Sunday, December 5, 2010

Since I posted last, I have slugged it out with acrylic vs oil and finally have a happy new relationship to plastic. It took some 18 months to make the change over. I'm sure most people would do this in a speedier fashion, but I was stubborn. What eventually worked for me was to stop giving a damn and just slather it on. So I made the commitment to go from big tubes to pints and pledge my allegiance to acrylic.

So now, in between shows and anyone caring what happens in this studio, I am feeling free. The problem with feeling free is how to pare it down into something that makes sense the next morning when I go look at the previous day's work. I have long wanted to make larger paintings of my tiny gouaches, and this seems to be the time. So I am taking inspiration from my own work and doing variations on older pieces. I've never done this before and had some concern that I'd be mucking about in old ideas. But once into a piece it naturally change and morph into something quite different.

So aside from the spiders and mosquitoes (yes, still, until a hard freeze comes Texas way), life is good once again in my studio.


Monday, August 23, 2010

arts galla fundraisers, oh my!

Tis the season when there are galas and auctions for the benefit of arts related non profits coming up in the fall and therefore a few requests for donations of artwork to help support them. Artists have a love hate attitude about these donations. Some of us are concerned about our pieces being sold for less than the gallery prices. Or being tapped too often.

My own attitude is that I make a lot of work....why not let it go out there and support something....and maybe be enjoyed. Obviously I wouldn't feel this way if I only produced three or four pieces a year. And maybe there would have to be a limit of donated pieces if I were famous and a hundred people asked for the work. But, hey, that's hardly the case. Just don't ask me to go to the gala. I'd rather stay home and paint. Or read. Or garden. Or actually anything other than get dressed up and smile.

So, here's to ya, all you hard working arts supporters, cheers, bid high, have fun.

Friday, August 13, 2010

From little stories to little sculptures, sort of...

After a meltdown yesterday, bathing myself in swaths of self pity because I can't figure out how to fix things on my: blog; organise things in my: house; studio; paperwork; life or even the bathroom faucet, I arrive at today full of optimism and elation. This might lead one to assume I am tilted a bit off my base, but this is the way I have always led my life.

So, while the little colored pencil drawings were fun, a bit, and made me feel like I was doing something with my need to make stuff, they were really a bit of puffery. Or that's the way they seem today. I cleaned up the studio, wired up the last paintings and worked on a piece that is going to take some time.

Then I dug into my basket of gouache and started some new semi abstract pieces that do not feel like puffery. To me they feel like plans for sculpture, which of course I will not be doing....but what interests me is the form. Looking for and finding form.........I like that.

So peace to all in the dire August heat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

the short story of little drawings

In the wilt of the year's hottest month.... after a few more paintings in the studio, I have taken to the pine table in the cool of the house. Armed with colored pencils and stray sheets of paper, work continues. Or, rather, play continues. There is so much less to invest, in time and even effort, in a sheet of paper. You know, just throw it on there and see if it works.

So I'm doing these geometric landscape type things that are whimsy and doodles...perfect for August. The world spins around, I'm no longer working "out there", and my world shrinks a bit.
My world becomes more interior even than it was in all my somewhat narrative paintings. At least for right now, August. And I find myself using symbols and abstracting shapes and using color in a more haphazard way. Who know what September will bring. Meanwhile these colored pencil things are the perfect short story.

Friday, July 23, 2010

studio procrastination

Geez.....making things work out in the studio has been more exasperating than I imagined. It is like getting muscles to perform properly after being atrophied. I imagine. Months working on the mural and weeks and weeks traveling, looking after other people have put my imagination in dumps!

I put together some stretchers. And I am procrastinating about stretching the canvas on them. "It's too hot" "my hands hurt" "I don't feel like it".......and the best one: "I just need to finish this book".....ah yes, actually, quite a few books.

But finally .....I completed three small works on panel....panels that were already prepared, mind you. And I have to say....."I still HATE acrylic paint" .....and hated that I had to give up oil due to my crumby lungs. But maybe, maybe, things might be cooking in the studio again. Pahleese.

And Peace.

Friday, July 9, 2010

facing the canvas

After a month or so away....I'm back to the home ground again.

The garden, after weeks of rain, has become a jungle, complete with voracious mosquitoes vying for a piece of flesh.

My dog barely knows me.

My studio is free of the smell of anything creative and looks hollow and lonely.

I have read more than my share of summer books.

