Shouldn't things be easier the second time around?
That wasn't the case for me and this painting. I'd actually painted this little guy before, (Click "Snow Cardinal" to see the first version.) but it sold. Usually I'm thrilled when paintings sell, but I really missed this one. I decided I'd whip out another one just like the first; however, I ran into all kinds of frustrations - problems with the colors in the background, issues with the snow on the branches, headaches with the balls hanging from the tree... one thing after another. I had to put it aside and almost gave up several times. I was about ready to scrape the whole thing off when I received my Tip of the Week video from Daniel Edmondson: the title was "Don't Scrape Off Your Paintings." Perfect timing... As it turns out, the whole thing wasn't a mess, just a few parts. I'm not sure he's perfect, but I'm glad to have him back on the wall - at least until someone buys him for their own wall.
This little bird and his wife teased me during a snow day last winter. Right outside my window they'd flit and fly. They'd rest on a perch; then off they'd go. Finally, just once, he sat still long enough for me to snap his picture!
Also visit a lovely Etsy treasury (collection of related art pieces) celebrating winter called Winter Wonderlandwhere this little cardinal got to be a part of the collection.
Where do I begin? Well, in the case of still life paintings, this is where I began. I learned... make that... I began to learn about soft edges and shadows. It was also my first attempt at a metallic color... yeah, looks like I needed a little more practice at that; my pewter is a little (ok, a lot) purple-y. I did learn about placing the objects in a pleasing way (overlapping, not straight on), but I hope my next lesson was to use the whole canvas - not just the middle! I love looking back. Right now I'm very discouraged with the painting I'm working on. Seeing how I have grown as a painter reminds me that learning is hard! Maybe looking back is the encouragement I need to move forward. [SOLD]
Do you remember when...? That's a phrase that begins many conversations between family and friends. This chimney sits along the road that goes between my two brothers' houses. It just sits there in a little field all alone, but it's not lonely. Imagine what this old chimney has seen. I can imagine it kept a family's cabin warm for years and years. I can imagine the farmer who stacked the logs and built the fire. I can imagine his wife who poked the logs and kept the fire going. I can imagine the children doing homework in front of it. I can imagine a cat curled up on the hearth. I can imagine stockings hanging from the mantle year after year. I can imagine... can you? Click "Christmas Past" to see this chimney at at Christmastime. [SOLD]
When do you decorate for Christmas? We do it the day after Thanksgiving, and it has become a tradition we love. It seems like just the other day, we had a toddler bringing ornaments to put on the tree, and a baby helping to hang his special ornament. Now, one has a husband, and one is on the other side of the world. Some parts of our event change over time; some stay exactly the same year after year.
We usually have Chex mix.
We put the nutcrackers all over the place, but the kids argue over who gets to put the ugly one on top of the refrigerator facing backwards.
I put the stocking hangers that spell N.O.E.L on the mantle. Then someone sneaky rearranges them to spell. L.E.O.N.
We buy an ornament to represent something special from each year, and we have the same conversation as we put the each "special ball" on the tree.
"Awwww... here's mine from when I was born!"
"I want to hang the one from when I was born!"
"Here's the first Disney one! That year the castle was pink like a birthday cake!"
"Remember that trip to Yosemite? We need to go back."
"Here's the Key West ball. Remember those roosters?"
"This one's from 1994, what were we doing then?"
"Be careful with this Mount St. Helens one. Do you think that's really ash on it?"
Then we get to the ornaments the kids made.
"How come my Pokeman ornament on the toilet paper roll has to hang on the back of the tree again!"
"Ohhhh.... Look how cute I was!"
There was a moody teenager on the couch for several years in a row. It was odd a couple of years ago, when we noticed everyone participating again. (My husband volunteered to lay on the couch and play the moody teenager role - just to keep that tradition alive!)
Our tree is very beautiful - no nothing matches, and no it doesn't have a theme. But, suits our family perfectly.
