New Print: ‘Effervescence’ 12×12 Fine Art Print

The holidays have passed and the new year has begun! I’ve been preparing since last fall to re-open my shop and I’m excited the day has finally arrived. I’m curating my older prints, so only a few will carry over from the days of old.

Late last year and into the early parts of this year I worked on a new painting – Effervescence – that I’ve just made into print form. Hooray!

Effervescence Fine Art Print by Cortney North, pink, purple and coral painting

‘Effervescence’ Fine Art Print by Cortney North

I’m thrilled with the way the colors work together. Sometimes the scanning process changes colors to the point that the original is quite different from the print. That can be a frustrating realization for me since I’m very specific about the colors I choose to place on the canvas. I was aware of the possibility with this painting, even while I was painting, and hoped the pinks, corals, oranges and purples would distinguish themselves versus becoming a large pink with dark pink image. To my delight, they distinguished themselves beautifully!

Effervescence Fine Art Print by Cortney North Fine Art


I enjoy the playful movement that runs like a current through this piece. It is dynamic and uplifting. The warm hues help with the feeling of liveliness and remind me of a tropical flower, which is a nice reminder when the skies are gray here in Ohio! There are many places this print would be ideal: a living room, bathroom that needs a pop of color, young girl’s/teenager’s bedroom, hallway that may need some pep added to it.

The original painting will be available for purchase soon. I still need to finish painting the sides and adding my signature. It measures 12″x12″x1.5″ in case you’re interested.

I have two more paintings waiting to be transformed into prints. Plus there is a larger painting on the easel that has its background painted, but is waiting for details. I’m hopeful to carve out time this weekend to work on it!

Middle of painting

Today’s post will be a shorter one since I’m in the middle of a large painting. This one, in fact. Painting in Progress

It is going to require many, many layers to get the depth that I want. I have no idea how many it already has. If you made me guess, I’d say in the neighborhood of 25-30 layers. There might be just that many to go.

This is where it is heading… SeashorePainting

I worked on this painting last week and into the weekend. I was after soft, sea-inspired colors. Like my other two paintings, this will be for sale soon. It is 12″x12″ with a depth of 1.5″. This painting was cheering me up when the skies were a solid sheet of gray. It was dreary last week, so I’m glad for paintings that allow me to see some color!

Current Palette And here is the paint palette. What a combination of colors!

In addition to painting this weekend, I wrote a little in my science fiction novel. This past week also marked my switch to exercising more, eating healthily and eating less. This means I was the delightful combination of tired, sore and hungry as I adjusted to the new schedule. This weekend seemed to bring me a respite – and a cheat meal. Today, I feel much better so I’m over the first difficult hurdle, surviving the first week!

I believe I’ve allowed enough time for the paint to dry and it is time for another layer to be added. Back to the canvas!

Painting Palette Pictures

The sides of the paintings are almost complete. It took more coats of paint than I realized and – due to the very dry air – the paint dried almost on contact with the canvas. It was a balancing act between keeping the paint wet enough to spread and not having drips run down the sides.

Since the sun is shining again today, I am going to add ‘photographing the paintings’ to my agenda. That will help me stay on track for having the paintings for sale by the end of this week, which is – as I look at my calendar – tomorrow. Best get moving!

Before I head out, I wanted to share pictures of my paint palette. I’ve always loved the color combinations and layers created on a paint palette. Typically there is some thought as to where a color will go on my palette, but some times I get swept up in the creative moment; I just look for available space to mix my colors. My palette is always changing and I thought I should capture the stages of its evolution. Here is today’s collection of palette abstracts and my brief thoughts.

Painting Palette

A complex reflection on the textural state of art or a mountainous topographical weather map with some severe storms moving in.

Painting Palette 2

A visual representation of our society’s view of cool colors overshadowing warm colors or green slime overtaking a tropical topographical weather map.


I see a forest in the foreground, mountains is the middle ground and to the right, a plume of volcanic cloud preceded by red fiery ash. The left has a fiery volcano too. This valley does not look like an ideal place to live.


And the final photo of the day. This is the palette of my heart. No joking here, the colors are too lovely.

