Repair Finished

Impossible to fill all the cracks but I kind of like it that way. I let a little of the wood show through on the cranes because it matches the mud they put on themselves for camouflage. I will need to varnish it in a couple of days then back to Montana!

Garden Sign

One of the people to whom I sold a garden sign a couple of years ago sent it back. She had hung it in a place that made it very vulnerable to the elements (elements being sun and sprinklers). I try hard to paint my garden signs so they’ll withstand a LOT, but that sign got in a vortex of evil. I asked her to send it back so I could fix it. It’s a somewhat complicated painting on exterior plywood, more painting than sign. It was painted with good paint on high-quality exterior primer, but that didn’t save it.

The painting had peeled (tiny peels) in an interesting pattern with the wood grain that I kind of liked. All I could do was sand it to get the loose paint off and hope I didn’t lose the painting. It got more interesting as I sanded.

After sanding…

This is what I started with when I began the repair work. I was happy my sanding didn’t remove everything because I wanted to keep the image as much as possible. If I had to paint it again, I thought I’d just use a panel or a canvas. She going to hang it inside now anyway, so… but I thought that would lose something, especially the back which has a message between us about the day I finished. It was the day Biden’s election was certified.

As I worked, I felt a small connection to those heroes of song and story — painting restorers — a tenuous connection, but still.

I decided to work my way backward toward the mountains and use the acrylics I inherited last year. The colors in the photos are not right; shifted to red a bit because of the hanging over the window… Especially in the featured photo which is how I left the sign at the end of the day. The foreground, middle hills, mountains and sky are more-or-less finished. I no longer have the same paint I used originally for the sky but I think that’s OK.

The comparatively rougher wood grain adds a challenge to this that didn’t exist when I painted it the first time. There are small cracks. If I were painting a new painting on the panel as it is now, It might be less detailed or I’d take the belt sander to the wood.

Today I hope to paint the cranes.

Teaching People To Draw

I can’t. I’ve tried, even making “educational” videos to demonstrate the process, but nothing has ever succeeded in teaching anyone to draw. I couldn’t teach the kids (though they would draw if we played the drawing game — an important message about how to draw which is forget you’re drawing but never mind). I haven’t been able to teach anyone else. These efforts and these failures led me to remember my college drawing classes — probably the only formal drawing classes in my life. We did everything; blind contour drawing where you look at an object and draw it without looking at your paper to see if you’re getting it “right.” Value drawings where you only draw the shadows, no lines (which is valid since stuff isn’t made of lines). All this was just unfathomable to me, but I did it. The classes I liked best were the timed gesture drawing in life drawing classes which were just a naked person on a stage and me with a giant news print pad and a timer. The goal was to capture the motion and the life of the figure without getting every line in each eyebrow. These are normally used as warm-ups but for me they were the whole point. BUT there was ONE class where I learned something about how to draw. I can share this method, but did it “teach” me to draw? I can’t say it did, it just made me a better human being.

I was standing very close to a piece of drawing paper using a number 3 pencil to draw a couple of tiny figures. My teacher stood behind me and watched, then, utterly frustrated, she ripped the pencil out of my hand and said, “Wait!” She returned with a little can of black tempera and a can of white tempera and a 1 inch brush. “Now DRAW!!!” She didn’t say anything about how, she just told me to do it. Then she said, “Get some decent paper.”

That was a life changing moment. Everything I needed to learn as an artist happened right then and there. Risk it. Risk something. Risk certainty. Risk control. Risk. I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt before and I never lost it. In that moment, even though I could draw already, I had the key.

I’ve thought about why it’s so hard — impossible? — to teach. Now I think it’s inside each person, talent, maybe (I don’t know what that is) and the drive to represent the world in images (I believe it’s a drive), but more; the willingness to pick up a large brush and risk. In my teaching attempts that’s what I’ve seen. I think a teacher can teach technique and the use of materials, but somewhere in there a person has to be ready to risk something. I can’t even explain WHAT a person risks because I’m not ever risking anything. To me the danger has always been not doing it. That’s the risk. I WILL get stuff wrong. I have told my “students” “Don’t worry about making mistakes. Just draw. Look at what you’re drawing and draw.”

