Monday, May 30, 2011

Photo Coming Soon

Even though it's not obvious from reading my last four blog posts, I have been painting. It's just that there hasn't been a large chunk of time to devote to the pursuit. So, I've been working on a painting of the back yard lily pond in increments -- thin layer after thin layer as time allows. I'm painting in thin layers so that the paint will dry quickly AND so that when there is time to paint, I don't have to worry about muddying the colors. Photo coming soon.

Also, there has been a very positive response (to me) about the art heart article (page 4) in the Village News. Craig P. Howard took my fumbling responses to his questions and wrote something cohesive, interesting, and informative. Thank you, Craig P. Howard. One dear friend even told me that she cut out the article and put it in her family photo album. So sweet. Thank you, Thelma.

Monday, May 23, 2011

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Time's the Charm

Have you ever fallen in love with something in a book? And then you get to actually see and experience first hand the very thing with which you had already fallen in love? That's exactly what happened to me. The National Gallery in DC recently loaned 50 works of art to the MFAH while the National Gallery was being renovated.....not just any works, but 50 of the greatest examples of French Impressionism ever created.

The first time I went to the exhibit it brought tears to my eyes and I hastily scribbled notes so as not to forget anything. The second time visiting, with more subdued emotion, I took more detailed notes, and appreciated the paintings on a more intellectual level. The third time, I went with a museum docent friend, and we experienced the paintings in a whole new way, still exciting and wonderful emotion, but also sharing unseen details in the paintings and more background about the artists. The fourth time seeing the exhibit, I went with two docent friends, and it was just as awesome and perhaps even more wonderful, if that's possible. The fifth time seeing the exhibit, it was just as exciting because a group of ladies from church were there. Even though there wasn't as much time to thoroughly devote to savoring each painting, it was fun to see friends enjoying the paintings I love.

Also, a friend alerted me to an article (with me in it) about the art hearts on public display. If the link works, the article is on page four.

Double also, there was a couple at our pet therapy class last night without a pet. Turns out they had come because someone had told them that a beautiful poodle named Tilly was in the class. They came to the class just to meet Tilly!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hearts on Tour

OH MY GOODNESS! I'm so excited!

An alert friend was driving through Rice Village the other day and noticed my art heart on public display at the corner of University and Morningside. It's been such fun to see it there. (We live close by and yes, I've made a few trips slightly out of the way just to take a peek.)

The art hearts will be on view now through July 31st. After that, each of the hearts will belong to the respective Circle of Red patrons. (This heart belongs to Bobbie Nau.)

(For more information, go to this link ---> art heart tour.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sarah's Super Simple Sugar Cookies

Cooking, in my humble opinion, is an art form. In cooking, recipes are just guidelines. The recipe calls for asparagus but you only have peas -- no problem. Grape nuts can be substituted for bread crumbs. No artichokes? Use squash instead. It really doesn't matter when cooking.

Baking, however, is a science. If proportions aren't just so, or the recipe isn't followed exactly, the whole thing can flop. Too much flour and it's dry. Too little levening, and it's a brick. Fold in the beaten eggs at the wrong time, or forget to alternate the flour with the milk -- both lead to disasterous baking results. It's all so exacting.

For years I have been searching for the perfect sugar cookie recipe. There are some good ones out there, but never have I found THE ONE....until now. This might be it. And it just so happens that my brain thought it up all by itself, surprisingly enough.

Sarah's Super Simple Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cream butter and sugar.
Add vanilla and eggs.
Add flour & baking powder mix.

Bake 9 minutes at 375 degrees.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sweet Tilly Blessings

When we first got Tilly several months ago, she was so sweet and gentle that it seemed like she could be a comfort to others as she has been for us. After nursing her back to health physically, I went about contacting a group here in Houston called Faithful Paws. Faithful Paws' mission is to bring trained animals into hospitals, nursing homes and rehab facilities in order to administer therapy to adults and children. The therapy can be as simple as letting a patient pet a dog, or letting the patient work on fine motor skills by brushing the dog.

Animal assisted therapy is recognized as being both therapeutic and recreational. Health care professionals have noticed and documented the therapeutic effect of animal companionship, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and raising spirits. In recent years, therapy dogs have even been enlisted to help children overcome speech and emotional disorders. (Wow.)

