Monthly Archives: February 2012

Home Decoration

Carl Larsson's home
Carl Larsson’s home decoration

One of my influences is the much loved Swedish artist, Carl Larsson.  He had much in common with other artists of his time who wanted to develop the unique national character of his homeland through his paintings and his home decoration, but he had that added advantage of marrying another artist, Karin Bergoo.  Karin was educated at the Arts and Crafts School in Stockholm and went on to study at the Art Academy there.  She met Larsson at an artist’s colony in France, outside Paris.   (The protean William Morris of England is another of those who spring to mind  as endeavoring to bring their sense of beauty and utility to bear on every aspect of their life, including home and business.  His wife became the muse and model of Dante Gabriel Rosetti and is probably the most famous “face” of the PreRaphaelite movement.)

In their wake, I continue to decorate my home.  I’m currently redecorating my kitchen.  When we built the home in 1991, I painted and fired the tiles that surround our zero-clearance wood-burning stove.  Later I painted more to create a backsplash beneath our cupboards.  Much later, I painted Gothic Arches around my living room and foyer to evoke the English cottages I so love.  Last week and this, I have been painting scrollwork around my kitchen.  The walls had been a sponged parchment color.  Now, it is pale blue (with a violet cast) and I have been painting a bright yellow scroll of my own design.

hand painted decoration

Kitchen Scrollwork

I sort of create the designs as I go, judging what is needed.  It is, of course,  much easier  to judge whether something is pleasing or not once it’s been done, but fortunately I’ve liked everything so far.  The plate rack is my favorite “moment” in the kitchen so far.

decorativewall painting

The surround for my plate rack

From here I go on to design scrollwork for my fireplace.  Here’s how it looks currently:

Mantel decoration in progbress

The Mantel, waiting to be decorated



painted wall decoration

Rose design

Now I have to design some scrollwork to surround the fireplace.

hand drawn design

Designing at the Kitchen Table

I haven’t settled on anything yet.  It is a work in progress!



Detail on Artemis


This painting was in the Longbranch Gallery for 2 1/2 months before someone noticed that I’d forgot to string the bow!  I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me.  Oh well, it’s strung now!


Never better, mad as a hatter,

right as rain, might and main,

hanky panky, hot toddy,

hoity-toity, cold shoulder,

bowled over, rollin clover,

low blow, no soap, hope

against hope, pay the piper,

liar liar pants on fire,

high and dry, shoo-fly pie,

fiddle-faddle, fit as a fiddle,

sultan of swat, muskrat

ramble, fat and sassy,

flimflam, happy as a clamj,

cat’s pajamas, bee’s knees,

peas in a pod, pleased as punch,

pretty as a picture, nothing much,

lift the latch, double Dutch

helter-skelter, hurdy-gurdy,

early-bird, feathered friend,

dumb cluck, buck up,

shilly-shally, willy-nilly,

roly-poly, holy moly,

loose lips sink ships,

spitting image, nip in the air,

hale and hearty, part and parcel,

upsy-daisy, lazy days,

maybe baby, up to snuff,

flibertigibbet, honky-tonk,

spic and span, handyman,

cool as a cucumber, blue moon,

high as a kite, night and noon,

love me or leave me, seventh heaven,

up and about, over and out.

Sharon Bryan

Sweater Weather:

A Lovc Song to Language


Breakfast Border Painting


I don’t even want to think about how much time I spent on the border all told.  It’s enough that I always enjoy a border, once it’s there.  I will probably continue to do them, at whatever sacrifice of time.  It’s hanging now in a show at the Iowa County Courthouse in Dodgeville, 2nd floor.


What I Read in 2011

Prefatory Statement:   I’m on a quest to own all of Dick Francis’ novels on audio CD, so that’s why you will see so many of them reread this year.  I’d rather listen to Tony Britton or Simon Prebble than anyone else on earth.  I have read all these novels before, some of them at least twice before, but I’m listening as I’m painting and Dick Francis always bears listening to again.

