Random Thoughts from a Chaotic Mind

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in the business of art, Thoughts | 2 Comments

We are having an extreme family emergency, and it is causing me great distress and lack of focus.  If I don’t go into detail, perhaps I can live in denial. If you are interested, you may read about it here. (my brother-in-law) Meanwhile, random thoughts from a chaotic mind. . . If I dabble in this and that, it has to add up to productivity eventually, dontcha think?


This is what it looks like to drive in the countryside of Tulare County in Central California. Doesn’t it just make you wonder why anyone lives here? Or how an artist can persevere to find things to draw and paint?


This is the place where the Orange Cove Lions meet weekly. Their scheduled speaker cancelled, so they called me. Sure, I’ll speak to your group! What a great group of guys – I felt right at home. Citrus farmers, rural Central California folks – my kind of peeps.


And this is what my drawing table looks like right now. 2 drawings in progress, working from many photos, adding a little colored pencil, all because it was too overcast to see to paint. The sun came out, so I took this photo, moved into the workshop to paint, and then, bye-bye sunshine. What’s a Central California artist to do?


In other news, I messed with this painting a little more. A bit more light on the water and brighter colors in the flowers.

Is it finished yet? Will I finish anything – a drawing? a thought? a task? Can’t think, can draw.


Studio Painter with an Inferiority Complex

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Oil Paintings, Three Rivers | No Comments

Studio. Workshop. Painting workshop. The building where I paint.

Who cares? It is indoors, with consistent light, an easel that holds still, and nothing blowing around.  I like being a studio artist. There is a snobbery out there in Art World about plein air painting being superior. It is a specialized skill, and I admire people who can produce good work in a short amount of time with light that changes and changes and changes.

I am not one of those people.


The painting on the left is 8×8″; the one on the right is 6×6″. This is the Honeymoon Cabin in Mineral King. I paint it and it sells so I paint it again. Any questions?

Sorry. That sounded belligerent. Perhaps I feel a bit inferior when I compare myself to those awesome people who can paint on location.

Comparison isn’t a good thing. It is right there with perfectionism in terms of wiping out one’s confidence.


I’m painting my favorite bridge again. This will be done with brighter than normal colors, as I did it last time. This time it will be 11×14″, not a square. Paintings that turn out well restore my confidence, in spite of the inferiority complex about being a studio painter. If I tried to paint this in plein air, I’d either get bitten by a rattlesnake or run over. It’s scary enough just taking photos of it!



This is a set of 3 6×6″ paintings, all done with brighter than normal colors because it makes me happy to mix those kinds of colors. This is layer #1 and there will be at least 2 more layers added to each painting.

From left to right: Lake Kaweah, Moro Rock/Alta Peak, Blossom Peak with the North Fork of the Kaweah River. (Long title, small painting) All three are Three Rivers scenes.

These little paintings take a long time to do, but because of their small size, their value is perceived as a bargain. Often, people mistake them for 4×4″ and expect to pay $30 each.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Each one takes probably 5 hours to paint in order to get it to the level of detail and precision that I like.

Sorry. There’s that bad attitude again. Sigh.

Studio Painting, Phew!

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Oil Paintings | 2 Comments

What a relief to be painting in the studio. The light is consistent, I’m not cooking in the sun, and nothing blows away.


This: IMG_0689becomes this:


It will dry awhile, and I’ll make it better. Those flowers were sure fun – it is rare to just put bright colors down in a world of browns, grays and greens.


becomes this:


It will dry a bit, and then I’ll work on it some more. The colors look a little wonky when they are shiny because of being wet. And there are some messy parts in the foreground that I will have to decipher and then interpret. This painting and the barn are somewhat loose interpretations of reality, but those who have been there will know the scenes.


Drawing Lessons as Apprenticeships?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Lessons, Reading, Sources of inspiration | One Comment

While reading Jeff Goins’ The Art of WorkI received a bit of reinforcement and validation for my teaching people how to draw. (Thanks, Jeff!)

All along I have said that the only ones who don’t learn how to draw from me are the ones who quit too soon.

Jeff reinforced that thought with this:

An apprenticeship is designed to give you guidance from an expert, knowledge in a given field, and experience in a challenging environment . . . It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to not only find but to finish an apprenticeship.

It makes me a little squirmy to consider myself an expert at teaching people how to draw, but if I am not an expert after 21 years, then I must just be a poser. If that is the case, how did all these people learn to draw so well??

