In September of last year, my husband and I attended Autumn on the Prairie, at Natchusa, a nature preserve. While there, I met a group of painters. I learned that they get together when the weather is agreeable to paint in various areas in the region. I have to admit that I was interested. My family has been prodding me to get back into painting. I have a collapsible easel and a chair. I have many acrylic paints and brushes, not to mention canvases.
I planned to practice painting during the winter. As with many of my plans, it didn’t happen. Since the Fall, I have only finished one painting. I did it for my granddaughter’s birthday. When she was at St. Joseph hospital because of her headaches, I told her I was thinking of an Amazon warrior winning the battle. That image remained in my head and I actually turned it into a painting. Drawing IS NOT my talent. I was amazed when the image I drew on the canvas actually looked like a girl. The drawing of the unicorn DID NOT go as well. The finished painting is something that I’m not ashamed of — strong Amazon, winning the battle. I wouldn’t call it a great work of art, but considering the artist, I don’t think it needs to be hidden. It is hanging in our granddaughter’s bedroom.
I painted in acrylic. I used a glass for a pallet and cleaned it off many times. I also cleaned the brushes many times and renewed the paint many times. I had access to running water in our sink. I thought about the steps I took in the painting as I considered painting on location.
Our granddaughter had a set of Arteza brush pens at the hospital. The colors were vibrant and she shared her talent with many of the other patients. The more I thought about that set, the more I considered getting my own. Taking it with me with a sketch pad to an open air painting session sounded like a plan. At least for the first excursion. I can always take paints later. I can also return to the camper and using my materials convert the sketch to a painting.
My daughter suggested I take the pens and a sketch pad to the Garden and try doing a sketch. I just need good weather!
When my granddaughter was at St. Joseph hospital because of her headaches, I told her we should compose a story about an Amazon Warrior who used her strength to battle the headaches and thunder boomers. I don’t know if that idea ever really became a story. While she was in the hospital I gave her the puppets I had acquired for her birthday — a Unicorn and a Pegasus. Unable to visit on her birthday because of her headaches, the idea for a story became a painting.
I will be the first to admit that I do not have the ability to draw. I needed a female warrior, a stick figure would not work. I tried to draw the image, it turned out better than I expected. Now I will admit that I petitioned everyone on my “spirit team” for help. I tried to draw a unicorn — the image had no relationship to the being I was trying to draw. I tried to draw a shield with limited success.
I hoped that paint would improve my drawing ability and drew a new image on a canvas board. I decided to put in a mountain with storm clouds leaving followed by blue skies with wispy white clouds. The sky, the clouds, the mountain became the image that I wanted. The female on the other hand, became a challenge. First I decided that she needed to move back on the canvas. She was too close to the front. I finally was able to improve on the image so that I had a female warrior, standing tall, ready to take on the world. The shield was another matter. I realized I had no idea what a shield looked like, let alone where to place it or paint it.
The unicorn was another matter. Poor unicorn, ears aren’t too bad, body is pudgy, eye and nose are okay.
The best I can say is that I tried. I decided not to clutter the background up with rocks or trees. After I fussed with the sky and the clouds and the grassy terrain, I knew that I had to take a photo and send it to her. It might have been possible to improve on the unicorn, it might have been possible to make it even more of a mess. I might have hidden it behind a tree. The photo gave her a smile.
I learned that I had trouble with the brushes. I learned that I had trouble with the paint. I learned that if I wanted to join the artists painting on location in the country I had to practice. I had planned to start painting when we first came home from the country. I didn’t! Hopefully — winter is almost over. Spring will soon be here. I have an easel and chair for wandering, I just need to PRACTICE so that I’m more comfortable using my materials.
BITS AND PIECES
I have learned that it is helpful if I write myself notes. During the summer when we travel back and forth from the city to the country I never remember what supplies I have on hand at either place. I have to admit that I’m better at noting the food and supplies at the camper than at home. It helps for packing.
Since I’m determined to do more cooking at the camper this summer, I brought many of the spices that were called for in the recipes I planned to try. Finding a container to store the spices in and making TWO lists has been helpful. One list is in the container, the other travels with me. I also have to admit that spices hid, and I now have extras.
After the winter, I discovered that some changes I made during the last summer have skipped my memory. I brought painting supplies out to the camper, but it was only AFTER I bought new sketch books for my grandchildren that I found a container with colored pencils, water color pencils and sketch books hiding in a closet.
I recently pulled down a box that contained a cooking appliance that completely slipped my memory. I must have bought it when we traveled in the motor home. It is designed for cooking for two — omelets, steaks, sandwiches, even pizza. It not only has directions, cooking pans and a cook book. I must admit that it is repacked. Will I use it this year? Will I donate it? Good questions — no answers.
I remembered that we had a motorized air pump. I knew where it had rested, I didn’t know where it had moved. UNTIL I decided to pack afghans away in a tub. Surprise — the tub contained not only the missing pump but also the missing inflatable mattress.
