Sunday, December 30, 2012

Black Angus

What are you thinking as you look into my eyes?

One of my earliest memories is being told to "stand in the fence opening and don't let any cows get through" as my parents and brothers were trying to run the cows through the chute beside the barn. I suppose they were giving them medicine, putting in ear tags, or checking them for pink eye.  I have a vivid memory of a cow standing right in front of me and staring me right in the eyes.  She was easily ten times bigger than me so I cried, "It's looking at me!" and Momma came running.  "Well, of course she's staring at you.  She can't help it because you're so pretty.  Now here's a big stick; whack her if she comes back over here." That seems so funny and farmer-like to me now - sweet then practical all in one breath.  I do believe that was when I learned to enjoy looking into a cow's eyes.  Hmmm... she thinks I'm pretty...
And, isn't this a pretty little Angus heifer!  She's got her hair all spiked on top and swirled in the front...long fluttery eyelashes and wispy long ear hairs...

She lives on the farm land where I grew up.  I took a picture of her when I went back for a class reunion.  


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yellow Bowl of Tomatoes

Who picked those lovely tomatoes?

I love the artistic composition of this piece.  I love the perfect tomatoes, the twist of the vine, the shadows and highlights, the shape of the bowl.  The artist in me thinks it's just beautiful.

The farmer in me, however, says, "I don't know who did pick them, but I do know who didn't."  I am quite certain that a farmer didn't pick them.  How can I be so sure?  First of all, a real farmer wouldn't have destroyed the vines by pulling the leaves and stems off.  And, if a stem or leaf had broken, she would have pulled it off in the garden, not brought it in the house.  Second, a real farmer wouldn't have let her tomatoes stay on the vine until they were that ripe.  An orangy-colored tomato can ripen just fine on the window sill and avoid the dangers of cut worms, sun blisters, or the skin splitting after a rain.  Third a real farmer would have put her harvest of tomatoes in a big ole' well-used bucket to bring in and wash, not an impractical fancy little bowl.

Now, I'm going back to that artist side of my self... I love this still life...
I've painted this Bowl of Tomatoes before, so it fell into place easily with familiar brush strokes.  I loved the first one, and I think I may love the second one even more.  I'm going to enjoy it on my own wall while it dries and before it's shipped off to its permanent home.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

So Sweet

How does it feel to give a painting to someone?

First, there's excitement followed by a tiny bit of insecurity.  "She's going to be so happy... I hope...  She's going to love it... I hope...  She's going to cry or squeal or gasp or be speechless... I hope!..."  
Next, I suppose I try to cover that insecurity by being nonchalant.  I think I might even avoid being right there when she actually sees it for the first time.
Then, there's relief when she loves it. 
Finally, I feel such joy and satisfaction knowing that the colors and shapes I put onto a canvas have made someone smile and that it's going to be loved.

FYI... that sweet little one is a grand-student.  Do you know what that means?  His momma there was once a sweet little ten year old in my fourth grade class!

Original Oil Painting on Wrapped Canvas

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Whimsical Christmas

Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker?

Isn't this a fun tree!
It is far from my usual style of painting, but it's curly and colorful and kind of Whoville-ish.  I think Dr. Suess might approve.
I'd like to say that it's my version of modern art where each color and curve and dot and streak has a deeper meaning and represents something important.  But, it doesn't... that I know of...

As for the question above...
I'd have to say I'm a rule bender.  I might bend and twist that rule into a pretzel, but I generally don't break it.  Although my teaching partner and I came pretty close on this one.  That fine group of people represents my school.  I get to teach kids with them everyday.  
But my partner and I, the one I share 50 kids with all day everyday, were kind off to the side  from where the teacher was and had a different idea of what color of paint we wanted to use.  Can you pick us out of the crowd?


Thursday, November 29, 2012


Have you ever missed something important in the fine print?

I saw these square canvases on e-Bay!  There were 12 of them, and they were just a little over a dollar each.  What a deal! Free shipping too!  Well, I just pushed that "buy" button.  ...Then they arrived... 4"x4"... guess I should have noticed that the size wasn't mentioned.  I felt pretty silly, but I really couldn't be too mad at the seller.  They hadn't lied; I should have paid more attention to the lack of information.    So, I had these 12 tiny canvases... What to do... A little ribbon, some hot glue, an old buckle, mixed in with a little creativity. Ta-Da! I love it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Autumn Leaves & Nuts

Is it too late to celebrate fall?
After finishing a couple of baby portraits, I was ready to paint something easy; people tend not to mind if a leaf is off by 2-3 millimeters like they do if it's a baby's eye or nostril or lip.  