End of the Trail

The End of the Trail, drawing in pencil by Kelvin Farris

It does take courage. Many people have come to me quietly on the side to say how nervous they are. I do my best to explain that I will help them in any way I can. The reason they are taking lessons is to learn, not to show me what they already can do!

I don’t teach drawing lessons the way P.E. teachers “taught” sports when I was a kid. If you “got it”, then you were praised and given extra encouragement, respect and perks. If you didn’t “get it”, you were yelled at. “Try harder!” is not teaching. “Don’t be afraid of the ball” is not teaching. “Run faster” is not teaching.

Teaching is breaking down difficult and complicated material into small and manageable steps, while explaining exactly how and why, and then giving ways to practice those steps until they make sense. It is showing the way, and when one approach doesn’t make sense, the good teacher finds another way to demonstrate. It is giving the student the chance to practice as much as necessary until he is comfortable and understands the process.

No deadlines, no homework (unless requested), no tests, no pressure and certainly no yelling (and no piano recitals either) in drawing lessons, just learning. Each student goes at his own pace working on the subject matter of his own choosing.

The Art of Work: A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do by Jeff Goins may be just what I need to validate my choice of art as a profession in spite of being in the poorest part of one of the least educated counties in California. I am a Central California artist!

The Art of Work and Drawing Lessons

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Lessons, Reading, Sources of inspiration | No Comments

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial, pencil on paper, size forgotten, price undetermined, drawn because I love to draw, love this piece of history and love this architectural style. Any questions? Use the contact button above and I’ll do my best to answer.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins is at the top of my current stack of books. I discovered Jeff’s writing a few years ago when he wrote about how words actually mean things, and then he composed a list of currently misused words, such as “literally” when the right word is “figuratively”. . . “He literally shot himself in the foot.” Oh yeah? Is he able to walk anymore? (That’s really gross, and I know it because I saw it on a slide in a CCW class.)

Besides enjoying Jeff’s writing, the subject matter of this book grabbed my attention. “A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do” sounds profound to me at a time when I am questioning the wisdom of pursuing art as a career. (This has been a regular question throughout my career – it’s part of a cycle rather than a real crisis.)

In the chapter about apprenticeships there are several sentences that really rang my bell (figuratively, not literally, because I don’t actually have a bell). He quoted Ellen Frank, a master craftsman (craftswoman? craftsperson? or “man” as in “human”?) from East Hampton, New York who runs an atelier.

They [her students} also acquire validation. It’s not teaching through critique. It’s not teaching through judging their own work. It’s teaching through saying, ‘Yes, and why not try this?’ and ‘Yes, can you push this farther?’

That’s what I strive for in teaching drawing lessons! That’s it exactly!

I show people what I know, how the tools work best, how to recognize what might make a good drawing, how to start, how to push through the messy parts. I help them make their own work better by sharing techniques, encouraging them to pursue the subjects that they love (not everyone is enamored by old architecture, shocking as that may be to realize) and cheering them on when they feel stalled.

I love to teach people how to draw. It feels a little weird to think of it as “apprenticeships”, but that is sort of what is happening, one hour per week and 4 students at a time.



Fake Painting on a Garden Tour

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Events, the business of art, Thoughts | No Comments

“Fake painting”? What means this?

It means that I was supposed to be painting plein air, and although I was painting plein air (which means on location), I have no intention of considering those paintings completed. I am a studio painter, and painting on location is a special skill for someone else.

It is sort of like handing a ukele to a violin player and saying, “Here! You’re a musician! Play this and have fun!”

It might have been more fun if it wasn’t 90º. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t productive either.


I set up on the porch in hopes of seeing and completing this view.


I’m in the shade, squinting out into the light, wondering what colors I’m really mixing.


Okay, never mind. I’ll finish this in the studio. Let’s try another location. If I’m out in the sun, maybe I’ll be able to see my colors better. So what if it is hot? I’m a Central California artist, and we can take the heat. Otherwise, we’d move to a more sensible location in the state.


Never mind. Let’s take a break and listen to some music in the shade where there is a breeze. I can finish this in my studio later.


There were some beautiful flowers. Maybe I should become a plein air photographer.


Guess I need to spend some time in the studio cleaning up those messy paintings. Someone else can play the ukele and stand in the heat and do plein air messy stuff because I have a studio and am not afraid to use it.


