Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And the Winner is........

My son wrote down all 62 names (ten more than last year's giveaway!!) on a piece of paper, I cut them all out and here they are waiting for princess to sweep into the room and choose one;)

Ginger knows after a few years of all this contest stuff to look away while choosing the name. However she is looking FAR less perky than she dids last year. Maybe it was the 87 miles that she did at swim practice after school today.

But she gets to gets to read it first anyway.

Denise R.!! Yayy!!!!

Denise has been reading my inconsistent blog posts for about a year and a half and is a regular commenter. I see this is her second try for my birthday gift giveaway. So keep trying, folks!!!!!

Email me Denise, so that we can make arrangements and also I would love to post a link here if you have one.

And again, wow! Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes and incredibly kind comments. I admit to tearing up when I read through all of them and that usually only happens when the cute little Amish boy rings the bell near the end of Witness and all the neighbors come to help without fear for themselves. That gets me every time.......

Slight Delay

Hi everyone! Just wanted to let all you lovely happy birthday wishers know that I will have to announce the winner of the drawing later on tonight. I forgot that my assistant/daughter has swim practice tonight and won't be home until 6pm at least and then she MUST have her dinner.....

We will do the drawing later and I will try to post the winner's name right away, although it might have to be tomorrow if there is too much teen and tween drama this evening. heh.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pack Rats and My 3rd Annual Birthday Gift Giveaway

My 2nd birthday, 1966.

Several years ago when my mom was moving she gave me some boxes of things she had saved from my childhood. This was the first hint to me that she was such a pack rat, which was confirmed after she died a few years ago; the crazy stuff she still had? Yikes! For some reason I had never noticed that she saved EVERY.SINGLE.THING.EVER. Maybe because we moved nearly every year while I was a child and somehow it didn't seem like we had very much. Anyway, in one of the boxes she gave me, I found the entire outfit (including the birthday cards that are on the table, but NOT the cake, thankfully!) that I am wearing in the above photographs. And by entire, I mean ENTIRE; the shirt, the jacket/sweater thingy, the skirt, a slip, underwear (I was potty trained already? wow!), those same socks, shoes and even the blue hair ribbon which was attached to the bobby pin which still held a few strands of my hair. Possibly slightly creepy, but mostly very sweet. My mom was an unwed mother in a time when society was very different and even though things changed and became more difficult as I got older, she was at her best as a mother while I was very young. She made most of my clothes (including the whole outfit I am wearing in these photos), she was very creative and despite having little to no money, few friends and family, she always managed to put together a good day for me. Although I think this was probably the birthday that was the most fully documented, heh.


Time for my 3rd annual birthday gift giveaway. I am not as crabby as I have been in the past (and if you read that post, check out the link for the previous birthday post, still my fave) so this time I am including those of you who live in Canada. I am continuing to draw the line at shipping overseas (sorry) but if you have an address in North America that I can ship to, please wish me a happy birthday here in the comment section of the blog which will make me feel terribly popular and like I haven't lost most of my readers due to spotty postings. My super enthusiastic daughter, Ginger, has agreed to draw the name again and I'll announce the name tomorrow. My birthday gift is the choice of a painting from my sales blog and if there is not currently a painting that speaks to the winner, the choice can be made at a later date. I want the winner to get a painting that they reallyreallyreally want.

Y'all have until midnight tonight. GO!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visit US on Black Friday

Landscape Study #300, 5"x7", Oil on Cradled Panel, 2010

I am an equal opportunity shopper so I am not going to tell anyone here not to spend your money during this shopping season at a mall or at a big box store because sometimes ya just need a big bag of socks and there is nowhere else to find one, even though I am currently boycotting Target, hate Walmart and only go there if I am ABSOLUTELY desperate and there is not even a Kmart within an hour of here either.

Oops, I digress.

But I do hope that you will at least spread your money around and help support artists and craftspeople who pour their hearts into making things while often barely making a living wage at it. Electronics are nice, and I like a good new gizmo almost as much as the next person, but ultimately my most cherished gifts have been the crazy little ceramic pots/sculptures/collages/picture frames/other not quite identifiable objects that my kids have made for me, the earrings that a friend made for me, a necklace made by another friend. My husband has given me wonderful gifts over the years such as a beautiful woodcut by an artist friend of ours from Utah, a painting by an illustrator that I idolized when I was in college. Even though the computer Doug gave me one year was awesome! amazing! useful! and crashed within 2 years! I would ultimately prefer my art collection if I had to choose between the two.

So please visit my little gathering of artist friends at The Fine Art Department and also at the Small Art Showcase; between the two collections you are bound to find something beautiful and creative to give your loved ones, your friends, coworkers, and/or yourself!

I would also like to pass along more links to some other sites:

My old friend (and I mean that literally, we were co-barflies back in Philly in the late 80's, which now makes us old friends) Charlie has gained quite a following on Facebook and Twitter with his unique observations on life and has now put them on shirts, bags, etc at Shot of Wry.

I have never met Sarah in person, but she is a very good friend of Charlie and his wife Cecily who was also my co-barfly and best friend back in the 80's. One of Sarah's photographs hangs in my living room and I often spend some time with it, soaking in the sadness and beauty.

Lately I have been wearing more wood shavings from the hen house than jewelry and in fact I went so long without even putting on a pair of earrings that I had to recently "re pierce" the holes in my ears that I have had since I was thirteen, but that hasn't stopped me from drooling over quite a few items on this Etsy page. I may just have to forward this page to my husband so that he will be able to more easily do HIS holiday shopping this year, heh.

Two of my very good friends in real life make wonderful one of kind, "upcycled" jewelry and clothing, although lately I am seeing way more jewelry at Quirky Works than clothing. If you come to visit our town, you will see that EVERYONE is wearing their creations! Oh and you can like them on Facebook to receive updates.

Julie worked at the gallery in NYC that represented me for about a year and a half before they closed (STILL devastated about that, btw) however I was lucky enough to have made two lasting friendships (the other being the gallery owner) during that time and Julie might currently be my leading collector of small format paintings. Anyway, she has an Etsy page and makes the most wonderful cross stitched ornaments. Go see.....

