Mystic Birds, a New Exhibition, Green Life

Work abounds, and thus I’m late again. This past week, I launched at last a project in planning all last year. Mystic Birds 1, 2, and 3 celebrate some of my favorite waterbirds – Herring Gulls, Common Terns, Canada Geese, and Mallard Ducks – against the backdrop of the Mystic River estuary and Boston’s Tobin Bridge. I used some of my own photos of the birds and bridge, taken over the last year at the Schrafft’s Center in Charlestown. You can go there any time and see these scenes just as I did.

If you happen to be in Somerville this spring, you can also see these collages at the Brickbottom Gallery, in the Brickbottom Artists Association annual Spring show “Green,” running April 18 – May 18. You can come and meet me at the reception, April 29, 5 – 7 pm, and be sure to visit all the artists during Somerville Open Studios, May 4 – 5. Details at the BAA’s website.

These Mystic Birds are the first of a series of works exploring the life of the Mystic River watershed from Boston Harbor up to the Mystic Lakes. Once one of the most polluted water systems in the US, the Mystic is now one of the most improved, getting stronger every year, but still threatened by development, industry, and climate change. Learn more about it from the Mystic River Watershed Association. It is wonderful to spend time by the river, see the wildlife carrying on their business, and realize that the human world and natural world are not at all separate, but one and the same. Our own neighborhoods are environments worth saving, something I remember as I write this and listen to sparrows outside my window and a woodpecker working on a tree somewhere nearby. I hope with my new Mystic River Project to raise awareness of the vibrant nature around us all the time, and to encourage people to live in nature wherever they are, even in the middle of big cities.

So this year look for more of my love letters to this urban river. Also more walks around the rest of my city, commissioned toys and objects, artist books and self-publishing, and blog posts about greening up my studio and art practice. Spring is the time for cleaning up and getting started.

I hope to see you at the Brickbottom “Green” reception!

Spring is here!

green monoprint border 3.18.19

Spring starts this Wednesday, March 20! The trees are budding. The first green shoots are showing through winter’s litter. The birds and animals are setting up house. The sun is higher and warmer, and everything seems full of energy and movement.

I celebrated by making my annual mistake of cleaning my rooms. I learned that I don’t need any more clothes or hair ties, my cats don’t need any more toys, and the only things that are ever truly lost are the ones that are a big pain to replace. I didn’t even do the Kondo method, and I’m overwhelmed – but motivated afresh.

Experiments with monoprint continue, and I’ve started a small set of collages on paper using natural botanical bits. This first one is a tribute to the season and our city rabbits down by the Mystic estuary. It belongs to my ongoing series about walks around town.

JFries Charlestown Spring in progress 3.15.19
JFries Charlestown Spring in progress 3.15.19

Roofing and the joy of faux finishes

Hello, all. It’s been a while. Things have been kind of crazy, y’know, the way they get. Anyway, I have been extremely busy with work and planning and organizing and birding and politics and preparing for gardening, and through it all, I have been shingling the dollhouse roof.

I’m going for the look of slate, and I hope you’ll think I got close. It’s been some fun on the Google, first looking up what slate generally looks like, then how to fake it with paint, then what slate roofs in particular look like, then how to build a slate roof, and from there deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of roofing, skylights and all that sort of jazz.

The following images show some of what I came up with. I painted more manila folders with a small-scale slate effect and others with a copper effect, because slate or other stone tile roofs will often have metal flashing and gutters at their seams, and those will sometimes be made of copper, according to my admittedly superficial research. I went more for look than structural accuracy. In my defense, my neighbor, who is a roofer, says this is pretty much correct. I find it relaxing and fun to cover sheets of paper with faux paint effects. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but it would suck if I didn’t enjoy it, as I need to do a lot of it.

These photos are couple of weeks old, and more progress has been made since they were taken. The work is going quickly at this point, which makes it hard to take a break for blog updates. It is about time I began work on the characters who will play out their drama in this house, as well as the furnishings and props, too.

By the way, the blog’s new background photo is a shot I took of a tree on my street, against a wet, gray sky, the bare branches just getting knobby with their first buds. Springtime in New England!

Mystery House has a color at last

It’s yellow for Spring time!

These past weeks I’ve been working very hard on the dollhouse for my mystery graphic novel project. There were a couple of setbacks since January. I decided the acetate windows would not work for photography, so I had to cut them out and replace the mullion bars with toothpicks. Next, I realized the second floor is too dark to see into if the back roof/gable panel is in place, so I dithered for some time about how to fix that problem. But finally, all that was done, and today I put color on the exterior walls.

As you see, I went with a sunny yellow, which will be complemented by colors on the gingerbread ornaments still to come. Next, I will tile the roof, for which I painted card stock to look like slate. You can see a hint of that, dry-fitted with tape, in one of the photos.

As with most labor-intensive projects, it’s amazing how suddenly real progress can appear, and after months of slogging, the thing looks like it will soon be finished. It’s quite energizing.