Monday, December 12, 2011

Return to...

...what life is supposed to be without our mother. She requested graveside services only for herself and we went along with her wishes. The services were poignant, sad, beautiful, meaningful, lonely (even with so many surrounding us), but we all survived it. The celebration of her life which followed was all of the above but with some funny stories, as well. My mother's pastor passed around a microphone for anyone who wanted to say anything about my mom and, surprisingly many did have something to say. This was all recorded and will be copied onto CD's for my sister, brother and I. There were some sweet and inspirational things said, as well as funny stories, so it will be a treasure for us to keep.

Onward and upward....

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My mother...

...has passed from this life to be with her Heavenly Father last night. By Saturday night, following her Friday surgery, it appeared that her kidneys were failing and  her condition began to decline. Sunday and yesterday had us seeing her go into and out of consciousness, she seemed to have one foot here in this world and one in the after-life. My sister, brother and I made the difficult decision to remove the meds that were only artificially maintaining her blood pressure in the afternoon and she passed away last night at 11:30. We feel her fast passing validated our decision to not keep her with us artificially as that would not have been her wish. 

As I figure out how to go through the rest of my life as an orphan, I remain thankful for the family I had and that we got to have my mom with us for almost 92 years, and that she was independent and mostly healthy up until the end.

God is good.....Susan

Saturday, December 03, 2011

All is Well...

...although it was another blip on our family's medical radar. My mother, pictured below on Thanksgiving Day, fell and broke her hip Thursday afternoon. Late yesterday she had a total hip replacement, so we had a late night at the hospital. She is doing very well for a 91-year-old, as she says "I am a tough Norwegian"!

Thursday afternoon I started a full sheet painting of Canyon de Chelly. I covered the entire sheet with watercolor, but am considering what I have done so far as the underpainting as I am not so pleased with it. I am considering using either gouache or acrylic paint for the detailing and highlighting. Might be fun, anyway, to try something different along with the watercolor. As soon as I take a photo of what I have done so far, I will post it. But, it is to be considered a work in progress!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Four Generations

My hope for you all is that you had as nice a Thanksgiving as I did! Here you see my mother, my son, me and The Precious Two..Aubrey and Zane. After the rough beginning Zane had it was a true blessing to have him here and hold him as the joyful little person he is today.

Aubrey and Zane's "other" grandparents were here from Oklahoma and we had such a wonderful family day. Lots of good food, fun and doesn't get any better than that!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Five-year Blogoversary!

Yup, I just realized that I past my fifth year blogoversary without noting it happening! I was reading Rhonda Carpenter's blog where she mentioned that today is her fifth year anniversary, and I went to the archives to see just exactly when I submitted my first tentative blog entry. Yup, it was on October 11, 2006! This blog, as well as the others I follow almost daily, have become an important part of my personal, soul-wise and every-other-wise I can think of! I just love following along on the artistic journeys of others as well as getting a peek into their thoughts and lives as we grow together.

Thanks to Google for making this an easy-to-do and important part of our lives!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Chinle Color

Canyon de Chelly is part of the Navajo town of Chinle. In the town itself, all of the cottonwoods were at their peak, as opposed to those at the bottom of the canyon, which were just approaching that phase. These old cottonwoods sure know how to put on a display, there were groves of them around Chinle that seemed to turn the whole atmosphere golden while driving through.

Another Pano

This is yet another pano I have stitched together of Canyon de Chelly last week. It was from a series of seven photos, the color that day was just magnificent.

Beautiful Deer

While driving around the rim of Canyon de Chelly, we turned into a long drive into an overlook. This deer was crossing the road ahead of us, Tom slowed down as it disappeared into the brush. But, when we got to where we had last seen it, she was just standing there waiting for us. He rolled down his window and I shot this through the open window.

While I am hardly a wildlife painter, this one is calling to me because of the lovely light and dark contrasts, plus this is a beautiful animal.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Canyon de Chelly Panorama 1

We took a six-day trip to the Gallup, NM area and just got back yesterday afternoon. I still have lots to unpack from the motorhome, but I just couldn't wait to stitch together one of the panorama shots I took. This one is a ten-photo pano and shows the beauty of the canyon floor and walls. We have been there a few times before, but never in the Fall, and I am so happy we got to see the cottonwood trees at their peak. I have lots of single photos of the most colorful trees and will add those as soon as I get unpacked. We were there on a perfect weather day and enjoyed our day a lot.

