Pelicans

Art is so extremely subjective, that bringing someone you don’t know much about a painting sight-unseen can be “risky business”.  Choosing one out of my collection that is of that person’s local environment seemed to be a safer course, as this would be a gift.

A family lost everything they had in a house fire, and I really wanted to help in any small way to restore their abode. In my life, books and art are at the forefront of activities and interest, so that is what I brought for them to sort through and choose from.

I was really blessed when the woman looked at the painting of pelicans and declared that would be perfect for her husband, because he loves the birds.

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“Morning Throw Bill” – 20″ x 30″ – Oil ©Bohlender

I enjoyed the pelicans along the gulf coast, their communal living and primeval appearance. Their fishing was exciting to watch, as they dive and catch.

Other pelican pieces painted include these two:

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“Lovely To See You Again” – 22″ x 28″ – Oil ©Bohlender

“Lovely to See You Again” was donated to an Air Force fund raising effort. I do not know who owns this piece, but I loved the “comedy” in their communion.

 

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“Friendly Gossip” – 16″x 16″ – Oil ©Bohlender

The comfortable fold of their webbed feet, the apparent interest of the one who is listening to the one joyfully divulging its treasured bit of juicy news.

This piece is a permanent part of my own collection.

 

San Antonio Sunshine

We went on a road trip recently, joining I-10 from El Paso, Texas all the way out to Alabama.

We drove as far as Ft. Stockton the first day. There we learned that there is a booming oil business happening, with “drilling going on all over the place”, and they just could not find enough help. There were plenty of new hotels there in Ft. Stockton, at a little higher than normal prices because of the demand.

Our goal was to make it to San Antonio the second day, without too strained of an effort.

It was cold, windy and overcast the three days we were there. It was cold, windy, raining and overcast the entire week I was there not too long ago. It was a little disappointing, but I did get to watch TV, which I don’t do all that often.

San Antonio is growing rapidly, with new housing going up everywhere. The city has two loops around it, and is said to be the 7th largest city in the USA now. I truly love the older part of San Antonio. I love the River Walk and the missions. I used to enjoy the Greenhouse Gallery, but they sold it years back and it is not there anymore.

This post is more about the memories of the sunshine, though I do plan a series of watercolors using the West Texas hill country, fog, scrubby trees projecting out of the fog, and ravens. In my mind, it seems Edgar Allen Poe-ish. But on to the sunshine.

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All God’s Creatures – 30″x 20″ – Oil

“All God’s Creatures” is one of my favorites, but it is a little busy for some people’s living rooms. I love the color and movement in this painting. I was impressed with three different cultures of people all forgetting everything and enjoying the family of ducks going by. They became happy, stopping to look, even glancing at each other occasionally with brief smiles. Sometimes we forget to look at other people, staying in our own world, but animals and babies seem to be a “protection umbrella” under which we feel safe enough to acknowledge other human beings. It was a sunny day at the River Walk.

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“Hot Dog” – About 24″x 18″ image area – Watercolor

Down toward the Alamo, there was a hot dog stand under the bright and happy umbrella. I was amused by the baggy drawers on the young man, and the man observing him cynically. Now in my cruder language, if someone is doing fancy deeds, showing off  or doing silly things, I might refer to them as a “hot dog”. So I thought this young man might be doing “silly things”. He is actually the Hot Dog, but the Hot Dog Stand deserved to be equally honored.

I love the lighting at the Hot Dog stand, the shadows – equally in All God’s Creatures. The sun was warm, then, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

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“Lady in Red” – about 10″x 16″ image area – Watercolor

So much goes on at the River Walk, people moving happily about, light and shadows, lots of color… even purple table cloths. Pigeons sometimes land on tables to clean up left-overs, but I didn’t notice any at this place. What I did notice was this graceful woman in a red dress. She may have been a hostess, or just there breathing, and I found her enchanting. She stood out in many ways besides the color of her dress, but her grace affected me.

This was a happy one to paint, layers and layers of light and color, a lot of activity and varying lines. And the lady in red.

So there truly are sunny days in San Antonio, they just didn’t happen this time through. I will make it to these wonderful places again, in the sunshine.

I loved painting some of the missions as well, the light and shadows, lines and textures. But that is for another time.

This painting is in a private collection in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

 

Another’s Seasons of Passing Through

Lately I questioned creating without showing the work. It was a retirement experience, yet art does not retire. I am grateful. Every day there is still the work to listen to and work on.

