Tuesday, December 28, 2010


On the Bar-B-Que trail once again, this time taking out of town friends to one of my favorite Houston bar-b-que joints, Thelma's in the Third Ward.

Thelma's is friendly and unpretentious. All are welcome, unless your underwear is showing. (Thelma's reserves the right to refuse service to anyone whose britches don't properly cover their hiney. Loud, annoying, rude cell phone usage is discouraged as well. Makes for a very pleasant dining experience.)

The food, as usual, was in abundance. The stuffed baked potato could have easily fed a family of six. The bar-b-que sauce was sweet and spicy to the point of perfection -- absolute perfection. Of the meats, I personally prefer the chicken, but the beef would rival any bar-b-que grill for true aficionados. Next time, I'll forgo Thelma's potato salad, and instead opt for the cole slaw and beans -- so yummy.

We have leftovers out the wazoo.

See No Evil

Someone gave us some See's Candies for Christmas. As soon as my daughter opened the box, she told our house guest, "We take a little bite of each candy and put it back in the box, just for a little taste. That's how we do it. Do you want a bite?"

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Believe

At a party on Christmas eve, I overheard a 10 year old friend and a grown up discussing when to tell one's child that Santa isn't real. I was horrified. Doesn't anyone older than 10 (besides me) believe in Santa anymore?

There's no other way to explain it. For the second year in a row, Santa has left a signed envelope of money in our mailbox. On his behalf, we used the money to buy "Christmas" for our family. Now, I know that Christmas isn't about a room full of presents, but times are tight in the Hazel household. And even with grown ups for offspring, a parent still wants to make magic happen on Christmas morning. Thanks to Santa (or his helper), we were able to do just that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Excessively Happy Yellow

Four days before Christmas, as if there wasn't enough to do already, I decided to paint our dining room yellow. (Our dining room has been Ming Red forever.) It just so happens that Lowe's has been running an ad on TV about their paint brand with built in primer. They also have been running a commercial about matching paint colors.

First step was to find the perfect yellow, Sherwin Williams' Daffodil - a lovely, stately, happy yellow. Not wanting to be stuck painting two or even three coats of paint, I took the tiny paint color sample to Lowe's to ask if they could match the paint in their brand that includes the primer. Lowe's assured me, with great confidence, that they were paint wizards. Of course, they could match "daffodil" in the primer paint. One coat would be all it would take.

So, armed with the confidence of Lowe's advertising, I started painting, wanting a fresh, clean, bright look by Christmas. The first noticeable thing that happened when applying the paint was that the color was bright, even for me. (I've named it "excessively happy yellow.") The second noticeable thing was that the Lowe's claim that their paint would cover existing paint in one coat was not true at all.

Eight hours and two coats of paint later, that Ming Red still shows through in places. What I need to do is put the house in order before Christmas. But the house is out of sorts anyway, so do I use the 1/2 inch of leftover paint in the bottom of the existing can and touch up see-through spots on the wall? (Will it be enough?) Do I go buy the original daffodil color from Sherwin Williams and paint the entire room a third time? Or do I just leave it be and say it's good enough?

Worth noting, once upon a time, my dad said that one could use toothpaste instead of caulk or sheetrock mud to fill in small holes before painting. I took his advice. Thanks to dad, the walls smell minty fresh.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Week

This is the result from last week's en plein air painting. It's already hanging in the living room.

I may or may not take the time to paint this week....what with it being Christmas and all.

Several years ago, the church asked us to read scripture one Sunday morning. (Our church has two services.) Reese and I did well enough reading in the first service. But when it came time for us to read during the second service, we "sort of" forgot the order of the service, and realized almost too late that it was time for us to be up front. Not only that, but while walking to the front of the sanctuary, Reese realized that he had left his enlarged print scripture in the hymnal in the back of the church. (We are over 40 -- eyesight not so great.) Reese started running back to get it. By the time he got to the front, he was out of breath, but I read first so that was OK. But because the whole incident had flustered Reese so, when we were finished reading, instead of going to the seats on stage to wait for the next order of worship, after which we were to calmly and quietly walk off stage, Reese walked off....which I didn't notice because my back was to the audience (congregation.) As soon as I saw that Reese was leaving me on stage I panicked. I took a flying leap off stage -- three steps worth -- in my skirt and boots and almost fell into the congregants on the front row. It was both stressful and exhilarating at the same time. Because of that, Reese and I were certain that the church would never ask us to do anything during the service again.

They must be desperate, because they asked Reese and me to light the advent candles at the 10pm service on Christmas eve. If y'all want to see the fire trucks respond to a call at our church on Christmas eve, come join us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

En Plein View

Funny how things happen sometimes. Lisa and I were traipsing through the woods behind her house, looking for a place to paint en plein air together. There was no path; we were gingerly making our way through the briars, over dead branches, past scraggly bushes and general forest debris. In what happened to be the first pseudo clearing we chanced upon, there was a tree, waiting to have its portrait painted. We both saw it. Either that, or the thought of venturing farther into the woods was losing its appeal.

So we set up shop; Lisa on the forest floor, and my easel just behind her. That's Lisa's faithful cat in the far background on the right. Domino the cat followed us out into the woods and kept watch over us the entire time we painted. Lisa said that no snakes would come near us as long as Domino was close. (Here kitty kitty!) Lisa also said that she didn't notice any poison ivy in our patch of forest.

Lisa was among the first people I met when I moved to Houston as a young newlywed. We fell into the easy conversation of long time friends.

