Binghamton July Fest 2013 — what a hoot!

The original art side of my booth
The original art side of my July Fest booth (not shown: cards, prints, and earrings). Photo thanks to Angela Cook.

It’s Wednesday, and I’m just now recovering from last weekend’s July Fest, the 51st year of Binghamton, New York’s downtown music, art, and community festival. What a hoot it was. Not a terribly profitable year for me or for many of those around me — though it was wonderfully so for a couple of my artist friends. But for many of us it’s as much a social and networking occasion as it is a sales venue. There were people from my high school class (FAR too long ago), Facebook friends I’d never actually met before, people who’d bought my work before, and many who hadn’t but loved it.
Artists in Action
“Artists in Action” booths on “Gorgeous” Washington Street – my booth was the third one down on the right. Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz
There were artist-friends and “neighbors” old and new who were both good company and mutually supportive. Dogs and children I adored and/or pitied. An appalling number of very fat people. Stressed-out but accommodating and helpful organizers (including Ron Sall, July Fest coordinator, who is every July Fest artist’s best friend).
Ron Sall (right, in orange shirt)
Ron Sall (right, in orange shirt) is the guy who pulls it all together. He well deserves the 2012 Heart of the Arts Award he received from the Broome County Arts Council! Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz.
The weather was hot, on Friday and Saturday, but brutal on Sunday. I had to leave early on Sunday anyway, due to a timing conflict with the Opening and Awards celebration of the Roberson Regional across the river, and although I hated abandoning my friends and the show, and disappointing Ron as well, I wouldn’t have been able to take the heat for much longer in any event. Thanks again to my volunteer “porters,” a lovely last-minute customer and two old dance friends who helped me haul all my stuff to the car, and of course to my sweet husband who leapt up at my last-minute phone call to come downtown and take my largest painting home separately so it wouldn’t get damaged. That large painting was Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall (visible at right in the photo at the top of the page), which got some rave reviews — including one from Marion Simpson, who is not known to give praise lightly, and another from Nancy Goff, whose own work I so admire. Pretty heady stuff!
Strollers on Court St.
Strollers on Court St. — the city closes three blocks of downtown Court St., plus a block each of cross streets Washington and State, for July Fest. Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz
It was altogether exhausting, and on Monday I was apparently still running on adrenaline when Mary Robertson and I met to re-do our storefront exhibit at 97 Court St. We were — almost literally — bouncing off the walls with laughter and fatigue.
On Tuesday afternoon I fell over for the rest of the day.

Next post on the Roberson Regional opening and show — a remarkable exhibit — but I’ll wait for that until next week, when I’ll have some photos to post.

A successful festival, shadowed by sad news

My booth at Window on the Arts
My booth at Window on the Arts

Saturday’s Window on the Arts Festival was a smashing success, both for the festival itself and for me personally. I was a bit concerned about how large (or small) a crowd it might draw, with this year’s relocation away from the central town square to a nearby but not-so-central park; and the night before, the winds and rain came crashing down on the early set-up gazebo tents (mine amongst them). However, the local Binghamton newspaper had given the festival the front cover of its Thursday “Good Times” supplement, the Friday night storms stopped in time, and all began — and continued — well.

Parade of the Puppets opens the Festival
Parade of the Puppets opened the festival, just before the sun came out
End of the Festival Parade
End of the Festival Parade

I showcased my “Feathered and Feline” series of art about birds (mostly owls) and cats — along with a few other pieces, and had matted art prints and art cards of most pieces, as well as many not hanging at this show. I was so busy selling prints, cards, and earrings that I never did have time to set up for on-the-spot portraits. It was so gratifying the way people responded to my cats and birds, and I even sold a larger print of The Flood,

The Flood
The Flood: 10.7×8.3 in., pastels over ink underpainting on fibered buff paper

a pastel piece of last year’s flooding Susquehanna River.

