Friday, December 29, 2006

Harlequin Romance

The latest addition to my evening wardrobe are my very own harlequin designed Gap pajama pants. Only because of a conformity to societal norms am I choosing not to wear them all day every day.

Though clownish by nature, harlequin is and always has been one of my favorite designs. It is perhaps for this reason that Picasso remains in my top twenty artists. Picasso used the harlequin design in several of his paintings. In Harlequin with Glass, Picasso put himself in a harlequin costume surrounded by friends, or at least acquaintances at a cafe. It looks like he was heavily influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec with the rather cartoonish figures in the background. The painting is a departure from his more somber blue period with his addition of reds, yellows and greens with warmer tones of brown for a background.

Another painting of his with a harlequin design is Family of Saltimbanques. Even though the family members seem distant emotionally, the physical proximity of the figures, especially with the father holding his young daughter's hand, is altogether charming. Much has been written about the melancholy nature of the figures, but to me they seem content in each other's company.

Perhaps my favorite Picasso painting of all is Paul in a Clown Suit. The absolute command of his portrait abilities is reflected in the subtle expression on Paul's face. Masterfully drawn, the sketch like quality of the rest of the painting further emphasizes our focus on his son's face. We aren't distracted by frivolous lace or an ornate chair. We only see a father's love for his young son. Given Picasso's well-documented narcissism, it's pleasant to see a painting that demonstrates a love for someone besides himself.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Anchors Away

More often than not, we have dinner together as a family every night at 6:30. Reese and I started as a young family, and as we added daughters, the habit carried forward. This supper schedule kept us as sane as one can be in the middle of all the changes that happen as a family grows. It has been our anchor of courtesy and community as the Reese Hazel family.

The main thing we do for every meal, besides pray and hold hands before we begin, is everyone tells their favorite thing of the day. This way, everyone gets an opportunity to talk and be heard, and the conversation is kept positive.

As our daughters are growing up, and keep schedules of their own, a very small dilemma is taking place. Sometimes only one somebody is home. But to me it's important to keep on keeping on. So two or three of us sit together and share a story and a meal.

Yet, here I am tonight, it's 6:25, and I've fixed so much turkey tetrazini that it had to go in two different casserole dishes. And I'm the only one at home. It's not quite the same to tell my favorite thing of the day to the empty chairs around the table. Oh wait, I hear voices...someone unlocking the front door! They're home for dinner!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mrs. Claus

One of the things that I like about my studio is that there are usually several paintings going at once. Leading up to the show, I spent a lot of the last month or so re-working around 20 paintings. Then I was so busy with preparing for Via Colori, and Thanksgiving...that it took me a little time to get settled back in the studio (which is our downstairs/guest/daughter Erin's bedroom.)

Now that I'm getting settled again, it's Christmas holiday, and time to paint gets squeezed around other family activities. Not that there's anything wrong with that....I love my family.

The point is that in the last two weeks, I have made tremendous strides toward several painting projects, though I'm still miles away from the finish line. OK, maybe yards instead of miles, but still several paintings are in the works. And with this busy season, there is conflict with the desire to paint versus the desire to be a good mom. But what does it mean to be a good mom? In this instance, part of it involves the whole Santa conundrum.

So with five, maybe six canvases ready to be worked on, I still need to remember the priority of being the Mrs. Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Red, White, and Blondie

Our alpha male white toy poodle, Skipper is head over heals in love with the at least four times his size Blondie, the Xoloitzquintle, or Mexican hairless dog who lives a few doors down. When Blondie's owner, Fran drops in, she usually brings Blondie with her, which absolutely thrills our little poodle. Skipper spends most of his time trying to become intimately acquainted with Blondie, which is endlessly annoying to my friend's pet. Skipper is completely undaunted with his one-sided devotion and admiration of the large mostly hairless Latin lady dog.

While painting yesterday, Fran and Blondie, so named for the few tufts of blond hair on her forehead, came over for a visit. A few minutes later, my friend, Deb also stopped by, but that's another story....We were all outside in the backyard enjoying the sunny weather and light refreshments when I noticed two big globs of red paint on my khaki trousers. No problem. People (and their pets) are more important than things, so I ignored the paint; there would be time to clean it later. That is, until Blondie, in a valiant effort to escape Skipper's advances, rubbed against my trouser leg. She ended up with red paint smeared all over the skin of her back. Fran sent me inside to change clothes before the mess spread to other random dog or body parts. Had the paint been on Skipper, it would have been a major ordeal to clean, but the paint on Blondie's skin cleaned right up with Dawn dish soap, water, and a little light scrubbing. Not too worse for wear, with more scrubbing and Dawn dish soap (Dawn takes grease "and oil based paint" out of your way), the khakis cleaned up, too.

Skipper is on pins and needles waiting for the next social call from Blondie. As I enjoy my companionship with Blondie's owner, Fran, I'm also looking forward to their next visit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's All Relative

Over the weekend, The Amazing Reese and I went to Austin to watch sweet daughter Erin graduate from UT.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Two Weeks Before Christmas....

'Twas two weeks before Christmas
and life was sure busy
with regular chores such as
feeding our Lizzy.

The stockings aren't hung
they are in a big box
with the other decorations
in the attic, perhaps?

The daughters were asked
to write a wish list
of which I've seen one,
the other three missed.

A nap would be lovely
this time of the year
maybe restoring
that lost Christmas cheer.

I look out the window
see the delivery truck
take presents to others
And I say, Oh,....look,

They remembered to order
their presents online,
It's all coming early
for those who plan fine.

But how can I shop
when there's painting to do
three canvases full
of red, green, and blue?

And yellow, and lavender
and orange in the sky
the mountain all swirly
and foreground sublime?

As I paint and I think
of house decorating
and shopping and cooking
and endless list making....

and laundry and sweeping
and all the leaf raking
and shopping again
and more Christmas baking...

The question I struggle
with everyday,
"Will this bring God glory
in any small way?"

Or is life just too busy
to slow down a bit
and visit the neighbor
who's kid just got sick?

Cottage Industry

My daughter, Anna added photos of her two latest house commissions to her website. Click on the title of this piece, or Anna Hazel Art at right to view her work.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Complimentary Complements

The American Heritage Dictionary says: "Complement and compliment, though quite distinct in meaning, are sometimes confused because of the context. Complement means 'something that completes or brings to perfection' : The antique silver was a complement to the beautifully set table. Compliment means 'an expression of courtesy or praise' : He gave his hostess a compliment on her beautifully set table.

I would say that a perfectly thoughtful compliment is the unparalleled complement to any conversation.

In the case of art, what this blog is about, there is such a thing as complementary colors. These colors are exact opposites on the color wheel. For instance, the opposite of red is green, therefore they are complementary colors.

In the newest painting in the works, I decided to paint the entire background basics in complementary colors. So far, the sky is a pale orange, the shrubbery is deep red, the tree is dark yellow, and the rest is a cross between tan and pale yellow. It looks pretty cool, and my daughter, Anna suggested that I work in solids for the whole piece. Maybe. When it dries, I can start working in the complementary colors to create the piece/painting that's already in my head. The complement of the sky will be a pale blue. There will be a variety of greens in the shrubbery. The tree's basic color scheme will be lavender, with violet blues (or blue violets) in the background. Some of the background colors will peek through on the finished piece.

But I just so happen to think that these colors will also be excessively polite to one another. "Oh, aren't your color variations stunning today?" "Oh no, not me, I insist that it's you who has the lovely hue."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Art of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, what a concept. Gather friends and/or family for a mighty feast, and remember events from the past year for which we are grateful. No pressure, no stress....just thanks.

To paint pours vitality into my soul, and I am thankful.

Time is an amazing gift. May we all use it well.

And it's pretty wonderful to have dear ones in my life.

