Category Archives: Uncategorized

Catching Up on Spring

It almost seems foolish to be talking about Spring while the snow is still hanging around, but that’s what the calendar says so, there you have it. It seems I’m always playing catch-up but especially now with some major changes coming our way, well that’s the plan any way. So I have been lax in both my painting and blogging duties while focusing on planning for our next big adventure.

While this winter blessed us with more snow than we really needed, it also lingered on a little too long as well. But being a glass half full kinda gal, I took advantage of the opportunity to get some pictures of a storm in progress, before the ever diligent plow drivers cleaned all the snow away in town. Timing is everything, and despite all the snow we had (notice the optimism using the past tense), I didn’t mange to get the picture I wanted until March. That is, a snowy scene in town to paint. It was 9:30 – 10:00 Sunday morning and there were few cars to be found. I would have liked a few people, but none were found wandering the snowy sidewalks.

Waiting for St Paddy's Day, 16" x 20", oil on canvas

Since this is a small town, and folks pretty much know one another, it always strikes me as rather amusing when I am “in-town” taking pictures. When I see people I know, they know I’m looking for my next painting and by now I wonder if people I don’t know, realize that as well. This particular morning I had the town almost to myself. As I wandered around, camera in hand, looking for just the right angle, I turned down School St. to find Harlow’s Pub looking particularly quiet in the snow. With the white stuff draped all over it like an oversized throw, it was the perfect subject. Like the rest of us, it still had Christmas decorations on display, with the amount of snow we’ve had, it was just too difficult to take the down before the melting began. It just seemed like Harlow’s was the perfect picture of the winter of 2011.   And because I am so behind in my painting duties, I didn’t get time to paint until St. Patrick’s Day, so it seemed fitting to be painting a pub while listening to Irish music to capture the feeling of the day.

Gearing Up and Winding Down

Late Autumn and during the winter months my studio is a cozy refuge but when I am in the throws of the summer show season it tends to get particularly disheveled. There are but a few paintings on my gallery wall and several unfinished paintings littered about. Much as I try to continue painting in between shows it seems there’s more of the “other stuff” to do. That is, putting together marketing materials, making sure my web sites are up to date and working well, making arrangements for travel, record keeping, framing and having prints done and anything else that “pops up”. Last on the list, or even not on the list at all is tidying up the studio. So as I dash back in there before a show and pull out a few things to get to what I was looking for, they remain out of place until now. Now the Open Studio Tour is coming up and making my studio a showplace for my paintings is now at the top of the list.

But as Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‎”Out of chaos comes order.” So it’s my annual cleanathon to get ready. Mustering up the energy now, after doing six shows is a little trying, but I love it when things are in order, that may be shocking to hear from me, but it’s true. Well. I guess I should qualify that with my kind of order, which I’m sure differs from someone else’s or even anyone else’s. Poor Tigger, even he had trouble navigating the place to find his bed.

In being brave – or foolish enough in showing these pictures I am reminded of an incident in college when I was far behind in my writing assignment for a final paper. When I started whining to a friend about how much writing I had to do, he was shocked and said “you’ll never get that done!” Which was just the impetus I needed to do a fine job, and hand it in on time.

So I’m off to stuff more mailboxes with Art Tour maps, having walked several miles in the last few days to deliver a pile of them on Friday and Saturday. I’m hoping for a big turnout with the weather looking beautiful and the foliage starting to glow with yellows and reds and oranges. But really, I’d rather be painting.


Today I Painted

I do try to keep some measure of practicality to my painting career. I spend a fair amount of time on marketing, designing and printing brochures and mailings. I try to keep my web site up to date and I participate in as many local art events as I can. Sometimes though, even when you know you need to be attending to the business end of things you just need to paint. 

The month of August is my busiest time. Last weekend I was in Mystic, Connecticut for their art festival, a two day show. This weekend I will be in Greeley Park, Nashua, N.H. Next Saturday, it will be Portland Maine and the following weekend, Keene, N.H. There will be a couple of weeks off before I head down to New Hope, PA. After that, the Open Studio Tour, Columbus Day weekend.

The summer started out with a show Memorial Day weekend at the Montauk, Long Island show in New York. Before leaving I took some pictures. In wandering around in search of possible subjects for future paintings I came across a garden/florist shop called Strawberry Fields. It was beautifully laid out. I took a whole bunch of pictures and I’ve been wanting to work on a painting ever since. 

