This is a painting I did in 1976, bluebonnets have always been my favorite subject. In the spring time throughout Texas when the country has had rain at just the right time, everything turns blue. The best is always in the Hill Country around Mason, Llano and Fredericksburg. This should be a good year. Everyone looks forward to a day trip on the winding roads to see all the wild flowers. They last for several weeks. It is a sight to see and one of Texas’ most beautiful treasures. It will take your breath away.
I copied a chair that had belonged to Dan’s grandmother which was over 100 years old. The real chair was hand made and uncomfortable, the seat was too high, so I cut off the legs and made new mortise and tenons, put it back together and it is now (like in The Three Bears story) just right. The miniature is 12″ tall, my first attempt at carving. It is made from dowel pins and oak wood. Ron Sutto came one day and told me how nice it was, in fact he bragged so much about it, I was feeling just pretty good! After he left, I picked it up and said something like, ‘it is a darn good piece of work’ ~ then dropped it on the tile floor and it splattered into a dozen pieces. (pride before the fall) I put everything in a shoe box and left it for a couple of years before I had the energy to rebuild it.This was the beginning of a passion for making miniatures.
This is a painting of the swimming hole at Camp Rock on the beautiful South Concho River. I took artistic license in several areas, the water hole isn’t quite this big and the hills in the background are actually the double knobs near Grit in Mason County. I painted this one to hang out on my screened porch, it has been there for almost 40 years with no fading or weather damage, (the secret in oil painting is to use linseed oil to mix the paint colors and never ever use turpentine, that is for cleaning brushes). There is something so special about water, I always wondered if people who grew up in a town with a lake or river could appreciate what they had. I almost always put water in a painting, if not a river, then a puddle in the road or a windmill with a rock tank. I always need to be able to get a cool drink~
This is a portrait I painted of my great-grandfather A.A. McGill. My grandmother really loved her papa, I think she must have been his favorite child. Since she loved him so much, I did too. I doubt if he even knew my name, by the time I came along he was an old man who sat in his rocker all day and didn’t want to be bothered by children. He and Big Mama lived in San Angelo,Texas on Rust Street, by the railroad overpass, where Rio Concho Manner stands today. They had a pretty two story house with a long porch on front. There was even a metal porch swing and you could swing really big! (get it going good and it would bang into the wall, and that brought Big Papa out to run you off!) I never got to see the upstairs, it was my dream to go roam around up there and see all the rooms. The nearest I came was once when I made it to the first landing, he came into the hall and grumbled and sputtered at me and down I came. There was a large bathroom downstairs, a dark room with no window. A chain hung down to turn the light bulb on but it was too high for me to reach, it was a scary room. Big Papa had a wine cellar, I think he made his own wine. There was a decanter that sat on the buffet in the dinning room, I could pull a chair up, lean way over to take the stopper out and smell the fumes. The whole family gathered at the McGill’s for New Years every year. The grown ups ate a huge meal, and talked while the kids had go off some place and be quiet~we would eat later. A pitiful thing,( that made me be a better mother though. Any child in my house ate when we ate, at the same table or at one close by.) Big Mama had a maid who came to help with all the work. I never knew her name, but behind her back, all the uncles called her “Feather Legs”, and of course, I shared this information with her. Big Papa died when he was 94. I painted his portrait as a gift for my grandmother. I think she liked it but when she was ‘studying it’, the first thing she said was, “Papa never wore a tie like that”. Now Big Papa has been hanging on the wall in my bedroom for several years. I like the painting and hope he knew I did love him as much as he would let me. The great thing is I ended up with that swing from his porch. It is one of my treasures.
When my Uncle James Montgomery was with the Air Force in North Africa during World War 11, he was in the Cantina one day and picked up a magazine where he saw this picture of his Big Papa and Big Mama McGill at the San Angelo Fat Stock Show in San Angelo Texas. It was a huge surprise. It must have made his day!
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~
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~
I found some 16″ tall china dolls that had good features but ugly painted faces. They cost less than $5 so I bought several. I sanded the paint off, which took a while because it was kilned fired. Then I repainted them using my oil paint to look like real people with soft colors and pretty eyes. I made new bodies to replace theirs which were stuffed with something like floor sweepings. I designed pretty new dresses. They turned into something you might find in a doll shop. The carved chairs were a copy of those in my dining room. These were gifts for my sisters Nancy and Tricia, and I kept one for myself. This project was one of my favorites. My grandmother Montgomery had a neighbor who had a beautiful china doll in her bedroom and I was was captivated by it, as a young girl I dreamed of having something like that. Finally I got my own doll~
The boys posed for me when I was painting a lot of cowboy pictures. PJ 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’.
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.