And the other day I asked for links on my public facebook page and believe you me, there is a TON of shopping to do in the comments section of that post!

Ok, that should be enough to get you started. And please, PLEASE, if you make handmade arts/crafts and have a sales site or know someone who does, post the link in the comment section here. Now don't be shy about it, I WANT you to be able to show your work and now's the time to be flaunting it posting it......

So have a good turkey day in between all this shopping! I will be taking a vacation form my blog, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'll Miss You, Tom Butter;)

Magenta Pool, 18"x18" Oil on Wood Panel, 2010

Sadly, I have finally decided that I just really can't go to the Vermont Studio Center this January. It truly pains me because one of the visiting artists that month is Tom Butter, who was also one of my teachers about 25 years ago at the Philadelphia College of Art. I was thrilled when I noticed that he was scheduled to be at VSC during January which is about the only month out of the whole year that I can actually get away from here to go there and was SO looking forward to seeing him and also getting his feedback on my work these days. He was one of my favorite teachers mostly because even though I was an interloper in the painting department (an illustrator crossing over) he took me seriously unlike some of the other painting instructors who shall remain nameless. Well, mostly because I can't recall their names anymore, but whatever. However, at least Tom and I can be Facebook friends, there is always Facebook, I guess.......

Anyway, besides Tom being there, I also wanted to go because I have some plans for some new work in mind and being at a residency is such a good place to focus on new ideas. Or get really confused about what to do. Either is fine; as both are valuable processes. I will just have to settle for trying to get started on those new things here at home and hopefully will have made some progress before January 2012 which is when I have rescheduled my residency.

So I will stay home and paint. I will also prove how grown up I have become by using my residency funds for upcoming expenses, including two crowns I need and that our dental insurance probably won't pay for, and also by staying home with the kids while Doug does some traveling for his business. Evidently. we aren't supposed to leave kids home alone even if two of them would really enjoy that, heh.

And the sliver of the bright side here (besides new crowns) is that it may be better for me to skip a year anyway. As much as I enjoy those residencies, they are also kind of intense, and so I think I should take a bit more time in between.

But still, bleh. I am kinda bummed out about this today......

Monday, November 8, 2010

Golden Oldies

Pink Tree Up Front, 2007, Oil on Wood Panel, 16"x20"

I have spent the last few days sorting through my inventory and my studio is still a mess with bubble wrap strewn around and piles of oddball paintings everywhere. But it is a huge relief to have reorganized my inventory cabinet even if I did miss out on a beautiful weekend outside and all the raking and gardening too. Heh.

It took me several hours to go through all the paintings, recording them, rewrapping and reorganizing them so they would be all neat and orderly in the cabinet and I was heading towards a funk when I started to see just how much unsold work I have on hand. Yikes! It was only a few years ago almost everything I painted was selling and even though I have been painting far fewer landscapes in the last 2+ years, evidently I am still too prolific for the current economy.

But as each group of paintings were spread out on the table, I realized that I was looking at work that was so colorful and expressive and well, accomplished. So my potential funk turned into pride that I could have created such things and now I am now feeling even more determined to find their people.

I ended up adding almost 40 pieces to my 'Available Work' page on my website and alas, that does not include everything that I have on hand. It also does not include any of the 'People You Know' paintings, none of which have sold, but I have some different ideas in mind for that series. Anyway, I am not planning to sell this available work directly (the prices listed are gallery prices), mostly I think this page will be a good resource for the galleries that represent me.

However, this does bring me to a question for those of you who have gallery representation. What do YOU do with older work that hasn't sold? I am firm in not selling around my galleries (particularly at lower prices, which is a real no-no) but then I end up with so much work on hand. It would be very helpful for all of us, I think, to hear how others have handled this situation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tracyland is Back

Landscape Study #281, 5"x3" Oil on Cradled Panel, 2010

And so all of a sudden I am feeling a renewed energy and enthusiasm about everything; painting, marketing my work, reading, knitting, cleaning the house and even weeding and clearing out the dumb stupid messy gardens for the winter (which I have been very UNinterested in, lately). This enthusiasm is also extending to wanting to be a better blogger. Still not sure that I have as much to say as I used to, but I am going to keep trying. Just don't expect too much depth here for awhile, k??

It's no secret here that I have been struggling a bit with various things in the last year or two; a normal part of growing up, I think. Heh. Some of that has had to do with the crappy economy and the closing of several galleries that had been representing my work. However, I am not entirely blaming the economy for the slow down in sales, which has been even worse for me during this last year, because I have also neglected opportunities to be getting my work out there too. And part of THAT has been due to my being somewhat burned out on painting landscapes (which is what sells) and pursuing other subject matter such as the 'People You Know' series (which DON'T sell) and well, just being in flux as far as which directions to take, in life as well as in painting.

However, reality has helped to shake me out of this flux. We need more income what with looming college tuition (x3), various camps and programs that Doug and I really feel that our kids need right now in order to balance out living in this very small and sheltered environment, not to mention just keeping up with the money pit (our house and the barn is becoming very needy too). Doug's company is doing ok, but since they sell stuff, it is also vulnerable to the whims of the economy. Mostly though, I seem to be the weak link around here lately. With some additional effort I can earn more as an artist than I can in either of the two available jobs that I am not even qualified for in our little town, so more painting and much more marketing it is!

I am currently in the process of sorting through all my available inventory and have begun posting those works on my website. I have made a proposal to a local company (which I will not talk about again in order to NOT jinx it). I have been compiling a list of galleries and museums to stalk pursue and am in the midst of putting together my info to send out to them. I have also made a rather reluctant decision to publicize my sales blog, just a little bit. In normal times I probably wouldn't do that because I have preferred keeping that low key so as not to interfere with my gallery work. However, the sales of the small format paintings have been paying the bills lately so for the time being, I am going to be a painting pusher. heh.

I am starting to feel the same excitement that I did seven years ago when I began painting again and was trying to get something going. I am thankful that have so much more experience (and collectors!) this time though and I hope that will help balance out the whole crappy economy thing, just a little bit at least. However, even though I have pursued some things recently that I have declined to do before, such as selling my work myself and having a booth at a local Harvest Festival, I am still being very careful about my decisions and am continuing to stay firm on my long range goals.

