Rumination on Dogs, gardening, and painting

I’m having house guests next week which is requiring a kind of cleaning and rearranging I haven’t had to deal with in more than a year. It’s probably a good thing (guests and cleaning). Yesterday I hauled all the finished paintings (well packaged) out to the garage and pondered whether I’m likely ever to get on my bicycle again. I don’t know, so the bike stays. Other stuff out there? There’s a lot of brand new stuff I doubt I’m going to use — a tree saw with clippers, you know, the 8 foot tall kind? A bike rack for a car I don’t have any more?

It’s probably time for a yard sale or time to put all that stuff up on Facebook to sell.

I also found a box of books — nice books, books I actually like except the books of erroneous history (grrrr…) my books of Chinese fiction from the 20th century, the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and one from the period of the Cultural Revolution. Also a couple of Pearl Buck books that I decided to bring in with me so they can nestle in my Chinese cabinets for the nonce.

The dogs got into the garden yesterday, and the frost took three beans last night so… It’s OK. It was an experiment anyway. I have six beans left (hopefully) and more seeds. I have also ordered a more substantial fence that will really keep the dogs out, again, hopefully. I was pretty angry at the dogs, but, they’re just dogs, and a little research showed me what had motivated their trespass. There was a desperate need to bury an old rawhide, something that could be done a lot more efficiently in soft dirt.

I “met” another artist yesterday on Facebook. She’s a younger woman and has a huge portfolio of work. Western artist in Montana. I thought about all that last night and in a way I wish I’d started sooner (and I have kind of always painted) because my “body of work” isn’t very large (thank goodness; this way it fits in the garage). I think I have three good paintings, but that isn’t strictly true. Some of the work that has been sold and is gone living in distant houses and (I hope) appreciated is good. I looked at some of the old work (photos) and thought about what I learned and loved painting some of them. Here’s a little gallery of small paintings I loved painting.

The Berkeley Pit mine is a painting no one will ever buy. Who wants a painting of a toxic pit mine? But that day in Butte, Montana was important to me. I was with my niece, from whom I’m now estranged (not my fault or desire), and we were on our way to Billings. I was sitting in our rental car in Butte when my Uncle Hank called to tell me my Aunt Martha had died. It was kind of an intense moment, and I liked the city and found the mine site fascinating.

The dandelions were in my back yard here in Monte Vista. The cornflowers were in my front yard in Descanso.

The green oil is a trail was on a small mountain in California where I hiked once with Dusty in spring. I wish I had that painting, but I gave it away when I moved to Colorado. Another painting I did that I loved painting is a water color of wild plums, but I sold it years ago. It hangs in a house in Colorado Springs. And, of course, I love all the cows I’ve painted.

So I had to ask myself, do I paint to have a portfolio or why? Well other than it giving me the opportunity to send $75 to obscure small towns in Texas.

Painting Against the Gotterdammerung

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home” pretty much sums up my feelings at this moment. I have no great inspiration right now, but just the act of painting, realizing an idea or facing down a challenge, is healing and distracting.

On my birthday, I spent the morning on the phone with my cousin for whom I did this painting as a birthday gift from my cousin’s daughter:

On the phone she mentioned she loved it but what she REALLY loved was the painting on the back which is my “logo” — a little quickly done painting of the mountains near my house, notably, Windy Mountain. So, I decided to paint her a little painting featuring that scene (featured image).

The big project I was struggling with was a salmon colored poppy. Red poppies are easy because the color is intense and self-reliant, but salmon? When you start mixing colors and are dealing with pastels, everything is trickier, for me anyway. Not my favorite painting, but not a total failure, either. This garden sign is 23 x 12

Meanwhile, they’re alleging snow, but Bear and I are skeptical. I’m not doing great art at the moment. It’s been an intense and artistic few months and the psyche is a little tired, not to mention the relentless scary ugliness of current events. SO… I guess I’ll just keep painting toward better days and hope for snow… March is sometimes the snowiest month of the year.

This poppy is in my Etsy Shop.

Free Hand Lettering is a Bitch

Acrylic paint on exterior grade plywood on top of exterior primer, soon to be varnished. 32″ x 8.5″ It will have screw eyes and wire to hang.

Free hand lettering is not easy. In my head I kept hearing my brother, Kirk, who was a professional sign painter, yelling, “More paint! Pull the brush!” Finally, I was happy with legibility! And it’s cute. 🙂

Here’s a link to the Etsy Listing in case you need a little advice and moral support as you browse seed catalog and ponder little pots for seedlings. ❤

“Logo,” “Motif,” or Mess of Paint?

