Friday, November 30, 2007

Life Cycle

Life Cycle
Image Size 7.75" x 8.25"
Paper Size 10.25" x 11"
Watercolors on 300# Strathmore watercolor paper

We begin our lives, curled and tiny. After our birth, we fill our space on earth, beginning with being a small child, unable to walk, but still looking up to those who have passed this way before. As we continue our growth, we look up and reach out for strength, for knowledge, for guidance, for love, for others-for all the things we need to sustain us during our journey.
We reach our full height, straining in our reach for understanding of the mysteries of life, the spirit, and the universe, for others to embrace and share in our journey, to live in joy and in peace, secure.
As the years roll by, our strength and power becomes weaker as we become shrunken in our stature and our abilities. We reach out, weakly, still searching for powers and answers, for help with the rest of our life, and others to share with. There is still hope for life, but it is elusive.
Our bodies become stiffened and we stretch out alone, open to the universe. We wrap ourselves and wait, for that thing which we still do not understand.
We curl up unto ourselves and become one with the earth. Hidden from everyone. The body and powers, the eyes that could see, the voices that once sang and talked, the skin that we lovingly cared for, turning to leather and powder, until they are no more than the earth.
Above us shines a star, beckoning still, as it has all through our cycle of life. The sun and moon still shine for the next person, the next generation, promising hope and answers, power and life.
An angel rises from the earth and moves toward the heavens. Will she stay and guide the next generation? Will she protect the remains in the earth? Or possibly carry that one to Heaven? Or will she move on, to finally know all the answers and find what she had been reaching for all during the life cycle? Will she float silently? Will she dance and sing with joy? Will she hover closely to the earth and to those who remain to go through their own life cycle?
"Life Cycle" was painted on 300# Strathmore watercolor paper, using a limited palette of blue and brown, with a touch of purple and yellow.
I wish.
I wish I had taken a picture of his hand while he was drawing or while he painted. I wish that I had thought to exchange art work with him. I wish that I had taken time to talk with him more about his art. I wish that he had been able to spend more time creating his own art work, participating in art activities, and developing as an artist. I wish that he would have been able to make a good living as an artist and spent a peaceful, yet interesting, life working with his talent, for himself, for those who come after him, for posterity to appreciate.
Above all, I wish that he could have lived longer. That he could have been as strong and healthy as he appeared to be. I wish that he could have stayed on this earth, living a good life as the artist that he could have been.
Another death. An artist gone, before he could develop his own talent. Taken at a relatively young age.
I didn't know him all that well, but he was a colleague, and replaced me when I retired. I tried to encourage him to participate more in artistic activities, from the time he became "the other art teacher", and he seemed to enjoy the things that he was able to do. But his other duties always seemed to interfere, and I was left to participate in most things, with my own students, or alone. The few pieces of art that I saw of his showed a lot of promise. But, his time was spent teaching and coaching, and working. One legacy that he did leave was a new logo for the school, which he painted in many places. (I was glad for that! I had to paint the large, fighting, complicated, eagles everywhere prior to that!)
I hope that there is some of his work, somewhere, that will live on after him, other than the logo.
During workshops and demonstrations, beginning some years ago, I became interested in watching various artists work. I took some photos as most people do, and found that I would always get a picture of the artist's hand with a brush, pencil, or whatever tool they were using. I've thought that it would be interesting to do something along the lines of "The Hand Of The Artist". I never thought to get pictures of people who I am around, and now realize that this is something I should have done.
Especially now that my colleague is gone. I do have an image in my mind of the way that he worked, though.
I am in shock that this young man is gone. That he is lost to his students, his family, and that his talent is lost to the world. I really thought that he would be alright. He seemed to be so strong and there was so much more for him to do on earth.
So many people seem to be spending all their time working, and hoping that the day will come when they will be able to stay at home and develop their talents and interests. It is a shame that people can't make it by doing the things that they love and have a talent for, like art, writing, music, caring for their homes and their children. True, some people do love business, offices, paperwork, rigid schedules, challenges, and all the things that go with many jobs. But some people are just made to go in a different direction. They go through their working lives, trying to fit themselves, a round circle, into that square hole that we hear about. It's so hard for anyone, in any of the arts, to be able to find their niche and make a living with their abilities. And, too often, by the time they are able to quit jobs or retire, ill health, disabilities, finances, or even death puts a stop to those plans.
And, so the life cycle goes.
I won't be able to go to the funeral, but I can remember, and pay tribute to him. He will be remembered by many whose lives he touched.

Take time to do what you love, to create while you can, to make memories for generations to follow, to capture and share your life and the lives of those you remember while you can still remember, to sing while you still have a voice, to dance while your feet and legs still work, to take in the sights around you while you can still see, to drink in the sounds around you, and to enjoy whatever you can, while you are still able to find joy. Reach out and up all through your journey. Leave your mark on this earth, and, hopefully, that will be a mark that will be for the good of those who follow you.
And, always, leave your space in life better than you found it.
Have a wonderful, creative, peaceful weekend. Let me know if you see something of interest to you. And don't forget to check out my sidebar. There are always new things in the links.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday-Heavy Cleaning

It was a big job, cleaning and waxing floors, but something that had to be done often to keep those hardwood floors looking good.
After finishing washing in the wash pot on Monday, and ironing on Tuesday, Wednesday was the day to do the heavy, inside cleaning, like waxing the floors.
Mama and Bertie would shove the furniture over to the side of the combined living and dining room, and put the table near the kitchen door in the living room. Sometimes they rolled the baby grand piano over, but that could be worked around.
First the floor had to be swept. A big pan of soapy water and a rag was used to wash the floor, then clean water was used in the same way to rinse the floor. Mama and Bertie crawled around on their hands and knees as they used wet rags on the floor. Then it was dried with a towel. That was accomplieshed before noon, or dinner time, when Daddy would come home from the store, expecting a big meal.
We ate with the dining table out of place. It was kind of nice to be able to look out the front door while we ate, instead of having to watch the kids who stayed at school for dinner. That made my stomach hurt, to think of having to go back there after we ate our dinner.
If we didn't have roast the previous Sunday, and if there were no left-overs to make some roast dish, Mama would make a meat pie. That, and stacks of white bread, glasses of water, and, if in season, Mama might slice a tomato, would make a filling meal. Mama might make fried pies, filled with fruit, or have Jello or vanilla or chocolate pudding for dessert. We couldn't have banana pudding because Mama used the same bowl for banana pudding that she used to cook the meat pie in. A green Pyrex bowl.
After eating, Mama would listen to her soap opera on the radio, while she washed dishes, and Daddy went back to work. If school was in session, I would go back to school or, if I was at home, I would stay in my room and try to avoid the pungent smell of the next step in the almost weekly floor routine.
Mama would get a clean rag, preferably torn from an old sheet or pillowcase, open the can of Johnson's paste wax, swipe some onto the cloth, then rub it onto a small section of the hardwood floor. She rubbed it in a circular motion, then moved on to another section, still moving about on her knees. She covered the living room and dining room floors, except where the table and front door were.
Then, she went back with a clean rag and rubbed the wax some more to polish it. When that part of the living and dining room was done, she and Bertie moved furniture back in place, then repeated the process on the section that had been covered by the dining table, then moved into the small hall to work.
The same process was done to the floors in the two small bedrooms, but not as often. Everything had to be moved out of the rooms, and, usually, that was done on a warm, sunny day when bedsprings and mattresses were moved outside to be aired or washed with the hose.
Some weeks, the ladies tried to finish their work early, have a bath and a rest so that they could dress up a little, and meet at different homes. Wednesday was Bible Study afternoon, with a group leader or the preacher meeting to study and discuss the Bible. The Baptists then had church on Wednesday night.
There was always a big spread of food, refreshments, every time there was a get-together. There had to be hot coffee, and maybe sandwiches, cold cuts, cheese, some kind of spread, relishes, chips, rolls, coffee cake, or other kinds of dessert. Jello salad was popular, or spiced peaches, or even a peach or pear half, served on a piece of lettuce with a dollop of mayonnaise on top. A pineapple slice could be served the same way.
One hot day, the lady in the two story house across the street, shooed us kids out of the house as she had a big group of ladies coming in for their afternoon get-together. There were plates with the prettiest cookies, all colorful and cut into different shapes. Her son, my sister, and I sure did want one of those beautiful cookies. We went outside and sat under a big oak tree by the drive way, longing for a cooky. When it was time for refreshments, the maid came out with a small plate of cookies for us. We hoped for a drink too, but the colorful cookies would do, for then. We could go across the street to our house for some water, later.
Phooey! We took one bite, then spit and spit. Those weren't cookies at all, but some kind of fancy little sandwiches that tasted awful. Probably cream cheese or something, but, whatever it was, it was not the sweet cooky that we expected.
We ran to my house for water! And, after that, we were very suspicious of pretty food!
You can see the different stages of my piece of art work about Wednesday cleaning on the slide show in the post below. I started with a pencil sketch showing my mother on her knees, rubbing wax onto the hardwood floor. The dining table is in the foreground with a bowl of meat pie on the table. In this painting, I did a little play with scale and perspective by having the very large green bowl of meat pie close to the viewer, and my mother appearing small against the wide floor. White sheer ruffled curtains drape from the windows and sunlight filters between the blinds and through the open windows and door.
You can see the row of Live Oak trees across the street at my great-aunt's house, and beside the dirt street beside her house. Directly across the street, as seen through the open front door, is the small house that an older couple built when we were a little older. That empty lot gave us an extra place to play before the house was built. A bit of the lawn in front of our house, can be seen through the door and the front windows.
I used splashes of bright pink on the wall paper, but decided that it was too bold and strong. Mama's wall paper was a dainty floral, with a stripe in it. So I used a little white acrylic over the pink to indicate flowers and stripes. That toned the wall paper down quite a bit.
When we cooked, we usually didn't measure. A handful of this, a pinch of that, a dash of the other. Put it in the oven, or on the stove, and cook until it looks right! As a result, we don't have a lot of family recipes written down. But things sure did come out good!
This is how I remember that Meat Pie was made.
Use one Pyrex bowl.
Crumble ground meat between the fingers and let it fall into the bowl.
Finely chop an onion and stir into the meat.
Sprinkle in a little flour to thicken the mixture as it cooks.
Stir in a little salt and pepper.
You could add a little liquid with water, if you want more juice.
(When I cooked this dish, I added a little Worchetershire Sauce, a chopped clove of garlic, and a small section of green Bell pepper, finely chopped. Another variation is to add a can of Cream of Onion, Cream of Mushroom, or Golden Mushroom soup.)
Make biscuits (I used canned biscuits or made them with Pioneer Biscuit Mix) and place on top of the meat mixture. I liked to sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and onion salt on top of the biscuits to give them more flavor.
Bake in the oven until biscuits are done. Follow the directions on the biscuit label or package for baking.
I'm not sure of the amount of ground meat to use. I'm sure that my mother never used over a pound of ground meat. I guess it would depend on the size of your bowl. When I felt generous, I have used two pounds of ground meat, but we usually had to make do with one pound or less.
You may have a similar dish that you like to make. I haven't made this in a long time, but it was something that we had often when I was growing up. Making the meat pie wasn't so hard, but having to make biscuits from scratch was something else. My dad loved it, but my mother was not so keen on all that baking and mess to clean up.
All the ladies were so excited, and my mother was no exception, when they came out with liquid wax and the applicators on a long handle. The paste wax was put away, and the women could now stand up and push the wax around on the floor. And then there were the mops that also came out, with a long handle. I wonder why their knees didn't wear out, in those days!
Let me know if you see something that is of interest to you.

