Thursday, February 28, 2008


It occurred to me to get out my own watercolors to look at, along with the books I am perusing. I still have some good ones, though the law office took most of them in payment for their service during my unfortunate litigation years ago. As I examined them, I saw that the most impressive thing about them is the enthusiasm they show. I did these with Betty Lou, and each one puts me right back at the scene. I remember the day, the others in the workshop, the demonstration, as if it were just yesterday. I used to be so excited that I wandered around in a frenzy for about a half hour before I could settle down to paint. My brushwork is very spontaneous and expressive.

This makes me think that I ought to go outside with big paper, the way I did then. It's difficult to get very excited about a photograph and a 9x12 piece of paper. I think watercolor demands more emotion than other mediums to keep it from being stiff and contrived. It can't be too deliberate unless the painter is one of those very controlled individuals who builds up washes for a specific result. Those paintings can be beautiful and they make an intellectual statement. Mine were always very full of the situation I was in, the place, the people....

Several of the paintings have other artists in them, standing at their easels, working. When I see them, I remember how lovingly I watched my fellow students and Betty Lou. Even at the time, I relaized I was trying to perserve that moment for the future. Thanks to my flamboyant brushwork, I did.
Posted by Picasa


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I did this at Sydney's today and I think I am making some headway with watercolor. I don't think anyone would have to wonder what medium I was using. I managed to keep a lot of it transparent.

Doing the same pictures that I painted earlier with oil may not be the best idea. I am approaching them with the experience of having done them before and seeing them the way I already did them. I hate to have to think up subject matter, though. It's easier to go with the tried and true.......
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Second Try

Well, at least this looks like watercolor. I overdid it first, then washed everything off under the faucet and went into it again. It looks better in the picture than in reality, though I feel I'm getting somewhere. I'll keep trying.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 25, 2008

Watercolor Strawberries

I've made another attempt to get back into watercolor by using the same photo of strawberries I used in oil for the food show at the gallery. I ordered three books edited by Betty Lou and studied the techniques others use. At one point this painting had some watercolor appeal, but I overworked it until the spontaniety was completely gone. It's a pleasing enough image, but not what I was looking for.

I may keep trying with this same image and see if I can get my old skills back.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Believe it or not....

I've been noticing for the past week, since the rain took away most of the snow, that the bulbs I planted are starting to come up. I can hardly believe that anything can grow in the weather we have had, and I fear for their lives. I think I must have planted them too shallow.

Nevertheless, what an uplifting sight in the depths of winter.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Barking Dogs

While I was on the phone with Mike, I tried to prevent the dogs from barking at everything they see out the living room window by putting up gates at both doors to the room. Before long I heard them barking again. They had taken up posts on the stairs, where they can see out the front door. I couldn't help but be amused by their resourcefulness.

I had to remove Lytton's sweater because all he does is sulk when he has it on.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bikini Race and Broken Arm

Thom had planned to run in the bikini race that was held to benifit people in need of fuel assistance. The volunteers were to run from the post office to the Happy Crab restaurant wearing nothing but bikinis, or the equivilent. The temperature was in the teens. I was to hang out at the restaurant to give him warm clothes when he finished.

When we got ready to go I couldn't get my car moving because of the ice. I kept backing up, trying to find some bare ground. I ended up down at the bottom of the driveway, still unable to go forward. Thom started toward me to help and slipped on the ice, falling face first to the ground. I watched for a minute, expecting him to get up, but he lay there without moving. Panicky, I got out of the car and struggled over the ice to investigate. I found him unresponsive. I said his name over and over, shaking his shoulder, feeling increasingly desperate. I didn't want to leave him there to go call 911, but I began to feel that I would have to. Then he began to answer me, and eventually he got to his feet, but at first he was too dizzy to stand on his own. He still wanted to go run the race and could not be dissuaded. When he could navigate on his own, we got in our separate cars and headed for downtown.

Luckily, the race was already over. Thom was disappointed, but turned over the money he had raised in pledges and went home to ice his arm. He thought he had sprained his wrist. I was still very concerned and asked him to call me later. After a few hours I started to worry again. When I called him, he didn't answer the phone and I feared the worst. In a panic, I got in the car and drove over to check on him. He was sitting at the dining table talking with David on the phone. His arm was in a sling. He had gone to the health center and found out his arm was broken. Otherwise he seemed perfectly fine, his sense of humor intact. We examined his x-rays, visited awhile over a drink, talked and laughed.

With a feeling of great relief I returned home. As a nurse, Thom was fully aware of his condition and apparently the best judge of what he could and could not do. I left him stoically picking up the dishes and getting ready to head for bed to read.