Museum Find: Physic Garden Art Installation

Physic Garden Installation by Molly Hatch at High Museum of Art Atlanta

Physic Garden Installation by Molly Hatch at High Museum of Art Atlanta

High Museum of Art in Atlanta featuring installation by Molly Hatch

My career in art began with ceramics and I suppose that my relationship to it might be compared to having a first pet, first child, first of something important. I learned a great deal about art through ceramics and I learned a great deal about myself as well. It will always hold a special place for me, though I haven’t thrown on the wheel in a few years.

Ceramics has a funny place in the art world. Is it art or is it a craft? Or is it both depending on the maker and viewer? I believe the installation by Molly Hatch at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia points me in the direction of calling this particular display a work of art.

The installation was commission by the museum and was directly inspired by two 1755 Chelsea Factory plates. I love the integration, or perhaps update, to the older plates. Not only does it inspire a new appreciation for the art painted on the 1700’s plates, but I also enjoy the connection of nodding to the past in creating the future. I saw it mentioned that the plate installation recalls pointillism such as Seurat’s paintings as well as Chuck Close’s artwork. I don’t disagree with that analysis.

When looking at the hundreds of plates together, it is easy to say “That wouldn’t be that difficult to do.” That’s because the artwork was done well. I will say that with ceramics, predictability is not ever part of the equation. The underglaze (the liquid colorant applied to the greenware or bisqueware) can look different depending on the length of time spent in the kiln, a few degrees variant in the kiln, location in the kiln (hot and cold zones) and humidity in the air, or, in some unknown circumstances, breathing too close to the kiln. Most of the time underglazes are consistent, especially when using an electric kiln that can be programmed. But there is still that level of unpredictability that drives most artists to hate ceramics. What you put into the kiln may not always be what comes out.

I would say ceramics is a labor of love and a master class in patience. One ceramicist friend of mine said she has a love-hate relationship with ceramics. But I’m glad people push forward and create artwork such as what Molly Hatch created for the High Museum.

If you have time, you should visit Molly Hatch’s website and see her other work.   At the time of me posting this, her main website was down, but her blog has great information about her projects. You can find her pieces at Anthropologie too.


Decor Friday: These are best for hibernating

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. As a side note, I’d love to know the origin of that phrase. I may skip around the internet and try to find an answer. Or I’ll skip towards my bed because I’m exhausted from all the germ fighting my immune system is being wracked with. I’m guessing this cold is a gift from my husband since he’s been sick for many days now. It’s not exactly the gift I was hoping for. The only thing on my mind at the moment is sleep so I rounded up a few rooms that I’d love to tuck myself into and hibernate within for the next six months.

This reminds me a hotel I stayed in while over in Assisi, Italy. I would gladly snuggle up in bed with 50 good books and never need to leave.

When I’m ill, I want warm and rustic. A good view wouldn’t hurt either. This room is a success in all categories.

Compared to the previous room, this is a bit more luxurious and less lodge inspired. It has pleasant feminine details such as the chandelier, curved headboard and chaise lounge.

This boardlines on log cabin, which I’m not a big fan of, but it’s just enough of the western lodge look to keep me happy. That incredible light fixture has a medieval castle-vibe, which I’m a big fan of.

This is a cozy spot for reading because sometimes you can’t sleep through one more day. The generous chair is perfect for pulling my legs up and resting. All it needs is an ottoman.

If I’m being honest, this is truly the room I want. A tall turret of a library. Again, this space needs an ottoman. And perhaps a more masculine looking chair, but I could curl up and spend days getting lost in my reading.

Vegetable breads are my new favorite

This past weekend was another one that flew by faster than a speeding jet. Friday night we watched X-men: Days of Future Past. I have been making fun of that title ever since the movie came to theaters because it sounds ridiculous. Having watched the movie, the name still sounds ridiculous, but at least it makes a bit more sense. A bit. It was a good movie and kept me very entertained. It also included Hugh Jackman so it wasn’t difficult.

Saturday was full of working at my job and then coming home to relax. That was until the football games started erupting on our TV five minutes after I walked in the door. There were so many good games on Saturday night. We were jumping between three games and were stunned by the upsets. Being OSU fans, we were pleasantly surprised by the Michigan State upset. I had been telling customers earlier in the day that I was concerned about the outcome. Michigan State has looked good in every game they’ve played so far. OSU has looked improved with every game they’ve played so far. I’m still shocked OSU won, though I’m not sure MIchigan State was playing with all their heart. Good game nonetheless and it means Buckeye country is in a celebratory mood versus a depressed one. That’s always welcome.