Typical in plein air painting, the sun was fickle, sometimes shining brightly, and sometimes hiding behind the clouds like a shy child hides behind his mother's skirt. While painting, we heard falling leaves, squirrels fussing, birds rustling and whistling, and the wings of an enormous white heron flapping. It was most tranquil.

The time passed all too quickly. I was rushing at the end, trying to get as much color in the right places on the canvas as possible. Lisa had a previous commitment she needed to attend, so we both knew that our time was limited. Nevertheless, when we hit our agreed upon deadline, my painting wasn't quite in a completed state. Lisa suggested that I stay and paint, but not being entirely sure of the way back to her house, I was all to eager to pack my things.

I'll work on this a little more in the studio this afternoon, not too much, just to fill in some spots I missed. It's an 18" x 24" oil on linen.

Thanks, Lisa. It was a fun day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Demand and Supply

Lately, several people have asked for advice about what type of painting supplies to use in oil painting. Over the last few years, my personal art supply list has evolved from beginner level to a more professional one. For those interested in reading, here are some recommendations.

When I first started painting six years ago, I used Robert Simmons Signet brushes, Winsor Newton and Van Gogh paints, and basic cotton canvases. (The Robert Simmons Signet brushes are made of bristle and are quite stiff.)

My preference now, after trying sable, mongoose, bristle and synthetic brushes is Winsor Newton Monarch brand -- a synthetic mongoose, though I keep sable close by for finishing detail work. I used to use only flat and bright brushes, and now I also use round quite a bit.

The paints I use these days are Old Holland, Williamsburg, and Holbein. It's easier to control the color manipulation and the colors are richer.

Colors to buy? Cadmium yellow, cadmium lemon, and yellow ochre, cadmium red, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, cobalt, ultramarine blue, and cerulean blue, and sap green, plus either a silver white, cremitz white, and or a zinc. Greens look more natural when they are mixed from the blues and yellows, but that sap green is lovely in landscapes.

The linen canvas that I prefer above all others is no longer imported. It's a shame, because it's a wonderful, tight linen -- like painting on a drum surface. (Yarka linen - imported by Jack Richeson. If someone out there can find this to purchase, I would be most grateful.) Other linens are inconsistent in quality. That said, linen is, to me, a much better painting surface than cotton duck. (The rougher surface of the cotton wears down the brushes at a faster pace.) Therefore, the second best I can find to buy on a consistent basis is Fredrix portrait grade linen.

Most of my supplies come from a local art supply store, either Texas Art Supply or Art Supply on Main. Seldom buy online. I have been disappointed more than once with Jerry's ArtORama. Some time ago, I wrote a very unpleasant blog entry about the evils of Jerry's ArtORama. It was written in anger and frustration-- not very nice at all. Since then, because of an art award gift certificate, I have shopped at the local store, going back several times because the prices are good. But now, it's not worth the headache -- too many bad shopping experiences, inferior products, service, and quality, both online and local. They have such potential.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

But Wait, There's More.....

Just in case anyone out there is still looking for a Christmas gift for that special someone ( I, personally, haven't even started the Christmas hoo-ha, yet,) consider giving that special someone (including yourself) a painting. Make a reasonable offer and it's yours -- or someone else's. Come on....don't be shy. Let's negotiate.

Either peruse this blog, look at the website, or come by the house to see what is on the walls. If I've counted correctly, inventory is at about 90 paintings. (Not all paintings are on the walls, though a lot are. Three are on loan at a friend's office, and one is at the Art League.) At least 20 of the 90 paintings are 12" x 12" or SMALLER. Smaller painting = smaller price.

These are three of my newest paintings, included in the "or SMALLER" category. It's been my idea to paint leaves for a while. These three, from left to right, are 6" x 8", 6" x 8", and 5" x 7".

Friday, December 03, 2010

Plein Forgetful

Based on the moderate success of plein air painting on Wednesday, I packed up the portable French easel to head outside again yesterday. Instead of borrowing daughter Anna's car and driving somewhere, I wanted to see if it was possible to ride the old yellow cruiser with everything in tow. It took some maneuvering to get on the bike with the easel strapped on and an extra bag of supplies....but I managed. Picking a spot not too far from home on the Rice University campus, I set up in a somewhat soggy field -- full sun, no shade -- only the sky was full of clouds, so no sun.

It was with some distress that I realized that I forgot my painting apron -- at home in the studio. Sure enough, paint somehow ended up on my pants. For this painting, I used my largest brushes, to cover as much canvas surface as possible in the least amount of time. When all was said and done, and I DO mean "said." More than once, I noticed someone talking, and realized it was me, talking, OUT LOUD. Anyway, when all was said and done, and it was time to come home, it was so much more difficult to try and get back on the bicycle with a wet canvas attached to the easel....on my back. Even while writing this, I'm shaking my head in a "what-were-you-thinking-I-can't-believe-you-did-that" kind of way.

To top off my forgetfulness, after gingerly riding home on the bike, I couldn't find the house keys anywhere. Apparently, I had left them in the front door, which the wind had blown open in my absence. (Hilary came home some hours after I had left and found the house unlocked and the front door wide open.) If anything is missing from the house, it serves me right. Of course, I was wearing identifiable jewelry and Chucks, so those "valuables" are still here.