We absolutely had the most gorgeous back yard this autumn.  People would literally stop and take pictures of it.  I picked up every leaf and nut in this painting right outside my back door.  There were so many different kinds, and they were such brilliant colors!  I hadn't really intended on making a painting of them, but when I laid them out on the table...

So, I know that the time for being inspired by autumn has passed; we're all eating left over turkey and decorating for Christmas. But, it was a beautiful autumn this year.

I was lucky to get to see this every day as I pulled into our driveway....

...and this as I stepped out our back door.  (It's a hickory tree.  When the nuts are ready, you can hear the squirrels eating them and tossing down the shells.  The ground is covered with hickory shells before they're finished.  I don't think they store any of them for winter.)

Original Oil Painting on 6"x 24" Canvas.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Faye's Baby

What's fun about painting portraits?

There's a very long list of what's frustrating about painting portraits.  The first being that people don't expect to receive a painting of a cute baby, they expect it to look like THEIR cute baby.  That last phase of editing can be excruciating for me.  When I realized that I needed to scrape the paint off this little one's eyes and paint them a few millimeters lower, I wanted to cry.  But... it that's just part of the process.
(I think next I'll paint some nice autumn leaves... no one minds if a leaf vein is just a little off or a shape is just a little skewed when it's a leaf!)

But, back to the original question...What's the most fun? There's always a "Oh, there you are!" moment for me.  I'm just working along with colors, shapes, tones, and shades when all of a sudden... It's a little one with a personality looking back at me!  I love that moment!  Sometimes it happens when I put the little fleck of white sparkle in the eye.  Sometimes it's when the dimple is finally right or the highlight on the end of the nose is put on.  I usually have a "Well, hello there!" moment right then.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Peek-a-boo Pine Trees

How do you do it?

I get asked that question pretty often.  It seems like, "I just paint what I see" isn't enough of an answer.  And neither is "I just put the colors and shapes where they go" isn't enough either.  

Sometimes I take pictures that show every step of the process.  I like watching the image form then come to life.

I say this with love... most paintings are like most kids... they have to go through their ugly stages.

Original Oil Painting on 12"x 16" Wrapped Canvas

Saturday, October 27, 2012

:) Custom House Ornament

What goes on your Christmas tree?

We started a tradition when we were first married of buying one special Christmas ornament each year to represent our year.  We have:
First Christmas Together
Baby Girl's First Christmas
Baby Boy's First Christmas
A Disney ornament
A cruise ship ornament
One from Mount Rushmore
One from Yellowstone
Another from Yosemite
... and one for all of our 27 Christmases as a family.

But this year with our son's return from Tibet and my daughter's move to Maryland, we just didn't take a trip or vacation... We just enjoyed home... So, as the end of the year approached, we didn't have an ornament.
... Until now...
This fantastic little Custom House Ornament represents our year perfectly.  The artist, (who just happens to be the mother of my "Blow on It!" girl and my "Hello, Butterfly!" boy) used a photograph of our own house to create this tiny little work of art.  Visit her Etsy shop at Inspired Traditions and enjoy seeing her Jesse Tree ornaments, Easter Resurrection ornaments, or purchase your own little house ornament. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Candy Corn

 Which holiday has the best candy?

  • Christmas has candy canes.
  • Easter has marshmallow peeps.
  • Valentine's Day has chocolate hearts.
  • Halloween has nearly everything.
  • And Thanksgiving, really the whole season of Autumn has... candy corn!  Yum!  (Do you think it can count as part of the daily required vegetable group since it is corn?)
I made a confession about my embarrassing habit when I get a heart-shaped box of  Valentine chocolates in the post of a painting called Love and Kisses Reflected. 
Now I have another's about candy corn, and I love candy corn... up til now only my family has known this... I only eat the orange and yellow parts and toss the white tip away, or even worse... I toss the white tip back in the bag!  
Why?  Well, my kids say it just because I'm weird that way.  Somehow I got the message when I was a little kid that the white tip is just pure sugar... Yeah... I know... so is the yellow and orange part...  Hmmm.... Maybe candy corn therapy is in order for me.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

How Now, Brown Cow?