Detail from Hazelnut Torte with Beverly of Graustark


Cleopatra, a Life by Stacy Schiff — an excellent biography, eschewing the stereotype of Cleopatra as a vamp and emphasizing her political shrewdness and determination, not to mention the ruthlessness that characterized all the Macedonian rulers of the Hellenistic Age.

Proof by Dick Francis — In our family Dick Francis novels are reread many times as tried and true entertainment

Flying Finish by Dick Francis — possibly the most exciting ending of all his books

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw — at least my fourth reread, the perfect historical novel

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson — I loved this book!  I loved everything about it: it’s Britishness, it’s humor, it’s decency, it’s funniness!  Highly reommended!

The Sun’s Bride by Gillian Bradshaw — a newer (and shorter)  novel of Bradshaw’s about piracy (seagoing) and the arts in the Hellenistic world.  As usual, I was rooting for Bradshaw’s characters and enjoying historical fiction that is entirely palatable, not full of gratuitous violence or a bleak estimation of human nature.

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson — by the author if I Don’t Know How She Does It, recently made into a movie, this one was equally good; about a girl who wins a contest to meet David Cassidy, but doesn’t find out for 24 years.  As in the first novel, the reader is privy to virtually all the character’s thoughts and feelings, and the plot sort of grows out of it.  I enjoyed it.

1434 by Gavin Menzies — how the Chinese jumpstarted the Italian Renaissance; very eye-opening and completely fascinating!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain — biographical novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and their life among the literati in France and the Riviera; paints a very good portrait.  I completely enjoyed it.

Churchill by Paul Johnson — short biography of Winston; his 2nd WW leadership was moving and inspiring.  Winston Churchill painted when he was defeated and depressed, because “you can’t think of anything else when you’re painting.”  I agree that painting is the best remedy for despair.  You really can’t do both at the same time, unless your painting actually generates despair, which it sometimes can.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron — fun, light reading

Lost in Shangri La by Mitchell Zuckoff — true life adventure story about being stranded among head-hunting aborigines in New Guinea.  Great reading!

Out of Character:  Surpising Truths about the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo — interesting discussion of psychological tests that demonstrate how human nature really works.  The explanation of conscience by evolution sounds fantastical to me though, and I would have preferred not to be bothered with such unconvincing discursions.

An American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin — good read; Portrait of a Lady with a happy ending; doesn’t have the literary elegance or penetration of Henry James or Edith Wharton, but it’s a quality novel.

A Brief History of Anxiety by Patricia Pearson — a very well-written personal memoir, with critical reflections on how anxiety disorders are treated in the US.   I recommend it.

Her Royal Spyness, A Royal Pain, Royal Blood,  and Naughty in Nice by Rhyss Bowen — Geneia and I enjoyed these light mysteries about a destitute, but plucky royal — 32nd from the throne — during the 1930s.

Second Wind by Dick Francis — our favorite travel author; I’ve only read this one once before, so I wasn’t able to quote it verbatim

Trial Run by Dick Francis

Conquistador by Buddy Levy — very good history of the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortez.  The narrator was criticized on for sounding like the Frito Bandito when speaking for Cortez, and I had to admit he did a bit.  I think he was doing “tough soldier” and that just happened to sound like “you know who,” but the narrator does an excellent job of pronouning all the Aztec names and of not losing the listener.  I highly recommend it.

Break In and Bolt by Dick Francis — among my favorites.  I love the relationship between steeplechase jockey, Kit Fielding, and Princess Cassilia, for whom he rides.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin — I had to read this again before I saw the movie and I enjoyed it just as much the 2nd time.  Believable characters.