When I moved a cookie sheet and a wooden cutting board that I use for cleaning fish, I wrote a note and put it on the frig. That was a few years ago. The note is still there but every Spring I look for the cookie sheet and find my note.
Our house is much bigger than the camper. Just think of all the things that are waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t help that over the years I have been involved in many crafts and have the supplies needed for each. Maybe this Fall and Winter I will explore the nooks and crannies in the house.
I have to admit that I have never been to Ireland. I don’t know if the opportunity to visit will ever come. My mother’s father was from there. I have finally learned the county that he was from but since I don’t know his birthdate or any other pertinent information, and his last name was very common — I’m not trying to learn anything more. I’ve titled this thought ramble Irish Morning not because the day reminded me of Ireland but because I was having lunch with a dear friend. She is not only Irish but she came from across the water. For years she lived on my block, went to Mass with us on Sunday. But time passes and our bodies reflect the passing. She had trouble walking up and down the stairs in her house. She moved to a Catholic senior residence. Even though she is on the third floor, they have elevators.
She phoned a few days ago and invited me for lunch. Of course, I accepted immediately. Then she fell, and we postponed the date. Then the snow fell on rain drenched stairs and I didn’t like the crunch as I swept the stairs. And we postponed it again. The day finally came, cold but with sunshine — blue skies. If I gave serious thought to the meeting, I wouldn’t have arrived empty handed. Ooops!
Her residence has many opportunities for a person to stay busy. I passed a room where art work decorated the window. I recognized the name of a friend and stopped to take a photo. A woman passed by with her son and asked if that artwork was mine. I admitted that it was a friend’s, I wasn’t a resident. She had recently moved in and was having trouble adjusting. I had to share a story of my recent painting experience and a photo of the finished art work. She didn’t paint or draw. She used to sing but has lost her voice. I suggested she just sing to herself inside her head. She was on her way to therapy. I was navigating the halls, looking for the building were my friend’s apartment was.
SUCCESS! We had a pleasant visit but more snow and rain was in the forecast. I really didn’t want to get stuck out in the weather. I learned that she had had a stroke a couple of years before. Somehow I missed that information. Her son used to live on our block and shared information about his mother. He rented their house a couple of years back, and moved to an apartment. I no longer receive current news. She is doing well now — in her late 90’s. Not bothered by the aftermath of her fall.
Going back down I shared the elevator with a woman who had a lovely accent. When I asked, she admitted she was from Ireland. Walking down the hall with her, I voiced the question of a bathroom. Two gentlemen going in the opposite direction pointed to a sign on the wall. I told my companion that I’ve noticed that when I ask a question, I often get an immediate answer. I wondered if the same thing happened to her.
Leaving — I met the same woman I saw when I first arrived. She hadn’t slept well the night before and was heading to her apartment for a nap before supper. I mentioned that it must be hard, giving up her house, her car and living in a new place. There were people there from her parish but the friendship is just starting.
It didn’t make any sense! Why should I be afraid to pick up a paint brush? Buy paint and canvas? Try to paint a picture in acrylic? Okay, I’ll admit that it has been many years since I have tried to paint a whole picture. I’ve dabbled with paint a couple of times, but not with any purpose or effort. I have a couple of tiny canvasses up. I might have been encouraging my grandchildren to paint. I really don’t remember.
Hanging on the walls –I have quite a few large canvases that remind me that I was able to actually paint a picture that I was proud of. Just last week I unearthed a satchel that held many books that contained painting ideas that I brought to life. So why was I frightened? It wasn’t as if someone had asked me to do a painting. I didn’t have a job that offered money for a finished work of art. I wasn’t planning on entering an art show. There was no pressure to put paint on canvas. Except my family kept encouraging me to paint again. Was I afraid I would let them or myself down?
Since we closed up the camper for the fall, channel 20 quit broadcasting programs that I enjoyed — I have discovered another PBS station that runs programs by five different artists five days a week. When I discovered I was able to paint many years ago, I watched Bill Alexander and his mighty brush. Many of the ways I painted trees and mountains came from his ideas. I painted in oil. These artists use a mixture of mediums — oil, acrylic, mixed. Their techniques are mixed also. I have watched — trying to learn, inspire.
My husband has emphysema and there is an odor to oil and the solvent used to clean brushes, etc. I thought it would be better to paint in Acrylic, it was fast drying and odorless. The texture of the paint is different. I’ve learned that Acrylic is available not only in tubes but also in liquid. It can be used similar to watercolor. As if I wasn’t confused enough! Although I played with watercolors a couple of times — I’m not skilled. Nor do I have the talent for drawing. When I painted in oil, I was surprised that the paintings I tried, turned out as well they did.
I finally gave in — I saw a mountain and waterfall scene that I thought I would try. I bought a large canvas, paints — and began. I painted a mountain that I wasn’t unhappy with. That is as far as I got that day. The next weekend, canvas on an easel, water in containers, brushes out — plans changed. Instead of trees and a waterfall — rough ocean water came into being with a couple of waves. The small mountains became more imposing. My sky was already in motion — clouds racing. ROUGH WATER was born. Finished? I’m not sure. It still needs to be signed.
