Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adventures in backyard chickens

A couple of years ago, I started painting a series of chickens.

I don’t remember exactly why I painted the first one…I’ve always just been drawn to chickens.  Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of little packages with big attitudes (probably why hummingbirds are among my favorite birds) and I always stop and when I see chickens in someone’s yard by the side of the road.  There is something so calming and just right with the world about a chicken quietly scratching in a grassy yard. Don’t you agree?

So, back then I painted a few chickens to start and they were a big hit. They got a lot of comments and attention at my outdoor shows and sold right away so I painted more…many more.  At first, my daughter and I gave them names from our imaginary flock (picturing a day when we’d have our own). We had a definite floral theme with girls like Daffodil, Petunia and Marigold. 

Once I ran out of flowers I moved on to famous couples, I introduced the hen & rooster versions of Napoleon and Josephine, Fred and Wilma, and Elvis and Priscilla among many others to the world. 

I also started researching all the breeds.  There are so many and they come in such a multitude of sizes and shapes from the large, sturdy stock like Rhode Island Reds to the impossibly foolish Silkie Bantams or the every-which-way feathered the FrizzleCochin (my favorite).

At every show, I get asked about twenty times “So you must have your own chickens?”  When I tell them “No, I just really like chickens” I usually get a slightly quizzical look like why do you paint them then? (and what is wrong with you, lady)

But that is all about to change.

This is the year! We’re finally ready. If not ready, close enough…we’re taking the plunge.  I ordered 6 chicks from my local feed store to be picked up when they’re one day old. 
buff orpington chicks
I will share my journey in backyard chicken raising here…join me starting May 11th (the day the chickies arrive!) as I post about raising baby chicks in the house (with two kids, 3 cats and 2 guinea pigs).  Not that the guinea pigs will be interacting much with them but I didn’t want them to feel left out.
We’ll build a coop and a run for them along the way and figure this whole thing out by the seat of our pants. Like how to keep the neighbor’s dogs from eating them and how do I bribe my two little charges into mucking out a chicken coop.
You can check out more of my chicken paintings here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

the happy place

Kristina Wentzell, wild poppies, oil on cavas.  ©2011
Dear readers,

As part of my ongoing evolution as a working artist, I am making a commitment to improving my blog. 
I’d like this blog to be a lively, engaging place full of art, color, whimsy and lots of inspiration for you, dear reader.  To that end, I’ve enrolled in a blog class specifically for artists taught by Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris.  Taught online over an intensive four-weeks, the class will cover many aspects of blogging. 

So, please read on and check back often and let me know how I’m doing!

Our first assignment: Set the intention with the basics.  Who am I writing for?

I am writing for art lovers of all kinds: collectors, appreciators, and fellow artists.  I’m also writing for folks who share similar interests besides art such as
  • gardening
  • birding
  • nature
  • backyard chickens
  • travel
  • writing that has a sense of place.

What do I want to get out of blogging?

I participate in about a half dozen outdoor art shows every summer around New England. 
Time and time again, someone will come into my booth, look around at my art and turn to me announcing “this is the happy booth”.

my booth at the Art on Bartlett Mall show, Newburyport

Creating art is a joyful thing and it is so gratifying when I hear people express these sentiments.
I want my blog to be a continuation of my booth—the happy place.  I’m eager to create a place where readers can learn about my art, the stories behind the pieces, and the artists that influence me.  I envision a place to celebrate all that is beautiful and inspiring, gardens, flowers, out of the way places of my neck of the woods, travels, and what it means to live an artists’ life.

I want to connect with more readers and get feedback and responses to what I’ve written.  I’d like my readers to be excited about coming to my blog and want to share it with their friends.

I want to be able to write clearly about my art in a way that is both truthful and meaningful and that resonates with my readers.

So, welcome! I hope you find this to be a happy place for at least a moment or two in your day.

To see more of my work, go here.

Kristina Wentzell, of independent hues, oil on canvas.  ©2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

a squirrel proof birdfeeder that really works!

