Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drawing A Dream House

Baking Cookies On A Rainy Day
8.5" x 11"

Plane geometry is the only math that ever made much sense to me and didn't give me a splitting headache. I looked at the angles as corners of a house that I might design, and I could see something there. When it got to the letters and rules, though, that gave me a headache again.
I would start out to do an assignment, and , soon, I was turning my angle into a kitchen or a house.
I always liked to draw houses and would design the dream house that I would like to have someday.
Pappy actually did design her dream house and got to live in it. A 1950s ranch style house near the park. All the ladies in the family always wanted new things and saved up to get things they wanted.
Cashiering at her husband's store, Pappy was able to save up a lot of money. She would sit at the cash register, on her ladderback chair with the cushion on it, and put change into the cigar box under the counter. They kept the extra change in a cigar box for when it was needed, with more in the safe. Only Pappy had two cigar boxes under her cash register. Extra change went into one box, but the other box was reserved for all the quarters. Pappy kept all of those for her new house fund. Almost every quarter that came to the cash register went into Pappy's cigar box.
A few times, Uncle Tom wondered why there were no quarters in the cash register, and he asked everyone, except Pappy, if they took any quarters out of the register. He would look in the compartments of the cash drawer, move coins about, and have a puzzled look on his face. Wisely, Pappy would sometimes add two or three quarters to the quarter section, just to satisfy Tom.
Sometimes Pappy would give me a nickle or a dime for an ice cream cone or popcorn at the Eloia movie theatre, or a Coke at Taliaferro's drug store, but quarters were reserved for her box. If I needed a quarter for the picture show, I had to either do a dance and sing on the counters, and hope that customers would give me a nickel, or I would have to go around to each of the relatives and plead, in my sweetest voice, for a nickel (hoping for a dime or a quarter!) It didn't come from the cash registers, but from someone's pocket-unless Grandpa would go to his register in the dry goods store and give me a nickel from there. Occasionally, someone would be generous and give me a quarter for the picture show, popcorn, and a drink or ice cream at the drugstore after the show, but usually I had to gather the coins a nickel at a time.

For years, she dreamed of moving from the frame house where she had lived across the street from her sick mother, Augusta. She wanted pretty new things, in a beautiful new home. Built just for her. She had a way with her husband and could get him to do most anything she said, with a little coaxing. She didn't have children to buy things for, but did do things for nieces and nephews. Her husband, Tom, didn't pay a lot of attention to the store. His main interest was his land, cattle, and other enterprises. I don't think he liked being cooped up inside, too much.
So Tom would sit around the store for a while, and soon was off, down the street, or to one of his places in the country, checking on work or workers, looking for possibilities.
Pappy stayed at home most of the time, but on busy days or when someone was sick, she would come to cashier.

Secretly, Pappy was drawing plans for her dream house. She begged Tom to build it for her. But he wasn't interested. He liked his old place.

Their store and the dry goods store in front burned one cold night, and Tom decided that he would not rebuild his part of the building. His safe was pulled out of the rubble and put into the new dry goods store. He also had a rocking chair where he could sit and do business between his visits to the country.

They had bought lots near the park, as did Pappy's sister, just a block apart. Pappy still asked for her house and worked on the plans .
She started visiting an architect and a contractor and, before long, her dream house was started.
Tom insisted that he wasn't paying for a new house, and he was not moving. Work on the house went on.

Pappy spent most of her time at the site of the new house and made sure that everything was done to her satisfaction. When time came to pay for the house, Tom still refused. Pappy was not to be denied. She pulled out her quarters and paid for the house herself. Tom never did miss the quarters, or know where she got all that money!
In fact, he didn't really want to move from the old house to the new, but, when she started moving, he went along.

The architects and contractors told her that she should have been an architect.
The house had a 10 foot steel and concrete reinforced foundation, and the garage had an 8 foot steel and concrete reinforced foundation. She designed for cross ventilation, since this was before people had air conditioning in their homes. The only thing she said that she should have done differently was to design lower kitchen counters, since she was short.
The house was built to last.

I never completed plans for my dream house. I sketched out a few thoughts and read a lot of house plan magazines. Sometimes, I gave that as a sketching assignment for my students-draw your dream house.

It also came in handy for the writing assignment that helps you to remember things-Mapping. In that activity, you simply start with a big piece of paper and something to draw with-marker, crayon, pencil, etc. Think of a place that you remember and try to remember a room in that place. Draw a floorplan of that room.
Pretty soon, you will start remembering details and can draw a floor plan of the entire home or building. Besides physical features, memories will start to flow.

In the above sketch, I showed someone putting a pan of cookies in a built in oven. This was part of an image I had for a dream home. A built in oven at the end of counters in an open kitchen. The counters would be in a u-shape and lined with glass bricks to let light flow across the counters. Opposite the built in oven, there would be a large island or work table, stove top, sink. Haven't worked out the rest of it yet. Sliding glass doors would open out onto a patio. Not sure if that would be a sitting area or dining area, though.
I've had that kitchen image in mind for years, so I thought I would put it on paper.
I'll have to be content with my fairly big kitchen in my mobile home, though.
I don't draw dream houses anymore. I do draw memories, though. Especially things that I don't have a photograph of .


Watch the tv program "Texas Country Reporter" in February. You can look them up on the internet to find a station near you. Locally, we get them on KCEN and KMAY.
Jody from Zamykal Gourmet Kolache Shop in Calvert sent word that she has been recorded and the program will air sometime in February.
That should be a fun segment to watch. We'll all be drooling for a kolache!
When I find out the date, I'll pass that on to you.


I hope that you will sign up for V....Vaughan's Workshop in Calvert, if you haven't done so already. Plan to come and bring a friend with you. If you aren't local, there are rooms available at the Pin Oak and the Bird Nest, B&Bs in Calvert. Pass this on to anyone who might be interested.
You can read a nice article about V.... at . This was in "Country Life Style".


If you are interested in things like Sketch Crawl here, drawing and painting in the Brazos Valley area, you might like to join in the Yahoo Group that I started-Brazos Valley Sketchers. Go to .


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Calvert Bank

Plein Aire Painting on Main Street in Calvert, Texas. Artists Virginia Vaughan and Barbara discuss painting while participants spread out to paint. This is from where I was sitting in a doorway behind me, out of the wind. You can see part of the bank across the street, with the green canopy. I lightened the photo some so the background colors seem to be a bit washed out.
Main Street, Calvert, Texas from Zamykal Kolache Shop. The bank is on the opposite corner from Larry's Place (Dr. Wade's old office). During the Plein Aire Painting Workshop, some people worked on the balcony upstairs, while others worked on the street corner or across the street. I chose to do the bank from the corner view, along with what was once Mack Rembardt's Furniture Store, with the curved metal overhang. This was just one of several banks that we once had in Calvert.

This was my start at painting the bank on location, or en plein aire. I was struggling with a borrowed French easel that I had not used before and couldn't really figure out what to do with my palette. And, of course, I had to stop and visit a while. As we packed up to go paint the sunset, my "helper", got the palette, with wet paint, jammed into the French easel while closing it incorrectly, we learned. So, I lost the colors that I was using at the time, not to mention causing a big problem in trying to get the palette loose.
The shadows were long across the street at that time of day.
I had been interested, for years, in painting the orange bricks of the bank, with the sunset reflecting in the windows. I'm getting closer! I thought that this study might help toward that end , eventually.
I liked my trees and the hints of windows on the bank. I wasn't too happy with the dark sky, though. I would have carried it out, if I had not lost that color when the palette was cleaned. Since I had to start over with color, I tried for a Cerulean Blue sky that we often see in Texas. I liked that much better to keep the painting light. The darker blue worked well for the shadow on the building and the highway.