Completely useless, unconvincing instruction.

I look at the work of some artists and see they are not risking much. I can see that in the fact that their paintings — beautiful paintings — are feats of technique. They know how to do what they want to do, and they do it over and over and over. I respect that. Other artists push against something and I hope I’m one of those. Is it better? No. It’s just…

The other day Ancestry informed me that based on my DNA I’m 60% more likely to take risks than other people. My first thought was, “That’s fucked up. Risk taking isn’t a DNA thing,” but then I thought, “Martha, what do you know? Maybe it is.” There are people who are reckless risk takers (my brother) and there are people like me who take different risks, more measured risks. One thing I could never understand about my immensely talented artist brother is why he would risk himSELF and sacrifice the possibility of making art. Pondering the differences between us I make a division between recklessness and risk; counting the cost.

I choose. One day in the mountains of San Diego County with two dogs a couple of women stopped me on the trail and asked if I wasn’t afraid to hike alone. “There are mountain lions up here.” I knew that but I figured the greater risk was missing out on a beautiful autumn afternoon hike. We all die, anyway. In my mind, solo hiking was not dangerous, but it was. I also figured my dogs were decent insurance against a cougar; at least they’d warn me. Here are the dogs who were with me that day. Ariel, my wolf dog, and her little Aussie/Chow sidekick, Matilda.

So teaching drawing. I tell my “students”, “Don’t be worried about getting it wrong. You will get it wrong.” I think for many of them it’s a risk they don’t want to take. They might take risks in other places, but not there.

I’ve been working on the Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming for more than year now and I still don’t have it right, but what difference does it make? It will matter when I start the real deal because I’m not using a forgiving medium like oil paint, and everything I’ve had to buy for the project has been expensive for me. Money is probably the biggest risk here.

In art, what you get from making mistakes is knowledge. To draw, a person has to fuck up. There’s no other way to learn. It is a risk.

I’m kind of happy to know that there is a DNA contribution to this, though I’m sure environment has a lot to do with it, too. Do I think it’s a good thing? I don’t think it’s good or bad, but it is informative.

The Way the Cookie Crumbles…

Can’t win for losing. Hung yesterday around until 5 waiting for a call from the doc, not like I need to “wait” in these cell phone days, but I wanted a good connection. Then, just after 5 I took the dogs out (another perfect afternoon) and saw I had a voicemail from the doc. Office closed when I called back from my car at the Refuge. SOOOooooo…I’ll call them as soon as I finish my coffee.

OH WELL.

The way I see it, I’d have missed a beautiful walk, and, if the hip is going to need invasive “treatment,” I need to collect as many of these as I can. Brushed deer flies off both me and Teddy. All of us are very happy right now. It’s not called a Refuge for nothing.

When I got home, and saw this photo, I realized that it’s very similar to my first photo of the Refuge 8 years ago, below 💙 proving that it’s what it is.
Same place, more or less, 20 feet to the north 💙

In painting news, the panel on which I hope to paint Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming, 1957 arrived yesterday and it’s beautiful. I put it carefully in a safe place so that when I’m ready for this, it will be, too. Painting on panels is wonderful, but they’re fragile until they’re framed. They are basically Masonite with some kind of magical surface painted (yeah) onto them. I’ve used these panels for oil painting, acrylic and water color, but never this one made for pastels. It’s a lovely medium gray, perfect for night, “toothy” enough to grab the conte crayons. My challenge now is to get a lamp post in the right scale to the floating princesses. I’ve also tentatively decided to add an old Coke machine to the gas station, so more drawing before I take a crack at the real thing.

This project has been fun, but I have another one in mind. I don’t think it will require all this effort to visualize, but who knows?

In the words of Denis Joseph Francis Callahan (RIP) after he would regale me with a long self-absorbed monologue, “Thanks for hearing my confession.”

Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming, 1957, Sketch 4 — Got It

A little difficult to see — pencil on newsprint but here’s the little girl. Very rough, my goal was getting her proportions right, the gas station in the right place (and those proportions right). I like this angle because it lets me show her wonderment which is really the story here.

