Little What's His Name

For an excitable little dog, he's been very patient. Watson joined our family in January 2015 and I've finally finished his portrait, which I started months ago… painting is my moonlighting job, so life often gets in the way!

We adopted Watson from the local shelter where he had been surrendered by his owners just before Christmas. He was estimated to be about 11 months old and responded well to his distinguished name. We figured we better not change it to Jethro, which would have gone well with his new older sister Ellie Mae. However, we kept struggling to remember his name. He was called Winston, Wilson, Wallace, and other "w" names as we tried to adjust. We even called him Mr. Bates since we were into watching Downton Abbey and Watson followed each of us whenever we went from room to room like a faithful valet.

His cuteness was hard to resist right from the start, and Watson had other good qualities which made me reluctantly agree to make him the third dog in our Two Dog Ranch family. (Was I dreaming when I came up with that name for our property years back, thinking we'd never have more than 2 dogs?!) Our middle dog, Maggie Mae - just one year older - had been the puppy from h#!@; fortunately she has matured into a sweetie, although with an independent spirit. Watson was house-trained, got alone with our other dogs and cats, didn't chew stuff, barked only when necessary, and was a great size at 35lbs. Other than the spins he goes into when he gets excited at the mention of a walk or a ride, he's a great little pooch. I'm happy to add him to my dog gallery.

I've done many custom pet portraits and dogs are one of my favorite subjects. Get details about sizes, prices, tips on taking reference photos and more on my website.

October: Don't Worry - Be Creative

Many people are afraid to try painting or other artwork, often to avoid failure or criticism. I can understand; it took me many years of painting until I felt comfortable even saying "I am an artist." This post is not about painting - it's about putting art into your everyday life. Dare to be creative and have fun! It can be the first step to turning yourself into an artist.

I choose this topic for my special October message and delayed until month's end, since fall and Halloween season provides many opportunities to be creative. The tray of cookies pictured at the top of the post was my most recent creative adventure, baked for a Halloween party I just attended. I simply found a cookie recipe I liked (in this case a spice cookie which would use some of the huge crop of organic sweet potatoes I just harvested) and used the recipe's icing to drizzle ghost shapes. With currants for eyes, upside-down chocolate morsels for a round nose, and a fake blood-stained cloth, I completed the effect. I used the same dough and my dog-biscuit cutter to make some of them into bones, served in a dog bowl, since I created my costume was as one of my dogs, sweet Darla. Nothing fancy, but fun.

Additional photos here illustrate some other ways I use artistic touches, in decorating, cooking, gifts, hobbies, yard art, and costumes. The internet is full of inspiration, new ideas, and how-to instructions on most any topic you can think of. I encourage you to put an artistic touch on things you enjoy doing! 

An Artsy Month

During October I am taking part in a lot of art events, which is unusual for me! Beginning this weekend, I'll be setting up booths for show and for sale at two different events. I'll be exhibiting original paintings, limited and open edition prints, and notecards. If you are in my area, please come say hello!

Sat/Sun, October 14-15, 2017:
The Coker Creek Tennessee ANNUAL GOLD FESTIVAL will be held on the grounds of the elementary school at mile marker 34 on TN Hwy 68 in the beautiful mountains, from 9-4 each day. Most vendors will be on the green in front of the school building, but several artists have been invited to exhibit indoors. Be sure to find me in the Ruritan Building, which is to the right of the school. It's where lunch will be served each day, so just follow the signs!

Saturday, October 28, 2017:
The 2nd Annual Cherohala SKYWAY FESTIVAL will be held under a huge tent at the Charles Hall Museum on the Cherohala Skyway in Tellico Plains TN from 9am-4pm. This event was great fun and a huge success last year, so plan to bring the family. I will have a booth of my artwork and I will be on the stage from 12:00 - 12:45pm playing my fiddle and banjo with the Two Dog Ranch Bluegrass Band.

I'm also honored to be invited to make a presentation to the members of the Art Guild at Tellico Village next week. I have prepared a powerpoint presentation about me and my artwork, titled "The Nerdy Artist," so that should be fun. I also hope to have my 2018 calendars back from the printer and debut them there.

In addition to these events, I'm also working on a new painting which I am very excited about, and I plan to feature that on this blog very soon - assuming I can find some time to paint!

September: Landscapes

I love the creative opportunities I have when designing and painting a landscape. If I'm not depicting a "landmark," as I described in my August post, then I have the freedom to invent my own scene. As I've mentioned in the past, I keep a big reference file of my own digital photos, from which I have fun borrowing and combining elements when painting a landscape.

I often create landscapes with one main focal point, like a building or an old vehicle. Then my challenge is to give the focal point a "setting." This focal point somewhat dictates the other elements I choose to incorporate into the scene, since I want it to look plausible and realistic. The old truck in "Out To Pasture" (shown above) seemed suitably positioned with an old barn in the background. If I'm working from a photo I took of my focal point when it was partly in shadow and partly in the sun, I want to make the whole scene looks sunny, and choose other elements which are lit by the sun from the same direction. Sounds kind of obvious, but this takes some extra effort. I also want to select other elements to add to the scene that logically go with my subject - an old farm tractor under a palm tree on a city street would not suit me!