As far as the painting goes, it's 18" x 24" oil on linen. At this point, the plan is to go back in a week or so and put in some more details, like the leaves.....or not. (It wasn't until everything was packed up that I realized that I had forgotten to put leaves and greenery in the painting, as focused as I was on trying to mimic the tree trunks and color of the sky and field.) We'll see. And looking at this photo, I kind of want to go back and paint that wonky tree on the right AFTER I tweak the straps on the easel to be more sturdy and secure -- more like a backpack than a satchel, and maybe get a front basket for the bike, to hold the extra supplies.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Hermann Park Tree - 4

With the weather being so clear and crisp yesterday, I ventured outside to paint in Hermann Park. It was chilly, but not too cold, perfect weather for plein air painting. I set up shop in the shade of one of my favorite spots in the park, in a little grove of trees just off the beaten path. Not too long ago, this area wasn't groomed at all, and Reese and I had a lovely anniversary picnic in the tall grasses under this tree.

At first, I wore my glasses while painting, but was spending way too much time on details. With the sun constantly changing, details are not what one should spend time on when painting out of doors. After taking off my glasses, painting was much more enjoyable. After looking at this photograph, I'm tempted to put in some details that I now SEE. But I won't. A perfect reproduction is not what this is about.....it's an impression, a moment, my interpretation of this scene.

In the shade on a chilly day = cold to this Texas girl. About halfway into the painting, my toes went on strike. They were literally numb. Not kidding. I kept running to a patch of sun on the footpath trying to warm up and get the circulation back to my eight toes. (My big toes were fine.) If I'm ever lost in a snowstorm, the toes will be the first to abandon ship. They hate the cold and refuse to work in cold weather. They even forced me to sign a special clause in the "Sarah Hazel's Body" contract, specifically stating that they would stop working in the event of excessive and prolonged cold. Not to worry; after two cups of hot tea at the end of the day, and the heat cranked up in the house, the toes are happily working again.

This is the fourth time that I've painted this particular tree, though the first time from this angle. It's 16" x 20", oil on linen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Over Active Imagination

Thanksgiving has to be my favorite of all American holidays. There's no agenda, other than sharing thanks and a meal with family, friends and neighbors. I've been particularly looking forward to this Thanksgiving this year. Art and life have been on full blast for the last couple of months. Just to slow down for a day of two was a thought to relish. Did I slow down last week? Not really, but that's a different story.

Imagine, after a week full of Thanksgiving and ensuing festivities, the house was in a state of upheaval. Many things had been left undone. There were extra chairs to put away, dishes to store, sheets and towels to clean, etc.... Therefore, since 6:30 this fine Monday morning, (I started writing this yesterday) I've been in zombie-like focused cleaning mode -- tired, mostly coherent, but determined to get everything done.

At one point in the early afternoon, I heard a loud hissing outside. Not recognizing the sound, I went outside to see if I could tell what it was. It was with great alarm that I smelled natural gas.

Now, years ago, either my grandmother or my mother gave me annual subscriptions to Reader's Digest. Even though I haven't read it in ages, to this day, whatever aches and pains I think "might" be a sign of a serious condition, Reese blames it on Reader's Digest syndrome. Apparently he's tired of perpetual self diagnosing, fueled by constant reading of random incidents and illnesses as condensed by Reader's Digest. (The Reader's Digest Illness of the Month Club is what Reese calls it, as he rolls his eyes. And by the way, I'm in excellent health.)

I REMEMBER reading in Reader's Digest about a horrible natural gas explosion that killed almost an entire elementary school in the 30's or 40's. And, I REMEMBER reading about similar natural gas explosions......so my freak-out-O-meter was in hyper mode. Flustered and exhausted, I walked outside....shoeless.

Thinking that our house, or the neighbor's house could blow up at any minute, I grabbed the phone to call 311. (311 is Houston's help line.) As soon as I explained the gas smell, 311 connected me immediately to 911. In the middle of the conversation explaining the powerful gas smell to the 911 operator, I heard sirens. Someone else had reported the leak, too. It's the fire trucks to the rescue.

If the house was about to explode, and I was to be charred to bits in a newsworthy horrific fire, I wanted my family to be able to identify my body. I hurried inside, which Reader's Digest says to NEVER do, grabbed my wedding ring, pearl earrings, the ivory bracelet I wear everyday -- AND my pink Chucks. My pink Chucks that I paid all of $6 for at a re-sale shop. My pink Chucks that are worth $3 a foot. That's it. That's all I grabbed.

Not convinced that my house wasn't going to blow up, I walked around the block (shod in pink Chucks and wearing identifiable jewelry) to the corner to ask the firemen about the possibility of a gas explosion. They tried to assure me that nothing was wrong, but by the time I walked back to our house, the firemen were knocking on doors on our block to alert ME and two other neighbors of possible danger. They told me to go inside. INSIDE! Aaaaaaaaah!!! Am I the only one alarmed by the situation? What if, like in a Hollywood movie, the house blows up as soon as I open the door?

But like with a lot of things in (my) life, my imagination got the best of me. Nothing happened. The house did not explode. There were no natural gas explosions on the block. The leak is fixed. I'm alive and in excellent health, except for the occasional shudder as I IMAGINE what MIGHT have happened. I AM wearing my pink Chucks today, ready to run out the door at a moments notice....just in case.

True Story.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The New 47

November 20th marked the fifth year in a row that I've participated in Via Colori, a street painting festival which doubles as a fundraiser for the Center for Hearing and Speech. November 20th was also my 47th birthday.

This year's inspiration for the street art came from my very own painting, Pink Chucks. Sweet darling Anna was in town and spent the entire day helping get the art on the street.

