Pineapple As Metaphor…

Grab a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one…

I had of course, an amazing bunch of adventures over the last 10 days, so much to share and tell you about dear readers, but I will do it in bits and pieces, because as will happen when you are off scampering about having fun, life sort of builds up and hits you between the eyes when you return!  I’m sure everyone of you can identify with that.  And that’s partly what this blog post is about.

I left just after the 4th, to head to Peters Valley, one of my spirit places, a craft center in North Western NJ.  If you are from the mid Atlantic Region and don’t know about it, you should.  I have been a part of the Valley in many different capacities since the late 70’s.  The facility is on National Park Service property, near the Delaware River that divides PA and NJ, and it is rural and gorgeous and full of life and energy and quiet and stillness (except for the shooting range over the mountain, those rifles make noise!).  Yes there are ticks, and bears, and mosquitoes, but there are new friends, and opportunities for your spirit to soar.  Many of you know that the last place my husband and I stayed, was Peters Valley, I was teaching, he was taking a low light Photography class, the morning after we returned was the morning we found out he had stage 3 inoperable esophageal cancer.  His spirit will always be at Peters Valley, and when he died, in lieu of flowers, those that loved and supported him sent donations to Peters Valley instead.  They will use the money to help build a digital photography studio since darkroom photography is no longer viable.  He learned to love digital photography taking classes at Peters Valley.  

Anyway, I am going to try each summer to take at least one class up there, because I’m almost never a student and there is so much to experience there. (Though next summer I’m already booked to teach beginning weaving twice).  Last spring, I looked over the offerings and decided to take a five day water color class.  It fit with my heavy travel schedule this summer, and I haven’t done any serious painting since college.  That was a lifetime ago, I was a fine arts major, and we stood in the painting studios back then, looking at a large canvas, and we had to paint.  There were no still life set-ups, no ‘en plein air’ painting (that means going out and painting on location, literally in open air, very impressionist.)  We had to look at a canvas and invent.  And I was really crappy at that.  Painting comes from seeing life and interpreting it and I was 19 years old and what did I really have to say.  I hated it.  I wanted to be in the textile studio.  It really pissed off the painting instructor because he thought I had talent.  The rest is history…

Until a couple of weeks ago, when I started assembling the required materials, which I wrote about in my last post, not knowing if my refugee equipment and paints from the 70’s and beyond would be usable or hold me back.  In the end I bought about $300 worth of supplies, mostly the paints, because there is a difference in what you spend, which is probably just about right in everything we do in life.  I got the recommended palette, and some extras and some excellent Arches 140 pound cold press paper and took all the brushes I had and a camp chair and outdoor side table and hoped for the best.  

I bonded instantly with the rest of the class, and adored the teacher Jane Brennan, a new friend, we had a lot in common and chatted at most of the meals.  Both of us have gone through some major life changes over the last year, and though the stories are different, we are both creative spirits who’ve had the rug pulled out from under us and yet we persevere.

It poured rain the first day we were there, beautiful in the valley, but tough to go outside and paint.  Jane the teacher had brought a number of items for creating emergency still life set ups, always a good exercise, and we all dug in.  There were seven in the class including the assistant, so there were still life arrangements scattered around the studio.  I assumed Jane would spend the first day having us do endless color studies, figuring out what we had in our palettes, and lots of tutorials.  Much to my delight, she spent about an hour going over her favorite products and why, and then told us to just start squishing out paint, fill a water container and get to work.  We would learn the rest as we went along.  My first painting of artificial peonies and a very ripe peach went sort of well I think.


I know Jane thought I was a bit tight, she is a very different kind of water color painter, and the class was actually called Wet and Wild, or something like that.  She wanted us to fill the brush full of water and slop on the fluid.  I tried the big plastic pot of petunias next.