Today I painted, it felt great to finally get to this picture. There are some other things I didn’t get to that maybe I should have – but today I painted. Tomorrow, I’ll have to get ready for this weekend’s show in Nashua. Once again I’ll pack up my truck, in the evening I will head over to set up my tent. But today I painted.

No Fear

It reminds me of the first day of school. I just know I’m going to do better than last year. I’ll try really hard and I promise I won’t talk too much in class. You just have to dive in there and go for it – no fear. That’s what I’d always said to myself anyhow. But here I am about to start my 6th year of doing the circuit of summer art shows and I still feel like I’m going off to Kindergarten – well, maybe not kindergarten. Tomorrow, Rick and I will head to the Montauk Fine Art Show, Montauk, Long Island, N.Y. It’s a juried show with artists from all around the country. I feel fortunate to be one of the artists chosen to participate, and also like that little girl on the first day of school, only it’s good to talk to your customers, so I should do just fine.

I’m not sure though, that I can really count the first year as being part of a circuit of shows, since I only did one – Keene, N.H., Art in the Park. It was both exciting, terrifying and humorous in looking back. I didn’t have any display panels, so Rick built me some. We had gone to a few shows to “scope things out” and see how it’s done. I was checking out prices and Rick was taking notes on displays. “I’ve got a few ideas” he said, about how he could make me a setup. It so happened that it was the same year we were turning the barn into my studio. I guess that’s how he came up with the idea. For a grill to hang my paintings on, Rick used the old fencing we still had from my pygmy goats and I draped sheer curtains over them to dress them up, and to hide the goat fur I couldn’t get off. Much to my delight and surprise I sold several paintings. Watching people smile as they looked at my work was an amazing feeling.

The next year I did a couple more shows, and the year after that a few more. I won awards at the Beacon Hill Art Walk one year and at the Manchester Art in the Park another year. One year I looked for every show I could find within driving distance. That was good experience but more shows didn’t necessarily mean more sales. There are shows where people come to look, ones where people come to buy, and ones that are not very well attended. Once I learned that lesson I started to look more carefully at which shows I wanted to participate in.

Each year I’ve tried to improve not only my painting but my setup. It’s taken a while but now I’m very happy with my display – the goat hair is long gone but you’ve got to start somewhere. I want it to be attractive and welcoming.  The finishing touch is always the table in front because on it is a table cloth my mother embroidered for me many years ago. 

This will be my first year at the Montauk show. Being juried into a show in the New York area is like the first show, both exciting and terrifying. But firsts are suppose to be that way and so I’m anxiously looking forward to it – maybe someone could just give me another little push….

The rest of my schedule for the season can be found on my web site.

Leftovers, Not Finished Yet

One of these days I’m going to have to change the title of my web page New Paintings of Italy back to plain old New Paintings. I’m just not quite there yet. I’m still working on paintings of Venice. Our visit there was far too brief. It started with our arrival at the train station in the late afternoon. It was rainy and windy and lugging our suitcases, however efficiently we thought we’d packed, up and over the Grand Canal on the Scalzi Bridge, made for a somewhat rough start. Things smoothed out rapidly though. Our hotel was right on the other side of the Grand Canal across from the train station. Once we entered Hotel Antiche Figure it was clear we were in good hands.

Because we had limited time we jumped right in when the concierge asked if we wanted a map and some suggestions of getting around and where to go. I didn’t know much about Venice, I’d done more reading up on where and what to do in Rome and Florence. All I knew was Sam Marco was first on the list. The phone rang as the concierge was showing us the map, he answered the caller in French and then returned to us in English. The particularly interesting tidbit he told us about was a special the island of Murano (as in Murano glass) was running. Murano Chamber of Commerce would provide you with a free water taxi ride to their island and a free tour of the Murano Glass Factory. That sounded great, but San Marco would have to come first so we said sure, Friday we’d love that, and he arranged for the water taxi to come Friday morning.

Thursday morning we got 2 day passes for the water bus and hopped on for the ride down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. It was quickly apparent what a magical place this was. Every kind of water vehicle passed us, mail, UPS, construction, delivery. It was amazing. As luck would have it, Mardi Gras was just starting so when we arrived at our destination there were people in costume wandering through the crowds. We were also approached by members of the Murano Chamber of Commerce telling us about the free taxi ride to Murano. I told them we’d be going tomorrow – “Oh no, the factory is closed Fridays” he said. Well given the choice between San Marco and the surrounding museums and a glass factory, it wasn’t a hard decision.

