Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finding My Center

Via Colori is in a couple of weeks. Last year I modified my painting to make it seem a bit more three dimensional. This year's image isn't quite so malleable. (I'm using Door in San Miguel, a painting I no longer own.) Plus, The Center for Hearing and Speech has asked for a 10 inch by 10 inch replica of the 10 foot by 10 foot image that I'm drawing/painting on the street so that they can auction it to raise even more money.

In theory it's a great idea---auction off a smaller image of the giant street drawing. That way at least one person gets to go home with something that won't disappear in 48 hours, considering that everything gets washed off the street by the end of the second day. But drawing this smaller image has posed a bit of a problem.

In order to make the small "painting" as much like the street painting as possible, I painted the background of the Masonite board grey. I even went outside to copy the color of the street in front of our house to make sure that the small reproduction would be as similar to the finished street painting as possible. Then I thought it would be a good idea to use the exact same pastel chalks that will be used for the street painting. Well, this poses a problem with matching colors because the original original painting was done in oils. With oils one can create and endless variety of colors. But with pastels, one is limited in one's choice. Apparently there is a much greater variety of pastels on the market, but I am trying to reduce the overall cost of the whole event, and am planning to only use the pastels provided by the Center for Hearing and Speech for this event. This limits the accurateness of the drawing (small and large) quite a bit. Hence my frustration.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The exact date is uncertain, but right about this time three years ago I started painting. Three years and 108 paintings (more or less.) Here I am standing in Lawndale Art Center next to my latest painting to be exhibited and sold. A friend* of mine recognized that it was one of my paintings, not from the style, not from my name, but from the figure in the painting. He thought that it must be a relative of mine because he thought it looked like me so therefore I must have painted it. OK, it is a painting of my father's mother, and I've always thought that I look more like my dad than my mom, but how is it that Bob* could have possibly recognized the family resemblance?

At the absolute complete opposite end of the spectrum at the opening, I said hi to a new friend of mine who looked at me...thoroughly clueless.

"I'm Sarah Hazel," I said. "We met at such and such and this that and the other. Remember?"

Her eyes narrowed as she looked at me. With the slightest hint of acknowledgement she vaguely said, "Wow. I didn't recognize you. You look nice."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

Tonight is the opening Gala and Silent Auction for Lawndale Art Center. Yesterday, Reese and I went to see the exhibit...partly because it will be so crowded at the opening tonight, but mainly because Reese has been working nights and can't be two places at once.

To recap, this is the exhibit for which I painted a retablo, or small devotional painting in the mexican tradition. All 240-ish retablos at the exhibit will be offered for sale; the proceeds benefitting Lawndale Art Center.

If you want to join me tonight, I have access to a few extra tickets, so call me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gone With The Wind

One of the things I did last week while painting was listen to my Ultimate French Advanced tapes. After a particularly long day, I was telling Reese and Hilary about my attempts at learning French. Hilary asked me what I could possibly be learning from listening to tapes in which I don't understand a single word.

"What are you learning?" she asked.

Without a second thought I said in my best french accent, " I am learning 'ow to tawk like zeese."

However, the tapes didn't follow me to Hermann Park today. Houston has had an abrupt change in the weather, and from the comfort of home, the day seemed perfect for painting en plein aire. So, I loaded up the french easel (French is everywhere) and headed to the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park. What a pretty day; crisp sky, brisk wind.

It has been a l-o-n-g time since I last painted outside. Undeterred but slightly nervous (Reese calls it nervous excitement,) I methodically set up my work space. The paints were orderly laid out on the palette. The french easel was screwed together extra tight on account of the wind.

The initial start was sketchy, and by that I mean not so good. So I wiped it all off and started over. My second go was much better....but the wind was practically gusting. First, the turpenoid (odorless turpentine) spilled all over the palette. Not a huge deal, but then my paintbrushes started falling one by one in the dirt. OK. I can handle that, too, but as I was packing it all in to come home, the painting fell face the dirt, grass, leaves, and pine needles. All of nature represented in the Japanese Garden is embedded in what's left of the painting.

Reese received a text about my small misery. He texted back...wwmd? What would Monet do? :)

It's only a guess, but I think Monet would have gone inside for un verre de vin rouge. (That's french for a glass of red wine.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

French Lessons

For many years I have wanted to learn the french language. The great artists from the last couple of centuries studied in France, and invariably their paintings are most thoroughly described in french. The benefit would be great.

It just so happens that one of our new neighbors is French and she has graciously agreed to give me french lessons. Our first go was yesterday. Despite her patience, my thoroughly Americanized pronunciation of french words/phrases leaves a lot to be desired.

After she left, I walked a few blocks over to Half Price Books to search for any sort of help with regards to learning to speak french....mostly out of courtesy to Francoise. The poor dear might not want to return if I languish in le├žon un for weeks on end.

