Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hill House, now Charlotte's Way B and B
My husband and I are back from  our journey to Banagher, Ireland .We made a quick, highly focused trip,spending  the entire 5 days of our Irish stay  at Arthur Bell Nicholls former home, Hill House, now a beautiful B and B called Charlotte's Way 

Mr. Nicholls in Banagher 1904

same spot today

We are still pinching ourselves from this grand experience

 I did a guess post about our trip for my friend Geri at Bronte Sisters blog . Here is a link

Our Trip to Banagher

As I say in the post , we were obviously American and some people wondered  why we were there...a farming community in the Irish Midlands. We said we were  Bronte fans and were visiting Charlotte Bronte's   husband's  home and his grave...and you know , a few people still wondered why we were there LOL.  But the area has a great deal to offer!

Then people  asked "  well where else are you going in Ireland ?"  We said we are staying here during our trip. We were there to be in  Banagher.   However our hostess did  hook us up one afternoon with  the local historian , Mr. James Scully. He  kindly took us to Clonmacnoise , a monastery established fifteen hundred years ago, by St. Ciarán  


My husband Ed did a blog post about our visit on his Art blog
 Art Eyewitness. Here's a link to  his post

A Journey to Clonmacnoise

It was almost overwhelming.  You really feel you have been to Ireland after being at Clonmacnoise. Plus it was a privilege to have Mr. Scully accompany us.  His passion for the area's history  and well being was evident. 

We loved every minute of being in Banagher. Loved the town , the people , the house, the inn keeper,  the church, the turf fires,  the list goes on and on . Just like with Haworth last year,  we feel  a bit of  ourselves was left behind in  Banagher .

Ed and I loved sitting in front of the turf fire and just be in the house  where Arthur, Mary Anna and Aunt Bell lived for so long and a treasure trove of Bronte items resided.  The house  has been beautifully restored by owner  Nicola Daly  and her amazing family. Even  without its rich history,   the house is a marvelous place for the traveler  to stay.


It's great to be able to scratch off the " someday " list ,  going to Haworth and Banagher .
We will never forget our trips to these special places  and hope to return !

Alan H. Adamson 1919-2015

I was surprized and saddened to recently learn of Prof. Alan Adamson's passing.  Mr. Adamson was a relative of Arthur Bell Nicholls and the author of the 2008  book, " Mr. Charlotte Bronte"

There is a photo in the book of him  and he looks to be a man in his 50's . I thought that was a fairly  recent photo. There is no date given. But the fact he and his  small son were in a door way of Cuba Court, should have told me that photo was taken many years ago. The Adamsons live long! He was in his mid 90's and by all accounts a very wonderful man.

Aunt Bell was born an  Adamson and she lived to be 101. Alan H. Adamson is a descendant of Aunt Bell via her  2nd daughter, Harriet Lucina ( 1834 -1911.) Harriet married an Adamson cousin and that is how Aunt Bell's maiden  name was carried down the family.

It's interesting to learn how Aunt Bell's children went around the globe, just as  Canada, South Africa and India. So her adopted son,  Arthur,  thinking of going to Australia wasn't an unusual notion in the family.

Bronte Novel

I have been struggling with organizing  the mountain of book material I have written and then I had an idea ;  get  all the notes books in one place. I got a laundry basket and dug out the nests and piles of filled note books from all over the house. There are still some out there to dig up

I should have done this a long time ago

If the flow of words stopped today, I would have more than enough material to publish...but the writing keeps coming !

 It seems to help to have most of them in one place. Much has been typed into the computer already , but vasts amounts remain to do.  I will  pick up a note book and type its contents  into the computer , then place the typed in note books into  another basket. This way I will know everything has been incorporated  .

