“Ho-ho-ho, Happy Easter!”

I hope all of you had an enjoyable holiday weekend. Between Easter celebrations and working hard on my painting of the Ship Hotel, it’s been a very busy week for me and my family.  Easter is such a pretty time of year as the trees begin to sprout tiny green leaves, and flower buds are opening, scenting the air with their fragrance.

Yet amid all this springtime fun, my granddaughter Autumn is still obsessed with Santa. “Ho-Ho-Ho!” is her favorite phrase, and she never gets tired of talking about Santa and what he might be up to. Remember the Jolly Old Elf book I published just before Christmas last year? Well, Santa signed a copy for her family, and I of course drew a remarque (a small original work of art, hand-drawn or painted directly on the piece by the artist) inside the cover.

Well, this limited-edition signed and numbered book has been so well loved and read so many times that it now looks like it went through a war!  Sadly, it may not be much of a collector’s item by the time Autumn grows up, but I have no doubt she’ll always treasure it and remember how it brought her so much joy as a little girl.

One day last week, we “read” that book at least four times over the course of the day. Later, I was face-timing with my daughter, when I heard “Ho-ho-ho!” – and there was Autumn, pointing to the book up on the shelf, asking to look through it one more time.

As the world begins to open up again, I’m looking forward to bigger and better sales for the book for the 2021 Holiday Season, when if all goes well, I can show off the book in person. Maybe I should bring Autumn with me to my book signings… she’s definitely its biggest fan!

So, as you can see from the latest photo (at the top), I did manage to make some progress on the painting. The front of the hotel is in, and I’m currently lighting up the windows on the long side of the building. I hope to have a lot more to show you this time next week.

In the meantime, I hope you can get out in the springtime sunshine and have a great weekend!

P.S. – Here are the girls enjoying a swing ride, compliments of Bop-Bop!

A Secret Message for Sailors!

From my family to yours, Happy Easter!  We’re not even going to talk about the fact that it’s freezing outside. It’s almost like Mother Nature is saying, “Ha ha! April Fools!”  Regardless of the weather, we’re looking forward to a beautiful Easter weekend as we reflect and enjoy.

This last week was filled with delightful days of painting the Ship Hotel. I think the sky in this piece may be my most exciting one ever! I was tickled pink as I applied each layer, running up and down the steps to my studio between sessions, as my inner art critic screamed “I love this!” and “I’m actually getting the look I want!” You might think that I should know it all by now, and that nothing would surprise me about painting after all these years. But I feel as if I’m always discovering more with each new project. To me, learning new things is an essential part of life’s journey.

Speaking of learning… I learned about something very cool this week! As I’ve shared with you in these last few weeks, I’ve had to put a lot of “puzzle pieces” together for this painting, and this week was no exception. As I was looking at old photos, I noticed that some showed nautical flags running from flagpole to flagpole above the ship-shaped hotel, though I couldn’t make them out. I also realized that there were other photos that didn’t seem to show the nautical flags at all.

Having been a sailor in my younger days, I thought it would be cool to use those nautical flags in the painting. But was there a special meaning to the flags and their order? Who better to ask than my oldest and dearest friends… who just happen to live on their sailboat full time and have for nearly a decade?

I knew the flags meant something, which I may have known in my previous life but had totally forgotten since then. Were they displayed in a particular order to convey a message? Or were they just randomly hung up there for fun? I learned that each flag pattern represents a letter of the alphabet. As we brainstormed on the subject (always one of my favorite parts of creating), Ron came up with the idea of spelling out THE SHIP HOTEL! So, as you can see below, he put together the sequence of flags to spell out the hotel’s name.

I painted them hanging straight at first, and then I bent them as if they were flying in the wind. I absolutely love that I could use the flags to send a secret message – just one more piece that will make up the story behind this painting.

Next up, I’ll be working on the top decks and the front of the hotel… so stay tuned for more!

Have a beautiful weekend, and I’ll update you again next week!

P.S. – Don’t forget to browse my website if you’re looking for a special gift or a memory to share.

Thank You Very Mulch

Spring officially arrived this week and brought some warmer weather with it, so I’ve enjoyed spending a lot of time outdoors working on my garden. After I took the first spring photo (above), I went on to clean both the front yard and the back yard to get it ready for mulch. I’m thinking Tom and I may lay all the mulch ourselves this year instead of hiring a landscaper. The front yard won’t be so bad, but the back yard is four times the size. So no promises… let’s see how we do!