The square was located close to the sound stage, with wonderful musicians performing all day. At one point, Reese and I took advantage of the music to swing dance. I LOVE swing dancing and God bless him, Reese even took a class with me so that, when in public, we could pretend that we know how to do it. (We are enthusiastic -- not talented.)

Erroneously, I thought that because I was working on a smaller square than in years past, (36 square feet as opposed to 100 square feet) that the project would progress a little quicker than it did. It still took all day and into the evening. Perhaps it was the detail of getting the shoelaces in the right criss-crossy pattern that slowed me down. (?)

Throughout the day, people kept commenting on my hair. Apparently it was pinkish (from the pastels), and poufy (from the humidity), closely resembling my most recent self portrait.

On the way home, Reese kept asking what I wanted to "do" for my birthday. Huh? What did he think I had been doing all day? It would have been quite easy to collapse in the dust cloud surrounding me, but he insisted on going out to dinner. After a thorough scrubbing, I was glad he did, and that we did, in fact, eat....out....away from home....fancy food that someone else prepared and brought to the table.

I was this close to asking if someone would actually put the food in my mouth like a baby bird, I was that tired....and hungry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Deciding....

Every year I use one of my own paintings as inspiration for the street art of Via Colori. Based on previous experience, it's a much less complicated event if one selects paintings to reproduce based on the pastel color palette that is provided for our use by The Center For Hearing and Speech. I saved these pastels from last year solely for this practice session, and am glad of it, because the color scheme of one of the paintings was much harder to reproduce than the other.... not impossible, just harder.

One of my very gracious neighbors was walking past as I was working on this, and offered the use of her back brace and knee pad for Saturday's event. Of course, I was quick to accept. It's brutal bending over repeatedly to do this. She also offered an opinion on which drawing she preferred on the driveway.

These squares are 2' x 2'. On Saturday, I'll paint a 6' x 6' square.

Monday, November 15, 2010


After an internal debate over whether to mention this or not, I decided to go ahead, because it may never happen again........ After lunch at El Rey on Sunday (mmmm, fish and veggie tacos), the Amazing Reese and I were on our way to the parking lot when someone recognized me and said, "Hey! You're Sarah Hazel, the artist who painted her shoes, the pink Chucks!" Then he turned to the man next to him and described the Pink Chucks painting in surprising detail, mentioning that he had seen the actual shoes (on me) and the shoe painting at the Betz Gallery 12" x 12" exhibit the week before. Sadly for him, I was wearing boots at the time, because it seemed like he really wanted to show the guy my pink Chucks, the ones that are usually on my feet.

Also, this coming Friday night, November 19th, my painting Angel Oak Tree will be in Gambol, the Art League Houston's 2010 Juried Member Exhibition. Out of over 500 works submitted, fifty four artists' works were selected by juror Miranda Lash, Curator of Contemporary and Modern Art, New Orleans Museum of Art. Whew. I'm extremely honored that Angel Oak Tree was chosen.

Then, bright and early Saturday morning the 20th, (which just so happens to be my 47th birthday,) I'll be participating in Via Colori, painting the streets of downtown Houston for the fifth year in a row. (It's a fundraiser for The Center for Hearing and Speech.) The best thing about this year is that I've opted to work on a smaller square. In the past, the square size I've worked on has been 10' x 10' (aka 100 square feet -- exhausting work) and this year's offering will be 6' x 6'. It's only 36 square feet! Yipee! As usual, one of my very own paintings will be used for inspiration for the street painting. Haven't decided for sure which painting yet....it's a toss up between two selections....I'll probably practice on the driveway this week to see which one presents well on the street.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Self Portrait - 2010

To those of you who have never met me, this is exactly what I look like.

But to everyone else, here's the thing.....in an effort to "tell stories" on canvas, sometimes "facts" get exaggerated. It's not exactly true that my hair is this pouf-y, though on humid days like today, it sure feels this way. And my hair is not really this pinkish purple mishmash. (It's mostly white.) And my face isn't really this small, though sometimes it feels like my hair overwhelms it. But my eyes really are this big. Really, they're huge. It's just that normally they are on a larger face, so in this painting, they seem larger ....than normal. And, my real skin tones actually do lean toward this yellowy orange.

There's a large mirror right behind the desk in the studio. I had to lean to the left a bit to see myself, which is why I'm leaning in the painting. And, well, no more excuses.

OK, one more.....the light in the studio is artificial, because the sun was going down, so the color is a little wonky in the photo, but not by much.

It's 14" x 18" oil on linen.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Story Telling 101

While on our bike ride yesterday, Anna blurted out, "You should try painting the way you tell stories."


Apparently I had just finished telling a story, perhaps exaggerating a tad bit, and Anna said that it might be good if I tried to embellish paintings the same way I embellish stories. Add some flourishes here and there....perhaps rearrange the "facts" to suit the "story" of the painting.

That Anna! She always has had brilliant advice for me when it comes to art. I've been wondering how to exactly find my voice in painting. To tell a story via paint on the canvas is perhaps the very concept I've been looking for all this time.

So when we got home yesterday I tried it -- storytelling using paint and not words. There were some fresh cut zinnias from the farmer's market which I arranged in an impromptu still life, and then I painted all afternoon and into the evening. (Worked on it some more this morning....might work on it some more, or not. We'll see.)

Disclaimer: The painting is based on a real still life, but is technically classified as fiction. Any resemblance to flowers living or dead is strictly coincidental.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Taut Trick

Sometimes when I get my canvases home from the art supply store, they are flimsy and loose. It is no fun at all to paint on a loose canvas. When the canvas is loose, I hammer little keys into slots in the corners of the back of the canvas to tighten the front painting surface.

