Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heart Unveiling

The Go Red for Women art heart unveiling event last week was super wonderful AND at my favorite restaurant, Brennan's -- yum. (That the event was at Brennan's didn't have anything to do with my attendance, though it didn't hurt.) While sipping on red wine (for heart health), we learned in an informal presentation that the number one killer of women is heart disease. Also, five times as many women die from heart disease than from breast cancer. That's a big statistic.

At the end of the evening, Reese and I headed downstairs to the bar for a bowl of turtle soup, a Brennan's signature dish (probably not on the heart healthy menu.) In a transcendent state of conciousness from the deliciousness of the soup, somehow it registered that we didn't have a single photo of the heart and me from the evening. So, after (literally) sopping up the last drop of soup with crusty white bread, (also not heart healthy,) we headed back upstairs to take a photo, just before the heart was to be taken out of the ballroom.

Fellow artist Kermit Eisenhut's heart is behind mine, with the yellow roses and the stars and stripes, and a sliver of a glimpse of artist Nicola Parente's heart behind Kermit's.

Here I am with Kermit -- super nice guy.

And this is me with fellow artist Nicola Parente and Michael Piana, both also super nice.


On a personal note, my own grandmother died suddenly of a heart attack when she was 63. I was 10 when it happened, and remember the deep grief of realizing that she wasn't HERE anymore. As a child, we would visit our grandparents in North Carolina every summer. Usually, when we were leaving, Grandma would cry and hug me (us) all tight. The last time I saw her, the family was driving away in the station wagon, and instead of crying, she was laughing and running beside the car while waving good-bye. That's a good memory.

I still miss her.

Monday, March 28, 2011


She was walking past his office door one afternoon. Reese was irresistibly drawn to her....the way she walked, scurrying as if in a hurry, but somehow not getting very far. He opened the door to get a better look. Yes, she was a beauty all right.

It had been a while since he had seen, much less been this close to such an amazing creature. He reached out for her and had second thoughts. What about his wife? What would she think? He reasoned, "It is cold out. I'll just let her in to warm up a bit."

Her name was Francesca. She was trying to get somewhere safe to spend the night before it got too dark outside. She was hungry, too, not having had a good meal in who knows how long. He let her have the leftover strawberries from his lunch.

The more he stared at her the more enchanted he became. He couldn't put her back on the streets. Not that night. He just couldn't. So he called his wife on the phone. "Sarah darlin', there's a sweet little creature here at the office. She's tired and hungry and needs a place to stay. Should I put her back out on the streets? Or bring her home? I'm sending you a photo so you can see what I'm talking about."

"Oh, Reese!" I said, "Please bring her home! She can live in the pond with the fish."

And that is how Francesca the turtle came to live in our back yard pond.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hearty Cottonwoods

When first asked to create this art heart, even before it was delivered to the house, all of my thoughts went to constructing a painting for the heart in my brain. Several ideas were sketched in a sketch pad, but it wasn't until I started drawing on the actual heart that the realization hit me that most of my sketches wouldn't translate well to the three dimensionality of this heart shape. Since this was to be created for a particular person in the Circle of Red Society, I e-mailed her and asked some basic questions to defibrillate the creative process.

Based on her answers, this heart combines her love of the wide open skies of West Texas and the cottonwood tree.....the cottonwood because it so hardy and the bark has great character.

This BIG art heart gets picked up this afternoon to be on display for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women reception Thursday evening. Tomorrows private event is at one of my favorite restaurants of all time. I'm so excited....and a little nervous....

After the art heart paintings were finished, I found this poem on the internet. The cottonwood has indeed grown into my heart.

Cottonwood Summer
by Jack Peachum

“You may have your mighty oaks—
Go on– listen to your whispering pines,
Tend your pretty flowers—
For I’ll outlast them all—
I can grow anywhere, any time—
Give me an inch of your ground,
And I will bury you!
I ask nothing of you, neither food nor water,
I thrive in the drought and I rest in the cold—
Next year I’ll be stronger,
My roots going deeper,
And some night I’ll creep into your room,
Plant myself over you, cover you up,
Bind you to the sheets—
My branches will grow out of your heart.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reclaimed Remnants

Occasionally, not often enough, I volunteer for the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Whether it's working in the garden, being a gallery attendant, or serving wine at an opening reception, it's always fun. While serving wine at one of the opening exhibit events, I met and fell instantly in like with Kristi Rae Wilson, a current resident artist there.

Once upon a time, Kristi found a Ziploc baggie of fabric remnants. Finding it prompted her to create an entire new body of work, in which she combined the fabric remnants with scrap sterling silver to arrange and fabricate decorative, functional, and completely contemporary jewelry. This most recent body of work is called "Intentions of an Anonymous Quilter."