The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris  by David McCullough — McCullough writes about the Americans whose lives were changed by the culture, education and freedom they found in a Paris residency over the course of the 19th Century; not necessarily the ex-pats most known and associated with Paris.  I found most moving the story of Elihu Washburn, the only diplomat  of a major country to stay in Paris through the Franco-Prussian War, the seige and the terror of the Paris Commune.  He was a brave, compassionate, and unself-sparing man who helped protect as many as he could.  I’m excited to tour his house in Galena, now that I’ve read about him and found him so inspiring.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer — old favorite from highschool

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearlsey — enjoyable romantic fiction about time-travel, Cornwall, the Jacobite Cause.  It reminded me very strongly of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree.   It was fun to find out that Mary Stewart is Kearsley’s favorite author.  We are kindred spirits!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles — extremely well-written evocation of 1930s New York.  I’m not kidding; this guy’s prose is jaw-dropping!  He’s one of those very few men who can write convincingly in the persona of a woman, like Arthur Golden in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella — These books are so much fun and narrators, Emily Gray and Roslyn Landor, are absolutely perfect in their two roles.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney — not that willpower really had to be rediscovered by us nonpshychologists, but this is very interesting and useful read.  I highly recommend this!

Hannibal by Harold Lamb — very good book I read as an introduction to the 2nd Punic War








Woman’s Inconstancy

This Blog Entry was originally posted on May 11, 2009, because I was reading John Donne then.  I clicked on “Publish,” thinking to add to my train of (literary) thought at the time, but it has brought it forward to today’s date.  So, a little out of context, but……
Another poem by John Donne:
Woman’s Inconstancy
Now thou has lov’d me one whole day,
Tomorrrow when thou leav’st, what wilt thou say?
Wilt thou then antedate some new made vow?
Or say that now
We are not just those persons which we were?
Or, that oath made in reverential fear
Of Love, and his wrath, any may forswear?
Or, as true deaths true marriages untie,
So lovers’ contracts, images of those,
Bind but till sleep, death’s image, them unloose?
Or, your own end to justify,
For having purpos’d change, and falsehood; you
Can have no way but falsehood to be true?
Vain lunatic, against these scapes I could
Dispute, and conquer, if I would
Which I abstain to do.
For by tomorrow, I may think so too.


Breakfast in process

Breakfast being revised

As I’ve posted recently, I’m revising old paintings I still have around, improving them without completely repainting them.  Here I am in the process of painting a border around a painting I did in the 90s.  It’s a picture of my daughter and her friend, Callie, eating breakfast in our dining room.  This room (backdrop) has gone through revisions too and the rosemalled Schrank visible in the corner has moved.  Now, I have Scandinavian-looking, built-in cupboards and a window seat at the end of the room.  This painting did not originally have a border.  There was a time when I was painting borders regularly.  They add a storybook quality to a painting and visually augment the framing.  I’ve had a very positive response from viewers.  The thing is, as worthwhile as they are, they add a considerable number of hours to the creation process…(Also see how my studio reflects complete concentration on painting and none on organization — I’m so disciplined!)

Breakfast border being revisied

Repainting the border

As you can see in the first photograph, I had originally painted the border a light blue with an off-white Celtic Knot design on it.  Then, I decided it was too pale.  I wanted to draw out the primary colors in the painting, like the dark blue trim of the tiles and the red, Scandinavian runner, so I repainted it with a cobalt blue mixture, all the while refining the Celtic knots.  When I’d finished, I decided I still didn’t like it and repainted it a sort of lilac.  I know that doesn’t sound appropriate, but I had done a smaller version of this painting, with the figures in a different position, as a hostess gift for my father’s cousin’s family (Olli Heikkinen)  when we went to Finland in 2000.  We stayed with them in Helskini.  I loved the colors in the border of that one.  See below.

Border Painting

Hostess Gift July 2000


The image of this painting is actually a photograph of a print I made of it before I went to Finland.  The original was painted on an untempered masonite panel, rather than a canvas, so it is smoother and more watercoloresque.  The colors aren’t as brilliant, but I’ve always loved it.   One of the artists who give me positive feelings of coziness and comfort is Carl Larsson, who did many paintings of his family and home in Sweden.  Those paintings have provided inspiration in the decoration of my kitchen and dining room.  Anyway, as you can see, the border is rather lavender or periwinkle, so that is why I went in this direction after the cobalt border.

Here it is in its current manifestation:

Breakfast Painting