Lisa’s Lake House, a Commissioned Oil Painting

Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 in commissions | No Comments

Lisa’s family has a lake house in Minnesota, somewhere northern and treed and lakey and gorgeous. She asked me to paint it.

After briefly considering a request to be flown there to see it with my own eyes, I came to my senses and said “Yes, of course I can work from your photos.”

(I have yet to find a customer who will fly me to her lake house in Michigan or Minnesota, family estate in South Africa or Brazil, beach house on Cape Cod or the Outer Banks, log home in Montana or Colorado, et cetera. What am I doing wrong here??)

Lisa wrote me some very thorough notes. We emailed often when she was at the lake house. She took photos. We spoke on the phone. We wrote a few more emails.

Then, I did a sketch for her.

We emailed a bit more. She mailed some more photos. I took copious notes.

Then, I primed a canvas in the orange that was already on my palette. Orange is in the middle of the dark to light spectrum, so it is rumored to be a good priming color.

I emailed her a photo similar to this and warned her not to be scared by the sloppiness. I’ve heard that watching a painting happen is similar to watching sausage being made. Couldn’t prove it by me; however, I do know that my paintings begin their lives looking a little loosey-goosey, sloppy-woppy, ugly-bugly.

Put on your rose-colored glasses, willya for Pete’s Sake?

(Who is Pete?)

Mineral King is a Happening Place

Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Mineral King | 2 Comments

Mineral King is a happening place in the summer, especially in August, and most especially on weekends.

The Mineral King Preservation Society has two annual events. One was called the “hoe-down”, and was a square dance. It developed into a concert with stories of MK history, and it came with dinner.

Have a look:

Okay, dinner wasn’t a big deal – just sandwiches, fruit and cookies. No one complained, and nothing was left over.

Keith and Esther call themselves “Mankin Creek” and they are FANTASTIC musicians.

Hi Mary – glad you were having such a good time!

Can’t remember these peoples’ names, but they have been camping in MK for years and years.

Hi Jenna! Nice family portrait!

And then the moon rose. It was a wonderful August evening. Maybe you’d like to come next year!

Last Chance to See Wendy’s Awesome Pencil Drawings

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in drawing, Lessons | 4 Comments

Now there’s a title and a half!

Remember my amazing and very advanced drawing student, Wendy Miller?

Her show ends this coming weekend. The last day to view it at the Courthouse Gallery (at 125 South B Street in Exeter) will be September 29, 2013. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are some sneak peeks at a few of her amazing pencil drawings. Some of the titles may have changed. (We had a fun brain-storming session in drawing lessons to come up with scores of entertaining titles, but Wendy may have chosen differently for the show.)

Does This Dress. . .?

Inside Out

(If you have southwestern leanings, this picture would be wonderful in your home – it is small, and I am sorry I don’t know the prices or size!)

Not Moving

(If you are even half as smitten by cats as I am, you understand this title.)

Not The Gateway

(This is because it is officially the “Pumpkin Hollow” bridge.)


(Did I mention that Wendy works in colored pencil too?)

These BELONG in your kitchen, dontcha think??

Reader’s Corner

(I would have called it The Knitting Chair myself!)

If any of you would like to purchase any of these drawings, I will connect you with the Awesome Wendy Miller. 

Mineral King Rocks

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Mineral King | 2 Comments

Some people collect rocks. Some people learn about them, join clubs, polish them, and make jewelry. Some people notice shapes, some notice textures, others notice patterns, and I notice colors and sparkles. Here is a collection of photos of many rocks found through the years in Mineral King. They are all Leverites – “leave ‘er right where you found her”.

These were all found on the way to Soda Springs by people who notice shapes.

Galina, the stuff the Mineral King miners got excited about.

Shape, color, patterns all appear in this one rock.

The color is turquoise but the rock is not (and I’m not telling where!)

Anything white, sparkly and sort of crystalish gets called “quartz” by me. I don’t know the difference between quartz and mica.

Multi-colored and sparkly – got my attention! This is part of some mine tailings in White Chief.

This obsidian was found on Empire and must have been traded with other Indians from the east side of the Sierra for the making of arrowheads.

Oh yes, we heart Mineral King. It rocks.

Responding to the Voices in My Head

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in commissions, the business of art | 2 Comments

That’s a scary title, is it not?

“Sisters” took a long time to paint. The customer hired me because she liked my precision, and she gave me all the time necessary to complete this to both of our satisfaction.

When I paint, I listen to lots of things. There is music, podcasts, talk radio, books on tape, and voices in my head, including my own.

