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 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'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 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.