Monday, November 28, 2011

Ed's Grandfather

6x6 inches, acrylic on paper

This little painting, done very simply, is of my brother-in-law's grandfather, a man I never met, though I have certainly heard stories about him.  The original snapshot was dark, and cluttered.  There was part of a chair in the foreground, and flowery wallpaper that sagged.  So my challenge was to find a way to insert a little visual interest, and I decided to do a complimentary under painting and let a bit of that color peek through.  The painting looks a little flat, so I still may add some more shadows to suggest roundness.

It has been a while since I included a poem, so today here is one to go with the painting.

by Carl Dennis

If on your grandmother's birthday you burn a candle   
To honor her memory, you might think of burning an extra   
To honor the memory of someone who never met her,   
A man who may have come to the town she lived in   
Looking for work and never found it.   
Picture him taking a stroll one morning,   
After a month of grief with the want ads,   
To refresh himself in the park before moving on.   
Suppose he notices on the gravel path the shards   
Of a green glass bottle that your grandmother,   
Then still a girl, will be destined to step on   
When she wanders barefoot away from her school picnic   
If he doesn't stoop down and scoop the mess up   
With the want-ad section and carry it to a trash can.   

For you to burn a candle for him   
You needn't suppose the cut would be a deep one,   
Just deep enough to keep her at home   
The night of the hay ride when she meets Helen,   
Who is soon to become her dearest friend,   
Whose brother George, thirty years later,   
Helps your grandfather with a loan so his shoe store   
Doesn't go under in the Great Depression   
And his son, your father, is able to stay in school   
Where his love of learning is fanned into flames,   
A love he labors, later, to kindle in you.   

How grateful you are for your father's efforts   
Is shown by the candles you've burned for him.   
But today, for a change, why not a candle   
For the man whose name is unknown to you?   
Take a moment to wonder whether he died at home   
With friends and family or alone on the road,   
On the look-out for no one to sit at his bedside   
And hold his hand, the very hand   
It's time for you to imagine holding.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not Forgotten

6x6 inches, acrylic

I like old signs, and this was one that caught my eye day and night.  It was a big scaffold with neon letters and a neon lit diamond, and it advertised a local jewelry store for decades.  In fact my parents bought their wedding rings there.  Unfortunately, the sign was damaged in a wind storm a few years ago.  The letters were saved, but the diamond was ruined. I asked the owner for a photo from which to work, and while it isn't photo realistic my little painting reminds me of the sign I used to like so much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little Monster

6x6 inches, acrylic on paper

My niece posted a photo of her daughter Gabby online, and I decided that her pose was irresistible, and that I had to try a portrait.  I cropped the original image, and simplified the background.  It occurred  to me afterward that if it were night there would not be so much light on her face, but I still like the effect.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

And Now For Something Different - Crafty Birds

8x10 inches, cut paper

Let me get this off my chest first.  I am not so much of a Christmas person. 

Actually I like some of the aspects of the season (that's what it is, because it certainly isn't a single day any more).  I like bright twinkly lights at night.  I like cookies and eggnog.  I enjoy hearing from friends and family. All good.

What I don't enjoy is mainly the economic push at this time of year, the emphasis on buying stuff, supporting the local economy by opening the wallet. I know the economy is in rough shape, but let me think about what I am thankful for for a minute, eh?  So I try to celebrate without becoming a raging consumer.

Anyway, I decided to try my hand at designing a card for this year, and my inspiration came from an article in an older Somerset Studio magazine that I found at the library.  The idea was to design birds using mostly circles cut from paper.  I decided to see what I could do, since I have bags and bags of various papers I've squirreled away, including an old book of wallpaper samples.  Did you know that paint stores will sometimes give the books away for free when they are about to be out of date? The only things I purchased for this effort were some tiny metallic brads, which are used for the bird's eye, and some  snowflakes stickers. The results appealed to my husband, which is good.  I still have to see if this size will work for cards when copied and duplicated, and I still need a greeting of some sort. 

