Saturday, October 17, 2020

After a Good Day of Rain

A rainy Saturday morning and at 8:30 a.m., it’s still dark and dreary. I can see glimpses of the brook between the spindles of the deck railing. Two days ago, I had to go out on the deck to see any water as there were only a few puddles pooled between small rocks. Now, with a second day of rain, the water gushes over bigger rocks, its whitewater mesmerizing as it rushes downward on its way to the lake.

Just before moving beyond my sight, at a more level area, the water is a highlighted silvery blue-gray moving over darkness.

Yellowed leaves of the deciduous trees across the brook are now taking on a more orange hue, while the leaves on this side are just now turning yellow creating a mottled look. (These closer trees are surrounded more by bigger hemlock and pine and get less sun.)

I love this view. When I first moved here, I was asked why I didn’t use one of the spare bedrooms for my office/work area. Why would I want to be in a smaller room when I can sit here and have this view? This is my comfort spot, my oasis. When I get stressed, I can take a few minutes and just look out at this beauty breathing in… and breathing out… Ahhh… sigh… so nice.

My attention pulls in as an acorn hits the deck and bounces against the glass slider with a loud crack making me jump. Acorns, small oak branches, and pine needles have been dropping for days and are now joined by pinecones. I hear them hitting the roof before rolling off. Sometimes those acorns hit so hard! Goodness, it’d hurt to get clobbered by one, and I think about that when I’m putting up and taking down the bird feeders.

The purple deck floor makes a contrasting canvas for nature’s work of art. The patterns, textures, and autumn colors grab my attention. I’m intrigued by the randomness of where and how they all land. Some pieces are off by themselves, some are stuck together in small groups, while others clump together in a bigger pile.  I go out with the camera and take a dozen photos. Each photo could be its own framed piece if I so desired.

I took 54 photos, deleted 24. Then when I went to post this, friends from other towns were posting snow pictures. Yikes! Not ready for that.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Sometimes I Just Have to Walk Away and Call It Done

"In Foggy Sunlight," 10 1/2 x 14 inches pastel painting on BFK Rives paper.
Off and on for an hour in the studio. First, I wiped off the lower half to do all the shadows over. Ugh, I hate wasting so much pastel! Then I laid in the grass color with a yellow green and yellow. I added purple to the distant mountains and under the shadows.

The sunlight streaks were such a challenge! I love doing fog, but this one got the better of me. I washed my hands a few times… every time I tried to work with the sunlight streaks. But I continued to struggle with this painting.

I worked and worked and went over and over it. I’m at a loss on how to make it better, and I’m fighting off orneriness. I so wanted to like this, do a good job. It’s just OK. In the end, I went over the sky with white, then defined the tops of the of the trees to lay in front of the sky.

I’m giving up. I have to move on to other paintings. I’m sorry, Toni. I so wanted to honor the photo she gave me permission to use as inspiration.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Caught in Limbo or is it Fear of Failure


Rain beats on the roof and deck. The dark morning hasn’t gotten much lighter since I came out of the bedroom at 6 a.m. Across the brook, yellow leaves create a brighter palette behind the dark of hemlock branches, tree trunks, and paler, still-green other leaves. Not as bright as yesterday, though, as it’s a dreary day.

The scene looks so pretty, but photographs of this view come out blah. Not enough contrast, I guess. I like it, though, it helps create a wall around my property, my nest of safety, my little oasis, my place where I can try to shut out the world. Looking out the back, with the trees reaching high, I feel snuggled down deep in a nest.

 The other side of the nest, looking out the front windows, is across the street with the trees reaching tall behind the neighbors’ field and house. Tall trees on both sides of the house make the nest complete.

This reminds me of how I felt as a child. I could stand in the road in front of my house, and the tops of the trees surrounding our five-house neighborhood always made me feel like we lived in a nest. Going beyond the nest walls was stepping away from my comfort zone. (But that was only partly true because I always felt safe going out in the woods down back of my house, and back then, there were acres and acres of woods. There still is.)

Today’s home, I can also consider a nest within a nest. The house sits on a rise with the area on all four sides at a lower level. The back slopes off to the brook. The two sides of the house slope to a depression/water run-off from the road to the brook (during wet times), and the front yard slopes down to the road. Nest within a nest. I feel safe here and have great neighbors.

Morning pages done, Tuesday trash out by the curb, a few photos taken in the rain, and I am in limbo until it’s time for grocery shopping. That means I don’t want to get involved in a project.

I’ve been avoiding the studio. About the only time I went in there this week was when I brought the pots of lantana in from summering outside (and then I refused to look at the easels.) I’m scared to tackle painting again although I think about it all the time. I go through this occasionally after I have a … disappointing … session with painting.