An aside: Someone said we should talk to ourselves the way we talk to our best friends. You know how sometimes you say things to yourself like, “How could you be so dumb?” (Maybe you don’t – please just play along for a moment. . .) If your best friend did something dumb, you’d be more likely to say, “That’s okay – stuff happens and we can learn from it.” Or, “Don’t worry about it – it is a small thing that can be fixed.”

This is what I have chosen to believe and follow:

  1. I am a studio painter who works from photos.
  2. Good paintings take a long time to finish.
  3. Precision and accuracy are attractive.
  4. I love detail.

Here are what the voices in my head have been saying, and here are my new responses in light of my recent decision (see the September 12 post):

VOICE #1 – “You are drawing with your paintbrush”.

Me – “So what?”

VOICE #2 – “If you paint standing up, you’ll paint with more energy.”

Me – “If my foot hurts, I will paint with more pain.”

VOICE #3 – “You need to listen to cool music while you paint, jazz or classical”.

Me – “This is a great time to listen to talk radio, podcasts about the business of art, interviews with artists and authors and inspirational speakers, sermons I’ve missed from my pastor, and audible books.”

VOICE#4 – “Real artists don’t paint from photos.”

Me – “Okay, I’ll be a fake artist.”

VOICE #5 – “You need to step back from your painting to see how it reads from a distance.”

My – “Thanks for the reminder. I am so into the detail that I forgot!”

Loves Cotton, Loves To Knit, oil on wrapped canvas, 8×8″, $100


Drooling Over Other Artists’ Work

Posted by on Sep 17, 2013 in General, Sources of inspiration | No Comments

On September 12 I posted about finally deciding how I want to paint.

There is still some inner conflict as the zillions of conflicting instructional voices fade away.

There is also a tremendous amount of inspiration. This is serious realism. Look at these paintings by artists whom I admire greatly (and please do click on the links to visit their websites):

Rainbow Row, watercolor, 17×35″, $3450,  Carrie Waller

Oriana Kacicek, Pointe Shoe No. 19, 6×8, oil on linen panel, $450

Water Glass With Lemon, 18×24, oil on canvas, $1070,  Nance Danforth

I contacted each one of these artists for permission to show their images and link to their websites on this posting. Each one of them is so genuinely nice, responsive, happy to help.

I’ve GOT to get my prices and sales up so I can own something by each one of them. . . or maybe I could sell my car. Never mind, I don’t think that would do the trick.

A Secret Mineral King Hike in Photos

I don’t want to tell the world where this hike is because I want it to stay trail-less. So, I’ll show you photos. If you know where it is and you choose to comment, don’t write the name, okay? Thanks!

 I hiked the first 5 miles wearing my old Tevas. Isn’t that amazing? I recently discovered that I probably have Plantar Fasciosis instead of Fasciitis, and wearing Tevas sort of proved it to me. (You can learn about it here.)

That is an Explorer’s Gentian gone mad – usually they have 5 petals.

Time to switch to hiking boots, leave the trail and begin the upness.

Looking back.

Are you tired of your trails going up and up and up? Leave the trail and find out what up and up and up really feels like!

And up some more.

Very uppity place.

Can we stop now? I want to savor this place.

No really, can we just sit here for about an hour?

A BRAND NEW-TO-ME FLOWER!! Anyone know what this is??

No, really, can we stay here?

Nope. Miles to go before we sleep.

Hey! Stonehenge!

Okay, we are finally leaving the Uppalachians and heading home.

More of my favorite late summer wildflower, this time with the proper number of petals.

Wait for me! I have to change back into my Tevas! Thirteen miles total (thank you, Cowboy Bert, for the loan of that very nifty Garmin device which told us that our highest point was 10,800′) and 8 of them hiked in old Tevas that I bought used on eBay in 2007. Incomprehensible, but I think my foot is finally on its way to healing!

I Have Now Chosen

I began oil painting on March 8, 2006. Sometimes it is hard, sometimes it is really hard, once in awhile it is fun. Sometimes I even like a painting or two.

Oak Grove Bridge, 6×6″, private collection, 2013

2 classes at Michael’s (the craft store, NOT my husband!), 1/2 semester at the local junior college, reading books, watching videos, reading websites, following artists’ blogs, looking at paintings, asking friends lots of questions, painting and painting some more. . . what am I trying to accomplish here? Just trying to “find my voice”.

