Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday in the studio and the couch pattern that won't go away

Calvin & Sparky are in the large painting. In the front row: RaeRae, Katie & Blue.
Most pet portraits I paint of two animals involve combining two separate photos together on one canvas, but not Calvin & Sparky. They are standing just as they were in the photo. It’s only happened this way one other time, when I painted Lily & Teddy last year; they are adorable schnauzer siblings. They were just puppies when they posed for the photo I used for this painting:

Lily & Teddy

The snuggly photo of Lily & Teddy as puppies can be seen here if you roll your mouse over the art. Notice the pattern in the background of the art… it’s from my friend Lynne’s couch. I liked it so it was used as a background for the painting of her shih tzus, which can be seen on my homepage. This pattern has been requested by many clients in varying colors, including the painting of Katie the Yorkie I’m finishing up this week.

Blue the cat & RaeRae the lab are in the two small paintings, which measure 6” x 6” and are about 1 ½” thick- they are chunky enough to stand on a desk, in a window or on a shelf. I’m calling this size ‘Meow Bark Minis’. Blue & RaeRae are going to Oklahoma & there are 3 more to be completed and shipped to Maryland. I’ll post more photos & information when they are finished.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The day my dryer threw me a surprise party

This is my mom’s cat Oscar, although she also calls him “bootie”. Notice I don’t seem surprised by this. Although my sister and I are named Sherry and Laura, we spent most of our childhoods inexplicably answering to to her when she called us Susie & Lucy. Interchangeably.

My mother thinks she is really funny. Upon her return from vacation, she mailed me a shirt and after carefully folding the shirt she added a rather large helping of confetti. You know, because she is funny.

Once just to “be funny”, when she heard my aunt coming in the door she ran down the hall & got in the floor with her legs sticking out into the hallway, so it would look like she was dead. Later, mom explained that she only had her legs sticking out in the hall because she was afraid if she was any further out my aunt might be able to tell she was laughing, and then she wouldn’t appear dead. Because she thinks she's funny.

Back to the confetti. When I opened the box & it started falling out, I took the box outside & shook it out a little and put the shirt in the laundry & forgot about it.

I didn’t shake it hard enough. Once again, I underestimated my mother… failing to notice that she had placed an equally large amount of confetti INSIDE the shirt. Imagine my surprise a few days later; when on my third load of laundry I opened the dryer just before the end of the cycle, only to be hit in the face with a fistful of hot confetti.

It was in my hair and stuck to my face.

I found some later in my bra.

That may be too much information but it is a fact.

Brightly colored confetti that says PARTY! continues to turn up around my house. I noticed something glimmering in the sun out in the driveway a few days ago & upon closer inspection saw a tiny sparkling word, telling me to PARTY! I very carefully picked it up and took it in the house, walking up the stairs to my studio where I have been collecting confetti all summer.

Why do I keep it?

Because I have my mother’s mailing address...

and I am my mother's daughter.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Forgetting the worst case scenario or remembering the alamo or both

The best tree ever... at the Alamo in San Antonio, TX
I need a new motto, if that’s what it’s called.




Definitely not slogan… that sounds as if I’m making a commercial, maybe with a 1950’s radio jingle. No offense directed at jingles, or at the 1950’s for that matter. I wouldn’t want to offend an entire decade, and if I did there would probably be others higher on the list. The 80’s come to mind. This could be a separate post… I digress.

Mantra, maybe? My mantra is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” I wish I could say I selected it, but it just happened. You know, ‘just happened’ in the way that you ‘just happen’ to finish an entire plate of chocolate chip cookies while watching Project Runway and find yourself amazed and saddened when you realize what you have done.

I have recently decided that while ‘preparing for the worst’ may be terribly responsible, it is also exhausting. It may put you in the arguably enviable position of never being disappointed by a bad outcome, since you are PREPARED for the worst scenario, but it honestly does take the concept of the ‘decision tree’ to a whole. new. level.

How I will accomplish mastery of a new mantra 35 years after the first one crept up on me is truly beyond me, but I am going to give it a world class effort.

Anyone know where I could purchase bad motto repellent, and at what cost?

Monday, August 23, 2010

A lesson for college freshmen and 35 year olds alike... your mother was right

For the last couple of months I have had a great idea rolling around in my head- it was going to be a ‘going away to college’ gift for my friend Olivia, and when I say ‘going away’ I mean AWAY… from Arkansas to Maryland. In an effort to do something special and different for her, I spent a couple of months planning a fantastic mixed-media project and ended up with about 72 hours to finish it. Hello, procrastination- who invited you for tea? I understand that procrastination comes in many forms… mine is the ‘put it off for fear it won’t be perfect' variety. My mother has warned me of this perfectionism for years. She was saying “just do it” long before Nike.

By Friday evening, it was clear that I was going to have to throw in the towel. I contemplated opening the window & tossing it out the second story window of my studio, but decided against it. If the wind caught it & I had to go ring the bell at the neighbor’s house to retrieve it from their yard, wringing my paint-splattered hands, it really might have been more than I could take.