Last winter? Winter before last? I started to do little water colors of the mountains nearest my town as I’d seen them on walks with Bear. They are Windy Mountain and Pintada Mountain. “Pintada” in the archaic Spanish of the Spanish explorers and the native Spanish speakers of the San Luis Valley means “painted.” ❤

They are the eastern-most range of the San Juan Mountains, the largest range in Colorado. “My” mountains very often catch the very last bit of moisture coming East from fronts that come our way from the Gulf of Mexico or California. They did that yesterday. Just an hour away, “our” ski area got 18 inches (more or less half a meter) of snow. Down here? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I love watching them scrape snow from the clouds even when I really want the snow they’re STEALING from me and Bear.

After I’d painted them several times, their image seems to have moved into the space between my hand and eye. On the back of my paintings on board or panel, I do a “free-hand” painting of Windy and Pintada Mountains in acrylic. That’s my motif and why I named my Etsy store “Windy Peak Fine Arts.”

In the “Count Your Blessings” column, yesterday 45 “Tweeted” the closest thing I think we’re going to get to a concession speech and the money for the transition has been made available to the new president. C-19 vaccines are rolling out, including one that doesn’t need such intense refrigeration. The company that’s making it says it’s between 60 and 90% effective and it’s going to make it available to developing nations at $3 a “shot.” Our flu vaccine is 60% effective so, pretty impressive.

Painting Hangover

The big canvas on which I painted the crane came to me from a friend who lost his vision to macular degeneration. He wanted to be an art teacher when he “grew up,” but when he was still pretty young, it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. A lot of his paintings hang in in house, and one of them hangs in mine. I have some of his brushes, too. He still likes to talk about painting. Though it’s hard to imagine the conversations make him happy, they seem to. That’s a testament to his resilience and courage. When he couldn’t paint anymore, he went after his other love, music.

I like to talk about painting. I like to talk about artists and pigments and all that stuff that some of you have “had” to read about on my blog over the years. I guess it was around this time last year I invested money I didn’t really have in a set of natural pigments and was completely enthralled by them. I still am. It’s all a big miraculous wonderful thing to me that you can pick up some dirt, pulverize it, mix it with oil or water or eggs or acrylic medium and you have paint.

Finishing the big painting yesterday left me with the bereft feeling I had when I finished writing my first novel. I poured a lot of life and time into that canvas. It sat in my garage until three years ago or so when I thought I knew what it was supposed to be and painted the underpainting. That idea never “jelled,” and the canvas just sat in a corner of my studio, partially painted, all Indian yellow and blue, waiting.

The image of the crane is something I saw briefly in the winter part of March this year. I passed the crane as he walked in solitude between willow saplings on a gray day with lifting fog. I thought, “That’s beautiful,” and kept going. I didn’t know at the time where it would lead me, that it would end up the painting on the big canvas, that I’d find an easel, that I’d drive 100 miles to get it on a glorious early fall day. I didn’t know anything about where that solitary gray image would take me. Now it’s there, no longer furtive and brief, but held as if in amber by the miracle of minerals and linseed oil, a different geology.

Doing a serious painting takes the artist somewhere. This year I’ve gone a lot of places in paintings, via paintings, in paintings. The weird part is finishing and re-entering daily life. You’ve done this THING, difficult and transformative, and when you emerge — not just from the work but the idea — and you’ve succeeded, you wonder, “Where is everybody? Where’s the parade?” 🙂

Big Painting Update

The good news this morning is that I can’t think of a single 19th century work of fiction that featured eye-rolling. Some that caused it, but none that feature it. Tomorrow is the opening of the little Christmas art show at the Rio Grande County Museum and I’m both dreading and looking forward to it. Yesterday I did some work on the large crane painting and I’m not sure at all how that painting is going. It’s an exploration, an adventure in a small sense. It’s a strange thing to be attempting to paint mystery, solitude and magic, all pretty abstract, but they were part of the moment last spring that led to the painting I’m working on now.

This is how I left it yesterday. I’ve begun painting the small trees and I’m using metallic silver oil paint. This morning I got a sense of how it will be. The paint — though not dry — was somewhat more settled and the morning light hit it at an angle.

Back in the 90s I was in Laguna Beach with a friend and saw the work of a Russian artist, an emigré, who painted large beautiful paintings that gave the effect of being icons. One of the reasons was he used metallic paint. I loved his work. I’ve used gold metallic paint (made with bronze particles) in a few paintings. I like it. It does its job really well.

In my imagination, this scene with the crane needed silver paint because it would kind of disappear depending on the light. I don’t know if it’s going to work that way, but it’s fun finding out. The thing about cranes is now you see them, now you don’t.

Bear and I took a walk yesterday and there are far fewer cranes than there have been. It’s OK. They have to go down to New Mexico for Christmas. I’ll miss them, but as I wasn’t walking out at the Refuge last winter, this will be the fourth season of discovery for me out there. I imagine it will be a Rogers and Hammerstein experience with the wind whipping down the plains… The cranes will be back in early March.