I don't think we get to decide which traditions will stick. I think they just sort of happen - then happen again, and again.
Thanks to Micah for letting me paint him as he put ornaments on the tree for the first time. I wonder what will traditions will become important in his family... [SOLD]
How often does something truly exceed your expectations? We wanted a "grown-up" vacation, but we weren't sure what that meant or how to go about finding it. So, we started with questions. Where's a calm area of the country? Where's a beautiful area we haven't seen? Where's an airport that doesn't block our free air miles on the days we want? (Actually, this is the one that trumped the others.) We settled on the Great Smoky Mountains. It seemed like a good time to try a bed and breakfast, so I did a Google search, found one with a room available, clicked, and we packed our bags. We'd stumbled onto a place called Berry Berry Springs Lodge. I"m not sure how to explain it without sounding like a paid advertisement. I can start with adjectives... tranquil, calm, peaceful, beautiful, quiet, lovely, fresh, charming, serene, romantic, pristine... It completely exceeded our expectations.
This painting was taken at one of the ponds on the property.... sigh... Enjoy a beautiful and peaceful Etsy treasury (collection of related art pieces and vintage items) that includes this painting. It's called Gimme a Break.Then click Olaces We Dream to Go then dream about going to those dreamy places! [SOLD]
What do you miss about summer? One of the things I love about living in Northwest Arkansas is that we get a little of everything with the four seasons. Right now we're at that kind of in-between stage. Autumn was gorgeous, but the winds have blown in. The leaves are brown and wet, and the lovely things about winter are a while away. I guess these in-between weeks make us appreciate the best each season has to offer. During this brown stage, I've been missing the wildflowers. Mount Magazine State Park is the place to go in June if you love wildflowers and butterflies. On a short stroll along the trail, you can see butterflies of all colors on wildflowers of even more colors. A little research helped me discover that this wildflower is a Gaillardia. (I think!) I would have just called it a red and yellow daisy! Whatever they're called, they're lovely. [SOLD]
What makes you smile? I smile... ...when my pup cocks her head sideways like she's asking a question. ...when my students write something with real voice. ...when my husband buys me a Coke from Sonic. ...when the leaves are red, gold, yellow, and orange. ...it's Friday afternoon. ...my mom says, "You're my baby." ...I talk about my son or daughter. ...I get a message that someone likes (or even better buys) one of my paintings. ...When I hold a baby and look into his or her eyes. How lucky am I that I get to do just that every Sunday morning. [SOLD]
How often does something truly exceed your expectations?
When my kids were about 10 and 13, we took a vacation to the Northwest. We visited Seattle, a termperate rain forest, Mount St. Helens, Mount Ranier, and Olympic National Park. Every place we went was absolutely wonderful. But the biggest surprise of all was a place called Kalaloch. We stayed in a cabin that overlooked the gray Pacific Ocean. From this gazebo we went down stairs that took us to the beach and driftwood below. I remember the my son chasing my daughter with a dead crab, them crawling over driftwood like an obstacle course, wearing jackets even though it was July, people circled around driftwood fires... It was completely peaceful. We only had one day and night in this place, but my husband and I have promised that we will return someday. [SOLD]
They look so peaceful and calming in photos, paintings, and from a distance. Up close they kind of have an expression of curiosity, even annoyance for being bothered. A farmer might feel soothed by their slow movements, snuffles, and moos. As a farmer's daughter, I do feel all of those things too, but I haven't been off the farm so long that I've forgotten the less serene side of cows. Things like the fact that they mostly like to get out of the fence on Sunday morning or Christmas day. They also smell bad and don't do a thing to help that situation. They usually choose to have their calves in the deepest gully on the coldest morning.
Oh, all that's true, but for some reason, I have to watch whenever I pass a field cows. I do have a fondness for them. Just look at this darling little momma and calf!
Click on "Moo Too" if you'd like to purchase the painting.
