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.

 

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.

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“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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Faraway, Yet Near

Near the entrance to the amazing Chiricahua National Monument, is the original homestead of the Riggs family, called “Faraway Ranch”. The family settled there and then founded “The Wonderland of Rocks”, later becoming  “The Chiricahua National Monument”.

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Entrance to Faraway Ranch – 24″x 20″ – Oil – (Photo from older photograph, maybe early 2000. I do not remember where this original painting is now – nor the title ).

It is a beautiful walk into the ranch area, you feel yourself coming home in a way… it warms you as you come closer to pass by the old buildings past the fence, on the trail that leads to the main house.

There was something really odd while I was there one day, walking back from the house toward the old buildings. I do not know what the buildings were… work sheds, out-buildings maybe. But I thought for sure there were chickens there at one time.

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Wooden Fence at Faraway – about 20″x 14″ – Watercolor

I loved the pathway that passed this fence, and the light through the trees… the calm light gracing everything. It was peaceful. Yet, for just a moment I thought a woman walked by me with a basket of eggs in her hand, walking on this pathway. But there was no one there.

Everywhere there was evidence of lives lived, hearts given, times gone by.

Maybe that’s why these paintings came to mind this new year. Yesterday I read of someone else’s experience of his life lived, of the memories now being longer than the time remaining, of the “owning” of our own imminent bodily death. But then, “And then I lift my head and look about me at the river and the valley, the great, unearned beauty of this place, and I feel the memoryless joy of a man just risen from the grave..”

The memoryless joy of a man just risen from the grave…. a new creation, in resurrection life. Gone is the old and the new is here. Jesus said He is making all things new. All things. Not only now, in this life and the ages to come for those who believe, but all things.

Our time on this earth may be a shadow, or passing wind, but in Him is Life… His Life never ends. His Being IS, WILL BE, WAS…. of His kingdom there is no end.

So here, I look about me at…the great, unearned beauty of this place, and feel joy. I am grateful for this life/time that remains on earth, until we go home.

It really is a gift.

 

Community Library

I was reminded of this work by a post on FaceBook by the people who run the George Walker House Bed and Breakfast in Paradise, Arizona. It snowed there today.  But I’m not writing about them today, even though you might look them up on the web. They are expert birders, chocolate makers, and talented stained glass makers, as well as gracious hosts.

There are about nine different biomes in the “Sky Islands” area of Arizona, New Mexico  and Mexico, ranging from arid desert to 7000 ft. mountains.  Different plants and animals survive and thrive in desert and mountains, and it is one of the most prominent birding places, being on a migrational route. But I am not writing today about the natural splendor of the area, or the National Monument, (though I will in the future), today only about a community in the Chiricahua Mountains that is named “Portal”.

The climate and acclaim of Portal draws people from all over the United States, many upon retirement. Portal lays claim to a very educated population, bringing with them their expertise in all matters of science including stargazing, biology, geography, history, entomology, and more. The Chiricahua Gallery is there, with some very good art and some of community interest. Many people volunteer to “sit the gallery” to keep it available, and they offer community lessons in art. They are worthy of acclaim as well, as active and knowledgeable as they all are. However, that is not what I am writing about today, either.

In the center of the charming hamlet is an old school building, that has been converted into a library, setting immediately next to the post office.

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Portal Library – Watercolor

Sycamore tree and American Flag by the porch of the post office. Both are watercolor.

The second flag painting is a tribute to 9-11. There are watermarks on these images, just not as apparent as Tom’s painting.

The library in itself is a special little place, having a fine selection of books and friendly volunteers. The volunteers that make it even greater, offering library help, but also special activities throughout the year for children and adults. It is a community gathering place. Many “meet and greet” at the post office and library.

The Library painting hangs in the Library in Portal. It is an honor to “hang” there. I do not remember where the other two are, but I loved painting them. I love the sycamore tree, the creek running near by, and the memory of times there.

Portal also boasts of an exceptional all volunteer fire department and rescue.

I enjoy working in watercolor at special times, when I want to cozy in and work smaller. It is a special mode to sketch in the drawing, working from light to dark – instead of dark to light as in oil painting. Leaving the white spaces bright enough is vital. While working, watercolor is a much more precise medium than oils – there is little room for error, even though in other ways there is so much more freedom.  I keep some rags ready for absorbing. My brushes are always Windsor & Newton Series 7 – I think they are the best in every way. My paints are usually either Windsor & Newson or Daniel Smith.  I really like the heavier watercolor paper, preferably Arches 300 lb. rough or cold press, (but I do not scrub much).