About Me

My photo
I have been creating things since I was old enough to hold a pencil, a crayon or a needle. You may be surprised what you find here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Since today is Memorial Day, I thought I would show a piece that I made about 11 years ago at this time of year.

These dolls are Paulie and Molly, a patriotic pair. They are an original design. My idea was to make a doll with a shape similar to an old fashioned Coke bottle. My original intent was to make one doll, a male, representing a soda jerk, wearing the appropriate hat, one hand on his hip and the other holding a bottle of coke. I got the proportions wrong for the small Coke bottle I had so it evolved into Paulie and Molly.

I gave him a flag and a hat and decided they were watching a parade, and he was saluting the flag as it passed.

A couple of weeks after I completed them, we had our neighbors over to dinner. They fell in love with the dolls and the next day called to inquire about buying them. Paulie and Molly became part of their Fourth of July tradition for years after, until they moved away and possibly even after that.

It wasn't until after I sold them and was looking at the photos that I realized, Paulie is saluting with his left hand. I called to apologize and offer to fix the dolls so they were correct. Chuck laughed and said he hadn't noticed. But he didn't want me to fix them, they reminded him of his time in the Marines when he accidentally saluted an officer with his left hand. Either the officer didn't notice or chose to disregard it.

I created a pattern for these dolls which is still available to for sale. They were also featured with the pattern in the July 2002 issue of Soft Dolls and Animals.

In honor of Memorial Day, I salute (with my right hand) all those who serve our country with honor, in the past, in the present and in the future.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Painting on the porch

I got the third book in the Steg Larson series yesterday and am dying to read it. But I also resolved not to spend another weekend with my nose buried in a book and pick up my brushes and paint.
This relatively quick (for me) painting is the result. There is a copper fountain on my screen porch, and I love to have it running when I sit out there. It's restful.
This year I cannot run it until I make a repair to it as our newest cat who climbs everything, has torn the splash screen by sitting inside it earlier this spring.
Tomorrow, if it's a nice day, I might go outside to paint, or I might just move everything to the porch and work on one of the two or three unfinished paintings I have stashed away.
I could also do more with this painting, but I don't think I will. It has served it's purpose, getting a paint brush back in my hands again and letting me paint something relatively simple from real life, before I attempt landscape painting plein air again.
My art magazine arrived yesterday and has me itching to set up a still life in my studio. That is best saved for a rainy weekend, I think. I need sunshine in my life right now and the studio doesn't have any windows.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Gentleman Cat

He was a fostered kitten, bottle fed from the time he was three weeks old with his four other litter mates. His foster mom thought he was the best of the litter and set out to find him a special home. She decided we were it. Have you figured out yet that we are a soft touch?

He is the gentlest cat I have ever had. He lets me hold him even when he doesn't want to be held. He has never clawed or bitten me except by accident in play, and then it was my fault. Snugs is a long haired tuxedo cat with long fluffy tail that is the pride of the household, always up and waving. He is also a very hard cat to paint. Nearly everytime I try, if I try to paint his eyes, he ends up looking mean. I loved creating this painting, because you can see that he is gentle and playful.

This fountain has served as the water bowl for all of our cats for nearly five years.

Snugs at the Fountain was one of my first paintings, and it's fairly simple as you can see. It is oil on a 16" x 20" canvas board. Painting the water turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, but the ivy leaves were a challenge. I had a lot of helpful hints on how to improve the painting from my artist friend, some of which I actually paid attention to. Not that I didn't value all of it, but sometimes it's more info than I can process all at once.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A wonderful dog

