Friday, July 19, 2019

The Old Road Exhibit at Healing Arts Center Viroqua

Bridge 13   Walnut Ink on paper - Susan Cushing

Bridge 13

For years Bridge 13 has 
     spanned the river,
withstanding high waters
     that sometimes rise
over its base.

A passageway on the Old Road,
     framing in rusts and grays,
in every season,
     the wildness of its surround.

Stepping forward over the bridge
     onto the Old Road,
one can become lost,
     absorbed into the all…
vital and free.

Joanne Adragna Shird

The Old Road Walking Into Beauty exhibit of my walnut ink paintings and poetry by Joanne Adragna Shird is now at the Viroqua Healing Arts Center in Viroqua through September. 
Stop in anytime during business hours to view the show. If you missed it at Viva gallery, come enjoy the journey through the Kickapoo Valley Reserve's 'Old 131' trail with us.

Each painting is paired with an original poem to tell of the beauty surrounding The Old Road.
This trail is the old highway along the Kickapoo River between Rockton and La Farge. Long before it was a white man's road, it was used by local peoples and long before that by all the animals that shared the valley. Walnut trees are long time residents here, and have shared their bounty and talents with humans for centuries. I chose walnut ink to represent that long connection between land and people, making the ink from walnuts gathered here. Each picture is framed in a hand made solid walnut wood frame, harvested from local trees. The walnut's lightfast durable ink has been used for centuries and so we have used it to note the continuities between people, land, river, plants and animals, through time and in place.

As I write this, that old river has risen again, to major flood stage. In the past few years the river has been making changes to the landscape with each rise and fall through the valley. Our expressions of what we know and see here every day is changing and so some of these pictures are becoming a record of a certain time in this place, maybe to be compared to a different scene in the future. This is an attribute we had not thought of when creating this project.

There will be an ARTIST RECEPTION on Saturday, August 10th between 11am and 1pm at the Viroqua Healing Arts Center, at 224 East Court Street.
Please join us to celebrate the Kickapoo Valley Reserve beauty, enjoy a unique display of art and poetry, and home made refreshments. 

Saturday is Farmer's Market day in Viroqua. Some fresh veggies and beautiful art are a good combination for your day in town!

An addition to the paintings and poetry, The Old Road Walking Into Beauty project includes note cards and a small book of the paintings and poetry. These are always available at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve gift shop, on etsy and at the Viroqua Healing Arts Center reception.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Painting and Paddling the Kickapoo River

   Now that the flood waters have receded and the mud has settled, the Kickapoo runs clear. A few days ago I was thinking that there was only one day of paddling for me this year. Thinking of paddling inspired a look at photos I'd taken of the river, between Bridges 8 and 14. Each time the river is different. My favorite time to be on the water is just at daylight or as twilight turns to night.

Moonlight on the Kickapoo

   My favorite paddling trips were done for 'bat monitoring'. A full moon night, a flat bottom boat, the amazing and wonderful Bat Monitor ( which gives us both the bat calls in a frequency humans can hear, and a visual pattern of their calls) and a few friends with canoes floating into the magical dark tunnel carried us into a river journey hard to imagine during daylight hours.
   The water was dark, the banks were black, the cliffs were empty vaults of anything we could imagine. Then we would round a bend in the river and the rising moon poured liquid white light into everything that was a moment ago invisible in darkness. One moment we could see nothing but blackness, the next, nothing but light.
   Each time we followed the river's bends into and away from the direction of the moon, we glided from total dark to blinding light.

   During the day, light and how it plays on water and rock, leaf and sand, is much of what I notice when on the river. But color instead of dark and light contrast are daytime's priorities. The cliffs along the river are amazing for the variations in color. Moss and lichen are the most of the source of colors, and they change all the time. One day brilliant red and green covers a large flat cliff close to the water, but later that will be all gone. The colors will be muted greys, browns and greens.
   Here is my November meditation on our beautiful Kickapoo river cliffs. The blues are lichen on the rock; that's really their color.

Near Bridge 8  Acrylic on canvas 9" x 12"
   Now that winter is here, the ice caves are forming and the valley's water puts on a different display, silver, white, grey, making a different world than water makes in the summer. It's fun to go outside and watch the ice form, then come inside and paint the greens, blues and reds of summer.

   Please share this blog if you've enjoyed visiting. Thanks!

   Wishing you happy trails in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, all year round.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bright Promises  Walnut Ink  & Watercolor on Paper
     The fall colors are quickly brightening up the hills and in the lowlands the always beautiful sumac is taking on deep burgundy, oranges and crimsons. The autumn spectacular is a welcome turn from the mud and broken branches we have been looking at for weeks. When the leaves fall off the trees they will cover up some of that mud.
     If you are out walking in the next few weeks, it's a good time to start looking closely at the twigs of various trees and shrubs. As the leaves fall off, the buds forming for next year will start to appear. They are tiny now, but hold everything needed for next year's leaves.
     Bright Promises is a close view of basswood buds. Their very red color makes a beautiful contrast with the browns of the old leaves and twigs, but you have to get close to appreciate all the color in those small buds. Later in the winter they begin to swell and are more visible. This painting is of the buds in March, at their peak of color.
     There are as many colors in the spring forest as in the fall, the colors are more muted but buds and flowers have a wide range of colors and are well worth noticing.

