Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Rene and Doris Pinette

Thank you Grigorij for inquiring about my parents in yesterday's comment. I will indulge in the pleasure. Its so fitting, because today is Mom's birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!

I'm one of the fortunate ones.

It was only when I got to college that I realized I didn't grow up in a typical family. We were far from it. It surprised me to find out. My parents and us kids (3 of us) were all born and raised in Berlin, New Hampshire. Its mountainous and rural and the livelihood was it's, now closed, paper mill. All my relatives lived there. I used to complain because we had no one to go visit out of town. I was envious of my girlfriend, whose older sister lived two hours away, and periodically they would go visit for the weekend.

I was the first to leave Berlin...

Adventure was in my blood and now I want to experience the world.

Our household was filled with love. We didn't have much money. My parents struggled a lot financially, but that didn't stop them from giving us all the love and support we needed, and more. Dad toiled at the paper mill while Mom stayed home. It was very unusual at the time. All the women of the town had gone to work at the new Converse factory, making shoes. Mom was determined to raise her own kids. She did without a lot to be with us.

She made everything! From baking to gardening to sewing and lots of crafts. I loved doing all these things with her. To this day, we have always been very close. More like sisters than parent and child. I remember shopping with her and schoolmates would approach saying, "I didn't know you had an older sister?" Mom was fun and beautiful (you still are, Mom). How we've laughed together over the years!

The radio was never on. As Mom worked, she sang. She sang so beautifully. She could hit those high notes, few can. Sometimes still today, as I move about my own home, those childhood songs will start playing in my head. Dad's favorite was Lara's Theme (Grigorij, I bet that surprises you!). He also loved Edelweiss and any old movie that ended with a kiss. Mom sang a wide variety of songs, from fifties hits to movie themes to honky-tonk songs like Oh Susanna. She sang that one often to me. Somewhere Over the Rainbow would echo out of the laundry room as Mom folded and ironed endless amounts of clothes. She also sang funny songs, which the titles of slip my mind at the moment... Many of the "Fifties" songs had crazy noises in them. Like the Abba Dabba song, which we wiggled and danced to. She would be so animated with those, making crazy eyes and silly faces as she sang them to us. Another often heard favorite of both Mom and Dad's was The Impossible Dream. Dad's voice was so rich in those deep notes, Mom's so heavenly in the highs...

They were a wonderful duet in all aspects. An unbelievable example to guide us.

Laughter and love. Its what I remember from my childhood.

Also the never-ending words, "You can be anything you want to be!" It was repeated over and over, from both my parents and my relatives. Particularly my aunt Lorraine, who we simply called, "Ma Tante". She played a very active, positive roll in our lives. Relatives gathered to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. (Every mile-pebble and every mile-grain of sand, if you will...) Hugs and kisses were abundant.

They still are...

We are French. Our ancestors were from Canada including my grandmother. So was the case with many other residents in Berlin. French was spoken widely and as a child it was my first language. Now, as a grown woman communicating with people from France, I realize my "Canadian French" is quite far from the actual beautiful parisian french. But it still works...

Religion was a big factor in our upbringing. Its a wonderful gift to have been given. I've made sure to share it with my own children. I thank God for all the blessings He's given me, including my wonderful parents.

Fortunately, at 70 something (we need to keep some secrets...) they are both still with us, happy and full of life. They're job of supporting us through everything has not stopped. This winter, rather than spending their time in Florida, they have weathered the cold to be with my sister in Massachusetts whose dealing with tragedy.

Mom and Dad came to spend last week with me, while my sister and her family went on vacation in Florida. (Odd how we've all gone to Florida while Mom and Dad remain here...) I enjoyed my week with them very much! Last summer, Mom became one of my students. Painting together is yet another pleasure we share. Here is what she painted.

Original Oil Painting 16x20"
by Doris Pinette

Its difficult to sum up such strong influences in our lives with only one post. There is so much more that could be said. But love, laughter, God, strength, kindness, hard work, perseverance and shooting for your dreams are the lessons of my childhood.

Thanks Mom and Dad. You're the best!

50th wedding anniversary
July 2006

Monday, March 29, 2010

Share smiles

(Still deciding if its done...)
Original oil painting
by Susan Roux

Yesterday a few of us from my Wednesday night paint class went to see Tricia Griffin sing. She too is from this paint class. We are all aware of her singing talent. So many times during class she graces us with her beautiful voice. As she relaxes and the paintbrush flows rhythmically, she begins to sing. Often a few other ladies chime in as well. Soft beautiful music followed by giggles from the bunch becomes the backdrop for class.

