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The Orchard



Sometimes I think that I would be perfectly happy painting just one scene from the farm over and over. Any single landscape is a kaleidoscope of light and shadow that changes moment by moment, day by day, and with the seasons.


One of my favorite spots on the farm is the orchard behind the lamb barn. It is a dappled oasis in the midst of open pastures. The animals love it for shade in the summer and treats in the fall.


It is in sight just outside the dairy barn. When I finish milking in the morning and let the goats out into the pasture, I always take a moment to see what the orchard is up to. I've amassed a number of photos through the seasons.


Summer: the fields were dry due to drought conditions. The goats took dust baths and relished the shade.



Fall: The cows loitered under the trees, looking for windfall.



And Winter brings quite a different scene.



Here's the view just as you exit the back door of the dairy, with the orchard middle left. I am intrigued by those cedar posts. I'm not sure why they are so tall -- my guess is that Vern Coffelt, who farmed this land for decades while also working for the local electricity company, got hold of some old utility poles. I'm glad that I took record of them, as they have since been removed for fence repair. That first post with the wire remains, for which I am grateful, as it is a favorite perch of the barn swallows and sparrows who call the barn home.




Of the handful of paintings I've completed thus far, a good portion of them borrow from this landscape. When I took the photo with the cow framed so perfectly in the entrance to the orchard, I knew that this would be a painting.


The first step was to create the "canvas", in quotes because it is not canvas, but wool. For all my expertise in needle felting, I still feel like a novice wet felter, so felting the background is perhaps the most daunting part for me! But I love the fact that these paintings begin from just a pile of roving.



Here I laid out a very rough landscape of color and wet felted from there.



This is the final felting stage, called "fulling", where you get a little rough with it!



In the end it came out a little streaky, but I needle-felted a few more layers to even things out. From there, I eye-balled more color blocks for the background.



This is the "How the Heck is this Going to Work?" stage, sometimes difficult to push through. In fact, at this point it was late December and I needed to put it aside to work on holiday projects. The poor thing sat for weeks.


When I got back to it, I sewed the drawing/interfacing onto the wet felted piece. I would use it as a template for details such as the fence, cows, tree trunks and branches.



I'd never felted a tree as such an integral part of a piece before. I wasn't sure how to depict all those leaves, and spent some time looking at paintings from various masters, including Impressionists and the Hudson River School style.


I decided to experiment with little bits of color... not individual leaves, but larger bits that would also add texture. I stood at the sink with wet fingers and rolled umpteen little wool balls. I was quite proud of myself for this foresight, until I returned to the painting and immediately knocked over the container, flinging little wool bits all over the floor.



At any rate, things started to take shape.



It was time to add some fencing. Look at how just that simple design element added depth to the landscape!



It was also time to rough in the cows and add more color to indicate light and texture. The nice thing about wool is you can just lay on different colors to see the effect before actually felting it to the piece. I may or may not have actually gasped when I found just the right blue for the shadows under the trees, and bits of bright green and ochre for some dappled sunlight.



Here's another detail of the treetops:



In the end it is my largest piece at 16x20 inches. I have new confidence for felting trees! This piece, framed in old island wood, took part in the community art show of landscapes at the Orcas Center, and is now on display at the Lum farmstand as it awaits its forever home (message me if you are interested). I'm all set up to order cards and prints, so please head to the shop if you are interested.


I look forward to many more renditions of the orchard in the future, with a nod to the animals that use it to even better effect than I do.



12 Comments


vonda.drees
Apr 02

You are an inspiration, Mandy! I hear your voice so beautifully in your creative work.

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Mandy Troxel
Mandy Troxel
Apr 03
Replying to

Thank you Vonda!! I guess then we can say we're mutually inspired by each other! xo

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Barb DiPietro
Barb DiPietro
Apr 02
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Mandy Troxel
Mandy Troxel
Apr 03
Replying to

I used to work in pastels, and love that I can get the same effect -- and I feel that the wool is even more forgiving.

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jillholmes
Apr 02

Beautiful and thank you for the talk through xxx

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Mandy Troxel
Mandy Troxel
Apr 03
Replying to

Thanks Jill!


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snoopysusan
Apr 02

Absolutely beautiful, Mandy. I enjoy your writing and visual creating so much. Works of art, from the heart.

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Mandy Troxel
Mandy Troxel
Apr 03
Replying to

Thanks so much, Susan! xo

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John Williamson
John Williamson
Apr 02

Fascinating look at the landscape, the inspiration, and the techniques! Amazing!

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Mandy Troxel
Mandy Troxel
Apr 03
Replying to

Thank you, John!

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