Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tips for Living

The main character of Renée Shafransky's new book is a columnist for a newspaper in the imaginary seaside town of Pequod. The book begins by quoting from "Tips for Living," a column written by the main character. The "Tips" columns satirically address issues that arise in seasonal resort communities. The first column describes, quite plausibly, a proposal to live in a container while renting out your real home as an Air BnB. This introduces us to the wry voice of our heroine, Nora Glasser. Nora is not only witty and smart, but a survivor of a brutal romantic betrayal. A betrayal that places Nora as prime suspect in a murder investigation.
Renée Shafransky read from her novel at Harbor Books.
"Tips for Living" is a multi-layered novel. There are layers of "Tips" as well as layers of mystery. There is betrayal and redemption. I finished the book hoping for another. No spoilers for you, I recommend that you look for it in your local bookstore or download a book right now: here
This weekend, Sag Harbor seemed, in the very best way, much like the town described in Renée's book.
From the Pequod Courier
Tips for Living
by Nora Glasser
Aunt Lada's Advice
Do the best you can. Give it your all.
As the Russians like to say: "The first pancake is always a blob".
And, furthermore, "She who takes no risks, never gets to drink champagne."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Toy Story

In January, I sought a new painting project. Miserable weather kept me indoors. A splash of red caught my eye. 
Toy Boat
Oil on Canvas Board 8 x 8in
A red toy sailboat, a gift from years ago, overlooked now, enjoyed by summer visitors. I admired it sitting on a stack of books next to the sofa. Thinking, "I'll just paint this" I picked it up by the sail and wandered to the studio. Painting it was more difficult than I imagined. I tried to keep my paint strokes loose. After the paint had dried, it occurred to me that it would be fun to paint a series of Toy Portraits.
There were no other toys in the house. Not counting art supplies, of course. Time for visit to the Wharf Shop in Sag Harbor.
The Wharf Shop
This year, the Wharf Shop celebrates its 50th year as an independently owned and operated toy store.  Sag Harbor is fortunate to have Founding owner Nada Barry and her daughter, Co-owner Gwen Waddington as part of the community. The store lives and breathes toys and Sag harbor. A trip to the village is not complete without a stop there. If only these floorboards could  talk. 
A plush orange cat reminded me of my niece.
Allie's Cat
Oil on Canvas Board, 8 x 8in
My seven year old niece is a cat fancier. She is also a budding artist. While thinking of her, in the midst of painting a plush toy cat portrait, I received a text from my sister. "The Jessicas have had their faces chewed off." Jessica is the name of a toy; an orange plush tabby cat, my niece's favorite. The family dog, still a puppy really, couldn't tell the  difference between a dog toy and my niece's toys. In fact, to a dog, the plush cat probably seemed a perfect toy! A previous canine encounter left the original Jessica faceless. Cookie Gramma did surgery and made the gift of Jessica II. Now both Jessicas had become chew toys. My painting complete, I posted my still life model to my niece. My former model was christened, Cleo.
with Cleo
Mauled Jessicas
Jessica, pre-mauling, as still life model.
My Niece's Drawing
Isn't this still life amazing? Well observed! Of course I'm biased. I returned to the Wharf Shop and picked up Jessica III. Cookie Gramma can't be the only spoiler.
Pool and bath toys available at the Wharf Shop.
"You're The One"
Oil on Canvas Board 8 x 8in
I was singing the Sesame Street song while I was painting this one. Fun!
Oil on Canvas Board 8 x 8in
The Wharf Shop also has a great selection of local books.
Jessica III

69A Main Street
Sag Harbor, NY 11963

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Maud Lewis

This year's Oscar nominee buzz includes Sally Hawkins' nomination for Best Actress in the film, The Shape of Water. I have yet to see that film, but loved her in an under known film; Maudie, which describes the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Hawkins subtly plays Maud Lewis, a woman afflicted by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and orphaned. She was discriminated against because of her handicap and life decisions yet was buoyed up and eventually made famous through her art. 
Sally Hawkins portrays Maud with quiet strength and determination.
Maud Lewis (1903-1970) in her home studio
Maud Lewis, 1965
Photo by Bob Brooks image via
Spring Sleigh Ride by Maud Lewis
Oil on Panel, 11.5 x 14" Circa 1960
1965 Video from CBC archives via
This film captivated me. Ethan Hawk played Maud's husband Everett with great sensitivity. Then there was THE HOUSE. Maud turned it into a work of art.
Maud and Everett Lewis
photo via
Maud and Everett Lewis's cottage is now in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. I can't believe how tiny it is! 
photo via
Maud's story is an inspiring one, especially good for these long winter days. I can't complain after seeing Maud in her tiny home studio. She just kept painting. 

Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows film by NFB (National Film Board of Canada) via
Maude Film Website
Maud Lewis - Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Maud Lewis Bio

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ned Parkhouse: A Remembrance, Late Mourning

Each day, as I follow usual routines, familiar sights and people become... well, familiar.  In Sag Harbor, Main Street is revered as one would a historic artifact. Construction is heavily regulated and the structural outline of Main Street is mostly unaltered. The constancy of Sag Harbor Village is a balm. I am grateful for this, but have to remind myself, a village is not just buildings. A village is its people and its residents will not last forever. I found myself thinking about one of Sag Harbor's deceased citizens, Ned Parkhouse, this weekend.
Portrait of Edward D. Parkhouse, 1951
by Elmyr de Hory oil 46 x 30in
Edward (Ned) Demarest Parkhouse, Jr. passed away on January 15, 2009, he was 85 years old. I first met Ned  in his music shop of course. I was walking down Main Street, attracted by a video in the window of his shop of a ballet performance. I stepped inside. Classical music played and an extensive collection of classical and jazz music videos and CDs were displayed in cozy antique filled surroundings. It was late afternoon and the shop was rather dark. Ned admitted to forgetting to put on the lights. It didn't matter much either way to him by them. He was nearly blind.

