Monday, May 19, 2014

I went to Scotland!

The following is an article I wrote after my trip to Scotland this May with a group of really wonderful friends and Gail Speckman our group leader. We spent 11 days traveling a circle route in the northern half of Scotland. What a wonderful experience.

Staffa Day Trip

The day starts early and ends late but what a day. Four of us shared a taxi down to the wharf where we waited for the ferry to take us to Mull. Mary and Gail walk the mile or so to the wharf - such energetic women. 
Ferry to Mull

The huge ferry was being loaded with box trucks taking produce and products to the islands. The prow of the ferry splits and raises up, opening the ship so the ramps can lower for the trucks and cars driving into the ferry. I think about how my husband would like to see the process. While we crossed to Mull, the clouds begin lifting. Breaks in the fog give views of small islands with light houses, beacons and ruins.

On Mull we rush to the waiting bus which will take us to the other side of the island for another ferry ride. The early morning brings day workers to the island and tourists eager to start sight seeing before the crowds spoil views.

Typical scenery in Scotland

The ride across the island of Mull takes an hour over the typical highland narrow, twisting and turning roads. Water falls are crashing down the mountains and streams that flow into lochs are abundant.

Another ferry ride, much shorter this time, takes us to the island of Iona for a short stop. Our ride to the island Staffa is waiting for us. It is a 40 foot cruiser with outside seating and an enclosed area for rainy days. 

Staffa boat taxi

The sky is clearing and the ride to Staffa takes about a half hour. Our captain really knows his boat and the ride is smooth, even with 3 and 4 foot swells coming in off the Atlantic. We can see Staffa coming into view. On maps it is a tiny pin prick of an island but as we get closer it raises up, towering over us. The captain pulls up to a concrete pier, where we jump down from the boat and begin exploring the island. We have two hours to see what ever we wish.
Approaching the Island of Staffa with Fingal's cave

Staffa is a volcanic island and from far off looks to me like a cupcake. The sides of the island are the pleated cup cake paper and the top the island is puffed up and over the paper cup. It is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed columns within a lava flow. Cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the solidified lava resulted in contraction and fracturing, starting in a blocky tetragonal pattern and transitioning to a regular hexagonal fracture pattern with fractures perpendicular to the cooling surfaces. As cooling continued these cracks gradually extended toward the center of the flow, forming the long hexagonal columns seen in the wave-eroded cross-section today. The cave's size and naturally arched roof, and the eerie sounds produced by the echoesof waves, give it the atmosphere of a natural cathedral. The cave's Gaelic name,An Uaimh Bhinn, means "the melodious cave."

Kathy and I decide to experience the cave. Just below the cliffs above the high tide mark, an easy path has been set for tourists, The hexagons are covered with grit to keep them from becoming slippery in wet conditions and there is a railing to hold onto to keep us steady.

The hexagon shape of the black rock is fascinating both the up right shapes that raise above us and the hex shapes that we follow to the cave. It is a short walk to the end of the island where Fingal's cave opens up to the Atlantic. The waves are crashing in and echoing in the huge cave.

The cave raises above us, hexagon after hexagon forming the tall narrow cave. Kathy and I walked in to the end of the walkway inside the cave. The crashing and echoing sounds create an exciting atmosphere. You can feel the energy surging all around you. There is mist in the air from the crashing waves and an island of foam on the water --- like my Guinness the night before.

After the trip to the cave I decide to explore the top of the island. I know that Gail and Mary went to find the puffin's roosting place at the other end of the island. As I climb the steps to the top, I stop to see the wild flowers growing out of the rock – life taking hold where ever it can. 

Sea Thrift

Oddly some the little wild flowers are the same I have nursed along in my garden at home. They look happier here in this wet island atmosphere than they do in my Minnesota garden.

At the top of the island, I find a huge rolling pasture of lush grass dotted with little yellow and white daises. Paths lead out from the steps in every direction.

