Thursday, December 21, 2017

Future projects

My next project - once I get all the Christmas gifts wrapped and the food prepared for the various Christmas celebrations this week - is to paint Lily and Sophie in Alaska. It would be a combination of a couple photographs - Lily and Sophie sitting on some rocks, inner arms around each other, and outer arms thrown up into the air, with the bay and snow capped Alaskan mountains behind them. I've attempted it several times - and have the paintings to prove it.  However, I don't like any of them.  I am going to try something new - painting it alla prima, all in one sitting.  Instead of agonizing over every little shape and shadow - just paint it.  That is the number one painting I want to have hanging on my walls.  Here are the two photographs that I have tried to merge into a painting.  Basically I want to paint the second photograph but with the girls' arms up in the air. 



Plus, I've promised Sophie I would paint something just for her.  I painted "Lily's Angel" for Lily, and I will paint Mickey for Sophie Grace.  Mickey is her horse.  So I've been trying to come up with something meaningful for Sophie.

I've put a Maine plein air workshop on Monhegan Island as one of my "Christmas wishes."  I'm hoping that will be one of my gifts on Christmas Monday.  Our trip to Maine in 2016 was such a fun trip, and I think it would be wonderful to spend a week on Monhegan Island painting en plein air.  I love taking workshops because I learn so much with each one, and they inspire me to paint more.

Ron's 70th Birthday Book

Here's my second big writing project for Christmas 2017 - a commemorative photo book for Ron's 70th birthday party in July 2017. 

The front cover
The following are just a few of the pages from the book.  The photo books is basically photos with a few captions.





Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Maine - Audubon Camp on Hog Island, Monhegan Island

In September 2016 - just a couple weeks before Lily was diagnosed with her relapse - Ron and I flew to Niagara Falls for a couple days, and then to Porland, Maine where we stayed a couple nights at a B&B in Damariscotta, Maine, and then spent a week on Hog Island which is an Audubon Camp.  We were there for the week of "Fall Migration and Monhegan" which was led by Scott Weidensaul.  We had met Scott at Camp Denali in Alaska in June 2016 when we were there for our Alaska trip with Lily and Sophie.  He led birding trips there, too.  He told us about Hog Island, and we were interested.

Ron has been a birder every since he was a little boy.  His Grandmother Pierce was very much into identifying birds.  Ron helped her with catching and banding birds, they kept a bird identification book near at hand and spent lots of time each day observing the birds at their many bird feeders and identifying them.

That trip to Maine was the first time I'd ever been, and I was completely entranced with it.  I loved being at Hog Island.  I went on some of the birding hikes and trips, but I also stayed at our cabin (the Eider Room) and did some plein air painting.  That was before I learned about alla prima painting, and so I labored over each painting I did.  So I only completed one painting while we were there.

The scene across the bay from outside our cabin.

The Eider Room is one half of the back this cabin.  The other back half was the Guillemot Room.  The front half of the cabin was something else (don't recall the name)  The week we were there, we were the only ones in the entire building - and it was the last cabin.  So we had lots of privacy.  Very simple lodging in our room - two twin beds, a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet.  

A view of the Hog Island dock as we approached it after our day trip to Monhegan Island.

I found a photo I took of my work-in-progress painting.  You can see how I was set up to paint.  This was right outside our cabin - the Eider Room.


I had a great learning experience with that one painting.  After I finished it, I propped up the wet panel against the screen window in our room to dry. I painted in acrylics, and so it wasn't really wet - I just didn't want it to be ruined since the room didn't have much space and I thought propping it against the screen got it out of the way and kept it safe.  Ha! Was I wrong!  It rained that night.  When we awakened the next morning, I realized that the cardboard backing to the panel was wet and warped. Although the rain hadn't come through the screened window, the screen was wet enough that the cardboard apparently sucked in a lot of moisture. After getting home, I spent a lot of time trying to salvage the painting.  I finally took the canvas completely away from the backing.  However, it was ruined, and one day after I'd worked with it trying to get it to look right, I finally tossed it in the trash can.  It wasn't that great a painting anyway.

I had painted while sitting in a chair outside our cabin, looking out over the bay at the islands and ocean beyond.  I liked it because it reminded me of a special time, but it wasn't worth the time I'd already put into trying to save it.

As I was painting, one of the birding groups camp up and stopped near me as they looked at some birds in a nearby tree.  Some of the folks in the group came over and looked at my painting and we chatted about it.  Throughout the day other hikers/campers walked past me - and each one at least said hi - and most stopped and asked to see my painting and we talked. It was very pleasant.

I did my own hiking each day. Each time I hiked the long way from our cabin to the main camp area, I'd pass the Artist in Residence cabin.  Now THAT fascinated me.  As much as I enjoyed sitting outside our cabin and painting en plein air, I could just imagine spending a week or two doing that.  What luxury!  Nothing to do but concentrate on my painting.  No dishes, no laundry, no errands - just doing what makes me happy for awhile.  Very cool!

One of the most enjoyable days during my time at Hog Island was the day trip to Monhegan Island.
On Monhegan Island, we walked up to the lighthouse.  There were plein air artists everywhere.  This woman was painting the lighthouse.  Breathtaking beauty all around.  And the most delicious clam chowder at a little restaurant right off the dock. 