And beyond the sales, everyone wanted to interpret and discuss the art. I just love hearing people’s interpretations of some of my images, especially when they’re not speaking directly to me. “Oh, look,” said one man to his wife about Window, “it’s a cat looking into a mirror, and he sees himself as an owl.” Wow. That’s the one that’s stayed with me.


In the early afternoon, Sweetie brought food, the dog, and a break (after calming me down and packing the car for me in the morning — not to mention helping me set up the gazebo tent the night before). We were both impressed by the quality of the arts and crafts there, as well as the quantity of fifty artisans… and Sweetie is not easily impressed!

Alan Crabb 1942-2012

As I walked around the festival on my break, he took over the sales for a while but called my cell phone, after checking Facebook on his phone, to tell me that Alan Crabb had died. It was not unexpected; Alan had been in the UPenn hospital for a couple of weeks, suffering open-heart surgery and severe complications after a risky heart procedure, but it was still a shock and a sorrow. He was friend and maestro to so many, a beloved high school music teacher in his working years not so very long ago, a gifted world-class tenor, and one of a kind. He was a manic, maddening, arrogant, rude, distracted, and self-centered Welshman with an aura a mile wide: a demanding but gentle mentor to all who sang under his direction, a warm and loyal friend — father of two adult sons from his first marriage (to the first — and so far only — woman mayor of Binghamton) and of a two-year-old son from his recent second marriage to a lovely young violist. Sunday, I felt consumed by exhaustion and grief, and laid low for a day. Rest in peace, Alan Crabb — 1942-2012.

This week I have several projects to start or continue: finish unpacking the car (and clean it), mat and frame my two entries for the upcoming Rude and Bold Women show, get back into the new still life (calling to me now from its easel across the room…), replace the traded-out still lives in the Acme exhibit, design and build the Acme business window, photograph contra dancers for Unlikely Dance, sing Diamonds in the Rough‘s “Eldercare Tour,” and — as if that’s not enough — start a call for images of Alan, with which I plan to build a commemorative/interpretive painting of him. More on that next.

Blake+Robertson at Acme: the revival of one still life, and the start of a new one

Blake and Robertson, still lives at Acme
Blake and Robertson, still lives at Acme

At Johnson City Carousel Day in July I re-met Peggy Benz; she was handing out programs, and we realized we knew one another from long ago… finally nailed it down to the 1970s feminist health group we were both involved in. Some days later I got an email from her — she’s now waging a one-woman campaign to clean up “downtown” Johnson City. She’d seen the Nolan+Robertson+Henry+Blake storefront exhibit at 97 Court St. in Binghamton, and wondered if we’d like to do something similar in Johnson City. Hmmm. Despite my doubts, I contacted Rich, Richard, and Mary; Mary was enthusiastic. So Tuesday — in the midst of my struggles with a badly infected spider bite on my arm — Mary and I set up our show at Acme Cash Register, 238 Main St. in Johnson City. We both came equipped with easels and art, as well as my Craftsman-style 3-panel folding screen. Mary vacuumed the rug in the window (and subsequently the entire front office of the bustling family business) as I unloaded my car, then we cleaned the windows, Mary unloaded, and we started deploying easels and artwork in the lovely deep window.

Mary Robertson and I realized when we met each other two years ago that our still life subjects were eerily parallel, considering the fact that we did them with no knowledge of each other’s work. (We’d even had identical grey and white cats.) So this struck me as a fine theme for the exhibit.

Jug and Beanpot  - Glenda Blake
Jug and Beanpot – Glenda Blake – 16×20 in., oils on canvas – at

The human figure is my primary art interest, and lacking quite enough works for the window, I pulled out an old, partially failed still life from a class I took a year or so ago, re-composed it in Photoshop, and re-painted the bothersome bits. What a relief! All I needed was a concrete purpose for fixing it. I’m so happy now with Jug and Beanpot I hated to let it go.