It was the bikini race that didn't happen.
Posted by Picasa

Lytton's Sweater

I finished the sweater I have been making for Lytton except for the sleeves, and couldn't wait to try it on him. It's a perfect fit and it stays in place. I'm very happy with it. I'm not going to make the sleeves very long because I know they will get in his way. Even as it is he's not very fond of wearing clothes. He doesn't seem to get the connection between the sweater and the fact that he's warmer. This goes on over his head, too, which requires some cooperation on his part. So far he lets me put it on him.

I like the color of the yarn, even if the horizontal stripes don't flatter his figure.
Posted by Picasa

Candy Painting

I started this on Wednesday Art Day and then worked on it yesterday for a few hours. Then today I finished it, I think. You wouldn't think it would take so long to do a little 8x10 painting, but it was a lot harder than I expected. Once again, there is so much paint on the canvas that I should sell it by the pound. I use only primary colors, which does not include brown, so I had fun mixing paint for this. I revel in the fact that I can make any color out of red, yellow, and blue (and white). I love the way this looks in the photo, which has reduced it considerably in size. It looks a little rougher in reality.

I stole this photo from Sabrina's Flikr account. She calls it "Breakfast of Champions," which I love.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bedroom View

I did this pastel on a piece of black sandpaper. There was so much texture that it was hard to get much detail, but it sure held a lot of chalk. I was able to add and add and add, getting a lot of sublety in the whites that aren't very evident in the photo. It's a nice little picture and I finally got to try the sandpaper I bought many years ago just for the purpose.
Posted by Picasa

Self Portrait

I was inspired to do another self portrait because of the way I look in the bathroom mirror in this house. There is a big window right beside the sink, and over the sink is the huge medicine cabinet I bought when I moved in here. Since I hung it myself, it is low enough to give me a good view of myself in the mirror. With the daylight streaming in, it is a revealing sight. It's obvious that looking at myself from the nose up, in dim artificial light, for the past several years has kept me ignorant of my appearance. I am startled anew every morning to see how old I look. It fascinates me to see wrinkles all over my face. My hair is much grayer than I thought, too. I have suspected that I was seeing myself differently from the way others saw me. I have always looked young for my age, and assumed that was still the case. I was mildly puzzled when asked by sales people if I wanted a senior citizen discount, and heard the words "for your age" spoken by those evaluating my health. Still, I let those clues fly through my brain unevaluated. The new mirror has forced me to see myself. It is more incredulity than dismay. It was something worth documenting.

I began this painting in oil on a piece of paper. After a couple of sessions with it, I lost interest. I left it on my other easel and pretty much forgot about it until a few days ago. Since I had taken out my pastels and was looking for something to do with them, I decided to work over the paint. I got interested in the face, I am so enamoured of dramatic lighting, and missed my intitial intention of showing myself as a wrinkled, elderly woman. I have flattered myself somewhat, painting myself more the way I think of myself than the way the mirror sees me.

Well, it was fun anyway. I'll have to try again to capture what the years have made of me.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pastel Fruit

I've been working on a pastel painting of the same subject I did in oil several months ago. This is two day's work. I keep trying to decide if I like one medium more than another, but I can't come to any conclusion. I guess I like the variety. I guess it's the painting version of what I was saying in my other post today about writing. It's not what you say that counts, it how you say it.

That reminds me of an episode of the TV series "Northern Exposure." The character who is an artist spends the whole time trying to find the right cow for his piece of performance art. He intends to catapult the cow through the air. None of the cows he finds seems right, and in the end he uses a grand piano instead. The piece is a huge success. His insightful conclusion was, "It's not what's flung that's important, it's the flinging."
Posted by Picasa

Book Group

Every month the library book group meets to discuss a book chosen by the members. The group varies in size from eight or nine to just a few. We have been reading memoirs for the last three times. Yesterday we talked about a book written by the food critic at the New York Times. I didn't finish it because I found it uninteresting and superficial. It was hard to make myself sit and read it, and I did so in short periods of fifteen minutes to a half hour. However, David and I had talked about the book a few times, and I knew he liked it. Certainly I had to respect his opinion, so it prodded me into evaluating what it is that makes me like a book.

Thinking about the previous discussions of our library group, I tried to pinpoint why I so often find myself impatient and bored. I had thought about this before, but hadn't taken the time to analyze my attitude. The current book was such a good example of what I find uninteresting that it provided a perfect starting point to do just that. The author of the book made a point in the preface to say that eveything in the book was not absolutely accurate. She said that she came from a family of story-tellers, and had learned to appreciate a good story, even if certain details had to be altered. Of course this is my sentiment as well. The point is, I realize, that I am not particularly fond of reading stories.