When I go in the studio, I just automatically go to one of the three easels. Sometimes I intend to work on one painting but will find myself standing in front of another. Easel one holds my oldest in-process painting. Lately, I seem to drift to the other paintings. The painting on easel three is finished and I could take that off and set up for a new one.

But it’s the painting on easel two that’s causing me the heartache. It needs a delicate touch dealing with layers fog, sunlight, and shadow. There’s fog behind and around and sunlight streaking through and over. The last time I worked on it, I was so disappointed in myself, but when I did a quick peek the next day, I know I can salvage it.

However, there’s a fear inside me. Yes, I need this painting to be done as I have new ones waiting to be born. But there’s another issue, too, holding me back. The studio needs a good reorganizing. I have pastels, pencils, and photos all over the three workspaces and more.

It’s not just putting the supplies away and cleaning up, so I can start new. I purchased more pastel colors over the summer and still haven’t made room in the pastel trays. It seems I never have enough blues and greens – both of those colors are at two drawers each and now I need another drawer to expand both colors. (It’s a little aggravating because I did a total re-vamp last winter.)

Am I making excuses? Sounds like it. Why? Because I’m afraid I’ll fail, that I’ll not do a good enough job on this current problem-child painting. There! I admitted it. I’m afraid of failing.

There’s always the chance a painting won’t work out. There’s a few I let sit too long, lost interest, and didn’t finish. It’s one thing if the inspiration has come from one of my photos, but when I’ve received permission to use someone else’s photo, I feel obligated to do a good job and finish. Not that it really matters – but it matters to me!

So, I’m trying to summon up courage to face the fear and finish the job. Of course, right now, I have to go grocery shopping. Wish my luck – on both projects, ha-ha.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Finishing 'Shasta Days'

Shasta Days

Pastel painting, 9 x 12 on Art Spectrum Colourfix, $90 unframed

With more photos showing up for inspiration, I have to get in-process paintings off the easel, so this morning I was determined to finish this. I started by adding some light and dark gray to define petals and add more shadowing, but I mostly used a tortillon to smooth the edges of each petal. It was a lot of intricate work.

Sometimes I angle whatever tool I’m using too much and my middle fingernail scratches on the paper. Oops. I readjust. Then I took the little triangular sponge tool and worked the background in around some of the petals which helped sharpen the outer petal lines more. But that goes against all I ever heard about painting in that you do the background first, then layer on the rest working closer to the viewer.

Another issue is the pastel doesn’t always cover the original sketched pencil lines of the petals. No matter how many layers I added, some of the lines show.

In the end, I used bright white to highlight petals and create curves to the petals. I finally signed it. I’m happy.


Monday, October 5, 2020

Give Your Mother Attention


This morning, I was thinking about my mum. I don’t remember her ever complaining about pain. Her issue was struggling to breathe as her COPD worsened. I always heard her comments on how she felt as complaints. She’d get frustrated with me and say, “Wait ‘til you’re my age, you’ll see.”

Well, now I am up there in age, and while I don’t have the issues she did, I am in pain a lot of the time. I can’t move about like I used to. Almost every day, I look to heaven and say, “I understand, Mum. You were right. I love you.”

Maybe this has led me to have a better understanding. It’s easy when we’re younger, and have never experienced chronic health issues, to brush old people off, to not want to listen to their problems.

Even though I knew she just needed to talk about it, it made me uncomfortable and unhappy to hear and witness her decline. I found ways to avoid it, pretend I didn’t see, wouldn’t listen.

All mum ever wanted, really, was someone to pay attention to her, to listen to her … but as her daughter, who loved her more than anything, I didn’t want to hear, couldn’t listen. Mum – my rock, my everything – to watch her become frail, see her struggle to breathe, become more miserable, more dependent, and eventually give up trying – my heart was breaking.

I admit I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. If I tried to talk about it, I’d either break down in tears or the frustration would come out as anger. Then it’d make her feel bad for upsetting me. And then I’d feel even worse that I upset her. Back and forth, ‘round and ‘round. All I can say is I did the best I could.

Of course, I could go on and list regrets and wished-I-hads, but I can’t change the past. And now that I am “up there,” I realize how important it is to be able to talk to someone and have them listen openly without trying to change or fix me. It’s not about having to do something for me or take care of me. It’s only about listening and sharing story.

Lesson: Take time to give a little attention and listen. Sometimes, talking to another person helps you feel better. It’s not about “fixing” someone or solving their problems. It’s taking a few minutes to witness a small portion of their life. It’s letting them know you see them, hear them. And sometimes that’s enough to raise their spirits.

