Apple Orchard

I tried painting an apple orchard like those I saw in Switzerland, but it didn’t work, so I got pissed off and tried to rub off the paint with a solvent soaked rag. All that happened was the paint got smeared.

I put the canvas away thinking sometime I’d paint over this failed painting. That was YEARS ago.

I recently dragged out the painting and liked it. “Hmm,” I thought, “what can I do with this?”

Then it hit me. I had to do a little drawing, and of course I had raw umber on my hand but what the hey…

I’m so glad I wasn’t in a hurry to paint over this thing. ❤

Glued to a Project

Since I paint standing up and don’t use an easel, my posture has been on my mind. After several hours standing there, I hurt. Even if I move around a lot, stretch and stuff, by the end of a work (?) day my legs and back hur. It goes away pretty fast, but I think I need to get a stool on which to perch and maybe a legit easel.

I’ve been painting garden signs. No arty painting on the table at the moment. These are the recent projects, commissions:

The top is for my wonderful neighbor who gave me all those beautiful flagstones for the ever-evolving yard/garden. I offered her one of my paintings, and she told me that she really wanted a garden sign. Her garden is amazing. It’s a small park. Everything on the sign grows in the alley between our houses and hummingbirds have been a solace and distraction to her and her husband this strange summer. “Count Your Blessings” is a thing we talk about fairly often.

The lower one is a gift from my cousin’s daughter to her mom. I wish I had stepped back a bit because the “am” is too close to the “the” but OH well. As they say, paint and learn.

The coolest part of the lower sign, for me, was mixing paint. For YEARS I’ve had jars of raw pigment that I got on cheap at an art store that was going out of business. By years I mean like fifteen years. I paint the signs with acrylic paint and it hit me, “Hey wait a minute. I HAVE the color I need. I just need to MAKE it.”

I opened the box where I store my oil paints and some other treasures. In many ways, the box isn’t very practical for paints. My beloved Uncle Hank made it as a jewelry box for my Aunt Jo, and my Aunt Jo gave it to me. In the bottom, under the little tray that is supposed to hold jewelry and that holds my oil paints, are the six or seven jars of raw pigment.

Now I just needed a medium to mix the color into. Hmmmm…

I went online, of course. As I researched, a dim memory from the summer after 9th grade began shoving other thoughts aside. Mr. Dix, my art teacher in 9th grade, thought I should grow up to be a painter and arranged for one of my classmates and I to take classes from Mary Chenoweth at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Don’t ask me how I remember her name, but I do… The memory is a foreign country.

My mom wasn’t happy about this. First, she hated art and did not want me to be an artist. Second, she didn’t want to drive me down there twice a week. I went once. But in that lesson, I learned how to make acrylic paint which, at the time, 1967, was a comparatively new medium for fine art. It had only been around since 1959.

She taught us to take powdered tempera paint, put it into a bottle, add some Elmer’s Glue and shake it up. If I were British, I’d say, “And Bob’s your uncle.” My classmate and I then painted still lifes (good ones!) with the paint we’d made. When my mom said she wouldn’t drive me any more, my teacher offered, but OH WELL there went my formal art training…

Which begs the question, why didn’t I ride my bike?

Anyhoo….so yesterday, watching videos about making acrylic paint all of which talked about buying this medium or that medium, my one summer art class came back to me. “Fuck it,” I said, “Elmer’s glue.

I posted the above photo on Facebook, and a friend said, “What’s the dirt for?” I LOVED that because that brown stuff IS dirt. “Cleaned” dirt from Umbria, Italy. The paint worked beautifully, and I was grateful to Mary Chenoweth for teaching me this skill. You can see it outlining the blue below and the letters. It was REALLY nice paint, but I made too much. I learned that 1) a little goes a long way, 2) dry pigment flies around everywhere and is POTENT.

Mary Chenoweth’s point in teaching us this skill was that paint is expensive. That is absolutely true. The FULL price for the raw pigment was $11.00 fifteen years ago, so it’s probably more now, but an 8 oz tube of paint is at LEAST that much. I didn’t even use 1/4 the amount of paint I made and it made no dent in the amount of powder remaining in the jar. I don’t know if I’m going to get into the whole thing of making my own paint all the time, but I have learned that I can use these beautiful natural pigments.

Stocking the Store…

My Etsy Store is like any other store. It has to be stocked, so today I ordered some stock to replace the sold out notecards and decided it was time to put garden signs in there — but I had to paint some.

So now there are two. More sunflowers and I’m starting to paint autumn things. You can see them here.

It’s just amazing how much the sunflower garden signs vary from each other because of the texture of the wood they’re painted on. It’s cool not to be able to totally predict — or control — the result.

I am taking custom orders, too. 🙂

Krishna and Me

In India, we are celebrating 74th Independence Day today. As we unfurl the tricolour, I would like you to use it as the prompt.

I will probably never go to India, but India has had a big influence on my life. As recently as last year I found myself buried in a wonderful writing project because of a man from India with whom I have a conversation here on WordPress.

Back in the hippy days, a lot of American young people went to India seeking spiritual enlightenment away from the Judeo/Christian mythos of American culture. I don’t know exactly what pop-culture inspiration led them there, whether it was the Beatles, or Timothy Leary, or or or? Those were the days of Krishna Freaks in airpots trying to get people to accept free copies of the Bhagavad Gita.

Most of those who went were ten or fifteen years older than I was, a group that I didn’t know until later in my life. Some of the people I got to know had lived in India for decades and were practicing, and proselytizing, Hindus. I would need to write a book to show their influence on me, but all of them felt like friends I’d known in other lives who waited for me to be born in this one so we could know each other. I say that without believing in reincarnation (except for Lamont and Dude).