Yesterday, when I tried to tighten a canvas this way, the little keys pushed through the support and out the side. See? Not good. So, I called the art supply store to explain, complain a little bit, and hope to get money back for something I accidentally helped destroy only because the product wasn't up to a properly stretched canvas standard.

The sweet, kind manager was understanding and very helpful, agreeing to fully reimburse or replace the faulty product, but he also taught me a new trick.

Apparently, at least with linen canvases, instead of using the keys to tighten the painting surface, one can take hot water and paint it on the back of the canvas. The hot water shrinks the canvas until it's taut. Of course! Why didn't I think of that? Duh. And why hasn't anyone mentioned this before? It would have been a most helpful trick to know. Learn from me, Grasshopper.

The discolored part of the linen is where I've already painted water on the back of the canvas. Even before it was fully dry, sure enough, the surface was tight as a drum. Perfect for painting.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

12" x 12" Exhibition

This is the blurb from Betz Gallery about the opening reception this Saturday. I'll be there along with some of my art.

International and local artists present the "TWELVE BY TWELVE" SHOW, an international juried exhibition of art work 12 inches by 12 inches. Betz Art Gallery received hundreds of artists entries from all over and only 70 artists were chosen for this show.

You'll find every imaginable creation, from the sublime to the silly, from cleverly humorous to beautifully breathtaking, and each one no larger than 12" x 12". We believe that you are going to love what you see and have a great time at the artist reception, Saturday, November 6th, 6pm-9pm.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pink Chucks

Lately, I've been working toward getting ready for a 12" x 12" show at Betz Gallery on November 6th - 25th. All artwork in any media is considered for the show, as long as it fits the 12" x 12" format. It's not a size canvas that I normally work with, and it's been relatively restrictive (for me) as far as what can fit on the canvas.

For this painting, I was inspired by Vincent van Gogh, who painted several "portraits" of old work shoes in his day. These are my favorite everyday shoes at the moment. It's hard to leave them set up in the still life and not wear them until I'm finished with all the fine tuning of the painting. As silly as it sounds, I really miss wearing them. FYI, if the top lace hole is left unlaced, the shoes are easy to slip on and off.

A couple of weeks ago, I painted The Yellow Plate in preparation for the same exhibit, and have painted some sunflowers, too, that I've yet to photograph.

Three paintings can be entered for the jury process in the 12" x 12" show. What that means is that all three paintings might not be accepted in the show....AND, I'm not even sure that this painting and the sunflower one will be dry enough in time to enter them in the exhibit anyway.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Abstract Sunflowers

A gazillion....that's how many times people have suggested that I try my hand at abstract art. Why would people say that? To my face? In front of my obviously non-abstract art?

Yesterday, I worked on....this. So far, I'm calling it Abstract Sunflowers. It's 12" x 12" very thick (impasto) oil on canvas.

It's going to take a while for it to dry.

Monday, October 25, 2010


In order to pose next to "Reese and Hilary in Galveston" (painted by none other than yours truly) at the opening of the Good Gulf exhibit at the Art Car Museum, the Amazing Reese and I had to get a little creative. Thankfully, artist friends were in abundance at the opening, and Jeanne graciously agreed to take our photo, which turned out great, thank you, Jeanne.

About an hour later, the Art Car Museum folks had us reprise the pose. We were flattered, and crazy enough to oblige.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Other News...

My friend, Joanne came over to paint with me yesterday. She has painted with acrylics many times, but wanted to brush up on her oil painting skills and asked for a bit of advice. She actually wanted a lesson but I thought that it would be more fun if we panted side by side, and I could give pointers and tips as I remembered them.

Since she's a former art major, she already know many of the basics of drawing, color, and composition. Apparently painting with acrylics is very different than oils. Much of what I was telling her about the oil painting process was in contrast to how she normally paints.

With oil painting, it's advisable to start with the darkest color shade first and build toward the lightest color. I tried to emphasize painting color planes versus painting the actual image, though I'm not sure that I explained it well. Except for her signature, Joanne's finished painting is in the photo below. I'm really proud of the work she did.

Before she came over, I had communicated that we would paint a non fussy still life. We both laughed several times while painting, because the still life absolutely refused to be non fussy. Good grief. Flowers are complicated to paint. Sorry about that, Joanne.

For whatever reason, I was exhausted when she left, and my own painting was as yet unfinished. After a substantial amount of ingested food and an insufficient amount of rest, I got back to work -- a full days worth. The last paintbrush was cleaned just before 7pm last night.

This morning, I took a photo of my finished painting and the set up for the still life. (It's a 16" x 20" oil on linen -- really quality canvas -- I enjoyed painting on this brand. Will go buy some more.) Notice that the lamp (to control the light source) is propped up on four thick art books. See little Skipper resting in his bed. He's always happiest when he's close to me.

In other news, the Amazing Reese and I have been married for 26 years today. Happy anniversary, Reese.

Also, this Friday night (October 22nd) is Lawndale Art Center's retablo exhibit. (See my work here.) And Saturday night (October 23rd) is the opening for the Art Car Museum's Good Gulf exhibit. I have a piece in both, plus hope to have something in HCAA's Greater Houston Open Show -- also opening Saturday night. I won't find out until the last minute on the HCAA show....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Yellow Plate

After days of languishing in the studio, arranging and re-arranging still lifes, sketching and erasing images, in addition to various other painting related forms of trial and error, I painted The Yellow Plate.

