Early Bird Efforts

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Mr. Grackle in snow –  Picture by: Lausanne Davis Carpenter

The best remedy for surviving a twelve-hour day in cubicle-land is to spend my early mornings on my own goals. I have posted on LDavisCarpenter about the challenges of writing historical fiction and am starting a Flash Memoir side-project while chipping away at my novel.
 

I am reasonably confident in my non-fiction abilities but creative writing is – whew. I know how long it takes to develop any new skill so I want to use my life experiences as material for word-crafting practice – before I am faced with final edits of my long fiction. Flash Memoir seems like a good choice for distilling memories into words that transport a reader to another’s time, place, thoughts and senses. I also think it will be fun to capture snippets of my own crazy life in this form.

 

Meanwhile, you can see last summer’s mural on the Marsh Hawk Studio blog. I still plan to do a process post showing the steps to creating it but those pictures are on my other laptop which an Office update recently corrupted and can no longer access the internet. (Yes, thank you very much.) I will soon update the Long Ago & Far Away blog with notes on Conn Iggulden’s Genghis Khan series.

 

If I can ever get my blogs up to date AND have a day off – I’ll be back to writing my novel.



***About Mr. Grackle – just a fellow at my feeder on a snowy morning back in VA. Those eyes look like I feel most mornings before tea.

In the Meantime –

studio 2

 

My studio has returned to chaos.

You can see the results of the Studio 3.0 Mural Commission posted on my Marsh Hawk Studio site.

As I mentioned there, once I completed that project, I was immediately out of town to work as a trainer/manager of independent insurance adjusters in Atlanta, GA. After six months, I returned home to move my parents from their rental to the finally ready “new” home. We’ve been working long days, every day to get them moved in. We’ve also changed every one of their doctors and dentists in this last 3 months. I hope to never see another “New Patient” form.

But, how about a few detail shots of our hard work?

back porch1a (3)

This shot was taken the day James and I first saw the house. You can see the monster tree and the rotting deck that wrapped around it. I remember thinking as I took this picture, “One day, that tree is going to cost us a whole lot of money.”

Two weeks after closing, we received a notice from the city that our neighbor had complained about it dropping limbs into her yard.

$6500.00 later, the tree and the liability hazard deck were gone.

The house had no laundry room. So we added that plus a mud room in the area of the old deck, then added the stoop. Pardon the ladders. Work yet to do.

back entry

Along the way, the house was gutted and essentially rebuilt from the inside out. New wiring, plumbing, everything. When they started to tear out the  interior plaster on the exterior walls, they discovered there was no lath, just plaster on terra cotta block walls. So, they left the plaster and stick built from the inside in order add insulation.

terra cotta block

Add new roof, new windows and attic insulation and the folks are now snug.

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The ceilings throughout had been dropped. The new ones have been returned to their original 9’6″.

 

living room 1 (3)

Living room with dropped ceilings.

picture wall

Same wall with ceilings restored to original height.

entry and wall of writers

Showing the exposed upper glass block and the display of Mom’s favorite writers around the door to her writing room.

 

Raising the ceiling in the living room exposed the top row of glass block at the entry. Their exterior had been painted gray. Now they sparkle inside and out.

The exterior still needs some wood rot replaced and paint. But my parents are now ensconced, mostly unpacked and starting to get on with living.

Now for me: I’ve made myself available for work adjusting again but I may have to wait for tropical storm season to spool up before I can return. That makes me financially broke but anxious to use these slivers of free time to update my blogs and drag out my historical fiction project.

Studio 3.0 – Mural Commission

Messy Studio

Messy Studio/Warehouse

In the midst of my personal madness, I got an email requesting a small-ish mural. As it happens, I think I can actually squeeze one in between the time I get the parents physically deposited here in Florida and when I will make myself available for adjusting work again. There is going to be a phase of getting the folks settled – finding doctors, learning the roads, etc. when I don’t want to be in a 12hrs x 7days work gig.

A mural could be just the right diversion.

However, in the last 18 months, my studio has turned into a warehouse. So, the first task was to clear it out and sweep up the leaves that blow under the door.

