"We Three"

"We Three"

Friday, July 30, 2010

A different day, yes...

Yesterday, I was the bug. I don't know why this happens. Sometimes, it means I am getting sick, but I woke up today just fine. A perusal of Wednesday's diet and activities gave me no clue. I canceled my appointments on the pretext that I didn't want to spread my misery, should it prove contagious, but, in actuality, I just needed some me time. When I am running on empty, I have nothing to give. I would love to me Ms. Abundant, full of sweetness and light 24/7/365. Alas, that has not happened yet. And the poor kid from behind me chose the very worst moment to knock on my front door, just as I was settling into a hot tub, to ask if he could mow my lawn for me. Not today, I yelled. He is currently busily wrestling his lawn mower over the hillocks in the back yard. Grateful, yes I am. And not fully back to windshield status yet. But determined to do all those things that make me feel useful, like the dusting, the picking-up, the grocery shopping, and yes, a trip to the library. Working my way back from the darkness, yet another time. Accepting it will never end till it ends. Life on life's terms. What a concept.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is that REALLY necessary?

You know, I have never wanted to be a man. Not that being a woman has been a barrel of monkeys all the time. But men have to do awful things, like go to war. Oh, wait a minute. It's men who start wars. Well, whatever, the neighborhood was just dripping with testosterone yesterday as my neighbor labored to cut down the enormous sycamore in his front yard. It was not one of these. No, his was really tall, and probably older than all the guys who were in on the destruction put together. This event brought out all the macho guys up and down the street, to advise and confer on the process. They had this uber-noisy chain saw that sounded like the Indianapolis 500 was being held next door. Lots of yelling, some of it urgent as part of the poor tree threatened to fall on the house. Then big cracking sounds followed by big crashing sounds followed by much whooping. Women and children were smart enough not to venture out during the whole thing, which took several hours. I kept expecting emergency vehicles to descend at any moment. Miraculously, the tree is gone today, and everyone seems to be in full possession of all their limbs. If we ever get summer here, they will be sorry, and miss the blessed shade from that noble tree. Perhaps it was really necessary, but did they have to enjoy it so much?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things change, Vol. XXXVI...

You may remember that a couple of years ago, I marched into Face to Face, our local AIDS hospice organization, to have someone jury a painting I wanted to donate to their terribly chic silent auction, Art for Life. And they liked it, and someone bought it, so now, they ask me back every year, which makes me feel like an artist, and that is good. This is my offering this year. It is the first cow painting I have donated, and one of my favorites. I named it We Three, and emailed the image to the coordinator, who is new and didn't know she should praise me till the cows come home. However, she did email me asking my permission to use my image in their promotional brochure this year. Like, this will be their signature piece. Like, it will have a place of honor at the show. Like, maybe, just maybe, I have arrived? Can barely wait for the event now. My moment in the sun. Validation, it beats it all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The rose in this picture has been gone for a long, long time. Yet, here it is, at the moment of its most beauteous life, immortalized. Well, remembered, at least. This has been a time of passings for the cowwoman. So far this year, six folks in my immediate sphere have left the planet. And I suppose that, as the years pile up in my OUT box, this will be more and more probable. It is good to remember that I have only this day, this glorious Sunday in the little yellow house, with the poopies at my feet, sweet breeze blowing, swallowtail butterfly flitting by. Lots of gratitude welling up inside, for this precious life, and in particular for the sobriety I enjoy. One of my friends died from the disease I work so hard to keep at bay. There was a time I worked with her, on the Steps and the Program. Don't know why I get to have it and she couldn't get it. I just know we all fight invisible battles every day. When I share them with my web of wise women, they evaporate like clouds on a summer day. And they are about as substantial in the sharing, just evanescent ghosts haunting the dark corners of my very inventive little mind. I will hold my lost friends in my heart till the day I die, and, HP willing, even beyond.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today's episode of How My World Turns...