I should interject that while watching the football games, I baked two loaves of parsnip bread. Yes, you are reading that correctly, parsnip bread. It is a recipe from the Irish Country Cooking cookbook.

Book cover from

While blowing through the library one day months ago, I picked up the cookbook because I was curious about what Irish country cooking looks like. Well, it looks similar to some familiar dishes we Americans know well, but the food tastes extra delicious. The parsnip bread is a bit like zucchini bread, but the recipe author suggested covering it with apricot jam and a walnut cream cheese icing. I want to kiss the person who decided to adorn the bread with that combination. The first loaf was devoured in less than 8 hours. The second, well, is not long for this world. For dinner Friday night, I tried the Broccoli, Cherry Tomato and cheese tart recipe. After dinner, there was nothing left in the pie pan except a few crust crumbs. You could say it was a hit.

I’ve tried a total of three recipes in the cookbook. It’s a tricky cookbook in that the recipes’ measurements are often in grams or ounces. I’m mathematically illiterate and I’ve been able to make due. It’s not for beginners, but if you cook often, you’ll be able to guesstimate the conversions.

Side note: I love that guesstimate is a word. I’ve loved it since the 4th grade when my teacher told me that guesstimating would help me with math problems. As it turned out, not so much thanks to a heavy dose of dyslexia, but I still like the word.

Sunday was a relaxing day and one that was much needed. I even had time to take a 30 minute nap, which is unheard of and precious. I worked a bit on a painting I’m hoping to put up as a print in the shop soon. We’ll see. I have some ideas for where I’d like it to head, but at the same time, the more I look at it, the more it looks complete. In those circumstances, it’s best to let the painting sit while the aesthetic parts of my brain duke it out for the correct answer. I hope you had a great weekend and are having a great start to the week!

I’m off to go eat another slice of parsnip bread. It’s the new best way to eat my vegetables.

Decor Friday: The table lamp dilemma

The days are growing shorter with reckless abandon. That’s at least what it seems like here in Ohio. Unfortunately, this shift in light is a fact of wintertime and makes it necessary to have lots of bright, beautiful lamps turned on making a house look as though the noonday sun is shining from within. Or maybe that is my house? Yes, I do like it to be a beacon in the dark, cold winter.

Unless I’m watching a movie in which case I need it to be a deep, dark cave. I’m complex like that.

I love a good lamp and I really believe they can be one of the greatest pieces in a room. But, as with most items in design, they can be tricky, tricky. It is difficult to find the right size. Too big and you’re overwhelming the side table or cabinet it rests upon. Too small and it’s being swallowed up by the room’s other elements. They come in all shapes from thin, round, wide and short, wide and thin, tall and oppressing, well, you get the picture. Many lamps also have tricky proportions or look downright odd with a round drum sitting atop a beautiful base. I’ll be completely honest with you. When I’m coming up with a design, the lamps are the piece I dread the most because it is difficult to find just the right one. I also want a lamp that is sculptural, adds texture in a room and has a well-fitting shade. It’s a task that sadly involves some trial and error. If you’re in the market for lamps, you may have to purchase a few and try them out in your home for a few days. Eventually you will find the perfect fit – or close to it.

With that in mind, I wanted to conquer my fears and find a few table lamps that had flattering shapes, interesting designs and flexibility to be used in a variety of design schemes. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.

Honeycomb Lamp – Teardrop at, $299

I’ve been in love with this lamp and its cousin for a few months now. It’s a functional art piece that would energize a room nicely.

Ceramic Urn Table Lamp Base at World Market, $54.99

I’m placing this lamp base in the mix because it’s beautiful, shapely and turquoise. Who can resist turquoise? I am very aware that finding a well fitting shade to adorn the urn will be a task, but with a base that looks this good, it’s worth the search.

Marlowe Ceramic Table Lamp at William-Sonoma Home, $495-990

Marlowe Ceramic Table Lamp
This shape is a popular one at the moment as is the crackled glaze covering the lamp. The lines are beautiful, it is a classic, versatile piece with a modern acrylic base. There are varying colors available too. It’s expensive, but it will last for many, many years, which spreads out the investment cost.