It is a happy gift to realize when someone tells you your art has affected their life, that the Lord has – through His grace – worked through the work to touch another human being. Either as creating artists or sharers in viewing, there is a quiet sweetness knowing that we have listened, and we are heard.

This is most of a message received recently:  “I am familiar with your work… I purchased a painting of a chair facing a fence. You said it was part of a series painted when you had faced several personal losses. This email is in reference to two other pieces in this series depicting a woman sitting in a rocker and a second one where the woman is standing holding one arm – …

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The Empty Chair – Oils

Currently in my life there seem to be lot of things going nowhere and I remembered these paintings. I told you at the time that what I saw in those pictures was hope; a person who was tired, even very sad. Someone who just had to stop for a while and let the feelings of sadness, loss, despair, weariness pass over – but someone who would pick up and move on. Life was not over, just a season that must be lived through. A place all of us experience at least once in our lives.

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Title – 36″x 48″- Oil

Today, during a time of prayer, those two pictures came vividly to my mind. They ministered hope and encouragement that brought tears to my eyes and a joy to my heart. I was hoping to find pictures of them online. Failing that, I found a way to contact you and let you know just how much they ministered to me. I love my picture of the chair. When I look at it I see hope, faith, expectation. Thank you Jean for sharing your life in your art.”

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“The Empty Nester” – 24″x 48″ – Oil

I thank you for your letter – it is a very encouraging blessing to me – a reminder that we really are “passing through” a place that is not our home …. and difficult times that build “an eternal weight of glory.” That we have our expectation in Christ.

It seems that all three paintings were prepared for my first one man show, entitled “Passing Through – Seasons of Mid-Life.” Amen. Passing seasons…

“The Empty Chair” is in a private collection in Arizona, Sadness is in Washington State, and “The Empty Nester” is in a private collection in Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Business

Ranchers. Cowboys. There aren’t too many of those around most places. They are a unique breed of people. Like farmers, they have to know a lot about a lot of things, from machinery, animals, feed values, accounting, commodity markets, on and on. There is no specialized area of their occupation. But it is a specialized occupation all together. Under that unique type of hat that most cowboys and ranchers wear, they have to “wear many hats”.

A lot of farms and ranches are still family businesses, working together, learning what the other family members know to keep the business possible in today’s economy. I have discovered also that each family operation is uniquely run from all similar operations, varying skills employed and philosophies about their business.

Every one that I have witnessed seems to be the same, however, in their love, obligation and responsibility to the land and to the animals. They also seem to be very willing to help each other in any way when it is needed.

I thought I might write a few stories about the times I was invited into some of these ranches, camera in tow. This is the first “installment”, featuring a father and son. I was blessed with the generosity of the the ranch owners, the hands and friends who allowed me into their work and personal space. Some even had fun with it.

The rancher in this series has been featured in other artist’s work before. He has a natural personality that tells tales and whoppers without a word being spoken. Yet, his skill level is not a tale or whopper. He seems to know what he is about pretty well.

Before Picasso painted abstracts and distortions, he painted realism quite well. I think before a cowboy can be relaxed and play, he has to excel in his trade. I think that because of this man, with the rope and also painted leading the horse.

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The Roper – 36″ x 12″ – Oil

“The Roper” was taken from the ground, looking up on the cowboy seated on his horse. He swings his rope, placing the lasso under the back feet of a running calf. Cowboys catch the animals, treat them as humanely as possible while vaccinating them etc., and quickly return the calves to the mother cows.

“The Roper” is in Colorado now, private collection.

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Happy Trails – 20″x 20″ – Oil

“Happy Trails” depicts the rancher’s son, riding the periphery of the herd after the cows were herded towards the fences, being held in a group until moving further, or until the strays were gathered. He and his horse seemed more actively inclined that day, than the cowboys and horses that calmly rode into the herd to cull.

“Happy Trails” is in a private collection in New Mexico.

Jim

“Jim” – watercolor

This simple little watercolor caught the joy and spirit of Jim pretty well, I thought. He had a good time in his work, here shown leading his horse.

The background of the watercolor is white, but the only photo I have of this painting was taken under a lightbulb which showed yellow. Ah, I don’t know why I did that when I know better. However, I do have a record of the work, and that is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Farrier & His Horse Named Finn

Remember I talked about my friend’s coffee shop? Always interesting folks would show up there, anyone from travelers from foreign lands to Border Patrol Agents to cowboys, farmers and businessmen, and a farrier.

