“Baby, It’s Hot Outside”

Baby, It's Hot Outside.jpg (ID 223)

Baby, It’s Hot Outside, 2008. Color monotype.

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Degas monotype exhibit musings and notes

I’ve seen lots of reproductions of this monotype on paper, The Jet Earring (Profil perdu à la bouche d’oreille) 1876-1877 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Anonymous gift, in memory of Francis Henry Taylor), and have loved it. Last week I saw the original monotype for the first time in Degas: A Strange New Beauty at MoMA in New York City.

The Jet Earring by Degas

This monotype is a small jewel. Actually it is very small: 3.25 inches x 2.75 inches. I was fascinated to see this monotype had been printed crooked on its sheet of paper which makes me wonder if Degas did not expect the nuances of the monotype to travel well from plate to paper. Perhaps Degas thought the fine lines in the woman’s hair would disappear or the lightness and softness of the feather in the woman’s hat would be lost or the seven or more discernible textures in the lights and darks on the plate would dim or all of the above.

I can only imagine Degas’s thrill when he lifted the sheet of paper and saw this monotype for the first time. What a keeper! I wonder if Degas’s second thought might have been, Alors! Remember to double check and make sure the plate is straight on the paper before you print the plate. Perhaps the placement of the monotype on the paper is why Degas did not sign this piece. (Oval atelier stamp and chop mark on recto) In reproductions I’ve seen, The Jet Earring monotype image has been straightened.

Seeing this perfect little jewel of a monotype imperfectly positioned on its sheet of paper, I truly felt the touch of Degas’s hand. Magnifique!

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More than 100 Degas monotypes on view thru July 24


Last week I spent a few days in New York City to see Degas: A Strange New Beauty at the Museum of Modern Art. I did see this wonderful exhibit. Twice. On Monday, I soaked up a sweeping view of the exhibit which features more than 100 monotypes as well as charcoal sketches, oils, pastels, etchings, lithrographs, and a couple of Degas’s sketchbooks. On Tuesday, I returned to MoMA for a closer, more studied look at each individual piece included in the exhibit. If you have the opportunity to see an exhibit, any exhibit, twice on two consecutive days, do so. You will be amazed at how much more you see during the second viewing.

I am strongly drawn to Degas’s black and white monotypes. Much is made of Degas’s pastel over monotype pieces and, of course, one can use a monotype as a sort of underpainting over which any medium can be applied. Degas’s pastel over monotype on paper works are lovely. Still, I find Degas’s monotypes on paper to be stronger and have more energy. All are black ink on paper, monochrome, and employ both dark field and light field techniques. Rubbing. Scratching. Using fingertips to tease out the image. Degas utilizes the monotype medium magnificently, enthusiastically, in all its spontaneous and experimental glory. Totally inspiring.

Degas: A Strange New Beauty continues at MoMA through July 24, 2016.

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Feeding the soul

Today is a bit overcast and cool here on the Seacoast in contrast to one week ago when the weather was picture perfect: sunny, warm and clear. Last Thursday I simply had to get outdoors, so embarked on an art-filled excursion. I drove the “long way” through Kittery Point, York Harbor, Long Sands Beach, York Beach and Cape Neddick to the Ogunquit Museum of American Art which sits perched overlooking the Atlantic Ocean amidst beautiful flower and sculpture gardens.


Soaked up two new exhibits: “Jamie Wyeth: Private Collection” and “Bernard Karfiol: Ogunquit Master.” I especially liked, no, loved, Bernard Karfiol’s work, all of which is new to me. Reminds me a bit of Leon Kroll’s work. Also included in the exhibit are some of Karfiol’s sketchbooks. This glimpse into the artist’s process is something I always enjoy. Lingered in the gardens.


Then headed over to Ogunquit Beach, found a free 30-minute parking space, and sketched for a bit. A soul satisfying and art-filled morning!


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Preserving works on paper as well as family history

A mysterious package arrived here last week. Upon opening the box, I was delighted to find a color pastel signed by my grandfather Carl Van Buskirk and dated 1913. No note. No card. Nothing. Hmm.

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I donned my Sherlock Holmes cap and, checking the USPS tracking number on the box, discovered the mysterious package had been sent from Crown Point, Indiana. The only person I “know” in Indiana is one Mark Van Buskirk who often contributes to The Van Buskirk News, a genealogical and family stories electronic newsletter edited by Stephan Donovan in Chicago.

The portrait looked familiar. I went back into my email files and, lo and behold, found a March 2014 email from Mark to me in which he told me about a pastel of a small child by Carl Van Buskirk currently for sale on eBay. In his email, Mark said he had bid on this pastel yet would withdraw his bid if I wanted the piece. In turn, I emailed Mark, saying I would pass on the offer as our family has a large and beautiful pastel of another red haired child by Carl Van Buskirk, the subject of which just happens to be my Dad and Carl’s son Orem.

Color Pastel (Orem) 1928 by Carl Van Buskirk

Late last week I again emailed Mark and, long story short, Mark said he felt the pastel of the small child belongs with Carl’s family. Words cannot express my sincere thanks to you, Mark!

Yesterday I carefully took the pastel out of the frame. As with so many works on paper, this piece had been framed in a manner which renders the artwork highly vulnerable to damage. First, the artwork was in direct contact with the glass in the frame. Secondly, the cardboard used as backing for the frame appears to have been scavanged from and old shoe/boot box. Yikes!

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Remember: Works on paper, be they pieces which were created today or more than 100 years ago, are fragile. When framing works of art on paper, always use acid free, at a minimum, and preferably archival or museum quality matboard and foam core. Secondly, always make sure the work of art on paper never comes in direct contact with the glass or Plexiglas used to protect the art. The artwork must either be floated in the frame or framed with a mat in order to create a small air space between the work on paper and the glass/Plexiglas.

