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.

Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds – finished!

Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds
Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

Finished… and being submitted this afternoon to the 2013 Roberson Regional Art Exhibition, along with my other finished Unlikely Dance painting, Green Skirt. No guarantees of a place in this juried show, of course, and it’s impossible for me to be objective about it. As my artist friend Barbara says, we’re always in love with the latest piece. And I do love it, as well as the many friends and fans on Facebook who’ve Liked it. I’m such a sucker for approval.

My assistant, Lydia

Getting good photos of these larger pieces has been a real trial — I was afraid I might have to pay a professional to do it (which I’ve done in the past — photographers have to make a living too, but I don’t make a lot of money with which to pay them). Finally I found a place/time that worked — it’s at the top of the stairway to my studio, where at midday or thereabouts there’s even, diffused light coming from the rooms at either side of the landing. Here’s an unedited version where you can see how I’ve set the painting into the center doorway, with door closed:

Golden Clouds, uncropped
Golden Clouds, uncropped

You might notice the small wadded-up piece of paper in front of the painting, which was deposited there by my young studio assistant, Lydia. She’s not the most helpful assistant ever, and can be a distraction at times, but she means well, loves the work, and is very soft and comforting. :)

And now, onward with Unlikely Dance — I’ve got a finished underpainting all ready for the easel. But first, the whole process of Golden Clouds:

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.

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.

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

Feathered and Feline now hanging at Tranquil Bar/Bistro

My Feathered and Feline series has been moving along, and though there was more I wanted to do, and to hang, I had plenty for this show at Tranquil.

I love the art space at Tranquil — and the place as well: so nice for a post-First Friday Art Walk cool-down, or a fine dinner out.

So here’s my show, as hung Thursday. prints of all these pieces – and the originals of many – are now available at my online shop, GreenBoat Gallery.

Feathered and Feline, at Tranquil Bar/Bistro
Feathered and Feline, at Tranquil Bar/Bistro

Cat, Owl, Pussycat, finished – and other small victories

Cat, Owl, Pussycat is finally finished! And has a first coat of damar varnish to even out the surfaces of the various dull and glossy paints. I’ve recently added an earth pigment to my deliberately limited palette, and it seems to go dull or shiny at different times, with different amounts of medium.

The new pigment is burnt umber. I cut all earth tones from my palette a while ago, in an experiment to make color harmonies easier; if all colors are mixed from the same basic pigments, they’ll bear a closer relationship to one another than colors from a broad palette. But I’ve grown weary of mixing all my blacks and browns, so burnt umber — which I happened to have kicking around in my taboret — is a welcome addition. Combined with ultramarine blue it makes a deep, rich black, and with various combinations of cad yellow, cad red, and viridian it can fill in for any number of other earths. I still practice the art student avoidance of pre-mixed blacks.

So, my palette now consists of (clockwise from bottom):

  • titanium white
  • cadmium yellow light
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • cobalt violet
  • ultramarine blue
  • viridian green
  • burnt umber
  • … and, in the center, mother grey (a mixture of the other colors, made from palette scrapings of still-viable paints when each painting is finished)

I try to use as few solvents as possible — my studio is the second floor of our home — so my medium is a half & half mixture of stand oil and walnut oil, with a little Liquin (an alkyd drier), and I clean my brushes with a baby oil/turpenoid mixture and then dish detergent.

Just bought some long-bristled synthetic bristle filbert brushes, in sizes 2, 4, and 6 — I’ve been using sable and synthetic flats and rounds — and I LOVE them! So versatile and sensitive.

I’m exhibiting at the offices of the Community Foundation of South Central New York in March, and my work will be the backdrop for a special public event — how exciting is THAT?!

Also in March, my solo show Feathered and Feline will hang at Tranquil Bar and Bistro, and in April I’ll have two pieces in the group show Accompaniment at the Broome County Arts Council. Small victories all!

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: more paint

I haven’t worked on Cat, Owl, Pussycat since last Friday, due to drying time and little interruptions like dentist appointments, root canal work, and my own exploratory work in altered digital collage (more about the latter, later). All very exciting, but I’ve also been eager to get back to this piece. This afternoon I’ve laid down more paint, worked on a couple of bits that were nagging at me from that nail on the wall – like the terracotta saucer that had grown way out of proportion – and gotten the underpainting covered. Sometimes just getting some paint on the more intimidating parts is real progress!

Flowers aren’t a subject I’ve taken on very often, so this is a new challenge and learning experience. Hoping it doesn’t veer too far to the Cute and/or Pretty side…

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3
Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3: at lower right, on the easel shelf, my Color Isolator tool. :)