I am an awful perfectionist when it comes to displays — and my sweetie took an awful tumble on the sidewalk, bringing the items I’d forgotten — but somehow we made it through, Mary and I with friendship intact and sweetie and I with marriage intact, despite his possible cracked rib from the fall. We think the window looks great, and so does Joan Sacco, the proprietor. The street traffic in JC may not be our constituency, but Acme has foot-traffic clentele from the restaurant, hotel, and academics sectors, so this could be a good thing. And it really does help beautify the old business district.

This effort took me back to the days when I designed retail windows, both for a full-time employer and as a freelancer. Fun. Rejuvenating. Next week I’m going to redesign the opposite window for Joan, with all their business items, as a thank-you for letting us use what is for now the art window. Really looking forward to it, and hoping we might be able to stay in the art window for a while.

Nolan+Robertson+Henry+Blake, v.2
+Henry+Blake, v.2

Meanwhile, we’ve done a change-out in the Binghamton window at 97 Court St., and I’m planning a showing of my “Feathered and Feline” series at “Window on the Arts,” in Windsor, NY, this coming Saturday.

Can I get a new still life done in time to take the place of Eddie and Blue Eggs,

Eddie and the Blue Eggs (Still Life with Cat)
Eddie and the Blue Eggs (Still Life with Cat) – at

in the Acme exhibit, so I can show “Eddie” in Windsor? Wait and see!

Wol is finished, and the Lost Dog show is hung

Finally finished Wol and the Stone Goddess yesterday, and got it framed in time to add it to my Feathered and Feline show, which I hung this morning in the Lost Dog Cafe.

Today proved to be a bit of a bad art karma day; when I got to the Lost Dog, there was already art on the walls, and complications ensued — which included my discovery of a broken piece of framing glass on one of my pieces. Delayed by the brouhaha and confusion, I hung the show as quickly as possible (whew — what a simple way to describe a LOT of work!), took the broken piece back home, re-framed it, and ran it — along with the missing tag for Wol — back to the Dog, only to find a jam-packed restaurant. I do hope Nicole was able to put the drawing and the tag in place when the crowd thinned out!

So here’s the finished Wol and the Stone Goddess. It’s also now available as prints from my Etsy shop — just click on the photo to go there.

Wol and the Stone Goddess
Wol and the Stone Goddess - colored pencil on painted hardboard, 24 x 24"

And here are some photos of the show in place, before the onslaught of diners. It’s such a popular place, and the people are so nice; I love showing here.

Feng Shui art

Much to my chagrin, I missed the deadline for drop-off of my dance pieces for the Accompaniment show at the BCAC… I’d marked it wrongly on my calendar. But, well — I guess I’ll use those pieces as part of my in-process application for exhibiting membership at Cooperative Gallery 213 in Binghamton. Tomorrow I’m taking down my show at Tranquil Bar and Bistro, and I’ll be hanging it in the Lost Dog Cafe on Wednesday morning. In between times several of the pieces will go to Co-op 213 for the membership committee. Would love to be a part of this group!

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a piece from 2009 at my Etsy shop. I made this art based on a tip from a Lillian Too book on Feng Shui — to sell your house, draw a picture of a bird flying out of your house, carrying a piece of paper in its beak. Optionally, write the amount you hope to sell the house for on the paper the bird carries. Hang this picture at the right (facing out) of the front door.

Since we knew where we wanted to move to, I bordered the house and bird with an image of our destination area.

After a more than a year of having our house on the market, I made this artwork and hung it as directed, and we sold the house on favorable terms four months later. I’m also offering custom pieces for people trying to sell their houses.

I love this technique — such fun. It’s a digital collage printed in partial opacity on fibered paper and worked back into with colored pencil and pen & ink.

Feng Shui Moving Bird
Feng Shui Moving Bird

Talking at FASST, fixing a figure, and running art around town

I felt so appreciated at the FASST (Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier) meeting last night. Such fun to speak to a group of artists about how I make — and attempt to market — my fine art. And it was so good of the Community Foundation to allow me to borrow back three pieces from my show there for last night’s talk — I re-hung them them this morning, with thanks.