I have a very early memory about being a farm girl. I must have been only 4-5 years old when I had the job of guarding the opening. My dad was trying to get the cows to go into a certain place in the barn and of course the cows wanted to go anywhere but there. So, someone had to block any possible exits that the cows might find. Guarding the opening meant that I had to stand in a certain spot so that the cows wouldn't try to escape from that particular route. I'd never felt so little! I stood there, all of 40 pounds, holding a stick in order to intimidate any 1,000 pound cow who came my way. I have a distinct memory of crying, bawling in fact. When my mom came over I sobbed that a big cow had stared at me. (Now, I know that the phrase "'cow eyes" means big, soft, and filled with love. Well, as a tiny little girl guarding the opening, cow eyes were huge and scary.) My mother told me, "Of course, she's staring at you! You're so pretty!" (...awwww... How do mom's know just the right thing to say?) With a new confidence I was able to wave my stick and guard that opening until the job was done. [SOLD}
What's in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator? Potatoes, carrots, and onions... This painting was done as a submission for Rookie Painter.Have a look. It's fun to see the varied artists' styles. Each is just alike... and completely different! [SOLD}
Right now I see trees with the most gorgeous golden, red, yellow, and orange leaves. This afternoon I told my husband we should go for a drive just to see the wonderful foliage that the Ozark Mountains has to offer right now. While trying to decide which direction we should drive -north, east, south, west - we decided that our own driveway had the prettiest trees we could see anywhere. So... we stayed home... maybe tomorrow we'll go for that drive.
The Ozark Mountains are where my home is now, but I grew up in a small town in a surrounded on all sides by the Ouachita Mountains. From the front doorstep of my childhood, this was (almost) my view.
The photograph used as a reference for this painting was taken from neighbor's doorstep just a few miles away from where I grew up.
Those two peaks of Rich Mountain bring back a flood of memories and make me stop to sigh a little. Instead of a lake and dock, from my doorstep there would have been a front yard, a dirt road, the neighbor's garden, a pasture or two, then the very same mountain peaks in the background.
I am from a red-clay road
rolling with dust after each passing car
from a long bed of irises
purple, white, yellow, and maroon
from two cars out front
one with 4 doors, one with a bed, two humps, and a
from a front porch with a dachshund
named Noodles lying on the step, a
screen door that slams, and a panoramic view of the Ouachita
I am from tassel-topped corn stalks, thorny
blackberry vines, and staked tomato plants
bringing the flavors of
from a formica kitchen table
surrounded by six chairs
and a stool
from little glass Pepsi bottles, black
and homemade ice cream hand-cranked by strong
from sit-down dinners, lingering
while the food settles,
and sisters washing
dishes by hand.
I am from Curtis Ray
“Handy as a pocket on a
from Gladys Adelle
“Busy hands are happy
from trotline catfish
dangling off Grandpa’s stringer
from quilts and afghans
labors of love from
Grandma’s worn hands.
I am from Ben Franklin’s, Piggly Wiggly,
and a fifteen-cent
Tastee Freeze cone with a curlicue on top
from a picture window, an attic fan,
an antenna on the roof for
a black-and-white television
from football games on Friday nights, cartoons on Saturday mornings, and
twice on Sundays
pot luck suppers, “Count Your Many Blessings,” pass the offering plate,
As usual, the four big kids rushed through their breakfasts then scrambled to get outside as the school bus rumbled up our big hill.After I waved goodbye and the house finally became still, our day could begin… calm, cozy, comfortable…
The dark clouds didn’t matter much at first.Even the rain didn’t bother our morning routine.I perched happily on the little black stool.It was nothing more than four round legs and a seat, but I loved it because it was little, like me.My feet could touch the floor, hook on the crosspiece, or fold up underneath me.It fit me, so it was mine.I ate my Cocoa Puffs and watched Captain Kangaroo, as usual.Momma started some laundry then cleaned up the kitchen, as usual.
