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Alla Prima

The Swinging Door of the Year

The Swinging Door of the Year
SBC in GSC door

Unintended Selfie in my Great-grandparents’ front door, 28 Mt. Vernon St, Boston (the door plate reads GS Curtis)

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about the turn of the year as a swinging door–the kind of door that swings both ways, as, for example, between a restaurant’s kitchen and seating area. I’m not sure why I was thinking about traffic passing in two directions–to and fro–as in that Rumi poem about waking at dawn:

“People are going back and forth/across the doorsill where the two worlds touch./ The door is round and open./Don’t go back to sleep!”

Time as we understand it doesn’t move in both directions. The past–last year, yesterday, even last minute!–is behind us; the future is ahead. In that sense, the door between 2015 and 2016 has now opened and closed; we have passed through, and the door cannot be reopened.

Ah, but memory allows us to travel backwards! Memory is our boat, or the moving water beneath our boats, and memory can take us back to people, places, events, worlds, even if not with utterly reliable accuracy.

Perhaps, then, the door between one year and the next is more like a one-way-travel door with a window in it. Even from the new side of the door, it’s possible to look back through the window, to remember and reflect on where we’ve come from, where we’ve been, who has loved us (and who has left us), whom we have loved and whom we’ve lost; our decisions, choices, turns, detours, failures and triumphs (two categories that sound deceptively distinct but often closely overlap!).

These days just before and after New Year’s feel precious–a rare moment of culturally sanctioned reflection. (Though how one is expected to pause and reflect meaningfully in a fog of booze and loud public celebration, I haven’t got a clue!)

The door of the year may be shut, but I plan to enjoy peering back through its window a while before I throw myself headlong into 2016. And you?

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Special Offer through Jan. 1!!

Special Offer through Jan. 1!!




Islesford Kitchen, oil on canvas, 12″ x 12″, © Sukie Curtis 2013 (SALE PRICE: $350)

In the spirit of the holidays, I am excited to offer some of my paintings at special discounted prices, now through January 1, 2016!

All of these paintings are currently in my home studio or on our walls. Perhaps one of them would be just the right gift for someone you know and love this holiday season. (Perhaps even you!)

Follow this link to the paintings page on my website! You will see that the first dozen paintings have a sale price noted beneath the image, along with other information. Be sure to click on the “thumbnail” images to see the full paintings, as the thumbnails show only a sliver!
If you live near enough and would like to stop in to see paintings face to face, send me an email, and I’d be happy to set up a time for you to visit.
 If you’re interested in a painting and don’t live near by, drop me an email (or a message on Facebook), and we can take care of the details from there! (Email:

In the Garden, oil on canvas, 30″ x 24″ ©Sukie Curtis 2012 (SALE $1050)

Meanwhile, my paintings can also be seen at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery in Yarmouth, Maine; and at Ocean House Gallery and Frame in Cape Elizabeth, Maine! Both galleries currently feature a holiday show with a wide selection of work.

Here’s wishing you a joyful, peaceful, and colorful holiday season!

Sukie Curtis Fine Art Maine

Fruit on Striped Table, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″ ©Sukie Curtis 2013 (SALE $1050)


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Sketch First; Paint Later


“Last Sunflower, Red Barn,” oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis, 2014

Well, the barn was a small putty-colored garden shed, not a large, red barn!  And who knows if that was truly the last sunflower blooming in the Gardens at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth when I was there one afternoon last September.

But that’s the way I was inspired to go when I let my two quick, gestural plein air sketches suggest what to do in paint. And the painting shown above is the result.

Here’s a glimpse of the sketches, done sitting on the ground looking up at the sunflower against the garden shed. I drew with a thick graphite pencil and oil pastels.

Sunflower Sketch 2

Sunflower Sketch 2, 9.9.14 at Tidewater Farm

Sunflower Sketch 3

Sunflower Sketch 3, 9.9.14, at Tidewater Farm











Unlike the painting featured in my last blog post, this one happened rather quickly. I don’t remember much agony or self-doubt along the way, although it’s possible that I’m just not remembering that part!

This painting is one of two that will be on view and for sale next week at the Yarmouth Art Festival, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, Maine, October 21 to 24. Come if you can!


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Paint Flowers; Marinate Three Years


“Flower Piece (after Matisse),” oil on canvas, 14″ x 11″, ©Sukie Curtis 2015

In my life with paint, some paintings happen fast (perhaps in under an hour), but most do not. I often paint until I get stuck and don’t know what to do next.

That’s why my painting studio has all sorts and sizes of paintings leaning against each other and some hanging by push pins on the wall–just waiting until I decide to fiddle with them again, or perhaps to paint over one with a whole new painting.

Some paintings “marinate” that way for a long time. How long? Like, several months, or sometimes two or three or even four years!

The painting above started out as an “exercise” inspired by a Matisse painting on a calendar I had lying around. As I remember, I had set out to focus more on the values of the composition–the balance and rhythm of lights and darks in it–but very quickly, I was wrapped up in the colors without concern for values! (About the only way I know to get around that is to paint in shades of grey or of just blue, for instance, such is the power of color to seduce and derail my best intentions.)

