I just put up Lilac Tea I on my portfolio and soon it will be exhibited in womanKIND, A Cole / Drews Project supporting the YWCA of Silicon Valley at The Citadel Gallery from December 16-19 with a reception Saturday, December 17 from 6-9.
The lilac symbolizes the first emotions of love in the Victorian language of flowers, I paired this flower with an Anna’s Hummingbird and an antique Bavarian J &C teacup called “Louise” (my middle name).
This dear little killdeer laid her eggs in the middle of a busy middle school between the track field and basketball courts – they’ve roped off the area but I’m not all all optimistic about her chosen site for a nursery! I took these pictures with a telephoto today after my son shared the news with me.
Today is the official publication date for The Memento, Christy Ann Conlin’s haunting new novel and I thought to celebrate I would share a little bit about how my painting, End of Spring, wound up on the cover! Spoiler Alert – I know the author…but it is so much more than just that.
A book cover is a big deal! It’s supposed to lure in the reader with a compelling image that not only captures the spirit of the book but works well with text and has fantastic shelf presence. A lot is riding on this image for both the author and the publisher. Consequently, there is a designer and a sales & marketing team in place to get it just right. Not something you might trust to your best friend, not if you were the author, not if you were smart…or is it?
Truth is, the author and I go way back, growing up only a few miles apart and have been collaborating (formally and informally) for years!
We’re both so influenced by this unique place we come from, its compelling culture, its crumbling beauty and its often lost potential, all of this informs the approach to our work – our sensibility and aesthetic.
In fact, one of my photographs was licensed for Christy Ann Conlin’s debut (and best selling) novel, Heave (although I think they may have cropped out the best part). We had been traipsing along dirt roads of the North Mountain between the Bay of Fundy and the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia checking out abandoned houses, graveyards and wildflowers when I snapped this candid shot of my oblivious friend.
Christy Ann Conlin is a great photographer as well and she’ll often share a shot with me and I will fall in love with it both because of her great eye for subject and composition but also because it speaks to me on a deep level of the essence of home. Such was the case when she sent my this lovely photo of a field of wildflowers overlooking the bay out toward Isle Haute. I called the resulting oil painting, Christy Ann’s Lace.
Another example of this cross pollination comes from a photo she’d taken of her mother’s vintage creamer filled with Lily of the Valley which she’d placed on the railing of her porch. I loved the ring of cows around the lip of the creamer and thought it would be a little surreal to paint cows into the field as well, inspiring not only, Lily of the Valley with Cows but my entire Birds and Teacups series, of which Blackberry Tea I was the first!
Christy Ann had been working some birds and teacups into her writing as well which I became increasingly aware of while working on this Birds and Teacup series. I realized that my series, while not derivative of her work was very complimentary. When The Memento was finally finished and it was time to talk about a cover with her publisher at Doubleday, Christy Ann recommended they take a look at this series on my website. While they loved the paintings, they were immediately drawn to another piece, End of Spring, without even knowing that the painting had been inspired by the author’s own photo! They said it was everything the novel was, striking in it’s melancholy and mystery, poetically but unforgivingly rendered, Gothic but terribly tender!
It’s no wonder! Christy Ann had found the bird lying dead on her doorstep as she was deeply in the process of writing her novel. She’d slipped her grandfather’s shovel under the bird and taken a photo, overcome by it’s sad beauty. I adored the photo and told her what a great painting it would make. It had a striking composition and an up tilted perspective, the shovel elevating and framing the bird, even reading like a tombstone. To me, the image spoke of our curious arm’s length relationship with death. The photo seemed to honor the bird and allowed us the intimacy of seeing in death that which is fleeting and unobservable in life. The translation to paint and canvas was very true to Christy Ann’s photograph I heightened the color, contrast, texture and the larger-than-life scale helped to make this quiet moment feel monumental.
Needless to say, I was delighted when I was approached by the publisher for licensing rights and am so thrilled and honored to have my art on the cover of my dear friend’s fabulous novel. It’s a real tribute to our collaborative working relationship!
If you’d like to see the stages of the painting process, please visit an earlier blog post here.
If you’d like to enjoy a trailer of the book please click here.
If you’re American or don’t have a fantastic local bookstore you’d like to support click here.
A new Bird & Teacup on the easel today! This time it’s one of the little Dark-eyed Junkos that are always underfoot. This one is nestled into some branches of Star Magnolia that my friend painter Isaias Sandoval had cut for me from his tree. I love the way it’s coming together!
I sketched out the image in magenta oil…
Blocked in the darks and mid tones of the background loosely…
Worked in the branches…
Paid some attention to my bird…
Laying in the shadows in the petals and cup, they may look like white flowers but they have a huge range of warm and cool colors (pinks. yellows, greens, treys, lavenders and blues) in both the shadows…
And the highlights…
After four years of drought, it looks like were finally going to get a decent El Niño! This was the second day of heavy rain and I delighted in keeping my studio windows open to hear all of that rolling thunder!
I love how cozy and inviting the studio is in the midst of all that rain!
It always amazes me how the rain makes everything look different!
The beginning of a new week…. and although I made some major headway in working out the image I’m going to be doing for a commission, I was not able to start work on it as my client and I still need to decide on the appropriate scale. I couldn’t let the day pass without using my paintbrush so I painted this little 4×4″ oil of a Western Bluebird which is destined for the painting tree at the Los Gatos Museums Gallery. I wonder if I can whip up some more tomorrow – or should I do teacups? Hope they’ll dry in time for the exchange this weekend!
I love to start a new painting with the new week – fresh start, fresh paint and all the those days stretching out before me like an empty road. I was able to race ahead with an image I’d already worked out…a cute, vintage Japanese bamboo demitasse filled with lucky bamboo against the lush pattern of a period cheongsam (that used to fit me). I loved this combination but wasn’t sure what bird to pair it with until I saw these Japanese White Eyes in Kawaii last winter (yes it takes me a while to get to all the ideas I have filled away). I love how their chartreuse feathers and little white eye rings act as a perfect compliment to the vignette.
As usual, I keep the initial oil sketch very loose, making sure only that the teacup is centered.
Next I loosely blocked in the background – there’s not much detail in the fabric anyway being some kind of watercolor looking satin and velvet burn out affair (I wish it sill fit me!).
The teacup came next.
Then the bamboo.
Then the birds were roughed in, all I could manage for the day.
Today, with the paint a bit set, I was able to come back in and start working on the details. At this point the birds are starting to develop personalities and the teacup is taking on it’s character. I’ll bring fresh eyes to it tomorrow, but it’s well on it way to being complete!