Celebrating 35 Years:2017 Year End Summary at PHG

This summer and spring were packed with art activities.  We started out the spring with moving our framing studio into a new framing space in our own barn.  After having a separate framing location in a near-by town, Donald and I came to realize that we vastly prefer to be in the same place at the same time- even after 44 years of marriage!  So we made the decision to go ahead and move the studio.  It was a good decision because we had a very busy framing season this summer.

Memorial Day we hosted four other artists in tents in among our backyard gardens for the annual Chautauqua Lake Erie Art Trail.  It was a successful experience for the artists in the tents and for us in the gallery as well.  It is always great fun to have other artists on the premises and it is a great event for bringing old and new gallery friends in for the weekend. Next year the Art Trail will again be held on Memorial Day weekend.

Thirty-seven years ago four local artists formed the Crafts Alliance as a marketing group for regional fine crafts artists.  I was one of those four artists.  The shows continue as fine crafts shows that are held twice a summer on the grounds of the world famous Chautauqua Institution.  These shows have a great reputation for their high quality. This year’s shows were very successful for the sales of my ceramics work.  The wonderful director is Tina Rausa. The shows take place annually on the second weekends of July and August. 

I don’t usually add in new shows to my summers, which are already packed just keeping up with the gallery business, but one of my friends, Jonathan Weston, in combination with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute started up a new nature themed show at Jonathan’s Panama Rocks Nature Park.  It was a lovely show set in a grove of woods.  For a first year show, I was pleased by this selling experience. Western New York woods settings are some of my favorite places to spend time. The food was great, and there were many opportunities to learn more about nature from speakers and presenters. All artists were selling quality work celebrating nature and the natural world. This gave this show a different focus and made it a welcome addition to the regional summer art shows. This year it was held on the last weekend of July. @018 will also be held the last weekend of July.

At the gallery we also hosted the annual Membership Appreciation Evening for the Chautauqua Watershed Association.  This was a lovely evening gathering of like-minded folks who all appreciate the importance of keeping the local watersheds healthy.

We continue to have the great support of regional artists who bring professional quality work for us to sell along with my work and the framing services provided by Donald.

Another interesting new addition to the gallery this summer was Donald’s recently published western novel,  “The Gold of Vanishing Creek” along with a book of poetry by Martin Willow and an anthology of short works by an area writers group that meets at the Ahira Hall Library in Brocton, NY.

It has been a very successful and packed year to remember as volumes of snow are currently falling and blanketing our Chautauqua Ridge Portage Hill Art Gallery home.  As snow falls I get my almost uninterrupted studio time that I crave.  Attached is a recent winter watercolor of a creek that runs near our cottage that runs into Lake Erie. During the winter time of year we are open Saturdays 10-5 and by chance you can catch Donald and me at the gallery.  Stop in to see what we are working on in the studios. Embrace the Lake Effect Snow on the Ridge!



Slippery Rock Creek  Portland, NY  Watercolor AKDowling

Slippery Rock Creek  Portland, NY  Watercolor AKDowling

Winter has arrived at Portage Hill Art Gallery!

The winter is always a time of renewal for my art practice.  It is time to finish up commissions taken during the summer season and then it is art exploration time for me!  This is the annual time I give to myself as an almost “annual in-house gallery artist residency”.

But I don’t leave my house to go to a residency site, and I keep the gallery open on Saturdays and by chance the rest of the week. I still cook my own meals, and do the day to day chores that keep life going. I go swimming for exercise every few days in a local pool, and do a small amount of shopping for groceries and necessities. Occasionally I will just sit and read, often biographies of artists. 

But this is also my time to get in the studios (clay and 2D) and let it rip.  Just my materials and me- there is nothing better than that!  I work out ideas that have been floating in my mind from the past year. Looking out my windows I paint winter, and I buy lovely flowers to draw and paint. I pull out all kinds of materials and let the materials speak to me about creating collages. I study drawings that I did on location during the past summer and fall to reconnect with the inspiration I experienced then. I take walks through the woods to look at form.

I work on my potter’s wheel and invite the clay and my hands to interact with my creative brain to freely create. When we get thaws I go into the unheated section of my studio that contains a large Bailey slab roller and roll slabs to turn into forms that come to me as I work. In my 2-D studio I continue my journey with bock printing.

