Archive for April 2010

For the Last Day of April   Leave a comment

A poem seems to be in order.

The first for Mr. FreshAir, whose birthday it is, the second to express the fleeting time as April’s breath gives life to May.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

To an Early Daffodil

Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring!
Thou herald of rich Summer’s myriad flowers!
The climbing sun with new recovered powers
Does warm thee into being, through the ring
Of rich, brown earth he woos thee, makes thee fling
Thy green shoots up, inheriting the dowers

Of bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers,
Till ripe and blossoming thou art a thing
To make all nature glad, thou art so gay;

To fill the lonely with a joy untold;
Nodding at every gust of wind to-day,
To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold

To stand erect, full in the dazzling play
Of April’s sun, for thou hast caught his gold.

-Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy a beautiful weekend.

I’ll be in Chicago, visiting the big Matisse exhibit.   I’ll let you know what I’ve seen upon my return.

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An Artist of Note: Duane Keiser   Leave a comment

I have followed the work of contemporary artist Duane Keiser for a while now, and if you are unfamiliar with his name, it will certainly be worth your while to become acquainted with his Painting a Day series which he started back in 2004 and which has caught on to become a movement encompassing artists of all genres and levels of talent.  The idea is to start and complete one painting per 24 hour period, every day for as long as possible.  Duane’s work for this series is small format, which makes sense given the time constraints, and he has found success marketing these small gems on the Internet.  Even in these current economic times he has done well, due to the fine caliber of his work and his innovative marketing technique through eBay and his YouTube videos, which showcase his painting technique in a time-lapse format. An example is shown below …from Duane’s YouTube site

Duane has a similar sensibility to my own in that he tends to paint the small often overlooked objects and vignettes of everyday life. He is quite adept at portraying light and its tendencies in all situations.  I’m inspired by his talent, choice of subject matter, and his work ethic.  I am seriously thinking of making the commitment to the Painting A Day idea.  It’s good for improving technique and it’s good for the mind and soul.

I hope you take the time to explore his site and his various blogs.  Like me, you may become a devotee.

Juxtaposing Opposites….or What a Difference 50 Years Can Make!   3 comments

As an artist, I am fond of drawing comparisons between images and the elements they contain.  On the most basic level, one can talk about the elements of color, composition, value, rhythm, lighting and on and on, but actually today my interest was sparked by taking a more philosophical look at contemporary images of women vs. what would be considered vintage images of women.

Vogue magazine has long been held up as a benchmark of what is worthwhile and exciting in the world of women’s fashion and general appearance.  It was, and probably still is,  considered to reflect the best in good taste as regards to how women should aspire to present themselves in public.  As a subscriber to Vogue, I would have to say that the magazine still has the undercurrent of its former self, but naturally as the world changes, so must Vogue in order to stay viable.

I have no problem with change, and in terms of aesthetics I believe we must always be moving forward.  But I have to say, on a non-artistic basis, it seems as if our fashions and the depiction of what is desirable in our appearance seems to still be on the fast track back in the direction of the cave man….back when woman’s primary function was sexual satisfaction of the male.  I’m not so naive nor prudish to believe that primal instincts are not important…indeed they are, but it makes me wonder who is running the show here?  Are we really dressing for ourselves anymore? Do women really want to look like the last wench off the pirate ship 24 hours a day?  Is it really that attractive to flaunt most of what you’ve got…even in daytime?   Is it somehow important to look like one has just had a tumble in the hayloft with one’s boyfriend/husband/etc. every time one steps out of the house or into the office?  Is this liberating?  I suppose the advertisers would want us to think so, and perhaps for some, it is.  But to me,  there is much more allure,  style  and mystery about a person when she is dressing with an objective other than to snag a man.  Oftentimes the men are more attracted because of what remains left to the imagination.  We all know that.  They knew it back in the 50’s and prior.  Why don’t the fashion magazines revisit that notion?  And for goodness sakes, why don’t the advertisers!  Although I see a bit of evidence that elegance is making a slow return in some of the fashion spreads, much of the advertising is still stuck on the Playboy/Playgirl channel. A little is fine, but too much gets predictable and routine, just like a bad lover.

Life is so much more fun with a bit of mystery and intrigue attached to it…and yes, elegance!  Whoops!  I said I wouldn’t give an opinion!

Oh well….let’s take a look at a few images.  See what you think…are we better off with what was considered proper and alluring dress back in the day?  Or are we better off now because we are more free to expose what we wish?   Image number one….from Vogue 1955….feminine in a refined way, the model sports a smile that indicates she is confident in herself and in her ability to attract….but in a quiet more subliminal way.