A few years ago, about three months after we lost Little Kitty, I offered to take care of a friends dog while she was on vacation for two weeks. We hadn't had the dog for more than a couple of days when I got a phone call asking if I wanted to keep the dog. She and her husband were preparing to make major life style changes and thought we could give the dog a good home.
My husband was in love with her already, and thus after a bit of back and forth, we decided to keep her. At this point in her life she was about 11 years old but still a pretty peppy gal who loved to run and play.
Shadow was part Standard Poodle, but she also had a black tongue. I also met a Portuguese Water Dog that could have been her twin, so who knows what lurked in her DNA? She didn't jump up on people, she didn't lick, and she didn't push open doors. Mostly she stayed off the furniture unless you put a blanket on it and invited her up. The word ride had her dancing for joy, she loved going anywhere in the car.
I love to take photographs, but in all the photos I ever took, I found it difficult to capture her joy and animation. With Shadow in the house I felt safe. She wasn't unfriendly, usually, but kept herself between us and any visitors we had. She had been known to herd people back to their chairs by mouthing the backs of their legs if they went somewhere she didn't think they should be. And one day, when I invited a friend into the bathroom to get a band-aide he needed, she placed herself squarely in front of him and actually growled. Apparently, that was forbidden.
We had Shadow for just a bit over four years. Even on her last day, when she was in a lot of pain and had difficulty breathing, she wanted to go for her morning walk with my husband. I painted this painting long before we had to take her for her final ride. I am so glad that I did.
The following month, we went to a place where you could make your own wine with some friends. We 'created' a Shiraz, called it "Shadow's Shiraz". One of our friends is an artist in his own right, and a graphic designer by trade. He used this painting to create the label. We are still drinking our toasts to Shadow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Art makes me humble

Occasionally, you look at a piece you have created and think to yourself "this is pretty good." I was getting pretty comfortable with myself, I had been seeing consistent improvement in what I was doing and I hadn't spend a lot of time with my painting friend recently. She keeps me humble all by herself. And then I found this painting.

To back up a little, I stop at consignment shops all the time. Usually just to browse. I keep an eye on the walls looking for frames I can use. Often you can find a nice frame for less than the price of a new one and throw away what's in it.

That's what first caught my eye. This piece had a lovely gold frame. When I went to look at the price, I also looked at what was in it for the first time. Art. Real art. Real original art! All for $65.00. I had never heard fo the artist, but that didn't matter - the talent was obvious and I had to have it.

I was lucky, it had only been in the shop for a day. Another day or two, and I'm sure my opportunity would have been gone. The artist, Fritz Mueller, out of Munich Germany, could be one of two different artists I have learned by searching on the web. Given the birth and death dates, I am supposing father and son. There is no way for me to know which one painted this, or it's real value (more than what I paid, I know), but I don't care.

I have owned this piece for nearly a year. I look at it every day and am humbled by his skill. The detail in the hands, the glass and pitcher and the individual fine white hairs painted in the beard are amazing. It speaks to me and inspires me. One day, I may finally learn which Franz Mueller painted this, I may even learn it's value in the art market. But it doesn't matter, to me, it's priceless.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting Permission

As my time to paint is limited, I often paint from photographs, generally ones I have taken, but occasionally I find a something I want to paint and the photo belongs to someone else.

I don't sell my work, at least not at this time, so if I use an image that belongs to someone else, I am not profiting from it. However, I do generally ask permission to paint the image. If I cannot find a way to contact the individual who took the photo, I probably won't paint it. I do occasionally try to reproduce another painting. When I do this, I make sure my painting is noted as a study and reference the original artist and the title of their work. I try very hard to be sensitive to copyright issues and respect others intellectual property.

The painting above was inspired by a photograph taken by a friend while on her honeymoon in the South of France. When I asked her if I could try to paint the sceen, she graciously agreed. The courtyard was filled with pots of flowers, some wonderful crockery in the grilled window and a marvelous wooden door. There was also a fountain for the purpose of obtaining potable water in the courtyard. By the looks of it, it has stood there for many years.

This painting was my first in nearly 20 years with this level of detail. I took the photograph, my canvas and supplies on vacation, and this was one of the ways I relaxed. That and visiting local vintners. Just a note, tasting wine at 10Am shortly after brushing your teeth is not the best way to taste wine.

A family member fell in love with the painting and thus now owns it. She found a wonderful and unusual frame that really sets it off.

I have changed my blog setting so that anyone can now comment. I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rainy days make me think of mud pies

When my grand-daughter was seven, I used to pick her up after school one day a week so we could spend the afternoon together. We did crafts, made popcorn and watched movies or played outside in the yard.

One fine May day, we stopped at nursery and bought some flowers to plant in the yard. After all the flowers were planted, she took the pots and went to play in the pile of loam. I sat in a lawn chair watching and talking to her. After she decided the loam needed watering because she needed to make mud, I had to go get my camera.

