Blue of the Sky

The snow this morning made the deep blue of the sky stand out.

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The backyard exploded with the memories of deep winter, strangely cast against sunshine typical for spring.

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A variety of cloud shapes and layers helps to deepen the quality of the blue. The world's most amazing dog companion doesn't hurt either. The dog is off in the distance, by the way, in the shot above, scouting for soft light and booming contrasts.

The snow bends this pine bough, but only temporarily. This shot was taken at around 8 AM. By noon, this snow will melt under the weight of the sun.

The snow bends this pine bough, but only temporarily. This shot was taken at around 8 AM. By noon, this snow will melt under the weight of the sun.

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Our favorite poets prodded us to remember their best lines in the presence of these skies.

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The distant proximity of the hills of New Hampshire, as glimpsed from the top of Gillette Hill, (Wilder, in Hartford, Vermont.) The magnetic background nearly overpowers the chalky blue hills perched along the horizon.

There were two paths: one went up, the other left, but it was this one that drew her nose.

There were two paths: one went up, the other left, but it was this one that drew her nose.

When Crows Came To Stay

In February the crows came to stay.

If you were to look more closely at our almanacs from February and March, you might notice the winged and feathered influence of a certain bird from the family corvidae.

detail from Almanac #5a March

detail from Almanac #5a March

 

Yes, we are talking about the American Crow, or Corvus Brachyrhynchos—perhaps the canniest and certainly the creepiest of birds.

In our February and March almanacs, crows proliferate. They take flight and respite. Their wings bear brushstrokes, words, and occasionally, omens. Their history and behavior serve as inspiration for poems, puzzles, and more.

detail from Almanac #5b Almanac with Crows

detail from Almanac #5b Almanac with Crows

 

So where, when and how did the crows become central to our canvases? Okay, we’ll tell you.

In the late afternoon on February 5th, a great commotion brought all of the Chaneys (plus dog) hurrying to our windows. What looked to be hundreds of crows swirled like a living, feathered cyclone above a neighboring pine tree. We had never seen so many crows in one place at one time.

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After a little research, we concluded we were witnessing a mega roost. Common in winter, these crow parties boast big numbers, often in the thousands. Although it may look and sound like these roosting birds are auditioning for roles in a Hitchcock remake, they are just settling down for the night. Crows who roost together tend to be safer from predators. And hey, that would have to be one brave owl to attack 144,000 crows!

 

Here are three examples of how we honored the crows in our almanacs:

1)   Asemic Writing

Ink on canvas and paint splatter (the latter created by very controlled flicking of the brush). The legible writing gets smaller and smaller, till it is indistinguishable from a flock of distant birds.

detail from Almanac #5a

detail from Almanac #5a

 

2)   Shaped Poetry

We used cardstock paper and exacto knifes to make our own bird-shaped stencils for writing.

This exercise is great for writers who want to explore the visual appeal of their written words.

detail from Almanac #4 February

detail from Almanac #4 February

 

3)   Shaped Poetry, Plus

Another take on a similar idea. Here we take the crow shape and make it the ground for words. These word-birds are set against a background of oil paint and newspaper collage.

detail from Almanac #4 February

detail from Almanac #4 February

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We love nothing better than to draw inspiration from the daily.

This day was no exception. The crows left their mark on our canvases.

Let Birch Inspire

Creativity is hard work. It's all worth it when the well of ideas flows. But it's no walk in the park when the ideas won't come. Well, there might be more wisdom in that phrase than we know. Whenever we feel the lulls (that are really essential to creative work!), we look to the trees in our backyard for inspiration.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

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A big, beautiful curl of birch bark hangs proudly atop our February Almanac, shown above while still in progress. We salvaged this piece during one of our walks on Gillette Hill.

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A close-up on the tiny forest of birch shavings inside our natural embellishment. We later decided to convert this one into a tiny mailbox. It even has an actual letter inside (written on birch bark, of course). The natural asymmetries of a birch curl often challenges us to think in unexpected and whimsical directions.

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The birch tree is known for its beauty and resilience. Resistant to water and disease, the bark has been used for centuries to make everything from canoes to writing paper. Here, it graces our canvas in homage to nature's flawless engineering.

 

Art Making With Snow--Photo Impressions Frozen in March

It's all in the framing.

We spend time finding art in the natural arrangements surrounding us.

We spend time finding art in the natural arrangements surrounding us.

A collage is any selection of items. We like it when the principle of selection is as obvious as our color choices.

A collage is any selection of items. We like it when the principle of selection is as obvious as our color choices.

Curating a visual panoply--that's one way of seeing our process, as through a glass hazed over with winter frost.

Curating a visual panoply--that's one way of seeing our process, as through a glass hazed over with winter frost.

During our daily hikes along the base of Gillette Hill, we wonder about those whose prints precede ours with gratitude and humility.

During our daily hikes along the base of Gillette Hill, we wonder about those whose prints precede ours with gratitude and humility.