Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend and remembering...

Memorial Day...somehow you can't see it as anything but synonymous with sunny days, barbeques, and the kick off to summer...even though the meaning is a more reflective, solemn day, a day for remembering our fallen soldiers.

When I think of Memorial Day, and the soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and I say a quiet prayer for their bravery, and marvel at their courage.  In the face of annihilation, they still took action...thank you for your service, and for laying your lives down for your fellow countrymen, and for the future of all of our children.

Memorial Day was a very sad one for us.  No, we were not personally reflecting on a lost soldier, but, we dealt with a completely different sadness...my young daughter's little boyfriend committed suicide on Sunday night.  He was only 15 years old...it makes me cry to even write this.

What would make such a beautiful young man do this hideous thing to himself??  It was completely out of left field...he was an A student, a track star, and had many friends.  He was gentle, quiet and polite.  We were very happy that our daughter had picked this young man to be her friend, as he seemed genuinely on his way to having a bright and happy future.  All of that ended with a single self-inflicted gun shot wound.

My daughter is devastated.  My heart breaks for her, watching her 15 year old mind try to make sense of something that even our adult minds cannot.  Why did he do it?  Why didn't he tell anyone he was hurting?  He had been bullied by a group of boys that day, and he was beaten up, and made fun of...was that enough of a reason to take his own life?  Noelle cried and cried, going over all of  Sunday's hours and events...wondering where she could have seen something, helped him, intervened...even a few hours before his death, he was supposed to come visit, and he never showed up.  He turned off his phone.  A few hours later, he was dead.

His older brother found him after hearing the gunshot.  His parents are inconsolable, as is his older sister...this type of death, I feel, is the hardest death of all...leaving everyone who knew him bitter with regret...what could we have done??   We'll never have those answers in this lifetime.

I tried to console Noelle as best as I could.  Matt made a very bad choice, but God loves him still.  He is in a place of peace and love, where no one can ever hurt him again.

She cried and looked at me and said, "I can't believe that I'm never going to see him again in this life.  In a year, I will be older than him.  One day, when I'm your age, he will still be 15."  Yes, it's a terrible, sad reality, what's left of shattered hearts in the wake of a suicide.

R.I.P.  Matthew...sweet baby boy. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Art Takes London

OK...new link! I need your support friends...just hit this link and rate my art with the little stars in the right hand upper corner of the page...it's that simple!
Enjoy your night, stay dry, stay safe, and have a wonderful weekend~

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feeling the warmth!

"Beltzville ball game" by Hilary J. England, pastel on hardwood panel, 18" x 24" 2011

I am feeling the warmth!  Literally!!  It is about as fine of a day as you can get, very very warm (low to mid 80s), quite a change from the last several weeks.

I am really geared up.  I have been doing alot of studio work because of the weather, and also doing alot of work TO my studio, since it was in serious need of some help/upgrades.  First and most importantly, we got the giant new studio easel together...me and Ant.  It took about 3 hours, with miserable instructions, lots of bickering, and a few near mutinies, but we did it...and didn't have any reassembly necessary due to mistakes.  Pretty impressive.

I also am adding more electricity to the place, as well as the addition of several ceiling fans.  It turns into a sweatbox my midafternoon, and after two summers of suffering, I finally said enough is enough.  So, hopefully the fans and additional ventilation will help.  It's not central air, but I'm not Donald Trump either so, this is the most economical compromise I can make ;-)

The track system to hang my paintings is due to arrive on Friday, and I'm very excited about that.  Right now, we have wood screws somewhat haphazardly into the barn walls, but this will organize everything very nicely. 

All in all, everything continues to go well...we seem to have Noelle's health stabilized, so I'm thankful for that, and the summer will be upon us in the blink of an eye, so I'm making preparations for all the stuff we all have scheduled, and trying to get that coordinated...not really an easy task, but doable.