Here’s a very similar pose with the contemporary point of view….the model is confident, but obviously has only one thing on her mind….or should have only one thing on her mind according to the advertiser.  It’s the “last wench off the pirate ship” look.  As is the bottom line of most advertising, the not so hidden message is:  “If you buy this bag (or these clothes, etc.)  you’ll be this woman…and you should want to be this woman.”  Come to think of it, maybe she doesn’t look all that confident.  You decide.

OK,  here’s another interesting comparison.  Again from my vintage Vogue issue….a perfume ad for a well known vintage fragrance with a wild side connotation.

And a contemporary version of a perfume ad.  I’m sorry, this is just plain scaaarrrry…or funny…or both…lol!   This is supposed to be a vixen?   Come on, you can do better than that, Donatella (Versace)!  Ad-wise, this is just plain boring. Way too obvious.  Does it get the message across?  Of course.  But I’m very weary of so many of these poses where the model is either open-mouthed or sitting spread-eagled…or both.  It’s been the fashion for the last 15 to 20 years, but it’s old now…move on, already.  There must be a more creative way to express the “huntress” attitude…or whatever it is they want you to think you are when wearing Versus.

What a difference 50 years can make!  But I guess that’s the nature of change, right?  Personally, I think that sexuality tempered with elegance is far more attractive than outright blatant sexuality in both dressing and advertising. I’m on the bandwagon with Vogue ’55 in that regard.  I like the mystery of things.

Do you have any strong opinions one way or the other?

Enjoy your day!

Posted April 27, 2010 by freshairfour in Advertisements, Fashion, Women

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The Purple Finger Rides Again….and lands squarely in “hat-dom”.   Leave a comment

I am happy to report that the purple finger acquired on my last antiquing safari is finally starting to look and feel more like an actual human digit, rather than the multi-colored  gherkin it has resembled for the last six days.  I think there’s hope for it.

So it was with the knowledge yesterday that there was to be a large area antiques show and sale practically right around the corner from my home, and the belief that:

a.) antiquing provides a chance to see a bit of history up close,

b.) antiquing on a frequent basis is a way to train one’s eye to spot the “good” pieces from the “not-so-good” pieces,

and c.) antiquing, as proven last week, has the mysterious power to feed the soul and heal the purple fingers,

..that I set out early in the morning to visit said show.

The building that housed the event was large…very large, with another set of heavy doors.  Doors that looked as if they were lying in wait for any unsuspecting hand or finger they could grab.  Luckily, as I approached them, a gentleman old enough to be my grandfather held the dastardly doors open for me and I hastily slipped through, keeping the purple finger and all his neighbors safely inside my coat pocket.  If a finger can give “the finger”,  I’m sure the purple finger gave “it” to the door as we passed by…..but of course I wouldn’t know.  My fingers are usually quite well-behaved in public.  And I was rather more intent on seeing what treasures were on the other side of that door that would spark my enthusiasm.

Well, as it turns out, there was plenty to spark my enthusiasm, but little that was actually affordable…unless one had a couple thousand dollars worth of disposable cash floating around in one’s wallets that day.  I saw pairs of Staffordshire dogs for the mantle, beautiful burl wood chests,  genuine early 19th century portraits done by itinerant artists, antique crystal, silver, flow blue china, and plenty of large old transferware pieces, and the most gargantuan andirons I have ever seen.   Where oh where were the chickens and kitsch, I asked myself?  There appeared to be a little bit of fine costume jewelry tucked in here and there, but otherwise it was a rather “hoity-toity” affair……until I spied one forlorn old Good Housekeeping magazine under a pile of books in the corner of one of the back booths!  My interest peaked, I uncovered it to reveal the year…1952….mid-century….I knew it could hold great photos and illustrations.  I asked the price.  “Oh that?” said the boothkeeper. “That was in the bottom of one of our boxes, and I just put it there to get it out of the way.  You can have it for two dollars.”    Well, that was all I needed to hear!  I handed over my whopping two dollars and all the secrets of the mid-century good housekeeper were instantly mine!  And look…it promised a big article on hats!

That was my big purchase at the show.   While others were spending their thousands, I had my little two dollar magazine.  But it delivered on its promise…many good photos, wonderful illustrations and funny old ads…and the hat article makes you realize how much thought and attention was given to overall personal appearance back in the day. Even when one was casually dressed, one was still supposed to appear polished. I like that.  I also like those big hat boxes that apparently came with many store-bought hats!  I remember my grandmother had some, and I suspect that my mother did as well.

Here’s an example from the article about hats and face shapes, along with a rather pretty, very feminine hat.  This style is for the “pear-shaped face”.  If you can read the text, it’s interesting and at times funny….

Here’s another hat specifically for oval-shaped faces…..also very feminine with flowers.  Note the gloves too!

