Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snow Day

What is it about a face?

Our eyes are automatically drawn to eyes.  Even the infants I take care of in our church nursery each week look directly into my eyes.  Why is that? There are plenty of other interesting things to look at!

It's the same way with a painting.   As I worked on this one, I was pleased all along the way.  I loved being able to create the cold wintry feeling of the sky.  I loved the line snowy evergreens and the scruffy bushes in front of them.  I loved how the house and its drive set down in the background - important yet blending in. I loved the shape of the pond.  I loved the colors  in the snow that keep it from being a flat white.  I loved the wrinkles in the clothes, the little one's hat, his hands, and his attitude... but if the momma's face wasn't right, none of the other things mattered.  

I tried to believe all that other stuff was important. I signed it and went to bed thinking it would be fine; but for some reason I didn't clean up my paint palette.  I guess I knew... if I didn't love the 2-3 square inches of canvas with eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, teeth, eyebrows, chin... none of the rest mattered. 

So... armed with a tiny brush, a Coke, and some determination, I turned the painting upside down (so I would focus on shapes and colors instead of "face") and gave it one more hour. 

Every feature was in the right place... so what was it?  The tiniest stroke off the nose, the least highlight on the chin, barely a stroke on the edge of the smile, a faint lightening of the eyelid, slight shading on the cheek,  The difference is so slight... and so important... 

Now... I love the face...

As a side note... I've loved that pretty face since I first met her when she was a bright-eyed 9-year old in my class.  


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bryan's Beach Babies

How many characters do you see in the story, and what do you imagine about each one?

The big brother is kind of taking charge of this sand project.  He's in the middle of things, holding the shell to form it just right, maybe even protecting his creation from the little one.  He's obedient to wear the crisp white shirt, yet his free spirit shows through his braided bracelets and shaggy hair.

The sweet little one sits up straight to be just as big as everybody else.  She's got on her ruffly dress, so she knows she's pretty today.  Because she's feels fancy, she's not quite sure she wants to be in on the sand pile.  But, she doesn't want to miss out on being a part of whatever the big kids are doing!

Then there's the lovely sister who's pulling sand up and trying to help build the pile.   Her tank top and shorts are right for the beach; however, she's girly enough to make sure she's got her necklace and earrings, and she's just sassy enough to put on her favorite headband - no matter what color it is!

The kids are great, but the character that I love is the fourth one... the wind.  It may not be visible, but what would this image be without it! The wind drives the story! As it whips the hair and ribbons, it brings life to the story!  The wind is the springboard of imagination! It's the wind that lets my mind wander to where this story takes place, to what these children are feeling, to how loud their voices must be, to the pinprick feel of sand that blows into their skin... 

I almost painted this on a square canvas. At the very last minute, I decided against it... The square canvas left out the wind...  That sounds like an "artsy" thing to say, but it's true. (The square canvas told a completely different story - three kids with messy hair were making a pile... that's it... no imagination, no wondering, nothing to hear, nothing to feel...) Those few inches on either side showed where the wind was coming from, what it was carrying along, and where it was going.  


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nutcracker Soldier

Who stands guard at Christmas?

At my house about 30 nutcrackers do.  I didn't set out to have a nutcracker collection, it just sort of happened.  When we were first married, my husband bought one that was on sale during a day when he got an extra discount where he worked.  The next year he bought another one, and he did it again the next year.  Once you have three of something, I think it's a collection.

After that, it really wasn't planned, we'd pick one up every year or so if we loved it and the price was right. So, we had six or seven of them. 

Then I took the "collection" to school for E.L.F. Workshop (Eaton's Lots'a Fun Workshop).  I thought it would make a good independent project for the kids to draw and work on while I was helping others with their bigger projects. Well... I guess that gave the kids the idea, so I ended up getting a couple at the Christmas party that year.  The next year I had eight or nine to take for models on E.L.F. Day... Again I opened another one or two at the Christmas party.  Then the next year... and the next year... and the next... 

So, my class will be having E.L.F. Workshop at the beginning of this week.  We'll be having a party at the end of this week. Hmmm... I wonder if I'll have any additions to my collection.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hand in Hand II

Is it cheating to paint from a painting?

If I'm copying my own work it can't really be plagiarism, can it?  It probably is cheating, but I've done it a few times.  I feel like I'm not supposed to like it, but I really do.  All the struggles, frustrations, and  trial & errors happen in the original original.  The second one's kind relaxing.