We continue on to explore the area’s sites. Between the mosaic art and elaborate architectural details of Saint Mark’s, and the surrounding building and the costumes, it was truly a feast for the eyes. Of course once you throw in the history of this magnificent place and you quickly can become overwhelmed.  We made it through the group of museums in the area and then went to enjoy the festivities. Before the parade there were several smaller theatrical performances. Then the parade of costumes. They were very elaborate and the participants enjoyed playing to the crowd as well. While our first day in Venice was overcast, the city had more than enough color to be completely delightful.

Walking back to our hotel was rather easy to find, that is because of the signs posted everywhere pointing to the train station, among other places. Absent those signs, for the life of me I can’t imagine how you would be able to navigate the maze of twists and turns, over little bridges, through squares and down alleys.  Once we got back to the hotel we then went to dinner to a restaurant that I had read about on TripAdvisor.com, Ostaria al Vecio Pozzo. The food was so fabulous I wished I hadn’t eaten all day so I could finish every bite. We had chateaubriand along with pasta stuffed with seafood. If we ever get back to Venice, that’s where we’re going to eat, with no appetizers ahead of time.

Friday morning we were a little unsure about our water taxi ride to Murano after the men at Piazza San Marco had said the factory was closed on Fridays. To be sure we went to the front desk to ask about what we were told.  With great charm and good humor the concierge laughed out loud and told us he lied, they’re open, they just want you to visit when they want. We can go whenever we want and he’ll arrange the water taxi. The woman concierge told they’ll want us to buy things but we don’t have to. Then she told us of Burano, where they make Venetian lace – by hand – “It’s the prettiest of our islands” she said. She went on to say we should haggle over the price of lace if we wanted to buy something… that got the shopper in me ready to roll!

Deciding What to Paint

The last several weeks I’ve been printing out pictures of Italy like crazy, blowing some up to catch all details, while others just printing to decide if I really do want to paint them. Some things I just have to paint as soon as I see them, of course the pictures don’t always capture what I see. That’s when Photoshop jumps to the rescue. Then I can add the contrast, or light that my eye saw. Sometimes though, I have no idea what I thought was so exciting about a scene. Other times, my camera catches something I didn’t. That happened more than once with the pictures I took in Rome, on the rainy day we spent walking from the Villa Borghese, to the Piazza Popolo, to the Trevi Fountain, and to the Piazza Navona (which by then it was dark and we were too tired to see and the Bernini fountain was covered for repairs anyway).  I guess it’s good we threw our coins in the Trevi so we have to go back.

Trying to capture everything you see with the camera is difficult. Setting up a nice picture isn’t so hard, but capturing the place is, especially if you want to paint it later and recreate the atmosphere of the day. So the things I wanted to get were the buildings, not just the landmarks but the character of the whole architecture of the area, old and colorful and decorative. The sky, which had some great stormy clouds and some nice bits of light where the sun was trying to peek through was also an important part as well as the reflections in the puddles. Then there were the people. The umbrellas were one thing, what is it about paintings of city streets filled with umbrellas that is so appealing? But these umbrellas were of all different colors and patterns which made the dreariness of the day brighter. There were people who looked like they were on their way to a meeting, others shopping and then there were couples lending romance to the scene. So in spite of the weather, this was a lively place, full of activity of all sorts. And clearly, more than any snapshot can show.

The Piazza del Popolo, or “People’s Square” was designed much the way St. Peter’s Square was, as two semi-circles. The churches, Santa Maria in Montesanto (built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli( built 1675-79) stand on ether side of two of the three roads which converge at the square. That view, of the two identical churches while impressive and very beautiful, but it wasn’t what I wanted to paint. It was when I saw the couple sharing a red umbrella in front of the church on the left that I saw a painting. Capturing that picture, without seeming like I was taking a picture of that couple (which I was) was tricky. So, ever so inconspicuously I got them, the church, and a bit of the sky.  The bonus things my camera got were the couple coming along to my right, and all the other folks attending to their business.

For larger image go to http://barbarabusenbark.com/Pages/newpaintings.html.

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All Aboard – Off to Florence

Florence, what a wonderful place. The train ride in was uneventful, which was nice. We took the express train so it was just an hour and a half ride. The weather was gray but not too bad. When we arrived we said no to the taxi cabs and walked away from the train station and got out the map – which way now? Our hotel was right next to the Ponte Vecchio so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Still, the roads here, like Rome, zig zagged and only some had street signs. The next time we pulled out the map, a young woman asked if we needed help and gave us directions. A very nice welcome that was.