What Next?

According to the Urban Dictionary, that's what How Now Brown Cow means...  Well, it's one of the meanings listed.  It has taken on several meanings:

  • getting turned downed down flat by the opposite sex... "You got how now brown cowed by her!"
  • a really pretty girl... "Look at that how now brown cow coming!"
  • another way to ask what's up... "Hey, how now brown cow, dude!"
  • there's no more beer... During Prohibition, the wooden keg was called a brown cow.  When it was empty they asked what they should do next... "How now brown cow?
Those are the silliest things I've ever heard!  I thought it was just a phrase to teach the open ow vowel sound, and of course, the appropriate greeting when meeting a brown cow.

This little brown cow lives on the land that belonged to my family when I was a kid.  When I went home for my 30-year class reunion, we went to have a look at our old house, field, and pond.  This cow was just as interested in me as I was in her;  She even stopped chewing her lunch to stare for a minute.

Enjoy an Etsy treasury (collection of related art pieces and vintage items) called How Now Brown Cow - just click!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pair of Pears

How does the last harvest of the year make you feel?

The freezer is full.  There are no more empty jars on the shelves.  School has started, and the busy fall schedule returns.  It's a little sad to put the garden to bed for the winter, but it's kind of a relief too.  
Our last harvest this year came from the little pear tree.  What a great surprise!  Every branch was loaded, and thanks to Dad's lye soap spray, they were all bug free. 
I'm not sure how to save pears - I don't like pear preserves; I don't think you can freeze them, make pies out of them, or can them - But, they're delicious! Sooooo... I've had fresh pears... no... really... lots of fresh pears... every... single... day... 

Remind me in January of the fresh pears that had a perfect combination of sweet/tart and crunchy/soft.  
Remind me next week to appreciate that I have a few left and that I need to enjoy them.
My sweet Momma loves to come sit on the porch to watch when we go out to harvest.  She always gets the first bite of whatever we pick.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hey, Hey... Hay! Again?

 Do you like reruns?

There's just something comforting about watching certain movies again, reading special books again, or going to the same favorite spot again.

If we catch When Harry Met Sally, Apollo 13, or It's a Wonderful Life on television, the channel flicking stops.  We just have to stop what we're doing and watch it again.  

One of the best parts of being a teacher is getting to read some fantastic books again and again every year.  Books like Dear Mr. Henshaw, Number the Stars, and Where the Red Fern Grows never get old!

So... What does that have to do with this little painting?  Well, I just love this little heifer!  It makes me smile to see her hanging on my wall, but she keeps selling!  I guess it's my fault for listing her for sale, but she's kind of fun to paint anyway.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

:) Jesse Tree Tree

What's your favorite Christmas ornament?

I answered that a while back when I said it was a Nativity Scene that my own little ones made for me in their 4-year-old Sunday school class many years ago.  I can't change that answer, but now I have a new favorite Christmas tree and ornaments!

First I got these gorgeous hand crafted Jesse Tree ornaments as a gift from my niece - each one is a work of art in itself.  Then, of course, I needed the perfect way to display them.  So, I put a bug in my brother's ear about a little wooden tree that would be perfect, but seemed to be awfully complicated to make.  Well, that was just the challenge he needed to get some wood, screws, wooden balls, and paint to make it happen. (I was counting on that!)
Here's my brother and dad drawing up the plan.

You can purchase both these ornaments and a little wooden  tree to hang them on at Inspired Traditions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Barn at Harvest Time

Who wouldn't want to go to a party here?

We could pick a pumpkin for the jack-o-lantern carving... There might be a wheelbarrow race down the path... Maybe there's a haunted house in the loft... And, I bet there's a tub of apples for bobbing inside...

Yeah, I know the barn's probably a little too red, the pumpkins are a little too orange, and the sky's just too yellow... But, I love it.  I want to go there!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Super Hero Symbols

What's the difference between oils and acrylics?

