Jana Botkin | Cabin Art

A California Artist's Show-and-Tell

Oct 24 2014

Seeking Inspiration in Mineral King

As a studio painter, I rely on my camera and memory. I’m continually seeking the best light, the most advantageous angle, the brightest colors, the most details and anything else that can be recorded. What is inspiration? Something that motivates me to take photos, to paint, to draw.

It was another beautiful day in Mineral King. (Not gonna call it “paradise” because of the drought.) Here is the way I take photos for painting later while in the studio.

Nice light and colors, Farewell Gap barely visible and the peaks around it completely hidden. Plus, the stream isn’t visible.

Now you can see the Gap and the stream. I wonder how much I’d have to distort the perspective to include them.

This is nice. Vandever is fully visible and there is some blue reflection in the stream. The trees don’t really look like fall, but the lack of color in the foliage and low water indicate the season. Do I really need to paint the Honeymoon Cabin? Maybe this scene is good on its own.

I want a closer look at the water and rocks. The growth around and across the scene is certainly unruly. Real life is quite messy. Have you noticed that?

This is better. More water, more peak, less tree. Or is less tree an improvement?? I have a personal bias toward vertical scenes. It is hard to be objective. Objectivity just might be impossible.

Forget it. Let’s go for a walk.

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Oct 23 2014

Finishing the Rocky Hill Antiques Mural, Part Three

Published by under commissions,Murals

We are waiting for the heat to end so I can finish the Rocky Hill Antiques mural. September passes. October arrives. The heat continues. FINALLY, last week, it mellowed from the 90s to the 80s. Practically sweater weather around here!

Wow, the mural is dusty and has some spider webs. No worries, I’m a country girl. “Girl”. Old girl. Never mind. An overall wearing man who works at Rocky Hill Antiques offered to back his pickup to the mural so I could paint from the tailgate. Perfect! He said he’d worked off scaffolding and ladders enough to know that it’s not easy. He was right, and I REALLY appreciated his help.

First step: draw the orange.

Can you see the chalk? When I backed up, I could see that the orange was too squished, so I added a bit to the right side. The leaves were also too short. They didn’t look bad, but my instructions were to follow a certain orange, not just go hog wild. (Guess I could say “off the reservation” since the mural contains the “Indian Outlaw”.)

First, I mixed some greens. There is a good dark green in that plastic jar. I didn’t put any on the palette because it dries out too fast that way.

First leaf finished, second leaf begun. Notice the headache bar from the pickup? I didn’t hit my head once!

Two leaves done! Now, time to mix the orange paint.

I premixed the basic orange in the plastic jar, then added white, yellow, 2 reds and a brown to the palette. By the way, the “palette” is a lid to a paint bucket.

Houston, we have a problem. The paints are transparent, or maybe the word is translucent. Whatever it is, they are see-through. This means with the orange paint that is mostly yellow placed on top of that blue, it goes all green! This is supposed to be a ripe orange, not one that is waiting for cool nights to arrive.

What am I going to do??

Come back on Monday, and I’ll show you. Why not tomorrow? Because Fridays are for Mineral King on this blog.

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Oct 22 2014

Finishing the Rocky Hill Antiques Mural, Part Two

Published by under commissions,Murals

I showed my favorite view of the potential revision/addition of the Rocky Hill Antiques mural to the owner. He still wanted the word “ANTIQUES” included. I tried to convince him that the word would change a mural into a sign, and there is plenty of signage at the business with no doubts at all as to what the business is about.

But, the owner requested the word ANTIQUES, so I showed him some alternatives. He liked this typestyle. I still thought the word didn’t belong in the orange.

How about if we move the type outside of the mural?

Finally, the owner said that would be okay, but he liked the larger orange.


Bigger orange, like this, minus the word in the orange, and added to the outer edge.

Phew. Now all I had to do was wait for the heat to abate.

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Oct 21 2014

Finishing the Rocky Hill Antiques Mural, Part One

Published by under commissions,General,Murals

Remember the mural on the side of Rocky Hill Antiques? I painted it last June. Here are the links to the posts about it:

Projecting A New Mural, Chapters two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight

The mural looked like this at the end.

We simplified it from the original label, which was full of words and a cellophane wrapped Sunkist orange. After simplifying, my customers decided it was too plain.

By that time, it was summer and definitely too hot to paint on a wall that collects heat all morning. There was much discussion, and eventually the owners decided they wanted an orange added with the word “ANTIQUES” on the orange.

This is Exeter, California, an orange-growing mecca, and this is an orange grower’s label.

I used the orange off a label provided by the store owner and Photoshop Elements to try to illustrate what I thought they were requesting.

They may have requested a larger orange, or perhaps I just decided to try one.

The word in the orange just doesn’t belong. Of course that is my opinion, not an absolute truth. The customers’ wishes are supposed to take precedence over the artist, or are they?? Hard to say. . . I am a hired painter, but I do have a little pride in my work.

Let’s look at my favorite version.

This suits me. However, it still didn’t suit the owners.

What’s an artist to do??

Wait. Wait for a better idea. Wait for the heat to abate. Wait for inspiration, for something.

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Oct 20 2014

Fancy Drawing of a Not Fancy Cabin

Published by under commissions,drawing,Wilsonia

This is the final drawing of the commissioned pencil drawing of a Wilsonia cabin. The customer chose “A”, asked that the sign size be reduced and that plenty of scraggly branches be added to that large tree in front that she affectionately referred to as “the old man”.