So that means no Tracyland reality art show, folks. Although, now that I think about it, that would be a good name for one. hmmmm........

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Seeing Wolf Kahn

Barn Study #246, 6"x6" Oil on Panel, 2010

Last Friday I was cruising around on the internet looking for galleries and museums that really need to be learning all about moi and my fab work soon. Heh. I was checking out The Brattleboro Museum's website and noticed that they were hosting a lecture by Wolf Kahn. Now, I have a long and checkered past with Mr. Kahn (I wrote about that here and here) and have always been interested in meeting him, even if I am not always very happy about my work being compared to his so often. Anyway, since the lecture was the next day and my schedule was relatively clear, I took that as a sign that I should go. No babysitters available so I decided to take my son, Julien, who is probably headed towards art school in a few years. An added plus about that was that he actually knows who Wolf Kahn is and what kind of work he does, so he was excited about going as well.

After deciding in advance about the VERY IMPORTANT issues (we settled on playing my iPod on the way there, and his on the way back) we had a nice drive to Vermont on a beautiful day. I had kind of hoped we could stay overnight cause Tracy's night vision isn't exactly stellar these days, but I had been unable to find anything before we left. Found out why when we got to Brattleboro; turns out that nearly everybody in New England was actually in Vermont for the weekend, looking at leaves and clogging the roads for me. So I mentally prepared myself for another three and a half hour drive back, bleh.

Despite being crowded, Brattleboro was great. We had a few hours to pass until the lecture, so we walked around and went into a few stores. There was an excellent record store where we bought a few gifts for Doug's birthday, including two Bob Dylan albums that we had never heard of and a Grateful Dead album where all the band members are dressed suspiciously like the Bee Gees on the cover.

We had an excellent dinner here and got to the lecture early enough to get front row seats. The lecture was held in a packed, small and dark theater but after an introduction by the Museum's director, Mr. Kahn got up and stood at the podium under a spotlight. The topic of the lecture was "Can Art be Taught" and right away he joked about how he had written a rather formal presentation and would now rather just tell a bunch of stories, which is exactly what he did starting with two of his teachers: Stuart Davis and Hans Hoffman, who had very different styles in the classroom. Stuart Davis talked mostly about jazz music and baseball, he had very little passion for teaching. Hans Hoffman spoke of a lot of things that no one understood and in fact he told his students that they wouldn't understand what he was even talking about for at least 5 years. He also had a tendency to draw into his student's drawings if he felt it needed correction and was even known to cut up the drawing if he felt it should have a different angle to it. He did ask before he went into a student's painting however, so that was good;)

Other highlights from the talk:

-He greatly dislikes the work of Jeff Koons and Gerhard Richter (I am repeating this only because this the talk was being videotaped and well, he did say this out loud in front of many people, so hardly a secret).

-This led to a discussion of the differences between artists and art students, that most are amateurs and others have a calling to make art, and how teachers are doing a disservice to them if they don't understand the differences in their students. He also thought though, that art is worth doing if it is something one enjoys and if one gets a little bit better each time, even if one is probably not going to a be really successful and famous artist. (phew!super glad to hear that!)

-He discussed his experiences as a teacher in the 60's and 70's and the various politics involved with that, then he went on to describe how in every class there were maybe 4 hotshots, 15 mediocrities and 10 who shouldn't be there at all. This didn't sound so harsh when he said it and anyway, based on my years in art college, I don't think it is entirely inaccurate. Guess which category that I think I belonged to?????

-He described the exercises that he had his workshop students do. I thought they all sounded interesting even though I would probably be a pretty crabby student and complain about starting off with making a gray scale. ha. However, he was redeemed in my opinion by using the term "shot their wad" while describing the next exercise. It was the perfect term. Really, it was.

And I was able to decipher a few more more advice related tidbits from my mostly illegibly scribbled notes:

-Don't let ideas enter your mind.

-He talked about how his macular degeneration has led him to be less fussy about the details and that he has to now pay more attention to the big picture.

-He joked that as his worked has changed due to his eyesight he has been getting much better reviews and wondered if he would have to be blind in order to be considered a genius!

-He said he knows his work is too nice and maybe even sweet, but that you have to work with the emotion that you have. He said his friend Joan Mitchell had a lot of anger and it really showed in her art and worked well for her.

Mr. Kahn was VERY funny, a very appealing mix of self-deprecating humor and self confidence too. While some of the things I have written here might sound a bit harsh in print, hearing him say them was quite different. His discussion of his teachers, of the art he dislikes, how crazy teens are; it was all delivered in a very endearing manner.

Anyway, he answered a few questions after the talk, then sat down at a table in the lobby and signed books etc, while I kicked myself for not bringing my own book of his to have him sign. I bought two show catalogs and he signed one for me and one for Julien. I was able to chat with him for a few minutes and naturally I made a few dumb jokes and only babbled a little, so that was good. Relatively speaking anyway. Heh. My son really enjoyed the lecture and I think he still planning to apply to Cooper Union after all that.

And except for the idiot who insisted on tailgating me while I was driving in the pitch dark, on a winding road with little to no shoulder, at 6o mph (slightly OVER the speed limit, I would like to point out) with his brights on, the drive home was rather uneventful, even if I do not understand what the heck so many drivers were doing driving around on the highways near Albany at midnight, but whatever. Leaning towards country bumpkin here, I guess.

Well, a country bumpkin who got to meet Wolf Kahn, ha!

PS. No image of Wolf Kahn's work because I don't know how to do a screen grab and no pictures of the event because neither one of us remembered to take any photographs. You'll just have to settle for one of MY barns, hehe.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Free Bird

Black Underneath, 10"x8" Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

So I have done little to nothing in the last few weeks while "recovering" from preparing for two almost back to back events. I haven't really caught up on house and yard stuff, although I have done the basics. Mostly I have been working on my taxes, cleaning up my studio and packing and shipping out small paintings. Have had quite a good run on sales lately!

But I am trying reallyreally hard to NOT waste all this time, this time. I was incredibly unproductive during my last slow period between shows and I don't particularly like how I feel about myself when I allow that to happen. I just get so overwhelmed by how much I WANT to do, that I can't do anything. Dislike!