We shall see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday Night Figure Study

Monday night was a happy one for many Wisconsinites because the Packers won big.  I am not a sports fan, so rather than spoil my husband's fun, I decided to drive to Whitewater for Monday night figure study.  I don't usually like to go out during the regular school year, since I don't like going both ways on rural roads in the dark.  But I hadn't really drawn from direct observation much since the end of summer session, and felt the urge to go.

I approach the evening sessions a little different than most of the other participants.  I often use several media, including paint, while most of them use dry media exclusively.  I also do my work in two large bound notebooks (one for watercolor and acrylic, one for dry media) , and I keep all my sketches bound together, while most of the others work on loose sheets.  Finally, I really do not worry much about the results, and try to interest myself in the process, and trying to see improvement over time.  Maybe I'm just rationalizing because so many of the others are so very accomplished. 

I was a little sad when I realized that my favorite notebook that I use for dry media is getting filled up. So, I experimented.  I have a couple of large pieces of kraft paper that came when I ordered some Japanese rice papers.  I cut the sheets up and used spray adhesive to mount them over pages that had smeared charcoal or pastel, or drawing I really wanted to forget.  I wasn't all that careful about making the brown paper absolutely square, and I didn't worry too much about wrinkles in the paper, though I didn't aim for texture.  These two little sketches were about five minutes each.  I just used the brown as a midtone and added black, white and brown conte crayons.  I like the effect very much.

I think this was a twenty minute pose.  When I showed the pages to some of the others, one woman said that spray adhesive is toxic and that she would never compromise her brain cells by using it.  She uses her won homemade wheat paste.  That sounds grand, and I agree that spray adhesive is nasty stuff, but I like how well it works, with a minimum of extra moisture on thin sketchbook paper.  As for my brain cells, I'm sure I have compromised them already, though I do try to use spray products with adequate ventilation.  I liked the way the added kraft paper provides some variety in the sketchbook, and it stiffens some of the pages as well. 

This was a thirty minute pose.  I added some sanguine conte crayon here to warm up his skim tones some.  I think that if I analyzed this closely I'd see some problems with proportions, but I was still pleased with how the materials worked out, and plan to glue in some more sheets of kraft paper, and try again, maybe the next time the Packers play on Monday evening.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Collaged Ornament

6x6 inches, paper collage on canvas

This is an experiment.  I had a little  six by six canvas that had two previous paintings on it that didn't thrill me, and I was feeling a little guilty that I had nothing to put into either the art league Holiday Show nor the holiday open house at the gallery that shows my art.  I foolishly thought I could put together a little collage of a Christmas ornament quickly, but it took me two evenings to plan and assemble.  It has all the paper things that fascinate me, maps, stamps, sheet music, oriental papers of several sorts.  But I consistently forget that with collage, smaller doesn't necessarily mean quicker, because the pieces are so small.  But I don't mind the result, and plan to try a couple n a 9x9 cradled board.  That might be less picky.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Family Service Members

Herman Heinrich Adams (1839-1922), Civil War Veteran

It is Veterans Day, a day that the television, newspapers, social media all remind us to honor.  To be honest, I didn't think that much about it when I was younger, probably because my father was never in the armed service, and the other two men I knew who served, my Grandpa Tess and my Uncle Gene, never spoke of their time in service.  The only way I persuaded Uncle Gene to say anything about his time in Korea was when I begged for some photos of himself in uniform.  It has only been since I've been looking into family history that I have come to realize how many family members were veterans. I'm posting this so that other family members can think about the contributions made by our relatives.

Take, for example, Grandma Tess's paternal grandfather, H.H. Adams.  A German immigrant, he was a veteran of the Civil War, a Union soldier, wounded in action and honorably discharged.  I was surprised when I visited the cemetery near Spokane, Washington, to see that he had two headstone, a family stone and one from the government. 