For what are you thankful?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Square to Spare

Today's Via Colori sidewalk painting extravaganza was magical....and exhausting. Because it was such a public event, there was time to chat while painting. The most common questions were: 1. Have you ever done this before? answer--"no." 2. Would you do it again? which I answered, "Like having a baby, not any time soon." 3. Does your back hurt? answer--"I feel like Cro-Magnon man every time I try to stand upright." Ouch.

For inspiration, I copied my own painting, Arches at San Jose Mission-2, and worked almost non-stop from 10 in the morning until 6 in the evening. (Several people walking by recognized the mission!) Reese was my everlasting support.

Again, the event was to raise money for the Center for Hearing and Speech here in Houston. Over 100 local artists participated, with at least two "ringers" flown in from California.

100 square feet sponsored by Simmons and Company International!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nick of Time

Last week Monday, we dropped the paintings off at the gallery. I came home to empty walls, and wasn't prepared for the onslaught of raw emotions that assaulted me. What had I done?

By Tuesday, David, the gallery owner had curated the exhibit, and everything looked great. He gave us a small tour, and wall after wall put the paintings in the best possible light, literally and figuratively. Toward the end of the walk through, he said, "I need one more painting for the show. Do you have one more small vertical painting for this wall?", and then he showed us a small wall that indeed could use a small painting. I mentioned a few paintings that I still had at home, and he said, "too big, wrong size, not you have anything else? Can you paint something?"

Dumbly, I said, "Sure, no problem."

So right away, I went to the art supply store, bought an 8" x 10" canvas, stopped at the florist on the way home, bought some tulips, got home, set up a still life in my studio, and started a new painting. I say still life, but tulips are anything but still. They kept following the sun, and opening and closing, so that I finally had to just paint them in place. Painting that day and the next did wonders for my fragile psyche.

Every painting needs a frame, and bless his heart, when I agreed to paint another image, Reese also agreed to have it framed in time for the show on Thursday. We both got busy; me in the studio, and Reese in the garage with all his tools. Mind you, Reese made at least 50 frames for the show...not one accident. But making this tiny frame, he sliced off the end of his right index finger and fingernail. Lord, have mercy. He almost passed out on the kitchen floor.

We both finished our parts by 2 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, and when we got to the gallery at 6, handed the wet painting (and the haiku description card) to David Baquero, who put it in it's place. The end.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Big Event

The gallery show went wonderfully well. There were a few glitches and things that we forgot, but nothing that made the evening less fun.

Starting at 6pm, or slightly before, we had a few people lining up outside the gallery waiting for the keys to arrive. For our part, earlier in the day we mentioned to the gallery owner that we would see him by 5:30, and he said not to worry...just show up at 6, that people don't usually come to galleries before 7. We had already communicated that several people had told us that they were going to stop by between work and supper, so I knew we would have a small crowd there early, and we did.

The crowd kept arriving. It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves. My friend, Michael Coker drove Elli and Erin in from Austin---sweet! Some of my youngest friends came; the Jonsson boys turned the evening into some sort of project to find the paintings in numerical/alphabetical order---very cute. A family who used to live in Jamaica recognized the beach scene before they saw the name of the painting. That was cool. Several people said that when they realized that all the description cards were in haiku, they went back through the exhibit and re-read everything and re-looked at all the paintings based on the haiku descriptions.

The one thing we didn't do was get pictures---bummer. If anyone has any photos of the evening, I would appreciate some copies.

The whole event was a whirlwind. Many thanks to all who attended. It truly made a special evening absolutely wonderful.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Driving Miss Crazy

Morning is my most sluggish time of the day. It takes a while to get my motor running, and then it needs another kick around 10:30 or so. Morning people must accomplish more things than I do....because my day drags until just before lunch. Of course, then it's time to actually eat lunch, which takes more time, so that my day really gets started at around 12:30.

This morning, I thought it would be a good idea to practice for next weekend's street painting extravaganza. Remember, I'm "painting" a ten foot by ten foot square in the middle of a street downtown, to raise money for the Center for Hearing and Speech.

Amazingly, I think I made it outside by 10-ish. Reese helped me mark off a giant square on our driveway, and I sketched and started working on an image that I thought would look great for the festival. Turns out that it was a big mess. So I washed off the first image, got out the leaf blower to dry the driveway, and got to work on a second image.

Good grief. It is so challenging. I, for the life of me, couldn't figure out proportions, even after Reese came inside and made a grid of the whole image. And I am worn out, and didn't even finish a one foot by one foot portion of the whole thing. And it's the time, but I am out of gas.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Good Press

Here is a link to the article by Nick Keppler in the Night and Day section of the Houston Press.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Amazing Reese

My husband is amazing. He's building all the frames for the show. As he finishes each frame, he frames each painting, and brings them back inside to hang on the walls. These frames have transformed the collection painting by painting, until it looks like we are living in an art gallery. His fine craftsmanship helps the eye focus on the painting, not the space around it. While they are absolutely perfect for the paintings, they might easily be overlooked. When you come to the show, and everything looks great, it will be in part because Reese has done such an outstanding job with the frames. He's putting the finishing touches on the last three frames today.

By the way, he also built the art studio website from scratch, and photographs all the paintings.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


A very talented friend wrote this press release:

Local artist Sarah Hazel brings newfound vision and talent to local gallery

October 24, 2006 - Morningside Place - A couple of years ago, if one wanted to view Sarah Hazel’s painting prowess, their only option was standing in the backyard of her Morningside Place home. On November 9, from 6-9 p.m., however, the Baquero Gallery in Rice Village provides a more fitting venue to showcase her depiction of “beauty in ordinary moments” at the opening reception of her solo exhibit.

During Spring Break in 2004, Sarah and her four daughters scaled a portion of their roof to recreate masterpieces on the back of their house: van Gogh’s Starry Night, Paul Cezanne’s Big Trees, and Claude Monet’s Sailboats at Sea, Pourville, and water-lily series. (A house-painting budget dried up after contracting for the front of the house, leaving the back of the house bare). Sarah attributes this mammoth, hurricane-proof mural as an artistic awakening of sorts.

Two years later, with no formal training and only a portrait painting book purchased at nearby Half-Priced Books as a guide, the 42-year-old homemaker turned artist has produced over 85 oil paintings of which 45 will be on display in her show “Finding My Glasses.”

“My daughter, Anna, helped come up with the name (for the show). The title signifies this new vision I'm discovering through painting, this new way of looking at life,” explains Sarah. “I'm transforming from one phase of my life to a new phase of being a professional artist. I'm truly ‘finding my glasses.’”

“I’ve stumbled through life,” muses Sarah. “I’ve never had an interest in painting. Never had the desire at all. I took one class, brought home a sunflower still life, and my husband was so enthusiastic that he went out that weekend and bought me all the supplies I’d need.” Now when she paints, she “feels God’s pleasure” (can’t you hear the Chariots of Fire theme?)

Sarah describes her work as a fusion of post-impression and post-modern art. Her strokes are bold, the colors bright, while the paintings summon a “peaceful response.” Sarah’s collection of paintings varies from still lifes to portraits to landscapes, with no particular genre capturing a leading role. The common thread are the moments captured in each piece – ordinary life.

“There are years of ordinary events, especially for a wife, homemaker, and mother of four daughters,” explains Sarah. “My life was confined to ordinary moments, as most of our lives are: yet, in the midst of those, you can find beauty and be content with what God has given you.”

What Providence has now provided is a deep desire to create and a newfound talent to do so. If you miss her at Baquero, Sarah still might let you walk through her backyard gate and get a glimpse of where it all began.

A portion of Sarah's proceeds from the opening reception benefit Center for Student Missions ( a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the men, women, and children who reside in Houston’s urban centers.

Solo exhibit:
Finding My Glasses
Opening reception – Thursday, November 9, 6-9 p.m.
Baquero Gallery
5502 Chaucer
Houston, TX 77005

For more information:

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Second Time

This morning was the second workshop for Via Colori, an upcoming street painting festival to benefit The Center for Hearing and Speech. Like before, we were given brief instruction, then went outside to a chalked off square to practice "painting." Between the last workshop and this, I have at least learned how to dress for the event....stretch jeans (to accommodate all the bending), a long undershirt (to cover the distance between the jeans and t-shirt as I bend over---think plumber), and a baseball hat to keep the sun and hair off my face.