Well, that's it for now.  Out to get some more work done, and head off to the framer.  I'm also looking (again) for a professional photographer who photoes art, but this time I have a recommendation for one, so hopefully this will work out!  As you probably can tell from past entries, photography is the "thorn" in my side...it literally drives me nuts trying to get the photos just right, so this will be very helpful.  Confuscius says, "if you suck at something, delegate."  At least I think it was him, lol.

So, I'll leave you with the above painting I just finished, developed from a series of sketches done at a lakeside picnic.  It's simply titled, "Beltzville ball game" and it's 18" x 24" pastel on hardwood panel.

By the way friends, please vote for me at:  www.arttakeslondon.com/hilaryjengland  It only takes a minute, is free of charge, and will help me out immensely!!  Thanks!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fog and rain...

"Fog in forest study" by Hilary J. England, 8" x 10" oil on canvas

My, the rain and fog don't want to leave our area.  I've had a pretty stressful week, and yet, it seems quiet, because of the dense blanket of cloud that seems to hover over our area.

I couldn't contain myself any longer...I went out into the drizzle with my umbrella and did some studies...I hope you enjoy this little painting.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Misty day in the valley

"Contemplation" by Hilary J. England, oil on hardwood panel, 12" x 12"

What a calm and misty day in the valley...I had baby Amelia with me...she is such a good baby.  She spent the day with me, and didn't cry once.  She is like a little living, smiling dolly, and when I look into her sweet, good natured smile, and her sparkling blue eyes, it touches me to the depths of my soul.  It's like seeing love itself, the way God intended it--purity, goodness, gentleness.  It's as if I was looking beyond the veil into the sanctuary itself, a glimpse into the presence of the truth, when I look into her eyes.  I feel such a swell of love and gratitude for allowing me to have a little sight of that, in this rather turbulent and frequently chaotic world.

I had alot of annoying things to do, and the morning started with me jumping to my feet and running, literally, as I overslept the one day I needed to be on time, so the morning started in a rush...the way I dislike starting the day.  I got everything I accomplished I needed to, but I got some irritating news along the way, nothing other artists don't experience, so I try not to take things to personally, as evidenced by the 1000 other names on the email. 

So, I am back to work at things for tonight.  I have to put together my new, giant studio easel, which is supposed to be sturdy enough to handle some of the enoromous and ambitious canvases I'm tackling, I have to finish the pastel I'm working on, and I have to finish up this little still life I started about an hour ago.  I have multiple paintings to post, but I was lazy about photo-ing them, with being so busy lately.  Noelle's illness has been taking up alot of my time, poor thing, and now we have to go to the pediatric specialist on Monday, almost 2 hours' drive from home, so that should take the entire day again.  I am anxious to get things under control, as she is exhausted from both her illness and the relentless doctor's visits and tests, as am I, and I feel helpless to make her feel better.  I have faith that the doctor's will give her the appropriate course of treatment and make her well again.

So, enjoy the evening, and will post more paintings as I get them photographed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beautiful beautiful day

What a gorgeous day out today.  I worked in my studio on the pastel painting I started, and then Mark and I decided to take a ride to Palmerton for a few errands, and a quick lunch down by the river.  We were enjoying all of the nature, the scattering of folks fishing along the river, the bright new foliage, and feeling thankful to live in area with so much natural beauty.  Yes, the afternoon was quite beautiful.

We started home, riding down Route 895, when in the field parallel to the road, we both saw what appeared to be a large vulture, except that his flying pattern was different from that of a vulture.  He would beat his wings in a sort of two step pattern, and then glide, yet it was unlike the almost seemless gliding of a vulture.  We slowed down to look at him, and in a flash, against the sun, it appeared his tail was snow white.  My breath caught in my chest!!  Could it be?  A bald eagle?

We pulled the car to the side of the road, the two of us scrambling out of the car, across the highway to get a better look at him.  Yes indeed, it was a bald eagle.  He dived down towards the creek, and disappeared behind the treeline, so we ran for the car to follow him.  By the way, I realized in my excitement, I was standing in a poison ivy patch in sandals, but that did not dampen my enthusiasm!!