We’re looking forward to the blooming of some new bulbs we added this year to brighten up the yard. We were very pleasantly surprised with the beauty of our winter garden with its shades of red, green, blue, yellow, and burgundy. Even in the cold, gray winter, our garden was a lovely splash of color. Claire from Exceptional Gardens designed it for us. The way everything works so well together in our small space is a living testimonial to her talent.

In addition to our ongoing art project in our garden, art is happening in my studio as well. The Grand View Ship Hotel painting is taking shape, and progress is being made. What started as a thumbnail sketch was turned into a pen-and-ink drawing, then it was enlarged and transferred onto the museum pastel board, carefully (dare I say meticulously?) redefined, and then sprayed to be painted over.

I have actually started brushing watercolor on as an underpainting. This will help map out the piece before I start using my pastels. I also painted a small pastel color version to get a feel for what I want the mood to be in the piece. (This is basically just a helpful exercise for me, not really something worth showing you.)  I hope to have more progress to share with you next week.

Enjoy the weather, enjoy spring… and as always, stay tuned!

Hail to Pitt!

I hope you are all well. With the coming of Daylight Savings Time, Tom and I have been enjoying the extra sunlight, and we love seeing new life emerging in our garden with the change in weather.

But in addition to the seasonal joys of the arrival of Spring, this last week has also brought us a bit of excitement. (I’m sure you’re asking “Excitement? What’s that?”) I was honored to be part of a special surprise for someone… an anniversary surprise to be exact!

It all started in January when I received an email from Michelle, wondering if my painting, “Game Day at Pitt Stadium,” might still be available. Both Michelle and her husband Corey have deep roots at Pitt.  They’re both Pitt grads who met and started dating while working at Pitt, and they were married at Heinz Chapel. They hope their 2-year old son will continue the family tradition and attend Pitt when he grows up.

Corey had wanted a print of my painting from the time it first came out, but by the time he got around to purchasing it, he was disappointed to find it was completely sold out. Since then, he had looked for it everywhere, but to no avail.

Michelle, knowing how much he wanted the print, thought it would be a perfect gift to celebrate their 10th anniversary. It was obvious from the moment I met Michelle how much she loves her husband and wanted to fulfill this wish for him.

Michelle came to my home gallery to see the original painting and fell in love with it. I promised her I would take the painting and have the glass switched from regular glass to museum glass.  (Back when the painting was originally framed, museum glass wasn’t commonly used.)  She returned the week before their anniversary to purchase the painting and loved how the new glass enhanced its beauty.

After I had shared some stories with Michelle about how I developed “Game Day at Pitt Stadium,” she had a special request.  Could she and Corey come back to my studio on the date of their actual anniversary? She thought it would be a wonderful surprise to present him with the painting, and I could share those stories with both of them.

So last Friday at 2 pm, true to her word, Michelle and Corey appeared at my home. He had no clue what was going on and was absolutely surprised! At first, he thought she had found a print but soon was delighted to find out he had been gifted with the original pastel painting.

Michelle sent me photos of “Game Day at Pitt Stadium” hanging in their beautiful home and wrote me this thoughtful note…

“The original pastel now hangs in our home office among our other Pitt memorabilia. The detail in the pastel is amazing! The colors are so bright and vibrant. We have such a special connection to Pitt, and this will be a cherished piece for us for many years to come.”

There is something very special about owning a piece of original art.  It brings me great joy to know that every painting I have ever sold has gone to a good home.

Road Trip Weekend!

I pray you all have been well this week. As for me, I’ve had more excitement and adventure in the last week than I have in the past year!

As you may have read in my most recent newsletters, I’ve been working on my upcoming painting of The Grand View Ship Hotel that was once located in Schellsburg, PA.  This week we took our first road trip in what seems like AGES to collect the some of the resources I needed to develop the painting.

I’ve always loved this part of a project. It’s a little like being a detective, sleuthing about and gathering images and information that will help bring my painting to life.

Last week, I mentioned that I was looking for a specific vintage car. My client told me he had always dreamed of having a gold 1969 Studebaker Avanti. Putting out the word to all my readers paid off big time, because I was blessed with the perfect answer right away. Soon after last week’s newsletter went out, a reader got in touch to tell me he knows a guy who has the car we were looking for!