Making Mud Pies was my favorite photo of her, and when I decided to try my hand at portrait painting, it was a natural to grab that one. She is a young adult now, but the best compliment she could ever pay me was to ask if she could please have the painting. I have promised it to her in my will, in the mean time, she will have to make do with a photograph of the painting and a JPG for her FaceBook page.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Inspired by a photo

I have family in Finland that I have never met. We have been pen pals for the past 18 years, she is a far better pen pal than I am. She keeps in touch, sends family photos and small gifts occasionally. Over the years, I have watched her children grow up through photos.

The last letter I received had a small photograph of her farm, the barn in the mist of the morning sunrise. It was a small photo but there was something about it that made me want to paint it.

My next letter to her will be a package. In return for all of the small gifts she has sent me over the years, many of then hand-crafted, I am going to send her a painting of her farm. I like it enough to want to keep it and hang it in my house, but that wasn't why I painted it. So I will make myself a print using my own self created process.

I will spend some time outside to get a high quality photo and then I will gesso s piece of canvas pad a couple of times so that it doesn't aborb the ink from my printer and look faded, and will print a copy directly onto the canvas. She will have the original, and I will have a print. I hope that she likes it as much as I do.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A loved and missed companion

For nearly twenty years, I had a lap cat. He never really had a name, he was just "little kitty". Over the course of half a lifetime, I have had many cats, all had names and all died far too young.

When I adopted Little Kitty from the shelter, by not giving him a name, I thought I would protect myself from the heartache of losing him. But in the end, he did have a name, it was Little Kitty, and sometimes we called him Fred!

He was my companion in everything I did. He sat in my lap when I watched TV, read a book, quilted or did cross stitch. He also helped a lot with the last two. If you could call grabbing the thread out of the needle helping. If I was in my studio, so was he. Curled up on some fabric somewhere taking a nap, but always close by. He often asked that I take a break and play with him, and nearly always I did.

He was about three months old when we got him, and shortly after we brought him home he got a respiratory infection. He sat on my lap every night, burning up but trusting me to help him. At night he slept on the bed down by my feet.

When we had had him about a year, my mother in law passed away and we had to drive 1800 miles for the funeral. Little Kitty went to a kennel for a week. He was so happy to see us when we picked him up. For the next six weeks he slept under my arm, curled up in the space above my elbow, holding on with his little paws wrapped around my arm for dear life. He waited for me to come home from work and was never aloof if left alone for very long. He would just drag a pair of my sweat pants out of the closet and leave them lying in the middle of the floor as it to say "You weren't here, I missed you so I grabbed your clothes to stay close."

Little Kitty loved peanuts and chocolate, any kind of chocolate, milk, white and dark. So you had to keep an eye on him when you had any or it would disappear.

It was a hard day when I had to say goodbye. We live so much longer than our pets, there are so many goodbyes, and they don't get any easier. It doesn't stop us from adopting other animals into our lives. They add so much to our existence.

This painting of Little Kitty was done a few years after we lost him. It makes me smile to think of all the joy he brought into my life. I have three cats now, and not one of them is a lap cat. I miss that in the evening.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Geraniums at night

I loved the look of these geraniums lit by the light on the side of the porch at my dad's house. I'm not sure if you get geraniums in the painting, however. It was a lot of fun to do, and I'll keep practising. Today, I am going to spend more time painting. Yesterday I started working on a painting of the fountain on my porch. It's a great day to sit outside and try to capture an image and a feeling.

Art comes in many forms

During a point in my life when I had lots of free time, my creative energies tended towards working with fabrics. I made custom neckties, one of a kind jackets and clothing items, and dolls. Not rag dolls, but posed fabric figurines. In an effort to improve my skills at needle sculpting the faces, I created a series of heads to be used as a chess set.

This chess set was in my first show and one of my first pieces to ever sell. This particular set was called "Fire and Ice". It sold through a local gallery, so I never found out who purchased it. But the sale of it, and showing the photos on the web site I had at the time, gave me a commission for a second set, which I will share on another day.