Okay, this might be a bit off topic…but this is for my fellow backyard bird feeders and is too good not to share. We’ve struggled with squirrels getting in our feeders for years. We tried it all but as many of you know, squirrels are clever lil’ varmints and always managed to get into and destroy our feeders.

Then we came up with this arrangement.  It is so simple (and cheap) but it works!  Every once in a while you will get one amazingly acrobatic squirrel who will find a way onto this feeder but in general, it is 99% effective.

How to make a squirrel proof bird feeder

To make it you will need:
  • a 10 foot 4x4 inch post
  • an 8 foot 2x4
  • 5-inch stove pipe (about 5-6 feet)
  • wood screws and lag bolts
Total cost: $25-30
Placement:  This is KEY.  You must place the feeder 10 feet away from any kind of tree or structure or hanging branches.  Remember, those varmints can JUMP!

  • Dig a hole and place the 4x4 post in the ground. You will need to bury it approximately 3 feet deep.  Tamp the ground firmly and make sure your post is secure and level.

  • Cut the 2x4 in half.  Position pieces in a cross position and attach with screws.  Attach the cross piece to the top of the pole (we used 3 lag bolts).  Attach the stove pipe to the top of the post. 

That’s it! Now you’re ready to attach the feeders.

The best part is watching the little devils scrabble futilely at the stove pipe. Ahhh, the fiendish delight I get in this.  Plus, you'lll get to watch way more of these:

Kristina Wentzell, cardinal, oil on canvas, 5 x 5 inches.  ©2011

Kristina Wentzell, goldfinch, oil on canvas, 5 x 5 inches. ©2011

Monday, April 23, 2012

Inspiration ~ April 2012

I love this time of year when everything is budding and blooming in a million tiny shades of green and russet, salmon and buttercup yellow. The light was amazing this evening, so I grabbed my two little charges (with promises of an ice cream cone) and drove out into the country.

Inspiration ~ April 2012

rununculus: just planted these in my garden...can't wait to have bouquets all summer.

farm, waking up to spring
the most perfect apple tree
more birches...I see so many paintings in these

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All Aboard!!

clang! clang! clang!

Thurday, April 19th is Trolley Night!

Please join me at Sage Gallery for my artists' reception Of Independent Hues, which happily coincides with Manchester Open Doors Trolley Night.

Thursday kicks off Manchester Open Doors 10th season and should be a great night to enjoy this lovely weather and support the local arts community.

What is Open Doors trolley night?
OPEN DOORS happens three times a year and is presented to you courtesy
of The Majestic Theatre.

Two trolleys circulate the same route between the hours of 5pm and 8pm, stopping at 11 different art galleries, museums, and cultural spaces about every 30-40 minutes. You may get on and off the free trolley as you wish and stop at the places you wish to see. All of the trolley stops are open free to the public on trolley night and most have special events and
promotions planned specifically for the trolley night.

Please join me this Thursday!

Stop by the artists' reception at Sage Gallery, 70 Lowell Street. Enjoy some wine, art, goodies & conversation and then hop on the trolley and head to the next stop on the art tour.

Hope to see you for this fun night out,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three venues/One Month - where you can find me!

I think I've mentioned before April is a busy month! Or rather March, the month I was preparing for THREE simultaneous shows. But I'm a girl who likes a challenge (and apparently a bunch of deadlines). The three show are up and will hang through the end of the month.

I hope you can join me on Trolley Night in Manchester on April 19th. My opening at Sage Gallery is from 5-9 pm. More details on Trolley Night here.

Kristina Wentzell, bluebird, 12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas. ©2012

April 3rd - 28th
Of Independent Hues: paintings inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost & Emily Dickinson
Sage Gallery, 70 Lowell Street, Manchester NH
Opening Reception April 19th, 5-9pm

April 1st - 30th
Featured Artist: Prime Roast, Keene NH

April 6th - May 3rd
Of Field & Farm: featuring the paintings of Caryn King & Kristina Wentzell
The Works Bakery Cafe, Brattleboro VT