Leera Antique Mercury Glass Table Lamp Base at Pottery Barn, $84-86, sale

Leera Antique Mercury Glass Table Lamp Base

I have a slight preference towards mercury glass lamps. They glitter when the light is on, they provide a great, old world texture and they can work in almost any room. What’s not to love?

Mercury Glass Lattice Table Lamp at Pottery Barn, $129-179

Lamp 1
Pottery Barn, I am intrigued. I haven’t seen this mercury lamp in person, but I like the extra texture of the lattice work. You could combine this lamp with the one above in the same room and have a coordinating lighting scheme.

Southport Table Lamp at Pottery Barn, $129-189

Lamp 3
Surprise! Another mercury glass lamp. I couldn’t decide between the two so I added them both. This would go well with the first mercury lamp I showed too. This one might be my favorite of all the lamps I included because of the traditional, versatile shape.

Hanging Lantern Table Lamp at Cabela’s, $129.99

Lamp 2
What’s life without some whimsy? We received the Cabela’s gift catalog recently and I saw this lamp along with a matching floor lamp. I was surprised how much I liked the shape and proportions; it is well designed. In the right room, I think this light could be successful.

If you’re in the market for new lamps, I hope this small assortment gave you some inspiration and best of luck to you in your search. Perseverance may need to be your friend.

It’s the only time I enjoy breaking the rules

Yesterday as I fell back into the groove of painting my abstracts, I was reminded of a painting class I took at an art center during 7th grade. I can only faintly remember the palm tree clad building, but I do remember the classroom; the tall windows letting in afternoon light and the still lifes assembled on pedestals around the room. One wide pedestal had more intriguing decorations than the others. There was a thick throw rug behind a collection of wooden birds and vases. This was the still life I wanted to paint. Our medium for the assignment was watercolor. As I concentrate my memory, I can picture my easel and painting cabinet complete with a small water jar and the tray of oval, elementary-grade watercolor pigments. You remember the trays, right? They were the concentrated smell of an art room.

I began my painting having been given instructions I no longer recall. At some point while painting my masterpiece, the bubbly art instructor came over to my easel, pondered my brush strokes, perspective and offered a bit of advice. She said with a jovial tint to her voice, “Cortney, you’re using watercolors, which means you actually need to use water in your paint.” She proceeded to take a brush, immerse it into the muddied water jar and fill each little oval with a tall bubble of water. The ovals were so full that If I had placed my brush into a bubble, it would have spilled across the white tray, spreading pigment where it simply didn’t belong. When I didn’t say anything in return, she patted my back and moved across the room to another student. I was left staring at these many abominations in my paint tray and wondering what I was supposed to do about it.

If you’re curious how I had been using my watercolors, this is my answer: I was using the watercolor pigments as though they were acrylic paints. There were no watery, sweeping brush strokes for me. That was not the effect I had in mind. No, I wanted precision and saturation that can only be achieved by creating a small well in a paint oval with only the smallest bit of water. Layering my watercolor? Please, I didn’t have that level of patience as a seventh grader.

I wish I could say that I took her advice and dutifully washed my paper with sweeping strokes, but I didn’t. I’m stubborn by nature and once she was safely across the large room, I careful soaked up the bubbles of water and continued with my original technique. I needed to finish my painting in the style with which I began. Every art teacher I’ve ever had would nod their head in frustrated agreement knowing I would do no less. My poor art teachers and professors. Please know I am grateful for each of you every day.

In the time since that episode, I’ve had my share of watercolor classes and have been well versed in the proper way of painting. But that was precisely what brought about my memory as I painted yesterday using broad sweeping brush strokes with my acrylic paint. I was using watercolor techniques with my non-watercolor paints.

If only I could go back and tell the instructor, “Look, I’m finally using an ample amount of water and it looks beautiful!” Something tells me she would not be impressed. In fact, since I’ve had a few similar conversations before, I know she would look at me, look at my painting and shake her head with defeat. “Yes, it does look beautiful,” she would say as a lengthy sigh left her mouth.

Decor Friday: “We think you have the best home for Thanksgiving!” exclaim your in-laws.