Paint looser. Paint tighter. Hold your brush like this. Stand to paint. Use only flat brushes. Use only the primary colors. Use every color you can afford. Never use sap green. Sap green is the best thing that ever happened to a palette. Never use black. Of course you need black! Paint on location. Forget about painting on location until you are further along. Just get the impressions down. Decide which edges need to be sharp. Paint in layers. Finish a painting with thick paint all in one session. Copy the masters. Work from your own photos. (“All realistic artists either work from photos or they lie about it”. –Jack White) Working from photos is horrible – no real artist would ever do that!

The conflicting noises are confusing me tremendously. Secretly (well, not any more now that it is on the blog), I’ve just wanted to return to the quiet of my studio and draw with my beloved pencils. Black, white, shades of gray, detail to my heart’s content, straight edges, measuring tools, magnifying glasses – PRECISION.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to a book called Start, by Jon Acuff. He delves into the stages that used to accompany a person’s decades: 20s – Learning, 30s – Editing, 40s – Mastering,  50s – Harvesting, and 60s – Guiding. (Sorry, those of you in your 70s and 80s – Jon ignores you, but I’m guessing that Guiding or perhaps Super Guiding might be the role then.)

No longer are people doing these steps in these particular decades. Instead, people are starting new careers and learning new skills at all ages. (I was 45 when I started oil painting, in case you are wondering.)

So, I’ve re-entered my 20s when it comes to oil painting, struggling through the Land of Learning.

A week or two ago, I decided I must have entered the Land of Editing. Why? Glad you asked! (All interviews either say that or “Great question!” It is better than saying “you know” twelve times a minute.)

I have decided that I WANT to paint detail and precision, using lots of layers, following similar principles that I apply in pencil drawing. I am editing out the noise that does not move me closer toward this goal. If I have to raise my prices, so be it. The paintings will be worth it.

Denis Millhomme is one of my painting heros. When I asked him to teach me, he said he didn’t know how, and that if he drew, he’d draw just like me. I’ve wanted to paint like Denis from the beginning of this journey into oil, and I know I never will (he has a huge head start!), but I can stop trying to be like all those painters who slam them out quickly. Denis doesn’t have to, and neither do I. So there, all you noise-making folks. I get to choose how I want to paint, and I believe I have now chosen.

Worth It!

Worth It!

This is one of the paintings I did where I took all the time I wanted, striving for perfection. I like it a ton, and so do the wonderful people who bought it. (Try not to lick your screen, ‘k?)


Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Thoughts | No Comments

Final Tuesday Cruiseday

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Going Places | 3 Comments

Yep, I think I’ve taken this as far as possible. There was one other port, a quick stop in Victoria, Canada, and then a few more days at sea. (Why don’t people say “at ocean”? It is more accurate.)


The ship employs people to do stuff like this to keep passengers entertained.



I am more entertained by sitting here with my Glay-see-uh colored knitting.



I’m also very entertained by walking in circles on the uppermost decks. It is 1/3 of a mile around the whole shebang.



We often passed by this movie screen where this marmot or groundhog kept shouting “Alan”. (I have no earthly or oceanly idea. . .)



Look at my cute little Mama! She was still overwhelmed by the size of our floating hotel/mall/restaurant! This was at the docks in Victoria.


That city is a knock-out – the architecture, the gardens, the sunshine – Wowsa!

See what I mean??


That green sail boat was offering a “3 hour tour”. No takers in our crowd. They need a new slogan. (We all grew up watching Gilligan’s Island.)


Hydrangeas at the Empress Hotel just captivated me.


Shop windows in the Empress captivated my sisters.


This fireman statue captivated my bro-in-law, the chaplain to the Visalia Fire Dept.


Trail Guy and I had a few maps, and this was a piece of architecture I just HAD TO SEE. It was wonderful on the outside, but our time was short, so we opted out of the inside tour.


Totem poles, historic structures, fancy-pants architecture – Victoria has it all.


This wants to be painted. (On canvas! I wouldn’t paint the rocks!)

I really do go nuts over beautiful architecture. I don’t make it to cities very often, and am in awe when I do go.

img_3150 img_3151 img_3155

Back on board, we circled the decks several dozen more times.


We entertained ourselves by watching Dave Letterman play miniature golf.


Golf is boring, but being with my family takes the edge off.

15Around and around and around on the upper decks. Good thing that I love being outside and the color blue.

Finally, the cruise ended. We were instructed to put our luggage in the hall the night before. This is my trusty Samsonite, which has accompanied me to China twice. I can always find it in the sea of black rolies, always. It looks HUGE when stored in my workshop at home; next to other people’s suitcases, it is a cute little old thing. Doesn’t it make you smile? It does me! (Or are you smiling because I am finally going to be quiet about this cruise?)