I certainly have not written the story  in chronological order! I  can jump from 1845 to 1895  and back to 1855 in a flash and every where else in between. That is why I title all my entries when I write . So I know what is it about later

Some entry  titles  found in a typical note book

CB and G.Smith in Scotland,Sowden's advice ,Honeymoon,On the moor,Joe Taylor'54 ,CB about her writing, Whit-sum '53 , Waterfall Nov54, The Brown's house,livings offered '53, The sin of pride, Martha ill in Leeds '55, Reading Mrs.G's book ,How PB came to Haworth ,Miss Anne goes to Scarborough

....and lots , lots more!

Okay! back to work!

Tatiana Romanova 1916

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls

Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls 2015

Mr. Nicholls

My first Bronte related painting is completed!  It's a 9x12 portrait of Charlotte's husband, the   Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls .I used a photo from Rev Nicholls middle  years.

I painted Mr. Nicholls before the other Bronte subjects  for a special reason. Arthur's Irish home in Banagher ,called Hill House in his time,  is now a B and B  called Charlotte's Way . My husband and I will be traveling to Ireland to stay at Charlotte Way  this fall .

It's exciting to think of spending time in Arthur's  home and at the site of the first Bronte museum for Arthur filled Hill  House with relics of the Brontes and his Yorkshire life. The Parsonage's  hall clock boomed in Banagher  for 40 years before returning to Haworth . We have many Bronte items  today because Mr. Nicholls  held on to them . He was called possessive. As a Bronte fan I'm glad he was! Arthur  understood the  importance of the Bronte  items, few better; but he wished to keep them for himself while he lived.  Given all he lost when Charlotte passed ,  I can't begrudge him the first 40 years of what we will have for all time thanks to him

The painting is a gift for the owner who is doing much to keep the local Bronte connection bright as well as  local  fame  thanks to Anthony Trollop.  His first post office job was in Banagher

This story is a good illustration of how I work.  The idea and inspiration  for a painting   comes in a flash. I never know when this sort of inspiration will strike. Usually I " see"  the painting  in my mind  and then it become an itch I have to scratch so to speak and I paint the vision

The photo I based the painting on

When we return from Ireland, I will plunge into painting  Papa and Charlotte and another one of Arthur set at the time of his and Charlotte's marriage. The Bronte  have waited for some time
for their pictures!!

Mr. Nicholls did not write poetry,  but he was known for enjoying it and reciting  it with his fine voice  for friends . George Sowden, younger brother of Arthur's great friend, Sutcliffe Sowden recalled

On one occasion, he ( Arthur)  repeated by heart,  from the beginning to end , and without a single mistake or a moment's hesitation, Tennyson's long and exquisite poem "The May Queen" With the charming Irish pathos which he threw into it,it was delightful to hear"

As Charlotte said  of Arthur, he was  " one who has to be known to be appreciated"
George Sowden also recalled Arthur's humor. He certainly showed this attribute as one of the few who relished Charlotte's  curates in " Shirley"  . Mrs Brown , his landlady , though Arthur had"  gone off his head " he was laughing so hard. Turns out he  was reading about the curates.

 George Sowden called Arthur's humor "Irish"  and perhaps that is why he roared over the curates and the English people in Charlotte's life ( CB's  publishers and Mrs. Gaskill ) thought them tasteless and even " course"   ...One had to be Irish to get it

Among the  ecclesiastical quotes, poetry also filled Arthur's common day book as well    One of the  poems he wrote down  was "  The Echo"   A  very popular piece though much of the 19th century . 

It's always interesting to see what poetry speaks to an individual . Given Arthur;'s great grief when he lost Charlotte, this poem is particularly poignant


  I stood on the bank of a swift flowing river
 While I marked its clear current roll rapidly past
It seemed to my fancy forever repealing
That the dearest enjoyments of life could not last

Oh!  tell me I said rapid stream of the valley
That bears in thy course the blue waters away
Can the joys of life's morning awake but to vanish
Can the feelings of love be all doomed to decay
And Echo repeated -----"All doomed to decay "