All Better

All better – the black splodge on the floor is a permanent spill of some mystery substance from before my time.

Client meeting went well. Proposal completed and passed. Next step is a detailed drawing.

Meanwhile, I drive to Virginia tomorrow to start the final phase of loading the folks’ furniture in containers, deep cleaning the house in preparation for the market and getting them and Sally-dog into the car.

Of course, it’s going to be in the 100s in Florida and the 90s in Virginia this week. All good fun.

I think that’s enough for now.

The Day Job Wins

Forty-eight hours after release from Adjusting Gig 1, I received notice of Gig 2 and am making my way across country to the new location. The first 30 days of each assignment means zero days off but I should be well rested by the time I report for duty again.

I am driving west for the first time since 1985 (road trip!) and when I get my Sundays off I will meet up with several dear friends who have migrated that way in the last few decades. I am excited for the continued excellent work opportunity and a bit of adventure. Woo Hoo!!!

But, once again, the constant zig and zag leaves me feeling that large portions of my life have been wasted pouring time and energy (and money) down paths that end in brick walls. I am now 18 months behind on writing my novel (or 20 years!) and again mothballing my painting business that I hadn’t even thought to reopen until it came barrelling at me uninvited last fall.

My recent mural clients want to promote my work. I’ve had several other project inquiries before I’ve even made new business cards. The decorative items in my antiques mall booth sold out while I was in my cubicle these past four months. This all indicates that there is a market for what I do. But now I am not able to produce more products for retail. Although this last office gig was in my own town, the work is long hours, 7 then 6 days/week and exhausting. Add the rest of life’s responsibilities and there was no way to get into the studio and still function on the job. The day job wins – I’m being paid to be sharp and make good decisions, not come in sleep deprived and zombified.

This next gig is out of town – that’s the end of even pretending about 5am studio time. I will not be able to complete the paintings I have started. And why discuss murals that I can’t schedule because of the day job’s unpredictability?

And the novel – it is set in an obscure time and place, meaning I still have stacks of research to do before I can move further with the rough draft. I can’t scribble a sentence without three significant research questions popping up. I am bringing some of the neglected research materials west with me in hopes that if I can’t paint at 5am, I can at least read and make some notes.

So why not quit the day job and go full focus on the painting business? There is evidence that there is a market for it. I’ll tell you why: money. That’s the nasty truth of it. I do believe, given the time to spool up and build a clientele, I could make a go of it in the Jacksonville area. But for now I must go for the bird in the hand – the desk job. We have too many demands for money right now and I cannot take the months/years required to establish my painting business again that this time.

I guess I have to accept that my life goes in circles and hope that the painting phase comes back around before too long. Part of my brain is making plans for that day, getting excited about the possibilities, thinking through a new business plan. The other part is trying to tamp that down and stick with the present: stay focused on the now, work really hard to capitalize on the current opportunites, make good decisions that will put me in the best possible position for when the next zag comes. And try to chip away at that novel.

Lemon Tree – Mural Process

Just posted this on Marsh Hawk Studio site:

Main Wall Completed
Main Wall Completed
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View from Entrance

There were many challenges to this design. The first was how to have lemon trees reaching up into a night sky? I didn’t want the trees directly against a deep blue. My clients were also concerned that the room not become too dark.

I suggested we transition lighter walls up through dusk and into a night sky. I had in mind the beautiful medieval Book of Hours, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry which beautifully moves from day to night in one image.

Medieval Book of Hours
Medieval Book of Hours

This meant taking an ombré effect from night to dusk on the ceiling and into the walls.

Adding to the challenge – as I designed the walls, I knew I did not want a horizon line cutting across the imagery. That meant obscuring the horizon by taking the ombré right down to the base of the image – the chair rail.

Here’s a shot of one wall’s design elevation in progress:

Lemon Tree elevation
Lemon Tree elevation

In order to visualize the overlap of corner trees on the ceiling, I built a rough, white model and attached the wall and ceiling elevations to it. The resulting model was taped and pinned together for easy disassembly and transport. Presenting this to the clients helped them visualize their future dining room.

