Architectural Interests

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Wickford, Rhode Island church

My twin sister and I walked the village streets of Wickford, Rhode Island one stellar day in October. The conversation went like this, “Oh, Sue, look at the dental molding on that house!”

“Don’t you love the classic design of these historical homes?”

“How about the eyebrow window on that place. Don’t you just love it?”

“Jan,” I said, “See the beautiful white steeple in the distance? The church has got to be just as beautiful. Let’s swing around and see it.”

We’d both stop in our tracks at the same time when we spied a beautiful harbor view behind a house and exclaim the prime setting, or ooh and ahh over a beautiful garden or a picture-worthy old home.

Yep! That’s how we roll. Such is the verbal exchange of two daughters of a five generation family of builders who find just looking at houses and churches more satisfying than going into a lovely jewelry store and buying. And we both hold the same opinion – cozy and diminutive holds our fancy as much as big nests.

Wickford Charmers

Lovely visit I had to the community village of Wickford, Rhode Island. My sister and I were so busy walking down the lovely lanes and streets, we entered into only one of it’s beautiful shops and none of the restaurants. We’d brought a picnic lunch and sat by the harbor. But, that is ok! It gives me a reason to go back next time I am in the neighborhood of this historic town which is just a leap over a bridge near Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island.

Life is what you make it. Find your own path to fulfillment. ~ Anonymous

Roll Out the Barrel

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“The art of nations is to be accumulative, just as science and history are; the work of living men not superseding, but building itself upon the work of the past.” – Author: John Ruskin

There is much to celebrate in the small historic village settlement of Monkton, MD. An arts and cultural center which has been a historical restoration project for sometime is beginning to see the light of day. The gallery exhibit space is now opened, and art education workshops have begun. What a bright, cheerful space and what a future this restored gristmill will have.

Manor Mill was once at the heart of the community in My Lady’s Manor. Read about it’s fascinating history which dates back to the 1700’s. Also in this little settlement which lines the Big Gunpowder Falls is an historic train depot and hotel which also have undergone restoration.

Lynne Jones, Director and Curator of the Manor Mill Gallery gave me a wonderful tour, explaining the vision for the gallery and it’s spaces which are still undergoing historic restoration. There will be additional spaces for individual artist studios as well as a dedicated space for meetings. She could not have been more hospitable or knowledgeable about the entire project but she is at the hub of it all. Lynne is also an admirable artist in her own right. Check out her website.

Here are a few collages of pictures! But stay with me, the final photos in collage #3 are what’s underneath of the entire project, and it is the most historically notable of it all.

Manor Mill Gallery, Monkton, MD
Manor Mill Gallery, Monkton, My Lady’s Manor, MD

What’s underneath it all? Below are some more photos, all taken with permission. Thank you Lynne!

I‘d like to extend my thanks to Scott Batton of Batton Builders and President of the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Baltimore County for telling me to keep an eye on this wonderful project several years ago. I have driven by this property many times over, but had never been inside. Then Harford County artist Pamela Wilde enticed me further when she posted on her social media the space is now open. So I went to explore and what a discovery. Dont miss it!

We are All Directors

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Last weekend I was finally among a community of local creatives. Although we all want to be directors of our own lives, I’ve been mindful to follow all the CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and vaccinations. It has required much patience to a newcomer in a community who has been dying to get out and meet people with like interests in the neighborhood at large. I can’t begin to imagine how stiffled extraverts have felt.

I had a wonderful time talking to people and making connections, which is always of primary importance to me. I rarely think about rising costs of printing and publishing, statistics of books sold and definitely never about outselling anyone else. For me, it’s about being in community with others. I don’t see myself in competition with any other author. Heck, I could never come up with any of the ideas anyone else writes about even if I tried. Creativity energy is an individual thing, as unique to each one of us as our Creator has made us.

What I do think about is the investment I’ve made in myself in following my passion, and how fulfilled I feel by all the necessary steps it has taken to do the work – by educating myself on writing and independent publishing, creating the product, marketing it, and essentially creating a small creative business for myself. A real journey in very intentional self-development.

Although the road has not been easy, and there have been many ups and downs, it feels good not arduous and painstaking. It leads me to believe I have chosen this path for all the right reasons and that feels good.

All independent artists are we! Our own art of living includes directing our creative lives with whatever energy we have that brings us personal fulfillment. For some of us it’s literary arts for others photography, leathercraft, jewelry, fiber arts, pottery and much, much more such as those who enjoy involvement in the performance arts.

Here are a few collages of photos from the Authors and Artists Holiday Sale. My apologies that I can not name each and every author and artist in this blog. My time was limited in getting around to each and every display and I was unable to keep track of the names of each of the thirty-five participating artists.

Blessed beyond measure with this gift of a life I have been given! Thank you God, for everything.

Angels Across the Fence


As with most authors, with each publication I’ve penned, I’ve had “Angels Across the Fence” who have helped sell books by recommending my publication as being a “good read.” Some of those angels, I’ve known exactly who they are because they’ve told me they passed the word on about my writing. And to those I do not know, I am extremely grateful for their recommendation to their friends, neighbors and other book lovers.

