Monday, June 13, 2011

"Lay, Lady, Lay" or The Chicken Dilemma

Mystery Chicken - Henry? Henrietta?
For some reason, a Bob Dylan song has been running through my head all day; the one that begins,  “Lay, lady, Lay”. Maybe it has something to do with the chicken that has adopted our getaway home in the woods and the dilemma that this poses for us.

You see, a week ago yesterday we drove over to mow the lawn and found this chicken hanging around the yard. He/she was afraid of us but clearly was used to humans. Where did “it” come from? Why had it adopted this particular house that is so far from the road and on the edge of a vast woods? How long had it been there, and how had it managed to survive all the predators in the woods?

As we left, we checked the neighbor’s yards along the road but didn’t see any evidence of chickens or chicken coops and fully expected that the chicken would be gone when we returned for the weekend on Friday. Wrong! He/she greeted us not long after we pulled in and unloaded the car. Over the next two days it gradually became less wary and let us get closer and closer. In fact, it was very curious about our car and kept checking it out. That makes us wonder. Did someone dump it off “out in the country” like so many morons do with cats and dogs? And was it hoping our car would take it home?

I managed to snap some decent pictures of him/her (there is disagreement among my chicken raising friends as to what sex it is) and hope to do a painting in the near future. But, now we’re wondering what to do about this chicken who has adopted us. Should we feed it? Provide some sort of shelter for it? Capture it and rehome it?

I’m not too keen on the latter since neither of us has any experience with chickens. Perhaps I’ll consult our vets to see what they suggest. Or, we could call Animal Control, if there is such a thing in that oh so remote county. 

I had planned to do some plein air artwork over the weekend, but the weather was so abysmal that I stayed inside and went through old art magazines instead. It was cold, rainy and very dreary, but I enjoyed the luxury of having the time to read articles and cut them out to save. I’m only about five years behind in reading my magazines, you see.
flower bed, June 2011
Much of my time lately has been spent in gardening, and the yard is really looking nice this year, thanks to all the rain and cool weather we’ve been having. The new plants that were put in last year are really filling up the new flower beds, and some have already begun to bloom.  It makes all the hard work of the past few years finally seem worth it.

I will share more in future posts as the summer progresses. But, that’s all for now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Treasures In The Attic

"Beach Run" circa 1983
This Spring has proven to be very busy. There is always lots of yardwork to do, cleaning out of flower beds and planting new flowers and moving a few which didn’t fit where they were. But last weekend, I took a break from that to do a project which has needed doing for years now.

My kids (both in their thirties) were home for the weekend for Memorial Day, and I took advantage of the opportunity to draft some help with the job. While my son ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, my daughter, Tina, helped me clear out, clean and rearrange the attic. It’s a small space and had become so full that you could barely get through the door!
The studio full of attic discards

The door to the attic is in the studio supply closet which meant that a lot of what we took out ended up stacked in the studio and the adjacent room. Here is the studio with only a narrow path from the attic to the door. The library was equally crammed with attic rejects: mostly baby furniture, toys, children’s books and odds and ends.

Among the  treasures we unearthed from the far reaches of the attic was the painting above. It was done in 1983 when I was still in art school. I don’t remember having any help with it, but the influence of my painting courses is obvious in the  thick brushwork and unblended color. I did not have a photo to copy but made up the horse and background from memory and possibly a few reference photos to get the pose of the horse right. Well, sort of right, that is.

I’d been wondering what became of this painting, and there it was, covered with 20 years of dust in an entirely unsuitable environment for storing a work of art. Sadly, this is where many works of art end up when they are no longer treasured by their owners - or artists. Aside from the dust, it’s in remarkably good condition. It  is an oil painting on canvas board, which just goes to show that cheap canvas board is still capable of standing up to the extremes of heat, cold and unregulated humidity.
"Almost Home, Hunter Pace" circa 2007
The other thing it shows is how far my art has advanced since 1983,  and that is where its value lies. Compare it to another galloping horse painting, “Almost Home, Hunter Pace” (above) which was completed around 2007. By comparison, “Beach Run” is an embarrassment! The best part of the painting is the piece of driftwood in the foreground. For years I meant to repaint that awful sky but never got around to it. It’s just as well because it’s one of those paintings we artists call a “learning experience” which no amount of reworking will improve.

Another treasure I found in the attic was a shoebox of toy horses from my childhood. They’re smaller than I remember them; only about  two inches high; and there aren’t as many as I wish there were, but I’m happy to be able to hold them in my hands again and find them a better place to  live out their  “retirement”. Dusty and Cigarette and Blaze are now  resting on my dresser until I find a suitable spot for them. I don’t remember what I named the metal mare and her foal. Niagara, perhaps? That’s where they were purchased; at a gift shop at Niagara Falls.

After Tina and I had swept out the attic and moved things around, she and son Dan went through the toys and books and picked out what they wanted to keep for themselves. After they had left with their childhood memories, I spent portions of this past week cleaning the items to be rehomed. The Barbie dreamhouse and some doll furniture went to my husband’s hygienist’s two little girls who were thrilled with them. The baby furniture and other stuff went to Goodwill in Traverse City. They do so much good for the homeless that I’m only too glad to donate to them and be rid of what we no longer want.

I still have a bunch of toys to wash and books to vacuum before they are donated, but the studio is now almost cleared out. Before I can do any artwork, it will need a good cleaning. And once the Spring yardwork is completed, I will be free to get back to some artwork!  I have new references to work from and I will share some of those in my next post.