Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another bicycle...

A second bicycle painting; this one is 9"x12". The two paintings (see other one here) are very different, in several ways. Of course, they look different. The first one is more detailed and complex. I mentioned that I painted it somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle; trying to figure out what went where as I went. I felt like that painting took a very long time to do. It was work.

This second one was painted very differently, and I find that I prefer to paint this way. I first did a complete under-painting (see below) all in one session. That took about a half-hour. Then I went back a day or so later and started just putting things where they were needed to make the painting work: darks, some details, a few highlights, and some yummy impasto in the flowers, which works on this style of painting, but would be completely out of place on the more detailed piece. This piece was play.

I also painted this entire painting with regular oils, as opposed to the water soluble oils I generally use. I had begun using the water soluble ones, hoping they would keep me from having allergy problems, headaches, etc. But, since I have a headache pretty much all the time anyway, I decided to use the 'real' oils. They really don't behave a great deal differently, except I think the regular oils are drying faster this summer. Our swamp cooling system (a water drip through a big fan - a desert based air conditioning system) seems to slow down the water soluble oils from drying, but not the oil based ones. Weird. I also can get impasto easier with regular oils, and I don't think my headache is any worse.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An obsession gone too far!

Last fall in Maine I bought a half-pint jar of piccalilli from this lovely man, known only as 'Dad.' It was so tasty on crackers, we quickly consumed it. And, since then, my mouth has watered for more.

So, after looking to no avail at all our local farmer's markets for a similar delight, I decided to make my own. I got out my Ball Blue Book. My copy happens to be the copy my grandmother used to use. It is dated 1932. Not going out and buying a more current copy was my first mistake.

This fantastic picture is inside the front copy of my 1932 Ball Blue Book. Doesn't she make it look civilized and simple? Not even an apron is needed!

So, I googled to find out how many green tomatoes in a peck, as that was how many the recipe called for. Google said '17, if baseball sized." Went to the farmer's market and came home with a peck of green tomatoes. And a head of cabbage, eight large onions, and a red, a yellow, and an orange bell pepper. I had to chop all those up. No, I do not have a food processor. I barely have a sharp enough knife! I chopped and I cried - very cathartic, really. This photo does not really show you how large this full bowl is. I began to worry a bit. I went to the store and bought a dozen more half-pint jars, as I've used all mine on apricot jam.

I let the chopped veggies sit overnight (as per recipe) then I drained it and put it in my biggest stockpot. Well, no I didn't.... it wouldn't all fit in my biggest stockpot, so I had to use the canner (which it filled,) then wash it out to do the canning. In addition to the veggie mix, it called for 2 quarts(!) of vinegar, brown sugar, and lots of spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, cayenne pepper, and a half-pound of mustard seeds. (Should that not have been a clue?) I wanted about 6 half-pints of piccalilli. I ended up with 13 half-pints, and 5 pints, and I had to dump about a quart, because I ran out of jars.

Does anyone want some piccalilli?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The birds!

I was in the studio this afternoon and I heard the loudest racket outside the studio window, which is on the second floor. I looked out and saw this huge raven, of Edgar Allen Poe size and loudness, quoth-ing for all his worth. But as big and bad as he was, I was pretty sure even he couldn't be making all that racket. I grabbed the camera and went outside.

In the tree next to his were three more ravens, all of them somewhere between the sizes of Booker and Gus, cussing up a blue streak at each other. My neighbors began coming out their doors to see what the racket was about. I yelled an embarrassingly ineffective "SHOO!" at them, and the three swooped at me! I had to duck down to keep from getting that Tippi Hedren hair look:

Then all four of the birds (two pairs, I am assuming) went to the chimney of my house to battle it out there. They seemed to be fighting for the privilege of nesting on the chimney! One of the birds kept dipping down into the chimney a ways, and then it disappeared. I have to tell you, that when I went back inside, after discussing the problem with our neighbors for a bit, I walked up my stairway every bit as cautiously as Tippi did!

Fortunately, there were no sign of birds in my upstairs fireplace, and no sounds coming from the attic. The war quieted down, and we went on with our evening. Maybe Gus, who was watching the whole proceeding from the bedroom window, scared them away. Or maybe they heard my neighbor offer to get rid of them for us .... which we turned down. At any rate, it was quite an event for our quiet little neighborhood. And now, I want one of these dolls!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

...and a tiny bit of rain!


