Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who is She?

A long long time ago, someone asked me to put together a photo album for my grandmother. I was sent home with a huge box full of family photos and charged with the daunting task of making sense of it all. One of the photos in the box was an old black and white photo of some relative as a child. Who? I didn't know, and so the photo didn't go in the album. The expression compelled me, and today, as a confession to Uncle Tim, Mom, and Aunt Dot, I kept the photo.

The original photo is black and white, faded, and has age spots on it fitting for something from it's era, though I don't really know when that was. From the style of the dress, I'm guessing turn of the century, but that could be wrong.

This is one of those paintings that was begun four or five years ago, and was worked and re-worked. It spent a considerable amount of time in a closet, but occasionally would sneak back out to an easel for me to study her, and muse over what to do next.

It's complicated, of course, to translate a black and white image to one of color. That was a huge reason she spent so much time hiding, and then calling me to find her. Even when the color was finally done to satisfaction, her expression was still elusive to capture, until now. I've finally caught the expression, but can't quite put into words what it means.

Who is she?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wine, Roses, and Gardenias

One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is visiting with people, especially in our home. Earlier this week, we hosted a wine and cheese get together at our house for a small group of people from our church. I enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day, and I love cheeses, especially cheeses of Nazareth. Bad joke, I know, but it's so much funnier after a glass or two of wine.

These little paintings were painted in preparation for the First Saturday Arts Market on July 3rd.

Roses 5" x 7" oil on linen

 Roses 6" x 8" oil on linen

Gardenias, 8" x 8" oil on canvas

This is a re-worked apple painting from last January. It confounded me before, and now it pleases me.

8" x 10", oil on linen
Another re-worked apple painting...I added more punch to the colors. 4" x 6" oil on canvas

And this one is one that I originally painted in early 2005, and now have completely re-worked it. This aspen tree painting is a 16" x 20" oil on canvas.

After a recent rejection by the art establishment, it was especially nice to get glowing feedback from the Erin who posed for a portrait last week. She said,
Wow! I am amazed. It totally looks like me and you don't give yourself enough credit. You're such a gifted artist that if I didn't know you I literally would not believe that you'd only been doing this for the last five years.
Thank you, Erin. It is nice to get positive feedback.

Monday, June 21, 2010


With my daughter's permission, I'm posting a list that she originally published on facebook.

Compliments of Erin,


Erin says:
I was born and raised in Houston, and I love this city. It is my belief that most Houston haters have not experienced the real city because they know only the vast and ugly suburban sprawl. Either that or they have a predisposition to dislike it based on the weather report. Those suburban places are not Houston, not really. And while the summers can be hot and humid, they're not so bad. The Houston I know is ethnically and culturally diverse, verdant, cosmopolitan, artistic, and abundant in history, restaurants, and good folk. To borrow from Carl Jung (by the way, there is a Jung Center of Houston at 5200 Montrose Boulevard), the city definitely has its Shadow side as well; poverty, corruption, less-than-adequate public transportation, etc.

Houston is a very robust place.

In order to dispel the Houston myth, I've put together a list of places/things well worth checking out while in town.

Please note that the symbol * indicates I particularly love it.

Also, while the following suggestions are categorized somewhat, they are not in order of preference or part of town.

Because my experience is limited to a pretty specific part of central Houston, I am in no way an authority on this topic, so I can't even pretend to know most of what the city has to offer. Please feel free to post other positive things about Houston!

