I painted this picture from a black and white Mathew Brady sketch. I was not excited to do it but someone wanted it. Since the sketch had very little detail, I painted in faces that were not there. I ended up with people I knew, members of the family, I had to improvised. When I thought it was finished, I had to go back and take out the 30.30 rifles, they didn’t have any of those in the Civil War, and replace them with muzzle loaders. I also had to repaint the Mexican people with black people. There was a lot of painting going on with this one. It was a huge challenge, all the faces are the size of a postage stamp .I was loving it by the time I finished. The guy who ordered it traded it for something else. (Some day it will be his again).
When ZZ was growing up, her favorite toy was her play kitchen. One year she even got an E-Z-Bake oven and was able to make cakes and cookies. She had her Papa’s little table and two chairs and all kinds of dishes and cookware. She could put a real meal together for her little friends,( both real and play like). It was fun watching her. Most of her other ‘toys’ were how-to books. One was on sculpting and making figures. They were made from polymer that was baked in the oven and came out strong and hard. The figures had finest detail, ribs on the socks, buttons and buttonholes. She gave one away to someone special every year . What a thrill to be “the one”. These two pictured are a little boy with his fishing pole, Dan and Debbie got that one for Christmas one year, the girl in the blue dress and sandals is mine. What a treasure~
My boys like to carve and whittle. Here are a few of the things they have made. The wooden chain is carved from a single straight board, the egg started as a square block of wood, then there is a box with open center and a carved ball inside. Each of these started with a solid piece of wood.
My favorite is this spade, made from walnut with a maple handle. The shovel part is carved thin and is as smooth as silk. It is a contrast between a tool used for hard digging and an exquisite piece of art.
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 six 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~
Meet Stanley and Rose Olive, the Jamaican dolls I made in around 1956 . He was a wheeler dealer and she was a show girl. After a while I decided they needed a place to sit so I made the two wing back chairs. Stanley has a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes in his shirt pocket, he carries a leather bill fold in his pants pocket with a driver’s license and a picture of Rose Olive. She used to have a big purse but lost it. I liked these two characters. A few years ago, someone came to my house and was offended by them so I put them in the cedar chest in the attic for quite a while. I just recently decided to bring them back out and enjoy them again. They are really quiet nice, they have never caused trouble ~except for that one time~
I liked painting guns and I liked carving guns. Here are some of the miniatures I whittled to go with my little stuff. They made interesting pictures, the same as with boots and hats.
The Flintlock became one of the most common weapons used in the American colonies. Since it was lightweight and extremely accurate, it developed into the most popular American rifle of its day.
The six shooter was a revolver with six chambers that held bullets and was known as a cowboy gun or a shootin’ iron. The history of the gun is interesting reading.
The boys posed for me when I was painting a lot of cowboy pictures. My boy and his friend Matt were always good to let me use them as my subjects. There is an old barn on the place at Hulldale, a good background for all kinds of western scenes. Here is one of them holding a Winchester 30.30 rifle, and of course had a pistol in his holster. They did some target practice out there, it is several miles from neighbors so the perfect place. They usually found a rattle snake around the barn so the guns were put to good use. I liked painting the guns, boots, and cowboy hats. I liked to add a little humor to the paintings, this one had wasp nests on the studs. They are a fact of life around barns and out buildings. If disturbed, they can sting the daylights out of you, ‘you gotta run fast’.
A scene from New Zealand~I would have loved to have gone there sometime. I have seen many pictures from that area and it is a beautiful and tranquil place. That is about as far away as you can get from West Texas. I painted this picture for my brother in law along with a fall scene from Pittsburgh, they were both colorful and went well together. I like water and I like mountains. Sometimes when we have big rains, the dry lake near my house fills up and stays full for several weeks. Then once in a while when a norther is starting to blow in, there will be dark blue banks of clouds north of the house that look like huge mountains. I like to dream~
Dan had made it out of special ordered redwood that had no knots or flaws. He hand carved it with a hammer and a chisel, (not a router), every letter was perfect. Then he carved the beautiful pineapple for the top.
I was overwhelmed. I never owned anything so nice, not ever~ There were also 4 X 4 redwood posts with hand carved gold leaf finials on top. It was painted in hunter green marine paint and the lettering was 18 ct gold leaf. They meant for me to put it in the orchard by the flag pole. I wouldn’t even consider that, it was too fine to be put out in the weather. I hung it over the eating bar in the den and I enjoy it every day. I made another sign for the road, no pineapple on it but people can find my house. ZZ carved a sign for their house and also made a CAMP ROCK sign for the river). We all had so much fun carving. This was my nicest surprise gift ever, it is a beautiful work of art. Proud Mama~
Pablo was sitting in the market in Guanajuato Mexico when Dan took his picture. They spent quite a while visiting, he said his family farmed some land and he came to town on Saturdays to watch the people. He had several brothers and one was in prison because of “trouble”. When we came back home, I painted his picture and instead of having him in the market, I put him out on his farm since he was proud to be from the country. I like painting people, I am not a portrait painter, but faces are fun to do. These don’t have be exactly like the person, just a face, and I like remembering their story. Everyone has a story, all they need is someone who will listen. That was Dan~he could sit all afternoon and listen.
These two oak trees are between Brushy Top and Eldorado Texas. This area is not quite in the Hill Country but it is where Texas starts looking good. It is more rugged than lush, good sheep and goat country, big ranches with many sections of land, oil and gas, fine people. We are 90 miles from the Mexican Border town of Del Rio. There are lots of scenes to paint, you just have to look for them. If you drive west you can end up in El Paso, 382 miles down the road with only a couple of towns in between. Some people move to Texas after driving down that highway, it is vast and remote, the clouds are spectacular and you feel a sense of peace. It is a world in itself. Get your camera and come to Texas~
In 1973 I painted this combination of places and things. I started with a sky and everything else just grew until it was done. The building is a barn behind a nice home in Mason, Texas. I added a porch and a second story. Polk, the horse belonged to Danny Pena, Hank was Dan’s Ag. project, the chickens were Goya’s and the woman was ‘guess who’. The good thing about oil painting, if you don’t like something, you can let it dry and paint right over it. When I was painting full time, I kept at least three painting going at once. The first one I worked on completely covering the canvas, the sky and ground and some sketching with the brush. That went fast. Then I turned to the second one that had been drying for a couple of days and I worked on the road, trees and had it pretty well done. This was the time to correct things I didn’t like. Then the third canvas was ready for the fun part, all the many little details that made it a finished piece. (And I mean finished, there is a time to stop and not over work it.)
We were always looking for simple subjects ZZ could paint when she came to visit. Desert scenes were simple enough, blue sky with one cloud, sandy ground with a few patches of scrub brush. Then we needed a subject, like a yucca plant or as in this case, a group of adobe houses connected with each other to make a small pueblo. Starting with a few ‘boxes’ and adding ladders to get to the upper levels, vigas~or wooden beams~ then doors and windows. Shadows were the fun part, they made the different rooms stand out from one another. ZZ painted several of these scenes when she was around 11 years old. Some she gave away, some she sold on e-bay and others she kept. (when you paint, pretty soon you have a lot of pictures). New Mexico is rich in ancient history and these kinds of pueblos are scattered throughout the state. These that she painted were made up, no real places, just remembering those we had seen.