This is the Franklin Island Lighthouse.  We passed it on the way back from our Monhegan Island trip.  I painted this lighthouse because I loved it so much.  It's one of my favorite paintings.

This was a wedding at a lighthouse on the mainland. The two women who were getting married seemed oblivious to the tourists milling about. I thought it was a beautiful setting for a wedding, but not private at all with all the tourists visiting the lighthouse.  Interesting that some of the guests are standing and others are seated.  

Great photo of somewhere in Maine -I think off Hog Island.  I need to be sure to caption all photos immediately after a trip in order to remember where each photo was taken.  

This photo and the next two are beautiful photos, but I'm not sure where in Maine they were taken.  See lesson learned in previous photo caption.  



Maine lighthouses fascinated me.  We visited at least five of them.  I hope to return to Maine to do a lighthouse tour one day.  I'd love to paint them all.

One of my favorite photos - a sunset on Hog Island.



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beach Houses

At the end of August and first of September 2017, Ron and I spent a week at Blue Mountain Beach, Florida.  I was in my rock painting phase at that time.  I'd gotten discouraged with painting, and so I'd put my oil paints, panels and canvases away, and for about 2 1/2 months I painted rocks.  It was quick, easy, and most importantly, totally stress free.  No great art skill involved - just coloring book type painting with acrylic paints.

However, on our beach trip, even though I was taking a hiatus from serious painting, I took photos of things I wanted to paint.  I did the abstract sunset painting using one of the photos I took during that trip as a reference.

One morning Ron and I were eating breakfast in a restaurant and as I glanced around I saw a painting on the wall that I loved.  It was of three beach houses.  From across the restaurant, I snapped a quick photo of the painting. In that photo (below) you can see the decor that was between me and the painting.  I have no idea who the artist is. I even Googled "three beach house, art, painting" to see if I could find out the artist so I could give him/her credit for the inspiration.  I was shocked at how many paintings there are of THREE beach houses together.  However, I couldn't find this particular painting.  So, I tried.  If I do this again (take a photo of a painting I like so I can try to do a similar painting), I will make sure to look at it closely enough to jot down the artist's name.   I definitely like the impressionistic look of the painting.


Weeks later, back at home, I was looking at my photos and decided to try to paint it - but to make it more mine.  Here (below) is my painting.  I made a few changes - I had a green house instead of the red one, added the decorative windows, larger and more distinct flower pots, a surf board leaning against one railing, and a beach chair in front of one of the houses.  I also didn't add the water.  I like the painting.  It would look good in a beach house, I think.  Maybe I'll give it to our beach house agent, Nancy, next time we go to the beach.  Right now it is framed and hanging on the wall upstairs.  


Looking at it now, I can see how I could make some changes.  All the white in the top photo makes it look bright and sunny.  My painting looks more like an overcast day.  I could lighten it up with some light color in the sky and sand.  However, it is done.  It was a lesson I learned in the Derek Penix workshop, and now I see the same principle here.  Next painting I will remember to use lighter colors to sunny-ify a painting. 

Writing Books for Christmas Gifts - "We Love You, Mary Bradley!"

Over the years I have published quite a few books - self-publishing at Lulu.com.  I've edited four books for my mother - all available on Amazon.  Then I've written books for my granddaughters, and I edited a family cookbook (available on Amazon). I did a photo book of my mother's 90th birthday party that turned out great, and I did a photo/memory book for our previous pastor when he was transferred to another church.  When Ron and I built this house - our dream house - back in 2006 and 2007 I photographed the whole process, and then put together a book about it.  Great memories and valuable information on where we got the house plans, paint colors, brick color and manufacturer, which subcontractor did each part of the house (foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, brick, landscaping, painting, etc.)  So self-publishing books is something I've done a lot, and I am comfortable with the software and process.  These books aren't for commercial promotion, but for private enjoyment and use.

The genesis for my creating books actually goes back to when Larisa (my daughter) and Joey (my son) were little.  I hand-made books for them - writing with markers on construction paper about things they did and then using photos I took of them as the illustrations. I'd seal the pages with clear contact paper and either sew or staples the pages together.  I think they still have their books.  That was as high tech as I was capable of in those days - mid to late 1970s and early 1980s.

Now I create the books in Microsoft Word.  I cut/paste digital photos for illustrations.  Once the book is completely written in Word, I save it as a pdf and upload it to Lulu.  I create covers in Microsoft Publisher and save them as a jpg files.  The books turn out well and look like they were professionally done - which, since Lulu is a major book publishing business, is true.

For Christmas this year.  I created two books.  I will write only about the first one in this post.  I'll write about the other one in a later post.

The first book is for sweet Bradley - my four year old granddaughter.  Her book is way overdue. I had the book for her sister, Evey,  done before Evey was even one year old.  It was titled "Welcome, Evey."  I'll write about it in another post, too.  So here's Bradley's book:

This is the front cover.  It's a hard-cover book.  I designed the front and back covers in Microsoft Publisher and then saved them as high resolution jpg files which I then uploaded to Lulu's book cover program.