This was the next phase of the painting that I did at home. I lightened the sky and added some soft clouds, tried to straighten the edges of the buildings , the sidewalk, and the steps. The uneven edges of the street beside the curb bothered me, but I liked what was happening with the bricks and the highway in front of me. I found some photos of the bank because I knew I was going to need to look at something to put in the overhang and all those windows. I think I made the door too wide, and, with my weird vision, I could have sworn that there was a small curve in between the top facade and the top line of building. When I examined the photos, that small curve is not there, so I had to take that out. and work on the white line around the tops of the buildings.

Amost finished. I'm down to using a toothpick to do the tiny details on the painting! I had to really gather my patience to do all those windows! (I don't think I have a lot of patience!)
This part was dry so I could scan it. Since then, I have added a distant oak tree on the right behind the building. And I added some darker green to indicate the letters on the sign and clock. Like the metal scrollwork under the metal awning, I used a toothpick to add the darker green on the sign and the final tree.
I still plan to use some white for letters on the sign-I think. The green needs to dry a bit before I do that.
I decided to leave off the green canopy over the bank entrance. I think that is a more recent addition. For some reason, when I go to Calvert to sketch or paint, I'm trying to capture the buildings as they were-as I remember them. It's really hard to make myself record the buildings as they are-or even look at them as they are today.
When the finished painting is dry, I will post that, too.
This painting is 7" x 9" and was done in oils.
I hope that you will join us at the next Plein Aire Painting Workshop in Calvert Saturday February 21 and Sunday February 22. Remember that V.... is a finalist for Texas State Artist, so we will be working with one of Texas' outstanding artists.
Let me know if you are interested.
Local author, Kathi Appelt, has been named as one of the Newberry Award winners for her book, "The Underneath". This is such an honor. You can click on Kathi's name in my sidebar under Artists and Authors, and that will take you to her website.
I'm so thrilled for Kathi!
Kathi was instrumental in getting the BVSCBWI chapter started here. (That's Brazos Valley Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators). The national chapter is SCBWI.
And she has come a long way in her own career as a published author, speaker, and workshop presenter.
She is a very special, fun, and nice lady, too! Continued success, Kathi!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Robins

Winter Robins with Leaf
9" x 12"
Acrylic on Paper
We used to read about people up north, looking for a Robin Redbreast, the first sign of spring. That was hard to understand because we had robins, sparrows, and other birds, in our yards in Calvert all winter long. I thought about that as I watched Robins, playing around in the yard one winter afternoon.
The grass was brown and gold after winter freezes. We had saved a maroon leaf that had been covered with ice and I added that into my picture.
One large, fat Robin strutted back and forth in the yard and, at one point, nestled down in the dirt in the driveway to splash sand over him with his wings. Another bird appeared and watched the sky over the field across the street. Three fat Robins seemed to compact their bodies and whiz low over the road. They looked a bit like jets going past.
My scanner doesn't take 9" x 12" paper without cutting off part of the image, so this is a detail of the painting.
I used a limited palette of Gamboge, purple, and a bit of Indian Red for this picture. The paper is 65 # Canson acid free paper.
I'm sure that there are places that are ready to see the return of the Robins.
Here, we would be happy if we could get some gentle rain, along with the cloudy, windy, cold days. Snow would be nice, too, but I guess it may be too late in the winter for that. Sometimes February is cold, but, in recent years, the pear and other trees have started blooming in February.
I wonder when we will see Bluebonnets this year. They may not be so large this year, since we are behind on rainfall.
Here is an interesting article to read about Virginia Vaughan, who will be coming to Calvert Feb. 21. This appeared in "Country Lifestyle".
Don't forget to reserve your place in the class. You can contact me, or Sonny Moss in Calvert, for more information. We would like to have reservations in by Feb. 1. If you are interested, let me know.
Are you up on your shots or vaccinations? Who would have thought that, those of us who had all the childhood diseases, on schedule, and had the right immunizations when we were growing up, would now need shots! Although you may have had Chicken Pox and thought that was behind you, now we find out that, your immunization is probably no longer any good, and you need a shot to prevent a form of Chicken Pox-Shingles.
Ask Barbara. She will tell you to get up to date on your shots!
As I was flipping through tv channels last night, I saw part of a discussion about this.
On our local tv, and on the panel discussion, they said that older people also need to get the Whooping Cough shot and a Pneumonia shot, as well as a Flu shot each year.
If you are in this area and are interested in family history and preservation, look for an announcement with more information about a program on "Archiving History". Susie Cox, Curator at the George Bush Library, will be the presenter. The date is Feb. 12. There should be more information about this sometime this week, according to Cindy Peaslee of the Downtown Bryan Association.
Watch for their events announcements about what is going on in Bryan.
Look in my sidebar for information about upcoming events of the Brazos Valley Art League. Spring is always a busy time of year for artists. You can also look on their website. You can Google it, or you can click on the links in my sidebar under Events, and Organizations.
It was sad to hear that we lost another schoolmate from Calvert High School last week. I had just wished Walter a speedy recovery on my blog, when I learned that he had died. I know that he will be missed terribly.
Walter made the lives of so many people richer. He was a strong supporter of the Trojans and Calvert High, and was the force behind the Calvert School Reunion, for one thing.
Of course, I remember him most from the days when we were students at Calvert High.
The family has been hit especially hard since Walter's younger brother, Charles, died only months ago.
Our deepest sympathies go out to this family.
Cedar Fever, upper respiratory problems, sinus trouble, viruses, all seem to be going around. I've been sneezing with runny eyes, can't get my breath, dizzy, etc. The OTC allergy medicine didn't do anything, so I resorted to taking some Benadryl, which knocks me out, or makes me so sleepy I could just fall over! That stops most of the sneezing. I was going to paint some, but I think I may have to take a nap, instead. I hate to do that since it may keep me up tonight.
Did you ever see anyone sleep on the keyboard of their computer? I think I could do that, now.
I have dozed off and jumped up before my nose hit the keyboard, in the past.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vision-Night Lights

