Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tweet! II

It's so much fun to get to help someone complete their very first painting ever.  

This is my niece, and she's an artist now!  
In one afternoon she went from, "How do I hold the paintbrush?" to "I painted a bluebird!"

Great job, Karly!

I remember my first painting lesson almost 9 years ago.  It was so exciting to leave with a finished product!  (In my case it was a tree.)

I've painted this little bluebird a few times.  
He was facing left in 2012.  
He was one of the first the subjects for my Tuesday painting group in 2013. 
And this week he helped me help Karly complete her first painting.

Original Oil Painting - 6"x 8" 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Family

I love seeing families who enjoy being together.  
I think that's the story that this painting tells.  There's a fantastic bridge, a pretty creek, a leaf covered hillside, and a bright autumn day with a chill in the air. But, I don't think any of those is what this painting is really about.  
At the center of it all... is a family.  
I love that.

Original Oil Painting on 12"x 16"  Wrapped Canvas

Friday, December 4, 2015


Every season has it's flavor, and peppermint belongs to December.

'Tis the season!

Original Oil Painting on 5"x7" Wrapped Canvas

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Royal Donut Company

Sometimes I wonder when painting will get easy or when I will know how to get it right the first time. Oh, I guess many things are easier now.  And, I do get a lot of things right the first time.  A challenge is a good thing.  It keeps me groaning growing as a artist.
My friend Cathy asked me to paint her husband's shop so that she could surprise him at Christmas.  I'd do my best to do anything for Cathy.  She's one of the people who takes care of our school, our office, and all of us teachers.  Everything from the copier, to substitutes, to messages, to attendance to pretty much knowing how to take care of every little thing that needs to be taken care of on any day.

I immediately said yes... then the challenges began...
I honestly was not sure at all if I could pull this one off, but I was determined to get each little tiny (ok... for me... huge obstacles) but important request.

Challenge #1
Getting a reference photo when there weren't so many cars that the shop was covered, but not at time when the parking lot was empty either.  Also finding a time early enough in the morning that the lights were on but not so dark things didn't show up.  Never mind the standing in the traffic to get a quick shot!

Challenge #2
It was important to have the red truck and the silver Volkswagon in the picture.  They belong to two guys who she said are customers 365 days a year.  
But... hmmm... Here was my best reference photo.  I loved the lighting.  I loved the wet pavement and the reflections of the lights.  I loved the early morning sky and placement of the cars.  I loved that it looked alive and busy.

Challenge #3
She sent me a photo that included a good image of the sliver bug, but nothing else was right.  I sent my friend, Mona (who happens to be the other person who keeps our school running smoothly) out to snap a photo of her husband's red truck.  After a few texts to get the right angle, we got it. 
 Now what... 

Challenge #4
I'm not good with Photoshop, but I started playing with Publisher and a little cut and paste.
I cropped my photo down to the truck and first car and pasted to cover the third car. 

Then I cropped her photo down to the silver bug and pasted it to cover the last car.

I decided not to paste the truck since there was already a gray truck there.  I'd just change the color and tail lights.

At this point, I began to realize that I just might be able to pull this off.

Challenge #5
If you're very observant, you'll see that by moving the truck and car down, that also changed the pattern of windows and lights on the building.  That I saw right away and dealt with all along the way.
If you're very, very observant, you'll notice that the silver bug is bigger than the car and truck. I was not that observant... sigh... I only realized it after I painted it... Boooo!! A giant VW in the middle of the painting!!! Noooo!!!  Ugh... get over it and fix it.

I think it's all there.

***Revisited / Edited

It's looks great hanging on the wall in the shop.  
And, the girls working there seemed proud of it.

