I don’t know what comes over me.
All I know is, Floyd made me that lovely stand so I could have interchangeable garden posts, rather than just the ones stuck deep into the ground. Under the stones there is quite a bit more to that stand, including spikes hammered deep into the ground for stability’s sake. (I should say here that I prefer my yard steel to rust before I clear-coat it, if I clear-coat it at all; and I definitely prefer a clear coat rather than paint.)
Which would be fine, but if you have a landscape full of rocks as you know I do, it seems folly to start arranging them in a small circle around the stand. Because small circles give way to larger circles and I find myself walking around looking for reddish stones, blackish stones, and whitish stones. Meditative, but mad.
What else is there to do? We’ve been having a winter with freezes and clouds and generally unpleasant weather except for the days I spend in a windowless florescent classroom. Such luck.
This is the time of year when I tend to take on projects: knitting, sewing, interior wall and trim painting, even dusting (if all else fails). I think what happened is: the garden post project was going along so well, and I was having so much fun, I must have thought, Why not learn to paint for real? Then I could paint things on my garden posts that actually look like things in the real world. A Facebook friend who is a truly gifted painter challenged me to just go to Michael’s and buy some acrylics and canvases and get going.
So I ran a Google and bought a book.
And went to Michael’s and Amazon and, ultimately, Jerry’s Artarama; settled into my corner of the living room with only a needlework frame for an easel, and jumped in. I’ve been painting every day and actually enjoying it. (Except when it goes very badly, which is about 25% of the time but I don’t know anything about painting and one does have to learn such things!)
Naturally you start out simple.
I have to actively shut out the nagging critic, which is not easy for someone who spent thirteen years in Catholic school. Keep on going with the book.
I have a little notebook of paintable paper, two notebooks of larger paintable paper, a pile of very thin canvas things, and a few half-inch hangable canvas things. It’s fun to have a new obsession, and as I have said before, hobbies are virtually sacred at our house. We firmly believe in hobbies.
One day I deviated from the book, since the Internet is an entire universe filled with people who are happy to teach us things; and I found a Scottish painter who made me think I could do a bird. I even got me a tabletop easel – so nice to have a solid backing rather than the blank air space of a needlework frame!
My needs are simple.
Then I found this place called “Painting with Jane” (Painting with Jane) where a wonderful instructor takes me step by step through some things I really cannot do but wish I could. Like painting a window.
My big raindrops are truly awful, but it’s the technique I’m after here. I am obsessed with being able to paint translucence.
Translucence, and poppies. So then Jane brings out the palette knife and I am so far over my head I can’t see but so what?
We’re here to have fun and evidently painting with a knife is supposed to entail using paint by the pound. But poppies! I really need to be able to paint poppies!
The thing is, I keep thinking I should be drawing things. But I know from my extensive experience in the World Wide Web that painting isn’t really like drawing. There’s a certain leap of faith that must be taken, since these red things don’t look like poppies at all. But somehow you can stand back and your eyes turn them into poppies. Which is amazing.
When I am painting with the book, I am listening to Inspector Gamache books because Clara permits me to be a painter. When I am studying with Jane, I need to listen to her; but she is a wonderful instructor who somehow conveys what she is doing and why in a way even my superannuated brain can absorb.
I love painting with Jane.
Although I hope one day to be able to paint some actual places in my world (rather than painting what the instructor is painting), my landscapes are not to be spoken of. They look flat and stupid and convey the sense that water arrives from the pale sky and down under natural bridges made of stone. Pouring down out of nowhere into an indeterminate future.
Flat, flat, flat. I look forward to learning how to make things appear three dimensional. I look forward (sort of) to taking a class. Having taken my share of writing classes, I know a certain detachment is required in order to absorb criticism well. And while I think I am not so emotionally attached to my acrylic creations that I would run out of a classroom in tears, I imagine it would be difficult to hear, What in the world is happening here?, I know it is a necessary thing. (I am not even going to show you my rendition of “a bunch of bananas,” since there is a big chunk of that exercise where I have no earthly idea what is happening there.)
So that’s what I’ve been up to.
There’s nothing to do in the yard these days except clean out flower beds and take out those denizens of the landscape who clearly did not survive our recent twenty degree episodes. Melted cactus and aloe are so slimy and disgusting I won’t even get into them. The last of the oaks – other than the grand live oak in front – have dropped all their leaves, so clean up is the order of the day. This year, I swear, I am hiring it out.
There’s a spot by the driveway where real life poppies have germinated, and I am very excited to have them. As a painter at this point in my career, I am really a pretty good photographer.
Meanwhile, outside the living room windows, on the steel tree Floyd made for my last birthday, the pansies are a marvel: an oasis of color in a landscape of dull brown and yellow ochre (oops).
They bring me joy every day. Although I brought these baskets into the greenhouse on our coldest nights, the little pansy in a steel planter out front has done just fine, thank you very much. Pansies are made of strong enough stuff to do just fine in a central Texas winter.
This morning the air was cool (high 40s) and damp, yielding a fantastic aura. Travis and I walked toward Hilltop and into the woods. But instead of the the best images coming from the woods, we found them in the trees right close to our house.
Oh, one day to be able to paint images like these!
Go do something you don’t know how to do.