Night Lights
9" x 12"
I was sleeping in my aunt's room that night. I don't like the dark and, at home, I keep my tv on all night. It takes me a long time to fall asleep, so I have something to watch. I sleep a little while, wake up and watch, and go back to sleep. I sleep best after the sun comes up.
This night, I had a small radio to listen to, and no tv or light. I opened the drapes to let light from the street light on the corner come into the room. As I used to do when I was a child, before we had tv to watch, I looked out the window at the trees and light, looking for some activity, listening to the trains go through town.
But, in the old days, I didn't have Macular Degeneration and cataracts to deal with. As I looked at the windows, I blinked to try to clear up the image, but it didn't help. I could see the glow of the street light, looking somewhat like fireworks. As I looked into the dark of the street, neon green shapes marched from out of the dark window into the room. They were similar to a loose boomerang and were different sizes. But they did march, in rows, moving through the window and disappearing into the dark room. Along with the green boomerang shapes, there were some small yellow lights that floated around. One was round and stayed low while another was a sort of rectangle that flowed along with the boomerang shapes. These were not lights from houses, as the street was dark except for one house that had a hall light on, that I could not see from the bed. That light was still, while these moved along with the other shapes.
In the painting, the area below the lighter blue line is the wall. Drapes are on each side of the picture.
I closed my eyes and there were still shapes moving around, but these were more like purple against the dark.
"What are these things?" I wondered. "How can I make them go away!"
"Could they be ghosts of the people who once lived here?"
I couldn't make them disappear, so I might as well enjoy them. Just as I have said about the shapes that I saw when I got the Lucentis injection. (See posts from last year.) I might as well sit back, relax, enjoy the abstract art show. Then do some paintings of what I have seen.
Share those with others who might encounter the same thing.
Maybe I could just remember the people who once lived here, or write a story from the images. They do seem to make me think of other things besides the colors, shapes, and movement.
It is true, that, even with your eyes closed, you still see moving shapes, that make it hard to go to sleep, not to mention making it hard to see things.
At this stage, when I close my right eye, there are wavey lines on things I see around the outside edges and an irregular purple spot covering all that I try to look at. The left eye is the one with wet macular degeneration and cataracts. The right eye has cataracts, too, but I can see things better with that eye. I tend to close the "bad" eye when I try to see things.
I watched the shapes until I finally fell asleep that night, and made mental notes about shapes, direction, and colors. Later, I sketched the shapes and window, and, much later, added the color with watercolors. This probably would have worked better on watercolor paper. But I used my sketchbook with 65 # Canson acid free paper. I used Winsor Newton watercolors to add a light layer of color, then added the darker Indigo Blue and the brighter greens after the first layer dried.
In my post about James DeGraffenreid Miles, I left out the names of his brothers. They are all listed on CSA Military Men of Central Alabama. I found this list through the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History online.
Albert Thomas "Tommie" Miles married Ida Katerine Day, sister of Ellen L. Day. CSA, MS 1863. (Truthfully, I don't know what MS, 1863 means. This was on the list. There is more information in the book, "Your Inheritance" Vol. II by Robbie Lee Gillis Ross.)
James "Jim" DeGraffenreid Miles married Ellen L. Day, sister to Ida Katherine, Officer in the CSA, taken prisoner at Ft. Donaldson in 1862, according to the list. He was a POW at the notorious Camp Douglas in Chicago, but was released before the worst times there. He fought again in other battles.
John L. "Bud" Miles, married Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" "Mollie" Holcomb. Was an officer itn the CSA. He joined Capt. Marcellus Fagg's company in 1862. Fagg was a brother-in-law to the Miles brothers and sisters.
William Miles, MD, married Julia M. Robinson. W.S. Army in Mexico, joined the CSA in Norfolk, VA in 1863.

This is all according to the list. There is a lot more information about them.
Most of these families moved to Texas about the time of the Civil War. Fagg moved to North Carolina after the War.
Whew! We had a quick power outage and I thought I had lost this blog! I'm relieved to find that it had all been saved.
If you are following the EDM (Everyday Matters) challenges, the next one is to draw a shell. Those of you on the coast can do this easier than we can here. Fortunately, I have a shell in my bathroom! Maybe someone will bring me back a good one from the coast. I probably will have drawn one, by then-the one that I have beside my garden tub!
We had some good times, looking for shells out on the little islands off Port O'Conner. It was hard to find good shells on the bay since they were usually broken apart before they hit the beach. I think that I bought the one I have in Galveston, years ago.
If you are in this area, or plan to come here during Sketch Crawl, or for the plein aire workshop, you might like to join the Yahoo Group that I started for people interested in sketching and painting, and such activities in the Brazos Valley area. I put quite a few pictures on there from previous Sketch Crawls and the Plein Aire Workshop from last October in Calvert.
A big get well wish goes out to Walter in Calvert. Hope you get better quickly!
I apologize for the big space again. I don't know how to keep this from happening. I went back and pulled the lines closer together by backspacing, but that is going to leave even more space at the bottom.
I would blame this on the power outage, but this has happened before. I don't know why. I didn't type it with double spacing or anything like that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Joe's Journal

From Joe's Journal
9" x 12"
As I was reading the journal of Margaret Josephine Miles, I could just visualize the people, the places, and events that she wrote about. This journal made history come alive, to me, finally.
I first sketched an image of "Joe" writing in her journal in her room in her father's home in Alabama.
This drawing is another one of those images that I imagined as I read near the end of the journal -and "Joe's" life in North Carolina.
I started out to draw several ladies, standing in front of "Joe's" house, but this drawing is what happened. I just moved my pencil around, and it appeared!
Of course, I have never seen any of those family homes from Georgia, Alabama, and in their early years in Texas-not to mention the homes in North and South Carolina, Maryland, etc.
Since she was a preacher's wife, and they depended on their congregation to live, their homes were not always the best, and they were often without food or money for necessities.
But, she felt her husband had to always make a nice appearance. He always was dressed well and had a nice buggy and horse. The clothes she had worn before she married had worn out and, with shortages and lack of money, she had to wear homespun. She quit going to church because she didn't have a proper bonnet to wear, only her sunbonnet, and her clothes were worn out homespun. They had little money for food, while her husband was probably invited to join community members for the best meals. She did without, along with her small son.
Robbie Lee Gillis Ross, Joe's granddaughter, believed that Joe died from malnutrition and lack of decent medical care when she had her last child. She died a few days after the baby was born. That was a common thing, but, from the things she said in the journal, it seems that she suffered, as did many people of that time due to the terrible war.
As I sketched, the figures and distant buildings, even the large tree, just appeared with my random pencil marks. The church just happened as I was trying to add a hedge. I thought that was appropriate since Joe's husband, Rev. Gillis, was a Methodist preacher. I have no idea if their home was next to the church, but, it probably was close since many churches and parsonages are built that way.
I imagined that, like when I was growing up during the years of WWII, when there were also many shortages and much sacrifice, many houses would be of unpainted wood, turned dark by the weather. A few places might have been whitewashed, and some places belonging to wealthier people, would have been painted white. I thought that Joe's house was probably one of those that went unpainted, with rustic wood shingles on the roof.
I thought of adding more figures, but made myself stop at this point. I may add more later, but I didn't want it to get too cluttered.
While I drew this, Ashton was doing homework. He was writing a letter to his parents, pretending that he was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, for his history class.
We had a lot of history going in our den!
"Joe's Journal" was done with an HB pencil on acid free Canson 65 lb. sketch paper. And this about fills my current sketchbook.
I did splurge and buy a sketchbook to start the new year. I intended to get one the size of my scanner, since things sometimes get cut off when I scan from the 9"x12" book or larger paper. The only one that I could find, at a reasonable price, was sealed in plastic. I looked at a couple that were almost 3 times the price but decided against paying that much. I carefully read all the details, tried to look at the paper through the plastic. I wasn't too thrilled about a soft cream colored paper, but thought I could live with it. Unfortunately, when I got it home and unwrapped it, the paper has a tooth to it (meaning that it is rough). I hate to touch rough paper! (Heavy watercolor paper is okay, but rough drawing paper is not, to me.) So, that sketchbook is not going to be used! Now, I've got to try to find another one with good, smooth paper.
I hate to order things or buy things sealed in a package. I have to touch them and examine them to make sure the texture is right and there are no flaws or damages. I bought so many things from catalogues when I was teaching, that were damaged, leaking, dried out, of poor quality, scratched, bent, etc. Leaking things damaged other things in the same boxes and were hard to replace. Now, if you order something and it is wrong, you have to pay shipping there and reorder the thing you wanted, plus more shipping charges back to you. It's cheaper to buy what you can examine and touch before buying! Sometimes it is worth paying a little more to get the right thing.
After my recent sketchbook experience, I am reminded of that. Don't buy anything you can't see and touch first! (And that have the prices clearly labeled!)
I could draw in my watercolor pad or on other paper, if needed, but that won't be in my 2009 sketchbook.
You can find information about Alabama, including the journal, on the Alabama Department of Archives and History website. You can just find a listing for the journal. If you want to read it, you have to have a copy made.
The ADAH calendar does list Janary 19 as Robert E. Lee's and Martin Luther King's birthdays.
In Texas, it was Confederate Heroes Day along with the observance of MLK's birthday. Of course, we didn't hear anything about Confederate Heroes or Robert E. Lee yesterday.
It's awfully dry here, windy, and cold, for us. 59 degrees. It wouldn't be so bad if the wind were not blowing. We have another of those Red Flag Warning Days, when there is fire danger. There have been fires in our area , grass and house fires. And cold air is blowing across the floor. Vents in the floor would have been so much better, instead of these in the high ceilings. It's supposed to drop down into the 30s again. We did miss that Polar Express, though.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Lee

