Mother Nature’s Easel: Some Thoughts on Jonathan E. Russell’s Art

Mother Nature’s Wild West, by Jonathan Russell. Used with permission.

When I first started, part of the impetus was that I know so many cool people – many of them with nontraditional careers or callings like acting, dancing, juggling, writing, and art.  Now that I’ve got a few blogs under my belt, and a website design that doesn’t make my head spin, I think it’s about time to start paying some virtual visits.

Mother Earth, by Jonathan Russell

Jon and I were already dating by the time I saw his artwork, so you can guess how relieved I was that I loved it.  His style reminds me of stained-glass windows, and I once had a dream about a room completely surrounded by stained-glass versions of Jon’s work.  I think it’s both the shapes Jon uses – which remind me of cut glass – and the gradients of color.  I have “Mother Earth” here at home, and, on those rare occasions when I’m up early, I love to watch this painting as the sun rises:  first just the white edges seem to glow, and slowly, the colors light up too.  It’s almost like watching the sunrise itself.

Waterfall, by Jonathan Russell

“Mother Earth” is part of a series Jon’s been playing with for a long time, where he incorporates the female form into a landscape.  I love the premise for these, and I also love the execution:  While the lines and colors of the paintings are dynamic, there’s also a certain simplicity:  Here are the lines of the body; here are the lines of the landscape.  They’re beautiful as they are, without added sentimentality or (I can personally vouch) without being idealized.

Jon’s Elements series is newer, dating from just the last couple of years.  Most of these pieces are quite abstract – a sort of on-canvas distillation of fire, or water, or ice – but they still contain those dynamic lines and glowing gradients.

Fire, by Jonathan Russell

Like his other work, they also have a wonderful ability to make me look more deeply at the natural world.  When I look away from some artwork, I wish things were different – that I had perfectly-flowing hair, for example.  When I look away from Jon’s work, I’m even more intrigued and impressed by the world that is:  I wonder what it is that makes fire fiery.  I peer at the landscape and try to see the shape of a person lying down in the hills.  I look at the trees and admire the tones and colors of the light coming through their leaves.  Jon’s art doesn’t just make my life richer by brightening up my walls: It also stimulates my imagination and my observations.

I hope you’ll check out Jon’s website and, if you’re so inclined, “like” his Facebook page.  You’ll be able to see more of his paintings and keep up on new developments.  Jon’s work is currently on exhibit at The Gallery at Phoenix Books here in Vermont, so if you’re in the area, you can even see his work in person!

Yummy Crunchy Delectable Food: A Post for Blog Action Day 2011

West Show Jersey July 2010 46

I’ve blogged before about ethical issues concerning food, but this Blog Action Day, I’d just like to say a few words about how delightful food is.  There are such a wonderful variety of tastes to choose from:  earthy-sweet carrots, rich cream (or, for me, goat’s milk), nectar-like honey, warming chai.  I’ve gotten to enjoy an even wider range of tastes since I’ve become a fan of tea and, more recently, a student of herbalism.  Any day can be made better by a cup of tung ting, an oolong that tastes like spring, or the oceany gyokuro.  Herbs might taste super-sweet like licorice, refreshing like lemon balm, or harshly bitter like hops, but they’re always interesting.  Herbalist Guido Masé described Rhodiola as that herb that “tastes like roses and then sucks all the water out of your mouth.”  I doubt you could fail to identify the taste of Rhodiola after that description!

Kulikov Bazaar with bagels 1910Food is fun to taste and smell, but it’s also fun to chop and blend and knead – and buy.  When I lived in Philadelphia, my favorite day of the week was Saturday.  My boyfriend and I would walk up to the Headhouse Square farmer’s market.  I’d buy basic veggies from the Amish farmer there, and heirloom tomatoes and other delightful things from the organic farm stand.  Saturday’s market wasn’t as big as Sunday’s, but there was more opportunity to chat with the farmers, and maybe find out what could be done with that strange vegetable I didn’t know the name of.  As a Vermonter, visiting the farmer’s market felt like a little bit of home.  I’d always impulse-buy something that I hadn’t planned on – often kale, which I knew I didn’t like (at the time), but which is so gorgeously richly green I could rarely resist.

We’d tote our goods back home and I would usually spend the day cooking:  Perhaps making a chili-inspired stew with fresh tomatoes and peppers, and maybe some sweet potatoes and kale.  I might make some brown bread or stove-top pizza, too.  Saturdays always seemed so satisfying, and I felt a lift in low-level anxiety that I always had in the city. 