Painting on a Garden Tour

Posted by on Apr 21, 2015 in Events, Oil Paintings, Three Rivers | No Comments

Back in March, I visited a home in Three Rivers that was scheduled to be part of a home and garden tour. The organizers believed that having artists painting in the gardens would add some interest to the tour (and were hoping for sales to raise more money for the school.)

I am a studio painter, not one who paints on location. People who are supposed to know these things say that all painters should practice painting on location. Why? So we can really really appreciate our studios, that’s why!

After looking through the photos from my private pre-tour, I chose 3 views and did an underpainting of each one.

“Underpainting” might not be a real word. It is the first messy layer so that later layers aren’t spent perfecting shapes. It is the same thing as my first steps in drawing – sizes and locations, blocking in, main objects first. (Gotta paint the dog before you paint the fleas!)


The top 2 paintings are the house and barn. I wasn’t kidding when I said “messy”. (The bottom painting is my favorite bridge, yes, again, because I always have one of those going.)


This one is the first layer of the view from the front porch of the house.

Good thing you already know I can paint, or you might be afraid.

11 Items in My Portfolio Life

Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 in drawing, the business of art | 2 Comments

“Portfolio life” is a term I found in Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work.

Sequoia 4 seasons

Collage of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 4 Seasons, pencil and colored pencil, private collection

Portfolio life doesn’t mean being a jack of all trades, or being the master of one, or being ADHD. It means your work life is full of variety that all relates to and supports your chosen line.

Indeed! Forsooth! (an archaic word for “indeed”)

Check out this list:

  1. Blogger – writer, photographer, a tiny bit computerish
  2. Oil painter
  3. Pencil artist
  4. Drawing teacher
  5. Muralist
  6. Sign painter
  7. Bookkeeper/office manager/marketing director
  8. Web site upkeeper
  9. Author (So what if it is a picture book – it has words!!)
  10. Publisher
  11. Public speaker

“Sign painter”? Only under duress. I’ll let you know more when there is more to let you know.

Item #6 may be more accurately titled “Odd Jobber”. . . I’ve painted a sign for a houseboat, Christmas ornaments, old windows, umbrellas, quilt patches, and saltillo tiles. Those are just the odd jobs I can remember on the spur of the moment.

A Central California artist has got to do what she’s got to do.

It is an honor to be thought of when someone needs an artist.

Anyone else out there living a “portfolio life”?

Maybe I should go vacuum the studio or pull a few weeds. (Should I add janitor and groundskeeper to the list?)

Tax free photos

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Sources of inspiration | 2 Comments

April 15 causes me pain. In case it affects you the same way, here is something nice to look at. You don’t have to pay any taxes on it.

IMG_0652 IMG_0654 IMG_0658

Spring on the Farm Photos For Inspiration

When we visited Cowboy Bert and Mrs. Cowboy Bert, the animals were all vying for my attention.

Remember this little Baby Cakes?

Look at her now:


Here: look at her where you can get a better sense of scale:


Still a bottle baby, along with the white one who is a bit younger and smaller.

There is also a short horse and a couple of tall dogs. Gets a person a bit confused about proportion and perspective. (short horse = pony?)

IMG_0634 IMG_0639

They wouldn’t pose for me so that I can show you the 2 over/undersized critters together.


New Hampshire Reds are beautiful chickens. This is a hen, not a rooster.


When the sheep all talk, they sound like people imitating sheep. There are bass, tenor, alto and soprano, and they make really funny sounds.



Scooter is my favorite of all 4 cats. Cats are my favorite of all the animals. The kind of farm I grew up on had trees, a dog or two, and always cats. No sheep talking like people, no short horses, and certainly no hens imitating roosters. Makes me feel like a city girl! I’ve often thought that growing up on the kind of farm I did only meant that everything was inconvenient, I got used to wide spaces without buildings, I learned to plan ahead for shopping trips (oh how I hated going to town unless it included a stop at the library), we were not dependent on neighbor kids for fun, we learned to drive young (ever driven a spray rig that has only a clutch and a brake, no accelerator?) and we ate as many oranges, olives, plums and walnuts as we wanted.  Hmmm, maybe there was a pig on that farm who looked a lot like me.

 P.S. I wrote this blog with my sweet kitty Perkins by my side. We weren’t allowed to have animals in the house growing up. Guess I’ve kicked over the traces of my raising in that aspect, but I still eat as many oranges as I want.