Capt. James DeGraffenreid Miles
7th Texas Infantry, CSA
of Lowndes County, Alabama, Freestone and Navarro Counties, Texas
Ellen L. Day Miles
Russell County, Alabama -Freestone and Navarro counties, Texas
wife of James DeGraffenreid Miles

Unknown Miles
Possibly a brother of James DeGraffenreid Miles

Sister of James DeGraffenreid Miles
children of Aquilla and Sarah Perkins Davis Miles
Lowndes County, Alabama
Family Photos
I'll bet that a lot of people are not even aware that today is General Robert E. Lee's birthday. I had not heard a word about it, until my daughter told me. I looked it up and, sure enough, his birthday is January 19, 1807. It's a shame that his day is not being observed anymore.
Vin advised me that in Texas, it is also Confederate Heroes Day Janeane also told me that, in Alabama, it is , officially, King/Lee Day.
I've been reading a very thick biography of Lee for a few years now. Reading has been pushed in the background in favor of drawing and writing, lately. It is interesting, but I don't get very many pages read before I have to do something else, it seems.
I found it especially interesting to read that he had been in Texas, of course. His trips that involved going along the Gulf Coast and stopping in Port Lavaca was also of interest.
He was certainly a talented man with his work in engineering and other areas.
I don't have any personal photos of Lee, but I always heard that, somehow, we were related to Light Horse Harry Lee. I don't have any proof of that, of course, but it's what my mother told me. Since I wasn't all that interested in history back then, I didn't try to find out more. Maybe one of these days, I'll find answers to the many questions that I have now.
I thought that, since I don't have anything personal on Robert E. Lee, I would share some ambrotypes and tin types that I have from the Civil War era. While J.D. Miles, shown at the top, did not serve directly under Lee, he was with another group when Lee surrendered. Another dark day in history. Miles was a captain in the 7th Texas Infantry, out of Freestone county. He had quite a career and life, going from Alabama to Texas. The top photo is an ambrotype of J.D. Miles Sr. (His son, my grandfather was J.D. Miles Jr. ) I have cleaned up the photo some on the computer, but I wanted to show the little frame, typical of the small pictures that people had made during that time, that is around the picture. All of these pictures on glass are in a little frame that has a cover to it.
The second picture is of Ellen L. Day Miles. This is a rather large tin type. The oval that you see on it is where it was once in a frame. I do have the frame, but I don't know if I should put those delicate tin types out in the open. They are in a box, in the dark, now. I did have some copies made that are what I put in frames.
I have wondered if this is a wedding picture of Ellen. There is a matching tin type of J.D. Miles, her husband, but it doesn't have as much color as this one. Ellen's mother, Lucretia Vann , married William Wiley Day, and they lived in Russell County, Alabama. Lucretia was part Cherokee, of the Vann family in Georgia. You can see the restored Vann Plantation online through Cherokee By Blood, and also on the website of the historical plantation.
Ellen and J.D. were a nice looking couple. He was said to be a wonderful man, too.
The third photo is a damaged ambrotype. I can't tell who this man is. But doesn't he have on a jazzy tie, compared to what you usually see!
Possibly, he was a brother to J.D. Miles. You can't see his face well enough to identify him. Something about him, though, makes me wonder if he could be someone from Ellen's family. I think it is the hair, or maybe I am totally wrong. His jaw area looks a lot like Aquilla, the father of the family. Probably it would stand to reason that these are all members of the Miles family. There is one more ambrotype that was in the same box and it is totally gone. Just a blank piece of glass. Another had just two eyes left on it.
J.D. had 3 brothers, all of whom served in the Confederate Army, as did the men who married the Miles girls. Of course, they were all from Alabama and Georgia. Wish I could find pictures of that whole family and their home in Lowndes county. I was told that it is still there.
The last picture is borrowed from Robbie Lee Gillis Ross(named for Robert E. Lee, of course!). Mrs. Ross died a few years ago and I really wish that I could get in touch with her daughter in North Carolina. Mrs. Ross wrote 3 wonderful family history books, "Your Inheritance", the second of which included our Miles family. Josephine Miles Gillis was Mrs. Ross' grandmother and I feel sure that there were photos and information not included in the book that would answer some questions and add to what I have on the family.
My mother corresponded with Mrs. Ross while she was writing her book and they shared information. One of the things they shared was the journal that Josephine kept just before, during, and shortly after the Civil War. Actually, this was the 6th journal that Josephine kept. The others were lost when she and her Methodist preacher husband were moving. Their wagon overturned in a creek and they lost a lot of things including the previous journals. The only one saved was the one she was working on, which happened to be in her purse. Wouldn't that have been something to have all those journals today!
Mrs. Ross donated the journal to the Alabama Department of Archives and History along with her author's notes and her book. I was so thrilled to be able to obtain a copy from the ADAH, with the notes. I've read it several times, although it is a bit hard to read due to the script.
Josephine was called "Joe", which reminded me of Jo in "Little Women". She liked to write, too.
I would recommend that journal as almost required reading. I could just picture the people, the places, and the events as I read it. After my mother read the journal, she insisted that I read the copy that Mrs. Ross let us borrow. She said that it sounded just like the way that I write!
It certainly gives a look at life in the south. Besides the copy of the journal, I have a copy of "Your Inheritance" Vol. II, which I use a lot. Very interesting and so much more than just dry names, dates, and facts.
Josephine was a beautiful lady from her picture. Tragically, she died, probably from the results of malnutrition after her second son was born, at the age of 29, shortly after the Civil War. She was able to write in her journal until a few days before her death.
Unfortunately, we have been told that the ADAH is cutting out its Saturday hours and some research services, and letting some employees go. I hate to hear that. I haven't used them much, but thought that I might at some time in the future. I was very pleased with finding Josephine's journal and their help in getting a copy. I'm sure that there is much more there.
Today I'm thinking of Robert E. Lee, his namesake, Robbie Lee Gillis Ross, their places in history, and my own family from those times past.
Congratulations to former Bryan resident, Raini Rodriguez, on her career as an actress. Be sure to go out and see her in her latest movie, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop". Teenage Raini plays the part of Kevin James' daughter in the movie. She was in Bryan for the opening of the movie. Look on the KBTX website to see a bit more about Raini. Her little brother, Rico, plays "Little Guillermo" on Jimmy Kimmel's tv program. It's great that Raini is giving Bryan some good publicity!
And a big congratulations to Virginia Vaughan who is a finalist for Texas State Artist for 2009-2010. See her blog and website for all her news. That's a big thing to make it to finalist. Hope she wins!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

