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 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. Anna and I tried for two years to get some sumac started in their pasture. We would go out in the country and dig up cuttings from the roadway, which I think is not allowed, but we were desperate. Every time a car would come along, she would grab the camera and we would start ‘taking pictures’ of trees instead of digging. We finally got some seedlings started and they are spreading along her driveway up to their house. They will be turning a brilliant red before long. Lots of work and well worth it.
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 was shown at the Schleicher County Nursing home for several 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 to birth him). Grandmother had lots of stories about growing up in Loyal Valley. There were still Indians there at that time. Her mother would take the little kids down to Lost Creek with her to fish for dinner. It always was a little frighting to hear but made me thankful that nothing bad happened to them. 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 was displayed in the Schleicher County Nursing Home for many years. Everyone seemed 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. It now hangs in a beautiful home in San Angelo with my son and his family.
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~
I painted this picture of Gen. Robert E. Lee in 1984, from a photograph by Mathew Brady~ published in Harper’s Weekly at the time, the caption read: “This photograph shows shows a picture of Robert E. Lee. The picture was taken shortly after Lee’s surrender. The photograph was taken by Mathew Brady, and shows the General in his uniform. Despite his recent loss in the War, the General still stands tall and proud. ” I enjoyed painting this picture of the General tremendously, he was one of the really great men of all times. The painting belongs to one of my sons, he found a mistake, he said “General Lee did not have blue eyes.”
Last summer I had some projects that needed to be done. They took several weeks, the signs were some I carved years ago and the paint was blistering and peeling, the gold leafing was suffering. I also restored the duck house. Here are pictures of that project before and after. The bigger the job, the greater reward! I also added a couple of pictures of Sharon Mittel’s grand kids when they were little to show the duck house back then.
This is a painting I have in my living room. It is a scene of an actual place in Schleicher County and I didn’t have to change a thing. When my little granddaughter wanted to paint a large picture, she copied this one. It took her over a year since she could only work on it when she was visiting. It is easier to copy a painting than a photograph, I showed her painting on an earlier blog. It is a great way to teach a child to paint, they can learn to paint a tree and road and soon be doing their own originals. She never got tired, she stayed with it. Those were sweet days for me.
This is another painting I did years ago while demonstrating. This time at the Kendall Art Gallery in San Angelo, their first membership meeting of the year. There were 60 artist present that evening. This is a scene out of my head, no real place. Someone wanted to see how I painted rocks and then a cactus. Again, I was painting wet on wet paint, not something I like to do. There needs to be a drying time in there so the detail goes on just right. Later at home, when the paint was dry, I went back and was able to finish it up. The gallery has so many beautiful paintings in all mediums. There is unbelievable talent in this part of West Texas. They have several special art shows throughout the year. The gallery is over near the City Auditorium, go by and see it.
It is hard for me to write about this, it was either an accident or just plain luck. I was completely humbled by the whole experience. By 1971, I was painting every day and had started making miniatures (while waiting for the paint to dry) That year I painted 52 pictures~ Jerroll Sanders let me hang many of them in his restaurant in town, and he had a cabinet built to hold the miniature rooms. One evening in July 1972, he came out and brought a nice young man from Dallas who had been passing through and saw all my stuff. His name was Forbes Woods. He bought a small picture and then asked me if I might consider an exhibit at the Texas State Fair in October. (Of course, I was excited but doubted it would happen). A week later, Mrs. Elizabeth Peabody called and asked for some photographs of my work, she was the Director of the Women’s Department for the fair. Things moved fast, she liked what I sent and said I would officially be the ‘Artist in Residence at the Texas State Fair’. One thing she made very clear, if I agreed to do it, I HAD to show up and be committed to 15 days of painting and demonstrating. She called several times in the next few weeks to be sure I would be there. (the only downside was leaving our two boys at home, Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucille offered to keep them so that was settled). In October, Dan and I left in our little Airstream trailer, it was packed from floor to ceiling with paintings, the six miniature rooms, plus a covered wagon I had carved, with over 100 pieces of tiny things that went with it. We got to Dallas in the middle the day and had to move all the things into my space in the Women’s Division Building. What a surprise! There were special cases set up to hold the miniatures and people there to unload and hang the paintings. Everyone was nice and helpful, Dan and I kept looking at each other in awe, this was nothing we had expected. Each day I could hear Big Tex out on the fair grounds, announcing the different attractions, the Dallas Civic Ballet, a man who could pop his eyeballs out of their sockets, Rita McWhorter’s little miniatures and painting demonstrations, etc~) Then for 15 days I painted for wonderful crowds of people, many came back every day to watch and ask questions. ‘How do you paint a cactus or rocks, or water, or a mesquite tree’, I would paint on my pallet or sketch pad and give it to them, it was fast and I did many of those. They would come and bring me gifts, like a small hand painted piece of china they had done, or chocolate éclairs or cookies they had made. They asked about my boys, and told me about theirs. (painters are nice people). There were hundreds who came through each day and ‘looked and liked’, especially the miniatures. They enjoyed Dan, he was an asset when it came to visiting and talking about the art work. Two days before the fair ended, Mother and my sister Tricia brought our boys to Dallas and when I saw them, I wasn’t the only one crying, I had missed them terribly and some of those around were shedding a few tears with me. This was the biggest thrill of all. The boys took off and went to see everything at the fair and had a wonderful time. After we got back home, I had lots of nice letters and notes from people who had come to watch. (even a beautiful poem from Dan Hill which he had written for me). It was hard to get my feet back on the ground again, I was feeling good! A few days later I went to a small get together and someone asked me what I had been doing lately. When I said, ‘painting’, she said, “I am getting my kitchen painted right now, I don’t do these things myself like you younger girls do”~ so in that instant I was back to normal.