The New Polar North

img_3553I have an idea about global warming.  We are not seeing it so much here in the Puget Sound Basin.  We are having snow this morning, for the third time in a week.  It doesn’t stay long, but it is pretty, but it is also pretty cold.

This winter has been much colder than ones in recent times with temperatures in November/December in the 20s and the remaining since in the 30s with a high in the low 40s.  Usually it is around the mid 40s most of the winter, with rain.  We will have an occasional false spring where it might get up to 60 in January for a day.  We did have one day this January with a Chinook wind that was 58 degrees, but generally, this has been a cold winter.

I have decided that global warming isn’t really global warming, just warming in unusual areas, leaving those of us here in a general cooling spell.  My philosophy is that the poles have shifted and the Arctic and Antarctic are moving toward the area we would consider the equator and the Puget Sound Basin will become the new North Pole! Yes, I know that axis of the earth does shift and very gradually.  But it is beginning to feel like the polar north around here.

This winter we have had more days when it snowed than I can remember since I was a child, back in the dark ages.  But we also had snow for Halloween and Thanksgiving then.  We even had snow on April Fool’s day once.  The lowest temperature we have recorded here at our house was in 1978 at minus 10 degrees.  The pipes froze.  Luckily (?) this winter the lowest was 19 above.  Needless to say the fuchsias in the greenhouse won’t make it this year.

We live in a cabin in the woods, so the temperatures are tempered somewhat around us, cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  This morning it is three degrees warmer here in the woods than out in the open spaces.  We have natural air conditioning, keeping the house at least ten degrees cooler than the open spaces in the summer time.  It is great.

With a cooler winter this year, we are burning a lot more firewood to keep warm.  The woodstove is the primary heat in our house and I have to split and stack it every year.  Fortunately, this year we ordered extra and we still have reserves as we often need to heat until June.

When we had that Chinook day in January, a friend of mine was thinking of going out to plant her potatoes.  Washington’s Birthday is the traditional day to plant pod peas here.  If either of these activities happened, they are not going to make it.  Frozen potato sets do not produce potatoes. I am still looking at the seed catalogues, not having ordered at my usual time in January.  I need to get on my horse and get it done or they won’t be here if we have an early spring (please!).  I usually plant everything in May.  The plants are healthier and the peas come on the same time as those planted in February.

Well, so much for the morning snow gripe.  I am looking forward to a day indoors, painting a painting of an old truck that is in progress.  Hopefully I will have it finished by the end of the day.  Hope your day is one in which you can do something that you love too.

The County Fair

Cock of the walk

It isn’t called the county fair any longer.  It is now the Whidbey Island Area Fair.  It is still the same fair, carnival, hotdogs, cotton candy, blue ribbon cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses.  Lots of folks and lots of things to see including vegetables of all sizes and shapes, beautiful flowers, photography, fine arts, crafts, quilts and needle work.  All kinds of people in all shapes, sizes, and some are multicolored, showing off their body artwork in scantily clad attire. Unfortunately, it rained this last evening of the fair and people were leaving in droves.  The band that was highlighted this evening had a small audience after the rain started.  The food vendors lost almost all their customers and the carnival rides were looking wet and deserted.

We usually go to the fair the first day to see the flowers, and vegetables and fruits before they wilt and shrivel and before the mold starts on the pies and bread.  The goods look attractive and appealing then.  They were beginning to look a little frowsy by today.

Vegetable critters are a hoot.  Kids have a competition making things from various vegetable parts.  We like to see these the first day while these critters are still recognizable as something.  By today, the last day, they are morphing (moldering) into something that was never expected by their creators. Some are pretty interesting after four days without benefit of any refrigeration.

Of course there are the commercial displays with the hawkers trying to lure us to the vegimatic choppers or the synthetic jeweled jewelry that is a cheap price.  The cable TV companies want us to subscribe to their four hundred stations and I just smile.  We haven’t owned a television for almost forty-five years now.  They would have better luck trying to sell me a book.

We saw chariot races in the arena this year, something I don’t remember seeing in the past.  Teams of four semi miniature horses racing flat out against each other.  Kind of breath-taking.  All in good fun and not a battle, just a race.

The greatest animal participation is the horses.  There must be five horse clubs in this jurisdiction and they all come decked out for parades, competitions, races and just judging of the animals.  Lots and lots of ribbons there.

The poultry barn was the usual din.  Roosters crowing constantly were competing with the hens squawking.  The bantam (miniature) roosters crowing voices are several octaves above that of the “heavy” (read large) breeds.  The poor, sleepy rabbits cohabitate in the same barn and don’t speak a word as their breathing and esophageal parts are separate and they have no voice box.  Chickens also make a great deal of dust.  Eggs are judged here as well for consistency of color, size and freshness.  This is one of my favorite barns being a chicken farmer myself.

Well it is the second week in August and at nine tonight the fair will close for this year.  All the folks camping at the fair will go home and resume their real lives with 9 to 5 jobs from which they have taken time off for the festivities at the fair.

As I mentioned it rained.  Most of the days were cool in the 60’s for the most part.  This was good for the animals as they didn’t get over-stressed by heat.  I am not sure that they didn’t get over-stressed by people looking, poking them, giving them things to eat they shouldn’t eat and more, so I think the animals are probably the most grateful to return home to rest until we do it all again next year.

email Pig #1 (caught in the flowers again

Summer Fun


In his sites

(this crow is made from tarpaper embedded into the wax) (titled: “In His Sites”)

Well the calendar says it is summer.  It is raining and almost the end of July.  Last week, however, we did have some moderate days of sunshine mixed, intermittently, with clouds.  Since it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too hot, I decided to work on an outdoor project.