Like before, the professional artist demonstration was overwhelming. The artists who fly around the country giving demonstrations usually paint in the tradition of Italian street painters, which would be very similar to Italian Renaissance paintings, such as a Michelangelo copy of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I'm not kidding; one of the slide examples of a street painting that the workshop artist worked on recently was a copy of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Another intimidating factor in both workshops was the artists talking about how long it takes them to complete a street painting, which is here today, gone tomorrow. "Days, weeks, months, who knows?"* Will it really take that long?

The practice square for both events was two feet by two feet. The actual square size that I will paint in the event will be ten feet by ten feet. Gulp. That's a lot of ground to cover, literally.

One more thing to note as I look at the photo of today's art, it's likely to be difficult to get proper balance, colors, lights and darks when the size of the canvas (street) is so large, and I'm right on top of it. When I paint on actual canvas, I constantly walk back and forth to see how the painting is developing. With these street painting parameters, and the larger scale, and not being able to see it properly, well, it's just a different dynamic. Should be fun.

* Quote attributed to Eeyore

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


What I should be doing right now is writing the description cards for each painting in the exhibit. Since they all developed through the use of my mind and hands, it stands to reason that I should have something eloquent to say about each of them. However, I sit here twiddling my opposable thumbs and can't think of a thing to write.

Monday, October 16, 2006


On the same night as the gallery opening reception, one of our favorite Houston organizations is having their annual fundraiser. Because we can't be there that evening, I've decided that ten percent of my proceeds from the opening reception will go to CSM Houston. "Center for Student Missions partners with existing local ministries to live out Jesus' call to feed the hungry, clothe the stranger, visit the sick, and reach out to the prisoner. CSM Houston focuses on serving the men, women, and children who reside in Houston’s urban center."

My four daughters have all participated in this program. They can now put names with the homeless faces we see in the streets everyday. They have served meals in soup kitchens, played games with children at community centers, and gotten dirty weeding a community garden.

The opportunities for influence continued long after the week of CSM was over. They have continued their service by tutoring Star of Hope children, organizing medical supplies, and have made lasting friendships. One young lady has come over several times for family meals, and to braid my daughter's hair. Another huge benefit from our daughters involvement is that we now know where all the good ethnic restaurants are. Jerk chicken and ginger beer.....yum!

In effect, CSM serves the city of Houston by helping a little bit with the many organizations designed to minister to the marginalized. Houston really is full of heart.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Icing on the Cake

It has been a great self-imposed trial to complete the paintings for the exhibit that is now less than a month away. Today I determined that I have enough finished works, and anything I get done from this point forward is icing on the cake. This is a HUGE relief.

The process required to get to this point has been rigorous, but delightful. Good thing I enjoy painting so much.

The invitations are in the mail. Not everyone who reads this will get a mailed invitation, but please know that I am extending my personal invitation. I would be pleased for you and your friends to attend.

Details on my website: Sarah Hazel

Monday, October 02, 2006

It Twirls

Part of our homework in preparation for the exhibit has been to visit other galleries. While we were there enjoying other Houston artists' works, we also studied these galleries and exhibits on a technical level. We looked at how pieces were curated, framed, promoted, priced, etc. Most galleries followed similar patterns, but all galleries have a unique personality.

G Gallery is stamped with the personality of Wayne Gilbert. Wayne is considered/called the "Godfather of Art" here in Houston. He knows everyone and even promotes other galleries/artists exhibits, not just his own. It was in this gallery where the newest addition to our personal art collection was found.

Called Leaf Mechanism 1, it's a bronze sculpture of two leaves "sewn" together and spinning on a turntable, as if blowing in the wind. The artist, Ketria Bastian Scott, took an old Victrola motor and built the sculpture on top of it on top of a wooden pedastal. The turnkey to work the mechanism is attached to the wooden pedastal. In the artist's words, "the look is soft and fragile, yet when bronzed, it changes to a symbol of endurance."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This morning I'm a little sore....

Yesterday I went to a workshop to teach and inform artists on techniques in street painting. The Center for Hearing and Speech is hosting Via Colori on November 18th and 19th, a two day street painting festival "celebrating the artistic journey for a truly worthy organization. The festival will showcase over 100 artists who will create original works of art on the street in pastel."

After brief instruction, we were encouraged to go outside and try our hand at this new medium. Two foot by two foot practice squares had been chalked off on the asphalt driveway as our canvas. There was a box of pastels for every four artists to share, and that was it. After 15 or 20 minutes of lunging, squatting, and bending as the sun was setting, I became more and more excited. Completely enchanted, I half wished I could jump through the painting. Silly penguins would sing, tap dance, and serve tea. Or maybe I would race through the countryside on my carousel horse, just like in Mary Poppins.

Any artists want to join me? The memory of the evening far outweighs the pain in my legs, back, and arms. Really.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Last week we met with David Baquero of Baquero Gallery to fine tune some points regarding the exhibit in November. We are on track for just about everything, even with all the details that need attention.

When first approached to do an exhibit, I was of course flattered. Then terror set in as I reflected on all the work ahead. The gallery wanted 50 works for a solo exhibit. So, for the last 9 months I have been painting furiously getting ready. Now, feeling sure that things are coming together, paintings and business details, I am actually looking forward to the exhibit.

Who knows how people will respond? That's way beyond my control. I can, however, determine to enjoy the party. If people like the art, great. If people don't like it, well, they don't like it. I've enjoyed the experience either way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What about Haiku?

Needing a story
for each painting in the show
What about haiku?

Finding my glasses...
Come enjoy reading about
Sarah Hazel art

Art is beauty found
in the breath and the passion
of everyday life

Bold strokes, bright colors
all while the paintings summon
a peaceful response

Paragraph or verse?
keep the attention focused
short and to the point

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Museum Thursdays

On Thursdays, the Museum of Fine Arts is free. Just for the love of it, and the effort to get there, on Thursdays, they let everyone in free of charge.

Not having been in a few weeks, to my delight, they had re-arranged some of the permanent collection. I LOVED IT! There's nothing better than seeing things in a new light, on a new wall, or next to an oldie but goodie.

On a tip from one of my docent friends, I heard that the Suzanne Valadon self portrait was back. Argh. I couldn't find it. I loosely based my own self portrait on the Suzanne Valadon piece. Suzanne Valadon was an artist model, featured in several Renoir, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec paintings. On the advice and suggestion of one of her many art friends, she, too, tried her hand at painting. The result of which is truly magnificent, her self portrait. Her gaze is direct, and the piece as a whole is moody.

And there was a Matisse that I don't remember from the collection. Called "Olga Merson," it clearly demonstrated the frustration of trying to find a balance between the image and the self expression an artist portrays. It is a huge relief to know that an artist as great as Matisse had to re-work his paintings.

And one of my favorite treats every time I go to the museum is seeing the Mary Cassatt of "Susan Comforting the Baby." Mary Cassatt has a way of focusing on the focal point, in this case Susan's gentle countenance. Though her brush strokes are very loose in the rest of the painting, she brings our eyes, and a bit of our hearts to this tender scene.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mission Accomplished

Years ago when our daughters were young, we took a weekend trip to San Antonio. We stayed with some friends, and they very graciously offered to watch our four daughters (ages 4, 5, 8, and 10) so that Reese and I could have a day to ourselves.

This hardly ever happened. Our budget was always stretched to the limit back then, and it was rare when we could afford a babysitter. To have a whole day was almost a dream come true. We still didn't have any money, so we went to the Alamo. It was free.