This was only the second time I'd used acrylics and the first time I'd really spent time trying to learn to use them.
     Here's what I liked:
          The paint tubes were cheaper.
          The paint dried quickly so I could put another color right over the first.
          The flat one dimensional color was just right for this project.
          The clean up was just with water and some soap.
     Here's what I didn't like:
          The smell of the paint.
          The paint dried quickly, so I had to keep adding water to keep it moving on the canvas.
          The paint went on one color then dried a different shade.
          I felt like I wasted paint as I kept adding to try to mix the colors.
          I didn't feel like the paint and the brush worked together - if that makes sense.
These will decorate the wall of a little guy who'll be arriving soon.  I hope that he likes them.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meyer Creek

Do you have cousin memories... memories that you share only with your cousins?

I get goose bumps and shiver when I just think about stepping into that freezing green water...

I am number 20 in a family of 21 cousins on my mom's side.  Although we have a big range in ages, I know that this place holds similar memories for all of us.

After waiting the necessary hour after eating, a group of cousins would grab towels and head down the dirt road to this perfect spot. (Several decades later, I'm wondering about how important it was to wait that hour.  I don't think anyone would sink since this was about 2 feet deep in its deepest spot.)

I didn't paint him there, but I'm certain there's at least one big water moccasin sunning himself on one of those big rocks in the back.  As we arrived it was the job of the little cousins to make lots of noise and splash the water.  The big boy cousins had to throw rocks at the snakes so that they'd slither off the rocks and away into the water. That would ensure our safety from them. (Again, looking back, maybe we'd have been better off letting the snakes stay on the rocks where we could keep an eye on them!)

No one but us knows how much cousin labor it took to drag those rocks into the right place to slow the water enough to form that little pool.  There would already be some of the dam left over from the last family get-together, but it would take the majority of our time to line up those rocks and build the barrier that would give us a swimming pool.  It was important to remember to lift the rocks first on the side away from you so that anything hiding under could make an escape.  (I'm pretty sure, my cousin Matt and I used our "we're the littlest" excuse to let the others do most of that work.)

The rocks were so slick on the down-river side of the dam and the water was faster, so it was really hard to stand up there.  Plus there was always the fear of being washed away under the low-water bridge where the spiders lived. (Now that I think about that, that might nave been a big cousin trick to keep the little cousins on the pool side.)

The best place to lay out (catch all those grand rays that would fry our skin before anyone knew that wasn't a good idea) was on the bridge.  It was nice and flat and sunny.  The only bothersome thing was having to jump up and pick up your towel when someone yelled, "Car's comin'!" (Yeah, I'm looking back on that plan as not such a good idea either.)

What good times... 
I wonder if my cousins have any other memories of Meyer Creek that I've forgotten?


Friday, August 10, 2012

Woo Pig... Sooie!

How do you call those Hogs?

Woooooooooo...... Pig... Soooie...
Woooooooooo...... Pig... Soooie...
Woooooooooo...... Pig... Soooie... Razorbacks!!!

Now, if you're not from Arkansas or at least a college football fan, then you can't imagine what on earth that is all about.  But, for those of us who live anywhere near the University of Arkansas, it's a very familiar cheer.  Click "Call Those Hogs" to hear it done by 70,000 fans in Razorback Stadium.
And, THIS... is an Arkansas Razorback... 

He's a pretty big departure from the paintings I usually do, but I absolutely loved working on him.  He's got lots of... hmmm... siblings... too.

These are the lovely ladies I teach with every day!  What a fun before-school-starts evening we had together.  

We met at Painting with a Twist, for an evening of art, music, laughter, and fun!  What a great concept.  Every person has a station ready with prepared canvas, pallet of paint ready, brushes, water, paper towel laid out, and a teacher who guided us through every step, color, and swirl.
Every body left with a finished painting and feeling like a real-live artist!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Little Curt

Isn't it hard to paint a face?

That's a question I get asked all the time.  The answer is "no" and it's "yes."  The first thing I learned about painting a face is that I have to stop seeing a face, a mouth, an eye, an ear, a nose. It's just shapes and colors, darks and lights.  If I think of an eye as an eye, I make it too round or to almond shaped and exactly like the other one; if I think a mouth is a mouth, I make it too red, too crescent shaped. 
My portrait paintings are just like every other painting... they go through an ugly stage.  I'm never comfortable letting someone see a portrait that's not finished.  I can see in their face... "ummm... yeah..." while they wonder what to say.  In the first stage of my portraits, they look very creepy, kind of like the zombies from Thriller, while I'm getting the darkest darks blocked in. The second stage happens pretty quickly, and I have a lovely portrait of some little child - just not really the one I'm supposed to have.  The most tedious part is what follows.  What tiny  brush stroke will it take to make these lips, his lips?  What's wrong with the shapes of that eye? Where is that nostril supposed to be?
Finally, there's the, "Oh, there you are!" moment followed by a big "Whew!"  because the stress level is usually high by then.
So, my answer is no, it is not hard to paint a face.  But, if you want a specific face... well, yeah, it's hard!