Parts of town worthy of exploration:

Rice University / The Village / Boulevard Oaks

Montrose (esp. Westheimer Rd, Montrose Blvd)

The Heights (esp. White Oak Dr, Heights Blvd, 19th St)




*MFAH (free on Thursdays) 1001 Bissonnet Street

*Cullen Sculpture Garden (free) 5101 Montrose Boulevard

*Contemporary Arts Museum (free) 5216 Montrose Boulevard

Menil Collection Museum/ Byzantine Chapel/ Rothko Chapel (free) 1515 Sul Ross Street

Orange Show / Beer Can House ($1 or $2) 402 Munger Street / 222 Malone Street

*David Adickes Sculptureworx Studio -- giant president heads and giant beatles sculptures (free) Summer and Sawyer St

Art Car Museum (free) 140 Heights Boulevard

*Project Row Houses (free) 521 Holman Street

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (free) 4848 Main St

Lawndale Art Center (free) 4912 Main Street


El Rey (tacos!) 910 Shepherd

Bright and Early 4825 Washington Ave

Anvil 1424 Westheimer Rd

Gingerman (the original) 5607 Morningside Drive

Hobbit Cafe 2243 Richmond Avenue

*The Breakfast Klub 711 Travis Street (Beyonce and JayZ eat there)

Empire Cafe 1732 Westheimer Road

*Brasil 2604 Dunlavy Street

*Agora 1712 Westheimer Road

*Catalina Coffee 2201 Houston Avenue

Poison Girl 1641 Westheimer Road

Mango's 403 Westheimer Road

Catbirds 1336 Westheimer Road

Te House of Tea 2402 Woodhead Street

notsuoH 314 Main Street

The Raven Grill 1916 Bissonnet Street

Thelma's BBQ 1020 Live Oak Street

The Dirt Bar 222 Yale St

Valhalla 6100 Main St

Guadalupana 2109 Dunlavy St

The Chocolate Bar 2521 University Blvd

Film / Performing Arts:

River Oaks Theater 2009 W Gray St

Angelika Film Center (Monday cheap date night) 510 Texas Avenue

*Miller Outdoor Theatre 100 Concert Drive

Houston Ballet

Houston Symphony

Houston Grand Opera


Japanese Garden / Rose Garden / Zoo / Hermann Park 6000 Fannin Street / between Fannin St and MacGregor Dr

Buffalo Bayou Park 1800 Allen Parkway

*Glenwood Cemetery 2525 Washington Ave

Water Wall 2800 Post Oak Boulevard

Downtown Tunnel System 1121 Capitol Street

Discovery Green 1500 McKinney Street

Heritage Park
Bagby St and Clay St

Avant Garden 411 Westheimer Road

Holocaust Museum 5401 Caroline Street

Museum of Natural Science / Butterfly Museum 1 Hermann Circle Dr

Arne's Warehouse and Party Store 2830 Hicks Street

*Guild Shop 2009 Dunlavy Street

St Arnold Brewery (tours daily except Sunday - $7) 2000 Lyons Avenue.

Sarah says:
My personal #1 favorite in the whole city of Houston is the Byzantine Chapel -- a MUST see. Others favorites include, in no particular order, the Beer Can House, the MFAH Sculpture Garden, the MFAH, the Menil Collection, David Addickes Sculptureworx (quirky and cool), Glenwood Cemetery, (beautiful) and the Japanese Garden.

The Guild Shop is consistently voted as the best resale/consignment shop in Houston. A personal endorsement...a lot of our furniture came from the Guild Shop.

My favorite and fun places to eat; El Rey (Cuban fast food -- yummy), Empire Cafe (large portions, good food, unique), Tiny Boxwoods (upscale sandwiches at Thompson Hanson Nursery off Alabama between Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan), Tacos a Go Go (on Main St next to the Continental Club), The Raven Grill (lovely meal and setting), and Brennan's. Mmmm, Brennan's. Order the turtle soup, pecan roasted fish, and grab a handful of pralines on the way out. They also make a tasty mint julep.

Houston has live music out the wazoo. For the best blues in town, go to the Continental Club, and The Big Easy (on Kirby between University Blvd and Sunset).

Saint Arnold Brewery is great. Beer tasting included in the tour.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ado and a Don't

Well, without much ado, this is the portrait from the other day. When -- and I think that it looks enough like her that I can use her name -- Erin (not our daughter) left, she had only posed for maybe an hour. At that point, the painting was in such sad shape that I didn't even let Erin see it. As mentioned before, I literally had a dream about painting Erin. In order to facilitate her posing for me, I suggested that she bring her 14 month old son here for his afternoon nap.