On Saturday, we drove about an hour to the home of Bob’s old school teacher, Fred, who just happened to have a gold 1963 Avanti. Wow! It was exactly the car we were looking for! Not only was it in great shape, but it was an award-winning 399- out of 400-point car (I just learned that this was a thing). It was truly a piece of automotive art, refurbished with tender loving care over a period of 14 years.

And not only did Fred have the perfect car, but he also expertly helped identify the make and model of every car that I wanted to paint in the hotel parking lot.

Then on Sunday, Tom and I drove out to the former location of the Ship Hotel – now just a wide place in the road – and pulled off to the side to see the view. We were there in the late afternoon, the perfect time to see the rolling hills, farms, and trees, surrounded by mountains. There were still a few footings down below the cliff where the foundation had been, and someone had placed an American flag on the corner near the road. It was a gorgeous day, so we treated ourselves to a walk in Shawnee State Park (recommended by a few of you in your emails – thanks for the tip!) after our photo shoot.

This week, I heard back from the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum. I asked for their help to try to figure out all the words on the red sign that was on the front of the hotel; when the photos were enlarged, the words became unreadable. Director Lauren actually reached out to Brian Butko, the author of the book that appeared in my email two weeks ago.  Brian, Lauren, the historians, and I put all our heads together, and we think we finally figured them all out.  So that will be something for you to look for when the painting is done.

Next up:  Start painting! Wish me luck!

P.S. – My granddaughter Autumn is in love with Santa – but then, what kid isn’t? Every day Tom would babysit, she would want to see his phone and would immediately go to my website to see “Ho-Ho-Ho.” So yesterday I brought over a set of my Santa cards, and Autumn carried them around with her everywhere.  All you had to do was ask, “Autumn, what does Santa say?” and she would look you straight in the eye and say “Ho-Ho-Ho!”

Sailing into Spring

Isn’t it nice to finally see some sunshine? I know I’m enjoying it. The sun inspires me. Tom and I actually got out last night and took a walk.

I also was finally able to spend some time in my garden. Gosh, I wish I were a better gardener! I think I may have cut back some of my bushes a bit too far. I hope not. I guess time, sunshine, and Mother Nature will let me know!

Meanwhile, the process of creating my new painting of the Ship Hotel has begun.

After last week’s newsletter, many of you wrote to me about your experiences with the S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel. Your stories were so much fun to read, and I really appreciate your sharing them with me.  A common thread was that feeling of surprise – driving in the country along the mountain highway, then all of a sudden saying, “What the heck is that?!” For many of you, stopping at the Ship Hotel became a family road-trip tradition on the way to a favorite vacation spot. Some remembered the excitement of watching for the ship or looking through that big telescope up on the top deck.

Your memories, in fact, would be really helpful to me right now. I’m gathering the resources to start on my new Ship Hotel painting, and I have papers and photos strewn all about my office. In the old days, I had to visit the library to look up old photos, but nowadays, Google Images is my jam. I look at everything I can get my hands on to get the best possible sense of what I want to paint. One photo may show the spectacular view to its best advantage, but another photo may give me a little more detail of the sign… Sometimes my compositions are cobbled together from multiple photos.

It sure would be a lot easier to go there and take my own photos, which I typically do every time I paint a new piece.  Unfortunately, the Ship Hotel was lost to arson not long after 9/11, taking away any chance for a new owner to come along and lovingly restore this wonderful bit of Americana.  So in this case, I must use old resources and base the painting on research.

The client who commissioned the project told me that, back in the day, one of his favorite cars was a 1969 Studebaker Avanti. I’ve been trying to find anything I can online, but if you happen to know of anyone who may have one that I could take a look at, it sure would be a big help. The car will be front and center in the painting, so it’s really important that I grasp its essence.

Here’s what I have in mind: Based on old black-and-white photographs, I’ll paint my client’s father entering the car and his mom sitting in the front seat.  The actual photos are really of his dad with friends in a living room and his mom (wearing cat’s-eye glasses!), playing cards with her friends. In another part of the painting, I’ll place my client and his sister with a dark-blue VW that he once owned. It’s my way of personalizing the painting for him and adding real people into my work – I think putting them into my paintings really adds to the story. And of course, I will find a place for Tom!

Once I had my composition in mind, I started with a pencil sketch, about 7 x 9 inches. Then, because the photos are a little difficult to see, I made it into a pen and ink drawing to shore up the detail. Next, I sent it to my client for first approval before translating it into a larger format.