I'm so blessed to have them for students.

She's invited us many times, over several years, to her performances. I've never attended. Most times there was a conflict in schedule. (I'm teaching...) Tricia is in a singing group, but at times she sings solo with her guitar. So was the case yesterday.

We found her at a nursing home/assisted living facility, donating her time and talents to cheer the residents. I admired her. What greater gift can you give someone then an unselfish act that brings others pleasure? The residents and the director all wanted her back, and for longer...

I found myself fighting back tears. She sang songs my parents loved. Songs my parents would sing around the house when I was just a child. I could hear my Dad's voice in my head as she sang Edelweiss... My body swayed in total calmness with the melody. Funny how music can put you somewhere in your past. The ultimate time travel machine! Simply... music.

Though awake, you find yourself in a dream.

There I was in our gold-painted living room. Mom at the old, bulky player-piano, fingers flying in every direction and Dad to her left, singing in merriment. His voice in the cellar, hers in the heavens. They sounded so beautiful together. I tried to keep up, but could never hit the notes they sang. Mom's voice (and my childish one trying to imitate her) were suddenly in my head as Somewhere over the Rainbow flowed amazingly out of Tricia's mouth. A little old man, who seemed to be sleeping throughout the performance, shouted out, "Judy Garland!" as she began. I wondered, about this simple half hour gesture and how it impacted these residents. Where did these songs take them? I like to imagine, they were twirling around on a dance floor with the love of their lives!

The more common songs, brought the room to life. In timid quiet voices they joined in softly, without overpowering Tricia. Bravely, without a mike, she created a giant sing-a-long. I saw the wrinkled faces twinkle and smile. What a gift she gave them!

Tricia, you're a wonderful person...

Too often, we don't stop and think of how our small acts can really lift the spirits of others. You never know what a stranger is going through. What battles they're facing. Whether they're at the brink of falling into depression, or not. Maybe they are totally content. Either way, even a simple gesture like a smile or a hi, can suddenly change their day around. Let's not forget this. I know all you lovely bloggers have loads of smiles to share! Let's go share some...

Friday, March 26, 2010


Lost in the chaos!

My poor girl looked better when she wasn't painted...

I had trouble deciding what color to paint her shirt. I don't think my selection was great. Far from it. I've created a new challenge for myself. My job now will be to tone down the reflective water until she pops out in clearer view.

The other Children at the Beach in this series aren't competing with various reflections in the water. Only their reflections are visible. I thought it would be fun to add surrounding elements and hoped it would contribute to the composition by adding depth in the reflection. I was correct with the depth, but didn't anticipate the chaos that has occurred.

It will be an interesting challenge to pull this all together.

Challenges and mistakes are where we learn. Though frustrating at first, the process needed to pull yourself out of it makes you search your memory bank for solutions. What have I seen before? What have I done before? Have I faced this problem in the past? How did I solve it?

Why did I do it again???

Loosing your subject can be very alarming. I'm anxious to jump back into this painting to try my shot at bringing her back. I think its still possible to succeed, but the chance to fail is equally great. Excitement and fear rush though me simultaneously. In my head sits the solution, but will it be in my brush? I really don't want to loose the freshness and transparency in my colors. Contrast is missing. I'm thinking dull versus bright is the path I should follow. I imagine it working...

...but will it.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

(Maybe she's praying to be seen or to be found...)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friends forever

There is another artist I visited a few years back.

I've only mentioned her briefly on an earlier post, Let the journey happen. I haven't been able to find the words to capture our relationship in one post, so I've resisted giving you more information. All the while, it doesn't do this artist justice. You see she is my dear, dear friend and our relationship has grown so deeply over the years, we call each other sisters.

Oddly, a lot of you already know her.

She is Martine-Alison and she lives in France. My twin across the pond! When I visited her in Lyon, we had been writing to each other daily for over two years. I still remember our first communications together. It was instant excitement for both of us! Emails were flying back and forth, like we were trying to imitate instant messaging. Luckily for us we understood each other's language. This enabled us to write in our own language. Sometimes reading a foreign language gets challenging. When I open my web browser, is what I see. This gives me instant access whenever I need to pop a word in for translation.

We've been through everything together. She is my best friend.

