Today’s picture is one I painted for a couple from their family’s ranch in northern Sutton County. It is a beautiful spot with rolling hills, live oaks and there is plenty of grass when it rains. It is good ranch country. Usually there have to be changes painted in a scene to make it better, moving a road over, adding a few trees that are too far off to the left or right, removing trees or clearing out brush that hides the road. That was not the case with this one, everything was painted just as it was, it was a breathtaking scene, one of my favorites. There is something special about being out in the country where the only sound is that of birds or a cow in the distance. It even has a different smell from any other place. It gives you an easy peaceful feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. If you grew up in the country, you know~
This is another one of those great snapshots. It didn’t take any cropping or enhancing, it was just what it was. I used it in a painting and added a couple of goats because it looked like what a goat would enjoy, they are playful and they are climbers. It was probably more coyote and mountain lion country. It was natures perfect scene.
This is a West Texas ranch scene that I snapped a picture of in the 1970′s. It looks the same today. It was a perfect setting with the old house, windmill, tank and oak trees. It is in the western part of Schleicher County and was owned by Elizabeth Rae Powell. Her father Mr. John Rae established the ranch in the 1800′s. The ranches in this area cover many sections, they are big and have been owned by the same families for decades. This is one of my favorite photos, tranquil and peaceful. There is nothing like country life.
This is a fall scene painted in 1988. There are several kinds of trees with leaves that turn brilliant red around November. Spanish Oak, Red Oak, Chinese Pastiche, and some of the prettiest are the medium size Sumac that grow in the right of way along the highways. Those are bright green in the spring, make purple berries in the summer, then in the fall, they turn red. They are spectacular and showy. They grow from a meandering root system so they are thick and a stand of them can be a hundred feet long or more. If you ever get them established, they can make it on their own, they don’t need any kind of special care. I love all trees~
I painted these two orangutans a long time ago and have had them hanging around my house ever since. I move them around so I will remember to notice them. I saw a photograph in an old National Geographic magazine and knew I wanted to paint them. Of all the primates, the orangutans are my favorites, they look like little old men and seem more like humans than any of the others. I enjoyed painting these two and like having them around. Believe me, they are better than the real thing. We had a monkey when I was growing up and it was not easy. We all loved him but a dog is the world’s most perfect pet.
Here is another place between Eldorado and Mertzon. I think I painted every scene from here to there at some time. There are a few pretty live oaks, some windmills and rock tanks, and only about three houses in the 32 miles. A woman who lived on a ranch out there was at a bridge party one time and we were all telling funny stories, she told us that one freezing day she went out to see if ice was forming on the water in the tank and dropped her car keys in. She had to do what was necessary so she ran to the house. put on her bathing suit and went back and jumped in the freezing water. She found the keys and was climbing out when Mr. Halbert drove up in his butane truck to deliver gas. She said she headed straight for the house like nothing had happened. She was sure he must have thought she had lost her mind. It was a good story and I know none of us ever forgot it. When I look at the paintings from Mertzon, I think of her.
I can’t just paint a man on a horse, I need a photograph to go by, it is the same with animals. I have so many pictures I have taken of sheep, cattle and horses, even pigs. I just single out a few and paint them into a picture. Proportion, color intensity and detail is important to give the painting it’s third dimension, otherwise it will look flat. In this painting, the horse is as tall as the windmill, the prickly pear is the same height as one of the cows, the rider and the horse are as tall as the tallest tree. Also, the sharp details need to be at the bottom of the painting, and should fade out toward the horizon. You paint what you see, not what you know. If you have something way back in the pasture, you know he has eyes but if you paint those details in it will bring him right up front and you will end up losing the depth. Same with bluebonnets, those at the bottom of the canvas will show the detail and the brilliant colors, they need to start fading fast into the background to a faint pale blue. (An interesting way to see the depth is to make a fist and look through a hole at the painting on the screen). Knowing proportions has made it easy for me to carve all the little miniatures, I made the first chair for instance and proportioned everything else to it’s size.
This is ‘The Story Teller’, companion painting to ‘The Old Ladies’ I posted a few days ago. I painted them both the same week in 1963 and was excited, these were so different from the usual landscapes and river scenes. I loved that time in my life, we had our two little boys and that is the sweetest time of all. This painting has been at the Schleicher County Nursing home for many years. I like it, it reminds me of my grandmother Christian reading to me and my two sister. She always had time read to us and tell us stories, (the one story that always stands out is when her baby boy Jack was born and weighed eleven and a half pounds and it took three days). I am sure everyone has their own good memories of their grandmothers. And now we are the grandmothers~we are all blessed~
Today’s picture is one I painted in 1963. I found a photograph of two old ladies in an old National Geographic magazine. It only showed their faces and they seemed to be enjoying a little light hearted gossip. I asked my mother to come and poise for the figures to go with the faces, I painted a book in one of their hands and it looked like they had gotten into some rather shady stuff, so decided change them to tea drinkers. Much better. This is a painting Dan bought from me so it “wouldn’t ever get away”. He paid his usual $35. It has been hanging in the Schleicher County Nursing Home for many years. Everyone seems to like ‘The Old Ladies’. I painted a companion picture at the same time, I will be showing it later. It is in the same style as this one and I call it ‘The Storyteller’. Oh yes, and Dan bought that one too. After a lifetime of painting hundreds of pictures, the only ones I still have are those he bought.
I was invited to exhibit and demonstrate oil painting at the ASU Folk Festival in February of 1973. I met a lot of people and also saw many familiar faces. I liked the demonstrations, everyone was happy and full of chatter, they enjoyed watching and many of them were also painters. I had my miniature covered wagon and all the little rooms on display so if anyone wasn’t interested in painting, they liked to look at the little things. The famous wood carver, Gene Zesch was also exhibiting his wonderful carvings, he carves old cowboys and anything to do with ranch life, with much skill and unbelievable humor. I was in good company that day, it is a sweet memory for me~
This is a companion picture to the bluebonnet painting on my blog a while back. It is a sumac tree beside a creek. When the days start getting shorter, the leaves start to turn a fiery red. They keep the color for a few weeks in the fall and are beautiful. They grow along the road in the bar ditches and there can be a long string of them in a cluster. These are natives and can make it on their own. I like this picture, it has water and bright color.