Because Olivia knew I was working on something for her, I was in a bit of a pinch… and honestly I wanted to make something special for this lovely, brave & smart young woman who was about to travel halfway across the country to a new place. A humble and apologetic text was sent, and a kind and understanding response was received, and she promised to send photos of her cats. Something I couldn’t screw up. My thought, not hers.

A few moments later, I was surprised to receive the first photo and realized there might be time to pull something off. Prior commitments would allow a few hours on Saturday afternoon, but that was it.





I have never painted anything on a canvas this size, it is a 6” x 6” square, and about 1 ½” thick. Olivia came over Saturday evening to say goodbye and I was happy to send her along her way with a tiny little painting of Oliver, with a hug and a promise that paintings of Zeus, Zeke and Bad Louie would follow in care packages.

My wishes for Olivia as she goes off to college?

I wish for her a whole tribe of young women who are as brave, smart and compassionate as her, a wonderful and safe environment in which to grow and thrive, and the acceptance of this fact…

no matter how much you want to avoid it, sometimes you mother is right.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Marcie Grace: the last of the beachbums

You can see the photo I used to paint this pet portrait on my website

Here is Marcie Grace, the last of the beach bums. I chose this group of paintings for the first round of ‘Feature Art Friday’ because I love the beach. I actually had a vacation scheduled for the gulf coast just before starting the blog, but it was canceled due to the oil spill. When I think of the effects that spill on the animals, and the environment, and the fishermen and an untold number of others, I still cringe. I’m happy that the recovery effort is still moving forward but I wish we could go back and erase the need for a recovery effort at all. The beach bum paintings reminded me of fond childhood memories from the beach so I put them first.

There is a conference in southern California in a few weeks and I am counting down the days. It is a work trip but no matter how long you have to sit in a conference just knowing that you can be at the beach in 15 minutes makes it feel a little like vacation. That and the palm trees… I can’t be in the presence of palm trees and feel like I’m at work…even if I am.

See? I wasn't kidding... this is 15 minutes from the conference hotel.
What is it about a large body of water that makes me feel so peaceful and centered? Even a lake has a very calming effect on me; I used to live right by a lake with friends, and I loved to sit on the dock in the evening and watch the sun make the world blush before dipping behind the trees. In the quiet that comes with night I could lie in my bed and listen to the water lapping at the sea wall. That was the most peaceful sleep.

The thought of sitting on the beach in California with sand between my toes and the sun on my face fills my mind and spills over into my heart.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The creativity switch

Oh, how I wish for a creativity switch some days… it would be awfully handy to be able to conveniently flip it on and off. I could probably even be talked into a dimmer, so I could just turn it down a bit when I need to concentrate on something else. 

Please don’t take this as too much of a complaint; I’m thankful to be a creative person. It just sometimes feels like I have to fight off the creative ideas in order to do my job. Not my job as an artist, the other one…the “real” one as some might say (insensitively, I might add.)

It can be rather overwhelming, having creative ideas jumping around in my head while trying to get things done- things that are very worthwhile and intellectually stimulating but require no creativity at all. It would be great if I could just shut it off temporarily.

Hence my wish for a handy little switch.

How much energy does it actually take, to keep one’s creativity at arms reach all day?

My arms get a little tired- that’s all…

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday studio time and new pet portraits

From the top: Shelby, Sandy & Sadie
My weekend started with a visit from my family and ended at a party hosted by the juvenile judge I worked for years ago, so my studio time was limited to a few hours on Sunday. Good thing that was all I needed to complete the Sandy, Sadie & Shelby pet portraits. No, they aren’t all going to the same place with the similar names- that was a fluke. Strange, but true.

The judge and her husband have this great house; the walls are covered with brightly colored art and the bookshelves are overflowing. He is a professor & always has a couple of great book recommendations for me- I left humming with a little reading list in my head. She is one of those really supportive and encouraging people; we should all have more of those in our lives.

I used to house-sit for them and take care of their dog Jack and their cats Grace & Prudence. Jack was a golden retriever & really lived up to his breed- if I put my clothes out the night before, early in the morning he would bring my socks & push them in my face until I would get up & take him for a walk on the mountain. Their home is just one of those places with good energy- it always makes me feel very creative.

There are two new pet portraits to begin this week and four recently completed to deliver. Here are the two I’m about to start:

Calvin & Sparky- these two will be painted together on one canvas. I'm not sure yet about the background. It's a memorial gift... which always make me a little sad, but I'm always happy to deliver the completed painting & hope that it brings back some good memories of the dogs.

Meet Katie... who is very sassy with her little bow. I bet her hair gets brushed more often than mine... :)

Here is a better view of one of the commissions I finished on Sunday-I love the tangerine background I used for the painting of Shelby!

Friday, August 13, 2010

A yorkie and a moped

She looks a little startled, doesn’t she?

Maybe it’s her first time on a moped… and an awesome pink one, at that.

Maybe she sees a Great Dane hurtling toward her on rollerblades.

Can you imagine?

That would startle anyone.

You can see the photo used to paint Gabby as well as other pet portraits I have painted here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Etsy Confessions

I have a confession to make.

I have neglected my Etsy store.

There, I said it.