We got in the car, and cautiously followed the winding road to where we saw the eagle disappear to, and lo and behold, there he was, roosting in a dead tree on the side of the stream.  We were beside ourselves with excitement, and as we hurriedly whispered and got into position to get some awesome phots, he flew away!  Doh!  Kind of like catching the whopper on the end of your line and he jumps out of your hands back into the water!!

Anyway, just getting to see this majestic bird in all of his regal glory in the "wild" was worth the short duration of our sighting of him.  I had seen another a few weeks ago, but just a glimpse from the corner of my eye.  This was a full on viewing!!

That made my day :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Busy day

"Ball 1" pastel on hardwood panel, 12" x 16"
It was a very busy day today, and very beautiful out...which took the edge of the pressure, so to speak.  I woke up early and got the bugs worked out of my downloaded new software, and finished my online project before coffee, so I had the day to work outside.

The painting above is the second in a series of six, a subset of the larger series I am working on based on rural American youth.   I am including these very young children, as their parents are teenagers, and they are literally babies raising babies.  They are so beautiful, and full of happiness and vigor, and I am trying to capture the multifacets of this group.  The children are lovely, but they do feel the effects of their circumstances...I guess as we all do, ultimately.  Rich or poor, we all suffer from the "human" condition...

The painting began well, and I think as I moved through it, it began to aggravate me, but the problem was my own laziness...I forgot to put my mask on, and I began to feel the effects with swollen sinuses and tearing, itchy eyes.  Once I rinsed my eyes and got a breath of air, put my mask on, I was feeling much better and able to complete the work and be completely comfortable.  I have to remember that the dust is a health hazard, and not to forget that darned mask.  But, I am the one who forgets my seatbelt even after all of these years, so I don't know what to say about that.  Perhaps a slight penchant towards self-destruction?  Probably just early senility LOL

So, my schedule is pretty wide open until I take Noelle back to the Doctor in the late afternoon for her test results...I pray for the results to all be negative for any ill health, and feel fairly confident she will regain all of her health in short order, provided she follows a good diet, and whatever else the Doctor orders for her. 

So, that's it for tonight. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sweet breezes

"Reynold's falls oil study" oil on canvas, 8" x 10" by Hilary J. England

The sweet breezes of Spring have arrived.  I love painting and feeling the soft (sometimes gusty) wind against my face, my bare arms.  It makes me feel alive...

Here is a quick study of Reynold's falls.  I had to work quickly to prevent my artwork from going face down in the dirt, literally.  I am going to head to Stonehedge tomorrow (I think)...although that destination could change from now until then.

But, out to my studio for right now, and then later on I'll do some weeding in my flowerbeds and take Chorkie for a walk...and just EXHALE.  It's Friday, and no crazy parties to attend ;-)...just a nice quiet night with dinner, a movie, and some R&R!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quick study

"Lower waterfall study, Jim Thorpe" by Hilary J. England, 8" x 10" oil on canvas
Here is a quick little study I did at the waterfalls in Jim Thorpe.  The weather has been quite nice lately, and all of the trees are so bright with their tight little buds, Spring is bursting into full flower.

I enjoy the plein air studies, and the chance to clear my mind in the fresh, cool of the river mouth.  I look forward to going back there in the near future, and completing some more studies, and perhaps, a bigger piece.

Grace, forgiveness, and other important virtues

After having a day to recover my equanimity of the events of late (Osama bin Laden's assassination), I feel more shock and sadness at the behavior of my fellow Americans, in celebrating the death of person, and as one friend so aptly put it, turning the whole event into a drunken spectacle, or a "Monday night football event."

I feel the undignified manner of the whole event is appalling.  Even though Osama bin Laden was accused of many crimes, I wonder where his due process was?  Why was he not brought in for a trial?  Even the Nazis were given their due process and stood trial.  Why was his body not given back to his people?  His family?  Why was he summarily tossed into the ocean?  What would we do as Americans if some foreign force came in and did that to one of our high profile citizens, no matter what they were accused of? Why were Osama's companions also mowed down?  Where was consideration for that?  Guilty by association?  Do we now just make ourselves judge and jury?  Where does that mentality stop?

