Sunday, January 27, 2008


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Muse: A force personified; inspiration to an artist.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lavender Shadows


I'm not much of a gardener, but I'm trying. Lavender is one of my favourites, for the colour, smell and appearance. My friend Sue had a fantastically prolific lavender plant in her garden in Wales, and it looked like a huge crazy afro. Mine are just tiddlers, and I don't know whether they'll survive a winter indoors, but it's got to be better than being buried under 4 feet of Tahoe snow!

One of the coolest things about our house, which I've mentioned before, is the light. In fact, it was the light in the main room (courtesy of 15ft triangular windows) which prompted a rather desperate, undignified outburst when we looked at the place. ("we HAVE to live here!!!! Taylor, please say we can!!) I've done some other larger paintings of these glorious shafts of light, which I'll put on my website very soon. The long shadows which pan around the main living space all day are amazing. I've never lived anywhere like this before, there are just paintings waiting to be done of every corner and every time of day here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

French Press & Biscotti

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Ah, Italy....Coffee and biscotti.. reminds me of climbing trips to the Italian Riviera with my friend Sue a few years ago. The majority of my foreign travel over the years has been ostensibly climbing related, but I always carry my sketchbook and camera. Sue and I used to go to Finale Ligure, and climb great rock, drink great wine, eat great food and drink the best coffee in the world. I had pillar-box red hair at that time - it's been almost every colour, including bright pink (which it was when I met my husband, but he still liked me anyway) Anyway, I'm sure us freaky coiffed, foul mouthed, drunken Brits weren't exactly model tourists, but we had a great time, and I painted a lot from the sketches and pictures I took. Here's a couple:

Italian Paintings and Sketches

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cup & Saucer

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I bought some new brushes a couple of days ago, and it's made a huge difference! I love the marks they make, and no stray bristles means more precision - strange then, that my brushwork feels so much looser in today's and yesterday's paintings. I think it's something to do with confidence, these two feel like the practically painted themselves. I also gleaned a cool tip from Brendy Vaughan's blog via Carole Marine, a couple of favourite painting blogs of mine - use the Munsell Colour Wheel. This has opened up more ideas about my use of colour, which in the past has been fairly limited, as a worked almost exclusively in black and white for many years. It's hard not to go a bit mad for colours and use all my favourite ones all the time, or just be a bit dull and obvious, and use 'natural' colours for everything. This will take some practice, but I've got every day....

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Little Teapot

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Yes, yet again more of my favorite beverage paraphernalia...

Work in progress..

This is the full version of 'Amish Schoolhouse at Dusk' in progress. Measuring 50x20", it's quite a jump up from the 6x4" study!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Amish Schoolhouse at Dusk

This is a study for a large piece I'm working on. I love the quality of the light here, and the starkness of the school, kids and trees silhouetted against the fading light. I'll post some progress pictures of the large one tomorrow.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Amish Blue/Green

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I've been told that the original reason for the Amish painting their doors blue was to 'advertise' the fact that the daughter of the house was available for marriage. I'm not sure that's true any more, since all the houses we saw had blue doors...or maybe there were a lot of single girls around? Anyway, I love that colour, and I've had an epic today trying to get it right. Turns out it's actually Thalo green (blue shade) mixed with white, which I had to drive 20 miles mid-painting to find. I don't think the photo does it justice, the original is a lot more luminous - but the camera just wouldn't capture it perfectly. I'm going to try again tomorrow in the natural morning light.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Red Gloves & Ice Box

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This Amish lad was on his way home from school, carrying his lunchbox - an icebox from Walmart. The megastore is actually a really common place to see Amish people, and I'm not sure how that fits in with the whole 'shunning of modern life' ideology. Anyway, it makes for a bizarre vision of culture clashes seeing kids wandering around the ultra modern brightly lit store wearing big hats. home-made clothes and massive wellies. I have a hard time not gawking, as I'm sure many outsiders do. I want to be respectful, but at the same time I'm so curious and drawn to them - as an artist the uniqueness of the situation is tantalisingly inspiring.

I have a book called 'Among the Amish' by the Welsh artist Kieth Bowen, and it's amazing. He spent a few summers working with an Amish community and they allowed him to paint them in their most intimate lives. I'd like to try that sometime - but our visits to the East coast are so brief....maybe one day.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tahoe Quarterly Magazine

Thankyou Tahoe Quarterly for writing an article about me in your current Winter Edition!

Horsing around

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Work is a big part of the Amish lifestyle, since the conveniences of modern life are shunned, everything has to be done by hand. From a young age, Amish children work the fields, help build houses, sew, cook and repair. It's hard to imagine kids in our urban society being willing to roll up their sleeves and muck in at 3am when the cows need milking. It was inspiring then, to see that the kids still have that youthful playfulness, so innocent and energetic - it seems we grow up too fast in a world where everything is so easily available to us through the internet, TV, and 'virtual' games where we don't even have to stand up to pretend we're shooting a gun, or riding a skateboard, or dancing, or playing a guitar. What happened to making your own fun?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Amish Boy with Sled

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I thought this little boy was the sweetest I've ever seen, with his blonde hair sticking out from under his black hat, and his big wellies clunking through the snow.I'm not sure where he was intending to use his sled though - Pennsylvania is pretty flat!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Amish Children

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This little oil study is inspired by my recent trip to Pennsylvania to visit my husband's family over Christmas. There is a large Amish community there, so you see them a lot. The Amish people shun most of the conveniences of modern life such as electricity and cars, and they also shun any form of vanity such as photographs, believing that pride is a sin which should be avoided - even family pride. This is why I have given them blank faces. From an artistic point of view this actually emphasises the body language, and I was intrigued by the visual dialogue you can create when no facial expression or eye contact is available. I'm a people watcher by nature, so I'm always mentally sketching when I'm in public places.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I spent Christmas and New Year with my husband and his family in Pennsylvannia - if you've visited my website ( will have seen my paintings of the Amish people who live in the countryside near the Zentner's. I'm doing more oils of them today, so I'll upload them from tomorrow when I'm happy with them. For now here's a little watercolour sketch I did between snow showers there. It's a shame I haven't been able to visit Pennsylvannia in the summertime yet, when all the trees have leaves and the flowers are blooming. The landscape does have a unique charm at this time of year though, in a stark, understated way. The umbers, ochres and siennas are evocative of old sepia photographs, wrinkled and curling at the edges.