Birthdays, Ice Cream and Stuff

The birthday month is fast approaching.  My husband and I are baby boomers who celebrate birthdays in July.  Lately the talk has been about retirement “stuff”.  Can we afford to stay in New Jersey, are we financially ready, but most importantly –  where did all this “stuff” come from?  In another attempt to simplify before I die, I started on my studio.

Everything in here could possibly be the answer to my creative longings.  Old paintings could be cut into collages, perhaps even soaked and molded into forms. Maybe I could make a pair of earrings.  And the dog bowl needs to be spruced up. I am never at a loss for ideas.  The creativity in this room nearly vibrates.  How could I let any go?

A prolific painter, my paintings are executed quickly to ensure that spontaneity doesn’t wane.  Granted, I do a lot of planning beforehand.  Value sketches are mainstays, and often result in compositional sketches.  (On madcap days, I approach a piece of paper with little more than an inspirational thought and some rock & roll.) .  I have been painting for approximately ten years.  That is a lot of “stuff”.

Enter “The Boxes”, filled with above mentioned “stuff”; categorized as follows:

1.  REJECTS – just plain disasters (but they could make a nice coaster)

2.  OK’s – Nothing that is worthy of the big step – THE FRAME

3.  DONES – They have had THE FRAME, perhaps even been in shows.  But, alas, their time is finished, so they have been relegated to “The Boxes”.

The first five or six to come out of “The Boxes” were Number 2s.  So I made the plunge and put them on Etsy.  To my delight, I’ve sold two.

The latest painting to hit Etsy was done in a class with my mentor.  Thinking it sort of childish, I used my Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Rose (what a simply delicious color – I often expect it to smell good when I squeeze it from the tube) to create a little more excitement than vanilla or chocolate.  But I don’t like strawberry, so I felt this painting fell somewhere between a 1 and a 2.  Granted, it had a certain quirky charm and the image had been used for birthday cards for nearly every friend and family member at least once (Apologies to anyone who got it two years in a row!).  It was indeed the consumate Birthday painting.

So far the painting has been featured in three different Treasury collections.  If you’re not familiar with Etsy, members can curate a collection of items similar in nature, color, or theme.  All were different themes. Who’s in the Mood for Ice Cream Strawberry Taffy and Whimsy  If you get a chance to click on these links, check out the Curator’s shops.  They have some pretty neat items.

The numbers associated with the upcoming birthdays are mind boggling.  I’m optimistic as the “stuff” in “The Box” is ever so slightly smaller.  And the Ice cream …well, to me,  that just represents birthdays and stuffed all in one image!



Following fellow artist, Sandy Sandy’s blog has helped to kickstart me back into drawing.  This week’s challenge was to draw a cat.  Used a picture of my own for reference and found myself struggling,

I truly have mixed feelings about this cat.  The picture I chose is one that I felt portrayed her attitude.  Sort of indifference mixed with a bit of pissed off.  She is a beautiful red cat with the cute name of Punkin.  Her nick name is Princess PIA. She has me trained perfectly to respond immediately to any vocal instructions she meows.  Otherwise our newly rennovated home would be confetti.

Struggled with this drawing. For me, part of the joy of drawing is the “in the moment” aspect.  You follow every line, paying attention to where it intersects, is it longer than the next, shorter, curved, etc.  While trying to focus on the line, I kept thinking:  “Why did I pick her out of the litter?” “Why doesn’t she purr?” “Why did she first walk up to the neighbor the other day instead of me?”  “Why does she sometimes swat at me?”   “Does she even like me?  Or am I just the dispenser of dinner?”

My nephew used to show me off to his friends:  “Give my Aunt something to draw and watch.”  They invariably gave me action figures, cars and trucks.  I found them difficult to draw, but perservered for his amusement and our connection.  In the end, I always managed to get some semblance of what they’d given me sketched.  I had to stick to it for this sketch also.  It’s a good feeling to finally finish, even if you’re not thrilled with the results.  Stretching the comfort zone.

Punkin stretched also when I showed her the sketch.  She was unimpressed.  But I thanked her anyway for always keeping me stretching; artistically and personally.

Carolina Wren – Sold!

Wow, I sold another painting from the internet, through Etsy.   What a nice message to get in your inbox.  Though I must admit, my initial thought is that I’m being scammed.  But this 7″ x 7″ watercolor and gouache painting is headed to Georgia.

These cuties nest in the flower box on our shed most years.  One year we had the pleasure of watching the fledglings pop up and down like jack-in-the boxes up between the flowers before their first flight.  The first one finally one flew the three feet to the hammock where they started exercising their wings even more by jumping from hammock strand to hammock strand.  All too soon the fluffball babies were off to their new lives, but not without touching ours.  One of my favorite resident birds in our yard; partially, because I can usually get close enough to get some good photos, and partially due to the adorable poses they strike.

Dear Dad

My first Father’s Day without a Dad.  When I woke, I immediately thought of him.  So I took a few minutes before setting out to start my day to remember this huge influence on my life.  Trying hard to stay focused on the good memories, despite my selfish sadness at his recent passing, I immediately thought of his unwaivering support of my artwork.  He was very proud of my talent, though he had very definite opinions on what he liked and didn’t!  Gladly joining Jim and I for any and all art shows and receptions for both the food and the chance to meet new people.  He would brag about prizes I had won to family.  After my Mom’s passing ten years ago, we thought he might fall into a depression.  But his remarkable ability to accept change allowed him to be open to all new experiences.  On the Thursday before his death at 93,  he matter-of-fact told me,  “Life is perfect.   Even when you think it isn’t.”

Below is the first watercolor painting I ever did and it was a gift for my Dad for Father’s Day when I was 9 or 10.  I specifically remember I was terrified to put the paint on the paper as it looked so fresh and white.  I didn’t know what I was doing with the watercolor. Someone had given me the paint as a gift and there were no instructions.   What would happen if it didn’t come out good, what if I ruined the paper, what if Dad didn’t like it?  He, of course, exhibited great enthusiasm over my “gift”.   Perhaps had he not, I would have never done it again.  Thanks Dad, and thanks Mom for saving this scrap of our history together.   The painting was put in my father’s coffin to  join with the ashes of this remarkable man.

Dan’s Swan

Dan Hines, my mentor, passed away this year.  While teaching one of his former students, I was explaining how I decide, sketch, and niggle with my inspiration photo or sketch. Then I let the paint do the work.  In painting with watercolor you need to plan to preserve white areas.  In order to keep the swan pure white, I decided to forgo my regular wet-into-wet style (which is a bit difficult to control).   I started painting on dry paper. The water around the swan was painted first and I could tell pretty quickly that I hated it. (I just love when this happens – it’s freedom to the max!)  The water looked flat and uninteresting.  The swan even more so.  With much gusto, I wet the back and front of the paper.  When I touched my paint-saturated brush to that paper, the sparkle came back.  But in the process a small bloom of blue paint spread onto the back of the white swan.  My student handed me a paper towel to blot it.  But I felt Dan’s hand had come down to remind me to be true to my nature and enjoy those happy accidents.  I can’t look at that spot without smiling and remembering his friendship.  Thanks Dan.  This painting was juried into Medford Art Center’s Annual Works on Paper show.

“Everyone and everything around you is your teacher.”  Ken Keyes, Jr. 

Painted with help from my mentor, Dan Hines