"Elle's Tobacco Planter," in which an old piece of farm equipment is my focal point, is another example of a landscape scene I dreamed up. In reality, the tobacco planter is located on the side of a gravel driveway in a fairly wooded area. By creating a winter setting with a simpler background, the tobacco planter - my focal point - stands out and gets more attention.

Where I position my focal point within the scene is my first design decision. A landscape is composed with layers of depth, from the most distance to the closest elements. For example, the sky would be the furthest point away, with distant hills or mountains or woods next, closer buildings or trees in front of those, and foreground elements in the front. This is often the order I follow when painting a landscape with acrylic paints - painting the parts furthest back first, and overlapping until I reach the front. My tendency is to position the focal point closer to the foreground than to the background, but back far enough for me to have other elements in front of it. This might be as simple as putting the puddle in front of the truck in "Out To Pasture."

"Aerial perspective" (aka "atmospheric perspective") is a painting technique used for centuries to create the illusion of depth in a landscape painting. You've seen this yourself as you look at distant mountains; those furthest away are fainter, lighter in color, less detailed, sometimes out of focus, and "cooler" tones than nearer mountains. Such distant landscape components often look like there is a white/blue haze over them. When I'm painting with acrylics, I sometimes actually mix up a semi-transparent glaze with white and a small amount of blue paint and brush it over the most distant elements to make them appear to be far far away. I used this concept when painting the mountains of "Elle's Tobacco Planter" (I actually depicted the mountain view from my front porch). "Out To Pasture" was painted in watercolor, and for the most distant trees I let various shades of green paint mix together on wet paper to soften the look. The background hill in "November" is very soft and lacking details, nearly blending into the grey sky, but you still read it as trees.

"Linear perspective" is another artist's technique to create depth and dimension. If you were to stand in the middle of railroad tracks, you'd see as they recede into the distance it appears that the two rails get closer and closer together. In my painting "Out In Elkton" I use this concept for the roadway on the right, for the trees which line the road, and for the fence rails on the left; each of these getting smaller as they head into the distance. Linear perspective can also be applied to a building. In "November," if you were to lay two rulers on the smaller shed building, you'd see that the line which defines bottom edge of the roof and the line which defines the ground level on that side of the building get closer and closer together as they go off into the distance to the left.

Try creating your own landscape!

August: Landmarks

My watercolor of "Rodrigues-Avero-Sanchez House," a historic building in the Old City of St. Augustine, Florida, was one of the first landmarks I ever painted. It was interesting to depict the five flags which represent phases in the city's 450+ years of European settlement, as well as showing the local coquina-stone masonry first floor construction, reflecting one of the city's Spanish periods, and second story of wood and clapboards, reflecting the English period of rule.

"Morning Has Broken"
"Bayfront St. Augustine"
Many artists document their travels with paintings of famous landmarks and sites. Painting workshops are offered to beautiful destinations all over the world, providing new inspiration, variations in climate, and even different lighting conditions than an artist might experience at home. I've never found any problem being inspired by the wonderful places I've called home, and I've also been blessed to have had great travel opportunities… many of which have resulted in paintings.

While living in St. Augustine, Florida, the nation's oldest continuously settled city, I was surrounded with history as well as tropical oceanside beauty. "Morning Has Broken" is one of several paintings I did of the docks on the San Sebastian River, home to a fleet of shrimp boats. In fact, I used to buy seafood right off the boats at the building on the far right in this painting. As with many "landmarks" I have painted, this scene changed drastically as years went by; the riverfront became more valuable for other real estate uses and the shrimping businesses folded. I was glad that I had preserved part of the past in my artwork.

"Bayfront St. Augustine" is a painting I was commissioned to create to depict the Oldest City's beautiful waterfront. The owner of St. Francis Inn, a wonderful historic B&B in the Old City, wanted me to highlight many aspects of the scene, including the Bridge of Lions, a horse and carriage, palm trees, and the blue Matanzas River. He wanted a painting which his guests might take home as prints and notecards in memory of their visit. I created this painting fairly true to reality, but in a slightly idealized and simplified manner; I eliminated motor vehicles, telephone poles and wires, traffic lights, parking spaces, pedestrians, and other distractions. I included just a few moored boats, viewing the scene so the busy city marina just off to the right wouldn't be depicted. All part of artistic license!

"Citico Church"
A couple of paintings inspired by my travels are also shown here. My husband Rick is a private pilot and we took some terrific trips in our own planes. "Stairway To Heaven" resulted from one of many visits to the Southwest. The building shown is the Museum of Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico - a paradise for anyone interested in art. "Hope Town Harbor Light" shows the distinctive lighthouse and harbor on the island of Hope Town in the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas. "Bald River Falls" was one of the first landmarks I visited when I first explored Southeast Tennessee, and I created the autumn painting of the waterfall a few years after moving to the area permanently.

"Citico Church" is a painting I created as a commission for my friend Mitch. To him, it is an important family landmark, as the country church his family attended with a cemetery filled with many of his ancestors. Mitch owns the original painting, but also had me create prints which he shared with many friends and family who likewise have a special place in their hearts for the pretty white church.

I'm posting this on the eve of a historic event which will likely fill social media with images, but one which I won't be commemorating with a painting. A total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017, and will be viewable within a 70-mile wide path across the USA. My hometown is smack in the middle of it, however I'm not inspired to paint darkness! Should be interesting to experience anyway, with crowds traveling to prime viewing sites to witness the 2-1/2 minutes of the moon blocking out the sun.