A Young Artist

I don’t know who she is but I know she is a teenager who shares my love of art. At Christmastime a church group I belong to gets the name of a family who needs gifts at Christmas. Then each member of our group takes one of the names and buys something from their wish list. We’ve done this for a number of years. Sometimes the requests have been for sizes of clothing I can’t easily find or a child will ask for some toy I’ve never heard of and don’t know where to buy it. But this year was different.

A teenaged girl asked for art supplies and canvases and I knew right away that was the person I wanted to shop for. For a low income person wanting to paint, the expense can be daunting. The two high schools in our town have very good art programs so I assumed the girl I was buying for had already been introduced to some basic concepts and wanted to do more. (If she is already enrolled in art classes she was ahead of where I was at that age. My high school offered no art at all.)

I never go shopping on Black Friday but this year I made an exception. Both Hobby Lobby and Michaels had bargains too good to pass up. When my package is delivered she will have a nice surprise. I wish I could know what she will do with it. I discovered art in college and although it has not been a way to earn a living it has enhanced my life considerably over many years. I hope it will do the same for her.


Large or Small


Peppers, Acrylic, 6″ x 6″

As the holiday season approaches, small seems to be in when it comes to paintings.  There’s a very practical reason for this, of course.  They cost less and when it comes to holiday art shows they are competing in price with items like scarves, earrings and other jewelry.  I am in three holiday art shows this year.  The Southwind Gallery Miniature show in Topeka asked artists to paint six inch by six inch paintings which the gallery then framed all in the same way.  That show just opened and will run during November and December.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery asked artists in their December-January show to contribute art selling for $100 or less, which means that the art will be of small size.  The Holiday Art Fair at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence on Saturday November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. did not specify size but when competing with jewelry and other small items I plan on bringing smaller, lower priced paintings.

What can an artist do in a small space?  The painting above will be in the Southwind Gallery Miniature show.  When I am faced with a small canvas I tend to focus on small items.  My other painting in that show is of one water lily.  Not as impressive as a whole pond of them but I think there is something to be gained by limiting one’s focus to just one or a few simple objects.  I loved all the different colors in that one pepper.  Also, if the painting doesn’t work, not so much time and effort have been wasted.

I remember some years ago when I had some paintings in a local gallery, the gallery owner urged me to paint very large paintings.  I think they were in style at the time.  I was told that art majors at our local university were also encouraged to use large canvases.  Well, I tried one that was, I think 48″ x 30.”  It took a long time to paint and then the gallery owner didn’t like it.  I never tried another one that large.  I think smaller paintings have come back and that suits me just fine.

Ready, Set, Go

Tis the season when multiple art shows will be popping up all over the place.  As you look at the work of the artists, you may picture a painter at an easel, brush or palette knife in hand, and think, “Oh that looks like such fun.  I wish I could do that.”  I’ve heard similar comments.  What they don’t realize is that there is a lot more involved in being part of an art show than painting a group of canvases.  They have to be framed, of course, and a record of them kept that shows when they were painted and where they have been exhibited, so as not to keep showing the same paintings in the same annual shows.

My painting are in five shows this month.  Two shows are in Lawrence.  Delivering two paintings to the Phoenix Underground, the lower floor of the Phoenix Gallery downtown, was no problem.  The next local show will be Lawrence Art Walk, Saturday Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday Oct. 23 from noon to 6 p.m.  There will be a map showing where the various participants are located.  (Check for details online.)  My paintings are already hung on the walls of my basement family room but I will still have to make sure each painting has a card listing its title, media, and price, which means printing cards for the newer paintings and placing cards with each painting.

I made a special trip to Topeka to turn in three paintings to Warehouse 414.  That business is having a show honoring the Topeka Art Guild, of which I am a member, on their 100th anniversary.  Two of my paintings will be in the Kansas Artists show at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery  and two or three from the last show there will go on to the nearby Eagle Car Wash.

After preparing for all those shows I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter another.  But an email message said more artists were needed for the Lawrence Art Guild Holiday Art Fair at Lawrence Art Center November 19 and that that day was the last day for entries.  Oh well, why not?  I printed a copy of the online entry form and could see that this was going to be more work than I expected.  Not only were three photos of my work required but also a photo of my proposed exhibit.  That meant getting my screens out of the garage, setting them up, going to the basement and bringing up enough small paintings to fill them, finding the hooks and hanging them on the screens so I could photograph them and then putting everything away.