The Alamo is the northernmost in a series of missions along the San Antonio River. The Spaniards built these missions in the 18th century as a way convert the indiginious peoples to Christianity. The Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, was one of the smallest missions. Little of the original structure stands today. It is understandably crowded as a site where Texans fought Santa Ana and his Mexican army for independence. It does feel like one is walking on hallowed ground when there.

Along a nine mile stretch of the San Antonio River south of the Alamo sit four other missions. There is Mission Conception, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Jose, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada. There is a series of auquaducts that watered the crops grown inside the mission grounds. San Jose Mission still has the outer wall around on the inside of which were rooms for the converts. The strong outer structure was able to protect itself against Apache and Commanche raiders. San Jose Mission has a mill, too, part of the elaborate design of this well known "Queen of the Missions." The sanctuary is enormous, and still used by the local Catholic community for mass.

We were telling this story to our daughters as we were driving home the next day. We were mostly driving home. What we were really doing was driving in the direction of the San Jose Mission. When we suddenly pointed the mission dome and steeple in the distance, our daughters all shouted, "Oh, let's go! Can we go?"

"What do you think, Reese? Do we have time?"

"Sure. Let's go."

Monday, September 11, 2006


Recently my husband informed me that a certain segment of our society is using the term "tweaking" to describe the way a body feels as it's coming down from a drug induced high. The body starts twitching, called tweaking, while the user is crashing and searching for the next fix.

Also recently, a well respected art friend of mine came over to offer advice on my upcoming exhibit. She looked at everything, and with a trained eye critiqued about twenty paintings that need a little tweaking. Just a minor adjustment here and there....and I suddenly understood the druggie's plight. Her advice was sound and well appreciated, but just the thought of the work ahead of me caused me to inwardly twitch.

So while inwardly crashing, I'll get out my paints and tweak more than a few, searching for the right, adjustment. I'm definately tweaking.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


During the age between being a girl and becoming a woman, we lived in the same area as my grandmother (Gram) for whom I am named. At the time, Gram lived in an apartment and didn't have a garden of her own. So on the weekends, she would come spend the night, (we shared a room) and garden in our yard to her heart's content. This was my first exposure to someone who truly loved growing things. Because it was in my mother's yard, she kept most of the garden formal. But on the side of the house that couldn't be seen from the street, she planted a whole bed of zinnias.

No matter what was going on in the house, I could always go outside and sit in the dirt next to Gram. I don't remember talking much. I'm sure we did; we were very close. What I do remember, was being completely loved and accepted. She never judged me. She was quick to laugh. And for whatever reason, I understood that she understood me. I didn't have to pretend to be happy. She just loved me, no matter what.

During the week I would often go to the zinnia bed and marvel at the flowers. How could so many beautiful flowers come from one tiny seed packet? I would try to find a favorite, but in the end I liked them all. I would gather a bouquet and take it to my room, and wait for my roommate to return. Zinnias, in all their glory, became synonymous with perfect love, acceptance, happiness, and contentment.....just like my grandmother. All the best parts of me stem from my grandmother's influence that started growing all those years ago in the zinnia bed.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wet Paint

Within the last week I have found paint:

on the floor
on the leg of my easel
on my husband's forearm
on my husband's swim suit
on my husband's shirt at the pool
all over my hands
on my arm
on my neck
on my ear
on my cheek
on my bottom lip
on the telephone
on the back door
on a frame
actually on the canvas, and
on the seat of my pants, which makes me wonder if it's
on the sofa.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ducks in a Row

The exhibit is fast approaching. (November 9th, Baquero Gallery) Not only am I trying to complete more paintings, I am also working closely with the gallery to get all my ducks in a row, so to speak. There will be a point soon when the portfolio needs to be finished, no more paintings to add to it. There's a brochure to create, an artist's statement to tweak, postcards to make, and people to invite. There's more, but it's overwhelming to think of it all at once.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Joy and Papa

Papa is my dad. I call him Dad, not Papa. Papa is his grandfather name. He just so happened to be the first person in our family to hold Joy when she was born. So the reader isn't grossed out, I sent dad out of the delivery room one minute, Joy was born and named, Dad came in the next minute and held Joy. What I remember saying (I was completly looped out on the drug of the day) as I looked at how sweet it was that my favorite dad in the whole world was gently holding our new baby was, "Dad, can I hold her now? I think I'm getting a little jealous."

Something magical happened between the two of them in that moment.

Which is partly why I faded the background in the painting. The focus of the painting is what's happening between a grandfather and his grandaughter. He's not just reading a book, he's holding my daughter. For a moment she's still, relaxed in Papa's arms. His strong hands are protecting Joy behind a picture book, and Joy is so relaxed that she's sucking her thumb. For any father to sit in a living room and read a silly book to his grandchild is a beautiful wonderful event. For my dad to read to sweet Joy is a cherished memory.

The initial jealousy at seeing Sarah Joy in my dad's arms in the hospital all those years ago has long since departed. In it's place is assurance that Papa and Joy share a generousity of spirit that infects us all. And in quiet moments, when the two of them are together, everything else fades away.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hopelessly Devoted

Hello. My name is Sarah, (hello, Sarah) and I'm an artist.

Arguably, I've been an artist all of my life, but it's only been in the last two years that it's become somewhat of an addiction. Two years ago this October started my love affair with oil painting. It was as if all my life converged in one beautiful moment of glorious revelation at the end of a paintbrush. More often than not, on a day to day basis, I function well enough without painting. But from what I understand about addictions, one can think of nothing else except how to get the next high, the next fix, the next drink, or whatever. For me, it's how can I get the next painting out of my "foggy" brain and onto the canvas. How and when will I have the time to devote to re-creating what I see in my head to the canvas?

Maybe this art thing is not so much an addiction as it is a new devotion. Addiction would seem more like the art is controlling, that I am art's slave. Devotion, on the other hand, seems more a self sacrifice. It's more like I am giving myself to be enthusiastically attentive to this new pursuit. Devotion is a better word to describe my relationship with art anyway. Art often becomes a prayer...."God, help me finish this painting. Amen."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Brain Cloud

The new painting is a mess, or what's left of it. This morning, I swiped off four or more layers of paint on the bottom half of the painting, so that as a whole, the thing looks pretty pathetic. Similar to erasing memory, what's left on the bottom half of the painting is grey matter with no synapses.

Now, I wonder if I just made a huge mistake. Was my brain too clouded with what was before me that I couldn't see beyond it to a more finished piece?

Sometimes my whole life feels just like one big brain cloud. Everything's.....fuzzy. Maybe that's part of the reason my paintings are NOT quite so precise and detailed. Maybe my brain is a fog, and every once in a while a cool wind blows the mist around, and for a brief moment of time the haze parts, and my vision clears. And whatever was uncertain or obstructed is momentarily revealed.

Has anyone invented a brain fan, yet? Seems like that would be extremely helpful in encouraging the fog to lift, and seperate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Simon Says....

There's a line in a Paul Simon song from his Graceland album: "Believing he had supernatural powers he slammed into a brick wall."

For various reasons, I haven't painted in three weeks. And what I thought I could do no longer seems possible, as far as painting goes. I've slammed into a brick wall. But "these are the days of miracle and don't cry baby, don't cry." And, for what I'm painting today to turn out like I've envisioned, it will take a miracle (or at least a small wonder.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


First of all, by nature, I am not organized. So, for instance, if a day of the week wasn't scheduled for the house to get cleaned, it wouldn't happen. Mondays are designated for house cleaning.

Second, surprisingly since I'm not naturally gifted at organization, the quality of my performance often directly correlates to the cleanliness and tidiness of my environment. Go figure. It probably has something to do with my mother being a compulsive cleaner. Therefore, I force myself to clean on Mondays. This takes a huge amount of self-discipline and self-control, qualities that are not abundantly obvious in my character.

The result, when everything gets done well on Mondays, is that on Tuesdays I get to paint! Happiness.

However, even when all goes well on Mondays, life crowds in and misplaces painting time. Often it's my fault; time absorbs me when I'm at the computer. Or all the ordinary urgencies that come with running a household, like grocery shopping (a minor annoyance in my opinion) take away time. One I don't mind: a visit with a friend always takes precedence over painting. Friends are always welcome.

