Big Fat Announcement

For a few months I’ve been dancing around the subject of a Very Large Project on the horizon. Today is the day to tell you all what it is. It isn’t a very well kept secret, just a non-published-on-this-blog secret.

If you know me, you know I love to draw in pencil and that I love to draw cabins. Little cabins, big cabins, they inspire me to draw. So, The Cabins of Wilsonia, a book of drawings of (duh) the cabins of Wilsonia is underway! It will be similar to The Cabins of Mineral King.

There are differences.

1. It will contain very little history  because I’m an artist, not a historian, and the history has already been written in several forms.

2. I will be doing this one solo instead of with Jane Coughran, the very qualified former picture editor from Time-Life Books who was my partner on the Mineral King book.

3. It may not contain any photographs, because there are more than 3 times as many cabins in Wilsonia as in Mineral King.

4. It will take longer than a year to produce because it is a bigger book (226 drawings, at least 128 pages and probably more) and I have to learn how to do the designing on my computer all by myself. (deep breaths, deep calming breaths. . .) I’m aiming for Memorial Day of 2013.

5. The cabins won’t all be represented – there are just too many!

6. The cabins won’t be identified by name. They will be in chapters by street names.

There are similarities.

1. It will contain pencil drawings.

2. It will contain quotes from cabin folks.

3. It wil be hardcover (yes Brad, I listened to you!), horizontal in format.

4. It will contain some history and explanation of Wilsonia.

5. It will be self-published. This is the way Janey and I did our book in 1998, except technology has changed DRASTICALLY. There are plenty of assisted self-publishing sites out there like Lulu and Blurb and West Bow Press, but I won’t be using them.

There are challenges.

1. 226 drawings to complete and scan.

2. 40-something quotes to gather and verify.

3. Adobe InDesign to learn to use.

4. Writing the text.

5. Finding a printer.

6. Finding a binder.

7. Selling them all!!

Happy New Year!

This California artist blog will resume the blog’s regular posting schedule of Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 3, 2012.

Dry December, continued

On the trail, the snow was doing this cantilevered melting thing around the edges.

This chick wouldn’t have been eligible for Gideon’s army! (see Judges 7: 4-8 in the Bible)

A little decorating project using found objects.

Is that a hand knit scarf?? How festive! (and is this really December in Mineral King??)

Snow in the shade and on the north facing slopes below Sawtooth.

Is this an ad for Dodge?

Farewell, Farewell. It is time to pray for rain and snow.

Dry December

Because December has had no precipitation, we were able to drive to Mineral King this week. I’ll share the photos today and tomorrow.

The same and yet not the same. Sigh. (See this)

My request for pruning the dead branches on the cottonwoods that stab into my photos was ignored.

A Cabela’s model and a representative for Terratrack were on the bridge.

We walked up to Crystal Creek.

If you’ve crossed it in the summer, you may or may not recognize this view. It was flowing under the snow, but that curly looking part is frozen.

This man bravely tested the snow bridge over the creek, following the tracks of animals.

More tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel!

Peculiar Sights

Posted by on Dec 27, 2011 in Peculiar Sights, Three Rivers | No Comments

Back in the days when I walked a lot of miles, I photographed and showed you a series of what I called “Peculiar Sights” in Three Rivers. (A central California artist has to find her amusements wherever she can!)

Plantar fasciitis takes a very long time to heal, and now, with the help of an acupuncturist friend, I believe I am back on my feet. Slowly. This means my little camera is back in my pocket, and the peculiar sights might begin appearing on the blog again.


Posted by on Dec 26, 2011 in commissions, General | 11 Comments

Mr. Communicator came for the ornament and brought his brother and Grandma! What fun – we could have all talked for hours. His G’ma grew up on the same street in the same town in Orange County where my G’ma and G’pa raised their 3 children. His brother flies for the Air Force, and Mr. Communicator? He works in finance on Wall Street! Ever met one of those guys before? I have, and both have been as genuinely nice as you could ever hope to encounter – nothing like the nasty stereotype. Of course, both of the ones I met grew up in Tulare County, Perhaps that is the difference. Enough chit-chat. Photographs are more fun than words.