Where to turn? Walk right to the puffin roost, ahead to the middle of the island or left? The view from the top is spectacular with islands dotting the horizon. I peer over the edge of the green grass to the hexagons many feet below me. There are no sturdy railings to keep people safe from their own carelessness. I do the crazy thing and lean over to photograph the tourists walking the path I was just on, so far below. I see the hexagons from high above and can see their interlocking patterns.

“What would the view be like if I walked up to the top of the cave?” I wander up the slope hoping that I will end up in the right place. There were no signs pointing to the over look above Fingal's cave. It is a fairly small island and the Scottish tend not need signs to tell them where to go. The path I took led me directly to the top of the cliff above the cave. I suppose there were many people who had the same idea as I. Peering over the edge I could see the point of hex shaped rocks that mark the opening of the cave. To get a better view, I lie down on my stomach to point my camera downward. I ask myself, “What is a 60-something grandma pulling a trick like this?” 

There is Gail and there is Mary, taking their photos of the cave below unaware that I am far above them taking a photo of them taking a photo.

Our time on Staff is limited and we are back on the boat. The next stop is the Island of Iona a civilized island with shops, a nunnery in ruins, a rebuilt Abby, standing crosses, and a Saint.

 Highland Impression

Clouds and fog play hide and seek with mountains,
Shedding their loads of rain and mist over bracken,
Unnamed streams fill, crash, twisting and turning, falling down mountain sides,
Carving gullies, streams, river basins, filling lochs
Lochs reflecting cloudscapes on their mirror surfaces

Clouds, fog, mists, sprinkles, streams, rivers, lochs --- Scotland

Monday, January 27, 2014

The holidays flew by, January has had us frozen in our tracks. I have a week to finish writing my grant for one final emerging artist grant. I need to start painting again. I think it has almost been a month and a half since I did any thing in my studio. Time to hop back in there and create.

I have been doing art related things in this painting hiatus.  My oasis paintings are in the new Prairie Lakes show for grantees from two years ago. They look really good and everyone wanted to live in the scenes of desert palm trees. What a great show, you need to stop over at the St. Peter Art Center on Minnesota Ave. to see all the great art. I am proud to be a part of that show.

"Oasis I," oil on canvas, (with lots of hot air for cold Minnesotans)

I delivered one of my oil and cold wax paintings to St. Paul's Monastery in Maplewood, MN for their "Seeing God" art show. The opening is Wednesday evening. We will not attend but I will go up on Saturday to see the show. I announced that I had taken the piece, "Fiery Spirit" to the show on FaceBook and one of my dear friends, liked it and bought it! I told her that she will really love it when she sees it in person. The texture just cannot be photographed well enough to see all the depth in these oil and wax paintings.
Fiery Spirit--oil and cold wax on canvas

There  is another juried show at Woodbury Lutheran Church. A similar theme for the show as the monastery's show--A visual bridge to God's truths.  I like these themed juried shows. I have a couple of paintings that will work for this show which starts in March.  Onward to another full year of art.

Monday, December 2, 2013

It is December---already! On Friday morning I set up for the first big art festival where I have my own display.

This is the poster for the show. It is up all over town.

I took inventory today and have about 60 paintings to display. From abstracts to flower paintings and everything in between. I think it will be a good way for me to hear what people like about my paintings. And then may be I can create more that people will like and maybe even buy.

So I hope that we have good weather and that lots of people come to the show. Dan and I have gone to the show the past couple of years as customers. Dan likes shopping at the show for my Christmas gift from him. There are so many good artists that participate in this sweet little show. Now I will be an artist there hoping to make a few sales.

We have a display rack all ready to go. We need to make it festive looking and have lights and garland ready to set up. I will have a special display for my pet portrait commissions. Have I mentioned how much Dan has helped with this project. He is the one who devised the rack, found the right kind of lights, makes frames for my paintings, and will keep me company this weekend. Nicest of guys!

This is the display before the garland and lights are added. 