We all need cheerleaders in our lives so, when I see an artists work in other mediums I really like, I enjoy sharing with others. One such artist I met last week at The Farmers Daughter  in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. She was out for a splendid day of plein air painting. We had a very pleasant conversation and from what I could see from her yet to be finished watercolor, she has much talent. Patricia Varon mentioned she maintains a studio in Wickford, RI and she gave me her card which was devoid of a website. I located her website, however, little information was available. It could be that it is still in development. I suppose I should not have been surprised.

“For a long, long time,” she said, “I was unable to do what I really wanted to do, and now I can paint every single day, and I do! She essentially said she really doesn’t want to spend time with anything other than her brushes, paint and easel and her painting group. They paint in all kinds of weather outdoors but if it is really nasty they head to Providence to the Botanical Center which is New England’s largest glasshouse display garden in the heart of Roger Williams Park.

Patricia Varon (artist)
Varon’s landscape subject

“You ought to go to Wickford, she said. It is such a charming little village with a beautiful harbor and other artists.” It was on my sister’s list of places to take me, so we did and had a delightful time.

After my chat with Patricia Varon, I became a bit pensive when I thought about how many very talented artists go undiscovered. I hope she is not one of them, so, the least I can do is be an angel across the fence and post this picture of her at The Fabulous Farmers Daughter, which provided a wealth of perfect spots to paint from.

Pleased to meet you Patricia Varon! I sure enjoyed our conversation about your watercolor and pastel art. And Wickford was every bit the picture you painted for me through your words about the charming community! More about Wickford, Rhode Island to come!

Once Upon a Canvas – Part II

Pamela Wilde, artist and Board member of the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters. Organizer/leader of the event!

Let the Magic Begin! And begin, it did – all artists faces turned forward, their eyes focused on the model and their canvases. Some blocked in the composition with pencil, another with charcoal etchings on a sketch pad trying to figure out proportions and placement of the figure in the whole scheme of things. Others went right to work blocking it in with their oil paints.

Photo Credit William Wossowski

As a bystander, seeing a portrait painting come alive is fascinating and what I call high quality entertainment. There is so much to observe – the differences in how each artist lays down the background, and the color palette used. One artist chose to paint the portrait in a medium other than oils. He used pastels; another artist made a monochromatic sketch. Six different artists looking at the same subject interpreted what they saw differently – style varied among them. And then there were the brushes and how each artist handled them and applied paint depending on the spot they were working on. Sometimes by long strokes others with quick dabs here and there. Of course, painting a portrait in one session means layering wet-on-wet.

As the heat began to build, the shawl Dani Kurta wore was shed. However, at that point all artists had sketched it into their composition. And one other unexpected hitch occurred. The battery in the lighting appliance ran out of charge. Thus, part way through, the light changed, just like the light on a tree in the distance the model focused on shifted throughout the morning. By the way, Dani Kurta is also a photographer‘s model so she used her time wisely as she posed being very observant and learning more about how light change affects what we are seeing and why a photographer might capture her image through the lens of the camera in certain light.

Painting in Progress on Left is from Eliner Tryon-Elgin. Monochromatic Sketch in progress on Right from artist Richard Moure, Jr.
Above Pastel Artist Collin Cesna and Model Dani Kurta. Large canvas in the background is Pamela Wilde’s.

I conversed with artist Collin Cesna during one of the breaks, and he said, “I bet at first you thought what is this hot mess, didn’t you?”

Pastel Portrait in progress by artist Collin Cessna

“Yes,” I said, “I did!” But I would never have told him that if he hadn’t asked first. But at some point during the session each one of the “hot messes” began to come together. How the artists brought each blank canvas to the point they did in just three hours is beyond me. But, it is all in the magic of what an experienced artist can do.

images Below: Artist Hal Long (left) and Scott McClelland (right)

Artist Pamela Wilde and her work in progress. Photo credit William Wossowski

Lastly, I would like to say Thank you with gratitude to Pamela Wilde and all the other artists for allowing me to join in, witness and write about a very fulfilling morning. Thank you also to the host Liriodendron Mansion and the Sponsor Maryland Society of Portrait Painters. The extraordinary historic setting certainly added to the fulllness of the experience.

Photo credit William Wossowski

Once Upon a Canvas – Part 1

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Once Upon a Canvas there was white space. And three hours later, the canvas looked quite different. Here is Part 1 of what happened….

But first… let me set the scene.

Location: The Liriodendron Mansion, Harford County, Maryland. Summer home of Dr. and Mrs. Howard Atwood Kelly, one of five founding physicians of the venerable Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. Built in the late 1800’s.

Weather: 8:30 am – 75 degrees. At the end of a three hour painting session, 92 degrees. Clear, sunny skies. A chorus of crickets loudly chirping in the background warning of summer’s end. The odors of the oil paint lingering, hanging heavier and heavier under the large portico and the ancient shade trees as the heat and humidity built.

Key Characters: Six artists, Pamela Wilde leading and her accomplices – Eliner Tryon-Elgin, Collin Cesna,

Richard Moure, Jr., Scott McClelland and Hal Long.