I don't have any sympathy for the crimes Osama stood accused of.  I am a New Yorker by birth, and also worked in one World Trade (the North tower) for a few years when I was very young.  Osama's accused crimes are heinous, no argument there.  But, the whole event is disgusting to me.  Hate only begets hate.

 I thought we were a freedom loving nation... since when does a freedom loving nation send a hit squad of assassins to kill a group of people, deprive them of their human rights to a trial, and then throw their bodies away without the benefit of a decent burial, or at least returning the remains to their family?  Since when do citizens of a freedom loving nation revel in the streets like a bunch of barbarians, drunk with blood lust and hatred, celebrating the death of another human being, no matter what they are accused of?  Why did our GOVERNMENT (both Republicans and Democrats) set the pace by having a "celebratory" dinner of this man's death, complete with standing ovations and catcalls?  Absolutely repugnant.

You may disagree with me.  I understand there are people out there that have lost loved ones, health, etc., and harbor alot of bitterness.  I am not addressing that complexity.  I am addressing the rest of the process, and the rest of our citizenry, that really did not have that personal interest in the destruction of 9/11.

 What kind of example do we set for our children by reveling in hatred?  My 15 year old daughter watched the events unfold that night, and said, "I feel sorry for this man.  He may have been a bad man, but I still feel sorry for him.  Look how badly everyone hates him," referring to the people dancing in the streets.  She was 100% right, and I was almost speechless to explain away their behavior...

I usually stay out of political frays, and I keep my political views to myself, because I feel we are all entitled to have our own opinions, to "agree to disagree" with dignity and tolerance.  But, this was just overwhelming to me, and I could not keep silent.

I am sorry if I have offended anyone...it's not meant to personally attack anyone, just to put out another "side" of the issue, and hope you can perhaps see another opinion of a fellow American, and citizen of the world.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rude businesses and other annoyances

Yesterday was a busy day...I went to the Home and Garden Expo to help Mark set up for his booth, since I had donated a small painting for his business to raffle off, and he wanted it put in a place of prominance, and also set up to capture some names, addresses, etc.  I actually ended up staying for four hours instead of one, since I ran into so many people I knew, and also met a very interesting woman, Sandi, who runs an up and coming art guild, which she persuaded me to join.  It wasn't a hard sell...she is a very vibrant, enthustiastic woman, with a lot of good ideas and she already has implemented some very good ones as well.  As a nonprofit,  she is grant eligible, and has received grant money already, for some very interesting public projects, so we agreed to collaborate on a few of them in the next few months.

The day was long but it went well, and I had to make an hour's trip to do some other visiting after the Expo, and was planning on looping around to Allentown after, to drop off my newest pastel painting to be framed.  I usually do my own framing, but not with pastel.  My local framer had closed shop and moved, so I decided to give the chain store, AC Moore, a shot, since I saw a coupon for 50% off custom framing, and thought, "what the heck."
What a fiasco.  Plain and simple.  The sales clerk was about as rude as you can get, and the price was completely, ridiculously over-the-top....

I arrived at the custom framing counter, and was completely ignored. I mean literally.  The one clerk was helping an older woman, who was picking through a stack of mats, and literally didn't even look up to acknowledge me, for close to 10 minutes!!  I was in shock.  When I finally cleared my throat, she glanced at me, and went straight back to looking at the mats without so much as even an smile, a handsignal, or a word.  Flustered, I began to look for a manager to help me. 

After I found the manager, she sent another sales clerk back, a young man, who was helpful, but rather timid.  We again reached the counter, and the other clerk and the customer had taken up the entire counter with their "spread," so I could not so much as even lay the painting down.  The young man looked at her (I'll call her "Nasty" from this point on, since she was not wearing a nameplate) and Nasty threw me a baleful look, and then grudgingly moved some of the items out of the way so I could place the painting on a small portion of the counter. Now, mind you, the painting is only 12" x 16". 

