Thursday, December 1, 2016

Return to Innocence


One of the things I love about painting a commissioned piece is that I'm almost always challenged to do something I wouldn't normally do.
One of the things I hate about painting a commissioned piece is that I'm almost always challenged to do something I wouldn't normally do.

I have this habit of saying, "Sure!  I can do that!" 
Then I begin and wonder, "What was I thinking! How am I going to do that!"

When I was asked to paint something like 'It Is Well...again only with more teal colors instead of purple and with a few lines instead of a few words... I said, "Sure! I can do that!"
Never mind that I haven't painted with acrylics in a couple of years and that I can't imagine how I'll ever get 31 words neat and straight.

Here are a few of the things that I learned / figured out / discovered while working on this painting.
1. When the painting was "finished" but without words, it looked so cold and harsh.  I deepened the color of the sun from yellow to orange and did an orange wash over almost the whole thing. The transformation to a warm cozy tone was immediate.
2. I took the painting to school, typed the poem on the computer, put the painting on the board, then projected the words from the computer onto the painted canvas.  I used chalk to traced the words onto the painting.  Then  I painted over that. Is that cheating?  Yeah, probably, but it looks pretty good!
3. White doesn't have to be white.  Those letters aren't white... they're light, light orange.

I am thankful when someone trusts me to put their vision onto canvas. 

[SOLD]
Original Acrylic Painting on 16"x 20" Wrapped Canvas

Friday, November 25, 2016

Red Poppy Triptych


If you ever come for a visit, this will be the first painting you see as you come in the front door.  If you have ever been for a visit, there was another triptych there.  It showed a little boy fishing in a pond with some ducks.  When that one sold, I wanted to replace it with something more bold and in colors I loved.  (Half of that worked out.)
The process was not typical for me because I've never been one of those artists who sees something in her mind and puts it on canvas. I usually just paint the colors and shapes that I see, but this time was different... Instead of a reference photo, I had an idea... (Scary!)

For the background, I decided to use only my two favorite colors, green and purple, with white.  I thought I would mottle those three together and come out with something unique. But... it turned out to be this blue... What? so weird! Not the plan, but good.

I wanted a big flower that would go onto two of the canvases, but I wanted that to balance out with a bud on the other side... It didn't. So, another bud  showed up. And, I wanted them to look like they were dancing.  (Yeah, I know... that sounds pretty artsy...) I think it worked though.

I wanted the flower to pop, so I picked the complementary orange.  For the shadowing I used that same green and purple mixture to limit the palette and keep some harmony. It had a yellow center at for a long time, but it kept demanding all the attention. (Yeah... artsy again.  What's happening to me!) That brown center... It's not brown... it's that same green-purple mixture with some of the orange... again... kind of weird surprise, but good.
In the end I did something brave. (Brave means it worked.  Stupid would have meant it ruined it.)  The background was lovely, and the flowers were lovely.  But, the painting wasn't lovely.  I put some of the orange paint on a big fluffy dry brush and  touched it onto the background.  And just like that... it was lovely.
It occurred to me that my 10-year birthday as a painter is coming up in a few weeks. Wow... 10 years and 338 paintings... How should I celebrate or honor that?  Ideas???

Click "Red Poppy Triptych" if you'd like to purchase it.
Original Oil Painting on 6x12, 9x16, 6x12

Monday, November 14, 2016

Relax... Create... Inspire...

 I got to spend this weekend as a guest at Welcome Home Retreat.

Let me give you a tour.
When you first arrive, you'll meet the neighbors.  They are the sweetest and calmest longhorn calves.  They're also quite interested in you.  They look right at you with faces that ask, "What are you doing?" or "Do you need something?" or "Will you be standing there long?"



Next you'll walk into the common area and be greeted by Sandy D. or Jackie.

When you step inside, you'll have to look in the serving area on your left first because Don will probably have just made something that smells delicious.
But then I want you to look to the right.  Look closely... Do you see it?  My "Steer's Looking at You, Kid" is on the mantle! Look closer... those same longhorn calves are right outside that window!  How fun is that!









If you prefer a different view, stroll on through to the other dining area. 
You'll be able to see the courtyard and pool.

 Even better, go on out to the red rocking chairs and sit and sit and sit... 







Once you've gotten the RELAX part underway and are ready to move on the the CREATE. you might need to stop a minute in the Mercantile in case you forgot any supplies. 

There are three craft rooms.  We worked in the Saloon, but the Hen House and the Corral looked fun too.

T
Some of Sheila's favorite artists' work hangs on the walls leading to the bedrooms. Yay!  I recognize those cows! And just look at that gorgeous quilt!  Sandy B. who designed pink one, and Jessica stitched all kinds of special things into the quilting. (She also designed each of the 27 quilts on the beds.) And the one at the back was done by our grandmother.

 You might stay in the Primrose Room.

Or the Yellow Rose of Texas Room.





Or the Bluebonnet Room.