Everything peaceful about that day changed when Daddy called from his work.After they talked, Momma’s eyes said fear, but her voice said calm.She needed me to be a big girl for her while she went out.It would be like a game for me.“I have to pull the boat up so the flood doesn’t wash it away.You get to stay here to watch for me.Let’s move the little black stool right by the door.You can watch for me, and I’ll be right back.Don’t get off the little black stool.”
I’d never stayed home alone before.How exciting!I could do it!I watched Momma put on her raincoat and Daddy’s boots.She hugged me hard, too hard.Then she left.
Knees against aluminum, forehead against glass, I sat very still on the little black stool and stared outside. Everything I could see was gray, everything. The lightning and thunder were not pretty like Momma had always said.There was no pitter-patter of little raindrops.This rain pounded against the house and the ground.The wind was probably howling, but the rain was louder.
Where was Momma?She’d been gone too long.I had to stay on the little black stool.What if she fell?What if the bull came after her?What if the flood washed her away?I had to stay on the little black stool.
Still on the stool, I scooted across the hardwood to look out the back door.Then I scooted back to the front door.Momma needed me.I would go get her.I would accidentally fall off the little black stool and go get her.I knew when my bottom left that black woven wood that I was no longer minding Momma, but she needed me.I would go get her.
The house seemed so big and hollow.I tried not to make a sound as I walked through the den, kitchen, and onto the back porch.I took my raincoat off its peg and buttoned every button.Momma would want me to stay dry.Then I reached for my red boots.I was careful not to knock any of Momma’s canning jars off the shelf.Then I checked for spiders before I slipped a bare foot into each boot.
Stepping out into the rain was scary, cold.The trail seemed longer this time.Branches kept poking me, and rocks kept tripping me.The lake had big waves going in all directions like a monster was turning flips under the surface.Where was Momma?I turned away from the lake, away from the trail, and trudged toward the road.I came to the barbed wire fence, and I had to climb through.The barbs pulled and ripped at my red raincoat.I needed Momma to hold the wires apart for me.Where was she?I’d never walked up that hill before.The dirt road had turned into slippery mud.The rain made it hard for me to see.What if a car came?I might be too little for the driver to notice.I shouldn’t be near the road without Momma.
Then I heard her voice calling my name!She was running toward me.Her raincoat wasn’t buttoned.Why was she crying?I’d come for her, but she kept saying she’d found me.Her voice said fear, but her eyes said joy.She hugged me hard, too hard.
I don’t remember what came next.Maybe chicken noodle soup, maybe a spanking… probably both.
My first recollection of fear, decision, and determination… Mom’s clearest memory of fear, more fear, and relief…I chuckle at the thought of my innocent bravery.Mom shudders and refuses to hear the story again.
After I painted my first painting"Summer Trees" on February 22, 2007, I stood back, took a look, and couldn't believe it! They looked like trees! And just like that, I fancied myself a cross between Monet and Van Gogh! Painting #2 was "Autumn Trees." I used great globs of reds and oranges, and it took forever to dry. As it turns out, that was the first one of my paintings that anyone ever wanted for themselves. I was so excited, I gave it away. I think it found a good home.
As it turns out, neither the Monet thing nor the Van Gogh thing worked out for me. I'm still searching for my artist self, but I the search is still fun. And, sometimes, I still stand back, take a look, and can't believe it. Whatever I've just completed actually looks like what it's supposed to!
I'd heard that it's extremely hard to paint those you love the most. It stops being just an image to convey and becomes an emotional process. I've found that to be true. I'd wanted to paint my parents, and I searched for the right reference photograph. But, with each one I chose, I'd get a little choked up. It's hard to look objectively at images that bring so many emotions to the surface. So, I gave up... sort of... This a "portrait" of my dad. This image probably tells more about him than any picture of his face would show. I also painted one of my Mother's Hands. I think these tell my parents' stories as well as any traditional portrait. There was still a bit of that emotion during this process. I didn't want to over emphasize age spots, wrinkles, and wear and tear of the decades; however, I did want to honor the years of their lives and be true to realism.