I was now in the store for over 30 minutes, and fatigued from the whole situation.  I knew exactly what I wanted, so very rapidly, in under 10 minutes, we had the entire frame order figured out.  Now, we are just staring at each other.  "So, now what?" I asked the young man.  He glanced over at Nasty and the computer, as she was STILL going through mats with the indecisive customer, and said, "Can I use the computer?"  Nasty looked at me, and said, "Sorry.  I am working with a customer, and you can't write the order.  'She' (making a motion at me) will have to come back another time."  I couldn't believe my ears.  Now I was boiling.

I remained steady, and said, "What on earth do you mean by telling me I have to 'come back another time,' I did not know you needed an appointment in this store, and I live 40 minutes away.   I simply would like to write this order, and I can't understand why you would not allow a sale to go through, when your customer is no where even ready to place her order!!  What kind of bad business is this?"  Nasty looked at me and sniffed,"we can't interrupt another order to write an order."  So, patiently, I said, "When do you expect to be finished with your current order, since I have been waiting here over 40 minutes now, and no offense to you Madame (I acknowledged the other customer, who was now looking sulkily down her nose at me), but if you don't know what you want, I would think that etiquette would dictate your graciousness in allowing my sales clerk to utilize the computer so I can check out."  The woman customer looked at Nasty, and also ignored me as if I was not there. 

Again, with great patience, I asked Nasty, "Do you have any idea how much longer you will need then?  I do have another engagement for dinner, and I would like to be done here in the next 10 minutes or so."  Nasty looked at me square in the eye and said, "That will not be possible.  I need at least 20 minutes to write Mrs."so and so's" order.  You will need to come back another time since the store is closing in a 45 minutes."

I put the painting back into plastic, and said to the young, flustered man, "I'm sorry, but you just lost your sale.  I will not be back."  He looked at me sadly, and Nasty looked up and smirked! 

As I was walking out, I found the general manager, and explained the whole fiasco.  I also told him as a professional artist, I was giving his store a "test run" and if things went well, I would literally be bringing him a ton of business...so not only did he lose this sale, but he lost the whole "kit and kaboodle" due to the very rude young woman he had working back there. The manager snapped to attention at this, and convinced me to go with him back to the counter, and he "would straighten out the matter."

We got back there, and the manager demanded to know what was going on.  Nasty and her customer were still sitting there, and Nasty began straightening up her area, and put on a straight face, and said, "I'm sorry 'Ed', but I don't know what the fuss is about.  I am checking Mrs. 'so and so' out now, so you can have the computer."  Then Nasty looked at me quite innocently and said, "May I help you?"

Now, as enraging as the whole incident was, I really did not want to waste my time transporting the painting back home (since pastel is so delicate).  I decided to go ahead with the order, which came out to at least double of what my other place used to charge.  The only difference was the museum glare free glass, but paying an additional $100 dollars for glare free glass is, in my opinion, completely overpriced, but glare free is not an option when dealing with exhibitions and photography, etc. so I had no other choice but to pay it.

Bottom line for me:  I will NEVER use A.C. Moore in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, again for any framing.  If you are going force customers to wait an hour for an order, at least have a personable and knowledgeable sales staff.  A.C. Moore sales staff told me they don't offer appointments, and it is on a "first come first serve basis," and they also only have ONE computer in the whole store to write up custom frame orders, so they certainly need to fix their custom framing service.  Expect rude service, slow and frustating orders, and God only knows what condition my painting and frame will come back in in the slow turnover time (over two weeks for the framing process).  Definitely look for a Mom and Pop place, or some other big box service, if you are looking for a satisfactory and worry free sales process.

So, that is my rude business story for the day!  Just thought I'd give my fellow artists and friends a head's up!!

Stormy Times

“Stormy day in the fields - Tennessee” oil on wooden panel, 18” x 18” by Hilary J. England I painted an original study when I was in Tenness...