And since nothing is completely ordinary around here lately (is it ever?), today will be a non-painting Tuesday.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Art with Coffee

Art "coffee table" books I own:

Cezanne (one of my favorite, inspirational)
Mary Cassatt-Oils and Pastels (classic simplicity)
Mary Cassatt (refined)
Van Gogh (beauty and emotion)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (spirited)
Monet (landscapes and light)
Renoir (socially aware, soft)
Camille Pisarro (too many photos in black and white, pleasing)
Andrew Wyeth (amazing detail)
Manet (bold variety)
Degas (voyeuristic)
Sorolla (a gift from a Spaniard, breezy)
Henri Matisse (controlled emotion)
Matisse (calculated)
Matisse (colorful)
Georgia O'Keefe (Freudian)
Picasso (clearly brilliantly messed-up)
Rouault (dark, pious, almost expressionless)
Frida Kahlo (lots of pain and self-absorption)
Norman Rockwell (amusing, nostalgic)
Hopper (plastico is fantastico)
Faces of Impressionism (examples of many different artist's portraits--great to study)

Monday, August 07, 2006

An American in Mexico

It just so happens that we are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

When my friend sent the New York Times article about Donald Johnson, the prisoner who paints using the pigment leached from M&M´s, who happens to have an exhibit RIGHT NOW in San Miguel de Allende, excitement started to build. What are the odds that a long ago planned trip would co-incide with a completely random art exhibit that my dear "old" high school friend living in Pittsburgh sent me from a New York Times article? Not much, I wager.

There was limited information in the article, so the research began....and the walking. Imagine extremely narrow cobblestone roads with Mexico City traffic and steep hills similar to San Francisco; that´s San Miguel.

There was an early lead that yeilded a hint of the location of the gallery. After about a mile trek each direction, it turned out to be way off. Then a late evening trek to a series of galleries that were closed. Finally, a flier with the exhibit listed.....and today, score! Not only did we find the right gallery, but it was open.

The exhibit was at once disturbing and compelling, almost like watching a trainwreck. As stated in the New York Times article, all of the pieces were postcard size. There was very obviously leftover chocolate from the M&M's in some of the pieces. There were bits of the hard candy shell in some pieces, faded of pigment. The colors were bright; however, what I found disturbing, was that on more than a few pieces/works, there were strands of human hair stuck in the "painting." Only a select few paintings were symetrical and/or peaceful. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Lots of galleries these days are filled with abstract expressionism. There was just a quality (lack of quality?) that suggested a twisted view of life. Understandable, considering Donny Johnson has been behind bars, and in solitary confinement for most of his life...for murder.

After seeing the exhibit, what baffled me most was how this tiny gallery in San Miguel could host such a large opening night fete, and get such respected press coverage. That's very compelling. Only two of the twenty-four-ish pieces had not yet sold. Kudos, Yam Gallery. ( )

Monday, July 31, 2006

Jamaican Woman

Walking through her village deep in the back country of Jamaica, I asked if I could take her picture. She nodded, yes. With a mixture of contentment and sadness, she smiled. Life is hard in Jamaica. "No problem, mon" seems to be a mantra Jamaicans say to convince themselves that there is hope.

Everything you see is exactly my vision for this work; the grace of a life lived through the dirt of poverty. May God bless her.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Master of the House

Since I've only been painting for a short time, I'm still working on mastering my style. While not fully understanding all the techniques of painting, I do have this huge desire to create. At the same time, I'm reluctant to go to "art class" because so often the teacher unwittingly wants to impose his/her style on the student.

To compensate for this lack of knowledge, I devour art books and magazines. Especially in art magazines, the artist tells what size brush they use, what color paint, and sometimes even show works in progress. So, for instance, I read an article about some guy who used dioxazine violet for his shadows and cremnitz white in his highlights. Having never heard of either color, I went to Texas Art Supply, bought both, and started experimenting. At least four of my paintings have been influenced by that article and those colors.

Also recently I bought a book on brushwork essentials. About halfway through reading it, (looking at the pictures) I have noticed myself paint more carefully as a result. The goal is to be master over the painting, not let the painting be master over me.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fair or Fowl

All things fowl started when my grandmother gave me a painting of three chicks that her mother (my great grandmother, Sallie McNair Heidelberg) had painted. The three little chicks are hovering around what looks like an oyster shell. Two chicks are pecking at the meat in the shell, and the other chick is looking up as a shaft of light permeates the background. Artistically, it forms a nice triangle, starting with the light source and traveling around the three chicks. Triangles make for good composition in paintings.

Then one day I brought home two kitschy vintage roosters from an estate sale. Then another, and another. Pretty soon I had a whole chicken village. The most unusual piece in this chicken collection was a rooster lamp with a black/white polka dotted lampshade. I say 'was' because this lamp recently met an untimely death.

Within the first few months of the start of my painting (2004), I copied my great grandmother's Three Chicks as a Christmas gift to my parents.

Ever since, though, I've wanted to paint roosters or chickens or something similar of my own, not a copy. Living in the city naturally thwarts opportunities to be associated with real chickens, unless they are roasted or fried--yum. But on a recent trip to Jamaica, there were chickens everywhere. Over breakfast the last morning of our trip, I noticed the perfect rooster. I couldn't help but notice him. He was sassy, cocky, fussy, busy, noisy, everything a rooster should be. He dared me to paint his portrait.

Friday, July 21, 2006


My friend just forwarded an article from the New York Times about a prisoner in California's Pelican Bay Prison who paints using the color leached from M&M's. It's quite fascinating. Click on the M&M's to read the artcle.

Fa cryin' out loud

In Houston there once was an artist
who really was trying her hardest
to paint with her heart
magnificent art
and tell stories that truly seemed smartest.

To paint with her heart she was trying
though some days she ended up crying
(it was more like a whine
that sniveling kind)
but when painting the brushes went flying.

She painted for five hours straight
with nary a small little break.
Then when she was through
time to make a meat stew
to nourish her family of eight.

Well, eight is a number that's false,
her husband and one little dog,
four daughters, it's true
but one's in Peru
there's also a gecko with spots.

"What's up," said her husband one morning,
"I'm writing a small little warning
of what happens when prose
gets stuck in one's toes
and the readers get lulled into groaning."

"The writing has gotten me stuck
every word that I write just sounds yuck
I'm going to bed
to clear out my head
upon waking to find better luck."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Art and Soul

Come on, take it. Take another little piece of my heart now baby....

So far it hasn't really hurt to let go of my paintings. But I've purposely not sold any lately because I'm preparing for this solo exhibit, and the gallery said that I need to have 50-ish works ready to show. It feels a little funny to ask for paintings back, so I just haven't sold any (on purpose). The good thing is that I will have enough works with which I am pleased to exhibit.

These paintings all have a little bit of my heart and soul in them. The more I live with them on my walls, the more accustomed I become to their presence. As my daughters are growing into adulthood and leaving the house, and I rejoice with them in their independence, I will also rejoice as these paintings join new collections. So come on take it....take another little piece of my heart now, baby, come on take it!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Princess

My life is inextricably connected to these new artistic pursuits. I haven't figured out a way to turn off my brain at the end of a "work" day. Consequently, I think about art all the time.

This is a continuation of a pattern for me. As a new mom, I studied and completely devoted 100% of my time and effort to motherhood with the ultimate goal of raising mature, healthy, independent adults. My daughters are amazing human beings. I'm delighted to be part of their lives, what a priviledge. As a gardener, I sweated, toiled, labored and now my garden grows without much effort.

Ultimately, this is an art blog. As explained before, the purpose of this blog is to document the trials and triumphs of my artistic life. But that's just it. It's all my life. I contemplate all kinds of issues all the time that intertwine with almost everything I do artistically. And now that I'm writing a blog, I try to think of new ways to convey to my reading public something interesting about my tiny artistic life. What I'm trying to say is that I can't seperate being an artist from being a mom, being a gardener, being Reese's wife, and everything else that encompasses my life.