In any case, back in 2011 or 2012 I abandoned this painting and let it occupy a very back burner for a very long time. Until something about it called to me earlier this summer.

Enough marinating! It’s time had come.

(This painting is currently at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery in Yarmouth, Maine, and it will be included in the Yarmouth Art Festival, October 21 – 24, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, Maine. A catalog of the show is available on line.)

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Making Pancakes with my Dad


“Making Pancakes with my Dad,” oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2014

“It says here, ‘Beat two eggs,'” my dad would say, reading the box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

And then he would take the two eggs, place them still in their shells into the mixing bowl, and raise the wooden spoon (or was it an old-fashioned hand-cranked egg beater?) as if he planned to beat the eggs, shell and all.

“No, no!” my sister and I would cry in horror, or mock horror, depending on whether this was the first time or the fifteenth time he had tried this game. “You have to crack the eggs first before you beat them!”

I suppose there came a time when I was too old and too smart and too sophisticated to play along, when this game was met with rolled eyes or disdainful silence. But I don’t remember that part of the story.

Only the pleasures of being a little kid in the kitchen on a Saturday morning making pancakes with my Dad.

I didn’t set out to paint this scene or story. The title of the painting came to me after the painting was under way. It may have arisen from that pink spatula-like shape (a repeat visitor from the painting, “Islesford Kitchen”–see below). Or perhaps it was the three irregular circles, the two on the right running together like uncooperative pancake batter.

It doesn’t really matter. What matters most to me is that the painting carries some of the pleasure of remembering–morning sunlight, a playful mood, and soon warm pancakes ready to be eaten.


“Islesford Kitchen,” oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2013

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Inching My Way Back




“Summer Clouds Over Hills,” oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2015

I have a confession to make: sometimes I get stuck, really stuck.

A lot of time can go by when I don’t paint. My paint-avoidance might begin in the somewhat natural let-down just after a particular “push” to finish pieces for a show or some other external deadline. Sometimes other things–like family events, travel, a change in schedule or in who happens to be home when–come into play.

Soon a week become two weeks, and two weeks become a month, a month becomes two months. And the longer it goes, the harder it is to begin again; and the harder it is to have much confidence in myself as a painter. It’s a bad deal all around!

I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before (and probably will again)! I am remembering a thought expressed in the book, Art and Fear–to the effect that art-making is about not giving up, about finding ways to start over, again and again.

As you may have guessed, I’ve recently been in one of those stuck places, built of circumstances and stuff like fear (fear of failure? of course! fear of success? probably that, too!) and all sorts of tiresome arguments within myself.

And the process of inching my way back has been built much more deliberately and intentionally than the process of getting stuck. Some of my tricks and tactics include drawing for fun, low-key sketching and playing with watercolor pencils–just to keep my hand in the game and to remember the pleasures of lines and color.

Then came giving my paint brushes a long overdue, thorough cleaning. (Another confession: I am NOT a diligent washer of my brushes. I cheat and skimp in that department.) And then I scraped old blobs of paint off the glass surface I use as a palette. So everything was ready!

Last Sunday when the house was empty of other people, I too was ready to paint. And painting over some older paintings that I wasn’t happy with seemed just the place to start.

The painting pictured above, “Summer Clouds over Hills,” is one of the results. The skies lately have been beautiful and full of fascinating, ever-changing clouds. I have a feeling this is not the only cloud-scape I will be painting!


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Two June Haiku

Two June Haiku

Peony in Cut Glass Vase, pen drawing











Such a long journey

round this peony blossom–

O tiny black ant!




The Offending Bucket, pen drawing

My fault–this drumbeat!

Left the bucket upside-down,

And now it’s raining.

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Skylight View


Sketchbook page: watercolor pencil, oil pastel June 13, 2015

Morning by morning

my skylight teaches me this–

clouds never stay put.*


*Except when they do, or seem to, as on an overcast day when the sky seems “stuck.”

But on other days–days of clearing winds, for instance–the view through the skylight near my desk is constantly changing. The light and shadow in the treetops that frame the lower portions sharpen and blur, sharpen and blur, repeatedly. And the hues of green change with them.

And the clouds! Sometimes they meander across more or less horizontally. Sometimes they race from top to bottom of my view, traveling more or less in a southerly direction, I think.

Clouds shape-shift. Thin clouds seem to evaporate or grow so thin and so distant as to disappear.

Other days everything moves much more slowly. Imperceptible movement within a field of uniformly pale grey. Not my favorite days, those “stuck days.”

But then, we don’t get to choose the weather, do we?

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Blue Laundry/Laundry Blues?


My daughters tell me

I wear too much blue clothing.

Hmm–what do you think?

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Poppy Blossoms “Going”


Old Poppy Blooms, sketch, pen and watercolor pencils

The old poppy bloom–

now a whirling dancer’s skirt

twirled up in mid-spin.

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