Flow on in thy course rapid stream of the valley
Since the pleasures of life we so quickly resign
My heart shall rejoice in the wild scenes of Nature
 And friendship's delights while they yet may mine
Must all the sweet charms of mortality perish
And friendship's endearments ah will they not stay

The simple enchantments of soft blooming Nature
And the pleasures of mind must they too
fade away
And Echo slow answered --------"They too fade away "

Then where I exclaimed is there hope for mourner
 A balm for his sorrow a smile for his grief
If beautiful scenes like the present shall vanish
 Where where shall we seek for a certain relief

Oh!  fly said my soul to the feet of thy Savior
Believe in his mercy for pardon now pray
 In him there is fullness of joy and salvation
Thy gladness shall live and shall never decay
 And Echo said sweetly "  ------------Shall never decay"

The poems he choose to record seem to always end in redemption and faith...fitting for a clergyman

What was old is new again

I recent ran into  some old diaries of mine from the last 1970's . Turns out I mixed Romanovs and Brontes back then too!

Back in the day

 It's interesting to see the seeds of my work today. I did little original art work then . I used photocopies to make collages

Bronte Novel  Update

I have been writing my Bronte novel non stop since Dec 2012 and yet I feel I'm just starting to really write now ! Perhaps one has to build writing musels  lol. I know in any applied art,  an apprenticeship is necessary. One can plunge into a new  act of creation  as I did,   zen like ( as in ; just do it )  but  you cannot avoid the work ...and as always, that's not a complaint! A shape to the novel is finally emerging and I'm still filling note book after note book. Back to School sales are a boon to me! I stock up on  the composition books on sale!

Recently I was looking at Wildfield and Wurthing Heights again ...if one wants to  truly visit with the Brontes , read their works! One get such a flash into the Bronte brain there. The time between we and they  vanishes! It's also hugely useful to see what words they used. And the HUMOR found in all Bronte novels is largely over looked, but some passes are hilarious . 

Okay! Back to work!

The Romanov children 1915

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nicholas, Alexis and the River 1916

Nicholas, Alexis and the River 1916

My portrait of Tsar  Nicholas II  and Alexis Romanov  from 1916 was  finally finished   May 30th ....just two months shy of 3 years.  I started in July of 2012

The last 2 weeks I was aware that  in a sense, a  window was closing . The painting was ready to be finished. So I painted a great deal near the end. The painting at the end is indeed  the most intense. Everything must be resolved and the best you can do. You can't say " I'll deal with that later." There is no later. It's an exciting time  really

 Alexis's portrait  was smiling and laughing for most of the nearly three years. This was a happy time for him. He was in fairly good health and  with his father all day.   I intended to have him smile. One of the remarkable aspects of Alexis was his great merriment when well ;even hemophilia could not damping  his joie de vive. 

But in the end the painting would not have it and he did have a serious side. Finally this portrait emerged. Now I have a portrait of  a young man who knows pain intimately and consequently feels empathy for the viewer who may not be as experienced as he  in enduring pain 

 As my husband says , Alexis looks right though one . We all have an ache. He sees it . Because of his disease, Alexis was a passion barrier well before captivity and the cellar .

With Nicholas I wanted to show the older Tsar as best I could . I needed every bit of the 34 months to gain this portrait . I was constantly refining him.

It's now out of the studio and  hanging in the gallery. It feels odd  and lonely in the studio without  them. This is what it must be for empty nesters! lol

I'm very pleased with it and grateful. It's great to have battled it though to success. Often I was painting in a mist. But the answer is to just keep on . Many thanks  to all those who bravely kept asking after it year after year ! lol 

To see it larger,  open the photo above in a new window 

Of course I have a video for the painting. It's been ready for years, just awaiting the final photo

This link will take you to its You Tube page 

 Nicholas , Alexis and the River 1916

My next Romanov painting will be of Empress Alexandra to complete the family . But before that, I will be painting Brontes! They have been waiting two years!