While I’m searching for resources, I’m making other important decisions: What time of day will it be? What will the background look like? What elements do I want to pull forward to showcase, and which ones will I push into the background to support the painting? In the meantime, I can start the actual sketch.  Eventually, my process will be to sketch the entire painting onto a museum-quality pastel board that I will then paint over with my soft pastels.

Stay tuned for the next steps as the painting takes shape! Any thoughts?

P.S. –  My Facebook friends may have seen this story, but I would like to share it with all of you.

Three of my original paintings and my new Jolly Old Elf  book are displayed in the front window of Lee Heckman Custom Framing and Gallery on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon. I am greatly honored that a few of my clients were willing to donate their pieces. The display will be up in the window for a short while, so if you happen to be in the area, please stop by and see! Lee and Paul are amazing at creating the unique, perfect frames to showcase my art.

Remembering “The Ship Hotel”

It’s been nice to have a little break in the cold weather this week. However, there was just one upside to the freezing weather we had last week – it was the perfect time to perform a job that no one likes doing… working on income taxes.
Yes, taxes are one of those awful things that artists really, really hate – papers (not the good kind of paper!) and numbers and more numbers! Give me a brush and an empty museum pastel board any time, and I’ll sing all day long. But when I have to deal with papers and bills and receipts… I just want to run away and hide.
This is why you didn’t hear from me last week. I thought about writing anyway, but who wants to hear about that sort of thing? (Maybe I shouldn’t assume!) Perhaps there are a few of you out there who love Tax Time, and boxes of receipts bring joy to your life like painting brings joy to mine. For all of you, my blessings!
The good news is that now that the taxes are behind me, I’m beginning work on a pastel commission. It’s a painting that may be interesting to some of you and remind you of fun times and family road trips.
Does anyone else remember driving across Pennsylvania along the old Lincoln Highway (Route 30) back in the day? Let’s say way back, like in the 50s, 60s or 70s? As you climb one of the many mountain summits on that route, you come upon a building that looks like a boat perched on the side of the mountain! There’s a sign that tells you that from this spot, you can see three states and seven counties!
Naturally, you can’t help but pull over to the side of the road to check out that ship and enjoy that view. That one-of-a-kind building, about 17 miles west of Bedford, about 80 miles from Pittsburgh, was known as The Ship of the Alleghenies, the S.S. Grand View Point Hotel, or simply “The Ship Hotel.”
Of course, it wasn’t actually a ship, but a building that served as a hotel, restaurant, and tourist trap for over 40 years. It was made to look like a boat, where you could stand on the “bow” and take in a scenic view of patchwork fields and farms surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains. The Ship Hotel was a great piece of Americana and a very famous stop for tourists along Route 30 until it closed in the 1970s.
I would love to hear your stories about The Ship Hotel!
Although this painting is a private commission, I’m excited to say that later I’ll be selling prints of the painting as well. As this piece takes shape, as always, I’ll share my progress with you… of course, only after the future owner of the painting gets the first peek! 😉
Stayed tuned…
P.S. – Though we won’t be able to meet at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show this year, my website is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with your gifting needs!
P.P.S. – I’m not the only artist in the family. Check out the picture of my granddaughters working hard at their paintings!

The Way We Were

Happy Valentine’s Day!

You can tell Valentine’s Day is near because of the huge increase in Facebook posts where our friends are celebrating their spouses.

This week, Tom and I have definitely taken a few strolls down Memory Lane, remembering some of our most epic dates and the restaurants we used to enjoy. So many of them aren’t around anymore, including some of our favorites like Steak and Ale, the Brown Derby and the Red Bull Inn, but especially the Joshua Tree. Oh, how I miss those lovely days of prime rib and sangria… and the prime rib cost only $6.95!

Here’s a funny dating story that Tom probably won’t appreciate, but here goes… 🙂

When we were first dating (I was just a mere girl of 19), one of our favorite dining spots was the Joshua Tree restaurant, just across from South Hills Village. I loved that place and all our wonderful memories that came to be associated with it.  Unfortunately, at that age, I had a condition my doctor called a spastic colon; basically, every time I would get nervous, anxious, or even just happy and excited, I would get physically ill and unable to eat.

Back in those days, I only saw Tom once a month, so naturally I would build up a lot of intense emotions focused on that next date. We would start out our evening sitting down in this beautiful restaurant and ordering our prime rib. But the anticipation of being together on the date would do its work, and by the time my dinner came, I would take one bite and then push my entire dinner across the table over to Tom, with a look on my face that said, “You eat it, Hon. I can’t.”

