Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The long-range weather forecast mentioned the possibility of a frost on Monday. Here are a few images of our garden late in September, with some lingering color. The tall graceful spires of cimicifuga dominate a corner of the garden.

Inspired by an Italian garden, this area is central to the overall plan. It looks about the same in September as it does in July, with the exception of the maples in the background turning to their orange autumn foliage.

Hygrangea'Blushing Bride'

The long-flowering violet clematis on the cobalt green painted trellis is a reminder of summer color in this garden.

The texture created by the layered leaves of the smoke bush, cotinus coggygria' Ancot' is welcomed all summer.

A few volunteers! This anemone is determined to stay in this garden!
I must say that at this time of year I am happy to see them.

Asters add great color. The New England Asters are just beginning to flower.
They are lovely for cutting and bringing in to the kitchen windowsill.

In the vegetable garden we still have tomatoes, chard, carrots kale, broccoli and herbs.
If we hear more of an upcoming frost on Monday,we will be harvesting the remaining tomatoes on Sunday!
(As I write, news of the frost....the first frost may not occur on Monday as expected !)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


On a beautiful summer day we drove to Portsmouth to draw. This bountiful pear tree was growing in the wild at the end of a bridge. It was an unexpected find!

The pear tree as a whole was stunning and one of us will likely return to it in the near future.
For now, James brought a single pear from the tree back to the studio.

A study of the single pear by James Aponovich

"This is an oil painting on linen (8"x6"). It is simply set against a neutral gray background. It is painted as I observed it." James Aponovich

The inspiration for a painting comes from many sources .

This fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) is an image that James draws from in his painting. He notes the way the arch and horizontal plane of the wall below hold and balance the figures and Ghirlandaio's use of the landscape behind the wall.

"What interests me about this painting is the way that Ghirlandaio used a neutral background, the wall, to contain his figures the same way that I used the neutral gray to contain the pear. The surprising element is the glimpse of tree and sky." J.A.

Inspiration in Rome

In Rome James did a quick sketch of this pot in a cut out of the garden wall. He was interested in the cut away square space, the object filling the space, and the more distance facade seen in the background.

"In Italy, you find many interesting and ancient walls with niches cut into them that may have a may have a small plain statue of a madonna or just some plastic flowers to fashion a shine. What intrigued me about this opening in the wall was the view through to the outside, not unlike the Ghirlandaio fresco." J.A.

A painting in progress

On the easel is a new painting that James is currently working on of that pear .
The single pear is used here framed by an arch . The raspberries create a rhythm at the base of the pear. There is a landscape in the distance creating depth and sense of air in the painting.

"Here the Portsmouth pear is idealized and placed in a shrine-like opening with a imagined Italian landscape in the distance. One must always keep their eyes opened to find the unexpected. We constantly seek paintings not only in museums but more importantly where they were meant to be seen, chapels, churches, etc.
We call this acquiring visual vocabulary." J. A.

We always travel with sketchbooks and pencils. We find the information we record works its way into our paintings. The idea is to observe, record, imagine and then transform onto paper or canvas.

By the way, we took an afternoon break and had a lovely picnic lunch .

All content on this blog is the exclusive copyright of
James Aponovich & Elizabeth Johansson
Artwork cannot be reproduced without written permission of the artist.

Friday, September 3, 2010

da orto ...... we bring home from Italy a lesson on growing tomatoes.

Here it is the start of September and we have these bright and delicious cherry tomatoes in abundance. We use these in pasta dishes and salads but nothing is better than eating them fresh from the vine while there are warm from the morning sun.

We have several varieties of swiss chard this year. We plant them as much for there beautiful colors as well as for cooking. We often do a simple preparation of the chard (sometimes blanched first) , chopped and sauteed with
garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

In our visits to Italy we have spent time visiting gardens. Often some of the best lessons we get are from small backyard gardens in the village where we stay. Household gardens are very common, and we have found the gardeners are quite happy to show off their gardens and sometimes even share a tomato or some strawberries with us!!
This tomato trellis in our garden is typical of how we have seen tomatoes growing in Umbria and Tuscany.
We have constructed this structure from bamboo poles which is the same type of material used in Italy. Here we are growing heirloom tomatoes and plum tomatoes primarily for making sauce.

In another part of the garden we are using an upright fence type trellis , made from bamboo poles, for the cherry tomatoes.
This makes a very attractive structural element for our garden as well as showing off the brilliant sunny colors of the tomatoes.

A marvelous color transition display from mother to orange to ripe red!

The Italians are masters at use of space and this way of growing tomatoes is an example of
economy of space as well as being visually appealing.