How many paintings must I do before I call myself a real artist?
This was my 100th painting... Wow! 100 paintings with my little HEaton in the bottom corner. I wanted my 100th painting to be something special. I think I was disappointed that it was just a plain old still life. But, I look at this one, and how can I be disappointed with it? I love nearly everything about it. I love the blotchy brush strokes on the table and the fuzzy edge between the table and the wall. I love the shadows cast by the fruit. I love the shape of the grapes, the orange highlights on top of the apple, and the detail of the stem. And, even though blue is my least favorite color, I love the texture of the background.
Maybe my 100th painting was special after all.
So, when will I feel like I can call myself an artist? I'm going to work on painting #166 this weekend. Maybe at #200... but probably not.
Helen, the one who's satisfied for now calling herself a painter and a student of the art of painting.
How do you decide which reference photo is just right?
This is a question I asked on the post from August 28th. I finally chose this one. I chose it because I thought the sunflower in the background showed that there was more to the scene. I also loved the angle of the sunflower. It showed the three-dimensional parts of the sunflower's center. There was also something graceful about the leaves that I loved. And finally, not seeing the full face of the sunflower allowed the butterfly to be the star of the show.
So, I began painting right away. Then I got distracted... by the beginning of school... by a commissioned piece, I Am the Legacy... by a really good book, The Help... by a challenge painting for RookiePainter... a Christmas painting of the same little boy from Little Boy in a Big Fedora... more school work... and all the time this painting sat half finished on my cedar chest showing a lovely background, some stems and leaves and half a butterfly. It is very hard to go back to finish a painting after a time. But, I finally did. And I'm glad I did.\ [SOLD]
A few years ago, I donated a coupon for a portrait to my school's fall festival. This little guy won! For a dollar donation ticket, his dad got a portrait of his kindergartener. A couple of years later, a second grade teacher in my school asked me if I'd painted him. She said, "In reading group, we had the vocabulary word masterpiece. I asked if anyone knew what that meant. He answered. 'Mrs. Eaton painted me when I was little! It's a masterpiece because my dad hung it in the living room.'" Awww.... Sweet.... And now, that kid's in fourth grade and in my class. I think he's pretty much a masterpiece!
Wishes to come true ... Wants to become real ... Needs to be met...
Anticipation of the future... Desire for change... Willpower to look ahead...
Prayer for what's to come... Trust that next time will be better...
A deep breath before the next step... Grace and courage to take that next step...
I was asked to paint these flowers by a dear friend who'd just endured a tragic and life-altering loss. She wanted this memory to become an image that brought her hope when she felt hopeless. Change didn't come in a hurry, but it did come.
Oh, I know the scientific reasons... the male needs to impress the female, the female needs to blend in with the nest. Poor little plain mama birds...
I admit that I forgot that rule when I was painting this. I made a huge mistake. I took three reference photos of beautiful pheasants and backgrounds. I mixed them up and came up with what I thought was a gorgeous autumn scene with a pair of pheasants. Well, that's what I had alright, only both of my pheasants were male! Noooo!!!! Ugh!! Yeah! Oh sigh... Well, the great thing about oil paint is that it's never too late to change, add, and fix anything that's not right. Thus began the transformation of the bird in flight... green head covered with brown,goldish yellow added to body, tail shortened by more tree and grass... soon... voila!... a female pheasant in flight!
What do you know about limes? I can honestly say, I don't think I ever even tasted a lime until a few years ago. I knew they were a green citrus fruit. I knew from high school history class that sailors used to eat limes to keep from getting scurvy. And, I knew that Sonic made a great limeade. So, how did I go 40+ years without the flavor of lime!