Our communicating evolved to instant messaging and eventually to skype, where we get free video connections. Its more than a phone call, its like a visit. Long before we found blogging, the daily evolutions of our paintings were shared with each other. The wonderful support we all find here, she and I have shared for many years.

She has been my faithful follower since day one. After some time, she too decided to begin a blog. Her work is as colorful as her personality is. You will find it completely unique. She paints a female, her "petite femmes" as she calls them. They are from her imagination. She never uses a model. She also designs all the clothes she dresses them in (when in fact they are dressed...). She could have been a clothes designer, easily! How I'd love to have some of her wonderful dresses.

These petite femmes live in her imaginary world. Her flora is interesting and exciting. Animals are a constant in the picture, even to the point that Leo the toucan narrates her blog.

After our three day visit, she promised to come here to Maine. Her petite femmes tell the story of her life and if you go see her latest post, you might agree with me that it surely appears like she is headed to America! I'm very excited. I do hope it will happen...

She calls her studio her dollhouse. And a doll house it is! So beautiful and romantic. We've dreamed of painting there together. Eventually we did. Through skype on her laptop, we've painted side-by-side in different countries! Its hard to say which one of us is the nuttiest. She likes to call herself a fruitcake. As you might imagine, laughs are a constant between us. She has even skyped me during some of my classes to meet my students! Its as though we live near each other. All of our friends know about the other and when she does come here, I have a long list of people who can't wait to finally meet her in person.

Susan Roux and Martine-Alison

She has put so much sunshine in my life. I hope you go follow her. Martine-Alison has plenty of sunshine to share...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Olympians? no...

My neighbors work for the olympics.

Its a very unusual thing, I know. When they first moved in several years ago and mentioned working for the olympics, our reaction was, 'Wow!" We don't often stop and think of the people working for the olympics, but there are many.

How glamorous it seemed. They were off to Torino! They were off to China! They were off to Vancouver! But it isn't as glamorous as it first sounds. Depending on their job, people can be assigned to be on location for 4 or 5 months. During this time, they work every day for very long hours. We can't even communicate via email; they have no time to read it or respond.

Can you imagine such a demanding job?

No time to paint...

Chris is one of my students. This time, four months away felt very long to me. No neighbors next door for a whole season and more. A missed student in my wonderful Wednesday night ladies class... Early on there were postcards. We all delighted in the short words that came. Every Wednesday someone asks if I've heard from her. The time seemed so long.

Well I'm happy to report that they returned while I was away in Florida. My neighbors are back! (Some of you probably have neighbors you'd like to get rid of for months at a time, but these are not that type of neighbor...)

I got my much needed "Chris hug" yesterday. Its been so long, she didn't even know I blogged. We have so much to catch up on. She hasn't painted since she left at the end of October and really misses it. Her "art fix" was to sneak off to a few art exhibits in slight moments of down time. I'm going to put a paintbrush back in her hand as soon as I can!

Chris may be starting her own blog. Something about fish tacos... She's very smart and comical so I'll let you know when it begins.

Posted is Chris during one of my workshops last summer. Welcome back Chris!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nora in Naples

Nora Kasten and Susan Roux

Hello, I'm back from Florida! I hope you all had a good week. I'm relaxed, refreshed and ready to paint! Thank you all for the warm wishes for a great vacation. It certainly was.

Nora Kasten was so kind as to invite my family and I to her home. How wonderful it was to visit with a fellow blogger! Posted is a photo of us in her studio. Her work in progress is up on her easel behind us. I'm certain I'm not alone in admiring her lovely, romantic oil paintings. I can't tell you how excited I was to have the opportunity to view them in person. I must tell you, Nora is as lovely as the work that pours out of her.

Her home is a dream gallery! I never expected to arrive at such a splendid place filled with dozens and dozens of her amazing paintings. Room after room she took me to see them all. It was a slow tour as I absolutely had to stop to admire each and every one of them! They are magnificent on the internet, but as you well know, a photo of a painting never does the actual work justice. In life, these jewels sent shivers up my spine. Her use of saturated color coupled with her dreamy brushstroke is energizing and captivating. I couldn't take my eyes off of them!

She treated us to a lovely lunch where I sipped red wine and our "get acquainted" conversation never left art. I've written to you before of my travels and how I meet with artists. I urge you to try it for yourself. It will become the highlight of your holiday! Art connects us. Its a bond that can instantly make you feel like family. You all experience it here through blogs, but it doesn't stop when you meet in person. It escalates!