It's nice to actually accomplish something after lots of nothings.

It's 12" x 12", painted on a cotton canvas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In preparation for this super busy fall, (between now and the end of November I have 16 different art due dates and events,) I spent the day cleaning and organizing the art studio closet and desk....which wasn't on today's list, but as I was moving things around trying to look for something, I bumped into the turpentine which spilled all over some unused canvases and the floor in the closet, and as I was trying to scoot the canvases around to clean the floor, I bumped something else which spilled, and by then it was easier to just take everything out and re-organize and clean the whole closet. I even fixed a broken closet shelf with some epoxy (instead of screws and nails) and consequently got a little loopy from all the fumes, being in an unventilated closet and all. Duh.

Then I spent some time toning a canvas for a particular project that is due in less than two weeks. Toning is when one mixes oil paint and turpentine to paint a thin layer of color on the canvas, (instead of always starting a painting on a white canvas surface.) I used to never do this, and now I almost exclusively do it. It's a great way to use leftover paint and for whatever reason, psychologically, it's easier to begin a painting on a toned surface versus the typical white canvas.

Maybe it's the fumes, because even though I've made a dated list of when everything is due and taped it to the mirror in the studio, I'm still a little confused as to what exactly is due when.... What am I forgetting?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Aphrodite, aka Hilary

For the fourth year in a row, I'm participating in Lawndale Art Center's Retablo exhibit. A retablo is a small devotional painting often painted on rectangular sheets of tin. The first year I participated, my offering was specific to the idea of honoring a dead loved one, my gramma Mills. For purely sentimental reasons, it's probably the only piece of work I've done that I really want to buy back. Is it right for the artist to admit this? Probably not.

Basically since last year, I've been thinking about how to incorporate the sheet metal that Lawndale provides for the artists' use in this year's retablo piece. The work evolved up until the last possible minute, with the photo showing the finished result. Good grief, I spent hours working on this, first painting the portrait, thinking, cutting the sheet metal, sanding the sheet metal, sealing the sheet metal, thinking some more, placing and affixing the heart necklace, painting the edge black, attaching the eye hooks and wire on the back, photographing it, more thinking, and finally naming the piece and delivering it to Lawndale.

Almost as soon as I got home, I thought of another, possibly better name for the piece, and am half tempted to go back to Lawndale and try to re-name it, only as Hilary pointed out, I wrote it on the back in Sharpie. But the look in her eyes does bring to mind Botticelli's Birth of Venus (aka Aphrodite), gentle, serene, and lovely.

Of august gold-wreathed and beautiful
Aphrodite I shall sing to whose domain
belong the battlements of all sea-loved
Cyprus where, blown by the moist breath
of Zephyros, she was carried over the
waves of the resounding sea on soft foam.
The gold-filleted Horae happily welcomed
her and clothed her with heavenly raiment.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Scissor Hand to Heart

The Amazing Reese came into the art studio yesterday and exclaimed, "Wow. Those are some big @ss scissors!" He promptly went to find the camera to document the work. The scissors have to be big and sturdy. I'm using them to cut through steel sheet metal preparing for Lawndale Art Center's Annual Retablo Exhibit and Gala. The due date for the finished work is this Thursday so guess what I'll be working on all week?

Some of you will remember this Diva Hair painting from a few months back. It's painted on panel and was specifically cut for the retablo exhibit which specifies a maximum finished work size of 12" x 14". Since then, I've been thinking and thinking of how to incorporate the metal retablo into the work.

This years retablo offering is still evolving. Quite by accident, I've ended up with more than a few tiny steel hearts because of trying to make one perfect heart, which, as we all know, is not possible. One heart led to another, and before I knew it, there were hearts out the wazoo. (not really)

Seeking sympathy for suffering for art's sake, what I was trying to show in the photo was the bruise on my hand from using those big @ss scissors, though it's virtually impossible to tell. Looking at the photo now, the old Shakers' saying comes to mind, "hands to work, hearts to God" -- always a good thing to remember, and practice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

When I started working on this portrait commission four or five months ago, it became quickly apparent that whatever I was doing at the time wasn't working. So, the painting got put aside. Occasionally, I would put the unfinished portrait back on the easel and work on it to no avail. In the meantime, I had started work on a second canvas with similar lackluster results.

In order to give the patron the absolute best service, I began work on a third pose and third portrait. After the third try was successful, and with confidence somewhat restored, I re-started work on the first two attempts at painting this sweet little girl. To my delight, all three paintings are now finished to my satisfaction, this one being the first one started and the last one finished.

My intent all along was to give the patron my very best talent and ability. I never expected this result (three paintings) and hope that this little girl's grandmother will regard it as part of my artistic expression and creativity combined with diligent hard work. To be fair, the patron is free to choose from all three portraits which one she would like as per our original contract. She is under no obligation to buy all three, though of course, she may, if she so chooses.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Down....

In 1892, Renoir was commissioned by the French government to produce a painting for the newly established "Museum of Living Artists" at the Luxembourg Palace. Author Francesca Castellani says that Renoir then went through a period of stylistic indecision, executing no fewer that seven versions of "Girls at the Piano." The very idea of a commission paralyzed him and made him lose his self confidence.

In a much smaller way, I also experienced a crisis of self doubt while working on my most recent portrait commission. Unlike Renoir's seven canvases, I only produced three. And though mine were all of the same little girl, they were three different poses. What to do with the other two canvases now that the "Young Girl in Red Cowboy Hat" is finished? Well, re-work them....again. Yesterday and today I worked on this painting for the gazillionth time.