Had to show the 2 ornaments together!

He is tall – I am not short. More American women are 5’4″ than any other height. Just sayin’.

Custom Ornament, final episode

Posted by on Dec 23, 2011 in commissions, General | 3 Comments

Thus we conclude the conversation and saga of the Custom Christmas Ornament between Mr. Communicator (the customer) and The Artist (that would be California Artist Jana Botkin, in case Mr. Google is paying attention). Again, I ask you to overlook the size jumps because I really have no earthly idea how to force this blog to behave properly.

The Artist:
I almost typed a whole paragraph of excuses but got a grip!
Goose is more defined, porch posts and arches show, sunburst is white, side wings have a roof, ribbon shows more, oval is in front door.
When all this is dry enough, I’ll go over it again and tighten it up more and add more detail, and the first layer of the American flag.

Mr. Communicator:

I would have never accepted your excuses!  You’ve done magic thus far so I expect nothing less than miracles! No pressure 🙂

It gets more amazing with every picture.
The flag will definitely finish it off. And I’m glad you kept the goose. I’m waiting to see who points out the goose, flag and ribbon first – Mom or Dad. They’ll be touched by the detail.  You’ll finalize it all with your signature, right?
So glad your expectations aren’t too high – I might just collapse under the pressure. Be prepared – your Mom might cry. And I had thought I might sign it “Norman Rockwell”, but if you want my signature, your wish is my command!

Mr. C:

Don’t kill me. I noticed one small thing that had confused me and I only now put my finger on it.

If you continue to scrutinize the painting to this level, then we won’t ever finish! That’s because you will see that I have stylized and simplified much of what made that house so special.

Your life is safe. But now I am wondering if you are an artist yourself. Or an architect? Or an accountant, perhaps? Maybe a homicide detective?

Mr. C:
Haha. I promise that is the last little change!
I swear this thing looks so much better in person! There all these reflections off the paint thicknesses in the photos that are just starting to tick me off! And please pretend with me as if there are stars and the correct number of stripes on the flag (eyes squinched shut, hands over ears, LA LA LA LA LA)
Okay, tantrum over.
Now that I am looking at the photo, I am making a small list of touch-ups.
1. rafter tail from porch on the right (it was too wet this a.m.)
2. show the bottom sill of the window directly to the right of the porch – got the far right one, but sort of lost it on the left.
3. even-up the blackness of the windows – can’t tell if this is reflection problem, degree of wetness problem, sloppiness problem or no problem
4. straighten up the left blue edge of the house
Do you see anything else?
I know: you are a micro-biologist!
Mr. C:
Ha.  Now that we’re playing the “what do you do for a living” game, I’ll let you keep guessing.  I’m certainly not brainy enough to be a micro-biologist!
I love that you communicate like you’re a business woman and not an artist; you send lists and detailed updates!
BTW, I wasn’t even going to count stars and stripes.   I know you were joking, but I think you secretly thought I might!  ;P  And certainly, if this were a bigger painting, I would have counted and measured each stripe and star!
With each email I keep trying to figure out if you are going to hug me or slap me when we finally meet and this is all over.  The next week will be telling.
See you soon!
And I have been reading the blog. You’re quite the entertaining writer!
What a supreme compliment – “a business woman”! Always my goal to have a superior product AND to sell it well. Otherwise, I’d have to get a job, and I really don’t know how to do anything. Sigh. I can proofread pretty well, but no one cares about typos anymore except me. And with me it is sort of like Tourette’s, except instead of bursting out with obscenities, I shout “TYPO” in  the most inappropriate places. My poor husband just can’t take me anywhere.
But I do love writing and am having a blast with the blog. So glad you are enjoying it!
Microbiologist brought to mind microwave (“How fast can you do this?”), microscope (“What is that little thing right there?”) and micromanage never mind. . . JUST KIDDING!!
Now I don’t know if you will slap me or hug me!
Okay, enough blather. I’ve got some items to fine-tune on an ornament, and all I want to do is read a bunch of blogs while sitting by the wood stove with my 3 cats.