If you'd like to read about some of my various experiences meeting artists, click these different entries. Don't give up, where I met and painted with artists Mat Grogan and Dave Hayes, John Morris and Owen Rohu.

You may think that you'd be lost for conversation meeting with a stranger, but believe me, in every instance time just flies and conversations flow easily and freely. As Nora and I talked endlessly, she played a DVD of Richard Schmid with the volume off. In one direction I viewed him creating a masterpiece and in every other direction my eye was fed and stimulated by all her exhibited art. Her kind, welcoming and bubbly nature made us feel instantly at home.

The four hours we spent together whizzed by. I didn't want to leave. Nora, I hope I didn't overstay my welcome. You and your husband were a delight. Thank you for making us feel so welcomed.

I must tell you, Nora has painted countless self portraits. They are all wonderful and full of light. One of my favorite paintings hung as a focal point, in a place of grandeur. It is a painting she did of her husband some years back. I absolutely loved what she captured with paint. Men sitting in their suits don't usually hold much appeal for me. But his kindness and her affection for him shown with great visibility through the paint she applied. Nora, I don't know if you've ever posted this masterpiece of yours, but I hope you find it appropriate to share at some point. Its a wonderful work that can be appreciated even if you're not the wife...

Thank you Nora. I hope our journey forward blossoms further than blogging. I truly enjoyed our conversation and hope to continue it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Life gets busy. Too many things going on. Too many things distracting us, pulling us away from our creativity. How do you cope with all the distractions?

My "daily posts" are no longer daily.

As I visit your wonderful inspiring blogs, I find I'm not alone in this dilemma. Life is a reality and creative people not only juggle the usual things, job, family, house, we also juggle creative time. The crazy thing about "creative time" is you need to clear your head, of everything else, to perform it. That can often be a challenge!

I leave Wednesday for a week in Florida. My posts will cease for that time. I hope to return fresh and energized. Sometimes we just need to step back for awhile and recharge our batteries. Get off that merry-go-round and take a deep breath...

Spring is popping. Life is emerging all around us. Flowers want to peek out. Its a titillating time for artists. If you can't get a break from life, allow yourself a break. Don't beat yourself up if you need some time to step back a bit. Its ok if you scale back some of your self proclaimed demands. I know as artists, our motivation and drive is self driven. We learn to keep the engine running. What I'm saying is its ok to park the car once in awhile. Go enjoy spring's emergence. Allow yourself to get some fresh air.

Breath deeply and absorb the relaxation...

My guess is you'll be very ready to return to your creativity. When you do, the break you took will benefit your outcome. If you're feeling a bit burnt, don't wait until you're completely burned out before you stop. Remember to take care of yourself.

This may be my last post until the 18 or 19. Smile, be happy and most of all, be kind to yourself. See you in 10-12 days. Enjoy life!

Posted (older work) Cloud Shadows on the Beach original oil painting 18x24" by Susan Roux

Friday, March 5, 2010

Its Booked!

Blue Hill, here we come!

I rented this place on Blue Hill Peninsula (Maine) for a week in June. As you know, I've been looking into it. I want to go paint lupines by the ocean as posted in Booklets.

Well I finally made my decision on where to stay. One that wasn't very hard to make. Just look at this wonderful cottage??? no... house that I found! How could I resist? Affirmative confirmation from an artist friend was all I needed to clinch the deal. As soon as I received her phone call saying she would come, I was on the phone reserving it. What a beautiful doll house to go play in!

Pack your paints Baby, here we go!

I don't think it will be difficult to find a few other takers to join us. Martine-Alison, my wonderful artist friend in France, is even thinking of it. Buy your plane tickets, honey. Let's make it a reality! A painting holiday with wonderful artists friends... Just what the doctor ordered.

How could I resist this wicker sunroom or these charming bedrooms?

There's four in all!

The kitchen is huge and fully equipped.

We even have two outdoor decks that run the length of the house.

Carol, the owner, was most pleasant and helpful. She informed me of a lupine festival that will be going on when we arrive. She'll be leaving a brochure, which by the way, has maps and directions to all the largest lupine fields in the area. Perfect!

I must really be ready for a vacation. I leave Wednesday for a week in sunny Florida and I'm booking a place for June...

I told Mike, I must need a break more than I realize.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Long road

When compared to painting nature, everything man-made takes on a different challenge. Unlike organic forms, these are structured and stationary. Both the mind and the paintbrush discover a change and need to adapt to capture the difference. I recently left a comment about this very subject on Jean Townsend's blog and last night, my students were struck by the difference...