There are very few items that we still have from when our children were babies; the Fisher Price little people which get played with all the time, the Graco Pack N Play, and the baby monitor. Before Erin arrived, I set up the pack n play and the baby monitor so that the baby could sleep, and we could hear him when he woke.

We went to the studio with the baby still crying in the pack n play. The idea was to at least get the skin tones mixed, and hopefully, the baby would fall asleep, and I could paint. Sure enough, that's what happened, but long before I was ready to quit, the baby woke up.

In real life, this Erin's facial expressions are always changing and she seems endlessly excited about everything. Because it's such a natural expression for her, I should have agreed to let her smile for the portrait. In total and complete ignorance, I thought that a smile would be a difficult pose to keep, so I encouraged a rather plain expression. She could have smiled not for an hour, but for the whole afternoon! She's absolutely delightful.

Next time, I'll know better. Whatever the sitter wants to do to be comfortable posing, let them do it and be it, and don't presume that I know what's best for the sitter.

It's a 12" x 16" oil on linen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pretty Please

It literally started with a dream. One night last week, I had such a vivid dream, that the next morning, before even thinking straight, I e-mailed a particular person and asked if they would pose for a portrait for me. The dream was clear and sure. In the dream, this person posed for a brilliant, life altering portrait. Considering that a few weeks ago my biggest art related dream had been about cleaning paintbrushes, I naturally thought this was a sign of some sort.

Lo and behold, this person agreed to pose! In my humble opinion, anyone who agrees to spend an hour or two sitting still while I paint them is a huge deal. It's a gift of time and intimacy that in our go go go American culture is mind blowing to receive. So, thank you un-named friend, for the tremendous sacrifice of bringing your 14 month old son here to nap so that again, quite literally, my dream could come true.

Only, the painting in real life didn't quite turn out like the brilliant, museum quality painting in my dream.

After un-named new friend left, daughter Hilary and I took a walk...in the rain. Hilary needed to go to the bank, and honestly, I needed to get out. It was so slippy in flip flops that it was easier to walk barefooted. Splashing through puddles, I half imagined that the Lord God Almighty himself was cleansing my soul (and dream) through a good, old fashioned Presbyterian baptism (which involves sprinkling for those who don't know.) Then, I stubbed my toe.

Yes, it hurts.

When I was a child, being barefooted was a way of life. Stubbing toes happened almost weekly. Rest assured, it's been years since this ole gal has stubbed a toe.

Not too long after the toe stubbing incident, while splashing through a puddle on the way home, Hilary asked me if I felt like a child. Thinking of all of my inconsequential-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things worries, with the real life painting in the forefront of my brain, I said, "No. I feel like an adult. Yes, what I'm doing might seem childish, but I still feel like adult."

This painting needs a baptism. It needs an innocent touch. It needs new life. It needs something. God, pretty please grant me the grace and wisdom to complete it to the praise of your glory. Amen.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mary and Stan

Mary and Stan, when I was 20, gave me a bed to sleep in and a warm coat. Wandering, I had come to the mainland from Hawaii in the winter of '83-'84 and was woefully ill-prepared for the cold. The winter wool coat was just the wrapping on a life long gift of mutual love, acceptance, and deep friendship that forged in a matter of weeks.

Because Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, it has provided Reese and me with many opportunities to meet people, and see long time friends who travel here from all points of the globe for treatment. Mary and Stan lived here for a short while, and have been back and forth since then for various ailments. On one such visit, Stan pulled a wallet sized, well worn, black and white photo of Mary in her back-in-the-day nurse's uniform from the wallet his back pocket....and asked if I would paint a portrait of Mary for him.

Translating a tiny, well worn, black and white photograph into a full color 12" x 16" portrait is more than a bit tricky. Truthfully, this portrait has been in the works off and on for seven long months. After all that struggle, it's a great pleasure and a tremendous satisfaction that I'm finally very pleased with the finished product.