21sst World Wide Sketch Crawl Bryan/College Station, Texas Part II

6. Sick Bitsy-Murphy's Law was at work for me on Sketch Crawl Day. I woke up with a touch of stomach flu, which seems to be going around. I just had nausea, though, and felt bad. I went into the kitchen to find that Bitsy had diarreah and vomiting, again, which meant giving medicine and a lot of cleaning up. This goes along with the renal failure that she was diagnosed with a couple of weeks ago. It was almost noon before the sickness let up.
Bitsy is not a cuddly cat to begin with. Pick her up and claws go everywhere. She runs at certain times when it looks like I am going where the medicine is. Since she came back from the vet's, she has stayed pretty much in the kitchen/den and utility room, with a few trips into the dining room. Before the visit to the vet, she spent a lot of time on the fuzzy blanket on my bed. She hides out on a chair where she is hidden under the table. Teeth and claws come out when I start to give her medicine.
I was trying to give her pills, but I had too many bites and scratches that way. So, I took a tip from the way they give meds in the nursing home, and started putting a pill in a spoon of water. When it dissolves, I put it into a syringe. If some of it dribbles down her mouth, I figure that she will lick it off. I wrap a towel around her to try to contain her claws when I give her medicine, but that doesn't help the teeth. Now, I'm finding that she has learned to spit and will spit out the medicine while I am squirting it in her mouth! And she was so nice for the vet!
Last night, she wouldn't even come sit on the arm of the couch while I was watching tv, as she always does. She did choose my daughter's recliner and sat on top. Maybe she is trying to get closer to the heat in the ceiling vents and the ceiling fan.
I finally called the Frame Gallery and told her about my cat on Saturday.
On top of that, my daughter didn't want to drive me to downtown Bryan for the Sketch Crawl, to work for a while. (I don't drive due to my AMD and cataracts, so I have to depend on others to take me places.) She did agree to take me to one of the places I suggested that we might go to eat and sketch for Sketch Crawl. I had thought of the fireplace and warm barbeque, rustic atmosphere, and view of a little creek out back, at Rudy's Barbeque.
I had thought that I might be able to make it to town in the afternoon, at least, but, by then, Bitsy had resumed a bit of diarreah and vomiting. I sat down to darken up some of my sketches, thinking that I might get a ride to town when my grandson went to work. But, my crew all headed out the door without me. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon, darkening the sketches I had done earlier, between taking care of Bitsy.
They did announce the date for the next Sketch Crawl for Saturday April 11, 2009. I hope that this one works out better and that we will have more participation here. And that I can get where I am trying to go when I need to go.

7. Whoop!- As I sat at a long table, covered with red and white checked tablecloths, in front of a dark fireplace, I looked around Rudy's for things to draw. Just behind me, there was a Blue Bell ice cream box, draped with a sign that said Breakfast Tacos. It was jammed beside a wooden column. At the base of the column, it looked like a little pile of dirt that had been swept up by one of the several workers patrolling the restaurant with brooms. It looked like someone had used their finger to write the Aggie "Whoop" in the dirt. I thought that was a cute touch to add to other Aggie touches that are typical of this area.
Most likely it was just something made into the floor as part of the rustic decor. But it caught my attention.

8. Smoke- Ashton laughed as he pointed to a sign beside the rock fireplace. I could see the fireplace. I could see the window. I could see a dark wall. But I couldn't see the sign.
It was funny that the No Smoking sign was beside the fireplace. I meant to look closer for the sign, but I never did see it. I had to use Ashton's good eyes and description to tell me about the sign in order to draw it. I thought this was a cute idea for a picture for Sketch Crawl.
In my drawing, you can see another Aggie touch with the Texas A&M University logo over the fireplace.
All of the above pencil drawings are done on 9"x 12" Strathmore drawing paper.
I'm looking forward to the Plein Aire painting workshop in Calvert February 21. And the next Sketch Crawl April 11.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

21st World Wide Sketch Crawl Bryan/College Station, Texas

1. Rudy's Barbeque-College Station-I thought that Rudy's would be a nice place to spend some time sketching and eating barbeque on a cold, windy day. The fireplace and view of a little creek out the back windows were particularly appealing. But, the fireplace was black and cold, the building was not very warm, but this gave a place to sketch for the Sketch Crawl on Saturday. In the sketch, I showed us at our table-me, with my tote bag of art supplies, purse, and cane; Ashton across from me. Christopher with his "boot" from foot surgery, bundled up in his football jacket. Joni across from him, turned and talking to her friend, Susan. Susan said she wanted to meet us so that she could watch me draw. And, I thought, I would have others who would join in and draw something for the Sketch Crawl, since she has some interest in art. But, her son, William had a touch of stomach flu, as did Christopher and I, so he spent most of the time with his head on the table. -Until it was almost time to leave. Then he had a big smile when he decided to draw a dragon in my sketchbook. Unfortunately, the grownups didn't give him time to finish. Maybe later.
I thought this would be a nice rustic looking place and would be a bit representative of Texas. The long tables have red and white checked table cloths and plates are butcher paper with plastic utensils. There are lots of coolers with ice and beer and soft drinks, ice cream, side dishes and desserts.
I intended to take some photos of our Sketch Crawl day, but, like a lot of other things that day, it didn't work out. My daughter left the camera at home.

2. Ashton's Cup-Ashton did a pencil sketch of his cup after he ate all his barbeque.

3. My Lunch-On each red and white checked covered table, there were crates containing Sissy and Hot barbeque sauce, salt, pepper, and a little bottle of really hot sauce. We had a piece of butcher paper for a plate and little cardboard containers with tissue paper to put food in. I had a baked potato, a small slice of brisket, and some chicken, and a Sprite to drink. Beside me, of course, were my sketchbooks and pencils.
My food got icey cold while I drew, since it was so cold that we had to leave sweaters on. I had to bring my meat home to eat later after warming it.
I don't understand the idea of putting cold barbeque sauce on hot barbeque. It tastes really bad, to me, and it just makes the meat cold. I wonder if this a new thing or something that came from up north. I've only seen a couple of places that did that and I thought, then, that it was due to lack of facilities to heat the sauce. I've always seen a pan with hot "sop", which is put on the barbeque while cooking, kept on the fire, and served, hot, over the barbeque to be soaked up with bread. You can always go to the pan on the barbeque, grill, or stove, to get more hot "sop".

4. Susan Talking- I wanted to sketch Susan with her long, dark hair while she was still. But that didn't last long as she was getting her lunch, eating, seeing to her son, and talking to my daughter. Maybe I captured a little bit of her on that day. Possibly I should have been satisfied to do a gesture drawing.

5. Ribs-As I was sketching, Ashton dangled a piece of brisket over his face and into his mouth. It was gone, fast! I thought that would be a cute picture so I asked him to pose with a piece of meat. He didn't go back to that pose, but picked up a rib. I did a quick pencil sketch on watercolor paper. I wasn't sure I would add color, but decided I would later. I had made mental notes of colors as I sketched in order to finish it. The colors in the scan are not true as to the way they actually are in the watercolor. The yellow is showing up too strong when I scan things. I used a lot of water with it and thinned it until I could barely see any color on the paper. Still, it came out very strong. I tried using the Quick Fix feature in my computer program, but it just turned all the colors really dark. Maybe it needs PhotoShop or something.
More Sketch Crawl drawings in the next post.
The date for the next Sketch Crawl has been announced. Mark your calendars for Saturday April 11, 2009.
According to the Sketch Crawl website, they had about 100 different locations around the world participating in the Crawl on Saturday. Sao Paolo (I probably spelled that wrong!), Brazil had the most participating with about 124 sketchers. San Francisco was close with about 100 people.
Go to the Sketch Crawl site and, under Forums, you can see some of the work and experiences from participants. That's very interesting. You can click on the logo in my sidebar or go to .
Please spread the word. I have set up a group on Yahoo for people in the area of the Brazos Valley, around Bryan and College Station, for people who are interested in drawing and painting for things like Sketch Crawl and the Plein Aire Workshops.
What a shock we had yesterday when an Army Blackhawk helicopter crashed near the Corps quad, on the field where they used to have the old bonfires. The family drove past there today and they said it looks much worse than the pictures on tv. The helicopter looks really smashed and flat. It's amazing that they fell into an empty field and missed the dorms or the busy street. If the students had been back, that field would have a lot of young people on it, playing ball, walking, etc. And, it's more amazing that anyone survived that terrible fall on a whirling helicopter.
I was so surprised to hear the news, and to read the news crawl that came across the computer screen.
One of the newspaper photographers was there, looking for photos for the paper. His account in the paper today was really interesting. Very well written. One of his statements surprised me. He said he called in to the newspaper and asked for a reporter to come. I thought he did an excellent job of writing and didn't really need to wait for a reporter. You can see a lot about the crash on the Eagle and KBTX websites.
Sadly, all aboard were injured, along with one person on the ground, and one person died.
If you know of anyone who might be like to take the Plein Aire Painting Workshop in Calvert Saturday Feb. 21 and into the 22nd, please pass the information along. Virginia Vaughan of Round Rock is the presenter. You can see more on her blog and website. or .