I absolutely loved the first "Hand in Hand," and I was thrilled when I was asked to do it again and give the girls blonde hair.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Frog Princess

Why do I avoid faces?

Is it because I love the story that can be told from the back or side as if you're looking in on the story?  That's an answer I've given.

I think, however, that's only a partial truth.  I think the more accurate reason is that faces are just plain hard!
The challenges that come with making a white canvas look like a specific person keep me humble, remind me that my skills are limited.

I "finished" this precious little girl a few days ago; however, I could tell from my husband's polite reaction, that it really wasn't finished. Because I was frustrated with her for not cooperating, I literally put her in the corner for a few days.

With fresh eyes and spirit, I put her back on the easel, turned her upside down, and went began the plastic surgery... cut off some hair, lengthened an eyebrow, lightened a cheek... fattened a lip, lowered a chin..... almost.  But she needed one more go... squared a chin, added some mascara, highlighted a nostril, deepened a crease...

There  comes a time to say, "I'm satisfied. I love her.  I love the story this image tells."  

This final stage is like editing - looking for what's wrong.
There are several strategies that I use to help me "see" better.

** Leave the room and come back.  When I imagine seeing it for the first time, I can be more objective.

** Ask a friend what they notice first.  Usually if something jumps out first, it's shouldn't be there.  

** Take a picture of it, and put it on the computer screen.  It's like a fresh view where things show up that I just wasn't seeing on the canvas.

**Look at it in the mirror.  Sure the reflection is backwards, but it's amazing what I notice that I didn't see before.

**Turn it upside down.  This takes the "person" out of it and just lets me concentrate on colors, lines, and shapes.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

:) Winter - Painting with Words


Can you feel it?
Through scarf, hood, gloves, and coat,
Cold bites the skin, chills to the very bones.
Shiver… Huddle... Hurry...
Unwrap… Stand close to the flame… Sigh…

Can you smell it?
Gray and wispy, clinging in the air…
Not menacing, but comforting, cozy.
Rising from chimneys, then drifting down, fading...
To join the neighbor tending leaves.

Can you taste it?
Yellow candy corn replaced with red and white…
Peppermints, candy canes, chocolate kisses in holiday foil.
Tins of sage, promoted from the back…
The premier spice for the most special of meals.

Can you hear it?
No… It’s silent.  No chirping, tweeting, croaking…
Leaves rustle above, crunch underfoot.
“Silver Bells”... “Jingle Bells”... “Silent Night”
Same songs, many versions, over and over.

Can you see it?
Browns and grays, but for the rarest days of white.
The outside world is not dead, just asleep… resting.
But the inside sparkles, twinkles, shines.
Houses fill, hearts grow, faces glow.

Can you believe it?
Another season arrives.
Another year passes.
Endure it.

But also… embrace it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whimsical Santa

What's the lesson here?

Tip of the Day: Ya' gotta be brave with the gray if you want to appreciate the white....

I had another painting evening with my teacher friends.  As I was giving out paint dollops for the beard, one friend said, "I want the white, and I guess I'll take a tiny bit of gray, but I think I'll pass on the blue and brown." 
.... a while later... 
"Why does my beard and fur look so flat?" 

I never put my brush on another artist's canvas, but I asked permission, "Do you trust me? You're going to be shocked, but don't be mad."

I took a brush of gray and blue and made a big ole' swipe under his mustache and heard her gasp behind me.
"Now, turn around, walk back a few steps, and look again."
"Oh... my... goodness... It worked!"  

Yep, you have to have the drab to enjoy the bright...
... not sure whether that's a painting lesson or a life lesson.

Oil Painting on 6"x 12" Wrapped Canvas

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Who's the star of this painting?

I can hear my art mentor's advice, "Tone down the background.  Let your subject be the star."  I'm thinking that I purposefully defied that sound rule on this one.  

This was the request from a mother whose son was graduating from cosmetology school, "I want a painting of a pair of hair stylist scissors on a really colorful background."

I must say that it would never have occurred to me to make a still life around a pair of scissors, but I've got to say that I really like it!  And, I'm not apologizing for the garish background.  Let it fight for attention this time!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

We'll Just Have Salad II

How do you tell one cow from another?

This is what my husband (a city boy) asked as we passed a field full of cattle today.  I'd mentioned something about them being Hereford.  "How do you even know that?" he asked. I don't think a farm girl actually has to learn the difference between a Hereford, a Holstein, an Angus, a Charolais, or a Brahman; we just know.  How can you tell a Dachshund from a Chihuahua from a Beagle?