On the side, Kristi works for Buffalo Exchange, a clothing store that sells new and used fashion, some of which was donated by the store to incorporate into the new jewelry pieces. Last Friday night, Buffalo Exchange hosted a show for Kristi which showcases the re-purposed remnants....which is where I come in....

Kristi asked if I would please serve drinks at the opening reception, which, of course, I was delighted to oblige. If any Houstonians are out and about in the Montrose area, and are interested in seeing the work up close and personal, stop by Buffalo Exchange and take a peek. The show will be up all week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heartily in Favor

The American Heart Association has a campaign that focuses on bringing awareness to women that heart disease is their number one killer. The campaign is called Go Red For Women (usually symbolized by the red dress). There are numerous volunteer groups that promote the Go Red cause. One of those groups is the Circle of Red. The Circle of Red is under the Go Red umbrella and is comprised of 11 women who have volunteered and financially supported the Go Red cause. As part of their membership in this exclusive Circle, these women will receive an art heart, one of which I was asked to create.

The Circle of Red has given to the campaign, so the art hearts indirectly assist in raising funds and directly help build awareness. The hearts are to be unveiled to the members of the Circle of Red next Thursday evening at a private event.

In this final phase of preparing my heart, after consulting two different art supply stores and a hardware store on how to seal it, I went with the advice from the hardware store guy. A minimum of three coats of Rust-Oleum crystal clear enamel will be applied to it, with drying time in between. It's such a tall piece that I had to climb on a ladder to be able to evenly and effectively spray the protective finish on it.

Also, in anticipation of the heart unveiling next week, as silly as it sounds, instead of cutting my own hair, I actually went to the salon for a proper hair cut. Even though I'm mostly confident in my own hair cutting abilities, it usually takes about a week or so of snip snip snipping before the hair is properly even and all that. This way, with the heart unveiling next Thursday, I'll not have to fret over whether my hair looks OK or not. Well, at least if it looks goofy it won't be from a bad cut. It will just be from misbehaving hair.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Badge Season

It must be badge season or something. Another group came over this morning for a "meet the artist" field trip. This was a mixed group -- a cub scout, boy scouts, and some American Heritage Girls. (It was the first that I had ever heard of American Heritage Girls.)

They were originally going to come over yesterday, but it rained here in Houston, and as a big part of the "tour" is the mural on the back of the house, the field trip was rescheduled for today. I was glad that we did, because we have a simply wonderful tree house in the back yard.....and when an artist talk is less than fascinating to the 12 and under crowd, there's always a tree to climb!

Aren't they adorable? They even named one of the goldfish -- Rainbow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Boy Scouts

In order to earn an art badge, Troop something or other came over yesterday to tour a "working artist's studio." They were delightful guests exemplifying true boy scout manners.....friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, and clean.

In addition to learning about an artist's life, of special interest to the scouts were the pet goldfish in the backyard pond. The boys were fascinated that the fish were so friendly and tame. They thought of names for the new fish -- and I'm sorry to say that Shadow is the only new fish name I remember.

In honor of such fine young men, I hereby name the new fish Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Obedient, Thrifty, Brave, and Reverent.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Heart Break

Daughter Anna suggested taking a break from the BIG HEART to give myself some breathing room. She knew I needed it. Almost all of my mental energy, waking hours and even my dreams have been devoted to the big heart project. (OK, that's not entirely true. It just seems like it. I have actually dreamed about it though....several times.) So, at Anna's suggestion, and because the red bud trees are already starting to lose their blooms and put on leaves, I took the break from the big heart to paint en plein air -- in the back yard.

It was incredibly refreshing to temporarily change direction. (Right after this photo was taken, a gentle breeze blew the canvas off the easel. Had to repaint some of it.)

The big heart is really close to being finished.....really really close.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Happy Days

When we first moved into this old house, it had a screened porch (of sorts.) In reality, the rotted screening did nothing to keep out bugs and mosquitoes. Every now and then we would have lunch or supper on the porch, but in effect, it was unused space. As our daughters got older and space became a valuable commodity, it became evident that something needed to be done to the "screened" porch. Enthusiastically, I decided to enclose Reese drew a diagram for me showing how to frame windows and run wire.

Week after week, board after board, from the floor plate to the wiring to the window framing and even a built in bookcase, I built our new study / computer room. The room even passed city inspection thank you very much.

Delightfully, in the last few weeks, two of our grown daughters have moved back home. (Three of the four are living here.) But that meant that the house needed to be rearranged to accommodate everyone and their things. The former screened porch former study computer room has now become a very pleasant art studio. There's still some tweaking to be done, and I've yet to actually use it -- that's today's work -- but I'm looking forward to happy days of painting ahead.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I Heart Working

I do. I really love working. It was a long day, though, and there's still so much to do. This is a big heart.