Check out my Slide Show!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vision-Cold Weather Coming

Cold Weather Coming
6" x 9.25"

Skies to the north became gray and dark as a cold front approached. The rest of the sky was still a clear cerulean blue and the warm temperature seemed more like spring than autumn.
I shielded my eyes against the sun in the west as my sister drove down the narrow country lane. I closed my eyes frequently because the wavey lines and distortion combined with the blur from the movement of the car would almost make me seasick.
Signs were impossible to read until I was close to them. Telephone poles were wavey, and I couldn't see some things.
But, I still had to look at the scenery, when possible. I wanted to look for pictures, to memorize the things I was seeing.
The distant green trees at the edge of the fields broke the flat horizon line, just under the looming clouds. There were no colorful fall leaves here. A field showed the golden colors of dry grass, indications of how dry the ground had become, following a very wet summer. The neighboring yard, where there was a house, had lush green grass, the results of fertilizer, watering, and special care. Concrete pipes were stacked up behind the house.
"Look! All those fat, gray cows are lined up against the fence. I guess they are resting up for the bad weather that is coming later." I pointed toward the windshield.
"Isn't it odd that those cows are all about the same size, in the same position." I thought. "Not so odd, I guess. People have herds of cows that are all the same color and, if they bought them all at the same time, they could be the same size. Wonder what kind of cows those are."
My sister watched the road. We always commented on the animals and sights along the roadways. Cattle always seemed to lay down before bad weather, so this behavior wasn't something so unusual. It was just that they were all lined up against the hurricane fence, instead of being in a group out in the field, or under a tree.
"Oh! They're shrubs by the fence!" I said when we were almost beside the fence. "They aren't cows at all. And they aren't even gray. They're green!" I felt like I shrunk down in the seat a little bit. How dumb of me, to think that those objects were rounded, gray cows, their heads down and feet tucked under their fat bodies! They looked more like cartoon Hippos than cows, to me. But, my mind told me that they had to be cows out in a field.
"Just shows that I shouldn't be driving," I commented, "if I can't tell a cow from a bush!"
"How much worse is this going to get?" I thought. "It's got to get better!" Anxiety is always near.
And, at the same time, logically, I knew that it will only get worse, that there is help for some, but it is unavailable to me. And I tried to shake it off, and think that it is okay. Not nearly as bad as others have to endure. This thing, Macular Degeneration, with cataracts, has already cut into my life quite a bit. I try not to let thoughts of what is to come make their way into my thinking and feeling, but it is always there, like a dark cloud, waiting to fall on me.
I just had to laugh at the funny cows that I saw, getting ready for cold weather. At least, they were kind of fun to paint!
This small painting, "Cold Weather Coming", was painted with Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 # Arches watercolor paper
For more of my paintings and experiences with Macular Degeneration, look in my older posts. They are all prefaced with the word "Vision".
"Eye Sites" in my sidebar, are places that I have found with information on Macular Degeneration.
Contact me if you see something that you would like to purchase. Thanks for reading and sharing with others who might be interested.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vision-Dangerous Sign

Dangerous Sign
4.5" x 8"

Standing behind others as we waited to get on the elevator at the nursing home, I looked at the sign beside the metal doors. Someone was standing in front of me, so I looked beside their arm to look at the yellow, triangular sign.
"That should mean caution", I told myself. "I wonder if I need to start paying more attention to things like shape and color of things like signs."
With my good eye closed, I could see the yellow outside shape, with orange or red around the border. There was a circle of red around the middle, with the line going through it, meaning No. I could only see the beginnings of the cross mark at the circle. Nothing inside the circle.
But, no what? What did the sign say?
Logically, I knew that it must mean that you were not to use the elevator in case of a fire. But, I couldn't read the words, or make out the picture behind the crossed out area in the center. A purple fog hovered over the center, concealing even most of the cross mark.
This could present a dangerous situation, if there were an emergency situation and signs giving directions that were relevant immediately.
Just knowing the shape and color of caution, warning, danger, or informational signs may not be enough, if all of the vision is distorted or even the central vision in both eyes is covered by that fog or spot.
Danger about what? Use caution about what?
The door opened and everyone moved forward into the elevator. I was glad that I had others to follow, and to ask what the signs said, if needed.
This was one of my recent experiences with wet Macular Degeneration in my left eye, and cataracts on both. For more pictures and my experiences, look in the sidebar under Archives. Click on the entries that are prefaced with the word "Vision". I also have a list of some places I have found with more information about Macular Degeneration under "Eye Sites".
Thank you for reading, and for sharing my blog with anyone else who might be interested.
There is a link in my sidebar, where you can fill in your e-mail to join my group. Or, you can go to my group, through the link in my sidebar, and join "Art-By-Cecelia".
Come back to visit again, and, if you see something that particularly appeals to you, let me know.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thoughts of Thanksgiving

7" x 10"