 I will be painting  portraits of  Rev. Patrick Bronte, Charlotte Bronte and  Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls. I also plan  to paint  at some point the interior of the old Haworth church before it was pulled down in 1879.

 There are two old postcards which show either side of the church. The most common one , ( pictured above )shows the old pulpit .  My plan is to put the two  sides of the two postcards  together to make the whole

But before all that I will be working full time on  the Bronte novel which I have been writing since Dec 2012. Up to now I have been happily  skipping  here and there, gathering scenes like moor land flowers.

Now I will be putting what I have together and fill the holes. Luckily for me I have only to follow the the events time line these real people lived . The hard  part is to get the sequence exactly right.

Currently I'm making a study of Charlotte's London visits  when famous and after losing her siblings , what happened when. People tend to lump the  London  events together, I know I did, but that's not good enough.

 Every event in the book  is like a link in a chain. It must be in its rightful place  or it ruins the rest . There is plenty of room for creativity found in  fleshing out this time line spine.

I really don't see this book  being finished any time soon, but I'll have a better sense of that after pulling it together for awhile


I tell everyone, oh write a novel! It's FUN

For the most part it is the greatest  fun. But dear Reader when I have to deal with Charlotte's illness and passing, just as she has at last  found love and happiness,  it is not  fun. It's  rough, sad work . I believe this one of the reason's this part of the Bronte story is often glossed over..it's so damn sad .

But this is also a  story of redemption, of joy in grief . Because  in my opinion if one asked Arthur Bell Nicholls would he choose again to win  Charlotte Bronte, be her husband for so short a time and then  have to suffer  those 50 years of grief,  Arthur  would say  " yes, always yes"

Okay! Back to work!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Within days....

Alexis and his parents  1916

Within days I will be signing my painting of Tsar Nicholas and his son Alexis 1916  . I'm doing the medals, always the cherry on top. I started this painting in July of 2012

I have been working on Alexis almost exclusively  since Sept 2014. That was when I had completed work on  the Tsar and  then realized  my Alexis portrait , which  I thought was finished,  was  now not good enough  to stand next to my portrait of his father. 

 I posted a new  portrait of Alexis  in Dec 2014, which was nice, but far too young. It was the Alexis of 1912-13. He was maturing rapidly during the war...so after trying to age the portrait, I started from scratch...again

There is an painting  practice  called " a painting a day."  I believe the idea is to loosen one's painting  up. One can't fuss over a painting  if it must be done in a day. Well I need nearly 3 years to get loose it seems lol 

But it has all be worth it. I'm thrilled with the results  and I will be posting the painting and its video shortly. This was the Alexis I had to paint towards .

My sister asked me a good question ;  How does one  know  when a painting is done? Well it's a feeling, but mostly it's when you can't see any more  mistakes to correct ...all the problems have been solved .

You have to understand something to paint it , but I find I have to paint something to understand  it....and one cannot gloss anything over because it will effect the whole. You can ignore a problem , but eventually you will have to face it  and resolve it.  I often find the  trouble is not at the place  I'm painting. The mistake can  start  else where and  be carried though to another part of the canvas

Next up will be the Bronte paintings of Charlotte , her father, Patrick  and Arthur Bell Nicholls . I have to say I believe these pictures  will be better for the waiting as I have been writing the Bronte novel all this time. That has to enhance  the paintings imo

My  writing and research for the Bronte novel  goes on...ever more to discover in Church  and Irish history.

In writing , I love weaving together Bronte events from years before and have them effect drama later. That is like life. We tend to follow a pattern of behavior. We tend to effect re-dos with a new cast and with various results . Only by knowing Bronte history backwards and forwards can this be done and by  reading and thinking about them over years.