Tipping my daughter's hand, (which she might not appreciate) we watched The Princess Diaries recently. It's a charming story about a young lady who finds out that her father was a crown prince and therefore she is a princess. Heretofore, she has lived a life of invisibility. The conflict, of course, is she must decide whether or not to accept her responsibilities as a princess. Regardless, she can no longer ignore who she is by birth. She was born a princess. She "discovers" herself and eventually embraces her birthright.

Was I born an artist? Or will art be a phase like gardening? Motherhood is a phase that's nearly over for me.... will the art continue? Is there one identity, really, to which we were born? I know that The Princess Diaries is just a fairy tale, but is there a smidgen of truth to it? Did God create us for one thing? I mean, I've been a lot of things already. This art thing is new-ish, but it feels right. Is this the one thing for which I was created? Doesn't everyone want to find this super meaning to life and figure out why they are here?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Anna and the Toad

For a long time, I've been developing my artistic license. The two most notable examples of this are regarding my inventive cooking "skills" and my sometimes flamboyant story-telling. As my friend Stan says, "It's a true story....that's the way I heard it."

The newest expression of my artistic license is changing things in my paintings in order to tell a better story. This newest painting (that I worked on FOR-EV-ER) started with sweet young Anna hunting for Easter eggs. She was carrying a basket filled with plastic grass. It's from one of my favorite photos of all time. Anna is eager with anticipation at the start of the hunt. But instead of hunting for eggs in my rendition of the painting, I changed it to Anna showing off a toad she has caught. This was not unusual in the life of our daughters; they loved catching critters. To do this I had to completely change the grip of her fat little hand, and find a toad that matched my vision. In addition to that, I changed the color of her little dress to compliment her hair, and softened the shadows on her face.

Hopefully I captured the same sweet little girl and the look of delight and wonder on her face. That's what I really loved about the photo....not what she was doing (hunting eggs) but how well she was doing it (enjoying life.)

Friday, June 30, 2006


Here's the deal: I've been working on one painting for a month now. Apparently, it's more complicated than my skill level. When my family looks at it they unanimously say that it needs more work. The sad pathetic thing is, at this point I don't think I'm capable of achieving a higher standard on this painting. For the life of me I can't figure out what to do next. I have no idea what colors to mix to get the effect that I want. And even if I knew what colors to mix, I have no idea how to translate that to the canvas. I don't think I have the right brushes, and I don't even know which ones to buy. And if I bought them, would I even know how to use them?

The good thing is that all artists learn by trial and error. I just wasn't quite ready for this painting to be an error. An artist friend of mine who knows a LOT more than I, suggested working on fuzzy landscapes to rebuild my confidence. The ironic thing is that the fuzzy landscape part of this painting is a big part of why it looks so unfinished. UGH.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Naive is a term that art muckety-mucks use to describe an untrained artist. It means that the art is unsophisticated, simple, and lacks perception (usually). Henri Rousseau is one of the most widely known of the naive artists. What Rousseau lacked in technical skill, he more than made up for in design and imagination. His paintings were well collected during his lifetime, but too often he undervalued his own paintings, trading them for a simple meal.

Rousseau started painting at age 40 because he loved it. He seemed to keep an innocence about life that translated well into the fanciful paintings he produced. His paintings often have a yin yang quality, balancing danger and innocence. "The Sleeping Gypsy" is perhaps his most well known work. In it we see an idyllic desert moonlit night, a gypsy asleep after perhaps singing for his supper, and an ominous looking lion, the king of beasts just casually sniffing the gypsy. Am I reading too much into the painting to suggest that the lion represents a harsh world ready to devour us, and the sleeping gypsy is an innocent, a naive, perhaps Rousseau himself, who still is drinking from the elixir of life, is happy and content and has found peace in the world?

As a non-academically trained, and more precisely self-taught, I fall into the category of being a naive artist.

Last week was rife with inspiration. I met new people, tasted new food, saw new places, and learned new words. I'm really excited about a few paintings in the works because of these new influences. Another thing I learned about myself last week was that not only am I naive with regard to art, I am also naive with regard to people. My husband and I spent a few days in an unique environment, and more and more we found ourselves extremely naive to our surroundings. Suffice it to say that I am inordinately naive.

Maybe perceptions change as we age. Maybe when life knocks us around a bit, we become "sophisticated," I don't know. Is it so wrong to be naive? Is it better to be schooled so much that we lose our joy of life? Would it be better to be afraid of the lion or blissfully unaware of it's existence?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Pianist---Doh!

This new painting I'm working on has turned out to be much more complicated than first imagined. To be true, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Not so. First of all, this is the painting that did a belly flop last week (jelly side down). And it's the painting that caused such turmoil yesterday (pit of despair). I just couldn't find the right color values. (which amazes me that I have now used the term 'color values' in a sentence---go figure) But my friend, Joan came by yesterday and agreed that the painting was a little off.

We are expecting company on Friday night, and I was sure that this painting would hide in my bedroom closet, not be displayed in the studio for all to see. But after dreaming about the painting last night, and avoiding it for most of the day, I finally went back in the studio. I am so pleased with today's results. It's not finished, but it's in a much better state.

In other news, as I was looking through a book on Cezanne today, I found this.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pit of Despair

Does an artist need to experience turmoil and suffering in order to produce great art? And if so, does the turmoil and anxiety experienced while painting count as said suffering?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Pianist

Several artists have given me the same advice. They say, "study the masters!" Even Renoir, Cezanne, Mary Cassatt, Matisse, etc., studied the masters. Of course, the Louvre was at their disposal. Perhaps I should spend more time studying the masters. But every time I go to the museum, or half price books to get another art book, it's not the masters that interest me. I like the impressionists and post-impressionists and modern painters like Cezanne, Matisse, Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Degas, etc. While everyone acknowledges that Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci are indeed masters, I don't find myself as often drawn to them as I am a good Cezanne painting.

Lately I have been looking a lot at Matisse's work. In addition to his "Still Life with Magnolias," I was inspired by another of his paintings. It's called "La petite pianiste, robe bleue, fond rouge."

What I like about it is that it is in an intimate setting; the young lady is thoughtful and concentrating on what she is playing; the use of color; the fuzziness of her hands; the outlines; the big bold strokes; the blue dress....when I first saw this painting in a postcard from our daughter who saw it in the Matisse Museum in Nice, France, I felt like I could sit and enjoy the music the young lady was playing. And maybe she wasn't the best pianist in the world, but you enjoyed the music because you loved the one playing it. 

Rachel is a wonderful pianist. As I've been thinking of using Matisse's "La petite pianiste" as an inspiration, I wanted to make sure that someone posed for me who loved, lived and breathed music. Like in the Matisse painting, I wanted it to be a young lady, and it was a huge plus that Rachel was wearing blue jeans the day she posed. So I took the same theme by a tried and true artist (though not considered a master), and painted it with a more modern feel. By modern, I mean contemporary with Rachel in blue jeans with a ponytail and t-shirt. She was playing so fast and beautifully that her fingers were a bit of a blur like in the Matisse painting, too. And it just so happens that as much as I enjoy hearing Rachel play the piano, she really is quite talented, I enjoy it even more because I am so fond of the one playing it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jelly Side Down

While painting today, the painting I was working on fell off the easel and landed jelly side down. Bummer. Kind of knocked the wind out of my sails.

Thankfully I had a drop-cloth under my easel, well, a drop Twister mat. A Twister mat makes the perfect drop cloth. It's plastic and it has remarkable paint splatter barrier abilities...I'm not THAT messy, usually it's just a smidge of paint or once in a while I'll drop a brush. But a whole painting....? Who does that!?

I called it a day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Starving artist? Not hardly....