And although I'm still in love with fish and boats to paint and draw, I haven't a clue as to what I will do when I can finally paint again next week. Probably I will thrash about a lot and swear and pitch a bloody fit as I face the blank canvas and feel that I don't remember how to paint.

I base this on years of bloody fits. And then I will begin again.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

mural done, relaxing begun

The mural is finished.

It was fun. It was work. It was good to know that in my dotage I can still climb ladders and swing that brush all day.

I am trading in mural walls for tiny gouache paintings for a while. While the humidity spreads its soggy wings over my house and garden for the summer, staying inside and painting would appear the more comfortable occupation....vs. pulling weeds and chasing the dog.

Besides, someone just told me that there were three copperhead snakes found on our block last week.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

lost restaurant not on the whiplash road

Finishing up another week in California.....and finding that my patience isn't what it needs to be.

Of course, it is not all the mother/dementia is also me taking her out for a last day beautiful lunch and getting lost on the upper reaches of Page Mill Road where it nearly connects to the ocean.
That is to say, the restaurant I was looking for was somewhere else and we drove for 90 grueling minutes on a whiplash road with countless switchbacks with me always thinking we'd gone beyond the point of return and might as well keep going.

It is a beautiful road with amazing views of the bay and surrounding hills at the top. And all the way up and all the way down are groves of redwoods, buckeye trees, madrones, oaks and ferns. Gorgeous. And the mothership loved it, except for getting very hungry and a bit tired of sitting and waiting for that wonderful restaurant. And then it started to rain.

Oh well. Back on level surface we had a rather late lunch, more good talk, promises of what to get/bring/remember for next time and a good goodbye. Til next month.

We, of the generation that serves.....elderly parents, overwrought grown children and grand children. We are a self reliant and hardy bunch. In my opinion.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

scrim vision

Driving home along streets I have driven so often for decades allows me time to day dream. Even to the point of getting home and not recalling the drive ....but that is seldom, I promise.

What I vision often is a kind of scrim over the current landscape of telephone poles, car lots, fast food joints and gas stations. The scrim is a vision of what used to be there. How the street used to look, how this particular long corridor of cars four lanes wide used to be a lazy two with dirt shoulders and mom and pop stores and a few more trees.

Maybe just overactive imagination.....but when I was a child riding long hours in the car, I would see horses galloping along fence and telephone lines, keeping up with us. I don't see the horses any longer, but my scrim vision can produce an active farm scene where there is now only a collapsing barn....and it even allows me to see someone young in someone old. Doesn't work the other way around though. I don't have any future scrims. Probably a good thing.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

From potholders to macrame.....again.

Spending time with two of my grandchildren, girls, has my domestic seed pods stirring. I remember making pot holders of cloth strips and glasses cases of leather, wishing wells of Popsicle sticks and the occasional ill fitting doll outfit when I was a kid. Being pregnant at a time when maternity clothes consisted of lime green big sack dresses studded with white dots, drove me to sewing my own clothes for my three time motherhood largeness. At the time I was also doing window display and making/sewing the display things I couldn't find in stores. And naturally, it being the 70's, I also got into making everybody long patchwork skirts and purses. (Awful, isn't it? Can you believe I was also making tons of macrame wall hangings and plant holders to sell....I feel responsible for some of the residue of that stuff still around in the the thrift stores.)

Sooooo, I bought a sewing machine today. I gave the last one away ages ago. This one promises to be somewhat simple....I hope so, because I plan to bring my grandchildren into the fun house of making stuff. They too can learn to make things no one wants but will love because they made it. Another generation of the pleasures of making things with your hands....can't think of a better gift.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mural nearly done....twenty eight cans of paint

Working on the mural. Maybe two more weeks. We are at the point where it seems endless. Especially with the beautiful days outside....and us in the attic room. Big as it's indoors and up very high. We can look out the large dormers onto a beautiful garden and a landscape of large houses with multiple chimneys and slate roofs. We are inside with paint fumes and twenty eight cans of paint. Oh, I know, grouse,'s a good job and we're nearly done so shut up.

It is interesting to have two artists who have never worked together on a project before attempt to meld personalities and styles in one mural. Especially as one is a ceramicist and the other a painter. Fortunately the ceramicist used to paint, long ago, and is also the instigator and doer of many public art projects. And fortunately, although the painter is a virtual hermit, and prefers holing up alone, she is also able to be nice and knows how to play well with others. So it sorta works. We are working in an extremely high end neighborhood.....and find it odd that the people we see are all workers...gardeners, dog walkers, maids, construction's amazing really. All I can think of is, at least a lot of people have jobs helping the rich be rich.