Original Oil Painting on 16" x 20" Wrapped Canvas, Framed

Friday, November 6, 2015

Basket of Strawberries

I set up this still life that reminds me of my favorite painting at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  There are hundreds of beautiful works of art there, but my favorite, favorite, favorite painting is "Basket of Peaches". I have to go stand in front of it for a few minutes every time we go. 
And, yes, I did paint my own version of "Basket of Peaches". One might be worth a million dollars more than the other, but I love them both.
Basket of Peaches
Joseph Decker - 1885
In Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Basket of Peaches
Helen Eaton - 2013
in my sister-in-law, Karen's kitchen

I'm pretty sure this will be the end of my strawberry series.
I'm not saying I'll never paint another strawberry, but it will be a while. 
Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry Girl
Strawberries & Blackberries
A Great Big Strawberry

Bowl of Strawberries

Original Oil Painting on 11" x 14" Wrapped Canvas

Friday, October 30, 2015

:) Medusa...

I would never have imagined a scenario in which I would choose to paint my fingernails and toenails green... but...
I did... and I kind of like 'em!

Look at my cutie intern... a.k.a. the poor soul who looked into Medusa's eyes and turned to stone!

These guys finished two weeks in Greek Mythology just in time for School Spirit Day!
That's a happy smile from Medusa here, but she may or may not have given those little sweeties a stone cold stare a time or two... or three... 

... love, Love, LOVE this team of partners!

Left to Right...
Queen 4th Grade,  
The Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl's Witches, 
Mr. Potato Head with her intern Mrs. Potato Head,
Bob the Builder, who I share kids with,
Medusa (me) and my intern the Stone Statue.

FYI - In case you ever decide to attach snakes to your head, here's what I figured out. After much trial and error, this is what worked. 
1. Grow your hair long.
2. Tie the tails of 5-6 rubber snakes together with a pony tail holder.
3. Put them over your head like a hat.
4. Pull strands of hair up, over, between, and through the snakes. 
5. Use a rubber band to make a top pony tail on top of the snake-tail knot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


"Mom, I have an idea. Will you paint something? 
I want you to paint Whitney's dog as a Christmas present for her."


"Oh, it's perfect... she's going to love it... We don't have to wait.  I can get her something else for Christmas...  Let's give it to her now."

Ha ha ha

It is hard to wait when you have something that will make someone special happy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dickson Street

"I want something 'Fayetteville-esque."
Oddly enough I understood what she meant.  
So... this painting is Fayetteville-esque.
If you've ever lived in or loved my city, you get it.
What makes it Fayetteville-esque?
... There's Old Main in the background. 
... The trees from the University lawns are in their autumn colors.
... That must be a Razorback license plate on the blue car.
... Of course, there's not an empty parking space anywhere.
... And... there are all the businesses that make Dickson Street... Dickson Street...

I put things into this painting that make it fun.
I spy... my red VW bug! the wheel of my husband's Harley! Melanie's SUV, DJ's mustang!
I think I spy...  Are those initials in the reflection of a window? Do those shutters look like an my own initials? And is that a letter on the orange building? Is that a name on the green car's license plate? How about on the red car's license? 
Could I also spy... Are those scribbles on the white sign, or does it have a message?  Is that a blur, or does it say something on the red dot sign?

Fun! Fun!! Fun!!!
She'll get to see it tomorrow morning! (along with my painting partners who want to be there.)  I hope she thinks it's "Fayetteville-esque!"  

I was pretty proud to finish this one.

With the frame, the bug won't hold much more. :)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pink Gerbera Daisies

Usually whenever someone finds out that I'm a painter, they say, "Oh, what do you paint?" 
I never seem to come up with a quick and simple answer.
"I paint what I like," is the truth, but seems kind of self centered and doesn't really answer.
"I can paint whatever anyone wants me to," is the truth, but seems kind of arrogant and doesn't really answer.
"I love to paint images that tell stories," is the best truth, but doesn't really answer and has to be followed by an explanation.

So, how do I choose what goes on my easel...
When I have a commission, that takes priority.
Otherwise, I think I have a kind of built in, subconscious rotation.
I paint something challenging or stressful - like a portrait or a complex scene.
Then something easy and fast - like a flower or fruit.
Then something comfortable - like a cow.
Then I'm ready to go back to challenging.