Before I begin, I must say the bags under my eyes feel as though they could hold an entire week of groceries. I went to bed late thanks to my over-active brain and I woke up earlier thanks to an alarm clock. The buzz couldn’t be ignored because I needed to work out at the awful hour of 6am. Have I ever mentioned I’m not a morning person?

I’ve had two doses of caffeine, but my eyes are drooping, so I’ll see what I can put together in the theme of ‘Casual Thanksgiving Dinner’ before I fall face first into this keyboard. If I start talking gibberish halfway through the post, you know why. But really, it’s Friday and I have to imagine you’re this tired too. How many cups of coffee have you had? Five? Six? That’s not so bad, my friend. I’m here pulling for you.

And now for a few festive items to adorn the Thanksgiving dining room.

Threshold Fox Salt Shaker in Cream, $2.99 at Target

I’ve been getting many clicks on the fox salt and pepper shakers I featured last year on my blog. I’m not certain the links still work, but I know I’ve seen these table accessories at my local Target store. I figured it would be helpful to include an updated link. They also come in a nice shiny bronze, which I couldn’t find online, but is my far and away favorite variety.


Threshold™ Stoneware Fox Cookie Jar – Teal, $19.99 at Target


If you’re very into foxes, Target also has this ‘teal’ fox cookie jar. I feel the need to mention that this color isn’t teal, but rather a nice hunter green. In my local store, they have it positioned beside a french bull dog jar. Interesting bed (shelf?) fellows.


Allure Hand Knotted Rug $129.00 – $1499.00 at


Dining rooms aren’t a great place to install crisp, white carpet. If you find yourself in the precarious position of having light carpet in your dining room, no need to fear. Just purchase a great area rug and all of the food that will be spilled won’t make you sweat. Opt for a rug with varied pattern and multiple colors. The stains will be nicely disguised. I fell in love with the rug pictured above. Those colors speak to my heart. If you serve a lot of red wine and tomato sauce, go wisely in the direction of a red palette. Your stress levels will thank you.


Bunny Williams Leaf Candy Dish, $35.00 at

For the fall dining table, you might want to place nuts, figs, mints, or whathaveyou as little appetizers before the big meal. Then the question becomes, “What should you use?” These fig leaf silver dishes are a sophisticated fall choice that serve two purposes on the table: 1. seasonal decor and 2. food dish. Let’s be honest, there’s no room on the table for items that aren’t holding food.


Cafe Mug, $3.95 at Crate and Barrel

Café Mug

After a large meal, people at my home request hot beverages and mainly the type brewed from coffee beans. I have two of these mugs and love the way they feel in my hand. Their shape is great for sipping. Plus I love the look of a hot beverage in a glass mug. So pretty!


Blanket Stitch Napkin Set Sale, $11.99-20 at West, can be personalized, also available in Hazy Blue/ Flax (I’m torn between both color options)

Detailed View

The holidays can get so stuffy with the silverware, the silver dishes, the crystal goblets. Oh, you don’t drink from crystal goblets? Neither do I. I don’t believe in a family get together being too uptight, but I do think there should be a certain level of specialness to the meal. This cloth napkin will add to the elegance of your dinner, but the casual look of the blanket stitch will ensure the uppity factor doesn’t go through the roof.


Farmhouse Pottery Gravy Pitcher $29 at West, matching salt cellar available

Farmhouse Pottery Gravy Pitcher

I began my art career as a ceramicist and I’m drawn to pottery pieces that have nice texture and lines. This pitcher would be great near the Thanksgiving table especially if it is filled with a bubbly concoction or even the classic iced tea. I could see using this as a pancake batter pourer if it isn’t too heavy.


Williams-Sonoma Edge-Grain Carving Board, $99.95-229.95, at Williams and Sonoma, available in medium and large, walnut and maple (walnut shown)

Williams-Sonoma Edge-Grain Carving Board

Serving trays in solid wood are an excellent option for placing bread, cheese, veggies or fruit. This one is expensive, but I have a difficult time passing on something made with dense, hard wood. I think the walnut stain is just divine. The dark color will contrast nicely with food.


Harvest Turkey Statue, $59 at

If you need a centerpiece or buffet table decorative accent, look no further than this turkey sculpture. My parents have a similar looking turkey that is far smaller and painted. When I was a child, that turkey sculpture graced the highly decorated table and represented the commencement of the holiday festivities. Yes, a turkey is a bit obvious, but it’s the holiday season so why not bring some whimsy?