Monday, April 26, 2010

new garden for the butterflies...and me.

Why is it that the "weeds" (those plants that crowd the ones you actually planted...see, I hate to discriminate against "weeds"....somewhere else, of course, they are not weeds) grow so much faster than the ones you are favoring. Evolution, I suspect. Someone has been weeding them out for eons and they have the spirit of survival in them that says GROW FAST before that damned gardener tweezes us out!

The garden is fabulous this year. I took a hunk of money from the mural project and plunged it into getting people over here to dig and heft and plant for me this year. Digging out the giant ancient gingers was the biggest gift. So now I have even more garden space for pentas, lobelias, rudbeckias, passion flowers (for the swallow tail butterflies), senna (for the sulphurs), butterfly weed (for the monarchs) and much much more. Even something called Kangaroo Paws. So all I have to do is water and pluck weeds. I liked where they put things but I am moving things around quite a bit. Like the furniture in the house.....over over there, might be better.

Sometimes it is quite fine living in a sub-tropical zone.


Friday, April 23, 2010

the excellent lived in face

Just saw Olivia Newton John on the bbc Graham Norton show. I have to spout. He is so funny, do love him. But. Much comment on how great she looks and my my she is 61 years old. I object. Her forehead never moved. Her hair is the color it was forty years ago and there is suspect puffy lip syndrome. I'm just tired tired tired of it. What the hell is wrong with being the age you are?

I like my salt and pepper hair. My mouth is beginning to have a few lines around it from whistling for years. My face and forehead are in continuous movement when I'm talking or listening and responding to someone. I have character, damn it! Too bad of me to take it out on the innocent O. N. John. There are plenty of other examples. She just tipped me over I guess. I love a good lived in face. People not in the movies or on tv are mostly good faces, it would seem. It would be nice to see an ad or movie with a few normal looking people. Agggh.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Volcano slows mural

Back into the lushness of Houston from the spring of Palo Alto and San Francisco. A month away really messes up one's schedule, gets you behind on bills, wash, weeds and friends. I'm amazed that my garden did well. Just replanted it before I's that for trusting the rain and the stars? (And a kind son who came and watered).

But the biggest job waiting is the mural. We're about two thirds done with it. While I went to Calif to attend to the mother the house and all concerned with both, my mural partner and friend, Elena, went to Barcelona to visit her daughter. We didn't expect a volcano. So she's still there. And I started back on the mural alone today. Not a problem, just not as much fun. Elena has a Spanish accent and a fiery attitude about politics......she keeps me entertained. We talked on the phone today...she's going to have plenty to say about the airlines when she gets home.

It's amazing how out of shape you can get in a month of walking around s l o w l y with a 91 year old. I was groaning on the ladder today. And my painting arm was making silent but insistent pleas for me to cut it out and go read a book.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

blasting the termites and forgeting the light switch

Still posting from California.
I am sad to say that I have joined the war between nature and humans. I didn't want to be part of this war....I believe in peaceful co-existence. But the termites were taking more than their share of my mother's house. So, I had to let the poison brigade in the front door. Preparations of safe guarding any indigestibles and plants were taken....which only convinced me of what a violent move this was to be. The house was tarped. A warning sign posted to keep us away for two days. And today we returned to clean up and return the house to normal sans the termites. And a few carpenter bees. I am sorry I had to be part of a poison solution. But I'm glad the fifty year old wood structure will last a bit longer. A few plants too near the house look shocked, but all is in better shape than I had imagined.

As to my mother....still suffering from Lewy Body Dementia...although she still tells wonderful stories and can keep up her end on political conversations....she has forgotten how to turn on the lamps in her room. She asks me again and again to teach her...and I do. And she tries, and cannot manage this once simple task. We have taken another step on down the road.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

back road dawdling

Took the tiny cute mother out on a wild ride today. With my long suffering life partner in the back seat and tiny cute mama in the front seat, we set upon the back roads of California hills allowing whimsy to lead us. Hairpin turns, one car roads, muddy and impossible turnouts, a bit of rain and glorious views cleared my head of any crackly ordinary chore dreary thoughts. The roads through the area between San Francisco and Santa Cruz may look merely hilly from a distance, but the car, the transmission and my adrenalin say they were mountains. Happily we saw few other cars until we resurfaced after mazes of old stage roads, onto incomparable hiway 1.