PS...As usual, to view this in a larger format, please click on the photo. Saving a file that has ten high resolution photos makes such a huge file that I had to keep making the stitched photo smaller so it would save properly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Next Victim (er...I mean Painting)

This is a photo I took years ago while visiting Sabino Canyon near Tucson, AZ. I chose to paint this photo on a full sheet of paper because:
  • I want to get the perspective correct of this canyon
  • I want to get better at painting boulders and rocks
  • I love the sunlight hitting all the elements coming from the right and want that contrast to show
  • I am a glutton for punishment
I have painted this one much earlier in my painting life and it was not a success since I couldn't do any of the above (well, except for the last bulleted item), so it will be a fun challenge to see if I can do any better at this point. I am wondering where this flop of my first painting is, if I can pull this one off I will post the first one so we can see if there is any improvement! Otherwise, neither will see the light of day.

Hang with me for some serious hand-holding....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grandchildren A-Z - Final

I finally have had this critiqued "enough" and have decided this is my final painting of Aubrey and Zane. Not my last one ever, but my last effort with this one!

I want to leave it with the tender softness I achieved and will not go for more defined contrasts, so will stop adding to anything. Poor little Zane's face has been scrubbed out so many times it will not allow me to make any more changes.

From the latest photos I have seen of him he has filled out a lot and doesn't look anything like this rendition anyway, so will chalk it up to Grandma's artistic license! At any rate, this is ready to be framed and go up on my Grandma's Gallery.

PS...For those who saw my earlier post, I deleted it since I had raised the contrast a bit and darkened the photo a bit before sending it along. After I saw it on the blog I decided I had overstepped how this looks in real life. When I look at Aubrey's left cheek in real life, it does NOT look like she has mumps! I am not sure why the camera picked up that look, but it doesn't do justice to the painting. Sigh.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grandchildren A-Z WIP 5

I am thinking I am crazy for even showing anyone this version. At this point I have so very much to do to make this better that I should be ashamed. But, here is where I stopped yesterday. Poor little Zane is just not right, I misread the reference photo and gave him too skinny of a neck and misplaced his left eye, too high.

Aubrey is doing better, but I still need to sculpt her face better. I notice a lot just by posting a painting on this blog, forces me to look at it from afar and see what my eyes missed in person. Grrrr.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grandchildren A-Z WIP 4

I worked on this during today's Thursday afternoon watercolor painting session. I still have much to go, but due to spot-on critiques during my efforts I see where I still have to soften some edges, soften some darks, and continue to make Aubrey look more like a 5-year-old instead of older than that. Zane's features  will suffice when I make the hard lines softer and define his little features better, as well as the shadows, but it will all come in time. I have truly loved working on this one and will continue on....either to the scrap pile or to a framed painting!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grandchildren A-Z WIP 2

I couldn't leave this alone, so did a few more shadow washes here and there and started defining their faces. I now have to force myself to leave it alone for awhile as I am starting to go for too much detail, too soon, and will mess it up if I continue.

That dark shape to the upper right corner of the painting is a shadow from a twig when I took the photo outside. I completely missed seeing that in the photo and am too lazy go out back and retake it. Please just pretend it isn't there?

Grandchildren A-Z WIP 1

This has been  a bad week for creativity for me, so I just got back to this painting this morning.

I have done the initial skin washes for both Aubrey and Zane, and have started laying in some of the shadows. Since the negatively-painted shadows will form the shapes of their bodies, I am trying to remember that shadows are my friend! Right now, I am scared of 'em and just trying to control my values. I will mainly work on painting the GK's and then do the furniture and background since if I flub those, it won't matter what the rest of it looks like. Lots to go on the shadows, though....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grandchildren A-Z - Drawing

In my Artbuddies group, another artist (sue Drennan) and I have challenged ourselves to paint our grandchildren's portraits from more challenging photos.

The reference photo for this is definitely more challenging since it was shot in the shade and showed little more than fuzzy details of their anatomies in most places. I ended up tracing the outline where I could and drawing in the rest. At best, I can only hope my negative painting and shadows depict Aubrey's hands more like her delicate ones than a cave man's hands! I also hope to make poor little Zane's head look less like ET as it is now. Stick with me on this one, it is going to be a kick/challenge/frustration/joy to paint!

I snapped this photo right after stretching it so the wrinkles should be gone when it is dry. I will take it to art with me tomorrow to start painting (shaking in my booties with both excitement and trepidation here!).

Friday, September 09, 2011

Captain Smith's Cabin - Final?

