Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Robin Eggs

ROBIN EGGS are warm and comforting. It might be their color, or tiny size, or maybe what they represent – new beginnings. For me, they are a means of time travel, an instant journey back to a 10-year old me.

I GREW UP on a vineyard. Each spring, my brothers and I would grab our little notepads and, in my organized manner even back then, traverse the rows, searching for birds' nests. We very carefully peeked into each vine, documenting each find, and then following the progress of each nest until, at last, all the baby birds flew away.

SOME EGGS didn't hatch, while others were eaten by small mammals or other birds. And it always broke my heart to scribble, "Dead hatchling– not strong enough." Occasionally we got to see the parents feed worms or bugs to the babies. It was so exciting I couldn't sleep some nights.

SOON the nests were empty, and we moved on to new adventures. We ditched our notepads and found other ways to amuse ourselves, not giving nests another thought – until the next year, when it would seem like just the best idea all over again.

I painted Robin Eggs on 16 x20 hardboard panel, which I cut with a jigsaw.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Hunter

The Hunter (copied from a painting by Adriaen Beeldemaker 1653)
AFTER TRAVELING across the states for 6 months, the van stopped running and we moved into an apartment in east Visalia – sans transportation. We found jobs within walking distance, and got by with a kitchen table, an art table and a director's chair.  As a newlywed, I was soon to learn that art – the thing that brought us together and the thing I thought we would share forever – was the thing that would break us up.

MY HUSBAND told me the art table was his only and that he was the artist in our family. If I wanted to paint I would have to use the kitchen table.

I DID use the table. I painted this picture, a copy of a painting from the 17th century. It hangs in my living room today.

FIFTEEN years later I would paint my next one.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Crackers Are $2 a Box, But Magic is Free

WHEN I CAME UP with the idea to paint horse ranches, I was 38, recently divorced, mother of 4 girls and flat broke. My cottage industry income had dissolved along with my marriage. Not one to mope, I made a list – 20 things I love most in life. So – dogs, horses, people who like dogs and horses, the river, color, photography, sleeping in, campfires, painting... I wanted to find a way to put as many of these things as I could in a job description, and I came up with "Ranch Portraits."

I BOUGHT booth space at a fancy fine-harness show in Santa Ynez. I loaded some paintings into my car, along with a suit and heels, a Western dress, a box of saltine crackers and a jar of jam. Sometimes all you need is determination.

THE FIRST DAY was terrifying but fun. I talked up my portraits like I'd been doing it forever. I ate crackers when I got hungry and I slept in my car in the parking lot. In the morning, after crackers for breakfast, I headed out to meet the day, one that turned out to be one of the best in my life.

IT WAS LIKE walking into a fairy tale.  My art was a hit; I sold a couple paintings and got a couple commissions for ranch portraits. I was invited to wine and dine at several tail-gate lunches, and then flew kites on the hill in the afternoon with my new best friend, a harness-maker from Wisconsin who had the adjacent booth. I met the singer of the band that would be playing for the dinner/dance that evening in the big tent. I wasn't going ($100 ticket to get in), but he insisted, and snuck me in under the tent flap.

AND THEN SOMETHING MAGICAL happened.  Everyone wanted to dance with ME! I was the belle of the ball! I was new at country dancing, but it didn't matter. I was swept off my feet, literally, until the wee hours.

DRUNK on success and relief (and wine), I finally made it back to my car. I had money in my pocket, commissions to keep me busy, and a good friend that has remained my friend to this day. In the morning I would eat some crackers and go home to real life. My life. My life as an artist.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkins, Pumpkins and More Pumpkins

NADI CO. was a business my husband and I had for 15 years. Back in 1990 Halloween items for the home were called "decorations." We created Halloween "art" - the only booth that year at Beckman's Gift Show in Los Angeles to do so. We were swamped with orders. At a craft show in La Canada, people lined up to purchase and we sold out.