Monday, January 12, 2009

Melcher's Hardware Store - Port Lavaca, Texas

Melcher's Hardware Store
ink/ ink & watercolor
Barbara sent me her drawing of Melcher's Hardware Store in Port Lavaca, Texas after she added some color with watercolors. This shows up much better than the first one in ink.
The ink one was good, too, but some of the lines just faded out a bit in the scan.
I thought you might like to see the two pictures together.
These were done Saturday for the 21st World Wide Sketch Crawl.
According to the website, , over 100 different locations participated this time. I haven't posted ours yet.
If you didn't participate this time, maybe you can do the next one in April. And bring a friend or group with you!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sketch Crawl 21 in Port Lavaca

Top: At The Skillet
Barbara Conitz
Ink & Watercolor
Middle: Melcher's Hardware
BarBara Conitz
Bottom: Cold Day Fishing
Barbara Conitz
Barbara chose to work in Port Lavaca on the coast for the 21st World Wide Sketch Crawl on Saturday January 10. She sent me these pictures to share of her day sketching.
At the top is a picture of someone eating at the Skillet restaruant. This was a warm place to be since it was cold and windy outside. She used ink and watercolors for this one.
The center picture is of Melcher's Hardware Store in downtown Port Lavaca. This is one of the oldest businesses in town, and one of the few remaining old time hardware stores. A place where you can find anything you might need related to hardware. This is an ink drawing. Some of the lines sort of fade out, but that is due to the scan. She sat in her car since it was so cold outside, and near the water, too.
The bottom drawing is of someone out fishing on the bay in Port Lavaca, no matter how cold and windy it was. In the distance, you can see the causeway that connects Port Lavaca and Point Comfort. This is also an ink drawing. She sat in her car while she sketched this one. It was windy and cool outdoors, even on the bay of the Gulf Coast.
I'm going to post my sketch crawl pictures in a separte post, since I am not having any luck in making slide shows, for some reason.
It was a cool/or cold, depending on where you are, windy day in a lot of Texas, including Port Lavaca. I read the same comments from Austin, and it was certainly that way here.
Go to the Sketch Crawl website, under Forums, to see other work from the Sketch Crawl. They had submissions from over 100 locations world wide, so far, this time. I haven't added mine, yet, but I will. I had to scan them, save them to Flickr, and now I am starting to add them online to my blog and then to the Forum.
It was such a funny feeling on Friday night to see that results were already coming in for Saturday when we were just thinking of going to bed on Friday night here! The internet certainly has made a small world!
If you are in this area, and are interested in sketching, painting, etc. and, perhaps, as a group, I have started a Yahoo group for this. You can join in there. Look for Brazos Valley Sketchers under Yahoo groups. I also have a link under artists and authors on my website. You can also go to the site at
I just started it last week in hopes of reaching more people. If you know of anyone who would be interested, let me know.
The next Sketch Crawl, number 22, is probably going to be in early April. Check their website by clicking on the logo in my sidebar. Let me know if you are interested in the next one, and if you need any information.
I hope that you had some fun sketching, painting, doodleling, journaling, etc. on Saturday. I received Robin Cheers' blog about doing the Sketch Crawl in Austin, and another person in Austin who worked solo that day. Also read of a couple of people on the EveryDay Matters list who did the Sketch Crawl up north, where they had snow on the ground and temperatures in the minus degrees. Artists are a hardy lot!
Meanwhile, stay warm! It looks like a Polar Express is coming. For now, they are forecasting that the worst part is going to slide over to the east of us, but it's still going to be in the 30s-maybe 20s (that's farenheit, of course).

Friday, January 9, 2009

World Wide Sketch Crawl Tomorrow

Cup of Butter Pecan
9" x 12"
watercolor & ink
One of the EDM challenges was to draw your cup or mug. I chose this little tea cup that is among my everyday dishes. These were just two random teacups that we found for every day use. There didn't seem to be any other dishes to match this set. Unless I use it for hot chocolate, I use it for ice cream. On this night, I had some delicious butter pecan ice cream.
Unfortunately, it had too many pecans and I had a time, picking them out! The same goes for things like Raisin Bran. It takes a long time to pick out all those raisins! (You can't find just plain Bran Flakes in the stores around here, for some reason. So I tried to get raisin bran and tried to pick out the raisins. I think they put more than two scoops in every box, like they advertise!)
I wish I could still eat things like nuts and raisins, but it is just too painful to even put them in my mouth. I might just as well sandpaper my mouth!
The little watercolor above was done on 9" x 12" drawing paper with Winsor Newton watercolors and finished with a Pitt pen. I did it more like a journal page, with the little notations on the page, rather than as a straight watercolor.
It's supposed to get colder this weekend, and really cold next week. I may have to get the hot chocolate ready for my cups. (It's almost 80 degrees, now, outside, but the a/c makes it cool in our house. More like ice cream weather, than hot chocolate.)
I can't believe it is here-almost! Sketch Crawl is tomorrow-world wide. That includes you, wherever you may be! If you want to spend even a few minutes drawing, painting, doodling, or journaling about your surroundings, you, too, can be a part of the 21st World Wide Sketch Crawl. or click on the logo in my sidebar.
Since it is supposed to be on the cool side, and windy, here, tomorrow, I'm trying to think of indoor places that we might draw. I'm thinking of Rudy's Barbeque since it has a fireplace, or the Corner of Time with its soda fountain, maybe the Chicken Oil Company or Sweet Eugene's. There are lots of eating places around. But that fireplace, rustic setting, and the little creek in the back, sound interesting-and warm. There is a new German restaurant downtown that sounded interesting, especially for dessert!, but I'm not that familiar with places downtown.
Of course, we will start at the LaSalle Hotel. I thought of meeting in the courtyard, but, if it is too cool, we may need to meet in the coffee shop there.
We can decide when we arrive, I guess.
I hope that someone else shows up this time! If not, we may just find someplace to eat and sketch, then come home, and maybe explore the other end of our street. We did some of the west end of the street last time because we couldn't find anyone else sketching downtown.
I've got my travel set of Winsor Newton watercolors; a box of watercolor pencils; pencil case with pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and ruler ; a watercolor pad, a 9"x 12" sketchbook, a small watercolor sketchbook, clipboard with paper, bottle of water and small water container (pill bottle or film container); tissue paper; paper towels, trash bag and Zip Lock bags; lawn chair and cushion; hat and sunglasses; camera; purse-all ready to go.
Now, I'm trying to think what I might have forgotten!
I hope that I have notified everyone who would like to participate. And I hope that others are spreading the word to anyone who I don't have e-mails or addresses for.
Come join us in Bryan, or Calvert, if you are in the area. Or you can work in your own community. Start your own group, or work by yourself.
I want to see what everyone did. It's amazing to see the world through other peoples' eyes. Some have cathedrals and museums to sketch in, subways and trains, snow or desert, mountains or beach. Food choices are interesting too. We have museums and nice churches, but not the other things.
What do you have around you that you could show the world? It may be ordinary to us, but very different to someone, or even familiar, to someone in another country.
I have set up a Yahoo group for people who are interested in sketching, drawing, or painting in the Bryan/College Station/Brazos Valley area of Texas. Maybe that will help to reach more people who are interested in participating in things like Sketch Crawl and workshops in our area.
Please let anyone who might be interested know about this group.
The name is Brazos Valley_Sketchers
Let's Draw!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Alfred in Aggie Uniform
Fall of 1929
Family Photo
The above photo was taken when Daddy went to A&M, the fall of 1929, just in time for the Great Depression. He always loved the Aggies and the Aggie experience, although he didn't graduate. You would never find a more loyal fan than Daddy or Grandpa Conitz. I can't believe that was almost 80 years ago.
His winter uniform came in handy when we had to go to school on really cold days. The heat didn't usually make it up to the third floor from the boiler room so we wore all the warm clothes we could find and kept our coats, gloves, scarves on and brought quilts and blankets. The teachers wouldn't let us sit together to keep each other warm, though. Girls didn't get to wear these type of uniforms, and there were no girls at A&M, back then. So it was really special for me to get to wear Daddy's wool uniform on those cold days. (Of course, it would have been more special if it had belonged to an Aggie boyfriend!)
If Daddy were alive today, we would have had a joint birthday dinner, either on Sunday or on my birthday. Red roast and red gravy for me, fried oysters and oyster stew, a birthday cake, and chocolate pie for him. And, of course, he would have had "sky juice" to drink and I would have had milk or a Coke. He would have piled his plate high, a few times, and used bread to clean his plate. And I would have picked at my food and complained, most likely, or pouted over one thing or another.
Grandpa and Grandma, Pappy and Uncle Tom, Toot and Honey, Thelma and Irvin, and Barbara would have been there for our dinner. Mama would have cooked, if we had it at our house. (I think that Daddy liked to have it at Grandma's house, while she was able to cook.) And Birdie would have helped in the kitchen. We all would have crowded into our small dinette which held 4 nicely and eaten pretty much in silence, except for some talk from Toot or Pappy, and some sports talk from Grandpa. And, maybe, some squabbling between Barbara and me.
I don't recall Daddy getting presents on his birthday. Maybe some pajamas or a shirt or tie, which went into a drawer to save. That was about the same thing as at Christmas.
We can always tell when it is about to be Daddy's birthday. There are always lots of Elvis Presley movies on tv, now. It certainly is nice to share your birthday with a celebrity.
Daddy would have been 98 today, if he had lived. His father lived to be 96.