Well, I could not just leave this alone, so this afternoon I played with it some more, adding some more refined darks here and there as well as lifting more highlights out of the shingles, etc. It feels great to have finished another one, if it is indeed finished.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Capatin Smith's Cabin - WIP 5

This is where I finished for today. I made the foreground much more lush than in the reference photo, more like after a rainy Spring? I have some ponderin' to do with this, as I want to refine it a bit more and add some more shadows on the bare ground of the foreground and do a better job with the middle ground sage brush. this is enough for today, anyway. Another fun afternoon painting with my art buds.

Captain Smith's Cabin - WIP 4

I took this to the watercolor group this afternoon and enjoyed working on it some more. Here, I have defined the huge boulder on the side and started adding color to the cabin stones and shingles.

I keep saying I am going to stop using masking fluid as I hate the hard lines it leaves, but then I use it again, anyway. I am running low on it and will resolve to buy no more until I see if I can do better without it.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Commercial Break

I am taking a short break from my own art to share what my son, Patrick, just sent of Aubrey's newest art medium...Dry Erase Markers. I can see that being in kindergarten for just one week has made her paintings more sophisticated!

Aubrey is my pot of gold under my rainbow!

Next stages of Captain Smith's Cabin

 After the purple acrylic ink was dry, I did a wash with warm quin gold as an underpainting to start the sky and set the warm tones for this painting. I sometimes like having a warm yellow sky to show that it is a sunny, warm day.
This is the third stage where I stopped. I need to study this background a bit more after it completely dries and see what needs to be lifted, what needs to have the edges softened, etc. I want to completely finish the background, though, before starting the middle and foreground.

I wish I had made the quin gold glaze a bit darker, so will probably take care of that before I start anything else.

Captain Smith's Cabin

Our WcW project for September is to paint something abandoned. While looking through PMP (Paint My Photo), I came across this and decided to use this reference photo instead of one of the many hundreds of abandoned buildings I have taken photos of but not used.

I decided to use the grisaille method of underpainting, but use my fav purple for the underpainting. The gray you see is the Pebeo Drawing gum I used for the resist where I wanted the lightest lights to be.

I'll keep posting as I go along, or until I give up on this...whichever comes first!

PS...In neglected to say the reference photo was courtesy of  Cindy Blevins and she said it was in Escalante Canyon in Colorado. Looks like many in Utah I have seen, though.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Hour of Fun with Gesso

First, my big announcement! I spent the last two days rearranging and reorganizing my studio and it is so much better now! I didn't have the heart to even come in here and try to paint since I couldn't find anything and it would have used up all of my motivation and inspiration just to clear a space and find something I needed. It was bad! So, now I am ready to go, and this is the result.

Last week I gesso-ed over two failed paintings on Arches paper, while they were still on the boards. Today, I had an hour to play and that led to this painting. I just kept using my bedraggled cutter brush with half the hairs missing (great for foliage texture!) and lifting and dabbing until I quit at this point. In self-critiquing this, I see the my atmospheric perspective is off and, even though this mountain stream did tumble downhill I think I have it too much that way. Oh well, it is what it is at this point. Since the paper has gesso on its surface, I may go in and change the course of that upper part of the stream, but maybe not. It served its purpose of getting me back into the studio and actually using it as a studio instead of a storage room for everything I didn't know where to put elsewhere. Bad Susan!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mendenhall Ice Floes

This was one of the two August projects for the Watercolor Workshop this month. I actually did both of the projects, the first time this year I think! The theme was to paint something that looked cool, and this fit the bill the best I could find. Not my greatest work, but passable to show I am actually painting some now. I wish I was there right now...we have had record-breaking heat this week and it really is hard to make ourselves go outside for anything.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Green Project by Aubrey!

This is a painting, by my Aubrey, on cardboard ( to reduce, reuse and recycle!) As you can probably tell, it is of a car and painted using the brushes I sent to her recently.

Go recycle and you rock!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

August Project For WcW

This is my submission for the Watercolor Workshop August project, which is where we all paint from one photo, provided this month by Jane James. It is supposed to be depicting something "cool" while we all fight the heat this summer. Unfortunately, I just cannot force myself to mix cool greens and blues! I seem always to reach for the warm golds and go with that.

This is supposedly a scene in Maine, I have never seen this kind of pine tree so was not sure I depicted it correctly.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Silverton to Ouray

After weeks of not working on this, I finally finished it yesterday while painting with the Thursday afternoon watercolor group. We critiqued this and deemed it finished. Now, on to painting.....what?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Loop 303 Finished

 While we were gone for a month, the DOT guys finished the northern end of Loop 303, which makes a bypass through the city to connect I-10 to I-17. This takes you through the desert in places we have not seen, which surprised us as we were driving on the other side of the mountains and hills we had only seen from one side.