Silver Woodgrain Lacquer Chargers, Set of 4, $11.96 at, also available in gold and driftwood

I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine that’s not a secret to anyone I’m close with: I don’t like decorated plates. This directly has to do with my need to keep visual over-stimulation to a minimum. Classic white plates are the best dishes to serve food on – hands down, there is no need for a jury. But, I do like charger plates that act as a background frame to the white plate especially when they’re resting on a simple tablecloth. Here is a delightful silver charger in an intriguing wood grain finish. They also have a driftwood charger if you’re looking for a more laid back dinner.

I hope you enjoy these pieces, I hope to goodness the links work and now I’m off to go nap. Ciao.

After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school – Part IV

This is Part IV of my online story: After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school. If you would like to start from the beginning, here is the link: Part I

Because there was so much to be completed with the gallery and Mel needed every moment she had available, she pushed back the art lessons with James until after the gallery opened. The two weeks had passed, with this past Monday being the successful grand opening day, and the gallery looked sophisticated and full of breathtaking art. But this wasn’t the highlight of her week and in fact, when the opening day came, Mel was more excited about who would be at her side rather than the number of customers to grace their way through the door. After their first meeting, James had stopped by almost daily to help out with the arrangement. Though it was unprecedented for an artist to spend that much time assisting a gallery manager, Mel never refused because she needed the help and his well-earned expertise. The only problem was her difficulty with focusing on anything when he was nearby.

Each evening as she waited to fall asleep, she let the memories wash over her. The way he had spoken to her while in the gallery, flirtatious and flattering. There were the meetings when James, Tilly and Mel discussed the gallery, James reached over and touched Mel’s arm more times than she could remember. His touches had a way of clearing out her thoughts and melting her into a moldable piece of clay in his hands. When considering the artwork on the walls, he would stand within inches of her. His scent always surrounded her like a warm friend. Each time he asked a question, she looked over at him, reading his eyes, his features with more interest than she had done with anyone before. There was the time late one night when evaluating the souvenirs, they were hunched over the marble countertop assessing the items laid out in a neat line and his arm was lying against hers. That same night, he bought two large coffees from the next door shop and, cozying up on a sofa in the darkened bookstore, told of his past romances, his future plans, her past romances and her future plans until early the next morning. The newness of everything with James left her feeling wired without ever consuming an ounce of caffeine. She found herself not needing to eat or sleep. She hated leaving his side when it was time to go home. She especially despised the past two days because he needed the time to work in his studio.

She had known him for days, yes, but it had felt like so much more. Not surprisingly, her dreams last night had been filled with his presence. Most of her dreams were foggy, wrought with confusion and odd circumstances or creatures. This one, however, was very clear.

James asked to take her on a hike in the nearby woods. The trees were what every photographer hopes to find in autumn. Gold leaves shimmered more than any cathedral interior, crimson-red maple leaves had fallen on the path and created a thick carpet, still-green leaves were deep and earthy. The breeze was a cooling hymn through the leaves. James guided her through the forest, birds whispered their secrets. It was a path she had ventured before many times, but never with such wonder. She knew where they were heading; there was a lookout of the deep valley further ahead. The path was easily followed. Once they reached the edge, he offered his hand and pointed her beyond the protective fence that kept tourists restrained. Leading first, he kept her hand braced against his lower back. They descended into a thicket of plum-colored brush, carefully placing their feet on the stony mountain steps. They walked single file, his hand embracing hers with steady assurance. As they hiked, she stared at his masculine form in the simple long sleeved shirt. The fabric was thin and she could feel the muscles of his back shifting with every step. Trees arched overhead and when she was brave, she looked upward to see the tunnel of colors shift between yellow, orange and green. Squirrels chattered unhappily, sad to see their private paradise invaded.

