I love barns. I love barns so much I bought one. A proper barn. 100 years old – up North Michigan by the Lakes. It was built into the side of a south facing hill the way a barn was meant to be with rocks in the foundation so big it would have taken all the mules in Twenty Mule Team Borax to move them. The huge timbers were scored with adz marks. It was three stories. The lower level where the animals kept warm from the low winter sun. The hay loft complete with ladder. And the main level with a hay mow made of timbers. I had never ‘felt’ thunder until I was sitting on the hay mow to escape a storm and the thunder passed through the ground, into the barn and then rolled through the hay mow and out the other side of the barn. Time stopped. As usually happens there was a house that came with the barn complete with a 2 inch, 20 foot deep hand pounded water well and electrical wires sheathed in brown ‘fur’ suspended from glass insulators. We moved in. My daughter Amanda had a chicken named Peeper and a cucumber named Ed. We heard horse hair plaster give way upstairs one evening and found a good chunk of ceiling on her bed. The place was…wonderful. We no longer have the farm but every barn I pass has to either be photographed, noticed in great detail, or in this case painted. The great old buildings that have been kissed by time and made beautiful are passing away. This one looked to me like a perfect patchwork quilt sewn from timber and tin.
I’ve posted final paintings but thought some of you might enjoy a peek at where the paintings start. Actually they start in my head. I’d had this painting of a simple pastoral scene I wanted to paint stuck in my head for awhile so finally sat down last night to sketch it up. This is an interesting example of our brain’s desperate search for patterns and to interpret things based on other ‘cues’ in a scene. This is simply… three nice cows eating by a group of trees. However when I walked into the studio this morning, the random little shadows in the field to the right had suddenly become tire tracks from a vehicle which then cued my brain to correct the scale of the critters on the left and the cows became three skunks. Three nice skunks eating by a group of trees isn’t exactly what I’m after. So… for me, that’s the value of doing a sketch or two first rather than being impatient and just attacking a canvas. It’s much easier to turn the skunks back into cows at the sketch stage. My jam name when I get together with friends to play a little music has become ‘Poco a Poco’. Things seem to work best when I make that my motto in pretty much every area of life. Little by little.
This is one of the wonderful churro sheep and his magpie friend that live about a mile from me. They are pretty much giant balls of yarn with a nose. I learned to love sheep in New Zealand. The ‘I owe ya one’ kind of love. I needed to cross a VERY large pasture that contained a VERY angry bull. I couldn’t return the way I came or the horrible swamp in the punga jungle would surely suck me to my death the second time. There is really no such thing as a punga jungle. But, in my ‘oh my God I could have died in there’ state of mind it seemed like a jungle. It was a bunch of punga trees that hid a slimy man-eating swamp with a mat of red stuff floating on top that made you think you could walk across it. So, back to the pasture. After three attempts at crossing the expanse and almost getting gored I spotted a nice friendly flock of sheep headed in the direction I needed to go. I slipped in between a couple of the kind beasts, grabbed onto their wool, made myself sheep size and got safely escorted to my destination. Good thing to know. The sheep password, ‘Baa Ram Ewe’.