A very patient semi-professional model – Dani Kurta all costumed in more clothing than anyone would be comfortable wearing on any hot summer day.

Props for the Artists: Easels, Pocade Boxes, oil paints and brushes, pastels and miscellaneous art supplies.

Props for the Model: Period clothing, an antique parasol (can’t forget that accessory on a steamy, sunny summers day) and a lovely fan! Proper lighting. And a wardrobe assistant or stylist (Dani Kurta’s mom!).

Sideliners An onlooker who adores art in all it’s forms! Including writing about it, yours truly, Sue Batton Leonard

The story continues below the image. Don’t miss it—

Maryland Society of Portrait Painters Board Member and artist Pamela https://pamelawilde.comWilde at Liriodendron. Model Dani Kurta.

I arrived on the scene early, in time to see the artists spread their drop cloths, position their easels, get their supplies out. In the background the wardrobe assistant helped the model primp and preen and get ready for her three hour session. Decisions were made whether to use both the parasol and fan, how to position them for the best affect. Adjustments were made to the placement of the model’s chair and how the model would most comfortably hold the parasol so the entire weight would not be in her hand. After all, the antique parasol is weighty with a wooden handle and wooden spokes and the fabric is heavy, not like today’s umbrellas made of lightweight steel and nylon.

As the artists continued to set up, all I had to do is tune in and listen to their artists talk about the length of each session (20 minutes of painting then a 5 minute break for the model.) They also conversed about the supplies they were using, and many other matters of painting and exhibiting artwork. Then the lighting was turned on adjusted to a likeable warmth.

Please return to on September 6, 2021 for part two of Once Upon a Canvas brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard from The Liriodendron Mansion. Don’t miss it, there will be lots of colorful pictures!

Sharing Art with Children

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My love for books and art often leads me to visiting the local library and local fine art and craft galleries when I travel. It is fun for me. My ten year residency in Colorado kept me somewhat in tune with Western art. When I was in Montana this summer, it was fun to revisit the works of artists who are located in the western part of the country,

I witnessed how very young children can enjoy art, too! I walked into the Rialto Theatre in Bozeman, MT and abstracts of horses greeted me. “Neigh, neigh!” a dear little sixteen month old girl, my new grand daughter whom I have finally met, shouted out as she pointed to the equines in the pictures! Frankly, I was surprised she recognized what it was in the abstract. But even the littlest ones, they often don’t miss a thing!

Once finished with the exhibit at the Rialto, next stop was a fabulous fine art gallery on Main Street I had heard of but had never visited before -, Montana Trails Gallery. My daughter-in-law, Meghan, my granddaughter Charlotte, and I had a grand time looking at the exquisite collection and stayed as long as a toddler could tolerate being contained in a backpack.

Once again, my little granddaughter shouted out “neigh, neigh” when she saw the horse paintings and bronze sculptures, “Baa-baa,” she said to the sheep in the pictures, and “moo-moo” to the cows. Ok, in her sixteen-month old experience and opinion, the “doggies” were mislabeled as wolves and foxes. Ah well…perhaps next time we return the labels will be corrected, I think in jest, with a big smile on my face as I remember her sweet little voice calling out to all the “doggies,” and her hands pointing to them as we walked through the gallery.

And lastly during my visit, my son and I took in the art scene at the Bozeman Art Museum. Unfortunately, with my faulty calendar reading we missed the plein air “paint out” two days prior. But on Monday,we did catch up and saw all the works of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters hanging, still wet with paint, at Bozeman Art Museum. I was familiar with a few artists such as Dave Santillanes, from working at the world-class Wild Horse Gallery in Steamboat Springs a few years ago. And the work of Chuck Marshall was familiar as well as Kathy Anderson, who is now represented by West Wind Fine Art, LLC, another superb fine art gallery where I worked when it was in Vermont. If you’d like to see the results of the canvases from the two hour “paint out,” I invite you to visit this link I have posted. Some of the paintings are still available for purchase.

Now, I’m back to East Coast art, which I enjoy immensely too! With the diverse landscape and culture in the United States of America, opportunities abound to share all kinds of art with the next generations. Sydney Gurewitz Clemens once said, “Art has a role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.” I wholeheartedly agree!

Valuing The Future

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As a life-long library patron, anytime I visit a library I have never frequented before, it’s like library week all over again. I recently visited one in the western part of the U.S.

Bozeman, Montana has a wonderful library. A good indicator of valuing future generations is a willingness to invest in good community resources for learning, information and gathering spaces which inspire discovery.

Located in the fourth largest city in Big Sky Country, the Bozeman Library is light-filled! In a place where winter is long and cold, an active library where one can find connection through book groups, children’s reading programs, at the library coffee shop and at special library sponsored events, is well appreciated. Sometimes getting involved in library activities can become a “life-saver” for those feeling disconnected or isolated.

Interior Bozeman Montana Public Library
Children’s Library Area at Bozeman Public Library

Art abounds both in the interior and on the surrounding grounds of this and other public libraries around the country.

Through books, we are given the opportunity to fly off to places and meet people we ordinarily wouldn’t! So never discount the value of books and the importance an author feels to engage with others through the written word.