I literally do not have anything on my schedule until next April. As much as I think I would like to keep all this free time to do whatever I want, the reality is that I really need structure and deadlines in order to stay productive. Things do often just come up at the last minute, but it's crazy to be depending on that happening so what I need to do first is to send out my info, applying for competitions, etc.

And as far as actual painting goes, um cause that is what I do, right now I am leaning towards focusing on the 'People You Know' series again and trying to get them to work better in a smaller format, like 8"x10". But first I must actually get some more 8x10 panels....

Until I get those (must order them today), I think I will work on the squares that I have left over from this project that I began at the Vermont Studio Center last winter.

Starting on those tomorrow. Heh.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taxes and Twittering, Twittering and Taxes

Barn Study #244, 4"x6" Oil on Panel, 2010

So today I am (supposedly) going to finish up putting together all my deductions for 2009 so that I can send it all off to the accountant. Yes, Doug and I are somewhat lame in that we never get our taxes done in April, October is our April. In Doug's defense, his side of things is somewhat complicated and it is a real challenge to get it all together by April. I don't really have a defense for myself; there about 10 ways that I could do a better job of compiling my info throughout the year so that on January one, viola! It is all ready to go! However, I admit to being a complete and total procrastinator in general and particularly when it comes to anything tax related. We are doing pretty good this year however, our accountant will have 9 whole business days to put together our return which is about 6 more than we usually give him. heh.

And since taxes and all tax related talk is right up there with fingernails scratching a blackboard, I will end this very brief post with something silly and happy. Like twitter, what could be happier than twitter???? ha. Last night during some crazy tax induced haze, I opened a twitter account, which is pretty much how I ended up on Facebook too. I do not need any more reasons WHATSOEVER to be sitting on my behind in front of the computer but well, now I have one another one anyway. Still not entirely sure what I am doing there nor do I understand the etiquette yet (am I supposed to follow everyone who follows me? is it rude to block people/organizations who follow me and are clearly trying to get me to open bad bad links? and how the heck does this work with my blog and facebook pages? isn't everyone going to be super sick of me between all these things? I don't think I have enough interesting things to talk about!) but since I might possibly qualify as an attention ho, I may as well go with the flow so if you are also a twitterer maybe you'll see fit to follow me.

How is THAT for an invite????? hehe.

PS. The above painting is available, along with a bunch of other new ones, at my sales blog.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Usually when I get a batch of chicks from McMurray's they include a few extras (to cover for the possible deaths in transit I think) PLUS an exotic chick or two sometimes. When the box of zombie chicks arrived there was one that was not like the others in the box. It was a darker chick with stripes and I just assumed she was a layer or maybe a different meat breed. After a few weeks, she was still looking really small, however she looked healthy and she sure was active; she ran circles around those fat zombies. But they all got along so I kept the flock together and chose not to think about what I would do with the little one when the zombies went to the slaughterhouse heaven....

Some folks down the road have a bunch of chickens, including bantam chickens that skitter all over the place and after about 6 weeks I realized that she looked just like one of them. McMurray's added a bantam chicken to a flock of meaties!

And by the time I had to take the zombies in, I was more than a little ticked of about getting a bantam chick. Why couldn't they have just given me another meat chicken? What was I going to do with her???? I thought about taking her over to the neighbors to let her blend in with their flock of bantams but then Ginger named her Stella so that was it. We don't normally name our chickens as I have a hard enough time remembering HUMAN'S names, let alone 55 chicken names as well!

So once she got a name the other option was to put her in with one of the two flocks I have. Finally, I very reluctantly decided to put her in with the new layer flock. I put her in their coop one night and supposedly she was going to just mix right into the flock the next day. Um, but maybe not so well when one doesn't look like the others. I went out to the hen house the next morning and poor Stella was being chased constantly by at least twenty salivating hens and two roosters with a bad evil look in their eyes. I took her out right away and decided to try the much smaller flock of old hens and put her in with them that night. She immediately snuggled right in and then climbed onto the back of one of the hens, who looked a bit nervous but did not actually complain. Things were ok the next morning although she mostly stayed inside for the next week or so and the old ladies were not very generous with their scratch. She did go outside when it was time to free range though and came back in at night too. One night when she didn't go back in at dusk, we looked around for her and found her in the dog kennel where we had kept the zombie chickens. I felt a bit teary about that, she missed her zombies!

So it turns out that Stella is wonderful! Bantam chickens are very personable and friendly and she is no exception. She comes right up to me when I say her name, and she lets us hold her and carry her around. She is such a tiny little thing though and I worry about her free ranging but have just decided to let nature takes its course on that one. She was out of the hen house one morning when I went out there (we close the coop up at night and I guess she hadn't gone back in) and Doug and I joked about her being a tramp, but she survived a night out in the jungle that is upstate NY so she has our full admiration!

PS. And now Doug and I always imitate Marlon Brando when we say her name, just so the kids will look at us as if we are deranged. Good times!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Zombie Chicken Summer

Note: If you are a vegetarian please be aware that I am going to talk about raising MEAT chickens here, so if that will bother you please skip reading this post. And if you feel the need to suggest a vegetarian diet to me, save your energy. I was a vegetarian for 7 years at one point and I am well aware of the environmental, health and humane issues concerning raising meat for human consumption. However our family has now settled on eating minimal amounts of animal protein, raised in a natural and humane manner as much as possible; this whole project is about having more control over that.

Almost five years ago I very impulsively decided that we should get layer chickens. Friends of ours had them, they seemed rather easy to raise, not too time consuming and the idea of having our own supply of fresh eggs was VERY appealing.

Within weeks of getting those first little chicks I was hooked and was plotting to get more; more chickens, more livestock for our empty farm, more everything. I got bit by the self-sustaining-and-cute-little-farm-animals bug. Pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks; almost every farm animal has been on my list at one time or another in the last several years.

Unfortunately I have been foiled at nearly every turn. Proper fencing and shelter is not in our budget, neither is fixing up our barn which needs a lot of work for it to be safe for animals (the lower level where the cows used to be is filled with falling down ceiling tiles, which are surely made of asbestos). We COULD possibly build some things ourselves, but both of us are already overbooked between work, Doug's business traveling schedule, the kid's activities and just regular stuff like cleaning the house. We (well Doug, mostly) have managed to put together a few things for the chickens but it always takes FOREVER to finish the project.