I’m sure right now you’re thinking, “Now why would Tom have a problem with bonus food?”

Well, another promotion that the Joshua Tree offered was a free carafe of sangria for each diner. I never could drink mine, so Tom got to enjoy my sangria as well as his own.  On one of our dates, by the time we got to the parking lot after dinner, the effects of the extra sangria had inspired Tom to reenact Gene Kelly’s famous scene from “Singin’ in the Rain,” as he sang to me while dancing around and swinging from a parking lot lamppost. I thought it was adorable, and I often wish had a picture of it. (Tom, on the other hand, is grateful that I don’t!)

After 44 years of being together, that night will always be one of my favorite memories of our early times together, remembering how Tom was so endearing, going out of his way to be silly just to make me laugh.

With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, I would love to hear your own favorite stories about you and your Valentine.  Just drop me an email!

Looks Like I’m a “No-Show”

Well, the decision has been made. For the first time in 27 years, I’m going to miss the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show.

It’s still up in the air whether the show will happen at all, and after speaking with John DeSantis (owner of the Home and Garden Show), I decided it would be wiser to sit this year out so as not to endanger family members with medical issues.  Being the kind man that he is, John promised to reserve my same space for next year… at least there’s something to get excited about!

It’s hard to believe that it was 27 years ago that I set up my first booth in the old Convention Center. It was just a single booth in among the bathtubs and the windows on the second floor of the three-floor show. I was the only artist there and the only art booth on the second floor. There were a few galleries upstairs, but I was warned in advance that it got pretty hot up there, and most people were tired and grumpy by the time they got that far. So I took my chances on the second floor and hoped people would notice me inbetween the plumbing and home improvement booths.

I remember really going out of my way to get people’s attention… everything from putting balloons up to get people to look my way, to actually dancing in the aisle. I fell in love with the show that first crazy year, and it definitely boosted my career from that time forward.

Back in those early days, friends from our church would come over about a month before the show to help me send out postcards announcing the show, where I would be located, and what was new for that year. Those great friends would address and stamp, while I would practice my cooking for them and make sure they had a good time helping out.

I have so many fond memories of the Home and Garden Show over the years… even the endless prep work and those frantic move-in and move-out days. I will surely miss all of it this year.

February and early March are usually a super busy time for me, entirely consumed with the Home and Garden Show, but this year it looks like I’ll have a lot more free time!  So what I would like to do is to use that time wisely, and I’m thinking about what I can do instead. I’ve already come up with something… so look for an online offer coming soon to your email inbox!

I look forward to connecting with you soon.  Have a good week!

Inspiration is All Around Us

"Oasis of Beauty at Phipps" by Linda Barnicott, Pittsburgh's Painter of Memories

Tonight, I’m focused on taking in the beauty that is all around us – if we just want to see it.

As I write these words, I’m listening to the Inauguration celebration, enjoying the music of very talented artists from all over our great country. Wouldn’t you agree that music has a way of touching our hearts and bringing people together?

I have a good feeling, a sense of hope for this new year.  I think if we all come together and follow the science, we will get COVID under control.  Then we’ll all be able to go out and enjoy the simple things in life and share all that beauty with the people we love.

Sadly, last week we laid Tom’s uncle to rest.  He was a very kind and happy man, and I loved him dearly. Uncle Ron was another victim of the coronavirus; he was the third member of our family to pass from the effects of this dreadful illness.

The loss of another loved one has reminded me to take a look around and appreciate my family, my friends, and my fans.  I am reminded of how eternally grateful I am to have you in my life.  You are my inspiration.

This week – for the first time in two months! – I got back into the studio and started painting again. (It took me almost that long just to clear a path to my easel!)  It seems like every time I spend a lot of time away from my studio, when I do eventually get back to painting, I immediately remember how much I truly love it and how it nourishes my soul.

Right now, I’m working on a private portrait commission. Folks often ask, “Isn’t painting people hard?”  Creating scenes of landmarks, buildings, and such is fun, but actually, painting people has always been my passion, and it has always come easily to me.

Last week I asked your ideas for subjects for my paintings in 2021… and boy, did you send me some great suggestions!  From Pittsburgh views I haven’t gotten to yet, to holiday themes, to everyday memories of special times in our lives that we all can relate to, your ideas are really inspiring my creative brain – please keep them coming!