visual artist

September Afternoon Visitors

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

The urban birds of my neighborhood seem to raise their families year round.  I shouldn't have been surprised to see such a young mourning dove outside the window yesterday afternoon, under the watchful eyes of an adult. 


I stopped reading the book in my hands and flipped the pages back to a most appropriate line of writing. 

  " . . . one listens to the mourning dove terracing its sweet calls . . ."



From " On Beauty and Being Just " by Elaine Scarry

Still Life with Watermelon, Pears, and Grapes

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

This painting by Lilly Martin Spencer is in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.  It is oil on canvas and is assumed to have been painted around the year 1860.  I love the balance of rich colors, the detail of texture given to the surface on which the fruit rests, and the top of the watermelon which appears to have been bitten in enjoyment.


I need to make a correction to my post of February 15th.  It's true that Lilly was painting right up until the time of her death, at her easel, but she died in New York City, not in Highland, New York.  She is buried next to her husband, Benjamin Rush Spencer, in Highland. 


Nearly every day of the year is a national food holiday here in the United States.  August 3 is National Watermelon Day.  Foods from apples to popcorn to zucchini all have their own commemorative day - sometimes a whole month will be dedicated to a particular food.   For some reason that I don't understand, National Watermelon Day is celebrated in August but July is National Watermelon Month.

Still Life with Watermelon, Pears, and Grapes    by Lilly Martin Spencer (circa 1860)

Still Life with Watermelon, Pears, and Grapes   by Lilly Martin Spencer (circa 1860)

A Botany Lesson

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

When I tell people that I use strawberry sepals in my collages they always ask "What's a sepal"? 

If you aren't ready to search the dictionary I can tell you that it's part of the structure of a flower.  They're the leafy green parts that add to the form of the calyx.  Look up  'flower' and you will usually find a simple illustration of the parts of a flower.

I cut the sepals from the strawberries and then use a process to clean and preserve them.  Here they are right after being cut from the strawberry.


The Artist and Her Family on a Fourth of July Picnic

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

   This painting by Lilly Martin Spencer can be seen at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.  It was painted around the year 1864 and depicts a scene of relaxation, frivolity, and enjoyment as friends and family gather to celebrate Independence Day. 

   At the center of the picture is the artist's husband, Benjamin.   Apparently his weight has been too much for the tree swing and he lies on the ground.  The artist depicts herself with arms outstretched going to his aid.  A child is trying to help him. 

There are at least two people in this painting who appear to be African-American.  While one of them is dispensing a refreshment of some sort, the other appears to be enjoying the day's festivitivies.   The painting is oil on canvas and measures 49 1/2" x 63." 


Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

April is National Poetry Month and April 18th is Poem in Your Pocket Day.  It's a day to carry a poem with you and share it with friends, family, classmates, and co-workers.  Here's my pick for 2013.


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth

Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth --

Assorted characters of death and blight

Mixed ready to begin the morning right,

Like the ingredients of a witches' broth --

A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,

And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,

The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?

What brought the kindred spider to that height,

Then steered the white moth thither in the night ?

What but design of darkness to appall? --

If design governs in a thing so small.

Robert Frost   1874 - 1963

An American Silversmith

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Paul Revere was the third child of Apollos Rivoire and his wife Deborah Hitchborn.  The French-born and Huguenot Rivoire anglicized his surname to Revere.  Paul was apprenticed in the family silversmithing business at a very young age.

Paul Revere is most widely remembered for his midnight ride warning the American colonists of advancing British troops before the battles of Lexington and Concord.  We commemorate that day tomorrow - the eighteenth of April.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem contains numerous inaccuracies but we all learned it as school children.  Here are stanzas 1 and 2 from Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn, The Landlord's Tale: Paul Revere's Ride

"Listen, my children and you shall hear,

  Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

  On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five,

  Hardly a man is now alive

  Who remembers that famous day and year.

  One if by land, and two if by sea,

  And I on the opposite shore shall be,

  Ready to ride and spread the alarm

  Through every Middlesex village and farm."

Paul Revere went on to further service in the American Revolution.  He was involved in the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition of 1779: at that time Maine was considered to be part of Massachusetts.

After the war Paul Revere expanded his prosperous metalworking business to include cast iron and the use of rolling mills in the production of sheets of copper.  His workshop also manufactured cannons and church bells.  Revere remained politically active up until his death in 1818.