I got up this morning after an especially chaotic night of dreams, probably the aftermath of the overdose of magnesium I took recently (magnesium - milk of magnesia - duh), and the fur people were waiting patiently by the side of my bed. After the obligatory stop in the ittybitty bathroom, I strolled around the corner to the lovely spacious kitchen, where I started the Sumatra and prepared my pancakes du jour, with sliced fresh peaches, tiny sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon and Cool Whip. Thus armed with my coffee cup and plate of heaven, I sat for a few and ate over the coffee table, watching a little of Clueless on one of my premium channels, just a precious little movie. Now, poochies are curled at my feet as I peck away here. Now, I live just a bit over the poverty level here in the little yellow house, and yet, I am so RICH. I love my fur babies, yes, even the moments I spend combing burs from the Pickle's coat every day. I love my Boo, old fart that he is. And I love my computer. Did you know you can stream live radio on ITunes? Okay, I am not riding the crest of the learning curve here, but I am lucky to have found this out at all. Of course, I found the classical button, and am now listening to a station called Cinemix, all soundtracks, all the time. You know how I believe the art music of the day is being written for the movies. And, gee, there is so much more of it than I own in my little collection! Since I like to leave music playing for the fur babies when I leave the house, this is a treasure. Full of treasures, that's my tiny life. At least, that is the tone of THIS DAY, which is all there is, anyway.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Musings for a summer's day...

The weather is perfection today. The temperature is in the low 80s and there is this tender little breeze whiffling the sycamore trees on my front lawn. A woodpecker works industriously somewhere near. The air is sweet and clean. Northern California in the summer is truly golden. And did you know, that is the reason it is the Golden State, the sun-bleached hills that stretch the entire length of it? And those are not the native grasses, either. Without the Spanish invasion, our hills would be green year round instead of only six months a year. So, I sit here in the little yellow house, thinking there is a painting I need to work on in the studio, and detritus the dogs have dragged in from the yard to be vacuumed up, and a load of laundry from the gym bag. Think I will just saunter into the living room and watch my soap opera instead. Yeah, that's a plan.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The road to Bechtel House...

This is the gate we drove through every morning on the mountain to get to the Bechtel House, where we convened before setting off into the wilderness to endeavor to capture the sheer beauty on our canvases. Sometimes it was open. Sometimes, not. It was always a mystery whether to close it again after driving through. After all, others would be coming in behind me, I was always early. But I didn't want any of the cattle that graze there to wander away, either. I am missing that drive today. It seems that the last few years of my life have been spent negotiating narrow, twisty, steeply inclined roads, often just an eyebrow on the crest of a hill, with dizzying drop on one side and rock cliff on the other. Dusty, too. My car is dismally in need of a wash, and the weather is not cooperating. Cold and drizzly, in the middle of July! Whatever, I am tempted to take the conservator classes in Pepperwood ecology and volunteer up there. It is a precious place, for sure.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Down on the farm...

I dragged my still sick self down to Brown Bag Ranch yesterday for a long awaited workshop given by a local artiest I greatly admire. Funnily enough, I had thought I had found my "style" in the thin, breezy landscapes I did at Pepperwood, my paper towel epiphany, so to speak. Mayhaps that is still so. But now, I find myself ladling paint onto canvas like frosting on a cake, pushing wet into wet, being extra brave, throwing all caution and common sense to the wind. Okay, it's a little jejeune. Perhaps the right word is primitive. Or maybe it is just a mess. Lots of fun to paint, though. Don't know if I learned anything. Well, not true. I like this palette, only seven hues: mixed white, organic vermillion, French ultramarine, hansa yellow, yellow ochre, permanent rose, and burnt umber. And I was introduced to Daniel Smith pigments, really sweet. And big brushes. And an elan that was absolutely envigorating. Till I pooped out and dragged my poor sick self home. Today, my job is just to be sick. Nothing demanding. Well, I may paint, a little.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

It is what it is...

Again, this morning, this first of today's opus. It was all orangy, so I palette knifed white all over the place. Then it was all pale, and splotchy. So I wiped it down and did that dabbing thing with the paper towel, and I liked it better, until I put it up against the other one at our little critique at the end of our painting time. Eeeeeeyyyouuuu. So, at home I got out my oh-so-awful REAL cadmium yellows (toxic, big nonos at school) and my Naples yellow, a pigment I forgot I even had, and did it up all bright and sweet. Now, it isn't what the hill looked like today, but it is what I wanted it to look like, and that always works better. In the end.

Foggy day on the mountain...