What I liked best about making these pieces is that each piece had it's own unique character. Just like in a real army, the uniforms are the same, but the individuals who wear them are all unique in their own right. All of the faces are hand painted, all of the costumes are hand stitched. This set was 95% made with a needle in my hand, and not by using a sewing machine. It was a real joy to create.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Plein Aire Painting

Most of my paintings thus far have been done from photographs that I have taken, or with permission of the photographer. Painting outside and painting from life is a whole other way of painting.

One day I got a call from a friend who asked if I would like to come paint with her. When I arrived, she announced we were going to paint outside that day with a group of other painters. Keep in mind, it was March, and there was snow on the ground. Add to that we went to a frozen lake to paint. My feet got very cold, but I had a wonderful time.

Everyone else had lots of experience painting outside so I was a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. Expecially since for a novice, figuring out what to paint and how to narrow your focus is a real challenge.

Ultimately I focused on a single tall tree across the marshy area of the pond. Apparently no one knew I was new to this. Everyone was very encouraging. I even had folks who weren't painters stop by to admire my work. All in all, a very rewarding experience.

I haven't been back outside to paint since, but I think that will change this year. What better way to hone your skills?

A favorite subject

Spooky is my oldest cat and apparently the one who appears most often in my painting. I must love the challenge of black on black!

One of his favorite things to do is to climb inside an article of clothing to take a nap, with just his nose sticking out. When he was just a kitten, one day he climbed inside one of my husbands polar fleece pullovers when I had a camera handy. This became my first painting of him.

This painting is pretty loose and flowing and one of my earlier efforts. I am always surprised to discover how many people like this one, as I consider it kind of primative. You are sure to see more paintings of Spooky in the weeks to come. When I first started painting again, cats and dogs were what I painted the most. And there was a reason for that, but that story is for another day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My most relaxing day

A few years ago I was actively involved with a local community theatre troupe. We did, and they still do, summer productions in a local park. At that time I was both President of the organization and the producer of the summer show in addition to my full time job at a well known non-profit organization. Needless to say, my life was very busy.

One of our good friends turned 50 that summer and to celebrate he invited all of his friends on a three hour cruise to nowhere on a catamaran. For those three hours I was in heaven. One of the many photos I took that day was a photo of my husband relaxing on the boat. Later when I decided to create a painting, trying to capture his essence, that was the photo I turned to.

Now, whenever I look at this painting, not only do I see the man I love, but I am back on the ocean, totally relaxed without a care in the world.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It started with a sketch

One morning last summer I was sitting on the sun porch, drinking my coffee and doing a Suduko. I happened to glance up to see my oldest cat sitting very upright - straining to see something outside the window. I quickly turned my paper over and with my pen tried to capture the pose. Of course, he moved into a different one as soon as I was half done. I started again with his new pose.

In the end I liked the juxtaposition of the two quick line drawings. I went down to the studio and grabbed a 5"x7" canvas and started to paint. My cat is all black. I didn't want to deal with that in this very quick painting. Forty five minutes later I had what I wanted.

It was fun, I should do more of this instead of worrying about failure.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sometimes you learn things

Sometimes you do something to help you learn, and other times the learning comes as part of the doing, which was the case with this painting.

The painting of Peterborough's antique fire truck was a learning experience in a lot of ways. I started it as a challenge, more like a gauntlet thrown down by a co-worker who said "even you could do a better job."

Although I'm pretty sure she didn't mean it that way, I took the challenge. First attempt was using colored pencils, followed by watercolor and finally covered the entire thing with oils.

Lessons learned
  • I don't like working in colored pencil.
  • The fussy detail work required in painting a vehicle is not for me.
  • And finally, plan your painting before you start and you won't have a tree growing out of the middle of your fire truck!

I gave the painting to my co-worker who says she's framed and hung it in her home, so at some level it was a success.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Signs of Spring

Although it's cold here right now, this time of year I am always excited by the signs of spring. The many shades of green as the trees start to leaf out, the grass and the flowers that are starting to sprout up everywhere.

I have lots of purple and white violets growing everywhere, but often the pansies winter over as well. This painting was one of the first ones created when I started painting. It hangs in my father's home, a gift to my step mom before she passed away, something that she seemed to really love.

I hope to be painting more this summer, practice makes perfect and I hope to get a lot of practice.