8" x 8"
I wanted to get in some sketching last night before I went to bed. I looked at my list of EDM challenges, picked up my pencil and sketchbook, and thought, "I really should try to draw Bitsy". I get kind of frustrated when I try to draw animals, and people, because they just don't come out realistic. As much as I have looked at cats and dogs, for lo these many years, my drawings of them still usually look like cartoons or all out of whack.
But Bitsy had sneaked to a place she was not supposed to be, and was just enjoying herself as the ceiling fan blew warm air down on her. She has been hiding out on a chair, under the dining table, where no one can find her or bother her. She is rather aloof. And even more so since she has been sick.
Bitsy had jumped up onto the back of my daughter's recliner, where the boy cats usually like to nap. She chooses a fuzzy blanket on my bed or an arm of the couch, normally, and sometimes, the dining room chair. The kids do not like for Bitsy to get on that recliner and chase her off when they catch her. I guess that, at night, after we all go to bed, Bitsy takes over and goes where she wants to go!
I thought I would try just doing some searching lines and not worry about making the drawing realistic-just capture the pose. Which wasn't an easy thing since she started turning over and moving her head. I decided that she was settled enough that she would make a good model, but she fooled me.
I throw sheets, heavy towels, and even those puppy puddle pads where the critters like to sit to protect the furniture. In the drawing, there is a towel draped under Bitsy, and over the back of the chair. Otherwise, claws do a number on upholstered things. And they seem to like to sit on a soft towel or blanket.
Bitsy is 22 years old, and will be 23 in March or April. She is a muted calico Manx cat. And, as Barbara says, a free spirit. I call it independent and kind of wild. She used to come sit at my elbow or on my feet, just out of reach. When she was a tiny kitten, she used to sit on my shoulder, like the pictures you see of pirates with their parrot. Then she changed to feet and shoes. Bitsy had one litter of kittens when she was one year old. We quit letting her out of the house after dogs killed almost every cat we had that went outside. I thought that Bitsy would be okay because I saw her, several times, bloody the nose of a Black Lab that caught her on the front porch. The dog ran off. But I didn't want to risk losing another cat, so she became an indoor cat.
Bitsy is an excellent weather forecaster. If it is going to rain, she flattens out on the floor and creeps along to a "safe place". I usually catch her and put her under her fuzzy blanket on my bed. We know that the storm has passed when she comes out from under the cover.
Lately, though, Bitsy has been losing weight. She's had some diarrah and, sometimes, she throws up her food and water. Usually, though, I think that is because she has eaten a lot of food, and drunk a lot of water with it. She won't eat anything except dry IAMS cat food. And sometimes, a bite of chicken. We tried other cat food, but either she wouldn't touch it, or it would give all the cats diarreah.
This time, we took her to the vet, and learned that she was extremely dehydrated, has renal failure, and had a systemic infection associated with that and old age. The vet said that she is like a 107 year old person and has lived a very long life. They gave her IV fluids, an antibiotic, and an "Old Kitty Shot", meant to keep her feeling better and happy for the rest of her days.
Unfortunately, something in the office made me start sneezing (I was sure that it was the smell of coffee, because that's what I smelled and started sneezing. I don't drink coffee and the odor makes me sneeze just like cigarette smoke.) Between using a lot of Kleenex and wiping my eyes, I finally had to just sit down and let Barbara hold Bitsy and talk to the vet. (Bitsy was happy since she likes Barbara, and Thelma.)
I don't know if Bitsy is going to live for a short while or a long time. And I don't know what to expect. I was afraid that he was going to tell us that she had cancer or that she needed to be put to sleep. I went online to find out more about renal failure in cats and learned a few things. I thought it was interesting that, on one site, it said that your cat will let you know what they need. It seems that cats don't feel a lot of pain with this, unless they go into things like convulsions. They just feel unwell. Among other things, they may have nausea and malaise. The vet said that diarreah is a symptom.
Since we brought her home, she hasn't ventured out of the den/kitchen/dining room, utility area. Her food, water, and potty are there, and her favorite sitting places. So, I guess that is where she wants to be.
She still isn't really cuddly. I try to pick her up and hold her, and claws go out everywhere. But, she does come up and sit on the arm of the couch while I am eating or watching tv. I think she doesn't trust me because I might have some of that awful medicine to give her. She really doesn't like that! Of course, she has always been like that.
I didn't think that she was really terribly sick because she was eating, drinking, jumping, climbing, running. (She is so cute when she runs, with that little cotton tail and her sort of bow legs and pigeon toes. She reminds me of a rabbit.)
For a cuddly, affectionate cat, we have Simba, the yellow, fluffy tom cat. He and Bitsy have never become friends. They stay far away from each other. They used to take separate sections on my bed for naps, but, now, Simba seems to have most places to himself.
I hope that you are going to join in the Sketch Crawl Saturday. I can't believe it is almost here! And I never did get t-shirts for us! You can click on the logo in my sidebar to learn more, or read down in some earlier posts to know more about Sketch Crawl.
If you aren't local to Bryan/College Station, you can still participate where you are, or even start your own group in your community.
It isn't long until the workshop in Calvert with Viriginia Vaughan, either. That is coming up Saturday February 21. Send in your deposit of $40 by Feb. 1 to reserve your place in the class. The balance of $40 is due at the workshop. Contact Cecelia at for a supply list and information.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Beauty In The Midst of Horror