John Singleton Copley painted a portrait of Paul Revere in the years before the American Revolution.  He often painted his subjects with an artifact from their life.  In this case Paul Revere is holding a teapot.  Tea was a hot-button issue in the colonies at this time and Revere seems to be giving serious consideration to the work of his craftsmanship.

Paul Revere    Oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, painted 1768 - 1770

Paul Revere  

Oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, painted 1768 - 1770

Perfect Placement

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

On returning to the New York Botanic Garden I was able to see all of the monumental sculptures of Manolo Valdés.  These enormous sculptures of female heads portray an understanding of gardens and vegetal growth in ways that are beautiful and playful.  One sculpture in particular seems to be perfectly integrated into its surrounding landscape.  "Fioré" is 17 feet high and its headdress incorporates the forms of oak and maple leaves.  This bronze and steel work provides an agreeable color contrast to the lofty trees and greening lawn and creates a splendid vista.



Adonis Flower

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Even though the temperature was only 33 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday morning, this early-flowering yellow plant has been in bloom for some time now.  There are a number of perennial plants called 'adonis' and they bring to mind the Greek myth of the youthful Adonis who was killed by a boar.  Flowers sprang from the spot where his blood touched the earth.  The flowers of myth are red but many yellow flowers celebrate a return to life each spring.

adonis amurensis

adonis amurensis

Lilly Martin Spencer

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Lilly Martin Spencer (1822 - 1902) was born in England to French parents.  The family immigrated to New York in 1830.  Lilly began painting at an early age and was encouraged to do so by her parents who recognized her abilities.  She spent many years living and working in Ohio.  In her marriage she was the main breadwinner and her work achieved national recognition.  She and her husband raised seven children and she was painting right up until her death in 1902 in Highland, New York.

Still Life with Berries and Currants   (!859 - 1860)

Still Life with Berries and Currants  (!859 - 1860)

For Groundhog Day - a tangelo

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

February 2nd is celebrated as Groundhog Day in various parts of the United States.  It marks that point in the calendar when we are halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.  Whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow today is imagined to be an indicator of the remaining length of winter.

I was thinking of light and shadow - and the color wheel and the theory of complementary colors this morning.  Working with blue paper I realized it really is the perfect complement to the color of the tangelo I was about to eat.  When I placed the tangelo on the paper it cast a shadow.  Now, I know the tangelo probably doesn't see its own shadow but does this mean we're in for six more weeks of winter?


Looking forward

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Even if you have only a window box it's a a great joy to spend time browsing through garden and seed catalogues.  The photographs and illustrations are splendid and we dream of warmer, sunnier times, hands digging into earth, and bountiful harvests of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.


Inspiration and the artist

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Many artists have found inspiration in gardens and in the shapes and forms of the natural world.  This idea is beautifully realized in the Monumental Sculptures of artist Manolo Valdés found in the New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, NY).  These huge outdoor sculptures incorporate female heads and the forms of leaves, ferns, palm fronds - and even trellises.

IMG_0460 (1).jpg

Thinking about Veterans' Day

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

On this day we honor the men and women who've devoted their lives to this great country.  We remember and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.  Today's Christian Science Monitor suggests that all Americans can learn from our veterans' sense of duty, trust, loyalty, and teamwork.

I was thinking of this as I sharpened my colored pencils - red, white, and blue.

Green Eyes on Sweet Treats

Added on by Ellen Halloran.
No, cats aren't allowed to eat candy in this household.  I don't think they'd want to eat it anyway.  You know, they're just being curious - about why these little sugary sculptures are being laid out in front of them as if it's some sort of ornamental display.  All the adults I know say that they don't really enjoy these treats as food but it makes them happy to see them reappear at the same time each year.

Working artist's lunch

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

It's the (late) summertime equivalent of the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Start with multi-grain bread, cover with sunflower seed butter, then add a layer of fresh blueberries. Enjoy a noontime chat with a friend and you're ready to go back to work.

Inspiration on the artist's table

Added on by Ellen Halloran.

Orange cherry tomatoes, fresh from an upstate farm, tempt us with their candy-like sweetness and provide material for new art projects. Their five-leaved sepals are like little crowns of summer's harvest.