Further and further south they negotiated on the barely visible trail. James glided through the forest with unnatural ease. Over his shoulder, he glanced back and smiled; a loving smile that sent ribbons through her body. Then the narrow path opened up. The sun was at their back and flooding parts of the valley with its beautiful glory. He pulled her arm around to his side so that now she was embracing him. James curled his arm around her waist to hold her even closer. His body felt so warm, so solid, more solid than she remembered. She moved further into his side and he looked down, his face moving closer to her. All of the sounds left the forest except the sound of his breath and, in her ears, her pounding heart. Just as their lips were about to meet, the birds scattered over head. It was a piercing noise that wouldn’t end. Confused and unsure, they looked for the cause of the startling. A drumming rose above the alarmed birds’ shrieks. The leaves started to fade. The beautiful scene was dimming as she stirred into consciousness. Slowly, her mind became aware of her reality and heard the steady vibration of her phone. She blinked twice before reaching over to silence the noise. She rolled back to her warm spot in the bed. She wanted to bring the dream back. Tightly closing her eyes, she tried to remember the images of James, of the overlook, of the flock of birds. After five frustrated minutes of trying, she pulled the covers off and began the task of getting ready. In only a few hours she would get to see him in real life and that was far better than the illusion she had just indulged.

She spent extra time getting the details of her person correct in anticipation of the day. Wanting to ensure James hadn’t cancelled their lesson, she opened her email and, seeing one unread message, quickly became jolted. She stood staring at the laptop, considering what she was reading in the open email.

Hey Mel,

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I accepted a user experience job here at Interspace Media and have been getting settled in ever since. I work with some great people. There’s a coffee shop below our office and my apartment’s only two blocks away. It’s pretty nice. The Paris pictures were awesome. They convinced me to go before I forget all about art history.

I thought I’d mention this too: I’m sure you’ve found something great for a job, but if not, Interspace is looking for another person to hire. Brad would prefer a Whiting grad; I mentioned you and I hope that was okay. It would be mainly a graphic design role, but some work with CMS. I told him you were the best in our class at graphics. Let me know soon if you’re interested. We’re growing by the month, which is a good thing, but it means some of us are working around the clock. It would be good to have a familiar face around the office.

Let me know,

She didn’t have time to think about this with the gallery and, simply stated, James. But there was a familiar flutter in her stomach. She repeated what she had told Granny Ann weeks ago; Henry was her past and she wasn’t moving that direction. She closed the laptop, grabbed her keys, and launched out the door to meet James for the art lesson.

James’ studio was in the neighboring town, which, on a warm, sleepy Sunday in summer, was only a fifteen minute drive. She had allowed twenty minutes to traverse the unfamiliar roads to the easterly town, but it had only taken ten before she saw the traditional brick downtown buildings. The quaint lamp posts matched the colonial period architecture that decorated the city’s numerous blocks of two story buildings. Never before had she ventured into this town because she had little interest in antiques. The city was known in all the guidebooks to be the superior collection of high-quality antiques in the area. Sundays were a popular day, she quickly ascertained, as she bumped along the downtown brick road. The street was divided by a well-manicured median, complete with shrubs and flowers. While stopped at a light, she couldn’t help but stare at the shoppers strolling past with paper coffee mugs in hand. Sophisticated bags hung off their arms like well-planned accessories. Some people were seated on outdoor patios, sipping coffee, chatting lightly with friends or reading through the Sunday paper. A piece of her soul connected the scene with memories of Paris. Though not as chic, it was a decent stand in. The light turned green and as she traveled further, she reached the other end of the downtown. She wasn’t entirely sure where the studio was located though she imagined in such a small stretch of buildings, it shouldn’t be hard to find.

There was a cluster of open parking on her left, just as the boulevard condensed into a street. She looked at her notes again, compared the street numbers with the one she was given, and headed back into downtown, passing the outdoor tables and smelling the indulgent coffee.

Her nose alerted her to a breakfast shop up ahead that smelled how her imagination said a grandmother’s house should smell – if the grandmother wasn’t Granny Ann. Cinnamon and vanilla was mingled with buttery pastry; it greeted her nose with a wafting temptation. She forged on until she arrived at the last door on the block. The door was plain and the address, 801 E. Main Street, was correct. Turning the knob, the door loosened and opened directly to a narrow flight of wooden stairs.

His studio was one of the most impressive studios she could have imagined. The entire upper story of the building’s block was an open atrium. She caught a firm whiff of mineral spirits, paint and something else that reminded her of the college’s printmaking room. Windows, tall and multi-panelled, welcomed in the late morning light. She had just started taking in the almost-blinding brightness of the space when James’ voice called out.