In general, I don't enjoy painting portraits. My love is painting a story - a toddler doing something cute or sweet.  My thought is that if you want an exact picture of someone's likeness, then put a frame on a photo; however, sometimes there's a good reason.
My sister-in-law's father carried a photo of her and her brother in his wallet when he went to serve in the Korean War.  While there, he had someone paint those pictures.  Now, she has that portrait.  She asked me if I could paint a portrait of my brother, her husband, as a toddler and turn it into a color painting to be placed with hers.  She gave me an old black and white photo of him, a color photo of their daughter in a similar pose, and that was the challenge.

Isn't he a sweetie and a cutie!!  (Both 50 years ago and now!)


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Basket of Peaches

Does this image remind you of something?

Does it make your mouth water for the taste of peach?
Does it remind you of when you got to pick fruit with your grandpa?
Does it cause you to want to stop by the farmers' market?
Does it remind you of another painting you once saw?

I hope so... That's my goal... I want my paintings to provoke an idea, a thought, an emotion, a reaction...

My dad and I picked these peaches from two little trees beside his house in Tontitown, Arkansas.... pick, wash, peel, slice, eat!

I've got to give credit for my inspiration here.  "Basket of Peaches" done by Joseph Decker in 1885 is my favorite painting in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Mine may be worth about a million dollars less than his, but I love it just as much!

And, I better give a little credit to the peach trees and the farmer who takes care of them. (Thanks, Dad!)


Monday, July 23, 2012

Apple of My Eye

Where did that phrase come from?

Here's your figurative language lesson for the day... "The apple of my eye" is an old phrase - used by Shakespeare in Midsummer Night's Dream and in the Old Testament of the Bible.  The apple was the most widely common spherical shape.  It was used as a symbol to refer to the pupil of the eye which was important yet vulnerable and in need of protection, the eyelid.  It is thought that the object or person would would be looked upon with such love and devotion that the entire pupil would be filled with the image so that there was no room to see anything else.  

"Apple of My Eye" - definition - Exceedingly precious .... I believe that's a pretty good phrase to describe this little one.  

One day maybe we'll put a hat on this sweetie and paint her again like her momma in Vacation Hat or her gramma in Wedding Hat.

One of my favorite books is Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use by Jordan Almond.  Yeah... I know, I'm kind of weird, but I think learning the history and origins of figurative language is pretty interesting to learn about... :)


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

:) Making Grape Juice

What do you do with all those ripe grapes?

The grapes grown in Northwest Arkansas aren't the same as those you get in the grocery store.  They are full of flavor, but they're also full of seeds and have a tough skin.  I can only eat a few of them.  
They're delicious...just not worth the work - squish the inside out of the skin, suck the skin, toss it, work to separate out the many little seeds, spit them out, finally chew up the good insides. 
Thanks to my sister-in-law, we learned how to make juice!   It's supposed to take a couple of weeks, but we had a sample.  It was delicious!

  • Pick a big bucket of grapes.
  • Wash, rinse, wash, rinse, wash, rinse, dry.
  • Remove grapes from stems.
  • Wash jars and rings in dishwasher.
  • Bring canning bath to boil.
  • Boil another pot of water. Boil sealing lids.
  • Put 2 cups of grapes into hot jars.
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar.
  • Fill jars with boiling water.
  • Top with hot lid and ring.
  • Turn over once to mix sugar.

  • Boil in canning bath for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from water.
  • Listen for the little "Pop!" so you'll know they're sealed.
  • After two weeks, pour through a strainer and enjoy!

What a lot of fun (ok and a lot of hard, hot work) this was!  I can hardly wait to try it! 

Hmmmm.... I wonder if I should avoid driving after my first drink of this stuff... just in case it doesn't turn out to be just plain old grape juice!  :)