Thanksgiving 2007 is behind us now. When I was teaching, I always had my students do a picture of something that they were thankful for before Thanksgiving. This year, I thought I would give myself the assignment, but I really didn't have time to work that out before the holiday was upon us.
Instead, I did this small watercolor.
I started thinking of being thankful for a roof overhead, a warm place to enjoy, food to eat and to share with family and friends. It isn't a picture of my family, or memories of our Thanksgiving meals, or even our Thanksgiving meal this year. My painting is a general scene of a Thanksgiving gathering. I probably had a few thoughts of holidays and family of the past as I painted this, however. This is another piece of art in my expressionistic style.
Two youngsters are watching tv on the floor, while others are outside tossing a football. More people are arriving, dressed in their Sunday best. Two couples are already seated at the dining room table, talking. The plates are set close together. A big turkey is roasted and waiting at the head of the table. Side dishes of potatoes, dressing, gravy, rolls are on the table, along with butter, cream and sugar.
Once, we had a large family, that gathered for holidays in one of several homes. That sort of rotated according to who felt like being host and hostess for that meal.
The dinette table, dining room table, a large table in the den, card tables, and a little children's table were all full of family, friends, and guests.
Now, our family has dwindled to one aunt in the nursing home, my daughter, her two sons, my sister, and I. I think we are not making enough memories for the younger generation by not having those big family dinners. But, the last time I tried to cook, I had a lot of trouble trying to lift the big turkey and dressing in the pans, and could have used some help. But, my daughter decided that she wanted to go out to eat with friends, and I just told those who my daughter had invited, not to come. We finally had turkey and dressing that night, instead of at noon, as was our custom. But, as I always have said, the best part of the turkey dinner is the sandwiches that you make later. So, that's what we did.
Last year, my sister, daughter, the boys and I went to a local cafeteria for a meal. There was a crowd, and a long line. The food was not very good.
This year, we did the same thing. A friend of my daughter's, her son, her husband, and his father, joined us. The line was very long and not good for bad knees (mine) or backs (my sister). But, the food was much better this year.
After we ate, we took pies to the nursing home, and shared with my aunt and the staff and residents, who wanted, and could have, some pie.
Sadly, by eating out, there were no leftovers to make those wonderful turkey sandwiches!
One Thanksgiving that my dad talked about, for the rest of his life, was the year that I brought home one of my friends from college. He would always talk about the year that we had a real Indian with us for Thanksgiving. And, for her, it was her first time to have Thanksgiving. That year, we had Thanksgiving across the street from my house, with the great-aunt who had the allergy problems.
Our family Thanksgiving meals consisted of two 30 pound turkeys, with corn bread dressing and gravy, a large Pikes Peak red roast with red gravy, a large baked ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, cooked carrots, creamed corn, whole kernel corn, English peas, ambrosia, fruit salad, Jello salad, pears, peaches, jellied cranberries, rolls, bread, bakeless cake with whipped cream, chocolate, pumpkin, lemon meringue, coconut, pecan pies, and marble, coconut, and chocolate cake. Children got milk, with cream still in it, some adults drank iced tea, or "sky juice" (as my dad called it), and most adults drank some coffee. Most drank it with cream and sugar-lots of it! My uncle still preferred his coffee prepared by putting 1/2 cup of cream in his cup, then 4 spoons of sugar, then fillng the rest of the cup with coffee.
I always thought that they were speaking some German at our family dinners as people would say, "Pass the cush, please." Or, "Please pass me the gunwadden". They asked for the "pootie" or the "sawdust". It was only in recent years that I realized that these were some Aggie terms that my dad brought home with him from his time as a student at Texas A&M University. My great-aunt and her brother, my grandfather, did speak German, but that was not it, apparently.
Gunwadden (gun wadding?)-bread
Sky juice-water
Everyone pitched in to do the finishing touches, and get the food on the table. There was much talking as people arrived, and the ladies joined in the kitchen, while the men gathered in the parlor and the living room.
The male head of the table gave the prayer, as the group settled in on chairs, stools, and anything they could find to pull up to the table to sit on, and then we ate and talked.
While the grownups lingered over the table, with coffee and dessert, I would take the kids under the table, where we "decorated". I taught people their ABC's, and to write their names, with crayons on the underside of the table. That was when we were small enough for a lot of us to fit under the table.
When we got tv, we would adjourn to the room with the tv to watch the Aggie-Longhorn game. Daddy and Grandpa, especially, took those Aggie games very seriously. Woe be unto anyone who talked during a crucial play, especially if the Aggies were not doing so well.
Sometimes we would go for a walk, boys would go out and toss a football, or we might go for a drive. But only after the regular crew went into the kitchen to wash and dry dishes, put food away, and get the table ready for supper, or a snack later.
By the time the meal was over, the men were stretching back, loosening their pants, and unbuckling their belts. Some would have to have a little short nap in their parlor chair while their food went down!
Despite eating all that food, repeated trips to nibble on "just a little bite" were in order through the afternoon and even late into the night.
Our tradition, in our family, was, after eating, and resting for a while, we would go out to the pasture and pick out our Christmas tree. We would get a Cedar tree, always too large, which Daddy would have to cut down and bring home. Sometimes, he just left it tall and bending over at the top. Eventually, though, Mama would get him to take the tree out and cut it down some more. Then he would make a stand for it, with two boards, crossed over, and some bricks around it to hold the tree upright. Those would be covered with a roll of cotton from the store (Conitz Dry Goods Store-grandpa's store), to simulate snow. Mama's ornaments would come out of the linen closet, where she kept them during the year, and we would hang decorations-or were they really toys for the cats to play with!
We discovered that snow for the tree could be made from powdered washing detergent, mixed with a little water, to make a paste. Then that could be scattered on the tree. I still remember the year that Daddy brought home a box of Cheer instead of Tide, so we had blue snow on our tree. We always preferred the bought things, but, sometimes, we had to make do with whatever we could find.
Sometimes, our tree would be in a corner of the living room, other years, it would be in the center of the recessed windows in the living room. Mama's baby grand piano held the tree some years, but usually, the room was just full with the sofa, piano, and a big tree, plus smaller furniture, and a heater.
One great-aunt had serious problems with allergies, and, at one point, she couldn't come in the house with our Cedar tree. Daddy also had planted a Cedar tree at each corner of the house, and had low Cedar shrubs by the front steps. "Toot", my great-aunt, would stand out in the yard to talk to Mama. Sadly, she had to give up working in the yard she loved so much. But, eventually, she recovered and she wasn't even sure why. She came to our house for a brief visit for Christmas Eve, when she was suffering with allergies, with the rest of the family. She was covered up, wore a scarf over her face, even - like a bandit, and left quickly.
Christmas is another story.
For this year, our fall and Thanksgiving things have been put away, and Christmas things are appearing. We don't go into the woods to cut down a Cedar tree, these days. Our tree comes from a box in the store room! Not nearly as much fun. But, we will have some hot chocolate while we put on decorations. Most of the decorations, are put up around the house. We still have to get the tree up. But, it has turned cold, and rainy. At least it is beginning to feel like Christmas this year. And we can use the rain. Usually, it is warm and sunny, and it is really hard to get in the mood.
This year, I'm ready to have some hot chocolate and do Christmas cards. (Still wish I had some good left over turkey for sandwiches, though.)
Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope that your Thanksgiving was memorable, and good.
If you haven't joined my group, please consider doing so. It's really easy.
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Let me know if you see something that is of interest to you. Thanks for referring others to my blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Can She Bake A Cherry Pie

Vision-Thinking of Thanksgiving

I had a bit of trouble adding an image to my post today. I did want to send you something, though, so I wrote this, then, later, was able to add the drawing.
There are some new things on my blog, including new links to blogs and sites of interest.
My grandfather was an excellent cook and loved to bake. My father was always so glad when Grandpa came to see us! Home baked biscuits every morning, with bacon or ham, eggs, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal, and, often, home made doughnuts. And, during the day, he would bake pies, cake, cookies, rolls-all kind of good things. The pencil drawing above shows Grandpa as he would limp around the kitchen, singing and cooking. I thought that "Billy Boy" was so appropriate, and he would add verses as I asked questions about the song!
But, when holidays like Thanksgiving came, the women took their kitchens back and there was much activity in getting ready for the big family meals. Cleaning, polishing silver, waxing floors, with help to groom the yard to show to company. There were traditional family foods to prepare with each lady trying to outdo the other's in the family, while maintaining standards started generations before. It wasn't a time to experiment with new dishes or arrangements. Everyone expected certain foods, at the same times, served in the same way, followed by the same afternoon and evening. With everyone miserably stuffed!

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of my page! I've added something special for you there.

The little sparkles are the way that sidwalks in the sunlight, the outdoors (sometimes), and even my grandson's shirt (once) appear to me. Along with the other distortions and blurring. My grandson came home from school a couple of weeks ago. I looked at him and thought I had better get him out of that shirt with all the glitter on it, so it didn't get in his eyes or all over the carpet. When I got closer, I could see that there was no glitter. I guess this is another symptom of Macular Degeneration, or cataracts.
I thought that I should add that effect to a picture, but I'm not sure how to do that. When I found this graphic, I thought, "This is just the way that shirt sparkled!" I'm not sure how I could add this in a painting. I could leave holes in paint, or I could add metallic acrylics, but it wouldn't show up with that sparkle.
Anyway, I hope that you and your's are preparing for a big, memorable, happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks for reading, and sharing. Keep sending me the helpful comments. Consider joining my group, and send me others who might be interested in my work.
Please let me know if you see something that is of interest to you!
Anne was so kind to send me an interpretation of her color and her flower. A new species, or an idea for a picture!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Check out my Slide Show!