THIS PUMPKIN was our best seller. A big chunk of my life was spent making hundreds of them. I kept the pattern (above). It fills me with joy, partly because they are laughing, but mostly because it was a special time.  I could work at night when the children slept, so I could be with them during the day. It was challenging. And I realized I could make a living painting.

EVENTUALLY,  I gave up working in wood and switched to watercolor paintings. Still, I occasionally create pieces cut from wood. I've been working on a show for 2 years now, called "Cut From the Same Cloth" in my spare time. All the pieces are cut from wood. They are more sophisticated than laughing pumpkins and I have more skill now. But the joy in making them is the same. It just feels too good not to.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Good Start

I'VE BEEN MEANING to frame this for 43 years. It just keeps getting put on the back burner. (Or maybe I should say hot plate?) This was my first ever home. I had met the man I later married and we shared the single bed on the right. Craig, who would be the Best Man, slept on the bed on the floor. Boogie, a hamster I inherited from a previous roommate, slept in the third drawer down.

MEALS were cooked on a hot plate, and an ice chest served as refrigerator. Tye-dyed sheets supplied by Yosemite Park & Curry Co. We had all the necessities – heat, food, music, art and love.

IT WAS a good start.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Animal Pancakes and Elton John

IT'S 1970.  I left home. I'm 18 years old. And when I say "left" I mean running down the driveway, chased by my Dad, jumping in the bed of my friend's truck, and watching Dad grow smaller and smaller. And when I say "left" I mean jumping scared with both feet into a world of possibilities. I spent that night on the floor of Tina's bedroom, staring at the ceiling, never happier.

I STAYED with Tina's family until I graduated from High School a few months later, and then, having just painted a mural in the school gym for the large sum of $150, I finally began my journey by answering an ad for work in Yosemite National Park. I spent half of my total net worth on a pair of desert boots and a brown corduroy coat to match, confident that I was armed suitably for a new life.

MY FRIEND Janet drove me to the park. Neither of us had ever been there.  We pulled into Inspiration Point and looked at each other, speechless. As we drove towards Camp Curry I knew better than to hope- it was too good to be true. I could be living in the most beautiful place in the world. Then my first interview– I was told that if I could be back by tomorrow I could have the job. I was screaming before I got out the door. Janet and I held hands, jumping up and down, laughing and crying and hugging.

I MEANT to spend 6 months in Yosemite, but it turned into 2 amazing years. I learned about snow, animal pancakes, Elton John, friendship, and love. And, oh, I painted. Every chance I got. Living and painting in Yosemite ignited something in me that has burned for many years. Having experienced magic in the world once, you can never go back to a life without it. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Just Start

I CAN procrastinate like a pro! I know I'm doing it, I know I don't like to do it, and I even know how to stop doing it. Most times I shrug it off; I'm good with deadlines. But occasionally, and usually with a person portrait, it can go on for a tad too long for my comfort.

THAT'S WHEN I have to close my eyes and visualize this painting, called Lion Reading, which hangs in Kaweah Delta hospital, in Visalia, CA. I painted it 16 years ago, in 1998. I was still struggling with making my living as an artist after a divorce, and also raising a 7- year old daughter, Bronwen, no money, not sure when the next commission would come. So I designed this 8'x8' painting, to present to the hospital in hopes of selling it.

I GOT a good part of the painting done, but when it came to painting Lion's eyes I froze. He's telling an exciting story so his eyes needed to be bright and opened, but NOT crazed. He's not going to EAT the young animals! 

A DAY went by- then another. A week. Finally, frustrated by my lack of confidence, Bronwen came up to me, handed me a paintbrush, fully loaded, with that look on her face that meant I know all things, and said "Just start. You'll figure it out." Yeah, that's my girl. 

I DID start, I did figure it out, and I sold it to the hospital for a whopping $5000, enough money to allow me to take a breath and go forward. And today, right after I post this, I am going to get up from the computer, load a paintbrush and "just start."