There's just a little more work to do before the third painting is finished. Or, it may never be finished. Time will tell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Old Garage Apartment

This garage apartment had been used as an artist studio years ago, with the artist creating in and on every square inch of the space; walls, floor, and ceiling, as seen in the photo. My generous neighbor, Fran owns it. Fran and her husband, Larry were some of the first friends we made when we moved to this neighborhood 12-ish years ago. Fran has a swimming pool, and with proper supervision, repeatedly invited our four daughters over to swim. I fully credit any skill our daughters have in the water to Fran's unfailing generosity.

Fran and I, and a few other neighbors, have been slowly renovating the space with the idea that Fran will be able to rent it out when we're finished. (By slowly, I mean that because of everyone's busy schedules, we only work on Thursday mornings.) It's got loads of potential. So far, in addition to moving old furniture and things out, we've been scraping layers of paint from the wood trim, and have been removing old sheetrock and the wallpaper and cheesecloth underneath that. We're debating whether or not to keep the ceiling as an homage to the former artist, as well as one of the more creative walls.

It's incredibly satisfying to see the work start to take shape.

Believe it or not, there's a possibility (probability?) that I may have an art show in this space in the future (before Fran rents it). Maybe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Idyllic Reality

In an idyllic world, I have equal time and attention to give to all friends. But reality is not so gracious.

This morning, an unexpected message on our answering machine left me emotionally gasping for air. In order to respond to it effectively would mean cancelling a prior commitment with a friend. I called her at the very last minute to cancel. Ouch.

Did I feel terrible about cancelling? Yes. Was that friend gracious and understanding? Yes. Was I available for everyone today? No.

Momentum and emotion propelled me further into the day; that and a quick prayer. One thing led to another, and another, and it ended up that people and situations just fell into the hours -- in a good way. Inch by inch, row by row, everything was truly coming up roses.

The timing for all of these little details to fall into place moment after moment was nothing short of mind blowing to be a part of -- it felt like I was a bystander in my own life. I couldn't have possibly planned it. I'm not that organized.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Maybe I'm Just Hungry

It's hard to write a good beginning, especially when the one doing the writing doesn't really have anything of value to say. It doesn't seem to stop some people, though. They keep writing and writing. And me? I keep reading and reading....hoping, just hoping that something important will be said; something inspiring or challenging or intellectually stimulating. Alas, there's nothing. Absolutely nothing. The supposed charmed life one is attempting to read about is both full and vacuously empty at the same time.

Some writings I devour, being fed morsel after tasty morsel, a carefully selected turn of phrase here and there like the the meal I occasionally dream about from Brennan's -- turtle soup spiked with sherry, pecan crusted trout, maque choux, and green beans, finished with a handful of pralines stuffed in my pocket on the way out the door as, by then, I'm usually too full to eat another bite. The authors who offer a full course meal like that -- those are the authors I want to read.

Other writings taste like a mouthful of dry plaster, not that I'm speaking from experience or anything. I'm just imagining. Because try as I might, there are just some writings that I can't even chew, much less swallow. Self centered self righteous whiny writers are the worst sort -- and they are everywhere these days. In fact, the very nature of keeping a blog, regardless of content, lends itself to self introspection with a glass of whine. And though this is designed to be a blog about the artistic process with regards to my life, and a seemingly innocuous way to promote myself, that's just it. I am promoting myself. Which hopefully, if anyone is still reading by this point, doesn't ALWAYS taste like a mouthful of plaster, though I really don't know what that tastes like. Honest.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sweet Caroline

This precious little girl is as delightful and effervescent as she is beautiful. This is the (almost) final rendition of her portrait which her grandmother commissioned me to paint four months ago.

Regular readers know that this portrait commission has been quite a struggle over these last few months. Hours and hours have gone into this commission -- too many to count. But with determination, and armed with a preponderance of time and quiet this past week, I spent several more full days working and re-working this portrait. It's basically done, but at this point, I'll let it dry for several weeks and tweak small things here and there. (The red paints always take longer to fully dry.) After the surface is dry, I'll sign it.

It's with a grateful and contented heart that I'm happy to report being very pleased with the mostly finished result. The Amazing Reese likes it, too.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Deep in the Heart

Last night, after a full day of focused work, I took time out to go to the opening of Patrick Palmer's Works on Paper exhibit at Houston Community College. Patrick taught the one class I've ever taken at Glassell, a life drawing class. Patrick patiently and graciously explained, for a whole semester, things about art I had never before heard.

The earrings and necklace I'm wearing in the photo were designed by Karen Olds, who donated them to a fundraiser for a mutual friend of ours, Sam VanBibber, who has breast cancer. Sam can't work for a while, so a bunch of her friends got together to raise money for her living expenses.

The pearls in the necklace and earrings set are spaced such that when wearing them, it feels like I'm wearing a constellation.

So I meet this guy at the opening reception, who did a double take on my name, and said, "Sarah Hazel? Like the color of my eyes - hazel?" (while pulling down his lower eyelid and leaning in so that I could see.) "How'd you get a name like that?" "Well," I said, "I married into it." At which point he reaches down and holds up my left hand to survey that yes, indeed, my ring finger is occupied. He then asks, "Are ya happy with him?" At my "Yes, very happy. You would like him, too" answer, he kicks an imaginary rock and asks, "Are ya sure?"