So, where do I get my images...
Sometimes I'm given an image through a commission, and often I do get to help select the just-right photo.
I also have a file of photos on my computer called "Possibilities." 
Sometimes I see something fabulous, pull over, and take photos - like interesting cows, a sunset, or a  breathtaking view.
Sometimes I create still life set ups - like fruit, vegetables, or flowers. 
Sometimes I see someone else's photo on Facebook or their blog and am overwhelmed by it as if it's begging to be put on canvas. (I know that sounds arsty.)  I can't get past it.  Then I ask whatever friend or relative (or occasionally stranger)who was the photographer for permission to use it.  

That's how these sweet little gerbera daisies came about.  I saw them on my friend Renee's blog post and just couldn't get past them. I could just imagine them on canvas. You see, Renee's my friend now, but we met by my randomly discovering her blog then one day my comment to her, "You don't know me, but I would love to paint your goats..."  Well, I hope I was a little more eloquent than that, but... she did let me... and we became friends.... I've been thinking of her this week as the rains continue to flood South Carolina where she lives. 

This little painting was included in a lovely Etsy treasury (collection of related vintage items and art pieces). Click Shopping in January to have a look!

Original Oil Painting on 6"x 8" Wrapped Canvas

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Single Tulip (Reflected)

I wish I could show how really pretty this little painting is. But, alas, I've given up. I've taken dozens of photos... different light, different angles, different, places... ugh... I have got to take a class in photography or at least get a friend who's really good at it. 
If you're that person, (Renee, maybe?) that has some advice, let's hear it.
Until then, you'll just have to trust me, that it's really a nice little painting! Really!

I love the background.  It's "black" but done entirely with alizarin (deep, rich red) and viridian (deep, rich green).

I love the elegance in simplicity.

If you (realize that my painting is better than my photography and) would like to purchase this little painting, click "Single Tulip (Reflected)."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rooster at the Hen House

How about that tail! Pretty fabulous, but I wonder if he ever wishes he could just take it off for a while. 

One day this spring this fella, whose name was Mr, was walking around keeping an eye on things at our local strawberry farm. All his lady friends were inside a fence, but  he got to roam around with all the people.

He was so gorgeous that I snapped a bunch of photos of him thinking I'd love to paint his portrait. When choosing a reference photo, I noticed one... His head was turned back... maybe watching one of his lady chickens as she was heading into the coop.  The coop was red... the grass was green... one door was down, the other up... a hen was on the ramp!  What a story!  I wonder what he was saying... clucking... crowing to her!  Probably, "See ya' after while, Sweetheart."

When I started painting, my thoughts were of Charlton the Third, the rooster in my new favorite bunch of farmyard friends from Dan Bar-el's Audrey (Cow). He was a hoot! And, he did play a big part in "making it happen" in an exciting part of the story, but Charlton was kind of... hmmm... silly... kind of in love with himself with a bit of a snooty-Shakespearean attitude.  That didn't fit for this guy.

As Mr. began to show up on my canvas, however, a different rooster kept coming into my mind. 
When my kids were very little, an animated movie (not Disney) came out called Rock-A-Doodle. One of the main characters was a rooster, a very cool rooster in an Elvis kind of way, named Chanticleer.  While I was painting, I kept hearing him (through Glen Campbell's voice) singing... 
Cock-a-doo! What a day!  The sun is shining brightly!
Cock-a-doo! What a day! Down here on the farm!

Unfortunately for me, I'm lyric-challenged... can't remember more than two lines of any song, but oh, well, I love those two lines.

Maybe one of these days I'll get around to painting a few of Mr.'s ladies.  I've got a good chicken story (and even a blurry black and white photo to go with it) from when I was a little girl.  FYI - That chicken from my memory was named Big Red.


Monday, September 7, 2015

White Cow (a.k.a. Audrey)

I'm so glad to have finished this painting. I guess I've been in a dry spell... It's been a couple of months since I've painted, and I was a secretly a little bit worried that I'd forgotten how to do it.

I've got a long list of all the things that have kept me away from the easel,  but in the end... they're excuses.  I'm glad to be back at it.

I wanted to start back with something comfortable... a cow!  When I went to my "Possibilities" file, I came across these pretty white cows.  I'd snapped several photos of these lovely girls a few months ago.

