In l963, I painted this picture from a snapshot my good friend Helen McAngus gave me of her daughter Lisa and nephew Willie. Their horse was Sally~ This picture was one of the most enjoyable to paint that I can ever remember. I knew these kids well, they had fun growing up in the country, there was always something to do. About five years ago, I had a letter from Helen’s granddaughter Shannon, telling me she had the painting now and how much it meant to have something from her mom’s childhood. Since then I have written her notes about Lisa and Willie growing up. Shannon has a beautiful little daughter named Morlee who looks a lot like Lisa. This picture has been on Face Book but I wanted to put it in my blog, it has come full circle for me, fun from 1963 and on up until today. I love this story, I loved those kids~
I painted this picture while I was demonstrating at the Fat Stock Show in San Angelo one year. That was always fun because I knew many of the women who came to watch, most of them were painters too. For several years I judged art shows at the Kendall Art Gallery and had many friends from there. There is a lot of great talent around this area. And as I have said before, painters are nice people. You can’t paint and not feel good. This painting I am showing you today is one I did from start to finish in one sitting. It was a large 24X30″. I always say you need to let the paint dry after putting on the first coat and not put wet paint on wet paint or it gets muddy. It can be done but it is not easy. I worked on this one for four or more hours that day, the time flew by. Lots of lively conversation, it is surprising but I can remember what they were talking about that day. Mostly telling on themselves. Good stories. I can almost always remember what was going on in my life when I painted any picture~almost like writing in a journal.
Today I am showing you a painting of a scene near Fredericksburg Texas. It is large, a 24×36. (I have painted a couple baptistery pictures that are larger, 5 ft x 8 ft ) This one I painted over 40 years ago and when I pass by this place, I am amazed that it looks the same today. Used to when I painted something Dan liked, he would buy it from me so I wouldn’t ‘let it get away’. Every Christmas and birthday, he would want a painting, so that is how I ended up with a lot of those I still have. Many of them are hung at the Schleicher County Hospital and Nursing Home. It is a nice clean safe place to keep them. I will show you more of those Dan “owned” later, I know which ones were his, I have a list of them all in a file he kept, when he acquired them, how much he paid and where I had to sign them over to him. ~many for $35, he liked a bargain~
I showed you this little den before it had been restored. Now I have changed out the carpet, carved a new coffee table, and cleaned the clutter up. All of the little stuff has to be dusted so I am making it easier to keep clean.
When I took the book case down, I got a good look at the sailing ship on top and had almost forgotten even making it. I had copied it from a larger one the boys had so that made it easy. I remember painting the sails with Elmer’s Glue to make them stiff so I could make them ‘billow out in the wind’. The shelves are loaded with books, photographs of the boys and a black & white TV set. Nice storage cabinet underneath it too.
The world globe was one of the more realistic pieces. The wood turnings were made from sanded down tooth picks, the ‘globe’ was a small ‘roll on’ deodorant ball, and as always, paint did the magic on any carving.