I wrote a catchy little poem - one that a 4-year old would enjoy hearing and reading again and again.  I repeated the main 4-line verse every couple pages to give it more rhythm and because children LOVE repetition in books.  After all, I was an elementary school literacy specialist the last six years of my teaching career.

 I copy/pasted photos to go with each page.  I put pink borders (Bradley's favorite color) on the photographs and added cute squiggly pink page headers and footers.


I tried to capture Bradley's bubbly and endearing personality via both the rhymes and the photos.

Then I researched her name and wrote about the origins of her name and what each part means - how her parents came up with her name and who she was named after (me!)  

Finally, I had everyone close to her - parents, grandparents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles - write a note to her.  Each person had one or more pages.  I copied the notes and put photos of her with the person who wrote the note.

It's a sweet book, and it's one Bradley will likely always treasure.  With the first three granddaughters, I wrote several books with the three of them as the characters.  

And, of course, I wrote the book about Lily's first cancer journey that we use as gifts when Larisa and Lily speak at childhood cancer or Vandy hospital events.  When Larisa and I went to Washington to lobby for childhood cancer funding, we gave copies to each congressperson we met with.   The book is available on Amazon - Lily and Sophie, Sisters and Best Friends.  Several copies have sold on Amazon to people we don't know - which is nice.  I know when Lily was first diagnosed, I scoured Amazon looking for books about kids with cancer - especially leukemia - wanting to learn as much as possible - and looking for material for Lily to read.  She would've enjoyed reading a book like the one I wrote.  Of course she loves the book I wrote - but she lived it - she didn't have to read it to know it personally.

Up soon - the second book I did for this Christmas.

A class with Rachael McCampbell - Pumpkins and Lemons Together

Rachael McCampbell is a local artist.  She actually goes to our church.  Funny how our church is so small and yet there are so many people there who are known locally and nationally - and some even internationally - for either their music, art or other gifts.  Rachael is one of those folks.  She taught an acrylic class at Owl's Hill Nature Center.  It was just a one day class, but I really enjoyed it, and more importantly, I learned from it. We painted a still life, and we experimented with various Golden acrylic materials.

That was over a month ago (November 18, 2017), and I just now realized I have not written anything about it here on my blog.  I enjoyed working with Rachael so much that I signed up for a series of weekly classes she will start in January.  I'm looking forward to that.  My sister, Beth, from Georgia is coming up here for a couple months and plans to take the class with me.

Below is my still life painting.  It's acrylic on a 16 x 20 gessoboard.  As you can see, I already have it framed and hanging on the wall.  I like it.  The largest pumpkin in the actual still life that we used as a reference was a white one, but I'm not a fan of white pumpkins.  So I added orange in the creases of the pumpkin to give it more color.  I'm pleased with how it looks.

It was fun working with acrylic paint again.  I got right back into it fairly easily.  My only hesitation in loving this painting is that pumpkins and lemons don't really "go" together.  Pumpkins are a fall crop in cooler climates.  Lemons are grown in warmer climates.  While the colors are nice together, the combination of the two in a still life just doesn't feel harmonious to me.

"November Harvest" acrylics on 16 x 20 gessoboard

November Harvest

A trio of pumpkins
A quartet of lemons 
Orange and yellow and white
A cool weather vine
A warm climate tree
A sweet and a sour bite.

In writing the poem to go with the painting, I realized anew how writing poetry to go with a painting forces me to look at it more closely and to think about it more deeply.  Before writing the poem, I knew that the combination of pumpkins and lemons seemed off to me.  Writing the poem made me REALLY work through WHY the combination nagged at me.  It was because they don't naturally occur together.  However, through the poem, I could work through those nagging feelings.  Of course I realize in today's markets, one can buy at the same time a variety of vegetables and/or fruits grown in just about any climate in the world. So perhaps my "nagging feeling" is outdated.   


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Baptism in Leiper's Creek

Back on September 10th, after our church service, the congregation as a whole walked or drove the few blocks from the church, through the Leiper's Fork business district - which is just a few stores - and down the road to the Leiper's Creek swimming hole where we also have creek baptisms.  Pastor Betty baptized two people - first a woman and then a man.  I am not using their names in consideration for their privacy.  In my photograph, I made sure that no faces were shown.  I took several photos.  This one was my favorite:

Baptism in Leiper's Creek (Leiper's Fork, TN), September 10, 2017

So my next goal was to paint the scene.  I love to paint scenes that mean a lot to me.  Here's my painting and poem (a haiku) for this baptism painting:

Baptism in Leiper’s Creek, #1

In a muddy creek
A soul repents; God blesses
A new life begins

As I have done a lot recently, I posted the painting on my Facebook page, and two different people asked about buying it.  So I painted the scene two more times.  Now I have three similar baptism paintings.  I love all three of them.  There are differences, of course, between them.  You can't exactly duplicate a painting.  I will keep one copy because it is probably my favorite of all the paintings I've done thus far. 

Eight Months of Pandemic - and counting

The "fifteen days to slow the spread" has continued for over eight months now. I have to admit that the isolation gets to me at ti...