Portrait Challenge Using Shapes

See my slide show separately. For some reason, I couldn't get the html thing to work this way for a slide show.
This is my work for a challenge that was issued on the blog "Creativity Journey" last week. I sent mine in Friday and the final result is a part of the slide show there. You can look in my sidebar and click on Creativity Journey to go to Myrna's blog. She has some really interesting work there, and good ideas.
1. The first slide is from a tin type of my great-grandfather, James DeGraffenreid Miles. One of these days, I want to do a portrait of him in a Civil War uniform. I have a couple of pictures in a suit of those times, but haven't found anything of his uniform. So, I thought this would be a good picture to really examine.
The challenge was to use a program on the computer to posterize a picture, then use those shapes to do a painting. Myrna used a special paper and pens, and worked fairly large.
I don't have Photoshop and my basic Paint program didn't help, except that I was able to paint out the scratched background on the tin type. I thought that I have the ability to identify shapes and work with them, without a computer program. And I could try out a different type of paper that I already have, and try different kinds of pens or paint.
After looking at Myrna's examples, I thought that I was through, but, when I went back, she had added a background. So, I felt that I had to add a background after I had finished the figure. This did turn out to be an interesting challenge, and, as I thought, it did force me to examine parts of the face a lot more.
Strangely, despite the bright colors, when I get off from the painting, it does look rather realistic.
2. For the second slide, I put the photo that I printed out, without a background, on my light table, and put a piece of block printing paper over it. Then I simply traced the outline and started to break the face up into shapes.
3. The third slide shows more of how I broke the picture into shapes using a pencil. Some of the shapes were on the photo, but some were possibly formed by the age spots on the original photograph.
4. I tried different kinds of pens, but they either didn't run and blend on this paper, or they bled into a mess rather than an interesting line. So, I opted for watercolors. The paper seemed to be too small to use acrylics. I realized that I would have to make some changes because of the difference in materials, and the way that the watercolors handled on the paper.
I was not happy with the final results, at first, but, when I looked at it from a distance, it does resemble a person. I do have two other copies, that are different, that I can try to work on more.
These are the notes I made about this challenge:
1. I spent days trying to figure out how to posterize on my computer. Finally found that the only way I can do that is to have Photoshop, which I don't have. Tried Paint, and that one only is a basic program that also won't posterize. I knew that I had seen that somewhere before, but it must have been when I first got my computer.
2. I found a picture that I have been wanting to do as a portrait. It's from a tin type of my great-grandfather and want to paint him in a Civil War uniform.
3. I saved that picture as a bmtp, then could use basic Paint on it to paint out the background as white. I thought that I could just draw in the shapes with the drawing tool, but my hand is not steady enough to make that little pencil go where I want it to go. I did manage a rough outline around the figure. I was able, then, to print the picture of the figure.
4. I decided to see what I could do using block printing paper, rather than drawing or watercolor paper. I used that over the print on a light table, to trace the picture and shapes.
My light table is improvised. I have a soda fountain table with a glass top in my kitchen. I put a foot stool under it, a small lamp on top of the stool and used a couple of books when I needed to raise the lamp.
While I did several drawings, I elected to use the version in which I broke the face up into planes and geometric shapes. I gave this assignment to my students, when I was teaching. They worked in basic geometric shapes, before doing portraits and clay sculptures of the head.
5. I experimented with several types of pens, but I didn't think that they did anything special. I need to use materials on hand rather than buying a lot of new things, at this point.
6. I decided to just use watercolors. It doesn't work as well on block printing paper. Soaks in too fast and also goes through. Something like gesso on it might give a different effect. At least it didn't bleed as I worked.
7. I forced myself to use a color wheel and tried to stick to those colors rather than just what I felt like putting down. Analagous colors, then complimentary colors, were my choice. I did think of lights and darks, areas that came forward and those that recede as I worked.
Now, I realize that it might have been better to select a picture that had more color in it! This was a tin type, on a black piece of metal, with a little color added, and white painted outlines. There is a blue cast to it, and it has a lot of scratches and marks where a frame had been long ago.
8. After I had finished the person, I decided to add a background. I experimented with using Press and Seal kitchen wrap as a mask. I pressed it down, then used a stencil knife to cut out the shape. Then I painted a loose background and dropped in a little salt. (I usually use margarita salt for that technique, but I just had table salt on hand. Plain salt doesn't show up as well.)
9. I learned that, if I use the Press and Seal as a mask, I need to be sure to be really careful with the stencil knife so as to not go through the paper and all!
Also, the thin paper needs to have more paper underneath it as the paint will go through if you use a lot of water, and it can also run under the masking tape used to hold the paper in place. I did get a little stain on my white drafting table. But, it will come off eventually.
10. Now, I'm going to try the other two I drew, using different color harmonies. The block printing paper doesn't work well for things that you want to run, though, so I will have to try that on something else.

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that I hoped that those who needed rain so badly will get it, and that it is getting dry here, again. So much so that we are under a burn ban. The big Aggie bonfire before the Thanksgiving football game with the Longhorns was put on hold because of the burn ban in the county where it is to be held. The county authorities are scheduled to meet again tomorrow to reconsider. There was only a slight chance of rain.
Well, of all things, the clouds rolled in about dark, there was a lot of lightning, and we had rain all night and into this morning. So much so that I read that one road out in the country had 4 feet of water over it by last night. I hope that some of those who are so desperate for rain will get the rain they need. I don't know if we are caught up now. I'll have to find out on the news tonight.
Hope that you enjoy my pictures and slide show, and reading about how this painting came about.
Let me know if you see something of particular interest to you. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Whoop Te Do! Another Big Saturday Night!

Whoop Te Do!
Another Big Saturday Night!
18" x 24"
Mixed Media: China Markers, markers, & watercolors
There was a time when Saturday night meant going out-dancing, out to eat, on a date, to a movie, riding around, or even out with other girls, hoping to meet some suitable guys.
Time passes, however, and, while there are still things going on in the world, Saturday night might mean doing something mundane, watching tv, eating supper in front of the tv with the British comedies, washing clothes, ironing, taking a nap on the couch before going to bed.
The above self portrait was done at my kitchen sink after supper was finished and dishes had been done. Dressed in my housecoat, I looked out the window over the sink at the full moon outside. Light from the moon reflected off a few clouds that drifted past. A pottery windchime dangled in the window.
To do this picture, I placed a drawing board with 80# drawing paper on the sink, where I had been washing dishes, and worked from the reflection in the window. I could still see a bit of the night sky with the full moon, as well as myself.
I thought, "Whoop te do! Here's another big Saturday night!" as I looked toward the university and city. In times past, I would have taken my little car, and been out there having a good time with everyone else.
I selected china markers for a loose drawing medium, with some use of markers, and tried to work in an energetic way with lots of searching lines. Light washes of watercolors were used to complete the picture. Standing, and working with larger materials, seems to allow for more energy as well as a loose technique. I limited my colors to browns and blues-a neutral and one primary color.
Hopefully, those of you who need rain are getting some relief this weekend. (We're having clouds, a little sprinkling of rain, and thunder. It's dry here again with burn bans that have put a stop to the big Thanksgiving game bonfire, for now. Several counties have put a burn ban in place again, after we had caught up with our rain deficit during the summer.) I hope that everyone is able to "kick up your heels" and have a good time .
Let me know if you see something that particularly appeals to you. I do appreciate your comments and your support.
Thanks for reading and passing this along to others. Have a nice weekend.
On a personal note, our youngest family artist went to his first U.I.L. (University Interscholastic League) meet for his school district today. He was scared, but came home beaming, with a medal and a certificate. He elected to try for Picture Memory. We've been looking at small cards with famous fine art paintings for several weeks, studying titles, artists, and information about each work. The thing that we didn't work enough on was actually writing out the titles and the artists' names, which is what they ended up having to do. I thought that was a little hard for elementary school! He didn't win a top place, but I'm thrilled that he stayed with it, faced his fears and anxiety, represented his school, and participated. Now we know what it is all about and he can be better prepared for next year. His art teacher, and another teacher who helped coach the students, did an outstanding job with the youngsters. He made the comment, "At least now I really know a lot about those paintings!" And he does!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vision- September Shape