And the Ornament Saga Continues

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in commissions, General | 4 Comments

The conversation between Mr. Communicator (aka The Customer) and The Artist (aka The California Artist) continues: (Please excuse the size jumps – can’t figure that out!)

Mr. Communicator:

I tend to over-communicate, but only to ensure it all gets said.

The Artist:

Quick, tell me if the back is okay! If it isn’t, I can wipe it off with turp before it begins to dry. I abbreviated. My printing looks childish, so it won’t bother me if you nix the back.

And the front has been repaired with the yellow ribbon, pedestal and goose added (and a plant, sort of rough right now). After this layer dries (and it doesn’t seem to need to dry completely as the first layer needed) I can add the American flag. And, I hope to tighten up things a bit more.

Mr. C:

I think the back is fine. It’s definitely needed to complete the ornament.
On the front of the porch, can you add the oval window on the front door?
And can you also add in the 2 white pillars that flank the front steps? I think they need to stand out a bit along with the supporting arches.
Also the sun burst above the top window is actually white. Can you just lighten that up on the next pass?
Good, yes, yes and yes.

Mr. C:

One last thing. It appears there’s no roof on the top of the extension to the left. Not sure how to do that because it’s behind the tree, but it does have a brown shingles roof.


Yes, I saw that and tried to coast. . . 😎
I answered the “good, yes yes and yes” too soon – here is a bit of disclaiming and whining and self-excusing just in case I can’t deliver on all of yesterday’s optimism.

The goose and pedestal look dumb because they are too small for my brushes. Will try again but may have to eliminate.
Didn’t see oval window on front door – hidden behind wreath! I’ll try the oval – if it doesn’t work, I’ll put the wreath.
That sunburst – I didn’t see it as white – only saw the dark spaces between the slats! Will lighten the slats around the dark spaces.
Will work on the porch posts to get them to appear better along with the “arch supports”.
All of this tiny stuff is really too small for my smallest brush, but I will go to Visalia tomorrow and see if I can locate a one-hair-brush. (You’re killing me!!)
Mr. C:

I know it’s a challenge and I’d apologize but I think you’ve already risen to the challenge!
I’ll let you decide about the goose and pedestal since you have the best view. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but you tell me.
This project is basically the antithesis of the big mural you just did!

More Ornament Eavesdropping

Posted by on Dec 21, 2011 in commissions | 2 Comments

The conversation between Mr. Communicator and The Artist (that’s me) about the custom ornament for Christmas continues.

Mr. Communicator:
That’s great news. The hunt for that thing took me forever, so I’m glad it made it. However you decide to paint it is fine by me.  It will have to be able to survive years of being on a Christmas tree.  Maybe there’s a lacquer or coating that can be put on after to give it some strength?
Best of luck on your show tomorrow.
Mr. C:
Thanks for the update.  I can already see the entire scene; it looks great thus far.
I don’t have any objection to you posting this.  I don’t know that Dad and Mom follow your blog, but doubt it since they’re not big blog readers.  It does make me nervous (most likely irrationally so) that it might ruin the surprise.  Is it something you could post after the holiday or is time of the essence?  Otherwise we could post it with a top secret status, just in case someone might recognize the house.
The Artist:
So glad you can recognize the elements – painting at the first stages always messes with my self-confidence.
No worries about the yellow ribbon – it is in the category of microscopic last details.
If I post the progress, I will say it is TOP SECRET and Do Not Utter A Word If You Think You Recognize This House! My blogging experience is that people love love love the posts that show the progression of work.
Mr. C:
Blog away. I think it’s safe to put it up.
The Artist:

This is now hanging from the fireplace mantle drying above the woodstove again.
I’m a little fuzzy on what to do on the left, behind the house. I copied what I saw in one of your photos, but wonder if I’m on the right track here.