I stayed in the Indian Paintbrush Room, and my door led right out to the courtyard... lovely...
Sorry, that's my unmade bed beside the door. 
I should feel ashamed about that.
There are three goals that Welcome Home Retreat will have for your stay.
1st - Relax.
2nd - Create.
3rd - Inspire someone.     I suppose it's not a rule to inspire someone else, but it just seems to come naturally after you've felt so inspired by the others there.

Sheila, Sandy, Jackie, Don,
Thanks for a wonderful, relaxing, creative, inspiring weekend!  I can't wait to return!
Helen


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Monday, November 7, 2016

Red Cottage in Fall III

Nope. 
It's not a repeat post... 
...just a new version... a rerun of a good one!
The last Red Cottage in Fall was for my school's fall festival silent auction.  My principal said up front that she wanted it and planned to bid to win, but one of my students out bid her. 


It was a pretty stress-free painting, so I did another.   
Surprise!

Usually I get to enjoy my paintings for a time while they wait to be bought. Sadly, I didn't get to hold on to either one of these and I really liked them. Hmmmm... maybe one more?? :)

[GIFT]
Original Oil Painting on 8"x 10" Wrapped Canvas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sunflower Harvest

Finally I'm getting to do this post.  I have been planning this one for months... literally! 
It started this summer when my dad planted an entire section of his field in sunflowers.  There were hundreds of them, and they were thick and tall and gorgeous to see.  I decided early on that I would learn how to harvest them so that we'd have sunflower seeds for our cardinals all winter.
There were big ones and small ones.  Some had yellow centers; others had brown centers.  Some of the centers bulged out; some centers were flat.  I loved them.

Every few days I'd check on my "crop." 

There were sunflowers to share with my friends when they came to make salsa.  

We had a sunflower bouquet in our kitchen all summer.

Then it began... The harvest... Who knew what a big job it would be!  Who knew how much I'd do wrong first, learn a lesson, and try again.
I learned the signs to watch for.  First the yellow petals would sort of wither.  Then the head would just sort of droop or look down.  

At this point I'd take my handy wire cutters (I think) and cut their heads off right behind the flower.  

The centers are covered with tiny little flowers.  Every seed has a little flower.    

I learned that it's a whole lot less messy to rake those flowers off right there in the field.  Cut off the head, wipe off the center flowers (all of them) with gloved hand, rip off what green parts will come off, then toss the head into the bucket.   I put one to three 5-gallon buckets of sunflower seed heads into my little VW bug trunk about twice or three times a week for most of July and August.

I learned to go early in the mornings while it wasn't so hot and I could see them.  They were 7-10 feet tall, so looking up into the sun was miserable.  I also learned to make peace with the bees.  Every sunflower had a bee or two or three working on it.

Another lesson I learned was to be patient and wait until the head had kind of folded itself in half.  That was a sign that it was even more ready.  (They just aren't as pretty as the nice flat ones.)    




















There's kind of a nice rhythm to the job.
Grab the stalk -
Pull it down - 
Cut off the head -
Wipe off the flowers - 
Peel off the green - 
Pat pat to knock off the extra - 
Toss it in the bucket - 
Repeat - 
Repeat - 
Repeat -





















I'd have to say that we discovered something very therapeutic and satisfying about raking the seeds off the heads.  It was a little addictive too.   
Anyone who came over would have to give it a try, then do another, and another... We had a lot of good conversation around the sunflower tubs.  

Yes, tubs.  
It started out as pans, but I had cut and harvested a lot of sunflowers... 
A lot...




















A lot... 
Ron would come home from work and just shake his head.
But, my, they were beautiful.
Black ones, white ones, purple ones, flat ones, rounded ones...

The next lesson I learned had to do with figuring how to dry them.  I laid them all over our deck and porch rail... all... over... it...




But, the seeds seemed to need to dry. Easy, I put them out in the sun on the deck.  
Yeah... that worked... and the ants found them!
Ugh... So... nothing a little pop in the oven won't fix. 
Hey... they're for feeding the birds anyway.  What bird would mind a little baked ant in their birdseed, right!
Eventually, the pans became tubs.
Tubs of sunflower seeds all... over... my... kitchen...

It was FABULOUS!!!  I had a big spoon that I'd stir them with every time I'd walk by.

Then we went out of town for a few days.
No worries, right... The would just dry more... right?

Hmph!  I went outside after we returned, and heard a thump.
???
I promise this is the truth. A squirrel was sitting on a branch of our dogwood tree holding a sunflower head and dropped it when I came outside!
Little thief had been crawling right up on the porch and helping himself!  And making a mess while he feasted on my harvest!


Evidence under the dogwood tree showed that the squirrels chose not to wait until winter to enjoy their part of the treats.

Sigh... squirrels... they just won't listen to reason!




To purchase the painting, click "Sunflower Harvest."
Original Oil Painting on 12"x 12" Wrapped Canvas.