Ferdinand Wagner MarktfrauI think it was because of all of that basic, nourishing sensory stimulation.  This week I read a blog entry over at Three Highlights that said, “Machinating is what we do when we let the mind spin with little more intention, flexibility, or creative openness other than to ‘get things done.’  It’s not the same as thinking. Or musing. Or imagining. Or creating. Or experiencing.”  Since I spent a lot of time on the computer – and was missing my accustomed natural, low-concrete landscape – this was a real danger for me.  But getting and making good food always lifted that cloud and got me back into experiencing and musing and creating.

So, I guess that’s another reason why I like to buy local, from the grower, and to buy whole food that takes a bit of preparation:  I’m getting even more for my money.  I’m not just getting calories, I’m getting nutrients, and tastes, and smells, and textures, and even conversations and friendships.  I’m getting food for the body – and food for the soul.

A Knight in Moderation

Several years ago, my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  It was summer – too early for the question – and we were walking down a sunlit street.  “A knight in shining armor,” I said.

Obviously, I wasn’t serious.  As I remember it, I wasn’t even keeping my eye out for romance at the time.  I just thought I was being cute.

Six months later, I unwrapped the lad in the photo.  I loved him, of course:  I’ve always had a thing for miniatures (in moderation), and this fellow is so steadfast.  He’s sits on my windowsill with Ganesh and Happy Buddha, and together they are part of my home-in-a-pocket kit whenever I travel.

Thank goodness, though, that he stays faithfully on that windowsill, and doesn’t butt in too much.  Knights In Shining Armor can save the day, but they can also have some exhaustingly high expectations of themselves and of you.  As my sister said when I unwrapped him, it’s much better to carry your own Knight with you, so you don’t have to go looking for him in other people.

Hallow’s Eve Greetings

Walking up the street dressed as a dryad,* I wished everyone passing a Happy Halloween. It reminded me of the rural west coast of Ireland, where even folks walking down the opposite side of the street will usually call out a “hiya.” I kept that habit for a while, then seem to have lost it in the city – even on streets that are quiet enough to make greeting everyone practical. But on Saturday, in my costume and a rust-orange cloak donned for the drizzly weather, I felt like the Halloween Ambassador. I won’t say the streets were all decked out for the holiday, but there were enough jack o’lanterns, enough costumes, enough trick-or-treaters to make the day different. Or maybe days like Halloween are a bit different all on their own. Either way, thank you to all who celebrated!

In the photo: The neighbors’ dog, who participated in the festivities.

*My go-to costume for busy years: little greet devil horns turned inside out ( …/ instead of /… ) so they look like goat horns, leaf-shaped earrings, a Venetian glass leaf necklace, and green and/or brown clothes.

A Hunt for an Imperfect Pumpkin

My boyfriend has no Halloween spirit at all, but proved what a good sport he is by accompanying me to the local pumpkin fest here in the Big City. In addition to the weekly farmers market (yum!), there were hay bales and pumpkins galore – and a petting zoo! Maybe an adult shouldn’t get quite so excited about a few goats and chickens, but when a country girl’s been in the city for as long as I have, seeing these critters is quite a treat.

I always look for the tall skinny pumpkins, the warty ones, and the just plain misshapen gourds. But lo and behold, the farmers had only brought pretty pumpkins to the city! Each and every one was round as a basketball with unblemished orange flesh: the type of pumpkins they use on sitcoms.

I wonder if oranges come in as many shapes in Florida as pumpkins do in rural New England? I’m thinking that judging gourds and fruits and vegetables by how perfectly shaped they are is a bit nonsensical…especially since those big bizarrely-shaped heirloom beefsteaks I had earlier this summer were absolutely delicious…

Anyway, stuck with a plethora of perfect pumpkins, I did my best and dug up one with a few bumps and an extra-long stem – and my guy even helped me carry it home.

A Pennsic Retrospective, part 3: The Power of Suggestion

“You know, in my line of work you get a feel for these things, and I can tell you two are a great couple. How long have you been together – two, three years?” asked the inebriated judge.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been, Pennsic is a wonderful place to pick up chicks (and guys). But I had decided before arriving that I was not looking to get picked up. I didn’t want Logan to get stuck with the one girl at the party who wasn’t looking for action, so I opened my mouth to explain that we’d just met.

“What’s it been, snookums, three years?” Logan asked.

“Almost four,” I returned.

By the end of the evening, we’d supposedly been married for five years (putting me in my teens on the ‘big day’), and the judge was far enough into his cup to buy it.

By the end of the weekend, we were crazy enough to believe that – who knows? – we might make a great couple. And the rest, you might say, is thanks to the power of suggestion.

Thanks, Judge!