     You can see Bright Promises and all the other poems and paintings from The Old Road Walking Into Beauty at the Heider Center Gallery through October.
     Our reception is Thursday October 11th, from 6-7:30pm and we look forward to making some new friends in West Salem, so come over and enjoy the show.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Old Road Opens at the Heider Center

   The beautiful  Heider Center Art Gallery in West Salem will host our show 'The Old Road Walking Into Beauty' for the month of October.
    Please join us October 11th for a reception in the gallery. Also check out the performances at the Heider Center; they have a season of events worth attending.
     The Heider Center is just a few minutes from La Crosse.  See you there!

     The paintings and poems can be seen at VIVA Gallery in Viroqua through Saturday September 29th, so if you're in town, stop by the gallery. VIVA artists have many beautiful displays; one of the best galleries around!

Shadow Catcher - Walnut Ink on Paper

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Old Road Book

Map of The Old Road
  First, a warm thank you to the person who purchased The Map of The Old Road. I tried to make it feel like an old parchment map with a little bit of magic and whimsy, so that as it is examined up close, with a lamp softly shining over one's shoulder, memories and imaginings from the forest and water and sky come to mind. Maybe the thought of the walnut trees and the special places found after walking the road over and over will come to mind, and the map may feel a little more alive as the memories and dreams of the beautiful land rise up from the walnut ink's spirit embedded in the terrain of the map.
         Joanne's words so simply and clearly say what The Old Road is about, and what that path through time and landscape mean to so many people. We send this map and poem out to  hold those stories for those in the future who will look, and ponder and then go back out to walk The Old Road.

The Old Road Book

       Making a painting and poem that speaks to your heart yours to take home creates a connection between the artists and those in our community who love the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and The Old Road.
We also made the book of all the paintings and poems, so that you can share the story easily with anyone. Books have already gone to Canada and Australia, Minnesota and Washington. They are a good way to share your experience of the KVR with someone else. VIVA Gallery and the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve gift shop in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve  visitor center have the book and you can also find it in my Etsy shop.
        We'd love to hear from you about your experiences on The Old Road. Have you walked it at night, or in different seasons? What do you like best? What are you curious about along the trail?
Maybe we'll meet someday, walking on The Old Road.

Shadow Catcher

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

VIVA Gallery Guest Artists for September

See you at VIVA!

     Enjoy an excellent meal at Rooted Spoon as well as all the very exciting art at VIVA
gallery anytime during September, as well as see our poetry/painting project on display.
Come for the opening; it's the most fun!

     Joann and I spent several months walking The Old Road together, sharing our art and developing this exhibit. We've published a small book of the poems and paintings too. The book is our way of saying 'thank you' to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and to offer this whole body of work to you, to be enjoyed as any art should be; slowly, over time.

If you know the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, we hope these paintings and poems will remind you of the great gift of that land. If you have not been there, we hope that you will be inspired to go, and walk out among the marshes, hills and trees and all the beings that live there, and find your own special places of beauty.

See you on the trails!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sketch Books

   After the long hours working on The Old Road walnut ink paintings/drawings, doodling around in a sketchbook is relaxing and allows my brain to sort and plan for future paintings. A while back I found very nice little sketchbooks at American Science and Surplus. This is a fun catalog and store for finding a wide variety of things you didn't know you needed until seeing it in the catalog. These sketchbooks were just the right size, about 6 x 8" with very white paper that is heavy enough to take ink pen work. Three books for a price worth taking a chance on.
Old Maple Tree
     After I started playing with this tree drawing, the rest of the book seemed to follow the theme, and just this week I finished the last page, and all the sketches are of trees, from places as far away as California, but mostly the trees are all neighbors or old friends of mine from nearby.

Peter's Orange Pig

     Now that the sketchbook is full, the next painting is getting more attention. So here are some more from the sketchbook, and I'll be back with something new in a while......

A row of eucalyptus trees in California

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Old Road - A Last Look

   The Old Road-Walking Into Beauty will be on display at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve through Friday, May 4th.  Take a leisurely walk through the exhibit to see the paintings and poetry, (and don't forget to check out The Old Road book, in the gift shop) then enjoy the burst of spring flowers along The Old Road itself (Old 131 Trail). This trail is always open, so even if the other trails are too wet from all the rain this week, the birds and flowers and more will be easy to see along this paved trail.

Map of The Old Road

   Many birds are here now, and every day more are coming in for a rest or to stay for the summer. The Old Road takes you to the ponds, marshes, fields and woodlands of the KVR. This may be the best place to see the most variety of birds.

A Morning Walk

   After our exhibit leaves the KVR, it will be shown again later in the summer and fall in La Crosse,
West Salem and Viroqua. We hope to see you again!