However, one thing that seemed remotely possible was raising meat chickens. Again, I have several friends who have raised some for their own families and I was encouraged by that. And even though I am not a vegetarian any longer, I have continued to be concerned about the quality of meat that comes from factory farm, not to mention all the genetically modified ingredients that seem to be in every.single.thing we eat now. We are certainly not perfect in avoiding all that 'cause it is damn hard, but I do what I can to buy most of our food from the local farmer's market and it feels good to support farmers who DO have good fencing and barns. However, I still have this self sufficient urge so I decided on raising meat chickens this summer.

So Doug became my reluctant builder again. He built a large wooden box with a screen on the bottom to house the chicks while they were small. He altered the outdoor dog kennel so that the chickens could outside as they got larger. All this while he had been plugging away at building a new coop and run for the 40 additional layers I also got earlier last summer.

But that is a story for another post.

After reading up on meat breeds I decided on Cornish Cross chickens. They are bred specifically to grow reallyreally fast, hatchery to table in 8 weeks; this is the breed most commonly raised in the chicken 'factories' and are pumped up with steroids, antibiotics and who knows what else. I decided mine would be all natural, no medications, and fed only organic feed. Even with a different diet, I knew their meat would be the most similar to the kind of chickens we are used to eating. Other meat breeds have a different flavor and chewier texture, especially if they free range and I didn't want to totally freak out the kids right away. Baby steps here.

43 chicks arrived in a box via the USPS at the end of June. Actually a mail carrier came to our house with them on a Sunday morning, gotta love small town post offices. They were cute chicks, everyone (well just my 11 year old daughter actually) squealed over them and she helped me settle them in.

In about a week they were quite a bit larger and nearly all of them had runny, disgusting smelly poop stuck all over their butts. Since a plugged up butt can kill a chick fast, I cleaned off ALL of their butts with a washcloth and warm water several times a day for almost 2 weeks. Finally that lovely condition passed just in time for me to see that they had outgrown the box already and needed to go outside into the dog kennel. They were about 3 weeks old here:
We had kind of a crazy set up outside for them, a HUGE tarp to cover the roof and to also pull down over the sides in case it was windy or chilly at night. We also partitioned off a section of the kennel each night so that they wouldn't be quite so vulnerable to critters. Each night I would go out, shoo them all in, pull down the tarp and weight it down with large stones. No light back there either and I got stuck having to do this more than a few times in the pitch black night. (NEVER a working flashlight around when ya need one) Then I had to put the tarp up each morning so they could go out into the sun and move around a bit.

Not that they really wanted to move; most of the chickens parked near or IN the food bins and just ate all the time. When they were around 2 weeks old I started taking their food away at night to slow down their growth (that is recommended). They were still under the lights at that point and would just eat all night if the food was there. Later on when they were in the kennel, I just covered the bins at night, they would not eat in the dark, unless of course they were still actually sitting in the bin: The amount of food they ate was stunning. When they were around 4 weeks they really ramped up and were eating a 50lb bag of grains every 3 days or so. All together they ate seven 50lb bags, plus two 50lb bags of crushed corn in 8 weeks. I had to go out 3x per day to refill all the bins and oy, the water! I carried so many buckets of water out there every day that I thought my arms were going to fall off! They probably drank 10 gallons of water each day.

As they approached 8 weeks, their feed consumption slowed down a bit. Between about 6 and 8 weeks I gave them mostly crushed corn to "finish" them, meaning they would gain some fat and add more flavor to their meat. By the last week or so, they were huge, they had big thick legs, and could only walk a few steps before sitting down. Some of the smaller ones ran around flapping their wings but then they would have to sit down to rest too. Their rapid growth is very stressful on their bodies and I had heard they might just drop dead, especially in the last week or so. I only had two deaths; one died within a few days of moving out in the kennel and one died at about 7 weeks. I just came in one morning and found her on the ground. naturally Doug was out of town that morning and I had to pick up the dead body, ewww.

The other very notable thing about these chickens was that they smelled worse than I ever thought possible. Their poop was all soft and mushy and everywhere! I tried to keep the bottom of their box clean and had to change the bedding almost every day. Still though, the chickens spent so much time sitting in their muck that they had bare spots on their bellies where they had contact. Yuck. When they were out in the kennel it was impossible to keep that cleaned up and the area area the water container was so disgusting and did I mention the smell?????

And after a month or so we began to call them Zombie Chickens. They had little to no distinctive personalities especially in comparison to my very personable layer hens. A few of the Zombie Chickens would sort of jump up at me when I fed them but otherwise they all seemed pretty interchangeable. That certainly helped when it came time to get them "processed". I can safely say that I was in no way upset to take them in to get them butchered. In fact I was pretty glad to be finished with the whole thing, as it was so much more work than I had expected. And did I mention how BAD they smelled????? Yikes.

The day we took them in to the local poultry processing plant was interesting. I had bought a bunch of big plastic bins to transport them. Doug and I rounded them up one at a time, real fun (!) and put each bin in the car. There were holes in the lids but it was a hot day, I was worried they would smother (um, on the way to be slaughtered), and they were all panting; I lifted the lids up a little but then they started jumping around and then I was worried about them getting loose in the car. So I just drove super fast, kept the windows open for some airflow and everyone was ok but I will need to get some proper cages for transporting them next time. And when I got to the processor plant they helped me transfer all of one, one at a time, into some poultry cages and most of the chickens flapped their wings when I picked them up, splattering the poo stuck on their feathers ALL over me. That was like the icing on the cake, heh. I was very proud though, when I went back to pick them up and the guys there said they were good looking chickens and a good weight, most of them were about 4-5lbs a few were even larger.