This part of the desert was surprisingly green for this time of the year. Most of what we see is summer brown on the desert.
One view that impressed me, and which I failed to adequately show in this photo, is the amount of horizontal planes reaching to infinity with these mountains. Living on the valley's desert floor, it always amazes me to see these mountains this way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home at Last!

Finally, our son and DIL were able to bring little Zane home from the hospital this afternoon. Also this was Big Sister Aubrey's first time to see her baby brother in person and to hold him as she was not allowed near the NICU.

She looks very pleased, however Zane is very non-committal at this point! Happy, happy day indeed!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Better Photo

I have been waiting to update Zane's first photo here until there were no more tubes and his little eyes were open, and here it is! Patrick had just fed him a lot of milk and he said Zane looked like he was so full...milk drunk!

If all continues to go well, he can go home Wednesday afternoon...Hallelujuh! What a cutie!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zane Patrick

 I wish to announce the arrival of our new grandchild, Zane Patrick, to our family. Unfortunately, he aspirated meconium into his lungs at birth (a fairly common complication of birth) and has to be in the NICU for at least ten days while they treat the pneumonia and help his lungs to heal, but we are hopeful that there will be no further complications.

I like the name they chose! I can now say I have grandchildren!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Silverton to Ouray

 One day while in Chama, we drove the long trip to Silverton, CO. We had lunch at the Silverton Brewery, where in addition to a good lunch I had a glass of Bear Ass Brown Ale, which was yummy.

This old truck was in front of the pub and many people were posing in front of it for photos.
 After lunch we drove from Silverton almost all of the way to Ouray, a mountain mining town. The evidence of minerals changed as we climbed up toward Ouray. Look at these colors!
 One of the stunning views, along with the snows that were still prevalent at the 10,000 foot elevation.
This is a mining building that I recognized immediately from a photo a friend shot a few years ago and gave me permission to paint. Now, I was seeing it and photographing it myself.
 This is a vista that I brought back to the motorhome and started painting it. You will sorta/kinda recognize this from my version of it in a previous post here. I still have a few more things to do with the painting since I am home now.
This is another of the photos I took with a thought to paint it. Our project for the month of July at the Watercolor Workshop online site is shadows. When I was reviewing this I knew I had to give this one a try for the project painting.

Foxes Revisited Again This Year

 I will begin adding a few photos from our month in Chama, NM here on the blog since we have returned home. For security reasons, I decided not to turn this blog into a travelog this trip and let everyone online know our house was not occupied for a month! So, this will be a retrospective of some of what we saw.

We had a very relaxing trip, preferring this time to not scour the countryside every day while there, mainly because we wanted to relax and we had already seen everything in all four directions on our previous trips to this area.

While doing laundry, I was overlooking the neighbor's property which had a large pile of rubbish, mainly fallen timber, but with some junk interwoven. In this enormous pile was a family of foxes, a mama and three babies.

I grabbed my camera and telephoto lens and started snapping multiple photos. This is the mama, striding from our RV park meadow to skirt around to the neighboring property to take food to her youngsters.

She arrived onto the woodpile and dropped some food off for her babies. She was very warily watching me as I kept recording her movements and probably thought I posed a danger to her babies. Not so...I only shoot with my camera, Mama !
 This is my fav photo of the bunch...look at that little baby peeking out in the center of the photo!

The babies were more of a brown than the adult mother, I guess that is normal. I know less than nothing about foxes, other than I love watching them and photographing them.

Last SWAP Painting

I have been including the paintings I have received from the SWAP (Sharing With Artist Partners) group online and here is the latest one. My SWAP partner was Brenda Knoll and she sent this cutie-pie bluebird to me. Sadly, this will be our last swap, but I have amassed quite the gallery of lovely paintings from all over the world through the years I have belonged to this group and I treasure them all, as well as their artists as friends.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Silverton to Ouray - WIP 2

I worked on this again yesterday, getting it to the point where I have to decide what HAS to be done and what would just be considered "fiddling". I want to push the mountain farther back; it, in real life, is too demanding of attention to be so far back there. I also need to add some modeling to the pine trees in the foreground. But, all-in-all I still am liking this one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Silverton to Ouray

I have started another painting, this time from a photo I took of the scene from the 550 highway (Million Dollar Highway) that connects Silverton, CO to Ouray, CO. I loved the view with the mountains behind and the alpine valley below. There is still masking fluid on the mountains to be removed, so will do that and fine-tune that area next. So far, so good.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Great Horned Owl - Reprocessed

I reprocessed this photo to more closely match the painting colors. I don't know why it was recorded as being such a cold tone before; the painting is done in warm colors, except for the shadows for contrast.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great Horned Owls - final

I have decided to quit picking on these poor owls and call this one finished. It has been enjoyable working on them but I am ready to go forth and do something else.