I thought I remembered having a French easel. I thought I had stored it in the foyer. Lots of stuff is stored in the foyer. In order to find the easel, I had to remove a lot of stuff. The easiest place to start was with our coats. Now I’ll admit that most of our coats how hung out with us for more than a year or two. In fact, I found our youngest daughter’s high school jacket. She really liked that coat and wanted it back. No problem — I wasn’t going to donate it anyway.
I found winter gear from when I used to cross country ski. Lets not talk about how many years ago that was. Will I get my skies out again and go out and play in the snow? Doubtful but you never know. What I do know for sure is that it would be a minor miracle if I could get my body into the outfit. Donated!
I would love to say that I had a huge pile of coats to donate but I try not to lie. When I wear a coat that belonged to one of my daughters it is as they are giving me a hug. All the coats were hung up and I still have more stuff on the floor to investigate.
I found my French easel along with four bags of stuff and a box full of painting brushes and paints. One of the bags held books that contained photos of many of my paintings. A gentle reminder that once upon a time, I was able to paint. One of the bags held a lot of my beading supplies as well as 7 magazines. No wonder I couldn’t find my pliers. They were all together hanging out. I looked through the assortment of beads and stuff. At this point and time I have no idea what I had planned to do. I have no idea how long that bag lay hidden — waiting for me to find it. I looked inside the box. It contains many brushes and some oil paint. It would be a good box to travel with. It has a compartment for the board canvases. I still have 2 bags and the French easel to investigate.
I remembered a field easel that I had at the camper and wondered if I could get one for home. It is light weight and easy to move from one place to another. I don’t have a craft room at our house. My craft room and office is usually the dining room table. I didn’t want to have a painting camping out on it.
Saturday I went to an art show. A friend of ours was invited to show his wire sculpture. It was PACKED! I wandered through the room twice before I found our friend. And then, it was only because I asked for directions. I took advantage of the opportunity and spoke to many of the artists. I recognized some of the techniques that I have seen demonstrated on public television.
Yesterday we went shopping. As I stood in line at Wal-Mart, I noticed a natural red haired woman waiting ahead of me. I admired an Easter cross she was buying. “Its for the cemetery,” she said. I replied that my family’s bones might be there, but they weren’t. “Where are they?” she asked. “Right here” I replied. She shared that her brother in law was always around when she bakes. Her brother in law’s sign is a cardinal, her husband a robin. Both accompanied her when she had her cataracts removed. I think of aunt Connie when I see or hear a cardinal.
I really didn’t think I could draw, let alone paint. Growing up, I wasn’t often found with a pen or pencil in my hand, sketching something or doodling. I don’t think that I took time to play. I knew that an uncle attended the Art Institute in Chicago, an uncle in Sweden painted as did one of my cousins. I knew there was artistic talent in my family, I just didn’t know that I had some. Then our campground had a bring your body and we will provide materials and instruction to paint a picture. I had the time and signed up for the experience. I was amazed at the painting that was produced. It still hangs in our room addition at the camper. I also realized that I had fun and wanted to explore painting in oil.
I purchased many books, containing pictures that I liked — with instructions, and produced many canvases. At the time I was working. I was so pleased with some of them that I took them to work and sold a few. A fellow worker liked a painting I did of Moonlit waves against the rocks. She planned to take it to Sweden with her. After a few years, life became busy and I stopped painting. My family has been suggesting that I take up a paint brush again.
Times have changed. My husband has emphysema and the scent of oil and turpentine would not be beneficial. I thought acrylic paint might be an option. Years ago I knew how to mix oil paint and how to blend colors. I had a good idea of how to accomplish a painting. Acrylic is different. First, it dries quickly. That can be an advantage, but not when the paint dries on the pallet or on the canvas too quickly.
Since I have remembered how I taught myself to paint before, I have picked up a couple of books. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time investigating the artists information or they don’t have what I need. My first concern is how to keep the paint usable on the pallet. The various books haven’t dwelt on that subject.
Thankfully, I have “friends in high places.” They might be involved in my picking up a paint brush again. Yesterday I stopped at Half Price Books for a cup of coffee. I wanted to check books on a writer I’m enjoying at the moment. Did they have any of her books? No! But entering the store, a display on painting caught my interest and I found a book on Acrylic painting that might have the information that I’m looking for. The date on the price tag shows that it is a recent acquire. The book looks promising and came home with me. I’m hoping to begin reading it soon. I have paints, I have canvas — now I have a book that might help me with the task. Once I have the basics, I might be ready for the more advanced books.
Two last thoughts — Christmas presents — I have TWO new paintings to put up on our walls. The artists were both my granddaughter and grandson. Our grandson read a story he is writing. I was impressed not only by the story, but also his imagination. It was well written! Perfect gifts for a proud gramma!