And this page shows the many steps to a good appearance as well as how to work with hats to fit and flatter.  Looking finished and put together was of utmost importance…..

I also came across this old clip touting the hair artistry of one of the mid-century hair stylists.  Not sure I’d have let him near my hair!  I love birds, but I’m not sure I’d love “The Parakeet”!  HA!  Here it is, just for a laugh..

Bad puns and all!!

Enjoy your day.  I think I’m going to make sure I look polished when I go out the door today…no parakeet feathers though.

Visitor to a Daffodil   Leave a comment

Well, I don’t believe it’s any kind of bee……

And I don’t know what he’s doing in there…..

But I guess if I were small enough to fit  in a daffodil, I’d be tempted to spend a little time in there too!   Not a bad way to wile away a few hours on a Friday….in your daffodil hammock!

Let the weekend begin!

Posted April 23, 2010 by freshairfour in Flowers, Nature, Spring

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Yeah. It Was Worth a Purple Finger.   Leave a comment

Every so often I have a David Byrne moment.  David Byrne as in the Talking Heads.  Specifically David Byrne singing Once in a Lifetime.  You may know the lyrics and even have the vision from the video etched into memory as most people do who listened to radio in the 80’s…….”And you may ask yourself..how did I get here?…..And you may say to yourself…my god what have I done!?!………same as it ever was…..same as it ever was…..”

Well the story starts like this….Mr. FreshAir decided yesterday afternoon that he was tired and in need of a nap. Not being in the napping mood myself, I decided that an inspirational Sunday Spring drive was in order.  You know…..fresh air, pretty farmland, all of God’s creatures frolicking…that sort of thing.  And if all went well, my car’s autopilot would be set to the same antiques store that I subjected Mr. FreshAir to last weekend….except now he wouldn’t have to be subjected to it…..he would be in dreamland!  And I might have a second look at some vintage Better Homes & Gardens magazines which had called out plaintively to me last weekend but had to be left behind in the name of “smart money management”.

All was going well as I cruised along the country roads, the smell of Spring blowing in through my half opened window and the sight of the new dark earth where fields had begun to be plowed filling me with joy.  I flew past old clapboard farmhouses constructed in the early 1800’s, their ancient apple orchards still standing and in the first stages of bloom, fulfilling the same promise of fruit year after year.  Barns of all ages and sizes appeared at every turn and I delighted when a flock of birds took flight from an only partially harvested corn field left over from last Fall.  Around another bend, a beautiful herd of Guernsey cows had been turned out into a pasture that offered fresh new greens for their enjoyment and consumption, and it was plain to see they were doing both….enjoying and consuming!

After about a half hour of Spring scenery I reached the shop that held the objects of my desire.  I got out of my car, stretched my legs and headed for the large heavy double door of what had obviously at one time been some kind of a fairly good- sized warehouse.  Now it held thousands of treasures!  As I opened the weighty door and started to step through, a sign caught my attention.  It said “15% off Sale!”.  Like metal to a magnet, I was staring hard to see what exactly it was that was discounted by 15% . This was one time where being an artist and a very visual person backfired terribly.  I was still glued to the idea of saving 15%, but my hand was still glued to the outer edge of the door as my closing motion, helped along by a sudden gust of wind, closed the door….. with my fingers failing to come inside.  My right middle finger caught the brunt of it and when I was able to regain my senses and pull it to safety, I saw that it had a rather nice dent in it just above the second knuckle.  My eyes were smarting from the pain, but of course I had to look as if nothing had happened in order to save face….so I walked on in and tried to focus my thoughts on the wonders of the shop, while praying that I hadn’t broken anything too terribly important.

One thing that strikes fear into the heart of any artist or craftsperson is the thought of losing either your eyesight or your hands.  As I walked around the shop trying to hone in on those elusive vintage magazines, I watched my middle finger turn ever more purple as the bruising made its way toward my big knuckle.  I was too afraid to try to move the finger….I didn’t want to know the truth just then as to what damage had been done, so I carried on one-handedly in my search.  I looked high and low. I peered in nooks and crannies. I went round and round until I was convinced that they…now by this point they had ceased to be  just magazines they were my magazines… had been whisked off to some other home in my absence.  And then I spotted them.  Back behind a bookcase which I had passed at least twice, they were lying in their little wooden crate….waiting for me.

Now, I believe in the healing power of a lot of things, but I never knew that antiques have this mysterious ability as well. But I swear that the pain in my finger was markedly less the more I rifled through those Better Homes & Gardens.  I decided to try to move the finger.  It moved.  I moved it again. It didn’t fall off.  I said at least 25 “Thank you God!”s  People passed by and probably wondered what in the world I was doing crouched in a corner, kneeling on the ground looking so exulted at finding a pile of old magazines.  But that’s OK.  I had my treasures and my finger, however purple.