And the ultimate connoisseurs (my kids) gave our first zombie chicken dinner a thumbs up! We have had several discussions about how we were going to be raising chickens for us to eat, and while they don't really want to actually HELP much with the chickens and gardens, they do appreciate the importance of knowing where our food comes from.
So, I accomplished my goal. I raised enough chickens for our family to eat for the coming year. They were fed high quality local organic feed (they were offered greens, garden scraps etc but were NOT interested), plenty of clean water and they were raised in a very humane manner. I might even say they were pampered, I spent a lot of time making sure the temperature in their box was just right when they were chicks and I went out in the middle of the night more than a few times to pull down the tarp if it was rainy or too cold and windy. I also talked and sang to them whenever I went in to care for them although it is entirely possible that my singing could be considered inhumane treatment. Hehe.

Plans are being made to do this again next year, but with a few changes. We are going to make the dog kennel into a more permanent meat chicken raising structure so we can do away with the butt ugly tarps. I will probably raise some more Cornish Cross but will add some other meat breeds that will be free ranging in order to get away from the whole grain fed thing. I am also considering raising a few turkeys but will have to convince my husband to do some more building. Wonder if I can sneak in a few goats without him noticing??????

Monday, September 20, 2010

The One Where I Try To Avoid the TV Cameras

Well, I had quite a weekend! The Harvest Festival was wonderful and VERY well attended. The Beekman Boys estimated that there were at least 5000 visitors to their little town in the last few days. I don't think they ALL came by my booth but I sure did have a lot of people stopping by.

So last week was totally crazy getting ready for the festival, but I managed to get almost everything finished. Julien (my son and assistant):
and I got up at the ungodly hour of 5am on a Saturday morning to get ready, finish loading up the car and get over to Sharon Springs by 7am. Set up actually went quite smoothly; he carried everything and I told him what to do. It was perfect. Heh.

I went with VERY simple for the booth. I had tried to figure out a way to build some sort of easel on the table so that I could hang all the small paintings on that, but it seemed too complicated and then time was running short so I put that idea aside. Anyway, I kept thinking that they always look so appealing in my flat file drawer:
so I thought that just laying all the paintings down flat on a table would be the best way to display them.
I had also planned to hang a few larger panels on the walls, but after we Julien put up the back wall, the organizers told us that no one was allowed to have walls up on their booths because they wanted the whole area to feel very open, which made perfect sense. So I just settled on putting one large painting on an easel at the front corner of the booth and a medium sized piece on a tabletop easel. I had an area where I put out a sign up sheet for my mailing list, a pile of postcards that I had printed up (image on one side, my contact and gallery representation info on the other) and my book that contains info about me such as my resume, statement, bio and a few articles that have been written about some of my shows.

Things were kind of quiet for the first few hours so we had time to settle in and go over writing up sales receipts and things like that. Soon though, things picked up and by early afternoon it was fairly hectic. It got even busier when The Beekman Boys (Josh and Brent) came through surrounded by cameras and a crowd of people who were watching the taping.

They stopped at several booths and talked to the vendors and while they were doing that I was totally panicking. Even though I certainly wanted my work to (possibly) be seen on their show, ultimately my natural self-conscious-ness won out and although I had spruced up my make up and hair just in case, I started to wish for them to NOT come to my booth. I even had an escape route all planned out! I was both relieved and disappointed (but mostly relieved) when they didn't come by my booth.....

But. At the end of the day, Julien and I had started to pack up the paintings (didn't want to leave them there overnight) and I looked up and there was Rosie O'Donnell standing in front of my table. I squeaked out her name in surprise, even though I had heard rumors that she was up for the event, I was still completely shocked to actually see her. And suddenly there was a camera on my face. Sigh. She and her girlfriend asked me about my process (they both paint and I could tell that based on their questions) and luckily I hadn't had enough time to get nervous so I managed to do ok, no stumbling over my words and I managed to stop myself from babbling. Unfortunately though, the camera eventually got me flustered and they left before I could remember to give them a card (I had given a card to every single other person who stopped by my booth). I had no idea how I did during the exchange, but Julien said I was fine and that as they walked away, Rosie said "they are beautiful". I didn't hear her say that because I was internally flipping out by that time!

Sunday was much quieter, it was overcast, but no rain at least. There were not as many visitors so I had more time to walk around and meet some of the other vendors. The people across from us were selling logs that grow mushrooms and I heard them explaining it so many times that I am now an expert at growing mushrooms too, heh. I learned more about growing garlic from my next door neighbors and I also discussed buying my next batch of meat chicks from them as well, as they have a small chicken hatchery. I met Austin who makes the absolute best chocolate that I have ever had in my entire life and I talked to him for quite awhile. I bought some beautiful yarn from a couple who raise sheep and I made some excellent trades with Suellen a glass artist

and a and Sierra, a fiber artist who makes boiled wool accessories like hats and purses.

And a few of my real life friends came by too so there was much chatting. It was also really nice to spent both days with my son, we had fun playing pool and some strange game involving archery on his iPod. And a big thank you to Karen who loaned me her tent, it was SO nice not to have to buy one.

Oh! I also met Doug and Garth, the owners of The American Hotel who were actually very happy to meet ME! They had 'won' one of my paintings in a fundraiser in Cooperstown about a year ago and someone had stopped by my booth on Saturday and told me that they were that couple, which I had not known. Doug and Garth logged a lot of time in front of the cameras on Saturday as they play a strong supporting role in the Beekman's tv show but I was happy to be able to chat with them while the cameras were NOT around and plus I can still recall our conversations quite clearly. Heh.

I sold eleven paintings in all (certain people bought THREE, thanks Brian!) and I am very pleased with that, it definitely covered my expenses. But more than that, it was a really fun and social weekend and I was able to be involved in an event that supports local farms and craftspeople and that also brought a lot of attention, enthusiasm and revenue to a charming upstate town. Josh and Brent have done a really wonderful thing for the area and I am very happy to have been a small part of it.

PS. I think I may have lost Rosie to the alpacas. It is tough to compete with alpacas who snuggle with each other, heh.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Earlier this summer, I came across a NY Times article about The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Their story sounded familiar (city folks plunking down on a money pit/farm in upstate NY) and it turned out that they live in a nearby town, which practically makes them our next door neighbors in rural terms.