There I was in the foreign language section and for the life of me I couldn't find anything regarding french. There was a sign that said that everything was alphabetized, but when I looked where "F" should be there were all these books on how to learn Greek. I know that F comes before G, yet I still looked to the right....Italian, Russian, slowly dawned on me that the F's would be left, but then there were books on German! Good grief. What's the deal?

It was a small moment of triumph when I discovered the french books---very properly alphabetized. Ah, I found the perfect set of lessons on tape; 8 sixty minute cassettes with an accompanying 400 page text book, in great shape at a modest price. Bought it. Came home. Put in the first tape. A long string of indecipherable french words came pouring through the atmosphere.


For someone who is a visual learner, I wasn't very observant. The program that I bought was ULTIMATE FRENCH ADVANCED. Not Beginning. Not Intermediate. Advanced.

Oh, well. C'est la vie.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Raggedy Man

Prompted by a good friend, I'm adding "not necessarily art"-related stories to this blog. This other life of mine seems to eventually relate somehow to time spent working on art type things.

This is the story of Reese and me going to the airport a few weeks go to pick up the Shaws, whom I mentioned in the October 1st blog entry.

As we were driving to the airport, we noticed that the car was driving a little rough. We pulled off at the next exit to see if we had a flat, and noticed smoke coming out from under our hood. There was a Shell station at the next intersection; we pulled in to check under the hood. Sure enough---lots of smoke.

Reese went in the little convenience store attached to the gas station to buy some coolant. Then he pulled the suburban over to the water hose at the edge of the gas station parking lot to add the coolant....He had just gotten the hood up, and had added the water/coolant mixture, when out of nowhere a raggedy old man appeared. Looking under the hood, he said,

"You have a problem with your thermostat. I can fix it."

In his left hand, the tattered and timeworn fella held a bag of aluminum cans. He said that he had been out collecting cans when something (someone?) told him to walk toward us. He said that in a past life he had been a car mechanic. Then he opened up his right hand and much to our surprise, there in his filthy fist was a small supply of tools. Not waiting for permission, he immediately started loosening this and tightening that. He kept up a running commentary of the work he was doing and why it needed to be done. He crawled under the car, worked a bit more, looked under the hood again, tightened one last bolt....then said,

"Well. That should take care of it. You shouldn't have any more problems."

I asked if we should tow it home.(?)

He said,

"Lady, you could drive it to New York." (which is a long way considering we live in Houston, Texas)

Still a bit stunned from the suddenness of it all, we tipped the guy and drove off.

With extreme gratefulness in our hearts, we safely made it to the airport just in time to greet our friends as they walked out of baggage claim.

In case you are wondering, the car is fine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happiness is....

Monday, I bought flowers and set up a still life in the studio.

Tuesday, I re-arranged the still life endlessly, then mixed paint time and time again, never quite satisfied with the colors.

Wednesday, I worked on my resume, delivered a painting, and generally avoided actually painting....until late afternoon. And then, it happened. The joy, the excitement, the delight, and pleasure that sometimes happens when I paint overwhelmed me.

Such is happiness.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


As Winnie-the-Pooh says,

"It's so much more friendly with two."

There is no doubt that the weather in Houston is at it's best in the fall and spring....which makes those times ideal for plein air painting, or painting outdoors. Last spring--or maybe it was a year ago spring--Joan and Joan joined me in the Japanese Garden for a morning of painting. The camaraderie is great....just to have other friends who are compelled to paint like I am, and to cheer each other in our small artistic achievements. The two Joans are great encouragers.

This painting was the result of our day together.

"Crepe Myrtles at the Japanese Garden" has been auctioned (as of tonight) to raise money for the Susan G Komen Foundation. All money from the sale of this painting goes to the Houston Chapter to help eradicate breast cancer through research, education, screening, and treatment.

Monday, October 01, 2007


A lot of people have been asking for an update, especially with regards to the Spice Show a whole weekend ago. It was a grand event, well attended and thoughtfully considered. Because of e-mail forwards, we had a whole group of old acquaintances come out to join us. Reese and I caught up on a few years worth of news from the old hood, which is always entertaining and amusing.

Last week, we had the delightful pleasure of hosting an *our parent's age* couple from England in our home. We chatted endlessly, giggled, and spent a day visiting the MFAH and Byzantine Chapel. Rosemary and David Shaw had never seen nor heard of Frederick Remington, the famous American painter, illustrator, and sculptor who specialized in scenes of the old wild west. The MFAH has several Remington paintings and one of his bronzes. Remington has an unique way of depicting light and/or darkness. One painting is full of soft greens to depict the moonlit night at an open corral on the high plains. It is a painting of a horse being surrounded by wolves in the darkness.

"It's quite fierce really. Yes. Shocking." (they both said with nods of approval.)

As some might recall, my art studio doubles as the guest room. The only complaint from Rosemary and David was that the room got a bit cold overnight. Everyone who sleeps in the studio says the same thing. I must remember to make up the bed with a nice warm blanket before you come spend the night.