With all my heart Mary and Stan, thanks for the coat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Poofy Hair

A sweet young friend drew a picture of me on the driveway. He and I are holding hands in the drawing. That green stuff on top of my head? You guessed it....poofy hair. :)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

No Photos, Please

Trying to NOT spend money, and propelled by the moderate success of cutting Reese's hair on Sunday, I decided to give it a go on my own head yesterday, with less than illustrious results. When my hair first dried, it looked like the 70's Dorothy Hamill hair cut, with the exception of an electrical current running through my brain to the tips of my hair....a shorter version, I suppose, of Bozo the clown. I'm not even kidding.

Reese sent this e-mail in reply to my personal cry of dismay.
"Bozo?!? Dorothy Hamill?!? ... Not sure which is worse. :)

Honey, I don't care, I ain't in love with your hair.
And if it all fell out, well, I'd love you anyway."

When the Amazing Reese got home, he very kindly and gently said,
"It'll grow out."
And then, he still called me "Beautiful."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Good Tip

It's not unusual for me to dream about what I do. In a previous gardening phase, my dreams were about dirt (really) and the various scientific names of plants. As a runner, the dreams were about the lightness of being and swiftness of foot as I ran favorite paths and trails. When we are in Mexico, I dream in Spanish. As a mediocre beginning student of French, I dreamed in French. But I've never had a dream about painting. Well, not exactly, but last night I dreamed about cleaning my paint brushes. What this means subconsciously is anybody's guess.

Cleaning paint brushes is a major aspect of the day to day life of a painter. A good artist paint brush is an expensive investment. And keeping the brush tip clean is a worthwhile activity. With a lot of trial and error, I've figured out a successful system (for me) for cleaning the paint out of the brushes. Maybe it will be helpful for you as well.

To start, (this links to a good article) squeeze as much paint from the brush as possible with a paper towel, working from the metal part that holds the bristles outward.

Then, swish the brush in a jar of Turpenoid, an odorless turpentine, and again wipe with a paper towel.

After most of the paint is removed this way, take a toothbrush and Palmolive (tough on grease, soft on hands) or Dawn dish soap (Dawn takes grease out of your way), and under running water, work the toothbrush (again, in the direction of the bristle) until the soap and water run clear.

After lightly drying the paintbrush, use some Master's Brush Cleaner to condition the brushes. Swirl the brush in the hard soap, and if needed, reshape the brush before it dries.

It's important to note that the brushes need to dry laying down on their side.

After drying overnight, the brushes can be placed in a jar type container for storage, with the tips pointing up.

This process is specific for oil paints, though when using acrylics, one need only omit the Turpenoid step.

Here's hoping for happier dreams tonight, which we will psychoanalyze in the morning.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Magnolia...and maybe Texas

My mind wanders. Many times over the years, I've wondered what it would have been like to name our daughters after flowers. Magnolia, had I been brave enough, would top the list.

Other flower names for our daughters thought of over the years...Daisy, Rose, Violet, Lily, and Camellia. We, of course, would have to have had two more daughters to round out the list.

I've never met anyone named Magnolia, have you?

On a hunt for a magnolia blossom for several days, this one was found yesterday (with permission) in a neighbor's yard at the end of a very long block. By the time the flower and I made it home, we had both wilted from the heat. It was put in a glass of water anyway, but checking on it several times throughout the day, there was no change in perkiness, for me or the flower.

Today, because the little bits of work that happened yesterday were thrown out, Hilary agreed to pose for me again. When I went to the studio to prepare, lo and behold, yesterdays magnolia was in full bloom. Hilary, ever the willing model, bowed out, and I took full advantage of this fading moment of magnolia season.

While painting this first magnolia painting today, I wasn't wearing my glasses. It's something that, looking at these photos, is noticeably obvious (to me.) It's 8" x 8", oil on canvas.

Can you see a difference, or is it just me? The one below was painted with the addition of corrective lenses. It's 9 1/2" x 9 1/2", oil on canvas.

(Had the daughters been named after states, they would have been Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee...or maybe, Texas.)