The “Graces” will not be the ones I’ve drawn already because the angle is different, but I’m making them into notecards since people like them so much. Anyway, the layout as I envision it will be something like this.

Kind of but not really…

I still don’t know if it will be a horizontal or vertical painting. I’m suspecting horizontal. It’s going to be really fun painting the neon clock.

Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming, 1957, Sketch 3

My big puzzle for today was where to put the Three Graces and I think I got that.

Light is going to be a quandary. The scene is at night. The graces will have light on them (which I tried to imagine using the pastels) and the little girl will be standing under a light — light will connect them. This is something I’ve never attempted. My paintings are pretty flat in terms of dramatic light and shadow — I don’t know how to do it and I don’t do it. And, since I paint this place most of the time, there isn’t a lot of that to represent. At this altitude, this close to the sun, things are what they are. Plus, I don’t paint “urban” scapes. Though Wheatland WY isn’t particularly urban, it is a gas station.

It’s cool to have this technology, though, to be able to shrink and print a drawing it to get a feeling of proportions and distance like this. If you notice how the little girl is standing? Are you having a deja vu? 🤣

Wet Summer walk with Teddy Bear T. Dog – Quotidian Update

Couldn’t resist it. Headed out again yesterday with Teddy to investigate the Big Empty. Bear refused to be “caught” even though she’d been asking me all morning, “Are we going? It’s a cool, rainy day, Martha, are we going?”

OH well. Teddy and I had a pleasant walk. The Yellow Rail is still out there, apparently. One of the Wildlife Refuge guys passed us in his official truck and stopped at Parking Spot of the Yellow Rail. I learned recently HOW all those birders share information. Look at this. Apparently “my” refuge is a birder’s “hotspot” and from the looks of this list, sighting birds is kind of (kind of?) competitive. I got a little irked yesterday finding cigarette butts and a plastic Tiparillo tip on “my” road.

A small screenshot of a very long list…


Everything is blooming out there and the air is sweet with clover. The Chamisa (foreground in featured photo) is beginning to bloom and wide swaths of it it the distance made the land yellow. We were not plagued too badly by either mosquitoes or deer flies. I don’t understand my reluctance to covering myself in bug repellant, but I don’t do it. I dunno… Deer flies appear to be territorial. I have encountered them ONLY in a couple spots on our walks. What determines their choice? But, knowing where to expect them is good and knowing where there are more of them is even better. And, they DO like blue. That’s mysterious, but true. What do they see when they see blue?

I’ve researched the fascinating little bastards in some detail and I’ve adjusted my “wardrobe” to keep the sons-o-bitches off my face and head. I wear blue jeans and light colored shirts. So far the test has worked and the little fuckers land on my legs more often than my chest. I want them where I can see them (as much as possible). This article — “The Trolling Deer Fly Trap” — is pretty good and the pictures are great. One suggestion is to wrap a plastic cup in sticky blue tape and put it on one’s blue hat.

Humidity is rare here, but yesterday I got to rediscover the difference between 16C in dry weather and wet weather. The difference is a sweaty cotton t-shirt. I’m one of those people who runs hot, so… In Colorado a cotton t-shirt is usually an air conditioner. Often, in CA, it wasn’t. It rained lightly most of the time. Very rare, very pleasant. The last wet summer we had was 2019 which is not very long ago, but still eons ago in terms of human events.

One thing I notice by its absence — that I usually notice by its presence — is Monarch butterflies. I might be anticipating them earlier than I should or I’m affected by the news that they’ve been labeled “endangered.”‘

The hip improves steadily for which I’m grateful. The next step in the painting is cars. I thought a ’55 Ford, but in photos it doesn’t look right, so… I still haven’t figured out point of view. If I leave out the little girl who sees the Rainbow Girls, the picture loses the story, so somehow she has to be there so it can’t be from her point of view. Someone commented yesterday? That they didn’t know I drew/painted people. Yep. It used to be the main thing I did and more abstract than the work I do now. The top three are from my 1981 show in Denver. The others were done in the past 10 years or so…

But living here which doesn’t have a lot of people and has a lot of landscape? Then thinking about why I paint — I mainly paint to learn how to paint. I don’t know if any painter actually KNOWS how to paint since every painting is a teacher.