I do nearly all of my own framing yet this pastel is more than 100 years old and is drawn on wafer thin paper which shows some fading and water damage. As a result, this charming piece is headed to a local frame shop which specializes in conservation.

The touch of my grandfather’s hand is evident in this pastel sketch. I wish we knew who the small red haired child is and how this piece came to be. Our family will treasure and enjoy this pastel as a lovely piece of art as well as a part of our family history for at least another 100 years!

Words cannot express my thanks to you, Dr. Mark Van Buskirk, for helping to bring this treasure home to us!

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What one may do one day


I’ve been quietly working, thinking, looking at art, playing the ukelele and learning new songs, knitting, and traveling since my last post.

Last week I spent a beautiful chunk of time soaking up two inspiring exhibits at Discover Portsmouth: “Illuminating Tarbell: Life and Art on the Piscataqua” and “Legacy in Action,” the latter being six contemporary artists working in the style of Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938). Fabulous!

Today in ukelele class we spent all of our time working on one song: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the Iz rather than the Judy Garland version. I started ukelele classes in February at the urging of Libby from our In Stitches group. Who knew I would enjoy these classes and playing the uke so much? “Happy music,” says Libby. So true.

Working alot on my new cookbook — alpha rhythm (Volume 2) — which will feature my monotypes (2000-2016) and favorite recipes. A book, yes, and also more than a book. A handcrafted book. Art you can hold in your hands. Sometimes I get so caught up in the process of this project I find myself feeling tight and anxious and stressed. Then I think, Stop! This is supposed to be fun. I stop for a few days. Return to building, bit by bit, the mock-up of my cookbook. Fun once again. The cookbook is starting to take shape. This process is similar to printing a monotype or, for me, any type of creative activity. I’m building something by doing, trial and error, rather than by thinking of doing.

“You have to have a high conception not of what you are doing, but of what you may do one day: without that, there’s no point in working.” (Edgar Degas)


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Something’s definitely cooking

Long ago (1996) and far away (Albuquerque, New Mexico), I designed and made a cookbook which I titled alpha rhythm. With lots of help from some very patient staff members at Kinko’s on Central Avenue S.E., we made eight original copies of alpha rhythm which I gave as Christmas gifts that year to family members and a few close friends. For me, this project was clear evidence of my love of books, paper, cooking, reading, and visual art. Between its covers, alpha rhythm included 18 favorite recipes, quite a few reproductions of some of my drawings (I had yet to make my first monotype), lots of different and interesting papers and overlays, and a few inspiring quotations.


Recently I’ve been poring over the one copy I have of alpha rhythm. I’ve been thinking it would be fun to make another cookbook and do so this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of alpha rhythm. One cookbook every 20 years. Seems do-able.


At this point in time, I’m envisioning this new cookbook will include 25 favorite recipes, one or two original monotypes (cover and centerfold), reproductions of monotypes, and whatever else strikes my fancy.


Let the rumpus begin!

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A calm getaway between two soft covers

“An artist is a person who lives in the
triangle which remains after the angle which
we may call common sense has been
removed from this four-cornered world.”


The Three-Cornered World

Recently my friend Irene loaned me a little softcover book, The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki, because, as Irene said to me, “It’s about an artist, so I thought of you.”

Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) opens the eyes of the reader to new and wonderful worlds and ways of looking in The Three-Cornered World (English translation by Alan Turney. English translation ©1965). The main character is an artist who has come to the country for a few days’ respite from city life in Tokyo. Chapter 1 begins: “Going up a mountain track, I fell to thinking.”

Reading this book was a meditative experience for me. Within its covers lies beauty, mystery, love, poetry, art, nature, culture, and more. A gem. I loved it!

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Snow Sisters stay here on Seacoast (for now)

Snow Sisters I.jpg (ID 321)

Had I known these two monotypes — “Snow Sisters (I)” and “Snow Sisters (II)” — were not going to be among the 45 entries accepted for inclusion in the Maryland Federation of Art’s “Stormy Weather” exhibit, I would have included them in the “Rapt in Winter” exhibit currently on view at Sentry Hill in York Harbor, Maine. C’est la vie.

Snow Sisters II.jpg (ID 322)

Next week I start printing again on the Seacoast Women series. I am chomping at the bit and feeling jazzed!

Meanwhile, if you’re in the Seacoast area, do try to stop in and take a look at “Rapt in Winter: Monotypes/Paintings/Collage by Barbara van Buskirk”. It’s on view through Sunday, February 28, in the Tennyson Art Gallery at Sentry Hill, 2 Victoria Court, York Harbor, Maine. Gallery Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Happy New Year


The creative juices flow in many different ways for me and, I imagine, for most people. In addition to working on the Seacoast Women series throughout 2015, I created my first group of handmade single signature books with original monotype covers and knit what ended up being a total of 22 pairs of socks for Christmas presents.

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Today I came across a poem, reprinted here from Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush (page 5), which I am sharing with you to start the new year:

Boring to live without beauty,
Sadder songless to be,
Woe to lack the lusting of larks,
So hard joyless to live!

I, myself, create my own beauty,
And harbor my dearest joy,
Beauty with me I carry,
Red hues in my apronstrings,
Joy tucked between burdens.

I would rather forget all sleep,
And leave behind my slumbers,
Than that I forget beauty,
And lose my dearest joy. 

(Estonian Folk Song titled Beautymaker from the village Vaike-Maarja, the translation was sent to Nancy Bush by Rita Tubalkain.)

Cheers to a happy, healthy and creative 2016 to you and yours!


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