I kind of went about this project in a backwards way.  I like to paint images that tell stories or that I have a connection to, but this was just a white cow. I thought surely I had a connection... maybe a beloved character from some children's book that I couldn't put my finger on??  So... here's the backwards part... I Googled "white cow characters." First to pop up was Milky White from the movie  Into the Woods... hmmm... not what I had in mind.  
Then I came across this little children's novel.  I hadn't heard of it...  It's new... It's being nominated for literary awards...
... The main character... a white cow that loves poetry... I'm in!
(I went in to the library to find it and was asked by the teenager, "Do you spell that "o..d..d..r..y..?" I'm not kidding, but that's another story.)

I LOVED Audry (Cow) SO MUCH!!!! I love children's books written in creative styles.  This one is written in first person oral accounts from all the different farm animals.  They each have their own unique voice and perspective.  I would love to run into Dan Bar-el  on a plane or get caught in an elevator with him and just say, "Good job! Loved your characters."  (It reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver's  Poisonwood Bible only for kids.) I'm thinking that my fourth graders will be hearing from Audrey and her farm friends and forest friends this year when we work on narratives and creating characters with voice. 

My favorite quote from the book came on one of the first few pages... had me hooked and rooting for Audrey. I wrote it down. "We Charolais, you will note, are all white - but creamy white would be more accurate.  We don't have those black splotches that you find on similar-looking white breeds.  Norma says the black splotches give her character and uniqueness.  She says it makes her interesting, implying that Charolais are not.  But Mother said that Charolais come into the world as blank canvases and our potential is unknown at first."
I LOVE that!!

So... my blank canvas, one stroke at a time, became my Audrey.
I'm going to enjoy her on my own wall while she waits for her permanent home.  


Friday, August 14, 2015

:) My Mama

October 22, 1925- August 12, 2015
My heart aches, but what a legacy you left behind...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I love my job.

Teachers work really hard the week before school starts.
Kids will show up next Monday morning, and we'll keep working.
Why do we do that?

I found this book on my door step when I arrived home this evening....

I recognized the author...
Then I opened to the dedication page...

Ahhh... yes... This is why...

My heart overflows with gratitude...

What a perfect reminder of how much I love my job...

I get to read and write with 10-year olds all day...

I am so blessed...

Saturday, August 8, 2015

DIY - Tee Shirt Backpacks

My family spends 3 days together at Lake Ouachita each summer.  We've done this for the last 26 summers.

We have lots... LOTS... of great-grandchildren in our family, and I love seeing them all run all over the place together.

Just look at all those precious little ones! And each one needed something to carry around all their treasures. So Aunt Helen, that's me, takes care of that.  made backpacks... 29 of them!  Whew!

These count as paintings since I did technically paint on each tee shirt backpack. 
They were easy, adorable, and practically free to make. 
There was a lot of trial and error, but here's how I did it.

1st - Rescued my son's old tee shirts from a garage sale pile.

2nd -Followed the directions on the Rit dye bottle to make even the white ones fun-colored.

3rd - Cut rectangles from the bottom of the tee shirts. (The size varied.  I made them for kids ages 2 through 8.)

4th - Fold top couple of inches from each side in so that the edges won't be exposed where the string comes in and goes out. Fold the top edge down and under big enough for the straps to go through. Sew along the bottom of the fold.

5th - If you don't have ribbon for the straps, make it.  Cut strips of cloth and sew down the length of the edge.

6th -  Put a safety pen on one end and push it through to turn it inside out.

7th - Iron those pretty strips.  Then you have your ribbon.

8th - Using the safety pin, push the ribbon through the tube you made at the top.

9th - With right sides together, push the other ribbon through in the opposite direction.  It makes a circle so the drawstrings work.

10th - Give the draw strings a pull.  

11th -  With right sides still together, tuck the straps inside.  Pin them out of the way so that they don't get in the seam. 

12th - Let the bottom ends stick out near the bottom. 

13th - Stitch from the top (Right below the drawstring), down across the ends, around the bottom, across those ends which will also be sticking out, and back up the other side.

14th - Turn it right side out.
15th - Shake it out.
16th - Paint a picture or name on it.
17th - Smile.