I like putting a door in the little rooms, it keeps you from feeling trapped. The only thing I ever lost out of one of the rooms was a Life Magazine from the magazine rack in the den. I didn’t mind, I was so happy when someone liked the little things. Back when I made it, there weren’t computers with printers to reduce the size of a cover and make a realistic copy, that one was hand painted. Usually these little rooms and the covered wagon have been in my exhibits~most times displayed in the open so people could get close and see things~
This is more of a sketch than a finished painting. I found it in my attic not long ago. I painted it during the worst drought in Texas in the mid 1950’s. It was just another hot, dry day, not a drop of rain for months. We had been having dust storms every few weeks, but today was different. It was still and calm when a really dark cloud came up north of our house, it looked like a blue mountain. It was growing in size and was strange to watch, everything was whisper quiet. Soon there was a little wind that picked up and big billowing clouds started to roll in. I could see Goya’s chickens flying all over the place and she was running for her storm cellar. The blue mountain had turned into the most beautiful brown mass and grew larger until it was completely covering the sky. Then everything went pitch black, (it reminded me of Carlsbad Caverns when they turned the lights off) this was when I got scared. Dan was in town so it was just me and our dog Suzy. Total and complete darkness for about ten minutes and then the wind started blowing hard and howling. Finally it began to pass on through and behind it was a huge dust storm. I could see Goya’s house again through the dust. Dan drove in and told me what had gone on in town. He said he stopped the car when it hit and had his lights on but couldn’t even see the the hood of the car. When it was light enough, he came home to see if I was alright, then went over to check on Goya~ she was terrified. Later we went to town, there were lots of people on the street talking about what had happened. We never heard what caused this ‘storm’ it has remained a mystery. There was some speculation (Eldorado Talk) that there was a test of some kind in New Mexico where the government was working on bombs that produced mushroom clouds and maybe something got away from them. The next day I painted this large picture while the details and the experience were fresh on my mind. Then the third day I cleaned the dirt out of our house, there was fine dust pilled under every window, an inch deep. The drought went on for several years after this, Elmer Kelton wrote a great book about the drought~ ‘The Time it Never Rained’, as for me, I call it the time I never forgot~
When ZZ was eleven years old, she decided she wanted to paint a big picture. She had been painting since she was a little girl, mostly 9X12 scenes of adobe houses, parrots, and cow’s portraits. I told her it would take a long time on a large one since she could only paint a couple of weeks every so often when she came to Texas.
She picked a bluebonnet to copy, looking at another painting is a great way to learn, you can see the brush strokes and mix the colors to match. The first day she had the sky pretty well done, start at the top of the canvas, that way you don’t get your hand in wet paint while you come toward the bottom. She started painting the dark green where the tree would go. Later when it had dried for a couple of days she put some of the highlights on the big tree and the lighter bushes and trees in the background.
Today’s picture is one from Culberson County, with a chuck wagon and ranch hands having their morning coffee. It is a large 24X36 I painted in 1982. That is Guadalupe Peek in the background. Joe and Henry Rounsaville were brothers. Joe was a ranch hand for the big KC Ranch and married Velma Casey. Henry worked on the ranch for as long as I can remember. Henry was quite a character. The story goes that Henry had been in some ‘trouble with the law’ and that the State allowed him to go and live on the ranch while serving probation. (He reminded me of Slim Pickens, who was in the movie Dr. Strangelove.) A part of the interesting things about this ranch had to do with him, he had a different take of life. He was killed in a rollover in his truck, swerving to avoid hitting two horses. I have painted several scenes from this remote part of Texas. It is a mystical place with a great family history that could fill volumes. For all the years since the 1930’s, it has been a hunter’s paradise for family and friends. I call this the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’. Unbelievably beautiful, another of the Lord’s masterpieces~
We were in Mexico in 1968 and I found a beautiful miniature Conestoga wagon. It was well made and I was excited to buy it. After I had it for a year I kept thinking about trying to take the measurements and copy it, but in oak instead of the light wood it was made of. At that time I had no power tools so the wheels were a challenge. I used a coping saw. This project took several weeks but everything was coming together and I could see it was going to work. It was a good feeling when I put the ‘canvas’ cover over the bows, which was a dish towel that I painted several times to make it stiff. It just seemed to turned it into a little house. Although the wagon is completely made of oak, I needed to make parts of it look like metal, I mixed silver paint with burnt umber oil paint and it did look like steel. I started adding everything a person would need, traveling across the Great Plains to Oregon in a covered wagon. A ladder, sacks of feed, a crate of ‘live’ chickens, a quirt, an anvil, tools, a lantern, and of course a muzzle loader. I used a rooster spur for the powder horn, perfect size. Then I found a little mule in a shop and knew this was going to be my one ‘bought item’. (I named her Molly) I loaded her with sacks of feed, garden tools, and a butter churn. Now all I needed was a story to go with the wagon, so I named the fellow Mr.Thomas McCann. He was leaving his sweetheart Blossom Blue in Boston for the time being and would return for her later when he was established out west. A package of miniature letters, each hand written, tells their story~ more on this later~ This has been my favorite blog to post, I suppose building this wagon and all the little stuff for it was was the most fun, but I always like whatever project I am doing at the time.