It was actually drizzling when I embarked for Pepperwood this AM, but, gee, I thought, it will be all sunshiny on top of the mountain. Alas, not so. Hella cold, too. We had a demo on scumbling and glazing, and on soft and hard edges. Verrrrry interesting. Then we headed out into the murk to try to capture the mist on canvas. Well, I tried a lot of washed out colors on my first canvas, then looked over and saw what my classmate had done, and started this one. Finished it in record time, hands were stiffening in the cold. Happily, we convened inside Bechtel house, where I managed to drop a canvas buttered side down on the carpet. Exercised the five second rule and scooped it right back up, so no damage to rug or painting, except that it was a sucky one that I worked over a whole bunch when I got home. That is the joy of oils. You can fiddle with them till the cows come home. No one will ever know. This one, however, I am not touching. It was kind of magical. Like God painted it. And, of course, She did. I just held the brush.

Monday, July 05, 2010

God damned Nature is so freaking COMPLICATED!

My original rendering of this scene was much more complicated than what eventually wound up on the canvas. All the values (lights and darks) were the same. There was a big muddy-looking bush behind the trees. I had experimented with hues in the grasses. None of it was working. So, in the studio, I took out the bushes, darkened the tree, lightened the grasses and the sky, and VOILA! A better painting emerged. Mystical experience messing around with pigments. Fun way to spend one's life, indeed. And, it really is not necessary to paint in every little detail, every leaf or blade of grass. The eye will fill in those details from memory. It is much more illuminating as an artist to just try to get that illusion on the canvas. Funnily enough, I think it is beginning to look like I know what I am doing. Believe me, it's really just an illusion, too. The trick seems to be not to give up, to just perservere, be willing to keep trying new and different methods. Sorry about that glare in the middle. Impossible to photograph a work while it is still wet without it. Maybe it adds something? One never knows, you know.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Silver threads among the gold...

Gee, I would like to be aging like Raquel Welch. Just don't have her money or medical connections. I never did have any sharp edges, and what was soft before is buttery now. In that age old battle, gravity is winning. Oh, it could be a whole lot worse. Grateful for what is still hanging in there. And must get butt to gym! Have not been there in two weeks. Not that I have been lacking for exercise. Just need it to be more specific. Drawing is one of my major pursuits. Taking the sketchbook out front today to draw the hydrangea in bloom under my bedroom window, in preparation for a personal painting I want to do with my new palette of pigments I will be using in upcoming workshop. Just a wonderful life, this art stuff.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Surprising benefits...

I recently subscribed to a twice weekly newsletter (and isn't that so much less demanding than those daily ones, that pile up in your inbox like newpapers on your doorstep when you are away?) from this artist guy who regularly features famous artist's palettes. My favorite was Renoir, who had neat little piles of pigment, each with its own neat little pile of white for mixing. I actually started using that method, hoping to keep from making mud on my palette, which most resembles Gaugin's in its esprit de corps, all over the place kind of way. And how wonderful is this nifty box that keeps it moist so I can use up all my pigments later at home! Painting outdoors means being so much more aware of not only your surroundings, but your little outdoor studio setup. A rock is helpful to keep my paper palette from escaping. I hook a plastic bag around the clasp of my easel paintbox to hold assorted refuse. Even though I am usually in full sun most of the morning, my sweet little folding chair can sit in the shade for a nice rest later. I have learned to be judicious about taking small breaks now and then for water and a terrific tropical trail mix I found at Walmart. And I get to see my immune system at work as it labors to rid me of the mosaic of booboos I have accumulated, like the honorable wound on my shin acquired while bounding into the van on our inaugural tour, the assorted bug bites, the little sunburn on my lower arms from the day I forgot my sunscreen, and the numerous bruises that seemed to have popped up all by themselves. And, best of all, my internal clock has been reset, so that I awaken around 6 every day, not just the days I have to be on top of the mountain by 7:30, making so much more time to pet the pooches and fiddle around with artful things. Good decision, this landscape painting class. On so many levels.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The other end of the spectrum...

What wonders one can work with a paper towel! I put the colors down, then wiped them off. I kind of crumpled my paper towel and dabbed. When I pulled my hand away, this is what I had. Now, most of the rest of my class trundled off for a nice hike to Turtle Pond. I had a really lousy night of not very much sleep, and decided that I would make do with what I could find there at Bechtel house. Not hard to find outrageous beauty at Pepperwood; it is everywhere around us. This is my style for landscape painting, painterly, almost looks like pastel. Why pick with a brush when you can just dippydab with your Bounty?