But the most important thing India gave me was an answer to a question that was tearing me apart. Sometime in the 90s I was semi-in love with a guy. One of the things we did together was visit the San Diego Museum of Art. A donor to that museum was Edwin Binney who collected Mughal paintings. My friend was a philosophy instructor which was lucky for me because, when we walked into the small room where these paintings had been hung, I had no idea what I was looking at. All I could see was their beauty and mystery.

One of the most mysterious paintings seemed to be insisting I look at it, study it and fucking GET it. It made no sense to me, but, luckily, my friend could kind of explain it to me. As he told me the story of Arjuna and Krishna, I stood there and wept.

It told me what I had to do, eloquently illustrating the horrible moment in a human’s life when he/she must break away from something or someone for his/her own good or, maybe, even, the good of the world. That something might be something they love with all their heart. The painting wasn’t a gorgeously colored Indian painting. It was light brown and the details were set forth in black lines and white highlights. It was a rectangle about 10 x 12 inches. The worlds — representing the endless repetition of incarnations (samsara?) — were set forth in concentric arcs of people working, tilling the land, selling stuff, fighting — the usual, and on the left, heading right, was a chariot driven by Krishna and carrying Arjuna. Krishna was explaining to Arjuna that the only way he could save his kingdom and his people was to go to war against his cousin. Arjuna didn’t want to fight his cousin, but Krishna explained that if he didn’t, the world would be engulfed by evil.

Arjuna’s cousin was my alcoholic brother, and I was Arjuna. I saw so clearly that sometimes life demands, a miserable, painful, excruciating sacrifice like that. I got that lesson like an inoculation.

So…I began a not very systematic study of Hindu scripture/mythology. And, some years later, when I’d had to eject the Evil X (same story) I went to my art shed and made my own Thangka of my own life from 2003 to 2008. I wanted to SEE it. In the thangka you can see Krishna, me and my dogs in my Ford Focus driving away from evil toward, well, the art shed. The Thangka is at least R rated, so be warned…

I know there is a lot more to Indian culture than these small experiences of mine, and, with Hindu mythology, I felt Shiva’s stories more than Krishna’s but these stories changed me for the better as a human being.

The Garden Sign Business

Painting on the fence boards has been a lot of fun. So far it’s been three sunflower paintings and one featuring Columbine, a bee and some dog prints. They’re faster to paint than an oil, partly because they’re painted in acrylic paint, partly because of their size and partly because of the nature of the job. They all belong to people I know and that makes me happy, too. So far, they have gone or are going to Montana, New Mexico and Idaho. Another has crossed Wolf Creek Pass and is another small Colorado town. I LOVE painting these.

Painting sunflowers is as much fun as growing them. ❤

Painting in acrylics requires that I mix paint. Yesterday, painting the Columbine sign, I got to enjoy that miracle. With acrylics I am pretty happy with the basic palette of primary colors — red, blue and yellow. You can do pretty much everything with just those colors.

Basic palette — with a tube of white.

The painting below is an acrylic painting of a scene at Zion Natl. Park I did in the 90s. It’s acrylic on Masonite. Not a great photo, but you get the idea. The only colors I used were the colors above. Amazing but wonderful.

I seldom mix paint for my oil paintings. I mix the colors right on the canvas while the paint is wet — if at all. The only actual mixing I might do on the palette is blue with white for sky.

Shopping for paints a while back — comparison shopping whites — I learned that the most sold white is Titanium white which is very white and opaque. It dries pretty fast, too, which is part of its appeal. The white I want exists, but I don’t think I’ll probably ever use it. It has microscopic bits of crystal in it, making it transparent. It’s also a lead white.

Most of the time I use Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement which was built to replace lead white. Never having used lead white, I have no idea how close it is to that beloved and deadly color, but I like it. In case you’re bobbling on the edge of your seat right now wondering, “More than one white? WTF? How can that be?”

Gamblin oil colors’ range of whites

All this painting of signs has given me some thought about business. I’ve been using Etsy which, for now, has more benefits than liabilities. I first opened an Etsy shop in 2011. The platform was smaller then, with fewer options for sellers (and buyers). A big problem for people like me is merchandising and marketing. That’s the MOST difficult part of being a self-published writer. Merchandising art is a little easier because you can SHOW it to people and they instantly know if they want it or not. I learned that in Denver in 1981 when I took my pile of gouache paintings to ONE coffeehouse to see if they wanted to give me a show and the owner said, “YES!!!!” Just like that. Maybe that happens with novels, but not in my lifetime. ❤

Sighns of the Times…

Last week I figured out that garden signs could be — besides being a lot of fun to paint — a way to raise money to replenish my oil painting supplies. Yesterday, still contending with the aftermath of a migraine (seriously, don’t get one) I opened the patio umbrella and sawed cedar fence boards into usable sizes. I didn’t do that long, though. It was hot. The light hurt my head. OH WELL. Better today, but still slightly weird.

I learned — among other things — that the weirdness of the time does not mean the usual weirdness of life stops. There’s still plenty of that.

Any-HOO after I cut them, they get a good scrubbing in the kitchen sink because, you know, they’re cedar fence boards that have been outside for almost a decade. When they’re dry, they have a beautiful, silvery, soft surface. I have two custom orders and I hope to start one tomorrow.

Let Go!!!

I had no idea how to approach this tree (well, on foot, clearly) but decided I had to go for it. That was an experience (that worked). I held my brush at arm’s length, perpendicular to the panel, barely holding the brush and voilá! It was so much fun. And though there is more I could paint, I don’t see any reason. The tree has emerged as itself.

Now to figure out who the woman is.