Welcome

Sycamore treeI decided to give my blog page a little lift with its own name.  I’m calling it Sycamore Notes and some day I will explain where that comes from. (see a more recent post for that) For now, know that it is based on my belief that art can be something that lifts us out of the ordinary and inspires or challenges us.  So here I will  “go out on a limb” and share new works that are being added into this site’s  galleries or tell you about coming events and opportunities, or share techniques I use;  or perhaps I will  share a thought that I feel needs to be shared.  My hope is that this will become interactive and to that end, I invite you to share your thoughts or questions as we proceed.

 

Hurray For Our Side!

sunrise
The Fierce Call of Morning

“Hurray for our side!”……That’s what my Dad would say when someone in the family accomplished something worth crowing about.  All of us knew just what he meant: he was proud and wanted us to know that.  When I got the news that “The Fierce Call of Morning”  (12×18 woven watercolor on yupo) was accepted into the 2021 Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration exhibit of the Tennessee Watercolor Society, I was sure I heard Dad celebrating with me with that expression.  Then it got even better this week when I was invited to attend a virtual zoom awards presentation where I was pleased to receive an Honorable Mention award.  Yep, there was Dad, cheering once again.   On-line only, the exhibit represents some of the finest watercolor in the South.  Hurray for my side!  You can enjoy the exhibit in its entirety here.

I have been experimenting with woven watercolors since January 1, 2018sunrisewhen I decided to try “something different” for the new year and did a small piece I called  It’s a New Day which now lives in Springfield,  Missouri.  I have lost track of how many I have done since ,but they are fun, challenging, and surprising.  The technique involves painting two paintings about the same size and similar or complementary subject matter, then cutting the two in opposite directions and  weaving them together. The result is hard to envision in advance and some end up in the recycle bin!  This one didn’t! 

Number 19

blue kimono
Ambiguity

For those of you who have been walking with me for awhile, you are well aware of my ongoing kimono series. For those who have recently joined me, you can read about this series that is so very important to me right here. Today I am sharing the nineteenth kimono of what started as a ten-kimono goal. This particular kimono started a year ago. We had just gone into covid lockdown. Every next step seemed unclear, ambiguous, and, yes, more than a bit frightening. It was to be a year of ambiguity. That year is behind us as I write this, but there is still a lack of clarity. The fog is just starting to lift. We’ve all experienced the lifting fog some time, whether actual or figurative. We see it over “our” mountain frequently. Clarity starts to come at the bottom and gradually work it’s way up the mountain, revealing slowly the fields, the trees, the mountain top, the sky. That’s where I feel we are now. We are starting to feel we can plan a trip, or an event, or even a gathering with friends. But the clouds of uncertainty and the harsh warnings from the CDC give us pause and those year-old fears creep in again. That is what this kimono is trying to say. I have been working on it off and on over this covid year. It was larger for awhile. It was textured. It was even a totally different color prompting me to buy a new tube of Venetian Red! But this is how it turned out. If you look closely you will see row after row of small holes made with a dressmaker’s tool for transferring a pattern, along with row after row of machine stitching in “Yale blue” and metallic silver. As I write this, I am still not sure if the image is complete or even if it is the right image or if I need to start all over. I have tempered hope that the fog will lift and we will feel the freedom of a bright sunny day…..eventually.

Why “Sycamore Notes?” she said….

If you knew me before my move to the South in 1996, you may recall my gallery on the campus of Villa Maria College/Gannon University.  It was a special place for me that I called Sycamore Gallery.  There wasn’t a sycamore in sight on the campus, but I drew inspiration for the name from the only reference to a sycamore in the New Testament.  Remember Zacchaeus, the little guy who wanted to see Jesus but couldn’t because of the crowd?  Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree to get above the crowd and see!  For me, that’s what art does….music, poetry, the visual arts, dance….art of any kind.  It takes me ABOVE THE CROWD so I can get a glimpse of the divine.  It’s as simple as that.  The thought has stayed with me and is the inspiration for this blog and for all I do as I paint, draw, or write.  To keep reminding me to get above the crowd, the noise, the distractions, there are two sycamore trees planted on our property in Ocoee TN.