Later in our conversation, when I found out that he teaches art appreciation at HCC, I immediately said, "Oh! You taught my daughter, Hilary Hazel, last semester." He then pauses, and takes a long, studied look from the top of my gray head to the tip of cowboy boots and back, and then says, "It figures. You would be Red's mom." Then, bless his heart, he tried one more time, "Are ya sure you're happy with this fella?" (while pointing at my ring finger.) To which I replied, "Yes, and once you meet him you'll understand why. Everybody loves the Amazing Reese."

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Flop Flip

Though there are no photos of my recent portrait commission painting flops for you, the gentle reader to see, they stare at me every time I go in the studio. It's been so frustrating to not be able to figure out how to make the "flops" right -- even to the point of wondering if I even know how to paint AT ALL. I'm this close to apologising profusely and giving the patron back her down payment. Only a huge chunk of it has already been spent on supplies for the flops so I would have to come up with some cash to make up the difference. Not cool.

But today....today Hilary agreed to pose for me, God bless her. Not quite remembering how to begin, it was a shaky start. Hilary was patient, even encouraging.

When I paint from a photograph, my technique is different. It's easier to take more time sketching and measuring to make sure that the proportions are correct, and noses, lips and eyes are in the right place. So far, when painting people from life, I have to find the person's space first. And then sketch a loose outline.

And when that's mostly well adjusted, start adding color and re-define the outline, shadows, highlights over and over and over.

Without a doubt, the portrait commission has been whipping my tail - very discouraging, but painting today was a different story.

It was at about this point in the painting process this afternoon, that I thanked Hilary for the 45th time, and realized that TODAY - RIGHT NOW - was a wonderful, even fantastic experience. With a heart full of emotion, I burst into tears right in the middle of painting.

Hilary tried hard not to laugh, but I didn't care. My whole mind, body, soul, and spirit was filled to the brim with gratitude.

And this is it. This is beyond my understanding. Painting today was a true gift from the Creator. There's no other way to explain it.

I'll adjust some things over the next few days. The background is still in an incomplete state. Her nose and skin tones here and there might need some re-adjustment, but for the most part, this is it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Visiting Rights

Though no longer in my custody, the new owners have graciously allowed me to maintain visiting rights to this painting, Harmony in Flesh Tones and Pink - Astrid....which will be slightly difficult, since this painting now lives in Paris, France.

Au revoir, until we meet again....some day.

¿Cuánto cuesta?

¿Cuánto cuesta? means "how much does it cost" in Spanish.

If it hasn't been said before, it should have been -- I love win wins. Right now, a friend and I are bartering services. She gets child care from me on Wednesdays for her precious five year old twins, and I get some light carpentry work (provided through her) done on the house. It's a win win for us both. In fact, because her kiddos are so sweet, I'm probably getting more out of it than she is....(but don't tell her that.)

Some of the carpentry work is being done in the art studio. In what I consider the highest of compliments, one of the Spanish speaking workers loves my art and wants his portrait painted by yours truly. It's perfect timing because I've postponed getting serious about starting a portrait series as previously mentioned here and here. It's past time to get busy.

In a different time space continuum, I'm independently wealthy and can give give give to my heart's content. But in this life, right now, I can't; to paint is costly, and so I was trying to come up with a creative barter so that we could create a win win for him to get his portrait painted and for me to get something out of the deal, too. Such as, we work together to paint the living room and dining room walls in exchange for the portrait (which he would keep) -- or something like that. Only he didn't like that idea. OK, so what does he think is a fair exchange? How much should it cost him? And how much should it cost me? What is fair for us both? Ideas anyone?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The French Connection

This is Francoise. She is my dear friend from France. Until this week, I hadn't seen her in over two years. I love her. Her daughter is the subject of one of my most commented on paintings which has also one won a first place and peoples choice award in two separate art shows.

This morning, we went to the Menil Collection, a vast array of art gathered largely by the late French American philanthropist, Dominique de Menil. The Menil has an impressive collection of surrealist paintings, of whom Rene Magritte is my favorite. Neither of us remember the name of the painting in the photo....

....which we snapped just before the guard told us that no photos were allowed. Oops.

Monday, August 23, 2010

At the Log Cabin

For a semi relaxing weekend get-away, Reese and I drove up to east Texas to his mom's side of the family's lake house. It's not so much of a lake house as it is a lake cabin. The most accurate description of the cabin is that it's VERY rustic...rustic and charming.

Honestly, we don't go up there enough. Life, especially weekends, get so full, and before we know it, it's been a whole year or more between visits.

In spite or perhaps because of the rusticness, I love cooking in this kitchen. For this meal, we had black bean chicken simmered in rum and salsa, mexican calabasita squash cooked in butter and onions, sweet potato slices coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper, thin tortilla chips, served with Saint Arnold Elissa IPA and Monte Oton Garnacha red wine, AND home made (from scratch -- the best kind) brownies for dessert.....

....which we ate on the screened porch while enjoying this view of the lake.

Yes, it was hot, especially when the wind stopped. No, I did not take my paints or canvases. Yes, we took the ukulele and guitar but sadly, no, we did not play them. Yes, we sailed on the lake. Well, Reese sailed. I was tethered to the sailboat and floated along behind the Amazing Reese on a chair raft type thing -- super fun. No, we did not take Skipper the dog, poor thing. Yes-can-you-believe-it, we slept for 11 hours one night! Yes, as often happens after a "vacation," I'm still tired. Yes-thank-you, Reese and I both enjoyed it.