It was an amazing place, very medieval and very charming. It was full of people but not overcrowded. It was not too long a walk to the hotel, and the signs for the major sights were posed throughout the city so we had no trouble finding our way once we got the initial directions. We passed several outside markets – it was Saturday so I wasn’t sure if that was just on weekends that they were there. Walking through the Ponte Vecchio the first time was fun. Teaming with people and the gold in the jewelry store windows shone so brightly in the lights that it had a magical quality.

It was about 3:00 when we checked in so we dropped off our suitcases, I changed my shoes, I had worn my new boots for the trip to Florence, and headed for the Pitti Palace, down the street. The Pitti Palaces was built to compete with the Medici’s. The problem was the Pitti’s went broke and the Medicic’s wound up with it anyhow. The building itself is pretty ugly, but the artwork inside was amazing. And of course, once we entered, there they were – THE STAIRS! Once again a huge staircase awaited. Well, when the ceilings are 20 feet high, you get a lot of stairs.

 
How does anyone, or any family own such a collection of artwork, yes it was hundreds of years in the collecting, but still the question did come to mind. Our tour of Medici holdings didn’t end there. There was the Medici Palace and the Uffizi, all filled with paintings and sculptures belonging to the Medici family at some point. The interesting part was the palace was part museum and part city offices. I loved that, though is was confusing when we exited one exhibit area and wound up at the door of the police station. The last Medici donated all of it to the city of Florence. 

Beyond the Medici throw in the Acadieme Galleria where the original David is and the Bargello Museum where there are more Michelangelo and Donatello sculptures and you’ve got yourself an unbelievable place – all within walking distance of one another. Still, I liked seeing the fake David in the Piazza Della Signoria where it once lived, along with the other giant sculptures.  Just imagine living in a place where such grandeur is parked in the city center, outside town hall. 


It got to be rather comical keeping it straight, which were real and which were fakes since the Academia Gallery had roomful of of sculptures saying things like the original is in the Uffizi or the Bargello.  Most of the times when we were in museums there were groups of school children, it being during the week and winter. At one point as a group passed us I turned to Rick and asked if he thought they knew how lucky they were “Not a chance”, he answered. The fun part was watching how teachers and students responded to one another – there was no language barrier watching that. 

Going to the Medici Chapel was especially exciting – I had brought a page I had ripped out of my sketchbook with me that I was aching to be able to use.  A couple of months before we were to leave, I had taken a workshop to strengthen my drawing skills. The instructor made some mention of Michelangelo as we approached our break. I told him we were going to Italy, Florence in February. He told me he’d studied there for 3 months and it wasn’t enough time. – but he also told me there was a room in the Medici Chapel where they had locked up Michelangelo during an invasion to keep him safe. During his stay there Michelangelo had drawn all over the walls and it was an amazing place. He wrote down in my sketchbook the Italian for this place. He told me to ask a guard if I could see it.  After going through the chapel, which was undergoing major renovations, I took out my slip of paper and showed it to a guard. “no, no” she shook her head. She was a little startled, as in, how do you know about that? There was no way she’d let us in – wherever it was, and didn’t seem to have the authority anyhow. But it was very clear, she knew about it. I would have loved to have seen it, but the look on her face was very telling all by itself. I was also glad to see the chapel for Lorenzo d’ Medici, Michelangelo’s first patron. Michelangelo never quite finished what he’s started for Lorenzo, but I was glad to see the special relationship honored.


You can’t speak of Florence and not talk about the Duomo and Santa Maria del Fiori. It was spectacular. Covered in white, green and red marble, with mosaics and with soaring heights, it is beautiful and glorious. Throw in when it was built and it defies imagination.

Jaw dropping art was one reason to love Florence, the people were another. Our first night we went to Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco for dinner, it was right down the street from our hotel and had received good reviews from TripAdvisor.com. It was a great choice and we continued to eat there two more nights. We had “our table” and the wait staff was wonderful with us. The first night I had wild boar stew, what a treat. For so many years I had been reading books based in the middle ages and always they were eating wild boar – and now I got to have some. I also had the pumpkin ravioli. The best was on night 2 when Rick and I shared a Florentine steak. It was the best steak we’d ever had – including in Wyoming! With that being so good I had sliced sirloin with arugala, shaved parmesean and diced tomatoes. They gave us lemincello as a complimentary cordial the last night along with a little gift, a little clay dish bearing the wild boar insignia. 

The other treat was the stationary store near the duomo. We stopped in to see some of the famous paper made in Florence. The man was so nice, he gave us a demonstration of how they make marbled paper. He then dried the paper and gave it to me. It really was a great day.