That made me think of how you can tell the difference between individual cows.  Well, a farmer just knows certain cows by their personalities, but generally they put ear tags in their ears.  I hated watching this process.  It was like watching my dad pierce their ears only it seemed awfully painful.   You can see that these ladies actually did have their ears pierced, but I decided that a big yellow tag with a number on it didn't get to be a part of the painting. (Ahhh... the power of the almighty artistic license!)

What I really, really wanted to do in this version (I painted it once before and wrote about that earlier this year. - Go have a look at the first "We'll Just Have Salad") was to give these ladies real earrings... yep, silver dangly ones!  (Go back and read ":) Sisters" and see about those silver dangly earrings!)

My friend Shelley asked me to paint these gals for her.  She is one of those kindred spirits or forever friends.  We're of different generations, from different places, lead different lives, and I see her less than once a year... but when we do see each other, there's so much to catch up on, so much mirrored in our ways of thinking.  So somehow during this process, I began to think of the two of these cows as the two of us.  (She would be the tall, elegant, lovely reddish one... hmmm... I wonder if that's why she ended up much more blonde than the real cow was... And, I'd be the short, stocky... and is she graying in the painting?... one out front.)  We... I mean THEY do look as if they are completely annoyed to be bothered and just want to get back to visiting with each other about whatever it is that cows talk about.

You see, I bought a pair of those dangly silver earrings for Shelley.  She told me that she wears them when she needs inspiration, feels feisty, or wants to feel brave.  I feel the same way about my pair.  So... don't you see how it was very hard not to put earrings on these cows!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tiffany Twisted

What do you hear?

If you're from my generation, I just bet you hear the Eagles singing...
"On a dark desert highway,
Cool wind in my hair,
Warm smell of colitas,
Rising up through the air..."
She was my "Hotel California" girl from the beginning - although she's probably too young to have any idea what that's all about.

This portrait is different from my norm, but what fun to do something so different!   The young man who asked me to do it, gave me artistic license with the photograph to do what I wanted.  Yea! I knew that it was her in all her elegance and mystery that was what I wanted to capture.  She had to be confident and regal to pull off that stunning dress.  

It was a pretty complicated painting, so there are so many details that I want to write about! It was a series of struggles that I had to figure out!

  • The background - How could I diminish everything that was going on - windows, tapestries, columns, curtains - that just weren't important.  I alluded to those things but fuzzed them out of focus.  Just to keep harmony, I used the green, reddish-brown, gold, and purple (that I shaded with) from the foreground in the background.
  • The floor - How could I show the beauty of the hardwood without bringing attention to it?  I simply painted it perfectly then brushed it (almost) out.
  • The counter or pew or whatever that thing was - How could I use it to show the depth of the space without making it interesting enough to look at?  I did the same thing.  I painted it perfectly then blotted it, getting fuzzier and darker as it went back.  
  • The rail - Well, that wasn't really how that looked, but I had to have something substantial so that her hand wouldn't be just hanging in space.  It ended up helping with the depth anyway.
  • The skirt - Wow!  It took a while to figure out what it was.  Scales? tiles?  I decided they were like piano keys.  I had to redo them after the first time.  I realized that every one was exactly alike, perfectly in rows - boring and without life.  You can't see it, but I put the greens and purples (that I shaded the green with) to add life to the black of the keys.  I don't know how, but it worked.
  • The sash - I would have said that green is the color I'm most comfortable using; however, I learned that the greens of landscapes and leaves and backgrounds is not the same as that on a satin cloth.  There are three different tries underneath what you see in the final painting.  I tried to highlight with yellows and to shade with dark green - neither was right.  Eventually, white for the highlights and purple for the shades worked.
  • The black shirt - I think that must have been some kind of suede or velvet.  It had some neat sparkles... I gave up on those... Used my "artistic license" to decide they weren't important.  (That way I didn't have to admit, I just couldn't get it right.)
  • Her arms and hands - Ugh... just don't zoom in. I finally had to tell myself to let it go... I did consider putting another green sash over them!  Seriously, try not to look too closely.
  • Jewelry, candelabra, and collar-thingy - I got to use silver!  I've rarely had the opportunity to open that tube.  In the end, I had to cover most of it with white, black, and blue.  But, I know that the silver is under there!
  • Flames - I think they might be too yellow.  I need to decide that and decide if I need to go back and mute them a little.
  • Her face - I put off doing the face until the very end.  It was so small, I couldn't imagine I'd ever get it right.  To my surprise, it came together quite nicely.  I don't know if it's the "spittin' image" of the young lady, but I'm not sure that matters in the grand scheme of the whole here.  Once I could sit back and say, "...such a lovely face, such a lovely face..." it was time to add the green tattoos.  That was hard to do!  I felt like the time I had to put mud on the side of the beautiful red truck on "She Said YES!" (Go have a look at that one.) But, the beauty of those is that they detracted from any mistakes I might have made on her face.
  • Her hair - It was fine.  Then at the last minute - after I'd already signed my name, I went back and put some green in her hair!  Yeah!  (That will teach someone to give me freedom to use that artistic license!
  • The name - Well, if you totally got it on the first paragraph, then you'll get it on the title.  If not, then the name's just as mysterious to you as the lady herself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Do you tweet?

