I love about painting is the freedom to do what I want with it. I can dream and pursue my dreams. If they work out the way I like, that's great. If not, it's just paper.

A side benefit of this flu has been the ways I've been reminded of how many people really care about me. People have written encouraging notes, prayed for me, offered to help in many ways, called to cheer me up and make me laugh, brought me soup (delicious soup!), and generally been wonderful. Stephen has been great; driving me to the doctor, making tea, keeping a cheerful, crackling fire going in the fireplace, and so much more. I truly am blessed with wonderful friends and family.

I've had plenty of quiet time to reflect in the past two weeks, and I have to say, I love my life as a wife, mother, friend, dog trainer, writer, and artist. There is nothing I would rather be doing than living the life I now live.

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn Colors

My eyes feast on the bright colors of Fall, and I like to get out and paint them as often as possible. In winter I often meander through my fall paintings, remembering the day and the feeling when I did each, bringing back the fresh outlook and exuberant energy of this season.

Jennifer and I went to Vermont a couple of weeks ago and painted the gorgeous colors in the mountains and the freshly snowed upon peaks. In fact, when we first set out to paint and sat down in a dirt road, the mountains were clothed in fall colors. Within minutes we watched snow start to fall on the more distant peaks, and as we painted, the snow line moved closer. Finally it snowed and then sleeted on us, at which point we gathered our paints and headed for a coffee shop for hot drinks and warm bowls of soup.

That afternoon, in the warmth of our room, I painted another version of the morning's view, using my morning painting as a reference.

In the evening I painted the view from our hotel room-- silhouetted trees and mountains and dark reflections in a small pond.

The next morning we headed out to paint again, and since the temperature was in the low 30's and it was windy, we painted from the relative warmth of the car.

We wrapped up our painting time by giving ourselves ten minutes to paint the same view.

Back in New York, I took Milo out tracking on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and while the track was aging, I painted the view across the parking lot from the car.

Most of the leaves are down now, but the maple by our stream still has its leaves, and in this afternoon's sun, the color is stunning. Steve and I set up lawn chairs outside, and he read to me and we chatted while I painted the tree. It reminded me a bit of the Fall of 1981 when we were first dating and spent delightful hours outside walking and enjoying the crisp air and colors of Ithaca. A bit of Autumn color and memory to nourish my soul in the winter months ahead.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Night Scenes

There's something magical about being outside at night, and I often step out for a minute or two before I head to bed. One of the things I love about the shorter days of winter is walking in the dark, either in the morning or evening. I feel hidden, and since I walk without a flashlight, I can see without being seen if there are other people out and about.

I also love the night sky and could gaze for hours. Trees silhouetted against the brightness of the moon or the depth of a dark sky; moonlight casting strong shadows at times or bathing all in a soft glow at other times. Constellations telling a story for all to see.

When the moon is full I think about how people all around the world are stopping to look, ponder, and marvel. As I gaze, I'm filled with wonder at God's creation and I feel a connection with people who have paused to appreciate it throughout time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Last weekend I was in Colorado for a dog trainers' seminar--- a fabulous time of listening, watching, thinking, processing and networking. I can already see differences in how I handle client dogs and what kind of response I get from them. An excellent seminar!

Here are some of my "notes" from the demos:

Being in a group of people, no matter how nice they are and how fun the time, always wears me out, and painting is a wonderful stress reducer for me. In the evenings and after the seminar was over I spent time painting, sometimes in my room and sometimes outside looking at the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in the distance. I love the colors of Colorado and am eager to go back and spend more time absorbing the beauty and painting it as best I can to bring home memories in my sketchbook.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Plein Air Watercolors

I've been doing plein air watercolor sketches recently; the weather is perfect for being outside, and I love to have a visual record of the sights and colors. Often, looking at my sketches takes me right back to the time I painted them, reminding me of dinner on the river with Stephen, or a pleasant stop along the Taconic Parkway, or a day painting by a pond with a friend.

Here are a couple of sketches of a pond in Goffstown, New Hampshire. A friend and I spent much of last Wednesday painting there, chatting with each other and with the boaters who came and went.

On my way home from New Hampshire, I stopped at a parking area on the Taconic Parkway where there's a view of the Catskills. It was a clear day and the mountains stood out wonderfully in the distance.

Stephen and I like to eat at Mariner's on the Hudson, where we sit on the dock and look out over the Hudson River. I paint the view or Steve tosses bread to the ducks, Canada Geese, and huge carp so that I can paint them. A couple of weeks ago we saw an eel there for the first time. It was about a foot long, and it kept swimming into the carps' mouths so that it's first four or five inches were all the way inside the carps' mouths. That was kind of weird to watch.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lap Time

Bituminous nestles in my lap, furry head in the crook of my elbow, his green eyes gazing unblinkingly at me for a minute or two, then closing in trusting sleep. I gaze back, trying to absorb a lifetime's worth of the joy and love I receive from Bituminous, and attempting not to dwell on his increasing age and poor health.

