Friday, August 31, 2007

Studio Life

For various reasons, it's a tad bit difficult to concentrate on painting during the summer months. This summer has been no exception. A whopping two paintings were completed. Two.

This week has seen a flurry of activity in the studio, starting with a good late summer cleaning. While cleaning, it seemed like a natural time to re-arrange the studio as well, which turned out to be surprisingly inspiring. A renewed sense of purpose overcame me and I've been painting like crazy. OK, not like crazy, but there are three paintings drying on the easels right now. Two of those have quite a bit of work left, but the other one is mostly finished. (There was much rejoicing...yay.)

The painting that is mostly finished is a 12" x 36" box for the Bering and James Holiday Box Sale. It's the first time I've painted on a surface besides's a medium density fiberboard box purchased through the gallery. This is also the thing that I was ready to throw away because I found the *art* of applying gesso so complicated. I'm glad it didn't get thrown away, because it turned out to be quite a fun piece to paint. If it looks a bit fuzzy in the photograph,'s slightly exaggerated, but only slightly. For some reason the camera seemed to adjust itself to show what my eyes see, instead of a properly focused camera lens view. What's up with that?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Balboa Park

This painting might be finished....I've been working on it since early July.

Way back in the early 80's during my competitive running days was the first time I fell in love with Balboa Park. We (the University of Hawaii women's cross country team) had travelled to San Diego for a cross country meet. The crowd was massive as I remember it, and the weather was downright cold. Anything below 75 degrees is cold to someone from Hawaii. The course was beautiful....bright endless blue skies, rolling hills, dusty foot path, assorted wildlife, eucalyptus groves, and getting to run through it all. Life for me at the time didn't get any better than that.

For the Hazel family summer vacation we went to San Diego to see my little sister get married. While in San Diego, (stay classy San Diego) I really wanted us all to visit the park. My definition of San Diego included the words "Balboa Park."

Reese had us first go to the information center to pick up brochures which was a brilliant idea. He was a wonderful tour guide encouraging us to go see the Botanical Garden right before closing time. Enchanting is the best word to describe it. He also had us trekking through the woods of the park looking for geo-caches. The sky was still crispy blue as it had been years ago, and the trails still dusty. It couldn't have been a more enjoyable afternoon. [Left to right in the photo: Anna, Sarah (me), Reese, Hilary, and Erin. Joy is the photographer. We are standing just outside the Botanical Garden.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Great Grandma Heidelberg

My memories of Great Grandma Heidelberg are clearly fuzzy. But I've heard stories all my life. Stories that always start with laughter and when Grandma Heidelberg was alive, she...

-would have her maids wash the paper money and hang it on the clothes line to dry.

-had the whole household searching for her girdle only later to realize she was wearing it.

-burnt Grandpa Heidelberg's toast every morning. She wanted to be helpful and do something for her husband (instead of the maid doing everything.) He apparently never complained. Bless his heart.

Somewhere in the beginning of her life story she picked up a paintbrush. It was not unusual back in the late 1800's or early 1900's for a young lady's training to include proficiency in the arts. It is highly likely that she had some sort of art classes during her Belhaven College days from which she graduated in 1902. My mom told me once that she took art classes at a university in Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1950's. By then she was in her 70's! Pretty cool heritage. Mom said that all the college kids loved having her on campus.

So many people want to know how it is that I "found" painting given that I had no previous/formal training. I honestly don't know, but if artistic genes run through families, maybe someday I can live up to Great Grandma Heidelberg's a fun person and as an artist. She painted the three chicks (above) which is still my favorite painting of all time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Our family roots are buried deep in the soil of Mississippi. The earliest recorded ancestor in Mississippi was Thomas Christian Heidelberg who moved his family there in 1816. According to the Christian Heidelberg and Some of His Descendants family book,
"After many weeks of slow hard travel, the wagon train arrived at it's destination. Thomas Christian and his family rested their first night in Mississippi Territory with a hospitable and friendly Choctow Indian chief."

Once a year in late summer, the Heidelberg cousins gather together from all parts of the country for a family reunion. This has been going on for decades. What started out as a rather large picnic lunch back in the day has evolved into a small weekend of semi-organized festivities. Three reunions ago we all gathered in Natchez. One of the planned activities was a guided tour of Longwood.* While there I took several photos of the grounds with the thought of someday painting a part of my beloved Mississippi. Longwood is just off the Natchez Trace, and it's not too hard to imagine early relatives travelling the Trace with friendly Choctow Indians.