More details will come with each successive layer. That is where I’ll straight some of my wobbly or crooked lines. I tried on a couple of these, but it just mushed everything up I touched! (It is weird to paint on glass and on roundness) I think there will be 2 more layers, and the address will happen on the next one. Maybe. Don’t know if I can paint the backside while the front is wet or vice versa!
Mr. C:

Your second pass has filled it in quite a bit. It’s coming together.

On the front of the porch are you able to add the American flag at the top and maybe the pedestal and goose figures at the bottom right of the steps?

Thanks for all the work thus far.  I’ve never been this excited to give a Xmas gift! (usually receiving is better than giving, no matter what they say!)

To be continued. . .

Ornament Eavesdropping

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in commissions | No Comments

Working with a customer via email or telephone without any face-to-face time is a great challenge. (By “great”, I mean both large and enjoyable.) Mr. Communicator and I are having so much fun with this process that I decided to share a bit of our conversations with you. The personal and mundane parts have been edited for your ease of reading. Enjoy eavesdropping here!

Mr. Communicator:
I realize there are just a few weeks left before Christmas, but I wanted to reach out to you to see 1) if that’s something you do (we’re not the National Christmas tree!), 2) if it’s something you could do before Christmas and 3) what it would cost. Don’t let this cause you any stress. If it can’t happen then I’ll just give them coal!
The Artist:
Let’s roll!
Mr. C:
While I’d never encroach on your artistic talents I figured I’d point out a few things on the house:
1 – Feel free to trim back some of the shrubbery under the windows and porch and fullness of the trees in the front yard to let the house stand out a bit more.  They probably all need a trim anyway! . . .
. . . 6 – Feel free to ignore all of my suggestions above, as your previous piece of the house is awesome and everything on your site is amazing.
The Artist:
Thanks for the suggestions, Mr. C. When I am chosen to do a custom piece of artwork, the most important thing to me is making the customer happy. So, any and all suggestions are welcomed! That is a frosty looking ornament – bet you had to go to a zillion stores. . . almost gives me a twitch to think of it. I’ll let you know when it arrives, and will photograph the process.
The Artist:
It is here in one piece! It was almost gift-wrapped in a silver box with a bow and then floating in a huge carton of fluffy paper. Whoa!
I was so nervous painting the ornament for the White House because what in the world would I do if I dropped it? Turned out it was plastic!!  😎
I will begin this Monday morning (have a show tomorrow). I’ll try the oil paint directly on the glass and see how it dries. Even if I put acrylic beneath it, it may scratch off, and because it is clear-ish, it will look dumb with a white blob showing through instead of the backside of the painting. We’ll just have to let your folks know it is fragile. . . no fingernails!
Clearly, this has been a long conversation. Guess I’ll leave you on this cliff-hanger and continue the story tomorrow.

Antithesis defined

Posted by on Dec 19, 2011 in commissions, General | 2 Comments

Mr. Communicator aptly pointed out that the ornament is the antithesis of the mural I just finished. Oh so spot on! The word means “opposite” or “in stark contrast to”.

I’ve tightened things up even more. First, the photo. Second, the list of thoughts.

  1. This thing is almost impossible to photograph. Can’t hold it in the light because both sides are wet; the flash is too reflective and wipes out some of the detail. But, I rose to the challenge, time and time again, both for you and for Mr. Communicator.
  2. It is wet on the back because it has the family name, address and years of living in this house. You don’t get to see that part. Remember, this is a secret operation!
  3. I found a smaller brush!  Must have been saving it for this very project.
  4. I may not have charged enough. On the other hand, I may have overcharged, because Mr. Communicator has had to listen to a fair amount of whining.
  5. Can you see the goose?
  6. Some of the fuzzy/wobbly looking lines are because the paint thickness varies and the light reflects off of it unevenly.
  7. It looks better in person.
  8. Isn’t my fireplace mantel/surround pretty? It is one of the 4 things I liked about this house when we bought it 13 years ago this very month.
  9. Notice the yellow ribbon.