Dusting off a memory

Dusting off a memory

There are many wonderful reasons for maintaining my website and blog but perhaps the one that brings me the most joy is like the one that happened recently.  A name appeared on a contact form in my mailbox with a fun description of some antics in a biology class in the late 70’s when I taught biology at VMA in Erie.  Several emails were exchanged and stories told of all that has transpired on both ends of the story fleshing out some old memories from long ago.  I LOVE being able to do that and to learn about where life has taken my students.  So many have found me with a google search that lead them to my website.  Some visit for a span and others have become life long friends. It happens more than I ever would have anticipated.   This particular  reunion had yet another element.  “How did you happen to look for me at this time?”  I said.  “Marie, I think of you every week when I dust a framed drawing my mother gave me in the mid-90’s!”  After I asked her to send me a photo, I was gobsmacked (have wanted to use that word!) to see a drawing I did in Holland in 1984 while on a solo backpacking trip through Europe to draw and paint and visit the museums, under the direction of my friend and mentor Frederick Franck.  So, it became a double reunion with  my student Kathy and with Femke and her mother, the models in that drawing.  Who knew that dusting could bring so much pleasure?

Several of you who will read this post were likely students of mine at some time.  If so, thank you so much for finding me.

John the Vagabond

Close-up of old man's face
John in Technicolor

In the mid 1970’s I was a student at St Bonaventure University in Olean NY working on a master’s degree in biology over several summers. During one of those summers I met and befriended a man with a long white beard, tattered layers of sweaters and shirts, and a braided knot on the top of his head!  Colorful?  You betcha.  John the Vagabond, as he referred to himself, told me stories of traveling the globe, meeting people and learning from them, and imparting his personal philosophies and guidance along the way.  He was there at SBU to take advantage of tuition-free classes for seniors, studying psychology so that he could better counsel the people he would encounter along his personal journey.  We talked at length while strolling around the beautiful campus  At summer’s end, I gave him my address in hopes that I would hear from this very colorful personality.  And I did.  In fact, a letter-writing relationship developed that lasted until his death in 1986 in Bradenton FL  Fast forward thirty years when I received an email from John’s grand nephew who had inherited a box of John’s personal items, among which were letters from me to his grand-uncle!  Email exchanges and phone calls followed.  I found among my own treasures a stash of letters from John that I had saved and two old b&w photographs I had taken of him at SBU.  More photos came from my new much younger friend and John’s relative,  and a collection of paintings and drawings followed (many of which are included in this portfolio.)  The story is ongoing and not quite ready for prime time yet, but on the way I have learned a lot more about John’s very interesting life, far more than I knew back in those student days.  This portrait embodies for me his colorful and caring personality.  He was an itinerant searcher of truth, a pilgrim of the universe, a teller of tales, and much more than met the eye.  It was my real privilege to get to know him then and now to learn about him all over again.

Land of the Wild Passion Flower

Land of the Wild Passion Flower

Sometimes multiple interests come together in a single painting.  Such was the case with this piece which combines my interest in nature, art, and native American history.  Phew!  All in one little roughly 9×9 watercolor.

butterfly on a passion flower
Depending on Beauty

The image is of a gulf fritillary that has a unique relationship with this flower, commonly referred to as the Passion Flower.  Both are beautiful creations in themselves, but what is so interesting is that this little butterfly MUST lay its eggs on this particular plant because that is all their fussy  little caterpillars will eat!  This is just like the relationship that monarchs have to milkweed.  My practical side says, how inefficient, how unwise to be so dependent on a single food source.  Could it be that these butterflies need beauty in their lives too??