Gaza Sunrise 1, 2, and 3
9" x 12"
Ink & Watercolors
While Fox News was having reruns on tv, CNN actually stayed on the air, live, for reports of the latest conflict. We watched the flashes of explosions as the night gave way to dawn. I had my sketchbook as I watched tv. The colors of the sunrise over Gaza caught my attention and I thought those would look good in a painting. I did some quick sketches as the day grew brighter, wrote in notes as to where various colors would go. I didn't have in mind, particularly, doing paintings of these scenes, but in using the combinations in other paintings later. As pictures began repeating, that gave me time to use my travel set of Winsor Newton watercolors, and put in some of the colors on the sketches. This is why you see my notations of colors in the above paintings.
The soft colors of daybreak were deceptive. The puffy little clouds were not the peaceful little summer clouds we sometimes see. Instead, they were smoke from explosions. But, they could easily have been those little cotton-like clouds we see in Texas. The yellow and gold sky scanned a much stronger yellow than it actually is.
I was going to stop with the first sketch, but the purple and lavendar sky in the next picture attracted me. Again, deceptively soft and peaceful looking, except the darker clouds on the horizon were not normal clouds. Instead, they were smoke flowing across the city. Who could tell what horrors were taking place in the buildings and streets below. I am not sure why the land appeared to be red orange. Maybe it was my eyes, but I thought that maybe it had something to do with dust in the air.
Again, I was about to quit when they showed a hilly scene, with some buildings on the horizon. I was impressed with the sort of olive green grass with darker areas that might have been little bushes of some kind. One little gamboge patch of color toward the top of the hill indicated, to me, an area of sand. You would think this would be a peaceful place where there might have been sheep grazing, but it was empty of life. By this time, the sky had turned to pink with a bit of shadey blue or lavender at the horizon.
It's a terrible situation, but I did find something appealing in the colors as I watched from safety, from a long distance. We hope for safety for all those people, but, realistically, as long as there are men, there are going to be wars and rumors of wars.
I'm having a little more trouble distinguishing colors, and doing things like connecting lines when I draw and paint. I sort of aim and hope that things come close to being where they should be! Sometimes it works!
"Is this pink or orange?" I often ask.
"No, it's red," I am told.
The same thing happens for other colors. I have to take things to the natural light to tell what they are. That works, sometimes.
"That line should be straight, " I'm sometimes told.
"But it looks curved, to me," I answer.
It's frustrating, but, so far, I'm able to work with it. Although I really admire realism, that is not what comes out of me. And, with my vision the way it is, I know that realism is going to be impossible to do. It's a good thing that I can enjoy being loose, expressionistic, putting in pretty colors, experimenting, or I would be really upset and frustrated.
Come sketch with us Saturday January 10 for the 21st World Wide Sketch Crawl. Wherever you are, you can still do the Sketch Crawl with a group where you are, or just sketch by yourself. Start your own group!
It's really a nice day. Just take along your sketching or writing materials, maybe a camera, a chair to sit on, (or you usually can find a bench or somewhere to sit, depending on where you decide to draw.), and things you might like to have for the day. You might like to have a hat or sunscreen, depending on where you are. Maybe you will need warm clothes and pick a spot indoors. You can journal about your day from getting up, to breakfast, where you sketch, lunch, your afternoon, winding up, and those around you, too. Or you might decide to just draw in one spot, or move to different places. If you are going to an event, you can sketch there, too.
If you can't get away from home, draw what you do at home that day. You might draw your neighborhood, your yard, or wherever you are.
Or, you can find interesting things to draw in your locale.
My sister takes her plein aire painting equipment, as well as a sketchbook and pen. She usually does a painting, then sketches a while. She has her oil painting supplies, a camp stool, a tripod, a variety of canvases, etc. She is prepared! She even has bungee cords, and, of course, her ice chest. She also takes business cards to give to those who show interest in her work.
I take my travel set of Winsor Newton watercolors with 3 small brushes-a smallflat, a small round, and a tiny detail brush) , a watercolor pad, a sketchbook, a pencil case with a variety of pencils and pens, a small ruler, eraser, and a pencil sharpener. I also have a plastic clip board that has a space inside. I keep copy machine paper, pencils and pens, and an eraser in that. (You could put sheets of drawing paper or watercolor paper in the clipboard. I use a film container or small pill bottle for water and keep some tissues in my purse. A bottle of drinking water is in my bag in case I can't find a water fountain where I am. A small spray bottle is an addition to use for watercolor techniques.
To avoid littering, I have a couple of Zip Lock bags, a plastic bag from a store, paper towels, and a trash bag.
All of these are carried in a plastic tote bag.
A lawn chair and a cushion provide a place to sit in case there isn't a bench where I decide to draw.
My oil painting things are handy, but, so far, I haven't found that I have time to take photos, sketch, do a little with my watercolors, talk, and do oil paintings, too.
I take another bag for my grandson (age 12) and have a couple of sketchbooks for him, pencils (drawing and colored) , eraser, his brushes. He has a folding canvas chair. (I tried that, but, with my knees, I had trouble getting out of it! I needed more support.)
We have soft drinks in our ice chest, in case we are working someplace where we can't buy a drink.
I've done quite a few sketches at places that I wouldn't have gone to sketch on my own. And that has resulted in more art work. I have more places in mind to go, now.
And it is a good way to spend a day with my grandson. He seems to like doing watercolors better than he has liked sketching-except for drawing the things he is interested in like ships or light sabres! But, he is at an age where he is going to be changing a lot.
Perhaps this will give you some ideas for doing the sketch crawl. Some people only take along what will fit into their pocket or purse. Others use a luggage carrier for their equipment. You might even keep things packed in your car, ready to go when the urge to sketch or paint strikes.
If you have any questions or would like to join us, let me know.
Be sure to sign up for the Plein Aire painting workshop with Virginia Vaughan in Calvert Saturday February 21. For more information and a supply list contact Cecelia at . Send a deposit of $40 to reserve a place in the class by Feb. 1, payable to Virginia Vaughan, with the balance due at the workshop.
Since we will all go out and paint for fun on Sunday, you may want to reserve a room at one of Calvert's B&Bs. The Pin Oak B&B and The Bird House both have rooms available that weekend.
I read on the Calvert page of the Fort Tumbleweed website that Calvert has a soda fountain! That sounds really interesting! Ice cream is always good, and those old fashioned sodas and sundaes, lime ices, and such treats are something that we could use more of. I really hated to see Swenson's close here. It was the closest thing I've found to Taliaferro's Drug Store that we had in Calvert. Wish they would open again.
I did find a way to make something that is close to the old fashioned chocolate sodas that we used to be able to get almost anywhere.
I just put some chocolate ice cream into a soda fountain style glass. Put in a straw. Then added Sprite or 7-Up until it makes that nice foam on top.
Pretty tastey. And it helps to settle an unhappy stomach, too!
We'll have to look for that soda fountain the next trip to Calvert. I always thought they should have kept one, but the Dairy Queen seemed to become a popular place when those came into town. I guess that hurt the drugstore soda fountains and lunch counters. DQ is okay, but it isn't the same as the great old drugstores, or Swenson's.