Also with historical fiction it's my belief one does not have to stick to the known facts; but what we surmise  and write must fit the known facts. The point is to flesh out the known character, not supplant it with another.  Research is vital

In my research  I have discovered St Michale's  choir and organ  loft was over the communion  rail in the Bronte's time. This is  hugely important as a pivotal scene takes place at the rail on Whit-sum 1853. It's fascinating to learn it was a far  more confined space than we would expect

The choir and organ  loft was moved over to the left  side and further away from the east windows during Rev Wade's  time. We think of Wade pulling down the old church just as he arrived, but indeed he was there 18 years before the new church was built. In his time the rail was more open and there was an eagle lectern . This makes me think Rev Wade was a high churchmen .

Looking at  Irish history;  I believe one cannot understand Patrick  fully without investigating  the Irish rebellion of 1798. He was 21 at that time and it had to have an impact. It is considered one of the most brutal and that's saying something.

Irish history effects Arthur as well of course.  Arthur takes up his post in  Haworth just  before The Great Hunger of the 1840's  begin. His Irish home country was never the same afterwards.
It had been a busy  commercial area, but after the 1840's it became something of  a backwater. 

Arthur also takes up his curate duties  just weeks before Anne Bronte finally leaves the Robbinsons and  Branwell is sacked...So  the great dramas  of the Bronte's   later lives  begin  right after Arthur arrived on the scene.  He was witness to much

Charlotte and Arthur

Arthur also became Haworth's curate  just before  his fellow  Tractarian and leading light of the Oxford movement  , John Newman,   left the The Church of England to become a Roman  Catholic.

Up to that point Tractarians  and Evangelicals like the Brontes could coexist ,if uneasily, within the church.  But when Newman decamped for Rome, all the Evangelical's suspicions  and fears seemed fulfilled ; Tractarians were stealth  papists after all . Hatred exploded between the two groups  and  raged for decades.

The explosion didn't happen in Haworth until years later when  the Tractarian curate had the temerity  to ask  for  Miss Bronte's hand 

 I wonder if Rev Bronte would have even  agreed to having  a Tractarian  curate if John Newman had made his move before hand. But when he did, Nicholls was already installed  and  proving to be a hard worker.   Also Rev Bronte was blind at this time. How many others  would take such a post?  Beggars can't be choosers.

Nicholls wasn't in a  position to be choosy either as he wanted to be ordained and he  needed a curacy  and in Yorkshire  before hand .  Turns out the  Bishop of Ripon liked to create Irish Tractarian curates from Trinity . Arthur filled that bill admirable.

Just as Bronte was helped to Cambridge  by men wishing to  further Evangelicalism 40 years before, Tractarian clergymen wished  to see those who believed as they did populate the offices and livings of the church.


                                  Romanov Photos

OTMA 1915

We are in a Golden Age of Romanov photo releases. Stunning, never seen before100 year old photos  of the last Tsar's family are appearing daily on the web. It's a feast for the Romanov fan. There's nothing like  new to oneself Romanov photos. They both shock and affirm one's  vision.

 It can't last, someday the last photo will be seen...but let us enjoy it while it's on!

My friend, Helen Azar, has released her third book in her Romanov  "In their own words"  series of OTMA translations . It's Olga's diary for 1913 with wonderful footnotes. Helen  has a seeming affinity with the Romanovs and each of the  girls has a  distinct voice which thanks to Helen is now available to the English only reader .

Here is a link  

I helped her with the cover. It's Olga in 1913 from a family photo. 1913 was the 300th anniversary of the Romanov's rule,  the  last  full year of peace and a time when  Olga fell in love.

 It was imposable of course. A Grand Duchess did not marry a navel officer...at least not in 1913... witnessing Olga's struggle in her diary  is touching. She attended her beloved's  marriage to another young woman. Being royal meant perceiving this as a boon and the best that could be hoped for. Olga understood what was expected of her. She and her siblings belonged to the State...even after the Revolution , perhaps even more so

Be sure to check out Helen's other Romanov translations and this fall Tatiana's diaries and letters will be released with Helen's co-author' and  Romanov expert,  Nick Nicholson's  wonderful  foot notes . They are a dream team for the Romanov fan !

Okay back to work!

Next post ;  the finished painting!