Time after time, the people in the book group talk about the plot of a book. They analyze the characters. They form opinions of them based on the way they are portrayed by the author. They like them or they don't like them. They discuss the events that take place in the book with great interest and pleasure. They pretend that the characters are something other than different versions of the author. Yesterday it became clear to me that the plot of a book is almost irrelevant as far as I am concerned. I heard myself tell the group that it didn't matter who the story was about or what happened to the the characters. Those are the things I enjoy on TV or in the movies. A book is made up of words and sentences put together in certain ways. Different authors have different styles. The ones I like have an idea to express and use a plot to express that idea. They are philosophy books in disguise, poems that don't rhyme. I read every word slowly and deliberately. I take pleasure in nouns and verbs and adjectives, how they are used and how they are strung together. I want an author to be worthy of that kind of attention.

Memoirs..........the first one I remember reading and loving was Thomas Wolf's "Look Homeward Angel." When I was finished I was devastated in my teen-age way that he had died before I was born, that I hadn't been there to breathe the same air. Now his style is considered wordy, excessive, overly romantic, even sickenly sentimental. The first sentence of that book is three pages long (as I remember it). It was a list of events in the history of the earth, from its beginnings, that took place up to the moment of the main chatracter's birth. What a wonderful device to show the place of one person in the greater scheme of things. It was the theme of all of his books, and he hung it on a number of different plots.

Well, I sound like the old person I am, talking about the good old days when writers were WRITERS. There are many today, though. There a lot of books I love to read. But if I am interested in someone telling me a story, I like the visuals with it. The omnipotent viewpoint is entertainment. It takes us outside of ourselves. It's a great place to go. I just like something else in a book......I want to hear the author in every sentence and discover what he or she is trying to say.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Jacket

Lytton has been shivering a lot, especially since he had his haircut at the vet's. Although I imagine more catastrophic reasons for this, I decided to test the is too cold in this house for man or beast. Lynn gave me this jacket that is too big for her dog, Mike , to try on Lytton. It was too big for him, too. His feet kept getting caught in the armholes, making him stumble and fall. I tried sewing darts to make the body smaller, hence the sleeves shorter, but it didn't solve the problem.

Today I cut the sleeves off, and though he's not overjoyed to wear it, the coat seems to stay in place while allowing him freedom of movement. He seems to be shivering less, so I hope that is going to solve the problem.

My next knitting project is going to be a dog sweater.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Week-end Visitor and a Painting

If I sold paintings by the pound, this one of my living room would be worth a fortune. I put the paint on so thick it is actually three-dimensional. I had to, because I couldn't get the values right and kept piling it on until I could accept the results. Since it is oil paint, each layer had to be thick enough to sit on top of the existing one without mixing into it. Of course I could have waited for it to dry before I went back into it, but that is not in my nature. In the end, I like the painterly quality. It was interesting to try to give the impression of stained glass. I think this falls into a "what else could it be?" category rather than any real representation of the window. I will probably try the subject again in some other medium, but I am quite fond of this one.

Diana spent the week-end with me. We ate hash and eggs, which used to be a favorite of ours when I used to visit at her house, now next door. This time the eggs were fresh from my chickens. We had them again with bacon for breakfast. We had our usual companionable visit, each working on our own handwork projects as we talked over tea. On Saturday night we went to the "International Dinner" at the Arts Center where I stuffed myself with wonderful food from other countries. It's an annual fund raiser. People can contribute a dish from a foreign country or just enjoy the food. The price is less for those who bring a dish to share. There were over a hundred people there, I'm sure, eating under a crisscross of flags hanging from the ceiling. It is quite elegant, with tablecloths and candles. There is live music with an international theme.

On Sunday we took in the movie, again at the Arts Center. I wasn't able to hear the dialogue very well so it was pretty much lost on me. On both days we went over to Diana's house for a few hours and painted together. She wanted to spend some time there even though the house was basically shut down for the winter. The wood stove made it very warm, which probably motivated Diana as much as anything else. My house is quite cold, and she spent the entire visit dressed in a turtle neck, a sweater, a down vest, and a jacket. The jacket had a hood, which she pulled up over the knitted hat she wore. I tried to accommodate her somewhat by turning the heat up to 62 (an extravagance), but evidently it didn't do the job.

All in all, it was a very pleasant week-end with enough vestiges of the past to create that same aura of escape from real life. So many times we left our usual homes, fleeing everything that passed as our normal routine, to heave a sigh of relief as we settled into our alternate life. It was often a desperate move, but the time spent immersed in art and friends rejuvenated us time and again. We are older now, and less desperate, thank God. Those past extremes of emotion and experience had their charm, though. It takes suffering to experience relief, and the relief was wonderful.
Posted by Picasa