I nailed the pot, and actually loved the way the colors ran at the bottom.  So not me…

Then came the dreaded pineapple.  In fact everyone painted this pineapple at some point or other, and at the end of the class, though one student had to leave early, we all put our pineapples on the mantel and I was struck by how each of us given the same basic tools and experience, saw that pineapple in completely different ways.  It made me realize that in this polarized world we live in that everyone has a different criteria for viewing life, and it allows us a different vision and what a wonderful and positive thing that is.  There were six pineapples on the mantel, all creative and energetic (mine less so, but that’s just fine too) and it is too bad in this world at the moment that we all can’t appreciate what each other has to say and learn something.  Painting is about listening.  And learning.  And trying.  And trying again.

Watercolor4 Pineapple

The second morning of class, we went out ‘en plein air’, and I was a bit nervous.  I’ve never painted in real life before.  Except for the occasional still life and life drawing classes at college, I have never sat and drawn trees, and architecture, stone and brick work, grass, windows, sky, flowers, and ponds.  So I picked the hardest thing I could, and faced the kitchen at Peters Valley.  It had all of the above except for the pond and it took an hour or two just to figure out the perspective, because I haven’t drawn a building in like, ever?  


I didn’t get it quite right, but I’m still so happy with this painting, I can do it, and more importantly I loved doing it.  It changed the way I looked at everything I took for granted.  How many different colors there are of leaves, stone, shadows, and grass.  And I figured out what to mix with what to get good greens, and I figured out quickly which of the 30 brushes I brought would be my favorite.  That afternoon, we went back to the studio and played with tossing water and color and more water on a wet paper and letting it dry between and seeing what we got.  After a couple of days of this process, I ended up with this…


We met up at Bundy’s Beach, a popular pond to paint and photograph and inspire, which is across the street from the weaving studio where I have spent many years teaching.  I think I caught the water, and again, got what I wanted out of the experience.


Jane had coated some small canvases with a watercolor ground, that allowed direct painting on regular canvas.  We all got to try one and in the afternoon I attempted another still life.  The treated canvas board was much more challenging than water color paper and I loved the effect and the ability to subtract.  I think this is one of my favorites.  That jug was hard!


I brought wine in, we needed it to wash down the now very ripe pineapple which Jane cut up for a late afternoon snack.  We needed to add empty wine bottles to our still life repertoire, and so after dinner, my seat mate Sharon and I went back to the studio to paint.  We set up a quick still life, with a bunch of carrots and a colorful ceramic cup from the mantel, and we decided to spend only one hour to see what we could come up with.  Though we sat next to each other looking at the same three items, including the wine bottle, we saw something completely different.  Even the canvas orientation was different.  Sharon immediately turned hers to portrait, which allowed her to get the height of the wine bottle, and I had mine in landscape mode, so I could get all the carrot top greenery.  I immediately regretted my decision.  Where Sharon zoomed in tight, I had way too much background to contend with for a one hour painting.  Still, I’m happy with what I did in an hour and would like to try timed work again.  But hers on the right turned out bright and fun!  

watercolor8 WatercolorSharon2

We went on location again, back to the pond on the morning of the fourth day, and I chose instead to cross the street and draw a building that means a lot to me personally, the weaving studio.  Plans are underway to turn this building into housing and move the looms up to the mountain to join the rest of the fiber studio, about 3 miles down the road.  Logistically it is necessary, but my heart will always be in this building.  It is called Hilltop.  I got better at the perspective stuff.

EnPleinAir2 EnPleinAir1 Watercolor9

The last day of class, we traveled down the road a few miles to Walpack Village, another historic town that the government bought up when they planned to flood the entire area back in the 60’s.  There is an old church there, and I started sketching, with my paper horizontal, and underestimated the height of the steeple.  I needed about four more inches of paper to do it justice.  I think I just need to buy bigger paper…  Unfortunately it was a very overcast day, and I had no shadows which created a very flat painting, but again, I’m completely satisfied with what I did.


And the last few hours of class were spent back in the studio. I decided to try some internal architecture and a different technique.  I ran out of time,  but this is really my favorite of what I’ve done in the class.  I still have to define all the white woodwork, but I finally  have the perspective thing, and brush/water control and I am confident and comfortable with the medium.


