This is a picture of our two little boys and Big Spook in a field of wild flowers, it was in 1967. We lived over in the farm house and everything was running great. The boys had a nice tree house in the only mesquite there big enough to hold one. It had rails all the way around, it was painted the same color green as the trim on our house, and I put a safety net, which was fence wire strung underneath so if anyone fell out, it would save them. It had a flag pole with the beautiful Texas flag flying every day. There were barns, a silo, storm cellar, and plenty of room to play. One day, Daddy came home in his little green Volkswagen and in the back seat was this huge black dog. He had been to the pound in San Angelo and adopted a ‘guard dog’. When he opened the door, out it came, running our four kitties up on top of the carport. (one kitty lost a tail that day but recovered). It took me three days to get over being mad. He was a Belgian Sheepdog and we named him Spook, ( a name we later gave another of our wonderful dogs). He spent summers on the river at Christoval with us. He was so smart, he knew the difference between ball, bowl and bone, he brought which ever one we sent him after. He had a red life jacket, sat in the boat, waiting for someone to take him for a ride, and had a big inner tube to float around on. We had some great old times with him. All of our dogs have been special, like they are our children~
I put the Bridge party on my blog a few weeks ago and everyone liked seeing the girls. It was back in the 1970’s. Today I want to show you some pictures of these same girls and the hair-dos they wore back then. The hair took time to fix and is probably the reason women stopped wearing hats, they just wouldn’t fit on this big hair. You had to roll it on curlers, then tease or back-comb it and spray with hair spray so stiff you could go through a cyclone and not have a hair out of place. At night you wore a satin sleeping cap or wrapped it with toilet paper, that hair-do had to last a week. I loved the big hair, it was beautiful, the girls were pretty and they always dressed in classy clothes. They could decorate a room by walking through the door~
This landscape is 24″x36″ and has always been my favorite size to paint, it is the right proportion. It works well on a wall above a fireplace or over a large piece of furniture. This size canvas takes about four days to paint, with a couple of days drying time in between. I have always kept three paintings going at once, that way when I have gone as far as I need to on one, I can let it dry while I work on another one. Painting wet on wet ends up a dull grey picture, bright highlights will pop out if the paint under it is dry. I have never used an easel, it is awkward and makes my arm tired. I had rather stand over the canvas with it lying flat on the table or sit with it propped up in my lap. When paintings were finished, Dan framed them for me. A salesman came twice a year from Brownwood to show me the samples. They have beautiful ready made frames with elaborately finished corners. Even a small 5″x7″ painting in one of these frames turns it into something special.
Between Mason and Llano,Texas there is a place called Art, population 18. This old stone Methodist Church stands out there in the country by itself. It is picture perfect with huge live oak trees, lush grass and just another wonderful scene in the Texas Hill Country. It was built by early German settlers to the area. In the spring time the pasture is covered in bluebonnets and wild flowers, and it is beautiful any time of the year. I painted this scene several times at different seasons. My grandmother grew in the area around Loyal Valley and Camp San Saba near here and remembered a few of the last Indian raids. She had lots of stories from her childhood. This is a sweet part of the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnet time is over for the season but everything is green and beautiful, the Indian Blankets are stunning.
More miniatures this morning, this is a copy of the furniture in my den, the sofas have been recovered since I made the little ones, I planned to recover the miniatures but like to remember them them as they were when we first built the house. They sit on the fireplace hearth and decorate that area. As I have said before, all my dogs have recognized what they are and have sat on them. I have a living room but the den is where everyone congregates. Most of the time the doors are open to the screened porch. I remember the excitement of making all the little things. If you have ever made a little chair or carved something tiny, you know what I mean. We may be wired a little bit different~
This is a carved mallard duck, his name is Stanley. He came in two large chunks of wood and I used a carpet knife to make him look like one of the two real pet ducks I had for 8 years. It took me about 16 hours to do the work with the knife, then several days to paint him. By the time I finished, I was loving him just like the real Stanley. He is about 18 inches long~ life size. On the underside I wrote a note to remember what was going on with my family at that time and how old the boys were. (I have also written on the bottoms of drawers on my favorite furniture so I can recall the thrill of the day I got it and what time in our lives it happened, like a journal you could say). I got my two real mallard ducks in 1976, when they were two days old, I built them a duck house, they had the water trough and a big yard. You never know how wonderful feathered pets can be until you have had them. In the years since then, Debbie has had Katie Mae, Algeritta, Sarah Kate, and several others.(Sara Kate and Katie Mae were invited into the kitchen on Christmas Eve every year to enjoy a pint of fat earth worms from Wal Mart!) Anna has had the 21 peacocks and 7 pet chickies, there have been at least 8 parakeets through the years, most of them named Blue Boy. Birds make nice pets. They are beautiful and smart, most of all, they love you back~
This picture today is a thoroughbred horse I painted for practice. I have painted a lot of horses in the last 60 years and it has always been a pleasure. People treasure their horses, there is a special bond between them. Ranchers use quarter horses in Texas, I painted a quarter horse for someone who was giving it to her husband for Christmas one year. She gave me a photograph to go by, mesquite tree, calache road and their recognizable ranch land in the background. This was going to be an easy one. I loved doing it, but I did ‘doctor up’ it up just a little, you know, a little more muscle, longer legs, what I thought would enhance it. I showed it to Jim Cawley ~a horse expert and friend~ to have him critique it before I delivered it . His comment was, “Dang, that is a fine horse but that is NOT Bob’s horse!”, so I started over from scratch and painted Bob’s real horse. Jim taught me a lot about horses, I have had to remove the perfectly painted whiskers in a horse portrait, re-work the eyes (moon eyes are not acceptable) and every horse has to be the exact color. Horses have four legs, sometimes I would have liked to have painted them standing in tall grass, the legs are no fun.