So, to all of you who still have your mothers, don’t abandon or ignore them. She’s your mother! Call, visit, check in with them often. Let them tell you a story. Commiserate with them and be understanding of what they’ve gone through and are going through. Tell them you love them.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Food for Thought

The maple trees across the brook are yellowing creating brightness through dark of the oaks and hemlocks. Titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and a lone one-legged cardinal swoop down to the deck to grab seeds. Pele-kitty gets excited and chatters at them.

It was cold out there earlier in my bare feet as I put up the feeders and took a couple photos. The brook, speckled with spots of sunlight, shows the water still very low in spite of the recent rain.

Once more I am fascinated by history and how, as many things (such as technology) changes, many other aspects remain the same. With reading, listening, conversations, and TV, I am seeing more and more the repetition.

The powerful make false promises, the masses believe in those promises, then the ax falls. Freedom of speech is not allowed (it’s “politically incorrect”), dissenters of what is happening “disappear,” unemployment rises as small businesses close, the rest (besides the hugely rich) become more impoverished as taxes are raised to pay for more government funding.

This has been happening throughout the world since the beginning. Names change, but the actions of one people taking over another remains the same.

We Americans have been fortunate. (I’m not saying we’ve been perfect.) Most of us have enjoyed many freedoms... most of us working for those freedoms and opportunities! We work hard to maintain freedom to choose what to do with our lives. It now looks like the false promises will further take away those freedoms and more.  

Is that why there are some factions in this country wanting to destroy America’s history? Is it so every day people can’t recognize when history is repeating itself? Is it so people can’t recognize what didn’t work in the past so as not to repeat it?

But it’s not just about American history. Look at the history of the world. There have always been those wanting power over others. Tribes conquer other tribes, nations dominate other countries, one form of power wants to take over the world, then another power comes along. There will always be Genghis Khans, King Tuts, Mussolinis, Hitlers, Stalins… the list can go on.

Look at early exploration when European countries discovered new places, and it didn’t matter if people already lived there, that new country took control with bigger and mightier military. And, in the end, the conquered have often become slaves, or like slaves, to those who took over.

You can read past speeches made by those leaders and see almost the same thing being said today, similar promises being made. Read your history books (and not the ones given us in school). Find history programs to watch. Make your own decision as to what to believe. Don’t just listen to words. Think about if what is being promised could actually come to fruition.

And always ask, “Where’s the money from these new programs and help coming from?” Do you believe the government can just go to the treasury and say, “Print me out a billion dollars?”

Think about it! Use common sense.

Some days it’s hard to feel wholehearted when I see some of the news reports. I try to avoid them because it’s upsetting and sad to see how we’re falling. I’m getting braver in admitting how I feel and what I believe, though.

For the most part, I build my virtual moat and wall. I’m not feeling very hopeful these days and I’m trying hard to keep my spirits up. I’m glad I’m on the older side of life. Although the U.S. is not perfect, I am afraid this country will become a new fascist or communist country … and we’ve seen how that’s worked in the past.

Painting Tips and Brain Disengagement


Yesterday, I read a tip on dealing with foreground in a painting. The advice was not to use a lot of detail. I was surprised, but the goal of a painting is to draw the viewers eye in. Too much detail in the foreground may prevent a viewer from easily sliding into the rest of the painting.

It’s funny how many tips and suggestions I write down; some even on cards and taped around my studio as reminders. However, the minute I pick up a pastel or piece of charcoal, my hand just starts moving on the paper, my mind goes blank to all else, including all the little notes, and advice on painting fall by the wayside as I get fully involved in the moment of painting.

For those few minutes, my brain disengages as something else takes over and moves my hand. And with my mind relaxed and not picking apart every little bit I do, I’m free to allow what is happening. I still look at the inspiration photos, but my hand continues to pick up pastels and make marks on the paper. I lose myself in the color and scene and the creating.

Soon, too soon, however, my logical mind takes back control, and the minute I start thinking again, I also start questioning and self-doubting. I find mistakes. I have to re-do. Not that there’s anything really wrong with what I did, but once my brain starts comparing the photograph to the painting, and it isn’t the same, the frustration and panic sets in with my mind starting to shout, “Where’s the undo button?”

But my intent isn’t in making the painting look exactly like the photo. The photo is for inspiration only. The painting is its own work of art. Yet, once my logical brain takes control, it’s hard for me to do something my mind accepts as good. My brain keeps saying I have to do better, and unfortunately, there are times when the more I do, the more I feel I have to “fix.”

Lesson: Learn to let go and learn to know when to stop and call it finished.