In an attempt to do a quick fix on Wol and the Stone Goddess last night before the meeting, I succeeded in making the figure barrel-chested as well as pin-headed… but it was fun to talk about, with a sympathetic group. I’ll have to make it work soon, as it’s going to be an addition to my Feathered and Feline show when that moves from Tranquil Bar/Bistro to the Lost Dog Cafe next week.

Later today, I’m taking two pieces to the Broome County Arts Council gallery for their upcoming April show, Accompaniment.

Here’s the unsuccessful fix on Wol and the Stone Goddess:

Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 13
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 13: pin-headed and barrel-chested goddess figure

…and these are the two pieces headed for the Broome County Arts Council’s Accompaniment show:

All-In: Morris 5
All-In: Morris 5 - 24" x 18", oils on canvas

Princess Royal: Morris 3
Princess Royal: Morris 3 - 16" x 20", oils on canvas

Wol and the Stone Goddess: still a work in progress

Sigh. Well, I finally had to go out and buy some stinky-toxic workable fixatif, but after that the finishing stages of the now-titled “Wol and the Stone Goddess” went swimmingly, I thought, until I photographed it, and, as I was editing the photo for upload, noticed that I’d screwed up the neck of the goddess figure with too much blue. And now the disproportionate head is much more noticeable. I’ve started repairing it, but the piece will have to go to my demo and talk as an actual in-progress demo…

Ah well. I’ve borrowed back a couple of pieces from the my Community Foundation show and will show progressives for this piece and “Spring Rites,” as well as my Etsy shop.

Here are last night’s and today’s progress. Other than the part in question, I’m pretty happy with it.

Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12... and the work continues...

Bottom to top, day to night

So it turns out I’m making a piece of art that shifts from day to night as one goes from bottom to top. It’s a bit of a surprise to me too, but that’s what’s happening. Love it when the art takes over.

Today I’m trying the new non-toxic casein- and alcohol-based fixatif — just applied the second layer. No fan needed, but drying time is required, and although it says it’s workable, I’m not sure it’s going to give me the texture I need to continue applying pencil in layers. The whole piece is slick with wax, now, and I have more layering — and virtually the entire owl figure — to do.

I’d really like to finish it for the FASST demo tomorrow night — may have to skip tonight’s Binghamton Downtown Singers rehearsal to do that, though sometimes work finishes rather suddenly when I’m not expecting it. I’m hoping for that, but right now this piece of art is paramount. Here’s what I got done yesterday.

Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10

Owl and Stone Goddess… day 3

Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio
Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio: my lighting consists of a close overhead fixture covered with a Japanese paper shade, a focused and moveable desk lamp (with wax-paper diffuser) to my left, and natural window light to my right. All artificial lights contain daylight-spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs. Although their light isn't truly full-spectrum, it's a remarkably good simulation.

After spending most of my professional life in the discipline of publication deadlines, as a freelance artist and designer I still find deadlines my most effective motivation, such as scheduled shows and exhibits and this FASST demo on Monday.

So here’s what I got into yesterday. Some literature on colored pencil says to work light to dark. I haven’t found that method altogether successful — in my experience, different colors work with one another differently, regardless of shade or tint. All are translucent; some, like white , are more opaque; some make a drier mark and are easy to work over, like the indigo blue I used first to render the goddess figure; and some are slicker and less easy to cover… like the yellow I laid down first for the owl figure. I’m afraid a lot of the darks and midtones in the plumage will have to wait until I apply the first coat of workable fixatif, restoring the grab of the surface. Before that happens, I plan to get the tree started, over the laid-in sky shapes, and then proceed to work the sky between the branches so the tree is integral to the piece rather than laid over it.

Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4: taking the color trail of indigo darks into the goddess figure, laying down midtones - dark yellow and lilac, respectively, into the owl and goddess figures
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5: starting the figure rendering over midtones
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6: darks rendered in goddess figure, and over-burnished with a lilac pencil stick. lights will come later. Owl figure's rendering will have to wait, due to the slick surface of dark yellow I used as a first layer.