Next I had to transfer the photo of my exhibit to my computer and print it on my color printer, plus finding photos of three of the paintings on the computer and printing them.  Then I discovered that I didn’t have a padded envelope to put all this in for mailing so I had to go out and buy one.  Next I addressed  the envelope and added the photos, entry form and a check.  Artists not only have to pay to enter shows.  If they sell anything, they have to pay a percentage of that as well, which is why art sold at shows and galleries my seem high priced.  So finally, I have entered and am glad for this season at least, to have places where others can see what I’ve been doing.









Keep Your Eyes Open

St. Edward's Church, Rear View, edited

St. Edward’s Church, Rear View, acrylic, 20″ x 16″

In July husband and I joined a Road Scholar tour of the gardens of England.  It was a tour I had long wanted to take because I love both painting and growing flowers.  And England has just the right climate, cool and moist, for growing wonderful blooms.  We did see some spectacular gardens, many on large estates that required a crew of gardeners to keep everything looking just so.  These gardens contained not only flowers but water features,  hedges trimmed in various shapes and in some vast expanses of woodland.  I look a lot of photos.

But when looking over my photos at home, I found that the two I most wanted to paint had no flowers in them at all.  The photo above shows the first painting I have finished inspired by our trip to England.  Here’s how it came about.  Our group was in the Cotswolds and our tour bus had dropped us off in the town of Stow on Wold  for some free time.  (I have no idea what a wold is).  It was a fairly small town built as some U.S. small towns are with the shops surrounding a green area.  Husband and I walked along these main streets and looked in at a craft fair in the city hall.  For a time we rested on a bench in the green area.  But soon we were ready to explore again.

This time we took one of the side streets leading away from the center of town and soon came upon a very ancient looking stone church surrounded by gravestones in the church yard.  We did go inside the quite elaborately decorated church, which we learned was St. Edward’s.  We admired the stained glass, the altar and the beautiful needlepoint kneeling cushions.  But what I immediately knew I wanted to paint was outside, behind the church with its moss covered stone walls, and heavy, dark, wooden door surrounded by two giant yew trees.  The scene looks like it belongs in some Medieval tale.

So keep your eyes open and a camera handy.  You never know when inspiration may strike.



While many people retire at around age 65 and completely stop doing what they’ve spent much of their time doing for years, this does not seem to be true of artists.  Instead, some may find that when they stop earning a living, they have more time for art.  And even those who have been creating art for years may not be willing to give it up just because they are aging.

But we artists have to be realistic.  As an aging painter I know that there are physical aspects of what I do that become more difficult with the passing years.  If I want to keep on painting, and I do, I will have to adapt.  And as it happens, I’ve found several ways to do that.  The first, which I did several years ago, was to buy a new French easel that had wheels and a long handle like my suitcase.  I ordered it from Blick, but their current catalog doesn’t have one.  I’m often a plein air painter and carrying a heavy easel and other gear was getting harder. Then there are the acrylic paints that I use.  Those small metal lids seem to easily have paint stick in them and are hard to open.  If I’m painting inside, I run hot water over them and that helps, but I can’t do that if I’m painting outside.  So now I use only Liquitex paints with their big plastic lids that will open no matter where I am.

I find that a camera is a vital tool.  I photograph the scene I’m painting in plein air in case I need to finish the painting at home.  And I always photograph every finished painting and put the photos on my computer in case I need them to enter art shows.  The problem was that my hands are not as steady as they used to be.  At home I use a tripod but when I’m outside and want to photograph something I might want to paint some day, I don’t want a blurred picture.  When my current camera stopped working and I had to buy a new one, I chose a small Sony that was advertised as taking very sharp pictures.  And it does.  Husband says it is because of the higher number of pixels.

My latest gadget, which I used for the first time on our recent tour of gardens in England, is shown above, a cane with a fold up seat.  I took it because I knew I couldn’t do a lot of walking without having to sit down and rest occasionally.  But I discovered it was very useful for sketching, since it provided me a place to sit in the exact location I wanted.  I had ordered it on the internet a few years ago for a previous trip and didn’t use it then.  So with a little help from these aids, I plan to continue painting.