September Shape
5" x 7"
This is a shape that I saw in the center of my vision through my "bad" eye, in September. (The "bad" one being the left eye that has wet Macular Degeneration.) A bit of the change from the solid color purple spot with a green halo that I had been seeing, to this one, in different colors and sections.
The spot reminded me of the corner of a house, with an overhang, possibly from a porch. The blue area would be sky, the purple area looks like the corner of a frame house, and the pink looks like the ceiling of a porch, reflecting the pink of a sunset. Just my thoughts. Probably you see something else. Maybe a peace sign, or something else.
The green halo was still around the spot. The light faded into brown, then black and darkness.
There is a discussion on the MD Support list on the ways that people see color. Especially when the eyes have been affected by injury or the many things that can go wrong with vision. I just recently found that list. The website is .
Previously, I've had discussions with other artists about things like color theory and why we see things the way that we do. In my teaching career, I had a couple of students who did the most outstanding work with color. After teaching those students for a few years, I learned that they were actually color blind. One explained that he worked with shades of gray. He had no idea of the beautiful colors he was producing.
Another student did such strong, poweful work that amazed everyone. Eventually, she was found to have a medical condition and was given medicine for that. Her work changed to sweet, soft little things, the normal things that girls do, Tweety Bird, hearts, flowers, pale colors. It was such an unsettling change.
I always thought that having trouble distinguishing some colors, like black and dark blue, were just a part of aging. That went along with having arms that are too short to read! A need for glasses. But, apparently it is a bit more than that, sometimes, especially, when it expands to more colors and shapes. I guess it is a part of having AMD or related vision problems.
Fluorescent lights gave me a lot of problems at school, but I could compensate by using natural light from the windows. At home, I use incandescant lights, but have to use more on my work. I need that natural light, too. There are lamps that put out light that are similar to daylight now.
I've read that, if you want to see what part of your vision is affected by Macular Degeneration, to grip your hand into a fist. Turn the back side toward you. Extend your fist about 10 inches away from the center of your eye. Then try to read something without moving your fist. Or that could include trying to look at someone, look at a picture, watch tv, read, cook, or any of the many things we do daily. The center vision, that area where you try to focus, is lost with AMD.
More on Macular Degeneration to come as I experience these things, and learn. At least, I am getting some interesting art work out of this. Work that I would not have done had my eyes stayed healthy and in the 20/20 state that they had always been in.
Thanks for reading and passing this on to anyone who might be interested. I have some links on Eye Sites on my sidebar that might be of interest to all who have concerns about vision. If you would like to see more of my art work and experiences with Macular Degeneration, look in the archives section on my sidebar. All of those posts are prefaced with the word "Vision".

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lavender Ladies

Lavender Ladies (Detail)
10" x 14"
Each Friday, there is a challenge issued on the "Creativity Journey" blog. (I have a link to it in the sidebar.) Last week, the assignment was to begin with a grid. Not an ordinary grid of little squares, but to look around for things that form shapes.
I thought and thought and looked and looked. Finally, I looked at the Crepe Myrtle outside my window. And there it was. A grid. In the center, the branches formed a diamond shape. Some of the outer branches curved and twisted. I used watercolor pencils on 140 # Arches watercolor paper to draw the lines of the Crepe Myrtle for my grid.
Then there was the problem of what to use the grid for. I looked and thought some more. I took my paper, watercolor pencils, brushes, travel watercolors and set up in front of the tv set in the den. I can see that one better, if I pull my chair up in front of it. I settled down for the rest of the day, I thought. There were supposed to be Tim Holt movies on and I didn't want to miss those. I thought that, maybe I could at least try some gesture drawings while the cowboys were on.
I sketched one as a gesture drawing, and the trees bending over a dry creek bed, as the cowboys rode under them, seemed like this might be a grid that I could use. The scene went by quickly and my horse, as usual, looked like a dog. Good thing that I was looking at this more as a way to show movement and placement, and not a realistic drawing of a cowboy on a horse. My trees looked good, though!
I put that one aside as I thought that the figures I actually used, should utilize the lines of the grid more. My cowboy and trees could be finished later. I would need to look at a horse longer than the quick shot of them herding cattle through the trees in the movie.
The family left, and "Ladies In Lavender" came on tv. I had been wanting to see that movie since it came out and, finally, here was my chance. I still had my watercolors set up in front of the tv, and I settled down to enjoy the show.
"I'm going to watch this movie," I told myself. "The drawing will just have to wait. But, if I do see something that I want to put in a picture, I'm ready."
I enjoyed the beach scenes, the cozy houses, the vintage clothing and settings, and, of course, Judi Dench is always good. I stuck to watching, as I had promised myself. That is , until, the young man was on the rocks by the water, playing his violin in the moonlight. I could envision the line of his arms, through his shoulders, holding up the violin, in the top part of the lines that formed the diamond shape. The tilt of his head would fit into the shape above that. The drape of his jacket and the placement of his feet would all fit into the grid. All of this would have to be in blue, with the circle of the full moon above him.
The two women would have to be dressed in purple to fit the name of the movie, and they did fit into the grid. I thought about doing the whole picture in purple, but decided that the boy just had to be painted in blue. So, maybe, I would confine the purple to the ladies.
The young Russian artist struck me with her painting, and then in the scene where she was dressed in the loose robe with all it's flowing patterns. She seemed to fit into the curve on the right, formed by twisting Crepe Myrtle limbs.
The left side needed something. The heavy-set maid in the movie was an interesting character, so I added her to the composition. The exchange between the maid and the young man was so funny, and real. She had him helping her peel "spuds" into a bucket. He was not very nice in his comments to the older woman, but she didn't even know it. He was speaking to her in Polish.
I think that this painting came out with an abstract, dreamlike quality, with a bit of cubism thrown in. It is quite colorful.
I finished "Lavender Ladies" with Winsor Newton watercolors and watercolor pencils. By the time it was dry, and scanned, it was too late to send it in for the weekly challenge.
The picture is too large for my scanner, so today I showed you two details of the painting. By looking at both of them, you can probably see most of the painting.

This week's challenge is going to be a bit more difficult. Myrna used some special pens on a special kind of paper, and a photo program to "posterize" and break up a photo into shapes. I think that I may use some block printing paper and improvise for the pens. Maybe a bamboo pen. I'm not sure that I have anything on my computer that will posterize paintings, so I'm going to just break it up into shapes myself. I can do that-I think. Now to find a photo that I want to do.

Take a look at yesterday's post, below this one. I wrote a salute to veterans. I asked, below the first picture, if the statues, especially the one in the front, look like they are wearing shorts.
Let me know what you think.
Do you know the significance of the statues? I'm not sure about them, at all. It seems like my uncle told my mother where they were, but I just don't remember, now. Since this is being viewed world wide, maybe someone knows about them. Let me know if you have information about the statues in Rome behind my uncle.

I want to recognize and honor the veterans, and those who will be veterans on this Veterans Day. Many events were yesterday, but there are still observations today. I have heard from several people who told me a bit about the veterans in their families. There are so many stories out there. I hope that everyone is writing those down, and sharing them with others.
Thank you veterans, and troops!

Let me know if you see something of interest to you or that particularly appeals to you. Thanks for sharing and for your comments. I do appreciate your support.
I hope that you are enjoying my blog.
Don't forget to check out the links in my sidebar.

If you are interested in adding Blog Rush to your blog, let me know and I'll send you an invitation. If you add the widget through me, I will get more credit and my link will appear on more blog widgets. That way, I should get more traffic to my site. It's really easy to do, and very interesting as it shows how much traffic is coming to the site, and which post is viewed most.

For those readers who are interested in my posts on Macular Degeneration, those posts can be found in the Archives. They are all prefaced with the word Vision.

Hope your Monday wasn't too Blue. Or, if it was, I hope it was a pretty color and not the way you felt!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Salute To Veterans
Uncle Irvin in Rome WWII
Family Photo NFS

Are Those Statues Wearing Shorts?

I was thinking that tomorrow is Veterans Day, since I thought I heard that the kids are out of school on Monday. (I guess I heard wrong, though.) But, I just realized that today is the day. I had hoped that we would get to go out to the Veterans Day parade downtown and to the Veterans Memorial where my uncle's name is listed. But, without someone to drive, I guess I will just stay at home this year. The youngsters, certainly, need to participate in these things.
I did want to do something special on my blog, to honor veterans. I had planned to do some art work, or photograph something that I have already done, for this day.

In our family, we only had two, that I know of, who were able to serve in the military. Most were too old or had health problems at the time of conflicts in the past. And there was a great-grandfather (and his brothers) who served in the American Civil War.

Above is a photo that my uncle sent back to the family when he was on leave in Rome during WWII. He was in the 88th Infantry QM division, the Blue Devils. This photo was "shocking" to some of the family because of the unclothed male statues in the background. I was small and was instructed to close my eyes or not look when the picture was brought out of the envelope. Now, I have to laugh about that. You can't see anything exposed in that picture. And, it looks to me, as if the statues all are wearing shorts! I can't help but wonder if some group that went around covering up the nudes in paintings and sculpture, didn't have a hand in covering up the men in these statues! Maybe they were made that way originially. I don't know. My uncle didn't seem to know if these were some of the famous Michaelangelo statues that we read about. He just knew that they were really big. Now that he is no longer living, I have a lot of questions, especially about his time overseas, and even about these statues.