Henry Leaver Pierce (1890-1972), World War I Veteran

Grandpa Pierce's brother, Leaver, served in World War I.  I was delighted not long ago get get a copy of his journal that he kept most of his life, and part of it describes his time in France.  During World War II he and his wife Jo taught radio code to soldiers in the army and navy.

Adolph K. (Bard) Pierce (1892-1995), World War I Veteran

Grandpa Pierce's youngest brother, Uncle Bard, volunteered for World War I, but ended up serving in an office position because his eyes were bad.  This is him standing in front of the farmhouse where he, and later me and my siblings, grew up.  One of my goals is to find a way to mark his grave so that people remember that he was a service member.

Howard Funk Tess (1896-1970), World War I Veteran

It's hard to think about my gentle and quiet Grandpa Tess as serving in the army, but he volunteered and served in France as a Military Policeman.  He never spoke of the war to me, except to say that the trip by ship made him violently seasick.  I know too that he thought about marching a a parade in East Troy after he was married, but when the old uniform was taken out, it was riddled with moth holes.

James B. Pierce (1916-1942) on his father's lap, World War II Veteran, Killed in Action

Grandpa Pierce's oldest brother John, lost his younger son James in World War II. This is the note John received about his son's death:

 July 17, 1942, Dear Mr. Pierce; I just received your letter of July 9th.  Of course you are interested in the answers to the questions you asked; I`m sorry I did not anticipate and answer them in my first letter.  The facts will probably be uncoordinated but I`ll try to answer them all.  James volunteered to fly a patrol to protect our base and gather information while we were getting settled. In other words we had just arrived and needed an air-alert to cover the natural confusion of arriving at a new base; he was to fly an area covering all points within ten miles of our base and investigate and report on any aircraft, boat, or submarine within the area.  He was flying a (censored) and had another pilot (Lt. G.W. Brown) flying on his wing.  Lt. Brown will write to you soon.  The weather was perfectly clear.  James and Lt. Brown were flying at 8,000 feet when James dived down at the water to investigate something he saw there.  Lt. Brown followed him down.  When he got within a hundred feet of the water he saw that what he observed was only driftwood.  Just as he was pulling out if this dive his motor began to miss, for black smoke poured out of his exhaust.  He never got any higher than fifty feet after this so he was too low to jump. HE never mentioned any trouble via his radio, but a pilot has his mind and hands pretty busy when his motor misses at that altitude.  Lt. Brown actually saw the plane hit the water before James got out, so did Lt. Carter who was third man in the flight and he also saw the plane hit.  Neither pilot could later see James.  Lt. Brown flew home and reported to me.  I grabbed a transport plane and pilot and went to the scene over which Lt. Carter was still searching.  We found the belly tank and at first thought it was James.  We dropped a life raft before we realized it was only the belly tank of his plane; this tank being externally fastened had ripped off.  We circled the spot until two Coast Guard boats arrived. They picked up the raft and tank but could find no trace of James.  All of his personal belongings are being shipped to you.  I will be glad to answer any other questions you may have.  The accident is a pure case of motor trouble at low altitude, a man has very little chance of leaving a (censored) after it hits the water.  There was no chance of recovering the pilot or plane due to lack of facilities and the depth of the sea.  Yours sincerely, Bill Litton, Capt. A.C.

Peter Hadley Pierce (1924-1910)left,  and Richard Leaver Pierce (1922-1910), World War II Veterans

I knew my dad's cousins, sons of Leaver and Jo Pierce, as congenial men from occasional family occasions.  Both passed away recently, and I learned more about them. Dick served in the navy in both World War II and Korea.  Peter was commissioned an ensign at Columbia University, serving during WWII on the LST 779. His was the first ship to land on the beach at Iwo Jima and supplied the flag seen in the famous photo of the flag raising.

L.D. Smith (1883-1954) left, and son James DuRell Smith (1915-1982), served in War War II

Dr. Lemuel Durrell Smith was an orthopedic surgeon, and was Grandma Tess's stepfather.  His son, James DuRell was Grandma's younger, and only, brother.  Dr. Smith was a lieutenant colonel in the medical division of the Wisconsin national guard for many years, retiring in 1942.  Uncle DuRell was also a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, a served three years during World War II in Alaska.