I checked out their website, bought Josh's books (funny and yet poignant, both of them) and then decided I needed their goat cheese. So one day Ginger and I drove up to their shop in Sharon Springs and Brent was behind the counter. While Ginger played out front with two of the most adorable baby goats ever, I hung around until a few of the customers left (ok, yes, stalker-ish behavior, I know it and I totally admit it!). Eventually, Brent and I started talking, comparing notes on farming, gardens, weeds, their TV show which was in the midst of airing on Planet Green at the time, friends in common; he knew a college friend of mine when he worked with Martha Stewart, and other local silliness.

At one point we were talking about the 2nd Annual Harvest Festival that he and Josh were organizing to bring attention to the food grown by local farmers, and Brent invited me to have a booth; most people sell their farm produce but several booths sell art and crafts sort of items. I told him that I don't do events like that but on the drive home, I started thinking, why not? I could do this event. I could show my small little landscape paintings, and help support something I strongly believe in as well. I have experience doing trade shows and so I am familiar enough with showing and selling my work to the public, even if I usually prefer not to do it. Plus, since I was in the midst of preparing for my solo show I really thought I needed MORE to do!

I worked on some new paintings at some point on July I think (not sure, this last summer is a bit of a blur to me now) and with those in addition to the ones I already had in my painting drawer (see above), I currently have 26 finished paintings. I have about 10 that are half finished and last week I was able to spend a few days to start even more new ones. So altogether I have 43 in progress, and my goal of to finish all those by Saturday, plus maybe a dozen more small Black Paintings. Ahem. Ok......

However, they ARE all very small (5x7 and smaller) so it is possible, I guess. But I will have to be really disciplined in order to finish them up, PLUS photograph and document all of them, PLUS prepare for the rest of the event, not to mention regular real life kid/pets/chicken related stuff that you know is going to interrupt me every other minute. Luckily though, a friend of mine loaned me a tent so I don't have to buy one, the cards are already at the printers, and besides painting, all I have left is to organize all the other stuff; bags, sales books, tools, maybe lighting, etc., so I think I will be able to get that part of it together in an afternoon or so. Heh.

Maybe I will post each day's tally of finished paintings here. Good excuse to be here every day, right????

And PS. The Beekman goat cheese AND the soap too, is AWESOME! I have gone back several times to buy more cheese, can't hardly live without it now!

PPS. The gallery reception on Saturday night was wonderful, more on that in another post, because now I must go paint!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gallery Reception Tomorrow! Yikes! I Mean Yayy!

Cotton Candy Updo, 16x12, Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

I am very busy today with work for an event coming up next weekend, more on that in another post, but I am also beginning to simultaneously stress out AND look forward to the opening reception for my show at The Main Street Gallery tomorrow. I like going to the openings, it's always nice to talk to real live people who are not delivering the mail or packages to our house. heh. And while it is always nice to discuss my work with interested folks, I do tend to stress about all that ahead of time: I have a whole slew of notes to self; to not babble on and on, spray spit while talking, wear comfortable and dressy but not TOO dressy shoes and clothes (black is always the best option there), take a few pictures of the exhibit and also keep an eye on Doug. Still not letting him off the hook for the excessive drinking he did at one of my openings about 4 years ago. He has a strict 2 drink limit for these sorts of events now, hehe.

Anyway, at the risk of inundating all of you who visit my Facebook pages and have surely seen ALL these links many times, I am going to put them up again here for those of you who do not do FB.

So the gallery link is above, and this morning I posted all the images that will be in the show on my public Facebook page. You can view them here and if you are on FB, go ahead and 'like' me if don't already; that is the page where all my art talk and exhibition updates are. There have already been a few newspaper mentions, one here and one here. The second one is a longer article written by a nice fellow who called me the other day. As is often the case when I get holed up here on the farm, I worried that I talked the poor guy's ear off, but he did a wonderful job of accurately conveying what I told him about my work, so I guess I wasn't too boring. He asked good questions too which is always nice.

So I am off to make underpaintings today, have a good weekend all, and if you are in the Ithaca/Syracuse area, it's a short drive to Groton which is right off 11. Just so you know......

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Wallet Size#2, 40"x30", Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

Well, it was crazy here last week. I was swamped trying to finish up all the work for my show at The Main Street Gallery. Actually I thought I had it under control; nearly all the work was finished and I just had one large painting to do and a smaller one to finish up and almost two weeks seemed like plenty of time. HA! Shows what I know!

The large painting was the third of a series within a series, and yes, I am beginning to find all these series to be confusing. Not sure how else to categorize them though and since I like to have categories, there will continue to be series until I can figure out something else, hehe.

So. A little background first. The 'People You Know' project is inspired by found family photos; photographs and other memorabilia that I come across on ebay, at yard sales, auctions and that sort of thing. Often in the photo lots, there are bunches of school photos and since I don't do portraits of kids, I have set them all aside. But for the last several months I have found myself looking through the school photo pile, feeling certain that there was a concept there and trying to figure out what it was. Eventually I realized that the appeal to me was the multiple images of the same person I was looking at. Doug and I had several discussions about that and he said he thought the interesting thing about a painting of multiples would be how each painting would be different, yet the same.

Still stressing about the validity and direction of this whole thing, I thought I should try painting a few and eventually picked out some pictures that I liked, kids at an awkward age and details like big collars, dorky glasses and dated hairstyles. I decided to do three panels and thought they might be a good addition to the show at The Main Street Gallery, which was already going to include the portraits that I painted last winter at the Vermont Studio Center.

These paintings required much more planning than I usually do, even for a portrait, which needs WAY more planning than a landscape. I realized that I would have to do the underpaintings in two parts, at least. I sectioned off the grids, taped the edges of the "active" portrait area and started there. At first I thought I would work on the portraits simultaneously; forming all of the images at the same time so that they would be the same. HAHAHA! Doing just two took longer than I expected, the paint began to set up just enough to be irritating and I also learned that I was possibly going to go crazy if I couldn't get each portrait to be EXACTLY THE SAME as the other one.

The first underpainting I did was this one:

And this is the finished painting:
Wallet Size#1, 24"x36", Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

Kinda creepy because it is only two up, it evokes all kinds of weird twin things. However, I do not view that as a negative.