I have been typing the letters that he wrote to my father during his time in service. And, I Have a lot of his pictures to go with them.

I did find some v-mail from him, some years ago, and, several times, he would say that he couldn't tell where they were. Sometimes the family could guess because of things he said about home. At a family dinner a few years ago, I said to him, "Now that the War is over, can you tell us where you were on.....?" And he started telling. I couldn't stay there to listen as someone called me to come help with something. I wish I had written all that down, now.

His sister had his name placed on the Veterans Memorial in Bryan. In civilian life, Irvin ran his father's dry goods store, worked in the Post Office, and had cattle. He was very active in community and church affairs during his life. Like others in our family, he remained single so he was close to another father figure for the two children in our family.

Great Uncle Eddie
Veteran of WWI
Family Photo NFS

This is a photo of my great uncle, Eddie. He was one of my grandfather's brothers. Eddie worked in his father's cobbler shop, then it became a grocery store. I don't know a whole lot about Eddie. He never married, like a lot of people in our family. He did serve in the U.S. Army during WWI. Someday, I would like to get his service record and find out about where he served. And, we need to have his name added to the Veterans Memorial in Bryan. His tombstone says that he was a private in the 3 Infantry.

Father in Aggie Uniform
Family Photo NFS

Oh how Daddy wanted to be in service during WWII. He kept trying, but they wouldn't take him. He still drilled with the men left in town, ready to serve and protect, if they were ever needed. I remember when he went off one day, walking to town and leaving the cars for Mama to use, to go in a truck with other potential recruits. I watched with my nose to the screen door, begging him not to go, tears running down my face, as he disappeared down the street, past the park. Mama went into her room and cried, then she got busy cleaning all day. I just wanted someone to go outside and make mudpies with to pass the time, fearing that I would never see Daddy again.

He was so disappointed to fail the physical. He was doing fine until they had the men run up and down stairs, carrying wooden crates of Coca Cola bottles. (He did that every day as he worked in Uncle Tom's grocery store, so he was sure there would be no problem.) But, after the exercise, the doctor rejected him with a heart murmer. He had been sick with Rheumatic Fever as a child.

The rest of the family was glad that he was staying at home, but Daddy still wanted to go, as most men did. Grandma, especially, was so upset over having Irvin overseas that she developed an ulcer. So, she sure didn't want another son in harms way. And, the older men needed him to help with the cattle and businesses. And, of course, we all just wanted him to be near. Our family stayed close to each other. He would have been happier if he had been able to go off with the other men.

I've added into my salute, the men who wanted to be veterans but couldn't go for various reasons.

Two WWII veterans who I know, are probably observing today. I don't see them often, but I do know a bit of the service of Margaret, an Army nurse, and her husband, Clarence, who was in the Air Force. Theirs is a love story that could be a WWII movie.

And there is Reba, who is deceased, and was also in the Army in WWII. She didn't have all the combat adventures, but did serve as a librarian. She published her diary before she died, and wrote many stories of the old families of Calvert for the local newspaper. She was able to live a full life. There are pictures of her in her book, "A Calvert Diary".
There were others from my home area, who I don't know that well. But all have their stories. Most did not seem to want to talk about their experiences and just went on, quietly, with their daily lives. A couple of them had limps that we would always associate with their wounds during the War. They might have been willling to talk, if I could have thought of questions to ask them. Someone should have done that before they were silenced in death.

We've lost many from that era. We certainly want to remember them all today, and the many others who served their countries.

Great Grandfather Miles
Family Tin Type NFS

This is another family veteran, this one in the U.S. Civil War, from Alabama, then Texas. He was a captain in the Confederate Army by the end of the War. He was in the 7th Texas Infantry. The son of an Alabama planter, he came to Texas with his new wife to farm in East Texas. We used to have his sword, and still have his clock, his Amnesty Oath, a tin type of his wife, Ellen, and some of his history in books. I also have the frame that this picture came from. I wish I could find a picture of him in his Civil War uniform. I may have to use this photo as a basis for a portrait.

I've wondered if these might have been wedding portraits. If so, they date to about 1853. I need to send for his service record, also, and hunt for his sword. But, that's another story.

I didn't actually know anyone who served in Viet Nam. Some of the boys from our school went to the Korean War, but I've not seen any of them long enough to hear any of their stories. I didn't know them that well. Some students went into service while I was still teaching, and I was so relieved when they came home and were alright. Some, in more recent years have gone into service, but I have not heard from them. We just hope that they all come home to their families, safely when their job is done and our country secure.
When I was growing up, one of the things I wanted to be was a flight nurse, thanks to the Cherry Ames books! I even made myself a dress for homemaking class that resembled one that Air Force nurses wore. (I was better at designing clothes, than making them! Not nearly enough patience.) I was too young to get into nursing school after high school. By the time I was old enough, I decided that chemistry was too hard for me, and maybe I had better stick to art. So there went my career as a flight nurse. I still liked to take care of people, though. I was probably better at doing that. I kept trying, though, and always returned to art and teaching. That is until I realized that I didn't have the strength or energy to be a nurse anymore.

Be sure to look in my sidebar under Authors and Artists and click on Esther Read. She has written a book with stories about Hispanic WWII vets. Her book is "After the Blessing".

I hope that you have been able to go out and observe today, and honor veterans in some way. As we look forward,now, to Thanksgiving, it is certainly a time to give thanks for all we have, and for our veterans, of yesterday and today, and to do what we can for those who are still here, and for those who are still serving for us.
Thank you, Vets! Hope it is a great day for you! And I hope you enjoy the old photos today. There is art in them, the promise of more art work to come, and then there are those statues from Rome, which are certainly works of art.
Thanks for sharing my work with others. Please let me know if you find something of interest. Remember to check out any interesting links in the BlogRush in my sidebar. I get credit every time you click on those, and also, if you decide to add this widget to your blog, through mine, I get credit for that too. If you want an invitation to do that, please let me know. The more clicks and credit I get, the more times they will put my blog on other sites, bringing me more viewers. Also, check out some of the other interesting sites I have given links to.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bumper Cars

Bumper Cars
9" x 12"

Bumper Cars (Sketch)
8.5" x 11"

Payday, when I was working, meant going out to eat that next Saturday, stopping at a bookstore to buy art and writing magazines, then taking in a movie before heading to the grocery store and home. I always liked to go to someplace with good food and a lovely enviornment. China, crystal, silverware, white tablecloths, fresh flowers or candles. Of course, the kids always wanted pizza and games, so we usually looked for someplace to keep the kids occupied. They ate, headed for games, and I watched tv and used my sketchbook.
The pencil sketch above is of a very striking woman who was returning to her table after refilling her glass. I did the sketch, first, which doesn't show the dress or her surroundings. I worked to achieve a sculptural quality as I drew, something that I think was helped by doing clay sculpture of heads and figures. I also wanted to work on the effect of light and shadow on her dark skin, as well.
Later, I did the painting in watercolors, beginning with a pencil drawing of her, then adding the color of the dress, the restaurant, and the sign. There was a little girl, with blonde curls and a big red bow in her hair, playing on the floor. I indicated movement and figures having a good time in the game room, with Indigo Blue and purple in the background. Spatters of bright colors add to the festive atmosphere.
The woman didn't pose for me. She just walked across the room and I captured what I could, then remembered what I could, later.

Observation is something that artists, and writers, need to develop and continue to work on as they grow. There are exercises that one can do in order to improve that skill.
One example is to have a person walk into a room, pause, then walk back out. Then practice drawing, or writing a description, of that person.
Another thing to try is to have someone bring an object into the room. The object should be covered or wrapped so that it can't be seen. Then, have the covering removed, and give a time limit to write a description, or draw the object. When that time is up, cover the object and finish the drawing or description, without looking at it again.
I've done these exercises individually and with groups, and the results are a bit amazing, sometimes.