Gene Earl Pierce (1926-2009), Korean War Veteran

Dad's older brother, Gene Pierce, went to Korea and served several years.  I tried once to engage him in a conversation about his time, whether he ever considered going back, and he just said that it was no place he wanted to revisit or remember.  

Joe Hyers Ellestad, Afghanistan Veteran, with his mother Hulda Pierce Eleestad

Joe Ellestad is Peter Pierce's grandson.  This is a photo of him and his mother when he returned from Afghanistan in 2008. The happiness shown in this photograph says everything that needs to be said about love and gratitude.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Vintage Photos

 Yesterday my husband and I spent the day in Madison with friends who have come to be known as the Badger Buddies - Two other couples we met when we first married, living in adjacent local apartments.  We started dressing in red and white and attending one UW Badger football game a year together, and have managed an unbroken string since 1976, except that the past two years we sat in bars and watched the game in warmth and relative comfort.  Part of the problem is just finding six tickets together when none of us is a season ticket holder. I remember some very cold and sometimes rainy Saturdays, often sitting in the raucous student section, or in obstructed view seats, where huddling in the stadium bathroom was the one of the best parts of the day, at least for me.  Still the UW band music, the friendship, the brats and beer, all are great fun.  College football, an autumn tradition.

Since I seem to not be getting a whole lot of artwork done this week (I'm blaming it on sniffles and a cough caught on the plane ride home from our cruise), I thought I'd share some autumnal vintage photos from my family archive.

Hunting is a fall tradition in Wisconsin, though I read in the newspapers that fewer and fewer young people are taking it up.  My grandfather, George Earl Pierce, was an avid hunter as a young man.  That's him, standing on the far left.  I know he collected bird eggs as well, because the framed collection was in his cellar for years when I was a child, and is now safe in the Walworth County historical museum in Elkhorn, part of a collection of taxidermy preserved birds from local hunter Howard Cook.  Anyway, I think these men look handsome with their vest, guns and decoys. I'm guessing the studio portrait was taken about 1910.

My dad, Ralph Pierce, also hunted, though he seemed to prefer the fall deer hunt.  Every November he and his buddies would take a road trip to the Rhinelander area for a week of hunting.  He brought home a few trophies, though certainly not every year.  I'm not sure he hunted very seriously.  He mostly liked taking a few days off to spend time with his high school friends, be outside, drink some beer, and play some cards.  I took this photo about 1960.

Fall on the farm and harvest go together.  To tell the truth, I'm not sure who the man is in this photo, though the picture belonged to Grandpa Pierce.  From the iron wheels I'm guessing this photo is from the 1920s or early 1930s, and that the man was a neighbor who was part of a crew who came in to work.  This wouldn't be a corn harvester; I'm guessing it had something to do with oats.  Even in the 1950s when I was a girl individual farmers did not own all their own equipment.  Neighbors went in together, sharing equipment, working in crews to harvest crops.  I especially remember summer haying crews, and my mother making huge noon meals to feed the hungry and thirsty crews of farmers working in our fields.

My grandfather raised and sold hybrid seed corn for a local family.  Here we see him and Sicy Simons, owner of Simons Seed, standing outside with harvested corn, stored in bins made from snow fencing. We also grew field corn that was chopped and blown into the silo for winter feed for cattle, and some was dried and ground into feed. The photo is probably from the 1930s.

This last photo is of me, taken about 1954.  It might be the last time I smiled raking leaves.  Actually, we didn't rake much on the farm.  I imagine that Mother probably handed me a rake to get me outside, hoping I'd get some exercise and maybe make a leaf pile for me and my sister Patty to jump into.  These days my husband rakes the maple leaves that fall into our little back yard, and I manage to stay away from rakes most of the time.