Harold Wood, who was in charge of the LBJ Park near Johnson City once sent me an old photograph of a camp cook with his chuck wagon and wanted me use it as a subject for an oil painting. I really enjoyed painting it and it hung in the Library and Conference Room at the park for several years. It reminded me of far West Texas and the Culberson County Ranch. Hunting camps still have camp cooks, usually one of the hunters takes on the job and does it year after year. Sometimes a real cook comes and gets to hunt for free. I can only imagine the men starting out early on a cold morning with a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, boiled coffee and biscuits cooked in an old Dutch oven on the open fire, then heading out for the big hunt. This is where fathers bond with sons, brothers with brothers. This is where friendships are made that last a lifetime.
A painting of an old oak tree out on a ranch road in Schleicher County, and one of the ornate frames I told you about in an earlier blog, I like these frames because they go well with landscapes, water scenes, portraits, and just about anything I paint. They do more than just hold a painting on the wall, they compliment it. Hobby Lobby carries nice ready made frames in different sizes and the corners are finished, they are reasonably priced. Most of my frames come from the TWT Company in Brownwood, they are finished in real gold leaf and some are hand carved. The scene from this painting is near a pasture where my sisters and I use to hunt ‘chigger toes’ in the spring. Those are little red fruits that grow on the top a round pincushion cactus. They look like small red peppers but are are sweet and tasty. I still look for them in the pastures around my house~it is exciting~ like finding Easter eggs~or your lost keys~
This is a simple recipe for pickled beets. It is easy and fast and adds something special to any meal. They will keep well in the refrigerator for a week, if you can stay out of them~
2 cans whole or cut beets (drain but save
1/2 c. of the juice)
3/4 c. vinegar
3/4 c sugar
Put beets, vinegar, saved
beet juice and sugar in saucepan,
bring to a full boil. Let cool and store
in refrigerator until ready to use.
While I was at UT in the fifties, a friend at the dorm was going to try out for the Tex-Annes, the school dance team. She asked me to go with her, and we both came back that day as new members. The qualifications were: be skinny, do high kicks and show up at practice. It was fun, there were about 14 girls in the group. Several times we went to San Antonio to entertain at Brooke Army Hospital. One of the girls sang ‘red hot mama’ songs, she was good. In March of 1953, there was a beauty contest to name Miss Austin, (the first leg of a journey to crown a new Miss America.) They were having no luck getting girls to sign up so they came to the Tex-Annes and asked if we would all participate. To qualify, you needed to own a bathing suit and an evening dress. The perks were you would be ridding in parades, be featured in the Austin Statesman, and forever more be linked to the famous Miss America Pageant. (whether it ‘ever served us well’ remains to be seen, it has been over 60 years~ I am still waiting~) Anyway, the rules were: #1, Show up at every rehearsal. #2, Show up on time. #3, Miss one single practice you are OUT! We watched as each tried to put together something for the talent contest. The best skit was the ‘Red Hot Mama’, followed closely by the short girl who had an authentic Mexican dress and played the castanets. After weeks of practice it was dress rehearsal time the night before the pageant at the Austin High School Auditorium. Then, in she walked~ this tall beautiful, confident long legged girl we had never seen before. (The 3 big rules didn’t apply to lady long legs!) We kept whispering to each other, what’s going on! We all limped through our routines and knew our Red Hot Mama or the castanets were not going to be winning after all. The next day, clouds came up and a storm was brewing. Mother and my sister Nancy, along with my friend Jimmy had come 200 miles to see the show, there were maybe 30 other people in the audience. The place was virtually empty. The show started, then the lights flickered off and on and off again, the building went dark, everything stopped. After a while the lights came back on. That was the story of the whole night with a sever thunderstorm, hail, power failure, the show was a disaster.They did crown Miss Austin that night and yes it was her~
When I am thinking back to this time, I realize everyone in this group is 80 or more years old, many of them are already gone. Now the contest is which one will be the last one standing~