I copied this dining room set from a real one from my Montgomery grandparents, it has three leaves so makes a large table. When I got it, I refinished the table and six chairs. It was a surprise when I removed all the different chair seat covers that had been replaced through the years, the original was maroon leather. The price stamped on the bottom of the chairs was $4.75. It is over 100 years old. I treasure this table and remember growing up and having wonderful meals at their house. The miniature table is 7″ tall, it is made of mahogany. The secretary is a copy of one that belonged to Dan’s grandmother. It took several weeks to make all the pieces but was one of those really happy projects.
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 I painted it for traded it for something else. (Some day it will be his again).
Today I am showing a little sofa. It is one of the larger miniatures and a copy of a real one we bought at Robert Massey’s in 1964. After making the John Townsend secretary, I scaled everything to that size. When I first made it, I kept it in my living room with copies of each piece of furniture, even the bay window with draperies and swags. It took up a lot of space so now the different pieces are sitting in other places around the house. The sofa is on my dresser and I see it every time I walk in the room. There is something magical about little things. Your eye is fooled and you can put yourself right in the middle of it. The sofa is one hand high and two feet long. Tumbleweed Smith (Bob Lewis) came out this fall to do an interview about my paintings and liked the little furniture most of all. That was a special day.
Today’s blog is one I originally I posted last year. I would like to post it again since at that time I had just started my texasmornings and had very few people looking. I was feeling pretty good when I was up to 9 lookers until someone told me that by the information on the my stat counter, 5 of those were me. So after a couple of weeks, I was up to 4 real people looking. One more thing that confused me was the time, instead of regular time, it used Military time so it ended up going on in the middle of the afternoon instead of early morning. Someone told me Military time ran from 12:00 midnight to 24 hours later and then started over at 1:00 AM. I would throw that system out but maybe we would have lost a war or something if we had done it my way.
This is a John Townsend secretary I copied from a real one I have in my living room. It is 23″ tall and made of mahogany. I found a place that made skis from thin strips of wood and they gave me enough scraps for years of projects. Unlike the smaller miniature furniture, the drawers and doors need work on the larger pieces. It took a while to make it, all the drawer pulls were made from copper wire that I hammered flat, then cut into shape with a scroll saw, probably something like making jewelry. Dowel pins are great for carving figurines, vases and all the pretty things we like. I found a jewelry place in Bryan going out of business and bought a box full of stuff. I took the stones out of the earrings and used the bezels to frame tiny photographs. Crystal beads and chains made great chandeliers. It was always fun making the furniture pieces but the best part was making all fancy things to fill the shelves. There are envelopes the size of a fingernail, addressed and stamped, inside each one is a two page letter. It only takes simple tools to build and carve these things. I used a coping saw, Diamond Deb fingernail file, emery boards and carpet knife. Later I bought a small scroll saw, it has a round sanding disc to shape the turned pieces. Finding good glue was always a problem, it had to be sticky to start with and then be really strong when it dried. This was always happy work.
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~
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~
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.)
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 Pittsburg, they were both colorful and went well together. I have never traveled outside the states except for Canada and the many trips to Old Mexico. This is about to change when I will be going to Kenya, East Africa in in December, a trip I have been planning for a year now. Some of my family worries about me going, they are afraid I will get over there, get sick and die or something. (I told them if I die, they can just send me home in a Mason jar). It is finally going to be my turn~
I painted quite a few pictures with guns in them. They made the painting more interesting. Here is one of the boys sighting in a .30 30 rifle. The gun was like one my daddy owned that had belonged to his grandfather, one of the original 1894 Winchester lever action models and a good gun for deer hunting. It had a soft recoil and a range of 200 yards. It got it’s name from the shell that held 30 grains of smokeless powder. When I grew up, everyone who had a pickup truck had a gun rack above the back seat. Their rifles were within easy reach and didn’t get all scratched up,(they usually had a .22 and maybe a shotgun). My mother loved to hunt and every deer she ever killed was with this .30 30. She didn’t have a gun rack or a pickup but she always had that gun in the back floorboard of her car. This was back in the time when no one locked their car doors, they didn’t need to.
We found this pretty little Mexican girl selling bread at a market in Guadalajara, Mexico. Dan took her picture, bought all of her bread, and a few weeks later when we came home, I put her on canvas. This was in the summer of 1966. Since then, she has held a special place in the study over his desk. Dan could speak Spanish well, and liked to visit with people. (I understood enough of the language to know when someone told me how pretty and clean my little boys were). We traveled in a tiny 17′ Airstream trailer, I will have more stories about that later. One of the nicest things I can think of is when we bought the trailer, I finally had my playhouse.
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 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~
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.