Never Give Up

Last year was not a good year for me artistically.  There were less places locally to exhibit paintings than there used to be.  And no one seemed to be interested in my work.  I signed up for Art Walk in October, when people visit local artists at their homes or studios.  In addition to the numerous paintings on the walls of my basement gallery, I put out a stack of older work I wanted to get rid of at greatly reduced prices.  The only painting I sold all year was one from that stack.

It made me wonder what was the point in painting if all I was doing was piling up art nobody wanted.  But for some of us not being creative does not seem to be an option.  We are simply programmed to be artists.  We can’t help it.  The same seems to be true of writers and musicians.  So I gave a few paintings as gifts and kept on creating.

Then came more bad luck.  My computer stopped working and went away for repairs for almost a month.  Computers are vital to just about everyone these days, including artists.  I couldn’t add photos of new paintings to those already on the computer or print them.  The records of my work were on my computer.  And I couldn’t write on my blog or enter art shows that these days have to be done on a computer.  When my computer finally returned I found a new Microsoft system on it and even more frustrating a whole new picture system, Adobe Elements 14, that is probably a good system if I could understand how it works.

But then suddenly things began to change for the better.  My daughter referred a woman to me who wanted a painting of a dog, now deceased, that had been her husband’s favorite.  She provided a photo.  I hadn’t done a dog in years but I rashly said yes and agreed to do it in pastels, a medium I don’t usually work in.  The result is below.  (I wanted to put it above but somehow couldn’t.)  The woman was pleased with the portrait of “Benny,” which was to be a gift for her husband.

Several more sales followed.  I participated in Art in the Park and sold a painting of a Bradford pear tree.  I joined the plein air painters at the Overland Park Arboretum spring event and sold a painting from it.  A relative bought a painting to give as a gift.  So I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on.  The process itself is irresistable.



Seizing the Moment

Here in Lawrence, Kansas, spring arrived early this year.  All of a sudden the landscape was bursting with color, especially the trees.  While it was still late March the Bradford pear trees turned white with blossoms.  The redbuds and flowering crab apple trees soon followed.  Now the neighborhoods are also filled with lilacs and the young cherry tree in my back yard is covered with blooms.  What an inspiration for a painter.

But these very colorful sights are also very fleeting.  A tree that is in full bloom one day may in a spring storm send petals to the ground.  If you want to capture some of this beauty with paint you’d better not put it off.  Coming out of exercise class one morning I noticed a row of blooming Bradford pear trees across the street.  But I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to photograph them. Passing that way in the afternoon I did stop but somehow the scene was not the same.  The light was coming from a different direction and that made a difference.  Fortunately, I had enough sense to go back the next morning and photograph them and I have started a painting.

But actually painting on site is so much better.  When I was driving out in the country to paint at an artist friend’s house, I noticed her blooming Brandford pear tree long before I reached the house and that’s what I decided to paint chosing an 18″ x 14″ canvas with wide enough stretchers not to need a frame.  I was faced with a very windy day.  But I was determined not to waste this opportunity.  So I painted in my car, even though the car I have now is very small.  And I will remember the beauty of springtime whenever I look at that painting.

So when you see one of these glorious sights of spring, seize the moment.  Take a photo if you must or better yet don’t put off setting up your easel outside.  This is one of the best times of year to paint.








Painting Demonstration


Handcrafted, Acrylic, 12″ x 12″

I sometimes like to watch those artists on the public television station demonstrate how they paint.  They seem so sure of themselves, as if they know from the beginning that this will be a really good painting.  Some encourage their viewers to paint along with them, but they paint so fast that this doesn’t seem practical.  How do they do it?  I recently had reason to ask myself that question.

I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and there is a back room at their gallery where art classes are sometimes held.  The teacher of a weekly afternoon class of primarily senior citizens asked me to demonstrate plein air painting to her class.  Since this was in February, going outside was not an option.  But she wanted her students, who usually painted from photographs, to learn more about the art of painting what is in front of you.  I said I would do it and then had to figure out how to go about it.

When I paint outdoors in a public space, such as a park, people sometimes look over my shoulder briefly to see what I am doing and maybe make comments.  But they come and go quickly and I don’t really talk much to them.  I just keep painting.  This would be different.  I needed to figure out how those artists on TV did it.  I decided on a simple still life that I would paint on a small canvas.  I chose three objects that I had in my house.  They represented simple shapes, a sphere, a cone, and a cylinder, that students in art classes learn to shade.