I hope that you enjoy these two pieces of work. As always, let me know if you see something that is of interest to you. And please share these with others. Thanks for reading. I hope that you will consider subscribing, and send some others who would like to get my blog.
Be sure to check out things on my sidebar, and also in the BlogRush section, if you see a topic of interest there. By going to those sites from my blog, it gets more exposure for my own blog.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Return of the Shuttle

Shuttle Overhead (Sketch)
8.5" x 11"

Shuttle Overhead
8.5" x 11"
watercolor and pencil
Clear blue skies on a bright autumn afternoon. Warmth from the sun washed over us as we drove north on Highway 6.
"The tree is coming up," the driver advised.
My tree. That one lonesome tree on a hill that broke up my drive to and from work for so many years.
I could remember when the highway was changed, but still passed by the tree. And I remembered the "friend" to this tree. When I was younger, there were two trees on the hill. Following a storm, we found, on one of our drives, that the second tree was struck by lightning. The burned tree trunk remained for a long time until, finally, it was cut away, leaving only the trunk. The trunk is no longer visible from the highway.
I could make the drive more interesting by observing the tree. I made up a little poem to say as I passed (and also to entertain grandchildren with). I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be that tree, anchored to that one spot, observing the changing scene and traffic passing on the highway. What if the tree had thoughts, like we do, and was rooted to that spot as storms came along, when fires threatened, during drought and floods. The way that the branches were formed, the tree sometimes seemed to be stretching or reaching, appearing in the pose of a dancer, a basketball player, or just wishing it could move from that spot. Below the hill, there were other trees.
And, I painted that tree many times. I would probably be upset if anything happened to this tree. One early morning, while the moon was setting in the west, a family of foxes frolicked on the hill near the tree. Often, there were cattle grazing around the tree. I did paint the foxes around the tree. All I could really see were their fluffy tails and a hint of their bodies as I passed by.
I thought of the artist, Bob Ross, when he painted trees. He would paint a tree, then give it a friend. Surely my tree was like this. A tree, and a friend.
The tree, still on top of the hill, appeared on the left. The highway curved as it went downhill. Railroad tracks appeared from behind a small hill and road on the right. Trees covered the hill on the right side, making me believe that the whole area, including the hill with the one tree, had once all been woods. The road was the old highway. Facing that road was an old fashioned filling station, with a house behind it, that now backed up to the new highway. Both buildings were leaning, with trees and vines almost concealing them.
"Those should be restored," I thought. "I'll have to paint them one of these days. I hope that no one decides to tear them down. Cozy places. Not fancy, but cozy. I wish I had been in them, and knew some stories about them. "
"How do you work this thing, anyway!" I turned a knob on the dashboard. A small screen above the knobs lit up with lines of print.
"You have to learn how to work this if you're going to ride in the car! And, if you are ever going to drive again, you are going to have to know how to work this. It's as easy as the old radios! Just try it!" The driver insisted. The hand pushed more buttons, touched the screen, and different things appeared.
"Listen, here. I've been driving this road for my whole life. I'm not going to get lost on it. Why do you think I need that thing! Just something else to distract you when you need to be watching the road," I fumed. "You just stay on this highway and it goes all the way from Galveston to Dallas and points north. When you get to the town you want, you just turn off. All this fancy stuff! I would rather have a good radio, or a tv set!"
"But, look at all this does! Look at this. You can even see the weather report, with radar!" The driver tried to convince me that this was a necessity.
On the small screen, a woman pointed to a map. Several clouds of green were on the map, with yellow L's outlined in red in the center of each.
"And here are the low pressure centers for your area,"the broadcaster said as she pointed to each green shape. "Looks like some rain is coming in, but, for now, the skies are clear where you are."
Bad weather. Rain. I didn't want to get caught out in that, especially if all those areas of rain were moving our way. I remembered the last year that I made this trip daily, and the big flood that I got caught in. I don't want to go through anything like that again. I was a bit uneasy. This road had been underwater, the town was cut off, and there was flood water in buildings and streets in town. I was driving a little sports car that day. Since then, I had always wanted to hurry and get past the low areas and creeks on this highway.
At least, today, we were in a big, old, pink, Chrysler Imperial. This one wouldn't be swept away so easily, and was much higher off the ground.
"Wow! Look at that one big area. That one looks like it is heading right for us!" The driver pointed to the screen.
"That doesn't look like an area of rain, to me," I said.
"Sure, it must be. Look at all that green!" The driver was watching the screen more than the road.
A white blob appeared in the center of the green cloudy area. The blob appeared larger and larger as we drove. Soon, there was little green and only the white blob.
"Look! Look out your window!" The driver shouted and ducked down to see through the windshield, while still driving.
There was an eerie whooshing noise in front of me, and I, too, ducked a little as I twisted and looked out the passenger side window. With something that large coming at us, it was only natural to crouch down as if to avoid being hit by the craft.
A huge, white rocket approached us, and passed beside us,over the hill on the right, and quickly disappeared behind us. I could see a United States flag painted on a fin that hung down below the craft. The fin appeared to be a bit rusted, or maybe it was burned. Silent jets on the back appeared to have the same coloring.
"What was that!"
"That had to be the shuttle!" I answered. "I didn't think it was due back yet. And, why would it be flying this low over here?" I hoped that it wasn't off course, or in trouble. I remembered the shuttle that had exploded not so far from here.
The pink Chrysler continued on its journey on Highway 6. The passengers were in a state of high anxiety after what they had just witnessed. The driver pushed more buttons on the dashboard. Maybe they would find more news on the screen about what had just happened.
They knew that it was not something that happens every day, or even something that was likely to ever happen to them again.
And, then I woke up! It was all a dream.
It was a few days later when the shuttle actually landed, safely, as I watched it on television. And that was a relief, to have the astronauts back on the ground. I guess, with the news reports on tv, and actually seeing it pass over us, then drawing and painting it, the shuttle was in my subconscious.
I thought that you might enjoy my art work and the story that went with it. I think that I actually like the pencil sketch better, but I wanted to show the colors of the weather map and screen in the car. And I had to put a little pink in the car.
I added watercolors to my pencil drawing, then used watercolor pencils to add more definition to the version in color.
I hope that you enjoy my story and the pictures, and that you will pass my work on to others.
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If you see something that appeals to you, please let me know. I do welcome your comments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday-Ironing Day

Ironing Day
8.5"x 11"

Back in my hometown, when I was growing up, Monday was wash day, all over town. I've written about that and shown a drawing of it, at my house, last week. Today I am showing the next day in the week, after all that washing was done.
Clothes were sprinkled with water, then rolled or folded over, ready to iron (without steam. We did have electric irons, though. Mama had a GE iron.). Things that didn't have to be ironed, like socks and underwear, were folded and put away.

Bertie was there to help Mama, some. Friends came over to play and we had a good time sitting in the pile of clean clothes on the kitchen floor, or crawing through cabinets, playing with the pots and pans, or just hiding. Mama didn't like for us to go in the cabinets, unless she cleared out all the cookware and let us play there. We must have dented a few pans.
I know that Mama was glad when the weather was good and we could play outside. But, sometimes, it was more fun to be in the house, where everyone else happened to be working. The grownups probably spent a lot of time shooing us out of places where we shouldn't be.

In my drawing, I've shown Bertie coming out of the dining room into the kitchen. Mama is at the wooden ironing board, ironing. I've shown three little girls playing in the clean clothes and the cabinets. The smaller one has to be my sister, the one in the cabinets must be my next door neighbor, Edie, and the one in the clothes was going to be me, but I think she looks more like another playmate, Tootsie. My pictures seem to have a life of their own. What I have in my mind is not always what comes out on the paper!

We had wooden cabinets in our small kitchen, with a built in dough board near the door. There were some shelves over the sink where Mama would put a plant, vases, and some souveneirs from trips, or wedding presents. She would put her rings on the bottom right shelf while she worked. The counter had small octagonal tiles in white, with some black trim. A glass bowl of water is shown on the counter. This is what was used to sprinkle the clothes once, then again when ironing if a wrinkle appeared or if the clothes dried before they were ironed. Some people had a sprinkler head that they placed in a Coke bottle. But a handful of water worked just as well. On the right side counter, there is the radio, where Mama would take it to listen to the soap operas after dinner. (That would be lunch, to some people.) Otherwise, the radio was kept on a small table between the living room and the dining room.

On the stove, there is a pot of homemade soup cooking, a coffee pot so Daddy could have a cup of coffee when he came in, and a smaller pan with some starch cooking, ready to use on things like shirts or pinafores. The broom is in the corner by the stove, along with a rack for a cup towel and a hook for a pot holder.

Ma, our part Blue Maltese cat, who had soooo many kittens over the years, is lounging on the linoleum floor. Her latest litter of kittens are in their favorite place, under the stove.

The window in the door is covered with dotted swiss curtains with a patterned trim. Mama was always sewing or making something to improve the house, and painting and wall papering went along with that. I remember the kitchen being yellow, light green, white, but always bright despite having only the door and window, and an overhead light to provide light.

In the space in front of the cat, there was a refrigerator with a cabinet over it. Inside the cabinet, there was the water heater. The door to the living room opened between the refrigerator and the cabinet where the little girl is peeking from.