I was only able to take home four of my new BH&G buddies (yes, in the name of smart money management), but I promised the others I would come get them as soon as I could.  And the next time I’ll keep my eyes away from any sales signs.  My fingers will thank me.

Due to my throbbing finger, my photo taking was distinctly hampered, but I managed to get one shot of one of the big barns I passed on the way home. It’s not too far from my house and it may end up as a reference photo for a painting…

……after the purple finger disappears!  And yeah.  It was indeed worth it!

Enjoy your day.

A “Put on Your Sweater and Think Cheery Thoughts” Kind of Saturday   Leave a comment

Wow.  I’m going to try to forget that I saw, and in fact, was out walking in sleet this morning.  So much for chirping birds and gentle breezes carrying the sweet scent of hyacinths and apple blossoms!  Ha!  Try Old Man Winter sending ice pellets down your neck instead!  If there was any humor in all of this it would have to be the various ways in which my fellow humans react to such sudden and unwelcome change.  I myself, hate to freeze.  Obviously some of my fellow villagers do not.

I reluctantly pulled my sensible red wool peacoat from the closet this morning and cursed under my breath while I buttoned it and headed out into the elements….luckily I could drive to the grocery store, my grand destination.  Once through the automatic doors and into the warmth of said grocery store, I spied people who obviously had either not (to quote a tired phrase) “gotten the memo” or else refused to believe that they were in fact in Northern Ohio rather than Boca Raton.  Shorts and t-shirts???  Really??? On a 34 degree day with sleet?? I was afraid to look down at their feet for fear of seeing a pair of flip flops.

Maybe that’s just their idea of “living on the edge” (to quote another rather old and annoying phrase)….or an even older slogan..”go with the gusto!”….In this case, I can tell you the “gusto” was probably blowing right up those shorts making for some very rosy…ahemm….. cheeks.  Whether it’s a form of “sticking it to the man”…or woman in this case, as I believe they are dealing with Mother Nature on this particular issue, or whether it is just pure idiocy, I don’t know.   As I said, I don’t find the sensation of freezing my rear end off to be a very pleasant one, no matter how cute my new shorts may be or how trendy my new sandals.  And I can find gusto in a lot of other, more pleasant ways.

After my hunting and gathering was completed at the store, I settled in with a cup of green tea with lemon (yes, still drinking it in case it helps brain cells) and decided to steer my mind away from the weather and target my brain cells in a happier direction.  So I dialed up the Hen-cam at HenCam.com….for a dose of live chicken antics.  Yes, believe it or not, chicken lovers of all kinds can view the daily goings on of a group of chickens at Little Pond Farm near Boston.  They start broadcasting in the morning and stop when the chickens go to bed at night!  Not quite 24/7  Chicken Heaven, but close enough!  My love of chickens is no secret, so this latest use of technology to benefit those of us with poultry fever only fuels the fire for my own flock someday.  In the meantime, it never fails to bring me a smile when I see a large hen’s face peering back at me from the web….er…hen cam.  Terry Golson, who owns the farm and its menagerie of animals is an author and food writer as well, and writes the HenBlog, also on the site.

Alas, since I lack a real flock of my own, I have to be content with pictorial images of poultry.  This particular image fits the bill for both CHEERY and SPRING-LIKE, the cheery part being the robust rooster and the possibility that that drink featured might be my “poison of choice” when I’m out on the town….a manhattan.  I think the Spring-like part is self explanatory…

This is one of my old ads, and unfortunately it was a little too long for my scanner, but I think you get the basic picture.  One interesting thing is that below the large Schenley text in the lower right hand corner, it states “Pre-War Quality”.  Can’t find a date on the ad anywhere, and it’s not attached to its original magazine, but it is apparently from WWII or a little after that.  Whether I’m right on the manhattan being the drink pictured, all I can say is that it looks mighty familiar!  I’ve only had it served in that shape of glass once or twice though….oftentimes it is served in a rocks glass.  Anyway, I digress.  On to the next pleasant non-wintery image…

How about some type of a Spring fairy!   This comes from one of my old Ideals magazines…..this one dated 1962

Ideals is still in publication, but you have to have the older ones to find all the great vintage style illustrations.  My mother and grandmother both read Ideals and I guess I am just carrying on the tradition.  This fairy has obviously been spared from looking at sleet today….lucky her!

And how about a vintage photograph of a child!  Those are always cheerful and bring a smile to a dreary day…. also from 1962…when little girls ran around in smocked dresses.  I should know!

And lastly, from my postcard collection, some apple blossoms….and “Hearty Greetings!” to all of you…..

Here’s hoping you’re not wearing shorts on a day with sleet!

Have a great weekend.