I had to take a life drawing course in college where you sketched life sized models on a big 4 foot pad with charcoal. It was fun but I couldn’t see any practical need for this in my future. Several years later, I saw an old world painting of a nice nude and wanted to paint it on canvas. When I was finished, there was the problem of what to do with her. She stayed in the garage closet, in the attic, under the bed, always out of sight. Dan was trading on the market at Uhlman Grain in San Angelo and had friends he ‘shot the breeze with’ every day. Jimmy Gouras (Jimmy the Greek) was one of his best friends. Jimmy knew I painted and was always sending someone down to buy a picture. One day a guy came (I will call him Duncan) to buy a painting for his wife. Dan showed him the nude and he decided that is what he wanted. They struck a deal and the deed was done! I was a happy girl that day. A long time coming but at last the nude was out of my house and out of my life. The next day Dan and Jimmy were visiting and he told Jimmy about Duncan buying the painting and said he thought he “sold it too cheap, how he REALLY hated to see it go” etc. etc. etc. A couple of days later, here comes Jimmy into Uhman Grain carrying the nude, he had bought it back from Duncan! So Dan had to come home with that picture and face me, I was shocked, I was stunned and I was mad! Yep, she’s back~
Good end to this story, it now has a place in a stunning home in San Antonio, showcased by a couple who recognized it’s beauty.
This horse portrait is one I did for practice, I don’t know his name. I painted in whiskers, which my horse ‘expert’ told me not to do, this one must have gotten past him. I like painting horses, but my favorite large animal is a cow. I have known cows personally and have been fascinated with them. You can get up close to them and watch them while they eat. They have beautiful eyes and nice features. (they can whip that tongue out and just about wash their whole face). They are fun to paint, every face is different. Back to the horses, they seem nervous and jittery. I am afraid of them. I went off the back of Spark Plug, my Granddad Montgomery’s horse, when he was at a full gallop. The girt broke and the saddle slid off and so did I. I was hurt for several weeks. That was the last horse I ever rode and it has been over 60 years. Yep, I flat out quit~
Today I am showing the miniature attic room. It is also the painting room. I never had an art studio even though Dan wanted me to have one when we were building our house. I liked to paint on the kitchen table in the middle of family life. I would work for several hours after the boys went off to school, then put everything away to cook dinner. It was always nice to start out with a clean space again.
Back to the attic room, there is a real card game going on, and place for someone to have a ham sandwich, bag of Fritos and a Coke.
Then a place with all the things I needed to paint pictures. The paint box has lots of tiny tubes of paint, brushes, turpentine, and yes it is a mess just like in real life. A stool, paint rag, pallet, and easel with a work in progress.
Finally a cozy bed, I like beds. I had lots of good feelings when I was restoring this room~
Today I am showing a green scene. We are pretty green here right now because of wonderful rains in the past month. The great thing about this part of the state, if we get a little rain, everything turns green in a few days. The pastures have buffalo or mesquite grass, it can survive almost any drought and come right back with a rain. I painted this picture from down around Llano. I like a road in a picture, or a trail, something to let you imagine being able to get into it. A gate needs to always be open or it stops you dead in your tracks. Now in real life you would never leave a gate open. If you find it closed, you close it behind you. An Eldorado character (Jim Runge) who has a ranch north of town had a gate standing beside a country road, not connected to a fence but just a gate standing there. He had put a sign that read, “Keep Gate Closed”. Pretty funny~ Have a nice weekend~