I happen to believe that I make the best nachos... in the world... (Maybe that's because I make the best salsa. Of course, I'm glad to share. Just click Salsa Recipe.) But recently, the best just got better when I discovered limes! Hold that perfect chip with cheese, meat, onion, tomato, and salsa in one hand, and hold a half lime above it. One little squeeze... hmmm... Perfect-er!! [SOLD]
Is a picture really worth a thousand words? I think this one is. Just look at all this one says! A precious little girl is filled with joy, hope, and eagerness for things to come. She's opened up and ready for whatever life has to offer. Her shirt even has the words to tell the world that she's coming and she's got high expectations for the future. And, could this be any more perfect... she's standing on what we in Arkansas consider hallowed grounds - the front lawn of Old Main, the building that represents learning, higher education, and the University of Arkansas. The sun seems to be shining on her face as if the University is saying, "Welcome! We'll be ready for you when you get here!" So...Could the story get any better? Yes! The grandmother of this little one is the college professor who teaches young people preparing to be teachers.... Perfect! OK... maybe that wasn't a thousand words, but the image does say a lot! Lesson learned through the process of painting this: As I was finishing the painting, I was frustrated because it didn't tell the right story - I had a painting of a famous building with a little girl in front of it, not a little girl with a famous building behind her. I called my painting mentor and explained my problem. "Mix some ultramarine blue and a little white with a medium. Cover the background with the wash." Wow! it worked! The building got back in its place in the background, and the little girl came forward to her spot as the star of this show! How many more tricks are out there waiting for me to learn!?! [SOLD]
There are roosters just walking around. They don't seem to belong to anyone, but no one seems to mind that they're there.
I painted this fella back when I was just beginning. I think I just tried too hard to make him just right - perfect coloring, perfect feathers in place, perfect grass, perfect barn side behind... In truth... he was a scraggly guy scratching in the dirt beside a cinder block building... Now that I've kind of figured out who I am as a painter, I think I'd like the painting better if it told the truth!
What is the difference between a toadstool and a mushroom?
Maybe they're the same thing. And, I doubt a toad ever really sits on one anyway.
There had been a lot of rain - actually a flood - during the season before our stay at Lake Ouachita. The ground was damp, and the air was muggy. But we made a fun discovery caused by these conditions. There were mushrooms everywhere in the woods by the lake. This one was one of my favorites. It looks like something has taken a bite out of it. At first I thought I'd paint it perfectly round, but I liked the missing chunk too much to leave it out... or I guess I should say... to put it back.
Visit an Etsy treasury (collection of related vintage items and art pieces) that celebrates mushrooms. It's called Portabella Passion.
To purchase note cards including this one, click Mushroom Note Cardsto go directly to the Etsy listing.
For most babies it's "mama" and "dada." For my daughter it was "quack!" Who knows why! She had a little yellow rubber duckie. One day she held it and said a very deliberate "Quaaaaack!" Then she never stopped talking.
My favorite part of this painting is the water. I love the colors and the the movement. My least favorite part is that the female seems to be standing on top of the water. I wish I could get this painting back for a few minutes. I'd fix that!
I wonder if this pair has 8 little ducklings following along behind that just didn't make it onto the canvas. Take the time to read Make Way for Ducklings! What a great kids' book!
I think someone smarter or more artistic than me could answer this question with eloquence that would make perfect sense. There would be words like harmony, value, contrast, and lost edges. I just know that I almost always make my backgrounds "too beautiful' to start with. I used to take my what-I-thought-were-finished paintings to class, and my teacher would say, "The background is too beautiful." It would make me sad because I'd love the background. But, I'd dutifully trust her and fuzz out, tone down, or blur the background. Then immediately the focus or the important part would pop out, move forward, and take the center stage. This painting was an example of that. I painted it as a challenge piece for Studio Atelier. Other artists had submitted lovely versions of this image, but I just couldn't submit mine. I loved the apples, the leaves, the reflection. I couldn't figure out why I wasn't satisfied. Something was not right. When I showed my teacher, she said, "The background is too beautiful." I took an orange wash, covered the lovely blue background, and... wow! The apples popped into the forefront where they belonged. Such a small trick. Such a big difference. [SOLD]
Click Apple Note Cards to be taken to the Etsy listing where these can be purchased.