I always wished for a fireplace, an attic that we could go into like in "Little Women", and a basement. But, our house was more of a two bedroom cottage. When it was first built, and Mama was showing the ladies around while they were there for an afternoon game of canasta, people were just delighted to see the "honeymoon cottage". I remember how impressed they were with the built in dough board. It wasn't long before we were crowded, and more modern homes were being built with so many neat things. And we longed for a bigger, more modern house. But Daddy wasn't about to move from the house that he had built and had paid for.

Today, my washing and ironing was done at the same time. Things are sorted, go in the washer, then the dryer. I hang things up right away, put things that need ironing on the ironing board. Things that are ready to hang are put away, while the ironing is sprinkled with a spray bottle. I kind of dawdle with that ironing as I put the ironing board where I can watch tv. Boy is it hard work, ironing all 4 of those shirts! Not really. It's nothing compared to the big load that my mother and Bertie did when I was young.

We learned to iron as children by doing the flat pieces, beginning with handkerchiefs and pillowcases. Some people liked to dry their handkerchiefs and scarves by flattening them out on the stove. That way, they didn't need much ironing. I still dry my scarves that way. Not on the stove, but on the shower handles. Thank goodness for tissues, so we don't have handkerchiefs to wash and iron like we once used.

As I iron today, I think, first, why didn't we buy wash and wear instead of looking for just 100 percent cotton! And, then, I think that it is nice to be able to iron shirts for someone again, after many years. And it's nice, having the time to do those little things.
And I remember how the clean clothes smelled after being washed outside and dried in the sun, and the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, the sound of the iron sizzling as Mama ironed, the odor of Berties dip of snuff, and the noises of little girls playing in our kitchen on ironing day.
Hope that, if you are ironing today, that it goes smoothly.

Look on the links on my sidebar and enjoy some of those sites. I enjoyed reading about Mary Marshall's participation in an art show over the weekend. And Esther Read had a story published in the "Corpus Christi Caller Times" about her mother. Virginia Vaughan has a lovely painting today of an old well on the farm that she is leaving, and a nice story about that place.

The Art Step in downtown Bryan was quite an event. They have a First Friday event each month there, so, if you missed this one Saturday, you have other chances to go. I sent two paintings to the auction Saturday. One was an acrylic on 16"x 20" canvas of the Art Deco series, "Deco Street", in black, white, and silver. I put it in a dark, plain wood frame and it looked really elegant. The other was of the watercolor farmhouse that I have shown you previously, and I put that in a barnwood frame with a gray mat. That one looks nice too. Goes really well with my stone fireplace! I thought I might have better luck with something smaller, but I guess that either they were not small enough, or the right person didn't see them. I still have them, in case you are interested.

My photos didn't come out very well. I'm not having much luck with the digital camera. There is a lot of yellow or orange on one side of my Deco Street painting from a lamp in the room, I guess. The frame doesn't show at all. In the farm house painting, the colors are distorted, and the whole picture is blurred. But, I'm going to put them on here anyway, so you can see what I sent to the auction.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Yea, Purple!

Yea, Purple!
8.5" x 11"
"Yeaaaaaaa, Purple! Yeaaaaaa, Gray! Yea, Trojans! Yea! Yea! Yea!"
Our cheerleaders, all 4 of them, lined up on the stage in the Calvert High School auditorium on Friday afternoons in the fall. We sat in the wooden chairs, lined up in rows, and followed the traditional yells, that most people in town knew and had participated in when they were in school.
Football players, teachers, and students from first grade through 12th grade sat out in the audience and followed the cheerleaders' directions. The band didn't play, there wasn't a skit or entertainment. Sometimes, the bass drum and a snare drum might be used during the pep rally. We just yelled for the boys who were going to do battle later that night for the dear old Trojans.
We yelled things like "Orange crush, lemon ice, hit em once, hit em twice" ; "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar"; and solemnly sang the school song, "Cheer for the purple and gray" (or as it came out, "cheer for the pulrp n gray".
The cheerleaders were dressed in long satin circle skirts, made of purple and gray gores. The matching blouses had balloon, long sleeves. Each cheerleader wore rolled over white socks, (with rubber bands to hold them up) and saddle shoes. They had purple, or some years, white, megaphones with a silhouette of a Trojan, and the cheerleader's name painted on them. Those, and, sometimes, purple and gray pom poms, were reserved for the football field. The head cheerleader might have her's on stage to announce yells. The others might just keep their's in a row by the lights at the foot of the stage. Fashions at the time dictacted that the hem of skirts should be 1 1/2 inches above the socks. Later, that changed to a space of 2 1/2 inches above the socks. At the time, it was a bit on the risque side, that women were showing so much of their legs!
"Just wait," people would say. "The styles will change and skirts will come back down again."
Little did they know that mini skirts and bare tummies, plunging necklines and such were on the way.
The circle skirts swirled in unison as the cheerleaders spun around. They poofed out, then fell, when the girls jumped in the air and landed on their feet.
We would get almost through a pep rally, when someone, sometimes the cheerleaders, would start singing, "Beer, beer for old CHS. Oh, lordy, we're such a mess." And, when the teachers would realize what was being sung, they would come out into the audience and try to stop the singing. They announced, insisted, pleaded, explained, while some kids tried to sing, or giggled at how upset the teachers were. Mrs. Brannon explained to us that the song promoted drinking and we must not act that way, especially at school. I guess some of the same parents who insisted that dancing, card playing, smoking, and drinking, were wicked, got to the board, the superintendent, and the teachers, and told us to cut that stuff out.
It didn't work too well, all the time, and the teachers would yell at us. Someone might sing it softly until everyone joined in. Or, if we couldn't manage that, we would wait until we were outside, possibly in the street on our way home after school, or at the football game that night, and then sing it over and over, at the top of our lungs.
I would crack up laughing when the school where I was teaching, in later years, changed the school song from the very traditional song they had for years. I guess they were trying to keep the kids happy. Everyone was assembled in the gym when the band started playing, "Beer, beer for ole CHS". I had to turn around and stifle my laughter. "How could anyone have that song as a serious school song", I thought. I had quit singing because I didn't want anyone to hear my croaky voice, but, in my head I was hearing, "Beer, beer for old CHS" as sung at Calvert High. I even mouthed the words to it since no one knew the new song, yet. A little rebellion, I guess.
Maybe they had never heard the song the way that I always heard it! It certainly wasn't a song that glorified the school and pledged undying love and loyalty to the school.
Our parents and older generations had sung the same songs. They didn't see anything wrong with it either. But, whatever the teachers said, we had to do. Grandpa, who was on the school board, just listened when I told him about how unreasonable those old teachers were being to us poor little kids, with no comment. After football season, it would all die down and we forgot the restrictions until the next year.
One time, when a cheerleader or two were out sick, I was asked to be a substitute cheerleader and so I went onstage for the pep rally. It was fun to swirl around, and do all the moves that I had watched for years. We had played cheerleader and practiced with the elected cheerleaders, not to mention watching them for years. So, the yells and moves were all familiar. That part was easy. But, being a shy kid, getting up in front of everyone made it hard to breathe, and I felt really hot. I took a deep breath as everyone was leaving the auditorium. At last, that was over! And I just had to play in the band that night, not stand in front of everyone and lead cheers.
Several high school boys came up to the stage after the pep rally.
"Good job!" one said. "You were really good," another said. "Have you thought of running for cheerleader?" "I think you should run for cheerleader. I sure would vote for you!" were some other comments. I just said "Thank you." I was just happy that I could get out of there.
I should have tried those things, as I look back now. But it was hard enough to have to recite in class or to have to get up in front of a crowd with the band. At least, in the band, I was in the middle of a lot of other people and hoped that no one would see or hear me!
We left the pep rallies, with the football boys going off to get ready for the game, and to eat a meal prepared by the homemaking girls, if they were going out of town. Cheerleaders went home to get ready for the game that night. Band members gathered at the band hall to get their music, lyres, and have the band director check uniforms before the game. Spectators started gathering early while the PTA ladies readied the concession stand. Rows of cars parked on the outside of the fence in order to get a good viewing spot. Daddy and other spectators would gather between the shrubs and the outside of the fence, so they could watch the game without having to pay for a ticket. We only lived 1/2 block away, so we could just listen to the game announcer and the crowd from my great-aunt's porch, or just go out in the yard, or even open a window. Daddy liked to go to the games, but he would just as soon stand behind the end zone and watch, and talk about the game with men.
If you have a favorite team, I hope that they win tonight at the big Friday night game. One of our local teams played last night, so I hope all those people will go downtown to the Art Step event!
I have a couple of paintings there. One is the larger acrylic painting of "Deco Street", and the other is the smaller watercolor of the farm house. I sure hope that we don't have to bring them back home after the auction! It's a beautiful night here, clear and cool, so, hopefully, a lot of people will turn out and buy, while they are having fun.
Thanks for passing this on to others who might be interested.