...but I know why the term was coined; painting supplies are expensive. Yesterday, I went to Texas Art Supply and spent a huge amount of money on a few items. You have to know why this hurts so much. I am, to put it kindly, very thrifty. Loathe might be a good word to use to describe how I feel about shopping. It's mostly because the thought of using money to pay for items that will be instantly consumed and/or immediately depreciate in value slightly sickens me. Because of this aversion to shopping, I have developed a few tricks on how to make parting with money less painful. For instance, I am not above "curbside recycling." Quite a few items in our home have been acquired this way, most just need a thorough cleaning. I also frequent consignment shops, garage sales, estate sales, and re-sale shops. Thrifty.

Art supplies are not created equal. To get a professional quality end product, one must acknowledge that the artist will pay more for higher quality supplies. When I first started painting, Reese and I searched for the cheapest stuff we could buy. But as time has past, and art supplies have diminished, I started replacing my supplies with higher quality items. I noticed a tremendous difference in the experience of painting and the outcome of the work. Instead of a 1.25 ounce of oil paint costing $3, like when we first bought supplies, what I buy now costs $30. Big difference. And instead of being able to buy one get one free for canvases, I've fallen in love with painting on linen, for which no such deals exists. Don't even get me started on the brushes....I still haven't brought myself to totally go sable, which transcends painting to pure pleasure. The paint just glides on with a sable brush. I check the sale bin every time I go to Texas Art Supply hoping for a mis-marked or discontinued high dollar item. I'm holding out for those sable brushes.

So, though I'm clearly not starving, there has been a noticable shift in my budget. I've yet to find good art supplies at a garage sale or consignment shop. Not that I won't keep looking....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Flaming Snot

Pepper Ann is a cartoon that we used to watch with our daughters when they were younger. In one episode, Pepper Ann was selected for the "brain" team because of her unusual grasp of modern day trivia. It was kind of like jeopardy, only for middle schoolers and there were teams instead of individual players. So she gets really into the competition, and starts memorizing all kinds of other facts (i.e., history, geography,etc.) for the good of the team. In the final showdown, there is one question about Pepper Ann's favorite rock band, Flaming Snot. Pepper Ann has re-arranged the files in her brain to make room for geography, and imagines herself desperately searching all the files and boxes in her brain for any or all references to Flaming Snot. "Must--find---Flaming---Snot."

This is exactly how my brain feels today. I've been stuffing it and stuffing it full of art files. But I'm not very organized, apparently in my life as well as my brain. Especially with all this new art knowledge...where can I find the right colors to mix (in my brain), so I don't feel like I'm re-inventing the wheel every time I paint? Where is that file on proportions? How do I put in that shadow again? Which paintbrush did I use to get that effect?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I bet people with organized houses and offices also have an organized file system in their brain. When they need a file, it's right where it should be. I'll bet people who plot charts and graphs THINK in charts and graphs *all the time.* I'll venture to say that their closets and underwear drawers (so to speak) are neatly organized. Maybe even their cupboards are alphabetized.

Me, not so much. I have old cardboard boxes in my brain, full of bits and pieces of who knows what. When I need to retrieve new information, none of it has been put in a proper file cabinet and it's difficult to rummage around the old musty attic. THINK. "Must-----find---glasses."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chad said....

"Chad said....
I love your title, by the way. It's vague enough to mean anything, yet apt for describing views on painting, how to read paintings, or even how to create art. Nice work."

Chad left this comment on this blog's May 9th entry. "Finding My Glasses" is the title of my solo exhibit in November. My daughter, Anna, helped come up with the name. It really signifies this new vision I'm discovering through painting, this new way of looking at life. I hope that people will enjoy my "view" through what I put on canvas and that this vision stays unique. (remember, you're unique just like everybody else) It is a new perspective for me. I'm transforming from one phase of my life (stay at home mom, mostly) to a new phase of being a professional artist. I'm "finding my glasses."

But that's not really why Anna suggested the title.

"Sarah said....(my response to Chad)
Also, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for my glasses. They get in the way, or are uncomfortable, and I take them off and forget where I've put them. One day I found them in the refrigerator."

Just this past week, I "found" my glasses (1) on top of the dryer in the garage (2) in the parking lot at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (3) on the front lawn of our house at 10 o'clock at night. I had been looking for hours.

Maybe this is just par for the course. All artists have their eccentricities, right?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Things I've observed while painting today:

1. It's harder than it looks.

2. I forget that it's a bit hard.

3. I move around a lot, and walk backwards away from my painting and trip on stuff.

4. I get messy, and have to clean my hands and fingers because.....

5. I use my fingers to paint sometimes.

6. A beer helps me relax and get in the groove.

7. I hate the minutia of details.

8. It's good to not have distractions.

9. It's great to be back in my studio.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's been 18 days since my last paint session."

I know it's not a sin not to paint, but I feel like this today. That it's almost somehow wrong for me to have waited so long between painting.

May I be ever faithful in service to the King, whatever He puts before me. Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Myths are powerful. For instance, it is a myth that Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime....probably perpetuated by starving artists consoling themselves when their work doesn't sell. Van Gogh did sell work during his lifetime. His brother Theo represented him in Paris and sold several of his paintings.

A few months ago we were in Gremillion Gallery, and for the first time saw works by a wonderful artist, Lionel Kalish. The gallery who-ha we were talking to at the time said that he was an 80 year old man who painted with a magnifying glass because his eyes were so bad. Last night, we went to an opening reception for Lionel Kalish at Gremillion Gallery. Delightfully I got to visit at length with him. He's not 80, but he is 75. He gave an extensive explanation of his style, technique, his feeling that his art should inspire an emotional response in the was awesome. He graciously answered all my questions.

He asked me and my friend, Debra what we did after a while. I replied that I was a new, fledgling artist, at which he immediately replied, "Oh, I'm sorry." He then asked me to describe my work. This is a toughy for me. How do I describe it? I started with, "It's nothing like yours. It's not detailed (his is very detailed), it's a little messy (his is very neat), representational (his is all from his imagination), sometimes fuzzy (his is focused, for lack of a better word), colorful (his, though colorful, is much more muted than mine), painted in bold strokes (his is very precise). I also mentioned my upcoming solo exhibit. Then an amazing thing happened. He asked me if I would send him an invitation! I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to leave to find a pen because it seemed so surreal. When no one in our group had a pen, he himself went over to the guestbook with me following him like a little puppy dog. He found a pen, and carefully wrote his address on a piece of paper for me. And said again, "Please send me an invitation to your exhibit."

We sat down together for another little visit, and I asked, "So, do you use a magnifying glass when you paint?" Right then and there he said with a sigh, "No, I don't know why they perpetuate that myth. Thankfully, my eyes still work, and I don't need a magnifying glass."

Reese and I had been so amazed at the original telling of this 80 year old man using a magnifying glass to paint, that we had repeated it several times. I came home and told Reese what Lionel had said, that it was a myth, and Reese said that he heard the same gallery who-ha telling someone the same story she told us that same night, not five feet from the truth.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In a previous phase of my life, I was a competitive runner. With running, or at least competitive running, it helps to have a good coach. A good coach takes a no-talent, and by the end of the season, with drills, time, and encouragement has produced a real athlete. I thrived with good coaching. Even after I had my fourth daughter, with a good coach, I was able to run my best college times. (not anymore)

My favorite art coach is Miss Joan. Miss Joan was our family art teacher when we homeschooled our two youngest daughters 5 years back. She invited anyone in the family to join this class geared toward supplementing our education efforts. She was always cheerful and quick to praise. We worked on everything from paper mache to wire art to that mosaic I told you about before.

But seasons of life evolved, and family art lessons went by the wayside. So when Joan called me and told me about this oil painting class she was taking, I said,

"You take the class, and then come here and teach us what you learned."

This of course was in keeping with how we operated---her teaching the family, and us reveling in her praise. She insisted that I join her.

"I don't have any paints, or paint, you take the class and then come teach us."