Susan and Joanne

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Old Road Meet the Artists

Are you going to the Spring Fling  at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve? Celebrating April as poetry month continues at Spring Fling, as the Earth Day Poetry Contest poets of merit read their work at 4 pm. It's inspiring to listen to these young people's poetry and share their enthusiasm for the beauty of well crafted words.
After the Earth Day Poetry presentation, The Old Road-Walking Into Beauty exhibit of walnut ink drawings and poetry of our well-loved 'Old 131 Trail' will be introduced. Joanne Shird and I will talk about the project and answer questions. Be sure to check the gift shop for The Old Road-Walking Into Beauty souvenir book.  All proceeds go to the Friends of the KVR.
We're looking forward to seeing you there!

Bridge 13

Paddling on the pond, wonderful raffle prizes, great food, music and more......Spring Fling is the place to be on Saturday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Old Road - Walking Into Beauty

Bright Promises - Walnut Ink and Watercolor on Paper 8" x 10"

    Walking Into Beauty.....that phrase immediately seemed right to both Joanne and me as we
began collaborating on a project to combine poetry and visual art to express our experiences walking the Old 131 Trail through the middle of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. For years we both have walked what we call 'The Old Road', in all weather, seasons and times of day. It remains our favorite place to wander and observe this land we love.
     We also made a book of the poems and drawings! We feel poetry is best read and re-read over time. The book gives you the opportunity to remember your own wanderings on The Old Road, and share some of the beauty there with others who may not be able to walk this trail.

Along the Riverbank - Walnut Ink on Watercolor Paper 8" x 10"

   We think of The Old Road as a way to connect many aspects of this place. Through time, it has been an animal track, a footpath for humans for thousands of years, then a highway, and again a footpath for humans and all who live here. In that way The Old Road connects us all through time and a shared way through the land.
   Walnut ink was used for the drawings. Gathering the nuts from trees in the valley, making the ink and then the drawings and finally sharing the images with you lets Walnut speak through the process and the sharing. Walnut trees are common here, growing in the rich soil. They offer food and shelter for many who live in the land, and finally their wooden bodies as well as their fruit (nuts) for human use too. Walnut ink has been used for centuries to color human made objects and for writing and drawing. So the walnut ink connects us to the walnut trees, the others who depend on them, and to human connection to walnut trees over time.
   The Old Road is an invitation for you too, to walk into beauty on the Old 131 Trail in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.
     The Old Road drawings and poems now are on display at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center, through May 4th, 2018.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Work of Art

   Recently a few friends and I were discussing the reasons each of us 'make art'. No matter the medium, or the skill level, or the degree the art-making influenced their daily life, everyone agreed that actually creating a painting (for example) entailed effort and skills that were impossible to imagine for someone who had never done such a thing.
   It became clear to me long ago that those artists that I knew personally, and who were doing work that I could only aspire to being able to do and were even supporting their families with their creations, all struggled daily with the same types of problems. They constantly work on one aspect or another of the skills needed, whether it is self discipline or the ability to mix the correct color, or getting the perspective right, or countless other questions.

Miller Denver Saddle 1937 - graphite on paper
   The Painter's Keys is one of the most popular artist blogs. After Robert Genn died, his daughter kept the blog going, and often reposts Robert's past entries. This one from 2002 illustrates a spectrum of artists struggling with their work, and was both amusing and enlightening. levels-of-achievement gives a quick glimpse of artists at work. Of course there are many other ways artists get things done, and many ways they approach their work.
   I do not make my living painting and so do not have those pressures that add to a day's work. I do always have something I try to learn and some skills I make efforts to improve.  I certainly spend more time struggling with getting something to look and feel the way I intend and not so much time blithely spreading paint around a canvas. Actually, that never happens!
   Here are a few quotes from The Painter's Keys Quote Page about painting:

   People think you can get out your canvas and paint any time you have a free moment. You can't. Commercial art and painting are entirely different. Painting takes a different mental approach. You have to get the right attitude, the right mood. (Pierre Alechinsky)

Painting should educate and enrich. Modern painting merely offers a split-second emotion: You see it, you have an instant reaction and move on. Instead, real painting can be looked at over and over again and each time it has something new. (Igor Babailov)

Goose Eggs With Brass Bowl and Gold Light - oil on panel
Painting requires the bravery of solitude. Painting requires disciplined labor. To be a painter is to search the world with a benevolent eye for every subtle beauty that the infinite world offers. (Charles Philip Brooks)

Painting is easy, getting it right is the hard bit. (Danny Byrne)

  If it isn't challenging it probably isn't much fun either. If you've got a craft or art or passion to do something, now is the time! Join the man on the street wrestling with his easel and paint, or me, working through the next question about value or color; you might find great rewards hidden among the challenges.


The Old Road Exhibit at Healing Arts Center Viroqua

Bridge 13   Walnut Ink on paper - Susan Cushing Bridge 13 For years Bridge 13 has        spanned the river, withstandin...