*All construction halted on this antebellum mansion at the start of the War Between the States. Even though the owner of the house and surrounding land had Federalist papers, when Union soldiers came through Natchez, they completely destroyed the property. What is left of Longwood is a sad reminder of the war and it's enduring impact that is still felt deeply in parts of the South.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ex Post Facto

"Lemons and Christmas Cactus" sold before it was signed or photographed. The owners recently loaned it back so that it could be signed and photographed. Having it back in our home for a few days has been delightful. I forget how much I love and miss the paintings after they have gone to live somewhere else. It's a little bit like when one of my daughters comes home for a visit...I relish every moment they are here while rejoicing with them in their independence. The paintings/the daughters are no longer mine to care for or keep. It's right to let go, and equally important to enjoy the visit.

The lemons are from the Cooner's tree which produces it's fruit in December. The Christmas cactus was a gift from Fran on my 40th birthday, and is in full bloom---well, during the Christmas season. Joy, when she when a child, painted the clay pot as a Mother's Day gift. The sweet simple landscape scene she painted on the pot has disappeared over the years, and all that's left is the very faded powder blue rim. This is the third time the wooden bowl has been in a painting and the second time for the stoneware pitcher. The still life was set up in our *Ming red* dining room.

Monday, August 06, 2007

White Linen

Something I neglected to mention last week was that I was the artist in Wind Water Gallery for White Linen Night in the Heights on Saturday night. (The owners, Ross and Cathy Clark are very gracious and kind.) Houstonians came out in droves (at least as many a 15,000). Many thanks to our friends who came to Wind Water to support us.

Of course, I wore white linen guru pants and a white linen sleeveless shirt in keeping with the event. And as usual, forgot the camera...

Wind Water Gallery
548 W 19th, 713.426.4885,
Houston’s largest source of Asian Antiques. Paintings by Sarah Hazel, White Linen Night Bacardi Drinks.


Rough week of painting:

Somehow, I manage to not remember the same things every time I paint. I hardly ever remember to start with darks first. It's really hard to put shadows in a painting after one has started with lights. For some reason, I think that I can put on a color---and it will be true---and it will blend well. But when that color has a base of white in it, the other colors don't blend so well with it, especially if one is trying to add a darker shadow. This not being able to apply dark over light happens to me over and over again. Why can I never remember to start with dark colors and then add the lights?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gesso Complicated....

Sweet Anna has moved to Austin. She's renting a house not too far from where Sister Erin lives and is continuing to create a wonderfully amazing life for herself and those around her. I love this for her....*really*'s just that I have known for some time how much I rely on Anna to answer all of life's art questions. Naturally, since she lives in Austin and I live in Houston, she is not here when I have questions. Questions like: How the heck am I supposed to use gesso? ['je-(")sO] And what's the deal with fixative?

By the time she arrived for a long weekend visit, I had googled gesso, read everything that wikipedia had to say about it, bought some, and understood that it should be used for the beginning stages of a particular project. But the how-to mechanics of it were not answered in any of the online research. (Gesso is a sort of primer/rabbit skin glue stuff used to prepare a raw surface to accept paint. Feel free to correct me if that's not right.) Anna is such a patient teacher and explains things so gently and graciously that when it is time to put to practice what she taught, it isn't as distasteful a task as I imagine. I was dreading using gesso. Whatever horror I had associated with using gesso was---only in my head. In reality it is a relatively painless process----many thanks to Anna's gentle explanation.**

There were/are a few chalk and charcoal sketches that I want to preserve, so I bought a spray fixative that is supposed to protect the surface of the work so that it doesn't smear. Anna said that I bought the wrong kind of fixative, that I needed the workable fixative (fixatiff?)because the "matte spray clear matte protective finishing spray for art/craft projects" will yellow with time. Why didn't the sales lady at the art supply store tell me that?

**In the immortal (or not) words of G.O.B. from Arrested Development:
I made a huge mistake using the gesso after writing the above paragraphs yesterday. The horror is real, not imaginary. Gesso is indeed agonizingly wretched and torturous (for me) to use. The grievous depth of this misery has caused severe pain and anguish. It will take ten times as long to correct the lamentable gesso mistake as it did to make it in the first place. My over-exaggerated, extreme dislike of insufferable gesso survives.