Model view of entry arch and colums
Model view of entry arch and columns

Watch the slideshow and see further explanation below:

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Of course, I began with the background. The ceiling and walls were textured, which added to the challenge of the gradation.

I worked a textured underlayer beneath the final grassy foreground to give it some movement, then worked over it to lighten the final effect. It took me about a week of tones and half-tones and half-half-tones to get the transitions smooth.

Referencing my renderings, I chalked in the trees, then based and added minimal highlight and shade. I did not want overly dimensional trunks, knowing my leaves would be stylized. I also didn’t want the trunks to dominate the composition. My natural bent is for high contrast so I had to restrain myself from fully developing their form.

I ordered a variety of lemon leaf stencils from Cutting Edge Stencils. These were excellent shapes but I was a little concerned about scale. Would they be too small? So, before starting the project, I cut a bunch of additional leaf stencils in larger sizes. In the end, I used all of them. Layering the slightly different sizes provided a better sense of depth.

The stencils were applied randomly, layered and with mottled tones.

Once an area had the beginnings of leaves, I stopped and added the lemons. I wanted to be sure I had leaves both behind and in front of the fruit. I stenciled the lemons with a base color and then added lights for simple form. When the lemons were dry I continued with the leaves allowing them to overlap the lemons.

My client had been enchanted by the lemon blossoms at their Sorrento restaurant so I scattered blossom shapes throughout. I had pre-cut little stencils of 7 or 8 blossom shapes.

While I was working on the trees, I chipped away at the starry sky. I used a combination of Swarovski flat-backed crystals and silver mica-powder mixed with clear glaze.

The mural’s other special features are a peace dove, a sandhill crane and a a triple merhorse fountain. This unique feature was inspired by my client’s trip to Italy. There is a large, elaborate fountain in Taormina, Sicily, that has these adorable merhorses placed along its outer edge as you can see in my prior post here. My clients requested I include only the merhorses so I created a composition that would provided the best sense of all three.

A word about color:  It is coincidental that my mural colors appear so similar to the Book of Hours image. I did not actually reference that work during the design process – it was simply in my memory as an example of a prior artist transitioning from day to night in a single image.

The colors of my mural were based on the existing colors in the home. Every color used in the mural was coordinated with the near-violet blue of the large niche or the warm ochre-tan base color and of the surrounding spaces. Nearly every color in the mural has one or the other or both of these two reference colors in their makeup.

Coordinating Multiple Blogs

As you know by now, this is my catch-all place. It is for unique, general posts which do not directly apply to my other blogs. And to cross-post from my other material so most of my blog-life is in one place. Don’t worry. It won’t be absolutely everything.

If you prefer a more focused blog experience, please see my other blogs:

Marshhawkstudio.com – My decorative arts business website/blog.

LDavisCarpenter – Writer  – My general writing blog.

Longagoandfaraway.org – A blog for historical fiction set outside the normal locals of the US and Western Europe.

Since I am still getting my workflow down.

The next few posts are entries from LDavisCarpenter that didn’t make it over here yet:

Lemon Trees with Night Sky Mural

Here’s a new post from my Marsh Hawk Studio LLC:

I recently completed this project in Ponte Vedra, Florida. There are few experiences so thrilling as seeing your once-imagined world realized – whether on stage or in a dining room.

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My clients wanted to recreate the feeling they experienced while eating lunch at the Ristorante ‘o Parruchiano la Favorita in Sorrento, Italy.

They explained that the town of Sorrento is all about lemons and this restaurant’s patio diningroom was surrounded by fruit-laden lemon trees – blossoms drifting down all around.

They also wished to reference the enchanting merhorse fountains which flank the larger baroque fountain in Taormina, Northern Sicily.

Client's Photo of Baroque Fountain
Client’s Photo of Baroque Fountain with Merhorses

In searching for a muralist they stumbled over a prior project of mine – a night sky with crystal stars. This expanded their vision.

They got in touch and we got to work.

In my next post I will walk you through the design and painting process.

I hope you enjoy the world we created!