The surf was wild and foamy, the wind enough to stall a few seagulls and the smell of fresh was exhilarating. This is perhaps the best time of the year to dawdle around in back roads here....the hills are Irish green, blossoms abound and the undergrowth below redwoods, madrone and oaks was a fairy land. Which suits my mother very well...she has the magic of belief and wonder about her and enjoys every cloud, every forget me not and every twist of the road. The back seat other half of my life was patient and enduring. And in Pescadero there was pie and coffee.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

mid-century housing, the Eichler

Away from the mural. In California. Amidst the mother in assisted living, the house with termites, and bountiful pollen.
It is funny how one perceives things. I was just at my nephew's wedding, all nice and family and all that. In talking with another nephew, I found he thought of my mother's house as having the look of military housing. I was flabbergasted. How funny. The house that belongs to my mother is an Eichler, built in the 50's of stained redwood and glass with a slanted roof. No attic, no Tudor redo, no traditional barbie house, no grass. It is what is now called "mid century", and rather desirable.
I have always liked this kind of housing.... I grew up in it and felt the inside-outside California vibe of it, and it's connection to nature and the land around it. And I ended up in a house much like it in Houston.

But my nephew is right. This sort of house does not appeal to everyone. It doesn't have an attic or a basement or drywall. You can hear the rain on the roof. You can see the garden from almost every room. You are part of it. Certainly it is getting a bit rundown after 50 years, and I have a lot to do just to keep the termites at bay and the garden trimmed, but there is meditative peace here. The house dwells in the garden, they co exist and belong together.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

achey breaky wall mural

Working, working, working on the mural. The mural of Mozart's Magic Flute. In a big third story room for an opera lover. It's been a while since I've done work on a ladder, balancing on one foot, reaching my brush to the far corners of the top of a wall. Criminey, I'm freaking too old for this. While I'm there I'm all bravado and blazing brushes but when I get home I'm beat and can be found in the kitchen fumbling with the advil bottle for a quick fix of ease the sore muscles.

O.K. It's actually quite fun, but the stamina that once was, isn't. Today I found myself quite irritated with the house paint that wouldn't behave, the idiots in the traffic on the way home and then, heaven help me, I had to go to the post office and wait in line on tired feet. That sent me over the edge. Crispy shimp at the local Chinese helped. Tomorrow is another day, another wall.


Monday, March 8, 2010

the woe pit

Whoosh. The sound of February speeding past.

Enter March. I'm mulling over my show which opened Feb 25th........a nice opening with well wishers, friends and curious parties. I always get the blues after a show goes up. I always think I won't this time, but there I was again in the woe pit. Do performing artists feel this way? Writers whose work is out of their hands and in the bookstores? To let go and put it all in the hands of someone else is hard for a neurotic person. A person who wants to continue tweaking. A person who always thinks they can do better with a few more weeks.

Because I'm working on this mural with my friend, Elena, I am saved some of the doldrums I normally conjure up. I have to concentrate. And it just feels good to have my hand holding a paintbrush and trying to do the best job of painting on somebody else's walls. And painting with wall paint...........that's an interesting twist as well. It's going well. Time to load up the pie tins, the paint clothes, the lunch of almonds, carrots and oranges and head out to the new challenge.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Magic Flute Mural

My friend Elena and I are about to be awash in the painting of Mozart's Magic Flute. We have accepted the challenge of painting a room of walls with 864 sq feet with the story of the opera. Immersing ourselves in the various performances has been thrilling and........confusing. Let me count the ways it can be interpreted............lots!

We need to paint forests, Egypt, a serpent or shall it be a crocodile? Do I see the pyramids, and a mountain? Hark, here come the three little boys drifting in on a cloud to sing to Papageno and Tamino. Where did the little boys choir come from? It has been eye opening to discover that while the music moves our souls and we love it....the story comes mainly from a guy called Schikaneder who was an actor manager and wanted Mozart to write the music for him and he wanted to play Papageno...(and did for a long time). Mozart was quite taken with the character of Papageno the bird catcher also. He wrote to his sister that the half man half bird was just like his pet canary.