And there is more to this story. The Cherokee who used to inhabit the very land I live on here in southeast TN called the fruit of the Passion Flower “u-wa-ga” and the area around the river where it grew was called “u-wa-go-hi,” which means “where the passion fruits grow.”  To English speaking folks this sounded like “o-co-ee” and so the river became the Ocoee River and the land nearby was called Ocoee, which is where I live.  So I live in the Land of the Passion Flower!  There is so much in this story that I love, so I had to paint it and I finally did. I have painted the flower several times but this is the grist time I have included the fritillary as well.  Purchase information can be found in the Birds, Butterflies, and Beasts gallery or in the Blossoms and Blooms gallery.

Solar Flare

abstract sunrise or sunsetOn a weekend following a number of days doing relatively non-creative tasks, my insides demanded some play time.  A very energizing exercise for me is to do one of my woven paintings.  To do this, I generally paint two paintings, often on yupo, that have some similar elements in color and/or line.  Yupo is a synthetic material that has a very hard non-absorbent surface that does not act at all like traditional watercolor paper.  It is hard to control but results in very vibrant lively color that I love to work with.  After painting and letting them dry well, I slice the two paintings in opposite directions  and then weave them back together.  The fun part is that I never quite know what the finished piece will look like.  Ok, it’s not always fun but it sure can be interesting…..This is one of those surprises.  It could remind the viewer of a spectacular sunrise or sunset,  thus the title “Solar Flare.”  The image itself is 10×14 and it is matted and framed to 16×19.  You can see more woven watercolors here.

A poetic inspiration

painting of early dawn
Dawn in the mountains

“In Gentleness and Kindness”

I was introduced to Mary Oliver several years ago and since then have grown to love her poetry and recognize it even before I read the by-line.  Her writing is full of awareness.  The day I painted this I had read her poem “Why I wake up early”    From that poem came the title for the painting.  It just seemed like such a good way to start a day.

 

Inspiration from John Muir

imaginary landscape
Nourishment for the soul

Beauty and Bread

John Muir may not have had art in mind when he penned this: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  I know he had places like Yosemite and Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks as he talked of places and I think I did too as I painted this.   I suggest that “places” can also be non-tangible spots where our hearts find some reprieve from whatever may be troubling us.

You can view additional paintings inspired by land or sea, click here.

 

Morning Moments. the story behind the exhibit

Moonrise“Morning Moments: the Story behind the exhibit”

Well over a year ago I started preparing for another hometown exhibit, painting images of a variety of subjects in a number of my favorite styles, some detailed and planned; others, loose and spontaneous.

Then 2020 happened.  The show went on hold.  Life itself went on hold.  I continued painting but something different started happening.  I found myself drawn to small pockets of time on small pieces of paper, usually in the morning before the noise of the news cycle got in the way and with a fresh abandon, perhaps freed from exhibition expectations.  I started thinking of these painting times as “morning moments,” not necessarily because of the time of day but because I was fully awake, alert, and aware of gentle stirrings that seemed to bypass my brain.  The small simple paintings became heart-filled responses to an anxious sleepless night, a line of poetry, the song of a bird, or the whisper of the wind.  What was common to all was an absence of thinking and planning.

The results of those morning moments are collectively some of the purest and most honest paintings I have ever done — simple, spontaneous, and highly personal.  When the opportunity came about recently to revisit an exhibition time at Glass Growers Gallery, I knew that I wanted to share them.  My hope, my prayer, is that they will communicate between my heart and your heart and that they will stir something in you and bring you some of the peace they brought me as I painted them.

I am grateful to Debby Vahanian and Glass Growers Gallery for giving me this opportunity to share these paintings with you, to have this “heart to heart” conversation.  In my nearly 40 years of painting and exhibiting this may be the most unique exhibit I have ever had. Thank you for joining with me on this journey.

This exhibit is now over.

 

Marie Spaeder Haas

August 1 – September 8, 2020

Glass Growers Gallery, 10 E. 5th St., Erie PA

gallery hours:  11-3 Tuesday through Saturday; Monday by appointment (814-453-3758)