“Hey, Mel, welcome to the studio.” He rose from a generous chair; one of three grouped in a tight cluster. With the golden light at his back, he looked like a silhouette moving against a heavenly backdrop. He tossed his sketch pad on the nearby console table. The pencil rolled off the thick tablet and pinged on the wooden floor. The sound echoed softly across the room.

“This is incredible, James. I had no idea you would have this much studio space. It’s bigger than some of my college’s studios.”

“It was a good find thanks to some friends who work in commercial real estate.” He walked over and kissed her on each cheek. “You didn’t have trouble finding it, did you? Google thinks my studio is in the gazebo across the street, which, I agree, is a pleasant spot, but not good in the winter.”

She laughed. “No, I found it easily.”

“Good.” He put his arm around her waist and guided her towards the room’s belly. “I’ll give you the quick tour and then I figured we’d get started.”

Though the space was ample, it was easily walked through within minutes. He showed the most important aspects such as the kitchen, a deep sink for cleaning brushes, the restroom, the day bed – that looked to have been used the night prior – and an assortment of still life objects. Sitting on deep shelves in the far back corner, Mel spent the most time taking in the nature-inspired assemblage. Her meandering eyes caressed over the collection of feathers, vases and odd finds neatly grouped together. With certain objects James would tell the story of how it came to be in his possession, specifically with the intertwined deer antlers and enormous quartz geode. Upon reaching the end of the sights, she was stopped in her path by an irregular, short peninsula jutting out from the middle of the wall. There were two rows of white, gessoed canvases in a variety of sizes. Having to assemble her own canvases in school – a time-consuming task she dreaded – she saw the quantity as something from a nightmare.

“There have to be about sixty canvases here. You didn’t make all of these, did you?”

“Of course!” His response was too quick and she immediately laughed at his joke. “There’s only so much time you can spend gessoing canvases before you decide to pay someone else to do it. In grad school, one of my professors recommended I use a company in Winston-Salem because they are the only ones who fold the corners correctly. I’ve been ordering them ever since. They’re not cheap because they do it right, but it’s worth it.” He patted the nearest canvas with a reassuring hand. “While we’re over here, we should pick the canvases we’ll use today. What size do you want?”

She leaned back on her heels and tapped her finger against her chin. “I’ll take the largest one you have.”

James shook his head and nudged her side with his elbow. “I think the 18″x18″ would be a manageable canvas. Here.” He leaned half the pile against his leg and shuffled two medium sized canvases away from the others. With a firm shove, he moved the remaining canvases back together. Her hand was about to grasp the two rectangles, but James batted her hand away and tucked the two canvases securely under his arm. She felt the warmth of his other hand between her shoulder blades, which encouraged her forward.

He was directing her to the two easels in the middle of the room, but she stopped mid-stride to stare at the row of half complete paintings, which leaned against a long wall of windows. She counted twelve in all. Most of the paintings were wearing only a base coat with color washes in green, blue and gray. The quick brush strokes were wide and sweeping. Early in her college career, Mel remembered the slight embarrassment of letting someone see the beginning of her canvases. There were so many details missing and the perspective was rarely correct on the first try. James’ pieces however, stood in stark contrast and could have been sold just as they were; full of ragged, imperfect beauty.

He moved in line beside her as she analyzed the new stock. “I was able to get more done on these three.” His fingers grazed the top of canvases that showed a rough image of a foggy mountain morning. “I’m hoping to get them to you by the end of next week to replace the three that sold. Maybe sooner if I can find the time.”

“They’re incredible. I just haven’t seen…” Words escaped her in the moment.

He leaned over and whispered closely to her ear. “People will say the same thing to you, but not if we don’t get this lesson started.” He began the short journey over towards two easels. She followed reluctantly, wanting instead to appreciate his art for a few minutes longer.

The two easels faced a large table draped in a heather gray sheet. A white plaster bust of Michelangelo’s David sat lonely on the cloth surface. James handed her the canvas and she repositioned her chair to ensure the best view of her subject.

“Ready for a study in the value scale?” She nodded and focused her mind on absorbing his wisdom for the next two hours.


© 2014 Cortney North. All Rights Reserved.