I don't have a Twitter account, and I don't think I've ever gotten a tweet.  Does that make me behind the times?  If so, think I can live with it.  

There aren't many bluebirds around my part of the country.  They seem like sweet little birds.  Maybe one day a pair will join the cardinals and robins and mocking birds and jays and wrens and owls that live in the trees around my house.

I painted this little guy a year or two ago but decided he was worth another.  I love the blotchy colors in the background that just allude to the idea of a tree or bushes behind him.  There's a kind of movement in the lights and darks and colors that makes me not mind not seeing leaves and trees or anything specific.  It's kind of hard to get an expression on a bird's face, but I think the spark in his eye gives him a curious attitude.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Red Barn & Wheelbarrow in Winter

Which "character" makes your mind wander/wonder?

If you've read a few of my posts, you know that I only love a painting if it tells a story.  This one shows a setting that's just waiting for the characters to show up with their problem to solve.... There are so many possibilities fighting to jump to the front and be the story... What about the picture makes you wonder? makes your mind wander?

  • Is there something hidden inside the knothole in the tree?
  • Did someone go ice skating?
  • Why is the fence broken down?
  • Where are the cows and goats and horses?
  • Who does that striped hat belong to?
  • How cold is it?
  • Is it morning or evening?
Because it's a painting and not really a story, I make the objects my "characters."  You'd think that since I named the painting "Red Barn & Wheelbarrow in Winter" that I loved those two "characters" most.  But, I'm kind of a "minor character" kind of gal.  I love the cold sky and the shadows on the snow.  I love the broken fence, the icicles hanging off the roof, and the weather vane on the top of that roof. But, the "character" that makes my mind wonder and wander is that craggy old tree.  I love that tree.  I love gnarly old dead trees. There's one between Sonic (where I go much too often) and my house, and I never pass by without noticing it.  It's on the edge of a golf course and will probably be removed one day.  Every time I look at that tree I wonder if there's an old coon living in some hole in it.  My mind wanders every time to Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann from Where the Red Fern Grows. (Best book ever!) 
Just so you know... I'm the artist, so I know... and yes, there absolutely is a grouchy old coon (or maybe a possum) living inside the hole in that tree, so the kid who left his skates and hat in the wheelbarrow better keep his hand out of there.

Oil Painting on 16"x 20" Wrapped Canvas

Friday, September 13, 2013

Apple Slices II

How often do you say, "We should get together sometime to... (fill in the blank) ?

I've painted this little still life a couple of times before, but I never had as much fun doing it as I did this time.  So often we've said, "We should get together and paint sometime,"  so I decided to just set a date.  

We were excited for two weeks!  "After the next faculty meeting! I can't wait!"  We laughed and we painted and we talked and we ate a little pizza and the time flew by.  Most importantly, we set a day for our next paint party... just two faculty meeting days away... 

I loved the spirit of 
lifting up...
But, we actually did face our canvases and concentrate... (a little).

And EVERYBODY left with a finished masterpiece
That's me, Julie, Holley, and Jolene.
Fourth grade teacher, third grade teacher, art teacher, and tech teacher by day...
Artists for an evening!


Friday, September 6, 2013

First Recital II

When is one just not enough?

When Mama wants it on her wall and Memaw wants it on her wall!

I've had giclees made of several of my paintings.  The place that does the imaging and creates the giclees is really good.  The product looks great, but it's expensive.

I'm getting better and faster as a painter, I had left over paint, and it I had fun doing it the first time. So... I decided to do a do-over.