 With 60 some paintings to bring to the show. I will have twice the number of paintings hanging on both sides of the display, some on the table in the space and stand-bys in boxes for customers to browse through. 

After this show is over, I will be able to get back to painting. My grandson, Jaedon, has requested a painting of Batman for Christmas. Can I do a cartoon character? And I might just have a commission to paint a pet for a Christmas gift.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On the Easel

Working on this commission. Mike's pit bulls who are as gentle as can be. The pair are sitting and soaking up early morning sun. This is still in progress. The puppy is mostly done. But Diesel, the big white needs lots of work on his face and eyes. Hope to have it done for the GSR Fine Arts Festival on Dec. 6-8 in Mankato's Verison Center.
 I love making the greys using orange and blue, with a little cad red. No black used in this painting.

My colors lately have been quite limited. For this painting I used,  burnt sienna, ultra  blue,  a tiny touch of cad. yellow and red medium, and white. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family. Enjoy the season and buy original art! :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It is a Month of Shows!

It has begun--Two months of shows and displays for me to keep track of. Lists, I must make lists!

This week there was an opening in the new Grand Center for the Arts in New Ulm. Their annual show, Artscape, is always fun to enter. The remodeled building is really nice. Good gallery space, lots of studio spaces for artists, work rooms for classes and a very nice apartment for a resident artists. A real class art space in a nice small town.

This is one of the paintings I entered in New Ulm. A water color from my experience in Italy in 2005. "Sunlit Window"

Two weeks ago, my studio mates and I hung a sampling of our work at Barnes and Noble for our bookfair. We use this project to raise some money to support our December show at the Emy Frentz Guild. The bookfair was really successful. This service from Barnes and Nobel is a real blessings for starving artists.
The front of our postcard announcing our member show.

We need a little cash to have post cards printed and to buy some wine and snacks for the show opening which is this week on Nov. 21st at our gallery I will show my abstracts in this show which will hang until the end of the year.

"Poppy Red" is a new painting for our show this Nov. and December.

The Carnegie Art Center in Mankato has a members show in December too. As a member I will be entering several of my smaller abstracts. This show hangs for the whole month of December.

"Shooting Stars"

Finally in January the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council will have a show at the St. Peter Arts Center for all the artists who were awarded a grant in the last round of awards. Since I recieved an award to attend a work show in Scottsdale, AZ, I will be able to hang my paintings from that experience.
"Three Palms"  one of the paintings for the Prairie Lakes show.

Whew! What fun and then we add Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in the mix. You will understand when I get totally mixed up with what is going on.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GSR Fine Arts Festival December 6,7,8th!

Just a month until I set up for my first GSR festival -- December 6, 7 and 8th at the Mankato Civic Center. It will be a great experience showing with over 45 other artists. My friends, Ann Judkins, Gail Speckman and Lisa Biere will be there at the show with me.  The show has music to listen to as you browse, a beautiful atmosphere.

Dan has put together a great display for my paintings, we have lighting and decorations and they tell me that I need to have some chocolate to hand out to our customers. Knowing me and chocolate, I will need to have my own stash under the table so I do not raid what is there for our customers. :-)

I will have a broad selection of paintings for the show. My pleine air landscapes, the new abstracts and some of my beautiful floral paintings. I will also offer to paint pet portraits on commission.

Hope to see lots of friends and family at the show.  It is a great time to find that special Christmas present for your favorite people.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I received a commission to paint a portrait of Stella, one sweet little doggie. I really like Stella but she does not like me. When I visit her she just smells "CAT" on me and keeps her distance. Makes me sad to think that a little cat hair gives her the willies. Stella's mom took a great photo of her. Black dogs are so hard to catch where their eyes show and their coats have light in them. Here is my finished painting. "Stella" will be a center piece in my display at the GSR fine arts show this December. I want to let other people learn about pet portraits by Margie. ;-)
The photo has a glare on the upper right hand but that doesn't take away from Stella's calm gaze.