If there is some sort of Etsy Abuse Hotline, where operators wearing beehive hairdos and cat-eye glasses sit, feverishly answering calls regarding abandoned and neglected virtual storefronts…

Someone should turn me in.

It’s so quiet in that shop you can hear the crickets chirping, and there’s no wonder why. I really haven’t made the effort to pull the weeds and water anything so it might thrive- and if I don’t care about it, why should anyone else?

There have been plenty of excuses on my part:

"I’m too busy with commissions"

"I’ve never had a virtual shop before"

"I’m a bad photographer"


Why, you might ask, am I admitting my mistakes here instead of casually lifting the edge of a rug with my toe & sweeping this guilty little fact underneath?

It’s an effort to hold myself accountable.

A public “calling out” of sorts… of myself.

You see, I have this terrible habit of researching things to death when I feel overwhelmed. I know, it sounds like it might not be such a terrible habit but trust me on this one… the research is only beneficial if at some point you hit a red light on the list making & actually start putting it all into practice. So I am officially going to stop making lists of “things to do” and I am actually going to begin to do things on the aforementioned lists. Green light….

I have neglected my Etsy store.

So there- I said it, and although my cheeks are a little pink with embarrassment, I feel better that I told you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Look-a-like cats and one-of-a-kind dogs

This weekend I finished up a couple of paintings… Cissy (grey cat with lime background) and Chip (white and tabby cat with eggplant background) are finished. I’m really close to finishing 4 others:

Sandy is a cute little one-of-a-kind dog with a blue background. One-of-a-kind is my term for “mixed breed or mutt… because they ARE one of a kind!

Shelby is also a rescue… Border Collie? That background is tangerine. Was I hungry when I picked these background colors, or what?

Sadie is the Springer Spaniel with a green background.

The larger painting hiding in the back is actually a gift for Arkansas State Representative Kathy Webb, who is a huge pet rescue advocate. That’s Chester in the pet portrait.

Look at this… I’m still pretty amazed by it… this is a photo of Cissy, one of the pet portraits I just finished.

Now look at this photo- this is our cat, Ralphie.

I don’t talk about Ralphie much on the blog, because there usually isn’t much to say… not too many interesting stories come from a cat that makes a concerted effort to burn as few calories as possible each day. He will literally leave the kitchen after eating & just hang out by the door to the litter closet until he has some business to take care of, since it is located between his food bowl & his favorite chair.

Anyway, can you believe how much Cissy & Ralphie resemble each other? Other than the little spot on her chin, she just looks a little more alert that he does… which must burn more calories than Ralphie is willing to expend.

Here’s the finished portrait of Cissy.

Ralphie’s art is on the website.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A poodle and a surfboard

Why the funny look?

What, you’ve never seen a poodle on a surf board?

This is Jett, another one of the beach bums commissioned by Charlotte.

In case you are wondering why my Friday art posts are all beach photos it’s because I am looking forward to a trip to San Diego in a few weeks.

You can see more of the pet portraits I have painted here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Free samples and cat burglars

I recently made my first trip to Art Outfitters in Little Rock and I was very excited with my loot.

Notice the cat feet in the photo- that is Ron Burgundy, who probably ran off with the paper bag moments after the photo was taken. Ron is a thief… a real life cat burglar. It will be handy to have a photo of this, should I decide to file a police report.

I purchased the gel medium, but all the other items were samples.

FREE samples.

Art Outfitters had me at hello, just because there were two dogs hanging out in the store, but add free samples of art supplies, and I must admit… I smiled all the way to the car.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Art week day 5: intution and a jar of buttons

It’s pretty amazing how well your inner voice can lead you in the right direction if you just trust yourself enough to listen. Sometimes at lunch I go to this antique store/flea market with friends. People rent booths there so the quality of what you may find varies but that’s just the way I like it. One day a few months ago, I picked up a jar of buttons and I stood there having an internal dialogue about the pros and cons of purchasing the aforementioned buttons. To be honest, there really weren’t any pros, other than I just couldn’t really make myself put them down. As a matter of full disclosure, I should point out at this juncture that I don’t sew. What would I do with a jar of buttons? They weren’t even pretty; by used button standards… they were mostly black.

A few weeks later, I was sitting at my desk wondering about the buttons. Because they only cost $3.50 and randomly popped in my head weeks later, I got in my car, went back to the store, marched down the aisle to the booth that is now the former home of the button-filled jar picked it up and went directly to the cash register. I had no idea what I would do with them, but at least now I knew where they were… on a very high shelf in my studio.

Because I don’t really need them.

Because I don’t sew.

This project with the clay hearts has been rolling around in my head for a couple of months, and like many art projects it became much more complicated as it went from theory to practice.

Over the last few days, I finally got the project figured out- except for one thing. I was having a really hard time trying to decide how to get the heart to “float” on a wire in the center of the shadow box. I knew I would run a wire through the middle, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to secure the wire to the outside… it actually needed to be run through something, then back into the wood of the shadow box. I was tired and frustrated and wondering if this was going to be one of those things that were a much better idea in my head than in reality. I leaned back in my chair, put my hands on top of my head, and looked up… where my eyes settled on the highest shelf, and a jar of mostly black buttons.