The farrier’s wife worked at a national park, and one of his jobs was shoeing horses.

(I wondered where the word “farrier” came from. According to The New Oxford American Dictionary, it is from a mid-16th century, Old French word “ferrier”, which, from the Latin ferrarius, from ferrum ‘iron, horseshoe’.”) It interested me to know that.

This farrier was gracious enough to let me photograph him shoeing his horse, “Finn.” Finn is a beauty, quite patient. So is the farrier with his craft.

After driving out to their place, I was able to get an entire memory card full of the photos of them working. I was happy to see the healthy feet of the horse and the wonderful work of the craftsman. The shoes fit well.  (I thought it would hurt my back dreadfully to bend over like that for very long.)

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Finn & the Farrier – 18″x 22″ – Oil ©Bohlender

I love painting horses, their textures, their well defined personalities and forms. I also have loved painting skilled workmen, their tools and clothing.

Mr. Farrier has this painting, wherever they are now. I am happy it is theirs.

 

Steel Sharpens Steel

This morning I received an email saying, “The living and true God makes every one and every thing exactly what they and it are at any given moment, and He is the way to navigate every situation at all times.”

It is in harmony with the several other quotes I keep by my kitchen sink, reminding us that everything is from the wisdom and love of God.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” – C. Spurgeon

G. Edwards wrote, “Again, I am awed by the number of Christians who find it utterly impossible to take this experience as from the hand of God… something that He meted out to them because He loved them, that this experience had divine purpose.”

God’s word: ” …for from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.”

Knowing these things doesn’t make suffering any easier… nor does it make the sword pleasant. Suffering is by its nature very unpleasant, yes? Yet, it IS meted out by the hand of God to those He loves… whom He loves…. and even more, we forget what we know in the midst of suffering, until He gives grace… until we all are surrendered to His will… until He transforms us into the image of His Son….

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Sufferings – 16″x 12″ – Oil

Husbands and wives, workers and friends, things in the world… He uses all things to produce a suffering which produces refinement, sharpening, dependence. It is humbling to be the spur or channel through which another suffers. Every time. Still, I seem to “do better” at causing pain than receiving pain. God have mercy. I would that I did not cause another pain, yet God gives this and may use this to produce “a weight of glory.”

The Spirit of Jesus living through us is “the way to navigate every situation.” We die to our self not by our own will.

 

Couples Portraits

Today I saw a double portrait of the Kroyers from the 1800s. They painted each other on the same canvas. I’ve never done that, but it got me thinking of “couples portraits.”

There have been a few times I painted couples portraits, and quite a few more with multiple people in it – not begun as a portrait, but recognizable none the less. Here are some of my “intentionally painted couples” portraits.

Most of the time, the couples stay together. There is quite a bit of history in these paintings. The top left couple have been married over 30 years; top middle were married  over 60 years until the husband died; top right couple got married after this painting was made of them singing together. This was not painted as a portrait, but of lifestyle, included in a western exhibit I was in. She was especially adoring, I thought.

In the next grouping, the top left couple have been married over 60 years. The middle left couple were engaged in this painting. The bottom left couple were married about two years when I painted this. The bottom right couple were married 20 years at the time of painting.

Really, I love painting portraits as much as I panic while painting them. Capturing a likeness doesn’t always come so easily for me… it can be a very intense undertaking. I work very hard to capture the people. When I’m painting groups of people or painting other people, they sometimes end up looking so much like the people that they are almost too specific to sell as “just paintings.” I do enjoy the people most of the time while painting them, liking them, sometimes loving them.

One time I painted a man who I did not like very much, and it showed up in his eyes. The portrait was true, but it captured something I was not comfortable with. It’s really much better to love the people you are painting.

What happens to these very specific paintings? Well, usually the people want them. Sometimes not. What happens when they split up… and you have a portrait that ended up quite nice, but it is no longer “true”? One time I learned of a couple divorcing just as the painting was finishing. I had worked nearly 2 months on that one. Oh my. Needless to say, even though the painting was very nice, the portrait was no longer needed. I destroyed that one.

Every painting tells a story, but to me, people paintings have the biggest stories… so rich, so varied, so living.