This time is vital to me as an artist.  Let it begin!

Living the Artist's Life in a Rural Area

Artists need to figure out good ways to sell their work, especially when they chose to live in the country.  When I started my art career about 35 years ago, after moving back to my home region of Chautauqua County, New York, I quickly came to realize I had to get creative with marketing as well as with creating my work.  One of my first things for me to do was to meet and make friends with other regional artists.  I did a few of the local shows where Ifound many wonderful regional artists, many of whom are still friends 35 years later. 

A few of us got together and started the Chautauqua Crafts Alliance Shows that occur bi-annually at Bestor Plaza, set in the center of the world class Chautauqua Institution.  It is still very much an active show of top quality juried fine crafts.  I can write a whole blog on it alone and I will in the future!

Shortly after helping to get that show going, my husband and I left the cabin we had built back in the woods with just a chainsaw and a VW van, to purchase a 1840s Greek Revival Gallery Home on Portage Hill Road in the area.  There we started Portage Hill Art Gallery, which is now in its 34th year.  I will write a follow up blob just about the gallery and what we have learned from running it in the future.

After completing a teaching career, I am now adding entering juried regional and national shows with paintings, mixed media and one of a kind ceramic art.  I have been very successful having my work accepted into these shows by jurors.  I also have gotten some of my ceramic pieces and mixed media pieces published: Lark books, "500 Vases", a mixed media piece in "UU World" magazine, and one of my one of a kind vases in the Potter's Council's Vases Calendars (2015), for example.

Today I delivered some pieces to the Juror/Founders Show for Women Create which opens this Friday night at 5PM in Jamestown NY.  In the afternoon I threw some porcelain pots and now in the evening I am editing my Portage Hill Gallery website and now I am writing this blog. 

The rural artists's life is full of finding ways to thrive!  At least mine has been!

A Glimpse of Portage Hill Art Gallery

In spite of the winter weather that seems to have finally arrived in Chautauqua County, we will be opening a show, "A Glimpse of the Artists Represented by Portage Hill Art Gallery" at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY this Friday, January 15, 2016.  This show will be hung the library curator, Nancy Nixon Ensign.  It is an opportunity to expand our local audience and to remind people of all of the wonderful artists we represent on a year long basis.  The show will be a taster of the many different styles of work we have at the gallery.

We have run the gallery for 34 years this spring- opening when our boys were very young.  We now have a grandson who is the age of our younger son when the gallery first opened.  It has been an interesting ride so far and it is one of the ways that I have been able to successfully market my work and provide a year round venue for other professional level artists who have regional connections.

The gallery property is also the location of my clay studio and my winter 2D studio for painting, printing and mixed media.  We have added a new framing studio location and warm season 2D studio for me at #9 Art Studios on Main Street in Brocton, NY.  This location gives my husband, Donald, a much larger and more functional space to use as his framing work area.  We still take framing orders at either location.  We use Larson-Juhl frames because they have always delivered high quality frames and materials for Donald to use.  We have over a thousand different framing choices and will work one on one with our clients to create the perfect framing.

"Nurtured by Nature" One Woman Show

I have been very pleased with my show, "Nurtured by Nature" at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.  Their green gallery is painted in a green chosen by Robert Bateman for his show a few years ago- RTPI has kept this color and it works really well with my nature inspired work.  I also have work on a beige wall area and a white wall area there as well.  Their curator, Jane Johnson, did a masterful job hanging the show and it was a challenge with a lot of different mediums, sizes and imagery.  Seeing your work hung by a different person is always interesting- seeing the placement choices she made and the juxtapositions was very pleasing to me.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to showing here was my connection to Roger Tory Peterson.  I attended the same junior high school that he also did just up the hill from this center, many years after he had gone there.  The old wood and metal, bolted to the floor desks remained when I attended- who knows- we may have even sat in the same seat!  Very inspiring to me as a fellow nature loving artist.  Nature is so available to anyone in Chautauqua County- lots of access to beautiful natural places.

"Nurtured by Nature" will be open until June 14- Open Tuesdays- Saturdays 10 AM - 5 PM and Sundays 2-4 PM.  Closed on Mondays.  RTPI is located at 311 Curtis Street in Jamestown, NY.  There is an entry fee that helps RTPI do all of their good work advocating for the natural world.