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 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.”
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.
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~
Dan and I used to go to Johnson City often where he visited with Harold Wood who was in charge of the LBJ Park . One day we finished early and Dan asked Harold where was a good place to eat. He told us he liked the City Cafe that had pretty good old German food in Fredericksburg. We stopped there and ordered our lunch. Dan was eating his salad and found some shrimp shells in it. I said, “Don’t Eat It and Just Don’t Make a Scene!” In a little while the bus boy was cleaning off the table next to us and held up a bowl of half eaten jello, he yelled to the back, ‘Hey Erna, Do We Save This?’
Once when I was invited to the Country Club in a nearby town for a Bridge party luncheon, the meal was just OK, nothing special. While my table was lively with conversation, I was concentrating on my food. The broccoli was bright green except for one long fat white worm. He was well done. I just moved him over to the side and didn’t say anything. I have raised gardens and know that a worm can get on the vegetables, you just knock them off and forget it. Anyway, someone at the table asked me a question and I lack some of the social graces and my nerves took over while I tried to think of something to say. After the talk moved on to another person, I relaxed but the next thing I noticed was the worm was gone. Yes, I had eaten it.
This landscape is 24″x36″ and has always been my favorite size to paint, it is the right proportion. It works well on a wall above a fireplace or over a large piece of furniture. This size canvas takes about four days to paint, with a couple of days drying time in between. I always kept three paintings going at once, that way when I had gone as far as I need to on one, I let it dry while I worked on another one. Painting wet on wet ends up a dull grey picture, bright highlights will pop out if the paint under it is dry. I have never used an easel, it is awkward and makes my arm tired. I had rather stand over the canvas with it lying flat on the table or sit with it propped up in my lap. When paintings were finished, Dan framed them for me. A salesman came twice a year from Brownwood to show me the samples. They have beautiful ready made frames with elaborately finished corners. Even a small 5″x7″ painting in one of these frames turns it into something special.
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.
Here is a painting of the Hughes home in San Angelo. My friend Kitty Trigg grew up there and asked me to paint it for her. Later she decided she would like one for her sister, Mrs. Crews. The second one was a spring time scene so it was different. The house sits on Beauregard Avenue and used to be in a quiet neighborhood at the edge of town but San Angelo has grown until it is now a very busy street. It is an old home that has been well cared for and loved by this family. It should be there forever. I have noticed that the house has recently been repainted in a beautiful soft gray green color. I also painted Mrs. Crew’s rock house in Mertzon and later their camp house on Spring Creek. There was a little log cabin there that was a play house for all the Hughes children. I loved these projects, I can just imagine what fun those kids had growing up.
This painting is on the South Concho River near Christoval. You can get in a kayak and paddle almost to the ‘head of the river’ where it starts as a small gravely spot and water bubbles up out of the ground. Like Magic, it turns into this wonderful river that flows all the way to San Angelo 19 miles away. When you are in a boat, every bend in the river is a new scene, one thrill after another. I like painting water, not only rivers and ponds, but a puddle in the road, or dark clouds building up before a rain. I have seen paintings of the surf, with waves tumbling over each other, white foam and aqua colored water, I tried it once but it was a failure. I can appreciate anyone who can capture all of that wonder. I have to stick with the calm water of the river. Air, water and food, in that order, we can’t survive without all three~I am grateful~
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~
This is a picture ZZ painted of a cow. We took lots of cow pictures in Buscher’s pasture, they were strange looking but probably good ones since they all had ear tags. ZZ was 9 years old on this one. I helped her sketch it off on a 9×12″ canvas. (paint the eyes in first, then it will watch you while you paint in everything else.) To show her how, I would write in b for brown, w for white, etc. and she would paint in the different colors. She learned to mix paint from an early age, we used very few colors, white, blue, yellow, red, and brown. Nearly any color can be mixed from these. She learned early not to mix a big pile of color, if you mix small amounts, each one will be different and make the picture more realistic. One time when ZZ was about 5 years old, we were buying brushes at the art store and an older man and his wife were shopping. From what we understood, he had decided to start painting. He was saying, ‘let me see, I need some purple and some green, and some black’~ I could tell ZZ was having a fit. She finally told me, ‘that man is not obeying’. She knew blue and red made purple, and yellow and blue made green. She was beside herself wanting to go help him. She painted several parrot pictures and sold them on e-bay. Children like bright colors. She painted a lot of adobe houses. They are easy to do and when you are finished, you have something worthy of a nice frame. They have a 3-D effect with shadows and sunlight hitting the walls. The great thing about her is she never got tired, she was never ready to quit. I love this old cow. I love that sweet girl~
I can either stop posting for a month, or show some re-runs since I am taking care of some business this summer. (like 40 chickens, three dogs and fighting coons every night to keep them out of the fruit trees). Maybe by the end of June I will have some new and interesting fresh material to write about. Good things are happening right now in Uganda!
Dan’s mother saw this painting and mentioned it several times, it hangs in the Hermitage in Russia. It was an old world painting, ‘The Stolen Kiss’ by Fragonard. I found a photograph of the painting and was overwhelmed by the beautiful detail in the woman’s dress, I decided to try to copy it. It took several weeks to sketch it off on canvas and once I started painting I was terribly excited to be doing it. Painting the folds in the woman’s dress was a great experience, it was like reading a good book~ hard to put down. When it was finished Dan gave it to his mother on Mother’s Day, she loved it. She had a beautiful formal living room and the perfect place for it. It has been in the family for 49 years, it now hangs in her grandson’s home.
This picture today is a thoroughbred horse I painted for practice. I have painted a lot of horses in the last 60 years and it has always been a pleasure. People treasure their horses, there is a special bond between them. Ranchers use quarter horses in Texas, I painted a quarter horse for someone who was giving it to her husband for Christmas one year. She gave me a photograph to go by, mesquite tree, calache road and their recognizable ranch land in the background. This was going to be an easy one. I loved doing it, but I did ‘doctor up’ it up just a little, you know, a little more muscle, longer legs, what I thought would enhance it. I showed it to Jim Cawley ~a horse expert and friend~ to have him critique it before I delivered it . His comment was, “Dang, that is a fine horse but that is NOT Bob’s horse!”, so I started over from scratch and painted Bob’s real horse. Jim taught me a lot about horses, I have had to remove the perfectly painted whiskers in a horse portrait, re-work the eyes (moon eyes are not acceptable) and every horse has to be the exact color. Horses have four legs, sometimes I would have liked to have painted them standing in tall grass, the legs are no fun.