Before attending the first training class, the Amazing Reese and I were invited to participate in a "blessing of the animals." There were dogs of all description, birds, cats, mice, hamsters, and even a turtle in attendance, all with their humans, of course. After a short outdoor service that included a homily, a few prayers, and singing All Things Bright and Beautiful, we all lined up with our pets for a blessing by the preacher dude. Here, the preacher dude (priest?) has just finished blessing Tilly in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Amen.)

The preacher dude (minister?) couldn't stop gushing over how beautiful and sweet Tilly is. (She is.) Teasingly, I said, "I bet you say that to all the dogs." (He doesn't.)

Tilly did surprisingly well at our first class last week, considering she was basically new at all of the skills. (Sit. Down. Stay. Tilly, come! Good girl.) We've been working hard all week long, taking advantage of every opportunity to practice in public. (Sit. Down. Stay. Tilly, come! Good girl.) Tilly excels at giving unconditional love....or at least the dog form of unconditional love. She'll let you tug her ears and tail, hug, and pet her ad infinitum. The hardest discipline for Tilly, and what we've specifically been working on this week, is over-reacting when she sees a cat or a squirrel. (Tilly, look at me.) And me? Sympathetic to her natural instincts, I have to train MYSELF to train her to not react in those situations. (Good girl, Sarah.)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Wiggly Life with Tulips

Yesterday was one of those, no, no, not one of THOSE days; just an ordinary day with expectations, and then the expectations were crushed. It was a day where I had set aside a time and prepared a still life to paint. Everything was ready. And then, by the grace of God, one of my daughters agreed to pose for me....and so I painted her instead. And the portrait was SO terrible, that I wiped it off and wondered if all of this was a fluke. Do I even know how to paint? Then, because the still life was prepared, I painted that, too. In my insecurity, last night I was whining and moaning about not knowing anything and Reese reminded me that I go through this process about twice a month -- wondering if I actually know how to paint....and then I dreamed about it. I actually dreamed about writing this blog entry (and the responses to it), spilling all of my insecurities about painting and wondering if painting/art is what I should continue to pursue....

So after painting my daughter and wiping all of the work off the canvas because the painting was grotesque, I painted a still life of tulips. The last time I painted tulips was several years ago. That time and this, the tulips kept moving and changing so much that they were hard to follow and paint. They wiggled. They weren't still at all. Who knew tulips behaved this way? So, instead of calling this a Still Life with Tulips, this is called a Wiggly Life with Tulips. It's 12" x 16" oil on linen.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Get Thee From A Nunnery

Back in the 50's and 60's, my grandmother (for whom I am named) had an antique shop on State Street in Jackson, Mississippi. To find items for her shop, she scoured the countryside for treasures. On one trip to New Orleans she found a pile of chairs on the street outside a nunnery. My guess is that sometime between 1960 and 1974, my grandmother was in the right place at the right time when these chairs were being thrown out with the trash. The best I can figure from a little bit of internet research, is that the chairs came from the old Ursuline Convent, which, in 1960, was declared a National Historic Landmark.

My parents have the chairs around their breakfast table in Mississippi. Either my grandmother collected all of the chairs outside the convent and sold one, or someone else gathered a few, because surprisingly enough, this one, the one in the painting, was discovered at The Guild Shop here in Houston.

The Guild Shop is a consignment/re-sale shop with an ever changing inventory. When the Amazing Reese and I got married, we, as mentioned before, were so poor we couldn't even afford the "o" and the "r" in poor. We were just po. To furnish our home, I followed in my grandmother's footsteps, scouring the streets and re-sale shops for almost every piece of furniture we have. On one of my many trips to the Guild Shop, I saw this chair and, of course, recognized it immediately.

The Guild Shop lists three prices on each item they sell. The highest price is a "buy it now" price. The second lower price is generally one month later, with the final lowest price marked at the beginning of the third month. Taking a chance (because we were po,) I waited until the final markdown price to buy it. (I even put the final markdown date on the calendar.) At the front door when the Guild Shop opened the beginning of that third month, I hurried to the chair to claim it. On my heels, another person was coming for the same chair, also having put the date on his calendar for the final markdown, and was supremely disappointed to have missed it.

This trash to treasure chair is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our home and is living happily in the art studio. (I honestly can't verify the history of this particular chair, but the eight chairs around my parent's breakfast table are just like it, and I'd like to think that my grandmother touched this chair, too.)