They're not identical, but they're pretty close.

Click "First Recital" if you'd like to purchase this little one for your wall.


Monday, September 2, 2013

:) Ozark Mountains of Arkansas

What's the best advice you ever got?

My mom always said, "Every stage is the best stage. Enjoy each one."  From taking care of toddlers... to mini-van driver for lessons and teams... to high school activities and games... to college kids in and out of the house... and to an empty nest... 

Yeah, every stage is the best stage.

So, this isn't a painting, but it's beautiful.  We took a Labor Day ride down Old Hwy 71... gorgeous... We are blessed to live in a beautiful piece of the world.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Recital

Does she know she's being watched?

I don't think so... I think she's composing something beautiful to her ears and fingers... I think it's loud and has a fast tempo... I think she's writing lyrics as she goes... I also think the magical musical moment will disappear as soon as she realizes she's got an audience... 

Original Oil Painting on 12"x 12" Wrapped Canvas

Friday, August 9, 2013

Two Tiger Lilies

How do you "get back in shape" after time off?

I have done a lot of traveling this summer and just didn't have that much home time.  Since I didn't get to paint much, I felt a little "off" when I finally did sit down in front of a canvas.  I decided to start with something small and comfortable.  I've painted lilies many times before.  These two grew in the flowerbed beside my front porch. I know I've said it before, but I do love lilies.

Click Two Tiger Lilies if you're interested in purchasing this little painting.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

:) Sisters

Hi, My name is Helen. 

I paint what you see in Word Weaver Art’s blog.

I’ve heard that at some point every artist should paint a self-portrait, so here’s mine.  This is me.  It’s pretty accurate.  I’m short, I have brown hair that’s turning gray, and I’m embracing that! I hope to always have a smile on my face.  And, finally, I’ve got on silver dangly earrings.  Last year when I bought a pair of squiggly silver earrings made by my friend Tana, I said, “These are not who am, but they are who I want to be.”  
Now I think they ARE who I am!

These are my sisters:

Sheila’s my oldest sister.  She’s the family historian through her scrapbooks. She’s dressed in her favorite color purple, and like her dress, she’s pretty organized, but she's a little squiggly!

Marcia is married to my oldest brother.  She’s a family musician who sings and plays piano and flute.  She’s dressed in her favorite color blue, and like her dress, she’s kind of polka-dotted! (She makes everyone feel special!)

Karen's my middle sister.  She’s a family entertainer who can put a party together and cook just the right thing.  She’s dressed in a bright orange, and like her dress, she’s all-the-way squiggly! 

Karen Lynne is married to my middle brother.  She’s another family musician who sings and plays piano.  She’s dressed in a red color that looks great on her, and like her dress, she’s striped.  (She likes lists and organization like me!)

Then there’s me at the end.  I'm dressed in my favorite color green, and like my dress, I'm solid. (What you see is what you get!)

And, next week we're doing something we've never done before... a week together... just the five of us!

Caribbean, here we come!  

If you're in my town, go visit Tana for a pair of your own silver dangly earrings!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Yellow Apples

Why do students give apples to their teachers?

I've been a teacher for 28 years and have certainly received my share of apples... apple mugs, apple ornaments, apple paper weights, apple note pads... I think my favorite though is when a little kid brings me a real apple, especially on the first day of school.  They usually have that sweet, sort of embarrassed kind of nervous little face like their mom has said, "Take this to your teacher and smile at her when you meet her."  I love that.  

I googled it and found a couple of possible reasons for the tradition.
     * During the pioneer days, teachers were paid with a room to stay in and food brought in by the students from their family farms.  Apples were harvested about the time the school year began.
     * Even before that, Eve gave Adam a fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  (People usually imagine that fruit to be an apple.) Teachers represent knowledge... Apples represent knowledge... so... that tradition began a really long time ago, right?

When I went to my very first painting lesson on February 22, 2007, I painted a Tree, and I was so proud of it!  I couldn't believe I'd painted something that actually looked like what it was supposed to be!

On that evening, I felt kind of nervous like a little kid on the first day of school.  And, guess what... yep... I took an apple to my teacher!  I did!  I think it surprised her, but it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
About a year ago, she and her husband retired and moved to their farm in Oklahoma.  In June we got to visit them.  I'll always be thankful for our Monday nights of painting together. :)

To see her beautiful artwork, visit Dancing Brush.

[SOLD] And I love knowing my friend Laura has these yellow apples hanging in her office. :)