I really felt quite horrid yesterday, but didn't realize why until the wind roared to life and we had 5 minutes of wild rain. Ah, the front-passing-through-migraine! I never realize that's what it is until the front actually passes through, and I begin to feel a bit better. Slow on the uptake, I guess. It isn't fun being a living barometer.

So, in an attempt to do something in spite of how I felt, I did laundry and worked on this painting. It's 12 x 12". It's very busy and bright. Painting it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Not my favorite style to paint, but I may let it go at this. I'll let it dry, then will see how I feel about it. When you create something while you're not on top form, it's hard to know if you like it or not.

So... I lied to myself (and you all, too, I guess.) I said I would do no more apricots. But I can't stand to see the lovely things going to waste out there, so I'm doing another batch of jam this morning. We'll just have to eat a lot of apricot chicken this winter (expect some, if you come to visit.) Here is my invented easy recipe for apricot chicken:

Mix together equal parts apricot jam and your favorite salsa (amount depends on how many you are cooking for.) Spread generously over chicken breasts in an oven proof pan, and bake at about 350° until the chicken is done. Serve over rice. Simple, and yummy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dear diary, Help!

Pablo Picasso said that "Painting is just another way of keeping a diary." If that is true, my 'diary' is not saying much that is good about me lately! I have a whole stack of unfinished (and maybe unfinishable) paintings staring me in the face when I walk into the studio.

Yesterday, I worked about an hour on a new piece, only to take it to the sink and wash the whole thing off.

I am thinking (hoping!?) that I am going through one of those 'creative growth stages' people such as Betty Edwards and Julia Cameron talk about. The kind where I will come out the other side, more creative and productive than ever.

The paintings in the gallery are selling, leaving bare spots on the walls that I am expected to keep filled. And, as I paint with oils, I can't just whip out a piece, frame it and take it out and put a sales tag on it. It will need drying time. So I'm in a heap of behind-ness!

I guess my problem is that summer has never been work time for me. When my boys were home and out of school, I took summers off from my work. And, even before that, when I was a school girl, summers were for hiding out from work with a good book. (If my mother saw me 'doing nothing' she felt obligated to find me something to do, so I just tried to make sure she didn't see me lolling about with a good book.) So maybe my work mind has decided to hide out from me, lest I try to give it something constructive to do.

Perhaps I should just give in to that growing stack of books on my nightstand, pour myself a tall glass of sun tea, and park myself in the porch glider with a good book for a day or two. Maybe while I am adventuring with Maisie Dobbs, my right brain will get the rest and inattention it seems to be needing, and I'll come out of this slump, ready to either finish those canvases and start my next tapestry or to pitch them in the trash and begin anew.

Monday, July 19, 2010

La, la, la, la, life goes on!

My husband is back home from his time to work in Honduras (YEA!), so we are getting back to whatever we consider to be normal around here. This afternoon I will go paint with the Alzheimer's patients. I have been taking a lot of pictures from magazines for them to paint from, and they all always seem to choose the pictures from Birds & Blooms magazine. I think it's because the bird photos are not cluttered, and are large, colorful, and easy to see.

And they have been doing some terrific bird paintings! Last time, one of the ladies chose to paint a tropical bird of some kind, a very gaudy and colorful bird. I told her I too thought it was a beautiful bird, but I had never seen one like it in Colorado. She looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Well, it's just an everyday blackbird!" and went on to paint it. No black at all in the bird; that was the one color it didn't have.

But we are getting quite an assortment of bird paintings. So this morning, I have been searching my magazines to find other images that will tempt them, and maybe help to renew a memory or two. I took the above photo to take along, as I think some of them will recall canning fruit, which is a big summer activity here. I am also taking a collection of my seashells.

One of the things that is wonderful about painting with these sweet older people is the stories that come out of them; some true bits of their past and some complete fiction (though they are so true to them, that I do not know it is fiction until a family or staff member tells me.) The paintings they do are joyful and colorful, like paintings children do. They just rediscover the fun of painting for a bit of time. And that is a Good Thing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

IF topic: Breakfast

This week's Illustration Friday topic is 'breakfast,' so I decided to post this small tapestry, which I believe I posted once before, long ago. It is 8"x10" and is called "Beignets et Café au Lait." I did it for one of the very early non-juried small format tapestry exhibits. That exhibit, in it's current form, just opened on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. It is the exhibit I created "Milo's Duck" for. If you are in that area, do make sure to see it! It is always a fun exhibit, filled with works from beginners and professionals alike.