There's definitely a learning curve to painting on....a big heart. The paint doesn't flow off the brush like it usually does on a canvas surface, and it takes a lot more paint to cover the area completely. Of course, part of that might be because it's a really big heart.

Another thing to note, when standing in front of the super three dimensional part, it's virtually impossible to discern what's what of the design I sketched. So, I've been looking at the heart reflection in the mirror (see photograph) to make sure that the design is going where it needs to go.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bread to Thrive

Why Evelyn Gibson ever trusted us is beyond me. We were 21, newly married, newly pregnant, barely able to afford first and last months rent while we looked for work that just wasn't available in California at the time. Reese passed by her store, Gibson's Natural Living every day on his walk to the temp agency. Every now and then he would get temporary work, and we would hurry to buy groceries. Groceries at the time consisted of a large bag of grapefruit, peanut butter, a chunk of cheese, and tortillas. We would come home to our one bedroom bungalow duplex and put the groceries in the cooler. We didn't even have a refrigerator.

One day, on his way home from not finding work at the temp agency, Reese stopped in Evelyn's store. She was demonstrating the wonders of the Magic Mill wheat grinder and the Bosch mixer. She was baking bread, cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, grating cheese, all kinds of wonderful things with this amazing machine. Reese came home and got me for the next demonstration, partially because Evelyn handed out free samples at the end, and we were hungry. But really, Reese was sold on the healthful benefits of fresh bread made with freshly ground wheat berries.

Over the course of a month or so, we became friends with Evelyn, but other than friendship, there was nothing else in California to keep us there. We heard that there were jobs to be had in Houston so we went to the store one last time to say good bye. To our surprise, Evelyn was offering us an incredible deal on the Bosch mixer and Magic Mill wheat grinder. Even with the deep discount, at 800 or 900 dollars, it was WAY out of our price range. Evelyn was insistent that we take the machines with us...along with a 50 pound bag of wheat berries. Part of her reasoning was that if I ate freshly ground whole wheat bread, our baby would be healthy. We could barely afford a $20 down payment. What was Evelyn thinking? We were moving halfway across the country in our 1950 Chevrolet panelwagon (named Lucille)....she would never see us again. She said, "That's OK, you just send me a dollar a month if that's all you can afford until you pay it off. I want your baby to be healthy."

Sure enough, Reese and I had a beautiful healthy baby girl, and another one, and another one, and another one...all while Reese baked and I ate our wonderful fresh bread.

Months later, when our first IRS refund check came in the mail, we sent Evelyn the final payment for the bread making machines. To this day, I thank God for Evelyn Gibson. (Reese still bakes our good bread and I still feel like it's a luxury to eat it. In fact, he made a fresh batch on Monday night. Yum.)


Tilly has been responding extremely well to training. Our leashed walks are enjoyable 80% of the time. (She still pulls a bit.) She is remarkably obedient upon correction. (For instance, I corrected her once for jumping on the counter the first week we had her and she hasn't done it since....) She has learned to fetch instead of playing keep away. She walks into her crate at night without fuss -- all good things. So, without thinking twice, when Anna and I walked to the farmer's market yesterday, it didn't even occur to me to crate her for the 30 minutes (or less) that we would be gone.

When Anna and I got home with bags full of fresh produce, both dogs were at the front door to greet us -- so sweet. We are teaching Tilly to calm herself before we pet her, so after a moment of ignoring her, she sat and waited to be pet. (Good girl!) Skipper, however, was more than his usual neurotic jumpy self. He was noisy, wiggly, and completely underfoot.

Because Anna needed to be somewhere, I started cooking supper right away forgoing Tilly's late afternoon walk after which comes dog supper. It wasn't until dinner preparations were well under way that I noticed....a half eaten loaf of fresh baked bread on the floor just outside the kitchen. Arthritic Skipper can't jump on the kitchen counter.....I called Tilly to the kitchen to fuss at her. The look in her eyes was more like, "Oh, you're praising me? I like this game. I must be good at something. What? You like me, right?" It amused me; I had to turn away to keep from bursting into laughter, so Anna started scolding her. Anna went on and on with a finger wagging bad girl Tilly don't jump on the counter don't eat people food....etc, and still Tilly just looked at her thinking that she was being praised. Just as Anna asked, "Did you eat the bread?"....Tilly (with her eyes) answered, "Bread? What bread?"....and then Tilly let out a long, low-toned, big dog burp.

I think that Skipper, in his neurotic wiggly greeting when we got home from the farmer's market, was really trying to tattletale on Tilly.

To be fair, the Amazing Reese's freshly ground whole wheat bread is delicious, and most likely good for Tilly....but we certainly don't want her jumping on the kitchen counter and eating people food. Guess she's not quite as well trained as I thought.