I wanted to focus on the building but thought it would be better to quickly find a few simple elements on the right. "Lets put in the road quickly", was my suggestion. I must say, "quick" was no where to be found in this activity. Those two little ruts that extend only four inches up the canvas took us better than one hour to achieve!

We laughed at how little we had painted. One hour and two stripes!

My students were determined to get it correctly. (I love seeing that determination. Way to go ladies!) No matter how much I broke it down, perspective gets confusing when you put it on a hill, throw in a curve, and have it disappear down the other side. Thank goodness for the "thinner eraser"! Each rut needed to narrow as it receded. So did the space between the ruts. One rut comes towards you while the other approaches at a sharp angle. The mind tells you they are parallel. The hand wants to listen. Over and over, they redid it trying to get it right.

Finally we could move on...

I feared the building, thinking it would take us longer than an entire class after the road fiasco, but symmetry proved simpler. By the end of class, we managed to block in the remainder of our canvas. Everything is so stark and rigid right now, but its necessary when you're trying to teach it to a class. Breaking elements down to be understood by others can be an interesting challenge for a teacher. Last night felt like a mathematical lesson.

Its not the first time I do this to my poor Wednesday night ladies. Last time I had them painting a garden bench that covered two-thirds of the canvas without ever drawing it. Again I wanted the background to be free and continuous, so we painted it before ever trying to find the bench. Its a wonder they stick with me. I continue to push their limits. In doing so, they are really blossoming.

That makes me smile with pride...

Again, way to go ladies!

Posted work in progress oil 18x24" by Susan Roux

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Evolving layers

work in progress
by Susan Roux

Playing with layers. Oh I"m definitely having fun!

I returned to this little girl recently and am glad I photographed her before beginning. I was surprised at the change that took place. You know how I love surprises, so seeing her evolve with such color change popped me with wonder and excitement.

I've been staring at this canvas hanging on my studio wall for better than a month now. She was dry a long time ago and I could have returned to her much sooner. All this time she's been the bright "hot spot" in the studio. So many fiery colors...

She seemed to be sitting in a blazing sea. Lucky for her I put the fire out!

I kind of miss the orange in the studio, but I think the painting is evolving in a good direction. All that dripped color was not for nothing, however.

As you can see, those lovely brilliant shades are still visible. I remember now why I started so hot with this painting. The girls skin was very tan and I knew orange shades would eventually be added when I paint her. This way her surroundings will harmonize with her body.

This experiment with my children at the beach series has been very interesting. All the original dripped color is transparent. All the light colors added later are not. By leaving the underpainting exposed, not only is it creating color spots, its also adding shimmer to the water. Every spot of transparent versus non-transparent creates an unusual form of contrast. This contrast flickers, causing movement with changing light or as you merely walk by.

I think my favorite part though is all the color surprises it leaves behind. I teach that water is just broken color. I decided to push this to the greatest limit I could imagine, trusting it was correct. It is.

My paintings are quickly coming to the point where painting the girls is absolutely necessary. That brings closure to these little sweethearts. Afterwards, they'll be nearly complete. Its funny how you become more attached to a painting that has taken a long time to complete than to one that burst on the canvas quickly. Such patients is needed for the slow ones. It can be very frustrating stopping because colors want to get muddy or waiting for them to dry to be able to return.

I hope your keeping time to experiment. Its in experimenting that we discover and learn. Don't be afraid of color. It never bites. It just sings back to you. Play with it like my children at the beach are all playing. Just for fun!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wise man

Lake Reflections
by Don Hatfield

When a wise man talks, do you listen?

I like to think I do. If you find someone who has been doing the same activity as you, but for much longer, it stands to reason they may be more knowledgeable. When you hear what they have to say, this assumed knowledge either becomes evident or not.

I want to direct you to couple entries on color. Its a strong opinion that can be very helpful to anyone struggling with it. If you don't agree with him, please don't get all McCoy! Its probably likely you're not completely understanding what Hatfield has to say...

I'm keeping this brief. Don's entries are lengthy, but well worth the read.

I'm sending you to two links. Don Hatfield rewrote his post on color trying to simplify and clarify. Personally I think reading both paints the picture very well. Here they are in the order they were written. One. Two.

Please do yourself a favor and take time to read these. Even if you're not struggling with color at the moment, its reassuring to know that your own choices are the best.