home : green living room

Our big accomplishment at the end of May was painting the living room. The living room was the last large room on the list to be painted; we’ve already completed the dining room, family room, and bedroom, as well as two of the three bathrooms. What can I say, after decades of living in whitewashed rentals I wanted some color on the walls! We left the living room for last partly in the hope that our painting skills would improve on some of the less central rooms (which they did) and also because we had no idea what we were going to do with all the stuff that is in the living room while we painted it. In the end, we moved the sofa and freestanding bookshelf into the dining room and piled everything else in the center of the room. This left not very much space to get around, which meant that my partner did all the actual painting in the end. Usually he edges and I roll, but he deserves all the credit for this one.

The living room in the process of being painted.

Living room, out the front window.

Living room, from the doorway toward the far exterior corner.

Living room, from the doorway toward the far interior corner.

Eventually, we’ll have actual chairs to replace the porch chairs (I’m holding out for something like these), a non-green rug, and some lavender pillows. You know, when I win the lottery.

home : green living room

back on the grid

We’re home. We brought back 16 quarts of blueberries, already down to 12.5 and dwindling from there. My general approach is to eat as many as possible while they’re fresh, then freeze or bake them as they get a little more wilted. Rough life, I know.

Being back on the grid house-wise means being back off the grid car-wise. I dropped off the rental car this afternoon, after my final run to the store for things I’d forgotten on the weekend (rice milk and walnuts) and a visit to the garden. I discovered (not surprisingly) that my pepper plants were on their last legs, a combined effect of high temperatures and the pipe for the water to the garden in the process of being replaced. That I have peppers at all is a happy result of the kindness of my garden neighbor who has been watering my plants every day he’s there. I was happy to catch him this morning, and gave him half of the last of the jalapeños (the only pepper plants that thrived on my neglect, although the poblano didn’t do too badly, either). In exchange, I was offered an oddly tubular eggplant, which is currently roasting with those from our farm subscription in preparation for being mooshed into baba ghanoush, which itself is destined for the freezer. Yesterday I made my first batch of hommus as a warmup to today’s efforts with the eggplant, both recipes from the second volume of The Vegetarian Epicure. It was quite good, and very garlicky. I tend to double the garlic for most recipes, and always forget that’s not generally necessary for those from hippie vegetarian cookbooks.

In addition to food, I’m thinking a lot about paint. We have the paint for two rooms of the house (upstairs bathroom and family room), and as soon as I replace the tiles in the downstairs bathroom in the spot where we took out the frightening electric heater we’ll start using that one and get to work on the upstairs one (which will be painted, caulked, and grouted to within an inch of its life). The painting of the family room waits on the removal of the drop-down ironing board cabinet and the repair of that wall, as well as, of course, the moving of all of the stuff that’s currently blocking the walls. I’ve almost settled on a color for the bedroom, and that paint job will be easy as we’re also switching rooms. I’m trading down, taking the second small room as my space, and we’re planning to use the largest room as the bedroom, so it’ll be easy to paint during that transition.

And that’s the status report from the homefront. Welcome back.

back on the grid

oil painting class

The next step in my art-making plan is to learn how to use the oil paints that my grandfather gave me 18 months ago. After nearly forty years in their house, my grandparents moved into an apartment, and my grandfather passed along his easel, paints, and brushes to me. Since I haven’t had a painting class in over 15 years, I decided to find a beginning level course to sign up for.

The course I decided to take is through The Art League, which teaches out of The Torpedo Factory in Arlington. It’s quite a hike from my house, but it was the best option accessible by public transportation (oil painting classes at the county community centers in my area were all accessible only by car). The location is lovely, right on the river, with spacious and airy studios. An acquaintance took classes there several years ago and was quite pleased with the artists she met, so I’m looking forward to having a positive experience.

Of course, I’m experiencing the standard nervousness associated with starting something new, but I’m sure that will abate once the class starts next week. In the meantime, I’m gathering the required supplies. I’ll need to supplement the materials I have with some new ones, and I’m hoping to be able to find them all at the campus bookshop (much more easily accessible than the in-house store at The Torpedo Factory).

So, in a couple of months, I expect to have two small still life oil paintings on canvas, of which I also expect to be inordinately proud.

oil painting class

Jasper Johns exhibition

The current exhibition at the East Gallery is a selection of Jasper Johns paintings, among them some of the most well-known of his works (e.g. the paintings with the names of colors painted in colors other than those which they signify). I went a few weeks ago with a friend, and will return at least once more in order to see the accompanying exhibition of prints. I had always liked his work just fine, but the exhibition—organized by theme rather than in a strictly chronological manner—immersed me in his vision in a whole new way.

In this exhibition, and the Joseph Cornell retrospective earlier this year, I was fascinated by the reproduction of certain images and concepts throughout the works. With both Johns and Cornell, I find myself loving the themes, both in terms of content and in the fact of their existence. I suppose it makes them more human to me, linking them to the way that each of us circles around themes and repeats motifs and patterns in our own lives. It’s endearing to find such a clear expression of this aspect of modern life in such compelling works of art.

At least, it was for me: while at the two exhibitions I was surprised to hear other viewers describe the works—and the habit of returning to favorite themes over time—as disturbing or jarring. With Johns, several friends commented that the disconnection of the signifier—e.g. ‘red’—from the color it signifies was jarring and difficult to enjoy. It’s not only the simple disconnection, I suppose, since we’re used to seeing all color words printed in a neutral black; it’s the replacement of the signified color with one that doesn’t match (e.g. ‘red’ painted in blue) that is disconcerting. Or, it was to others: I found it wonderfully energizing. Granted, I’ve spent a bit more time considering postmodern linguistic theory than just about everyone I socialize with out here, so it was a treat for me to see those ideas made real in such a vibrant way.

Until I saw a photo of Johns at work on these paintings, I would have imagined their creation to be nonstop fun (he doesn’t crack a smile, and his stance and self-presentation in early photos are so Germanic he appears Austrian). I, for one, smiled enough for both of us throughout my visit.

Jasper Johns exhibition

dining room

I’d known from the time we moved in that I wanted to paint the dining room two shades of yellow, but it took a long time to find the colors that matched the image I had in my head. In the end, we went with ‘Golden Yellow’ on the upper section, and ‘Bicycle Yellow’ on the bottom half (both from Ralph Lauren, much to my chagrin). We did the actual painting in December, finishing up just in time for our housewarming party on the 17th.

Dining room paint job, upper half complete.

Halfway through the first coat, the upper yellow looked really dark, next to all the white on the other walls. We had some challenges with this paint, as one gallon wasn’t mixed properly, and had little clumps of pigment floating throughout. Rather than taking it back (the choice I will definitely make in the future), we mixed the two gallons together and then smoothed, smeared, and picked out with toothpicks the clumps of pigment as they appeared on the roller and walls. As a result, we suspect that the walls are lighter than, and not a true match with, the intended color. We like it this way, though, so it worked out well.

Dining room paint job, front corner.

Dining room paint job, door to kitchen.

Particularly when I was just starting to paint the lower section, the yellow looked really brassy, and notably more green, compared to the yellow on the upper part of the room. Again, it looked the worst when I’d only edged it; once the third coat went on, it looked pretty good. We’re used to it now, and of course much of it is blocked from view by furniture, a ficus tree, and paintings. Nonetheless, it’s still quite bright, and it’s lovely in the morning with the sun coming in that side of the house.

Completing this room has had the unforeseen effect of making the rest of the house look very dull. I’ll get to work painting the living room just as soon as I pick a color.

dining room