The Magic Flute plays on my computer, my radio, my dvd player (wouldn't Mozart be amazed and pleased?) and I surround myself with piles of sketches and scribbles as does Elena. We proceed at the end of the month to climb the stairs and the ladders to paint the cheeriest and quietest opera that we are capable of doing. If my printer was working (it dies on me all the time like the crotchety old thing that it is) I would post a sketch or two. But we will take photos as this thing proceeds. I've done murals before, but not one quite this large. My knees are screaming, "What, are you completely stupid? Do you actually plan to get back on a ladder!!??" And I say, I'm not dead yet......To paint, to paint....that is my passion.... and my downfall.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the power of music

Meandering about in the old home town, home again in California for my one week a month here....again. I'm in the car a lot listening to my favorite classical station out here and musing at the power of music.

You don't hear so much Rachmaninoff anymore and that's ok with me. We had Rachmaninoff for dinner for at least a decade.....I sat across the table from my brother but also across from a sliding glass door which was a perfect mirror for my overly dramatic young self. I lifted my arms and danced with my hands all through dinner if I could get away with it. But one also had to eat one's hated peas and string beans. Rachmaninoff, in my mind, felt old fashioned and dinner associated.

We listened to Bach, Mozart, Telemann, Vivaldi and Beethoven all the time when I was growing up. We weren't musicians, but my parents gave me a deep appreciation for four hundred year old music and new jazz; with a bit of opera and show tunes thrown in. So naturally, when I left the house all I cared about was folk, blues and yeah, ok, some rock.

But now, for me, it's mostly the old stuff. Albinoni's Adagio in g minor just puts me away. Especially in the studio. I'm still overly dramatic. But now I put it all on the canvas.

And I still don't eat peas.

Friday, January 15, 2010

one world one thread one people

I sit here in a comfy house with my chin in my hand....well, my hand is busy with the other one at this moment as I'm not a hunt and peck sort of typist...having been forced to take typing during one junior high school summer.....

But I sit here comfy, and the news, as everyone knows is so tragic. Grim and tragic in Haiti. Like so many, I feel the tears well up......and I sent money, which is very little to do when so much needs to be done. And I hope it gets there fast along with all the other money and clothes and goods speeding their way around the world. And perhaps that is the where we can take heart. That we, so very many of us, all around the world, so very quickly acted. We don't want to see a third of the world suffer so much.

Let's remember to keep doing this......for the people who need it...even when the headlines are eclipsed by other more comfortable news items. We are connected by this thread now, we really are one world.......and everything that happens is now is vital to it.

Peace, my friends.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

making a statement, paintings speak better

My show is coming up and as usual I am loathe to explain it.

But I'm going to practice here. It is mostly regarding boats, the sea, storms, and survivors. They are, rather obviously, I guess, metaphors for getting through life. We had some fine life disrupting hurricanes here in the past few years and some quite some years ago that I've never forgotten. They do make you think.

Like, what is really important? What would you take with you? And who. You get to know your neighbors pretty quick during any emergency. Your sense of humor rises to the need it. And you remember that we are not all that in control after all.

But in addition to all that.......I was born by the sea, in San Francisco. Salt spray, fog, drizzle, and looking out across the Pacific are all deep in me. I learned to sail (after a fashion) with my father on the bay in a little sailboat. He built a little toy sail boat, and instructed the family at the dinner table how to "come about" and tack and mind the mainsail, over and over before we were allowed to actually try sailing the bigger boat on water. Not that we were ever good at it. We got stuck in mud and flipped over and did everything wrong. But it was grand.

So, that's all part of it. I hope people see more of how I feel when I paint, how I am swept away as marvelously as when I read a good book. I hope my paintings speak for me and better.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Magical Intuition

Working hard in the studio. Finishing some paintings that were started 18 months ago. Some seem to need to ripen like slow growing pumpkins getting richer in color and texture with time.
Other burst full grown into life in a matter of days.

It still feels a little like magic to me. To become so sick of a painting and it's ornery ways that I can't even look at it for months and then suddenly know exactly what it wants to grow full and complete..........that is magic. It seems to need to be ignored for a while. My mind needs to be concerned with other matters and come back with no pretencions and no plans.

When I look over the archive of work I've done for the last 35 some years, I feel that I've said something that was unique to me.........that I never did what was fashionable and that I never painted anything but what was in my soul. And. And that I can see the thread start back 45 years ago with my first tentative work that was concerned with trying to speak of the human condition and the effort to connect.

I'm grateful to still be doing it.


swamp, 55" x 29"

in progress

flying fish, 55" x 29"

eye with a view

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I am living and painting in the little town of Houston. A far way from my San Francisco beginnings. I paint what I see of the human condition, be it human, animal or object. The glimmer of humor, pathos, and spirit in so much of what I see is the basis of what I paint.


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