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.