It was fun! Drawing cabins is one of the best parts of my business, Cabinart.

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Oct 17 2014

Looking For Red Leaves in Mineral King

Published by under Mineral King,Photography

No red leaves at the Honeymoon Cabin.

No red leaves here either.

Let’s go hiking and see if there are any red leaves further up the valley.

Yellow tunnel ahead – no red leaves there.

Entering the yellow tunnel – maybe there will be red leaves on the other side.

Yeppers, just above Soda Springs!

And at Franklin “falls” – wow, we need rain.

What are these red leaves? I think I ask this question every year, but when the leaves are green, I pay no attention whatsoever to this plant.

There it is again!

No red leaves on Farewell Gap. Plenty of bronze.

Reddish leaves on the way back down.

These yellow leaves were glowing.

I wonder if people who are surrounded by red leaves go in search of yellow leaves?

Did you know that there really is very little red in nature? It’s true!

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Oct 16 2014

Complicated Drawing of a Simple Cabin

Published by under commissions,drawing,Wilsonia

A nice lady wrote to me to ask if I would draw her Wilsonia cabin for her. She said it is plain, or perhaps she said “it’s not fancy”, but it means a lot to her family.

I knew which cabin it was. It wasn’t one that I planned to show in the upcoming book The Cabins of Wilsonia.  There are 214 cabins in Wilsonia, and there are lots of reasons that not every cabin made it in the book.

But, I have been accepting commissions to draw cabins in pencil since 1987. It’s what I do! My business is Cabin Art. 

So, I took photos of her cabin from many angles. It was hard to find the most interesting angle, and hard to see something special.

These aren’t the photos I ended up using, but these are like those “before” photos when someone gets a makeover. You know – out-of-date glasses, limp hair, no make up, bad light, old sweatshirt. (Substitute tied up hair and flannel shirt, and you’ve got a picture of me while painting.)


The customer requested a collage, which gives plenty of opportunity to dress up a picture. I did 2 versions and sent the sketches to her.

Come back on Monday to see which she chose and how it turned out!

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Oct 14 2014

A Well-Organized Show in Visalia

Published by under Events,the business of art

The organizers provided pop-up tent-tops, lunch and handled all the filthy lucre.

I began the day with high expectations and much optimism.

The pop-up tent was 10′x10′ in theory. In reality, it tapered inward, so instead of fitting all 6 of my display screens, only 5 would fit. So, quite a few paintings didn’t make it. Still, I have a TON of paintings.

There were 3 or 4 blocks of these tents with umbrellas in the middle of the street, because it was hot and shade was very welcome.

After setting up, I went exploring down the street. (or was that up the street? I walked North on Garden, so I think it would be “up”) This is GORGEOUS work by my amazing friend Nikki.

This was a simple booth with 3 different books for sale. (Hi Carole and Irene!) I thought the display was EXCELLENT. I wonder who won the best booth prize??

An hour before the show was advertised as open to the public, there were VIP guests. Except there weren’t. It was a nice idea, but just meant we had an easy first hour.

Then the public began to arrive. I saw many old friends, former and current drawing students, met new people, and had my sister with me for about 2 hours.

People were nice, and many of the comments and conversations were either puzzling or funny.

“I have 2 lemon trees in my back yard.” 

“Oh?” (What is an appropriate response? “Great! Want to buy a painting of a lemon?”)

Or, “Oh my gosh, I thought those were pictures!!” (usually pronounced “pitchers”)

Couldn’t really say what I thought, which was, “They are pictures. Did you mean photographs?”

“Oh my gosh, that’s $50??!”

“Uh, yes, it is an original oil painting, Doofus.”

Nope, I didn’t say that either.

In conclusion, I don’t think my work is suitable for a street fair in Visalia, no matter how well organized it is.

Visalia is the largest city in Tulare County, and it would be good to have my work in a place with a greater population than Three Rivers. However, I don’t know what would be the right venue.

More will be revealed in the fullness of time. . .

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Oct 10 2014

Feels Like Summer, Looks Like Fall in Mineral King

Published by under Mineral King,Photography

Last weekend the fall colors were beginning to show in Mineral King. Weird, because it sure still felt like summer. Rather than blather on about the endless heat, I’ll just shut my yap and share some photos.

See that reddish tree? I wonder if it the same one I spent a weekend chasing back in 2012. 2012 was certainly more colorful, but it is still early.

Instead of red leaves, there is weird red stuff on the bark.

Still lots of green in the leaves.

I’ll save the other photos for next Friday, because Fridays are for Mineral King on this blog.


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Oct 08 2014

Taste The Arts

Published by under Events,General,Oil Paintings


Blooming Oranges #2, 8×8″, oil on wrapped canvas, $125

Taste The Arts

Saturday, October 11, 2014

11 AM – 5 PM

Downtown Visalia 


Taste the Arts is the name of a street fair type event in Visalia. It is very extensive, with lots of opportunities to try different methods of making art. There will be demonstrations in  spray paint, stenciling and murals, along with lots of artists exhibiting and selling their work.

Here is their link: Taste The Arts

I participated in an early version of this show about 2 years ago. The Arts Consortium is the most organized group I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and I expect this event to be great!

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