The next one was a four up and this is where I really understood just how difficult it was going to be to paint the same image multiple times. While getting two to look the same was almost possible, more than two was reallyreally hard and also completely not possible. Even though the differences are the key here, every single fiber of my being wants each face to look exactly the same. I also decided to do each portrait one at a time rather than moving back and forth between two. I won't say which face was the first one, but in all the paintings, I thought the first one was the best one and I was so irritated when the others looked so different.

Even though I was mostly pleased with how the 4up underpainting turned out (I thought I could fix all the differences when I got to the color, haha!), it also got me really feeling the fear about the third one, which was going to be a six up. I dawdled and procrastinated about starting that one until the very last minute. Was I sensing that this one could send me over the bend???? I did two of the portraits, and started the third even though doing more than two in one session is very stressful (but I was feeling the looming deadline) which I could NOT do. It looked awful. I was frustrated, it was late at night, bugs were flying around under my easel lights and landing on me and in the paint and finally I did something that I NEVER do; I wiped off the third underpainting entirely and thought I would try again the next day. Then I want downstairs and had a complete breakdown in front of Doug, poor guy. After going through all my problems with this project, waaaaaaa, he finally said maybe I shouldn't pursue this project, that it was making me crazy. I accused him of practicing reverse psychology without a license and then went to sleep.

Sleep makes me feel optimistic and so I got back to it the next day, did two more of the portraits and did two more the next day. This painting holds the record by far for how long it took to do the underpainting-four days! SO unheard of for me.

Unfortunately, using up four days really left me scrambling for time, and after a few days drying time and the first glaze, I had exactly one day to add the color to ALL the portraits. I prepared for that day like I was an athlete; a full night's sleep, a good breakfast, a quick walk in the morning to get my energy up. And then I just did it. ALL those faces in one day, plus the border.
Wallet Size#3, 40"x46", Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

Doug liked Wallet Size #3 the best of all three, the gallery liked the series and included them in the show, so I decided to like them too. I am fickle that way. And now that these are done, all is forgiven and I am thinking about which one to do next. Heh.

Total crazyville here, I tell you.

PS. And sorry, the jpegs suck, these are incredibly difficult to photograph and I just don't have a good set up for such large panels. Also Doug came up with the titles; Wallet Size and in a burst of amazing creativity (NOT) I numbered them, starting with um, #1. So sick of titles, I am.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Solo Show at The Main Street Gallery

Night Falls, 6"x12", Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

Well, first I'd like to thank everyone for such kind words of encouragement concerning keeping this blog going. I really appreciate it and so yes, I will keep trying to find my way here, though I must warn you in advance, it may involve more chicken/vegetable garden/farm/bee posts. And whoever mentioned chocolate brownies is a genius, maybe I will include a few cooking posts too. Heh.

Which is probably ok, since many of you wanted to hear about this crazy farm life we have AND especially my meat chicken raising experience! I will write about that next time, I would do it today but I think it might be a rather long post with a lot of pictures and I have to start a rather complicated 40"x46" painting today. I really must get to work on that so that I can get to bed at a decent hour tonight. Seriously, it could take all day!

And the reason I must start the painting today is because it's for a solo show at The Main Street Gallery in Groton, NY, and all the work must be delivered by next Saturday. Even though I have two more large and pretty detailed paintings to finish, I feel like I am in pretty good shape here; all the other work is completed, all I have left is documenting it, and also painting the edges of the panels and putting on the hangers etc. A few days work, tops.

I am very excited about this show; The Main Street Gallery has been very kind to me over the years, they gave me my first solo show back in 2005 (which will always remind me of Hurricane Katrina, read about that here) and have also included me in several group shows. So when they invited me back to do another show, I said yes right away. And even better, they agreed to show the 'People You Know' pieces that I did in Vermont last winter, and I am adding four new portraits, PLUS a new series of small landscapes, including the one pictured above. I have taken a long enough break from paintings landscapes so that my return to them has actually been lovely and peaceful and I am quite happy about them.

So the opening reception for the show is on Saturday, September 11, 5-8pm and Doug and I will be there if anyone wants to come by and say hello. I will be posting many of the images here in the coming weeks and as soon as the show opens all the paintings can be viewed on the gallery's website.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dipping my Toes in the Water

Line of Trees, 6"x12", Oil on Birch Panel, 2010

So I guess I might be the stubborn sort. I want to keep this blog going even if I have been moving further and further away from it lately. Maybe it's all the fame and fortune it brings me that lures me back???? No, probably not that, hehe.

But there is something here, because every day for the last few months I kept thinking that I should write a new post even though I didn't really feel like it. Maybe I just needed a good long break to reassess. It has also occurred to me that maybe, and it's a real longshot, I have become totally sick of talking about myself all the time. Maybe I am preferring the short sound bite style mentions of myself and my activities that I post on Facebook. The ones that seem to fulfill the same need to express what I am doing, but take much less time and thought and get much more immediate feedback. Or maybe 4+ years for a blog is a really good run and I should close it up. Just a few of the many theories that I have been pondering in the last two months.

Well whatever the reason, here I am again and I will keep trying to find my balance in all this social media stuff until some sort of answer clunks me in the head.

Ok, so here is a brief update on life in Tracyland during the last few months:

-new hen house in the garage
-45 new egg layer chicks
-raised 40 meat chickens
-drove my kids everywhere everyday
-kids at summer camp and at Outward Bound at various times, but never at the same time
-husband out of town on our 17th wedding anniversary
-signed up to participate in a community yard sale day then bailed out because we were overwhelmed by all the sorting that had to be done
-read 'Open' by Andre Aggassi, my love
-mucho gardening but mucho problems with critters and weeds
-The Fabulous Beekman Boys
-me sending paintings to a new gallery for a try out
-me getting the paintings back after they received ZERO interest from customers
-one of my black paintings being accepted into a national juried show
-the start of a new series of portraits that I am SUPER excited about
-spending July and August preparing for a solo show in September
-a few shows added to my schedule for 2011
-and signing up to do several things I have avoided in the past which could be good but I am doing them mostly because the art business has been pretty slow again this year.

The list of things that I have NOT done this summer and should have, is much, MUCH longer.

So who wants to hear more about what? Speak up, otherwise the next post will be all about raising meat chickens. heh.