If anyone  sees anything glaringly wrong with this let me know and I will consider making the changes. I'll submit it for critique, also, at the WcW, but for now it is done.

PS...Now that I see this photo of the painting online, I see that it is grayer than the actual painting. I will try again to photograph it in different light.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Great Horned Owls WIP 2

Trying once again here to upload this so the poor owls are not standing on their heads!

I will be adding more glazes of color as I go on with this and, hopefully, refining the edges here need be and then on to the owls. Baby horned owls are without their tufts and they look so adorable, instead of intense as their parents.

Great Horned Owls

This is the underpainting of a photo provided, once again, by my friend Roch Hart of NM Jeep Tours. I am trying to upload the photo showing my next phase of the first glazes and it keeps uploading upside down! I will have to see what is going on but I have worked on this past the underpainting. Grrrr!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mountain Cascade

After working on this larger painting for a month of Thursday afternoons, I am nearing the finish line. I would appreciate another set of eyes for one question. I chose to not detail the tall pines behind the focal point tree, choosing to leave them dark, almost in silhouette. I felt this set them back nicely. As I worked forward I did more detail on those pines but chose to go lighter with the values in the foreground. I know this is counter to the atmospheric perspective rules but I did it anyway. Do you think it works in reverse?

This painting is on a piece of 16 x 28 Yupo paper. It is really fun to work large on Yupo, just throw lots of paint on there!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Another Photo-less Post

The reason this is photo-less is I was lost in the moment of serendipity and didn't grab my camera. I was at the computer and kept hearing this metallic ding-ding sound. I knew there were quail out on our patio and I began hearing a different quail noise, so went to investigate. We have a vault-type meat smoker on the patio, all of it being made of stainless steel. A male quail had seen his own reflection in one of the legs of this smoker and thought it was an interloper, so he was madly pecking at the smoker leg and the interloper reflection was mimicking his moves (of course) and he was getting more and more upset and pecking faster and faster. He would dart to the side and the reflection would do the same and he was scurrying every which-way trying to vanquish his foe. It was hysterical to see.

And what do you think his girlfriend was doing during all of this battle for her affection? Just prancing around, totally unaffected by the battle.

Pardon me for this bit of fluff today, but I thought it amusing and worth sharing. Next time, I will try to take a photo if I can, but I have never seen this scene playing out and may never see it again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For Our Less Fortunate Friends

No photos, no paintings, just thoughts for this morning. For my readers who have survived the terrible destruction for the past few weeks wherever you are, I am praying for you and those who have lost everything. I feel so very unworthy for complaining as the desert starts its inexorable heat-up because I know what is coming and dread it. But, now I know I have something very petty to complain about in the face of those who have lost so many and so much. I don't know if it is more stressful to watch the flood waters coming assuredly your way and know that it will soon engulf all you have worked for or more stressful to not know when a killer tornado is going to come. Either way, I feel for all who are going through such stress and will continue to pray for your comfort and safety.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Have Returned!

 We had a five-night motorhome trip, the first one since our miserable year of poor health has not allowed us to travel. All went well, although after unpacking the motorhome we are very tired today, with lots more left to do! It was fun while it lasted, though!

We traveled to the bottom of the Grand Canyon through the road at the west entrance, this was our second time to do this. Fortunately this time we were there at the right time to see all of the wild flowers blooming. There were these beaver tail cactus, ocotillo, brittle bush, Indian paintbrush, desert marigolds, globe mallows...all blooming in profusion. There were parts of the area that had so many octotillo in bloom that it looked like a forest of them, all of them with their red flags waving.

When we were almost at the Colorado River, we were driving through a stream bed. There was runoff coming downhill from all directions, forming Diamond Creek which empties into the river at the base of the canyon. Here is a small cascade we saw. Being a desert native, I am always captivated by rushing water of any kind!
 We drove to the Hoover Dam, as neither of us has seen it. I climbed to the Memorial Plaza to cross the pedestrian bridge alongside the big bridge to see the back side of the dam. It is a long way down to the bottom!
Here is the memorial bridge, named in memory of Pat Tillman and one other person (I am chagrined to think I didn't write down the other person's name and now cannot remember it!). This is a very long span, completed last year.
Here is one of the most Grand Canyon-esque views as we neared the canyon. Please note the blooming octotillo at the left, in the foreground. This is where the journey got so much more picturesque. We were driving at the bases of these buttes at this point.