Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A friend of mine loves to paint poppies, and she does it with style and flair that I find it difficult to match.  Anyway, she showed me a "recipe" for the colors she uses, and I played around with her color choices on scraps of YUPO synthetic paper last evening and this morning before it got too hot upstairs.

Here is one of my miniature paintings - not too bad.  I enjoy working small and loose.  The YUPO makes it very easy to achieve loose bright colors, and it is wonderful for lifting out small bits of white and highlights.

Lately I have not been painting much, though I've been thinking about it every day.  The exception is figure drawing, something I do each Monday evening at UW Whitewater. The thing is, although I think I am improving my direct observation drawing, there isn't much I can do with drawings of undraped models.  To me, some of the drawings are beautiful, but I seldom show them to anyone for fear of embarrassing them.  Perhaps I am not giving other people credit, and am simply projecting some of my own timidity. 

Don't know.

I'm using the hot temperatures on my studio as an excuse not to spend time up there, even though there is a painting that I began last spring waiting for me to pay some attention to it.  I go in there, look at the start of the painting, and then think about doing anything else.  Clean the work table.  Prepare some papers for a collage.  Practice drawing hands and feet for figure drawing studio.  Draw a couple figures from a vintage photo.  Take a nap.

Maybe that's what I need to do right now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brand New Pair of Roller Skates

Naw, this photo doesn't have a thing to do with roller skates.  This is me at the reception for a show called The Art of Cooking - Featuring the School of Eclectic Art, at Promega Corporation in Fitchburg.  The show runs through 7 September, and is worth a look.  I took my watercolor of two lemons on a Mexican Talavera bowl, and I have to say that it looks fine in the lobby of this gorgeous biotech building.  The reception was fun, exceptionally well attended, with lots of delicious food and drink and live music.  I felt just a bit fraudulent in that I avoid cooking at all costs, but since I enjoy painting food items I guess it is all good.

I haven't been doing much new painting lately, focusing my efforts instead on weekly figure drawing sessions at UW Whitewater.  The exception was this miniature, a 5x5 inch acrylic painting based on an old photograph of my mother posing in her clip on roller skates.  The faces in these wee paintings are about the size of the end of a pencil eraser, so they are not very detailed.  For me the interest in in her dress and Mary Jane shoes, and of course the clip on roller skates.  She told me once that she fell while skating and broke her wrist.  Her grandfather, Dr. Smith, was an orthopedic surgeon, so she received good care.  Several people have said to me that they remembered clip on roller skates,  and Mary Jane shoes, too.  One friend commented that the painting was evocative for her because the scene is so empty.  Back then most families had only one car, and the dad drove it to work.  So no cars on the street, and none blocking the sidewalk. 

Mom had lots of sidewalks on which to skate when she was a girl, but when I was that age we lived on the farm, with nothing but a long gravel driveway and lots of grass.  I suppose I could have skated up and down in the barn, but I never did.  Instead I would tighten the skates onto my shoes and skate back and forth on the cement back porch - not a very big space.  Needless to say, I never was very good at skating.  When I think back to those times mostly what I remember is the time when my  younger sister was holding the skates by their leather straps, twirling around.  She let go and one of the metal skates hit me above my left eye.  I have a lovely scar there to this day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I love old photos, especially candids, and spend too much time at my local consignment shop looking through pictures that come in as part of estates.  Usually the people in the photographs are unidentified, and I imagine the relatives who choose to sell the old images have no idea who they are, and aren't interested in investigating.  This week I found a couple dozen photos from a local estate, and each was carefully labeled and dated. These women, for example, were Dorothy Boynton and her friend Alice Clark, and little dog Billy.  Billy shows up in several pictures, as do some of their horses.  Boynton's family farmed near Emerald Grove, and according to are buried there.  She was born in 1092 and died in 1991.

Here is Dorothy again, with arms around her friend Marion, probably taken about 1916.  I love the easy affection between the girls, and like the contrast in the way they are dressed.  Love those jodhpurs! There is something very sad to me about all these lovingly labeled pictures, cast off.  I can only guess that Dorothy and her husband, a man named Titus who worked for the Rock County Highway Department, had no children, or none survive.  There are photos of her parents, grandparents, siblings, the house and barn, pets, all images of rural Wisconsin life from the early 1900s.  All for sale to whomever finds them interesting.

I buy pictures like these, scan them, bump up the contrast and correct the image for spots and tears, and use them as reference in figurative painting.  But most often I have no idea who the individuals are - I don't for example know who this man with a rake (?) is, though he is probably related to the Boyntons.   But I like his posture, clothing and the way the sun hits his figure.   And I suppose I like these glimpses into a way of life that has passed away.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Random Thoughts

Life has been keeping me hopping lately.  We just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska, and the weeks leading up to it and now trying to catch up have played havoc with my usual routine.  Before we left I tried frantically to get all my bedding plants in, the deck scrubbed and re-stained, and lose a few pounds.  I did get everything planted.  The deck is half done, and I lost four pounds - all of which magically reappeared after a week of cruise ship food and drink.  I didn't paint a thing in May.

The cruise was great fun, but I fretted about the cat, and worried that all the plants I put in would dry up and die.  I thought Alaska was beautiful, and I did some jaw-dropping and bug-eyed staring at humpback whales, rafts of sea otters and crowds of harbor seals.  It occurred to me that I probably couldn't live on Alaska's rainy coast without losing my mind.  It's too wet and cloudy, even though the mountains and glaciers are stunning.  It also occurred to me that people with expensive cameras and long lenses need to remember that the people with cheap cameras have just as much right to a clear shot as those with better equipment. More than once my view from a tour boat was totally blocked by a photographer with all sorts of fancy equipment in tow.

Maybe I'm just in a bleak mood because of the results of the Wisconsin recall election.  I promise, I'm not going there.

When we got home I had an email from a local berry farm that strawberries are in.  I had a bag of rhubarb from my friend Mary in the refrigerator, so today I made strawberry rhubarb pie.  This will not help with weight loss, but the time for fresh fruit is short, and missing it is worse than calories, I think.  I used a quarter cup of tapioca to thicken it, but the juices still bubbled over, as you can see here.  I'm looking forward to dessert tonight.

I decided that I had to get back into drawing and painting.  After a few weeks off, it's hard to start again, sort of like when I stop going to the gym.  Getting back into the routine requires some self discipline.  A note from the open studio group where I sometimes do figure drawing reminded me that it had been a while since I worked on a figure.  This started out as a watercolor, but is becoming a mixed media piece, because the paint is largely being covered over with pastels - a medium I rarely use.  I like it so far, though my husband's noncommittal "Uh huh" makes me think it needs work.  It's not finished - I'm just glad to get back to working on something.