As for this little tapestry; all of the line and 'dot' work is woven in, not added after it left the loom. That was the challenge for me as I wove it. And, by the way, not only can I weave a beignet, I can also make a pretty good one, as well! Ummmm.... powdered sugar!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"March".... finally.

I have finally finished the slit-sewing and blocking on the "March" tapestry! After spending all this time with it.... the designing, weaving, and finishing time.... this morning I really felt like I 'saw' it for the first time! When I saw it from the front, upright as it is meant to be viewed to take photos of it, it immediately transported me to Harvard's Lowell House courtyard, with my two then-new grandchildren nearby, in early spring. It made me again feel the delight and wonder of seeing the first crocus and little iris coming up among the debris from the seasons past, with the sun shining brightly on them like a spotlight. It made me remember sharing the wonder with my little grandchildren, delighting in them, the season, and the bright little flowers.

In other words, I finally fell in love with it! I love the high contrast; the brights and the darks. March is all about contrast here where I live. One moment it is dark winter, then it is bright spring. March is all about the light coming back, after a time of darkness. That is what I wanted to capture in this little tapestry. It is, like all of the Calendar tapestries, 18"x18".

As for the rest of my life right now: I have become Bubba Gump's Apricot company. You gotch yer dried apricots, yer canned apricots, yer apricot jam, yer apricot pie fillings, yer frozen apricots, and yer fresh picked apricots...

My finger tips and nails have turned orange. And I'm thinking ahead to yer apricot chicken, yer apricot salsa, yer apricot cobbler, yer apricot fruit salad, yer apricot pie, yer home-froze apricot ice cream....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Go here!

I was recently a target for an artscam that looks very much like what is on this website. If you are an artist with an internet presence, go here to learn how to be more aware of what scammers are doing. My experience was very much like the ones shown on the first site. Be alert, aware, and be SMART! If it seems a bit 'off,' it probably is. Sad, but true.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The apricots are ripening! Our two trees are so loaded, the cots look like bunches of grapes, clustered on the branches.

And not just some branches; ALL of the branches! One large branch was so heavy on our old tree that it broke off the other night, filling the alley with limbs and apricots. My husband estimated that it must have weighed about 800 lbs., with all that fruit on it!

The first pie of the season was baked last night. Tasty! Both then, hot, and cooled for breakfast.

If you need or want apricots, come on over! We are making neighbors, friends, and just any old passers-by load up with them and help us out. We can only eat so many pies, jams, and dried apricots!!!!

Note: As I spend so much of my time in July dealing with apricots, I am thinking the July calendar tapestry should be.... apricots!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Potpourri... (a mixture of things)

A number of pieces of my work have been going out of my door lately, which is a Good Thing. The latest is this watercolor that I did a number of years ago. It will have a good new home with a friend.

We've been going to the farmer's market recently. I take my camera, with high hopes. Last Thursday evening, this couple danced for us all, and I am sure I will have to do something with at least one of the shots I took of them.

Several weeks ago at the market, belly dancers entertained us, and I did this 8x10" painting from one of the photos I took of them while I worked at the gallery last Saturday. I like the frame I got for it, as the painting 'floats' in it about 1/4" inside of all edges. It is on linen. It's the first time I have painted on linen, and I like it, though I'm not sure it's worth the cost difference.

My dear husband built this little box for me. It will hold 7 WET oil paintings for travel! This one is just for 5x7" canvases. He has offered to make me larger boxes, but I'm thinking this one will be most perfect for travel, as it would even fit in a carry on for air or train travel. I'm very excited to put it to use!

And finally, slits are still being sewn on the "March" tapestry. I chose the yarns for the "October" tapestry this morning. I need to rewarp the loom, so I'll warp for at least three calendar tapestries. "October" and "September" are designed to be woven next. I have my eyes open for a "July" image!

Additional miscellany: The apricots are rapidly ripening, so we'll be drying, freezing, and 'jamming' soon. I am also making a path through my garden, so am spending an hour or so each morning in the garden working on it and moving plants around to fit the new (hopefully better) configuration. I may not be done with this task until fall.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Oh, Beautiful...

...for spacious skies,

... for amber waves of grain,

... for purple mountains majesties,

... above the fruited plains.

From sea,

to shining sea,

I wish you Happy Birthday, my beautiful America!