She said that she would loan me everything I needed if I would just come take this one class. How could I resist?

We made arrangements to meet at the class. She said that would let me borrow all her supplies and she promised to stand beside me. But she was late. The teacher, Bruce Williamson, motioned for me to come inside....Which I did. He said to get my palette ready as class was about to begin. But I didn't have anything. He was in the process of loaning me his supplies Joan arrived. Alleluia!

What they do in class is set up a still life, all the artists gather in a semi-circle, the teacher does a little demonstration, and then says, "Paint."

Are you kidding me? What?! Art speak is a different language. I had no idea what he was saying. All I heard was, blah blah blahblahblah....(or in Arrested Development, Bob Lob Law) I kept saying, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

That's not all. At the end of the class guess what happens? Everyone lines up their paintings in the front of the class and the art teacher critiques them!

Talk about nervous. I tried to beg off saying it was just my first painting, and I didn't want to put it up front. I didn't want to know what he thought....especially if it was negative. I didn't want anyone else to see it.

But up front it went. Along with the others in class... When you are at the starting line in a race, you sort of look around and size up the competition. And then you stop, turn inward, and just focus on your own race. Everything else sort of blurs as you concentrate on running your best race. That's what happened to me that day. First, I looked at all the other paintings in the class, and sized them up, if you will. Then all that blurred as I looked at what I had painted and tried to focus of what I needed to hear about this "race." Bruce was amazed that I had never painted before. He was not overly effusive in praise, but he definately had no criticism. The other artists in the class were murmuring approval. Joan was grinning, standing in encouragement beside me all the way.

I was near tears when I got home from all the nervous excitement. My adrenaline must have been pumping overtime. Reese saw the painting and about flipped. We went out the next day and he bought all the supplies for me to take the next week's class, the next starting line in a new race. And who did we "run" into at the art store? Miss Joan, my favorite art coach.

Friday, May 12, 2006

There's a quote that I thought was attributed to William Turner, the British landscape painter. But I can't find a source to verify my story anywhere. Whether or not he said it, I have embraced this quote as part of my art doctrine.

"A painting isn't truly finished until the artist has abandoned it."

The story I heard, (again I have no proof of this other than a foggy memory) is that William Turner was often not satisfied with his completed paintings. The story goes that he would sneak into the British Museum, paints in hand, and start touching up his own paintings. The British Museum! Can you imagine? A little old man with paints, pallete, and brushes painting right there in the gallery? The guards had to chase him out! (That's how I heard it)

"Please! No! Wait!...Just a touch of cobalt blue by that tree!"

Did the guards expect him every Friday? Did he wear a disguise? How did he conceal his supplies?

For me it's not a far stretch. Sometimes I have to live with one of my paintings for a while before I notice something that I am compelled to "tweak." I've dreamed about my paintings....before, during, and after painting them. For the most part, what you see, the photos of the paintings on the website, (or in person) is what I imagined it to look like as a completed painting.

All that said, the painting I worked on last week is finished. However, "Magnolia" has not been abandoned.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Last night Sam posed an assumption about art and the creative process. He supposed that artists use a particular brushstroke to convey a feeling, or choose a color to force a mood. Have you done this? Gone through museums and galleries trying to figure out what the artist was thinking/feeling when they painted this or that? Art books are full of stories and explanations about art. There's this one Matisse painting called "Harmony in Red." It began it's life as "Harmony in Green," then was painted over and transformed into "Harmony in Blue." Someone bought it as "Harmony in Blue," and after they had owned it for a year, Matisse persuaded them to return it, and then he painted over it a third time and it became "Harmony in Red." What the heck was Matisse thinking?

When Erin was home last summer, she spent a lot of time on facebook. Sometimes she would leave the windows open, and if I just so happened to walk by...and see some things, well, she would have closed the windows if she didn't want me peeking in, right? One of her dear friends, Lillian, had a GREAT photo of herself on facebook. I was enthralled the moment I saw it. It had mystery, beauty, light, and shadows. We (and by we, I mean Reese) copied, pasted, saved, and printed Lillian's facebook portrait in a 4x6 size so that I could use it as a guide for a painting.

I like how it turned out. It was a great photo that translated into an interesting painting.

Months later, Summer Rudd, with the American Cancer Society, asked if I would donate a painting to their Starlight Gala. Flattered, I initially decided to donate "Lillian." I temporarily re-titled it "Ever Hopeful" because...."the painting is symbolic of life with cancer...longing for an idyllic future, and seeing glimpses of it, but firmly planted in the here and now. One foot in shadow of cancer, and the other anticipating a brighter day. It can relate to one someone's personal battle with cancer, or pertain to looking for a cure within the medical community (which is what the evening is/was about!)"

Turns out that having a story to go with the art was not high on the priority list for the Starlight Gala silent auction. No matter. I'm still figuring out the business end of all this. Two huge positives were that the money raised went to a great cause, and I had the opportunity of having a piece in Gremillion Gallery for a day. (I still have the Lillian piece---donated something else)

I think Matisse just changed his mind. Apparently red worked best with the harmony he was trying to create on canvas.

And it was really better for "Lillian" to stay "Lillian."

So yes, some things are intentional, and no, some things just are what they are.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'm preparing to do another mosaic. My third one. The first one was HUGE. For beginners especially. Miss Joan suggested we do a stepping stone mosaic for the family art class. Instead, I cut a rather large piece of plywood to top a coffee table that was missing it's marbles, ahem, marble. When we rolled, tugged, lugged it up 3 flights of stairs for class the next week, Miss Joan said,

"That's going to take a while."

We also brought a lot of our own tile and pottery pieces. Instead of throwing broken plates away, like normal people, I had been thinking of using them in a mosaic some day. So I was delighted to get started. It did take forever. At least 2 months, maybe 4... it was a while back. We even ran out of studio time and had to bring it home to finish. Which I did since excitement for the project had long since waned. I swore I would never do a mosaic again.

But like giving birth, you forget the pain when you are enjoying your new coffee table so much. And I did a second, smaller, simpler table top. It's 98% finished, (the 2nd one) even though we have been using it for a year.

I found this great iron coffee table base around 6 months ago. Somebody was throwing it out. It was begging for me to rescue it, breathe life into it, help it live again. We just so happen to have broken quite a few dishes lately, too. See a pattern? So yesterday, I mixed up some of my paints to get the right color (I'm calling it Aunt Mary green) and got the base painted. It's VERY wet. In order to get a smooth consistency for painting on iron, I probably added too much linsead oil. Very wet. It will probably take a good two weeks for it to dry enough to touch. Did I mention that this is in our den?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Matisse's "Still Life with Magnolia" is/was supposed to be my inspiration today. As the painting was taking shape, and still in the sketch stage, it actually looked pretty good, like Matisse's later, more simple works. Since magnolias are in bloom, and it's a southern favorite for painting subject, I THOUGHT that now would be a good time to try. I've been planning the set up for a week now, tweaking it at the last minute to look more like the Matisse. The more I do to it the messier it looks.

So, I'm taking a break. And hoping the flower holds it's shape. And trying to figure out what to do next.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Being an artist, for me, has altered life as I knew it. Since 1985, I've been a mother, and since 1991, a mother of four. That involved learning how to cook, creating a pleasant home for my family, a little psychology, gardening, painting (the walls, not a picture), plumbing (installed a toilet), electrical work, general carpentry (added a room to the house), tile work, landscaping (designed and installed patios and footpaths), and entertaining, among other things.

Now, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and creating art. Most of it indoors. By myself. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just different.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What I hope to do with this blog is have a forum for delving further into describing/explaining my art work. It's mostly art pleasure for me, not work. I love painting!

People always have an opinion on what some piece of art means. They talk about brush stroke, application of paint, choice of subject matter, colors, style, you name it. If I show the same painting to 5 different people, I get 5 different views/opinions. So to me, what's important, is having confidence in my own work.

I will attempt to update at least once a week. And give my own stories corresponding to the pieces I create.