The 2006 recording, Remembering New Orleans, a selection of piano improvisations composed by Ned has become a favorite of mine. Ned's playing is meditative, full of emotion. I have become more attached to it as time passes. On the CD case is a portrait of Ned painted in 1951 by Elmyr de Hory. It must have been painted while de Hory was in New Orleans restoring paintings at the City Hall there. In 1967 de Hory was discovered to be a master forger, producing over a thousand works of art purported to be by Modigliani, Matisse and others. I wonder what Ned thought of that. At any rate, it is a lovely portrait and I do detect a hint of the style of Modigliani. 
Piano Reveries by Ned Parkhouse
Remembering New Orleans 
recording via
"I was born in New Orleans in 1923. I left in 1951, but it never left me. It is the place I still call home. Manhattan thrilled me. I loved living there for thirty years, but I found myself dreaming of what I had left behind; its sad beauty which was the heart of New Orleans' famous 'joie de vivre." It was there I had my first professional experience in the world of classical music. 

I became a music critic for The New Orleans Item, an afternoon newspaper. The fact that I was unaquainted with much of what I would be reviewing challenged me as nothing had ever done. "Tristan and Isolde" for example. Wagner's masterpiece was to be the vehicle that would relaunch the career of Kirsten Flagstaff, whose reputation had been sufficiently sanitized after World Ware II. Her glorious voice would be heard again in America. And, the New Orleans Opera Association would be the venue. I hadn't a clue to any of this. Nevertheless I had much to say about it all. Anxiety notwithstanding, I got better and loved the job.

I met Virgil Thomson, a famous New York music critic, in a Bourbon Street bar. He seemed to offer me a job on his staff at the New York Herald Tribune. He was, alas, not forthcoming when I arrived in Manhattan. I managed to live there happily doing other things - such as almost twenty years at the Doubleday Publishing Company as chief copywriter. It was great being there.

I very much love living in Sag Harbor where, late in life, some of my early dreams have become real. Among them is the fact of this recording. My love of the piano began at the age of nine, before I ever had one. In those early days I would sit in front of the living room sofa and play it as though it were a real piano. Then, my passion was to play the three B's: Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms with a little Rachmaninoff and Chopin thrown in. Now I am too blind to read music and too forgetful to remember  it. So I now make up my own, and that is what you will hear." - Ned Parkhouse, 2006
Ned Parkhouse
in the doorway of his Main Street Music Shop
photo by Kathryn Szoka

Thank you Ned for your music. You are missed.
150 Main Street today

Sag Harbor Express: Obituary

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Art Every Day

This month, I am participating in the Thirty Squared art challenge. Most of the artists are attempting to do a painting a day. I am focusing on just doing some sort of art ever day. I participated last year for the first time and found it to be an extremely rewarding experience.
A collection of morning doodles
My usual morning commute to work is spent checking email and looking at social media. The sitting still part of my commute is under 15 minutes. Could I use that time to make art? Instead of looking at other people's news, I decided to do a morning doodle. For my doodles, I am using Strathmore Watercolor Artist Tiles that are 6 inch square and Faber Castell artist pens. I carry my supplies in a ziplock plastic bag.
I've wanted to paint a spot in East Hampton with Adirondack chairs facing an inlet. It is in one of those "members only" areas unavailable for a plein air painting effort. I want to render it in oil paint, this watercolor interpretation is good for practice. 
I took pad and paper and began sketching Hugh. There were moments of triumph when I thought I was starting to get it, followed by defeat when I realized that my efforts were ending in failure. I felt bad showing him the terrible renderings with the excuse that I needed more practice. He was a darling, "Well, I'll be here every night." Awwwww.... My model husband.
International Artist Magazine had a watercolor tutorial on painting faces. Some test runs.
Southampton Shores
oil on canvas, 11 x 14"
I broke out the oil paints to see if I could finish a plein air piece that I began this summer of the beach at Southampton Shores. It is still unfinished, but in a bit better place than I left it last. Progress on my UFOs is good, but I was itching to start a new project. This weekend, I was inspired to start a new series of small paintings. The toy boat below is the first in my "Toy" series. I'm excited to discover the next toy who will have its portrait painted in oil.
Toy Boat
oil on canvas panel, 8in square

Creating art every day is already yielding promising results.

We saw the film, I'm Not Your Negro, based on an unfinished book by James Baldwin the night of the holiday in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. The film is strong, moving, a charge against complacency. I woke up with a phrase going through my head. "A hundred march, a hundred learn... a hundred pray, a hundred burn." On my way to work, I wrote out the words before I could forget them. The morning doodle was replaced by a Pantoum. 
This weekend... I marched.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A New Year, Already Flying

Flying Point Beach
Getting warm.
I recently discovered that the First Presbyterian church shelters the homeless from November through March. First Pres. is one of the local churches participating in Maureen's Haven program, where houses of worship give shelter to those in need. 
Girlfriends at Turtle Pond
We are beginning the year with crisply cold, snowy weather. I am still catching up with family for holiday cheer. I love the multi-day, multi-state celebrations. It multiplies the joy of the season for me. The cold weather has been good for bundling indoors and counting blessings. I am fortunate to have a healthy husband who is my best friend and true love, wonderful family on both sides, a job that provides. (Right about now, Hugh would have me knock wood.) For resolutions? To be kind and do the best I can, to give it my all, no matter what it may be.
I wish you and yours all the best in the New Year.