First I practiced painting the still life at home.  Some of the drawing did not look quite right.  So then I practiced just drawing the still life several times with charcoal.  Finally it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to draw the still life ahead of time on the canvas to be sure to get it right.  Finally the big day arrived and I set up my easel and the still life in the room before the class arrived.  I talked a little bit about plein air painting to the class and about the objects I had chosen to paint.

It turned out to be easier than I had imagined.  Mostly the class members concentrated on their own work, occasionally walking up to where I was painting to see what I was doing and ask questions.  I didn’t quite finish the painting during class time, but I got enough done that they could see how it would look.  I finished it at home.  I plan to enter it in the next Topeka Art Guild show, so they will be able to see the completed painting.



Anaheim Beach, Acrylic, 19″ x 14″

In my mother’s day people stored their memories in photo albums with photos first in black and white and later in color.  Underneath was carefully written in ink where the photo was taken and who the people were in it.  In this way I learned what I had looked like as a baby and young child.  My mother also had saved photos of her parents, herself, and her brother and sister when they were young.  I still have some of those.

I have boxes of photos I took back in the days before digital cameras.  I even took a class on how to develop film at one point.  My photos were mostly stored in the envelopes they came in when they were developed.  I even wrote on the backs of some of them where they were taken, when, and who the people were in them.  I have passed some of those on to my children and grandchildren.

These days most people seem to take pictures with their phones.  They then post some of them on Facebook or they may send some by email.  But what, I wonder, happens to the photos after that?  When the phone’s photo space is full are they simply deleted?  Some people post photos on Facebook quite often.  How would someone wanting to remember a favorite vacation photo find it when several years had passed?  What is happening to those visual prompts to our memories?  How will today’s young people share photos of their youth with their children?

I now use a digital camera and transfer many photos to my computer.  I use Picasa, which I don’t much like but it didn’t cost anything.  Photos I really want to keep I print with my color printer.  That is how I save scenes that I might want to paint some day.  I have several envelopes filled with these photos.  They come in handy during winter months.  I found the photo on which the above painting was based in one of those envelopes.  I took it on the beach at Anaheim, California in 2007.  I am glad that I saved it by printing it.  To me computers are somewhat of a mystery.  While I keep most of my photos on my computer, I know that they can be hard to find because there are so many of them and Picasa doesn’t always file them as I think it should.  Having a photo that I can hold in my hand still seems like a good idea.


An Artist’s Life


Threads, 12″ x 12″, acrylic

A new year has begun and after the holidays it’s time to get back painting and all the activities that go along with it.  When people think of the life of an artist they think of the actual act of creating art.  But there is so much more to it than that.

There are many related activities one must make time for and often pay for as well and this includes a lot more than just shopping for the materials.  Most artists belong to some kind of organized group of those with similar interests.  I belong to both the Topeka Art Guild and the Lawrence Art Guild and dues to both are due at the beginning of the year.  The Lawrence Art Guild recently reorganized after having only sporadic activity for the past year or so.  The Topeka Art Guild has a gallery where members may show their work for a fee and also six hours of work in the gallery per month.  Their shows change every two months and I enter all of them.  Later in February I’ve been asked to demonstrate plein air painting to one of their classes.

I’m always looking for places to show my work and the free places are now fewer and harder to come by.  So I enter a few other shows as well, which means paying a fee whether my paintings are chosen for the show or not.  I did get one painting, “Hay Bales,” accepted into the Rice Gallery in Overland Park’s upcoming plein air show, which meant an out of town drive to deliver that painting. I received a rejection from the Heartland show.  I have information about the Images show which I have gotten in before, so I will probably enter that.  If I get in, it will mean another out of town drive in city traffic to deliver a painting.

A frustration for me is the amount of computer knowledge an artist needs these days.  This year Art in the Park in Lawrence could only be entered on line.  I could fill out the form but transferring the images of the paintings required husband’s help as well as paying on line.  Why not simply allow photographs and checks?  Even writing this blog becomes more difficult as the way it is set up changes from time to time with no notification and directions.

The painting above is one I have done during weekly meetings of a small group of artists who work on their various projects.  “Threads” was painted at the home of a fiber artist.  Her sewing machine door opened to display the above colorful threads.  It seemed like a good idea for a still life.  In spite of the expense and frustrations I intend to keep on expressing myself artistically as long as possible.  Like many creative people, I can’t help it.