And then I packed up and left and headed north to Massachusetts and a weaving conference and my role as an educator.  So in an instant, it was all a distant memory…

I just placed an order at Jerry’s Artarama, one of my favorite haunts for art supplies.  I ordered water color ground, a couple of additional paints, a much bigger plastic palette, and a folding easel for going out on location.  I really want to do this on a regular basis, but now I’m facing the dilemma that most of my students face when you return from a wonderful intensive and really think you are going to add this group of skills to your life and then life thinks otherwise.  This is my travel season, I do not have the luxury of sitting out under the gazebo painting the flowers, I’m in the middle of two articles for Threads Magazine, I have samples to make, I’m on deadline, I have a beginning weaving class to prep for, August 5th at Luna Parc, (If you are anywhere in the northeast, this is an amazing place!) and then on to southern California.  I really don’t stop until November.  2018 is mostly booked and it’s even worse.  

Even if I never paint again, this was an amazing experience and I highly recommend lengthy classes in anything, because in five days you really get into the meat of something.  Down the road, I see myself limiting my teaching to a few five day retreats a year, because students have the time to explore garment construction. Maybe then I can paint.  I’ll talk more about that in my next post, when I talk about NEWS, the weaving conference in New England.  For now, this is probably the longest post I’ve ever written, but I wanted to remember all of it, because I doubt I’ll be painting in the foreseeable future…

Stay tuned…

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July 18, 2017 3:28 pm

Daryl, you amaze me. So many of my artist friends would kill for a similar chance at an intensive watercolor workshop and still not achieve what you did. Watercolor can be humbling, but you chose to go with the flow (so to speak), not be intimidated, and just have fun. Thanks for sharing this experience – helps me decide whether to approach watercolor as I did weaving, i.e., take lots of classes/workshops. Good advice re the 5-day intensive. Hope you can return to watercolor soon. You go girl!!!

Gerri Barosso
Gerri Barosso
July 18, 2017 5:46 pm

Whether or not you return to painting,you’ve had that experience back in that place. Maybe the point was painting and maybe it was something else. Maybe just a break and breather.

Years back my hubby bought us travel watercolor kits. That and a small pad makes it easy to take advantage of a brief window of time. I guess you’d be painting s lot of airports or roads!

I need to watch for a five day with you!

July 19, 2017 8:08 am

Very nice work! Watercolor s are quite challenging, but so lovely. I have never done well with painting, although I had to take that and drawing back in undergrad days. My only sucesses are in painting the kitchen,the bathroom et.c.

Joan Ahern
Joan Ahern
July 19, 2017 12:06 pm

Love your work. Tried a watercolor class once, that was not a success. Had a hard time freeing up my work… Peter’s Valley is a great place to explore and make me friends. Well, off to finish threading my loom for MAFA. See you soon

Jane Brennan
July 19, 2017 1:19 pm

Daryl, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I loved your sense of adventure and experimentation. You did let the paint flow, and it flowed beautifully for you. I enjoyed our time together both in class and out. Please keep in touch.

Barbara Conklin
Barbara Conklin
July 19, 2017 6:49 pm

Daryl, I love your sense of adventure and reading your blogs. You are truly one talented lady with so much ambition in so many areas. Your paintings were wonderful. When you were taking these lessons at Peters Valley, did you stay with friends? That’s kind of a long ride to do every day coming from Towaco if I ever decided to do something like that. Thank you for sharing your life’s experiences whether they be highs or lows. We’re all trying to make our way in this crazy world, so it’s good to see how well you have navigated through… Read more »

Kate Dailey
Kate Dailey
July 22, 2017 10:01 am

A lovely post. Thanks for the inspiration. I have been weaving only a year and my loom is dressed for Intermountain Weavers Conference next week where I will be taking a 3 day workshop on drafting and overshot.

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