As I have mentioned before, I am an artist, primarily a painter, though I dabble in printmaking and other art forms.  I also teach.

One form of painting that I practice, from time to time, is encaustic painting.  This is melted wax to a board.  For color I use various materials including oil pastels, crayolas, powdered graphite, powdered pigments and more.  I often imbed objects, bits of paper, old subway tickets, playing cards, and other refuse into the pieces.

Over the course of two weeks, I completed sixteen paintings for a show that will hang in mid September.  The theme is crows.  Some of the crows are painted with oil pastels and melted into the wax, some are cutouts in tarpaper that is imbedded.  Some of the crows are tissue paper imbedded.

I use a heat gun, and electric griddle and a blow torch to melt the wax. Depending on the effect I want, I will paint on melted wax with a brush, maybe push it around with the blow torch.  The ends of my fingers get encased with the wax and I tend to rub them together, crumbling the wax which falls to the ground, consequently, I don’t want to do this in the house. I would track wax crumbs into the floors and rugs, which is not a good thing as it is slightly sticky.

I am fond of using crayolas in this process as I can melt them on the griddle and paint them into the wax with a brush, or I can color onto the cooled wax and melt them.  They move around a lot.  Oil pastel tends to stay where I put it.

I will be having a show of these works at the Braeburn Restaurant in Langley, Washington, September 19th through October 14th, 2016.  I hope that some of you are able to visit the show.

PS: My students are having a show at the Braeburn July 25th to September 19th and another educational exhibit at the Island County Fair in Langley, August 4 through August 7, 2016

Poor Reception

(titled “Poor Reception”)


An Artist’s Eye

email Girl with the pearl earring with frame--Deon Matzen

Above  Study of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painted by Deon Matzen

What is an artist’s eye? Someone posed this question to me recently and though I have been thinking about it, I was flummoxed as to what it actually is. Having done some research I am now prepared to make some comments.

As many of you know, I am an artist.  I studied art in college and, off and on, over my lifetime I pursued an artist’s career.  I know that I am probably more susceptible to color than the average person.  I also know that I see more than most other folks.  In the past, I put this down to being more observant of my surroundings, but it isn’t just that.

My students often comment, “How did you see that?”  I will be helping them with a painting and point outa missed detail or a misconception on their parts and show them, either through a sketch or an explanation, what I see in the scene.  They cannot believe they have missed it as it becomes obvious when I point it out. Many have commented, after studying with me for some time, that they are now much more observant people.  They see the world differently.  Maybe the artist’s eye is something that can be trained.  I think this is true, though some of us are born with it.

Often times I tell my students to leave their brains out of seeing, that the mind and logic only serve to misrepresent the truth.  It is true.  Our preconceived ideas of what objects should look like ruins our ability to really understand what they look like. If I ask you to draw a horse from memory, using your brain and memory, and then ask you to draw a horse from a photo or real life, which is the better example of a horse?  The one you imagine or the one you REALLY looked at and drew?

In beginning drawing classes my students use large drawing tablets (18 x 24”) to draw large works.  Often times I ask them to draw objects bigger than life.  Sometimes I ask them to draw with their non-dominate hand to force eye-to-hand coordination to come into play.  They concentrate so hard on making the hand work that they cannot use preconceived impressions of the object (the mind and memory) to draw the object; they must focus on the object and the movement of the hand.  Most students will complete a more accurate rendering of the subject than when left to draw in the usual manner.

Other times I will have the students cover their work while they are drawing, not allowing them to see what is happening on the page but making the hand follow the eye as it moves around an object.  Mostly this results in a much better drawing than if I just let them draw while looking at the page.  If left to their own devices, many students will spend more time looking at the page, trusting memory—the weak link—while seldom looking at the object and thus misremembering it. I have watched the new artist work. Many times, a student will spend about ninety percent of the drawing time looking at the drawing and not the object.  Those who spend most of their time looking at the object while continuing to move their pencils will become the better artists.  It is a hard habit to break, watching you hand draw.  After many, many years of being an artist, when I draw and when I paint, I spend most of my time looking at the object(s) and not looking at my work, mostly  using my peripheral vision to guide my progress.

Do I look at the world differently, being an artist?  I guess I do.  I see the details.  I notice the colors and how they relate to one another.  I understand how bright light can cause my pupils to constrict, causing shadows to lose details. Lightness and darkness (value) are important to me and I am constantly aware of how shadows play out in a scene.  How dark or light are they?  That tells me how dull or bright the daylight is.  I am constantly aware of this.  Maybe the average person is not.  I see textures in the scene and am aware of them, the smoothness of water and how reflections waver or not, the patterns made by the leaves of various species of flora, the forms and shapes of rocks and how they differ from one another.

While researching the subject, I came across a good article by By Sadie F. Dingfelder. Monitor Staff.,2010, ,Vol 41, No. 2, Print version: page 40. ( In this article, they seem to come the closest I can imagine to describe “the artist’s eye.”  For some of us this is an instinctual thing, something we have always had, something that has allowed us to see the world more clearly and in greater detail.  For others, my students, it is something I have trained them to do.  Some of the unsuccessful are frustrated about learning something that seems too basic and simple to them, learning to see. I tell my students that all I am teaching them is to see and eye-to-hand coordination.  They laugh at this, but, really, it is as basic as that.  But remember to leave the brain out of it.