I don't really know how to describe what this cat does for me, but somehow he calms me deep inside, reminds me of some of the basics of my faith (trust lived out in practical, real-life actions), and fills me with a warm, happy feeling.

I try to read my book, normally gripping and hard to set aside, but when Bituminous opens his eyes every few minutes I have to put the book aside and look in my cat's eyes. He's deaf and doesn't understand much English; I'm human and don't speak Cat, but we both speak the language of connection, and whenever those eyes open, we engage in rich communion.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Morning Track

A Morning Track


the field stretches on and on,

grass blades arcing gracefully

tipped by clear crystal drops.

A breeze brushes my face,

the sun warms my back,

bird song fills the air.

I pause, I breathe, I am…

I scan the distant trees,

searching for two points

to etch a line

in my mind and through the field.

Walking that line, I absorb

the rustling of rodents,

the silk of spider’s web,

the damp of dew.

I walk, I look, I enjoy…

Later, Milo leading,

we retrace my steps,

following the green path

through the dewy field.

Milo pauses, sniffs,

moves ahead with vigor,

excited to find the scent

and lead me along.

He stops, looks back,

a grin on his face,

a glove at his feet.

We have finished the track.

I smile, I laugh, I rejoice!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sketchbook Fun

I generally paint without doing any preliminary drawing or sketching on my watercolor paper, but I tend to do lots of doodling and sketching at other times, sometimes in a sketchbook, sometimes on whatever paper is at hand. This sketching helps me learn proportions, but even more, it gives me a feel for my subjects, so that I feel like I know them before I try painting them.

Here’s a page from my sketchbook from the last time Stephen and I ate out at our favorite restaurant, Mariner’s on the Hudson. Steve tosses bread in the water so that the ducks, geese, and fish come close for me to sketch or paint them.

Here are some sketches of a Rottie mix I did while chatting on the phone. I later did a watercolor of this dog. Sometimes I sketch with pencil, sometimes ball point pen and occasionally with Japanese ink brushes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lost Gosling Adoption

I answered the door to see Emilio, one of the young neighbor boys, with his parents and two brothers close behind. Joe, the father, was carrying something wrapped in a jacket. Emilio excitedly blurted out that they had a baby goose that their cat had separated from his family.

Did I know what to do with it? I didn't really know, but I offered to take the gosling and see if I could find his family wandering around.

Unfortunately the family had disappeared, so I took the gosling to a pond where I thought there might be geese. Sure enough, there was a family of Canada Geese at Rockingham Pond with goslings the same size as our lost gosling.
I carried the gosling in a box toward the goose family, stopping when they started to walk away. Then I let the baby out. He took one look at the goose family in the distance and started toward them.

The family stopped walking away and turned to wait for the gosling to come to them.

The young goslings weren't so sure about the newcomer, but the parents seemed content to have him join their family.

The young'uns quickly accepted the newcomer, and he joined their ranks.

The family turned and left together.

The lost gosling had a new family.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Watercolour painting everyday

Training a shaggy Beardie

Daily walks in the gorgeous countryside

An adorable thatched cottage

Pub meals

Huge breakfasts

Delicious cheeses

Wonderful dinners


Visiting with old friends and meeting new friends

Seeing the Mall Gallery's Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition

Double-decker buses

Talking to all hours

Laughing at all hours

A magical, wonder-filled, inspiring visit

I can’t even begin to describe the wonder of this time in England. I had high hopes for this week, and it far exceeded my hopes and dreams.

Some of my greatest passions are dog training, art, teaching, and learning, and this week was built around and permeated with all of those. It was a new situation for me to be sharing talents as Jean and I did, with her teaching me her magical way of using watercolour and me training her and Bailey, who are both apt and quick students. Teaching and learning woven together throughout every day, as even our tea breaks were filled with discussion and discovery of the similarities in how we each approach our teaching, even using almost identical metaphors to explain and encourage the learning process.

Here is a sampling of my washes, experiments, and paintings as we progressed through the week, generally following a plan Jean had for helping me learn and grow and loosen up as an artist. Her plan worked, and I am thrilled every time I pick up a paintbrush and look at a white piece of paper.

Quail eggs—the first thing we painted together. I tried to splatter the eggs with a toothbrush and ended up splattering everything BUT the eggs.

Cowslip Washes—not attempting to paint the cowslips but rather just get the feel and color --painting flowers CAN be exciting!

Snowdrops—how to get the whiteness of the snowdrop along with the cold feeling of early spring

Resting Beardie

Happy Wash—a flow of colour to capture movement and light



(reference photos-- Duck, Sheep, & Beardie by Jean Haines)

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