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!  :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Just Peachy

Do they look good enough to eat?

They are... they were!

I hope this is the first in series of peachy still lifes.  

I've written about and often painted about our family garden.  Gardening is one thing my family knows and lives in the summer.  And, this year has provided a bountiful harvest that just keeps coming. 

Spring came early with no late freeze, so every branch on the peach trees was loaded.  What fun to fill a 5 gallon bucket of gorgeous, perfect peaches within 10 minutes!  
(FYI - that's my dad.)

Next comes the washing... sorry, but organic isn't a word that can be used to describe our garden... we have to wash off the same stuff that keeps the bugs off and the worms out.
Then comes the peeling, sprinkling with Fruit Fresh, and freezing.  Peel... peel... cut... cut... take a bite... peel... peel... cut... cut... take a bite...

Oh, but there was another step this year.  Set up some still life pictures to capture these peaches!  I'm fortunate to live in Northwest Arkansas were we have the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Of all the famous, beautiful, huge, priceless paintings there, my favorite is one called "Basket of Peaches" done by Joseph Decker in 1885.  It's fairly small and not showy.  The first time I saw it, I knew I wanted to do my own basket of peaches.  I like to imagine that not long after the Civil War, Mr. Decker saw the knocked over basket, stopped whatever important job he was doing and captured that simple image.  I realize that his is worth about a million dollars more than mine... but I love them both!

"Basket of Peaches"
Thomas Decker 1885

Visit a lovely, yummy Etsy treasury (collection of related art pieces and vintage items) celebrating Peach Harvest.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Beach Bliss

What does this image say to you?

On first glance... it's a big, fat man lying on the beach.  Yep, that pretty much sums it up... right?
Oh, just loosen up a little bit and look again...  Anybody and everybody can enjoy the beach... No fancy umbrellas or chaise lounges... A less-than-magazine-perfect body... Last year's blue trunks... Favorite ball cap over the face...The picture doesn't show it, but you know the sun is shining, the temperature is warm, and the water is cool... job and responsibilities a hundred miles away...
... complete relaxation... if only for a little while... peace... bliss... beach bliss...

This painting is special to me for a couple of reasons.  One is that I loved how my own thoughts about it evolved as I worked on it.  I went from that first-glance thought to the really liking what this guy symbolizes.  The lady who asked me to paint this for her explained why she loved it, and it made complete sense.  You see, this painting is not an original.  She already had a similar work that she'd found years ago at some flea market or craft fair.  But, that piece was destroyed along with her beach house in a hurricane several years ago.  She had a photo of the wall where it used to hang.  I hope this replacement reproduction gives her family the same feeling that the guy on the canvas has!

Another reason that this painting is special to me is that it is my 200th painting!  That's quite a milestone! 200 paintings since that first attempt called Summer Trees that I did on February 22, 2007.  What a lot I've learned about color and shapes and shadows and lights and texture and composition and well... just art in general in these five years!
I am so thankful to my friend and art mentor for showing me how to see things differently then faithfully guiding me through the learning processes every Monday night for 3 years.

To celebrate painting #200, I took my parents to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art today.  We are so fortunate to have this amazing place just 30 minutes away from us!  I'd been with my husband a couple of times and with my 4th grade students before, but it was quite a different treat to take my 86 year old parents.  It's more than just looking at art... it's an event... an adventure... an amazing experience.  If you ever get the chance, go!  It's free!  It's beautiful!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Annabelle & Her Kitty

What do you suppose they're looking at?

I love it when an in image leads me to wonder, ask a question, then use my imagination... 
However you choose to make the story go, it begins with a little girl and her kitty watching... watching...